Toaru Majutsu no Index:NT Volume14 Chapter 4
Chapter 4: Kamijou Touma and Kamisato Kakeru – Attack_the_Fist.
The situation was simple.
“Kamisato Kakeru is going to be here very soon.”
After returning to his dorm room, Kamijou Touma began with that announcement.
He no longer cared that the room was so cold. His extreme tension had overwhelmed his sense of temperature.
“He already knows where we are. His top priority is the Magic Gods, Othinus and Nephthys, but he also seems to have Birdway as a secondary opponent. Index and I are probably just in the way. To sum up, none of us are safe.”
And with that said…
“Birdway, are you hiding anything?”
“What makes you say that?”
“Kamisato said you are.”
“Oh, come on! You’re going to believe what the enemy tells you?”
He did not continue arguing.
Instead of glaring or yelling at her, he crouched down to her level and silently stared her right in the eye. After a while, she looked away awkwardly.
The cabal boss pouted her lips and answered with a look on her face she could never let her cabal or sister see.
“The cannibalization fruit will grow to completion in my body and it will entirely resolve the Sample Shoggoth parasite issue if my sister eats it. That isn’t a problem. There won’t be any strange side effects and I have no ulterior motive here.”
“Then what aren’t you telling us? Out with it.”
Birdway sighed and continued in a tone of complete resignation.
“The fruit is too big. By the time it’s complete, it might cause my body to burst from within. No, I take that back. It definitely will. I knew that since the design phase.”
“That’s why I didn’t want to tell you and why I couldn’t get my cabal’s help. If they knew their boss’s plan included a 100% chance of her death, they would have given up on Patricia and worked to preserve the organization. I’m not trying to brag, but for better or for worse, my death would be too influential. It would probably spread chaos throughout Europe. Listen, the human body is a treasure trove of secrets. There is no wasted space and the contents are packed in tight. Add in a completely new organ and it will naturally apply pressure from within, right?”
The fruit she had shown them had been in the center of her chest. That area was filled with her heart and a complex arrangement of major blood vessels. Whether it was inside or outside her ribs, it would still apply pressure. Even if her body did not actually burst open, pressure to a blood vessel like someone stepping on a hose could easily take her life.
“How were you even planning to get the completed fruit out?”
“I have a type of spiritual medicine prepared for that, so don’t worry. It can be pulled out without having to surgically open my body. I’m sure that grimoire library could give you an explanation on medicine men, but just like with rainmakers, this simply uses the a lot of what Westerns think of as African magic.”
But that did not solve the actual problem about her body bursting open.
It was unclear how much her sister Patricia knew, but what if she was rejecting the fruit because she wanted to stop its completion and not because she thought the artificial organ was too grotesque?
Did she at least understand her sister’s condition even if she did not know about magic?
“In that case, we can’t force you to do too much now.”
“Hey, human. Don’t forget about Nephthys’s problem. Despite her unnecessarily large body, she can’t move. Someone will have to carry her, which will slow us down. I can’t exactly do it with this body, you’re in charge of fighting, and the cabal girl is out too. I guess that leaves the Index Librorum Prohibitorum.”
They had plenty of people, but that was not a positive in this situation.
Kamijou and Index were the only two who could move properly and one of them would have to take care of Birdway and Nephthys. If Kamisato attacked in a group, the odds were good they would be unable to handle it.
More importantly, the room’s lights suddenly went out.
“They’re already here,” muttered Kamijou in the darkness.
If the entire dorm building’s power was out, it should have caused a commotion in the surrounding rooms, but there was no sign of that. The Kamisato Faction may have used some kind of trick like a people-clearing field.
That meant they would not be given a chance to think. Their enemy had fully switched their focus to defeating them while they could.
“We’ll have to head out to meet them. We can’t just sit here!!”
As soon as the lights went out, Kamijou and the others were forced to move little by little.
They were on the receiving end of the attack and it was painfully obvious that they were going to be reacting more than acting.
Holing up in the room would accomplish little.
That plant girl named Claire had already attacked once. Her vines or whatever else could easily get in through the seventh-floor balcony. Locking the front door and pushing furniture against it would not last long either.
On top of it all, Kamisato Kakeru had his World Rejecter.
Its effects, conditions for use, and range were still unknown. They only knew it could instantly kill even Magic Gods. In the worst case, there was even a possibility it could cause the entire dorm building to collapse.
(We’ll have to escape to the ground.)
“Index! Sorry, but you lend Nephthys your should-…”
He trailed off when he heard a disturbing sound. It did not come from the door, the window, or beyond the walls. Surprisingly, it came from within the room itself.
Birdway’s head shot up.
Something large fell from above the gas range in the kitchen space. An amorphous blob reflected the faint light coming in from outside. It emitted a sticky light like glow-in-the-dark paint and it was covered in what could have been eyeballs or suckers. Trying to stare at it to perceive its silhouette only made it look like a deep-sea octopus, chopped up pieces of fat, or a film of rubber being melted from within. It was like viewing a flag for so long that each individual color stood out more than the overall meaning.
Different points wriggled, sharpened, and fired what looked like spears in every direction.
It was not Kamijou’s Imagine Breaker that blocked it.
Birdway moved before he could. After a sound like a large cloth beating the air, her entire body was covered by something like a rotting red carpet.
“This is no time to be picky! Ironically, the weakest ones here are the Magic Gods. You two take them with you. Your mind isn’t up to enduring a death, is it!? Either way, this is perfect for me. My foolish sister ran away from home, got lost, and ended up in some guy’s home, so I need to have a talk with her!!”
That black mass was covered in glow-in-the-dark bubbles. It was supposedly Birdway’s sister who had been attacked by a parasite from Antarctica and Kamisato Kakeru had supposedly taken her in.
Kamijou desperately tried to keep his boiling head from exploding.
“We’ll meet up later at the place we first met!!” he shouted.
“Oh? You certainly have learned how to make things sound romantic since I last saw you.”
He placed Othinus on his own shoulder and had Index take Nephthys who was breathing heavily and could not stand steady. He did not like having the girl do physical labor, but he was their fighter and he needed to stay nimble for the coming battle.
He practically tackled the door open and ran out onto the seventh floor corridor.
Several flashlights and smartphone screens immediately shined light on him.
As best as he could tell…
(Three, four, five…no, there are more on the next building over, on the ground, and on the surrounding rooftops! And that’s just what I can see. How many of them are hiding around here in all!?)
On top of that, no two of them were the same. In order to support Kamisato, they each had some kind of tricky, specialized supernatural power or technology.
If they all attacked at once, he would be unable to analyze them all and defend in time.
As he looked around, he shouted to Index.
“That fox girl!! Index, I know she’s a magician at least!!”
“Understood, Touma. T R I A T O T T D Y B!! (That fox rain will avoid us and thus will soak your bodies!!)”
That was Spell Intercept.
Index could not refine magic power, so she could not use magic. But her empty and meaningless incantations could interfere with another’s magic, create an intentional mistake, and take control of it.
And in Kamisato’s introduction, he had said that fox-eared girl named Elza was a member of the magic side who used “something like a” Kokkuri to possess people and objects. She would bring the enemy to her side like shogi pieces and she could move those coins.
The busty delinquent girl gave a shout.
“Waaaah!? Wh-what the hell!!!???”
The plastic bottle she was cradling like a baby suddenly exploded.
The ten yen coins filling it scattered, but then stopped, altered their aim, and were fired with tremendous speed. They were not as fast as Misaka Mikoto’s Railgun, but they applied enough pain to knock back one’s limbs so they dropped their weapons.
These enemies did not need to be defeated.
They only needed to flinch for a brief moment.
Kamijou used that time to stare into the darkness and locate his true enemy.
That boy was their greatest fighter and also their Achilles’ heel.
With Othinus on his shoulder, Kamijou raced full speed ahead.
He had no idea how many fighters were lurking in the shadows. They could have them surrounded several times over to seal off any possible pattern ahead of time, so it was impossible to analyze now.
But at the same time, those girls formed the Kamisato Faction.
He was their center and their peak.
If he was in danger himself, it would destroy their pre-established harmony. Even if he told them not to leave their positions, they would still instinctually move to help him.
They were not an army or a religion.
They were a group of friends bound by good will.
(I don’t need to defeat them all or continually protect Index and the others. I just have to target their king. If their entire force turns my way, Index and the others will be safe!!)
“Do you wish for a new world?”
An arm that was far from thick was casually swung in the darkness.
It was World Rejecter.
That mysterious power could instantly kill a full-power Magic god if it hit.
But even when faced by that, Kamijou Touma ducked while still running to just barely dodge the deadly strike.
At this point, Kamisato Kakeru finally gave off a hint of unease.
Kamijou did not wait for him to recover.
As if making a low tackle, he threw his full body weight into Kamisato’s hips. A dull sound rang out, the two of them flew over the railing, and a slight sense of floating enveloped them.
(I don’t know World Rejecter’s range, but how does he aim it?)
In the instant of weightlessness, Kamijou thought through his predictions.
(He doesn’t actually touch whatever it is like I do. That wouldn’t allow him to attack long range. Then is it anything he sees? Anything he points at? No, it isn’t those either. If so, he wouldn’t have caused a blackout before the attack. He would have wanted to increase his field of vision.)
He almost seemed to be whispering as his confident voice shot out to give the answer.
“You use the shadow cast by your arm to determine World Rejecter’s effective range! That’s why you wanted to shut down the lights before your attack!! That way you control the only light sources and you can freely determine the direction and size of your shadow!!”
The sense of time returned and their fall truly began.
As the threads of gravity grasped the two boys, Kamijou swung both arms to desperately grab the railing on the sixth floor, one floor below. He ignored the stinging pain in his shoulders and checked cautiously around. What had happened to Kamisato Kakeru?
“Not bad given the situation.”
He was surprisingly close by.
There was another figure dangling from the sixth floor railing.
“I didn’t expect the arrangement of one hundred pieces on the board to nearly collapse after you came into contact with only Elza and me.”
While supporting himself with a single arm, Kamisato Kakeru smiled and gathered strength in his right hand.
He swung it.
Kamijou immediately let go again.
He grabbed onto the fifth floor railing and this time crawled up onto the corridor.
“What are you trying to do, human!?”
“Once this confusion ends, their optimized layout will rush in toward Index and Nephthys. I’m also worried about Birdway back in my room with Patricia. We can’t let them regain their calm. I need to stick with Kamisato and harass him as much as I can!!”
That left him with a single target.
He ran full speed down the corridor and to the emergency staircase leading upstairs.
The other boy must have been thinking the same thing because Kamijou ran into Kamisato Kakeru on the stairway landing at the halfway point.
As Kamisato tried to run down the last step, Kamijou kicked at his ankle from the side, tripping him. Just as he had said, he was a normal high school boy save for World Rejecter. He fell onto the landing and Kamijou climbed on top of him.
Kamisato swung his right hand randomly a few times, but each time, Kamijou bent back and avoided that cruel and powerful attack.
He grabbed Kamisato’s wrist and swung his own head back.
Kamijou’s forehead slammed into Kamisato’s. More due to having his brain shaken than the actual pain, Kamisato’s eyes rolled around in his head.
He groaned and swung his body up to knock Kamijou off of him. Overwhelmed by the momentum, Kamijou rolled to the side and Kamisato began his counterattack. They switched between offense and defense again and again.
However, that did not last long.
After rolling a few times, Kamisato tried to climb on top again, but Kamijou bent one leg and placed the sole of his foot on Kamisato’s gut.
Then he extended his leg like a fully compressed spring.
Kamisato’s slender body was tossed into the air. This was the stairway landing, so he was thrown onto the stairs leading down.
He was completely caught off guard and some dull sounds followed. Kamijou gasped for air as he got up and looked down the stairs where he saw someone collapsed like a broken doll.
When he saw the right hand still twitching, all restraint vanished within him.
He jumped down from the landing and stomped on that right hand. He pinned it to the floor.
“Why did you bring Patricia here?” he spat out. “You made the worst possible decision!! You went out of your way to set up a fight to the death between sisters! Did you think that was the most logical option? Were you stomping on their feelings to wear down our forces!?”
Kamisato groaned from the ground with his right hand sealed.
“This is what she wanted!!”
A dull sound rang out. A pen in Kamisato’s hand had pierced through Kamijou’s shoe and into the top of his foot.
He was a normal high school boy through and through, but that did not mean he was powerless.
Kamijou lost his balance due to the sudden pain. With the restraint on his right hand gone, Kamisato rolled to the side. After escaping danger, he kicked the pen that was still stabbed into Kamijou’s foot.
This time, Kamijou collapsed.
The two boys began grappling again.
Nothing else mattered. Kamijou poured all his focus on Kamisato’s right wrist. World Rejecter was activated from its shadow, so even if he grabbed it, there would be a shadow that could blow him away.
It was just like dealing with a knife.
Instead of trying to grab the blade, one had to grab the enemy’s wrist to alter its trajectory or keep it from moving.
Kamisato spoke from close range.
“I’m sure you at least understand the situation now. If one of those sisters is saved, the other will die. There’s no time left. We can’t put off making a decision.”
“Then whose side are you on? It looks like you’re siding with Patricia, but helping her defeat Birdway will only crush the fruit needed to save her!”
“Yes, that is salvation.”
This was an exchange of extreme irregulars, of joker-like right hands.
As the battle continued, Kamisato Kakeru gave an incomprehensible answer.
“Patricia’s explanation isn’t enough to know what exactly her sister Leivinia is trying to do, but I do know that a definite limit is approaching. Meanwhile, the Sample Shoggoth living in Patricia’s body may be harmful, but it has no set limit.”
“What are you-… Wait, you can’t mean…!”
“If Sample Shoggoth is not removed, Patricia will immediately die. …Who ever said that? I think you have the initial conditions wrong.”
Kamisato Kakeru thrust his words at Kamijou with no readable emotion in his eyes.
“And as long as Patricia’s death is off the table, her sister Leivinia loses her reason for being here. The one sister does not have to risk her life if the other tries to coexist with the parasite. At the very least, it frees them from these insane scales that require one of them to lose their life. So we are trying to destroy the thing living inside Leivinia’s chest. That will save both sisters.”
“Do you really understand what you’re saying? That parasite dissolved all of her body’s fat and lives in the empty space that created! Do you know what it would mean to live with that for the rest of her life!?”
“Parasites have a variety of reasons to kill their host, but most of those do it to more easily reach their next host. Sample Shoggoth is being researched by Ellen and Fran – who was supposedly made into a Gemstone by an implant from a UFO, although I don’t know how much of that is true. We will know more details before long. From there, we only need to learn how to control its actions. Forcibly restraining it might cause it to go on a rampage inside her, but not if we spoil it by giving it something it wants. It’s just like raising a cat. Training it might be impossible, but you can cover the power cables you don’t want it playing with and you can scatter food to distract it if it does something you don’t want. That gives us a starting point to controlling it.”
That lifeform devoured one’s flesh to create a home.
It looked like a deep-sea octopus, chopped-up fat, or a rubber film being melted from within. She would have to live with it for one hundred years, constantly keeping it satisfied and never able to direct her anger at it.
Kamijou only thought about it for a moment before shaking his head.
“That wouldn’t work. Patricia would lose all control. And if Sample Shoggoth really is the type to kill its old host in search of a new host, it would only be using her! Even if we isolated her deep in the mountains, it could easily control her body to bring her to civilization!! And then she would die as it switched hosts!!”
“Yes, it isn’t rare for parasites to control their host’s body or thoughts, so that would only be stage one. The current problem is eliminating the possibility of Patricia’s immediate death, but once that is dealt with, we could find a way to remove it from her body. For example, the parasite would kill her because it robbed her of all the fat that stores nutrients. That puts her in a situation where she would die without Sample Shoggoth, but we only have to remove that initial condition.”
“Even without those stored nutrients, she can be given a constant IV of nutrients. Her blood can be circulated through an external dialysis machine where nutrients are added into her blood. There are ways. Patricia herself suggested a few and Ellen has begun drawing up actual plans.”
That would be a life hooked up to machines and tubes because all of her fat had been removed.
She would lose her human contours and silhouette.
Kamijou only thought about it for a moment before shaking his head.
“She would never be able to get up on her own again. She would truly be nothing but skin and bones. Her hair and skin would be so dried out that they would peel away. She wouldn’t just be bedridden. All of her joints would dry out and solidify, so she couldn’t move. Yet if they were crushed from the outside, something would ooze out. She’d be just like a chrysalis! All she would have is her life and she’d only not be alive in a medical sense. Isn’t there any other way!?”
“Yes, a normal human would give up. An unavoidable destiny is one thing, but no one would choose to abandon their working body. They might say they would, but they would have a change of heart somewhere. But Patricia didn’t. She doesn’t want her sister to die and she doesn’t want to leave her sister with the stigma of letting a family member die. So instead of choosing one or the other, she tried to create a third option that would save both their lives! Even if all it saves is her life!! She drew a line there and gave up on everything else!!”
“I respect that courage. I respect that small sense of righteousness that allowed her to face the pain without running away and to accept the fear without giving up. So I’m sick of meaningless talk of good or evil. I don’t care who looks down on me or criticizes me. I won’t leave Patricia all alone. Her heart was powerful enough to deflect my World Rejecter, so I’ll support her to the end.”
Because he had approved of it and because he had accepted how she felt, he was telling the formal textbook to shove it.
It was entirely subjective, it asked nothing of anyone but that girl, and it did not try to understand anyone else. Was that the kind of conclusion he was backing?
“But you have to be wrong. The rails shifted at some point. I don’t know what happened between you and Patricia, but I’m sure something did. Is this really what she wanted in the very, very beginning, when she tearfully asked you for help and clung to your hand? Did you compromise somewhere!? Did you only later decide that this was the one and only best answer!?”
“You know what?”
There was no obvious emotion in Kamisato’s calm voice, but something oozed out from the depths.
“I’ve wondered and wondered why I wasn’t the very first one to be destroyed by World Rejecter. After all, I hesitate so much and I can’t get my desires sorted out. But I think the reason I’m still here is because my hatred for the Magic Gods overpowered any desire to return to my lost days or to abandon this power I was given. I save people and get along with Ellen and the others in order to get back at the insane Magic Gods. In other words, it’s part of my revenge. I opposed those conflicting negative thoughts with a single negative thought of my own. So I respect Patricia for facing such unreasonable circumstances and yet taking the first step toward what little hope she could find instead of wishing for a new world or hating the current world. She chose to climb to the stage above me, so I won’t let anyone get in her way. She is my hero.”
He could not do it.
He had been unable to do it.
After all of his decisions, only dark violence had remained. But unlike him, Patricia had continued thinking of her sister to the end. She had never wavered or been conflicted.
He respected that.
“You’re satisfied with heroically driving a tearful girl into a corner? You drive her to the edge of the cliff and then praise her for having the courage to jump!? That’s wrong! Simply becoming a hero isn’t some wonderful thing! Not when you’re throwing your life away like that! Fighting against the urge to lower the value of a life is an amazing strength! It’s far, far, far more admirable than useless people like us who can only wave our right hands around to fight!! It has to be!!”
Whenever an intense battle ended, he was scolded by Index, Misaka Mikoto, or someone else.
He had a special right arm, but the world did not press him to keep fighting and fighting.
That was true kindness.
If that kindness was taken away, the world truly would be over. A cruel and coldhearted digital system would take over where the fate of people’s lives was decided simply by comparing the parameters.
That was Kamisato’s ideal that surpassed simple good or evil.
If someone had a special power or special circumstances, did that alone mean they were forced to risk their life and fight? Were they to forget the path they had walked thus far, cast aside everything precious to them, and charge toward death like a clockwork doll?
If Kamijou found a girl troubled by those thoughts, he would have no choice but to unconditionally tell her she was wrong.
That was another form of righteousness.
But this opponent he could not easily reach sent mocking words his way.
“Then what are you going to do? Save both sisters or refuse to give up on either one? You’re the kind of fool that never manages to make a decision and loses both of them. You’re a nothing with a different obsession than mine. You’re just a hypocrite who protects your own humanity by sobbing that there was no other option after you lose everything. Don’t make me laugh, Kamijou Touma. You choose nothing, abandon nothing, and take on none of the burden. I don’t want to hear someone like that lecture me on salvation. As long as you continue to support Leivina’s plan, you stand on the side of taking a life to give this a nice clean ending.”
Kamijou Touma clenched his teeth, stared at his enemy, and shouted back from the bottom of his gut.
“Even if that’s true, I still have to say it!! If a girl is standing before me asking for help, I have to give her that ideal answer or it’s all over!! I have to tell her that I won’t let anyone be lost, that I won’t leave anyone in a world of fear and suffering, and that I’ll make sure everyone can smile together in the end!!”
For just a second, Kamisato almost seemed to choke, but then anger and hatred filled his eyes.
World Rejecter was making a comeback.
“Are you trying to put off making a decision or do you just not want to make it yourself? You don’t have any way of doing that. If you say that, you’ll end up losing both of them.”
“That’s right!! I’m not a genius with an IQ of 200! I’m not the Index Librorum Prohibitorum that’s memorized 103,000 grimoires or a Magic God that can remake the entire world!! But that doesn’t mean I can give up just because someone tells me to. Like the idiot I am, I’ll keep struggling to find a hint until I actually find one. I’ll ask Index or Othinus for help, I’ll ask Birdway or Nephthys if they know anything, and I’ll use everything available to me! I don’t care about pride and there’s no rule saying I have to do everything on my own!!”
“Hah. So you’re just leaving it to someone else? Is that another line of defense? If something goes wrong and you lose everything, you can just say you were only doing what your mommy told you?”
“Didn’t I tell you? I’ll use everything available to me. Someone’s life is on the line! There’s no time to keep up appearances!! So I’ll use it!! Your method forces us to watch Patricia living a bedridden life as a chrysalis while we try to convince ourselves this was the best option even as a shadow hangs over our smiles! You can call it pathetic, unsightly, or backwards if you want! But I’m not going to become some self-absorbed asshole who acts cool by calmly giving up too easily and then tries to show off how he made the painful decision no one else could!! You don’t get to decide what salvation is, Kamisato!!”
After all, Kamijou knew something.
Where did evil come from? Good was not good because someone decided it was and evil was not evil because it said so in some book. When someone gave up on someone else and cut them off, that was when that second person became evil. It happened when the possibility of salvation was taken from them, they were left with no connection to anyone else, and everyone assumed they were a lost cause.
It had happened to the High Priest.
Kamijou had done it to him.
It was possible they could have reconciled their differences like he had with Othinus. It was possible they could have talked it out like he had with Nephthys. But he had been so influenced by the High Priest’s appearance, history, and violence that he had entirely forgotten about that option. He had unilaterally defined him as something to be defeated.
He was not going to let that happen again.
He did not think the High Priest had been a good person. He also thought that conclusion had been the best one possible. But those things were a different issue entirely. He did not want to receive or give that kind of pain again. He never again wanted to witness someone being made evil.
“I will save them, Kamisato.”
“I will save both Leivinia and Patricia. They may both want to sacrifice themselves for the other! They may be willing to accept the pain and fear of being skin and bones hooked up to a machine! But I’ll destroy all of that and ruin all of that to save everyone and everything!! No matter what happens, I will not cut off the Birdway sisters as a lost cause!!”
“What…are you talking about?”
“This is what it means to be a hero. This is what it means to be a normal high school boy! This is what we say at times like this. An actual method or real odds of success don’t matter. Even if we have no idea what we can do and we’ve reached a dead-end, we still have to make sure everything works out in the end!! Isn’t that perfectly normal? Why should I have to explain why I would want to save everyone, keep everyone from dying, and not leave anyone behind in a world of fear and suffering!!!?”
“Again, how will you do it?” Kamisato gave his mocking reply catching his breath. “The growth of Leivinia’s fruit will cause her to burst from within and forcibly removing Sample Shoggoth from Patricia will kill her. You can only save one or the other. You can’t save both. The only way to save both is to find an external way to supply Patricia with nutrients instead of relying on her body’s fat, no matter what changes the process will make to her body. Or are you saying you know someone with an even more useful supernatural power?”
“Didn’t I tell you? I don’t care if you call it pathetic, unsightly, or backwards.” Kamijou answered with a relaxed smile. “According to Birdway, the parasite dissolved Patricia’s fat and slipped into that empty space. Since it’s handling the storage and distribution of nutrients, she’ll die from lack of nutrients if it’s forcibly removed. And that fruit is needed to safely drive it out without killing her.”
“So what? Why would you repeat the hopeless situation?”
“It’s important. Checking back over the initial conditions is important, rookie. And if those are our conditions, then this is simple. We just have to fill Patricia’s body with fat to take the place of that thing. And I’m not talking about an IV or dialysis. I’m simply talking about returning her to normal by giving her the fat she’s lost. If we use the fat to drive out the parasite like a game of musical chairs, Patricia won’t be left as skin and bones after the monster’s gone! If the new fat supplies her with the nutrients she needs, she won’t die!! We might be able to save her without the fruit!! And without her turning into a bedridden chrysalis!!”
“Thanks for the speech, but do you see a convenient tool like that lying around? Don’t tell me actually think you can suck out your fat like a liposuction diet and pump it into Patricia to solve this.”
“You already know the solution.”
This time, Kamisato Kakeru came to a complete stop.
For a brief moment, he completely forgot to fight his enemy.
“You know someone who’s more like a plant than an animal, right? You know someone can use bonds and whatever else to absorb the traits of any kind of matter, right?”
“Did you forget that fat doesn’t necessarily come from animals!? There are plenty of plant fats like canola oil or margarine!!”
Kamisato Kakeru’s assumptions, perceptions, and thoughts vanished.
His problems and hardships vanished.
He even forgot to breathe.
Meanwhile, Kamijou continued speaking.
“Of course, just stuffing margarine inside someone’s body won’t supply them with nutrients. Things aren’t that convenient.”
The fruit growing in Birdway’s chest was apparently made of corn starch.
The substance had originally been used in threads or sheets to sew up or cover wounds. Once affixed to the patient, they would naturally break down and fuse with the surrounding tissue to smoothly close the wound without needing to be removed later. In other words, the body would not reject it under the right circumstances.
“But your comrade is different, isn’t she? You said that gardening club member named Claire is a Gemstone and her body is almost entirely like a plant. That means we only need her help. She can use her own body as an example to make some plant fat that the human body will accept. Then she only has to pump it into Patricia! That will solve everything without having to sacrifice anyone!!”
“So I’ll say it. I’ll shamelessly take what belonged to someone else and show it off like it’s mine. If you had just spoken to her yourself, you could have saved both the Birdway sisters!! And without the fear and suffering of becoming a bedridden chrysalis! But you tried to act cool, acted like tragedy was a virtue, and readily gave up on them without bothering to worry over it to a pathetic extent! How are you a hero? What salvation is there in anything you’ve done here!? You idiot!!!!!”
Kamisato was caught off guard.
The righteousness he had believed in had been rejected and his very existence was being mocked.
“I have no proof this will work.”
Kamijou spat out those words.
He did not avoid looking at his own flaws.
“Neither of us has any proof that our plan will save them. We’re both awful people for resting the lives of those sisters on our amateur opinions! But if I have a choice, I’ll go with my plan. Even if yours worked, there would be no smiles. If the odds are even, of course I’ll choose the one that lets us smile afterwards!!”
Kamisato could not argue back. He could not move his right hand. He had realized that, in this situation, he could not provide an answer better than the one Kamijou Touma had.
At that moment, a sticky noise reached them.
They looked over and saw red and black amorphous creatures clinging to the wall of the neighboring building. One was an animal skin that looked like a rotting carpet and the other was an Antarctic parasite that dissolved a human’s fat and slipped into the empty space. Now that they had an answer, those beloved sisters no longer needed to fight to the death.
“Those morons have been swept away by the atmosphere here!!”
Kamijou moved his aching body to slowly stand back up.
Kamisato looked up at him from the floor.
“What are you going to do? They’re clinging to the wall pretty high up. That’s not in range of your right hand.”
“Let me ask you something instead. What do you want to do?” spat back Kamijou. “You said before that you didn’t gain that power because you wanted to and that you aren’t doing this because you want to. If you can stand here, look at those sisters, and still say that, then you can sit there on your pathetic little ass. I’ll go take care of everything.”
He paused for a beat and made a reversal.
“If you look at those two! If you look at those girls crawling down the path of ridiculous tragedy and needless sacrifice!! And you feel anything at all, then come with me. Listen, rookie. The kind of normal high school boy you can find anywhere is someone who can become a hero at any time if they happen to see someone in need!!!!!”
That was completely normal.
Everyone felt the desire to save someone.
But if they did not even try because they had decided they could not, then they were even lower than average.
That was what a loser did.
It was the thought process of someone without any balls.
So if they did not want to be called those names, they had to stand up.
It did not matter if they were afraid, if their legs were shaking, if their teeth were chattering, or their mind had gone blank.
Being normal or being average was not a simple thing. It was not easy. Doing nothing was not “normal”. A lot of effort went into keeping that title, even if it went unnoticed. Slacking off even a little bit in that effort would cause one to stray from the path of being “normal”.
“Show me what being ‘normal’ is to you.”
Kamijou Touma, the kind of normal high school boy one could find anywhere, spoke.
“Show me just how beautiful the ‘normal’ world you want is!!”
One sister thought to herself.
(I’ve finally made it in time. I caught up to her before the fruit inside me rots away. Now I just have to wait for it to bear fruit. It may crush my heart and lungs, but I can save my sister!!)
The other sister silently spoke her desire.
(I still have a way to save her. It was my fault Sample Shoggoth got inside me, so it isn’t her responsibility. I’ll crush and remove that fruit before it reaches completion. I can save her by refusing my ticket home!!)
They both made sticky sounds as they clung to the wall as a rotten red carpet or a black monster that’s form grew more incoherent the more one observed it. Their desire to save someone so important to them was not a filthy thing.
But that was exactly why they would not stop. The brighter the light of good behind their actions, the further they distanced themselves from compromise. When walking down the path of evil, most people would grow exhausted, be worn down, and end up stopping. But most people would feel no pain from acts of good.
Good was more powerful than evil.
That also meant it was easier to be swept away by good.
Multiple great rumbling sounds followed one after another.
The red and black monsters tried to devour each other while still clinging to the vertical wall.
Even in a clash between family members who shared the same blood, they did not hold back. They would not have been able to wield violence to strike the other, to make them cry, or to injure them, but they could wield any amount of violence if it was to save them.
It was such a cruel scene that it almost seemed comical.
But Kamijou Touma’s Imagine Breaker smashed that sickening tragedy to pieces.
How had he touched the Birdway sisters as they clung to that wall at such a height?
The answer was incredibly simple.
He had run to the roof of the building and jumped right off.
“Oh, ohh, ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!”
He had no lifeline.
He was in a complete freefall.
The student dorm buildings had been packed in tightly to begin with, so even though the Birdway sisters were clinging to the wall of a different building, he could still reach them by jumping from his own dorm building’s rooftop.
His target was Patricia, not Leivinia. He clenched his right fist with more strength than he knew he had, but he had no way of changing his body’s direction.
Countless spears shot out from the red and black creatures as if to say he was in the way.
Their misguided righteousness was telling him not to block the path to tragedy.
But that farce did not last long.
Another normal high school boy spoke from the rooftop.
They were swept away.
He used a flashlight to cast the giant shadow of his arm on the countless attacks meant to strike Kamijou.
A hole was opened in the anti-air fire and Kamijou Touma slipped on through.
He passed by the mass of rotten red carpet as he continued down toward the black mass that looked like an octopus, fat, or melting rubber.
He touched it.
He had finally reached it.
The black mass immediately burst. It must have lost the strength to cling to the wall because Patricia’s small body was thrown into a freefall.
The red carpet started after her but then came to an unnatural stop. The boy glimpsed a human will there and assumed it was a sign of trust.
Kamijou extended his right hand, grabbed the falling girl’s arm, and pulled her in.
He held her in his arms as they continued to fall.
“It’s going to be okay.”
His whispered words were not directed at Patricia alone.
Kamijou Touma was speaking to both souls he held in his arms.
He did not care if it was hypocritical or self-righteous. He did not care if he gave no thought to his capabilities or physical abilities. At a time like this, there were some things he simply had to say. If he was faced with a worn-down girl who had even forgotten to cry as she believed giving up on her own life was the best option, there were some words he simply had to speak.
“That ridiculous illusion is over now. I’ll destroy it here and now!!”
Their bodies did not crash into the asphalt.
Crisscrossing plant vines shot out near the ground, creating a giant net that easily caught them.
He did not feel like messing with crawling out of it, so he tore the plant net to pieces with Imagine Breaker.
The plant girl named Claire waited below in her shoulder-exposing white dress.
“Please take care of this!!”
“Oh, honestly, why am I so nice!? Why do I have to go all out to protect someone other than Kamisato-san!?”
Kamijou placed Patricia face-up on the road and the girl peered down at her through her large round glasses. They did not have much time. They could not predict how Sample Shoggoth would react inside Patricia’s body.
First of all, root-like strands thinner than threads slipped inside the pores all across Patricia’s body.
The glasses girl seemed to be searching for something as she shut her eyes and whispered.
“One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight. Applicable locations confirmed. Preparation for creation, shaping, and injection of plant fat complete.”
She opened her eyes and a mechanical sound followed.
Claire’s fingernails grew over a meter long. The cream-colored blades quickly stabbed into locations across Patricia’s body. The action produced pleasant sounds much like a metal skewer stabbing into a mass of kneaded dough. The locations ranged from Patricia’s face, arms, legs, and lower stomach, but once the fingernails stopped something’s movement, she started moving in displeasure. The transformation was obvious even through her thick down jacket. Something flowed through her as if following the paths of eight legs and it gathered at the center of her flat chest. A fist-sized mass wriggled below her skin.
Her small body gave a jerk, but she did not seem to be bleeding anywhere.
“Please crush it wherever it comes out! Be thorough, to make sure it doesn’t search for a new host!!”
It was like squeezing out pus.
Starting at the eight flowing routes that did not reach the center of her chest, Patricia’s soft skin split apart and a creepily bubbling black thing seeped out. Before it could do anything, Kamijou pressed Imagine Breaker against it as if wiping it away with his finger.
Each time, something vanished and the mass at the center of her chest grew smaller. Kamijou had no accurate knowledge of this sort of thing, but this gave him an instinctual understanding of their progress.
Things were going well.
Patricia’s body was not flattening out like a juice box having the air forcibly sucked out through a straw. Before that could happen, Claire’s plant fat filled the gaps and prevented the girl from losing her nutrients.
But at the same time, Claire was using all ten fingers to influence Patricia’s body at once. Sample Shoggoth seemed to be freely swimming below Patricia’s skin, but it had apparently just dissolved her fat and slipped into the empty space. So it may have been divided into a number of “rooms” as it lived inside her. As it was forced out and the gaps were filled, it was losing its living space. The mass at the center of her chest was large and creepy, but that did not mean it had an advantage. In fact, the area at the chest was the final “room” it had been chased into.
That meant they could not predict what it would do next.
After a dull sound, Patricia’s down jacket undulated unnaturally from within.
Something like black fangs bit down on Claire’s long fingernails and kept them from moving.
“What? Did it mistake my fingernails for part of its host since they’re inside the girl’s body?”
Claire’s hands were trapped and she even seemed to be dragged toward Patricia.
She looked around in search of any way to escape this situation, but then her head came to a stop.
Kamijou realized why.
Directly behind her, the ground broke apart and black tentacles burst out.
They had likely left Patricia’s back and eaten through the ground, despite all the dirt and grass in the way.
“No, this isn’t just about plants like me. It’s devouring everything it can to test every possibility! Just like a trapped insect jumping into a river or a fish jumping from the water!”
Kamijou immediately raised his right hand to shield the defenseless plant girl.
Before she had even finished her shout, Kamijou had realized his own carelessness.
She had told him to crush whatever came out of Patricia, so how dangerous would this unexpected situation be?
That thing had used that fact as a shield.
He had crushed the black mass with Imagine Breaker a few times already, but this was different. He would be interfering with the surgery. If Claire’s pace was thrown off, they could not predict what would happen to Patricia. Sample Shoggoth might destroy her body more than expected and cause her to rapidly decline or it might mess with Claire’s fingernails inside Patricia’s body.
In other words, intercepting with his right hand could cause a violent enough shock to kill Patricia, but ignoring it would let the black avalanche reach them all. And if it moved to a new host, it was unlikely to care what happened to the old one.
Would he act or not?
Both options would lead to Patricia’s death.
And it was already too late.
He had already shifted from thought to action.
He tried to slam on the brakes for his muscles, but it did not work. His right hand collided with the black avalanche.
The destruction began.
Meanwhile, Index felt a weight leave her shoulder as she watched from the corridor on a higher floor. The intermittent warm breaths on her cheek also vanished.
She turned in confusion toward the person she had been supporting on her shoulder.
That person was Nephthys, one of the Magic Gods. Her existence itself was hard to believe, but based on what Index had heard, more than 99% of her body had been exiled to another world by Kamisato Kakeru’s World Rejecter.
“Would this be the time?”
The brown beauty smiled with beads of sweat visible on her forehead.
No one would have known, but those were the same words spoken by the Magic God known as the High Priest as he watched Othinus break apart in Denmark.
If categorized as good or evil, the High Priest had definitely been evil, but even he had saved something as one of the gods.
“I had thought a miracle might occur, but I guess I can’t escape destruction. Then again, it was strange for a god to be relying on a miracle in the first place.”
“What are you-…?”
“Please tell Kamijou Touma the details of what is about to happen. He seems like he would have difficulty accepting the death of someone close to him. Tell him I was already dead and my body was kept moving by something like residual body heat. Tell him I stopped moving because the time had come and not because he did anything wrong.”
Nephthys moved away.
Or so it initially seemed to Index, but that was inaccurate. That Magic God no longer had the strength left to move her legs. The weight was vanishing because her very existence was fading.
The brown beauty’s outline dried and dispersed like an image of sand.
Finally, only her enchanting voice remained.
“That’s right. I am a god. I’m not supposed to hope for a miracle; I’m supposed to be the one causing the miracles.”
Index cried out, but that was not going to accomplish anything.
Even if the woman had been weakened, she was still a true god. The knowledge of 103,000 grimoires was not enough to obstruct her magic.
Her voice and presence disappeared. A small sandstorm passed over the railing and rushed toward the ground. It rushed toward Patricia Birdway whose tragedy was approaching completion as she was forced into a weakened death after the parasite was killed more violently than necessary.
She was Nephthys, a goddess passed own in Egyptian mythology. She had no real legends outside of crying at the funeral of a great god and some said her divinity was created around the idea of the crying woman.
She did not have a background or history of her own. She was a gathering of the thousands and tens of thousands of servants buried in the pyramid along with the human pharaoh. She should have had no interest in the outside world or the people who lived there. She could not search out an individual with a close relationship to her. After all, she herself had no concept of individuality. And as a group’s shared consciousness, she had no intention of getting along with the descendants of those who had silently forced that group to be buried with the pharaoh.
(I should have wondered why.)
When Kamisato Kakeru had attacked her with World Rejecter and over 99% of her body had been torn away, she had honestly not wanted to die. She had not wanted to travel down the same unknown path as Niang-Niang. But why not? Was it due to the fear? If so, where did that fear come from? Was it fear of having her existence erased or simply of the pain? But as previously stated, she was a group of servants closed inside the pyramid with the pharaoh. She had been so thoroughly twisted from her very origin that she no longer had it in her to fear simple violence.
Then what was that fear?
If categorized as good or evil, Nephthys would have been an evil god.
From the viewpoint of human society, at least.
After the High Priest’s defeat, she had not tried to stop Niang-Niang when the other Magic God had announced she would destroy Academy City. That fact did not change.
Even if it contradicted her previous actions and stood at odds with everything else about her, a certain thought had reached her mind when Kamisato Kakeru had attacked.
(I still wanted to do something godlike.)
Nephthys’s sandstorm-like structure changed on the microscopic level. Her body was a collection of the dust that mummies became as they vanished into the flow of time. There were no traces left that could point to any individual person, but they were still the parts that had made up human bodies.
With that, she had everything necessary.
She had everything necessary for Patricia whose life was vanishing as Sample Shoggoth was rapidly annihilated. In other words, she had the replacement fat. But unlike the plant girl’s fat, Nephthys became actual animal fat, so she could slip into Patricia’s body with no risk of rejection.
So she remade all of herself.
She became a part of Patricia Birdway.
In the rewriting process, her existence as Nephthys would vanish. It was a lot like erasing the data on a hard disk and filling it with new data that prevented the old data from being recovered.
In that way, Nephthys would die here.
But strangely enough, she felt no fear.
The feeling that had overwhelmed her during Kamisato Kakeru’s attack was not here. But that was not because she was taking the logical view that more than 99% of her body had been exiled to another world and thus her “main” consciousness would remain somewhere else even if this tiny portion died.
Her previous guess must have been correct.
This time, she was not vanishing before she could accomplish something, so she did not feel the fear she had when Kamisato’s hand had been unilaterally exiling her.
If she had still had a face, she knew she would have been smiling.
A moment later, it was all over.
The Egyptian goddess reached the girl who stood on the brink of death.
Patricia’s entire body shook.
She had been rapidly losing volume and transforming into a dried mummy, but she returned to normal as if swelling out from within. A glossy sheen returned to her skin and hair. The girl had returned to being a mere girl.
The last traces of Nephthys vanished and only Patricia’s natural body remained.
For a while, Patricia seemed trapped by a dreamlike illusion as she wandered in the gap between life and death. Her widened eyes stared into empty space.
As her mind sat in an illusionary world, she spoke the question that came to mind.
Kamijou Touma and Claire did not see what she saw.
The response did not actually reach her by vibrating the air and her eardrums.
Nevertheless, Patricia Birdway clearly heard that woman’s voice.
“If you have to call me something, I guess you could call me a god.”
It was all over.
With the Antarctic parasite inside Patricia Birdway’s body dealt with, the threat of the apple inside Leivinia Birdway’s body was also resolved. For a while, Birdway seemed unable to believe the miracle that had descended on them, but after checking over her unconscious sister’s body, she had no choice but to accept it. She did not give any verbal thanks, but pulling out and throwing away the strange artificial organ in her chest was proof enough.
There was apparently some ominous group known as the Kamisato Faction, but Kamisato Kakeru himself showed no further attachment to Patricia. Had he intended it that way from the beginning, or was it out of respect for Kamijou’s intervention? Based on what he had said, it was also possible he simply did not want his faction to grow if he could avoid it.
Also, Magic God Nephthys had vanished.
Despite all of his bragging, Kamijou had ultimately allowed a sacrifice.
There had been nothing he could have done.
A bitter feeling spread through his chest, but he could not stand still now.
He looked around again.
Normal High School Boy Kamisato Kakeru waited for him, surrounded by a great number of girls.
“What are you going to do? This isn’t over yet, is it?”
“No, it isn’t.”
Patricia’s incident had been a detour for Kamisato. He had stumbled across her while dealing with the Magic Gods and Imagine Breaker. Due to his nature, he had simply been unable to ignore the life at risk before his eyes.
Now that he was freed from that, he would return to his main task.
Nephthys was gone, but the final Magic God remained: Othinus.
“I have one question for you,” said Kamisato. “Quite a few Magic Gods were closely involved in the creation of my World Rejecter and your Imagine Breaker. They are also the root cause of the strange environment surrounding us and the many incidents we find ourselves caught up in, so you could call them the reason we are no longer normal. …Don’t you think we have a right to take revenge?”
Kamijou did not hesitate either.
With Othinus, he had been knocked around so much his brain was nearly fried. With the High Priest, he had been driven by fear and lost sight of his opponent’s nature. But with Nephthys, something had changed. He no longer needed to question anything.
“If you can call them ‘nothing but’ evil after seeing Nephthys’s end, then you really are my enemy, Kamisato. You look evil to me. So much so that I feel an urge to cut you off.”
Just once, Kamisato Kakeru narrowed his eyes with a hand on the side of his neck.
He may have had his thoughts on that. In fact, the look on his face made it clear he wished he had not seen that.
He took a single step forward and all the girls around him slowly moved away.
In response, Kamijou left fifteen centimeter Othinus with Index. Realizing what he wanted them to do, the silver-haired nun and Birdway backed away while the latter held her limp sister.
As the two boys slowly approached each other, their surroundings disappeared.
At some point, they became all that remained in the darkness of the night.
Like the opposite poles of a magnet being pulled together, Imagine Breaker and World Rejecter naturally walked toward each other.
They stopped at several meters apart.
If they took another step and raised their fists, they would be in range of each other’s faces. Kamisato removed his palm from the side of his neck. He slowly closed and opened that hand. That ultimate weapon could tear through even a Magic God.
Kamijou Touma and Kamisato Kakeru’s gazes clashed.
“Before even thinking about this strange bond, I was simply curious.”
“My World Rejecter and your Imagine Breaker are the ultimate weapon and the ultimate shield. If the world’s two most extreme irregulars clash, which one will win?”
“It might not be that big a deal.”
“Really? I’m actually a little worried that it might cause something like an antimatter reaction.”
Great strength filled both fists.
“No tricks this time.”
The unreliable illumination from the streetlights suddenly vanished.
Complete darkness fell.
And in that darkness, something happened.
A deafening noise rang out.
Today’s Hotpot Party, Ingredients List 5
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)
Sample Shoggoth (Remnants)
Princess’s Animal Skin (Remnants)
Kamijou Touma: “Sigh. So we’ve settled on this bizarre hotpot, have we?”
Othinus: “Hey, those things are still twitching even after being torn to shreds. And isn’t one of them a parasite?”
Birdway: “Just think of it as filled with the extract of two sisters, and it sounds like a rare delicacy.”