Toaru Majutsu no Index:NT Volume14 Chapter 1
Chapter 1: Imagine Breaker and World Rejecter — One_Night_Encount.
The contents of the fridge were devastating. They were even bleaker than the chill entering through the broken window. They could not cook what they did not have, so they set aside the prospect of a hotpot for the time being.
“So what is this about a Kamisato? In fact, why are you so weak? Aren’t you a god?”
“That’s not a nice thing to say, but I sadly can’t deny it.”
This seemed like it would be a long conversation, so they had moved to the kotatsu. Nephthys only sat it up and stuck her legs under the blanket, so it was obvious even this was difficult for her.
It was hard to believe she was one of those arrogant Magic Gods.
A Magic God would never want to show any weakness to a human, so seeing her worn-down strength and worn-down speed was enough for Kamijou to relax his guard.
He was not a magic expert or a Magic God, but he could tell.
Even a human could see it.
Nephthys did not have the power to fight. She had so little strength left that a puny human crawling on the surface of the earth could look down on her.
(She must have nothing left…)
How painful for a Magic God was it to be thought of that way?
Othinus had used her full strength to the end and the High Priest had laughed until his final breath, so he could imagine what she had to feel like right now. Still, she had swallowed all that shame and come here.
Whatever was underway was worth doing that.
She was unable to support her upper body, so she sat up with her upper body sprawled out on the kotatsu. Then the silver-haired woman with chocolate-colored skin and bandages wrapped around her started to speak.
“Niang-Niang is dead. So are all the other Magic Gods.”
“No, saying she’s dead might not be accurate. She took a direct hit from Kamisato Kakeru’s World Rejecter and was sent to a ‘new world’. As long as we remain in the current world, I doubt we will ever see her again. In that way, she might as well have crossed the Sanzu River or the Lethe River. You can just think of it as death if you want.”
Just a few hours before, he might have rejected it as nonsense.
The Magic Gods were the greatest threat and nothing would be better than to have them gone, yet he would have rejected the idea because it sounded too good to be true.
But now, he did not.
Her frail state was enough to know this was not a joke.
But something else caught his interest even more.
“Wait a second. I’m a little confused since you mentioned a bunch of new terms. Kamisato? World Rejecter? The other Magic Gods were sent to a new world??? What on earth is going on? And…”
He hesitated to continue.
“And you say Niang-Niang was taken out?”
“But how do you know? If you ran across this Kamisato, then why did only you survive?”
“Not even I know.” Nephthys struggled to breathe as she answered. “The next thing I knew, a special power other than Imagine Breaker had crystallized and Kamisato Kakeru was wielding it. I have no idea why he obtained World Rejecter or why he attacked us Magic Gods. But I do know that boy has the power to harvest Magic Gods.”
Othinus, another Magic God, spoke up from the side.
This was a being that killed Magic Gods instead of persuading them, so she must have had trouble believing it existed.
But Nephthys’s lips belatedly curled into a mocking smile while her long silver hair dangled down.
“Yes…that boy. Kamisato Kakeru looked like the kind of normal high school boy you can find anywhere. I don’t even know whether he’s an Academy City student or not. He had incredibly plain features. He might have been even more average than Kamijou Touma. At the very least, he didn’t seem to have years of high-level military training, years spent in a magic cabal, or any unique physical features like those of a Saint.”
“Then what is this World Rejecter thing?”
“Just like with Imagine Breaker, he was probably simply chosen by the world’s lottery. But I don’t believe Imagine Breaker ended up in you by random chance. I still believe that the dreams of all magicians were drawn in by the shining soul of the person bearing the true name of the One who Purifies Gods and Slays Demons. …In that case, there must be something inside Kamisato Kakeru as well. Something unique that drew in World Rejecter.”
“But what is it?” asked Kamijou while looking down at his own right hand. “What is World Rejecter? Is it some kind of special power like mine???”
“Yes, although it would be wrong to think of Imagine Breaker in the same way as Academy City’s powers.” Nephthys sounded somewhat exasperated. “Have you ever heard that Imagine Breaker is a gathering of the dreams held by all of those who use magic? They would love to change the world as they see fit, but they’re afraid of messing everything up in the process. So they wanted a clear restoration point or reference point they could use to restore everything if needed. The meter, the kilogram, degrees Celsius, the periodic table, and more. Your right hand functions as an unchanging standard for all units.”
It was a confusing way of putting it, but he was pretty sure Ollerus had said something similar.
Imagine Breaker was a safety that had gathered the dreams of all magicians.
That definition had even been at the heart of his battle with the full-powered Othinus. Kamijou could only rejoice that he was back in the “original world” because Othinus had used that restoration point.
“I haven’t checked on any of the details, but based on what Kamisato himself said, there is a connection between the origins of Imagine Breaker and World Rejecter.”
“Imagine Breaker protects, restores, and clings to the existing world. It is a collection of that ideal.”
While wrapped in her bandages, Nephthys breathed the heated breath of the sickly.
“The World Rejecter inside Kamisato’s right hand is the exact opposite. His hand has the ability to cast his target into a ‘new world’ and erase their existence. In other words, it abandons and gives up on the current world to take a trip to another world. It is a collection of that illusion.”
Othinus was the first to speak up.
As a fellow Magic God, she had a better common understanding with Nephthys than did Index, who sat at the stage before becoming a Magic God. That allowed her to catch on more quickly.
“Imagine Breaker was the dreams of all magicians, but did some power escape it? Did some percentage of ‘all magicians’ subconsciously doubt they would truly be safe if they continued relying on Imagine Breaker as it is?”
“It goes without saying, but 99.9% of the magic side’s total power is held by us Magic Gods. We may be a minority in numbers, but each one of us has far, far more power. The human magic side covers half the world, yet it cannot match even the tip of one of our hairs.”
“In other words, World Rejecter appeared inside this Kamisato because you all were disappointed in Kamijou Touma. Hah hah! I can see why he would hold a grudge. It’s like a cell being devoured by the apoptosis it created!! Did you enjoy getting the entire world caught up in your suicide!?”
“Should you really be laughing? We in the true Gremlin started doubting Kamijou Touma when he left his path to save all Magic Gods by gaining an understanding of you personally. In other words, none of this would have happened if not for your actions. All of the chaos since the end of the World War Three, including today, can be blamed on your selfishness.”
Murderous gazes briefly clashed between fifteen centimeter Othinus and sweaty Nephthys who could not even support her own upper body.
Kamijou was the one who tried to break the strained atmosphere.
“Hey, wait! Let’s not fight here. Besides, Othinus, you’d be crushed by a single swat of the hand, so why are you so ready to pick fights with people!?”
“Is that any way to speak to a god?”
“Ow! Don’t poke me in the meridian with that skewer!! Anyway, two girls in a serious fight is the last thing I want to see. Just imagining it feels like having a fishing hook solidly lodged in my soul.”
That put a bitter look on both Othinus and Nephthys’s faces.
It was the look of someone who had ordered a small dessert after dinner and had a cake the size of a wedding cake brought out to them.
“Um… Girls, huh?”
“This is a good example of how things can surprise you even after becoming a god. The world is a large place.”
He was not sure why, but a lull came over them.
He made sure to use this chance to get back on topic.
“I get that you Magic Gods have high-spec minds, but could you slow down to a level a human like me can understand?”
“I don’t see how getting you to understand this would help.”
“You’re in full S mode again, aren’t you?”
“It’s true. All you need to know is that this Kamisato Kakeru person has an irregular ability just as cheap as Imagine Breaker and the two of you might clash in the near future.”
“Oh? That doesn’t seem like enough of an explanation to me. In fact, it seems a little unfair to him.”
“You’re the one that came here intending to get him involved. Are you going to play innocent while rolling around in his bed? Besides, what I said was accurate. Right, Kamijou Touma? If you could avoid any trouble with Kamisato Kakeru by throwing Nephthys and me out in the cold, would you be able to do that?”
The pointy-haired boy was caught off guard by the question.
And without a second’s thought, he answered as he always did.
“What are you talking about? Of course I couldn’t do that.”
After having argued over this point, Othinus and Nephthys could only sigh at almost the same moment.
Sounding utterly exasperated, the one who understood him spoke.
“See? That’s the kind of guy he is.”
“I see. Someone this abnormal probably would have been perfect as our scorer.”
Kamijou did not like how they were talking about him and he turned to Index for some support, but she turned away in a huff.
Then, Othinus gave the final announcement.
“If that’s your intention, you can’t get careless, human. Until now, you’ve gotten through everything making full use of the blessings brought by your right hand. As all kinds of normal threats opposed you, you achieved an unexpected victory using that abnormal power. But this will be different.”
“Your opponent’s power is just as abnormal. You can no longer fight like a joker taking on a group of aces and kings. This is a joker against a joker. In a way, it’s even harder to predict than a clash between two aces. You’ve never experienced something like this before, so you can’t predict what’s going to happen based on your accumulated experience. If you don’t focus your mind, you could easily end up dead in a way that ignores all the rules you’ve seen before.”
In a luxury apartment, Kihara Yuiitsu, a woman in a cheap suit and lab coat, violently banged a spatula against a frying pan.
“Sensei!! Dinner’s ready!”
Drawn by her voice, a golden retriever trotted across the wooden flooring. He immediately began speaking using an artificial voice.
“Sorry you always have to go to all this trouble. Even if we are master and apprentice, I don’t think you have any obligation to go this far, yet I still have you do it.”
“Oh, honestly! What are you talking about? I can’t have someone as esteemed as you eating the ready-made pet food they sell at bargain prices! That stuff is junk! They get lazy with the ingredients because they know people aren’t eating it!!”
A small silk mat was laid out on the floor with a small bowl on top of it. The main dish was ground pork mixed with some grains and lightly stir-fried with moderate flavoring from salt and oil. She did not know what it was called, but it had become her specialty dish because Kihara Noukan seemed to like it.
There was also a small bowl of water that had been boiled to remove the chlorine and a salad to provide a few nutrients that would otherwise be lacking.
The golden retriever summed up the meal with a single phrase.
She was confused.
She did not seem to realize that was the highest praise he could give.
But ignoring the food someone had made went against Kihara Noukan’s personal style. It was only polite to focus on the meal during mealtime. He could always explain what he meant after savoring the food.
He did not take this environment for granted and spoke words filled with the utmost thanks.
“Time to eat.”
“Yes, eat up, sensei.”
He was a man with an understanding of romance, but he did not use his robot arm at times like this. He shoved his face into the bowl and devoured the food while making plenty of noise. Table manners were meant to allow everyone to enjoy their meal, so demonstrating one’s enjoyment of the food was more important than unnecessary formality. He viewed this as the ultimate etiquette toward the one who had cooked it.
It may not have even taken him a full ten minutes to finish the meal.
And he did not fail to thank the one who had prepared this special day for him.
“Thank you for the meal.”
“Huh? You’re done already!? But I only just started on my salad!”
“Sorry. I know I should have matched my pace to yours, but to be honest, your cooking is just that good.”
“O-oh, dear. I’m going to blush. What do I do? Should I make you more?”
“No, there is no need for that. I am an old dog and I need to be careful about how much I eat.”
“Mhh. But eating on your own is boring.”
“I am still here. I will be taking a short nap, though.”
Kihara Noukan lay down next to Kihara Yuiitsu’s seat at the table.
The pleasant warmth of the heater was making him feel a little sleepy.
“Come to think of it,” she said. “You were quite busy ordering maintenance, weren’t you?”
“Yes, I was.”
“You stopped that Arrowhead Comet from falling… but you said it isn’t over, didn’t you?”
“It smells quite fishy. It bothers me that all of the Magic Gods hiding in Academy City vanished.”
They had vanished.
As their deaths had not actually been confirmed, there was still a possibility that the Magic Gods were hiding somewhere. Kihara Noukan simply had a bad feeling about where this was headed.
It felt like the night before the bubble burst.
Or before a natural disaster, a war, or an oil crisis. The details did not particularly matter.
He felt a sense of impatience. It was like he was standing on a path whose width fluctuated but could still be seen down, until one day it suddenly changed entirely.
He told Kihara Yuiitsu nothing of this.
This went beyond logic and efficiency, so a pure Kihara would never understand.
Or perhaps this man who understood romance was picking up something on that antenna.
He felt bad doing so while Magic Gods like Othinus and Nephthys were discussing what sounded like the end of the world, but Kamijou Touma interrupted anyway.
“We seem to be trying to avoid looking at reality with all this complicated stuff, but the fridge is still empty. We can’t do anything else until we deal with that.”
Nephthys gave her blunt opinion while resting her upper body on the kotatsu in a way that squished her large breasts.
“Oh, shut up, you new freeloader. So what’s this about? Kamisato? I don’t know what’s going to happen, but whether we’re holing up here or leaving, we need food. I don’t want to have to hunt down some food while half-starved later.”
“Touma! Then we’re going shopping, right!? By this time, the supermarket’s meals will have half-off stickers all over them! I’m so excited!!”
“We’re having a hotpot, so we don’t need any pre-made meals!! And this isn’t a sale that puts a limit of one egg carton per person, so I don’t need any help. Besides, if we go walking around outside, we might run across that Kamisato guy! You need to take this seriously!!”
“How can you accuse others of not taking this seriously when you’re heading out to buy hotpot ingredients when you could run into a monster who easily defeated a group of Magic Gods with a single right hand? And let’s not forget that your right hand is probably an important target too.”
“But Magic Gods like us are probably the most important targets.”
Othinus charged at Nephthys who crushed her below her hand.
But without any food, waiting for death was their only option whether Kamisato was on his way or not. Poor Student Kamijou Touma could not use anything as bourgeois as a convenience store or supermarket delivery service, so he had to leave the dorm room despite the risk. He was not about to say money was everything, but he had to cry in his heart at how the lack of it limited one’s options.
“I’ll be heading out. Index, you look after the place with the others. Listen, don’t just open the door if the doorbell rings. Check through the lens and pretend you aren’t home if you don’t recognize them. Do you understand, Index?”
“Touma, how old do you think I am?”
He answered her question with silence. He had grown enough to know what fate awaited him if he honestly answered that he was pretty sure someone could lure her into a back alley with some candy.
Fifteen centimeter Othinus put her hands on her hips and sighed.
“Don’t worry. This is a big city. What are the odds of running across a particular person while just walking around?”
“Have you forgotten how ridiculous your misfortune can get?”
“But we won’t last until morning on miso, soy sauce, and water. We’ll start wondering what it even is we’re fighting.”
He left the girls in the dorm room and found the sun just about to fall below the horizon. The night was more purple than orange and it had grown quite dark. The bright stars visible here and there were gradually growing in number.
At the same time, he knew the lights of electronic signs and building windows would start to come on and quickly erase all sign of the stars that should have filled the sky.
(How should I put it…?)
Kamijou thought to himself as he walked along a main road lit by streetlights.
(I was too panicked to notice before, but the High Priest really made a mess of things.)
Even now, he could see signs of that Magic God’s rampage. Construction vehicles were moving crushed cars out of the way, triangular cones and tape were placed around giant holes, buildings were unnaturally tilted, every window was broken, and shards of glass covered the road and sidewalk. Truly, truly, truly, if anything had gone just a little bit wrong, everyone in the city might have been caught in the downpour of glass and covered everything in blood.
But Kamijou did not think he had somehow fixed everything.
He had cornered the High Priest, but that had only brought Academy City even closer to destruction. In the end, it had not been him who finished off the Magic God after he fused with the giant comet. It had been a mysterious light fired from the ground.
What had that been?
2.3 million people lived in Academy City and they had all tried to protect the city in their own way. One of them had likely settled things in some way Kamijou was unaware of, but…
“Your thoughts are taking a turn for the worse again, aren’t they?”
He suddenly heard a girl’s voice.
He turned toward it and found fifteen centimeter Othinus’s head poking out from his pants pocket.
“Don’t look so surprised at everything I do. Aren’t you supposed to understand me?”
“Eh? Ehh? Did you have your head sticking out this whole time? The whole time!? Wait a minute. Anyone who saw that probably thought I was walking around with a figurine girl in my pock-…gogyahh!?”
“Wait…you idiot…just cause you’re in my pants pocket…doesn’t mean you should knee me there…”
Kamijou leaned forward due to the attack, but the details will be omitted to preserve his honor.
Othinus gave a snort and started climbing up Kamijou’s coat.
“I just don’t feel at home when I’m not on your shoulder.”
“Uuh… Please hide inside my scarf.”
“More importantly,” casually cut in Othinus. “You weren’t considering a redefinition of ‘Kamijou Touma’ just because you weren’t the one to solve that problem, were you? You weren’t thinking you might have been able to handle that situation if only you had some kind of new power, were you?”
“Give up on that idea. Would you be able to save more people if you trained in martial arts? Would you be able to resolve things more smartly if you had a gun or a knife? That would have the exact opposite effect. The more means of killing you have and the farther you move from the path that saves your opponent using their own power, the weaker you will become. That alone is certain. You might not like having someone else act like they understand you, but as someone who was saved by you, I do understand.”
Kamijou had nothing to say to that.
For one thing, he had not realized his own true value. Of course, that lack of realization was itself his strength, so that was not surprising.
“Human, where do you think evil comes from?”
“Don’t bother giving me the textbook answer. Tell me the honest opinion that first comes to mind. Surely you aren’t going to give me some whitewashed answer about the dualism of good and evil. Haven’t you learned firsthand that this world is not simple enough to just divide things between angels and demons?”
Good was not good because someone decided it was.
Evil was not evil because it said so in some book.
Kamijou Touma did as Othinus said and gave his honest opinion.
“Does true evil even exist?”
“Hah hah!! Now that’s a question I would expect from you. And you’re close. Evil is created when someone gives up on someone else. It appears when everyone gives up on someone as a lost cause and removes their path to salvation. Once they are cut off from everyone else, they become evil. Just look through history and you’ll understand. What is the difference between a murderer who kills a single person and a great hero who kills one million? It has nothing to do with the person himself. It comes down to whether everyone else accepts him. It’s an issue of majority rule.”
When someone gave up on someone and they become cut off from everyone else, they became evil.
Thinking back to the mess from Tokyo Bay to Denmark, there may have been some self-deprecation in that girl’s words. It was true that the world had given up on her, but she had given up on the world first.
“Martial arts, a gun, a knife, or any other obvious offensive power would only increase your ability to ‘cut people off’. You would be no different from the cruel agents of revenge who delight in robbing people of a chance to reform and then tossing the majority rule loser into the abyss, all while calling it a punishment. Kamijou Touma, that is not your strength. Your greatest weapon is the powerful arm that reached into the abyss and saved even someone as hopelessly evil and rotten to the core as Magic God Othinus. That ability to connect is your ultimate trump card, so make no mistake and do not reach for a cheap answer. You couldn’t defeat the High Priest? This Kamisato guy wiped out all of those Magic Gods? You should be asking ‘so what’. You should be looking down on Academy City for letting the High Priest die and on Kamisato for killing the Magic Gods without saving a single one. What is wanted from you is not violence on the same level as World Rejecter. It isn’t the power to kill. It is the power of human reason that can envelop that violence.”
After hearing that, Kamijou Touma smiled.
He had still been fighting the High Priest. Something had not been sitting well with him and it had filled his chest with worries. But he felt like he finally knew what it was.
The High Priest had been truly awful.
He had left his mark on every part of Academy City.
But now Kamijou wished he had listened more to what he said and learned more about him as a person. If he had, something might have changed like it had with Othinus. But now it was too late.
The High Priest had been evil, but that was because Kamijou Touma had made him evil. He had done so by giving up on saving him.
How much did Nephthys know of the non-evil side of that old man?
He knew he was giving over to sentiment, but he was curious.
“You really do understand me,” he said.
“Why mention that now? Do you want to reconfirm what that means?”
Othinus made it sound obvious and the pointy-haired boy smiled again. This time it was a self-conscious one filled with enjoyment.
The supermarket was close.
He entered the air-conditioned shop and grabbed a basket near the entrance. He followed the aisle and checked around the fresh foods section, but he did not go for the most delicious looking meats and vegetables. When Othinus saw what he threw in the basket, she spoke up in disappointment.
“I understand it’s cheaper, but can’t you give some thought to how it looks? Why are you only grabbing the wilted vegetables?”
“Shut up. We’re having a hotpot, remember? It’s all going to be boiled in the water, so it doesn’t matter if they’ve gone a little bad.”
“What kind of hotpot are you planning, anyway? There are a lot of options including pot-au-feu and cheese fondue.”
“Oh, I was thinking of playing it safe and going with a mizutaki. Boiled tofu is actually the easiest, but that would never satisfy a growing girl like Index and she’d definitely throw a fit.”
Kamijou selected some cheap packaged tofu and shirataki, but Othinus seemed confused.
“I don’t know much about Japanese food, but, um, mizutaki? Doesn’t that mean it’s cooked in plain water!? That sounds incredibly bland, but it does have some kind of flavor, right!?”
“That’s the problem with you crazy Westerners who insist fries are a vegetable. Just watch. When Poor Student Kamijou Touma goes all out, it’ll knock your socks off.”
“It doesn’t really matter, but fries are a traditional food of the Northern European nation of Belgium and they’re even trying to register them as a world heritage item. If you start treating it like a cheap junk food, I’ll cast a curse on you.”
“Gyah! Don’t stick your tiny arm in my ear! Who would’ve thought I’d learn about a god’s favorite food here!?”
A chill ran down Kamijou’s spine as tiny fingers tickled him near the eardrum.
Once the god’s curse was complete, Othinus pulled her hand out and spoke.
“And when it comes to food, you can’t go wrong with herring.”
“Oh? Is that not a universal thing? In the Norse regions, you throw herring into just about any kind of home cooking.”
“Othinus, I don’t know too much about foreign countries, but I get the feeling you’re mocking those Norse cultures more than I am.”
“I am the head Norse god, you know? Do you really think I do housework?”
“I guess it takes a god to be so proud of that one. A human certainly couldn’t.”
He gathered up some cheap fatty meat and some wilted vegetables that would grow in size once they soaked up the water.
“By the way, does Nephthys have any food taboos? She is a god.”
“I feel like Egyptian mythology is pretty accepting of anything.”
“Come to think of it, I heard on TV that people in hot areas like Africa and South America really like sweet things. It’s apparently because they need the extra nutrients. If I have the money, maybe I should get some fresh fruit…no, that would be too expensive. I’ll just get some canned fruit and vanilla ice cream. Chop that up and it should make for a decent looking dessert. Girls like that kind of thing, right?”
“I may not be one to talk, but you’re really calling that monster a girl? And you might be trying to put her in a good mood, but you should probably give some more thought to the relationship between girls and calories.”
“Eh? Why? Index always seems happy with it.”
He tilted his head and Othinus sighed on his shoulder.
“Let’s get back to the main dish. If you’re worried, go with chicken or fish. Pretty much anyone can eat those. I think only Japanese Buddhists don’t.”
“Eh!? Japan doesn’t!?”
“All of Buddhism is against killing and thanks to syncretism, Shinto tends to view eating meat as impure. Beef, pork, chicken, snake, venison, monkey, horse, rabbit, bear, fish, eggs, bugs, and any other animal protein that requires killing is off limits. I think the really strict ones even don’t allow pesticides when growing vegetables. You don’t find precepts that strict very often even when you look at the entire world. Of course, it ranks near the bottom when it comes to how many people actually follow the rules. I get the idea behind vegetarianism, but it seems like an impossible demand given how our bodies are made.”
As they discussed that, they moved from the chilled fresh foods section to the spices section.
“The world’s stinkiest canned food is from Europe and it used herring.”
“You mean that one that comedians have to eat during punishment games and end up nearly barfing!? The one in the thick can all swollen with gas!? Please stop or I’ll start imagining it!!”
“It keeps fermenting inside the can, so there’s really no point in canning it. The microbes are constantly advancing the decomposition process, so the fish rots right there in the can.”
“Wow!! I’d thought natto and maggot cheese were bad, but whoever ate that first was a real hero!!”
“There are some mysterious foods that really do make you wonder what kind of history led to that showing up on the dinner table. …And sadly, as weird as it seems, you still end up trying it and end up hooked on it.”
They made their way into the spices section.
There was a lot available, but…
“Now that I think about it, the kitchen was even worse than I realized. There wasn’t even any salt or sugar. What has Index been doing during the day?”
“Do you really want to know just how much someone who can’t cook abandoned her humanity to disguise her hunger?”
“Never mind. I don’t want to know. It’s like seeing a girl putting on makeup. It feels like something valuable is going to crumble away.”
“Anyway, the spices.”
“Right. Mizutaki usually has chicken broth powder, but with such an international group, maybe I should try bouillon or consommé to make it more Western.”
“If you’re making changes, you could use curry powder too.”
“Oh? You know about curry, Othinus?”
“Don’t mock European curry. We have one eaten with rice just like the Japanese.”
“That sounds like a case of reverse importation… But curry is a tricky dead-end. It tastes good enough no matter who makes it, but it’s really hard to get it to taste much better no matter who makes it. Let’s go with something else.”
He decided to go with bouillon for the main flavoring with salt, sugar, and pepper added in.
“I see you’re playing it safe. They have some ethnic foods over there. Why not be more adventurous and try some coriander or tom yum?”
“I’d be afraid of someone not liking it. Besides, I have no idea what an Egyptian god like Nephthys likes. What did she eat in the BC times?”
They also argued on whether to finish it off with rice or champon noodles, but the noodles side won this time. Buying a packaged ingredient had poor cost performance, but he was not about to lug a bag of rice back so soon after the exhausting High Priest fight.
While checking out at the register, Kamijou realized he had forgotten his reusable shopping bag and grew slightly depressed.
“Hey, hero, do you really have to be kind to the planet now?”
“That’s not it, Othinus. They stamp your point card each time you refuse their bags…”
“You really are rushing down the path of the househusband, aren’t you?”
“This would have been the final stamp on the card and I’d been planning to use it to get a buttered baked potato without the others knowing.”
“Baked potato!? That sounds delicious! Let’s go get that reusable bag!!”
Othinus was surprisingly excited about the food, but that was not due to her stomach like it was for Index. She was more focused on wanting a relaxing meal with him without the cat interrupting, but the pointy-haired idiot was of course oblivious to that fact.
Kamijou left the supermarket with plastic bags in both hands and Othinus on his shoulder.
It was after sundown in December, so his breath was visibly white.
“I’m kind of surprised.”
“About what, human?”
“That the supermarket is running like normal. Not long ago, the High Priest fused with a comet and was about to crash into Academy City. Sure, someone stopped it, but it still blew up in midair and shattered all the glass around here. The world is surprisingly sturdy.”
“It’s like I was telling you: you don’t have to carry it all by yourself. There isn’t just one pillar supporting the world. It isn’t about what kind of realistic power anyone has and you shouldn’t give up just because you don’t have anything. Even if they don’t have much – if anything at all – everyone is doing their best to live their lives even now.”
Kamijou smiled a little.
There was no need for him to carry everything himself. He was partially smiling at that thought, but he also thought it was a huge step forward for Magic God Othinus, who had repeatedly created the world and returned it to normal, to use the word “everyone”.
But then he heard a footstep in the darkness.
That quiet sound seemed to flip a switch for the world.
Something invisible had repainted everything in an instant.
He felt a prickling sensation that something was wrong.
“(Yes, I can feel it too, human.)”
She spoke as they came to a stop and stared cautiously down the dark street.
“(This enjoyable outing just came to an end.)”
A silhouette stood less than ten meters away.
They could not see any details, but whoever it was could apparently see them. An entirely calm voice reached them.
“Hi, Imagine Breaker.”
“Then I take it you’re World Rejecter?”
“Ha ha. If you know that name, I can only assume Nephthys really did end up with you.”
“And what if she did?”
Thick tension filled the darkness.
This was not an issue of strong or weak. Both of their right hands were abnormal and their irregularity ate into that space. The presence of a single joker was already a serious error, but two of them were butting heads here. The world seemed to be crying out to say it could not endure this.
“Yes, what should I do?” pondered the silhouette.
“I have business with the Magic Gods. The Magic Gods who made me like this.”
“That’s your business. It has nothing to do with me.”
“True. You don’t need to worry about it in the slightest.”
He readily admitted it, but…
“And that is exactly why…”
He continued smoothly as if all of this were following the pre-established harmony and then he gave his conclusion.
“I don’t need to worry about you in the slightest.”
A brilliant light illuminated everything for just an instant.
It was apparently the headlights of a car turning from a different road. Like a nearby lightning strike during a blackout, the entire scene was burned into Kamijou’s retinas.
Two boys stood in that world.
They both had average facial features and would quickly blend into a crowd.
They were the kind of normal high school boys one could find anywhere.
Kamijou Touma dropped the plastic bags to the ground and tightly clenched his right fist.
The light vanished, but darkness was not allowed to resume its reign.
The two boys began to move as if to tear apart that black world.
Kamijou Touma and Kamisato Kakeru.
Those two great irregularities finally clashed.
Today’s Hotpot Party, Ingredients List 2
Soy sauce. Miso.
Chicken breast, daikon, bok choy, cabbage, bean sprouts, shirataki, tofu.
Bouillon, salt, sugar, pepper, champon noodles
Bargain vanilla ice cream, canned yellow peaches, canned pineapple, canned mandarin oranges. (For dessert)
Index: “I hope Touma gets back soon. I wonder what he’s bought for the hotpot!”
Nephthys: “I’m not used to Japanese cuisine, so I’m not sure I can use chopsticks very well. I should probably start practicing.”
Othinus: “Why would you throw the bags of food away?”
Kamijou Touma: “This is a matter of life or death!! Do you want me to fight with bags in my hands!?”
Between the Lines 1
Nephthys was a goddess from Egyptian mythology, but there was a large question concerning her origin. Stories of the deity by that name were extremely rare. When Osiris, an extremely important god in Egyptian mythology, died, all living things around the world wept at his funeral. The “weeping goddess” that represented that event was Nephthys.
There are no other materials referencing Nephthys and it is unknown when and where she was born.
For that reason, one theory says she did not come about naturally and that she was an artificial deity created to emphasize that story about Osiris.
Amid all that, no one knows anymore if that truly was Nephthys.
Not even Nephthys herself.
But there is a certain story.
…There’s no room.
…I can’t breathe.
…This was all a way for the pharaoh to show off.
One of the most famous parts of Egyptian mythology was the pyramids that acted as the pharaohs’ tombs.
And there was one way of thinking that can be seen in many different cultures around the world: sealing many servants inside the king’s tomb to make sure the king has no trouble in the afterlife.
The number of servants could reach the hundreds or even the thousands.
It was not that someone went around and dragged struggling girls from their families by the hair. They all willingly volunteered to serve the pharaoh. But in truth, it was unclear whether they actually could have refused.
For those burying them, it was all over once the exit was sealed, but for those buried, the end took its time in coming.
Humans can last for two or three days without drinking a drop of water.
If they bit into the cloth of the burial goods or found some other way to gain some moisture, it was possible for them to live over a week.
For those closed inside, the end took its time in coming.
It took a long, long time. Enough that they would begin begging for it to come sooner.
And as that seemingly never-ending series of moments passed, someone had a thought.
They did not want their life to have been a waste. They were not dead yet and they did not want their thinking existence to waste away to nothing.
And there were hundreds if not thousands there.
They checked through their fragments of knowledge, the pieces of the mysteries they knew, and the papyrus buried with the pharaoh so he could be resurrected.
And once they gathered it all together…
Deep in a certain pyramid, that brown goddess was born surrounded by countless corpses.
Was that mountain of death the original form that had created her or was it more like the shell of an egg?
Not even the goddess known as Nephthys knew for sure.