Toaru Majutsu no Index:NT Volume13 Chapter 2
Chapter 2: Run, or Die — Chase_With_the_Girl.
Kamijou drove toward the school’s main gate with Mikoto on the back seat. Instead of straddling the seat like you were supposed to, Mikoto sat in a more ladylike sideways style, but this was not just because she had an understanding of elegance.
It was harder to balance, but she could check behind them without having to twist around. That would give her a better chance of fighting back against the mysterious old man (Is that what he was?) pursuing from behind.
The thick sliding chain-link gate was closed, but Kamijou pushed his weight down on the acrobike and used the electronically-controlled suspension springs to send the bicycle leaping upwards. This was the cycle art known as the Jumper and it allowed them to clear the gate in no time at all. The ridiculously thick documentation Komoe-sensei had handed out proved useful after all.
However, this was no time to be appreciating that fact.
“Hold on, Misaka!!”
They landed with ferocious speed and were about to run into the wall on the opposite side. They did not have time to make a drifting turn.
The girl’s arms tightened as they held on around his waist.
Kamijou completely locked the front wheel, lifted up the back wheel and the back seat Mikoto sat on, and twisted the entire acrobike around on the locked front wheel. This was the Flail Turn and it was used to make a turn with almost no lost circular distance.
Even as an amateur, Kamijou had pulled it off without toppling over, but that was testament to the acrobike’s specs, not to his own skill.
The front wheel let out a scream and they safely made the turn. Then they raced forward again.
A brief moment later, the thick gate was blasted outward even though it had to weigh several hundred kilograms.
The almost explosive sound of destruction came from more than just the gate being broken. The flying piece of metal collided with and embedded itself in the back of a truck driving down the road.
And it did not end there.
The purple-robed mummy gave a joking cry as he ran through the destroyed gate. His brakes must not have been working because he also slammed right into the back of the truck. He broke all the way through, burst out into the opposite lane, and made the turn with the ground audibly scraping away beneath his feet.
A sports car drove straight toward him in the opposite lane, but he used a single hand to toss it aside and into the wall.
He ignored it all and continued his pursuit of Kamijou and Mikoto.
He easily ignored the limits of his dried mummy’s body. The dried skin split as he ran full speed with the form of a sprinter.
“He’s messing with us!!!!”
With the help of the electric motor, Kamijou pedaled the acrobike with all his might. Its top speed was over fifty kph, but their distance from the High Priest was not growing. It was unclear whether he was taking this seriously or not. In fact, Kamijou doubted there were any obvious conditions for victory in a battle against a Magic God. Even now, he felt like the mummy was just having some fun.
It was like an elementary school teacher challenging his students to a back hip circle contest to show the children how amazing he was in a way they would understand.
Was this fight simply to make Kamijou understand the situation?
Kamijou also felt Misaka Mikoto had to be utterly bewildered after being caught up in this so suddenly. Even if she would not know this was the work of magic or a Magic God, it would not be surprising for her to have given up trying to understand when an obvious mummy was chasing them while knocking aside cars.
Curious, he focused on her as she wrapped her arms around his torso from behind.
“(Wow… We’re on a bike together. I’m riding a bike with a boy! Eh? Eh? What’s going on here? This isn’t a drama and it isn’t a movie. O-oh, no. If I’d known this was going to happen, I’d definitely have worn a white dress. Ahh…)”
Mikoto had been speaking her strange ramblings aloud, but she rebooted a moment later.
“Ny-nyothing!! And what is that thing!? Is it alive or is it a stuffed animal with a robot skeleton inside!?”
“It’s probably alive. But getting caught by it is a really bad idea!!”
Even if the anti-crime orientation was underway, they were lucky it was a weekday.
Eighty percent of Academy City’s residents were some kind of student.
Even if the city streets were their stage, the odds were much lower that anyone else would be caught up in all this as the High Priest pursued them.
Mikoto tried to understand the situation using the severely inadequate information available to her.
First, she looked behind them.
“So that’s the enemy.”
“He’s trying to harm us.”
“I think that’s pretty obvious!”
“Then what exactly are we going to do!? If we do nothing, he’ll harm us, but if we keep running around, there’s a chance some unrelated people will get caught in the middle!!”
(Yeah, that’s right, dammit. We have to do something!!)
Kamijou clenched his teeth and made a right-angle turn onto a smaller road. He then took another right-angle turn into an alley. He made more and more turns. He barely lost any speed, created burning friction as the tires slid along the ground, and raced through what was more of a gap than an actual pathway.
“He’s still following us! This isn’t enough to lose him!”
“Not good,” muttered Kamijou.
They were moving at about sixty kph. That might not sound like much compared to Saints who could break the sound barrier, but Kamijou felt an unpleasant sweat seeping from his back.
The two could not be compared so simply.
In fact, one way of looking at it made the High Priest far more frightening.
It was true a Saint’s athletic ability was a threat. They truly did live in the same world as bullets and could dodge one after seeing it flying through the air. In a head-to-head confrontation, there was no way Kamijou could beat them with the physical strength of a high school boy. That was like a barrier in his way.
But at the same time, Saints were too powerful.
One could say that they were at the mercy of their own strength.
They could achieve supersonic speeds with their own body, so what would happen if someone set up piano wire and escaped using countless sharp turns? It might not apply to all Saints, but at least a few of them would self-destruct by decapitating themselves or flattening themselves against a wall. The Saints pushed themselves and pushed themselves further to draw out their strength, so using their physical bodies to their fullest was a way of triggering their own self-destruction. It almost made one suspect that the greatest threat to a Saint was their own strength and not some external enemy.
Ridiculous laughter reached them from behind.
The High Priest showed no sign of pushing himself and pushing himself further. Kamijou was turning corner after corner and choosing all the narrowest paths to make him self-destruct, but he made all the turns accurately and pursued them just as accurately. That was what frightened Kamijou the most.
There was a slight difference here.
Saints drew out incredible power from their human body, but Magic Gods had taken a step away from having a human body.
“I guess this isn’t gonna cut it. We can’t just wait for him to self-destruct! Do we have to attack him!?”
“Attack? But how are we supposed to-…kyah!?”
The tires slid across the ground and the acrobike left the narrow alley and returned to the main road.
Kamijou glanced around, took a wider view as if taking a step back, and made up his mind.
He could move in all 360 degrees.
But with the acrobike, his freedom of movement was not limited to the ground.
“Hold on, Misaka!!”
He intentionally pressed down with his weight and the electronically-controlled suspension sank deep down.
He used the reaction to jump.
He jumped four or five meters straight up and his eyes met with a young man working on a window-washer’s platform.
“Sorry, but I’ll be borrowing this!!”
Kamijou took the bucket the surprised young man had been using and dumped the cleaning solution across the street below.
The acrobike landed at pretty much the same time as the High Priest left the narrow alleyway.
His laughter grew distorted.
His feet slipped as he made the sharp turn to continue pursuit.
He fell onto his side and tumbled from the sidewalk to the road. It all happened in an instant once he lost his balance. He rolled along the file-like asphalt with tremendous speed, as if being pulled by an invisible wire.
If it had occurred in a school hallway, it might have been funny.
However, it was happening here at sixty kph. This was no different from being dragged along the road with your clothing caught on the bottom of a truck.
An unpleasant scraping noise continued for quite some time.
The High Priest’s dried body flew to the opposite lane and collided with an illegally parked sports car. The impact was powerful enough to bend the metal door, cover the glass with cracks, and trigger the shrill car alarm.
Kamijou threw on the acrobike’s brakes and twisted around to check behind him.
“Did that get him!?”
Even as he said that, he was aware of another point of view rationally observing his heart.
It was telling him this was an empty and weightless desire.
It was telling him he knew the truth deep down.
No one equal to or more powerful than Othinus would be taken out by a trick like that.
A great noise exploded out.
Instead of dislodging himself from the door, the High Priest lifted the entire sports car overhead using one of those giant mud arms.
The arm acted just like an arm.
It threw the mass of metal toward Kamijou and Mikoto like it was just a brick.
Kamijou frantically turned the handlebars, quickly pedaled the bike, and somehow managed to escape the giant fast ball.
In what looked like some kind of joke, the purple-robed High Priest formed the crouching pose of a runner.
Then the giant arm roared in behind him.
It placed itself below the High Priest’s very first step and launched the dried mummy horizontally like a frighteningly primitive catapult.
The concept of distance meant nothing.
It was all compressed in an instant.
To move even a little bit further away, Kamijou turned his back and tried to race onward. Mikoto was still sitting sideways behind him.
However, the High Priest instantly shot by over her head and performed a side flip to rotate around in midair. It looked more like a way to orient himself than to reduce his momentum.
With a very light sound, his feet landed right in the middle of the acrobike’s T-shaped handlebars.
“Ho ho. Is that all you have, Kamijou Touma?”
He used his golden sword instead of a staff.
He may have had no intent of stabbing Kamijou with it, but its sharp point was still swaying right in front of the boy’s face.
“Then I suppose it is time to harvest the-…”
It was more than just a whim that led the High Priest to stop speaking.
In this hopeless situation, Kamijou had begun pedaling the acrobike with all his might and quickly produced speeds on the level of a motorcycle.
But that was not enough to shake off a Magic God.
The real reason he had stopped speaking was much more obvious.
With an almost comical noise, the back of his head collided with an electronic sign jutting out from a multi-tenant building.
Ironically, it was the very fact that he was a Magic God that allowed this to be laughed off as harmless.
With a surprise attack at this speed, a normal human’s head would have been split open if not torn clean off. The same could be said of a Saint.
The sign’s neon tubes burst, scattering brilliant sparks everywhere. The High Priest wobbled and then fell from the acrobike. This time, Kamijou did not foolishly ask if that had done it. Instead, he pedaled with all his might.
“Dammit. What are we going to do? We’ll just be summoning that monster to wherever we run to, so what do we do now!?”
“Hey, wait! Look!!”
Mikoto seemed to be pointing at something while pressing up against his back.
Kamijou caught on only after twisting around, seeing where she was pointing, and looking in that direction.
By then, several special vehicles had already passed by the acrobike on either side.
“Anti-Skill!? Those idiots!!”
He brought the acrobike to a sudden stop as he shouted out.
A moment later, a far-too reckless clash between human and Magic God began.
“Withdraw!? What are you talking about!? I just got here! Target D1 is right in front of me!!”
Just as the first group rushed in, an Anti-Skill member who had arrived a little late shouted angrily into his vehicle’s radio. He felt so dizzy by what he was hearing that he parked on the curb to focus on the conversation.
“Those are our orders,” said his commander over the radio. “It seems we don’t have enough firepower with us. I don’t like it either, but orders are orders!! Did you hear that, Shiosai!!”
“I can’t accept that. We’ve already received reports of the damage D1 has caused. How can we do nothing when we know how dangerous-…”
He trailed off because of a shadow.
At first the Anti-Skill member named Shiosai was unable to comprehend the sight before his eyes. No, his mind was rejecting it and giving up.
Several special vehicles had rushed in at their target.
They had carried quite a few well-equipped Anti-Skill members.
But not one of them escaped.
It looked like a toy cracker bursting.
Everything was blown in every direction so easily that none of the metal and composite armor seemed to have any weight.
Shiosai stared blankly for a moment, but he knew what that shadow was.
It was an identical model of special vehicle flying toward him in a parabolic arc.
He frantically opened the driver’s side door and tumbled out. The other vehicle hit a moment later. His waxed and sparkling vehicle was crushed, all of the glass shattered, and its original form was lost. The other vehicle stabbed vertically through it like a gravestone.
It was surprising the vehicle did not explode.
Shiosai was in a daze, but he heard his commander’s (surprisingly calm given the situation) voice coming from the vehicle’s radio that seemed to still be functioning.
“Can you hear me, Shiosai! Withdraw! Did you get that!? We’re going to respond to D1 with an unmanned unit made up of HsAFH-11s and HsWAV-15s!! If you don’t want to spread the damage, then fall back!!”
“The Six Wings and the Ten Legs?”
Like having a half-healed scab peeled off, the situation dawned on him.
“Those are meant for war!! What is that old man!?”
There was of course no answer.
Instead, several unmanned attack helicopters flew through the blue sky as if to mock his obsolete physical labor. Several problem-control armored vehicles passed by Shiosai. Instead of just heavy machineguns, those vehicles had tank-like turrets attached on top.
But even all that was not enough.
The deep explosion sounded almost empty. The thoroughly-calculated optimal destruction was crushed by something greater and more hopeless. First, a tower-like arm burst from the earth, lifted up an armored vehicle like a toy car, and threw it. Sparks flew through the air near one of the Six Wings and it seemed to take some kind of defensive action, but there was nothing it could do against such a primitive form of attack. The vehicle collided with it and they both fell intertwined to the ground.
One after another, those optimal weapons were crushed, brought down, or blown up.
Shiosai felt the overwhelming insanity before him further peeling away the scab on his heart.
The color white flashed through the back of his mind.
He recalled the snowy plains of Russia.
During the battle known as World War Three, he had seen similar insanity that the official side of science was helpless against.
When he compared the two, all strength left his body.
His hips gave out.
He had realized the truth.
(Has this city truly entered an age of war?)
At that moment, an acrobike passed by with enough speed to rip apart Shiosai’s resignation.
Someone yelled at the top of their lungs.
Kamijou’s mind was boiling over.
It may have been misdirected. It may have been strange to get angry at this.
But with the High Priest’s power, he should have been able to settle this peacefully. Regardless, he had intentionally chosen violence. He had chosen it, kicked them about, and mocked them.
Anti-Skill’s special vehicles had been stabbed through and the unmanned attack helicopters and armored vehicles had been kicked about like toys in some hellish sandbox.
One of the helicopters had not exploded after falling to the surface and its rotor was flailing wildly like a pinwheel firework. It was a step away from ripping apart some injured Anti-Skill members like a juicer, but Kamijou made a large leap with the acrobike.
He jumped over the attack helicopter rampaging across the ground.
Mikoto controlled magnetism to redirect the helicopter. The rotor spun rapidly at only ten centimeter intervals, but it missed the collapsed Anti-Skill members and passed by next to them.
Meanwhile, Kamijou held a thick wire in his hand.
He had borrowed it from the side of a crushed armored vehicle. As soon as he landed, he threw the end toward the High Priest so it would loosely wrap around the mummy’s neck.
Gravity took care of the rest.
The wire had drawn a gentle, sloping arc along the path Kamijou had taken, but now it fell right on top of the still-raging attack helicopter that Mikoto had just barely shifted out of the way.
The rotor and wire came into contact.
Orange sparks flew.
In a certain southeastern Asian country, there was a form of torture known as “The Helicopter”.
As its name suggested, the victim’s hands were tied together and attached to the end of a helicopter rotor. Then, the engine was revved higher and higher. It was a rare form of torture that took advantage of centrifugal force, but it was difficult to control and it was common for the victim to die before they could provide the necessary information.
However, the cruelty was further increased here.
After all, this helicopter was lying on its side.
On each quick rotation, the High Priest’s dried body was slammed into the asphalt and then flung up into the sky before he could even feel the pain.
The intense thrashing only left him visible as an afterimage and the scene was almost comical in an inappropriate way.
However, not even this was enough for Kamijou to feel even a fragment of relief.
He shouted to the Anti-Skill members on the ground.
“This is dangerous, so get back!!”
The Anti-Skill members may have thought he meant they would be caught up in the rotating rotor and wire, but the next thing he said destroyed that common way of thinking.
“That isn’t enough to kill that High Priest…that Magic God!!”
“S-s-s-s-s-s-s-so you understand-and-and-and-and-and.”
This was not quite the Doppler Effect. The reply had a silly ring to it like a small child speaking into a fan.
However, no one was going to laugh at this.
They were faced with a threat that could treat this much violence like a joke.
Some of the Anti-Skill members’ eyes rolled back in their head and they fainted.
Kamijou honestly felt that staying there would be dangerous for everyone.
“C’mon, High Priest!!”
“Ho hoiiiii!! But of course!! Now, let us fight! It is time you got to know another Magic God! But don’t worry. Once it is all over and the distance between us has dropped to zero, you will be a part of us and become our scorer!!”
As Kamijou resumed his serious flight on the acrobike, the High Priest tore apart the attack helicopter’s rotor, swung the wire around, and threw the rotor like a hunting boomerang.
It was not over yet.
This was only the beginning.
(Friction doesn’t work, busting his head open with a sign doesn’t work, Anti-Skill’s bullets and shells don’t work, and strapping him to a helicopter rotor and slamming him into the ground at over 1000 rpm doesn’t do a thing!! It all seems so surreal, but I guess a Magic God really is a Magic God. Even a Saint or member of God’s Right Seat tries to protect themselves from an attack coming their way. Even the #1 deflects the attacks. But this guy doesn’t do anything to defend himself! So how am I supposed to reach his level!?)
Unfortunately, Kamijou did not have a trump card to use here.
That was when Mikoto spoke to him from the back seat.
“Hey, wait! Hey!”
“What is it, Misaka!?”
“I get that this is some abnormal monster. I get that he’s after us and that ignoring him is bad news! But I have a suggestion!!”
“We have another abnormal monster right here!!”
“W-wait, you don’t mean…! Don’t be stupid!!”
“We can’t just run away. We have to fight. We have to do what we can to stop him here!!”
Kamijou felt the girl’s arms slip from around his waist, but there was nothing he could do. Unlike with a car, a bicycle or motorcycle generally required the cooperation of the person in the back seat.
There was nothing he could do if she chose to hop off herself.
Her hips rose from the seat and she left the acrobike as casually as stepping down from a swing. The soles of her leather shoes pressed down on the asphalt that seemed to be scrolling by below. She may have been using her power to help because she forcefully came to a stop quite quickly.
She turned around and prepared to attack the High Priest.
Kamijou clicked his tongue and frantically performed a Flail Turn to bring the acrobike to a stop and turn 180 degrees. He was staring in the opposite direction from before.
Mikoto seemed to understand that this was not a normal enemy. She did not use a lightning spear or iron sand sword as a warning and skipped straight to pulling out an arcade coin.
She was using her Railgun.
This attack was her namesake. The cruel attack produced unequaled destruction by firing a piece of metal at three times the speed of sound. The friction of the air was so great that the coin itself would melt into orange and vaporize after traveling fifty meters.
But as soon as the High Priest swung his dried arm horizontally, the unleashed strike was deflected directly to the side.
Mikoto was dumbfounded, but Kamijou did not look at all surprised.
Before even thinking about winning, it was miraculous enough to be having a fight with a true Magic God in the first place.
The High Priest did not even stop running.
He had deflected a true Railgun blast as casually as shooing away a fly. One of the reinforced concrete buildings lining the road broke from its base and approached the road.
Another tree-like arm of mud grew behind the mummy.
It broke out through the asphalt and grabbed the building.
He did not use it for defense.
Just as Mikoto tried to say something, the twenty-story building was swung down like a tree branch.
When an explosive noise crossed a certain line, it actually brought silence.
It was like an intense roar blowing out the small flames crackling here and there. It was like a swollen star losing to its own gravity, exploding, and forming a black hole.
Existence that brought worry and hesitation would lead to nothingness when it grew too large.
This was the realm of impermanence.
It was the Buddhist path to enlightenment that the High Priest had walked.
A nearby crosswalk continuously emitted a cuckoo’s cry to warn the visually impaired.
An airship flew slowly through the blue sky and the large screen on its belly played some news about the Arrowhead Comet that only approached once every 1700 years.
As he swung down an entire building with his giant mud arm, the High Priest finally came to a stop.
He had caused a frightening amount of destruction, but he hardly considered that worth focusing on at this point.
His eyes were on the building itself.
He had swung it down with such great force, but it had not crumbled to pieces or split in two. The building’s structure remained entirely intact.
Of course, that was not due to the strength of the reinforced concrete.
This seemingly mysterious phenomenon had a legitimate explanation.
“Quite the interesting trick. Is that magnetism?”
He thought he heard a voice from beyond the building.
“If you hadn’t done this, I wouldn’t have had to go to all this trouble. If I hadn’t done anything, who knows what would have happened to everyone inside the building.”
“Hah hah!! I see, I see. So you are here to save the people! That would mean you did more than catch it with magnetism. You must have added in a variety of tricks to make sure the people inside weren’t smashed to-…”
He did not have time to finish speaking.
He thought he heard someone kicking off the ground and Tokiwadai’s Ace jumped on top of the side wall of the building that was tilted on its side like a club.
She could not have circled around the building while supporting it.
(Was that voice a fake? Did she vibrate a thin metal panel like with a telephone? Even if she had supported it from below, shards of glass would have rained down on her.)
Something snapped from Mikoto’s arm like a whip.
It was a vibrating collection of iron sand. She first used it to sever the base of the giant arm supporting the building and then she sent it after the High Priest himself.
“Watch out there. That’s dangerous.”
He sounded entirely unconcerned.
At the same time, the ground split open again and another giant arm burst out.
It pulled up another building and responded to the iron sand sword.
He did it all as casually as someone grabbing a chair or fire extinguisher when a suspicious person entered the school. That was all it took for him to use a building full of dozens or even hundreds of people like a disposable tool.
“This guy!!” roared Mikoto after she unintentionally slammed her whip-like iron sand sword into the building.
The High Priest did not seem to care.
“Now then, young lady. There are a number of ways to save people.”
“The people inside this building will die without pain or fear, not knowing what happened to them. Isn’t that one form of salvation?”
As he spoke, the High Priest grabbed more and more buildings and threw them.
Not even Mikoto could hold back all of this. She focused her powers on saving lives by pulling water pipes and rebar from the buildings as cushions that were meant to be broken through, but it was unclear how long she could keep it up. She tried to stop and support the buildings while fighting to prevent the “contents” from being crushed, but more and more buildings were piled on top.
She could not say just how many people would be crushed inside if she made a single mistake.
(Not good! If this keeps up, I’ll be crushed underneath it all!!)
Mikoto suddenly swung her iron sand sword, but not to attack the High Priest.
She cut into the ground below his feet and sent him falling into the subway tunnel below.
The mummy actually laughed.
He sank down with the calm of an old man delightedly and intentionally falling for the pitfall his first grandchild had made.
The dozen or so seconds this gave Mikoto allowed her to somehow use her magnetism to set down the pile of buildings.
That was when she heard tires tearing into the ground behind her.
As soon as she noticed it, she was scooped off her feet, starting from her heels. Kamijou had approached from behind and used the acrobike’s Sliding to sweep her feet out from under her and force her onto the back seat.
“That’s why I was saying we can’t attack him head on!!” he shouted. “Even if he’s been weakened to a billionth or a trillionth of his full power, a Magic God is still a Magic God! Now grab on! He’ll be coming after us right away!!”
A dull sound reached them.
The ground swelled up. Both the earth and asphalt crumbled and something approached them like a shark’s fin out at sea.
“W-wait! What is that!? Wah, wah, wah, wah, wah!!”
As soon as Kamijou righted the acrobike and began to flee, the earth split open.
The High Priest burst out with his dried arms spread wide.
Two open palms lay below him. The massive arms of mud seemed to decorate the Magic God’s arrival like giant flowers.
“What will you do now, Kamijou Touma?”
The mummy gently placed his feet on the ground.
“I told you at the beginning that you are going to catch on sooner or later.”
He charged toward them with the force of a rocket engine.
Akikawa Mie remained silent while flipped upside down. She had shoulder-length black hair and a tan that was healthy but a little unusual for December. She wore fairly subdued lip balm and her nails were covered in nearly transparent polish. She wanted to assert herself, but she did not want anyone around her to notice and say so. It was adorable how one could catch a glimpse of that conflicting state of mind. She wore a white long-sleeved sailor uniform, a miniskirt adventurously shortened just a bit more than average, and a mint green cardigan tied around her waist by the sleeves. The cardigan was less meant to fight the cold and more meant to keep anyone from seeing up her skirt when she climbed any stairs. A three thousand yen sports bag hung from her shoulder. She mostly looked like a normal middle school girl, but the problem was her posture.
Whether you wanted to call it a pile driver, a backdrop, or a German suplex, she looked like she had just been on the receiving end of a dramatic professional wrestling move. Her legs were spread wide and her butt was sticking up toward the sky, so it was not a pose a young maiden should be making. And what had happened to the aforementioned cardigan? We can keep it a secret that her panties alone were a little too “adult” for her age.
She wondered how this had happened.
Then it came back to her. There had not been any normal classes due to the anti-crime orientation and the police officers, hostages, and criminals could move freely between schools to gather points. However, she had been entirely uninterested in that, so she had seen it as a lucky chance to skip school and take a break. She had been inside this commercial building because her mother had asked her to bring her father his lunch.
But then something confusing had happened.
The entire building had flipped upside down.
Not even she could give a good explanation of why it had happened, but it was the truth and there was nothing else to say. And she was not the only one having difficulty there.
“Again! How am I supposed to believe you when you tell me that? The building flew? It stabbed upside down into the ground? Our employees know the basics of construction and design, don’t they? Do you have any idea how many hundreds of tons a twenty-five story building is!?”
“Yes, yes. You are exactly right. But, well…”
“If you’re falling behind in your work, at least come up with a better excuse. I will be reporting this to the higher ups. And besides, Akikawa-san, you were the one that made that mistake in ordering the liquid materials, so…”
Still upside down, she turned toward the voices and saw her father bowing with a troubled expression and a cellphone to his ear. He was polite even when the other man could not see it. He was the one who had been caught up in some kind of incident(?), so why did he have to apologize? Once the TV and internet news picked up on it, everyone would know he was telling the truth. But Mie had a feeling that man on the phone would not apologize even then.
Why had this happened?
When had the rails veered off course?
She could not remember in the slightest no matter how long she stared at those glasses, that comb over, and that too-skinny back.
Her sigh was much colder than she had expected.
Sitting here was not going to help, so she got up from her upside down position and brushed off her butt and back. Her father gave her an apologetic glance, but he quickly returned to subconsciously bowing. She waved his way and then left. She had completed her mission of bringing him his lunch.
Shards of glass were scattered here and there, but she still walked along that fairly dangerous hallway (while technically using the ceiling). At the same time, she pulled out her own cellphone and called her mother.
“I finished my errand. I got caught up in some pretty amazing trouble, though.”
“I heard! The building flew through the air and stabbed upside down into the ground! At first I thought it was from a rival meant to disturb us, but it sounds like it’s for real. Did you see it happen?”
“I’m inside actually.”
Her mother apparently could not ignore that, but Akikawa Mie waved her hand dismissively.
After she did, she realized that was not much different from her father bowing over the phone.
“It amazes me too, but both dad and I are fine. He seems to be having trouble explaining what happened to his company, though.”
“Ah ha ha. I can imagine.”
“I really only see his lame side.”
Her voice grew unintentionally dark and heavy.
It sounded like she was asking why her mother had married him when she was a jewelry designer, earned more than five times what he did, and had enough influence to take part in a project to retrieve a new jewel from the Arrowhead Comet.
But that did not seem to bother her mother who replied immediately.
“That’s because the vaults your father builds protect the jewelry I create. You may not know it, but he’s full of amazing charm.”
Her true thoughts slipped out.
Still, her mother continued as normal, as if to say their bond was not weak enough to be harmed by that.
“Personally, I think a polished vault is a lot prettier than the contents. Jewelry is just a decoration. Literally. Rubies and sapphires aren’t expensive because they’re rare or because of their red or blue shine. They’re only so expensive because people give them that value added.”
Akikawa Mie thought that was getting too complicated for a middle school girl like herself.
“That’s right. I’m currently working on a liquid diamond project. At five hundred carats, they’re worth six trillion yen.”
“That number sounds like something from a national budget.”
“Ah ha ha! We can inflate the price all we want since no one’s going to buy it regardless. It’s no different from the world’s largest diamond that was presented to some royal family. Besides, a liquid diamond is theoretically impossible.”
“Diamonds don’t melt even if you heat them. They have no melting point. The value comes from resolving that contradiction, but it’s really just modified seawater.”
“Seawater has a lot of precious metals dissolved in it: gold, platinum, rare earths, and even carbon. Condensing that inside a heart or star shaped container is what we call a liquid diamond. It’s officially said to be five hundred carats, but who knows if you would even get a single carat if you gathered it all up. …Also, industrial water jet cutters have diamond dust mixed in with the water, but humans have such a weakness for the word ‘natural’. We just put a near infinite price tag on it. It’s something rare, something never-before-seen, something that’s never existed before.”
Her mother sounded exasperated.
“It’s such a meaningless business. The excitement over the seventh achondrite with the Arrowhead Comet is the same. It doesn’t shine brightly and it looks just like a normal rock if no one explains its importance. …That’s why I prefer the unchanging luster of a vault over a jewel. The more you accumulate inside, the more you will always have inside. It’s honest, it’s sincere, and its beauty never wavers.”
“In the same way, there are so many wonderful things about your father. If there weren’t I wouldn’t have married him. You can’t exchange rings if all you have are hopes and dreams. Ah ha ha.”
For some reason, her mother hung up as she laughed.
Of course, Akikawa Mie did not want to ruin her parents’ relationship and create a messy divorce. She had no problem with a loving and wholesome relationship.
That was when she heard a dull metal sound.
Curious, she looked over and spotted a jewelry shop. There was no sign of a worker. The showcases had completely shattered, scattering shards of glass everywhere, but she knew the rings and necklaces lying on the floor (no, the ceiling) were not worth all that much. Anything actually valuable would be locked up in the vault.
That large vault seemed to be the source of the sound.
It came from the thick door that her father had made and her mother admired from the bottom of her heart.
(She likes this?)
She clearly did not understand why as she stared at the door, but something strange was happening inside it. Like chocolate left on the road during a sunny day, the supposedly sturdy door was visibly bending.
“Wait, wait, wait! What is this!?”
Mie was surprised, but she worked to calm herself.
The vault was heavy. It would weigh dozens of tons if not over one hundred. The walls were naturally quite thick. No matter how many simulations had been done, would they have ever imagined the building would be plucked from the ground, thrown through the air, and stabbed back into the ground upside down?
Simply put, the vault had to be crushing itself with its own weight.
Unlike the solid walls, the door contained a complex structure and the damage was focused there.
The girl watched as she heard the sounds of breaking metal. She had no way of knowing, but she was hearing the destruction of the strong deadbolts meant to lock the circular door. What she did know was that the bent door had creaked open.
“Wait a second.”
Wasn’t this really bad?
She instinctually looked back toward the exit and thought about calling for an adult, but then she heard some young male voices from the corridor.
“If the building was torn from the ground, all the cables will have been broken. The electronic locks and security cameras won’t be working. We can steal as much as we want.”
“Come to think of it, the big vault they were talking about on the news is in here, isn’t it? The one holding the five hundred carat liquid diamond.”
Mie felt a squeezing in her heart.
She could no longer rely on an adult…or rather, on a stranger.
Her father had made the vault and her mother had worked on the liquid diamond project. Having it stolen here would hurt them both.
She made up her mind quickly.
Akikawa Mie slipped inside the vault through the door that had bent under its own weight. The inside glittered with a silver light like stainless steel and all four walls were covered with locked lockers. Most of the jewelry seemed to be safe, but unfortunately, the door to the liquid diamond was the only one that had broken. The heart-shaped liquid diamond container casually glittered inside a cylindrical storage tube.
She grabbed the liquid diamond’s storage tube and turned right around. She had no intention of holing up inside the vault. She ran from the jewelry shop and the young men immediately noticed her.
“Damn, so someone else had the same idea.”
“Hey, she’s got what they showed on the news. That’s the liquid diamond!!”
(I’m not the same as you morons!!)
Their footsteps approached her, but she began to flee in earnest. While many students were making mock escapes in the anti-crime orientation, a legitimate one had just begun.
“That is exactly the point. There are several categories: meteorite, comet, and asteroid. But this is one is known as an achondrite.”
During the afternoon a boring-sounding educational program played from the televisions lined up in an electronics store window.
Hamazura Shiage sat on the road while someone grabbed him by the collar.
The small hands grabbing him belonged to Fremea Seivelun.
“Nyah, nyah!! In the first place, I got the criminal. That’s one stamp for me!!”
The ever-excited eight-year-old girl with blonde hair and blue eyes was not listening to anything anyone said, so she still thought Hamazura was a criminal no matter how many times he explained he was supposed to be a hostage. They had known each other for a while now and he had saved her life a few times, but his “villain’s face” seemed to have left a powerful impression on her. …Of course, Hamazura could not argue too much when he did not think he was a good person either.
“If I fill up the stamp card, I get to order from the hidden school lunch menu. Nyah! Beef stroganoff!!”
“You’re trying to eat something crazy again, aren’t you? Doesn’t stroganoff sound like the name of a robot?”
It was beginning to sound like it would be faster to head on to the anti-crime orientation’s gathering point and have one of the officials explain the situation to the girl, so Hamazura stood up just as Fremea wanted. He then followed her as she tugged on his hand.
“Achondrites can be generally divided into six types and they are important resources for investigating the creation of the solar system. However, this Arrowhead Comet is gathering so much attention due to the possibility of discovering a seventh achondrite. Isn’t it romantic for the unknown seventh to be a clump of mineral in a ball of ice rather than just an asteroid?”
“Hey, Fremea, do you know what the Arrowhead Comet is?”
“N-nyah? In the first place, you need to know your place if you think you can ask me about something that tricky! Nyah, nyah!”
“I can forget sometimes, but you really are Frenda’s sister.”
He sounded annoyed, but he revealed the arbitrary knowledge he barely remembered.
“Some huge star is going to be falling. You should be able to make as many wishes as you want.”
At that point, Fremea began trembling as she held his hand.
“Nyah, nyah!! I-I didn’t know you were that much of a villain. It’s too soon to go to the movie version!!”
“I’m not summoning the thing and the world isn’t going to be destroyed!!”
That was when Hamazura’s cellphone rang in his pocket.
He pulled it out, checked the screen, and found he had an email.
“What the hell? It’s from Aneri?”
He came to a stop while holding Fremea’s hand, but the email’s text appeared to be corrupted and he had no idea what it meant. Looking at it was not going to help, but he found he could not ignore it and just continued staring pointlessly at it.
A moment later, a full-speed acrobike and a purple-robed mummy cut by in front of them.
Fremea held her hat down lest the tremendous gust of wind blow it away and Hamazura looked up from his phone in surprise.
But by then, there was nothing left.
What would have happened had he not received the email and had continued across the crosswalk?
The program that knew the truth was monitoring Hamazura and Fremea through the surveillance cameras.
Surprisingly, they could not lose the High Priest in a pure competition of speed.
This was different from a Saint who could break the sound barrier. They were definitely faster when it came to pure speed, but the High Priest was not pushing himself to his limits. He would never self-destruct. Instead of just quick bursts of speed, he had near infinite stamina. In some ways, this was much scarier.
Kamijou made several sharp turns with the bicycle, jumped down some stairs, placed the wheels on the railing to slide down it in a Slope Clear cycle art, cut across a park, and raced down a narrow alleyway. With its powerful gyros, suspension, and motor, the acrobike could be used to hop on one wheel across narrow poles, so who could say how many times Kamijou would have fallen with a normal bicycle.
“Where’s the High Priest!?”
“That old man was at that corner…that corner…ahhh!! Here he comes! He’s still after us!!”
Kamijou reacted to Mikoto’s shout by pedaling even harder.
A pile of trash filling the alley was in their way, but they would hit the air conditioner jutting from the wall if they made a large jump. Kamijou locked the front wheel, lifted up the back wheel and Mikoto’s back seat, and twisted the handlebars. That was the same as the Flail Turn, but this time, he unlocked the front wheel partway through.
This was known as the Flying D.
The entire bike rose up and turned horizontally in midair. It then rotated once horizontally and used the power of the gyros to land safely. After clearing the obstacles both above and below, they continued racing forward.
“Wasn’t that a pretty major trick!?”
“It’s actually really easy once you get the hang of it. You can zip along anywhere and even fly through the air. It’s the machine that’s amazing, not me. You won’t fall over no matter what you do.”
They made a few more narrow turns and the tone of Mikoto’s voice changed as she checked behind them from her feminine sideways sitting position.
“We’re safe…I think. We can’t let our guard down, but I can’t see him anymore.”
Even if they could not outdo him in speed, they only had to make sure he lost sight of them. The basics of losing a pursuer seemed to still apply to a Magic God.
Still, Kamijou was afraid to come to a stop, so he slowed down but continued to pedal.
They left the back alley and returned to a main road.
“Pant, pant… What do we do now? Really.”
At full power, Othinus had been able to destroy and remake the world as easily as snapping her fingers. This may not have been that bad, but a Magic God was still a Magic God. If they thoughtlessly continued a game of tag with him, there was no guarantee Academy City would be leftover afterwards.
Academy City had been in danger many times before.
Plenty of people had given no thought to human life.
But the High Priest was somehow different.
He had not begun some over-the-top plan to intentionally take countless lives. He was not avoiding obvious destruction in an attempt to hide the existence of the magic side.
He was simply accomplishing his goal.
He did not care if merely swinging an arm or a leg took millions of lives.
He did not even give it that much thought.
What had happened to not wanting to cause any trouble and wanting some formless peace of mind? He was too inconsistent.
Mikoto spoke up as she wrapped her arms around him and sat sideways.
“He isn’t going to throw a tantrum as soon as he loses sight of us, is he? He isn’t going to indiscriminately destroy the city until we come out, is he?”
“I can’t say for sure, but I doubt he would choose to do that.”
“It isn’t an issue of having a conscience. If he liked that kind of method, he wouldn’t have come to me when he first contacted me. He would have taken a hostage and led me to the stage where we would meet. It’s probably just an issue of his tastes, though.”
“I see. So it’s like how our #5 will never challenge you to a physical fight. It isn’t an issue of what they can or can’t do.”
“Still, if we don’t do anything, we’ll be stuck with this fear of constantly being chased. It may be big, but it’s just one city and we can’t ignore him. We need to think up a way to turn this around.”
“For now, we need to try not to get anyone else involved, right? Is there somewhere without a lot of people…and without many buildings for him to grab? …Like a large park or maybe the mountains?”
That comment seemed so out of place that Kamijou almost started laughing.
Not wanting to get anyone else involved in a fight with a Magic God was an obvious desire, but it was a nearly impossible task. He had never even thought of it when facing Othinus at full power.
“Misaka. If we do find an environment where we can fight without getting anyone else involved, do you really think we can beat that High Priest?”
“Of course! If he doesn’t use any cheap tricks, then I could-…!!”
He called her name again and she groaned behind him.
She then spoke as if confessing her guilt.
“I can’t know until I try. I will admit he isn’t someone I can optimistically say we have a 100% chance of beating.”
That was an admirable thing for someone so full of self-confidence to admit.
Kamijou made a suggestion as he pedaled.
“We can’t randomly attack him until we pull our odds up to 100%. As you’ve seen, his morals give no thought whatsoever to human life. He isn’t going to spare you just because you beg for your life.”
“I know that, but that brings us back to square one. How exactly are we supposed to have 100% odds of defeating that monster? Throw him in a garbage disposal plant’s incinerator? Run him through a print shop’s rotary press to crush him flat? Tear him to pieces with the giant lawnmowers used on American farms? I can picture him coming back from all of those with a smile on his face.”
“U-ugh. You sure can come up with some surprisingly gruesome ideas, Misaka.”
“D-don’t act so disturbed!! I only gave you those examples because you asked!! Mumble, mumble (Huh!? Was it a mistake to watch all those zombie movies yesterday!?)”
However, that was the problem for Kamijou as well.
How exactly were they supposed to defeat a Magic God? He had once directly fought Othinus, a true Magic God, but that had been an exception among exceptions. He was unsure whether he could really call it a fight and he certainly could not say he had won.
And he could not do the same thing against the High Priest.
He could not challenge him time and again, waiting for the mummy to break in the very, very end.
He understood that.
He knew it all too well, but that brought them back to square one.
What exactly were they supposed to do?
“Honestly, you really are hopeless.”
Suddenly, he heard a male voice, or something like it, and he turned toward it. He found a sort of red paper airplane flying alongside the acrobike.
The spiky-haired boy initially put up his guard, thinking it was some kind of tracking device sent by the High Priest, but…
“Have you forgotten who I am? I am one of the four corners supporting the world and the member of God’s Right Seat corresponding to red and the right. That should be enough to tell you who I am.”
“Fiamma?” muttered Kamijou.
Mikoto still looked confused as she pressed up against his back.
Like with a paper cup telephone, something vibrated on the paper airplane’s main wing to produce the voice.
“I more or less know the situation and I have a countermeasure for the High Priest. After all, I have the fairy spell that produced a malfunction in Othinus. If I hone it and overwhelmingly increase the speed at which it peels away the Magic God’s flesh, I can create a spell specialized for destroying them.”
“For destroying Magic Gods?” Kamijou gulped. “You mean humans can defeat those Magic Gods?”
“I wouldn’t say I could if I couldn’t and that is why I am here in the first place. Now, show yourself at District 5’s central park.”
“District 5? The one with lots of college students?”
“How should I know? The High Priest will keep chasing you no matter what you do, won’t he? If you guide him to that point, I will take over. This isn’t my first time facing a Magic God. There is nothing to worry about.”
When he heard that, Kamijou knew he was being released from the seemingly endless chase.
His entire body relaxed. Even with the gyros on the front and back wheels, the acrobike required human effort to function. It slowed down and Kamijou’s feet pressed against the ground.
He could finally breathe a sigh of relief.
This was a brief but definite respite.
But in the very next moment…
The High Priest grinned.
The ground right next to the acrobike suddenly seemed to swell upwards and something like a giant alligator mouth swallowed Fiamma’s paper airplane whole. It was actually a giant mud arm that burst from the asphalt and it would be more accurate to say it had crushed the paper airplane in its palm.
Abnormal tension enveloped Kamijou’s body.
With its job complete, the arm crumbled away.
Once the blinding mud fell away, his vision cleared once more.
“Uho hoi☆ Missed me?”
A purple-robed Magic God ran toward them while waving a dried branch of an arm.
Kamijou no longer cared about shame or appearances.
He poured all of his weight into pedaling the acrobike with Mikoto sitting behind him. He locked the front wheel, pedaled with all of his weight to build up plenty of energy in the back wheel, and then unlocked the front wheel while lifting the acrobike in a wheelie.
The bicycle leaped skyward rather than forward.
This was the Takeoff.
Kamijou and Mikoto were released like a fighter jet launched from a catapult.
He cried out and kept racing forward as he did so.
The High Priest also increased his speed. The asphalt split around him and countless giant arms burst out. They approached to crush Kamijou and Mikoto from above. As soon as Kamijou used the acrobike’s powerful suspension to jump two meters into the air, a horizontal attack swept by below them. It broke the trees lining the road and sent the blade of a wind turbine flying until it stabbed into a nearby building.
“What is that!? This really isn’t normal!!”
Mikoto could not help but shout in anger at how unreasonable it all was.
The High Priest was giving no thought to making this a one-on-one fight. This was not on such a small scale. Like bringing a powerful vacuum cleaner into a model city, he would tear through the entire landscape and hope his target was caught in the midst of it all.
The High Priest was not fighting.
He was unilaterally hunting down his prey. That was his only focus.
“What are we going to do!?”
Kamijou clenched his teeth at Mikoto’s question.
He had only one thing he could say.
“We have to rely on him.”
“That Fiamma guy I just spoke with!! I heard the term ‘fairy spell’ a few times during the mess with Othinus and in Denmark. If he knows what it is and has made it his own, then he might be the most knowledgeable person when it comes to fighting a Magic God!!”
For the time being, Akikawa Mie stuck the liquid diamond’s storage tube into her three thousand yen sports bag.
Meanwhile, she made a call on her cellphone.
“Listen, Mie-chan. Give up on this stupid idea and get rid of the liquid diamond. I don’t mind.”
“Even if someone steals it, there’s no way they can sell a jewel worth six trillion yen. We have the patent and only we know how to make it, so we can quickly track it down on the black market even if it’s transferred into another container. We can even identify the specific diamond by checking the plankton in the seawater, so we can retrieve it even via international law. So it will be okay. There’s nothing to worry about. You don’t need to do anything so dangerous!!”
She bit her lip with the phone in hand.
“But that will still mean it was stolen and that’s enough to hurt you and dad. It’ll hurt the path you’ve proudly walked down!”
This conversation was getting nowhere fast, so she hung up.
She ran from here to there, but it was all bad for her heart. The anti-crime orientation was underway, some buildings had been mysteriously thrown around, and there were apparently traffic accidents all over. The roads were at a standstill and people covered the sidewalks, but they somehow all looked like robbers to her.
(I-I need to go to mom’s company. Then I can give this to her.)
“Oh, are you really leaving now? You’ll have to use the train to get home, then.”
“A colleague of mine ran into some trouble. That Shiosai is feeling pretty down. I need to get an investigation started and set up an emergency search. Honestly, whoever grabbed that Anti-Skill equipment has some guts.”
“Hmm. When I see you getting pulled around by your job like this, it makes me wonder if I should get back to some real work. But for now, I think I’ll just keep volunteering.”
“Kikyou… Oh, honestly. Adults really do rot when they get used to not having a job. You need to be more careful.”
Akikawa Mie let out a shriek when she turned a corner and nearly ran into two adult women. They gave her a confused look, but she quickly moved past them.
Calling Anti-Skill or Judgment did not occur to her. In this abnormal situation, even they were “strangers” to her. She could not treat this liquid diamond like someone else’s problem, she could not pass it on to someone else, and she could not rely on someone else.
“Is the subway…? Good, it’s still running!”
There was a small traffic jam out front, but that had nothing to do with the tracks deep underground. She held her phone out to the ticket gate instead of an IC card and made her way to the platform like always. Revealing it in public was dangerous, but she was still worried enough to secretly glance inside her sports bag.
The liquid diamond’s container had not broken.
It was worth six trillion yen, so it was not that fragile.
She breathed a sigh of relief, but then she noticed something.
Some strange text was engraved into the storage tube containing the heart-shaped five hundred carat container.
It said 1.5V and 22MHz.
(Wh-what is this? Volts? Megahertz?)
Mie did not know much about jewels or security, but even an amateur could convert some of it into words and those words covered her in cold sweat.
Some other people on the platform spoke from nearby.
One was a high school aged girl wearing an ao dai and with a cruel look in her eyes. The other was a small girl wearing the black leather outfit of a punk rocker and a white hooded jacket, except the jacket was simply hanging by the hood.
“Oh, what’s this, what’s this? Something’s tingling. Soooomeone nearby has something valuable!!”
“More importantly, can you explain why I’m carrying all of your stuff?”
“You’re helping Misaka shop for the first time after her broken bone healed. Of course, if you ignore Misaka, she can use her body to control your cyborg body! Nya ha ha ha!!”
“You’re rotten! Dammit, you really are rotten to the core!!”
(Wait. Does this thing have a transmitter on it!?)
Given the value of the liquid diamond it would have been surprising if it did not. But would that help her in this case? What if someone other than Anti-Skill or Judgment intercepted the signal? Or what if a proper member of law enforcement started having wicked ideas? What if that girl with the cruel look in her eyes had the ability to pick up on it? What if she tried to separate Mie from the crowd or just tried grab the six trillion yen jewel despite the risk?
(What do I do? What am I supposed to do?)
Mie frantically tried to use her fingernail to scrape at the writing on the surface of the container in her sports bag, but she did not actually know where the transmitter was. Would scraping at it be enough to break it and how would she even know if it was broken? Would putting too much of a burden on the storage tube allow the liquid diamond itself to leak out? It was nothing but unknowns on top of unknowns.
Then the subway train slid into the platform.
Akikawa Mie put off thinking until later. She ran onto the train with the sports bag hanging from her shoulder.
“Hell, yeah. It’s actually working. Hey, I know where it is!”
That excited comment came from Kenzan Shouji, a college-aged young man.
He was holding a smartphone, but it used a different model of SIM card from any phone available to the public. It was a P-phone made exclusively for Anti-Skill. Just like a police radio, anyone obsessed with that sort of thing would love to get their hands on one.
In other words, it was not something one could normally find.
There was a reason Kenzan was swinging one around like a toy despite that.
He had pulled it out of an Anti-Skill vehicle that might as well have been scrap metal after one of the small-scale accidents occurring all over.
A nervous friend of his spoke up from the side. This friend was Okada Ayumu, another college student.
“B-but anyone from Anti-Skill can pick up that signal, right? Won’t the real ones be rushing there already? Wouldn’t going for it be dangerous? I don’t want to get filled with bullets.”
Kenzan patted the seat of his pants with his other hand.
A lump of metal with a black luster was casually stuck inside his pants there.
It was the kind of handgun issued to Anti-Skill.
“Look at all this confusion. And not all of the real deal are noble heroes. This is six trillion yen we’re talking about, so they’ll be scrambling for it themselves. We just have to fire some in that storm of gunfire and get to the liquid diamond first. It won’t be hard just to grab it. Things are looking good for us.”
The last of the trio, Higata Akio, listened to that in confusion.
(How could this have happened?)
Back when they decided to steal some things in the upside-down building, it had not been clear whether they were actually going to do it. It had felt unfair to just trudge on home after being caught in that kind of trouble. They had wanted to make up for the misfortune they had experienced. It should have only been a joke born of their frustration.
But now they had a piece of Anti-Skill equipment and a handgun.
(Are we really going to do this? We aren’t just peeking inside some broken vault. That was a middle school girl who ran off with it. And yet…)
“You gotta problem, Higata?”
His “friend” spoke to him with the piece of metal stuck in the back of his pants.
“You gotta problem?’’
The pressure was unbearable.
A strange pyramid structure had formed that was clearly different from their previous relationship.
More importantly, the presence of the handgun weighed heavily on his mind.
They were talking about a girl, but she was still a stranger. Was he prepared to put himself in danger to save her?
“Good. Now, let’s get started. Heaven on earth is waiting for us.”
Higata truly did wonder how this had happened.
The madness was infecting person after person and they would probably all come tumbling down with no one in the center.
Fiamma of the Right had the fairy spell that would be their trump card against the High Priest. He had told them to meet him in District 5’s central park.
That district bordered District 7.
“But what’s the shortest route!?” shouted Kamijou while pedaling the acrobike with all his might.
The mummy High Priest was still approaching from directly behind them.
Mikoto operated her cellphone with a thumb while pressed against his back.
“Um, I’m getting our current location now. We’re on Leaf Street, so…turn right at the intersection five hundred meters ahead!! That will take us straight to District 5!!”
But Kamijou’s focus turned elsewhere.
“That’s right! A cellphone!! I could use that to call Index or Othinus!!”
“What!? You’re going to use my phone to call some other girl!?”
“You choose now to get mad? God, what a pain!!”
They shot straight past the aforementioned intersection while speaking, so Kamijou used a Flail Turn to make a 180 degree turn, returned to the intersection, and ignored the traffic light as he made the turn.
(If I speak with them, I might find a more direct weakness in the High Priest. It might only be learning his habits, but I need something to keep us alive until we get to Fiamma!!)
He poured his full strength into racing down the road, pedaled the bicycle at over sixty kph, and set an awful example by looking away from the road to operate his own cellphone. But…
“Ksssshhhhh!! …The signal in your area is too crowded, so the number you have called cannot be-…”
“What the hell? There’s an interfering signal? Wait, don’t tell me… Misakaaaaaa!!”
“I-it isn’t me! I can’t control it!!”
Given the situation, he had to abandon the rare opportunity he thought had opened up.
He looked back while pedaling intensely and was pretty sure the High Priest was closer than before.
“Oh, hell. Did choosing the shortest route come back to bite us? He’s faster on a clear straightaway. He’s going to catch up at this rate!!”
“You told me to give you the shortest route!!”
“I didn’t say it was your fault!!”
They drove below a blue road sign that passed over the entire road.
If it was accurate, they had just moved from District 7 to District 5.
“Misaka, how far to the central park!?”
“Only, um, two kilometers!!”
He felt an intense pressure from behind. The High Priest would catch up at this rate, but it would take too long to reach the central park if they took random turns to cut off his view like before. Either way, their current methods were not enough. The High Priest would catch up and tear them to pieces.
Mikoto spoke quietly while pressing against his back.
Rather than having a sudden idea, she seemed to have managed to gather her thoughts during the chase.
“Hey, so we win if we get to the central park before he catches up, right?”
“Yes! The problem is that we don’t have any way of doing that!!”
“Forcing the acrobike to go any faster would be difficult. It’s already at its limits and using my power for a boost could burn out the motor.”
“And!? What do we do!?”
“Then we just have to slow down that High Priest guy.”
Kamijou was dumbfounded, but the situation did not stop for them. He had to say something back.
“Are you serious?”
“I’m not shameless enough to make a joke at a time like this.”
“You saw what happened earlier, didn’t you!? Even a full-power Railgun wasn’t enough to-…!!”
“Yes, I know all too well that I don’t stand a chance in a head-on battle!!”
Strength gathered in the arms around him.
She pressed her face into his back and seemed to groan.
“(It wasn’t enough. It wasn’t nearly enough!! I thought I was on the same level as you and I thought I could handle this too, but I’m not and I can’t!!)”
Her namesake had been easily swatted aside.
And what had happened then?
Unlike her, that pointy-haired boy had not been remotely surprised by the outcome.
He had simply watched it play out as if to say he had known it would not work and that she did not need to worry about it.
That, more than anything else, had made her heart boil over.
But he was not the only person who had gotten her heart worked up.
There was another.
Kamijou knew nothing the two of them could do would work, but now this Fiamma person had butted in from a distance. Mikoto was right by his side, but she was of no use to him. Instead, he was placing his hopes on some third party.
What was this noisy feeling that had filled her ever since she stood in the center of Tokyo Bay?
“(You can just barely stand up against that mummy named the High Priest, but I can’t reach your level! I doubt I can catch up even if I use my prized Railgun!!)”
“What’s the matter, Misaka? Hey!”
“It’s nothing,” she said while removing her face from his back.
This was no time to sulk. She could not give up.
No one was going to wait around for her.
Not the High Priest and not the boy so close to her.
“So I won’t do anything that reckless. I know I can’t win, so I’ll stick to buying us some time. Are you willing to listen now!?”
“How can you slow him down?”
“It isn’t impossible if I only have to do it once.”
The mummy High Priest’s skin split and his eyelids moved as he raced down the street with tremendous speed.
The acrobike was holding its position one hundred meters ahead of him, but then the bicycle swerved to the side. Its tires seemed to have slipped on the dried leaves scattered on the road.
It quickly regained its balance, but it had lost some speed.
It tried to gain some external acceleration by grabbing on to the side of an unmanned escort truck driving along as part of the anti-crime orientation, but that was not enough to escape the High Priest.
He closed in on the acrobike.
Once he saw a chance, the mummy took action.
The asphalt around him swelled up and giant tree-like arms burst from the earth below. A palm larger than a home economics classroom and a fist harder than concrete shot down toward the acrobike with the force of a shooting star.
Suddenly, the giant arms stopped moving, as if they were bound by chains. The different arms twisted around each other like they were caught in a net.
While still running alongside the arms, the High Priest instantly saw through it.
(That magnetism from before…. Did she cover the area with iron sand so it would naturally be incorporated into the arms?)
But when it came to a direct competition of strength, no one could defeat a Magic God.
As soon as the High Priest sent a simple command, the giant arms ripped themselves apart. They had been pressed together as if clapping or rubbing together, but they were forced apart.
He had retrieved his weapons.
This time, he would crush the acrobike to rob them of their transportation and he would acquire Kamijou Touma.
But something interrupted the Magic God’s thoughts.
At first, he thought it was gentle breeze.
But it was not.
It definitely was not.
“Ohhhhhhhhhhh!? Is this…!?”
Misaka Mikoto twisted around while sitting on the acrobike’s back seat. She made a handgun gesture toward the High Priest who was approaching from behind.
“A vacuum may sound like something special, but you can easily make one with a rubber suction cup. In fact, you can even make one in the bath by pressing your palms together.”
A violent gust of wind blew through, but not because the acrobike was moving at sixty kph.
“And did you know this? In wind tunnel experiments that use artificial winds to check the aerodynamics of cars and airplanes, they use a big propeller up to a point, but even that has its limits. After that, they either blow in highly compressed air or prepare a vacuum tank to suck the air from the wind tunnel.”
She had mixed iron sand in with the High Priest’s giant arms and she had only needed to take control for a few seconds.
The gigantic palms had pressed together and created a certain level of vacuum between each other.
From there, the High Priest only had to regain control and open the door to that vacuum.
“But know this. In wind tunnel experiments using vacuum tanks, the gust of wind can exceed the Mach wind speeds of a supersonic fighter jet!! Just like right now!!!!!!”
It sounded like an explosion.
Unlike a wind tunnel, the road was an open space and Kamijou and Mikoto were a fair distance away. It only felt like a powerful blast of wind to them, but what about to the High Priest who had opened that door so close by?
The mummy’s feet left the ground.
He ignored gravity.
“Ohhhhhhhhhhh!? Is this…!?”
Even his yelling voice was swallowed up by the empty air. He was sucked in toward the point in space where the palms of the giant hands were disintegrating.
It was not clear what would happen to him.
A normal human’s eardrums and organs would be destroyed by the harsh pressure change and their skeleton itself could be smashed, but it was a complete mystery how much a normally fatal blow would affect a mummy like him.
But that did not matter.
Kamijou and Mikoto had a different win condition in mind.
“I see it!! That’s the central park’s entrance!!”
“Okay, here goes!!”
They did not need to directly defeat him. They only needed to buy a dozen or so seconds of time.
Kamijou stopped thinking about what would happen later. He sacrificed all of his remaining stamina to pedal so hard he thought his muscles were going to rip apart. He did it all to reach one of the central park’s ten or twenty entrances.
He heard a deep sound behind him.
The High Priest had already torn through the supersonic wind and taken a new step forward. He had already freed himself from his bonds and resumed his full-power pursuit. That trick was unlikely to work a second or third time.
Would this be enough for them to reach Fiamma?
Or would the High Priest catch them first?
It all came down to that.
Kamijou gave a roar as he stared at the central park’s gate up ahead.
That man slowly walked across the grass that had grown light brown in the chill of winter.
He exclusively wore the color red and he was missing an arm, but neither the garbage man grabbing an empty can from the ground nor the young wife taking her dog for a walk paid any attention to him. He had erased his own presence so those outsiders would not notice him.
His name was Fiamma of the Right.
He had once started World War Three in his desire to save the entire human race.
(Not long now.)
He determined that while feeling calm enough to enjoy rather than curse the freezing December wind. He had not actually contacted Kamijou Touma, but he could hear the distant noise approaching.
He had asked that boy to come to District 5’s central park and it seemed he had enough sense to keep his promises.
Fiamma of the Right had learned to use a few pieces of magic even after losing his “arm”. He had done so through his contact with the abnormal being named Ollerus. The fairy spell was one of those. It had originally been made to defeat the Magic God named Othinus.
When he thought about it, there had been something about those two he had not liked from the very beginning.
They had mastered magic to the point of becoming a god. They had used the word “god” so lightly and irreverently, but there had also been no salvation in the fairy spell. That was true whether it had made Othinus powerless as planned or if it had instead destroyed her body’s structure from within.
In Denmark, the fairy spell Fiamma had fired into Othinus had been the real problem in the very, very end. A few coincidences had allowed Othinus to continue living, but what would have happened otherwise?
How much would it have affected that boy’s structure?
Fiamma had made clear plans to save the entire human race, but not even he could figure that one out.
This was a ritual to cleanse himself of that.
A number of things had happened after Othinus had become a full Magic God. If not for certain coincidences, the world could easily have still been destroyed, so he had to atone for that sin.
He had to do the same thing here as with Othinus.
With his mind made up, he produced a stake of light in his left hand.
But this stake did not fit in just his left hand.
In an instant, it grew to five hundred meters long and cut across the central park.
He only had to make physical contact with the Magic God. If he shoved it directly into the center of the High Priest’s body, the fairy spell would rapidly destroy his structure.
(Even this is on a small scale for something meant to defeat a Magic God.)
Ollerus’s goal had been to drag a Magic God down to the level of a human, but Fiamma had changed that.
That said, he had not altered it much. As soon as he hit, he would simply use the exact same spell 2,070,000 times in a row. Bit by bit, he would widen the distortion and finally destroy the Magic God. This was a Fiamma of the Right original that used his specialization in disintegration techniques.
(I suppose this still doesn’t bring me anywhere close to that boy who dragged a full-power Othinus out of that quagmire without using something like this.)
The sound of tires tearing at the ground grew much louder.
The pointy-haired boy shot into the central park. He was covered in sweat, his hair was drenched, and there was not even an iota of composure in his ghastly expression.
But if he had been alone, he probably would not have been that frantic to escape.
An unfamiliar girl clung to him from the back seat of the electrically-assisted bicycle.
“He hasn’t changed.”
Fiamma said only that and smiled slightly.
He focused on the palm of his remaining left hand. He felt the five hundred meter glowing stake of his fairy spell variant move slightly. If he swung his arm in a side throw, he could fire it like a rocket.
The boy seemed to have noticed him.
They did not greet one another.
They only had to accomplish their respective goals.
First, Kamijou and the girl’s acrobike shot past Fiamma.
The red-haired man stared straight forward.
The purple-robed pursuer also seemed to have noticed Fiamma of the Right.
There was no need to greet him with a nod.
One of them was a true Magic God and the other was a red-haired man who had wished to save the world.
The two of them crossed paths head-on.
A deafening sound exploded behind Kamijou.
He braked as hard as he could, felt that was not enough, and pressed the soles of his shoes against the brick walking path.
The acrobike screeched to a stop with a burning smell.
It was over.
The result was plain as day, but he found it hard to believe what he saw.
He felt dizzy.
Still, he had to accept it.
Otherwise, he could not move on.
He heard parched laughter.
It did not come from Fiamma.
Fiamma’s laughter did not sound like it came from a whistle made of dried grass.
“Kah kah kah! Kah kah kah kah kah kah kah kah kah kah kah kah kah!!”
Shouting was not going to help.
It had already been over by the time they had crossed paths. The giant stake of light had stretched all the way across the large park, but it was shattering like glass and vanishing. No, it was more than just that. The one-armed man rotated quickly through the air. He made more than just one rotation. He was stuck in a wild spin with no thought given to control or a safe landing. He was clearly going to slam into the ground’s dried grass without bracing himself.
It was unclear just what kind of battle had unfolded, but the result could not have been more obvious.
Not even Fiamma of the Right had been able to do anything. Not even his prized fairy spell had stopped the High Priest.
Kamijou had caused this.
He could not see the future, so he could not have known what would have happened. Fiamma may not have wanted Kamijou to blame himself, but if Kamijou had not relied on him and had done something else, this would not have happened.
“What are we going to do?”
Mikoto asked the crucial question from the back seat.
“Was that really your final trump card!? Then what are we going to do now!?”
Kamijou was worried about Fiamma.
He wanted to run over and check him for injuries. He wanted to at least make sure he was breathing and had a pulse. But he did not have time. The High Priest was still going all out and sticking around would only get someone else caught in the mummy’s rampage. If that happened, the odds of saving Fiamma would drop even further.
So Kamijou spoke up.
“Misaka, call an ambulance here.”
“Okay, but what do we do!?”
He was afraid. His breathing was erratic and his heart was beating painfully hard. He felt like sparks were scattering through his mind and he could barely think.
“I can’t let anyone else get hurt like that!! So I’ll do whatever it takes to beat the High Priest!! That’s the one thing I know for sure!!”
Kamijou and Mikoto’s acrobike cut through the central park with tremendous speed.
Their race with no goal had begun anew.
Cycle Arts Collection 2
A basic of the cycle arts. While moving, press down with your weight to lower the suspension and then use the recoil to jump. Your original acceleration will change how much forward momentum the jump has. A must have for any performance using obstacles in the street.
Build up some speed, lock the front wheel to lift up the back wheel, and twist the handlebars to swing the back wheel around like a bat.
A variation on the Tightrope. For this one, slide down the sloped railing of an escalator, stairs, or the like. The trick is to lock both wheels to purposefully slip down. Letting the wheels turn provides too much speed and raises the risk of crashing.
A variation on the Flail Turn. While swinging the bike around, unlock the front wheel, turn the entire bike on its side, and jump into the air. Ideally, rotate the bike at least once while horizontal. If you do not reorient the bike before landing, you will fall over.
A variation on the R Dash. Instead of unlocking the front wheel, lift the entire bike in a wheelie to launch yourself into the air instead of straight forward. As with the R Dash, it is most important as a lead-in to higher level tricks.
Grab onto a car, motorcycle, or anything else with an engine to build speed from an external source. The method itself is simple, but due to the danger of an accident that could involve an unrelated individual, use with extreme caution.
Between the Lines 2
That priest truly wished to save the people.
He believed he needed to achieve buddhahood because his human body was insufficient.
He gave up his social status and possessions, dug a small room in the dirt, and did not hesitate to climb inside.
He did everything necessary.
He flawlessly performed the appropriate steps, ignored the chain of reincarnation, and should have risen to buddhahood in a single life.
“I seriously doubt a face so filled with greed belongs to a Buddha.”
“Look, his back is slightly bent. That proves he was begging for his life.”
“He’s collapsed over here, too. We just can’t accept this as a proper self-mummification.”
But he did not achieve buddhahood.
He should have, but no one would accept it.
This had a lot to do with the pathetic squabbles between temples and the strong link between religion and politics in those days. It came down to different factions competing over influence. It would have been a problem if that priest had achieved buddhahood and gathered the support of the people, so some acted to ensure he was made into someone who had not achieved enlightenment and who had suffered as he died.
A mummy who did not achieve buddhahood would not be worshipped.
Whatever the situation, they were not allowed in the same graves as the rest and were buried in a detached area.
As the younger priests carried out the dried corpse, a group snickered off to the side.
They were the court nobles.
It was unclear what exactly they had done, but it was obvious they had hoped for this result.
“Now I can finally rest easy.”
“Honestly, he should have known this would happen if he kept talking about saving all people, regardless of social status.”
“The world needs chaos. Otherwise the pathetic commoners would lose any reason to rely on the government.”
But remember one thing.
Even if no one would accept it, that priest had completed all of the necessary steps. He had worked to reboot himself as a device to save the people and he had begun to gather the information he needed to achieve that goal.
That mummy gathered it all.
That mummy analyzed it all.
That mummy understood it all.
And he arrived at a conclusion.
“I see. So I did not need the position of a Buddha to save the people. This thought just never occurred to me.”
Hearing that sudden voice, one of the young priests gave a surprised shout and let go.
But the dried corpse did not fall to the floor.
No, it was no longer a corpse.
The mummy gently placed his feet on the wooden floor and stood up. He looked across the “people” who could not escape their miserable desires.
“Then I will take on that role. I will be the pathetic, sinful priest who could not abandon his desires and died without reaching perfection. I would not be given a place or a role as a Buddha, so I will become one of the immensely powerful wanderers.”
There was nothing they could do.
“I will become exactly what you wanted me to be. I will become a simple High Priest, a mere wandering Buddha.”
The ones who had grinned as they set this up still did not understand the gravity of the situation. One of them shouted to cut him down, another tried to win him over with money, and another broke down crying and desperately begged to be spared.
But it was all useless.
There were likely ways to pacify an evil god, but that High Priest no longer had a role as good or evil. No one knew what he would do and could only watch as he bared his bloody fangs.
This was the birth of a new Magic God.