Toaru Majutsu no Index:NT Volume13 Chapter 3
Chapter 3: Beyond the Broken Spider Web — Nightmare_to_Ray_of_Hope.
Akikawa Mie had thought she would be relatively safe once she boarded the train.
After leaving the building with the vault, not many people would be thinking of that liquid diamond. Their greed might be stimulated if they caught a glimpse inside her sports bag, but she would be fine otherwise. That was how she saw it.
But reality saw things differently.
She heard a heavy metallic scraping and the train lurched to a halt. She had nothing to hold onto, so she bumped into some young people nearby.
Her reflexive apology reminded her of her father bowing over the phone and that reminder of their genetic link made her feel a little blue. However, the others seemed to be having some trouble, too.
She looked more closely and realized they looked like delinquents. One of them was a skinny boy wearing black clothing and the other was…more of a mystery. The girl wore a yellow mini yukata, had lots of hairpins in her brown hair, and had an unusually dark tan for December.
“Hanzou-sama, don’t tell me you took advantage of the commotion to immerse yourself in a molester’s heaven.”
“That’s a complete lie! Someone else bumped into me!”
“Oh, how heartbreaking!! Beauty is the standard among standards of an Iga woman, yet this was enough for you to lose your self-control? Fine then. I, Kuruwa, shall retrain you from square one starting today!!”
“Please noooo! The seduction techniques of a legit kunoichi will only ensure I never trust a woman again!!”
Mie did not understand, but if they were going to keep the focus off of her, she was fine with that. But before any complaints could erupt from the others on the train, the train’s lights went out in the tunnel. The area was nearly pitch black.
(What? What is this!?)
Everything seemed suspicious. She was worried that masked men were going to break into the train.
A speaker somewhere produced the carefree voice of the conductor.
“Um, a malfunction in a transformer substation near District 5’s central park is affecting our train. We have no word on when it will be repaired. I greatly apologize for the inconvenience, but please follow our instructions and make your way to the tunnel’s emergency exit. I repeat…”
There was nothing she could trust.
As soon as the tightly shut metal door opened, Akikawa Mie jumped down to the gravel-covered subway track.
“Ah, wait!! It’s dangerous here, so please don’t run! Oh, honestly. If I could see, I could at least teleport over, and…Uiharu! Is the power still not back up!?”
The words of a girl seemingly from Judgment stabbed into Mie’s back, but she did not know if the girl was being honest, if it was a trap, or even if the girl was really from Judgment.
The middle school girl ran to the exit with the six trillion yen liquid diamond in her grasp.
As Misaka Mikoto sat sideways on the acrobike’s back seat with her arms around Kamijou Touma’s waist, she felt extremely uneasy.
But not because their lives were in danger.
Nor because their city was being destroyed.
This was a smaller and more personal issue.
She could not accurately put it in words, but that was not because her vocabulary was lacking. Putting it in words would be too much to bear, so she instinctually brought her thoughts to a stop.
It was possible she was a horribly tiny and unsightly individual.
The answer was covered up and hidden, but she accepted it like that.
“It’ll be okay,” said the pointy-haired boy as he pedaled the acrobike.
He continued facing forward instead of turning back toward her.
He spoke with his back to her.
“Sorry about getting you wrapped up in all this, but I’ve always managed to get by somehow or other. I’m sure I’ll figure something out this time too. I’ll get you back to where you belong, so there’s nothing to worry about.”
He may have had no proof of that.
He may have been reassuring himself as much as her. He would protect her, protect that underclassman, protect the girl. He may have been placing himself in that role as a desperate attempt to restrain his uncontrollable heart.
Something sharp stabbed into Mikoto’s chest as soon as she heard it.
She knew that all too well.
First, they had to double check their location.
“Um, we’re in District 5’s central park, so the neighboring districts are 1, 4, 6, 18, and 23! We definitely can’t go to District 1 because the administrative facilities are gathered there or to District 6 because it’s a giant amusement park. Who knows how much damage it would cause if we led him there!!”
Kamijou forced out the words as he pushed his body past its limits to pedal the acrobike after using up most of his stamina.
“District 23 is filled with aerospace facilities, right!? That would be the best place for a confrontation with the High Priest! At the very least, a flat launch site won’t get anyone else involved and they should have plenty of firefighting equipment in case of an emergency!!”
“Then are we going to take the shortest route again!? He’ll catch up to us if we move in a straight line!!”
Rather than take the shortest route, they could cut through District 18 on their way to District 23.
But wouldn’t that mean they were selecting that district to be trampled on by the High Priest for their own convenience? Could they allow that?
(What is it I want right now?)
Kamijou thought as he gritted his teeth.
(It isn’t distance or a specific location. Those are meaningless.)
It was time.
He wanted time to think.
(It doesn’t matter if we’re only ten centimeters in front of the High Priest. He can even overtake us for all I care. …But only if he doesn’t know we’re there and we get the time to come up with a plan.)
“Ho ho. Are you youngsters having an intimate discussion on methods of murder?”
Before, the High Priest had been approaching from behind.
But now he was running alongside them.
(Dammit! Are my legs getting heavy because I’m more tired than I thought!? If you’re going to modify it this much, why not make it a full-blown electric motorcycle!?)
That carefree word was all it took for the earth to split open and reveal an arm large enough to grab a building. It made a horizontal strike.
Kamijou quickly jumped upwards with Mikoto still on the back seat.
But Kamijou had “waited” just a moment to draw the High Priest in as much as possible.
“It might be miniscule in comparison…”
What might be?
The High Priest must have wondered that without a hint of worry.
“But it’s time you had a taste, High Priest!!”
It happened only a moment later.
“Oh, is that a concrete mixer? Bfh!?”
Once the giant arm missed, it tore into the industrial truck parked on the side of the road. The concrete was constantly rotated to prevent it from hardening, so it poured out and onto the High Priest’s head.
No matter how much of a monster he was, he could not do anything when his eyes were covered.
The acrobike landed and Kamijou kicked at a metal pole sticking up from the sidewalk.
Technically, it was the lid to a fire hydrant.
The deep sound of the released water reverberated in his gut and it sprayed upwards like a fountain. As the High Priest awkwardly and unsteadily walked forward, he moved right into the spray of water. The dried mummy’s body was blasted several meters straight up by the intense pressure. The gray concrete soaking his clothing was stripped away.
But neither the concrete nor the water was meant to be a finishing blow.
To pull the final trigger, Kamijou glared at the falling High Priest and gave a yell.
“Misaka!! Use a lightning spear!!”
“Ohhh, I see. Okay!!”
The explosive zapping sound itself felt like a deadly weapon that squeezed at the heart.
Not only was that a one billion volt blast, but his entire body was soaked with water to raise his conductivity. What would happen to someone in that situation?
Instead of just having their heart stopped, a normal person would have been roasted alive.
But even after all that…
They heard lighthearted laughter.
The unpleasant sweat pouring from Kamijou’s back contrasted that jocular tone.
Kamijou clenched his teeth shut to cut off his heavy breathing and focused on pedaling.
He was adlibbing everything.
Could he really say he had been satisfied with that previous attack?
Could he really call that the best he had to offer?
It was true a Saint may not have escaped unharmed. God’s Right Seat, Thunder God Thor, or Marian Slingeneyer may have looked concerned. He may have done an excellent job of putting together that counterattack on the fly. But could he really say it was enough firepower when up against someone on the level of Othinus?
If he had had ten or even just five more seconds to think, was it possible he could have put together an even more effective attack?
The Magic God was approaching from behind like a massive bomb, but they could not hide and take their time planning a counterattack. If they stopped, they would definitely be taken out, but they had no idea what awaited them if they kept running.
What if a tanker truck was stopped up ahead? What if a line of kindergarteners was waiting at a traffic light? What if a crowd of people had gathered for a concert or parade? What if they ran into another Magic God?
He did not know what waited up ahead.
He did not know what would happen.
That prevented him from preparing for his next action. They could only go with the flow and their turn to act never came.
(I have to do something!!)
At that moment, he saw something while pedaling the bike. He spotted something.
“Hey, stop! Let go! Give that back!!”
“Hell, yeah. This really is the liquid diamond! Ha ha. This thing’s worth six trillion? Really!? And I thought this was gonna be a bad day when the building started flying!!”
“We really can do anything now that the security lines are down. Damn. Maybe we should’ve checked through that broken vault a little more.”
As soon as he heard it, Kamijou Touma locked both wheels, bringing the acrobike to a rapid stop.
Powerful tension burned into the atmosphere.
“Why are you stopping!?” asked Mikoto from the back seat.
“When the building started flying? It sounds like that girl was caught up in the trouble that the High Priest…no, that we caused. I don’t know the details, but someone’s been taking advantage of the confusion.”
Tokiwadai Middle School’s Ace looked between two different points.
The first was the middle school girl surrounded by a group of college students. The second was the rampaging mummy charging their way.
Kamijou had to understand how dangerous their situation was.
He may have understood it far better than her since she had only gotten dragged into it.
“Misaka, can I make one – just one – incredibly selfish request?”
“What is it?”
She urged him on even though she was pretty sure she knew what it was.
The boy gave the exact answer she had been expecting.
“I want to save that girl right this instant.”
She smiled without meaning to.
It came out of nowhere. He was ignoring their current predicament. The fear of the High Priest had to have permeated his very being, but he still looked away from the approaching mummy.
However, Mikoto did not need to analyze why she was smiling.
She simply gathered strength in the arms wrapped around his waist and gave her answer.
“Don’t worry. I would’ve had to punch you if you hadn’t said that.”
Nothing more was needed. They did not even need to discuss what they would do.
Kamijou forcefully turned the acrobike in a new direction.
He charged full speed toward the other commotion they had created.
What happened in that instant was extremely simple.
An acrobike running at full speed collided with the college student holding the liquid diamond’s storage tube.
It may have been a light bicycle, but it was still moving at over sixty kph.
The front wheel dug into Kenzan’s side and he really did bend into a shallow V shape.
He was sent flying.
He had been holding the storage tube up out of reach, so it was left behind like a game of Daruma Otoshi. Akikawa Mie grabbed it and tossed it from hand to hand like she was juggling it.
Meanwhile, the rest of the college group was not happy.
“What!? Are they after it, too!? Did everyone have the same idea!?”
Kamijou ignored them and shouted to only the middle school girl.
“Hold on to that and get down!! He’s coming!!”
He did not have time to explain any further. He pedaled with all his might and left with Mikoto.
“Eh? Ehh!? Wait, where are you going? I thought you were helping me!?”
Mie felt abandoned, but she soon realized he had been telling the truth.
The High Priest arrived.
That monstrous mummy charged through, destroying the entire landscape as he did so.
It was like fire racing along a trail of gasoline.
The Magic God accurately followed the route Kamijou and Mikoto had taken and ran right into the college group that was standing there completely defenseless.
One flew through the air and slammed into a tree. The other seemed to have escaped harm by falling tearfully to the ground. His legs seemed to have given out.
Akikawa Mie held onto the liquid diamond’s storage tube and held down her short skirt as she blankly watched that disastrous storm move on.
Finally, she bowed just once.
(I have no idea what just happened…)
She then started running as quickly as she could. She could not afford to stick around.
As she did, that show of good will filled her heart with warmth.
The impression she was left with may have seemed strange to some people.
(I was just saved by an extremely powerful old man.)
“Oh, no,” said Kamijou while pedaling the acrobike as hard as he could.
He knew the pointless speaking would interrupt his breathing, but he could not erase the unease rising from his chest.
“Oh, no. Oh, no! Oh, no!! He’s even closer than before!!”
“Uho hoi☆ I finally caught a glimpse of it, Kamijou Touma. Now, I’m getting excited. So what kind of selfishness will you present this Magic God next?”
He did not have time to listen to the High Priest’s nonsense.
If they were caught, it was all over. He had known that before taking the detour.
Mikoto gave a frantic shout as she looked down at her cellphone’s map.
“Wait!! If we keep going this way, we’ll reach a railroad crossing known for causing traffic jams!!”
“Then what are we supposed to do!?”
“For now, turn left!!”
He did as he was told and sharply turned the handlebars, but that was only a reflexive reaction to the situation. He was not thinking for himself about how to change the rails of destiny.
And as soon as he made the turn, something kicked at the acrobike’s front wheel.
It was a hurdle made from a line of three red cones and a plastic pole lying on its side.
It was clearly meant to keep people out.
Up ahead, he saw an obvious construction site and the acrobike drove right into a pit that was four stories deep.
The large rectangular opening was larger than a school’s twenty-five meter pool.
Kamijou could only look down at the work lights installed at the bottom of the pit to know how deep it was, but that slight information was enough to make him shrink back in fear.
For a while, his sense of gravity vanished.
His sense of time also disappeared.
As time seemed to stretch out infinitely, he guessed they were constructing a multi-level crossing so the railroad could pass below instead of causing traffic jams. He even had time to wonder if they were building a new underground mall while they were at it.
There was a lot he wanted to say, but he only spoke the first phrase that came to mind.
“B-blame the map!!”
Their sense of time soon returned and the boy and girl were filled with fear and the tremendous Gs of the fall.
The purple-robed mummy came to a stop after turning a corner.
Kamijou and Mikoto were thrown out into the pit, but they did not dive straight down.
To lower their speed as much as possible, Kamijou pressed the acrobike’s wheels against the side wall. With some help from the gyros, he forced the tires to dig into the nearly vertical wall. Rubber screamed as they slid to the bottom instead of simply falling. Kamijou was too much of a beginner to know, but this was the Rapid S, one of the most difficult cycle arts.
Even so, he nearly bit his own tongue when they landed.
The powerful suspension caused the acrobike to hop back up and Mikoto floated into the air a bit.
The electrically-assisted bicycle somehow regained its balance while swerving in repeated S-shapes. The ground was mostly flat concrete, but some of it was more like rough gravel. Still, they did not blow a tire.
However, Kamijou was more worried about pursuit than the tires. While pedaling, he looked back again and again, using the work lights to see when the High Priest would show up.
“He…isn’t following us?”
Afraid to stop, he continued pedaling without a destination in mind.
Mikoto also looked back in confusion.
“I doubt that monster would be afraid to jump down because of the height.”
Was there a meaning behind it?
Or was he trying to confuse them with meaningless actions?
They had no evidence for either option, so the phenomenon alone was not enough for them to relax.
And it seemed they did not have much time anyway.
A high-pitched beeping came from the acrobike.
“What is it now!?”
“Something’s flashing on the handlebar grip. The green light just turned orange,” said Kamijou while pedaling. “That’s for the acrobike’s battery. Is it running out!?”
Losing their means of transportation would be disastrous here, so Kamijou frantically reached for the battery pack attached to the frame and pulled out a cable like the ones on vacuum cleaners.
Mikoto looked confused.
“Do they have recharging stations in construction sites!?”
“Look at the plug. A normal household outlet is enough and there are lights all around here. We should be able to recharge if we have half an hour. We should probably recharge as much as we can while the High Priest is gone.”
He applied the acrobike’s brakes.
With the disk-shaped gyros on either side of the two wheels, the acrobike did not fall over even when it came to a complete stop and the two of them quickly stepped off.
They needed half an hour.
If they had that long, they could escape the current danger.
But the very next moment, the Magic God rushed straight in, breaking through all the bedrock.
His incredibly violent arrival was not going to leave even the terrain behind.
The dirt writhed like a living creature and threatened to swallow up Kamijou and Mikoto as they stood there defenseless.
“Get on, Misaka!!”
Kamijou himself also hopped onto the acrobike. As soon as he felt the weight on the back seat, he pedaled as fast as he could. Sometimes pieces of rock larger than refrigerators were scattered about, sometimes they flew overhead, and sometimes they rolled in front of the acrobike to block their way. Kamijou pedaled the bicycle out of pure desperation. He used the cycle art named Lunatic G. To avoid the obstacles, he used centrifugal force to shift from the floor to the wall for a few seconds.
They could not recharge and they had no idea how long the battery would last.
They were pursued by what looked like a giant maw.
The wrinkled old man’s voice reached them from beyond the dirt filing the entire tunnel.
“Ho ho ho. Uho hoiii☆”
Tunnels branched off here and there, but a commercial map app could not tell them where they led. Of course, that was not surprising when the entire area under construction did not show up.
They were fleeing with everything they had, but where did this tunnel lead?
What if it led to a dead end?
“Wh-what do we do!? We don’t know the way and the battery’s about to die!!”
“Misaaaka, can you try putting this plug in your mouth?”
“Don’t joke!! The battery pack would probably overheat and explode!!”
The dirt that was crushing and breaking through everything was right behind them now. They even felt a gust of wind just like when a subway train passed by. A human body would be destroyed instantly if it was swallowed up. Not even controlling rebar and metal beams with magnetism would be enough to avoid being buried alive.
“What is with this guy? He can move around in a mummy’s body, he can brush aside my Railgun barehanded, he can swing around buildings, and now he’s trying to crush this entire tunnel!! The mass he can use is on an entirely different scale! …It feels like he can do anything. Is it a waste of time to even give it serious thought!?”
“Hey! Are you listening!?”
Mikoto shouted from behind, but Kamijou remained silent.
That was not it. There was something more important than what she was talking about.
He could not let himself be distracted by the impressive visual. He could not lose sight of what he needed to think about first.
“How did he know where we were?”
“He must have lost sight of us when we first came down here. But why? …No, that isn’t what we need to think about. Right, that’s right. When we left my school and when we were talking with Fiamma through the spiritual item, he immediately interfered. Ahh! For that matter, how did he locate my school in the very, very beginning!?”
Kamijou left Mikoto behind as he lost himself in his own thoughts.
It did not matter how powerful the High Priest was if he could not locate them. Unlike Othinus at full power, he was not attacking by distorting the phase or the world. While they could not defeat this Magic God, it at least gave them some time to think. And if they thought and thought, they could always find some deeper rules.
Where could they go to escape the High Priest?
What could they do to defeat a Magic God?
That was why he could not let this go. He had to shift from passive to active. To alter the rails of destiny themselves instead of simply going with the flow, he had to discover and break down those rules.
“Does he know where we are once he gets within a certain range? Can he detect us if we stay in the same place for a certain amount of time? No, that isn’t it. Give it more thought. There has to have been an obvious point in common. Where did he pick up our tracks… Wait, our tracks? It can’t be…”
After gathering his thoughts, Kamijou looked up in surprise.
They continued through the upwards sloping tunnel.
“It can’t be!”
“What is it!?”
“We might be able to do this after all. As long as this battery holds out!!”
He leaned even more of his weight on the pedals.
The mummy High Priest pursued them with a deluge of dirt.
The noisy warning continued beeping.
A white light appeared in front of them.
It was the tunnel’s exit.
The dirt carried by a powerful gust of wind made it visible.
The dirt blasted from the tunnel’s exit like when cleaning a bath tub’s pipes. The people walking on a peaceful riverside path looked over in surprise, but the High Priest was not bothered by that.
The mummy stepped onto the carefully maintained bricks of the walking path, split his dried skin, and tilted his head.
A rhythmic sound came from a work ship passing by on the cold river.
The High Priest observed all of his surroundings.
“I’ve lost his signal again.”
A mere fifteen meters in front of the High Priest, Kamijou lay face down on the deck of the work ship noisily travelling along the river. He had used a major trick known as Swing J to make a large jump from the bank.
Mikoto was lying alongside him.
It may have been a sign of her unease, but without realizing it, her hand was tightly holding onto the bottom of Kamijou’s coat.
They had done it all to hide from the High Priest using the raised edge of the ship.
After reaching the end up the slope, the acrobike had shot from the tunnel like it was a ramp. Landing on the work ship had been a complete coincidence.
But Kamijou felt the result would have been the same had they fallen into the cold water.
“When you think about it, he’s been controlling dirt this entire time. In that case, we should have assumed he was searching for us using the same thing he uses to attack.”
He finally breathed a sigh of relief.
“While pedaling the acrobike, my feet were off the ground. When speaking with Fiamma over the spiritual item and when preparing to recharge the acrobike in the tunnel just now, the High Priest attacked the instant I placed my feet on the ground. It’s like he’s a part of the dirt or like the ground is his skin.”
Mikoto did not seem to understand what he meant by becoming “a part of the dirt”.
That was not surprising. While esper powers and magic were both supernatural, the science and magic at their base were entirely different. It might have angered a magician to hear it, but the knowledge acquired in Academy City is completely different to the knowledge acquired by magicians.
Still, she managed to keep the conversation going.
“If that’s true, if you keep your feet off the ground…”
“He won’t know where I am. We just have to stay in the water or on this boat.”
Of course, it would all be for naught if the High Priest actually saw them, but they could at least escape his radar or GPS-like search.
(Of course, this is all assuming it isn’t just an act, waiting for us to reach the wrong conclusion and leave an opening.)
He could not completely deny that possibility.
He would remain cautious, but he felt it was unlikely.
He thought back to the Othinus incident. If the High Priest was a true Magic God, Kamijou doubted he would put together that kind of trick against a lowly human. He would use every means available to him and crush his enemy with overwhelming force. They were called gods because they could do that.
“The High Priest is… Good. It looks like I was right.”
Kamijou poked just his head above the edge of the work ship to check.
It also looked like they could deal with the acrobike’s battery. The ship’s workers had been taken aback by their sudden appearance, but Kamijou had bowed down and gotten permission to use one of the ship’s power plugs.
The workers seemed to think they were from an extreme video site. They had received a quick lecture, but it was not being treated as a crime.
(We finally have time to think.)
Kamijou sat exhausted on the deck.
This could be the beginning of shifting from passive to active, from escape to counterattack, and from going with the flow to altering the rails of destiny themselves.
(And I can think over everything again.)
He shut his eyes and went back over everything that had happened.
The mummy High Priest had accurately pursued an acrobike as it fled as quickly as a car, he had wielded giant arms of dirt and mud, he had attacked with high-rise buildings filled with innocent people, and he had crushed a tunnel with dirt as he approached. He was a frightening opponent who did everything on an extraordinary scale and could fill Academy City with destruction if not dealt with.
(I’m not afraid of you.)
Kamijou Touma opened his eyes and confidently reached his conclusion.
(This isn’t like with Othinus. Back then, I felt like countless fish hooks were caught in my soul and dragging it from my body and I felt like my very existence was being torn away, but I don’t sense that madness from you!!)
Misaka Mikoto slowly exhaled on the work ship.
It did not matter that it was temporary. They had at least managed to escape the High Priest’s pursuit and they had time to think things over.
But thinking was not always helpful.
Everything she had been trying not to think about swelled up inside her chest. Losing herself in that work had stopped these negative thoughts, but they had started up again.
She could not put it in words.
If she did, she would be forced to face her own ugliness.
She shook her head and forced down the phrase that was rising from her throat.
She then turned to Kamijou.
“H-hey, let’s talk about what exactly we’re going to-…”
That was when she saw it.
She saw a woman whose chocolate-colored skin was hidden only by bandages and a girl with pale skin who wore a mini China dress.
Those women had appeared, sitting on either side of the pointy-haired boy.
Mikoto’s mouth flapped opened and closed, but the women did not seem to care.
They leaned in on Kamijou from either side and each grabbed one of his hands.
They then pressed those hands against their soft chests.
“Oh, dear. Not even Imagine Breaker is enough. I had thought I would retrieve my original power if the spell inside me was broken, but that power seems to have already completely disappeared. I suppose even this power can’t remake an object that was burnt to ashes by a magical fire. …Niang-Niang, what are you doing?”
“What do you mean, Nephthys? I’m trying Imagine Breaker on myself just like you.”
“Then why are you using his left hand? It’s only in his right.”
“Oh, I thought any body part worked as long as you touched your breasts with it.”
“Niang-Niang, that’s completely backwards.”
Something burst from Mikoto’s temple.
If she had to say what irritated her the most, it was how the pointy-haired boy did nothing to stop the sudden situation.
“What. Do. You. Think. You’re-…!!!???”
She never finished her furious shout.
Before she could, Niang-Niang (who was still meaninglessly pressing Kamijou Touma’s left hand to her flat chest) pointed her baggy sleeve toward Mikoto in annoyance.
That was all she did.
A thick blade shot from her sleeve and mercilessly stabbed into the center of Mikoto’s chest.
She had no idea what this meant.
She was filled with confusion.
The first thing to pierce into the girl’s chest looked like a crescent-shaped blade on the end of a spear.
But that was not the only one. Now that Mikoto was pinned in place, a great number of weapons shot out to tear, pierce, and slice through every part of her body.
A frenzied rush of dull sounds continued for some time.
She felt no pain and she shed no blood, but she felt dizzy at the definite fact that she had been “stabbed”. This was not a mental manipulation like the #5 used. This was physically happening. Dark unease oozed out from the depths of her mind and quickly spread to every corner of her brain.
The result had already arrived, but it was such an extreme situation that the physical phenomena could not keep up.
It was just like a shockwave reaching the surroundings only after an object had moved at supersonic speeds. It was like the rumble of thunder arriving only a few seconds after the flash of lightning.
So once the situation caught up, would she already be…?
That was when the pointy-haired boy swung his right hand around. He swept aside the countless weapons connecting the China dress’s sleeve to Mikoto’s upper body. Every last one of the weapons was thoroughly destroyed like fragile glass.
To protect her now that she was freed, Kamijou stepped forward to hold back the brown bandaged women and the pale mini-China dress girl.
Mikoto ran her hands along her entirely unharmed body.
(What was that!?)
“Ahh, ahh. It’s no use thinking about it too much. Destroying them all at once like Kamijou Touma did is the best plan.”
The mini China dress girl giggled.
She did not seem bothered that her weapons had been destroyed.
“After all, each and every one of my Pao-Pei has a different effect. If I release them all at once like that, you can’t exactly sit around analyzing each one, now can you?”
“Ah ha ha. Sorry. I guess using my own terminology would leave you confused, wouldn’t it? They aren’t from any religious or historical texts. Instead, they’re the weapons used by the sages in an ancient Chinese novel, but there are plenty of similar things lying around. For example, the sages would have a fake funeral to cut their ties to their earthly life and they would place their own staff in the coffin in their place. My country is filled with tools that have no official origin. There are over one hundred legendary foods that supposedly make you immortal if you eat them. When you have so much stuff, you have to categorize them and manage them all, so I just wanted a convenient name and category.”
“Niang-Niang, I don’t think that’s what they were surprised about.”
“Neh? Then what were those shocked looks for???”
To Kamijou, that puzzled atmosphere felt like a different sort of pressure from any of his previous powerful foes.
“What are you two?”
He stayed in front of Mikoto as he asked, but neither of them bothered getting up as they calmly answered.
“I’m Nephthys and this is Niang-Niang.”
“You can think of us as the High Priest’s partners, Kamijou-chan.”
The High Priest’s partners.
The true Gremlin.
Magic Gods on the same level as Othinus.
That was enough for Kamijou to feel dizzy. Their hands were already more than full with the High Priest. They had been about to start a discussion to find a possible way to defeat him if one existed at all, but now the number of Magic Gods had increased. And not just by one, but by two.
Based on what the High Priest had said and done, Kamijou assumed they could not freely add in a new phase to the world like Othinus had done at full power. Still, there were three of them now. Without even thinking about phases, wasn’t that enough of a force to split the planet in two with brute strength?
On top of that, they were on the same level as the High Priest, but they were not complete copies of him and all his characteristics. He would have to redo everything from the beginning. He would have to analyze what Nephthys and Niang-Niang used as Magic Gods and find a weakness in it. And there was always a chance the High Priest would go on a rampage and fill Academy City with destruction in the meantime.
He was shorthanded. His mental resources were nearly overloaded.
He had no idea where to even begin.
“You don’t have to worry.”
The brown-skinned bandage-wearing Nephthys laughed.
“We aren’t thinking about destroying Academy City right this instant or anything. Didn’t the High Priest tell you what the true Gremlin wants?”
“You mean that stuff about having me score the distortions and destiny created when you Magic Gods fight over resources? And in exchange for a guaranteed wish or prayer. You aren’t interested in world domination or wiping out the human race. You just want to give me those special privileges for some nonsensical peace of mind!”
“Are you prepared to give us your answer?”
Kamijou wondered what would happen if he was not prepared.
Would they use the High Priest’s strategy and spread destruction until he changed his mind?
He tensed at that thought, but Niang-Niang shrugged and cut into the conversation.
“C’moooon. You don’t have to look so horrified. Huh? Nephthys, do you think maybe the High Priest scared him a little too much???”
“Well, he is the type that lets the blood rush to his head and ruins the plan he was working on five seconds before, so it isn’t that surprising. He really does like making his own convenient interpretations of impermanence and inevitable decline.”
“What are you…talking about?”
“Sorry if we scared you, boy.”
Nephthys pressed her index finger against her slender chin without looking remotely troubled.
“But we have no intention of starting any kind of trouble in Academy City…or in this world at all.”
“How can you be so certain?”
“Because we have no reason to.”
She said it so readily.
“I can’t speak for the other Magic God, but I quite like Academy City. Even as one of the lives crawling along the ground, you dream of the stars in the night sky and draw up diagrams for them all. You’ve even reached the level of building a mass driver and landing an unmanned probe on a comet by matching its one hundred thousand kph relative speed.”
She removed her fingertip from her brown chin and casually reached her hand toward the sun in the blue sky.
“The stars can be plucked from the sky so easily, so why are you so desperate to reach them? It’s not even remotely logical, but humans are creatures filled with that sort of passion, aren’t they? That movement of your hearts is the one thing I’m honestly jealous of.”
Niang-Niang was struggling not to laugh as she listened in.
“Neeephthyyys, you’re really, really looking down on them.”
“Oh, dear. But my experience tells me this leaves them with a more favorable impression of me.”
“Well, we are gods. It’s true people expect us to crush them underfoot instead of lowering ourselves to their level.”
Kamijou and Mikoto were right in front of them, but neither Nephthys nor Niang-Niang paid them much attention. There was a powerful division between them like with a waiter in the middle of a party.
“I got off topic, didn’t I?”
“Why are you even here?”
“Didn’t you hear from the High Priest? Thanks to ‘him’, we’re weakened at the moment. We had hoped your Imagine Breaker could do something about that, but it didn’t work. Not that it really matters.”
“We’re not the ones this is a real problem for. I just can’t figure out what ‘he’ was thinking by dragging us into the real world in this incomplete state. You could say we’re in a state where we can destroy the world but lack the strength to recreate it afterwards.”
“Ah ha ha! Sorry, sorry. You sure were traumatized by that business with Othinus, Kamijou-chan!!”
Niang-Niang held her small belly with her baggy sleeves and burst out laughing with tears in her eyes. Nephthys could only sigh in exasperation.
“Sorry about making fun of you. At any rate, we’ll deal with our first goal on our own, but I suppose we do have a second goal we could use your help with.”
“I won’t become your scorer. I’m sick of thinking about turning the human race into tropical fish for something as ridiculous as ‘peace of mind’. I have no interest in making any wishes or prayers.”
“That can wait until another time.” Nephthys laughed. “The current issue is the High Priest.”
“The High Priest?”
“Even you can tell he’s on a complete rampage, can’t you? But that doesn’t represent the overall will of the true Gremlin. We can’t have you thinking we’re all like that.”
Hesitantly, Mikoto finally spoke up from behind Kamijou.
“Why can’t you deal with him? You know that weird old man, right? Then you go capture him and leave!”
Nephthys and Niang-Niang’s response was incredibly simple.
They acted like Academy City’s #3 was not even there.
“We want you to stop the High Priest, so we’ll give you the information you need. But don’t expect us to do anything directly.”
Kamijou cut in without thinking.
Mikoto was still so shocked she did not have it in her to speak again.
But the two Magic Gods did not seem to mind very much.
“Well, if you tell us to do it, we will. But only if we receive that prayer from our cute little Kamijou-chan. Of course, that would end up with at least Academy City…no, this entire archipelago at the bottom of the sea. You know why, don’t you? A fight between us and the High Priest would be a battle between Magic Gods.”
The two Magic Gods were entirely cheerful.
They sounded just like someone speaking to a friend in class.
But that was exactly why each and every word caused Mikoto to shrink down.
They felt like physical blows to the girl who was left all alone.
The two Magic Gods were cruelly erasing her presence from their mind and acting like she was not there.
“I said wait, Nephthys!!”
The next thing he knew, Kamijou had grabbed the bandages corresponding to the brown woman’s collar.
What would happen if he made a single mistake against a Magic God? Even that concern had been knocked from his mind.
He glared at her from close range, but Nephthys’s expression did not change.
Kamijou Touma felt a strange prickling surround him, as if something invisible were stabbing into his skin.
Still, he did not back down.
He had no reason to do so.
“What will you do?”
A teasing voice cut in from the side. Niang-Niang hid her mouth behind a baggy sleeve and a bewitching smile filled her eyes.
“Of course, it doesn’t matter to us if you say you don’t want any divine advice. If you want to do it all on your own, go right ahead. But can you really manage that? You don’t even know the basic structure of the High Priest’s mummy body.”
Kamijou could not answer.
A silent confrontation between human and Magic God continued for a while.
Misaka Mikoto was the one who finally spoke up.
The Magic Gods had not been counting her as part of the conversation, so she spoke to Kamijou.
“Let’s use everything available to us. This is no time to be picky.”
“But we’ll outdo them in the end. We can put up with it if we assume that. So let’s keep the conversation going. If the High Priest interrupted now after all this, it would make me wonder what we were doing this whole time.”
He looked like he had just bitten into something bitter, but Kamijou finally let go of Nephthys’s collar.
He would respect her decision, but his expression made it clear he did not like it.
Meanwhile, Nephthys’s expression remained unchanged. She had no reason to change it.
“You don’t like it, but you can’t refuse us, can you?”
“What of it?”
“You have always been greedy when it comes to victory, so you tend to use any means available to you. And right now you have someone behind you to protect. You would never worry about appearances here.”
Nephthys laughed as she continued.
“Now, how about we celebrate our common goal by talking about the High Priest?”
It was a carefree scene.
The purple-robed High Priest used his golden sword as a staff to walk along the river.
He did not use a people-clearing field to hide himself.
He did not try to conceal the existence of magic.
He held the position of a Magic God, his presence destroyed the many bonds tying one to the world, and yet his living mummy body shattered everyone’s common sense simply by breathing. But he gave no thought to any of that. If any problems occurred, he could crush them with his strength and none of the beings living in this world could stop him. His entire body was overflowing with that pride.
“Now, where did they get off to?”
Was there really any meaning in the words he spoke?
When it came down to it, a Magic God like him had no real reason why he had to settle things with Kamijou Touma right away. His mummy body would continue to function indefinitely. Just as Othinus had lived a long, long mind-numbing amount of time to find someone who understood her, it did not entirely matter to him as long as it was all resolved in the very end. Of course, he was nothing but a disaster to those who only had a one hundred year lifespan and were being constantly targeted in this normal world. In other words, the wait may have been the most frightening part.
Kamijou and Mikoto had been desperate to escape the immediate threat, but it may have been even more frightening for him to be out of sight.
But as his pride was based in actual strength, the High Priest was not a patient person. Instead of dangling a line in the water and enjoying a relaxing time fishing, he would swallow up all of the lake’s water and grab the fish from the dried lake bottom. That was a Magic God.
After his walk, he suddenly looked up.
He turned in a certain direction and he smiled.
“Ho ho. Looks like they’re doing something interesting over there.”
“As you know…or maybe you don’t, but the High Priest is a Magic God from Buddhism.”
On the work ship, Nephthys began with that.
“Specifically, from the unique Japanese variety that went through a number of changes after its origin in India and its passage through China and Korea. Now, Kamijou-chan, are you familiar with self-mummification?”
“Nephthyyys, you’re skipping a step in your explanation,” cut in Niang-Niang. “In Japanese Buddhism, you can’t achieve enlightenment and travel to the Pure Land in a single life, no matter how much you train. It has nothing to do with your social status. By being reborn again and again and going through harsh training each time, you slowwwwly polish your soul and only liberate yourself from your worldly desires in the very, very end. That’s when you become a Buddha. Or that’s the normal route, anyway.”
“There is a way of becoming a Buddha in the limited few decades of a single life and that is self-mummification.”
Were they saying the High Priest had performed that self-mummification ceremony and become a Magic God?
But what exactly did that ceremony entail?
“The process itself is simple. You can tell from his body, right?”
“It’s basically the Japanese version of a mummy. And strangely, they don’t even remove the blood or organs. They only close themselves in a dark room and dry up. Speaking as the Egyptian version, it makes me worry they would rot from the inside before drying out.”
That surprised Kamijou.
It was true the High Priest did not look normal, but it was still a shock to have it confirmed by someone else.
“Then he was killed in order to artificially create a Magic God!?”
“Don’t be silly. He closed himself in the underground room and chose to starve to death. It wouldn’t be ‘self’-mummification otherwise.”
Niang-Niang’s nonchalant comment left Kamijou even more dumbfounded.
Nephthys did not seem to want to stick on any one point, so she continued on to the next one.
“That’s why he has a connection to dirt. In self-mummification, the priest wanting to rid himself of worldly desires closes himself in an underground room, essentially burying himself alive, and continues forming mudra and chanting sutra to the end. That creates the mummy. What seeped from his corpse as he dried filled the surrounding dirt and created a connection there.”
“All around the world, people think of the heavenly gods being up in the sky and the sinners being below the earth, but not many cultures view dirt itself as unclean. Take Japan’s Shinto for example. But Shinto and Buddhism have mixed and contaminated each other, so that influenced the High Priest, too.”
A Magic God who could draw out and control the space that had starved him to death.
“Why did he…?”
“Why did he go that far?”
This had nothing to do with strategizing.
It was an honest question.
Nephthys replied as if it was nothing.
“Isn’t that obvious? The only reason any priest aims to rid himself of his worldly desires is to save the people. In other words, he wanted to save the entire world.”
“Ah ha ha! Pretty much all of the Magic Gods are the same, y’know? But the salvation our overwhelming power brought was twisted. Or I guess you could say salvation from an individual is no different from an absolute dictatorship. Then again, the High Priest’s story may be one of the worst.”
“Didn’t you find it odd?” asked Nephthys like this was nothing more than gossip. “There are a few peculiar aspects about the High Priest’s outfit: his purple robe, the glittering golden ornaments, the collar rising like flames, and the sword made of pure gold.”
“What about it?”
“But he has never once swung that sword, has he?”
Now that it had been pointed out to him, Kamijou realized it was true.
The High Priest had made giant arms of dirt and mud, swung buildings around, and crushed an underground tunnel. Kamijou had been distracted by the great impact of those actions, but the High Priest had never used that obvious weapon of his.
“They’re all burial accessories modeled after the Buddhist deity Acala, but they don’t represent his own choices. After he died, a faction that did not want him to become a Buddha sabotaged his attempt. No one adorned with those treasures could have abandoned their desire, so no one would think he could have achieved enlightenment. It was basically a blatant negative campaign against him.”
“Kee hee hee. In other words, he has the body of a Buddha but wasn’t given the position of a Buddha, so you could call him a wandering Buddha.”
“In polytheistic religions, every god is given a name and a role. The gears of the giant system known as mythology can start turning as long as they have those two things. But the High Priest has neither.”
“He’s a Buddha with no name besides ‘High Priest’. He’s a dangerous gear that can appear anywhere inside an already full box. And worst of all, he still fully intends to save the people.”
“He concluded that what happened to him was ‘the desire of the people’, so he believes he can save the world by acting as someone who could not abandon his petty desires and thus became a Buddha without a role.”
Hearing it was enough to make Kamijou feel faint.
He had run across quite a few magicians in the past and they had all had their unique issues.
But the High Priest was somehow different.
The other magicians had done what they did because something had ended or because they feared something would end, but the High Priest was much more rotten.
He was like a dried and eternally preserved mummy.
Everyone else was working out of fear that their HP would drop to zero, but his alone had already reached negative numbers yet he was still laughing.
“So you can’t convince him to stop.”
Nephthys provided that simple conclusion and her tone made it clear that was not uncommon for someone with that kind of past.
“After all, he’s rotted so much, but he’s perfectly satisfied with where he is ‘now’. If the emperor of the Emperor’s New Clothes was proud of being naked, then there would be no stopping him with words, right?”
“Ah ha ha!! Neeephthyyys ! That doesn’t sound very convincing coming from someone who’s naked except for some bandages!”
“You aren’t any better since you don’t wear any underwear.”
As they spoke back and forth, the two Magic Gods slowly stood up from the ship’s deck.
“Well, despite what I said, if you really don’t have enough strength, call our names. If you give an appropriate sacrifice, we can restrain the High Priest in a direct confrontation between Magic Gods.”
“That wouldn’t be all that interesting a conclusion, but I suppose it would be somewhat entertaining. After all, it would mean you had accepted the value of a Magic God’s power.”
She held her slender brown hand out to Kamijou.
He could do it now if he wanted.
If he gave up here, she would easily end this incident.
And he would get a taste of cheating.
Once he knew how easy it was, he would feel foolish for ever working at it the old-fashioned way.
That was all it would take to save everyone.
That would not be a problem for anyone, but…
A sharp yell cut through the gentle downward-sloping atmosphere.
It came from Misaka Mikoto.
In that instant, not even she fully knew why she had grabbed Kamijou’s arm.
She had felt it would be dangerous for him to take Nephthys or Niang-Niang’s slender hand.
She had felt he would truly leave for some place she would never be able to reach.
So she did not care how pathetic it was. She did not care if everyone treated her like a weed or stone on the side of the road, if her pride as Tokiwadai Middle School’s Ace was torn to shreds, or if Academy City’s #3 was entirely useless in the face of a “true conflict”.
Magic? Magic God?
She did not understand the words everyone else was using. She could not share in their meaning, she could not imagine what they were talking about, and she could not keep up. That fact was a powerful blow.
But she could put all of that off until later.
She could go through it all bit by bit based on what she did understand.
But that meant she could not allow this.
She could not allow Kamijou Touma to carelessly join forces with these Magic Gods.
Misaka Mikoto clung to Kamijou Touma’s arm.
She glared at the temptresses like a normal girl.
Only then did the chocolate-colored Magic God give her a puzzled look for the first time.
The girl named Misaka Mikoto finally entered her field of vision.
Nephthys laughed and shook her empty hand in amusement.
“The stars can be plucked from the sky so easily, but you humans feel such passion for such unimportant things.”
What did she see in Mikoto and what assessment had she made? Not even Mikoto knew.
But it seemed what had almost amounted to a tackle had drawn the Magic God’s interest.
As if switching to a different set of rails, Nephthys and Niang-Niang stood up.
“I will give you one last piece of divine advice,” said the Magic God. “If you intend to defeat the High Priest with brute strength, then you need to carefully work out the process of his destruction. Make no mistake; that is not a simple difference in physical strength.”
“He is a special being that rose to the level of a Buddha in a single life when that normally takes being reborn into countless lives. He is someone who left the proper path of destiny and skipped a level on his own. He can freely manipulate the intersection of the Six Paths, so it would be best not to assume the cause, the process, and the effect are lined up neatly in order.”
She said nothing more.
By the time Kamijou Touma finished blinking his eyes, the Magic Gods were already gone.
Kamijou and Mikoto were short on time.
The High Priest had not yet located them. As long as they did not stand on the dirt that made up his turf, their location would not reach him.
But that was not a 100% guarantee.
“He only has to think about it in reverse.”
“How can we stay safe and not step on the ground? If he goes around crushing locations like that, he might eventually realize we’re on the water or on this ship. Once that happens, it’s all over. The chase will begin again.”
They had finally gained some time to think and the Magic Gods named Nephthys and Niang-Niang had given them some information on the High Priest.
If they could not make full use of this short time, they would never turn things around.
Like a fox hunt, they would only be tortured to death at the end of a long, long chase.
“First of all,” began Mikoto. “Do you think there’s any way for us to defeat that High Priest guy?”
“If we can’t, then we have to come up with a way of resolving this without defeating him.”
Kamijou pulled the acrobike’s recharging cable from the ship’s outlet and stored it in the battery pack like with a vacuum cleaner.
“We need to get to District 23.”
“Well, I suppose we won’t get anyone else involved when it’s just large launch sites and runways, but what do we do then!?”
“I have an idea.”
“Ow…” someone groaned.
It was Kenzan from the group of college students.
His vision was still flashing in and out, so he shook his head to clear his mind. The area looked like the scene of some horrible disaster, but only two things mattered.
The liquid diamond and the middle school girl were gone.
The stolen P-phone was lying on the ground nearby.
The LCD’s protective glass was cracked, but it turned on when he hit the switch.
“Okay, it’s working. …We can still chase her down. Good.”
The other boys were not far away. Okada was collapsed face-up on the road and Higata was crouched down near him.
“A-ah! Oh, you’re okay? I think Okada’s in trouble. He’s conscious, but he can’t seem to get up. He hit his back pretty hard, so I think he might have broken something.”
“Shut up. More importantly, we’re going after the liquid diamond. C’mon.”
That should have been obvious, but Higata’s mouth hung open.
He froze up for a bit.
“No, wait. What are you saying? ‘More importantly’!?”
“Sorry, but this isn’t the time. We need to do something about Okada. Um, we need to call an ambulance. Where’s my phone?”
“Ahh! Sorry, but I’m not letting you report this! If we’re stopped here, our six trillion yen’ll get away!!”
Higata heard a metallic sound, saw the handgun pulled from the back of Kenzan’s pants, and looked up.
When he saw the look in Kenzan’s eyes, he made a partial smile.
“You’re crazy. You’re completely insane.”
“Are you coming with me or are you going to rest in peace with your friend here? It’s your choice.”
Higata bit his lip, looked back and forth between Okada and Kenzan, and finally stood up in resignation.
Taking that as a sign Higata was coming with him, Kenzan moved the handgun away.
“That’s more like it.”
The mummy known as the High Priest raised his head.
A giant glass case sat near the entrance of an arcade. He was pressed up against that crane game machine.
It was filled with strange, round characters that may have been modeled after the Arrowhead Comet that had been gathering attention during its closest approach to Earth.
He must have looked like an old man ignorant of the modern world who had dumped too much money into the game, because a male employee unlocked the door and handed the High Priest one of the strange round stuffed toys.
“You see, old man… Wait, that’s what I should call you, right? Ha ha. Or are you a mumm-…no, it couldn’t be.”
(I sense him.)
Kamijou Touma, his current target, had stepped on the dirt.
He was at a runway or launch site in District 23, but that was a far too obvious location.
It was clearly a trap.
But the High Priest laughed regardless.
It was the opposite.
A Buddhist priest as advanced as him saw no value in actions meant to build something up. The world was a fleeting thing, it was going to end eventually, and the path to virtue was to unhesitatingly cast aside everything. Rather than just seeing the world as fleeting, his heart saw elegance in the destruction itself. This was a unique aesthetic different from the original Buddhism of India.
This was no different.
Impermanence was exemplified by trampling over any and all plans with no plan of his own. Decline was inevitable because the will of god would destroy all the efforts of man. Gathering that which existed to build up one’s defenses could not stop the truth brought about by nothingness. The more they built up, the more the High Priest could shine.
So there was no need to think too much about it.
Even the greatest existence would return to nothingness.
He claimed to want peace of mind, but the High Priest’s actual vector was pointed elsewhere.
“Just to be clear, these things are worth less than a yen. That’s the magic of mass-production if you can believe it. Were you so desperate to get one because your grandchild begged for one? Sorry, but you can get them pretty cheap at any second-hand shop, so…what are you doing!?”
The employee gave a hysteric shout.
The High Priest had pushed the stuffed toy back into his hands.
“I no longer need it. You use it as you wish.”
“Use it? And why were you so worked up over getting it, then!?”
“Well,” said the mummy without looking back. “Unfortunately, I tend to lose interest in things once I get my hands on them.”
That was true of all things for him.
If that boy were to give in to him, the High Priest was sure to immediately behead him without a second thought.
It did not matter if the High Priest was aware he would or not.
Cycle Arts Collection 3
Run horizontally across the edge a cliff with a slope of seventy to eighty degrees and slide down the cliff with both wheels pressed against the wall. It is possible thanks to the gyros, but if one of the wheels leaves the wall even slightly, you will lose the benefit of the gyros and immediately begin to fall.
A cycle art using the terrain. Build your speed on the ground, press the wheels against a wall running alongside you, and race across the wall for a few seconds. This uses centrifugal force, so terrain like an arch-shaped tunnel is necessary for the transfer. If you continue on up to the ceiling, it becomes the Universe which has a difficulty of 5.
Generally refers to a flight of over ten meters after jumping from a slope. It looks fancy, but it doesn’t require much skill from the performer because it relies on the terrain and the acrobike’s specs. Once the jump exceeds thirty meters, it becomes the Over Kp with a difficulty of 4. Add in a full backflip for the Moonsault with a difficulty of 5.
Between the Lines 3
Wish upon a star☆ Become a sponsor of the unmanned probe Parasatellite 01 and name an unknown jewel! This new campaign is underway!!
Our foundation is accepting sponsors of the unmanned probe Parasatellite 01 which will be launched by a mass driver to investigate the Arrowhead Comet.
The method is simple: either log onto our webpage or use a convenience store’s multi-copy machine or ticket vending machine.
One hundred yen per person!
The Arrowhead Comet is rumored to hold the possibility of being a seventh achondrite that does not fit the existing six types. If the samples taken by the Parasatellite 01 prove this theory…wow! The right to name the new jewel will be given to one of you sponsors!
The world’s astronomers are paying close attention because the achondrite could be the key to learning the secret of the solar system’s birth and the name of the seventh type is sure to spread far and wide as new ones are later discovered.
You can name it after your store, make it a wish for world peace, spread the name of your birthplace, give it your own name, or dedicate it to your lover.
Why not make a wonderful memory in this romantic month of December by entering for your chance to provide the name?