Toaru Majutsu no Index:GT Volume2 Chapter2
Chapter 2: Black Pill, White Snow — and_RED_Rose.
The girl looked to be around ten.
It could be hard to tell thanks to the shopping district’s arcade roof, but it was snowing outside. However, being outside in the middle of winter was not enough to stop her from working at the two scoops of ice cream sitting atop the cone she held.
“Why do I always end up taking in kids like this?”
The delinquent boy named Hamazura Shiage had a distant look in his eyes even though he only had himself to blame. This naked little girl had only a red cloth gathered around her flat chest to protect herself, so she was almost guaranteed to bring trouble.
This was all happening in District 13, where Academy City’s elementary schools were gathered. This was the shopping district that had always(?) existed on the far eastern end of the district. A lot of children would gather there even though it was not on the way home for most of them, so it had become known as Afterschool Snack Road. If it were not winter break, gym teachers filled with a sense of duty would be patrolling the area.
(It doesn’t look like there’s any immediate trouble. Honestly, maybe it’s a testament to how peaceful this place is that a naked girl in only a thin cloth can walk around without anything happening.)
He did not want to even entertain the thought that this was the latest fashion. At least he didn’t see anyone else dressed like this among the local kids troubling the miniskirt Santas in front of the bakeries by peppering them with questions, hoping to learn the secrets of the flying sleigh that could slip past the military radars of advanced nations.
He looked up into the sky and saw a food delivery drone carrying a box using the claws attached to its crab-like legs. He briefly wondered if it was carrying a cake or a turkey before returning to the real topic at hand.
“I guess I can ask Fremea later on. Speaking of which, what’s taking her?”
That delinquent was the type to take in a kitten on a rainy day, so he had a small friend in this district. In fact, the entire reason he was here was to bring Fremea Seivelun a bottle of a bubbly golden drink that had “nonalcoholic” plainly written on the label (and was more pricey than nonalcoholic beer) yet the clerk had still refused to sell to an elementary schooler like her. He wanted to get that party item to the sulky girl so he could be freed of the errand. But not because he was interested in the Christmas spirit. No, he just wanted to go after his girlfriend from a variety of angles while she sat motionless in the kotatsu. There was always the standard of embracing her from behind, but he could also go with submarine mode by sticking his head underneath the opposite side of the kotatsu!!
The girl in a white knit dress standing next to Hamazura sighed while looking even more exasperated than him. He was not clever enough to figure out what a girl was thinking just from the look on her face, but he could guess she had found her super-sweet donut (that was fully customized for District 13’s many elementary school students) too much to handle.
Her name was Kinuhata Saiai.
She was a Level 4 who had been even more involved in Academy City’s darkness than him.
He glanced down at the bare legs sticking out from the bottom of her short dress.
“Is there some bare-skin health craze I wasn’t aware of?”
“What exactly are you looking at while coming up with these super fantasies? Look any longer and you’ll have to pay me. And before you start asking about some ridiculous idea like nude sunbathing in the frigid December air, why don’t you give some super thought to how these questions will influence your life, Hamazura? As much as she says she doesn’t mind, I have a feeling that expressionless track suit girl would be super jealous, but what do you think?”
“If that’s all you can say, then you have some super sense left. If these lover’s spats are how you want to enjoy this couple’s holiday, be my guest, but don’t drag me into it. This isn’t about Levels—Takitsubo-san is simply impossible to predict when she’s mad.”
Kinuhata sounded casual enough, but she was actually keeping her eyes on the windows and stainless-steel pillars around them. But not because she was worried about her hair or clothing. That was a professional’s way of monitoring her blind spots without having to turn her head or move her eyes too much.
It was worth being cautious at the moment.
Because the entire dark side had apparently been shaken to its core.
(Now, will that year-end cleaning actually work? As long as there’s an illegitimate way to get ahead, the darkness will always crop up again. People love attaching price tags to everything and the negative cycle will begin anew when people need escape funding and hideouts to super shelter them during the chaotic aftermath. The rich can shout about justice through a loudspeaker all they want, but the black market won’t go away as long as people need it to survive.)
The little girl used her small tongue to lick up the milk that had dripped onto the thumb holding the chocolate chip cookie cone. Some kind of AR walking game must have been having a Christmas event because the other children were gathered around seemingly empty areas with their phones at the ready, making it look like some kind of weird ritual. But this little girl must have had no interest in joining those children (and a few childish college students who were doing it too) because she stared at them with emotionless eyes.
“This really is a nice city,” she said from a short distance away. “Everyone has food to eat and a warm room to go home to, so they can all enjoy the holy night as no more than pretty scenery. Everyone has a livable environment here. Even though the winter city used to be a symbol of fear more sinister than a corpse, where the painful and ruthless chill would creep in through the snow to reach every nook and cranny both indoors and out. Just look at the hunger in St. Nicholas’s story or the icy cold in the Little Match Girl.”
“If you say so.”
A lot of kids that age liked to talk. Had she recently read a collection of harsh fairy tales or a book on how to make money by destroying people’s dreams?
She continued without worrying about the eyes on her.
“So I am sorry to say this city will soon return to having a true deadly winter. When a terrible day comes to an end, you might want to go to sleep with hope for tomorrow in your heart, but there was a time when you might not have woken up the following morning. People die so easily. But that is how humans are made, so it’s not your fault.”
Something seemed off.
The little girl began muttering to herself while operating her phone.
“Hm, hm, hm hm. Good, good. It looks like all the people around the world I had rewrite the paperwork to keep scrutiny off my paper company are dead now.”
It was like leaning in to get a sniff of a beautiful flower only to discover a strange new kind of mantis in your face.
He could not read the emotion in the little girl’s eyes.
Something thick was lurking below the depths there.
A crescent moon smile split across her face as she looked up from the screen.
“Is Takitsubo Rikou doing well?”
“W-wait. What are you talking about?”
“I do apologize for that. That was entirely my fault. Not that I expect you to understand even if I pulled out the name of that con artist Madame Horos. Since I have no way of objectively proving what happened, it is my duty to accept your anger and hatred.”
A name burst into Hamazura Shiage’s mind.
Yes, he had only known her name.
That person had lured his girlfriend in with sweet words, taken control of her body, and used her as a disposable tool. He had known far too little about that hated enemy.
And now the ordinary delinquent boy had found his enemy.
He had found that mysterious figure who lurked in the deepest depths of the magic side and may have been even more hidden than the Magic Gods.
Could this really be her?
The bizarre figure who had taken the form of a little girl was no longer even looking his way.
She held the thin cloth in one hand and the ice cream cone in the other.
With her hands full, she turned around to look in a completely different direction.
“And I must apologize again. If I’m going to have some fun, they take priority.”
A heavy metal clanking sounded as two girls landed on the snow-covered arcade roof nearby.
The Ace and Queen of Tokiwadai had descended from the sky.
They did not hold back.
The black metal on Misaka Mikoto’s back spread out like demonic wings. A Gatling gun, a chainsaw, a smoothbore gun, a melt-cutting blade, a multiple missile launcher, a large drill, a plasma cannon, and plenty more heavy weaponry were attached around a base of twin rocket engines.
That was the A.A.A., or Anti-Art Attachment.
It was such a black box that not even the #3 herself knew what the device was originally meant to do.
But that was not enough to explain this.
While Mikoto could fly through the sky with that special equipment, the #5, Shokuhou Misaki, should not have been able to accomplish that kind of physical feat. And yet she was keeping up with fully-equipped Mikoto’s movements and rapidly jumped from a building rooftop to the arcade roof of the old(-looking, thanks to the professional “dirty” paintjob used for things like warship models) shopping district.
How could she do that?
There was a clear answer:
“I know that’s cutting-edge equipment, but couldn’t you have found something warmer for this time of year?”
“Ahhh, shiver, shiver. Send any complaints to my spare, Mitsuari Ayu!”
Another girl had possessed a psychological power similar to Shokuhou Misaki’s. She had used several types of mechanical support to make up for her inadequacies as an esper and to defeat the #5 Level 5.
Those included the Five Over OS and the Five Over itself.
Both were Model Case: Mental Out.
To control that bizarre equipment which had attempted to purely mechanically reproduce the power of Academy City’s #5, Mitsuari Ayu had worn a special suit.
“Shiver, shiver, shiver.”
“A swimsuit—ha ha—a high leg cut—ah ha ha!—in December—ah ha ha ha ha!”
“Oh, shut up!! Why did you have to choose such a pain-in-the-butt design for this season and location, Mitsuari-saaan!?”
“And skintight too—pff ah ha ha! Hey, the crotch is looking pretty bulgy there.”
“It is not!! I can’t believe that girl! Did the loneliness drive her toward exhibitionism or something!?”
Shokuhou held her own body against the cold, but she still shouted in desperation with her body temperature higher than anyone else’s here. Fur coats and wool scarfs apparently had nothing on embarrassment when it came to keeping you warm.
The equipment’s design was about as crazy as bikini armor, but its defensive capabilities were very real.
And the enemy they had to defeat ASAP was right in front of them.
(It doesn’t look like she’s hiding a glass container or any other pills.)
After all, she only had a thin cloth barely covering her naked body. It seemed unlikely she had anything hidden below that, but did that mean she had no means of defense against the special microbes that not even Academy City could heal?
Or did she have antibodies in her body itself?
Whether it came to searching her possessions or running scans at the hospital, their best bet was to knock her out and capture her.
“Now, then,” said the barely-dressed little girl named Anna Sprengel. “I gave you plenty of time, so I assume it has not spread to every part of his body yet. But if you’re still making me wait, perhaps I should speed things along.”
Misaka Mikoto had seen Anna yesterday and the night before that. She had not noticed it at the time, but she had some clear differences from the other elementary schoolers who were busy using their phones to pursue the limited-edition Santa-costume Android Demon Lord (a hyper ultra miracle heroine who had destroyed three other worlds before arriving on earth and was actually just lonely). There was something about the aura surrounding the girl, the shadows lurking in her eyes, and the smile on her lips. There was something out of place there that felt far older than Mikoto or Shokuhou. Mikoto could not shake the feeling that she was looking at a cheaply faked ghost photo or something.
The girl had been holding her ice cream cone like a microphone, but she casually tossed what remained of it over her shoulder. As it flew up into the air and dropped behind her, her sweet lips formed a single word.
More of a shockwave than an explosion filled the space around her.
The tables and chairs in front of the stores were blown away, the Christmas tree and snowman decorations were knocked over, and the passersby were mercilessly thrown to the ground. The shop windows and even the transparent arcade roof all shattered.
If Mikoto used magnetism to take control of the metal objects and Shokuhou took control of the unconscious children and part-time workers, they could keep the snowy glass shards from shredding the skin of the defenseless people walking below.
Misaka Mikoto remained hovering in place and Shokuhou Misaki jumped to the ground when her footing collapsed.
The shopping district had lost its transparent protection, so the wind and snow could now reach it.
That was more than enough for the unconscious people to freeze to death.
“We need to move elsewhere!!”
“Do you really think she’ll give us the chance? I’ll use Mental Out to move those people out of the way, so you buy me the time!!”
(What even was that, anyway?)
Mikoto was bewildered.
What had caused that shockwave?
And what was that giant orb that had appeared behind the little girl?
The metal sphere was more than two meters tall, making it taller than Anna herself. It gave off a dull silver light and it hovered in the empty air.
Had its appearance split the air?
That meant it worked very differently from Shirai Kuroko’s Teleportation. That girl’s movement did not have such a violent side effect.
It had caused this much damage simply by appearing.
Mikoto had no idea what it was, but she knew it was bad news.
(How was she storing that? If she’s storing the vaccine, antidote, or other defense in the same way, then can anyone but her even get it out!?)
She bit her lip and pulled out an arcade coin.
She placed the coin on her thumb while maintaining her midair position, but then she stopped moving.
The little girl was pointing at the center of her own chest with a thumb.
“Give me your best shot.”
“That ‘power’ was already deflected by a miniscule fraction of what R&C Occultics can provide anyone around the world, so do you really think it can harm me?”
Mikoto took action.
A boom shook the air and a beam of light scorched the air, but the straight line of destruction was not her Railgun that sent metal flying at three times the speed of sound.
It was a lightning spear.
She was afraid of facing that denial again. Even so, this lighting spear was powered up by the A.A.A. It could easily pierce the rubber suits used by workers on transmission towers and it might just immediately stop the heart of any ordinary person it hit.
She heard a single word full of both scorn and pity.
Not one step.
Anna Sprengel had not moved a single step while she was surrounded by dust crackling with electricity. The metal orb remained in place as well.
Mikoto floated down from the broken arcade roof to the floor. She looked pathetic, but Anna actually seemed impressed.
“Oh, you didn’t fall for it?”
“Just like before, this would have been very much over if you hadn’t seen it. Did you use geomagnetism? Or the undetectably-faint plate vibrations? That’s kind of neat. So even the science side can detect those landmines made with ley line distortions.”
Anna laughed and pointed her thumb back over her shoulder.
While bragging about the metal orb there.
“Pneuma-less Shell. Hear me, Philosopher’s Egg and Clear Coffin. Hear me, spell that never strays far and is found hidden even in paintings and music. I seek not the red stone, so show me a distorted result here. So that junk might remain junk, entertain me with the unforeseen that not even I can predict.”
Was that a giant ship’s wheel at the very center?
The little girl grabbed it with her tiny hand and casually gave it a spin. It produced a continuous grinding noise like many heavy gears were turning along with it. Several cracks appeared in the orb and it opened in an even more complex way than a bank vault.
(Dammit, is this the real attack!?)
Something unbelievable had to be stored within.
The seal was opening.
There was no need to wait. Misaka Mikoto knew she had to settle this before the contents could show themselves, so she immediately readied the cutting-edge equipment she wore.
But she was an instant too slow.
Almost like the timing had been calculated out in advance to work that way.
With an especially loud clunk, it emerged.
It was a perfectly ordinary tree branch.
Mikoto’s mind went blank.
She honestly did not know what this meant.
The branch branched out several times to spread out like a large hand. It was no thicker than a little finger. It did have a scattering of solid green leaves, but Mikoto could not quite place what kind of tree it was from.
Mikoto help her breath, but for some reason, Anna Sprengel puffed out her cheeks from within. She slowly let out the breath she had been holding in and it took the form of a sigh.
“Damn, that’s a dud.”
She did not wait a moment longer.
Had Anna infected that idiot over something so unimportant she was willing to leave it up to chance?
And on Christmas Eve of all nights?
Every weapon forming the demonic wings aimed at Anna Sprengel. They were all powerful enough to possibly sink a warship, but Mikoto was past worrying about how sturdy her opponent was.
Anna’s next comment was one of complete disinterest.
“Winning with this would be so easy it’d be a bore.”
Misaka Mikoto perceived it as the wind crashing into the side of her face.
But in fact, the demonic wings of the A.A.A. had their right half torn away like they were made of wet paper.
The white curtain of the blowing snow was swept away only after a short delay.
They were still a good distance apart.
The little girl with only a thin blanket lazily covering her bare skin had merely given the tree branch a casual swing with her arm.
But it was too soon to be surprised quite yet.
The twin rocket engines ruptured and the special fuel leaking from within ignited. The silhouette of Academy City’s #3 was swallowed up by a flash of light as bright as the sun.
The explosion was too large for ordinary gasoline to have caused it.
Even Shokuhou’s scream was drowned out by the noise.
No one could have heard her, but Anna whispered in a singsong voice.
Or maybe she had never really been focused on that “enemy” in the first place.
“The world’s oldest whips are said to have been made from a thin tree branch, not leather or rope.”
She twirled the branch back to rest it on her bare shoulder.
This was the same as Misaka Mikoto flicking an arcade coin at triple the speed of sound.
In the hands of a true superhuman who could take a different view of things, even a single tree branch could produce such tremendous results.
“The first projectiles were stones, the first smokescreens were dried grass, the first biological weapons were corpses, and the first blades were…actually, I’m not sure if they were stone or bone. History and tradition can be found in any part of the world. And their essence can be freely extracted from all things. If you go to the effort of-”
“Wait, essence? What are you talking abou-”
“What do you think I was just explaining, you rogd! Qhuvnd—ahhhh—hiengk!?”
A sudden change came over Anna.
She took action while Shokuhou watched on, frozen and unable to move.
That thin branch looked so cheap, yet it had eliminated the #3 with a huge explosion that may or may not have killed her. If the needle reached the end of the gauge, you would be killed for no reason. Without any dignity. Shokuhou Misaki had mastered all things related to the human mind, so she did not need to check a mirror to know the look on her face. She had the look of someone who had drawn the wrong card.
Meanwhile, Anna’s actions were even more obvious. Those were not attacks intended to kill. She kicked over the mascot in front of a nearby bakery and swung down the branch. She did not stop even after tearing off the thing’s head.
This was frightening in a different way from seeing a simple weapon or army.
It was like seeing the kind and hard-working straight-A student engaging in domestic violence.
“You people always do this! Always, always, always, always!! I’m teaching you all the right things from the very beginning, but you decide it’s too much work! You take these shortcuts and try to enjoy the feeling of mastering something without putting in any real time or effort!! And when that inevitably leads to failure, it’s somehow my fault? You don’t understand—truc—what you’re even doing, but you still feel qualified to criticize me? Are you kidding me!? Are you goddamn kidding—kfu—me here? Do! Not! Doubt! Me!! ~ ~ ~tnjswhglf~ ~ ~! Argh, there’s a purpose behind each step, so learn it all in order!! Don’t try to understand it yourself! Don’t assume you can—ntd—find the answer on your own!! If you just do what I tell you, all your questions will be answered and it will all make sense to you, you bvdhktuh!!!!!!”
It had been torn to pieces.
What had once been a torso was now just a few plastic blocks.
But then the monster must have noticed the dumbfounded honey-blonde girl’s eyes on her.
She looked up from the mascot’s severed head, brought her hands together with the mystery branch still held in one of them, and smiled bright.
And she spoke with an adult confidence that seemed out of place from such a small girl.
“Sorry about that. But I will explain everything for you right now.”
Shokuhou was being taken in.
Even though she knew this was a bad sign.
The #5 girl was nearly invincible.
She had the strongest psychological power. She might have trouble in an unexplored jungle or the middle of the desert, but she was untouchable in a large city full of people. But there were a few people she would not want to run afoul of even then.
For example, the #1 who linked anything and everything to violence. Or the #2 who had stopped being an individual and split himself up so far that it was unclear if the overall will of “Kakine Teitoku” would keep a promise even if you negotiated with each individual branch and received their agreement. Those monsters could tear through a large group all on their own.
This girl was similar.
Manipulating minds was not enough to rest easy against her.
“Now, where was I? You were listening, so you know, don’t you?”
“S-something about prestige…”
“Oh, that’s right! The people who seek out the Son of God’s bloodstains or bundles of ancient parchment are smalltime losers who only want their actions to carry prestige. So you were listening. Good girl☆”
The girl (who at least looked young) laughed and denied everything before her eyes.
Yes. Listening to her, following her rules, and currying her favor were not a guarantee of survival.
For one thing, they were already engaged in combat.
“And the title of Level 5 here in Academy City is no different.”
Shokuhou Misaki shuddered.
And she leaped behind cover as if a paralyzing curse had been lifted from her. She doubted the hip-height concrete barrier dividing the road from the café space could actually defend against Anna’s attack, but she wanted to avoid simply standing out in the open.
After all, Academy City’s #3 had been knocked out of the fight with the very first move.
More than anything Anna had done, Mikoto had been caught in the explosion of her own equipment and vanished into the bright flash of light, and Shokuhou could not spare the attention to try to figure out what had happened to her. If the other girl could no longer fight, that was that. And a psychological esper like Shokuhou could not hope to stick her hand into burning rocket fuel and drag someone out anyway.
Even from here, the heat felt like thin needles sticking into her body.
But she did not seem to be getting any warmth from that. The December chill remained, the snow stung as it hit her body, and that excessive heat was only doing more harm to the honey-blonde girl’s skin.
At the very least, the fire had not spread to the shops of this old(-looking) shopping district.
(I’m surprised I feel so betrayed by this. As much I’m loath to admit it, I must have been relying on Misaka-san more than I thought.)
But she still could not run away.
That boy would not last much longer if Anna was not defeated here. It was Shokuhou’s side that was in trouble if both sides lost sight of each other and wandered off into the city.
She forcibly stretched out her hand while crouched down with bent knees to grab at the chain of her bag full of remotes. She somehow managed to pull it over to her.
She heard a sound like thick rubber or leather stretching tight. It came from the suit between her two legs as her stretching to reach the bag put some kind of pressure on it.
She came to a stop as her thoughts were drawn to that part of her body. She had not thought too much about it before, but now she could not get her mind off of it. Was this an odd thing to think about given the circumstances? Yes, but she may have been trying to distract herself from the predicament she was in.
Mikoto’s nightmarish words replayed in her mind.
(It isn’t actually bulgy, is it?)
She looked down while crouching, but she could not tell from that angle. She knew this was not the time. She really did. But there were some things a girl just had to check on. She bit her lower lip and pulled out a forbidden item: a mirror.
The Queen was squirming behind cover while holding the small mirror up toward a fairly private location, but…
The #5 Queen literally jumped when a casual voice spoke to her from beyond the concrete barrier.
Anna Sprengel’s usual all-knowing look had slipped as she stood there with her head tilted quizzically.
But the mirror was not what really mattered here. The other items in her bag were: the many remotes.
Shokuhou’s life was already at risk thanks to the enemy’s attacks and her own ally exploding, but she still pulled a TV remote out of the bag hanging from her shoulder. That item was the key to Academy City’s #5 power, Mental Out.
Her power had such broad applications that she had trouble using it properly without dividing it out and categorizing it.
Just as she aimed the remote and pressed the button with her thumb, Anna Sprengel’s head shook unnaturally, like it had been hit by an invisible bat from the side.
“That will not work on me.”
(She recovered!? No, it didn’t take!!)
This was worse than with the #1 and #2 who she could control but she still had to keep her guard up around.
She had not expected her power to simply not work on someone. And not because they had forcibly deflected it with a solid defense like Misaka Mikoto did.
“You were mistaken to assume the supernatural ability to control people would allow you to comprehend my mental structure and take control. If you hope to grasp the mind of Anna Sprengel, you should have first trained yourself to the point that you can at least take control of an entire angel.”
Mental Out did not work.
Shokuhou’s power was strong, but it did not work at all against cats or dogs.
And if her psychological power did not work on her enemy, her only remaining option was to use it on other people to gain more pawns. But doing that would only be sending innocent people to be slaughtered by Anna. That would leave a terrible taste in her mouth.
In fact, no one could stand up to this girl.
Even he had apparently been taken out with a single kiss attack.
That was why Shokuhou had not brought along any students with useful powers despite being the Queen of Tokiwadai’s largest clique. This was no longer about logic. The legend was crumbling. Not even Shokuhou Misaki was willing to carry the burden of someone else’s life when it came to fighting Anna.
In that sense, the only person she was comfortable with making use of here was that other girl.
(Speaking of which, what is that meathead doing? With our physical fighter down, even getting the ordinary people to safety is going to be tricky!)
She effectively had to do this without Mental Out. She was wearing the special equipment related to the Five Over, but the general athletic ability it provided her was still not enough to outdo Mikoto.
(And it’s worrying that Mitsuari-san never released the limiters on this suit during that other fight. Dark side toys aren’t going to follow the safety standards, so I hope there isn’t a problem with this thing.)
With the #3 taken out in a single attack, Shokuhou did not see how she could escape defeat no matter how much she jumped and leaped around.
So she had to find some other way.
But what other way was there!?
“Now, what will it be this time?”
Shokuhou heard the sound of heavy metal grinding together.
Even with the snow falling on her through the broken arcade roof, Anna Sprengel had tossed aside the ordinary tree branch and started turning the wheel attached to the 2m orb.
A perfectly logical victory was not going to inspire any emotion inside her.
So she chose to laugh now that she had once more thrown some randomness into the battle.
That superhuman had reached the point that she enjoyed having Lady Luck abandon her.
“If you don’t give up, you might just win eventually. But not because of anything you do—because my luck runs out. But if you don’t keep buying tickets, you can never win the lottery.”
With a dull thud, a complex arrangement of cracks ran through the orb and it opened up to reveal…
Was that the tool she planned to use to take on one of the strongest forces in Academy City?
It was a perfectly ordinary piece of junk that looked so worn out it could snap at any moment, but Miss Sprengel hummed with the smile of a small child returning to their secret base and showing off the prize they had found on the ground.
There was no legend here.
It was really and truly a dud.
Yet she remained unchanged. The difference between her and her opponent was too overwhelmingly great. So much so that Anna herself seemed bored to death.
“So a question: what is this the world’s oldest form of?”
Anna Sprengel laughed.
She had considered going easy on her opponent if she got the right answer, but that girl apparently had no intention of trying. She turned 180 degrees around, her honey-blonde hair spreading out behind her, and she began running full speed away.
(Of course, going easy on her would just mean a longer, more painful death instead of an instant, painless one.)
It did not look like the girl was actually trying to escape.
Was this a temporary withdrawal so she could hide herself and make a surprise attack later?
(I am impressed she’s willing to risk her life for an antidote that might not even exist as far as she knows.)
“You’re used to working from behind the scenes, aren’t you? Do you normally boss other people around to wear down your enemy from a position of safety? Or are you actually afraid of letting these children come to harm? Hee hee. This is a school culture, isn’t it? You’re all children, but you upperclassmen get stuck with so much extra work.”
The girl who looked no older than ten had not moved a step from that spot. Her smile remained, yet she did not try to hide the boredom on her face as she waved her small hand to the side.
And she gave the answer to her quiz question.
“This is the world’s oldest form of bondage, courtesy of ancient Egypt.”
Several things could be heard slicing through the air.
The distance between them did not matter.
The old rope looked worn out and ready to snap if it tried to support someone’s body weight, but the Rose leader was able to endlessly draw out its essence. With that, she could bind even an asteroid falling from the heavens to hold it in place in the middle of the air.
(Running away will only mean stepping on and being blown away by a distorted ley line “landmine”.)
Shokuhou Misaki let out a strange cry and then pitched forward onto the ground.
Anna Sprengel had not done anything to her.
The snow had started to pile up due to the shattered roof, so the ground may have grown wet and slippery.
The rope thrown by Anna actually missed its target entirely, shooting by directly over the Queen of Tokiwadai’s head, and wrapping tightly around one of the pillars that held up the arcade roof. A light tug with her small hand was all it took for tremendous pressure to break the pillar away.
Anna had used the world’s oldest whip and a ley line landmine, yet her opponent had dodged them both simultaneously. And not with the esper powers or technology of Academy City. This was purely the girl’s lack of athletic ability.
The Miss Sprengel stared in disbelief.
It was true Shokuhou Misaki was wearing a suit that supported her athletic abilities.
It was not a powered suit designed for combat, but it was still a bizarre piece of Academy City tech she had picked up in the dark side. Shokuhou would be able to take a handgun bullet to the torso without flinching and she could lift the average car from the ground with just her two arms.
But that did not mean she had overcome her own lack of ability there.
If she had followed the proper movements found in textbooks, she would have been killed instantly. And Anna would have looked bored throughout. Or if the suit had optimized her movements based on combat data from martial arts masters, Anna would have snorted with laughter. She would have called that high-tech solution just another way of seeking the prestige of her predecessors.
But that was not what had happened.
Shokuhou Misaki had survived in her own way.
Anna’s predictions had failed. She had not received the expected result. A loophole or vulnerability in the world had been discovered here and it had overturned Anna’s accurate predictions in a single move.
It may have been a very minor thing, but it was also so wonderfully, unbelievably sweet.
The sweetness burned at her mind.
She knew this was a bad habit of hers, but she went along with it anyway.
It was like a never-before-seen powerful enemy had appeared in the middle of some tedious level grinding.
She let go of that rope that should have been a sure thing for her and she once more spun the wheel on the Pneuma-less Shell. With another grinding noise, the giant orb opened along a complex arrangement of cracks and her small hand roughly snatched at what emerged from within.
Her target’s face was bright red with embarrassment as she scrambled to her feet and continued to run away. Her long blonde hair swayed side to side while she tried to leave the arcade.
“Eh heh hah, ah ha ha ha ha ha ha!! What luck! You have such absurd luck!! Well, you did emerge victorious from the endlessly-cruel screening process of gene rarity to stand here before me now, so I suppose you had already proven your luck! Even so—hee hee—I never thought you would make me laugh like this. Ha ha ha ah ha ha ah ha ah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha hee hee ah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ah ha ha ah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!”
The metal orb groaned some more as it opened. It was no longer holding out on Anna.
“Pff. Ah ha ha! It’s been a while since I’ve gotten an ultra-rare one like this! This is from the 20th century!!”
A tree branch and a flimsy rope had been devastating enough. Shokuhou grimaced at the thought of what was to come, but she was entirely taken aback by what emerged.
It was a silver-colored mass. It was no more than a fifty-eight centimetre sphere, but it sounded much heavier than a bowling ball when it dropped to the ground. The asphalt broke below it. But the official documents said it weighed eighty-four kilograms, so that was to be expected. It also had four metal rods that extended behind it like a comet’s tail.
In other words…
“Sputnik☆ Are satellites more your thing, Miss Science Side?”
“Wait a second.”
“The essence I can draw from this is the world’s oldest orbital launch. Although poor lonely Laika was on the second one. Now, I hope you enjoy this super-ultra-rare cause of death!!”
The instant Anna raised her hand from a good distance away, Shokuhou’s hair rose up in defiance of gravity. She was outside the shopping district, meaning no more arcade roof overhead. Only the mercilessly snowy sky waited up above her.
“Oh, no. This has to be some kind of joke ability. If she seriously going to blow me away like this!?”
She went pale and tried the best she could to run away, but…
Her right ankle twisted in an odd direction, she staggered to the side, and she fell. Anna’s predictions and calculations must not have taken that into account because the bus stop sign right next to her was torn from the ground and thrown into the snowy sky instead. Only the blue sky awaited it.
“Hee hee. You really are entertaining.”
“More, more, more, more!!”
Anna rejoiced at her own bad luck.
She pulled out the next one. It was a perfectly ordinary fist-sized stone. No, it had a small indentation that the little girl stuck her finger into. What she scooped up was not paint. The thick, reddish-black substance was…
“Ha ha, ah ha ha. The world’s oldest writing tool was charcoal. Before papyrus or parchment, humanity preserved their own records by mixing charcoal with blood or fat and rubbing it on cave walls.”
She even licked her lips as she whispered the answer.
She toyed with the substance on her fingertips and moved her hand as if she were carving something into the world as a whole.
“In other words, all grimoires started from here.”
She wrote on a round table lying on its side nearby.
She wrote on a stainless-steel pillar that had avoided breaking.
She wrote on the snowman decoration positioned in front of an ice cream shop.
And all of them transformed into original grimoires that drew energy from the ley lines to autonomously defend themselves.
They all creaked as they began to move. The table’s four legs moved like an animal’s, the stainless-steel pillar bent over and crawled around like an earthworm or inchworm, and the snowman decoration’s smile gained a definite will of its own. And all three of them “glared” toward fleeing and falling Shokuhou Misaki.
“Go on. Sic her☆”
They obeyed Anna’s lazy command by rushing toward the girl, each in their own way.
The air shook.
The newly accumulating snow was blown away as they began to run.
Anna once more noted the middle school girl’s “luck” when she did not immediately look back at her pursuers. These were true grimoires, even if they were impromptu ones. If the casually written words there had entered the girl’s field of view, they would have assaulted her brain and sent blood pouring from every hole on her face.
Anna had never imagined that someone facing such a threat to their life would run right smack into the support pillar of a wind turbine.
The table had overtaken its target and then made a U-turn to cut off her escape like a hound, but the unexpected collision threw off its aim and it crashed into a concrete wall instead.
When Shokuhou Misaki pushed her hands against the ground and climbed to her feet, the stainless-steel inchworm was clearly right there at the center of her vision, but she was so dizzy from the pain in her nose and her tension was so high that the text must never have actually reached her mind. She managed to overlook what was right in front of her and it saved her life.
Anna Sprengel could only hold her stomach with both hands and laugh.
“Ah ha ha ha!!!!!! Yes, you I like. Kamijou Touma is interesting as a raw material to work with, but he’s grown so used to his misfortune and he’s learned how to operate within it, so he’s just too unchanging. You, on the other hand, are a delight. You really are trying to do everything flawlessly, but you’re so hopelessly bad at it that it actually ends up saving you. Yes, yes. This truly is beyond any of my expectations!!!”
And how did the Queen of Tokiwadai respond while on the run?
“This city only needs one Queen: me!!”
(Now I get why Mitsuari-san never shut off the suit’s limiters no matter how cornered she felt back then. This thing amplifies your unathletic side too, so one careless acceleration could have you trip or crash into a wall at twice the speed and she wanted to avoid self-destructing like that!)
Shokuhou Misaki tearfully held her reddened nose with a hand while shouting back at her foe.
Anna had called Kamijou Touma a “raw material”.
She would make her regret that. She would make her cough up whatever vaccine or antidote she was hiding. She would do whatever it took like the cruel queen she was.
Anna Sprengel walked leisurely through the shopping district and poked her head out from the arcade before looking a bit to the side.
That was when it happened.
An arcade coin shot down from the top of the building at three times the speed of sound.
It was past the point that thinking of her as a ten-year-old mattered.
Shokuhou’s throat trembled at the sudden explosion.
A powerful explosion and shockwave erupted around Anna Sprengel, sending smashed plastic and concrete into the air as a fine dust. Invisible but thick walls rushed out in every direction, forcibly tearing the inchworm and snowman from the ground as they tried to attack the honey-blonde girl. It was the same principle as a ship’s sail or an umbrella during a typhoon. Shokuhou had fallen to the ground while the monsters had their large bodies raised, so the blast affected them differently.
“Oh, my.” Anna laughed from a short distance away while holding the thin red cloth to her chest. “You finally found the courage, did you? Good girl. You seemed to be arguing before, but does she actually mean a lot to you?”
But they had bigger issues to deal with.
Shokuhou looked up while still trembling.
Academy City’s #3 had her feet perfectly balanced atop the raised edge of a short building’s rooftop. But the A.A.A. was gone. Instead of sticking with that half-destroyed junk, she must have abandoned it to focus on escaping the rocket fuel explosion.
Shokuhou Misaki raised her voice while grimacing at the unpleasant wetness of the snow that her own body heat had melted below her butt.
“What is this sticky dust ability!? Microplastics? Concrete powder? Ew, ew, ew, ew! Are you trying to kill me by having me breathe in all this gross stuff!?”
“Shut up and go back to eating your organic vegetables covered in caterpillars and worms!! I just saved your snowy ass, so you should be rubbing your forehead into the ground to thank me! And get on up here. I can’t aim my Railgun at those drones with you down there!!”
Shokuhou leaped straight up before she could even look back on reflex. She jumped a full seven meters with no footholds on the way up. Unfortunately, she had been too panicked to even think about how she would land. In fact, she jumped clear over the building rooftop, lost her balance in midair, and began to rotate vertically.
“Oh, no! Oh, no! Oh, no!”
“(The world would probably be better off if I just let her fall ass-first into one of the TV antennas or Christmas trees around here.)”
“Enough calm calculation ability! Just save me already! Humanely, I mean!!”
Mikoto fired a few extra Railguns down.
Instead of Anna Sprengel herself, these were launched at the table, stainless-steel pillar, and snowman that had been attacking Shokuhou.
Explosions and shockwaves erupted out and they knocked the honey-blonde girl further off course, sending her through two flips along an unnatural trajectory. And for some reason, she landed neatly in Mikoto’s arms.
She was being princess carried in a highly unusual fashion.
“Don’t say that out loud, you liar Queen!!”
“Well, this isn’t my first time being princess carried, so this is fine by me.”
Mikoto did not like where this conversation was headed, so she relaxed her arms to let Shokuhou fall straight down. She let Shokuhou’s defenseless back fall right onto her raised knee, bending her spine at an unpleasant angle.
“Stop thinking you have the upper hand here and tell me one thing. I need to know to stay focused right now, okay? The first time you just mentioned: was it with that idiot? I can’t imagine who else it would be.”
“I-I’ll leave that one to your imagination.”
A gloomy darkness entered Mikoto’s eyes, but she was also focused on the reality before them. Now was not the time to be having fun with Miss Exhibitionist in her high leg swimsuit (with one portion of her body a bit damp after sitting in the snow).
Their enemy was not dead yet.
And that did not just refer to the table, stainless-steel pillar, and snowman.
Anna Sprengel parted the dust while laughing. Yet the asphalt at her feet was torn up, so the Railgun blast had definitely hit there.
(You damn monster!!)
Mikoto clenched her teeth, but she had honestly doubted a surprise attack would be enough to settle this.
That was why she had been able to fire the shot without worrying about accidentally killing the girl and forever losing the only means of saving that boy.
Her Railgun was supposed to be her trump card, but ever since the 24th, it had been reduced to a mere door knocker that always lost to the enemy’s defenses. However, she was most humiliated by the fact that she was actually growing accustomed to that fact. Of course, that was due to the fact that she had high enough base stats to swiftly accept unpleasant information so she could work towards another solution instead of being a one-trick pony.
“What do we do!? My Mental Out isn’t showing any sign of working!!”
“Has she abandoned her humanity in body and mind? Anyway, we need to get away from her for the time being! Even if we are going to take the fight to her, we need to at least lure her into a soccer field, nature park, or other open area. Otherwise we’ll just do more damage to everything around her!!”
They knew it would only sadden Kamijou Touma if they caused a ton of collateral damage while trying to save him.
And that side of him was part of what made them want to save him in the first place.
Shokuhou Misaki was wearing an enhancement suit, but she would still trip and fall (with several times the force of normal), so she could not exactly jump from rooftop to rooftop in the middle of battle. If she slipped on the snow during her running start, she could end up falling and going splat at the bottom. Thus, Mikoto continued princess carrying her while leaping from frozen building to frozen building.
The Queen of Tokiwadai brushed her hair from her shoulder.
“Yes, this is how it’s supposed to work. The super genius beauty handles all the cool and calculated brainwork while the brawny dumb-dumb handles all the fighting and the transportation while also looking after me☆”
“I’ll drop you from this twelve-story building, pork buns.”
“Whaaaat!? How can you look at this perfect, lustrous body and think of that horrifying convenience store product full of additives!?”
The dumb Queen roared back with various (meat-filled) parts of her jiggling, but Mikoto ignored it. Although she did decide to be a little kinder to Shirai Kuroko who she always used as a convenient means of getting around. She had discovered that asking for help and being asked for it were completely different experiences.
She also noticed she had calmed down enough to think about other things like that.
Not receiving any additional attacks from Anna Sprengel would of course be best, but Anna also had no real reason to stop. It was hard to imagine her losing sight of someone just because they fled across the rooftops. This was an improvement, but it had been handed to them by the enemy. Mikoto was honestly unsure if she could simply accept it, so she grew cautious.
After coming to a stop on a rooftop (while princess carrying the hot and juicy pork buns), she looked back into the distance.
She saw nothing there.
Nor did she hear anything.
She waited for a bit before realizing what had happened.
“She… isn’t following us?”
She thought to herself in the falling snow, failed to find an answer, and felt her mind boiling over.
She thought back to the sign she had seen Anna Sprengel looking at: Straight Ahead – District 15.
In other words…
“Did she lose all interest in us!?”
“You know what I’ve realized, Kami-yan?”
Kamijou Touma sounded out of it as he responded.
“It’s not about the female doctors and nurses.” Aogami Pierce sat cross-legged on the neighboring bed with nothing better to do. “I’m all about the sickly girls in pajamas right now. I saw the cutest girl with a bob cut and an eyepatch out in the hall earlier.”
“What’s with you, Aogami Pierce? Did you take a mental trip to some other world when Fukiyose broke your secret tablet over her knee during her visit?”
“In fact, this is the home of girls in casts and eyepatches!! I need to be more careful cause I overlooked this until now! And I’m supposed to be the all-time master!!”
What did that matter?
Kamijou regretted asking, but he decided to say one thing more.
“What am I supposed to do about this information?”
“Let’s go visit a girl’s room.”
“Why did I even ask!? We can’t do that! You’re the kind of guy that loses all control on the school trip and ends up hated by the entire class! Think for two seconds why they go to the trouble of keeping separate rooms for boys and girls in the hospital!!”
“Shut up!! I’m not spending my Christmas playing cards with another guy!! I want at least one bittersweet memory!!”
Aogami Pierce’s hands were not functioning, so he had learned how to manipulate the cards with his toes. People always found a way to grow when the need arose. Even if it was meaningless growth.
He was making more sense than when he had been stubbornly refusing to admit Christmas was anything special, but he had taken it in the worst possible direction. Kamijou really wanted to avoid being caught in the middle of this.
“Don’t worry, Kami-yan. I’m pretty sure I can get away safely while they’re attacking you.”
“Do I need to break a few of your bones to extend your stay here? If you know we’ll be attacked and have to ‘get away’, none of your dreams are going to come true there!! Just accept the reality you’re stuck with, Aogami! At most, you might open the door and accidentally see them changing, but no love starts that way!!”
“Wrong!! We still have our old friends the suspension bridge effect and Stockholm syndrome!!”
“Aren’t those both about people mistaking their fear for something else!?”
Kamijou was aware that manuals on how to get someone to fall in love through hypnotism or psychology stubbornly refused to go away in certain niche markets, but he was pretty sure the end result of that would only feel empty. It was all one way and they would never be seeing you for who you really were.
“Oh, I’ve given up on any normal sort of love,” said the garbage in the neighboring bed while sounding almost proud of himself.
“As long as I can do her, I don’t really care how I get to that point. The age of maturity was lowered! And there’s a curse placed on all us boys, requiring us to lose our virginity before then!!”
“Pretty sure you’re just screwing yourself up so bad you’ll never even be able to hold a girl’s hand.”
“Wait…you’ve been acting awfully calm for someone sharing this hellish Christmas with me. What is this barrier between us? You can tell me!”
Kamijou Touma stared off into the distance.
He lamented his current situation.
And he stuffed a rolled-up tissue in his nose while thinking back on something.
“Kissing isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.”
Aogami Pierce stopped breathing.
“What… did you say? And what’s that nosebleed supposed to mean!?”
“I mean, people’s mouths are full of germs. You never know what kind of microbes are in there.”
“How dare you!!!”
Anna Sprengel sighed quietly.
She looked up into the chilly white sky as those two disappeared, but then she looked away. It was just like a child watching an airplane through the car window until the car entered a tunnel.
She began walking in the direction she was most interested in.
She checked the blue sign and kept walking with a bored look on her face.
(Shokuhou Misaki is fun because she introduces so many irregularities without even meaning to, but now Misaka Mikoto is in control again. People who fight properly and lose seriously are such a bore. There’s nothing of value there. And I was really hoping to enjoy that a while longer too.)
Below the snowy sky, she wiped the reddish-black paint off of her small fingertips which looked softer than custard, causing the devices she had sent out to collapse on the spot. The powerful text written out on the table, stainless-steel pillar, and snowman all melted away and the same happened to the inanimate objects themselves. They were only makeshift grimoires and they had failed to establish the proper circulation of ley line power absorbed from the ground, so they appeared to rupture from within. It was similar to a stroke or aneurysm where your own blood flow kills you.
She did not even care enough to look back at what remained.
She snapped her fingers as she walked and the two-meter metal orb compressed down behind her. In the blink of an eye, it became a bottle no larger than an eyedrop container. The miniscule round flask was lined with a thin lead foil. And unlike the flasks found at ordinary schools, this one had multiple necks, making it look something like a bagpipe.
This was not her only trump card.
The Pneuma-less Shell was a base metal still made by intentionally distorting the original egg. It was in fact a spiritual item meant to disturb her own rhythm and reduce her status.
Once you eliminated death, you would forget the fear of death and others could bring about your death without you even realizing it. In other words, it led to careless mistakes. Just like the immortal Greek gods were unable to control themselves and ended up giving into their pride and jealousy, leading to many very human mistakes.
People could not restrain or govern themselves without wanting for something.
Think of the people of a certain country who so hated the clean water coming from their faucets at home that they would go out and buy bottled mineral water. Did those people properly appreciate the rarity of that single drop of water?
“I suppose that’s enough sightseeing. There’s nothing more to see in this city, so maybe I should get to work. Nothing else of interest here... If St. Germain still hasn’t destroyed that boy, I need to help it along.”
(The acute St. Germain should have spread through his body by now, but I can hasten the process by driving him to anger.)
“I wonder what I’ll see.”
All she did was laugh.
“The pain, anxiety, fear, and resignation will wear your soul away, leaving only the last and final piece, but what will that final piece be, Kamijou Touma? I cannot wait to see what your true essence is.”
Anna then pulled out a perfectly ordinary smartphone to replace her spiritual item. It displayed the kind of map app used everywhere in the world.
The signs around here said this was the border between Districts 13 and 15.
Her destination was further east.
Academy City would normally be blotted out on navigation services from outside the city, but this was a complete version with everything down to the back alleys filled in by a satellite belonging to R&C Occultics. She could find her way around Academy City with this.
“Hm, hm, hm hm☆”
She inputted her destination and a few different routes were automatically calculated.
She tapped the shortest of the routes to begin.
Her destination was a certain hospital in District 7.
The phone spoke in a polite, female artificial voice.
“One hour to your destination.”
The situation had changed.
They hesitantly turned back the way they had come and then followed the blue signs to the east. They of course made sure to continue jumping from snowy rooftop to snowy rooftop to avoid accidentally running into Anna on the streets.
Yet it was them that were in trouble if they lost sight of Anna.
She was the only one with the vaccine or antidote they needed. They had to prevent her from reaching the hospital.
But they also knew Anna would show up at the hospital eventually, so couldn’t they lie in wait there instead of trying to chase her around?
No, they could not.
Two Level 5s had attacked without slowing her in the slightest, so the hospital would be destroyed the instant she arrived there. It did not matter whether or not the sick boy who kept coughing up blood could win in the end. Everything there – the people and the things – would be destroyed in the process.
And that might be enough to break him.
Because he would carry the weight of things he had no responsibility to carry.
They had to be careful while jumping. If they knocked some snow off the edge of a roof, they might just be noticed.
They had arrived in District 15.
This district looked very different. It was Academy City’s largest shopping district, so it was flooded with young people dressed up as Santa or a reindeer. There were also some weird costumes like a box or a turkey with short arms and legs attached. There was apparently an attempt to break the record for the world’s largest cake, so the excitement was not going to end until the cake had been sliced up and everyone had a chance to snap a photo of their piece.
There were no umbrellas to be seen.
The view of the phone cameras was apparently more important than anyone’s health, so those view-blocking pieces of waterproof fabric would get you judged guilty.
Which made her easy to spot.
“There she is!”
A pedestrian deck was constructed up above a pedestrian scramble, making for a very busy area, but a girl who looked to be only 10 was walking above the road there mixed in with the crowd. From time to time, some young people carrying bottles of beer or sparkling wine (those were actual adults and not just high schoolers, right?) would pour some of their drink on her while laughing. The thin red cloth barely covering her was actually being accepted by the people here, so District 15’s happy and cheerful Christmas was a strange time indeed. A young wife in only an apron would apparently be accepted as no more than a costume on this day.
Shokuhou was disgusted since she preferred a classier atmosphere.
“This is worse than I’d heard.”
“All these lights are nearly blinding me, so it’s easy to lose track of her. Help me double check her location.”
The partying was already out of control, but a girl must have decided this was her chance and began an unauthorized concert out on the street. Around ten bodybuilders were lifting up a German luxury car (probably one of theirs) like a palanquin and smiled for the camera while filming an ad for a sports gym. This white Christmas was growing deadly cold, yet both the girl with a bare midriff and a megaphone and the oiled-up group in only trunks did not seem to care. District 15 really was a strange place. Enough so that the TV cameramen who had showed up hoping to get some good footage had to cover the lens with a hand to avoid filming the overly risqué costumes and the people misbehaving for the camera. It was easy to see why no one was paying much attention to Anna.
Had she chosen to use the elevated path because the ground level was packed in as close as a crowded train during rush hour? Although it did look like there would have been other options.
“She really is staring due east!” shouted Mikoto while focusing on something other than the people.
A blue sign was installed on the pedestrian deck. It was half frozen over by sherbet-like snow, but it was still readable: Straight Ahead – District 7.
(She’s moving from west to east? And District 15 leads right into District 7.)
Shokuhou must have been thinking the same thing because she arched one of her shapely eyebrows.
“There are plenty of landmarks there, but the last place we want her is there too: the District 7 hospital where he was taken.”
Anna was walking along in such a defenseless way she might as well have been daring them to attack her.
And if they managed to entertain her, she would be willing to come to stop and watch the show. But the instant she lost interest, she would resume walking toward that hospital. And once she arrived, she would destroy the entire building with the dying boy inside. Her steady pace gave off the same precision fear as a time bomb or a cruise missile.
Shokuhou kicked her legs like a small child while being princess carried.
“So what do we do?”
“Stop trying to act cute, pork buns.”
“The next time you call me that, I’m breaking through your mental barrier with Mental Out.”
“Oh, really? Well, I chose not to call you ‘sweet buns’ because I thought it sounded wrong, but if that’s what you prefer. Also, she’s using a device to navigate, isn’t she? Then we need to move in close and attack.”
“Did you learn nothing from last time!? We can’t hope to win with our direct fighting ability!!”
That was not something two Level 5s should have been saying.
But if they did not accept their disadvantage, they could not keep up with reality. They would be left behind by the times.
Mikoto let out a white sigh.
“Which is why that’s a diversion. Our real plan is to hack her phone and mess with her navigation to send her in an endless circle. I don’t really know how much of a monster this Anna Sprengel person is, but that’s a normal electronic device she’s holding. We can redirect her somewhere more convenient for us and then figure out how to keep her from defending herself. We’ll invite her into a whiteout. It’s time she learned how scary it is to get stranded out in the snow in a high-tech city of 2.3 million!!”
“I see,” said Shokuhou Misaki.
The diversion part would have to be done by Misaka Mikoto since physical fighting was her specialty. Everyone involved already knew Shokuhou Misaki’s Mental Out did not work on Anna, so the Queen honestly had nothing to do here. She just wanted Mikoto to get it on with it and become a noble sacrifice that would extend that pointy-haired boy’s life.
Except she had forgotten something.
Her dislike of the other girl was a mutual one.
“Okay, do your best to act as disposable bait. If she actually takes a bite of those sweet and sexy buns, I promise to never forget your sacrifice.”
“Bwah, wait!? Th-this is an 8-story building!! You can’t just toss me off of here, Misaka-saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan!!!!!!”
After a count of three, Mikoto tossed the weight she was princess carrying. Shokuhou felt an odd floating sensation, but she could not actually do anything but scream while dropping down. And with that much noise, everyone in the area ended up looking up toward the source. That included Anna Sprengel in the middle of the crowd.
And a crescent moon smile had torn across her face.
It was the cruel smile of a small child thinking about squishing the bug held between her fingers.
“I am so sick of being used as a toy for weirdos with no common sense!!”
While Shokuhou flailed her arms and legs, the transmission of force must have come together just right because she spun around in midair and her feet landed cleanly on the railing of the pedestrian deck.
(A-and Misaka-san didn’t even help my landing ability!? Was that musclebound moron really trying to kill me!?)
“Of course I helped. I just did it wirelessly.”
That response came from the same pedestrian deck as Anna.
They were less than ten meters apart. Misaka Mikoto was crouched down in an animalistic stance as she took aim at the little girl’s navel. And she rushed in with enough force to dislocate Anna’s spine with a single tackle.
At the same time, a disconcerting sound came from all over Shokuhou’s body. No, the skintight suit covering her was being electrically controlled.
She leaped from the railing, flipped as gracefully as a ballerina or figure skater, and used the centrifugal force to sweep her heel around in a roundhouse kick. It was aimed for Anna’s face. Specifically, her eyes.
She did not need to score a clean hit.
As long as it blinded Anna or forced her to evade, it would create the opening Mikoto needed.
“Wait! Misaka, why!?”
Shokuhou Misaki finally bristled and yelled about being used as a sacrificial pawn, but the seemingly ten-year-old girl reached a small hand out toward the approaching heel and casually grabbed the Queen’s ankle. With a swing of her arm, Shokuhou transformed into a projectile to intercept Mikoto.
Mikoto did not really care. She focused on her magnetic control.
Instead of catching Shokuhou who flew in while rotating like a defective boomerang, Mikoto stepped on the girl (specifically on those loathsome twin pork buns on her chest) to take a leap forward.
This did not produce a “boing” sound effect, nor did it enhance her jump in any noticeable way.
The honey-blonde girl was mad now (and too much of an amateur to realize she needed to focus on her landing right now), so she pulled a TV remote from her bag and aimed it at Mikoto.
That girl who liked watching TV despite being the Queen of social media raised her voice.
“There are TV crews here, so you can kiss your social life goodbye after I make you strip down and dance in the nude, Misaka-saaan!!”
“Don’t interfere! Now is not the time!!”
With a dull zap, Mikoto’s head shook to the side. The #5’s Mental Out did not work on the #3 as long as Mikoto rejected it. All it did was give her a minor headache.
Without that, Mikoto would have crashed into Anna Sprengel, slammed her to the ground, and pinned her down. As a teenage girl, she hated having to win by using her weight, but there was no way such a little girl could overpower her like that.
Something scorched the empty air.
If Mikoto had stayed on her previous course, her upper body would have been reduced to ashes before she even reached Anna.
Anna did not appear to be holding any kind of special weapon.
She had simply blown a kiss in an oddly mature way for her body size.
(What? This isn’t like that junk she was using before!)
The soles of Mikoto’s shoes scraped at the pedestrian deck. She had landed a bit to the side of the girl instead of on top of her.
She had not intended for that and she doubted Shokuhou had either.
Still unarmed, Anna laughed.
She crossed her fingers in an odd way for simply clenching and unclenching her fist.
“Hilarious. You should really keep the unathletic one in charge.”
“I! Am! Not! Unathletic!!!!!!”
That must have been something Shokuhou Misaki refused to let stand because she tearfully hopped back up while rolling and writhing on the ground (because she had been too focused on revenge to prepare for her landing).
Anna waved a small hand and took a single step back.
That brought her right alongside a redheaded high school girl in a knit cap who happened to be on the same pedestrian deck.
“Oh, no! She’s taking a hostage!!”
But what happened next came as a complete surprise.
Instead of holding a blade up to the girl, Anna whispered in her ear.
The girl had been trying to earn more views on social media by filming as much of the partying as she could, but she had not had the courage to dress up in a costume herself.
“Did you hear that? A mere middle schooler is worried for you. Doesn’t it make you want to die of embarrassment when you’re in high school?”
“How long were you planning to be a mere cameraman while walking around in the snow without an umbrella? Don’t you feel lonely standing there adjusting the camera’s focus? It’s your phone, so shouldn’t you be there in the center of the screen? And you have a new power to show off, don’t you? If you could only use the magic properly, you could tear down the illusionary hierarchy built by science. And isn’t today the perfect day to throw out your inhibitions and make yourself the star?”
Miss Sprengel’s whispers made the girl gasp.
Those words were like a sweet and slow-acting poison.
“Sigh. Maybe my hopes for you were misplaced.” She delivered the finishing blow. “You’re just going to sit here all alone on Christmas and let that power go to waste, aren’t you? People like you, who have the power to change their future but refuse to do so, are doomed to live and die in obscurity.”
Those words must have carried a great bewitching power because the knit hat girl immediately changed her mind.
“The power of a four-legged animal can be extracted from a single finger. Picture a line extending from the center of your heart to the tip of your middle finger and let the fire essence roar!!”
A bright flash of light was followed by a sound more like melting metal than burning.
And that was accurate because the pedestrian deck was melted and sliced through.
“What in the—!?”
“Ah ha ha.”
The knit cap high school girl’s response was strange.
She could have easily become a murderer just then, but it was joy that covered her face. She sounded like an elementary schooler whose esper power had first shown real results.
“I did it, I did it!!” She kept her palm held out toward Mikoto and Misaki. “I actually did it!! I forced the famous #3 to gasp and fall back. Hey, were you filming that? A selfie isn’t enough for this! This needs to go viral! My power was real after all!!”
Mikoto was overwhelmed by how unusual this was, but then she heard some laughter growing more distant. Anna Sprengel was slipping through the crowd while whispering a few statements each to the boys and girls she set her sights on. With some she used a grudge, with some talk of making easy money, with some an inferiority complex, and with some a desire for unity. She chose the perfect words to work their way deep inside each individual’s heart.
That was all it took to unleash something.
The middle and high school students enjoying their Christmas pulled out some objects from their pockets and bags. Some were plastic wands, some were metal medallions, and some were cards made with an automatic business card printer.
They all shouted something, but Mikoto could no longer perceive it as words.
Their voices shook the entire deck like the cheering at a stadium and their voices produced beams of light, explosions, ice spears, and even humanoid forms that rushed toward Mikoto like a flash flood.
Mikoto’s intuition told her this was very bad.
She could tell these were not the esper powers she was used to dealing with.
She reflexively tried to leap up with her magnetism to avoid it, but she felt some resistance at her right leg.
Someone was clinging to her while squishing those two chest buns against her leg.
The girl really did have tears in her eyes at the prospect of being left behind.
“What kind of servant are you, you violent maid!? You need to look after your Queen when she has this kind of once-a-millennium beauty, Misaka-saaan!!”
She lost balance and both of them fell from the railing and off the pedestrian deck altogether.
But that may have been the best move they could have made since a few beams of light scorched the sky above. Mikoto could not have been more reluctant to admit it, but she might have been shredded by that barrage if she had followed her original escape plan.
Instead of falling to the ground, she used magnetism to attach themselves to the underside of the pedestrian deck. The unexpected movement managed to shake off all the gazes from above and below the deck.
“Any idea what that was!?” she asked.
“It wasn’t ordinary esper abilities, that’s for sure. If it was, then two Level 5s like us wouldn’t need to hide up here like bugs.”
“I agree, but that isn’t what I was talking about. If you had a ‘special power’ dropped into your lap out of the blue, would you really just start using it to kill? To be honest, Anna’s words weren’t that attractive. In fact, you’d be extra skeptical of any offer made by a little girl wearing only a thin cloth. Con artists normally try to look as legitimate as possible while giving an extremely calculated sales talk! So why did it work for her!?”
Mikoto was asking the Level 5 with the strongest psychological power if there had been any “interference” at play there.
“All she did was talk to them.” The Queen bluntly rejected that idea. But, “That can work if you already have your target’s personal information. Specifically, if you have already researched all of their internal problems, such as inferiority complexes, traumas, and mental tension in need of catharsis.”
“But how could she…?”
Mikoto trailed off as she found the answer.
That enormous IT company had appeared seemingly out of nowhere and took fortunetelling requests from all around the globe. Which required the names, genders, ages, birthdates, blood types, and other crucial personal information about the requester and the person they had a crush on. (Did it also work with more platonic feelings, a boss you disliked, or someone you wanted revenge against?) Even the reason someone wanted the fortunetelling was a treasure trove of information on their doubts and worries. The possibilities someone rejected for themselves and the words they wanted to hear someone else say were a very good indicator of their psychological scars.
Giant IT companies loved to show off how personal information was a new form of monetizable asset, yet they also did everything they could to extract it from people without paying them for it, so analyzing their users’ browsing history to display the most effective advertisements was a walk in the park for them. If you dug deeper into those techniques, you would be able to influence the nonphysical mental world through psychological analysis, scoring people’s humanity, creating a cyber cult, and more.
In other words, you could develop a master key that would have no effect on the other 7 billion people out there but was carefully designed to stir something inside that one person and push them toward a certain action. Of course, it required such a massive prior investment that it was generally not worth the effort.
But this extraordinary idiot had actually done it.
This fool had ignored all of the warning bells from wiser people and done it anyway for one simple reason: because she could.
“By the way.” Anna Sprengel’s cruel laughter arrived from somewhere in the crowd. She sounded like a child who had never been taught the value of life. “Psychology deals in individuals and groups. Just like a single person running for the entrance during a good sale or at a concert will inspire everyone else to do the same, the actions of a few have a way of spreading through a larger group. To be clear, controlling a group is much easier than controlling an individual.”
Mikoto heard a gurgling sound.
She raised her guard against whatever was coming, but that “flash flood” from before did not arrive again.
Puzzled, she hacked a nearby street camera and displayed its footage on her phone’s small screen.
“What the hell?”
Was it Mikoto or the knit cap high school girl who asked that?
The girl who had wielded that strange new technique known as magic was holding her hands to her mouth. A dark red liquid was spilling from between her fingers. There was far too much sticky liquid dripping down to the pedestrian deck for this to be a simple scrape or cut.
“Eh, eh? Wai- bh. Cough, cough, cough!! What’s happening to me!?”
She extended her bloody hands hoping to find some assistance, but no one reached out to help her. In fact, the other boys and girls who had used what was (apparently) called magic were all coughing up blood and collapsing much like her. No, it went beyond coughing up blood. The blood vessels in their body were bursting, the dark blue marks of internal bleeding appeared on their skin, and some of them must have had the blood vessels in their eyes burst too because the whites of their eyes were stained red.
There was no answer to be found here.
Of course there wasn’t when no one understood the mechanism known as magic.
Their minds clung to speculation to escape the fear of not knowing and that groundless information inspired new hatred.
In other words…
“The #3 did this.”
There was deep resentment in their voices.
They refused to admit to their own fear, so the resentment settled in deep and inspired simple aggressiveness and hostility, all so they could avoid looking at their impending doom.
They were driven by an invisible fear.
Civilization had regressed to the age when germs were called a witch’s curse. If they caught a cold from being out in the winter chill, they would blame Mikoto. If their throat grew hoarse after shouting too much, that too would be Mikoto’s fault.
“She used EM waves somehow!!”
“That’s right. Why else would our blood vessels start bursting!?”
“It’s her or us! Electrolysis can easily break down our vitamins!!”
Mikoto had trouble breathing.
Even Shokuhou asked a trembling question while below the pedestrian deck that had clear icicles hanging down from it.
She had doubt in her eyes.
“I seriously doubt you did, but you didn’t actually do anything, did you?”
“No, I have no idea what this is. In fact, I can’t even cause that with my powers!!”
Mikoto shouted back, but that did not make it any less awkward. Yes, Mikoto and Shokuhou knew more about the situation than any of the other students, but not even they knew what was happening. And without knowing that, she could not be 100% certain she had not accidentally caused this somehow.
If Kamijou Touma had happened to be here, he could have explained it right away. He would have said this was the obvious side effect when a scientific esper used magical spells. He would tell those students to stop if they wanted to avoid destroying all their blood vessels and nerves.
But the majority of people living in Academy City did not have that knowledge.
And without the knowledge to avoid the damage happening to them, they could only turn to meaningless superstition.
Kill the witch and all the world’s problems will be solved. Break the Muramasa because that sword is disturbing the peace of the world. In the West and the East, there had always been cases of absurd mass hysteria where people attacked a minority to achieve peace of mind.
People were more frightening when inspired by fear than by anger.
Because they could no longer decide for themselves to lower their raised fist.
“Hey, what do we do? She already saw who we are. Oh, god. This is terrifying.”
“Shut up. We can’t back down now that the fight’s started. If we don’t take her out, she’ll just hunt us down in revenge!!”
“Get her!! Before she can attack again!! This invisible attack can get you through your dorm’s walls, so we need to kill her nowwwwwwwwwwwwww!!”
“Misaka-san,” said Shokuhou, but Mikoto was on the move before she even finished. With the Queen still in her arms, she used magnetism to swing around from the bottom of the pedestrian deck like she was on a trapeze. She flew in a large C to arrive high overhead just before the point below the deck was filled with beams of light and great heat. That part of the deck actually melted and the remainder tilted like it had lost its balance.
The #5’s eyes were wide as she clung to the #3’s hips.
“We can’t get the vaccine or antidote if we lose sight of that monster. And she’ll destroy the hospital when she gets there. Where did Anna Sprengel go!?”
“I don’t know!! But these people collapsing take precedence right now. Did Anna do something to them!?”
Every time the terrified students used magic, they would harm themselves more, but they mistook that for another mysterious attack from Misaka Mikoto, grew even more terrified, and clung to magic again to rid themselves of that fear. Unfortunately, no one here could prove to them they were trapped in a hopeless vicious cycle.
Kamijou Touma was not here.
Even so, Misaka Mikoto focused on what they had to do while she flew upside-down in the air.
That verbal slap to the cheek got the Queen to gasp and grab her remote.
Anna Sprengel and Misaka Mikoto were exceptions, but Mental Out would work just fine against this ordinary group of ordinary people.
A single button froze the world around them.
All those boys and girls had been shortening their own lives with magic like someone obsessively checking to make sure they had locked the door before heading out, but now they all came to a stop.
The negative spiral had been broken.
At the same time, the only person still moving stood out like a sore thumb. A small form was using the stairs to descend from the tilted deck.
It had to be…
“Oh, dear. They’ve noticed me. That psychological one is still full of surprises and a lot of fun. Maybe we’re just a good match.”
Anna smiled as she descended from the snow-covered pedestrian deck to the crowd on the surface.
A part-timer on a red Santa-themed bike was trapped in the crowd with a phone and an insulated bag, presumably after someone ordered something to this area without thinking. These human shields apparently made it difficult for those girls to attack, so Miss Sprengel slipped past the poor part-timer and kept walking. She was starting to think using a bike might be fun because she had seen a Christmas-themed rental bike stand that formed a metal tree by attaching a ton of bikes to a revolving door made from cross-shaped metal poles.
(I’m sure they can guess where I’m headed, so will they panic if I arrive ahead of schedule?)
The naked little girl pulled her red cloth in closer and smiled coldly. The danger of being her favorite was obvious enough from that boy who was approaching death due to an unexpected kiss from her.
The thorns of this rose would harm all life around her.
She cut across District 15 which continued to party like they were in Sodom (which shouldn’t have been much of a surprise for a city built by Aleister) and she approached the neighboring district.
That was District 7.
But just before she arrived, a black shooting star fell toward her head.
Misaka Mikoto had dropped straight down with an iron sand sword made by gathering up all the iron sand she could find and shaping it into a rapidly-vibrating sword.
Anna simply held up her small hand.
But her fingers were crossed in an unusual way for simply spreading your hand out.
That was enough to stop an attack capable of slicing right through an armored train.
“And this is unbearably boring, Misaka Mikoto. You were somewhat interesting back when you were blurring the line between science and magic with the A.A.A., but no longer. Now you’re just plain old strong. You can increase your parameters all you like, but your movements themselves are so one-note. I’m not interested in an event boss that requires the strongest equipment, so get lost already.”
Mikoto did not expect a clean hit.
The instant she tried to push her way through, it was not Anna Sprengel who was destroyed. It was one of the metal trees found here and there in District 15. It was a rental bike stand made by attaching all the bikes to metal poles to form a tree.
A large cloud of snow scattered into the air around her landing point.
Disconcerting cracks ran through the entire metal and concrete stairway Anna stood on. The metal poles were sliced to pieces and the seemingly ten-year-old girl was slammed into the ground along with the wreckage of the many bikes.
They were rental products, so they did not use anything fancy like carbon or aluminum frames.
That meant Mikoto could control them via magnetism.
(I don’t have to defeat her. If I can crush her under all these scraps and keep her from moving, she won’t be able to cause any more trouble. Once she’s caught, I can apply even more pressure from all directions with my magnetism to really trap her!!)
“This will get you nowhere.” Those words mercilessly left the rubble to pierce through the girl’s heart. “I said I wasn’t interested in raw strength. Because I already know who wins in a contest like that.”
It was like a volcano had erupted.
Concrete shards and sharp rebar scattered every which way. Misaka Mikoto (and Shokuhou Misaki who was clinging to her hips) were blown away in a tailspin. They were launched at a high angle, so instead of falling back to the ground, Mikoto planted her feet on the wall of a nearby building to stand on it.
“What… just happened!?”
“Wait, what is that?”
Mikoto and Shokuhou’s questions were subtly different.
When Mikoto blinked her eyes and took another look, she noticed a translucent figure standing next to Anna Sprengel. It held a small fist straight up in a silly kind of way.
What was it?
She honestly did not know.
It looked like a humanoid silhouette about as tall as an adult man, but it had large, swan-like wings growing from its back, and its entire head had been transformed into a twisted falcon, eagle, or some other bird of prey. It gave off a pale platinum glow and there was no mistaking it for an ordinary person. But despite the sinister silhouette, a glowing halo hovered above its man-eating head.
Anyone would know what that symbolized.
Even children’s picture books used that to signify an angel.
Mikoto felt a terrible sense of wrongness, disgust, and rejection crawling up her spine, like she had seen a maggot-ridden rotting corpse being named the winner of a beauty pageant and no one was questioning it.
That thing was wrong.
This was not about the division between science and magic. Even Mikoto, a science worshiper who knew nothing of the occult, could tell this was blasphemous.
That was the only word she could think of for this being that shattered people’s ordinary values just by existing.
“Aiwass,” bluntly whispered the little girl lazily covering her nudity with a thin cloth.
Was that its name? Mikoto was not even sure her ears had heard it correctly. If she analyzed the high frequencies and low frequencies with an auditory device, she might find it was pronounced entirely differently.
At any rate, this was on another level altogether.
It may even have been the source that shared its “power” with the monster known as Anna Sprengel.
But Misaka Mikoto forced herself to take a positive view of the situation.
“We drew this out of her. That means we managed to break through that confident smile of hers.”
“U-u-um, Misaka-san? I realllly doubt my Mental Out is going to work on that falcon angel, so if you’re done with me, could I head back to that boy’s hospital bed and—”
“That means the real battle has finally begun!! We’re on the right track here. If we keep going like this, we can force Anna to use up everything at her disposal!!”
“Please just let me leave!!!!!!”
The little girl looked up at them from the ground.
She was no longer smiling.
Anna Sprengel spoke with that bizarre monster by her side.
She did not even glance toward that reliable partner.
“Do not come out when I have not called for you, dullard. You’re ruining my fun.”
Misaka Mikoto boiled over.
She thought her vision had gone entirely red.
Anna had possessed a means of winning at any time, but she had chosen not to use it. She had dragged out the fight while dancing elegantly along the line between life and death, like she was trying to draw out every last drop of blood.
Did she really not have anything more to her?
Did she not have an earnest desire she could not wait a second longer to fulfill or an anxiety that things would never be the same again if she screwed things up here? Did she not experience impatience or hatred so intense she lost sight of herself? Was she really filled with so much confidence she could take as many detours as she liked and choose as many methods and options as she wanted to try out?
Even though Mikoto had to worry about all the unrelated people who were injured, the definite threat to the hospital, and the microbes eating away at that boy’s life from within?
“Give it a rest, you—”
Mikoto gathered strength in her brow and clenched her teeth so hard she thought they might break.
She prepared to let out a roar.
But just before she could, Miss Sprengel sighed and said more.
“Because, dullard, I can slaughter them instantly even without your help.”
An ominous tremor ran through the entirety of Academy City.
The air was scorched and no one was moving.
This was the sinister atmosphere of a battle’s aftermath, where even the corpses were abandoned.
And amid it all…
“Hm, hm, hm hm.”
A little girl hid her soft skin with a red cloth and hummed an out-of-tune Christmas song.
She did not bother looking back.
No one remained to get in her way, so her small legs calmly crossed the district border and entered District 7.
That was their home ground.
That hospital was located there.
(Now, then. I wonder if those innocent little heroes were aware what it means to worry about someone else’s life. It means you believe your own life is not at risk and that it isn’t your time to go.)
Anna Sprengel followed her phone’s navigation while she spoke aloud.
“Believing you’re special and that you won’t die is a common form of megalomania in teenagers, but I seriously doubt the real world will be so kind.”
Everyone died eventually.
But in most cases, they did not know their time was coming.
Between the Lines 2
Something pushed up from his stomach.
He thought it was vomit, but it was blood instead. After splattering something the color of tomato juice into the antibacterial sink, Kamijou Touma staggered backwards.
With so many patients living in shared spaces, lines would form at the bathrooms if they were the only places with mirrors for grooming yourself and sinks for washing your face. That was why hospitals often had separate washing stations.
They were generally used to keep yourself clean and presentable even while hospitalized.
They were not meant for going pale-faced with despair.
“Acute St. Germain, huh?” sighed Othinus from his shoulder.
The look on her tiny face in the mirror said she could not call herself a god of war if the color splattered in the sink was enough to faze her.
Pride could often be taken as a negative thing, but it was also comforting to be surrounded by people with the proper knowledge of what to do in a crisis.
“Do you know what’s happening to me?”
This was an unexplained phenomenon as far as Academy City’s scientific analysis was concerned. Kamijou Touma fully trusted the frog-faced doctor’s skill. That man had saved him countless times. But that was why it weighed on him so heavily that this was too much for that doctor.
Those Tokiwadai girls might have widened their eyes at his tone of voice here. It was unusual for him to reveal his weakness like this.
The fifteen-centimetre one-eyed god, who was also his understander, let out a soft sigh and crossed her legs while seated on his shoulder.
“The Magician St. Germain is a colony of parasitic microbes. Oh, and it won’t infect anyone else unless certain specific steps are taken, so you don’t have to worry about that. I imagine St. Germain himself wanted to avoid diluting and altering himself by spreading indiscriminately.”
“That means St. Germain himself has no life force to be used as source for magic power. This might be easier to understand from an Eastern perspective than a Western one. Without a body containing the organs, blood vessels, and nerves, the ‘energy’ can’t circulate, and it can’t refine that energy into magic power. That’s why St. Germain always uses a host body to refine life force into magic power before using magic. For an Academy City esper, the side effects of that act as an internal attack that destroys the body.”
Kamijou wiped off his sticky lips with the back of his hand, but his lips still felt gross. He looked down and found the back of his hand was bloody too. The skin had split open and the dark red liquid was oozing out.
Even after seeing the wound, he felt no obvious pain there.
He probably had too many wounds to distinguish any single one anymore. His entire body felt hot and swollen and he could have sworn it had grown to twice its usual size. He was a human-shaped blob of pain.
“The method was different, but this is pretty much the same as what Anna Sprengel is doing in the guise of a giant IT company,” said Othinus. “The students of this city are being attacked by knowledge over the internet, while you are being directly attacked from within by a microbe, but in both cases, it comes down to the taboo of an esper using magic.”
He heard a group of footsteps hurrying by outside the sliding door. The nurses were probably rushing to a hospital room after receiving a nurse call.
Finding the people collapsed in their dorms or on the streets and then transporting them to the hospital was difficult enough, but the problem did not end there. The number of R&C Occultics victims would only continue to grow. Once it reached a certain point, it was even possible the hospitals would cease to function.
And even after all this, they still had no idea what Anna was even trying to accomplish.
Why did the Rosicrucians want to cause this devastating damage to Academy City?
(What am I supposed to do?)
He questioned himself.
At the very least, he knew nothing would improve if he simply waited around here. If he did not do something while he could still move, he would rapidly run out options.
But where was he supposed to go and what was he supposed to do there?
He turned on the faucet to wash away the red blood that felt like it had been drained directly out of his lifespan.
“You will know that soon enough,” said Othinus from his shoulder.