Toaru Majutsu no Index:GT Volume1 Prologue
Prologue: At an Early Christmas Eve Intersection – Prepare_for_Xmas_Eve!
>>December 24, 00:00 AM
>>District 7 Station Shopping District, Academy City, Western Tokyo
The three blades of a propeller spun round and round.
Those wind turbines could be found anywhere in this city.
A total of nearly 200 samurai walked through the blowing snow of the city late at night.
“How is this a Christmas activity? What kind of exploitative nonsense is this?”
Pardon me. They were actually the bright and shining girls of prestigious Tokiwadai Middle School. One of them, Misaka Mikoto, was (bare-legged) and wearing a thick duffel coat over her blazer uniform. Her lips were blue and her eyes stared off into the distance. Perhaps the bare legs during a snowy night were to blame. They were very bare.
“I’m going to die. I mean it, die.”
“Onee-sama, if you don’t stay strong, you really will take a trip to the other side of the Sanzu River.”
The twintail underclassman who insisted on using a very Asian allusion even on Christmas Eve was Shirai Kuroko.
Everyone loved Christmas Eve and here it was. Even that forest animal which had made the news by finding a digital camera and taking a selfie would learn how to enjoy itself when thrown into this environment. Yet there was no happiness here, it was cold enough for the puddles to freeze, and the girls were stuck performing a boring school activity.
The airship slowly floating through the night sky gave a weather report on the large screen on its belly.
“The 24th will be a sunny day, but the early morning and the late night may have some off-and-on precipitation. The predicted low is 5 below freezing, so- wow, we might have a white Christmas to look forward to!”
“It’s already snowing,” complained Mikoto. “And that’s why I’m going to freeze to death.”
“Let’s stop thinking about death, Onee-sama. It is Christmas Eve already, after all.”
What did a little snow matter? For that prestigious school with both history and tradition behind it, Christmas was a solemn, silent, and pure date. No one was in high spirits here. They were busy performing some outside special service work. In other words, they were gathering up trash from the city. You can think of it as something like a 24-hour endurance work rally. This was well beyond the bounds of compulsory education.
The drum-shaped cleaning robots passing by were a lot noisier than usual. They had probably been given the ability to spray hot air at the ground like a hair dryer in order to melt the snow. …Although if they simply melted it and left it there, it seemed like it would freeze onto the road as ice.
Mikoto used trash-collecting tongs, which resembled the ones used at a bakery, to pick something up from the ground. The cleaning robot’s sensors must have missed it with the snow making the ground bumpier than usual. Once she had picked it up, she found it was the plastic wrapper for a cream-filled sweet roll. Worse, the half-eaten sweet roll remained inside and some cream had squished out with a color halfway between white and yellow. This was the worst. Instead of burnable or non-burnable trash, she had found some kitchen waste. For once, she was thankful for the frigid December weather. If this hadn’t been frozen, it would have made for a much more horrifying visual.
She would sort the trash later. She sighed while, unlike Santa Claus, she filled her sack with prizes entirely devoid of hopes and dreams.
“Ugh. It’s not like Tokiwadai is a mission school, so why are we even doing this? Is it really worth it for the prestige and status it supposedly brings?”
“Go down that route and you will end up rejecting the entire holiday of Christmas since it came from overseas too.”
“I thought Academy City was all about science worship and digital atheism.”
“Say a word more and we’re cancelling Christmas Eve and going home.”
“Whose side are you on here!?”
“On the side that lets me go back to that feminine garden and warm myself up with a certain someone’s body heat, of course! And that someone is you, Onee-sama!!”
That broken response started to shift the focus of conversation.
However, this crisis was also the greatest opportunity for Misaka Mikoto. She was not about to waste this once-a-year event on dull drudgery like she was in prison.
The entire student body was out at once.
If she was going to pretend to get lost, now was her chance.
Suddenly, she felt a finger tracing along her spine and heard a whisper in her ear.
She realized someone was standing right behind her, but she was not foolish enough to look back. She looked to the glass window ahead of her and saw a girl with long blonde hair casually pressing up against her.
That was Shokuhou Misaki.
Mikoto was Academy City’s #3 Level 5 and this was the #5. Her power was Mental Out, the strongest of the psychological powers.
Mikoto kept her eyes on the window and mouthed her words instead of speaking them aloud.
“(Can’t you brainwash all the teachers with ease using your Mental Out?)”
“(They know that as well as we do. Check out the accessories on those teachers who can use their bare hands to beat down a teenage girl who can use warship-level firepower. They have 2mm cameras on their tie pins or their glasses have been converted into smart glasses. They’re covering their blind spot ability by using both human eyes and mechanical eyes.)”
Hence why cooperation was needed.
The Tokiwadai teachers had constructed a means of using their inferior numbers to control a group of powerful espers. Not even Misaka Mikoto was naïve enough to assume she could brute force her way through this.
Mikoto could handle machines and Shokuhou could handle human minds. Those two never normally got along, but this was enough of a reason for them to join forces.
“(You sure do work fast, Misaka-san. We want to escape ASAP, so I’m less worried about the teachers than that straitlaced Judgment girl who can Teleport after us. I’m glad you restrained her for me so quickly☆)”
“(What, surely you aren’t feeling guilty at the last second. To be clear, I left the girls from my clique behind. Moving as a large group would slow us down and be far too conspicuous. Letting your emotions get the better of you will only lead to failure. And then we’ll all be stuck sitting out in the hallway for a Christmas of maximum gloominess ability.)”
She knew that.
She really did.
But what had Shirai Kuroko done wrong while she cheerfully hummed alongside Mikoto? In her own way, she may have been planning for an enjoyable Christmas with her roommate. Was it really right to throw all that out? While feeling the pull of freedom and the opposing pull of responsibility, Mikoto glanced over at her underclassman’s lovely face in profile and heard the girl speaking under her breath.
“Eh heh heh. I get to spend this special day alone with Onee-sama. Yes, that’s right. The teachers are so strict with us that there is no way anyone can escape the dorms. I can just sit back and watch as we are more or less confined to our rooms. Between Christmas Eve and Christmas itself, that means 48 hours with Onee-sama all to myself in a secret closed room with no prying eyes. No one can get in from outside to interrupt us, so I can tie up my beloved Onee-sama, lay her on the floor, put a blindfold, headphones, and a gag on her to rob her of her usual senses, and then use lots of special oil to – eh heh, geh heh – to not just make adults of us both, but to abandon our humanity altogether while we crash through the door of XXX and-”
“Shokuhou, do it now!”
Mikoto interrupted with a command to the other girl.
While still clinging to Mikoto from behind, Shokuhou Misaki pulled a TV remote from the small bag she wore over her shoulder and gently pressed it against the back of (daydreaming) Shirai Kuroko’s head.
She pressed a silent button and the chestnut twintails girl’s head wobbled slightly.
Shokuhou Misaki’s Mental Out was the strongest psychological power.
But it had such a broad range of applications that it was difficult to control even for her, so she used different remotes as a form of self-suggestion to create categories for her power.
And of course…
The teachers knew what her power could do, so tension ran through the one monitoring them once the blonde girl reached for her bag. She reflexively called out in a strict voice.
“Shirai, where did you find that remote? Was the actual digital recorder not thrown out along with it!?”
She was focused on the remote, but not in the right way.
However, the teacher did not notice the shift in her own thoughts.
“What remote? This is a kamaboko board.”
But the item the confused twintail girl waved in her defense was an empty chocolate bar box.
“No, you definitely had a remote. It has to be around there somewhere!”
“Again, this is a kamaboko board.”
“It is a remote!!”
The two of them got unnaturally particular about something meaningless.
Meanwhile, the honey-blonde girl with the real remote in hand was laughing. She was of course within both arguers’ field of vision, but neither one mentioned her at all. As usual, that girl had a knack for mischief.
The minor argument between student and teacher created a disturbance in their ranks as the sheltered girls gathered around to watch.
“What about the smart glasses?” asked Shokuhou with a wink.
“Already dealt with.”
Even if they were running off, they could not just throw out the tongs and half-filled trash bags they were using, so they left them by the main road where the robots would find them.
Now came the tricky part.
Mikoto gave her casual response and then slipped away from the crowd into an alley between multi-tenant buildings.
She removed the GPS tracker locked to her right ankle and did the same for Shokuhou who had come with her and she tossed them into the gap between beer cases piled up nearby. Then she wrapped her arms around the blonde girl’s skinny waist and leaped straight up. She used her power over magnetism to use the reinforced concrete wall as a foothold and ran all the way up to the 5-story building’s rooftop. It was a lot like using the giant lifting magnet that cranes used to move abandoned cars in a scrap yard.
This was an example of Academy City’s esper powers.
That bizarre technology used electricity, drugs, suggestion, and all other scientific approaches to distort the “reality” an individual saw in order to intentionally have them make ordinarily-impossible quantum observations so that the micro observations could produce macro phenomena.
“But this is only Step 1☆” said Shokuhou while leaning out over the roof’s railing.
Several girls quickly ran into the alley they had just left. These were the high Level espers that could be seen as the royal guard of Shokuhou’s clique, the largest in Tokiwadai.
Escaping to the roof was not enough. A mere 5 stories was meaningless when their pursuers could find any number of ways to climb the vertical wall in a single second.
“Since you took this risk to escape from Tokiwadai’s watchful eyes, I can assume you want to enjoy your freedom ability for the 24th and 25th, right? Then we need to really work at this escape.”
“Of course, if a girl with your pitiful chest ability heads out into the city alone on Christmas, you might just end up depressed at all the happy couples you see around you. Peh heh heh.”
“There were plenty of other ways to shake pursuit, so why do you think I immediately chose this rooftop?”
The blonde girl blinked a few times and the demon named Misaka Mikoto grinned back at her.
“Because this lets me cut our ties and run off the instant I don’t need you anymore.”
“Ahh!? Wait, Misaka-san! Surely you aren’t going to abandon me up here!”
When Tokiwadai’s Queen finally caught on, she began to panic, but Mikoto hopped off the edge of the roof with that smile still on her lips. She was of course alone this time. She could use powerful magnetism to easily leap from building to building because she was Academy City’s #3 Level 5. The #5 could not do the same.
“Ahh hah hah!! Have fun taking all the blame for yourself and spending a gloomy Christmas seated out in the hall, Shokuhou! Victory is mine!! Mwa ha ha ha ha ha!!”
“I-I will utterly eradicate you for this!! I swear I’ll do it, Misaka-saaaan!!!!!!”
There was only one response for those desperate cries: sticking out her tongue.
She was confident Shokuhou had similarly intended to betray her the instant they were safely away. They had never gotten along and cooperation born of necessity would never last long.
Academy City had seemed so dark from the ground, but from up here, it was a sea of decorative lights. 80% of the city residents were students, so its trains and busses stopped running early, but the college students and teachers still went out to enjoy the nightlife. The Tokiwadai teachers had probably chosen a route that intentionally stuck to more deserted areas so the students would not be tempted by anything they saw.
The reality of her situation finally caught up to her.
It was Christmastime and she was free to do what she liked.
“~ ~ ~!!”
Her youthful spine trembled from the overwhelming sensation of liberation and she just about lost control and crashed into a building wall. She pressed the soles of her leather shoes against the wall and used magnetism to reduce her speed while descending to the surface level.
She raised her arms, stretched her back, and let the free night air wash over her body.
She had assumed the shopping district would be overrun with couples at this time of year, but there was a much wider variety of people around. She saw a group of girls walking into a karaoke box and she saw siblings heading back to their dorm with a whole cake they had bought. Based on the cake’s cardboard box, they were apparently decorated with a parent snowman and a child snowman who were the stars of a foreign 3DCG animated movie. She saw plenty of people out on their own in the long line for the latest fad: custom donuts with decorations based on your birthdate, blood type, and lucky color.
(Hmm. I had heard on the news people treat Valentine’s chocolate a lot differently nowadays, so maybe this is similar.)
Of course, it was unusual for elementary and middle school kids to be out and about at midnight. Yes, the 24th was an unusual day. The adults from Anti-Skill, the law enforcement group made up of volunteers from the teachers, were holding megaphones in hand and shouting from the top of their vehicles modified from SUVs.
“You can buy cakes if you like, but eating them here is against your school rules. I repeat, you can only buy them and head home! Pweeee!! You, the happy couple over there! I am willing to overlook holding hands, but princess carrying her is over the line!! Do you want me to take you into protective custody so you spend the 24th in a holding cell!?”
Even those straitlaced teachers were letting it all happen. And the lectures felt really performative, like the entire point was for people to get video of it and post it on social media.
There were a lot of happy couples that Mikoto could not bear to look at, but she at least would not stand out and gather attention for being out alone.
There was lots she wanted to eat and to do.
She checked a roadside clock and saw it was exactly midnight.
(This freedom only lasts for the 48 hours of Christmas Eve and Christmas itself. I should go around doing all the things I want to do on my own to waste some time until morning. It would be rude to start calling that idiot up at this hour.)
That thought naturally appeared in her mind, but then she gasped.
She wanted to push her limits. There was lots she wanted to try out. At the very least, she was sick of Christmases fully managed by the adults. …But why did that pointy-haired idiot come to mind as the person to do those things with? And now that his face was there in her mind, it wouldn’t go away!? Then again, it was true he was the only boy she could think of who she could drag around to do these things!!
She decided to not look in the show windows.
Because then she would see her face reflected there.
(Wait, wait, wait!! Yes, he’s just a placeholder. Like a mannequin! There are things I want to do on Christmas and you need a partner to do those things. That’s all this is!!)
But it seemed Christmas Eve had already begun because a miracle suddenly appeared in front of that dreaming girl.
It ran by at the intersection in front of her.
Kamijou Touma was running full speed with a horrified look on his face and with a naked little girl in his arms.
Her thoughts ground to a halt.
But the clock was still ticking in reality. While she froze up and was left behind, the pointy-haired boy ran off while princess-carrying an unfamiliar little girl and with a large group of delinquents giving chase.
“Wh-wh-wh-wh-wh-what!? Hold on! What the hell kind of Christmas Eve are you having!?”
Kamijou Touma himself had no answer for anyone asking what was going on here.
Q. What was he doing?
She was naked.
This time, the girl was entirely nude.
Was there no limit at all to his misfortune?
“Keh heh heh.”
The little girl in his arms looked up at him with sticky eyes and her lips formed a crescent moon slash of a smile. She was a small girl of about 10 with milk-white skin and strawberry-red hair…but the wicked look on her young face was the complete opposite of childlike innocence.
She seemed delighted to have him princess carrying her.
Was that a sheet or a dress? Regardless, she held a thin and wholly inadequate red cloth up to her chest while kicking her bare feet around in a depressing sort of good cheer.
“Eh heh. Eh heh heh heh. Christmas Eve with a romantic focus? It’s barely recognizable like this, but it is rife with unexpected excitement. Keh heh heh heh heh.”
“Hold on. Something isn’t right here. What kind of crazy personality is this? What’s next, are you going to say you’re an extraterrestrial queen who rode down to earth on a meteor to have some fun!?”
He had left to visit the local convenience store.
He had heard something out back and taken a peek.
He had found a little girl there.
Worse, she had pulled out a phone on a whim and used her small hand to aim it toward a bunch of extremely “intellectual” delinquents who were tampering with an ATM’s optical fiber to steal the card numbers and PINs of everyone who used it.
Also, they had not stripped her of her clothing or anything like that.
She had been undressed from the beginning. The naughty girl had been boldly walking around the city at night and secretly filming the delinquents from around the corner to enjoy the depressing situation herself.
Was Academy City a complete lost cause at this point?
“Hey, get back here!! Did you just film us!? Wait!!”
“Awawa! This is bad news, boss!! We’re screwed if she uploads that to a video site!!”
“Worry more about Anti-Skill since they have handcuffs and handguns!! And isn’t what he’s doing even worse!? How are we the bad guys here!?”
Those people had a lot of energy for people wearing tank tops during winter. Their list of equipped items must have included “thick muscles” in addition to “pants” and “underwear”. Also, reasons for picking a fight with someone had apparently been upgraded for the digital age. If you decided to film everything around you just because you had a phone and nothing better to do, you might just trigger a fight with someone. Especially if you caught them in a criminal act!
Why is this how I’m spending Christmas Eve? wondered Kamijou.
Why is this how any of us are spending Christmas Eve!? he added.
“It’s winter and it’s snowing. We can see our breath, so what in the world were you doing!?”
“It’s not like I’m doing this because its winter. In fact, I was kind of wishing spring would arrive before long.”
Children might not seem like they noticed much, but they could actually be quick to pick up on slight shifts in the atmosphere. The little girl briefly stopped kicking her bare feet.
He could not engage in small talk about the spring.
Because his memories only went back to summer.
However, explaining that to her would not solve anything. For now, he had only lost his memories and he still remembered how to read and write and what he had studied at school, so it did not cause too much trouble in his day-to-day life. He consciously regulated his breathing, but the season caused trouble for him again. With his breaths visibly white, it felt like she could see a portion of his thoughts.
“How are you planning to get away?” asked the sticky(?) little girl through her crescent moon smile.
She was only a little girl, but she was still a little girl. That excess weight in his arms slowed him down. The delinquents looked like they would catch up if he tried running full speed in a straight line, so he zigzagged his way through small side roads and around corners to try to escape out of sight instead of simply getting as far away from his pursuers as possible.
“Where the hell’d they go!?”
“Send in the car! We had a self-driving car waiting, so have it cut them off on the other side!!”
“I just sent out a drone! They can never escape our predator’s net with my all-seeing celestial eye peering down at them!!”
(Ehh? This is why you shouldn’t give idiots all this fancy tech!! That monkey that took a selfie with the camera it found in the forest was better than this!!)
Also, one of them seemed to have yet to fully get over his chuuni phase. If only they were a cute and harmless girl instead.
But regardless, these were the people who had been tampering with the optical fiber attached to the ATM behind a convenience store. After flunking out of Academy City’s esper development program and being branded a Level 0, they may have decided to rely on tricks and tools instead.
But on the other hand…
(They’re relying on tech like a self-driving car and a drone. In that case…)
That allowed him to escape both of those at once.
Academy City’s trains stopped running when the student curfew came into effect, but the shops and connecting passageways within the stations stayed open late. Kamijou ran down the stairs with the naked little girl in his arms and finally set down that bright-skinned luggage.
He crouched down to put himself on her eye level.
His vast experience with misfortune had taught him that life-or-death situations were not always dramatic affairs. No matter how stupid it all was, you would lose your life if you did not take it seriously. Now was the time to trust in the tense atmosphere he sensed.
“Listen, there are 6 exits from this station, but ignore them all. The connecting passageways in here will take you to the next station over, so you should be able to leave that station and be outside the range of their drone surveillance. I’ll lure those idiots to the west, so you use that opening to leave the next station over and run to somewhere with a lot of people. Pretty much every major station that joins with a surface line will have an Anti-Skill station. Today is the 24th, so they’re sure to be out in the public square patrolling. Got that?”
“I’m scared, Onii-chan.”
“Oh, shut the hell up!! I can’t compromise any more than this!!”
“Also, this strategy meeting is taking a while. Did we really have time to stand around talking?”
Kamijou Touma finally realized something was amiss.
A deafening roar reverberated in his gut.
But not from ahead, behind, left, or right. It came from above.
The fear seemed to slap him on the cheeks instead of ringing in his eardrums, so it may have been similar to having lightning strike a large tree not 5m away.
A high-voltage current.
But he was not bleeding or burnt. This was a subway station. Needless to say, the thick ground protected him from above. That had not immediately occurred to him, but that may have been because his mind experienced a few seconds of confusion similar to being hit by a stun grenade.
Yes, something had happened outside.
Kamijou looked up at the concrete ceiling.
“You stay here.”
Something highly unusual was afoot. He could no longer run away blindly and hope to escape. If he did not get a look at this and grasp the rules of what he was up against, he was sure to die. Even in this world of science, that “premonition” sank into the center of his back like an invisible needle.
He even held his breath as he placed his feet on the cold concrete stairway.
As he gradually made his way to the surface, the prickly feeling on his skin continued to grow. He assumed it was due to his tension at first, but he was wrong. This was physical. He saw a faint light like glow-in-the-dark paint or like a fluorescent light you thought you had switched off. The air itself was electrified.
A faint stench hit his nose.
It was an unfamiliar stench that reminded him somehow of disinfectant. It may have been ozone.
He had to remain hidden.
He knew that intellectually, but he could not stop his biological reactions. He gulped.
“Hey,” said a girl’s voice.
That was all there was. Those high-tech morons had been armed with nonmetallic knives, batons, and even bows and arrows made with a 3D printer, yet they all lay motionlessly strewn across the ground around a single figure. A mass of metal sat gaping open like a bear trap. Was that the self-driving car by any chance?
One person had done it all.
The nearby streetlights must have been knocked out of commission because it was darker than before. Something like bluish-white will-o’-the-wisps were floating around, but was that St. Elmo’s fire, a form of corona discharge? On closer inspection, he could see it was the very ends of a wind turbine’s three blades that were faintly glowing.
But just as firefly light was not enough to light up a dark forest, those few points of light were not enough to prevent the area from being engulfed in shadow.
So at first, he could only see the silhouette of the person standing in the center of it all.
Bluish-white electricity crackled like a bug zapper and illuminated the energy source that could supply up to a billion volts.
He saw short brown hair, triumphant eyes, and a small build.
The triumphant girl wore a fluffy Tokiwadai Middle School duffel coat and the bottom of a short skirt and her bright bare legs stuck out from below that.
“I would really like an explanation for all this.”
He would love one of those too. What was a middle school girl from that prestigious school doing out of her dorm and wandering the city at this hour of night and why had she appeared out of nowhere to deal with those delinquents using a high-voltage current?
Not all evil deeds were the result of some master plan. This place was full of dangerous weapons that could be used to kill on a momentary whim.
Or did none of that register as a threat to this girl?
Level 0, Level 1, Level 2, Level 3, Level 4, and Level 5.
80% of the city, a total of 1.8 million people, were ranked into those six categories and she was part of the group at the very top.
She had talent only seen in 7 people within Academy City.
Of those 7, she was #3, the Railgun.
She was said to be the strongest when it came to purely electric powers.
“Yeah, well, explaining this could be tricky. You see, I got roped into this all of a sudden and was just running for my life, so I don’t actually know what’s going on. But I think I did pretty good for a Level 0. So-”
He never finished his sentence.
His entire body was hit, not by a sound, but by a shockwave that was unleashed after breaking through the insulation of the air. Yet Mikoto had not been trying to attack him. Even this was only an accident. She had simply failed to control her power properly and a jumbled mess of electricity had shot from her bangs.
Although even that may have been enough to kill someone if it hit them.
But Kamijou Touma was not killed.
Glowing remnants of the electricity burst from the right hand held out in front of his face. With an estimated output of more than a billion volts, the average radar would explode with sparks if it was nearby when she did that. Yet he had negated it with non-insulated flesh and blood.
“A Level 0? Don’t give me that crap.”
Her voice was awfully low for a lovely girl, even if she was hanging her head.
This was a certain boy’s one and only power – Imagine Breaker.
It only affected his right hand up to the wrist, but it could negate any and all supernatural powers.
A belligerent look entered his eyes.
“I was hoping to peacefully share what information we had and do some investigating to check on some things, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen. …Man, and I really wanted to save this brute force method for a last resort!!”
The girl repeated the word back to him and then she finally raised her head.
The #3 glared straight at the boy.
“What about this was peaceful!? Who is that naked girl!? Do you even know what day this is!? Christmas Eve has already begun, so how did you end up doing this!? Did you want to be the shining star of the pervert world or something!? Are you stupid!? Were you trying to get yourself killed!? And you wanted to do some investigating!? What were you hoping to ‘investigate’ by bringing a naked little girl into a dark and cold deserted subway station!? Well, do you have anything to say for yourself!!!???”
Oh, no, thought Kamijou.
What do I do? This rich and violent girl is making some good points.
Maybe I took several wrong turns along the way here.
And while he stood there in a daze, a demon lurked up from behind. The naked little girl clung to the side of his hip with only the thin and inadequate cloth pulled up to her chest.
Her lips still formed a crescent moon slash of a smile.
Misaka Mikoto’s eyes began spinning in a panic.
“I’m scared, Onii-chan.”
“Go beat up the scary bad guy. Then we can have a secret nighttime stroll together, okay? Hee hee hee. Christmas Eve only comes once a year, but it has only just begun.”
All of Kamijou’s hair stood on end.
A moment later, something left Misaka Mikoto.
Or rather, a minor blue explosion burst from her in all directions.
Between the Lines 1
Academy City had a population of about 2.3 million, 80% of whom were students.
The giant city took up a third of the Tokyo metropolitan area and the rules differed in many ways inside and outside the walls surrounding it. For example, law enforcement was not handled by the police. Instead, the citywide work was handled by the teachers of Anti-Skill and the work in individual schools was handled by the students in Judgment.
That was why gym teacher Yomikawa Aiho was also an Anti-Skill officer with the authority to use handcuffs and a handgun. She normally wore a green track suit whenever she went out and, even when she was beating down criminal boys and girls with her transparent shield and with a smile on her face, she had sworn to herself she would never aim a gun at a child no matter how powerful an esper they were. However, she was breaking one of her rules today.
She was wearing a black suit instead of her track suit.
She hoped she would not have to break the other rule.
Hoped very much.
On the instructions of a cold-voiced guide, she walked down a winding corridor. It would be easy to get lost in here and it would be hard to push a dolly through it. The basic principle was the same as old samurai mansions, but the idea here was not to make wielding a sword or spear difficult. The idea was to obstruct the movements of indoor combat drones. Obstacles that reflected EM and IR signals were inconspicuously worked into the architecture and the floor had meaningless steps up and down. The benevolent principles of barrier free design must have been turned on their head to design obstacles that wheels and treads could not pass.
From a technical standpoint, that might sound simple enough, but real architecture did not work the same as the bizarre mansions found in mystery novels. The government would never allow someone to design a building that intentionally prevented wheelchairs and crutches from getting through. That meant something lurked here that needed enough protection that breaking the rules was considered worth it.
There were no security cameras.
That may have been to avoid the risk of them being hacked and made to leak information outside.
A guard separate from her guide stood in front of a large composite armor door. Did he spend all day here? There was a folding chair next to the door.
“I don’t recognize you.”
“I imagine not. You lack the authority to have seen me before.”
“Then do you serve one of the 12 Directors?”
Those were a few of the legendary figures that even Yomikawa had only heard bits and pieces of info about. Academy City held all of the planet’s technology and those 12 adult monsters formed the group with the most power over the city. But she had no way of knowing if the stories she had heard were true. All of those stories were as absurd as the ones about men in black who were in contact with aliens and Yomikawa personally had a feeling the truth was even worse. These were the most crucial VIPs from a security standpoint, so it was not always clear when one of them died or was replaced.
But the man waiting at the door like a machine rejected that idea.
“I work for the one and only Board Chairman and no one else.”
This was on yet another level.
Yomikawa fell silent and the man spoke in a flat voice.
It was more or less a command.
“You require a body search.”
“I had one done at the entrance.”
He was even less verbose than a bank ATM. His educational history, skills, health, background, and behavior would have been thoroughly investigated before he was given this job, but “never questions his orders” must have been one of the necessary qualifications they were looking for.
Yomikawa raised both hands in her black suit and the gatekeeper pulled out a rod-shaped object. It resembled the colorful guidance lights that construction workers held in their hands to guide cars, but this was different. This was a sensor that used terahertz radiation. Their use had rapidly spread now that plastic submachineguns and assault rifles could be easily made by anyone using 3D printers. They could see through people’s clothing to detect even nonmetallic objects.
Esper powers were not the only thing to fear in Academy City.
The adults who formed 20% of the population used next-gen tech to control the children who formed 80% of the population and had supernatural powers.
“I will hold onto your phone.”
“If you must.”
“Please remove your tie pin. And is that your skirt’s side zipper?”
“Do you need to confiscate my bra hook too?”
The man passed the sensor over her front side and back side before responding in a robotic voice.
“That will not be necessary.”
The large door opened, but there was nothing on the other side. Only another door. The two layers of door provided extra security, but they also prevented the guards from spying on what was truly “inside”.
Once Yomikawa stepped into that cramped space, the door closed behind her, its closure was confirmed, and the second door’s rods unlocked.
She found a small room within. That must have been enough for its occupant.
It only contained a clear table and two cheap chairs.
It was also a windowless room.
“It’s been too long,” said Yomikawa Aiho as if gently releasing her breath.
The person with pale white hair sat in one of the chairs with his legs lightly crossed up on the table. His red eyes glared back at the visitor.
“So what led you to ask for me in particular?”
He may have been more than a decade her junior and the barrier of adult and minor lay between them, but she was the one who needed to show respect here. She wordlessly displayed that with the suit.
When she spoke that boy’s new title, her voice carried a sense of awe.
And also some disappointment.
“New Academy City Board Chairman Accelerator-san?”