Toaru Majutsu no Index:NT Volume12 Chapter 2
Chapter 2: Chance Meeting between a Magic God and a Liar — St.Germain,and_LIAR.
At the time, Hamazura Shiage was looking up overhead.
A few seconds after some irregular shaking, the elevator’s digital display unnaturally stopped at 29. The lights did not go out and red emergency lights did not activate like in the movies or dramas, but it was obvious something was wrong.
“Looks that way.”
Hamazura and Stephanie were using the three meter steel Power Lifters to carry an art container, but the elevator was large enough to hold them with room to spare. It was apparently made so it could carry the contents of a small storeroom.
That may have been why no acrophobic tremble filled Hamazura’s legs. The elevator was so thick and sturdy that it was hard to imagine the entire box was dangling from a wire.
“What are we going to do? We have to get this to the mid level TV station by the indicated time, right?”
“That’s true, but do they have any right to get mad at us if we’re slowed by a malfunction in the Dianoid’s own facilities? Besides…”
Stephanie used her cellphone inside the giant machine she wore.
“I’m not picking up the signal from TV Orbit’s broadcast, but that isn’t just because we’re in this box, is it?”
“You’re kidding. You mean there’s been a terrorist attack or something!?”
Hamazura was worried about someone else more than himself. Takitsubo, Mugino, and Kinuhata of Item were waiting inside the Dianoid. He doubted there was much that would cause them trouble, but there were always exceptions. If Academy City #4’s strength was absolute, then Hamazura himself would no longer be alive.
“Teacher, can you call TV Orbit? What about email?”
“I’m not getting a response by email and the phones are on an infinite loop of hold music.”
“Isn’t it obvious? Until we get an explicit cancellation notification, we have no reason to quit working.”
They exchanged a glance to confirm their intentions and then turned to carefully observe the elevator. After checking the walls, ceiling, lights, air conditioning fan, and everything else, they arrived at an answer.
“It looks like there’s a floor panel. Look, here.”
“But how do we open it?”
“We have these Power Lifters, don’t we? We break through it with the legs.”
The three meter machine stomped on the floor, but the panel did not even dent.
“The Dianoid is entirely made of carbon materials, isn’t it?” Hamazura sounded annoyed. “They use the same materials in bulletproof vests and space elevator wires.”
“Oh, honestly. Then, why don’t we burn it? Messing with a Power Lifter battery to send a high voltage current through it might work too. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard lightning is the big weak point of space elevator wires…ah!”
With a low thunk, Stephanie sank down.
Some kind of latch must have broken after the fact because the panel opened and the leg on top fell into empty space.
Stephanie frantically recovered her balance.
“That was close. And wow, this sure is the mid level. I can’t see anything below us.”
Hamazura peeked down through the rectangular hole and fear of their great height finally reached his legs.
He had pictured an elevator as a large box suspended by a wire, but he could see rails on the walls that the sides of the box fit into. He was not sure if this was normal or if it was unique to this heavy-duty elevator, but Stephanie gave an explanation.
“This is a linear elevator. Do you have any idea how far apart the lower, mid, and upper levels are? A normal pulley system would leave people waiting and cause a ton of congestion.”
The elevator shaft was surprisingly noisy. It was filled with an intermittent rumbling much like a washing machine.
“That’s probably noise from the pumps. The mid level is known as the Aqua Palace and it includes indoor pools and one of the world’s largest fountains.”
“I see. Then what do we do now?”
“Given the size of the maintenance entrances, we should be able to get out in the Power Lifters.”
“What about the container?”
“We’ll of course be escaping while carrying the thing with us. Is that a problem? The Power Lifter’s legs can grab it just as well as the arms. It doesn’t matter if we’re upside down or holding it with a single arm or leg, so let’s try some tricky acrobatics to get out of here.”
“Are you serious?” groaned Hamazura, but there was no other way out.
The situation in the TV station was unclear, but if they had been in the middle of a live broadcast, each second lost could mean greater losses than from a train accident.
They had to get the container there by the designated time no matter what it took.
Whether adult or student, they had to complete the job given to them.
Stephanie opened and closed not just the fingers of her mechanical arms; she opened it through the wrist and to the shoulder like an alligator mouth.
“For now, let’s grab the wire, make our way down to the nearest floor, and force open the door with these arms. I’ll take the lead, so you stay on standby. Let’s avoid swinging the container around until we have a route set up.”
“In movies, the elevator always recovers and comes to crush you as soon as you start working out in the shaft.”
“That’s true. Are you the kind of person who starts gleefully talking about a legendary murderer if you find yourself trapped in a mountain mansion during a blizzard? Don’t you realize the threat falls on you as much as on me?”
The entire world changed color.
All around Kamijou Touma, more than one hundred spiked weapons shot from the walls, floor, and ceiling like an inside-out hedgehog.
Due to the Christmas season, quite a few boys and girls were walking in the area between him and the spikes.
Holes opened in all of those barriers of flesh as if clearing a path. They had not been stabbed by the spikes. Fist-sized tunnels were created in their chests, stomachs, or in the middle of their faces, but not a single drop of blood was shed. The one hundred piercing attacks passed through the center of those tunnels as they approached.
Kamijou Touma could not help but scream when he saw the overwhelming scene.
It was the psychedelically transformed world and not the immediate danger that threatened to shut down his mind.
Where was this?
Was it really the same place he had been standing just one second earlier?
Was this the same world that Magic God Othinus had thoroughly destroyed and then brought back?
His mind went blank.
He was unable to think clearly and what he needed to do so sparked and dispersed.
What if this illusionist man truly was a Magic God? What if he had the same abilities Othinus had? Kamijou had been able to persuade her. She had always contained the kindness that made that possible. But did this man? Would Kamijou have to pass through that darkness and traverse those near-infinite worlds of despair just to find out? And what if he did all that, had his mind and body left in tatters, and still found nothing? What if this man was wielding his power out of pure selfishness and had no real reason or cause for it? That would be like crossing the desert without preparing a single drop of water. It would be the same as optimistically assuming there would be an oasis and stepping out onto the scorching sand with only the clothes on one’s back. And Kamijou knew how frightening a Magic God could be. He understood the heat and length of that desert far too well to make an ignorant and reckless decision.
He could not win.
He could not.
That was true of the one hundred deadly weapons assaulting him from every direction as well as the true power of a Magic God that he would have to face if he survived.
But in the instant all those thoughts filled his mind…
It was a quiet voice.
By the time Kamijou realized it had come from the tailcoat man in front of him, the scenery had changed again.
The melted walls and ceiling had returned to normal.
The boys and girls walking by obeyed the normal flow of time and had no extraordinarily unnatural holes in their bodies.
The inside-out hedgehog of one hundred spikes had vanished as well.
It was as if everything Kamijou had seen had been a mistake.
Kamijou’s experience kept him from taking that optimistic path.
(I’m not going crazy and it wasn’t an illusion. And there is only a single path of time. There’s nothing running parallel and you can’t turn back. That really happened. The scenery really did change, one hundred spikes really did shoot out, and tunnels really did open in everyone to provide a path. And after that…was a phase added in to recreate this peaceful world!?)
“This was the perfect opportunity, but it would be a shame to lose ‘that’.”
A voice cut off Kamijou’s overheating thoughts.
The heat trapped in his body burst out in the form of sweat.
Meanwhile, the Magic God was looking elsewhere.
He showed no sign of caring about the person clenching their fist right in front of him.
“ ‘That’ is why I am here. It would be a shame to lose my chance while dealing with this side job.”
A clacking sound reached Kamijou’s ears.
By the time he realized it was a cane tapping on the unscratched floor, a couple cut in between him and the Magic God.
Once they passed, the Magic God in a tailcoat was gone.
His legs were shaking.
Strength left his hips and gravity pulled him to the ground.
He could not even regulate his breathing in a proper rhythm.
“Touma, what is it!?”
“I take my eyes off you for a second and you cause a commotion? How useless.”
All of a sudden, he found Index and fifteen centimeter Othinus approaching.
The “commotion” the latter mentioned did not seem to be a reference to the Magic God.
Kamijou Touma had suddenly screamed and fallen to the ground.
That was the only record that remained in this world.
He began hesitantly.
He turned to the one girl who he felt had spent that relevant time with him and he asked a question with an almost tearful smile on his face.
“Is this still our world?”
“You’re the one that brought this world back, so I want to hear it from you. We aren’t inside some never-ending labyrinth, are we?”
Behind a pillar on the same floor, a pair of small hands was held to a mouth and a small butt was pressed flat against the floor. Someone else had been there. It was a boy with semi-long brown hair, a black hooded jacket, shorts, boots, a sky blue shirt with the brightness of mint ice cream, and similarly colored socks.
It was Aihana Etsu.
Despite the hands over his mouth, some of his heavy breathing was escaping between his fingers.
He could not comprehend what he had seen a moment before. People often said “seeing is believing”, but was it really this much of a burden on someone’s heart when they witnessed something they could not believe or had difficulty accepting?
(What in the world was that!?)
The scenery had changed entirely.
Countless spikes had shot out like spears.
The word Chambord had been spoken just before it happened, so was that its name?
To secure a path for those spears, fist-sized tunnels had opened in all of the people walking by.
And then it had all been repaired in an instant.
It had been so vivid and he would have missed it entirely had he blinked at the wrong time.
(Is that the Dianoid’s secret?)
(No, it doesn’t matter if this isn’t what I’m looking for. If I’m wandering around in the same building as that, the odds are good I’ll run across it eventually.)
He had come here to pursue his missing friend.
He had even counterfeited a student ID card for Aihana Etsu, Academy City’s #6 Level 5.
The friend had owned a secret hideout in the upper level apartments and a clue to her disappearance might remain there.
(Can I…keep going?)
His weak self made an appearance. Whenever something happened, the very core of his being would tremble, his mind would grow blank, and the tears would flow before he could even think about stopping them. Every single mental dam would raise the white flag in an instant.
Large teardrops welled up in his eyes.
Just like with surface tension, he could only just barely keep them from trailing down his cheeks.
(Do I… Do I really have the courage to make my way further into the Dianoid when a monster like that is wandering around?)
A whispering voice told him to leave.
A tempting voice told him to give up.
You obviously won’t be able to accomplish anything here. You’ve never stuck with anything to the end in your entire life. You always curl up, wrap your arms around your knees, and shed pathetic tears. And in the end, you give up without ever getting back on your feet. So throw in the towel here. Be satisfied that you managed to even take a stab at it. It’s not like you didn’t do anything. You worked hard to make it this far, so you can at least get an award for participation or effort.
At that point, a different voice flashed through his mind.
“In the end, it’s all about how you look at it.”
This voice did not come from within Aihana Etsu.
This was a crystallization of someone else’s thoughts that had been input from without.
These were the words his friend had given to him when they would walk through the city.
“I mean, if you look at it the other way, it means you can shed tears for anyone’s tragedy, right? That’s nothing to be embarrassed about. In fact, I think you can be proud of it.”
He was still curled up on the ground.
Even so, he used the back of his hand to wipe away the tears that were on the verge of spilling down his soft cheeks. As if turning off a tap, he mentally restrained his overflowing tear glands.
He hated that he was a crybaby, but a friend had accepted that side of him.
She had said it was not wrong to shed tears when he wanted to cry. She had said that was a way of supporting someone’s tragedy, a way of sharing someone’s emotions, and the sign of someone who could look after others properly.
He did not know who that friend had been.
He could not imagine what she had truly been.
But he remembered her smile as she had said those words and he could not allow that to be erased or made to never have existed.
“I won’t cry.”
He doubted that the tears he had been praised for had been so lead colored.
Those tears had not been shed when he gave in, let go of something, and smiled in self-deprecation.
“This isn’t where I’m supposed to cry.”
Aihana Etsu attempted to take the first step beyond the identity he so hated.
With his back pressed against the thick pillar, he gathered strength in legs that trembled like a newborn deer and slowly stood up.
He would search for his friend.
He would track her down.
If he lost this chance, the fake student ID would be discovered. He would never be able to make an attack on the Dianoid again, so this was his first and last chance.
It did not matter if it was only a façade or if he was borrowing someone else’s reputation.
For the time being, he was the #6.
He would complete this as Aihana Etsu.
He slowly exhaled and faced forward once again.
A man in a tailcoat stood directly in front of him.
He lost even the strength he needed to continue thinking.
His mind began spinning and left reality behind.
On the lower level of the Dianoid, the revolving doors appeared to be made of glass, but they were actually strong enough to endure a dump truck running into them at full speed. The main entrance was crowded with boys and girls trapped inside.
No amount of pushing or pulling accomplished anything, but some voices whispered amid the despair.
“At last, we have one.”
“Are they going by Aihana Etsu now? Regardless, at least we have them.”
Something was clearly out of place.
And it was viewing the situation from an objective perspective.
“The container has also safely entered the TV station.”
“We could have created it from scratch, but I suppose retrieving an already existing one takes priority. No matter how carefully you produce it, a natural one can’t be beat. And we have no intention of repeating the mistake that left Othinus wandering on the border between complete and incomplete.”
They evaluated the situation.
And that evaluation adjusted a few imaginary rails.
“That leaves Kamijou Touma.”
“He could always be ignored, but we need to keep in mind what happened to Othinus.”
There may have been no real point in speaking out loud.
It may have been better to simply continue their evaluation.
“He is enough of an irregular to negotiate with a Magic God. Perhaps he should be viewed as a negative gap in the lattice.”
“He has low priority.”
But the voice continued.
It was as if they were placing extra space between a machine’s parts to prevent unexpected trouble.
“But once the current task is complete, it may be best to use any excess strength to eliminate him.”
A great roar burst out.
The elevator’s automatic door, which resembled a sliding door made of wood, was removed from its rails and the wheels were kicked off.
“Phew. I think we can finally take a break.”
Stephanie Gorgeouspalace crawled out with surprisingly smooth motions for a Power Lifter. Next, Hamazura Shiage successfully escaped from the elevator shaft.
And they of course brought the die-like container with them.
They were in the Dianoid’s mid level. The lower level had a central atrium with small shops surrounding it like a beehive, but this floor was made to feel much more open and spacious. Perhaps due to the carbon materials, the floor looked like the wooden floor of a dojo or Japanese theatre stage more than that of a gym. Indirect lighting was provided by square paper lanterns.
The main features of the mid level were the water tanks embedded in the walls like windows, the decorative waterways unobtrusively located on the edges, and all the other decorations that were oddly reminiscent of water.
The type of people walking around was somewhat different too.
They were not dressed as fashionably as one would expect of District 15. A lot of people were casually dressed in a sweatshirt and jeans or in a long wrinkled skirt and a turtleneck.
“It looks like we came out in the TV station side.”
“I mentioned how the mid level is divided between TV Orbit’s offices and the indoor services like the viewing platform and pool, right?”
“Oh, right. And we were using an elevator connected to the staff parking lot. That makes it feel like we used a secret vertical tunnel created so the entertainers can leave without being seen.”
“Let’s go check in as visitors at the gate and deliver the container.”
“Yeah, it looks like there’s a bit of a commotion going on right now.”
The gate was not far from the elevator hall. A cheap revolving door was made from two poles crossing each other and two guards wearing navy blue uniforms stood to the side. The general reception desk must have been on a different floor because there was not a receptionist or a counter here.
Their Power Lifters could have easily broken through, but there had been a checkpoint on the way to the “secret vertical tunnel”, so they would only have been here had they been trusted. It was no different from how strict security was for an international flight and yet there was no conflict between passengers after they had passed through the gate.
“Hi there. We have a container for Producer Endou of Hysterical Prize Quiz. Do you want to scan the contents?”
After Stephanie spoke with the guards for a bit, they opened the delivery gate located next to the revolving door. Some younger men arrived pushing some kind of monstrous dolly, so it was time to leave things to them. They gently placed the die-like container on the dolly, secured it, and signed a document saying they had handed over the container.
“Thank you very much,” said one of the guards with a bow.
“Sure. By the way, do you know what’s going on outside?”
The guard looked puzzled, so Stephanie smiled and waved one of the Power Lifter’s giant arms.
“Oh, sorry. We were just trapped in the elevator, so I felt like asking. If the elevator doesn’t start back up, we’ll have to take the stairs down. Of course, we’ve got the Power Lifters, so it won’t be some hellish mountain descent or anything.”
As soon as she said that, a young woman spoke up. She wore a cardigan over a long dress and seemed to work on the production rather than as an entertainer.
“Wow, they really sent in something amazing. Is that special equipment for Anti-Skill or Judgment? Well, it doesn’t matter. If you’ve got those big things, can you hurry up and do something about this?”
Confused, Stephanie answered the woman’s question with a question of her own.
“What’s going on? A rampaging esper? Or did some celebrity’s fierce pet get loose?”
“You really don’t know what’s going on, do you? I’m talking about the exits. For some reason, they’re all sealed up. Not only are the elevators out of order, but we can’t open the door to the emergency stairs.”
The woman must not have left the office for several days because her hair gave off a very feminine scent as she continued in annoyance.
“It isn’t that it’s locked or the electronics are on the fritz. Whether it’s the hinges or the rails, some part has melted and fused together. They won’t budge no matter how much we push or pull. The lights for the elevator won’t even come on, so I have a feeling the entire building is locked down like this.”
“You have no idea what she means, do you?”
Hamazura cut in, but Stephanie completely ignored him.
The woman in a dress continued from there.
“You destroyed the elevator door earlier, didn’t you? Can you do the same thing to break open the door keeping us out of the emergency staircase?”
Hamazura and Stephanie exchanged a glance.
“Everything in the Dianoid is made out of ridiculously sturdy carbon materials, isn’t it?”
“Oh, crap. I bet even the emergency doors are made overly solid here. Will these Power Lifters even be enough to break through?”
They trudged over in the machines to check.
The young men and women clogging up the corridor by the door parted like the Red Sea as they approached. (Although that was entirely due to the impressive-looking Power Lifters.) Their looks of hope were probably a result of how helpless they had been before.
The mid level approximately covered the area from the twentieth to the fortieth floor.
With the elevators and stairs blocked off, there was nothing they could do. Breaking a window and escaping that way would not be easy. Unlike in the movies, no one would want to brave the harsh winds and climb down the outer wall with an unreliable lifeline in hand.
Even climbing down the stairs from this height was somewhat hopeless, but they could not just continue waiting for the elevators that might not begin working again.
Whether they would actually use the emergency stairs or not, they needed to try to open that door first.
If they did get it open, they could relax as they waited for the elevators to recover. It would provide some mental leeway.
“Huh? Oh, damn! This thing won’t budge at all!!”
“Stop! Wait, teacher! The arm cylinders are making a grinding noise and Aneri is warning that you’ll burn them out if you keep that up!”
To sum up, no amount of pushing, pulling, or hitting accomplished anything.
They could not even dent the door, much less break through it.
It did not matter how much they slammed their steel fists into it.
“That’s carbon for you. I feel like nothing could be stronger or sturdier.”
“And it looks just like a normal sliding door made of wood.”
The disappointment in Hamazura’s voice quickly spread through the surrounding air. No one called them useless or threw stones, but the way the focus on them scattered was a lot like a silent protest.
This was awkward for lower class Hamazura, but he had other things to worry about.
He traced the Power Lifter’s thick steel fingers over the emergency door.
“What even caused this? From what we’ve heard, it doesn’t sound like an accident.”
“Are you saying someone did this?”
“But if they did, why did they want to trap us here?”
“That’s the question. And I doubt they can keep us confined here for long.”
“As I said before, carbon materials are weak to fire or high-voltage electricity. These doors may not budge even if we punch, kick, and drive a dump truck into them, but once Anti-Skill notices something’s wrong they should be able to bring in an acetylene torch and burn their way through the door from outside. I’d rather not set the building on fire when we don’t know if the firefighters are coming, so I’m not about to try that in here, though.”
There was no reason to stay by the emergency door they could not break, so they looked away from it.
“So do they only need to buy a little bit of time? Will they be able to accomplish whatever their goal is in just this short time?”
“What a pain,” said Stephanie.
Not even the negative ion effect created by the waterway’s small waterfalls was enough to calm them now.
The stairs and the elevator were out which left only a single route: the elevator door they had broken and the elevator shaft beyond it.
Climbing up or down it with flesh-and-blood arms and legs would have been suicide, but they had the strength of the Power Lifters.
“Fortunately, we managed to deliver the container, but it isn’t over until we get out of here, so we need to create an escape route if at all possible.”
“I had a feeling you’d say that.”
They decided on that as they returned the way they had come.
Hamazura sounded noncommittal because some of his friends had come to the Dianoid.
They were also on the mid level, but the TV station was not connected to the viewing platform. That was to prevent people from ambushing the entertainers. If he wanted to meet up with Takitsubo and the others, he would have to first make his way to the lower or upper level or search out a secret tunnel in the mid level itself. Either way, it would require a lot of work.
They could not use the elevator or the stairs at the moment, but they could use the Power Lifters to climb up or down the elevator shaft.
Still, they were only borrowing the machines for their work.
It was hard to suggest to Stephanie that they should use them for something else.
A single path to freedom lay open before them.
Stephanie spoke from a step in front of the elevator shaft.
“I’m sure you already know this, but this equipment is not our personal property. Even if they’re civilian equipment that doesn’t require a license, you can still kill someone if you use them wrong.”
He prepared to say he understood, but she cut him off.
“But to keep safety a top priority and to nip any trouble in the bud, we need to quickly eliminate anything that could affect the efficiency of our work. Even if it has no direct connection to our job.”
He had no words.
Dumbfounded, he looked up at his boss and saw a teasing smile on her lips.
“With this much confusion, no one’s going to check carefully enough to see we took a bit of a detour. I doubt anyone back in District 2 is monitoring our actions while we’re trapped inside the Dianoid.”
“Oh, c’mon! It’s not like you just want to meet up with them to have some fun, right? Go check to make sure they’re okay and then get back to work! I’ll take the Power Lifters back to District 2, but you need to at least get yours back to the truck in the parking lot!!”
Stephanie slapped him on the back.
However, she seemed to have forgotten she was using a Power Lifter that could pick up an air freight container in one hand.
Hamazura was peering into the open elevator shaft through the door they had broken through, so what would happen when someone struck him on the back?
He flipped upside down and fell.
The culprit scratched her head with the hand holding a cable-connected joystick and she gave an irresponsible sigh.
“Ahh, ahh. You give that guy an opportunity and he wastes it.”
It was an odd situation.
The elevators and stairs were sealed off and everyone was trapped on the mid level floor. The worried people meaninglessly rushed toward the exits, but no one tried to actually touch them once they realized they had been tampered with. As a result, they were packed in tightly enough that they could all topple over like dominoes at any time and yet a gap remained around the closed emergency exit.
Even with all the noisy people around her, Takitsubo Rikou’s eyes still wandered aimlessly.
Mugino Shizuri and Kinuhata Saiai were speaking in front of her.
“I checked the joints on the emergency exit and they’ve all been super fused. It isn’t just locked and it doesn’t just have furniture piled up on the other side. The gaps have been filled to create a solid wall.”
“So did an esper do this?”
“At this stage, it could still be a type of technology, but either way, this feels super intentional. I don’t know who did it or why, but don’t super rich people use the Dianoid as a vault because of its solid construction? Especially in the apartments on the top level. Those didn’t feel like a place for people to actually live.”
“Yeah.” Mugino sounded like she was vaguely recalling something. “Didn’t Frenda have a hideout there?”
“She probably thought it was a secret, but it was super obvious. So do you think it was for some kind of side business? She had decent chemistry skills from her explosives, but she didn’t seem like the type to touch either uppers or downers.”
“She was so suspicious she wouldn’t even take cold medicine, so she wouldn’t have been making anything like ‘rock candy’. It was probably a test plant for new explosives.”
That was dangerous enough in and of itself, but it was not enough to shock Item.
They were taking a break from working at the moment, but they still mostly belonged on the darker side of things.
Takitsubo tilted her head and asked a question with her eyes still wandering aimlessly.
“What are we going to do, Mugino?”
“It doesn’t really matter. I have no interest in breaking into a vault. We need to make up our mind, but I see two real options here. The first is to find Hamazura who’s probably somewhere else on the mid level.”
“What’s the super second one?”
“To create an escape route ahead of time. Like this for example.”
As she spoke, Mugino casually held out a hand horizontally.
A moment later, a brilliant beam of light surged outward and tore through the Dianoid wall that could withstand a direct hit from a battleship’s gun.
This was Academy City’s #4 Level 5, Meltdowner.
The ultra high firepower strike prevented electrons from taking on the properties of a wave or a particle and fired them as-is. The emergency exit and the surrounding wall were transformed into a perfectly circular hole two meters across. The edges were a scorching orange and there was no hint of what had happened to the materials that had previously formed the inside of the circle. The sight almost seemed to ignore the fundamental law of conservation of mass.
The surrounding noise had already quieted down.
First, the general pressure of being trapped inside a giant building had been overpowered by their direct fear of Mugino Shizuri for having instantly melted the carbon materials.
Second, the exit had finally opened, but no one wanted to approach it when the edges of the perfect circle were still heated to orange.
With a sound like a rope being stretched until it nearly broke, countless lines shot horizontally and vertically across the still scorching hole to form a lattice.
Their path to freedom had not remained open for even five seconds.
The building materials oozed out and spread further as they began to repair the wall.
With a girly tilt of the head, Mugino fired a second shot.
From there, she fired a third, fourth, fifth, and sixth.
“W-wait, wait, wait! Mugino, wait!”
“You’re shooting way too much! Mugino, that’s way too super much!! And why do I have to take over Hamazura’s role as your brakes!?”
“But it regenerated.”
“Mugino, that isn’t an excuse.”
“And stop super pouting your lips! Everyone around us is ultra freaked out! Try to read the atmosphere!!”
“Nitrogen girl is telling me to read the atmosphere? Heh heh heh. You’re really risking it with that one.”
“Ahh! This is getting to be too much for me to handle! Don’t you get what’s going on here!?”
Kinuhata’s blood vessels bulged out on her face and Mugino grabbed her forehead to hold her back.
Track suit wearing Takitsubo spoke blankly.
“What do we do now?”
“We have two options. First, we can give up on escaping. We’ll find Hamazura, search for some way out of this, and see if the bastard who caused this is inside the Dianoid somewhere.”
“What’s the super second one?”
Kinuhata regretted her question once she realized this was going the same as last time she asked, but it was too late.
She heard multiple sounds much like light filling a neon tube.
Ten to twenty fist-sized lights hovered around the #4.
“We continue trying to make an escape route. For example, we can see just where this thing’s saturation level is.”
A moment later, she provided an encore presentation.
One of the Dianoid’s walls was left riddled with holes.
He did not think she had any real allergies, but the friend in his memories had insisted on never taking even cold medicine.
“No, I’m fine, I’m fine! Sleeping’s enough to get over a cold, so I don’t need that bitter stuff. Medicine works quickly, but it lowers your body’s overall capacity instead. It’s like something that recovers HP but shrinks the max HP bar. I don’t even need to explain why antibiotics are dangerous, do I?”
Then why was all that canned food okay?
“In the end, any real canned good is given heat treatment and sealed so germs can’t grow. Cheap ones are a different story, but normally, no chemicals are needed to sterilize, preserve, and store the food. And that’s why canned mackerel is the best. Got it?”
She had all her arguments ready, but he was pretty sure she simply did not like the medicine because it was bitter.
A groan escaped Aihana Etsu’s small mouth.
The first thing he felt was a stabbing chill. His eyelids parted a bit and he sensed a vague light. He was seeing District 15’s night sky. The normal starlight had been swept away and the lights of all the buildings and bright decorations reflected back down at him.
But why was he outside?
Hadn’t he been inside the Dianoid?
Without an answer to his questions, he slowly sat up.
(Where am I?)
He could not remember how he had passed out. He only had a feeling he had run across something incredibly sinister that he could not afford to forget.
He was in a gray garden covered in fine gravel. Short pine, maple, and cherry trees were planted there and a vermilion lacquered bridge crossed a small pond. He had been lying on a bench located below a large paper umbrella which looked like the storefront to a Kyoto teahouse.
This mismatch with high-tech Academy City confused him further, but a certain possibility soon occurred to him.
“Is this the Dianoid’s roof?”
A man in a tailcoat sat next to him on the bench.
He frantically tried to move away but only managed to fall from the bench and land on his butt. From there, he tried to scoot himself back with his hands.
(I remember, I remember, I remember!!)
The floor, walls, and ceiling had all bent into over one hundred blades like an inside-out hedgehog and this man had used that strange world to skewer a certain boy. To attack with maximum efficiency, this monster had opened fist-sized tunnels in the flesh of the crowd in between and sent the blades through them.
The man laughed as he spoke.
“You certainly are afraid. Is this just like how large jewels are often said to be cursed? Well, I believe I am generous enough to view your fear as awe towards a higher being.”
“Ah, aahh, aaahhh…”
Aihana Etsu placed a hand in the center of his flat chest and trembled.
The monster looked down at the small teary-eyed individual, but he maintained his soft gentle smile.
“You fainted due to mental shock instead of dehydration and you clearly have plenty of energy left, but why not drink something regardless?”
A 250 mL drink bottle had appeared in the man’s hand at some point. It was about the size of an apple, but where had it come from? Aihana Etsu was not even sure of that.
(Another drink. Do I look that susceptible to heatstroke?)
Still sitting on the ground, he glanced toward the bottle of mineral water the man had set on the bench. Suddenly, the man in a tailcoat and overcoat had something else in his hand.
It was the kind of rectangular translucent container used to hold mint pills. But when the man shook the pill case, an incredibly old-fashioned kind of black pill came out.
“I do not need normal food. As long as I have water and wheat, I do not age. Thanks to that, people have mistakenly assumed I secretly possess the philosopher’s stone.”
“Wh-what are you talking about?”
“Well, to be honest, I am not what matters here. That would be you.”
Having focus casually turned his way, Aihana Etsu felt sweat flowing down his small face.
His nerves threw off the rhythm of his breathing. As his breaths escaped from between his lips, they mixed with the cold night air and grew visually white.
He did not know who this man was, but he was a true monster. It was immediately obvious this man was not the same as “Aihana Etsu” who had only been able to fake a student ID card. As someone who “had nothing”, he could tell. The presence prickling at his skin was too great. What could this monster want? Did he have business with “Aihana Etsu”? Or was it with his true self hidden below the disguise?
“There are a few reasons why I am here, but one of them is you. And this is one of the higher priority reasons, too. Yes, I am here to see you.”
If that was all, Aihana Etsu might have thought the man was just a creepy stalker, but things were different here.
On a fundamental level, something threatened to cut down the very base of his existence.
His heart rather than his head told him being in this man’s sights was very, very bad.
“I don’t know you.”
“You wouldn’t, no. This is the first time I have directly met you.”
The man slowly spoke as he tossed the pill into his mouth.
“But that does not really matter.”
“Technically speaking, you could say what I am after is you and yet not you.”
“What…does that mean?”
“You don’t know?”
The man smiled with eyes that sparkled more bewitchingly than moonlight, but there was no smile to be found deep inside them.
“ ‘Aihana Etsu’ does not matter here. What I am interested in is you. And do you really not know what it is you hold?”
The title of “Aihana Etsu” was falling away.
This should have been a deadly situation, but the sense of danger was vanishing behind the emptiness in his thoughts.
With a monster on this level, this would not just be for show, on a whim, or a mistake.
But if this was the truth, where was that truth?
“Aihana Etsu” had nothing. It was his painful awareness of that fact that had led him to use a fake ID to get into the Dianoid. And all to find and rescue Frenda Seivelun who had vanished after being swallowed up by the city’s darkness.
What did this man see in him?
What did he have that would make such a monster turn his way?
“If you truly do not understand, I am willing to explain. In fact, I have lived for centuries to do just that. But where to begin? I could just say everything has gone according to plan, but at the same time, it seems there has been a fair bit of contamination. It feels like I’m looking at a stone coated with finger grease.”
“What…What are you saying I have?”
“I am saying…”
The man trailed off as the entire Dianoid building shook again and again.
Aihana Etsu let out a short shriek while still sitting on the ground.
He felt like he was on an unreliable suspension bridge. It certainly did not feel like the roof of a giant building supported by cutting-edge technology.
The man slowly looked up into the sky while still sitting on the bench.
“It would seem a new problem has arisen.”
“Do not worry about it. It is only the base isolation causing it to shake so much. It is supposed to do this.”
The man’s expression remained calm.
An explosive roar came from within the building each time it shook, but he showed no sign of caring. He seemed to use his indifference toward each new situation to show off how different he was from “Aihana Etsu”.
“Well, I can deal with that one later. First, I need the shield that produces a positive gap. If things are going as planned, it should be reaching the TV station right about now. I could always make it from scratch, but that really would be too boring.”
His words were probably not meant for “Aihana Etsu”.
The boy could not understand any of it.
He did not need to reply or smile politely. These words were isolated in that man’s own world.
He was the opposite of “Aihana Etsu”.
“I would have liked to stay here to chat, but it would be no fun if the shield was hit by a stray shot. I will be going. Until we meet again, Gap of Anne.”
“Gap? Anne? What?”
“You do not have time to sit around and chat either, do you?”
The man stood up from the teahouse storefront bench so smoothly that it barely looked like the movement was produced by bending joints.
“You had a reason for falsifying your identity to get here, didn’t you? If you do not hurry, you will miss your one chance. It seems the sturdy structure of the Dianoid means nothing to the residents of this city and you don’t want the last vestiges of Frenda Seivelun to slip through your fingers, do you?”
When he heard that, Aihana Etsu thought his heart was going to stop.
Not because the man suggested the Dianoid could collapse.
Not because the man knew he had a goal here in the Dianoid.
Not even because the man had gotten his friend’s name right in one shot.
“The last vestiges?”
His eyes opened wide.
All of the previous conditions left his mind and he snapped back at the man.
“You said the last vestiges of Frenda Seivelun, didn’t you!? You mean she’s…she’s already…!!”
“I am not the one to discuss that with.”
“Then who are you!? How much do you know!?”
“I will tell you that eventually. I promise.”
The man sounded as casual as someone arranging to eat dinner together sometime.
As soon as he finished, a portion of the bench jutted sharply out.
With a sticky sound, it twisted, sharpened, split off from the furniture, and formed a spear in the man’s hand.
This was what the man had called Chambord.
He rested the strange object on his shoulder and turned his back on Aihana Etsu.
“I will help you just this once. My top priority is retrieving the shield from the TV station, but I will make a detour on the way there. I will make sure the Dianoid does not collapse before you find a certain secret. The rest is up to you. Use your own strength to reach the truth hiding in this labyrinth.”
“Also, the doors and elevators leading outside are sealed, but I will remove that restriction for you. You can move to any floor you want to achieve your goal.”
The man in a tailcoat continued speaking.
“In return, I must insist you hear me out once this is all over. You can do that much, can’t you?”
Aihana Etsu gathered his thoughts even as he opened his mouth to speak, so his question ended up being quite vague.
“Who even are you?”
“Come to think of it, I never introduced myself. I have been called the one who understands the rules of life and has achieved immortality. I have been called a time traveler. I have been called a technician who can restore broken jewels. I have been called a number of things in legend, but…”
The man turned back with a truly childish smile on his face.
“My name is St. Germain. I am one of those who have surpassed the mere magician. I would appreciate it if you could remember that.”
Kamijou Touma sank to the floor in front of Index and fifteen centimeter Othinus.
He worried over the issue for a while.
He could not even decide where to begin.
The situation was just that unreasonable.
He felt overwhelming despair.
Finally, he slowly looked up and began.
“A Magic God has shown up.”
“I know you’re skeptical. But I want to ask something first. Othinus, are there other Magic Gods besides you? Or did you stand at the top of the world?”
“Well… Theoretically, there could be more than one.” Othinus let out a small breath. “It’s nothing more than a final destination reachable by human means. It could be Indian mythology, Buddhism, Greek mythology, Maya, Voodoo, or in this country, Shinto or Shugendo. If people mastered those paths to the very end, it could lead to a few different Magic Gods.”
Othinus’s hand looked delicate enough to break if someone touched it, but she used it to point her thumb at Index.
Yes, the 103,000 grimoires inside Index’s head had the additional value of allowing one to reach the position of a Magic God if used properly. Whether that was true or not, the entire magic side viewed a Magic God as an elusive position much like grasping a cloud, but it was also a realistic enough dream that someone was sure to pull it off eventually.
In that case, what was that man in a tailcoat?
Was he really a Magic God who had bloomed some other way than Othinus?
Kamijou’s face was pale, but Othinus did not hesitate to speak to him.
“But have you forgotten? How many digits’ worth of worlds do you think I made and remade when I was settling things with you? If an equal Magic God existed in this world and this age, they would have interfered back then.”
“At the very least, there wasn’t a Magic God in this world. Doesn’t that seem like a reasonable conclusion?”
Othinus was right.
She should have been right.
But some uneasiness lingered in Kamijou’s heart. He felt an intense refusal toward thinking the colorful hell that man had demonstrated was only an illusion meant to look like the world was being bent to his will. His deepest thoughts were telling him it would come back to bite him if he conveniently and optimistically averted his gaze from that harsh reality.
That may have been a sense he alone possessed after learning firsthand what a true Magic God was like.
If he had not stopped himself, he might have started chewing on his thumbnail.
(What if that is real? What do I do then? Do I have to go through all that again? Do I have to wait for him to break? But this Magic God might not have a single speck of kindness inside him! That’s no different from being told to search Mars’s deserts for a single grain of gold dust that might not even be there!!)
If that man truly was a full-power Magic God, he could remake the world even faster than snapping his fingers.
In fact, this world that Kamijou thought was “real” might have already been replaced by a very similar world.
He had to neutralize this opponent no matter what, but he could not afford to provoke him either.
It was as unreasonable as being told to remove the very bottom layer of a pyramid of cards because it was “in the way”.
Was destruction the only option remaining?
This was the same path as before. Would he have to smash the world to pieces and redo everything from that pitch-black place?
Still sitting on the floor, Kamijou glanced around.
He felt the heated air and saw the soft Japanese lights. Normal boys and girls walked around. The calico cat, Othinus, and Index stood nearby. After looking at each of them in turn, he silently and slowly shook his head.
He could not do it.
He could not allow it to happen.
But at the same time, he could not ignore this. At the very least, that man in the tailcoat was hostile towards Kamijou. Everything had been preserved by some fluke, but that man would surely attack again after finishing whatever task he had to complete.
And if they clashed one-on-one, the Magic God would mercilessly destroy the world. He would create a world convenient to his purposes and slaughter Kamijou in a perfect game.
Kamijou did not know if it was possible, but he had to settle this before the Magic God could snap his fingers.
If he did not switch this off in an instant, the world would end.
Until he could find a way to do that, even a careless attack would be a crime.
(What should I do?)
In Denmark, when the world had attacked to finish off Othinus in her weakened state, the unfairness of it all had enraged him.
But when looking at it from the outside, he could understand.
The earth, the universe, and the world were nothing but a giant balloon. And a Magic God was a potted cactus wobbling on top of the balloon. That would cause anyone to panic. Once one learned of its existence, they would be worried around the clock that the cactus would eventually topple over as it moved freely about.
(Unrealistic ideals don’t matter. What exactly are you supposed to do against a monster like that!?)
It was absolute overkill.
It went far beyond an overflow error.
Meanwhile, Kamijou merely knew the Magic God named Othinus. Just because you could brag that you were friends with an entertainer did not mean you could put on a show in front of the camera. If he confronted this man, he would lose. He had to deal with this as quickly as possible, but the situation was so bleak that eternally putting it off until later almost seemed like the best option.
“What are you thinking about?” asked the small Othinus. “Are you trying to keep everything to yourself like usual?”
“I wish I could,” he spat back with a weight to his voice. “But I can’t. This time, I really can’t. Othinus, I know it’s cruel to ask a former Magic God this, but how do you defeat a Magic God? I’m not talking about tearfully begging them to stop. Is there a specific way to truly defeat one?”
She seemed annoyed that he was still talking about that.
She answered him regardless, but that may have been like a parent teaching some “magic words” to a child who had just had a bad dream.
“Ollerus used a fairy spell. It was slow, but it conflicted with Gungnir and began destroying my body from within. Used right, it could be transformed into a technique to kill a Magic God.”
But during that time, she had destroyed the world more times than she had bothered to count.
That method would still require a confrontation in that pitch-black hell.
“Anything else? Is there any way to end this without the world being destroyed even once?”
“That’s a tall order. You’re basically asking for a way to rampage around an elaborate setup of dominoes without knocking even one of them over. With someone on the level of a Magic God, a fight that doesn’t destroy the world would be the exception.”
Those words filled his vision with darkness.
But he could not afford to stop here. This man was already his enemy and allowing the man to attack first would only make matters worse. That remained true even with the astronomical difference between human and Magic God.
He could not image how attacking first would allow him to win, but if that man attacked first, the odds of his victory dropped to exactly 0.00%.
“This could not be worse,” he muttered while slowly standing.
He felt entirely unmotivated, but he knew he would ultimately end up in tears if he did not take the initiative. No matter how reckless it was, he had to take action.
He grabbed the atrium railing for support and faced the two girls.
“I know this won’t be easy, but I want you to analyze him as much as possible. Help me out with your memory. And Othinus?”
“Tell me what you want, human.”
“You’ve rejected the possibility, but it’s possible the 103,000 grimoires won’t be enough for this opponent. So you come with me. You actually became a Magic God, so the odds are good you’ll be able to tell if he’s the real deal, right?”
Slowly but surely, he put his mind to work and figured out what he needed to do.
The situation was no different than with the normal magicians he had faced in the past. He forced himself to assume that. He temporarily set aside how far beyond that this went. He would covertly observe the Magic God and have specialists analyze the spells and spiritual items he was using. If that turned up a weakness, that was great. At the very least, he wanted to know if he could use Imagine Breaker here and what he had to destroy to improve the situation.
Of course, there was a definite chance that they would investigate everything and reach the hopeless answer of “He doesn’t have a single weakness.”
He forced the situation into that pattern and tried to fall into his usual routine. If he did not, he was sure he would simply fall to his knees and laugh uncontrollably.
At that moment, he did something.
Not even he knew why.
He suddenly glanced upwards while still holding the atrium railing.
One of the decorative flat-screen monitors of the Dianoid’s lower level was installed there and it was playing a TV Orbit behind-the-scenes video that had been filmed after the trouble began. Simply put, a staff member like an AD had used a small camera to film the mid level.
It was more like a documentary than a behind-the-scenes video.
The monitor displayed staff members running around the TV station in a panic since the elevators and stairs were blocked off. It also showed footage from the viewing platform and indoor pool. The TV station and the viewing platform were supposedly not physically connected, but there may have been hidden doors for VIPs to pass through.
However, none of that was what mattered.
Kamijou saw something on that monitor that instantly destroyed all of his assumptions.
“This isn’t good.”
“What is it, Touma?”
He did not even have time to answer Index’s question.
“This really isn’t good! Damn him!!”
By the time he let out that shout, he had already started running.
After Stephanie Gorgeouspalace (carelessly) pushed him down the elevator shaft, Hamazura Shiage managed to catch something protruding from the wall using his steel arm.
If this had not been the ultra-sturdy Dianoid, he probably would have broken the object right off of the wall and continued on down.
Unpleasant sweat covered his face as he dangled down.
However, that was not because the sudden fall was squeezing at his heart.
He had heard footsteps.
A pair of legs walked right by the elevator door without realizing it was cracked open. They belonged to a strange man who wore a tailcoat and a monocle.
But where had he come from?
If Hamazura’s memory was accurate, a giant elevator had lowered down just a moment earlier.
Supposedly, no one could use the stairs or elevators, so why was this man an exception?
Hamazura thought while supporting himself with a single arm.
(What was that spear?)
The man had rested a spear on his shoulder.
But that had not seemed logical. For one, he did not know what material it was made from. It did not look like metal or glass fiber. It gave the immediate but eerie impression of being made by melting, forcibly twisting, and sharpening a piece of the Dianoid itself.
The problem was not how sharp the spear was.
The problem was how quickly and casually it seemed to have been created.
The words “St. Germain” were carved into the side.
Hamazura briefly hesitated over how to read it, but he soon made an odd connection. He only figured it out because there was a brand of motorcycle wheels named St. Germain. What it actually meant was still a mystery to him.
But hadn’t someone said that all of the Dianoid’s exits had been sealed to trap everyone inside? And instead of just locking the doors or placing something heavy in their way, hadn’t the hinges or locks been melted and fused?
In that case, what did that spear mean?
(Is that the same technique? So is this guy behind it all?)
Aneri, the support system originally placed inside the military Dragon Rider, used the AUD to place a warning in Hamazura’s vision.
Threat level: undetermined.
That strange warning was much worse for his heart than a direct announcement of danger.
And another coincidence followed.
A tremendous tremor ran through the floor. Hamazura’s mechanical arm was very nearly thrown from the wall. His stomach grew cold, but at the same time, he wondered just how many people were capable of enough direct damage to shake the Dianoid.
Only one immediately came to mind.
And if she was there…
(Are Kinuhata and Takitsubo nearby too!?)
He heard more footsteps.
Even an idiot could tell where they were headed. Whatever his goal might be, the man behind this would want to keep the people trapped inside the Dianoid. So what if a group among them threatened to change that? He would obviously want to silence them immediately.
Hamazura knew Mugino Shizuri was not easily defeated.
Takitsubo Rikou might not be able to help with her full power, but Kinuhata Saiai was formidable too.
However, there were no absolutes.
Hamazura himself had been saved by that kind of unreasonable miracle on more than one occasion.
But before that…
(This isn’t about how strong or weak anyone is.)
He tightened his steel grip on the wall.
(I’m sick of having all these dangerous people go after them!!)
He prepared to use the two cable-connected joysticks and the two foot pedals in order to jump upwards.
The man was defenseless at the moment, so Hamazura might be able to knock him out with a surprise attack using the steel arms.
Or so he thought.
It turned out he was being naïve.
A deafening sound reached his ears.
A moment later, a pointy-haired boy fell from directly above, poured his full weight into a flying kick at the back-worn unit of the Power Lifter, and finally tore Hamazura’s steel arm from the elevator shaft wall.
He did not even have time to cry out.
In no time, he was bound by gravity and the two boys fell together.
Stepping back in time a bit, Kamijou Touma saw Hamazura and the Magic God on the behind-the-scenes video displayed on a flat-screen monitor.
Immediately afterwards, he took off running.
If Hamazura carelessly contacted that Magic God, the world truly could come to an end.
To ensure that did not happen, Kamijou had to prevent them from meeting.
He began by checking on the general situation.
He pressed the elevator button and ran to the emergency staircase door, but there was nothing he could do there. He touched the melted and fused rails and lock for the sliding door, but they had already solidified and Imagine Breaker did nothing.
“Dammit! I had a feeling that wouldn’t work!!”
He let out a shout without thinking, but he was still surrounded by unhappy boys and girls. His shout of displeasure was drowned out by all the other complaints.
Keeping at this would not help, so he switched over to a new train of thought. He ran to a magazine stand and roughly grabbed a pamphlet on the Dianoid. He glanced through it, but the structure of the building was kept vague enough to not provide any hints to terrorists.
The mid level’s viewing platform was known as the Aqua Palace.
It had a lot of water art and contained one of the world’s largest fountains.
“I guess that’s the only option…”
He glanced around, looked down through the atrium, and spotted the shop he wanted.
“Touma, Touma! What are you doing!?”
“I don’t have time to explain. Just come with me!”
He placed Othinus on his shoulder and dragged Index with him as he ran to a sporting goods store.
With all the brand-name shops, he had been worried, but the item he needed had a surprisingly normal price.
“What are you going to do with that?” asked the small Othinus.
“I need to get to the mid level’s viewing platform somehow and I need this to do it.”
He already knew where he had to go.
The elevators and emergency stairs were sealed, but the doors to the indoor shops and the escalators were fine. He ran down the stopped escalators until he reached the lowest level he could.
He finally arrived in the Dianoid’s pump room.
The wooden-looking sliding door opened surprisingly easily and he found a large group of throbbing machines inside.
With the previous purchase in hand, he let out a groan.
“This is really a bad idea.”
“Hey, explain yourself already,” demanded Othinus from his shoulder.
He answered while searching around and finding a tool box.
“I saw that Magic God on some footage of the Dianoid’s mid level. Even worse, he’s about to run into a guy I know.”
“We may have our doubts about him, but if he is a Magic God, this is really bad. I don’t want to provoke him until we know for sure, so I have to stop the guy about to run into him!”
“But you can’t use the stairs or the elevators and the escalators are isolated to the lower level. If you know there’s no way up there, why are you in the pump room?”
Kamijou pulled a monkey wrench out of the tool box, spun it around in one hand, and climbed the ladder to the top of the giant pump equipment.
“The Dianoid’s mid level is known as the Aqua Palace and it has one of the world’s largest fountains. For that and the waterways, pools, and whatever, it needs to constantly pump up several tons of water every second.”
“That means the special water pipes have to be really thick. As long as I have a way to breathe, I just have to let the current carry me up.”
He pulled his purchase from the shopping bag.
It was an ultra-small diving mask with something like a hair spray can attached.
Index shouted up from the floor below.
“Touma! Are you going off somewhere on your own again!?”
“Unfortunately, I only have one mask. I couldn’t afford any more.”
He used the monkey wrench to remove the bolts holding the pump equipment’s maintenance hatch closed.
“You can see what’s happening on the mid level using the monitors. If I have a connection, I’ll send a video with my phone’s camera. And even if you don’t hear anything from me, do what you can to analyze this Magic God. We can share what information we have when we manage to meet up again.”
The manhole-like maintenance hatch opened with a dull sound.
A massive amount of water rushed by just below and it had the same ominous roar as a ditch on an especially rainy day.
He put on the diving mask and wrapped the rubber strap around his head.
He then lowered Othinus from his shoulder.
“To be honest, I don’t see how I can do anything on my own. Index, Othinus, you’re the main players here. Can I put my life in your hands?”
“Hmph. I’m just glad you didn’t say you had to do this yourself.”
Othinus crossed her arms and maintained her haughty tone.
“But are you sure you want to do this?”
“You can use that thick water pipe if you want, but nothing says it’ll be a straight path all the way up. If it happens to take a bunch of right angle turns, you’ll hit them at roller coaster speeds and end up like a stone thrown into the curve of a river.”
Kamijou tried to throw on the brakes, but his feet slipped on the water that had splashed up from the maintenance hatch.
By the time he felt his vision rotate around, he had already been thrown into the maintenance hatch back-first.
“Bshhh. S-s-s-such misfortuuuuuuuuuuuunnnnnnnnnnne!?”
He did not know what kind of route the pipe took.
There had been no room for his own will to influence any of it.
After feeling a great roar in his heart, he was thrown “outside”. After a five meter sensation of floating, he felt himself break through the water and realized he was still alive.
“G-gasp! Bshfh!! Bshfsh!!!”
He gasped for breath to a disturbing degree and looked around. He was waist high in water. The ceiling was far overhead and the area was brightly lit. He had apparently been spat out the mouth of a giant lion connected to an indoor pool. It saddened him to see the rich young ladies in bikinis staring at him in fear.
He tore off the diving mask, climbed up onto the poolside, and thought to himself.
(I’ve made it to the mid level. Now I just have to figure out where Hamazura is.)
“Dammit! Please let me make it in time!!”
He ran from the pool, but something strange happened then. He found himself in the strictly guarded TV station instead of the viewing platform filled with normal people.
The two areas were not supposed to be connected, but there must have been a hidden door for the entertainers.
And there was another oddity in the TV station’s elevator hall.
One of the doors there had been broken open by some great force.
Kamijou looked down into the elevator shaft.
The great drop made his legs tremble, but he did see someone inside that darkness.
It matched the situation he had seen on the monitor in the Dianoid’s lower level.
Kamijou Touma made a decision.
He did not have a machine like the Power Lifter or any magic that let him fly.
He did not even have a simple lifeline.
But if Hamazura Shiage and the Magic God came into contact here, he might never be able to feel that normal fear again. He might be once more thrown into that twisted golden world and crushed by that “happy” world filled with smiles.
And so the pointy-haired boy did not hesitate.
He sent himself plunging into that deep, deep pit that had to be between twenty to forty stories above the surface.
Their meeting was sudden.
Kamijou Touma collided with the back-worn unit of Hamazura’s Power Lifter.
The giant steel arm was knocked from the outcropping on the wall.
And they fell.
They fell together into the dark, dark elevator shaft.
They fell about three stories’ worth.
Fortunately, the elevator car was stopped partway down.
Even so, they produced a great roar much like the sound of a metal pot dropped to the ground amplified dozens of times over. The gyro adjustments of the Power Lifter and the assistance of Aneri allowed Hamazura to make a fairly clean landing, but his opponent had not been so lucky. After bouncing off the top of the Power Lifter, he fell on his back and started coughing.
Hamazura gasped when he saw the boy’s face.
Unlike before, the threat level was set to “low”. Aneri displayed a marker telling him to swiftly neutralize the enemy, but he only shouted at the boy.
“What the hell are you doing!?”
“Ugh. Cough!! P-please listen to me…”
Kamijou was having trouble breathing, but he still managed to speak.
“That man is too dangerous… You can’t go up against a Magic God. I know we have to do something about him, but it’s all over if we screw up even once. Cough! So if you’re going to do something, let’s do it together. At least wait until I’m ready.”
He was not saying to back off or that he would do it by himself.
That alone may have seemed like a huge change to anyone who had known Kamijou before.
But Hamazura Shiage looked up slightly and spoke.
“How long will it take you to get ready?”
“Just so you know, it looks like that guy is on his way to confront some people I know. One of them is my girlfriend. Will we make it in time for that using your method?”
Kamijou Touma’s face crumpled at that.
That was all Hamazura needed to know.
Kamijou was not a bad person. He was not looking down on Hamazura or trying to get in Hamazura’s way. He had thought this through the best he could, chosen a way to ensure everyone’s survival, and decided he needed to keep Hamazura away before he could explain the situation. To do that, he had even attacked Hamazura by jumping down an elevator shaft without a lifeline. He had prioritized protecting Hamazura from doing something reckless. Hamazura understood all that.
Kamijou did not have a definite solution. That was how much trouble this situation was giving him. He might be able to solve it all eventually, but the people Hamazura knew very well would never be able to board that final train out.
“That isn’t good enough,” spat out Hamazura Shiage.
It was possible Kamijou had saved his life just now, but there was something he could not back down on even if that was true.
“If you don’t have a way to protect them, then get out of my way. I’m not saying you’re wrong. You’re probably exactly right that I’ll be defeated. But I still need to make sure they can escape. You watch me lose miserably and find a way to defeat that bastard.”
Kamijou Touma did not bother with the details.
He slowly shook his head and responded.
“What if that man is powerful enough to destroy the world? I’m not talking about weighing the world against something else. This might destroy the entire world, including everything you care about. Will you still go even then?”
After that quick word, he had Aneri provide him with more high performance movements.
With a roar, the Power Lifter’s steel arm tore through the air.
Kamijou clenched his teeth and swung his upper body around. The massive fist missed its mark and broke through the elevator door behind the pointy-haired boy. When Kamijou realized the machine was preparing for a kick, he half-rolled out into the elevator hall to put some distance between them.
The Power Lifter slowly stepped forward.
Hamazura slammed the two steel fists together and answered the other boy.
“I don’t care if this is reckless or foolish. Even if it means making them my enemy, I still want to do what I can to help them. That’s all this is.”
Hamazura’s own words may have gone beyond what he could fully imagine.
That may have been something only Kamijou could understand.
And with that in mind, Kamijou Touma narrowed his eyes and gave his response.
He did so with a slight smile.
“I was the same.”
He poured a dreadful amount of strength into his right fist.
There was no villain here. The two of them simply stood in different positions.
But that was enough.
Kamijou Touma and Hamazura Shiage.
A clash of two heroes had begun.
The empty elevator hall provided plenty of space.
Kamijou Touma quickly assessed Hamazura’s weaponry from seven to eight meters away.
(That isn’t a military powered suit. Is it a minor model Power Lifter? Those things are for transporting cargo, but the arms are still a threat. If one of those grabbed me and performed a wrestling move, I’d be torn to pieces. But it isn’t like it has no weaknesses. Maybe it’s an issue of regulations, but he isn’t protected by armor like with a powered suit. My attacks can still reach him!!)
His thinking may have been accurate, but he had fundamentally misjudged the scale of his opponent.
The Power Lifter stood three meters tall.
A distance of less than ten meters was only a step away.
The machine took a powerful step forward.
The next thing he knew, metal filled his vision.
His opponent did not try to swing his fist or grab with his monstrous fingers.
He swung the entire stabilizing leg toward Kamijou like the boy was a soccer ball. Instead of compressing the air, the action seemed to tear into the air. Kamijou immediately tried to roll to the side, but the edge of his clothes were caught.
That was enough to squeeze his torso, toss him spinning into the air, and slam him back down into the seemingly wooden floor a good distance away.
“Gbah! Cough cough! Eugh, cough!?”
(Dammit, I’m not cut out for this kind of opponent!! Isn’t this like taking on a power shovel or steamroller with nothing but your fist!?)
On top of that, he did not have time to catch his breath and put together a plan.
The three meter mass of steel ran and then jumped toward him. Kamijou was not sure whether it weighed several hundred kilograms or a full ton, but he knew what would happen if it crushed him.
(I’ll be killed instantly!!)
He desperately rolled to the side and managed to evade.
As a roar burst out, Hamazura swung the two joysticks around. The arms followed the same motions and a giant press-like palm savagely swung down.
Hamazura had predicted his action.
With his torso held between the palm and the floor, the flow of Kamijou’s blood was thrown out of whack.
The arm opened like an alligator mouth, grabbed the boy’s torso, and lifted him up.
It looked rough, but since this was a piece of heavy machinery, the control had to be as delicate as a robot arm picking up an egg without breaking it.
Hamazura did not bother saying anything.
He would knock Kamijou unconscious as quickly as he could. He could say everything he wanted after the other boy had passed out. His actions made that intention quite clear.
Quiet mechanical sounds of gears and cylinders came from within the metal arm.
But even as Kamijou could not move his diaphragm much and had difficulty breathing, he desperately swung his arms around. Compared to the machine arm holding his entire body, his flesh-and-blood arm seemed far too fragile.
However, the situation soon changed.
Kamijou Touma held an oxygen tank the size of a hair spray can. It was the spare for the diving mask.
And he shoved it into the metal arm’s elbow joint.
The biting pressure of the joint was enough for the metal tank to burst like a balloon.
With a dry popping sound, the arm holding Kamijou stopped moving and he slipped from its grasp. The machine itself had not broken, but the sudden internal shock must have triggered a safety.
“Aneri? Respond, Aneri!! Damn!!”
Once he realized the one arm would not move in the slightest, Hamazura swung the other one.
However, Kamijou already knew what to do next.
He removed his jacket and, like a bullfighter, dodged to the side at the last possible second. The coat remained behind and got caught on the steel arm. Specifically, the moving parts of the unprotected elbow bit into it.
This stopped the other arm.
A human body would lose its sense of balance if the arms stopped moving. A common experiment had people run for fifty meters with their hands tied behind their back. That alone was enough for people to lose their balance. So what would happen when it was a heavy Power Lifter that had thrown off its center of gravity by swinging its fists with all its might?
A tremendous crash reached Kamijou’s ears.
Hamazura and the Power Lifter had fallen to the floor as if from a martial arts throw. The machine lay on its side and Kamijou quickly circled to the stomach-side where Hamazura was visible.
He did not even have time to think about getting back at the other boy.
He simply planned on kicking Hamazura’s solar plexus like a soccer ball to render him unconscious as quickly as possible.
However, that never panned out.
Just before the kick struck, Hamazura blocked with his flesh-and-blood arm. Ignoring the dull sound, the rollercoaster-like safety bar shot up, freeing Hamazura and sweeping away Kamijou’s leg.
Kamijou was knocked onto his back and Hamazura climbed on top of him.
They rolled along the floor and swung their fists down on each other. A dull sensation filled their fists, their visions flashed in and out, the insides of their mouths split open, an iron flavor spread through their mouths, and an intense heat gathered in the ends of their noses. They continued the anaerobic exercise without time to catch their breath and their awareness of the inside and outsides of their bodies filled with the color white.
“Like I said!! Your way! Isn’t enough!! To beat a Magic God!!”
“That doesn’t matter! It doesn’t!! If I just stick with your way, we won’t make it in time for Takitsubo and the others!! They’re about to run into that dangerous guy!! Right now!!”
“Don’t try to take on a Magic God when you don’t even know what one is!! Do that and you’ll end up like me!!”
“I don’t care!! I really don’t care what happens as long as I can save them!!”
Most likely, neither Kamijou Touma nor Hamazura Shiage understood what they were saying anymore.
They did not have the luxury of choosing another option and their thoughts leaked out like they had been injected with a truth serum.
They rolled over again and again, punching all the while.
(I’m sorry, Hamazura. I know you feel responsible for something important here. And it’s something important enough to piss you off when someone tells you to back down.)
Kamijou was on top. He clenched his right fist as hard as rock, clenched his teeth, and aimed for the center of Hamazura’s face.
(But leave this one to me. I can’t let you end up in that pitch-black hell!)
That was when an impact reached his thigh. Hamazura held a skinny metal part that resembled a pen. It may have been a component of the Power Lifter and the round end was buried in Kamijou’s thigh. It did not draw blood, but dull yet intense pain raced through him.
Kamijou’s upper body collapsed to bear with the pain, but that proved to be a mistake. Once their heads approached, he lost the advantage of being on top. Hamazura grabbed his collar and pulled him even closer.
Then his other fist gave a howl.
Even though Hamazura could not put his hips into the blow, the direct hit to the bridge of the nose was enough to darken Kamijou’s vision. Kamijou lost his balance, so Hamazura pushed him off and began his counterattack.
At the very, very end, Hamazura Shiage had the upper hand.
His own face was beaten, swollen, and dripping with blood from the many cuts.
“Even if you’re the hero who ended World War Three and the double scorer who also ended the fight with Gremlin…”
He raised a fist dripping with blood.
Was it his or his opponent’s?
He did not know, but a smile appeared on his battered face.
“That St. Germain bastard is after the girl I fell in love with, so it’s my job to save her.”
The sound of a dreadful impact rang out.
Kamijou Touma let out a weak breath while lying sprawled out on the floor.
He had been punched all over and a groaning pain reached him whenever he moved a joint.
Hamazura and the Power Lifter were gone. Only the jacket he had used for defense remained. After the system recovered from the errors, Hamazura had likely climbed back on and gone off to save his friends.
Unable to even cover his swollen face with his hands, Kamijou spoke blankly into the air.
“I really am weak.”
He was simply complaining.
He had not meant for anyone to hear him.
Nevertheless, someone responded.
“You should have known that from the beginning. I may have survived due to a few coincidences working in our favor, but that wasn’t because you’re especially strong.”
The doll-sized girl struck a daunting pose on the Dianoid’s floor and pointed out Kamijou’s foolishness.
“Why are you here?” he asked. “How did you get here?”
“Have you already forgotten? Nothing is impossible for a god.”
He knew that could not be the answer, so he thought about it rationally.
He had made it up to the mid level by slipping, panicking, and being sucked up and tossed around by the giant water pipe. He had not had time to focus on his senses during all that, so was it possible Othinus had used her miniature size to slip inside his diving mask just before he fell in the water?
“Wait a second. Wait just a second, Othinus. Are you saying I’m a pervert who only survived by breathing in a girl’s scent through that diving mas- gyah!?”
“Can we get back on topic, human?”
With that low comment, Othinus buried her small fist in Kamijou’s torso.
Despite being a Norse god, she seemed to know a lot about Eastern acupuncture points. An intense numbing pain raced through his body just like hitting one’s funny bone. His legs stuck out straight.
“Bh! Bhfh!? O-Othinus? Were you in the middle of saying something?”
“I was. If it hadn’t been for your strange interruption, I would have said this.”
She gave an exasperated shrug.
“Make no mistake. If all you were was strong, I would never have been saved in Denmark.”
“Your true value is different from that of a Magic God who has to determine superiority by the presence or absence of power. Isn’t that right? So feeling ashamed that you lack strength is pure foolishness. Your value shows itself once you accept what you lack and think about what to do without that strength.”
When he heard that, Kamijou’s eyes finally narrowed softly.
He reached a hand toward Othinus and rubbed her small head with his fingertips.
“You are being too friendly, human.”
“Sorry. But make sure to remind me.”
Kamijou spoke without shame.
“Remind me that I too have something he can’t defeat and something I can’t back down on.”
Othinus gave a snort but let him do as he pleased.
He knew he was weak.
He had come this far because he had something he did not want to lose despite being weak.
Being weak was not a reason to stop moving forward.
She had reminded him of that.
“Don’t worry,” he finally said.
This time, he used only his own strength to slowly stand up.
“There’s nothing to worry about now, Othinus. I wish I could have stopped Hamazura here, but I can’t run off and leave this Magic God to him. I don’t want to point at the destroyed world and say it was his fault. However the situation has developed, I need to adjust my plan to match.”
“I’ll still have you analyze that St. Germain guy, but we’ll incorporate Hamazura and the others’ actions into it. Letting his friends escape safely comes first. I’m willing to act as a decoy for that. At the very least, St. Germain knows what I look like.”
At that point, he noticed that Othinus’s one eye was opened wide in an expression he had not seen before.
She then asked a clear question.
It was said that he had acquired a secret technique of immortality, that he ate nothing but water, wheat, and pills, and that he never aged.
It was said that he was a mysterious noble who had made his way throughout medieval Europe’s high society and that the strange frequency of his appearances led to rumors that he had a technique of traveling through time.
It was said that he possessed many magical techniques related to jewels and that he was highly prized by the other nobles for his ability to perfectly repair scratched diamonds.
It was said he was an enigmatic individual who wrote a grimoire owned by Cagliostro.
It was said there was no accurate record of his birth.
It was said there was no accurate record of his death.
In other words, the legend of St. Germain was not a thing of the past; it continued into the present.
With examples such as Russia’s Rasputin or ancient China’s Daji, mysterious people would occasionally appear in a place of politics or high society and bring chaos to that nation or the world.
It would be no exaggeration to say St. Germain was the world’s greatest example.
After troubling nation after nation, the legends of most others would end when they were defeated by a well-known magician or soldier. Some of the legends, like Japan’s Tamamo-no-Mae, involved several countries (although this theory says Daji and Tamamo-no-Mae were one and the same), but even she was cut down at the ends of the earth.
However, St. Germain did not fit that description.
His appearances were spread over multiple regions and scattered across time periods. Instead of just disappearing for years at a time, he would vanish for one hundred years before appearing again. A careful inspection of what he was recorded to have said showed him chatting about information he could not have known in that time period and no one was able to reproduce his jewels and pills.
Objects that could not have been produced with the time period’s standard level of civilization were known as out-of-place artifacts, but St. Germain felt like a human version of that. Instead of being surrounded by countless out-of-place artifacts, he himself did not seem to fit the time period.
And there was no record of him ever being defeated.
Any supposed grave was unreliable and no one claimed to be his descendant.
His appearances were so irregular that he became known as immortal or a time traveler, but if one carefully read through the various legends, it proved to be no laughing matter.
Or rather, the phenomenon that was St. Germain had reached a level unexplainable except by some truly ridiculous ideas.
That was why nothing was known about him.
He may have truly been immortal.
He may have come from ancient times and continually travelled further into the future.
He may have come from the future and continually travelled further into the past.
There was only one way to know for sure: acquire the same hidden knowledge he had and become the same sort of being he was.
And so, the man naming himself St. Germain appeared before the girls of Item with the strange spear known as a Chambord resting on his shoulder.
Mugino Shizuri narrowed her eyes a little and immediately realized what the spear meant.
She gestured toward the outer wall she had filled with holes.
“Was that you?”
“It was. To be honest, I do not need it anymore once I get to the Dianoid’s mid level TV Station and retrieve the Shield that produces a positive gap in the lattice, but unfortunately, I made a bit of a promise. Could you perhaps calm down a little in order to grant someone’s wish?”
“Kinuhata.” Mugino ignored him. “If you don’t want to die, stay in a position where you can protect Takitsubo with your Offense Armor. I’ll take care of this guy.”
“Are you sure, Mugino?” asked Takitsubo.
“What do you mean by that exactly? If you’re worried she’ll go super overboard and kill him, then I’ll agree with you.”
It was the man in the tailcoat who laughed.
“You think you can escape the grasping fingertips of death with that?”
“You’re pretty full of yourself for some stranger.”
As he listened to Mugino, St. Germain gathered some slight strength in the Chambord resting on his shoulder. With a whistling sound, it drew a half-circle in the air and pointed at Mugino.
“I will ask one last time, young lady.”
“If you’re going to complain, wait until you’re in hell.”
“That is too bad. I suppose this is why they say ignorance is a sin.”
With a light smile, all hint of emotion vanished from St. Germain’s eyes.
“Now, will you be able to say the same thing when you see your own heart beating outside your body?”
An instant later, Mugino’s Meltdowner beam mercilessly vaporized the Chambord and St. Germain’s arm along with it.
The man’s arm vanished from the shoulder down.
The great heat had completely cauterized the wound, so there was no bleeding.
Academy City’s #4 spoke coldheartedly to St. Germain as he stared blankly at where his missing arm had been.
“Are you mocking me?”
An explosion of emotion soon followed.
However, it did not come from Mugino or St. Germain. It came from the frightened crowd gathered on the viewing platform. With earsplitting screams and shouts of anger, they fled with all their might. They moved with such force that they sometimes very nearly all toppled over like dominoes.
The people vanished, the area was left completely empty, and St. Germain spoke.
Despite the lost arm, he was smiling.
“By the way, young lady. Do you have anyone you would like to protect?”
“If so, you should take this more seriously. Especially when you still have time to be so considerate.”
Perhaps done in by the heat, a few of his tailcoat buttons fell to the floor.
The tailcoat opened up to reveal something like clay strapped to his stomach.
Mugino immediately realized what that clay was.
The man had shown no sign of caring about the loss of his arm and the loss of his life seemed to be no different.
“Let me tell you one thing.”
The man moved the situation along while smiling.
“Even if an individual St. Germain dies, the St. Germain ideology shall not perish. …It shall never perish.”
It did not even take a full second.
A tremendous explosion assaulted Item as it filled that corner of the floor.
Aihana Etsu held his head on the Dianoid’s roof.
He had come here to pursue his missing friend and rescue her from the darkness.
He could not rely on normal methods of searching for her secret, so using the help of an irregular element like St. Germain seemed like it would improve his odds of success.
A horrific vision flitted through the back of his mind.
Countless Chambord spears had protruded from the walls and floor. Just like casually pushing aside an obstacle, fist-sized tunnels had appeared in the bodies and faces of the people passing by. That nightmarish scene still did not feel real and a floating sensation came over him every time he recalled it.
Could he really use something like that?
Was that really something one could control?
“In the end, if you’re weak, you have to do things the weak way.”
Another voice suddenly entered his mind which was trapped in that colorful nightmare.
He consciously controlled his breathing.
Even if it was just a mental image, he focused on breaking free of those self-made bonds.
“Of course, being strong is best, but as long as you know how much you can do and how far you can reach, you won’t go wrong. What’s scary are the people who don’t know their own reach. That’s like making a gamble with your own life.”
When she had said that, he had not known what she was talking about.
But now he did.
St. Germain was too great an unknown. If he relied on that, he would have his feet swept out from under him. He would still search for his friend’s secret in the Dianoid, but he had to gather his own cards to succeed. He could not leave it all up to luck and just wait for the trump card to come to him.
He had a plan now.
He looked around and started toward the door leading inside from the roof.
(St. Germain said the doors would unlock for me.)
He tried the knob and found he could easily turn it.
It opened without any resistance and the heated air gently blew out at him.
Instead of passing through the door or closing it, he placed a stone from the garden between the door and doorframe as a doorstop.
This time, he ran to the edge of the roof.
The Dianoid created a seventy-story cliff, so it was hopeless. He could not climb down or even drop something to communicate with someone below. If he wrote a note and threw it, he would have no idea where it would end up.
(But if I could let them know the roof’s door is open, Anti-Skill could come by helicopter to rescue everyone.)
He walked along the edge of the roof.
Whether to strengthen the Dianoid or for decoration, thick wires were strung diagonally between the building’s walls and the surface. He of course had no intention of climbing down one of those, but if he slid something down it, he could drop something while softening its landing.
He found one of the wires on the edge of the roof.
He removed the thin wire holding one of the garden’s pine trees in place and tied it into a small loop around the thick wire. He pulled out his flip phone, activated the GPS alarm, tied the strap to the small wire, placed a note in between the folded flip phone, and let go.
Just like a ski lift, the cellphone slid down the Dianoid’s thick wire.
When the adults detected the GPS signal, they would hurry to it. If they found the note, they would hopefully learn that the door on the Dianoid’s roof was open.
(But that’s all the help I can give.)
Aihana Etsu turned his back on the nighttime city down below.
He made his way to the open door into the Dianoid.
(I have to take action too.)
“You idiot. I was wondering what had you so worried, but you really are stupid!”
The small Othinus was so angry she seemed about to erupt.
Kamijou was confused by her sudden rage.
“Eh? Um, what?”
“Listen.” Othinus pressed her index finger against her own temple. “The legend of St. Germain is famous. It’s even leaked out of the magic side and reached normal society. If you grabbed a random magician and asked them to name ten famous people, St. Germain’s name is sure to come up alongside Rosenkreuz and Mathers. That’s how high up there he is.”
Kamijou frowned because he had no idea how major a name Rosen-whatever was.
“Doesn’t that mean St. Germain is ridiculously famous, ridiculously powerful, and the protagonist of some ridiculous mythology?”
“But,” forcefully cut in Othinus. “St. Germain is nothing but a name.”
Kamijou did not even slightly understand what she meant.
“On the magic side, he was probably known as a rare sort of con man. It wasn’t uncommon to take on a famous name when sneaking into a party of nobles, but the identity of St. German was built from the ground up. At first, it was a free pass that let you sneak into the most formal of events and acquire any investment you wanted. You could say it was like an appraiser’s report calling a glass ball the highest quality of diamond. Immortality? Time travel? Those things aren’t even worth calling tricks.”
“Wait… Wait! You’re kidding, right? I mean…”
“Creating legends of immortality or time travel is a simple matter. He talked about times and places he had never been to or seen. He could have letters sent as proof that he had been there. He probably sometimes added in a time delay like with a time capsule. That throws any alibi out the window.”
“Please wait!! He…he really did bend the entire world before my eyes! It was like…like this… It’s hard to explain, but the walls, floor, and ceiling all turned into weapons, tunnels appeared in the people in the way, and they all attacked me at once!”
“Have you forgotten?” Othinus sounded almost utterly exasperated. “This is the Dianoid. The entire building is made of carbon materials. That means you don’t need control over every phase, every dimension, and every element to manipulate everything around you. A magician with control over carbon and nothing else can pull that one off.”
“There are two primary legends about St. Germain. The first is how he conquered aging whether by immortality or time travel. His predictions of the future and knowledge of great secrets are derived from the time travel. The second is his ability to control jewels and restore scratched diamonds. Doesn’t that seem to fit with the clichéd situation we have now?”
Diamonds were carbon.
The building was made of carbon.
The human body was organic matter and thus also made of carbon.
What did that mean?
“What a Magic God is! Othinus, without you, the idea of a Magic God would just be a fantasy. Even the knowledge of the 103,000 grimoires isn’t quite enough to know about that! How could he pretend to be one so accurately!?”
“Don’t be stupid,” spat out Othinus. “Have you forgotten what happened in Denmark? Due to America’s interference, all of that was broadcast around the world. It may not have been enough to know the details of a Magic God’s inner workings or how to use the magic of one, but anyone could have figured out what one looks and how one acts. This person going by the name St. Germain could have checked any video site to find what he needed for his act. As embarrassing as that is to admit.”
Then what was he?
If St. Germain was not a Magic God like Othinus, was he just a normal (if that even meant anything at this point) magician who had not reached that level?
“But,” said Othinus. “If we are up against St. Germain here, it creates a problem much different from a Magic God that is concentrated on a single point.”
“What do you mean?”
“St. Germain did not just well up on its own like spring water from the earth. Do you know what created him and allowed him to spread?”
She answered his question with one of her own.
“The legend is a fake. It began as a free pass and had no credibility. But someone must have given it life. They used existing legends and magic to see if they could make the legend real. The same process has been seen with the Necronomicon. And using a vast sea of knowledge, they intentionally stimulated the small core and created a real crystal. I don’t know if they were fascinated by it or if they were using it to disguise something else, but the actual technique uses the alluring spread of the legend to pass between the people involved and those who wish to be a living witness of the events. And it organizes those people into a single crystal.”
She went on to give the ultimate answer.
“His ideology synchronizes people’s minds and infects them. And it does so incredibly easily.”
Kamijou heard footsteps.
And they belonged to more than just one person. He and Othinus were surrounded.
They filled every exit leaving the elevator hall.
He quickly looked around and saw nothing but tailcoats. At least a few dozen St. Germains calmly observed him.
The idea of a central unit may not have applied with them.
They were all the control tower and they were all terminals. Losing any one of them would not be a problem.
At any rate, one of them spoke.
“So we meet again so soon, Kamijou Touma.”
A moment later, their cruelty took the form of countless spears that rushed in from all directions like an inside-out hedgehog.
Between the Lines 2
I am used to being called a liar.
If you want to call me less than a Magic God to soothe your own pitiful self-respect, go right ahead.
There is no point in holding me within the infield of “magicians” or driving me into the outfield of “Magic Gods”. My existence can only be described as “me”.
I am a third category.
I am neither a magician nor a Magic God.
I am St. Germain.
No other term can describe me, but it seems some stubborn people have difficulty understanding that on a conceptual level. It is similar to how those obsessed with logic and numbers cannot understand the sparkle of the artificially-stabilized non-equilibrium structure that is a diamond.
Arguing against the incompetent is a futile task.
There is no speaking with those who fully believe something is “common sense” just because everyone is too stupid to see the truth.
No matter how many times you prove what is true, you will only learn all too well that the skeptics are equipped with a filter that prevents them from seeing the evidence before their eyes.
But I will not keep people from that all too pitiful happiness.
I can watch in satisfaction as they amusingly age, grow thin, and ultimately wish to rely on my methods of immortality.
Of course, I did not slip into high society because I was interested in fame or fortune.
Quite the opposite, in fact. I gathered an unwanted and lowly fortune because displaying it was the bare minimum necessary to make appearances at those parties and gatherings.
The truly unfortunate fact is that what I desire lies within that high society.
They have allowed that framework to decay and become a mere shell of what it once was, but what I desire still lies within it nonetheless.
And so I searched for it. I continued to swim through that utterly rotten mud in search of a single possibility. I was half drowning in that sea of people swollen with countless desires.
Boy, have you realized your true value?
You seem to have gained temporary strength by viewing yourself as another, but have you realized what name you bear and what power you hold?
Not everyone needs to be #1.
You need only aim for what no one else has.
That idea can be heard just about anywhere, but it cannot be used as an excuse by the defeatists who laugh and reject all competition. It is nothing that simple. Rather than follow the path to the mountaintop that someone else has set out for you, you must clear a new path on your own. That is much more difficult and worthy of praise.
Boy, you have already obtained that.
I certainly did not expect to find it in Academy City of all places, but it would certainly explain why I found no hint of it in Paris, Berlin, or Moscow. No, enough of that. I should simply accept my failure and continue forward. I should have focused on the fact that the Anglican Church has a hotline with Academy City.
At any rate, I am finally able to meet you, boy.
The shield to match the sword.
How much time do you think I have spent in search of it? It would be a shame if you simply answered “since the 1600’s”. You cannot rely on the history established by the skeptics and those unable to work for themselves.
Thinking back, it was a meaningless span of time, but thinking on this instant is enough to wipe the weariness away.
Now, it is time to harvest the fruits of my labor.
Are you watching, Magic Gods? Just as a magician of ancient Britain used a unique sword to select a single soul, I have acquired something you lack.
I am St. Germain. I desire only a single truth.
And to that end, I will spread infinite falsehoods.