Toaru Majutsu no Index:NT Volume11 Chapter 3
Chapter 3: True Motive >> Gallery — Another_Answer.
Did she really have to go back there?
Annoyance filled Shokuhou Misaki as she imagined the path back to the power station and artificial lake in the mountains of District 21. For an instant – truly just an instant – she seriously considered controlling twenty or so people and creating a luxurious palanquin for herself, but she rejected the idea at the last second. Even she had a concept of shame appropriate for her age.
While gasping for breath on the winding and pitch-black mountain path, she held her phone to her ear.
“I looked into it some more since you left, but Ground Geo is definitely the one you saw,” said Kumokawa Seria. “I checked the construction blueprint, the photos attached to the basic overview, and even the government office bulletins that no one would normally be able to see, but it all matches. Or at least, all the official records depict it that way.”
“Hm? That was an odd way of putting that.”
“All of the documents my searches turned up had their ‘last modified’ dates altered. It looks like all of those were actually put in quite recently. What do you think about that?”
“It’s hard to say.”
A few days ago, she might have been overjoyed and latched onto this news.
She would have seen the evidence of altered data as proof that her memories were accurate.
“If they could change those dates, we can’t be certain about what you say ‘actually’ happened either, can we? It’s possible someone in the past added in the data with the time set to the future☆”
“Also, we can’t say altering data is the same as altering the truth. They might have overwritten the accurate data with identical accurate data. That way I would assume the data is false when I found the evidence of their altering ability.”
She had already seen the Strobila and Emergency Aid.
She still did not know who the enemy was or the full scope of the incident, but she needed to assume this much given what she did know.
When you took the reverse of the reverse of the reverse of the reverse of the reverse of the reverse of the reverse of the reverse of the reverse of the reverse of the reverse of the reverse, did you end up with the original or the reverse?
“At any rate, the altered files were classification rank S. Whoever they are, they can easily reach a level a step beyond the highest classification level known to the public. They’ve clearly broken away from their loyalty to the Board of Directors. I can’t tell if this is real or a bluff, but I do know they have the power and conviction to do something like this for nothing but a step in their preparations. You should be careful.”
“I already know that.” Shokuhou elegantly wiped sweat from her brow with a handkerchief. “Besides, this already went well past my predictive ability from the moment someone knew enough about the incident with that boy to pull off an attack like this. I will not be foolish enough to look down on them.”
“I don’t really care about you or anything, but he isn’t strong enough to handle someone’s death. So don’t go off and die. If you do die, I’ll give you the proper decorations, so make sure you contact me.”
“That goes for both of us☆”
With a quiet laugh, Shokuhou Misaki ended the call.
She then stared into empty space and muttered in her heart.
(When did she gain that impudent skill for being tsundere?)
Thinking about it was not going to give her an answer and it disturbed her to get too involved with that older, large-breasted tsundere who was actually an immature old hag who refused to grow up. Shokuhou decided spending any more thought on this was a waste of her time and so changed her train of thought.
She could see the artificial lake and tower now.
The facility was so massive that it was difficult to hide. Normally thinking, it would be impossible to remove it without affecting the surroundings at all. The fact that it looked so very different from her past made it the singularity for her personal mystery and contradiction.
It was supposedly constantly monitored by countless cameras and sensors, but all she saw from the outside were a metal fence surrounding the lake and a gate sealed with chains and a padlock.
Whether it had changed form or not, it was still the place she had once wandered into and collapsed on the ground.
Despite her miniskirt, she climbed over the gate and inside.
There, she walked along the concrete shore.
Even this created an intense discrepancy between her memories and reality.
It was not that a specific aspect was wrong; she was having trouble finding anything that was the same.
And that went beyond the lake. When she looked over her shoulder and down from the mountaintop, it was blatantly obvious that the shape of the dark forest and mountains were completely wrong (or that her memories were). The locations of the rising surfaces of rock and the taller trees were clearly different.
(Of course, landslides and development can easily change the natural landscape, so it isn’t that strange for it to differ from my memories.)
She removed her glove and traced her fingers across the ground, but she found no information connecting it to that day. Her mindreading power was no comfort.
Even so, she faced forward again.
She looked to the circular lake surrounded by concrete and the metal tower standing up from the center.
This was where she had sprawled out on the ground back then.
It was the exact spot where she had met the boy named Kamijou Touma.
But this spot was no exception.
“It’s different too,” she muttered aloud without thinking.
At the very least, nothing she could see matched her memories. The difference was so thorough to make it almost refreshing.
She tried lying down just like on that day.
Not only were the lake and forest different, but the locations of the stars were too.
(Well, that was summer and this is winter, so the constellations will naturally be different.)
She made that decision and then reached a conclusion.
When something was different, there was a reason for it. This discrepancy between her memories and reality would not happen for no reason. Were her memories wrong or was the scene before her eyes wrong? And was it intentional or coincidental? Setting all that aside, she knew there was a cause somewhere.
She then sat straight up.
She reached for a cheap plastic bag from a discount store that she had brought along with her handbag. It contained an item she had bought earlier.
It was a twelve-piece screwdriver set.
In addition to different Phillips head and flathead varieties, it included one for removing frames that resembled an awl. She removed it from the case.
She brushed her palm across the area she had just been lying on.
She felt the solid sensation of concrete. It absorbed the chill of the late night mountain air and seemed to reject the warmth needed for life.
And then she swung down the awl as if hammering in a metal nail.
Normally, she would never have been able to pierce the concrete meant to hold in the massive amount of water filling the artificial lake. Even if she slammed a hammer against the bottom of it, the cheap screwdriver would have broken first.
But her wrist felt an odd sensation much like something crumbling.
It was like the sensation of hardened sand losing its form.
“I knew it,” muttered Academy City’s #5 Level 5.
This had actually completely fooled her and filled her with confusion, so that comment was disingenuous. However, this was the only method she could think of that could have actually fooled her.
She pinched the crumbled sand between her thumb and forefinger and rubbed the fingers together to feel it. Meanwhile, she looked back across the lake.
She looked at the giant concrete structure and the dark forest and mountain surrounding it.
She looked at all of it.
“That’s right. The entire landscape visible from here was transformed by covering it with this.”
Competition to be named the standard occurred with any technology and it had occasionally occurred in the television industry.
A certain technology had competed with OLEDs before quietly vanishing from the stage.
That technology was magnetically-controlled monitors.
Whether CRT or LCD, the standard television used the RGB color system or added in black for a four-color composition. On the other hand, the magnetically-controlled monitors constructed the image using the CMYK structure.
The basic idea was simple. A fine powder given the basic colors was mixed into an ultra-thin water tank and magnetism was used to manipulate them and form the image.
Due to the method, it produced no blue light and it could more accurately reproduce watercolor or oil paintings than a traditional television, so they held overwhelming possibility for educational programs providing an introduction to art. However, the cost for a single unit was too expensive and the producers and distributors were used to the traditional RGB coloration, so they lost the competition to become the standard for television. Incidentally, that unknown television technology had later been used in an entirely different field.
Namely, military camouflage.
The pattern could change in real-time just like a television and the bright colors did not require a backlight as LCDs did, so they had become the next generation of high-tech deception.
“That was placed over everything I can see from here,” muttered Shokuhou Misaki half in annoyance.
Even her mindreading powers had found nothing about that day in the lake or even the surrounding guardrail. But that was not because reality had changed. It was due to the magnetically-controlled monitor powder covering it all.
Even if the infrastructure for mass-production was established with a large-scale factory, it was feared a single television would have cost over a million yen. And yet the basic component for those televisions had been spread all across the mountains visible from here.
“They certainly went a long way to mess with a girl’s memory. Well, that must mean they actually have the ability to see the true value of the #5.”
At any rate, her memories had not been wrong.
The lake had looked exactly as she remembered. She had only thought it had changed because it had been overwritten by massive amounts of a camouflaging substance.
However, this would not happen on its own.
Someone had done this.
And would they merely accept that she had found the truth?
The answer was a resounding no.
This was where it truly began. The enemy would contact her no matter what now.
Just as Shokuhou Misaki expected, someone began to move.
Academy City’s #5 Level 5 was sometimes told her body did not look like a middle schooler’s and the same could be said of this person.
However, it was meant in the exact opposite way here.
Labored breathing filled a vehicle.
The forty foot container was pulled by a large truck and was by no means small. In the West, it was not uncommon for people to make similar modifications and then live in them. Even if it had been built here to constantly monitor District 21’s Ground Geo and the area around the power plant, the intense oppressive feeling undoubtedly came from the girl’s appearance.
She may have weighed as much as three hundred kilograms.
The Tokiwadai Middle School uniform was pulled tight and looked about to burst.
Not only did she have no division between face and neck, her silhouette even had an unclear division between face and shoulders.
Her breathing sounded so labored because her own flesh was crushing her windpipe.
“Hee hee. Doo hoo hoo. …Ahh, ahh. So she has at last crossed the final line. Now I can’t back off either.”
In strange news stories from the West, one would occasionally hear about people who grew too fat to walk on their own and had to be rescued because they were too big to fit through the door and leave their own house.
This girl looked like she fit that description.
With a wet dripping sound, this thing that had lost all resemblance to a girl licked her lips. While continuing to have trouble breathing despite no one strangling her, she gave a laugh that seemed crushed by her own flesh.
She grabbed a headset with a sweaty hand and placed it against one ear. The action resembled a DJ from an older era, but she had no other choice because the standard equipment was too small for her head.
“Wheeze wheeze… How goes the OS’s synchronization?”
“It is running smoothly.”
“And the other one?”
“The capture was somewhat rushed, so it will take a little longer to test it and make sure the various sensors don’t cause any conflicts.”
“How much longer? Cough cough.”
“My estimate is forty minutes at the most.”
“Then…cough…that’s fine. But try to force it through ahead of schedule.”
With that, she tossed the headset aside.
Her eyes turned to one of the countless monitors on the container’s wall.
Shokuhou Misaki was displayed there.
That girl had just regained her life and looked brighter than anything else in the world.
“You have still stolen ‘me’.”
She used her partially-crushed vocal cords to speak in a very, very low voice that just about left the audible range.
“So it is time you were punished, Miss Bee.”
When Shokuhou Misaki first noticed something was off, she thought it might be a breeze. That was because a wave ran through the entire scene just like unseen wind blowing through wheat.
But that was not right.
This was not a field filled with wheat; it was the thick concrete shore of an artificial lake. The wind would not be enough to create a wave there.
Her common sense rejected the scene before her, but her knowledge soon told her that common sense did not apply.
The scenery around her was technically a collection of magnetically-controlled monitor powder. Everything she could see was a giant screen that could display any image.
“…!! They’re already here!!”
She took a few steps back, tossed aside the screwdriver set, and reached for the handbag on her shoulder. She selected the remote she wanted by touch alone.
Her opponent responded.
With the sound of scattering sparks, a portion of the scenery burst. Less than ten meters in front of Shokuhou stood what looked like a giant mass of flesh.
“Bahh,” said the figure jokingly.
Shokuhou did not hesitate to pull the remote from her bag.
Like a fast draw from a western, she used her thumb to spin the volume dial on an audio set remote.
“Category 330 / Prevent the indicated individual from detecting the passage of time for sixty minutes.”
“That won’t work☆”
She heard a voice, but it came from directly behind her.
(Was the figure approaching from the front just an image!? Can the powder create sound and voices by rubbing together like a cricket’s wings!?)
She frantically turned around and a mass of flesh surrounded by feminine subcutaneous fat filled her vision.
But that was not just because the figure was so close.
This person had to weigh two hundred or even three hundred kilograms. It was doubtful she could even walk on her own and she wore the same Tokiwadai uniform as Shokuhou, but it almost looked like someone had drawn the uniform on a balloon before inflating it. At first, Shokuhou had not recognized the uniform that was about to burst from within.
Looking like that, Shokuhou was certain she would have at least heard of this person even if she was in a different class or year.
And so she asked a natural question.
“Are you really in middle school?”
“Heh heh heh. I could ask you the same thing.”
Shokuhou felt like the figure’s oddly sweet tone of voice was an imitation of her own, so an unpleasant feeling rushed across her entire body.
She took a few steps back with uncertain footing.
She moved away without even thinking about it.
What was this thing?
Academy City’s #5 once more pointed the audio set remote at her target.
“I already told you that won’t work,” said the mocking voice. “If I thought it would, I would never actually show myself to you, now would I?”
Shokuhou heard a bizarre sound like gathering static electricity or an old CRT TV being switched on.
Her right arm changed color up to the shoulder.
The glove and sleeve of her winter uniform blazer did too. A shiny black pattern covered her arm as if someone had drawn a marble pattern with sticky heavy oil.
Next, “it” arrived.
The low rumble resembled the previous static electricity sound, but it was something else.
This was the sound of countless insect wings.
It was a swarm of giant hornets that could attack as a group and even kill a large bear to protect their hive. There were a thousand or maybe even more and they rushed at Shokuhou with the density of a sandstorm. Specifically, they rushed at her right arm.
“Did you know? Hfh gfh. Even children know that giant hornets will gather on black things.”
“And Mental Out only works on people. It’s useless against a military dog or a swarm of insects. Isn’t that right?”
Meanwhile, the swarm of hornets the size of her thumb approached to envelop her.
But a moment later, orange light flashed in the late night.
An incredibly powerful mass of flames appeared in empty space and intercepted the swarm of hornets. The insects were roasted in an instant and their corpses fell while twinkling like sparks.
However, not even Shokuhou’s Mental Out allowed her to use a different esper power with a remote.
So what had happened?”
“Doo hoo hoo. Found one in the forest.”
The mass of flesh laughed.
Shokuhou followed her gaze and saw someone trying to hide by slipping between the trees that swayed in the night wind. However, that single portion of the dark forest changed to a neon pink. The pink formed an accurate circle with a five meter radius. It was much like a painted-on spotlight marker.
“I believe you can only accurately control about fourteen people at once. All of your hidden pawns are powerful espers, aren’t they? Now, where are the others hidden? Once I cut off all your arms and legs, only the head will remain. Only the brain that can’t even crawl along the ground.”
“Category 330 / Prevent the indicated individual from detecting the passage of time for sixty minutes.”
Shokuhou ignored her and turned the remote’s dial.
The enemy’s giant round head shook back and forth.
“I already told you,” continued the voice. “That won’t work☆”
(This one isn’t an image made with the display ability of the magnetically-controlled monitor. I really truly did activate the remote toward her. Does that mean…my power really doesn’t work on her!?)
Before she could gather her thoughts, the next oddity attacked her.
A swarm of tiny insects crawled up from her feet and toward her neck. An indescribable sense of revulsion travelled from her fingertips and up her spine.
“No, this is just paint made to look like that!”
“Well spotted. But there is such a thing as a primitive fear you can’t avoid even if you know it isn’t real. The descriptions of the hallucinations had during withdrawal can be used to analyze a ‘pattern of fear’ common to the entire human race.”
The talking lump of flesh shook oddly.
A moment later, a giant eyeball appeared on the swollen flesh.
As soon as its gaze pierced through her, Shokuhou almost stopped breathing. She seriously felt the movements of her diaphragm slow from a mere mental attack.
“All girls love Greek mythology which we’re familiar with from astrology, but that mythology also included Medusa. You know, the female snake monster known for her petrifying eyes.”
This intentionally “transformed” person gave a thin, thin smile.
“But that wasn’t originally a story of eyeballs with a mysterious power. Medusa was a former beauty who was cursed by a god and given a face too horrifying to behold. The fear that filled anyone who saw it would make them freeze up as if they had turned to stone. But that was too boring, so it changed to the story of eyes that truly turned people to stone.”
The idea of a woman with a horrifying face or a beauty waving her hair around in anger was one of the “patterns of fear” seen around the world. In Japan for example, the traditional art of Noh included a mask called the Hannya. It was a representation of the frightening yet uniquely bewitching side of a beauty dyed in the colors of rage.
This was the extreme representation of that.
The visual fear that everyone held had been drawn out and transformed into a technology to drive that fear into a target’s heart.
“Keh heh heh. Ha ha ha ha!! I see you’re finally talking like me, Miss Bee.”
Shokuhou ignored the mocking laughter and doubled over.
She clenched her teeth and made up her mind.
A roar burst out a moment alter.
A tremendous impact struck the entire area, including Shokuhou and her enemy.
A trembling pain ran up from her feet and spread from her bones and into the surrounding flesh. This was electricity. For an instant, the magnetically-controlled monitor dust lost control. With the sound of a sandbag’s contents spilling everywhere, the insects crawling on Shokuhou and the giant eyeball both vanished.
“Gyah!? Keh heh heh. But now I’ve found the second.”
The enemy produced a wet sound while trembling.
Another portion of the scenery turned an unnatural neon pink.
“How many more? As long as I know where they are, I can go crush them. You may arrogantly control people, but you couldn’t stand to see one of them die, could you? Now, how much longer can you maintain control of your pawns?”
“Oh? Does that look on your face mean you ordered them all to withdraw? That only saves me the trouble.”
Shokuhou Misaki could only wonder who this enemy was.
Even after all this, she had no idea who the girl could be.
Even with all this technology, outdoing Mental Out in psychological warfare was not normal. To Shokuhou’s knowledge, only Kumokawa Seria could pull that off. That was why she always kept tabs on that girl’s actions. She did not know what kind of life this person lived, but Shokuhou’s network would have caught her if she used this kind of power on a daily basis.
Also, this enemy was too familiar with Shokuhou’s personal past and the loopholes in her powers. Was she simply a dedicated stalker or…
“Do you have some connection to me?”
“Heh heh heh hah hah!! Cough, cough. Of course I do. Geh heh heh. Otherwise, I would have no reason to resent you!!”
“But I’ve never seen you. I don’t know who you are.”
“Doo hoo hoo!! Of course you don’t. If you had ever met me, I wouldn’t have been able to resist killing you then.”
Their lives were closely related, but they had never met before.
They had never seen each other before, but intense hatred had grown within this girl.
After going over the available information, Shokuhou came to a conclusion.
“You really are insane.”
“Gyaaa ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!! That’s the thing! That’s the thing, Miss Bee! People like me… People like us readily manipulate people’s minds, so who can prove we still have sound minds of our own!?”
Shokuhou did not bother hearing her out.
With the useless remote in her hand, she faced the mass of flesh head on.
Of course, the enemy noticed and calmly began to alter the surrounding magnetically-controlled monitor.
But first, Shokuhou threw the remote toward the mass of flesh’s face with all her strength.
“Why do you look so shocked? Since you set foot in my memories with him, you should know these remotes can be used like this.”
Shokuhou approached as she spoke.
She reached into her bag, pulled out another remote, and threw it. In truth, Shokuhou had difficulty even throwing a plastic bottle in the trash, but she managed fine here. The target was simply that large.
As the dull sounds of impact continued, the mass of flesh gave a short cry and tried to cover her face with her hands. This may have been a shockingly pathetic fight from a combat professional’s point of view, but Shokuhou knew anyone who took the easy route by controlling people’s minds would not bother to train their body. All the while, she made her way closer and closer.
She knew what she had to do.
(Even if something seems mysterious at first glance, it isn’t just a vague and mysterious phenomenon. Just like the lake was covered by the transformation ability of the magnetically-controlled monitor, there has to be reason my powers don’t work on her.)
Her opponent was easily three hundred kilograms. Classes of martial arts were divided by weight because differences in body size could sometimes mean more than the presence of a deadly weapon. However, Shokuhou did not hesitate. She doubted the bloated girl before her had a method of transferring her weight into destructive power.
(And I’ve already seen a technology that could provide a resistance to my Mental Out, even if the odds of success were low.)
Her goal was the mass of flesh’s neck.
More accurately, the back of the neck.
She accurately grabbed a small plastic point attached like a larval jellyfish.
“A Strobila. You tried to trap me using this, didn’t you!?”
She pulled with all her might.
The terminal was apparently attached directly to her heart, but Shokuhou had experienced the same thing and so showed no concern for her opponent.
“Category 011 / The indicated individual must answer accurately to all questions.”
The mass of flesh let out a short and thick cry, but that was all she could manage.
She stopped moving and a dead look entered her eyes.
That was the sign that this still-unknown enemy had finally, finally, finally fallen under Mental Out’s control.
Shokuhou Misaki spun the television remote in her hand.
The three hundred kilogram girl stood stock-still in front of her. She moved back and forth in front of that enemy while trying to gather her thoughts a little.
But she simply could not gather them.
Everything this enemy had said had made no sense whatsoever.
“I guess I’ll just have you give me some spoilers for everything I don’t understand☆”
She stopped the spinning remote, pointed it forward, and asked a question while pressing the button.
“Are you the one behind this? Or is there someone beyond even you?”
“No, I am the deepest point. I was the only one – cough – giving orders.”
It seemed the coughing was legit and not just an act.
“What is the backbone of your power?”
“I work alone. I simply control useful-looking people from valuable underground organizations, research institutions, prestigious schools, and the like to give the illusion of an organization.”
“And how do you control them?”
“Five Over OS.”
“Be more specific.”
“A Five Over is a military technology that reproduces a Level 5’s power with pure industrial technology. However, OS stands for Outsider, so it exists outside that mainstream method. Simply put, it uses techniques fundamentally different from the Level 5’s power to produce a phenomenon resembling the Level 5’s power.”
(I see. So the concept behind this large-scale magnetically-controlled monitor might be a version of me using a different method.)
Shokuhou Misaki directly manipulated the internal structure of the human brain.
However, the “knowledge” within the larger category of one’s “personality” was defined as that which adapted to an unknown environment. There was a report that sounded more like a dubious urban legend that said, if a human was closed inside a pitch-black and empty room, their personality would collapse within only a few days.
That was the opposite of Shokuhou’s process.
Instead of controlling the mind from within, they would thoroughly decorate the external world to convince someone the contents of their mind were wrong.
It was the same thing Shokuhou had experienced at the artificial lake.
“Why did you do this?”
“For revenge. To punish you for stealing ‘me’.”
“Be more specific.”
“I do not think I can retrieve ‘me’. I am simply fighting to satisfy myself.”
Her responses were too abstract.
But if that was what she believed, no more information could be drawn from her.
Also, Shokuhou had forgotten to ask the most important question.
“Who are you?”
Shokuhou’s powers meant the enemy had to answer accurately to any question asked of her. That could not be fought with willpower and the Strobila had already been removed.
That meant it was impossible for her to lie.
“I am Shokuhou Misaki. I am here to take revenge on you for stealing me.”
She did not understand what that meant.
Shokuhou Misaki’s legs and mind grew unsteady.
The massive three hundred kilogram girl still stood in front of her and she had called herself Shokuhou Misaki. They looked nothing alike and anyone asked if they did would have asked if you were joking, but Shokuhou herself knew better than anyone that this girl could not lie.
In that case, what did she mean?
What was that answer?
“Wait! Wait a second! You’re Shokuhou Misaki? Do you really think that?”
“Then who am I? Who is the person everyone else believes is Shokuhou Misaki?”
“I do not know. I thought I would reveal her true identity here.”
“But…but you can’t be Shokuhou Misaki. Shokuhou Misaki is more beautiful and cute! She has a figure anyone would be jealous of and she shines all the way to the tips of her nails!”
“It is not my fault I ended up like this. It was the malice of a third party that turned me into this.”
She could not think of anything else to ask.
What was this?
That girl was under an inviolable rule forcing her to accurately answer all questions, so she could not lie. This was not a lie, but it was a delusion far removed from reality. So did this girl truly believe this delusion?
(No, wait! Wait, wait! Don’t let her trick you. Or rather, don’t get swallowed up in her delusion. No one would let something like this be a transformed Shokuhou Misaki. Besides, I have Mental Out. This’s the power of Academy City’s #5 Level 5 and it can’t be mass-produced. It proves I’m the real one beyond a shadow of a doubt.)
But did it really?
What if the Strobila in her neck had not been a method of avoiding Shokuhou’s attack and it had instead been used by a third party to restrain her power?
And it had already been proven that the Strobila or Five Over OS could control a human mind on a high level without relying on Level 5 powers.
What if some strange technique had been used without her knowledge?
What if she had been under that technique’s control and she had only thought she was controlling others?
What was it?
What was the answer?
Which one was the real Shokuhou Misaki? Was there any way of objectively proving it one way or the other with only the two of them here? She of course truly believed that she was Shokuhou Misaki, but what value did that belief or her memories hold when faced with techniques of freely manipulating the human mind? If she overturned all of her assumptions, could she even say who she really was?
Just like that, a disturbing sense of floating assaulted whoever she was.
But then a supposedly impossible voice reached her ears.
A mocking voice came from the motionless mass of flesh.
That alone was enough to overturn Shokuhou’s assumptions, but the next thing she knew, something long and thick yet obviously not a rope had wrapped tightly around her body.
“Ah ha ha ha ha ha!! Gefh, geheh. I already told you! I already tolllld you! How many times do I have to say it? Your powers don’t work on me!!”
Tremendous pressure squeezed at Shokuhou’s organs.
And as she struggled to breathe, she saw something.
The three hundred kilogram girl’s flesh split open at the wrist and something flew out. Overall, it was cream-colored. It was a joint-less, flexible manipulator arm with countless suckers covering it just like an octopus or squid tentacle.
Shokuhou’s face froze when she saw those words written on the cream-colored side.
“Designers’ Gel. That’s the name of this artificially redesigned fat.”
Shokuhou had forgotten until now.
The Five Over OS would need a base unit like a powered suit.
It would have to be hidden somewhere.
“The ‘ink’ that sprayed out on my command is part of it too, you know?”
With a sticky sound, something clearly split off from the three hundred kilogram girl. It was a yellowish cream-colored object much taller than a person. Countless tentacles extended from the bottom half of the giant sphere, so it looked something like an artificial octopus.
This was Five Over OS – Modelcase Mental Out.
The surface of the round head-like body had large eyeballs written on it like hieroglyphics. Perhaps using the magnetically-controlled monitor, those drawn eyeballs rolled about and even blinked.
Shokuhou was still restrained by one of its tentacles, but she was focused on something other than the bizarre technology.
She was focused on the obese girl…no, on the girl who had worn that artificial fat.
The far-too-big Tokiwadai uniform fell to her ankles and revealed a special outfit that resembled a racing swimsuit and looked like thin rubber made to match a human silhouette.
But other than that, the girl standing before her was Shokuhou Misaki. The long honey-blonde hair, the plentiful breasts that looked out-of-place on a middle school girl, the narrow waist, the long legs, and everything else were the same as the ones she saw in the mirror every morning.
As she watched in a daze, that face suddenly melted away.
It was like a collection of giant leeches or slugs had been forcibly shaped into a human face. While watching her own face crumble away and splat onto the ground, Shokuhou let out a cry.
“Who in the world are you!?”
“You still don’t know?”
With that reply, the grotesque cascade of flesh suddenly stopped.
The magnetically-controlled monitor dust attached to the other girl’s body burst away in an instant.
This time, her true face was revealed.
Shokuhou Misaki spoke in confusion.
The girl did not resemble her at all. Her chocolate-colored hair was as fluffy as cotton candy which was the exact opposite of Shokuhou’s straight honey-blonde hair. Shokuhou’s breasts were larger, but the other girl’s legs were more beautiful. They were more than just long and slender and Shokuhou honestly felt she had lost to the flowing lines of this other girl’s legs.
Altogether, this was a complete stranger.
And yet she sensed something familiar in this girl that she had never sensed in anyone else before.
She could not put it to words and not even she could quite grasp what it was.
“You are similar.”
She gave voice to this powerful sense of unease.
“You are undoubtedly similar.”
“Of course I am.”
The other girl replied with a slight smile.
“My power is Mental Stinger. I’m stuck at Level 3 now, but I was originally meant to reach Level 5.”
“There is a secret file known as the Parameter List. It is an internal document used to pick favorites. It tells them whose powers to develop and whose to give up on for the sake of research, for the sake of profit, for the sake of developing the human race, and just for the sake of what the adults want. Have you heard of it?”
Shokuhou recalled what this girl had said.
They had never met, but she hated Shokuhou to the point of wanting to kill her.
They had never seen each other before because she would have killed Shokuhou right then and there if they had.
“I am Mitsuari Ayu, the ant who could not become the bee.”
That was what had happened here.
Sometimes, people would take someone’s life from them without ever even passing them in the hall or seeing them. They could be the loser in an idol audition or the person whose lottery number was just slightly off.
Had this girl been caught up in a similar situation?
“And I am the other fruit that was cut from the branch in order to let you grow.”
Between the Lines 3
For the Board of Directors.
I have received an interim report on Shokuhou Misaki and Mitsuari Ayu, so I am submitting it to you.
The old theory that they were controlling bioelectricity has been proven false. We have learned they actually manipulate moisture to produce a variety of phenomena.
Primarily, they control the secretion of chemicals in the target’s brain and control the distribution of blood, cerebrospinal fluid, etc. in the brain. Rather than directly controlling the bioelectricity, it seems they change the conductive efficiency by controlling the fluid that acts as a catalyst for the electricity to flow through.
As such, there seem to be cases when their powers do not function against espers who can directly manipulate their bioelectricity, such as Electromasters. However, some speculate they would be able to force their way through that defense by raising their power.
Their method of reading minds without relying on another’s brain is likely also related to moisture.
Based on their genetic information and their school counseling, we can find no points in common between their bodies or minds. Nevertheless, the basic theory and scope of the power that has manifested in them is almost identical and the Tree Diagram has given both of them the possibility of reaching Level 5.
(*Important Note: This point holds the possibility of overturning the fundamental idea of researching the brain to develop esper powers. The brain is a necessary component, but there may be more than just that. I hope you treat this part especially carefully.)
While this is an extremely unique situation, the two of them will end up plateauing at around Level 3 if they are given the standard Curriculum.
We must prune one of them and focus on the other.
We must make the decision before they enter the harsh hormone fluctuations of adolescence to ensure their talent is not crushed.
To decide between Shokuhou Misaki and Mitsuari Ayu, please reference the attached Parameter List.
And whichever one is chosen as the master, I recommend leaving the other as a slave. If the master happens to die, the equipment and funding focused on her can be reinvested into the slave for a second chance at developing a Level 5 under the same circumstances.
- Mitsuari’s name contains the character for ant and Shokuhou’s name contains the character for bee.