Toaru Majutsu no Index:NT Volume11 Chapter 1
Chapter 1: Reminiscence >> Front Hall — Episode_“the_Girl”.
When she thought back on the entire incident, the first time Shokuhou Misaki had run into Kamijou Touma could easily be called a false start.
That was oftentimes how reality worked.
The loud cries of cicadas and the great heat of midsummer filled a completely ordinary intersection in a completely ordinary district.
When a pointy-haired boy ran against the flow of people and crashed into Shokuhou Misaki, a short and slender girl who was still developing, the contents of their bags audibly scattered all over the asphalt. Her brand new stationary and other items newly bought after entering middle school went everywhere.
The boy who had run into her was most likely two or three years older than her.
He crouched down until he was practically on all fours while quickly gathering up all of her belongings and pressing them into her arms.
“I’m really sorry, but I’m in a hurry. You aren’t hurt, are you? Bye!”
“Eh? What? Wait!!”
She did not even have time to get angry.
The pointy-haired boy ran off with his belongings in his arms and the crosswalk’s green light began to flash. On top of that, she was honked at by an emergency vehicle from an emergency response service that had recently made a name for itself as a “civilian” ambulance.
She decided it would be stupid to turn back in pursuit of that intruder and have to wait through another full light cycle, so she quickly made her way across the road.
She found an unfamiliar object mixed in with the belongings in her arms.
It was a cheap cellphone.
The screen was locked with a password, so she could not even try to find the owner’s name. However, there was no need to do that. She knew whose it was without looking into it.
One of the boy’s possessions had gotten mixed in with hers.
She turned around, but a stream of cars blocked her since the light had changed and the pointy-haired boy was nowhere to be seen on the road past that.
“What am I supposed to do about this?”
She had no real obligation to return it and hunting him down sounded like a real pain.
However, she felt she needed to at least hand it over to Anti-Skill or Judgment later.
Even if it was cheap, an electronic device seemed different from a pencil or an eraser. She was hesitant to just throw it away, so she was unsure what to do with it.
“If this is a new trick for hitting on girls, then it’s quite something.”
That was all she said before leaving the intersection.
That meeting had surely been nothing but a false start and it had been completely meaningless.
In fact, she did not even count it as a meeting.
In that case, Academy City’s #5 had to have experienced another meeting that did hold great meaning.
That second chance meeting was the one that held real value for Shokuhou Misaki and Kamijou Touma.
It had not been until several days after crashing into each other in the intersection that things had truly been set in motion.
There may have been signs from well before that, but this was the day and the time that held great meaning for Shokuhou Misaki.
She had not wanted to meet anyone.
During an oppressively hot night, she had staggered through the familiar student areas and continually made her way as far from any other people as she could. She always chose the quieter and emptier direction. As she did so, she crossed into another district, left the asphalt and concrete scenery, and entered a winding mountain trail surrounded by the trees of a dark forest. This was District 21. The mountainous region had a rare amount of preserved nature for an urban center like Academy City. It was filled with observatories and valuable water resources such as dams or artificial lakes.
But even then, she kept moving.
She could not accept it.
She walked on and on without end and ultimately found herself at the peak of one of the few mountains. There she found a circular artificial lake with a diameter of over fifty meters.
Something like a metal tower rose from the center of the lake and the lake’s edges were entirely made of concrete. From space, it may have looked like some strange ruins, but it was actually an experimental geothermal power station that stuck a heat conducting rod one thousand meters down into the earth.
The sun had already set and the moon was out.
It was far past her dorm’s curfew, so the dorm manager and the like were probably causing an uproar.
But Shokuhou Misaki had grown sick of “all that”.
Still in the brand new summer uniform of a first year in middle school, she collapsed onto her back next to the perfect circle of the artificial lake. No one else was around, so she spread out her limbs despite her short skirt.
One could perhaps call it giving into temptation, but she pulled a TV remote from her handbag and toyed with it in her hand. She spun it around like a gunman in a western and “a little thought” began to grow larger and larger inside her head. It was just like frozen moisture wrapping around the dust in the air to form a large snow crystal.
She had already settled the issue involving a giant **** to increase **** which was very important to her.
The related incident involving a **** named Dolly who had lived hidden in a tall building was also over for the moment, as much as she hated to admit it. Enough time had passed since then for her emotions to cool.
And that may have been the reason why.
Was she finally relaxing or had she grown lax?
It was at this moment, when some time had passed after all of her immediate problems had been dealt with, that her heart fell into a decayed state much like an overly serious freshman growing depressed shortly after starting school. She was an esper who could control people’s minds, so some might have found it strange for her to fall victim to this kind of thing, but she had not had many opportunities to use her powers on her own mind.
And this may have been one of those opportunities.
“I don’t know if you call this my weariness ability or what, but I’m just sick of it all.”
Sick of memories.
Sick of relationships.
Sick of everything like that.
She stopped spinning the TV remote and pressed it against her own temple, just like she was committing suicide with a handgun.
She was one of the few Level 5s among the 2.3 million residents of Academy City, so it was not unusual for her to be used for the benefit of the adults, in experiments, or as part of some sort of conspiracy. And during the intense time spent dealing with those conspiracies, she had not had time to think about this sort of thing.
If, during one of those times, she had seen herself now, she might have angrily grabbed the remote and eliminated that self-indulgent denial of people’s bonds even if it meant altering her personality.
But that was why one could say she had given into temptation.
She had grown lax and let her guard down.
Otherwise, she would never have said what she did.
“Why not reset everything inside my head? Would that free me from all these heavy thoughts?”
Speaking it aloud may have been an imprinting ritual meant to convince herself of what she was saying.
It would be a simple task.
So very, very simple.
She only had to move her thumb and press the button on the remote pressed to her temple. That would immediately activate Mental Out, history’s strongest mental esper power, and reset all of her memories. She would not regain all that time and nothing would physically change, but she would definitely return to being “innocent” in a certain way.
She felt like something was holding her thumb back, but the desire to escape the strange weight in her heart was stronger.
Her thumb twitched and her powers were about to activate.
But in that very moment, something else happened.
“Huh? What are you doing here?”
She heard a male voice
She first thought a worker at the geothermal power station was out patrolling the area, but the voice was far too young for that. She concluded it must be a student who had ignored the no entry signs like she had, but she could not work up the willpower to sit up and speak with him.
“What does it matter?”
“I really don’t think you should be doing that.”
“What, are you with Judgment?”
“Then what does it matter?”
“Oh, uh… But I really don’t think you should be doing that. I guess it’s not really my place, though.”
He sounded terribly indecisive.
She questioned whether this was some new method of hitting on girls, but he spoke again before she could sit up and see what he looked like.
“I mean… When you’re lying all sprawled out like that, I can see right up your skirt from over here. You should really cover up.”
For an instant – truly just an instant – her entire face grew beet red from the tip of her nose to the edge of her ears, but as a gorgeous and elegant lady, she did not do anything as unseemly as frantically reach out to hold her skirt down.
Instead, she sat up as slowly and silently as the shimmering heat, removed the TV remote from her temple, and pointed it at the boy standing a short distance away.
“Erase his memories!!” she shouted.
Her thumb moved and the pointy-haired head swayed. Mental Out never failed, so the memory of what color of flower garden was inside her skirt had been banished to eternal darkness.
Or so she thought.
The boy grew unsteady on his feet as if feeling faint, so he slowly shook his head while holding his head with his right hand.
“Hm? I get that you’re embarrassed, but why would you think that would erase someone’s memories?” he said with a dazed look on his face. “And I don’t know who you think’s interested in you and that flat chest of yours, but I won’t tell anyone, so just stand up already.”
He showed no sign of having lost the memory.
If anything, he was adding to it.
Just to be sure, she asked a question.
“I-incidentally, can you remind me what I’m wearing today?”
“What’s with that spider web pattern? Have you thought about something more your age? And does that even cover up the important bits?”
But no matter how many times she tried, nothing came of it. It was an endless spiral of memory erasure → dizziness → right hand to the head → confused look.
After the failure of the powers she had absolute faith in and what seemed like a tremendous obsession with her panties, Shokuhou Misaki threw aside her ladylike aura and let out a shout.
“I’ve erased your memories thirty-eight times now, so why are your eyes still glued to my underwear!? Just how great is your pervert ability!?”
“Hm? Wait. Don’t tell me you really have a power like that! That’s a bit of an overreaction to some panties, don’t you think!?”
A puzzled look came over her as she watched the pointy-haired boy hurriedly move back. She felt like she recognized him from somewhere.
“You’re the guy who ran into me at the intersection with toast in his mouth.”
“I did not have toast in my mouth. Come to think of it, that means you’re the one that brought my phone to Anti-Skill. Thanks for that.”
She grew suspicious as he pulled the cheap cellphone from his pocket and waved it a little.
“So was all of this some new way of hitting on girls?”
“Oh, I get it now. That’s Tokiwadai’s uniform, isn’t it? I’ve run into a painfully self-conscious little lady, haven’t I?”
The current Shokuhou Misaki laughed without meaning to.
As she did, the large breasts swelling out from within her winter uniform shook.
She had finished eating and started back toward her student dorm in the School Garden, but she had naturally chosen to use the underground mall’s heated corridor.
The reason she liked the underground mall may have been because its spider web of intricate passageways reminded her of the unreal feeling of a labyrinth in a picture book. She enjoyed the ethereal feeling of not knowing where she was or which direction she was facing despite being in familiar territory, but she also recalled what had happened “back then”.
That had been a terrible meeting.
But in her depraved state of mind at the time (which thinking back was a despicable and spoiled way to act), it had been like a perfect-score shot in the arm.
There were times when fancy and by-the-book words would not reach you.
There were also times when you would harshly reject anything just because it came from your parents or teachers.
Sometimes a gag manga or comedian’s skit that adults mocked as meaningless and worthless could bring life back to a weakened heart. And the fact that Shokuhou Misaki had made it this far without resetting her memories was surely due to that horrible meeting.
But for better or for worse, that had been nothing more than a meeting.
The two had not even learned each other’s names.
It was here that they had learned that and that he had made some kind of definite connection with her.
This underground mall had been the stage for that.
It was apparently known as the Summer City Flood Prevention Program.
“Uuh… What is with this?”
Academy City District 7 was a city of asphalt and concrete that could be called Shokuhou Misaki’s home ground and she was currently standing there wearing her school’s designated racing swimsuit. This was the summer of her first year in middle school, so the swimsuit was almost brand new.
Simply put, this event used the city for disaster training.
It was a large-scale test period to ensure the underground mall’s drainage equipment worked and the emergency shutters could withstand the water pressure.
The spider web of underground passageways and some of the aboveground roads were intentionally flooded by guiding river water into them after passing it through water purification equipment. That was the basic outline of the event.
This essentially turned all the city’s shortcuts into flowing pools and the students swam all around with their wallets and stationery in waterproof bags.
“Let’s play with this! If we dive with it, it’s gotta be fun!!”
“Eh? What’s so great about a radio-controlled submarine?”
“You’ll see once you dive!”
Small children were running around and shouting in excitement.
Whether it was the ocean, a river, or a pool, teenage students would go nuts as long as they had a body of water on a hot day, so this event had latched onto their hearts and would not let go. Or at the very least, no one complained about it.
Except for the small minority like Shokuhou Misaki, that is.
(Uuh… I had to wear my swimsuit because I’m not about to reveal my pathetic lack of ability by saying I can’t swim at my age, but what do I do now?)
She could move from one end of the city to the other without entering the underground mall, but the underground passageways were best if she wanted to take the shortest route that avoided the really long red lights at the main roads and the railroad crossings.
Also, the air-conditioned underground passageways that protected her from the hot sun were an urban oasis for people like her.
(It’s 38 degrees out here. I’m not going to melt like ice cream before getting back to the dorm, am I?)
But now that she had made a show of wearing her swimsuit, she did not want to use the trains or busses. She was not going to be quite that welcoming to the molesters of the world.
On this day of summer break, simply heading out to the store had turned into this living hell. Unlike the girls excitedly running to the stairs down to the underground mall while carrying floats and beach balls, Shokuhou alone felt dark as if she were in a reverse spotlight.
That was when she heard footsteps.
Despite the crowds around her, these footsteps sounded oddly loud in her ears.
“Huh? What are you doing drooping down in the middle of the street? You don’t have heatstroke, do you?”
“You’re the guy who ran into me at the intersection with toast in his mouth and then tried to hit on me at the mountain peak.”
“The name’s Kamijou Touma, golden girl.”
“I am the great Shokuhou Misaki!!”
That young lady of Tokiwadai Middle School immediately shouted back in an all-out rejection because she feared having that weird nickname stick with her forever.
“Shokuhou? That sounds like it’s spelled with some crazy characters. And why are you wilting like that? Are you lost?”
“You just insist on mocking me, don’t you? Could you leave me alone? I was having a bad enough time simply having to walk back to my dorm through the incredibly hot sun at two in the afternoon.”
“Eh? Why would you do that? Just use the underground passageways. They’ve turned into air-conditioned flowing pools so they’ll feel almost too cold.”
Her shoulders jumped more than necessary.
“And if you aren’t going to head underground, why are you walking around in a swimsuit in the first place?”
This was not good.
She would rather die than let it out that she was walking around in the swimsuit to show off despite not being able to swim. Yet saying she was going around town in a swimsuit for no reason would just make her a pervert.
This was really, really bad.
“Ho…ho ho ho. What are you talking about? I was just about to head down there with plenty of ability to spare!!”
“I have no idea why you sound so defiant, but why don’t you get going?”
“I really, really will!!”
“Okay? Why do I feel déjà vu? Is it just me or is this a lot like the lead up to entering a boiling bath?”
Shokuhou Misaki trudged off toward the stairs to the underground mall like she was preparing to commit suicide. She hesitantly turned back on the way, but the mystery pointy-haired boy named Kamijou Touma was still giving her a skeptical look. She favorably interpreted that as her hips simply being too attractive for her own good, but she did not stop. She could not stop now.
The rectangular entrance leading underground showed a stairway that was flooded partway down, but it looked like a giant monster’s maw to her.
A raw chill ran from the inside of her legs to the back of her neck, but her hyper high-class aura refused to let her give up.
She moved hesitantly but gathered strength in her gut so those around her would not notice. As she did, she heard the cries of playing elementary school children who easily ran down the stairs past her and into the labyrinthine pool below.
“This water gun’s amazing! It really is!! Look!!”
“Ah, wait for me!”
Meanwhile, Shokuhou Misaki quietly clenched her teeth and tried to motivate herself.
(It’s okay. Even those children can laugh and play here! It doesn’t matter if you can’t swim! The water isn’t five meters deep or anything. You can walk along the corridor like normal and reach the exit like normal. Normal human ability is more than enough here.)
But whatever she said on the surface, she was more than panicked, so she overlooked a small fact.
One child lagging behind the passing group gave a shout of “Wait for me!”
And a moment later, that slower child crashed into her back.
Without even time to scream, her face produced a tremendous splash as it broke through the water’s surface.
In all seriousness, fear for her life filled her entire being.
Under the water, everything sparkled brightly and she could not even tell which way was up.
She flailed her limbs around, but that did not help. She was like a hamster running and running in its wheel. Meanwhile, the oxygen inside her body was converted into something else and a strange heat wrapped around her mind.
She thought she heard a voice and a large clump of air bubbles burst into the water nearby. It grabbed her slender flailing arm and dragged her up to the surface.
It was the pointy-haired boy named Kamijou Touma.
He shouted at the (self-proclaimed) beautiful girl from close range as she coughed.
“The water isn’t even a meter deep here!! Are you the kind of person that causes problems for the part-time lifeguard by drowning in a kiddie pool!?”
The group of kids, including the one who had run into her, was nervously looking their way from a short distance away. Shokuhou should have been the victim here, so why did she feel so guilty?
“And if you can’t swim, that’s fine. Why are you getting so angry and charging in here? But if you’re really not feeling well, I can call a civilian ambulance.”
“I said shut up!!”
She shouted in desperation with her face completely red and even the very top of her head soaking wet, but then she grabbed onto Kamijou Touma’s arm.
“What the hell are you doing?”
“Hmph. What’s so great about being able to float in water? Do you really have to swim the breaststroke like a frog to be a winner in life!? If people who live on land hadn’t forced themselves to invent these techniques of moving through the water, people like me wouldn’t be stuck having to pretend!”
“But what does any of that have to do with grabbing my arm!?”
“Now that it’s come to this, I have no choice but to bet my pride on travelling through this pool that used to be an underground mall. But I can’t let anyone see me relying on a float, so I need a more elegant alternative.”
Essentially, she was afraid the surrounding people would spread a rumor of Miss Shokuhou Misaki almost drowning in a pool less than a meter deep, so her desperate objective was to suppress that rumor with the image of her travelling through the pool without issue.
And instead of using her arms and kicking her legs to swim through the pool, she would elegantly walk through it while holding a boy’s arm.
“They’re touching me! You’ve been pressing them up against my arm for a bit now!!”
“You really, really need to shut up! I have more important things to worry about!!”
“No matter how modest they might be, a girl’s breasts are still a girl’s breasts!”
“What did you- bgh!?”
Just as she began to snap back at him, a beach ball struck her square in the face.
A short distance away, a few girls in swimsuits were panicking at the wonderfully clean hit and Kamijou Touma’s words provided the finishing blow.
“Not again. This is just like the trouble you caused by not noticing that kid coming up behind you. It’s your fault for not seeing it coming from right in front of you. Does this go beyond swimming? Are you just hopelessly all-around unathletic?”
“Heh heh…heh heh heh heh heh. Heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh.”
Shokuhou Misaki no longer cared about appearances.
With some dark laughter, she stuck a hand in her bag, pulled out one of the many remote controls inside, and pointed it in every direction.
“I’ll erase your memories!! I’ll erase every single memory of my pathetic lack of ability!!”
“Wait! Aren’t you being a little tyrannical here!?”
Incidentally, Kamijou Touma was included in the targets, but the bit of dizziness once again caused him to grab his head with his right hand and negate her command.
Meanwhile, she continued through the flowing pool of a passageway while dragging the dumbfounded boy along as a human float.
“I have a feeling I’m being casually forced to help with something awful.”
“Hmph. You have the privilege of accompanying Mental Out Shokuhou Misaki, one of Academy City’s Level 5s, so this will naturally be the highlight of your otherwise dreary summer break.”
“That’s right! Do you have a problem with that!?”
“Y-you’ve gotta be kidding. But the rumors said the Level 5 with the greatest mental powers was a young woman with an amazing body!!”
“I am a young woman!! I have always been the most mature one in my class!”
But for some reason, Kamijou Touma gave her a kind look.
“Shokuhou-kun. Shokuhou Misaki-kun. Before, I may have said that, no matter how modest they might be, a girl’s breasts are still a girl’s breasts.”
“Wh-what about it?”
“Listen, little girl. When I refer to a young woman, I mean someone who manages a student dorm and has the tolerance to give anyone advice if they want it. And there is one thing you lack as far as that’s concerned. Do you know what that is, little girl?”
There was no way she could, so she gave him a confused look and he gave the answer.
“These common breasts of yours disqualify you from providing the support of a young woman. Give up and try again later.”
The present Shokuhou Misaki held her head in her hands.
As a student at a girl’s school, she did not have enough contact with boys to know what an average boy was like, but she still wondered if that pointy-haired one was one of the worst.
While reflecting on those stupid words, she lowered her gaze.
With an odd shaking sound effect, two large masses pushed out the chest of her winter uniform from within.
(It does look like I grew even more than necessary thanks to that☆)
She had met him a few more times around the city, but they had never exchanged cellphone addresses or anything like that.
They may have seen some special value in only ever meeting by chance.
And she had set up another personal rule: she never looked in his mind using Mental Out.
Why had she decided that?
She must have seen some special value in that as well.
She climbed the stairs and left the underground mall.
The chill of the late November air stabbed at her skin and she felt no hint of that summer heat.
She then walked along a large road for a while.
Perhaps due to limited land, all of the buildings in this area were quite tall, but there were occasional gaps.
One of those was a park entrance.
She suddenly stopped and turned to that entrance and the poles preventing cars from entering.
The casual remnants of memories could be found here and there and this park was one such place.
One day, Shokuhou Misaki had found the pointy-haired boy sitting on a park bench. Whether it helped much or not, he had chosen a bench in the shade to escape the heat. She wanted to say he was reading, but that may not have been quite right. He was looking through a notebook, but he held nothing to write with.
What was he doing?
Curious, she had asked and this was his reply.
“Hypnotism! I can get anyone to do what I say with this!!”
“That upperclassman sure is amazing. High school girls can do anything! They can ride motorcycles, work part-time, and casually answer anything you ask. Taking that step from middle school to high school really is amazing. She’s such an adult!!”
“What!? Are you trying to piss me off!?”
Shokuhou had only just entered the middle school zone this year, so she did not like the sound of that theory. It made her feel several levels behind.
But at the same time, she noticed the boy had mentioned asking this high school girl something. In that case…
(Hm. Could he be studying psychology to have more to talk with me about?)
He was way off the mark if that was the case, but why not help with his efforts?
She sat next to him and he continued with the notebook in hand.
“But doesn’t Academy City’s Curriculum use hypnotic suggestion?”
“Well, there are some kids who use abreaction, hypermnesia, self-hypnosis, and that sort of thing as triggers or safeties, but I seriously doubt that involves dangling a plastic pendulum from a string and waving it back and forth.”
“C’mon, just this once! I just want to try it out once! I’ll only try it a little!!”
“Fine, but if you succeed, it’s my turn. I’ll do to you what you did to me.”
Her warning would make him too afraid of her revenge to give any inappropriate orders.
With that in mind, she watched as he held a power stone pendulum in front of her eyes.
All the while, he was looking down at the notebook instead of her.
“Okay, here goes. Um… First, stare at the pendulum.”
(It would actually be pretty scary if this was enough to mess with someone’s mind. This is like performing surgery without knowing what you’re doing.)
She followed his instructions while working to keep her thoughts from showing on her face.
“But now a surprise attack!!”
He clapped his hands right in front of her face. There was in fact a way of inducing a hypnotic state with an unexpected action. For example, you could rub their back as they focused on the movements of your finger.
But it was hopeless when the method was this straightforward.
“Did it work?” he asked the surprised girl. “P-please relax.”
(Controlling people isn’t that easy!!)
She swallowed her thoughts and followed his instructions. She let her eyes glaze over and shoulders go limp. The pointy-haired idiot called out to her and waved his hand in front of her face to test her reactions, but he finally seemed to believe in his own power.
“It really worked. Amazing. That upperclassman’s notebook is real! She’s really something else to make a method even an amateur like me can use. High school girls can do anything! They really are adults!!”
(What!? Why is my effort improving his opinion of that old woman!?)
The middle school girl briefly contemplated throwing it all aside and attacking him head-on, but she decided ruining this would not be any fun and so continued her act. Now that Kamijou had gained the right to freely use another person, she wanted to see what kind of commands he would give this (self-proclaimed) beautiful girl.
“Um, okay. Time for the first command.”
He looked down at the notebook titled “Kumokawa Seria’s Hypnotism☆Notebook”.
And then he said it.
“You have a strong desire to stand up and lift your skirt in both hands.”
She thought her heart would leap from her throat.
(He…he…he… He completely gave into his desires once he thought he’d succeeded, didn’t he!?)
She began to tremble, but Kamijou did not seem to notice.
He looked at her face in confusion, tilted his head, and looked back down to the notebook.
“Odd. It’s not working. But it says right here to test that first.”
Shokuhou moved just her eyes to glance down at the notebook sitting in his lap.
Someone had used a highlighter all over the page, but one area was emphasized more than the rest.
Embarrassment is an important parameter for showing a human’s resistance. To check whether they are under your control or not, you first need to test a command that will cause great embarrassment. For example, you could ask them to lift their skirt.
(That girl is just making things up!!)
In fact, the false notebook was written to carry things in an obscene direction no matter what happened.
Most likely, that “upperclassman” had realized Shokuhou was involved once Kamijou made his request. In her jealousy, she had created this nonsense manual and given it to Kamijou. It was exactly the sort of method she would expect of “that old woman”.
Next time they met, she swore to control her with Mental Out, dress her in a risqué swimsuit, and have her put on a one-man samba carnival, but how to handle the current situation took priority.
“B-but this isn’t good. Wouldn’t it be bad if I hypnotized her but left her hanging like this!? Oh, damn. Is there a way to stop the hypnotism!? Like a purge switch or something!?”
What had he planned to do if this was real?
She grew more and more irritated as he flipped through page after page, but she realized she had bigger things to worry about.
Namely, the page his hand stopped on.
“Here it is! Let’s see, let’s see. Emergency hypnotism release. If the hypnotism fails, it could cause catastrophic damage to their memories or personality, so do not hesitate for a second when performing this emergency release. However, shouting to them or slapping them won’t help. Their embarrassment is what is interfering with your commands, so you must increase that to its maximum.”
“For example, by removing their panties.”
She lost control of herself and jabbed the corner of her handbag into the very middle of his pointy-haired head.
Shokuhou felt like holding her head and writhing around, but she used all of her strength to suppress the urge.
That had not actually been the pointy-haired boy’s fault.
That “old woman” was at fault and he had simply been tricked into it.
It would have been something if he had understood what was going on and went along with it while playing the role of victim, but she doubted he was that crafty.
She was inside a chilly park covered in brown dried leaves. It must have been a common point between their spheres of activity because they had shared a few other memories there.
Shokuhou Misaki could no longer hear the loud cicada cries.
There was a simple reason for that.
On that summer day, she was entirely covered in pigeons.
“Wahh, wahh, wahh!!”
The pointy-haired boy frantically swung his school bag around to drive away the fifty or so pigeons.
All of the popcorn in the cardboard container had already been wiped out and she had only managed to eat two or three pieces.
“I look away for just a second to get some drinks and this is what happens! What are you even doing!?”
“But…I… That wasn’t my fault! I was the one attacked by the park pigeons!!”
“This goes beyond simply being unathletic.”
“Why does it seem so familiar? Do you maybe have the same tendency for misfortune as me?”
“N-no, I don’t. A perfect queen like me would never have that kind of negative ability displayed on her status screen!”
However, the boy fished through his bag with a pitying look in his eyes.
He pulled out a silver whistle in a plastic bag and handed it to the slender girl who still had feathers on her summer uniform and in her hair. It resembled the kind of whistle used for soccer matches and the like, but it had likely been customized for emergencies. She could use it to let people know where she was if she was stranded or buried alive.
“I got this in some kind of training, so take it. You need to have something like this with you at all times. I’d be worried otherwise.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“Use it if you’re in trouble. It might give me more chances to save you.”
Once she took it “because he said to”, she realized she had already been pretty well tamed by him. She would never have admitted it, though.
(Honestly, this isn’t like putting a bell on a cat’s collar.)
Despite being a shiny silver, she found the whistle was made of plastic or something similar once she removed it from the bag. It was a cheap product with the silver painted on and it was probably worth less than one hundred yen, but the whistles had probably been handed out to all of the students at a school and thought of as a bargain if they would help at all.
She casually began to place it in her mouth, but then she froze.
(Wait. Given this thing’s secondhand ability, would this be an indirect kiss?)
Her face rapidly grew red, but Kamijou only yawned. She had a sudden urge to hit him, but she reconsidered it. He had handed it to her while it was still in the plastic bag. He had likely gotten it during some disaster training and then never used it. She was essentially being used as a garbage can here.
That irritated her a bit, but she relaxed and placed the whistle in her mouth.
“Will this thing really be any help?”
“Who knows. But it should be easier on the throat than screaming. I tried it out once and it was really loud.”
A horribly distorted whistle rang throughout the park.
The indirect kiss was an indirect kiss after all.
The current Shokuhou Misaki sighed.
That whistle was still in her handbag.
She had never had need to use it, but she had found no reason to get rid of it either.
Ultimately, she had not rid herself of her lingering attachment to the point of cutting all ties.
This could be said of anyone, but there were discrepancies between who she wanted to be and who she really was.
And that boy was one of the few areas in which she was willing to admit that fact.
(Come to think of it…)
Inside that park which was nearly empty due to the cold, a certain girl’s face came to mind.
That girl was Misaka Mikoto.
She was a fellow student at Tokiwadai Middle School and Academy City’s #3 Level 5.
The two of them were like oil and water. In fact, they were barely comparable.
At any rate, she would always end up in an argument whenever she saw the girl.
(And these memories may be part of the reason I just can’t stand her.)
An older boy and a Tokiwadai lady.
Her special power did not work on him.
An indirect kiss.
The paths they had travelled down with that boy were similar on all counts. If it were not for the problem with his memories, Shokuhou might have been the one there.
She knew she should really give up, but she was also not about to stick the remote against her head again.
She had already cast aside the option of forgetting everything.
“What a pain.”
She cut across the nearly empty park and made her way outside the other exit with the short skirt of her winter uniform blowing a bit.
She walked further through the many tall buildings of the city.
Countless narrow alleys could be seen in the dim darkness between the buildings.
She suddenly stopped in front of one of those.
This was the place.
Not all of her memories with Kamijou Touma had been enjoyable ones. Some perfectly matched the atmosphere of dangerous darkness filling that narrow alleyway.
And this may have been yet another way that Misaka Mikoto had resembled Shokuhou’s own path with the boy.
Simply put, an incident had stood in her way and it would never have reached her had she not been a Level 5.
And she had defied it along with that boy.
Kamijou Touma panted like an exhausted stray dog as he ran through the hot Academy City night.
He was not alone. His hand held the hand of Shokuhou Misaki who wore a brand new summer uniform.
Technically, she was the one being targeted.
They ran past a sign at the base of a wind turbine notifying them of a recent murder. The two of them took a turn and left the main road.
“W-wait! Why would you go out of your way to enter an empty alley!?”
“Given their speed, a wide street is more dangerous! When they’re moving that fast, they shouldn’t be able to make tight turns!!”
That idea may not have been wrong, but their pursuer’s abilities exceeded their expectations.
The words on the previous sign returned to Shokuhou’s mind.
There had been a murder recently and a single mistake here could give the two of them a similar fate.
She heard the sound of wheels burning the ground below them.
Their pursuer was a boy in a red riding suit and a full-face helmet. However, he had small inline skate wheels attached in over fifty places: bottoms of the feet, knees, elbows, shoulders, wrists, waist, back, chest, etc.
On top of that, he had two tiny jet engines on his back. They were twenty centimeters wide and fifty-five centimeters long.
The pursuer charged toward them while generally leaning forward like a speed skater.
He did not do anything as sensible as kick off the ground.
It would be more accurate to say he kicked off the wall.
He exceeded two hundred kilometers per hour. That incredible speed rivalled a roller coaster and he would temporarily change his field to the walls or even the ceiling.
Even a simple tackle from a human-sized mass would be a fatal impact at that speed.
And yet the boy held something resembling a bazooka over his shoulder. It was actually an explosive-driven pile bunker.
If they crossed paths, Shokuhou and Kamijou would be taken out in a single strike.
Altogether, the equipment was known as Queen Diver. True to the initial impression it gave, the weapon system had been created from the ground-up to crush Shokuhou specifically. Its overwhelming speed let one charge in before she could control you. The concept was to kill a Level 5 even if it meant your own destruction.
Shokuhou swung around her TV remote regardless, but that method had a certain weakness. Her personal rule was to divide up her too-powerful Mental Out ability in order to make it easier to use. And her personal rule required her to aim the remote at her target.
When the enemy was moving around and around at high speed, her targeting was too slow.
Yet even when she was certain she had aimed in time, the enemy’s movements did not fully stop.
(Does that helmet detect the abnormal brain wave ability and switch control of the suit over to a program!?)
Mental Out may have been the most powerful mental ability, but even it did not work on pure machines or non-human animals. This equipment had clearly been made specifically to target her.
(Beyond the issue of strength, this is just a poor match. And I don’t have time to remove “that limiter” when he’s moving around so fast. They went out of their way to create a weapon with absolutely no use beyond its ability to kill me!!)
While she thought and clenched her teeth, Kamijou snatched the remote from her hand.
Before she could protest, the pointy-haired boy had thrown the remote at the red riding suit as hard as he could.
This was a complete waste, much like throwing a gun without bothering to pull the trigger, but it was still effective.
As soon as the remote hit the full-face helmet, the riding suit lost its balance while clinging to the wall and trying to pierce through Shokuhou’s body. And once he lost control, that pursuer riding the rails of an invisible roller coaster became quite fragile.
He flipped over and fell to the ground.
Beyond that, he plowed through everything on the ground at two hundred kilometers per hour. He passed by Shokuhou and Kamijou and crashed into an old bike and some trash cans left in the alley.
That was when Shokuhou heard an explosion and saw orange light burst out.
Even Kamijou, the one who had supposedly defeated the pursuer, was so dumbfounded that he stopped running.
“Did the shock of the fall mess with the jet engine!? Just how dangerous are these things they’re relying on!?”
It did seem they had put in the bare-minimum of safety measures.
They heard the sound of a shaken soda opening but magnified several dozen times. Something like white steam surrounded the skin-tight Queen Diver suit. It was likely some sort of incombustible gas.
The pursuer had probably been wrapped in flames for less than ten seconds, but the burning temperature of the jet fuel had been extraordinary. It was not clear what material the suit was made of, but it might have melted onto his skin like cheese.
A civilian ambulance must have passed by the main road because a siren experiencing the Doppler effect reached their ears. The din was unpleasantly reminiscent of death and violence.
Then, just as Kamijou began to run forward to help the criminal who had targeted their lives, something else made him stop.
More Queen Divers were approaching.
With the unpleasant sound of their wheels scraping along the ground, they blocked the boy and girl’s path in front, behind, and even above.
They all wore red riding suits and full-face helmets, but their silhouettes suggested the group contained both boys and girls. Based on their heights and shoulder-widths, there was a large range of ages as well.
Kamijou held Shokuhou’s hand while giving an annoyed yell.
“He was with you, wasn’t he!? Aren’t you worried about him at all!?”
“We won’t let first aid get in our way,” replied a male voice. “We have something more important to deal with.”
They all hid their faces behind helmets that blocked mental attacks to an unknown extent and they all aimed their explosive-driven pile bunkers at the boy and girl.
“Death to the Level 5.”
A deluge of noise surrounded them as the pursuers prepared their weapons.
The human malice created a cage more frightening than the weapons.
“Death to the Level 5.”
It sounded like the ritual of some strange cult.
Their resentful voices would overpower anyone who heard them but showed just how misguided they were.
“Death to the Level 5 who has taken everything from us.”
The current Shokuhou Misaki recalled those events while facing the alley entrance in the chilly wind.
It might have sounded absurd, but even outside this city, it was common to find attractions where one raced down a slope in a wheel-covered riding suit or to find special-made suits that used inline skates and a jet engine on the back to reach over one hundred kilometers per hour.
That group had combined a few such things and added the high stability and handling of electronic control to create the weapon known as the Queen Diver.
The name of that red riding suit group came to her mind.
The group using that English word as a name could be described as the students whose powers development had reached a standstill and would not progress any further for some reason.
They belonged to a great number of different schools and years.
Some were genuine high-class ladies and some were delinquent boys.
The ideology that bound Deadlock was shockingly simple and the actions they actually took went beyond shocking.
Shokuhou set foot in that alley for the first time in a long while.
She normally never used such areas (and she could not let any of the Tokiwadai students know about somewhere that made her as nervous as this), but she was in the mood today.
The abandoned bike and trash cans were of course gone, but the general location had not changed much.
Halfway down the alley, she stopped and looked straight up.
“Yes, yes. It was right here.”
The sky spread out while confined to the shape of that narrow alley and a rusty old emergency staircase invaded the space of that limited sky.
There was a small chain-link door at the entrance to the staircase, but she could easily climb over it if she ignored her short skirt.
While treading on each red and rusty step that could break through at any moment, she climbed the emergency staircase.
She was not interested in any of the doors on the way up.
She was on her way to the roof of the small multi-tenant building.
Beyond that was the final location.
The final location she and Kamijou Touma had run to.
They had jumped from building to building, rooftop to rooftop.
But having to bring along Shokuhou Misaki and the fluttering short skirt of her brand new summer uniform had to have been a great detriment to Kamijou Touma. She was willing to admit it now: she was terribly unathletic. During the athletic test in April of that year, her awful results had led her to manipulate the memories of everyone around her. She had to go to the great effort of working up her courage and then taking a running start to cross the “ravines” that were not even a meter wide, so Deadlock and their Queen Diver suits naturally caught up in no time.
They were surrounded on every side.
Deadlock must have been communicating by phone or something because more riding suit students arrived along different routes. More than thirty of them had gathered on the roof. Shokuhou could try to use her remote to have them take each other out and Kamijou could clench his right fist, but if Deadlock charged forward while prepared to be caught in a jet engine explosion, the two of them would not escape unharmed.
One of the scarlet Queen Divers spoke to Kamijou rather than Shokuhou.
“Are you sure you want to keep this up?”
He was telling Kamijou he would be saved if he backed off now.
“Of course I’m sure.”
Kamijou Touma did not hesitate to reply.
Shokuhou Misaki could not understand what he was saying even as his back protected her.
She was just a passing acquaintance to him.
They were not childhood friends with a decade of history, they were not blood-related siblings, they were not dating, and they had no other special relationship like that. So why had he responded so readily? What was it that drove him?
It seemed the riding suit boy had the same question.
“You must be a pretty powerful esper to say that. But don’t take us lightly because we rely on tools. Even Level 4s aren’t uncommon in our group.”
“I’m nothing that amazing,” spat out the boy. “I’m a zero. A Level 0. …But there are still things I can’t allow. And when it comes to those things, I’m ready to clench my fist.”
“I see. So you’re one of us.”
The Queen Diver boy did not mock him for it.
In fact, some of the calm in his voice vanished. The tone of his voice suggested that – in a way – facing a Level 0 boy had greater meaning than facing that Level 5 girl.
That may have been the case for them.
He raised a hand to stop his impatient comrades and spoke.
“Don’t you find it odd?”
“Find what odd?”
The riding suit boy did not make any meaningless or self-important theatrics.
In this alone, he was sincere.
He took the shortest course to the crux of the matter.
“From the very fact that you’ve decided to fight for Shokuhou Misaki in this hopeless situation, doesn’t it seem like she’s already controlling you with her Mental Out?”
The current Shokuhou Misaki felt the chilly wind on the square roof of the multi-tenant building.
She was not about to jump from building to building. She was aware of her own lack of athletic ability and she was wearing the short skirt of her winter uniform.
Instead, she stayed here and thought to herself while almost feeling left behind by her past self.
There was such a thing as an AIM Diffusion Field.
It was a tiny, tiny power subconsciously emitted by an esper. With Pyrokinesis, it was heat. With Psychokinesis, it was pressure. With Electromasters, it was electricity. It always matched the esper’s type of power and it was so weak it could only just barely be detected with a microscope or precision measuring device.
But no matter how weak it was, power was power.
That power was definitely emitted.
And what was Shokuhou Misaki’s power?
In Mental Out’s case, what kind of power did she subconsciously emit into the outer world?
That was the group named Deadlock’s motive for keeping an eye on Level 5s and occasionally putting together a suicidal plan to crush them.
Someone was bending the world in a way convenient to them.
They were likely a powerful esper, so they would naturally be one of those at the top.
The world’s fairness had been twisted to those people’s benefit and the unfairness that created was forced onto many others.
And to top it all off, the ones twisting the world for their own benefit even if it meant mass-producing misfortune and tragedy were not even aware they were doing it.
Because they were not aware, compromise and negotiation would be impossible. They could not stop it even if they tried, so the only way to bring fairness back to the world was to kill them.
Deadlock had asked her a few questions.
Have you ever thought your life was going a little too well?
Have you never thought something might have been sacrificed to give you your high-class status or the growth of your powers?
Just like Kamijou Touma as he threw his life away for her sake.
Shokuhou Misaki let out that quiet voice while the boy protected her despite being surrounded by Queen Divers on the multi-tenant building roof.
The doubt brought worry.
The worry brought fear.
Had her power thrown someone else’s life out of order?
Not only that, had it caused anyone’s death?
Had it happened without her realizing it?
Had it happened without her being able to control it?
The murder notification at the alley entrance came to mind. The refrain of civilian ambulance service sirens played again and again.
She was no saint.
She had no problem with using her power to manipulate people’s minds. She simply saw nothing wrong with using what was hers.
But at the same time, she felt she had to use people properly when they were under her control.
If someone she controlled died or killed someone, she would have to be punished as the one in control. She had that much resolve and dignity.
But what if that was meaningless?
What if she had already controlled countless people without realizing it and that had led them to lose fortunes, closed off their futures, or even taken their lives?
If she still claimed to be safe and normal after all that…
She looked around her.
All of them wore the same red riding suits and full-face helmets. If her own success was what had stolen the lives of those faceless students and even robbed them of the possibility of proudly showing their faces, just how should one describe her? She could always claim she had not known, that it was not under her control, and that it was therefore not her fault, but who would those words actually save?
“What a joke.”
But even though Shokuhou Misaki had put him in this dangerous situation, the pointy-haired boy’s words cut straight through the stagnant atmosphere.
“Is it fun blaming others for your own failures? The harder it is to prove something, the harder it is to argue against it. You all made up a reason why it was okay for you to fail. That way you could rest easy as you got lazy. …You know very well this girl isn’t what caused your setbacks.”
“Perhaps,” said one of the red Queen Divers. He was completely calm and showed no anger. “Even I wonder if we’re right about this. Every time I think about attacking the Level 5 named Shokuhou Misaki, I feel something like a conscience throbbing inside me. It says this is all the work of a monster created by our own weak hearts and the external factor of Shokuhou Misaki has nothing to do with it.”
But he went on to reject everything he had just said.
“But doesn’t that seem really suspicious to you?”
“You can’t deny the possibility that this throbbing I think is my conscience was actually created for someone else’s benefit.”
Normally, that would have been nothing but a delusion.
It would have been the crazy ramblings of someone who could not control his own heart.
But with her, it was possible. With Mental Out, it was possible. And she could only face the world on the conscious level, so not even she could be certain because she subconsciously emitted some of her power.
“That is why I won’t call your anger wrong.”
The riding suit boy readily prepared the pile bunker on his shoulder and viewed Kamijou Touma as a clear enemy, but his voice showed he recognized him as a fellow human.
“But that is also why you should wonder where that emotion comes from. It’s wrong to die for something like this. If you know that but still stand to protect her, something doesn’t add up. So what created that distortion? Think about who motivated you to stand there and why.”
Shokuhou Misaki was certain that clinched it.
No matter how much she tried to deny it, her words would never reach Kamijou Touma. She had not even rid herself of doubt, so her words would never get through to someone else.
And if he abandoned her, it was all over.
She could control the Queen Divers with her remote, but if they charged toward her at two hundred kilometers per hour from thirty different directions, would even swinging around two remotes be enough? Even if she had them take each other out, it would not be easy. They were set to switch to program control once she took over.
Deadlock was prepared to die as long as they could defeat Mental Out.
Even if a head-on collision at that speed would crush their bodies and even if they risked a large explosion if that JP-5 jet fuel leaked out, it was all worth it to them if they could defeat this Level 5.
Thus, it was over.
She would either be torn apart by a pile bunker or roasted in a jet fuel explosion. Whatever happened, her slim chances of survival vanished once Kamijou Touma gave up on her.
That was the future that should have awaited her.
“None of that matters.”
She heard a quiet voice.
At first, she thought it was an illusion brought on by her weak heart.
“That crazy conspiracy theory has nothing to do with this. Listen, you thugs. It doesn’t matter if these feelings came from my own heart or if they were placed there by a Level 5. It doesn’t matter if I really think this or if I’m being deceived and manipulated by someone.”
A hoarse voice escaped her throat, but the boy did not turn toward her.
He stayed put so he could protect the girl named Shokuhou Misaki while also allowing his voice to reach the boy in the red riding suit. Even while surrounded by countless deadly weapons, he tightly clenched his right fist. He did so despite knowing he could never take on this many people at once.
And he spoke with his back turned.
“If it leads me to stand here and protect a girl with tears in her eyes, I wouldn’t want anything else.”
It was likely that instant that a decisive gear began to turn within her.
That was the instant in which the most powerful mind-controlling esper realized these feelings still slept within her.
On the other hand, the boy in the red riding suit laughed.
But it was not a mocking or despising laugh.
“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!!”
He had accepted the person named Kamijou Touma.
That living example of a possibility they could not copy may have shown him an aspiration different from his resentful feelings toward this Level 5.
Guided by the boy, Kamijou laughed quietly too.
Even from behind him, Shokuhou could see his shoulders shaking.
At first glance, the scene held the gentle atmosphere of a conclusion.
But rationally-speaking, that mood was quite unnatural and it was soon destroyed by the Queen Diver’s next coldhearted words.
“Then I hope you’re prepared, you damn clown.”
“You bet. And I hope you guys are willing to put your life on the line and come at me with everything you’ve got.”
With a great roar, the boys and girls of Deadlock rushed in from thirty different directions while wielding their explosive-driven pile bunkers.
They had recognized their opponent’s broad-mindedness but would still kill him.
It was like the one-on-one clash between well-known commanders during an ancient battle.
That was the form this battle took.
The current Shokuhou Misaki let out a small breath.
That ended it all.
Since she and Kamijou Touma lived to this day, it went without saying who had won that fight against the student group named Deadlock.
And after a few more incidents, the two had parted ways.
She would be lying if she said she had no regrets.
There was no point in asking if she had accepted it.
(I’m starting to feel a little sentimental.)
She was aware of it, but she made no attempt to fight the urge inside her.
She left the multi-tenant building rooftop and began walking through the cityscape of Academy City. On the way, she entered a subway station and took a train to another district. She knew where she was going. It was the one place in those memories she had not visited today.
That would be District 21 and the circular artificial lake on the mountaintop that formed a part of a geothermal power station.
It was the place where everything between them had begun and an important support for her entire personality.
“I thought I would go for the complete set of locations while I was at it,” she muttered while walking along the winding mountain path.
She was already soaking with sweat which was unbefitting of an elegant lady.
“Honestly! Why do I have to go to all this effort? Did I really trudge all this way back then!?”
She had started this memory tour on a whim, but after coming this far, she was reluctant to turn back. Just as she used the remotes to regulate her power, she was often pulled around by her own personal rules. She was now walking up the mountain path in complete desperation.
(Honestly. And I know perfectly well that doing this isn’t going to change a thing.)
By the time she reached the peak, the sun had set and night had fallen.
“Pant pant pant pant.”
She bent over, placed her hands on her knees, and frantically tried to catch her breath. She was completely exhausted, but she tried to encourage herself by saying this was for the best because it recreated the atmosphere from back then.
Finally, she raised her head to look at the area from her memories.
Ignoring the initial false start, this was the wonderful location where she had met Kamijou Touma.
The clouds covering the moon must have cleared because the scene suddenly appeared before her night-adjusted eyes.
And she saw it once more.
Something slowly ran down her spine.
It was a terrible, horrible, indescribable feeling that went beyond a common chill.
Reality seemed to leave her.
She was overcome by such great confusion that she no longer felt even the pull of gravity.
There was indeed a geothermal power station there.
But it had an entirely different design from the one in her memories.
(Did I get the place wrong?)
The lake was much larger and the tower in the center was a different color, height, and shape. However, there had only been the one winding path, so she could not have taken a wrong turn. Not to mention that there was only the one mountain peak. No matter what route she had taken, this is where she would have ended up. There was no way to get it wrong.
In that case, what was this?
What would lead to the scene before her eyes?
(Was the power station itself demolished and rebuilt?)
She suggested a possibility, but it was most likely impossible. Demolishing such a large facility would require a lot of work, including explosive blasts. The vibrations that caused would have affected the dam and radio telescope on the same mountain. If the shaking stirred up the mud and filth accumulated at the bottom of the dam, the standard purification process would no longer suffice. But Shokuhou had not heard of a large-scale water restriction to stop water pollution in the city.
And after eliminating every other possibility, only the simplest of explanations remained.
She had left this one for last because she had not wanted to think about it.
“I was wrong?” she muttered in a daze. “My memories were wrong? My memories with Kamijou Touma didn’t exist?”
When she hesitantly voiced that possibility, she shuddered at how repulsive it was. Like the bottommost card in a pyramid had been roughly snatched away, the series of kind memories that had begun here all came tumbling down.
That couldn’t be it.
It just couldn’t.
Remembering something, she frantically dug through her handbag. Mixed in with the remotes she used to control her powers was a cheap emergency whistle painted silver.
That boy had personally given this to her with the following words:
“Use it if you’re in trouble. It might give me more chances to save you.”
If she had that whistle, it should have meant her memories were accurate.
She wanted to believe that, yet she rejected her own hope.
(What if some unknown third party gave me this along with the false memories? Then this whistle doesn’t qualify as material evidence.)
Her anguish continued.
Because this concerned formless memories, it was difficult to set a stopping point and draw a conclusion.
But at the same time, was this even possible?
Could someone else manipulate her memories such that she would not notice for such a long period of time?
She had the Level 5 powers of Mental Out, so no one could match her when it came to people’s minds. She would never have allowed someone to mess with her own memories and then not notice the change for so long.
And on top of that, these memories were the most important to her and came from the gentlest part of her.
The great deviation between her memories and the scene before her shook her mind as she tried to fight the doubt.
(What if someone did accomplish it?)
Whoever it was would have been using something truly bizarre.
This went beyond that Deadlock group that she was no longer sure had even existed. She knew of the deepest darkness of this city thanks to Dolly who was related to the mass-produced military ****** and the ******* Project that created a giant version of a certain Level 5’s brain, but she doubted even the people related to those incidents could outdo her so perfectly.
In that case, if this scene was right and her memories were wrong, it meant someone even more powerful than those people had attacked her without her even knowing it.
She brought a hand to her head and could feel something explode inside her chest.
That something was anger.
Her rage was directed at the one who had set foot inside the most important part of her and trampled on everything there.
“What did you do to my memories?”
She removed the glove covering her fingertips, pulled out a digital recorder remote, and pressed it against her own temple.
“Category 044 / Extract the past year’s memories from the object I touch with my right hand.”
This was the path she had once walked, but no information came from the guardrail.
She found nothing, even with her mindreading ability.
“What did you do to my memoriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiieeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeessssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss!?”
Even now, that pointy-haired boy’s smile flashed through the back of her mind.
The great warmth of that smile only shook her all the more.
Were those memories real or not?
What had truly happened in those days back then?
A battle was beginning for Mental Out, the #5 Level 5, who was overcome with anguish.
She would fight to find this unseen enemy and grasp the truth.
Between the Lines 1
A certain golden retriever did not like pet cafes.
Or perhaps he should be called the researcher named Kihara Noukan.
They were officially a welcoming place that advertised their many dishes specifically designed for pets so the owners could enjoy themselves with their pets, but once he actually crossed the threshold, he found the humans were treated superior. Or rather, the animals were meaninglessly treated as inferiors. All in all, it felt like he was being mocked.
“Look, look, sensei. This puppy cake is low fat and low sugar, but it’s still really sweet. C’mon, say ‘ah’. C’mon, c’mon. Say ‘ah’.”
“Ahhh!? What is this mass of artificial sweetener supposed to be!? Honestly, it pisses me off!!”
The surrounding customers looked surprised when the refined voice of a middle-aged man came from what was clearly a dog, but this was Academy City. Nowhere else in the world had as much of an affinity with or persuasiveness concerning technology. In fact, it had almost reached the level of a religious belief. The people began lively but misguided discussions along the lines of “that talking collar is nice” or “I wonder what site sells it”.
But the woman in a cheap suit and a lab coat paid them no heed.
“C’mooon. I ordered this nice puppy cake that’s made for a dog’s body, so eat it. You’re always saying not to waste food, right?”
“If you want to buy me a treat, make it a cigar. I won’t accept anything less than a top-class Cuban, though.”
“That doesn’t sound like something I’d hear from a resident of Academy City where everything’s produced in agriculture buildings.”
“What is it, sensei? Oh, do you want me to brush you!?”
“Get to the point. Cafes like this are awkward enough for guys.”
“Only after you finish the puppy ca-… Sorry, I got carried away. Anyway, it looks like Shokuhou Misaki has noticed. And it seems the ‘ant’ views the ‘bee’s’ movement as a trigger because she has started moving too.”
“So that means she will…”
“Yes, she has finished biding her time. I’ve lost contact with the entire section, so it was probably taken over from within. …She is a queen ant now.”
“Just like a samurai ant, hm?”
“Right. That’s the kind that attacks other colonies to create slaves, isn’t it?”
“This means things are going to get rough for a while.”
“Ah hah hah! Isn’t that perfect for your work!?”
“Yuiitsu-kun.” The golden retriever’s voice grew even deeper. “This may be an irresponsible and out-of-place comment as a Kihara, but I am not particularly fond of that Kihara-like side of you.”
“We can sincerely carry out what destruction is necessary, but I dislike unnecessary destruction. Of course, this is an issue of like and dislike, not of good and evil.”
“I really don’t get you.”
Kihara Yuiitsu childishly pouted her lips.
She looked a lot like a child pretending to be a poor student to get the teacher’s attention.
“After all, that means you’d be willing to place thousands or even millions of people on the dissection table as long as it was necessary, right? How is that any different from us?”
“As I said, it is an issue of like and dislike, not of good and evil. And unfortunately, reality sometimes brings about situations like that. And that is why there will always be a place for horrible individuals like myself.”