Toaru Majutsu no Index:NT Volume14 Chapter 3
Chapter 3: The Girls’ Desires and Their Intersection – Winner’s_“APPLE”.
Let us look down upon it all from a god’s eye view:
Leivinia wanted to save her sister Patricia even if it meant sacrificing herself.
Patricia wanted to save her sister Leivinia even if it meant giving up on herself.
Kamijou Touma was supporting Leivinia.
Kamisato Kakeru was assisting Patricia.
That was the structure of this incident.
The world’s secrets and the whereabouts of the Magic Gods did not matter. Regardless, it all would lead to a clash between the two right hands hidden behind it all.
“Oh, no! It’s already past ten! This goes beyond the supermarkets! Even some of the restaurants are going to be taking their last orders now. If we don’t do something fast, we’ll be stuck with convenience stores and gyudon shops. What are we going to do about dinner!?”
Kamijou was trying to draw attention to a pressing issue, but Birdway immediately dismissed his opinion.
“No, I’m not! In fact, not being hungry here is what’s weird!! Besides, the rest of you were just fighting over Kamijou-san’s sausage!! You rushed at me like wild animals with drool spilling from your mouths and hearts in your eyes! I didn’t know a girl’s look of desire could be so scary!! Tremble, tremble!!”
“J-just as a warning, you should be careful what you say, human. Gods have little tolerance for disrespect.”
Othinus cleared her throat, but Kamijou did not seem to be listening.
“Dammit, I know it was necessary, but it hurts that I left those supermarket bags behind. No, that must have helped someone. That mother and baby cats must have needed it to get by in the cruel city!!”
Even with the plastic sheet covering it, the December chill mercilessly slipped in through the broken window. Add in the empty stomach, and clothing was the only one of the three necessities for life they had. The snowy mountains idea that going to sleep meant death began playing in the back of his mind.
While they had the kotatsu, its heater was nearly useless in this situation. Or rather, housewife Kamijou would not allow them to turn it on full blast with the window open due to how it would affect the environment and their monthly heating bill. He needed to keep himself warm from the inside, so he greatly regretted the loss of hotpot ingredients.
“Hey, wait! The TV again, human!?”
“Don’t worry, Othinus. They tend to show five-minute news programs on the hour. There isn’t much chance of a sudden gourmet bomb like before.”
He turned on the TV to see if the weather forecast would give the current temperature, but he found a two-hour special of a drama instead. It seemed to be about a college boy with no especially noticeable features surrounded by oddly high-spec girls as he attacked a crooked job-hunting official.
A close up of curry soup with bright steam filled the screen and Othinus used a skewer spear to stab Kamijou in the butt as he sat on the floor.
“Ow!! I was wrong! I’m sorry!! Dammit… Why are they making this show all about food?”
“I was careless too. At this time of night, the sponsor field at the bottom of the screen generally has the name of a food company, right? This is a campaign for winter curry or something.”
“The drama itself looks interesting, but it’s too much for our stomachs right now.”
Kamijou sounded relatively carefree, but Index and Othinus started commenting on what they saw on the screen.
“Yes, it is.”
When Kamijou looked over at them, they had a dead look in their eyes.
“Why would he hide in a locker inside the girl’s locker room to escape pursuit? There had to have been two or three doors on the way there and he had to slip past about thirty people on the way. Not to mention that there was even a janitorial supply locker in the hallway.”
“I don’t get their standards for embarrassment. That girl slapped him for an indirect kiss, but she doesn’t seem to mind letting him see her panties like that.”
“Ehhh? Is it really that weird? Ehh?”
“Your life must be just as awful as this drama if you can’t tell what’s wrong with this.”
Realizing the discussion was getting nowhere, Kamijou started to reach for the remote he had thrown to the floor.
But then something entered the corner of his field of vision.
Brown Magic God Nephthys’s face was covered in tears and snot.
“Eh? Wait, what!? What’s the matter, Nephthys!?”
“I didn’t catch any of that, but here are some tissues!! Blow your nose!! Did you want to eat some curry soup that badly!?”
Just like when dealing with a small child, he balled up a few tissues and held them to the brown beauty’s nose. As her shoulders trembled, she finally recovered enough to speak again.
“Yes, yes. Sorry about that. I’m just so susceptible to this kind of thing. …Crying with someone is part of my very essence, so I just can’t stand it. Oh, no. Here it comes again! Fwehhh!!”
“The tears are pouring like a waterfall again! How can you possibly get this invested only thirty seconds after changing the channel!?”
“Well, she’s the crying woman who is paid to weep at a funeral. That’s probably why she’s so quick to tears.” Othinus did not seem to care much. “But even if she’ll cry at cheap melodrama or feel her heart warmed by a picture book that adults can enjoy too, that very aspect of her is what makes her a true Magic God that can easily destroy the world. The easier she’s swept away by emotion, the more frightening and violent her systematic divinity is.”
“Sob, sob. Othinus…you’re mean.”
“Now, she’s crawling around like a baby!? She’s got some weird switches, doesn’t she!? I don’t think I like the idea of a god being this easy to influence!!”
Kamijou could not help but shout at this frightening discovery.
Fifteen centimeter Othinus stepped on the remote’s button to switch off the TV and then pressed a finger against her temple.
“Let’s ignore that emotional idiot and get back on topic. You’re suggesting we head out, but have you forgotten that our last trip for food is how we ran across that Kamisato person?”
“I really don’t think we’ll run across him two or three times in a row. We’re not talking about some girl running around with toast in her mouth.”
“Sob. But Kamisato Kakeru must have his own food problems, right?”
“Are you serious? So as long as he’s wandering around in search of dinner, we can’t get anything to eat in peace?”
“Touma,” sharply cut in Index. “Let’s get him.”
“That is not what I’d expect to hear from a nun!”
The only one there with a full stomach was the calico cat which was still sleeping on the floor with its stomach sticking out.
“We only have miso and soy sauce here.” Kamijou reconfirmed their starting point. “But heading out into Academy City tonight could easily lead to trouble with Kamisato.”
“So what’s the answer?” asked Index.
Othinus, Nephthys, and Birdway were looking his way too.
Not one of them was satisfied with this situation. They would make fun of him if he commented on it, but he could not ignore it either. The overall atmosphere made it clear he would be pummeled with retorts if he did not find an actual solution.
“Whoever said we had to leave the dorm? We can just borrow some meat and vegetables from someone else in this same building.”
His first stop was his neighbor’s room.
Tsuchimikado Motoharu’s cooking skills were nearly hopeless, but his stepsister was Maika the Maid Master. That meant his refrigerator was periodically filled with food and ingredients. And since he did not cook himself, the odds were good he had some extra stuff lying around in there.
Plus, Tsuchimikado could not complain about lending Kamijou something. When his stepsister had made a sudden visit before, he had grabbed everything he did not want her to find and stuffed it in Kamijou’s room. Index had found it after returning from a walk, which had led to some misunderstandings. Kamijou was prepared to bring that up for some high-pressure negotiations.
“Hey, you idiot! I’ve got something to discuss with you, so get out here!”
He rang the bell twice and knocked loudly on the door, but there was no answer. He thought the boy might be out, but the electricity meter was spinning.
Then the force of his knocking caused the door to slowly creak open. The day’s commotion must have broken this room’s window too because it was chilly inside.
Kamijou had a bad feeling about this.
He felt like something as yet unseen had happened. He felt like he had stepped onto some strange rails.
What had happened in this room one wall away from his own?
Unable to fight the chill that ran down his spine, he remembered all the allies in his own room. There was no rule saying he had to set foot in here on his own.
As soon as he started turning back for his own room, his feet were forcibly stopped.
He glanced down and saw something extending from the cracked door where it wrapped and tangled around his right ankle. Was it a thumb-sized rope? No, it looked like more like a vine.
It was already too late.
The attack was made against his ankle, so he needed to crouch down before he could use his right hand.
He was tugged backwards and toppled over as he was dragged inside the strange room.
He slid into the center of the room while filled with dull pain as he bumped against this or that.
His neighbor was nowhere to be seen and instead the World Rejecter boy stood with his back against the wall.
It was Kamisato Kakeru.
“Hi, Imagine Breaker. We didn’t finish our last chat thanks to that interference, so how about we try again? I’m sure you’re busy with those red and black things, but you want to rid yourself of some worries before taking action, don’t you?”
The fact that the boy was standing there with a thin smile on his face meant several things.
With the most important one in mind, Kamijou reflexively clenched his teeth.
“Where’s…Tsuchimikado!? Don’t tell me used your right hand to-…!?”
“Is this really any time to be worried about others? Honestly, now.”
Kamisato snapped his fingers.
The vine was still wrapped around Kamijou’s ankle, but Kamisato did not hold the other end. It extended out past the plastic sheet carelessly covering the broken window and then off the balcony. And now, even more violent power filled it.
“Ah, ahh, ahhhh, ahhhhhh, waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!”
He was tossed outside.
It may have been for the best that he did not use Imagine Breaker to break the vine. That would have been like destroying an invisible roller coaster’s rails to toss himself out into the air.
He was forced into a seven story dive between the buildings.
Below, a giant net was prepared made of more vines. He sank into it and it absorbed a certain amount of his momentum, but it must have reacted to Imagine Breaker as he flailed his limbs around because the net snapped and he dropped to the asphalt.
As Kamijou writhed around on the road, Kamisato Kakeru did not hesitate to leap into the open air. A new net was formed and it neatly caught him.
“I have not erased that Tsuchimikado boy. I only had him silenced for a short while.”
Kamijou reflexively tried to drag his aching body away, but he finally realized another presence was approaching through the darkness. And it was not alone. Including Kamisato, he was surrounded from three different directions.
“Allow me introduce you. This is Claire.”
“Nice to meet you.”
Even though it was December, the girl wore a dress that left her back exposed. Her black hair was tied back in twintails and she wore large unfashionable glasses. White stockings with a garter belt covered her legs. She looked fairly obedient, but something else overturned that impression entirely. Tropical flowers grew from either side of her head like giant hibiscuses. A closer look showed colorful flowers covering her back as well.
“She is a type of Gemstone and her body’s cells are apparently more like plant cells than animal cells. I suppose she technically belongs to the science side. She can violently amplify the bonds of algae and fungi and she can absorb metal or plastic to use their traits. Simply put, she can devour a modern weapon and construct a missile or chainsaw out of nothing but plants and flowers. It increases the risk of something going wrong, but she can also combine or rearrange them to create something brand new. Like a remotely guided chainsaw. Her power is more about regeneration than being a solid barrier, but she’s still perfect to act as a shield.”
Kamisato Kakeru pointed at the other girl.
“And this is Elza.”
“Is this seriously your opposite, boss?”
The girl had large breasts and wore a long red skirt and white sweater which looked somewhat like a shrine maiden outfit when combined. Her long brown hair was cut roughly away, leaving tufts that resembled fox ears on either side of her head. She seemed to be holding something in both hands, but it appeared to be a two liter plastic bottle. The way she rocked it like a baby was kind of disturbing and it rattled whenever she did so. The contents of the bottle were copper colored, so was it full of ten yen coins?
“She’s from the magic side and she uses ‘something like a’ Kokkuri to possess anything she wants. It can apparently be a coin, a person, or even herself. She absorbs the enemy’s fighting force like in a game of shogi, so she’s quite useful.”
Kamisato Kakeru was dangerous enough on his own.
If what he had said was true, taking them all on at once would be a bad idea. And there was no guarantee he was being entirely truthful here.
(He had no reason to lie in wait in the next room. If he wanted to, he could have attacked my room at any time. This isn’t an issue of whether he knows where I am or not. He’s hiding some other technique that found me when he had no hints whatsoever. I can’t escape this just by finding a new hideout!)
Kamisato almost seemed like he was joking.
“If you do that, I’ll call them all off. Or would you prefer to get this started without speaking?”
Kamijou thought about his room.
Othinus was only fifteen centimeters tall, Nephthys could barely stand and walk, and Birdway was hardly in top form due to that fruit in her chest. Index was the only one who could move freely, but having to cover for the other three meant she was essentially restrained. His room was on the seventh floor, so there was nothing they could do if the stairs and elevator were blocked off. He did not know what kind of nasty fighting force Kamisato had waiting nearby and he had a definite means of tracking them even if they did escape.
They were cut off at every turn.
Kamijou tried thinking of every possibility, but this opponent had truly been thorough. He had only shown up after setting up everything for checkmate.
“What could we possibly talk about?”
“I understand you’re worried, but there’s no need to rush this. Those red and black things have become a lot of trouble, but there’s no helping that. People like us are always calling in that kind of trouble.”
Kamisato Kakeru winked as if he were enjoying himself.
“But personally, I really want to deal with my own objective. And that has to do with World Rejecter and Imagine Breaker. I think it’s time we exchanged opinions on some things.”
Kihara Noukan visited a hangar in District 7.
He had an Anti-Art Attachment hangar in each of the twenty-three districts, but this one was disguised as an industrial refrigerated warehouse.
No one would question its presence, but no one would ever think to peek inside either. It was a black box that could use up quite a bit of electricity without raising suspicions.
As he looked across the rows of weapons, he spoke to someone over a communicator.
“You did a good job in such a short time. Completing the overhaul despite the ridiculous schedule shows just how big a problem you think this is, Aleister.”
“What is your honest opinion about this?”
“They must be abnormal indeed to not be caught by your observation network. That isn’t something that can be slipped past with a cyber attack, so it would have to be pure stealth or some odd ability to unconditionally erase or reject anything influenced or created by you. But I can’t imagine what would follow those rules.”
The golden retriever walked through the hangar that had fallen to room temperature after the refrigeration was fully deactivated.
“And I lose track of their level altogether when you start asking such silly questions. What happened to that plan of yours? Even if the situation branches out infinitely, isn’t it all supposed gather back at the same place in the end?”
“I will deal with this somehow.”
That statement did not sound careless.
The glimpse of slight anguish lurking behind those calm words helped Kihara Noukan grasp the uncomfortable feeling that had filled him this entire day.
“I see you still can’t rid yourself of everything unnecessary.”
“What are you talking about?”
“But let me tell you one thing. I liked that side of you. Between good and bad, it would be near bad, but between like and dislike, I quite like it. That is what I’m saying.”
It took Aleister a moment to respond, but he finally did.
“Don’t worry about it. I will struggle in my own way. You can look forward to seeing just how much of it remains within the scope of your predictions.”
The Anti-Art Attachment had been thoroughly polished up in such a short time and that acted as a small offering from the Board Chairman of Academy City. It was all in the palm of his hand, but he would still destroy it. He had washed his hands of all the irregular elements that continued to appear and he had finally set his eyes on recovery, but he would still leave the possibility of that recovery’s destruction. That was the kind of softness he held inside.
Between good and bad, it was bad, but between like and dislike, Kihara Noukan liked it.
When it was to this extent, he could hardly get mad.
“This might be the last time we speak, so I’ll use this opportunity to tell you something.”
“What is it?”
“Aleister, I will not stop you from perfecting humanity. You can do as you wish. But don’t abandon your humanity. I know for a fact that there were people who walked by your side because they were drawn by that humanity.”
After a few seconds of silence, the transmission came to an end.
The golden retriever sighed at the carelessness that silence conveyed because it was exactly the kind of softness he enjoyed.
After a glance from Kamisato, the girls named Claire and Elza vanished into the darkness. However, that was not enough for Kamijou to relax. Having an unknown number of them hidden in the darkness was far more worrying.
Kamijou and Kamisato walked away from the student dorms.
World Rejecter spoke as they walked down the dark road.
“Didn’t it seem sudden?”
“I’m not talking about those red and black things. I’m not talking about the events of today either. I’m talking about a more fundamental issue. World Rejecter? What’s that? If something that convenient was out there, wouldn’t the history of this world have turned out quite differently?”
Kamijou did not carelessly respond.
It was not that he did not have any ideas in his head. He could not tell what the other boy expected or what putting him in a bad mood would mean.
Even with the High Priest, it had begun with a conversation and he did not want to go through two citywide commotions in the same day.
“That’s hardly surprising.”
Kamisato laughed as he spoke.
Looking at that small slice of the conversation, it looked a lot like a scene from a normal school.
“I only received World Rejecter just the other day.”
“I’m not exaggerating. I noticed something off around the beginning of November, but I didn’t realize it was a power residing in my body until only two or three days ago. Hunting down the Magic Gods was something like my very first battle.”
In his very first battle, he had annihilated all of the world’s Magic Gods.
There was no point in even bringing up his lack of experience. World Rejecter had made up for all of that. This news only made the boy more frightening. What kind of a monster would he develop into after he went through more battles and gained that experience?
“So you weren’t wrong if you thought this was sudden. That first impression was correct. Congratulations, Kamijou-kun, you seem to have gained something as silly sounding as a truth of this world.”
The beginning of November was after World War Three had ended and when Othinus’s actions via Gremlin had come to the surface.
Two or three days before was when Othinus’s issue had come to an end and St. Germain had appeared.
What had the High Priest, Nephthys, and the rest of the true Gremlin been thinking during that time and what had they been losing hope in? Thinking on that gradually revealed what had led to World Rejecter residing in Kamisato Kakeru.
It had happened when Kamijou focused on Othinus individually rather than the Magic Gods as a whole. The more definitive that change had grown, the more their hearts had shifted away from Kamijou.
Eventually, they had started to desire a replacement.
He did not know what dreams the Magic Gods had originally held concerning him and Imagine Breaker, but they had begun to wish for a different solution.
They had wanted a backup plan and they had gotten it.
What if a special power was forced onto someone like that and what if they had been forced off the path they had previously walked?
“Do you see my situation now?” Kamisato laughed as he walked alongside Kamijou. “I don’t care if you find it disturbing or look down on me as some strange guy, but there is one thing I want you to know. Until very recently, Kamisato Kakeru was the kind of normal high school boy you can find anywhere. If I was involved in an incident concerning some weird red and black things, I would have been the poor first victim who was killed in one blow and left to rot in a garbage dump. I didn’t turn into this because I wanted to.”
He clenched and opened his right hand.
That power could instantly kill a full-power Magic God. That horrific weapon could eternally exile someone to another world.
“That you can find…anywhere?”
“Yes,” immediately confirmed Kamisato. “You might find it surprising, but I’m not from Academy City. Nor am I part of some group from England or Rome. I truly was born ‘outside’, in a normal town, a boring regional city, the kind of hometown anyone can picture in their head. That’s where I lived as a high school boy who was average in both academics and sports.”
“Then…what were those girls!? One was a Gemstone and the other used possession magic!!”
“As I was saying…”
In that instant, a sticky darkness filled Kamisato Kakeru’s eyes.
Those hopeless eyes seemed to absorb all light without reflecting any of it back.
“Including them, we were all supposed to be normal students.”
“Claire was the class’s obedient gardening club member who barely stood out. She would only give me a quiet greeting when entering the classroom and we weren’t even close enough to eat lunch together. But I loved watching her pour as much love into the plants as she did other people. It calmed my heart.”
Something seemed off about that description.
Or perhaps it was the present situation that was “off”.
“Elza was a bit of a delinquent, but she was a childhood friend who lived next door to me. We had stopped speaking, but we thought that was perfectly normal. I honestly respected her desire to stand out and not blend in even if it meant fighting against society.”
How had it ended up like this?
What had been the trigger?
Kamisato Kakeru clenched his right fist hard enough it looked like blood was going to seep out onto his nails.
“But this thing ruined them all.”
“Salvation is a frightening thing. People grow dependent on it and it ruins them. And thanks to that, they’re all lazily clinging to it. Hey, Kamijou-kun. Think about this from a normal point of view. If you go to a bathhouse, is it normal for girls to rush into the men’s bath saying they want to wash your back? What about having girls unconditionally wish to cook for you and having that somehow end up as a mysterious mass that deserves a mosaic over it? What about placing five futons in a 4.5 tatami room and sleeping with no division between a boy’s and girl’s space? …Logically, that would never happen. If their hearts were working properly and they were acting on their own intentions, they would never be standing in a position that allows for these accidents in the first place. Yes, and Patricia’s case was frightening too. She must have important memories and someone she cares for even more, but the next thing I knew, it was all about to be overwritten. To be honest, she’s started to shift a little. I’m not sure how to put it, but happening across me was a mistake in and of itself. There must have been someone better than me to deal with that troublesome incident, but it’s like she started losing sight of that fact. No, it would be more accurate to say I was making her lose sight of it.”
“If I save someone even once, they begin to grow dependent. A mind of steel and century-old bonds become brittle. ‘I should rely on him next time too…no, I should stay with him at all times so that ‘next time’ will never happen in the first place. As long as I’m with him, I won’t have any problems at all.’ That thinking has gathered so many girls around me as if they’re serving me. ‘He’s so amazing, so maybe I should go on a bit of an adventure myself. If it would help him and give me the right to be by his side, maybe I should leave the category of normal.’ That thinking had transformed so many normal humans.”
“That’s not true!!”
Kamisato ignored him with an exhausted smile on his face.
“How is it around you? Are you surrounded by that dreamlike world where girls gather unconditionally around you after undergoing a sudden transformation?”
“And despite my complaints, those transformations bring some useful skills, so I end up using them when I’m in a pinch. They become a card in my deck. …Yes, in that way, Patricia was truly in a precarious position. If she had been poisoned any further, she might have started looking for a way to control that black thing that looks like a collection of fat or a deep-sea octopus. Maybe she could have learned to have it latch onto a target and become an expert at destroying people from within.”
Calm down, Kamijou told himself.
He had been presented with this question more than enough during his fight with full-power Othinus. He had been told again and again that, had he not saved the girls and someone else had instead, they would have followed that other person and not him. He had been told the good will turned his way was nothing more than that.
But he had overcome that.
He would not be swallowed up by a comparison like that.
Kamisato Kakeru was not Kamijou Touma.
“If I say those girls started liking me after I saved them, it makes you want to argue back at me, doesn’t it? It sounds like I’m saying I had control over a switch in their hearts, doesn’t it? But what if I put it another way?”
Kamisato continued in a disinterested voice.
“Hey, Kamijou-kun. What if you had never saved anyone in your entire life? Do you think anyone would have turned your way? Are you conceited enough to think you’re such a perfect model, inside and out, that so many people would have accepted you if you were just standing there?”
“You aren’t, are you? Everyone’s focus on the individual named Kamijou Touma truly comes from the fact that you saved someone. They’re judging your personality, physical strength, reflexes, intelligence, philanthropy, or courage based on that action. In other words, you cannot escape saving people. As a person, you are inextricably attached to the act of saving. That is what I’m talking about. After all…”
Kamisato paused for a moment.
Then he confidently spoke to the person he was comparing himself to.
“Kamijou Touma is nothing more than the kind of normal high school boy you can find anywhere.”
Kamijou’s mind was shaken.
He hated the fact that he could not deny it.
He only needed to look at it in reverse.
Kamisato was not questioning what Kamijou Touma had done.
He was saying it was strange for a normal high school boy to have continued doing that for so long. A normal high school boy should have died somewhere along the line, so he had to have something special to have continued for so long.
That something was what resided in his right hand.
If that something was taken from him, he truly would be dragged down to the level of a normal high school boy.
And the important part was not whether he had that power in his right hand or not.
The important part was what Kamisato was truly trying to say.
“We did not gain these powers because we chose them.”
“They came from the dreams of all magicians. Or to be more specific, the Magic Gods who individually make up a large percentage of that power. Their selfish desires created these strange powers and placed them in our right hands. And that power twists the actions of the girls around us, creating this ridiculous harem army. Like with Patricia, even those who have some other important person are forcibly dragged into it until they unwaveringly obey that single path. …Goddammit!!”
Kamisato kicked over a nearby trashcan.
Was he acting unlike himself because he was irritated or because the presence of his right hand was making him bolder?
“Can you allow that? Can you allow the world to revolve around a single person, where everything is overwritten for that one person’s convenience without a thought given to anyone else’s situation? Can you, Kamijou Touma!? I didn’t want to be the center of all these girls’ attention. I was fine not speaking with my childhood friend and not having any real connection to that shy gardening club member in my class. The normal scenery surrounded me where normal people freely used their normal hearts. I was satisfied living as a mere part of that!! But!! Those Magic Gods interfered!! They were probably grinning as they discussed it. They were probably saying they’d make me popular to make up for the complicated role they were forcing onto me. They probably thought it was a small thank you, a bit of an extra reward. That’s all. That’s all? That’s all it took to twist people’s thoughts and emotions to your will!? Those gods would be forgotten to history if no one worshiped them and they have the nerve to invade the human heart!!!!?”
Kamijou sort of understood.
Kamisato Kakeru had the power to reap Magic Gods by the dozen, but that was only the method. He had also needed a reason to take such extreme action. If he had started annihilating the Magic Gods, it meant he had a reason worth using that method.
This was where the core of his hatred lay.
He did not care about the fate of the world. He had no interest in some legendary battle.
Someone close by had been toyed with.
Even if he had no real connection to them, those “respectable people” who lived by their own free will had been remade into simple actors to win his favor. Time and again, he had seen someone with a solid will have their heart turned into something like a fried and freeze-dried pack of food. How long he had known them was irrelevant. Whether they were a childhood friend who he had known for more than decade or a girl he happened across on the road just today, they were affected equally, uniformly, identically, and indiscriminately.
Did he think the power in his hand would vanish if he defeated all of the Magic Gods who had created that twisted dream?
Or did that not matter and he simply wanted to take revenge for what they had done?
“I can’t see into alternate realities, so I don’t entirely understand this talk of things being twisted from how they ‘should have been’. I’ve sometimes felt people expected an awful lot from a mere high school boy, but that doesn’t prove what – if anything – that had to do with the power in my right hand or the wishes of the Magic Gods. There’s no debug mode for life. You can’t add in and remove each individual factor.”
“That’s called being conceited, Kamijou Touma. You…no, we have nothing outside of our right hands.”
Kamijou no longer faltered at what he was being told.
He felt like he had grasped a vague outline of something from this conversation.
“What exactly do you want to tell everyone?”
“You’re saying a lot of complicated stuff, but if you sum it up, it comes out to this: no one’s saying what you want them to, and you don’t like it. You can’t forgive the Magic Gods for twisting things in a direction you weren’t expecting. They ruined your plans, so you’re going to go punch them. …Hey, in that case, what did you even expect of the world?”
“How are we supposed to know what’s deep in people’s hearts? We can’t use Psychometry or some kind of magic to read residual thoughts. All of those initial conditions you mentioned are nothing but your predictions, right? You’d stopped speaking with your childhood friend? Maybe she had wanted to speak with you like this the entire time. You were happy just watching the gardening club member? Maybe she actually wanted to grow flowers with you. Hey, Kamisato, why can’t you look at things in a positive light? Maybe the Magic Gods did distort something, but they might have only given those girls the last little push they needed. How long you know someone means nothing when it comes to trust. A girl you happened across on the road just today might simply have wanted to thank you for bothering to work so hard to help a stranger.”
“What are you talking about, you moron!?”
Kamisato Kakeru shouted at him like he could not believe what he was hearing.
He placed a hand on the side of his neck.
“How conceited are you? We’re nothing but the kind of normal high school boys you can find anywhere. We’re average or below in everything. And you think someone would fall in love with a person like that? You think this ridiculous harem is a natural thing and the Magic Gods only gave the girls the last little push? What kind of convenient fantasy world do you live in? Or have they already poisoned you and tamed you this much?”
“Like I’m saying.”
This time, Kamijou cut in.
“Why can’t the girls around you look up to the kind of normal high school boy you can find anywhere?”
“There’s no rule saying they can’t. You made up that limitation yourself. You’re the one that assumed you have nothing, you’re the one that assumed no one around you would feel thankful, and you’re the one that assumed nothing like this could happen to you!! You don’t have to be an idol or a sports star. Everyone in the world thinks they’re amazing. Now, I can’t say anything about the people around me because the two of us are different. But at the very least, don’t you think the people around you who could say, or wanted to say, that they loved you would see that as enough of a reason to gather around you!?”
It was a hopeless argument.
It had no evidence or proof.
But that was normal. They were talking about the human heart, after all.
When talking about who someone looked up to, thought was amazing, or fell in love with, you did not need to take fingerprints or extract DNA data from a hair.
“Hey, did you ever actually check with this Claire, Elza, and whoever else there is? Did you go around asking each one? ‘You originally hated me, didn’t you? There’s something wrong with this cooperative relationship, isn’t there? Your good will and feelings for me are fake, aren’t they? They’re all due to this right hand the Magic Gods gave me, aren’t they?’ Hah! I’d bet my life that you’d be lucky to only get a slap in return. Of course, it still looks to me like you need a serious punch from someone at some point.”
A sound like a dry branch breaking rang through the night.
It had come from Kamisato Kakeru’s neck.
He had been unable to crack that joint before, but he had just forced it with a powerful swing of his head and the same grinding as a manual transmission’s gearstick reached his entire palm.
World Rejecter’s lips twisted up into a smile.
He had previously spoken with an overly-familiar tone like they were creepily licking each other’s wounds, but it was gone now.
The two of them were similar, but they were decisively different.
The annoyance and disgust with this similar person covered his face.
“I had thought I could lighten this burden a little if I spoke with someone in similar circumstances.”
“Sorry, but we’re completely different. No two people are the same. The fact that you judge people using something so shallow is proof that you weren’t actually looking at me as a person. You were only looking at my right hand. You only view the world through your selfish ideas of being different or being the same and you force the image and role you want for yourself onto your surroundings.”
“But it turns out we’re different. We’re fundamentally different. You have been poisoned by your gift from the Magic Gods. You see nothing wrong with receiving it and you don’t question it. It’s made you so conceited that you’re satisfied being surrounded by convenient girls. You’re nothing but scum.”
“Let me sum up what you’ve got wrong. What do you understand about others? No one understands that. Not even the Magic Gods do. Don’t get so conceited, Kamisato Kakeru.”
“Don’t look down on me while clearly trying to defend your worldly desires, harem accepter. Can’t you tell which one of us is deciding how others feel for their own convenience?”
The two boys’ gazes clashed.
They looked like they were about to lash out at each other.
“Have you forgotten?” asked Kamisato as if spitting out some cumbersome curse. “It was the Magic Gods who gave me this power. A portion of your power leaked over to me because they lost hope in you. If not for that beginning, I never would have had this power, my surroundings would not have been distorted, people like Patricia, who must have already had someone they truly cared about, would not have had their hearts overwritten. In other words, you too stand at the scene of the outbreak.”
“So you’re going to kill me too? It’s true I might be part of the cause. Maybe my own cowardice caused World Rejecter to be made. But I refuse to apologize to you. Kamisato Kakeru, you were meant to wield that power. You should thank the Magic Gods for giving you the chance to realize something you wouldn’t have realized on your own and for giving the one last push those girls needed to gather their courage and take that first step.”
“I’ll kill you.”
“Are you trying to act tough, you ungrateful bastard?”
They were talking about gods here.
If the gods went on a rampage, they might harm people, but there was something wrong if that was the only way they were being described. If they truly were gods, then this turn of events was not that strange.
A god’s role was to make people happy.
Even without some special circumstances, they would bring happiness to people.
They used their great power to make the difference between god and man known.
In Kamijou’s battle with full-power Othinus, the most frightening world had been the one of happiness. When the High Priest had talked about their “scorer”, he had mentioned the right to control destiny as a reward. Whatever the reason might have been, the Magic Gods were beings who spread happiness.
Somewhere in their hearts, it was possible the Magic Gods had thought about using Kamisato Kakeru. They might have had the pathetic idea of acquiring a backup.
But at the same time, they would have felt a little bad for doing so. It may have not reached the surface of their arrogant minds, but there must have been a thorn somewhere in their hearts. So they had sent out that small push toward happiness. That was the identity of the changes around Kamisato Kakeru.
Why could he not consider that kinder possibility?
He was like a small child talented in the piano or violin who pouted his lips wishing that talent was not keeping him from playing with the others.
Where did the fault lay? With the Magic Gods? With the world? With the girls surrounding Kamisato? With the people carrying all sorts of problems who had happened across him while wandering about and had asked him for help?
That was not the case.
Kamijou Touma stared straight at his enemy.
He glared at him and thought to himself.
The fault obviously lies with the weakness of his own heart.
He had been unable to rid himself of doubt because he could not trust in others.
He had settled on a pitiful definition of himself because he could not trust in himself.
He had placed a defensive line in his heart, insisted that nothing that was happening could possibly be real, and was too afraid to accept the happiness before his eyes. He had wanted to believe that they did not actually love him because he wanted to avoid the shock of finding out that: “Pfft. You actually believed it? The Magic Gods set this all up.”
In truth, he had wanted it more than anything, but he would look like a fool if he got all excited about the love letter in his shoe locker and it turned out to be nothing but a cruel prank.
So in his fear of that possibility, he had torn the letter to shreds and desperately tried to justify it with his suspicion of everything.
It was possible the girl who had sent the letter was crying somewhere, but he was afraid of even thinking of that possibility and instead desperately viewed them as a villain in his mind.
Kamijou Touma then summed up all of his thoughts.
A moment later, the world ignited.
A deafening explosive roar rang through Academy City’s night.
Kamisato Kakeru had not even swung his right arm.
A carnivorous plant large enough to swallow an elephant rushed from the darkness like a wall.
Kamijou negated the giant maw with his right hand.
Did it have no sense of pain or had it swallowed the pain behind its expressionless face?
The plant girl stood below a streetlight a short distance away with her glasses giving off an inorganic sparkle. Her white dress was blowing in the night breeze.
Kamisato placed a hand on the side of his neck as he spoke.
“I had intended to offer to spare you if you handed over the Magic Gods you’re sheltering, but I doubt you would agree to that.”
“Like hell I would.”
“Then this means war. I don’t care if this is your home. I need to settle things with the Magic Gods who did this to those girls.”
Nothing Kamijou could say now would get through to Kamisato, so he said something else instead.
“You mentioned a Patricia. Then are you familiar with the family name Birdway?”
“Of course. I know it very well.”
That was enough for Kamijou to grasp the basic situation.
That was one more point of opposition between them.
And then he continued.
“Then why did you choose to help her? I thought you disliked the saving power the Magic Gods gave you.”
“It’s true I didn’t gain this power because I wanted it. If I could rid myself of it now, I would. And I do need to pay a visit to the Magic Gods who forced it onto me.”
Kamisato spat out his response.
“But that doesn’t mean I can abandon someone who needs help.”
“That too will act as revenge against the Magic Gods who abandoned everything with a smile on their faces,” he muttered. “And if you happen to know a Leivinia Birdway, then ask her for some more details about the situation. Given your personality, I doubt you would be innocently agreeing to help her if you knew the whole story. You need to ask for all the information.”
That was all.
Kamisato Kakeru left Kamijou and the plant girl named Claire walked alongside him. As his back faded into the distance, more and more people joined him, creating a single large group. There was a girl with a large pirate hat, an eyepatch over her right eye, and a miniskirt. There was a girl in pajamas with a ton of antennae sticking out of her backpack and unnatural surgical scars on her neck. There was a ghost girl in white floating inside an artificial mist machine. There was a girl dressed exactly like Magical Powered Kanamin. There was a cheerleader girl with plastic pompoms. There was a girl in red Japanese armor with swords attached all over her body. There was a phantom thief girl dressed in full-body tights. They were all from a different world not centered on Kamijou Touma. That world existed somewhere besides Academy City and may have covered as much ground as Kamijou’s own world. Before long, the group vanished into the darkness.
After watching them leave and finding himself all alone, Kamijou spoke to himself.
Hadn’t Nephthys said that Imagine Breaker had not resided in Kamijou Touma by chance? Hadn’t she said something had drawn it to him and that Kamisato Kakeru may have had something similar inside him?
And that was…
“He really is a hero loved by everyone.”
Kamisato simply had not realized it.
And ironically, even as Kamijou Touma watched that other boy leave, he had not realized the same about himself.
Today’s Hotpot Party, Ingredients List 4
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)
Cannibalization Fruit (Made by Leivinia Birdway, rare item)
Kamijou Touma: It’s a miracle. We’re right back to square one!!”
Othinus: This is a good example of how seemingly good ideas from you rarely lead anywhere worthwhile.”
Between the Lines 3
The religion of Egyptian mythology had been lost to the long, long span of history, but it had fortunately left behind plenty of records. They had been well preserved and great progress had been made in their analysis, so their system of gods, their rituals, and their views of life and the soul had been gathered together.
It was also a geographically convenient religion.
For Western Europe and its modern Western magic, that mysterious world was only a quick trip across the Mediterranean. In fact, a trip across the sea was not necessarily needed. For a variety of reasons, many of the monuments and burial items were preserved by museums and collectors across Europe.
That was much easier to access than Tibet which required crossing the Eurasian continent using the Silk Road or South America that required crossing the Atlantic Ocean.
That may have been part of the reason that it had become a treasure trove of breakthroughs for magicians who had hit a dead end and could take a quick overseas trip.
The Aeons of Isis, Osiris, and Horus.
When was it that the man who divided the world’s chronology into those eras had crossed the sea and arrived in the desert?
When was it that he had experimented in summoning a great demon no one had ever heard of?
However, there was a certain brown goddess who would appear where she pleased, identify with people as she pleased, and weep for them as she pleased. And for once, she was laughing.
“Oh, dear. You don’t hear those three names often these days.”
It was a little too enchanting to call it a nostalgic smile.
That bewitching woman’s smile contained some thorns and venom.
“As someone who joined them as a created divinity, I can only pray that the legends he knows have not been distorted from the originals.”
Nephthys had no success or failure.
Nephthys had no fortune or misfortune.
Nephthys had no peace or trouble.
But if she ever saw someone fail before her eyes, a certain thought would reach her.
It was such a simple thought that she would forget about it as easily as it appeared in her mind.
She would want to weep for that person.
Just as she always did.
But was that enough?