Toaru Majutsu no Index:NT Volume13 Chapter 1
Chapter 1: The Magic God is Always There — Sword_and_Sheath.
He roared along.
Kamijou Touma raced through the concrete jungle of District 7.
He was not riding a normal car.
He was on an acrobike.
It was essentially a bicycle with electric assistance, but its top speed was over fifty kmh, its electronically-controlled suspension softened any impacts, and the giant disc-shaped gyros on either side of the front and back wheels gave it autonomous stability that kept it from falling over even when tilted to over seventy degrees. It was best known for being able to jump over two meters high using the suspension.
The pointy-haired boy violently pedaled the bike.
Something was approaching from behind.
It was closing in.
A great darkness had become a steel gale. It devoured any obstacles in the way. When a normal car drove into it from the side at an intersection, it knocked aside the car like a toy.
Normally, there would have been nothing anyone could do.
However, Kamijou Touma was an exception.
He sometimes used the road and sometimes took shortcuts by making large jumps to ride along the guardrail or sidewalk railing. He pumped out extreme speed without ever giving up. Tightrope walking with a bicycle may have seemed like a tricky stunt, but it was not all that difficult a cycle art using the acrobike’s exceedingly powerful gyro functionality.
A high-pitched alarm blared and a railway crossing gate lowered in front of him. A train was not going to rush by at tremendous speed. The slow freight train must have run into trouble because it was stopped, forming a long line blocking his way.
Kamijou’s way was blocked to the front and back.
However, he did not grab the brake lever. In fact, he placed more of his weight on the pedals. He truly produced his full speed. It looked like he was going to break through the railway crossing gate and collide with the container car, but that was not his plan.
He used another cycle art: sliding.
He swung the handlebars to the right just before reaching the railway crossing to turn the acrobike perpendicular to its direction of movement. He then tilted it as far to the left as possible and slipped below the railway crossing gate like a sliding baseball or soccer player. He then passed below the freight train’s high bottom and let the gyro recovery system right the acrobike again.
The dull sound of metal bending metal exploded behind him, but his battle was not over.
Without even giving him a break, several four-wheel drive vehicles approached from a different small road.
“Heh…eh heh heh. I-it’ll be like this, Kamijou-chan. Be sure to make the event as exciting as you-…”
“There’s no way I can do this!”
“W-wahh, wahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!! Your attendance was already bad enough in the first term, but things are even worse now that it’s December and the second term. At this rate, no amount of working things out will save your chances of advancing to the next year, Kamijou-chan!!”
Thirty minutes had passed since Tsukuyomi Komoe, Kamijou Touma’s 135 cm homeroom teacher, had come crying to him.
Plenty of arguing had occurred in the intervening time.
Dirtied high schooler Kamijou Touma rested his elbow on the hallway windowsill and stared into the distance with a look of melancholy in his eyes.
The problem was how he was dressed.
First of all, the pointy-haired boy was not wearing his school uniform. However, he was not wearing his PE uniform either. He was of course not wearing a swimsuit, but surprisingly, that was the closest to the truth. It was 9 AM on December 3. Even if he had run away to snowy Denmark with the nearly-naked Othinus, this did not seem like a rational choice, but it was what he was wearing regardless.
He wore full-body flesh-colored tights.
The only other real clothing was a pair of white briefs.
Lastly, he wore a trench coat that looked right out of a Showa era comedy routine.
“Sigh… When I think about it, I’ve been through some crazy stuff.”
Kamijou Touma, the boy who had ended World War Three with a single fist and made an enemy of the entire world to protect a single girl, dandily muttered that comment while dressed like an absolute pervert.
Then again, this would likely have already broken him if he had not been through all of that.
He recalled what Komoe-sensei had told him.
“When you’ve skipped as much class as you have, Kamijou-chan, extra lessons during winter break aren’t enough! So your only option is to earn a whole bunch of points with an amazing performance as a criminal in our anti-crime orientation!! Um, you’ll still need extra lessons even with this, so don’t get your hopes up too much, okay?”
At any rate…
(I’m up against the entire student body, but it’s not like a game of tag where I lose if I’m caught. I just have to run around shouting for the allotted time, so this’ll be easy! And normal! I’ll show them the survival skills of normal high school boy Kamijou Touma!!)
That was when he heard hurried footsteps coming from the stairway. The anti-crime orientation had already begun and it seemed the others were already chasing down one of the “criminals”. Kamijou somewhat cautiously looked over because he did not want to get caught up in it himself, but it was a familiar face that ran into the hallway.
“N-nyah! Kami-yan, it’s dangerous here! Hurry and…hm!?”
Aogami Pierce arrived after him.
This created the miraculous sight of the idiot trio gathered together in matching skin-colored tights, white briefs, and trench coats.
However, Aogami Pierce took it a step further with a pair of panties over his head.
Before he could finish his first word, it looked like his neck bent in a sideways “V”.
It of course could not have actually done that. It should not have been able to, but that was how it replayed in Kamijou’s mind no matter how many times he tried to make sense of it.
In reality, Aogami Pierce’s neck had been tightly grasped by the U-shaped sasumata that flew in from the stairway. He was then sent flying to the opposite wall. As he struggled (Or convulsed? No, it couldn’t be.), more and more sasumatas flew in to pin his arms, legs, and torso to the wall.
What was that?
What in the world was it!?
A sasumata was a restraining tool shaped a lot like a medieval man catcher. It looked like a mop pole with a U-shaped piece of metal at the end and it was meant to safely hold the criminal’s body in place, so it was certainly not meant to be thrown like an assassin’s decapitation tool.
“G-gyhhh… I-I wonder if it’s true what they say about it feeling a lot better if you do it while being strangl- gogyhh!?”
Just as Aogami’s suffering began to transform into ecstasy, he received the finishing blow and went limp.
Kamijou cried out in his white briefs.
“Wh-what happened, Aogami!? And we were only given briefs, not panties!! Where did those come from!?”
“Don’t be stupid, Kami-yan! This is no time to worry about the dead, nyah!”
The grim reaper appeared with a sound as methodical as the ticking of a clock. Long black hair was parted wide, a mysterious steam-like aura left the mouth, and red light came from the eyes. As the coup de grace, the vicious fiend used only two arms to hold as many sasumatas as a bug had legs. Now, who was it?
“Fukiyose-san!? C’mon, this isn’t the time for you to finally reveal your hidden power! Besides, wasn’t your power the ability to do this with that to make it do that thing!?”
“The crime of making a pure maiden cry is a weighty one, you perverrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrts!!”
“To ho ho. As always, this old woman wasn’t willing to hear us out.”
“Oh, is that what’s going on here? Why did Aogami have to go too far and get us caught in the crossfire!?”
They showed no sign of trying to save their crucified classmate.
Tsuchimikado was entirely focused on running down the hallway, but Kamjiou, man among men in white briefs, had a different idea.
He did not hesitate to lean right out the open window.
He ignored the rush of sasumatas assaulting Tsuchimikado (who was supposedly one of the greatest onmyouji experts and a spy in Academy City for multiple sides) and made a miraculous escape from the third floor window and onto the drain spout running vertically along the wall. There was a good reason that Kamijou Touma had made it to Part 42 of “What if your school’s students were replaced by aliens one by one?” and “What if you took over your school to create a kid’s kingdom?” in just the second term. (It was probably his fault that the amount of alcohol Komoe-sensei consumed had secretly gone up.) He hesitated over whether to escape up or down, but going down scared him because it would require checking how high up he was. For the time being, he kept his eyes on the sky with the safe fourth floor as his goal.
“Huh? It won’t open.”
He shook the window with his feet on the edge of the windowsill.
It was locked.
“Oh, no! It really won’t open!! And if I stay here for too long, the Fukiyose army is going to fire up at my ass from below!!”
Misaka Mikoto let out another white breath as she walked through District 7.
It was just past nine in the morning. If they had known this lady of Tokiwadai Middle School was wandering around the streets on a school day morning, her elegant foreign language teacher probably would have fainted and the monstrous dorm supervisor probably would have ripped off her coat to let her muscles swell out, but things were different just this once.
She held the following printout:
Fire precautions! The anti-crime orientation is coming up. This winter in District 7, the boundaries between schools will be lifted for some group roleplaying meant to raise anti-crime awareness.
If you’re playing a criminal, please surprise everyone.
If you’re playing a police officer, please capture the criminals.
If you’re playing a hostage, please run away from the criminals.
Everyone will be given a stamp each time they fulfill their role. Aim to conquer your stamp card! A fantastical hidden school lunch menu awaits you!!
(This doesn’t have anything to do with fire precautions.)
It may have started as a small event concerning arson countermeasures and had later grown into an orientation for crime in general that had no hint of the original event left.
At any rate, Mikoto had been assigned a police officer role.
Then again, the road here had not been an easy one.
After all, the area she was walking through was near that pointy-haired boy’s school.
(Shokuhou Misaki put up a quite a fight.)
The memory of it brought a tingle to her spine. The game of paper sumo wrestling had truly come down to the wire. Yokozuna Shokuhou had hidden some cardboard in her origami figure and stuck some pieces of eraser on its feet to increase its weight, so Mikoto would have been helpless had she not used a metal clip to let her freely move her origami doll around via magnetism.
It might have seemed like those high-class ladies were playing dirty, but they had been fighting over a single prize.
(The rights to the area with that idiot’s high school.)
Misaka Mikoto clenched her fist as she relished the flavor of victory once more.
Plus, she had an actual goal in mind, unlike that honey-colored succubus. She had a reason worth distancing both Shokuhou and Shirai Kuroko.
(How was all that stuff at Tokyo Bay resolved?)
She had worked alongside him at Tokyo Bay, exchanged blows with him in the snow of Denmark, and somehow found herself pushing him onward, but why had that Othinus person ended up on his side, why had he ended up running away from Mikoto and the others without telling them anything, and why had he ended up giving Othinus an emotional embrace on TV? She had never received an explanation for any of that.
She might not have cared that much if she had only seen it on an LCD screen from the other side of the world. He and Othinus had likely gone through something only they understood and had reconciled their differences. Everyone else was only seeing the highlight reel. She might have been able to accept that.
But Mikoto herself had been a part of it.
At the very least, she had been until they stepped onto Sargasso in Tokyo Bay.
She had been in a position to make any decision she wanted as one of the central players.
Yet in the very end, she found she understood nothing.
That filled her chest with noise. Not even she could explain just what emotion it was, but something with a sharp point to it was poking at the surface of her heart.
(Neither of us had the time for a long talk then.)
She thought to herself in silence.
(But now that it’s all over, I at least have the right to hear just what happened from beginning to end, don’t I? In fact, it is over, isn’t it?)
One day had led into another and Christmas time was fast approaching, but she had no real guarantee of that. In her relief and excitement when returning to Academy City, she had almost completely forgotten, but once the heat faded and she could think rationally, she found she could not relax with things the way they were.
She had to deal with this first.
There was one thing she was most worried about.
(He seemed really cornered back in Denmark.)
It had gone beyond simply being pursued by so many people and being physically and mentally exhausted. She had heard that boy complain. She had seen his weak side that he must have normally kept hidden because he was forced into the category of “older boy”, “high schooler”, or “upperclassman”.
This time, Mikoto intended to hear everything.
She had no reason to hold back on that.
But if she did this, his weak side would be the problem. That boy would want to avoid showing off the softest side of his heart with a lot of extra people around.
That was why Mikoto had needed to keep the #5 and anyone else away.
(It’s possible the answer won’t be enough to give me relief.)
Her preparations were complete.
(It’s possible my view of that idiot will change the instant I learn the answer.)
She had no guarantee that she would be okay with this, but she could only continue down the path she considered right.
(But I stood near the center of that commotion, so I still need to learn the answer. That’s why I’ve made up my mind. No matter how filthy, pathetic, or hopeless a thing you’re holding inside, I’m prepared to accept it. I swear I won’t selfishly hurt you after I was the one to ask.)
She focused her mind and raised her head.
She gathered strength in her gut.
She had thought about a lot, but the situation changed entirely once she arrived at a certain high school.
Her mistake was wondering if there was a small back entrance for faculty because she was too embarrassed to casually cut across the large schoolyard and enter the main entrance.
Once she arrived in the courtyard, she saw something.
A reckless pervert was peeping into a fourth-floor window while clinging to the wall like a frog.
The blowing wind allowed glimpses of white briefs inside the coat and she recognized the pointy-hair of Kamijou Touma.
Mikoto’s mind went entirely blank.
It seemed fate was cruelly made.
One of them was playing a police officer and the other was playing a criminal.
Tokiwadai’s ace made full use of her mind and even tried falsifying memories to somehow force this into a Romeo and Juliet narrative, but it proved hopeless.
That was when anger took over.
“I may have said I’d accept any answer, but that only goes so farrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!”
She jumped straight past using a lightning spear or iron sand sword.
An arcade coin flew through the air right off the bat.
In that instant, there was no way for Kamijou to avoid having his butt pierced at three times the speed of sound, but an upperclassman girl full of mature charm rescued him at the last second.
She unlocked the window from the inside, pulled Kamijou Touma in as he clung to the very edge of the windowsill, and brought him to a nearby empty classroom.
She had shoulder-length black hair and a winter sailor uniform that showed off her midriff because it was too small (in the chest).
She was Kumokawa Seria-senpai.
“Sigh. I don’t know what’s going on, but things are really noisy today. This is making it impossible to get a midday nap. …No, given the time, I guess it’s more of a morning nap.”
“Ohhhhhhhhhhh! Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, senpaaaai!!”
“What!? Why are you crying like a monster that was finally treated like a human being after having everyone throw stones at him!?”
Kamijou just about leapt into that chest overflowing with motherhood, but this girl had seriously saved his life back there. Based on how the school was still shaking from further blasts, that was no joke. He did not want to bother her, so he gathered the strength of his heart to restrain himself.
However, Kumokawa Seria had secretly tensed her shoulders and elbows in preparation, so she pouted her lips when nothing happened.
“(Hm. Sometimes being a gentleman can come full circle and be cruel.)”
She gave up on her welcoming pose, crossed her arms to lift her ample chest from below, and spoke entirely casually.
“Well, if you’re on the run, you can relax here for a while. This is my secret base.”
At first glance, the empty classroom only seemed to contain roughly piled-up desks and chairs, but looking around the room from the blackboard end showed a space filled with sunny window side spots. It also contained a small cooler full of chocolate snacks, convenience store cake, and bottles of drinks. Manga magazines and a small bath TV were also scattered about. A blanket was laid out on the floor and it was covered by a super thin and warm monster of a blanket. The advertisements he had seen on TV said it was made from some kind of material used on trips to space.
Kumokawa pointed here and there while sitting in her usual spot.
“You can grab whatever you want that’s lying around.”
“Hmm. I think I’ll pass.”
He was actually incredibly interested in the snow viewing Mont Blanc that was only sold in the winter, but something in petite bourgeois Kamijou stopped him from eating snacks at school. Even after passing through hundreds of billions of hells, confronting an actual god, and chatting with the US president, some things simply did not go away.
“Ugh. The bath TV’s showing a special on the acrobike.”
“I hear you backed out. How boring.”
“Were you the one pushing for that!? I read through all the documents, but there’s no way I can do that! Cycle arts? Doing that in the streets is a good way of breaking some bones!!”
Kumokawa seductively lay on the blanket, reached for the weekly manga magazine she had been reading, and surreptitiously hid it below the monster of a blanket. She instead forcibly opened a women’s fashion magazine to show off her upperclassman aura.
“By the way, senpai, what role were you given?”
“A hostage, I think. I didn’t really care, so I don’t remember.”
“Heh heh. Looks like you just upped your score, boy. You have a hostage now.”
Kumokawa gave a bewitching smile that seemed to have some hidden meaning, but Kamijou could not decide whether improving his score as the criminal was a good thing or not when the role had essentially been forced onto him as a type of punishment. This scared him because one wrong step would lead to being held back.
As he wondered about that, he heard multiple sets of footsteps racing down the hallway and Kumokawa’s eyebrows twitched as she lay in the sun by the window.
“Oh, honestly. They must have heard all the commotion Misaka was making by firing everywhere. And why is she even at our school anyway?”
“How about we choose our words more carefully?”
“Oh, no. It isn’t Fukiyose, is it!? She’s scary!!”
“If you’re worried, then keep quiet and hide. Get in here.”
Kumokawa shoved Kamijou under the monster of a blanket covering her legs. This was of course an upperclassman kind of thing that not just anyone could do, but…
“M-mgh! Senpai, um, there’s something…shoved against my face!”
“But, something’s…what is this? It’s hard? Senpai? Eh? Why? Ehh? And these corners… Please tell me this isn’t true. Are girls not as soft as I’d been led to believe? This can’t be true!!”
(Tch! It’s that manga magazine I shoved in there earlier!!)
Kumokawa ground her teeth at the fact that Kamijou had at least not seen what it was, but she could not turn back time.
Fortunately, the footsteps in the hallway did not reach the empty classroom. The hallway itself had likely become a scene of unthinkable horrors, so the individual’s focus had turned to the attacker down on the ground level.
After making absolutely sure the footsteps had left, Kamijou crawled out of his upperclassman’s blanket.
He felt like he had unlocked quite a few achievements in life’s trophy system over the past few minutes, but all he had actually felt was something with hard corners and the sweet aroma of chocolate. He could get all of that on his own at a nearby convenience store.
“Pwah. Is Fukiyose gone? You really saved me.”
“The orientation isn’t limited to our school, right? If you’re really worried for your life, it would probably be best to evacuate the school grounds until the heat dies down.”
“Y-you’re right. Okay! Thanks a bunch, senpai! I’ll be going now!!”
“Eh? No, wait. I was suggesting I could wander around with you!!”
He thought she had said something more, but he left Kumokawa Seria’s secret base as quickly as he could. Staying too long could reveal that base to the others and he doubted she wanted that.
He poked his head out the door, observed the hallway (which was almost falling apart thanks to the Railgun blasts), and first made sure no one was there.
Kamijou, the warrior in skin-colored full-body tights and white briefs, made his way down the hallway with the speed of a cockroach, descended the stairs, and made his way to the first floor entrance.
“I-I’m glad to see you know how to play the role of the pervert.”
“Huh? Senpai? Why are you here?”
He turned around by the shoe lockers and Kumokawa Seria cleared her throat.
“You can head outside if you want, but there will be ‘police officers’ out on the streets, too. Do you know how you’ll escape and what you’ll use for transportation?”
“Yeah, no worries there. There’s that new bicycle…um, the acrobike? Y’know, that electrically assisted monster. Komoe-sensei got a little carried away and ordered one for us, so I can borrow that.”
“(Now, I’m getting pissed off. He never thinks anything through, so why is he so prepared now of all times!?)”
Kamijou tilted his head and shoved a hand inside his shoe locker.
He felt something unexpected inside.
Whatever it was fluttered weightlessly through the air and he grabbed it before it reached the floor.
It was an envelope.
It was an elegant greenish-brown envelope that seemed to be made of high-quality Japanese paper. It also had cherry blossom decorations here and there.
After looking at the front, looking at the back, flipping it over again and again, and otherwise inspecting it, White Briefs Kamijou completed his appraisal with a tight expression.
“It’s a love letter!?”
Kumokawa Seria’s face instantly went pale.
Misaka Mikoto similarly tensed up while pressed against the wall near the entrance after being chased around by the other students.
But Kamijou Touma noticed neither girl’s reaction.
With the letter in hand, he began to wander toward some place where he could be alone, but he remembered the anti-crime orientation was still underway, hesitantly moved back and forth, and finally tore open the envelope’s seal where he was because he could not resist any longer.
He checked its contents.
The letter was also on high-quality Japanese paper. It was beautiful paper that would probably have been transparent when held up to the light. Slender handwriting covered the paper, but high school boy Kamijou had trouble reading it. Still, he made full use of his inadequate brain to read just the parts he could make out.
For a while, he had trouble grasping the situation, but understanding finally arrived. It sank in like melting ice.
He held the letter overhead in both hands and began spinning around in crazed joy.
“Yahooooooo!!!!! It’s finally happened! It’s fiiiiiiinally haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaappened!! This isn’t a drama and it isn’t a movie!! Love is real after allllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll!!”
(I’m going to kill him!!)
(I’m going to kill him!!)
Both the upperclassman and underclassman types cursed him, but he gave that no thought whatsoever.
That was when the cruel side of Kumokawa Seria reared its ugly head.
“B-but don’t you have someone you like, a girl you’re interested in, or an older girl you’re always thinking about? Like a nearby upperclassman?”
“Thaaaat is a completely different issue!! Getting a love letter and having a girl be the one who confesses her love to you is enough to earn one of life’s trophiiiiiiiieeeeeeeeeeeessssssssssssssssss!!”
(I’m going to kill him and bury him! District 21’s mountains should work!!)
(I’m going to kill him and bury him! District 21’s mountains should work!!)
Oblivious to the angry girls, Kamijou tried again and again to read the illegible letter.
“But what is this? It’s got a refined or even old-fashioned feel to it. …Ah! The anti-crime orientation means girls from other schools might be here! It might be someone from a sheltered girl’s school!!”
He of course had no idea a girl from just such a school was curled up and holding her heart just five meters away.
“The name. What about her name? …Oh, there’s something at the end. Is this it!? H-hi-high? That’s it!! It starts with ‘high’!! So is it a school name? I can’t read the next part, but I bet it’s the name of some all-girls high school! Okay, time to go!! The stairs to adulthood await me on the roof!!”
In his skin-colored tights and white briefs, Kamijou changed direction with a frightening burst of speed. If he had calmed down, he would probably have started worrying about what to say if a girl really was waiting for him, but he was far from calm. And after being completely left behind, Kumokawa Seria (+1) gave a comment of her own.
“Why would anyone sign a letter with their school’s name?”
Once the pervert named Kamijou Touma finished climbing the stairs to adulthood, he flung open the door to the rooftop.
The winds of freedom blew through and the rooftop seemed to stretch on forever.
And who did he find restlessly waiting for him?
“Hello. Did you read my letter, Kamijou Touma?”
It was a mysterious old man (or rather, a mummy) whose dried skin split apart in a smile.
Kamijou Touma gave a weak laugh.
At the same time, he clenched his fist hard enough that he thought it would break and he opened his eyes in such a ghastly expression it seemed tears of blood were going to start flowing from them.
“I had a feeling it was something like this. I didn’t get my hopes at all. Not in the slightest!! You’re probably some magician after Index, so hurry up and attack so I can destroy your illusion alreadyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!!”
“Now, now. Not so fast. What good is exchanging blows before you even know who I am? Wasn’t it challenging a god of magic so quickly that got you sent to the depths of the abyss with Othinus?”
The mummy’s purple robe had luxurious pure-gold decorations which made him too gaudy to call a monk. He also pressed a gold sword against the concrete floor as a staff.
“I am one of the true Magic Gods. My name is…yes, you can call me the High Priest, just as I signed my letter.”
This was different yet again from St. Germain. He made no exaggerated gestures or turns of phrase that were meant to convince Kamijou. He was entirely casual about it all. His careless usage of the term Magic God gave him an intense presence different from Othinus’s.
In an instant, bits and pieces of frightening memories stabbed into the back of Kamijou Touma’s mind.
He had already grown a bit tearful.
Then he spoke.
“There’s no way I’m going through hundreds of billions of hells with you!!”
“Yes, I suppose that wouldn’t seem like much of a reward.”
“I’m not making an enemy of the world and running through Denmark’s blizzards either!!”
“Perhaps Nephthys or Niang-Niang would have been better suited for dealing with a teenage boy.”
That initially seemed like a meaningless comment, but it also seemed to be saying something concerning.
First of all, was this mummy (or an old man filled with so much ridiculous technology that it looked like a corpse was living and speaking) really a Magic God?
And hadn’t he just mentioned a few other names as if they were the same as him? Was it safe to assume there were more like him?
Kamijou finally gulped and the mummy known as the High Priest cackled.
“Good. It is only natural for a human to reach an understanding more slowly than a Magic God would and I am not so impatient that I would let that irritate me.”
“You are trying to apply the situations from recent events to me, aren’t you? That puts your understanding a few steps behind, but I can play along. What you saw in the St. Germain event does not apply to me. You should immediately give up on the optimistic hope that I am a fake pretending to be a Magic God.”
“You just wondered why I am here, didn’t you? From that point of view, St. Germain is ever so slightly applicable. He said a sword had once chosen a king and he chose Aihana Etsu, correct? Then I have a question for you. What do you think a Magic God would be trying to choose? Well, understander of Othinus?”
He knew about the St. Germain incident and he knew about the understanding that should only have been known to Kamijou and Othinus.
That was enough to indicate this mummy known as the High Priest was something special, but then Kamijou slowly let out a voice heavier than the air.
“Before that, can I ask you an important question?”
“What might that be?”
“If we’re going to talk about some unbelievable hidden side of the world, can I take this off first?”
As the target of the anti-crime orientation, Kamijou was wearing skin-colored tights, white briefs, and a trench coat.
The High Priest’s eyes opened wide (even if it was unclear whether he actually had eyeballs or not).
He then spoke in a tone that suggested he was about to be overwhelmed by the trembling of his heart.
“You only enter your serious mode when you remove your briefs!?”
“Don’t make things up, old man.”
Once Kamijou removed his skin-colored tights, his normal school uniform was revealed. The tights had appeared skintight because he had stuffed them full of cotton to create a silhouette one size larger than his real one. He had gone to the trouble because the freezing December air would have taken his soul away if he had worn nothing but full-body tights.
He could still hear the excited shouting of the anti-crime orientation in the distance, but he calmed himself and observed the oddity before him.
“It doesn’t look like I can call this a joke. You really are a corpse.”
“Hm. You accepted Othinus who gouged out an eye and hung herself. I don’t see how I’m much different.”
The High Priest rapped on his waist with a dried hand.
He should have been dead, but he moved like a living human.
It would have been easier to accept if someone said he had metal wires running through him and he was being electronically controlled.
Kamijou had met a great variety of people: Archangel Misha Kreutzev, the immortal Fräulein Kreutune, and Kakine Teitoku who could create his own body. He had seen plenty of people who had surpassed the limits of the human body, but the High Priest was somehow different from all of them.
He was not shifting the burden anywhere else. He simply was a mummy naturally. Kamijou could not even imagine what the old man would have looked like in life. That was how unique a situation the High Priest had created in himself.
There was nothing to say whether he was nor was not a Magic God.
Kamijou did not want there to be multiple beings on the level of Othinus’s full power, but that was a hope, not an answer.
“I have mostly grasped how quickly you catch on. Now, where should I begin?”
The High Priest calmly resumed talking as he stood on the rooftop.
“Oh, I know. How would you define this world?”
“No need to grow so defensive. I’m not going to quibble about the world being recreated by Othinus after your fight with her. I am talking about your impression of the world. What comes to mind when you hear that word?”
Not many people would think of every nook and cranny of the planet when they heard the word “world”. Nor would their imaginations “realistically” fly all the way out to the whole solar system or galaxy.
For Kamijou, the world was only the lines connecting the locations where his friends and acquaintances were.
Of course, for a variety of reasons, he personally knew a lot more people than the average person.
“Don’t you find it odd?”
The High Priest shifted the conversation in a completely unexpected direction.
“Quite a few world-shaking incidents have occurred to reach this point. In fact, one was quite literally world-shattering. But why did they all occur within your reach? That almost makes it sound like you stand in the center of the world.”
“The world is a fragile thing. The six or seven billion people living here do not all support it equally. In that way, Imagine Breaker truly is a thick pillar for the world, but that leads to another question. Why did that exceedingly mysterious reference point and repair point for the world end up inside an individual’s right hand? Personally, I think that makes the chosen boy even more unique than the power itself.”
Kamijou looked down to his right hand.
It was not that he had never questioned Imagine Breaker’s presence. He had entrusted his life to it plenty of times. Was there or was there not an answer to that power? That question was constantly in a corner of his mind.
But why had it been him?
Had he ever asked that before?
After giving it some thought, he finally spoke.
“It’s true the world might look fragile to some people. To a Magic God up in the clouds, it’s something you can remake as many times as you like. …But that’s still wrong. This isn’t an RPG that was made to be beaten and it doesn’t just reach ‘the end’ once it is beaten. I’m in the center? I’m the pillar supporting it? If so, the world’s lifespan is only about one hundred years. That just can’t be. It’ll continue on even when I die.”
“How naïve. Or were you too thoroughly imprinted with the idea that all people are equal?”
“Of course they all are.”
“Heh heh. Even though this very country’s laws consider the murder of a doctor or firefighter to be a greater crime than the murder of a normal person? Even though killing a child is considered a greater crime than killing an old man? The punishment is determined based on how many people the victim could have saved in the future or how much money they would have made, so a completely unequal system is running rampant. You might as well be pointing at the normal person who was normally killed and telling them they never would have amounted to much of anything anyway.”
The High Priest readily admitted it.
He must not have ever expected to defeat Kamijou with that argument.
“But the general idea is correct. Namely, that you are positioned very near the center of the world. Otherwise, the Observer would not be serving so nearby.”
“Yes.” The High Priest paused for a moment. “I do not know if you have actually seen them. And even if you have, who can say if it was ever written to your long-term memory. But they are definitely there. Yes, within ten meters of you.”
Kamijou looked around in confusion.
There was no one on the large rooftop except for him and the High Priest and there was nowhere to hide.
“Who is this Observer you’re talking about? Is it you?”
“Of course not. They would never need to meet you directly like this. Nor would they need to ask you anything. The Observer simply remains by your side at all times and watches everything you do. They know the answers to the questions before they are given, they compile it all, and they construct a massive collection of information.”
“What…are you talking about?”
“Let me say it again, you have likely seen the Observer already.”
Hearing that, something felt a little off somewhere in Kamijou Touma’s head.
It was like a slight itching at the end of a finger telling him of a tiny hangnail.
“Think back. They would have always been there: in a corner of the classroom, at school events, at the Daihaseisai, and around the hot pots you ate with your class.”
“There must be someone. Someone who wears the same uniform and blends into the background like they belong, but whose name you don’t know and whose voice you’re not sure you would recognize. Just saying they’re in your class isn’t enough of an explanation. Think back to your nightmares running from alpha to omega that Othinus gave you. The Observer would have blended into the background there looking entirely unconcerned. They may have turned their back or to the side on occasion, but they would always have been keeping an eye on you.”
Large beads of sweat poured down Kamijou’s forehead.
And they did not stop there. His entire body was soaked.
It really was strange.
Now that he had it pointed out to him, it really was strange.
“Her… That girl with the short brown hair and the headband… Come to think of it, who is she!? I feel like she’s been nonchalantly showing up everywhere I go!!”
“Then she would be the nameless Observer.”
The High Priest grinned and revealed a truth of the world.
“This world is nothing but a story told from the Observer’s point of view as she makes use of her ability to read minds.”
Kamijou just about cried out in surprise, but he was cut off.
“Just kidding!? All that lead up and it was just a joooooooke!? You really scared me. I was thinking there was some deeper meaning there! But of course she’s just a classmate!!”
Kamijou held his chest as his heart continued to beat unhealthily fast and this time he really did cry out.
“It’s really hard to tell when you’re joking!!”
It was true he was pretty sure he did not actually know that girl’s name even though she was a classmate, but he brought his mind back on track by telling himself it was just a joke and he would not find anything even if he did look into it.
The mummy High Priest cackled and did not seem to mind very much.
“But, Kamijou Touma, it is not all that wrong to view yourself as very near the center of the world.”
“You’re still insisting that?”
“You have ended up at the center, but that is not necessarily because of your own actions or because of overlapping coincidences. What if someone set it up that way and lifted you to that spot? For example, some people who can destroy something as incomprehensibly large as the world with a single fingertip.”
“So you’ve finally caught on.”
The High Priest said it suddenly.
He pointed at himself with a finger of skin and bones that looked like it was about ready to break off.
“I refer to us, the true Gremlin.”
A cold wind blew across the school rooftop.
The racket from the anti-crime orientation sounded far, far away and seemed empty.
Meanwhile, the atmosphere between Kamijou and the High Priest had changed. It was clear the boy’s caution had grown even more than before.
The High Priest, however, remained unchanged.
He seemed to be saying that nothing Kamijou Touma could do would be a threat to him.
“First of all, Gremlin is not a group that mixes science and magic, nor is it a collection of Norse magicians led by Othinus.”
The High Priest readily spoke some information so secret both Academy City and the Anglican Church probably did not know it.
“And we true Magic Gods have no interest in ruling the world or exterminating any who oppose us. After all, we can create anything we need. Well, we are weakened at the moment due to certain circumstances, but let me talk about this from our normal position. Opposing someone is a method of using violence to make up for what you lack. We can freely create something large enough to be called the world, so we can produce any missing piece at the snap of a finger. It could be money, fame, social status, the past, facts themselves…and even lives that have been lost. Once you have everything, you lose all reason to fight, don’t you?”
When he thought about it, that was a bit of a mystery.
Othinus had had a reason to become (or return to being?) a Magic God. It had been based in her desire to return to her own world that only she knew. She had needed to struggle through the human world in order to rise to the level of Magic God. She had needed violence to have her way in human society.
But what about the High Priest who already was a Magic God?
What did he and the other Magic Gods have?
Magic Gods would have no reason to enter into a conflict with humans. It was true humanity had enough weaponry to blow up the planet dozens of times over or to bring about their own ruin hundreds of times over. But if they used every last one of those weapons on the Magic Gods like there was a sale on implements of destruction, could they so much as scratch them?
If no attack could even make them budge, there was no point in striking back. It was similar to how Kamijou’s intestines was full of bacteria, but he had no desire to wipe them all out.
And as already said, a Magic God could fulfill anything they needed. People would fight to remove the pain of their inadequacy. If any magicians or espers confronted a Magic God for their past, their own benefit, or revenge, the Magic God could defang them by fulfilling that inadequacy. Just as Kamijou had had no way of fighting that golden “happy world” that Othinus had shown him, someone obsessed with fighting would be left powerless in front of that perfection.
Then what did the Magic Gods want to do here?
The High Priest himself had said opposition was an attempt to make up for an inadequacy with violence. In that case, what inadequacy was afflicting them?
“It is simple.” The mummy spoke simply while omitting anything unnecessary. “If you reach the end of the finite, it all returns to nothingness. But the infinite is not a mountain of excess. It is nothing other than an elimination of all desire. That itself is the state of enlightenment, but do you at least partially understand, boy?”
“No, I don’t get it at all. I may claim to ‘understand’ Othinus, but I only know her as a girl. I don’t understand anything when it comes to her being a Magic God.”
“I see. When I hear that, I cannot help but feel even more annoyance with that Norse Magic God who selfishly made a mess of the world.”
“But you are at least faintly aware of it, aren’t you?” The High Priest seemed to be testing him. “We Magic Gods have everything. We have the power to destroy the world and remake it from scratch. Also, we feel no threat from the outside world. An attack from anything other than a Magic God would be less noticeable than a mosquito bite.”
“Then your problem is…?”
“Yes. That leaves a struggle over resources with the other Magic Gods. We all have the power to change everything, but there is only one world. Think of it like having ten painters but only one canvas. If they each continually try to overwrite it as they see fit, it would develop into a fistfight. Do you understand what I’m saying?”
The golden world Othinus had shown him had only been happiness as she saw it. If there had been five or ten Magic Gods there, they each would have added their own ideas of happiness and come into conflict. As a result, they might have started fighting to protect their own version of happiness.
“If there had only been a single god, there would not have been a problem. But that is not how it turned out.”
“So there’s just too much power between all of you?”
“Hah hah! Indeed. That is a good way of putting it. We have too much power. And Gremlin is the reconciliation council that was created.”
Kamijou recalled the idea of magic names.
Magicians carved those names into their hearts and they represented the original desire that led them to step from the normal path. They all self-deprecatingly said those desires would never be granted, but they still never stopped reaching for that jewel-like glitter.
But what if their wishes could be granted in five seconds?
They had not known if they could accomplish it even after a long, long life’s work, so what if it was complete after just a few moments?
What would they do with the power they were left with?
And what if others also had enough power to singlehandedly create or destroy the world?
“It isn’t something we could simply ignore,” said the High Priest. “Kamijou Touma, do you believe in destiny?”
“Ha ha. That may be difficult for someone poisoned by science in Academy City, but you must have always felt that you were burdened with misfortune.”
“There is such a thing as unavoidable destiny. There are powerful rails that cannot be overcome by an individual’s decisions. But even that is ultimately nothing more than the result of an unseen clash between the opinions of Magic Gods. Of course, we have no intention of harming any specific individual. In fact, the individuals clinging to this puny planet never enter our field of vision. Still, our actions are constantly affecting the outside world and make great changes in the world. It can be quite a problem.”
Talk of fortune and misfortune reminded Kamijou of the Saints in addition to himself.
One of them was so constantly dealt a lucky hand that she feared those around her would always be dealt an unlucky hand.
“That is the same,” readily stated the High Priest. “It is true Saints fall on the fortunate side of things, but they had no say in being born a Saint. That means there were some larger rails in place there. The very fact that they receive that fortune as Saints was determined by that unshakeable destiny.”
At that point, the mummy laughed dryly.
“Although, if we’re talking about destiny, then you would be the sole exception. Thanks to your Imagine Breaker, even the vague power of us Magic Gods is uniformly leveled out. That keeps any large waves away from you alone and keeps you in constant misfortune.”
In other words…
“We do not bother looking to the outside.”
“We are only interested in the others inside Gremlin. A world that is distorted by our own infighting is like a house built on sand. Focusing on it is as meaningless as on a sandpainting that will be blown away by the wind. At this point, have you finally caught on that we mean no harm?”
The scale was simply too large.
It was like someone saying they would destroy the world using only the AIM diffusion fields. It was a proud announcement that there was more than just one of those special beings; there was an entire group where it was entirely normal.
If Kamijou had not known better, he might have reflexively argued back, but he knew the power of a true Magic God.
If multiple individuals with Othinus’s full power existed in a single world, he could see how they would end up in an unmanageable fight over their ideas of happiness.
In which case…
“Then why are you speaking with me? You aren’t interested in the outside world, right?”
“Buddhism contains the idea of the Six Paths.”
The High Priest began on a topic befitting the title he went by.
“That is the idea that all forms of life – whether human, animal, or deva – are reborn again and again as they aim to reach enlightenment. There is no escape, not even for a great priest in a temple or for a holy man who has nearly mastered his path, wears heavenly raiment, and flies through the sky. Except, that is, by achieving perfect buddhahood. No matter how praised one might be in this life, they could find themselves walking the path of a preta or animal in the next life. Of course, I achieved buddhahood in a single life, so I couldn’t tell you if that refers to the physical soul or if it is some kind of metaphor.”
“What do you mean?’
“You don’t know? The world is divided into different categories: human, animal, deva, preta. But there is no path allowed for those like us who are known as Magic Gods. Yet we did not rise to this position through the normal means, so the gates of the Pure Land or of heaven will not open for us.”
What did that mean the High Priest and the other Magic Gods wanted?
“A seventh path that is not contained by the six that already exist.”
The mummy continued without hiding anything.
“It can remain closed like a ring. It doesn’t matter if it is twisted like a Möbius strip. We simply want a category that contains us. When St. Germain instigated that boy named Aihana…or was it Kanou? Anyway, he brought up Excalibur, remember? This is similar. You could say we want a sheath to safely store the sword of such tremendous power.”
“No, that is limited to the human world. To put it on the level of a god, it might be better to call it Mímir’s head or the Scales of Anubis.”
“Was that too difficult for you? Basically, even the gods are said to have tools like scales or a compass that judge whether they are doing the right thing or not. And, Kamijou Touma, you may be that tool for us.”
It came out of nowhere, but the High Priest did not seem to be joking.
“I already said that we have no interest in the outside world. The different Magic Gods are fighting over the limited resources to decide what to do with the one and only world. Whether we peacefully talk it out or exchange blows, our actions could unintentionally shake destiny to the point that the outside world is destroyed. Even for us, there are areas where we do not know what should be done with the world and cannot tell where the world is headed. But what if we could provide a definite directional focus with a singular set of values?”
“Wait. You don’t mean…”
“Kamijou Touma, you are the one who stopped World War Three with a single fist and even worked out a compromise with the extreme irregularity known as Imagine Breaker. To be honest, it was a complete miscalculation that you saved Othinus ahead of time and reached an individual understanding of her, but you can do it, can’t you? Just like with that one-eyed god, you can use conversation to reach a conclusion with beings like us.”
Kamijou gradually caught on to what the High Priest was trying to say.
However, that understanding did not bring calm. In fact, it only brought a tense sweat and a racing pulse, as if he had been walking along blindfolded and was gradually realizing he was approaching the edge of a cliff.
“The gathering of Magic Gods known as Gremlin could also be called the keyboard connected to the world and to destiny. Simply having someone push or pull at it is enough to distort the current age. It isn’t an issue of any individual. We are all bringing about change. And we do so whether we continue forward or turn back. No, even doing nothing affects it.”
The High Priest smoothly spoke an unbelievable truth.
“That is why we want a canary in the coal mine. We wanted to set down our feet such that they would not cause anyone any trouble, but…oh? Have we truly not trampled on anyone and is everyone really equally happy? We need to know those answers from a smaller perspective, from one of the ants crawling on the earth.”
“I…can’t believe that.”
“We of course are not asking you to do it for free. If we leave the scoring to you, we can considerately make things easier for those close to you within acceptable bounds. This is much like a wish or a prayer with 100% chance of being granted. If you can freely control the distortions caused by the Magic Gods, you can achieve unlimited successes here in the real world. Hah hah. This sounds a lot like St. Germain’s nonsense. The boy who was chosen by the sword becomes the king who controls all.”
Kamijou Touma, who was constantly plagued with misfortune, would be able to control the world’s destiny.
It was an ironic proposal.
It sounded like a bad joke.
“You mean,” said Kamijou with a gulp. “Gremlin has no real interest in world domination. Nor do you intend to wipe out the human race. The Magic Gods living there will stay hidden away, living happily somewhere we’re entirely unaware of. That’s all you are?”
“And just by staying there, you influence our world, for better or for worse, so you want to do something about that. But what meaning is there in that for you Magic Gods? Why would you be worried about us humans?”
“We aren’t. Not really. We have no more goals anymore. We just want to bring about our own version of happiness and live as we wish. This is only about a slight concern.”
“You know in those…what do you call them? Net cafes? I recently learned about them, but it’s like the security in those. Even if you know the odds of a problem are small, don’t you still feel relieved when you see the ‘no threats found’ message pop up?”
“Relieved? That’s all this is for!? You’re talking about the Magic Gods possibly helping me and that’s all it’s about!?”
“That is also correct. It would be a problem if the ‘no threats found’ message was a complete lie, but anything else is fine. For example, if the security software itself takes over the memory and monitors all communications. We are willing to overlook such trivial matters to grant your selfish wishes. As I said before, this is a prayer that allows a human to interfere with the paths set by the gods. We may be weakened at the moment due to certain circumstances, but we can still likely create enough of a disturbance to save or destroy an individual, a nation, or a civilization. Do you understand now?”
That was all the High Priest said.
He was not making himself the king. He was a god placing a man on the throne.
“It seems St. Germain had partially decoded this much. He may have used pieces of it when lifting up that Kanou Shinka boy. But that is the extent of our goal. A certain sword once chose a king, St. Germain partially chose Kanou Shinka, and we have chosen you, Kamijou Touma. That said, there is no need to worry. We will not burden our scorer with the actions and responsibilities of a Magic God. We simply wish for the external evidence we need to rest easy. The same goes for the seventh path I mentioned earlier. I am not talking about some completely different realm. We simply want a formless sense of calm. It is nothing more than that.”
“Why did we choose you, you mean? I am not saying anything you have done caught our eye. That is getting it all backwards.”
“You might think the true Gremlin focused on you because you saved a girl, protected Academy City, ended World War Three, reached an understanding of Othinus, and brought calm back to a world boiling over with revenge. …But isn’t that backwards?”
The mummy cackled.
“From the very beginning, you were the scorer meant to view the world. You were the being hypothesized by us Magic Gods who are the gears of the world. That is why you worked toward a resolution without being thrown off track during those aforementioned incidents. Imagine Breaker is merely an addition to your true nature. Or rather, as the wish of all magicians was wandering aimlessly, it was drawn in by your true nature. You could call it a trivial interference. The name Kamijou Touma, or the One who Purifies Gods and Slays Demons, was not given to the power of your right hand. It was given to you, wasn’t it? Thus, the center of the issue is not the records of your past or the power in your right hand. It is you yourself.”
It was a baffling suggestion, but it may have been something one could only accept without question once reaching the level of that mummy.
“It is not leaving our blade with your right hand that will allow us to rest easy. We are leaving it with your nature – your spirit – that befits the name of the One who Purifies Gods and Slays Demons. Human child, think back to your very first goal. You should easily be able to score and regulate the true Gremlin.”
Was that right?
Or was it wrong?
Which was it here?
“And this is not a bad deal for you either,” smoothly continued the High Priest. “I said before that the various world-shaking incidents had occurred within your reach, but how many people were injured or lost on the way to those conclusions? You completed everything from beginning to end, but have you ever scored a perfect 100 as you did so? …But if you score us and you alter the world as you wish, the distortions brought by us Magic Gods can change that.”
That was likely true.
He only had to think back to Othinus. A single Magic God had done so very much, but he was being told he would receive unconditional assistance from every Magic God in the history of the world. The puny boy’s prayers would be placed on the rails set up by the gods. And there were no side-effects and he did not have to give anything up in exchange. It would all be accomplished from some distant place. The High Priest had said something about being weakened, but what did that matter?
Mostly any incident would be over in a single second.
In fact, would any incidents be allowed to begin in the first place?
“You will be the security software that gives us peace of mind when you tell us there is no problem and you will gain control of memory. You will literally receive access to the power of the gods and to destiny.”
It was a decisive statement.
“By controlling those distortions, you will indirectly be able to mimic being a Magic God. Your world will belong to you and your influence can cover this world in which six or seven billion people live. You can eliminate any tragedy before it occurs, no hatred will ever grow, and you will live in a world where everyone is happy and fulfilled. After World War Three and the business with Othinus, you should already know your decisions can influence the world. There is no reason to think too hard about it. You can simply think of it as gaining the ultimate trump card for everything you…no, everything the entire Kamijou Faction has been doing.”
Kamijou thought about everything that had happened.
He had lost his memories and he had been killed by Othinus, but he had still made it this far. The world may have been blown to smithereens, but he had still continued on to this day. But just as the High Priest had said, could he really say he had ever scored a perfect 100?
How many smiles of the unsaved had he seen in Othinus’s golden world?
Had that proven that the power of a Magic God really could save all of them?
Terra of the Left had died. Kihara Kagun had not been stopped. There was also the incident with Yakumi Hisako and Rensa. What had happened to the girls named Mitsuari Ayu and Frenda without his knowledge?
He had been oblivious to some things and he had been deceived. He only had one body, swinging his two arms had not always been enough to reach someone, and it had been impossible to save absolutely everyone even if he took the shortest route from beginning to end.
But what if he could do that?
It did not matter if it was cheating. He could nip any disaster in the bud and resolve any incident before it began. What if that dream of an option lay before him?
To wish was to make a wish.
To pray was to rely on a god.
The Magic Gods had approached him and held out their hand. If that truly was all this was…
The High Priest reached out his dried hand as if hoping for a handshake.
“Become our scorer and obtain the altar of the Magic Gods, Kamijou Touma.”
In response, the boy looked the High Priest directly in the eye and gave his answer.
The mummy’s hand remained in empty air.
He could be their scorer.
He could be the sheath for the ultimate sword.
An altar had been created for him, giving him the controls to the world, but Kamijou Touma rejected it all.
“What you’re talking about is no different from the happy world Othinus showed me in the very, very end. It may look perfect at first glance, but it’s really a reign of terror that forces your own values on everyone else. It’s no different from saying you can be happy in solitary confinement because they give you clothes, food, and shelter.”
“And your entire suggestion is based on the idea that people will end up fighting if you leave them be. You think that conflict needs to be eliminated ahead of time.”
Kamijou threw his words at the mummy.
“Who says that’s how it works? Maybe people won’t cause any major incidents without something out of the ordinary kicking it all off. Are you still going to monitor them 24/7/365 and crush them if they do anything that looks remotely suspicious? Even though they might have been sneaking around in the shadows to surprise their lover with a birthday present? That’s just going to cause new reasons for conflict! High Priest, what you’re suggesting is no different from burning people like straw and then stomping the fire out underfoot. How is that any different from an arsonist firefighter!?”
“Are you really claiming people are essentially good after everything you’ve seen? This is a little too unique to just call naïve, but that is exactly why I want you as our sheath and scorer. Perhaps it is exactly because you are not eager to accept that you are perfect for what we want.”
The High Priest actually seemed to be enjoying this turn of events.
“But this will not change the end result.”
“Are you saying I’ll change my mind?”
“Yes. It is merely a matter of sooner or later. Will you catch on before or after losing something? Isn’t that right? After rejecting our offer, you are sure to try to resolve the next incident that occurs. And that remains true whether you are aware of it or not. So will you fight the old-fashioned way and create needless damage or will you reach for the cheat codes right away and end it all with no one hurt? …The path you take may be a little different, but you will find yourself in the same place in the end. You will resolve the incident. The question is how many will have died along the way.”
“That is why I find it somewhat baffling why you would not take my hand. You stand before the path to a future where no one has died and everyone is smiling together, so why would you intentionally choose the path of death? And I am talking about the lives of those around you, not your own life.”
He already knew that, but he still felt dizzy.
This was a question unique to a Magic God. He had faced the same question in Othinus’s happy world. When faced with the ultimate paradise that seemed impossible for a single individual to achieve, his fragile mind had been swept away all too easily. That was what it meant to face a god.
But he could not let himself be deceived.
Back then, the Will had told him that there was a distortion even in that happy world where everyone seemed to have been saved. The puny human’s only weapons may have been selfishness and a desire to have things for himself, but he had been saved by the fact that people will risk their lives for worthless things like that.
When looking at the number of lives, the High Priest may have been right.
But his method stripped away everything but the lives. People could easily become puppets when faced with destiny. It was no different from shoving all six or seven billion people into a prison, giving them clothing, food, and shelter, and saying you had created an ideal society with no inequality, starvation, or poverty.
That might be ideal for the person grinning down from above.
It might be ideal for the puppeteer amusing himself by controlling the people desperately struggling from day to day.
If it continued for a century or two, it was possible no one would question it anymore. It would be just like goldfish that had been selectively bred to the point that they could not live in natural rivers. And if they did not question it, they might be satisfied with that twisted environment and they might think they were happy.
Index would, Misaka Mikoto would, Kazakiri Hyouka would, and Othinus would.
Everyone would, even if they did not meet the normal definition of human.
They would accept that happiness with a smile even though everything from the past had been rejected and even though they would die if they were thrown out of their aquarium of artificially supplied oxygen and thorough heat management.
“I can’t allow that…”
This may have been an illogical, inefficient, and meaningless complaint.
It may have been an imperfect and incomplete issue with no benefits whatsoever.
But whether he should unconditionally throw it out was another issue entirely.
For one thing, he had not clenched his teeth, formed a fist, and ran forward with all his might because he had wanted to make some kind of change.
He had wanted to preserve his unchanging days.
He had not wanted anything unnecessary.
He would have been satisfied getting along with the others while smiles were the norm and without anything being taken away for some absurd reason.
The High Priest was talking about ruling and managing the world, but even if that was a peaceful thing, it would only overturn the “normality” Kamijou Touma wanted.
He did not want to turn Index, Misaka Mikoto, and the others close to him into decorative tropical fish.
He did not need a wish or a prayer.
There were other ways to protect what was important.
“High Priest, I won’t go with you. It doesn’t matter how much power you’ll unconditionally lend me, I just can’t allow that future. And if anyone can give you what you want as long as they have what it takes to be your scorer, then I can’t just ignore this.”
“You said I could end any disaster before it began, but unfortunately, you look like a disaster-in-the-making to me. I can’t just ignore it when someone is willing to lend out enough power to rule the world!!”
After all, Kamijou Touma knew what that meant.
He had seen a Magic God’s power for himself.
He had seen it from alpha to omega.
That had not been a dream or an illusion. He truly had seen the long, long history of everything mankind had built up come crumbling down at the whim of a god. Knowing a Magic God was coming to destroy the world with that power was frightening enough, but it was even worse for them to hand that power over just because they were not interested in this world. Who could say who would take control of six or seven billion people for their own view of happiness. It was even possible all of those people would become dolls who did not even know they were being controlled.
“Hm. This is certainly a problem.”
The High Priest tilted his head with a dry cracking sound.
He looked like he was watching someone who did not know the rules make a ridiculous move in a game of go.
He seemed truly baffled as to how Kamijou had reached that conclusion.
“I already told you, didn’t I? It is a matter of sooner or later, of before or after you lose something.”
A moment later, something burst out from empty air beyond the metal fence behind the High Priest. They looked like two large trees quickly flying upwards, but they were not.
They were made of dirt or mud.
They almost looked like wings placed over the High Priest’s silhouette, but they were probably arms.
It may have been to match Kamijou’s right hand.
The High Priest sighed and tapped the rooftop floor with his golden sword.
“I truly cannot understand why you would choose to wait until after you have lost something.”
All of Kamijou’s hair bristled in alarm.
Something like a surge of electricity ran down his spine.
But it was too late.
One of the colossal arms swung down.
It did not hesitate to crush half of the school building made of reinforced concrete.
Kamijou’s vision and hearing were blown away.
He could not believe the sight before his eyes.
The sound of something hard crumbling sounded horribly far away. The sudden outcome was less like a bomb exploding and more like stepping on the edge of a candy box sitting on the ground. However, there would have been hundreds of students and teachers inside that box.
The High Priest spoke disinterestedly as he stood on the edge of the broken rooftop with exposed rebar hanging from the edge like willow branches.
“Not enough red. I see. That orientation thing is going on.”
(? Oh, I get it. They were all chasing after Tsuchimikado and me, so were they all gathered to one side of the building? That means they might not all be dead yet!!)
On a normal day of classes, the students would have been evenly crushed in their seats laid out like the boxes on graph paper.
“Not that it matters. If I swing down the other arm, I can crush the other half of the building. There will be no second miracle, boy.”
The High Priest crushed even that slight hope.
No, it was too obvious. He had probably intentionally set it up this way.
He was trying to shake Kamijou Touma’s resolve.
“Do you honestly think you can save them all with only Imagine Breaker? If so, you can reach an understanding after losing them. It is a matter of sooner or later. If you had taken my hand sooner and relied on the gods, this tragedy could have been avoided.”
With those words, the other giant arm began to move.
The rest of the school would be crushed like a candy box and hundreds of people really would be killed.
And all to rob Kamijou of the small world he pictured in his head.
The boy did indeed feel a fine, fine line burning into his mind.
Just before the giant arm of mud and dirt finished swinging down, Kamijou Touma ran straight toward the High Priest.
However, he did not clench his right fist and try to smash the mummy’s face in. The High Priest had already asked if he honestly thought he could save them all with only Imagine Breaker.
That was why Kamijou relied on something else.
He lowered his hips, hit the High Priest with his shoulder, and threw his entire body weight into him.
He did not hesitate to throw himself past the broken metal fence and off of the four story rooftop.
The sound of his feet kicking off the surface only seemed to reach him a second later.
For a brief moment, he felt like he was floating.
The threads of gravity soon captured him again and he felt the heavy force of inertia weighing down on his gut. He was beginning to fall. He had grabbed the High Priest’s light body so very tightly, but the mummy slipped from his grasp.
He did not even have time to scream.
A few trees grew alongside the school building. He collided with one of them, a ginkgo tree that had lost all of its leaves. He heard several branches breaking and his descent was slowed in exchange for some scrapes. Still, he did not come to a complete stop and he slammed into the ground.
“G-gbah!! Cough, cough!?”
He felt like someone had taken a saw to all of his skin, but the trouble breathing was even worse. No oxygen entered his body no matter how much he coughed and darkness quickly narrowed his vision. He still desperately worked at breathing and felt like a plug had come out deep in his throat. He coughed a large clump of dark red on the dirt and finally felt oxygen filling his lungs.
He reached for the tree trunk and slowly stood up while forcing his twitching eyelids to open.
They had not fallen in the same spot since he had let go of the mummy in midair.
That meant the High Priest’s momentum had not been slowed by the tree and he would have fallen directly to the ground.
Kamijou Touma saw an old man in a purple robe slowly stand up on the schoolyard several meters away.
But something was not right.
The mummy’s dried neck had completely broken and his head was lying horizontally. It shook as he moved, so it was reminiscent of a fruit still on the branch after it had rotted too much for even the birds to touch it.
And yet he was still laughing.
He truly seemed to be enjoying himself.
“Kah kah! Kah kah kah kah kah kah kah kah kah kah kah kah kah kah kah kah kah kah kah kah kah kah kah kah kah kah kah kah kah kah kah kah kah kah kah kah kah kah kah kah kah kah kah kah kah kah kah kah kah kah kah kah kah kah kah!!”
He used his dried hands to support his shaking head and casually twisted it back into place. He showed no sign of feeling pain or of fearing the destruction of his body.
He was different.
He was bizarre.
(This is hopeless…)
Kamijou deduced that via intuition rather than reason.
“Ahh, ahh. It has been far too long since I felt something like this. Who would have thought losing so much power and being made imperfect would feel so refreshing? I should probably thank ‘him’ for this.”
It had been the same with Othinus.
When she had used her crossbow in that pitch-black world, she had killed Kamijou Touma by piercing through herself along with him.
(This isn’t normal. I’ve seen plenty of nearly immortal people, but this is completely different. This isn’t a kind of defense that makes him immortal. After being so badly damaged, he’s actually enjoying that he was damaged for the first time in so long!!!???)
This was no time to sit around listening to him.
A single right fist was not enough to defeat him. Sticking around would only get the others at the school caught up in it all. And if they were captured by the High Priest, it would only be a matter of time before they were incorporated into that scorer nonsense.
He pictured the faces of Index, Misaka Mikoto, and all the others close to him.
He imaged a horrible conclusion where they were essentially thrown into an oxygen-supplied and heat-controlled aquarium and made into decorative tropical fish.
(I can’t let that happen!!)
He made up his mind quickly.
The High Priest was only interested in him.
(I need to draw him away from here. I can’t let him destroy the school any further with those huge mud arms. And once I do that, I need a more fundamental solution to this Magic God!!)
“Over here, High Priest!! C’mon!!”
He spun around to turn his back and he took off running. He had no idea where his goal was, but he had to lead the High Priest away.
“Kah kah!! It is merely a matter of sooner or later, but are you that intent on putting it off until later!? That’s fine, though. I will go along with your games, our sheath and our scorer. You will become our as-yet unseen seventh path and the physical form of our formless peace of mind. My power as a Magic God is currently limited and I only retain one thin layer of the power piled up like the infinite layers of an onion or matryoshka doll. But infinitely dividing that infinite power still leaves me with enough power to just barely be contained in this world!!!!!”
Kamijou did not have time to respond to everything he heard behind him.
He ran with all his might.
He just about tripped over the cracks in the sidewalk’s asphalt caused by the previous attack. Instead of the front gate, he ran to the parking lot to the side of the school. Kamijou usually walked to school, but on this day, he knew he could find the acrobike that Komoe-sensei had overzealously prepared for them.
The back wheel was locked, but he easily broke the lock by stomping on it a few times.
He pulled out a type of electrically assisted bicycle, but it did not have a basket on the front for shopping. It was based on a mountain bike, there were special gyros on either side of the wheels, and most of the metal frame had thick suspension attached.
It was an acrobike.
Its predecessors had been used for tricks at circuses and the like, but its electrical assistance gave it a top speed of fifty kph and the springs of its suspension allowed it to jump higher than two meters. However, Kamijou was not exactly an expert at using it. He had only read the documents Komoe-sensei had provided and watched some amazing tricks performed on video sites.
He frantically climbed onto the bicycle and prepared to leave the school, but he was interrupted.
“Ah! What happened to you!? You’re all beat up!!”
“Misaka, what are you doing here?”
“Were you hurt in that accidental collapse just now!? Mutter, mutter (M-my Railgun didn’t cause that, did it? This makes it hard to ask about that love letter.)”
Kamijou immediately looked away from her.
On the schoolyard, the High Priest’s dry skin split apart. He was prepared to rush in at any moment. Kamijou had no idea how fast the mummy was, but he immediately knew he could not get his hopes up about that.
There was no time to explain the situation.
“Dammit. Get on the back, Misaka!!”
“I’ll explain later. At this rate, you’ll be taken out, too!!”
There was no signal gun to indicate the beginning of the race.
To check on the acrobike’s abilities and to build up his initial speed, Kamijou tried one of the cycle arts he had seen in a video while bored.
(I lock the front wheel, pedal as hard as I can, place the back wheel on the ground, and release the brakes to unleash the power!!)
This was the R Dash.
The acrobike was released with tremendous speed, just like an arrow fired from a drawn bow.
To escape the Magic God known as the High Priest, Kamijou and Mikoto shot toward the school’s main gate on the electrically-assisted acrobike.
Cycle Arts Collection 1
Using the acrobike for tightrope walking. Includes everything from literally crossing a rope to using guardrails, railings, or other narrow surfaces. It looks tricky, but it is not actually very difficult since it almost entirely relies on the gyros. Using slanted surfaces like the railings of stairs or escalators goes by another name.
A cycle art using the gyro functionality. First, pedal like normal to build up speed. Turn the handlebars perpendicular to your direction of movement, tilt yourself in the opposite direction of your movement, and continue forward with the acrobike tilted at over fifty degrees. The trick is to go all out in turning the handlebars. And be careful because tilting the acrobike too far will scrape your leg against the ground.
Probably the easiest cycle art. Keep the front wheel locked and pedal with all your might. After accumulating energy between the back wheel and the ground, unlock the front wheel and make an intense start dash. Instead of using it on its own, this cycle art is meant to be the initial action in preparation for other cycle arts. It can build up speed without needing a lengthy approach, so it can lead to some surprisingly high-level tricks.
Between the Lines 1
Buddhist self-mummification seems like a truly unique form of achieving buddhahood.
A Buddhist priest digs into the dirt to create a small underground room and then climbs inside of his own free will. Afterwards, he completely fills in the one exit except for an opening to allow air in. Until the final moment, he meditates, rings a small bell, and chants sutras. That is more or less the process.
As a method of creating mummies, there is nothing all that special about it.
Buddhist self-mummification is a method of testing one’s faith and ensuring it does not waver even in a crisis.
And that is why there is actually one final and uninteresting step to the Buddhist self-mummification.
A few weeks or months after the beginning of the ceremony, when the priest inside will clearly have passed away, the other priests dig back up that underground entrance.
Then they check on him.
They inspect the thoroughly dried-up corpse of the priest. Is there any fear of death or pain of hunger in his posture or expression? Has anywhere crumbled or decayed even slightly? Only after their perfection has been confirmed is the priest considered to have achieved buddhahood.
That raises a question, though.
What if his buddhahood is not accepted?
Simply put, he does not achieve buddhahood. He is treated like the corpse of a failure.
But do a few dozen lower priests who have not achieved enlightenment really have a way of accurately checking whether a higher priest has achieved enlightenment or not?
And in an age when the government and religion were closely linked, there was also the issue of factions. Based on the influence between different factions, some would interfere because it would be a problem for the other faction’s priest to achieve buddhahood.
Buddhahood through self-mummification cannot be completed by the priest himself. Possessing power is not the condition needed to achieve buddhahood. It includes a roundabout system in which it is only complete once the others watching on have “accepted” it.
You might not want to believe it, but at times, some might have secretly paid bribes to ensure a certain priest did not achieve buddhahood no matter what.
What if there was an old man who really should have achieved buddhahood?
What if those around him stubbornly refused to accept it?
If this priest had gained the “power” that came with successful self-mummification but was not accepted as a buddha, just what kind of being would he have become?