Toaru Majutsu no Index:NT Volume10 Chapter 16
Chapter 16: V.S. “The Heaven-Sent Child Loved by Electrons” Round_08.
There was no definite chance of victory.
Normally thinking, Misaka Mikoto was using excessive force. All she had to do was snap her fingers and Kamijou and Othinus would be torn to pieces and destroyed to the point of being a mushy soup.
That meant Kamijou’s only chance was to make a gamble.
For the boy who constantly bore the weight of misfortune, this was an extreme longshot.
He dashed over to the closest Five Over and slammed his palm against it.
Misaka Mikoto had said she acquired this firepower by hacking them.
If she had used her ability to control electricity for that hacking, a touch from Kamijou’s right hand would release them from their queen’s control.
He would leave the rest up to the machine.
Would they prioritize killing Othinus and Kamijou Touma as before?
Or would they prioritize eliminating Misaka Mikoto who had hacked into the military network?
Mikoto frantically spoke up, but the Five Over aimed its giant arm toward her. Seeing the bundle of railgun barrels begin to rotate, she paled and used powerful magnetism to levitate a different nearby unit as a shield.
Piece after piece of the shield was torn through with a deafening noise.
All the trees in the area had been felled, but a sound akin to rustling leaves could be heard.
It came from a large clump of iron sand vibrating as it rose from the ground.
“…a rest alreadyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!!”
As the iron sand sword rose like a whip, it severed the two arms of the Five Over that had gone out of control (or regained control?). The machine tried to tackle her, so the sword went on to chop off its head. Mikoto gasped for breath and tossed the shield aside.
“Honestly, why are you making a girl…”
She trailed off when she saw what Kamijou had done during the time she spent dealing with the one Five Over.
He was running around pressing his palm against machine after machine.
To preserve their system, each and every one of them attempted to physically eliminate the source of the cyber attack.
“…do this kind of thiiiiiiiiiinnnnnnnnnnnngggggggggggggg!?”
From there, it developed into a war between Five Overs.
Mikoto remotely controlled the 150 machines spread out across the snowy plain while Kamijou could only secure the machines he could physically touch with his hand. As far as total numbers went, Mikoto had an overwhelming advantage.
However, that turned out to be a problem.
Mikoto had no way of distinguishing enemy from ally.
Needless to say, even Mikoto would be blown to pieces if she was hit by a railgun. In order to prevent unexpected attacks from a blind spot and to secure her safety, she chose to destroy every machine she had reason to suspect.
As a result, she destroyed more machines than necessary and began wearing down her own numbers.
(I’m still going to push onwards! Of course I am!! I have an overwhelming advantage in numbers and I can corner him from multiple angles using a mixture of my own powers and these pieces of junk. There’s no way he can overcome this with nothing but a special right hand!!)
After seeing the out of (Mikoto’s) control Five Overs dropping in number, the #3 became certain of her victory once more.
But then she made yet another mistake.
She had grown so focused on the atmosphere of strategic simulation parameters that she had forgotten that the number of Five Overs did not really matter.
This was a fight between Misaka Mikoto and Kamijou Touma.
(Wait a minute. Where’d that idiot get off to!?)
She sent out orders to the Five Overs and used all their sensors to scan the area.
She received a result quite quickly: directly behind her.
The target, Kamijou Touma, had circled behind and climbed onto the same Five Over as her.
“Hey, Misaka.” The boy smiled as he tightly clenched his right fist. “If possible, I’d rather not use this on you. Are you still gonna make me?”
The railguns of the Five Overs were powerful, but being Gatling guns, they exchanged accuracy for the ability to fire a massive amount of bullets. They could be used to “hit the target somewhere on the body and kill them from the shock”, but they could not be used to shoot off the head of a match like a sharpshooter. And the concept behind the Five Overs was to outdo the original Level 5, so there was a danger of a stray bullet piercing through even Mikoto’s greatest defenses.
In short, the safest place was right next to her.
Even when surrounded by over 100 Gatling railguns, ordering them all to attack would blow away Mikoto along with him.
She was rational enough to understand that premise.
And so she gathered a large quantity of iron sand around her.
Each individual one was not much different from her iron sand swords, but these were not held in the hand and there were more of them. Her anger seemed to take physical form as many black whips writhed about her.
“Heh…heh heh. Did you think you were safer fighting me than those pieces of junk? Did you think you’d have an easier time of it? I see, I see.”
“When did you start using tentacles!?”
“Will you never get tired of mocking me!? I’m going to settle this once and for all. I don’t know what happened with you, but I’m going to beat the rotten roots of it right out of you!!”
The back of the deactivated Five Over supplied less than ten meters of footing and Misaka Mikoto used her eight whips to clash with Kamijou Touma and his single fist.
In truth, Kamijou felt the iron sand sword was the most frightening of Misaka Mikoto’s repertoire of attacks.
The lightning spear and railgun travelled in a straight line and did not turn once they had been fired. Their overwhelming speed and destruction were a threat, but they could be handled by throwing off her timing or causing her to fire on the wrong trajectory.
On the other hand, the iron sand swords moved about like a living creature. Kamijou could only negate them with his right hand, so a blade that could complexly alter its trajectory like a living snake was a symbol of fear to him. If he tried to grab at an obvious attack, it was possible he could be pulled forward and have his hand cut off.
And now there were eight of them.
Rather than an octopus or squid, this felt more like extremely long spider legs. A black sphere of iron sand floated behind her back and the whips shot out from there, passed over her shoulder or under her arm, and attacked him.
They wriggled as if alive and attacked simultaneously from eight directions at once.
He could not handle that with a single right hand, so he would simply be tormented to death.
As soon as he grabbed one of the whips flying toward him, all eight of them fell to pieces.
She was defenseless. Stripped bare.
Her thoughts ground to a halt and he turned a dull look toward her.
“Well, all eight of them were connected to the sphere behind you. Whenever I touched your iron sand sword, it would vanish from tip to base, so I guess the destruction transferred to all eight of them with just one touch.”
“What is this nice feeling? I was risking my life with all those legitimate threats, so this is a nice change of pace. It’s so relaxing.”
“Stop! Don’t put me in the comedy battle category!!”
“Y’know what, Misaka? You feel a lot like a hot spring in a snowy mountain or an oden stand during winter.”
“Don’t treat me like some old woman!! You’re older than me!!”
Bluish-white sparks flew from her bangs.
Kamijou prepared himself for a lightning spear, but something else happened.
The Five Over underneath them suddenly rotated as if a skewer from the front had stabbed into it and rotated. Kamijou was thrown onto the snow and Mikoto jumped toward him from close range.
“You! I thought we were working together to destroy Gremlin and their base in Sargasso! Weren’t we stopping that Othinus person from creating some lance!? And when did you start getting along with that blonde girl in the eyepatch!? Well!!?”
“Not go- bh!? Not good!! I can’t do anything about normal fists that don’t use- bgh!? Bweh. I have my reasons!!”
Kamijou somehow managed to swing his head away from Mikoto’s fist. As she tried to climb on top of him, he rose up and rolled along the snow with her.
She used her clenched fists and sometimes her elbows and forehead to strike his face.
“What happened to defeating Othinus!?”
“We don’t need to! We don’t need to do that anymore!!”
“Um… I’m not sure where to start, but the world was destroyed!!”
“And what does that nonsense have to do with you and Othinus being together!?”
“This isn’t just about her anymore!!”
She refused to get off of him, so he folded his right leg until the knee reached his chest and placed the bottom of the foot against her stomach. As if releasing a spring, he launched her away from him.
The two of them stood up on the snow and a short silence fell.
It was Mikoto who whispered a question amid the many weapons.
“What do you mean?”
“There was a really long time between when we arrived on Sargasso and when the attack on Othinus began, but everyone else didn’t notice.” Kamijou’s voice was shaking. “I know this is really hard to believe, but it’s the truth!!”
He doubted this would get through to her. He was more tormenting himself than anything.
“And during that time… Oh, dammit. I thought I’d gotten over this, but I just can’t make up my mind. At any rate, a lot happened. So very much happened. …For example, would you believe this? I saw all 20,000 Sisters alive and attending a festival together. You didn’t have to suffer at all and all of you were smiling together as friends. That era really happened. And this wasn’t an illusion or suggestion and it wasn’t a parallel world or dream. This world truly did have that happy era!!”
Mikoto only looked dubious.
It was not that she was forgiving him. It did not feel real to her. That was why she did not get angry. It was horribly unfair of him to assume that meant she had accepted his actions.
“I destroyed all those people’s happiness to come back here. It wasn’t just you. To come back here, I rejected a world where all 6 billion people were perfectly saved!”
“I don’t have the slightest clue what you’re talking about.”
“The very fact that you don’t shows that I’ve trampled on your dignity!!”
Mikoto had tried to let it slide with a vague smile, so he shouted out to grab her attention and spoke clearly.
“I’ll try to understand. I’ll work to understand what exactly you gained and what you lost!! But I need Othinus for that. No, if you learn the truth and remember that happy era, you might stop hating Othinus. And then you could easily turn that hatred toward me. You may not understand, but you shouldn’t make up your mind and forgive me until you do!!”
“Of course, I don’t want to destroy myself anymore. I know all too well that I’m not some chosen hero. If…If it’s at all possible that we can all live happily together in this world, then I want to. But that’s exactly why I have to settle everything and pay for all my sins. And her testimony is needed for that! I can’t avoid the issue by letting her die here and be hidden from public view!! I can’t return to a peaceful city after that!! I have so much I have to pay for!! I may even have done more than Othinus!!”
Naturally, Misaka Mikoto did not understand the true feelings behind Kamijou Touma’s cries.
Without sharing the same time as him, that was unavoidable.
“There was a world where all 20,000 Sisters were saved and everyone could smile without grief?”
Mikoto had a certain thought as she grasped a fragment of what had spilled from Kamijou’s mouth.
“After everything, why would you cling to a convenient and terribly naïve world like that!!!?”
If all six billion people could smile, that would certainly be best for the world.
No option could be better and that should be prioritized above all else.
Ultimately, Kamijou had overcome that “ultimate argument” with his personal hopes and desires, but he had yet to bring himself to directly defeat that “ultimate argument”.
If he had to choose right or wrong, the answer Othinus had shown him was definitely “right”.
He had wanted to reject that answer even if it meant bearing the sin of being “wrong”.
That had been the truth.
Or it should have been.
“Do you really think that’s the same thing as saving people?”
Misaka Mikoto walked straight toward him through the snow.
A different sort of anger was clearly visible in her eyes.
“There’s no set definition of happiness. As soon as you unify everything under a single set of values, the next round of misfortune and discrimination has already begun.”
An explosive noise burst out as Misaka Mikoto’s fist struck Kamijou Touma at close range.
Bluish-white sparks flew from her arm as she spoke.
“I don’t know what happened to you. I can’t even imagine it. You’ve probably seen a deeper part of the world than I have while staying in Academy City.”
Her legs moved and he jumped back, fearing having his legs swept out from under him.
“But that doesn’t mean you’re right 100% of the time. No one has to accept what you say.”
He could not relax just by gaining some distance between them, so he immediately crouched down and thrust his fist toward the pure-white snow.
Bluish-white sparks burst from her feet in every direction and Imagine Breaker just barely negated the high-voltage current even more intense than a train track’s overhead wires.
“Even if a big bang happened right this instant, the world and universe were remade from scratch, people lived there with no crimes, sins, or mistakes whatsoever, and someone named Misaka Mikoto ignorantly smiled there…!!”
Centered on her clenched fist, a tremendous amount of sparks burst from her entire body.
“That doesn’t change the fact that I took more than 10,000 lives in the past! Even if everything and everyone is saved a second from now and all the documents are rewritten, I don’t want to run from my sins!!”
For an instant – just an instant – Kamijou Touma’s thoughts came to a stop.
And that was when the second wave arrived.
A high-voltage current expanded along the surface of the snowscape and attacked his feet that were buried in the snow.
“There’s no such thing as a perfect world.”
He felt a pressure around his heart and his footing grew unsteady, but Mikoto grabbed his collar to support him when he started to fall.
“Even if it looks perfect on the surface, you’ll find something twisted if you look at it differently. It was the same with the #1’s experiment. You wouldn’t accept it when I said my way would make everyone happy! If you understood it back then, why did you change your mind now!?”
After a sound like a swinging metal baseball bat, her forehead slammed into his.
But it was too late.
A lightning spear of a billion volts produced a tremendous noise as it stabbed into Kamijou’s head from point blank range.
As he lay in the snow, his limbs trembled and he could not get up properly. His heart, brain, and nerves all cried out in pain.
“Those six billion people were swallowed up!! That was a world where a single set of values was forced on them all and they were only allowed to smile!! Anyone who doesn’t smile is treated like they don’t belong!! If you see something like that, you aren’t supposed to sit there looking jealous!! No matter how painful and hard it is and even if you’re all alone, isn’t it your role to clench your fist and say it’s wrong!?”
Misaka Mikoto did not hold back.
She climbed on top of the collapsed boy’s stomach, grabbed his collar with both hands, violently shook his head, and shouted at close range.
“You came back to this world? You sacrificed everyone else to do so? If so, you aren’t supposed to envy what you turned your back on!! You’re supposed to be glad you returned to this world! Even if it’s imperfect and incomplete, you should be glad you were born into this world!! You should be proud of that fact!!”
As if twisting his neck, he desperately looked up at her face.
“Of course…I’m going to change my mind,” he spat out. “You were smiling. You may not remember, but in that golden world, you were truly happy and smiling!! When I see that, I’ll attack my previous thoughts and admit I was wrong!! I’m not some stuffed animal on a conveyer belt!! If I know continuing on will drop me off a cliff, I’ll readily change my beliefs or ideals!!”
A great sound burst out as Misaka Mikoto swung down her fist.
Something split within his mouth, his cheek felt oddly hot, his right eyelid was swollen, but he continued shouting and ignored the fist as it swung down again and again.
“I’m just a high school student! I’m not the 47 Ronin from the Chushingura!! I’ll change what I say any number of times based on what I think is best at the time!! Even if I said something different three days ago and even if I’m saying the exact opposite, it’s still a win as long as someone is smiling in the very end!!”
Hearing that, Mikoto gave a thin smile and stopped her fist.
“Oh, so you do understand.”
“There’s no reason to fall off the cliff while bound by meaningless principles and ideologies. If you’re reaching for the happiness you alone believe in, it’s fine to choose the best arguments for the situation. It doesn’t matter if you have to spit on your own words, as long as it all works out in the end.”
Mikoto looked Kamijou Touma directly in the eye.
“So there’s nothing saying you have to bear the weight of my future or the fate of six billion people to the point of your own destruction.”
She spoke and smiled while sitting on top of him in the snow.
She reached her arms around to his back in a gentle embrace.
And a moment later, a tremendous high-voltage current burst from her body and his consciousness was finally blown away.
Just before everything fell to darkness, he thought he heard her speak.
“This is the first time I’ve beaten you… It’s a lot emptier than I thought it would be.”
The world flickered before Kamijou’s eyes.
He grimaced as a pain stabbed from the back of his eyes and directly to his brain and his mind quickly came into focus. He was still lying in the snow, but he could not feel the cold. Only after coughing and somehow managing to sit up did he realize Misaka Mikoto was quietly sitting right next to him.
“Are you awake now?”
“Yeah,” he groaned.
In that infinite hell, the Will of the Sisters had saved him by saying he could pursue his own selfishness over the ideal of saving the world.
And now he had been taught that humans were not so simple that saving the world and recreating it into a convenient form was enough to make everyone unconditionally happy.
He began to wonder what he had been doing all this time and he slowly stood up amid the snow.
“Sorry, Misaka. I’ll be going.”
“Because you have to?”
“No.” He wiped the snow off of his back and hips. “Because I want to.”
Hearing that, Mikoto gave a small shrug and showed a different smile from before.
“Then how about you get going?”
“What, you aren’t going to stop me?”
“I can’t. I may have easily beaten you ten minutes ago, but I doubt I could beat you now no matter what I did.”
He turned his back on Mikoto and walked off into that white world once more.
He did not turn around, but he waved a hand in parting. She watched him leave for a while but finally let out a white sigh.
There was a simple reason why she had not said she was going with him.
She stood up and walked in the opposite direction of him.
She heard a grinding noise. She had used Academy City’s Level 5 #3's ability to hack in from the outside, but all the Five Overs were gradually breaking free of those electronic chains.
This was a modern battle.
The girl gave a ferocious smile while facing the weapons sent to reliably destroy a certain boy.
“I think it’s about time to do my part.”