Toaru Majutsu no Index:NT Volume15 Chapter 1
Chapter 1: Confrontation, or New Days — Turn_a_New-Leaf.
The next day was December 4.
To be honest, Kamijou Touma was feeling blue. He did not know what had happened to Kamisato Kakeru and his faction. Nor did he know what the Magic Gods like Othinus were doing. On top of that, he could no longer trust in his right hand. He felt like heading off to school like a clockwork doll. He felt like throwing a blanket over his head and spending the whole day trembling on his own. Even the arrival of dawn seemed unreasonable to him.
He faced himself in the bathroom mirror with a 120% serious look on his face.
This was not some cool self-suggestion meant to remind him how important every single day was.
“Why was it Komoe-sensei forced that ridiculous toy of an acrobike on you during the anti-crime orientation? She said something ominous!! She gave you a death sentence about not being able to cover for my absences and moving onto the next year being nearly hopeless!!”
If a cruel teacher that focused on grades above all else had said that while looking down on him, he might have fought back a little, but this had not felt like a threat. It had felt far too much like she had tried everything and was out of ideas. It had never really been resolved after the surge of panic caused by the High Priest, so he had no idea if he was in the clear or not.
So what would happen if he skipped school for no real reason now? The truly undesirable trophy of “held back” could be added to his already acrobatic school life. For real!!
“No!! I don’t want to be the one guy in the class everyone calls an upperclassman!! I don’t think I could stand being an upperclassman character even though I’d be a first year!!”
Fifteen centimeter Fairy Othinus spoke up in exasperation after slipping in through the slight gap below the bathroom door.
“Why are you shouting into the mirror? Is it time for your tranquilizer?”
“Oh, help me god!!”
“I don’t know what this is about, but I don’t give any divine help to science worshipers. If you have time to play at self Gestaltzerfall, then go make breakfast. I don’t really care, but that white nun and the feline beast are going nuts. …That calico bastard especially scares me since I think it sees me as an emergency food source. This is the problem with quadrupeds…”
With that, it was cooking time.
The hotpot commotion the night before had ended in about the worst possible way. All they had were the chopped vegetables, bread, eggs, and spices that Kamijou had gotten at a convenience store. His mind had been so full of confusion after the Kamisato battle that he had really only stopped by the store out of pure habit bordering on a homing instinct. He had screamed when he saw the receipt later, but at least it gave him something to make a breakfast with.
Plus, he did not want to go to any extra effort when faced with so many crises: the mystery of Kamisato, the mystery of his right hand, the mystery of whether he would be held back, the mystery of Index’s stomach, and the mystery of the window that was still broken in the middle of winter.
Thus, he chose to make French toast for breakfast, a dish that looked like it took a lot of effort but was actually quite easy.
Index, in her teacup-like habit of white fabric with gold embroidery, used the plastic fork and knife that came with convenience store pasta and pancakes to squeakily cut through the bread with her eyes glittering a little too brightly.
“Chowing down on something sweet first thing in the morning makes me feel a bit like a bad girl.”
“You like everything, so I can’t exactly go on what you think.”
Othinus accidentally plunged head-first into the small dish of honey and the calico cat enjoyed the usual cat food.
No matter how many problems he had on his plate, the hands of the clock moved just as fast.
After cleaning the dishes, Kamijou grabbed his school bag and started for the front door.
“I’ll be going.”
“Okay. Hurry on back.”
As he left the dorm and walked along the usual path to school, a girl’s voice reached him from his school bag.
“Human, don’t shake me so much.”
It was Magic God Othinus.
“Othinus!? Please don’t tell me you’ve taken a liking to this! Everyone at school’s going to think I’m bringing weird things with me!!”
“Shut up. I don’t want to keep using such a cheap method either.”
The fifteen centimeter exhibitionist climbed out of the bag, up his arm, and onto his shoulder (which was quickly becoming her usual spot).
It now felt like she was whispering into his ear.
“I feel like you haven’t been speaking as much since you fought Kamisato. Are you willing to tell me what happened?”
His focus shifted to his right arm that Othinus had grabbed just a moment before.
“Nothing really happened.”
“What, did you kill and bury Kamisato somewhere? I am a god of magic, strategy, and deception. Did you really think I would be bothered by that?”
“That’s being far too accepting!! And it’s setting the bar way too low, Miss Understander!! Of course I didn’t do that!!”
He ended up shouting back at her, but then he had another thought.
He did not actually understand at all what had happened to him at that moment, at that instant.
He could not even use the usual assumption about negating all supernatural powers. What affect did his right hand have, how far was its effective range, and what activated it? That was the vague power that had been sent after Kamisato Kakeru.
In that case, he could not entirely rule it out.
He could not rule out the hypothetical future of trembling in front of Kamisato’s corpse and biting his nails as he desperately tried to figure out what to do.
He forced out his voice as if peeling apart his oddly dried throat to allow air through.
“Do you remember Baggage City? Back then, you…touched it… You touched the invisible thing that flew from my arm when you ripped my hand off.
“Are you trying to take revenge by bringing up things I would rather forget?”
“Ow!! Don’t bite my earlobe that hard, Othinus!!”
The small god sighed through her nose.
“I can make a good guess, but that is not from my domain. Although if Bersi were still alive, it would be pretty easy to confirm that guess.”
He had not expected to hear that name.
“You mean Kihara Kagun? But wait a second. Imagine Breaker is the collection of the all the hopes of magicians…that is the magic side and their god-ranked Magic Gods. So what would he have to do with this?”
“First of all, Bersi was not simply an expert on the science side. He was skilled on both sides. Make no mistake about that.”
Othinus lightly tugged on his ear.
“Second of all, this is a giant institution for raising espers, remember? I don’t know what the other Magic Gods were telling you, but did you think this place had nothing at all to do with it?”
It pained him that he had lost his memories.
But according to his father, Touya, Imagine Breaker (or the misfortune it brought as a side effect) had been with him since before he came to Academy City. So that his son would not be treated as a god of pestilence due to his strange trait, Touya had sent him to Academy City where it would be understood scientifically and numerically.
After some thought, Kamijou found an unpleasant alternate interpretation.
(All my dad and the others saw was the misfortune. They didn’t know about Imagine Breaker, the power of my right hand to negate supernatural powers. So I can’t actually prove that Imagine Breaker was complete at that point. But Index said the misfortune is created by my right hand negating the blessings of god. That would mean Imagine Breaker has to precede the misfortune. What does this mean? How can I twist this around…?)
Negation after negation stacked on top of each other.
He was not even sure which side he stood on.
(Othinus seems to know something, but her information stops at Baggage City.)
He gulped and continued thinking in silence.
(Her information hasn’t been updated, so she might not be able to explain what it was that drove Kamisato away.)
“!? What is it, Othinus?”
“Just look up ahead. This doesn’t look good.”
Kamijou had lowered his head in thought, so he looked forward once more. He was almost at school and was in fact right in front of the main gate. It may indeed have been something like a homing instinct because he had not strayed from the path even while lost in thought.
It was flattened.
What was? Kamijou’s high school.
“What the hell?”
“Don’t ask me.”
“Y-you’ve gotta be kidding me!! How can we have classes now!? And what happens to me if we can’t? My attendance is already in the danger zone and I have one leg sticking out into the abyss of being held back!!”
“Oh, is that why you’ve been looking so grim this morning?”
Like an interrupted line of ants, boys and girls with nowhere to go were gathered around the schoolyard.
Among them, Kamijou’s panic-stricken mind gradually provided him with information.
It had happened yesterday. Yes, just the day before.
What had the Magic God known as the High Priest done after entering the school? Hadn’t he created a giant arm of dirt and mud and crushed the school as some kind of demonstration?
“I already told you, didn’t I? It is a matter of sooner or later, of before or after you lose something.”
In other words, it had been about a possibility, an ever-so-slight possibility.
There was no school building, so there would be no classes. If this was not counted as an excused absence, he would not receive credit for the class.
And he would be held back?
A tiny thread in Kamijou-san’s mind snapped.
“High Priiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiieeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeest!! You goddamn mummyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!!”
The broken window in his dorm, the crushed school building, and the crisis over being held back. That old man’s presence only continued to grow. It scared Kamijou how the High Priest was reaching the rare position of the sharp-eyed girl in a manga who only showed up in the flashback that had made the main character the all-powerful individual he was.
“What’s this? Am I going to see that mummy’s face and hear the greatest hits of his quotes every time I stand at a crossroads in life? Please no! Why does it have to be an old man!? Quit following me around everywherrrrrrrrre!!”
“I’m not sure I understand, but are you sure this isn’t a god’s curse?”
“He shows up uninvited, vanishes out of the blue, and leaves nothing but a curse behind!? How much trouble can one old man be!?”
“That bastard probably isn’t so bad compared to Greek mythology where a perverted old man attacked a human girl, his cruel wife snapped, and for some reason it was the human girl who was treated as a thief and received divine punishment.”
“Gods are just awful, aren’t they!?”
“That includes me, you know?”
“Can you look me in the eye and swear you’ve never done anything like that, Othinus? I don’t know much about Norse mythology, but I’m betting there’s something there.”
He could guess what it meant when the eyepatch maiden cleared her throat.
“Let’s see what turns up when I search ‘Odin’ and ‘cruelty’.”
“Stop! You have to be insane to search someone’s name in front of them!”
At any rate…
“What are we going to do about class today? Are we going to have an open-air classroom in front of this rubble? Or are they going to cancel school for the day? If they do that, it’ll be an excused absence and it won’t count against me, right!? This was an unforeseen accident, so I’ll be okay, won’t I!? A-ahhh!! I’m really on the precipice when it comes to being held back!!”
“You challenged a god like me over a period of time reaching into the billions, so why does repeating a year or two bother you so much?”
Half the school was smashed flat and the other half was untouched, but due to earthquake resistance and some other reasons, no one was allowed inside. The students who had arrived at the usual time had nowhere to go, so they had all gathered in one corner of the schoolyard looking at and snapping photos of the crushed school building.
“This is crazy, isn’t it?”
Fukiyose Seiri, a classmate notable for her black hair and forehead (and captivatingly large breasts) spoke to him with a breath from her nose.
“It looks like the scenes of air strikes I’ve seen on TV. I don’t know if this was due to liquefaction or subsidence, but it’s a miracle no one died when it collapsed so spectacularly.”
“Fukiyose-san. This is only something of an exit poll to help with my peace of mind, but do you think we’re actually going to have classes today?”
After Kamijou’s hesitant question, Fukiyose’s eyes widened as if she had seen something disturbing and she quickly backed away from him. She wrapped her trembling arms around her own body as if to hide her (very, very large) breasts.
“K-Kamijou… You actually care about school and classes?”
“Does this mean there are still more disasters to come!? We already had the school collapse and a comet fall, so what else could there be!?”
“I want to cry, but I can’t when this is my own damn fault!!”
“Anyway, I don’t see how we could possibly have classes. We might be able to manage the normal subjects taught with textbooks by holding class out in the schoolyard, but we need special equipment for esper development. I seriously doubt we’ll be going on a treasure hunt through that pile of rubble, and it’s unrealistic to expect them to have prepared a full set of new equipment overnight.”
“Th-then can you make any guesses what will happen to Kamijou-san’s attendance?”
“I believe you said it best yourself: it’s your own damn fault, First Year Kamijou.”
“Stop looking down on me and calling me a first year!! That gentle smile only makes it worse!!”
He was almost completely in tears as he clung to his large-breasted classmate, but then a timid voice reached him from below.
“I-it’ll be okay.”
The two classmates saw nothing at eye level, so they looked down a little and found the 135 cm teacher named Tsukuyomi Komoe proudly puffing out her (nonexistent) chest.
“A failure in the equipment or facilities is a failure of the faculty, so this accident will not mean taking any extra classes during winter break. We have a plan ready to go.”
“O-of course, Kamijou-chan is in an extremely tight spot where using up all of winter and spring break might or might not be enough, but I won’t give up on you until the very, very last moment.”
“Wait. So yesterday’s anti-crime orientation didn’t earn me any points at all!? High Priiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiieeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeest!!”
That old man had done a wonderful job of taking the position of the “idealized heroine who only appears in flashbacks” and Kamijou could swear he saw a handsome version of him smiling down from the blue sky. In a way, this gradual poison damage was far crueler than anything Fiamma or Othinus had ever done to him.
Next to him, Fukiyose crossed her arms, lifting her breasts (which were born of an age of plenty) from below, and relaxed her shoulders a little.
“That’s good to hear. I already have plans for the New Year’s season, so I was worried this would cause a conflict.”
“What? Are you one of those people who gets permission to leave the city to visit home for New Year’s?” asked Kamijou.
“No, I visit Mt. Fuji as my first trip of each year.”
“You climb a snowy mountain when no one’s even paying you!? Why do people love causing problems for themselves!? I always thought you looked like an S, but are you actually a complete maso- bgoh!?”
Kamijou’s sentence ended in a pig-like snort because the aforementioned forehead collided with him.
Komoe-sensei’s hands wandered worriedly through the air at the classroom violence she just witnessed, but Fukiyose did not seem to care and asked another question.
“So what are we doing about class? We’ll need a lot of equipment for the esper development stuff, won’t we?”
“That’s the thing.” Komoe-sensei’s smile seemed to hold all the world’s warm light. “After speaking with the others, we’ve decided to borrow the equipment of a high school with lots of empty classrooms. So there’s nothing to worry about.”
Akikawa Mie was full of confidence.
She looked like a perfectly normal Academy City middle school girl and she did not gather positive or negative attention. These were perfect traits for someone who wanted to live a safe life, but if they wanted a part in other things (e.g. making an idol debut, becoming an astronaut, or becoming a Level 5 and fighting an evil organization), hers was about the worst position possible.
It was difficult for her to be the talk of her class. If she searched her name online, she found neither praise nor insults. That was a relief, but also kind of sad.
Plus, her school was a combined middle and high school. To be the talk of the school, she had to compete with the high school as well. And a high schooler was something a middle schooler could never hope to defeat. They had overwhelming privileges such as having part-time jobs or riding motorcycles, so Akikawa Mie, who could only buy a train ticket using the IC card loaded with her parents’ money, was powerless against them.
But today was different.
Today, she could shine.
(The liquid diamond.)
That treasure was worth six trillion yen and she had a heroic story of running around Academy City to protect it and her family’s bonds. The actual incident had left some scars on her heart, but that added to her desire to make some use of it.
(It was at the same time as that comet falling and buildings collapsing and stuff, but there’s a lot I can tell everyone. So much I can’t even hold it all! Th-this is amazing! Can I really shine this much? Oh, no! I’m gonna be the center of attention!!)
With that in mind, she cheerfully walked into her classroom.
The entire class seemed full of excitement.
She started wondering if a Hollywood offer had already come in, but…
“Hey, did you hear? We’re getting three hundred transfer students all of a sudden!”
“I heard another school’s just borrowing some empty classrooms. Which is it!?”
“Yeah, yeah, but that’s just the high school, right? Still, it’ll add to the race for food at the store, so what’re we gonna do!?”
They were not talking about her at all.
It was a complete mess.
“Oh, morning, Akikawa-san! Anyway, what did the scouts that went to the faculty room say? This could be bad. If the lunchtime competition goes up too much, maybe bringing our own lunch’ll be better.”
“Hm, was there something else? Oh, the homework? I’ll let you copy my notes later. Now, as I was saying…!!”
The typhoon passed and Akikawa Mie was left all alone as she sat down in her seat.
She felt like crying.
(I guess I can at least brag to Onee-chan.)
She put on a lopsided frown and held back the tears. In the short time before morning homeroom, she used her cellphone to send an email to a girl in the high school.
(I brought you a lunch today too, so let’s eat lunch together.)
She received an immediate reply.
Having someone who would always respond right away was a wonderful treasure. Of course, it was all over if you tried to force others to do that.
“What is it, Akikawa-san? Did you forget something?”
She gave a vague smile to the boy who asked her that, but she still furrowed her brow.
(She didn’t use the CC today. I wonder why?)
The “Onee-chan” she was emailing had a habit of putting her own address in the CC field. She claimed that let her know whether a server error had failed to send the message or not. That was likely because she knew how devastating communication mistakes could be thanks to her student council work.
Akikawa thought for a moment and then checked the numbers on the edge of the screen.
It was exactly eight in the morning.
And that led her to the answer.
“Maybe she’s not thinking straight due to her low blood pressure again.”
Kamijou’s school had been destroyed.
However, they were apparently borrowing some rooms at a nearby school.
Having enough empty classrooms to fit the entire student body of another school sounded impressive, but the spiky-haired boy acted like an adult by thinking about economics for once and guessing this actually meant that school was in dire straits financially.
“This means a new age is upon us!!”
Then Aogami Pierce, a relatively unimportant classmate, cut in.
“The failed students of a destroyed school are making a mass migration to a new school, so things are sure to feel cramped!! And who will we find waiting for us but the elite intellectuals who bully for fun and are masters of biting sarcasm!! We’re one step away from a great revolution against the wealthy and a school caste battle will begin!! I just know it!!”
“You’re twisting the facts to make that fit and we really are just terrible students with nothing going for us.”
“And try to think about this from their point of view. If a giant group of failures suddenly shows up out of the blue, becomes a majority of the school, and drags down their average scores, doesn’t it make perfect sense that they’d be mad?”
“Stop looking at this so rationally! You have to look at these things from your own point of view and no other!!”
“Oh, don’t worry,” cut in Komoe-sensei. “We’re only borrowing their equipment and the schools aren’t combining, so we’re completely separate. This shouldn’t cause them any problems, so don’t worry.”
“Our smiling teacher just admitted we’re a bunch of morons!!”
“Our smiling teacher just admitted we’re a bunch of morons!!”
“Ah wah wah wah wah wah! I think your independence is more important than your test scores,” insisted the 135 cm teacher, but they ignored her.
Fukiyose crossed her arms.
“In that case, this will be a mass migration, just like Aogami said.”
“Um, um… We didn’t have time to make printouts for the entire student body, so we’re using your contact numbers to send it to your phones as an email attachment.”
“Then I can tell you now I’m not getting mine,” said Kamijou. “I bet the spam filter or something will go overboard and reject it. That’s the kind of misfortune I’ve come to expect.”
“Wallow in melancholy if you want.”
Fukiyose pointed at him.
No, she pointed at his right shoulder.
“But Kamijou? Why do you have a doll of an embarrassing girl sitting on your shoulder?”
Kamijou straightened his body a little, but the “understander” on his shoulder remained calm. She did not seem to care that the boy was blushing even more than if he had accidentally come to school in his pajamas.
“Oh, shut up. I might be your understander, but I can’t read your mind. You can’t just say ‘go’ and expect me to know whether you want me to grab the remote or make tea. Learn to state what you want, human.”
“This one should be easy! Hide! Aren’t strange creatures supposed to make an effort to ensure normal people don’t see them!? Why are you just sitting there up on my shoulder!?”
“I have no real reason to hide. Living with you was the punishment assigned to me and our relationship was broadcast around the world. What good is hiding now?”
The worst part was that the attention gathered on Kamijou rather than Othinus herself.
“Don’t tell me you’re going to keep doing this when we meet the students of that other school. Really? A doll on your shoulder that you speak with using ventriloquism? And why is it half naked?”
“Way to go, Kami-yan. I don’t recognize the character, but I can appreciate the desire to go your own way and make your own doll of a minor character that doesn’t get a mass-produced one. I’ll support you all the way!!”
“Please. Please don’t salute me!! There’s something like a dozen novels of explanation behind this! Kamijou-san’s life only looks strange because you haven’t seen what he’s been through! Follow it from beginning to end and you’ll understand!!”
And if Othinus was seen as a homemade girl figurine, wasn’t there a risk of High School Teacher Tsukuyomi Komoe confiscating it?
“Mutter, mutter… I didn’t think Kamijou-chan was under that much pressure… I always say there isn’t anything wrong with being left back once or twice over an entire lifetime, but maybe I should have focused more on his mental care!!”
“See, Othinus? Now I have no idea what to say to these people.”
“Not my problem. I don’t need anyone but you to understand me. If I’m making a list of what to bring to a desert island, I won’t be bored as long as you’re at the very top.”
“O-oh, dear. You’re gonna make me blush. (Kyun).”
“Why are you speaking to yourself and getting all worked up over it?” asked Fukiyose. “Is this a kind of meditation meant to bring you to greater heights?”
If reality had a flavor, it would be bitter.
The mass migration of the student body had begun, so Kamijou joined their ranks with a smile on his face and tears in his heart. And to prevent a repeat of the same tragedy, he decided on a change of location for Othinus.
“In the pocket you go.”
“Mghhh! Human! This uniform is stiff and it scrapes my skin!”
“There’s a handkerchief in there, so wrap that around yourself.”
With two or three hundred students moving, it was a major event even if they were only walking down the sidewalk. They were not kindergarten or elementary school students and so there was no fear of them running out into traffic if not watched over, but it still was not easy for the teachers leading the way.
“Where is this new school anyway? I hope it isn’t too far from my dorm.”
“Will we have to take a bus or train?”
“Don’t say that, Fukiyose! That’ll put even more pressure on my finances!!”
That proved a needless fear as it was less than a kilometer away. That was hardly surprising in Academy City where 2.3 million people were crammed into one city and 80% of the population was made up of students. If you walked around, you would inevitably bump into a school, just like with convenience stores.
“It’s finally time, Kami-yan,” whispered Aogami Pierce. “Are we up against a cruel all-powerful student council? Or will it be the super-popular scholarship class? What can we do against the approaching storm of dazzling good looks and elitism!? They’ll beat us beyond recognition and steal all the girls in the class, but don’t worry. Our time to shine comes later. The bottom-rung students will strike back!! Just you wait until next time!!!!”
“Are you still on about that?”
“But I doubt this will go smoothly. I mean it.”
“You’re probably right about that.”
Even if they were only using the empty classrooms, there would still be competition at the cafeteria and school store and the added people would create more trash and dirty up the floors. Competition over the soccer and basketball goals would also rise. Unless this school had an incredible spirit of volunteerism, Kamijou’s school would only be a nuisance.
“Let’s just pray we don’t end up as an outlet for some weird frustrations.”
“I’m more worried about an insane student council that gathers people together in an alliance against failing students. Curse those popular bastards! They just want to throw someone else under the bus to get all the girls for themselves!! I just know it!!!!”
“And this must be some new fad of yours. ‘I just know it’.”
Meanwhile, they arrived at the school in question.
From outside, it looked newer than the school building they had taken classes in previously. It was also bigger, the grounds were larger, and there were more buildings.
Fukiyose commented on the student she saw through the fence.
“Looks like this is a middle and high school.”
“There are two types of gym uniform,” she casually explained. “Since they have enough empty classrooms for us, they must be having trouble keeping students for high school. They must go elsewhere after graduating middle school.”
“We won’t be used as an outlet for that kind of problem, will we?”
“If you beat things down enough, the weeds won’t grow! I just now it!!!!!”
“Aogami, stop trying to turn everything into a war!!”
As they argued, they were pushed through the gate by the students behind them.
They had never expected to begin a new daily life during the end of the year in December.
While it was not as bad as Aogami Pierce, they were all a little worried. Fukiyose and Kamijou were no exception. At times like this, being a lowly Level 0 could be painful. How would they be treated? Could they get along with this school? Would they be laughed at for the textbooks they used? Those were the things they worried about.
“Oh, it looks like their student council is coming out to greet us.”
Aogami shouted “Here it comes!” and grew defensive, which seemed to infect Kamijou too.
Around ten boys and girls were walking out from the building’s main entrance. The ratio of boys to girls was about 2:8. They wore dark gray sweaters and either slacks or a skirt which must have been the high school uniform. Kamijou did not have the eye for clothes to tell the difference in quality between his uniform and prestigious Tokiwadai’s blazer, but he still sensed a hint of elegance from them. For one thing, they were all sparkling. It looked like a ring of straight-A students gathered around a cool and gentle boy with glasses.
“(Curse the enemy! Now, what’ll they say first!?)”
“(Shut up, Aogami!!)”
The idiot speaking up next to him drew attention to Kamijou. His eyes met those of the silky-haired boy. Then they all approached him. He began wondering what to do and thought they might even throw a white glove at him.
But all that thought was wasted.
“Hello, hello!! Sorry about all the trouble you’re going through. As you can see, we’re just an ordinary school with the good luck to have some spare classrooms, so feel free to use them. We need to help each other out in our times of need, so we look forward to learning together for however long this lasts!!”
They could not help it.
Both Aogami Pierce and Kamijou Touma’s expressions grew entirely blank.
Then the representative of idiots asked a question.
“What is it?”
“Isn’t there…something more? Don’t you have some twisted pride!? Aren’t you going to say ‘Keh. These failing students have some nerve sullying our holy house of learning.’ We were really waiting for something like that!! We were all ready to go! Don’t just kindly accept us! You need to have some kind of ‘accident’ prepared for us!!”
“Well… Just so you know, we have an average score of 65.”
“That’s really good! Don’t get all modest!! You need to announce it with pride and attack the arriving failures! You’re good looking, you’re smart, and you’ve got a perfect personality? There’s nothing for us to work with there! We’re completely useless and incompetent, but we could at least say we had the purest hearts! But now you had to take that away from us!? That’s what it came down to with Frankenstein’s monster and the Ugly Duckling! That’s our last resort! If we can’t beat you in that, then what’s left for us, Handsome Student Council President!?”
“Oh, um. I’m only the secretary. I could never be the president.”
“And can’t you at least react when I call you four-eyes!?”
“Honestly, I was more bothered by how you called yourselves useless and incompetent. Nothing good comes from closing off your own possibilities.”
“If the secretary is this angelic, the president must be an archangel! All hope is loooooooooooooooooooooooooooost!!”
Kamijou fell to his knees on the spot and Aogami Pierce placed a gentle hand on Kamijou’s shoulder and shook his head.
The Secretary (boy) tilted his head in utter confusion.
A world without malice was a cruel thing.
“I-is the president maybe a cruel upperclassmen who seems like they’re studying to be a tyrant when they grow up?”
“My apologies, I haven’t introduced her yet. She is the president. Although she is a little shy, so she almost always hides behind someone’s back. Her nickname is Jumpy Bunny. If you sneak up behind her and yell, she hops up in the cutest way.”
Even after the introduction, Kamijou could not find her.
Just where was that president hiding!?
“This isn’t right. This isn’t right at all! Isn’t there some kind of major event here!? Like the 0th Student Council that rules the school from the shadows!? Or the perfectly harmless looking secretary who is actually ruling the entire student council with brainwashing!?”
“Um, why would someone want to rule the student council? …To be honest, we really just take care of odd jobs.”
Oh, no! thought Kamijou.
There really is nothing at this school! And this four-eyes is really just a normal handsome guy!!
“(Can this really happen!? Can he really just be handsome, smart, and kind? The only way to make this work is if he’s secretly a gourmet cannibal who’s been making waves in the news!!)”
“(Don’t be silly, Kami-yan. …If he’s good-looking, even being a cannibal would work for him. It’s just how the world works. What pisses me off is that they don’t realize that they’re absorbing something from us just by standing there!!)”
Kamijou and Aogami Pierce had become absolute villains, so Fukiyose ignored them and sighed with her arms crossed.
The Student Council President (girl) known as the Jumpy Bunny was apparently hiding behind someone’s back, but she still failed to come out and the Secretary in glasses took the lead as he showed them around the school.
“First of all, we’ve prepared shoe lockers for all of you in the entranceway. You will be using the classrooms here that were already empty.”
“(Where’s the stairway to the secret basement? There has to be something like an unfathomably vast dungeon where they fight monsters every day!)”
“(Hold it, Kami-yan!! If we take the secret in that direction, that student council will be equipped with Japanese swords and magic wands!! That’ll only make them more good-looking! As their mother, I cannot allow them to have a fulfilling life of popularity by day and dungeon exploring by night!! Choose one or the other, dammit! If they introduce me to a 100-level underground labyrinth that changes its layout every day, I’ll run on down to the bottom floor and grab that flat-chested long-lived elf for myself!!)”
“We really should have gathered you all in one part of the school, but unfortunately, we’re just filling in the scattered gaps left by our empty classrooms. We will provide printouts to each homeroom teacher and class representative, so it would help if you split into classes before heading to the classrooms.”
“Is something the matter?”
The glasses boy tilted his head when Kamijou stared at him while shoving his shoes into a shoe locker.
Kamijou gave an honest answer.
“Well, you seem pretty used to this. Does the secretary have to do this a lot?”
“Well, the student council really is just a group to handle odd jobs, but the secretary does tend to help official business progress smoothly while also keeping records. Although I mostly just keep the president informed when things get too complicated for her.”
The glasses boy glanced in a different direction, but Kamijou and the others could not tell who the president was.
“For better or for worse, we already had a transfer student recently. That may have helped prepare me for this.”
“A transfer student?”
“Nothing on as large a scale as all of you. It was just the one person. The one student arrived with the kind of normal transfer request you can find anywhere.”
Kamijou heard a solid footstep.
They were passing by a stairway and someone had stopped on the next landing up to look down at them.
“Oh, that’s him right there.”
Kamijou Touma looked up.
And he saw the boy.
“His name is Kamisato Kakeru. He apparently transferred into Academy City as a whole at this odd time of year. He isn’t part of the student council, but he’s been helping out some afterschool. We’re very grateful.”
There was an unofficial group known as the Kamisato Faction.
It was no exaggeration to say that nearly every last member was a teenage girl.
Plus, each one of them had some extreme characteristic that could be seen as a unique “world”: esper, magician, phantom thief, forensic investigator, pirate, ghost girl, UFO girl, cosplay girl, etc. Their strength came from more than just numbers and they could work together to create convenient combinations that made them incredibly difficult to predict.
Ellen, Claire, and Elza were three girls of the Kamisato Faction and they were gathered on a rooftop overlooking a certain combined middle and high school.
“Oh, dear. Kamisato-san really seems to be enjoying himself.”
Claire, a glasses-wearing garden club girl with giant tropical flowers growing from either side of her head, pouted her lips.
“I know he can fit in wherever he goes, but we’re his real classmates! Oh, I can’t stand it. Maybe I should go surprise him by bringing him a homemade lunch…”
“That’s a wonderful idea. I think I’ll join you.”
“Ellen, any lunch you made would turn the entire school into a contaminated zone the instant he opened the lunchbox. Are you trying to force our boss into some defensive chemical warfare?”
“I know, Elza-han, so how about you make him a lunch since you secretly love cooking so much.”
“Eh? Oh, c’mon. I don’t love cooking! Or any kind of household stuff!”
“Then I just have to steal it and give it to Kamisato-han to earn some points.”
“How would that be your accomplishment!? I’m not going to set things up for you!!”
The three girls argued for a bit, but then they got a phone call.
Ellen tilted her head with her baggy lab coat and ankle-length black hair that provided the silhouette of a ceremonial kimono.
“Who is it?”
“Looks like Fran. The UFO girl.”
“Yeah, it’s Fran, the UFO pajama girl who wears a backpack full of radios, has some kind of self-made implant in her neck, and floats around 24/7 while holding onto a giant balloon with one hand.. She must have ‘intercepted’ something again.”
Even the Kamisato Faction was split over whether Fran had really been abducted by aliens or not, but they all agreed that the UFO-chasing girl knew an awful lot about astronomy and radio waves. Along with Forensic Investigator Ellen, she formed the front line of the Kamisato Faction’s information warfare team.
The three girls stared at the cellphone together and they all gave a displeased look together.
It said the following:
“Mass Murderer Salome’s entrance into Academy City confirmed. She is uncontrollable. All relevant individuals should be on the lookout for friendly fire.”
“Wait, what’s she doing out? Wasn’t she closed up because she was too much to deal with? Y’know, that thing about altering the direction of her consciousness to trap her in an impossible labyrinth in the mental world.”
“Ugh. Either someone removed the electrodes from her head or she’s reached such a level of chaos that cutting of her neurotransmitters isn’t enough.”
“The details don’t matter. The problem is how that mass murderer is walking around free.”
Mass Murderer Salome.
She stood out even among the highly individualistic Kamisato Faction. Whether it was due to being too compatible or too incompatible, that monster had been unable to get along with normal human society. In fact, this girl had broken before the Kamisato Faction even formed.
The three girls thought about this girl and gave their own annoyed comments.
“Kamisato-han’s little sister… This is nothing but trouble.”
“They’re not blood-related, though.”
“Yeah, but that’s what makes it such a pain.”
Academy City’s District 23 contained an international airport.
An alarm must have sounded because an airport worker rushed into a large passenger plane’s cargo room to see what the problem was. He brought a few dogs with him, each one trained to sniff out bombs or drugs. The airport worker had the odd position of a civilian who handled official duties, so he could not carry a gun despite standing on the front line like this. To him, a German shepherd was a much more reliable companion than a baton or stun gun.
But this time, the dogs did not bark much.
They found something truly unexpected in the cargo room.
The front cargo room was filled with air cargo containers that looked like two meter dice. Unlike the passenger space, it was not air conditioned and the temperature fell by 0.6 degrees for every hundred meters of altitude, so it would become a space of death at an altitude of ten thousand meters. However, the casual voice of a lovely girl seemed to ignore all of that.
She was stretching her back and arms like someone who had just woken from a nap.
Just like a CD, her long silver hair seemed to glitter at certain angles and it was rolled up on either side of her head like disks or demon’s horns. She was short yet curvy, but the most noticeable aspect was her clothing. Wearing a translucent raincoat over one’s nude body was about as bizarre as could be. Two such raincoats formed the silhouette of her outfit(?), but they still defenselessly showed off not just her bodylines but also a blurry view of her skin color. But despite being a sensitive teenager, the eyes of those around her did not seem to bother her. The contrast of a school swimsuit tan line was visible through a blurry translucence much like frosted glass. It might seem like a minor point after that, but she was also barefoot.
Hanging from a thick string around her neck was…what appeared to be a palm-sized pocket watch. Rather than being made of precious metals, it seemed to be a kid’s toy from the capsules in front of a candy store or sent as a prize with a magazine. In other words, it was mostly made of cheap plastic.
More than surprise or anger at the suspicious character, and more than embarrassment or bashfulness at the teenage girl exposing her skin, the worker was simply taken aback.
She just seemed hopelessly out of place, like seeing an HD digital broadcast coming in over an old-style black-and-white TV. Even if both things were from the same world, they seemed so separate that he had trouble reconciling them. The gears had slipped out of place. That was how it felt.
The worker finally began to move, but not because he had come back to his senses. Just like a drunk’s homing instinct or someone repeating the same action over and over once they stopped thinking, he fled to his duties.
“Y-you! What are you doing here? You can give the details later, but just hurry out of here! How long were you in this deadly cargo room!?”
He received a smile in return.
However, it felt far more fake than anything one would expect of a smile from an innocent growing girl. It was the smile of a poisonous woman.
“So even when faced with someone this suspicious, you worry about them first? Yes, yes. Such admirable focus on duty. And this isn’t because someone told you. It’s gotta be because it’s so soaked into your being that it came out on reflex. …Still, if someone this wonderful is stuck in this decidedly un-wonderful life, it’s gotta say a lot about modern society’s fundamental limits.”
“Wh-what are you-…?”
“Take these clothes for example.”
From top to bottom, the girl traced a finger down those transparent raincoats that showed her skin color.
“Why do you think I’m wearing this? Surely you don’t believe that dream-filled idea that I just have certain special proclivities and love showing off my skin.”
He did not fall silent because he could not think of anything.
He fell silent because he could.
The airport was a dangerous workplace. Since he stood on the front line against smugglers and terrorists, he heard talk of “those industries” a fair bit.
He had heard of criminals who actually had an easier time if they stripped off their clothes.
“But if you’re thinking I’m a drug manufacturer or smuggler, you’re wrong. Nor do I melt down stolen gold or smash stolen diamonds for jewelry laundering. Really, you’ve gotta just throw out anything I could try to hide under my clothes. I also have nothing to do with printing counterfeit money where you can’t let a single fiber of your clothes get mixed in.” The girl slowly placed each possibility between her back teeth and crushed it.
Until only the worst possible one remained.
“That just leaves the big winner: remove your clothes and you won’t get any blood stains on them. You work at an international airport with all the danger that entails, so you’ve gotta know about that, don’tcha?”
He heard a heavy metallic sound.
The girl carried a long sports bag by its shoulder strap, but he had never heard of a sport with a naked raincoat as the uniform. That bag had to be filled with very different, much heavier, and much more ominous tools.
“Oh, honestly. I guess I could call this sightseeing. I technically have a quota to fill, but it would still be more accurate to say I’m here for pleasure, not business☆”
With the sound of solid objects clattering together, the girl held up a clear bottle the size of a can of coffee. She dumped out what looked like glittering konpeito with spikes sticking out in every direction.
They were made of different-colored glass.
In that case, they may have been more like the caltrops used in samurai stories.
Heavy sounds followed.
The girl’s supposedly soft foot was mercilessly crushing the glass weapons underfoot.
“I don’t know the name of the hotel I’ll be staying at and I don’t remember my medical history. Oh, and if you want to know my criminal history, you should find plenty if you make a search for ‘Mass Murderer’ and ‘Salome’.”
Japan’s airports had one major security flaw.
The airport workers could not carry guns, so they could not use any real force until the police or Anti-Skill arrived.
No matter how great a threat stood right before their eyes.
Between the Lines 1
Since eighty percent of Academy City’s 2.3 million residents were students, they had plenty of juvenile halls.
A lot of the criminals used esper powers that could not be easily confiscated, so they were more strictly guarded than even prisons for normal adults. The walls were thick, the metal doors were heavy, and lights flashed while a mosquito noise played 24/7 to keep the espers from focusing. Simply walking through the facility could depress someone, so it was unlikely they were ever opened up for social studies field trips. The place had entirely abandoned its supposed goal of removing the prisoners’ delinquent side and rehabilitating them for life in society.
This was simply a box that closed people away to preserve the public order.
Footsteps echoed down a thick concrete tunnel that looked like a passageway in a giant underground fortress.
“Oh, one question.”
The young male guard forced into guide duty spoke up nervously.
“How did you know she was here? There aren’t any records in any normal archive…”
“Would ‘I’m a Kihara too’ suffice as an answer?”
The guard’s shoulders jumped at the kind voice.
Walking next to him was a woman in a lab coat and cheap suit.
Her name was Kihara Yuiitsu.
She did not have a golden retriever next to her.
He was gone now.
“I haven’t seen her since Baggage City. And that was an unofficial order from me, so I don’t see why she had to end up in juvenile hall afterwards.”
“Um, uh, about that…”
“Yes, I understand.” Yuiitsu laughed and placed something in her mouth. “There was no real reason to imprison her, but she came here of her own free will. As a privately run facility, all that matters is that she pays. An illegitimate confinement and imprisonment on the request of a third party might be a problem, but if someone pays and asks to have herself locked up, this place is really the same as a hotel or inn.”
“Yes, but she is still the most dangerous inmate here.”
The young guard wiped away his seemingly never-ending sweat with a handkerchief and desperately continued the conversation.
“Um, are you sure you want to meet her? She, um, may not be an esper or anything, but…”
“Again, I understand,” cut in Yuiitsu. “And if she wasn’t that way, I would have no reason to speak with her.”
The two of them arrived in front of a certain cell.
It was not covered with metal bars like a standard cell. It was surrounded by thick concrete walls and a steel door that probably took a lot of heavy work to open or close. To pass in food trays, the door had an oblong metal window that slid open, but it of course could not be operated from within.
Shutting the door and cutting the power would fill the cell with complete and utter darkness.
Humans could not bear a life with no stimulation. Even the most brutal criminal would break within three days in there, but this individual was actually paying to stay there.
“Special Case #15.” called the guard. “Special Case #15! We’re going to release the window, so do as you’re told and stick your hands out!!”
Shouting was meaningless with those thick walls and door, but the young man’s mind would likely have gone blank if he did not follow the manual precisely. He pulled the slide window open to the side and two small hands eventually stuck out. The wrists were together and the palms pointing up. Handcuffing them for transportation before opening the door was the most basic of safety measures. Even if the prisoner had not heard him, she would have known to stick her hands out when the window opened.
The guard crouched down a little to put the handcuffs on.
And that proved a horrible mistake.
He quickly held his eyes and tried to back away, but it was too late. He collapsed onto the floor and violently convulsed in front of Kihara Yuiitsu.
This was clearly abnormal, but those two hands sticking out the window had not actually done anything.
Crouching down had been the mistake.
That had given him a view inside that closed cell.
“What a pain.”
Yuiitsu sighed and approached the cell door. She did not bother collecting the keys from the writhing guard’s waist. She pulled a small card-sized device from her pocket and held it in front of the door. There was no light or noise, but that was enough for the magnetic lock to raise the white flag. Slightly modifying a stun gun to destroy electronic circuits without touching them or producing any sound or light was a well-known tactic.
The thick door opened and light crept in.
The concrete box was neither large nor comfortable. All four walls, the ceiling, and the floor were utterly covered with small writing and numbers. As she read through them one at a time, Kihara Yuiitsu shook her head. That writing could easily smash all of human civilization four or five times over. She had her doubts about how much that uneducated guard had understood, but he seemed to have instinctually grasped that it would reject the world he lived in. And that shock had caused him to pass out.
But Yuiitsu had no interest in that destruction of the world.
She had business with the person who had written it all.
A small girl stood in front of the door: Kihara Enshuu.
She had been called the failure of her family, but she had a certain strange trait.
She could emulate the thoughts of other Kiharas and lose herself in those roles. And that included the unique techniques of those Kiharas.
Yuiitsu pulled a handheld device, a smartphone, and some other devices from her lab coat’s inner pocket and made a suggestion.
“Neh heh. I was tasked with becoming something unique that no one else could catch up to, but I’d still like some fighting power right off the bat. So it’d be great if you would help me juuuuust a little, Enshuu-chan.”
“What do you mean?”
“I want you to do your usual thing. That one where you show us what a Kihara would do.”
Kihara Yuiitsu grinned, placed her pointer finger in front of her lips, and winked.
“Kihara Noukan. I want you to build up an image of the person I need to surpass.”