Toaru Majutsu no Index:NT Volume13 Epilogue
Epilogue: Another Possible Beginning — The_End_is_Named...
When the comet arrived, the people who had evacuated outside had rushed indoors. That may not have been any help if the comet had hit, but that had ultimately saved Akikawa Mie and everyone else’s lives.
But the Magic Gods did not bother running away.
They calmly watched on without showing any concern about the sharp glass pouring down like rain or the massive shockwave approaching with enough force to knock over the roadside trees.
Niang-Niang looked up at it all.
“The High Priest was taken out.”
First Zombie and now the High Priest.
For Magic Gods who lived for so very long, this was two unbelievable events in quick succession. They had known a Magic God could be killed from the moment of Zombie’s death, but it was still difficult to accept what was happening before their eyes.
It was an issue of definitions.
Was a god really a being that could accept death?
“The High Priest was taken out! He was taken out!! What do we do, Nephthys!?”
They had called out to Kamijou Touma to make sure this did not happen.
That was supposed to be the job of the scorer who gave form to their formless peace of mind.
If Niang-Niang or Nephthys had restrained the High Priest with their full power, it would have become a battle between Magic Gods, so they had decided it would be best to use a safety measure that brought the possibility of no sacrifices.
But it had all gone up in smoke.
Not only that, it was not a Magic God or even Kamijou who had killed the High Priest.
A deluge of deafening noise reached them. All of the glass shards were reaching the ground. But none of it harmed the Magic Gods’ skin. Nephthys did not budge as she lost herself in thought.
This was right.
This was what a Magic God was supposed to be.
Then what was that before them? What had led to that conclusion? Could they really let that happen?
Doubt reached her before deep sorrow could.
She lacked the pieces needed for the gears of emotion to turn properly.
“To hell with this.”
While Nephthys thought, Niang-Niang did not seek an answer to every little thing.
“To hell with this, to hell with this, to hell with this!! I’m pissed now, completely pissed!! Basically, there’s something in Academy City that can kill us, right? Then if we destroy that, everything will be back on track. That makes it easy, don’t you think?”
“We just have to destroy Academy City.”
An ominous metallic sound rang out.
Something wriggled out from the baggy sleeves of Niang-Niang’s China dress. They shot out. These were the sages’ weapons that each had their own strange and special effect. Dozens of oddly shaped weapons stuck out like pens roughly shoved into a pen holder.
“Wherever they’re hiding, we can blow them away along with everything else if we level the entire city. So let’s do that.”
Nephthys gave a heavy sigh.
However, a Magic God was not going to scold her because indiscriminate slaughter was wrong.
“What about our sheath and scorer?”
“We can just wait a century or two and find another one. There’s no real reason it has to be Kamijou Touma.”
“True. Then I guess it can’t be helped.”
That was all it took for Nephthys to let go of Niang-Niang’s reins. That also meant dooming a city of 2.3 million.
But this was also an issue of scale.
How many lives had been taken by the choices of a single emperor or pharaoh in ancient China or Egypt? And even those rulers feared the gods, so a city or two may not have meant much to them.
“If you’re going to do it, do it quick,” said Nephthys listlessly. “I didn’t think Academy City was all that bad, so I might have second thoughts if you make me wait.”
“Okay, okay. By the way, what about the others? Y’know, like Chimera-chan.”
“They can withstand a single attack from another Magic God.”
Niang-Niang gave a shout toward the heavens.
The dozens…no, over one hundred sage weapons sticking from her sleeves all glowed and release the high-pitched sound of a metallophone.
In the end, did those two even have the normal emotion of sorrow toward their slain partner? They might have and they might not have.
There was no longer any way to check.
They would unleash their power on a whim and that was enough to smash an entire city to pieces.
The destruction was easily stopped by a sound so light it seemed like a joke.
The sound came from two fingertips.
It came from the index and middle finger of someone’s right hand.
They plunged into the center of Niang-Niang’s flat chest and stabbed in up to the second joint.
She looked utterly confused.
There was no pain. She could not tell why she had been stabbed. In fact, how had someone approached right in front of her without her noticing? And who were they anyway?
She did not have time to ask those questions.
True destruction awaited her.
At first, Nephthys thought Niang-Niang’s pulse was escaping to the outside world, but that was not what it was.
(She’s being absorbed?)
Nephthys tensed as she saw something unbelievable.
The fact that a Magic God was reacting like a frightened animal was enough for her to tremble.
(Niang-Niang is… A Magic God is being absorbed!?)
Her frightening thoughts were cut off by a soft voice.
It was a common sort of kind voice found in any city. It belonged to a boy of a mid-sized build with brown hair. The great gap between what was happening and the person doing it just about short-circuited Nephthys’s mind.
“I am not absorbing her. Nor am I taking anything from her. I am simply giving her salvation. But only to the person who believes that this is salvation.”
She doubted her ears when she heard that unbelievable word.
She grew even more confused when she saw Niang-Niang’s face.
That Magic God girl had always been by her side.
Her expression was not one of fear, doubt, or confusion.
It was swollen with tranquility.
She was smiling.
“Heh…heh heh. It’ll finally be over. I’ll finally be freed. I…I…!! Nephthys, this is amazing! I…ahh…I’ve never felt so relieved!! Ah ha ha ha ha!!”
Something inside her was clearly absorbed, the size of her body visibly shrank, and she became nothing but the external skin. But that was what made it so strange. It was just like how certain wasps numbed their prey’s nerves before feasting on them. The mismatch between the external phenomenon and the bliss in her mind released a joyful voice from the girl.
“A new world.”
The brown-haired boy readily spoke while crushing Niang-Niang like a milk carton.
“My right hand is a collection of such dreams. I believe its name was…yes, World Rejecter.”
“You can’t. You can’t possibly. Parallel worlds don’t-…”
“Yes, the world is ultimately a straight line like the rubber string nailed onto pachinko machines. There is no infinite expanse of parallel worlds. But at the same time, the world is a rubber string. It can stretch or contract like time or space. The world we know has a surprising amount of waste. It’s like using only ten frames when using sixty fps film. No one will notice if you stick some subliminal footage in using two or three of the leftover frames. This is what you wished for, isn’t it? You Magic Gods wished for this even though you knew it could never come true. You checked the farthest reaches of the universe and all of the piled-up phases and you realized there was nothing new left. But if it was possible, you wished to leave behind this troublesome world and spread your wings in a new world no one else knows of.”
Nephthys realized she could no longer hear Niang-Niang’s voice.
In fact, her flat skin and China dress were gone too.
She had been absorbed and consumed before disappearing to some distant place.
“Oh? I had thought she was hiding the weapons up her sleeves, but it looks like she wasn’t. So she was transforming her fingertips. Well, it is true the sages were incarnations of transcending the human body.”
Nephthys knew this was very bad.
But not because of the boy’s strange attack. Even after what she had seen and all the caution filling her, she still felt somewhat jealous, she wanted to try it herself, and she thought it looked interesting. Would the same fate await her if that absorption exceeded her own limits? No matter how much power she wielded, would she be robbed of any desire to resist and would she be helplessly “exiled”? Would she be like a bug drawn in by a bug zapper and fried? Would she be like a bug that slid into the acid after being drawn in by the sweet scent of a carnivorous plant?
That right hand controlled happiness.
She had been monitoring Imagine Breaker which was a reference point and recovery point for the world, but this was a completely different approach toward making a collection of the desires held by all magic-users.
One was an ideal that let them repair, fix, and cling to the current world.
The other was an illusion that let them abandon, leave, and throw out the current world.
But Nephthys did not know when the hope named World Rejecter had solidified in this world.
“What happened to Chimera?”
“I don’t know.”
“What about Tezcatlipoca, Nuada, and Proserpina!?”
“I don’t know their names or what they look like.”
“What happened to all the others!?”
“How would it have helped me to remember the exact number?”
That normal boy clenched and opened the right hand that had eliminated Niang-Niang.
Like a poor attempt at sleight of hand, something heavy fell down with a clunk.
It was a prosthetic left arm made of silver.
Nephthys was dumbfounded.
She knew the name of that god of Celtic mythology. She knew the legend of the one who had been forced to step down from the throne of the head god after losing an arm, but who had regained that throne after obtaining an artificial arm.
She also knew how that silver arm was truly used and what the god who wielded it looked like.
“Anyway, I went around consuming everyone I saw who looked like a Magic God. The only ones I missed were…what were their names again? Zombie, High Priest, and…Othinus? Was that it? I don’t remember, so I can’t really say.”
Those were hopeless words.
Not to mention that he did not include Nephthys’s name on that list.
“Now, what to do about you?”
He truly was speaking on a whim.
Just having him turn his right palm her way was enough for unpleasant sweat to appear on Nephthys’s chocolate skin. It was a mad sweat brought by a mixture of fear and joy.
“Do you wish for a new world?”
She did not wait any longer.
She realized if she did, she would give in to the joy instead of the fear and she would give herself over to the temptation.
She released her power as a Magic God.
She was surrounded by the deafening sound of thousands of insect wings scraping together. In an instant, her brown silhouette blurred. Her divinity had been created based on the crying woman who was paid to take part in funerals. In this case in particular, that referred to the thousands or tens of thousands of servants who were buried alive in the pyramid for the pharaoh’s burial.
That made Nephthys different from the other Magic Gods. The others had thoroughly honed their powers as an individual, but she had specialized her power as something that could be separated, split apart, cut away, and swapped out.
In other words, she held it in reserve.
Even after being hit by Aleister’s weakening spell, she still had enough power to swap out the phase just once.
She bit her lip while aware she was at the disadvantage even as a god.
(Embed the phase, change the world, and use that power to crush-…)
The voice of her heart was cut off.
She heard a tremendous explosion of sound and her phase was crushed.
It was squeezed and crushed.
To a third party, it may have looked like the entire scene wavered like a mirage, but this was something else entirely. That did not explain anything, but it was the only way of expressing it. Nephthys froze in place when she saw it and the boy simply clenched his right hand and opened it once more. It almost looked like he was giving her a greeting.
In other words, he could reject and kill even a Magic God using her full power.
The normal boy tried to crack his neck, found he could not, frowned, and waved his right hand horizontally.
That was all he did.
Strength and distance meant nothing this time.
A handprint was torn from Nephthys’s ample chest.
The Magic God looked down as if checking on her own body.
The mediocre-looking boy did not allow it.
He swung his arm a second and third time as casually as brushing aside some spider webs in an abandoned building. Each time, more of Nephthys’s body was taken away. No, it vanished to the “new world”. She felt no pain or fear. She only sensed the possibilities of the unknown and her mind was filled with that hope and joy. Yes, she felt relief. That happiness was forced into her as if her skull had been opened and a thick syrup poured in, but she tried to fight it to the very, very end.
The right hand consumed her face.
The boy swung his right hand to eliminate even the few strands of silver hair fluttering away in the wind.
“I am Kamisato Kakeru.”
The ordinary boy spoke in a completely ordinary manner.
“I am the kind of normal high school boy you can find anywhere.”
For a while, silence ruled all.
It was a form of perfection.
Not even the threat of a Magic God could stand up to it.
Then he scratched his head as if he had just remembered something.
“Oops. Don’t Egyptian mummies have all the organs but their heart removed and preserved in containers? I guess I can’t say I’ve consumed her just yet.”
In St. George’s Cathedral, Archbishop Lola Stuart laughed quietly.
The twist of her lips was far too wicked to call bewitching.
“You can build up a plan over a century, prepare massive funding and facilities, and put as much thought into it as you want. In the end, reality will easily bend those rails with a single outside element.”
That information was forbidden to be recorded in any form.
It only existed in Lola's head.
“Now, then. World Rejecter has begun to move. Imagine Breaker was unable to contain the dreams of all magicians in its incomplete form, so what overflowed has gathered together to form another dream. What will you do, ‘human’? It almost looks like you were born under a star that destined you to never obtain the things you wish for most.”
She had known of that existence’s arrival.
She had known of that normal high school boy’s appearance.
“The peak of darkness doesn’t suit you.”
She laughed, ridiculed, and mocked.
“The title of ‘cannibal’ or ‘the greatest eccentric of the 20th century’ suit you so much better, Crowley.”
The arrival of the next disaster was signaled with a doorbell.
Utterly exhausted and beaten-up, Kamijou Touma finally thought he had returned to his student dorm room that’s windows were broken by the shockwave, but then an old delivery man delivered him a package.
He used his last ounce of strength to stamp his seal and collapsed to the floor with the box.
Who was it from?
He tried to peel away the fairly sturdy packaging tape with his fingernails, quickly gave up, and began to consider just throwing it away.
Suddenly, the side of the box burst open and a brown leg slipped out.
This was clearly insane. The cardboard box was only thirty centimeters on each side, so not even a child would be able to hide inside. How had a beautiful young woman’s leg gotten inside?
Nevertheless, the bizarre scene continued.
Next came an arm, then another leg, and finally the whole box was torn to shreds. An entire silver-haired woman with chocolate skin burst out. The color of her eyes did not match and she had a teardrop tattoo below one eye. Also, her shapely body was only covered by white bandages.
He recognized her.
“Gh…kh. I was right to leave…just my primary organs behind.”
The Magic God seemed on the verge of coughing up blood and she just barely managed to rise to a crawling position.
She was trying to look Kamijou in the eye.
“Work with me. It won’t be a bad deal for you.”
“I’ve already said no to that stuff about your path, your sheath, and your scorer. I don’t need a wish or a prayer and I’m sick of being asked to be your peace of mind, your security software, or your protective charm!!”
“This is no time to be talking about that.”
Something seemed strange to Kamijou.
The Magic God was sweating an awful lot, so was she worn out? Even though she was a monster on the level of the High Priest who, even while weakened, had ridden back on a comet after being thrown out into space?
“World Rejecter has shown up.”
The answer to his confusion was far too incomplete.
However, the words still stabbed into his heart.
“If Kamisato Kakeru is ‘exiling’ all of the Magic Gods, then wouldn’t Othinus be in trouble too?”
Someone was out of breath.
It was a girl.
It was Misaka Mikoto.
The colors of evening had already changed to those of late night. She had somehow made her way back to Tokiwadai Middle School’s student dorm, where she arbitrarily deflected the questions of her roommate Shirai Kuroko who was concerned she had been hurt in the downpour of glass. She entered the bathroom, leaned her back against the door, and took deep breaths to restrain the chaos in her mind.
But it was no use.
It did not seem to work in the slightest.
For one, she could not keep up the deep breathing. She could only manage the shallow panting of a stray dog.
This was not caused by the abnormal strength of the Magic God known as the High Priest, by the scale of him coming back with the Arrowhead Comet after being ejected into space, by the single strike from the surface that had intercepted the falling object, or by the flash of light and shockwave that had covered the entire city.
This was something much closer to her.
And more importantly, something much further away.
At the very end, she had heard a sound from the boy who was leaning on her shoulder.
(What in the world was that?)
There should not have been anything they could have done.
There was no way she could have used her power as the #3 to intercept that one hundred meter comet approaching at max speed. That boy seemed to have something sleeping inside him that could endure even her power, but it should not have been able to do anything there.
It should not have been able to.
But in that final moment, the boy had held his palm up toward the comet as if to oppose it.
She had heard a sound like cracking plastic coming from his arm.
What if Academy City had done nothing and time had simply been allowed to pass? What would have happened then?
How would that boy’s right hand have changed and what would it have caused?
With her back still against the door, Mikoto looked down at her hands.
She had seen glimpses of it.
For example, that incident during the Daihaseisai. For example, the driving force that led him to face the source of World War Three all alone. For example, for example, for example, for example.
Her power, her value, and her existence had been entirely rejected by the High Priest and then later reaffirmed by Kamijou Touma.
She thought about all of that.
Her heart had been repeatedly torn into. She would not have been able to stand up had she been alone. She had only been able to return to her dorm room and she had only been able to remain Tokiwadai’s Ace and Academy City’s #3 because of that boy.
But at the same time, something had ripped her heart apart and left deep claw marks there.
Finally, she covered her face with her hands, bit her hidden lips, and forced out a suppressed yet definite voice.
“He’s so far away!!!!!”