Toaru Majutsu no Index:NT Volume15 Chapter 3
Chapter 3: Conversion, or a Change of Viewpoint — Not_Fiend, Not_Enemy.
The next morning, Kamijou Touma was in for a shock as soon as he woke up in the bathtub.
“…It’s falling out.”
Only after speaking the words did a chill cover his entire body.
“My hair is falling out!!”
It had not hit him until now, but just how much stressful was this new life? Not that it was all that surprising when he shared a school building with a monster like Kamisato Kakeru and his World Rejecter and the boy could attack at any time.
“Ohhhhhh!! Index’s biting had already loosened the roots of Kamijou-san’s hair and now the Kamisato panic delivered the finishing blow!? This can’t be happening! I’m only in my teens! I’m still young! I shouldn’t have to worry about my scalp! Help me, god! Help me, Othinus!!”
He was so panicked that he rolled along the floor and more or less pushed the door open with his own body to escape the bathroom.
“Are you still half asleep? You go out of your way to hole up in the bathroom, so at least wash your face before coming out.”
Othinus put her hands on her hips and sounded exasperated this early in the morning.
She could only be so bold in the open space thanks to the many dolls that had been forced onto Kamijou like a curse after the previous day’s rock-paper-scissors tournament. They were already being destroyed as the calico cat’s playmates, so they had been bitten, torn, and strewn about with white stuffing scattered everywhere.
“You did well for a thoughtless human who has a critical lack of delicacy. You have my praise.”
“Is that so?”
“This…what is it called? Anyway, it has done well taking my place. I feel like blessing it using my position as a god.”
“Othinus, that thing you’re holding between your arms is Higozuiki-chan. It has a proper origin, but I do not recommend doing a search on it.”
He had bought plenty of food afterschool the day before, so they were finally freed from their critical food shortage. Breakfast was a miscellaneous assortment of toast, milk, and bacon cooked with asparagus because he felt like eating vegetables and meat together.
“Is it just me or are you only using the frying pan?”
“This morning is bad enough already, so I don’t even want to think about doing any dishes. My head already feels heavy.”
While eating breakfast, Kamijou Touma made an announcement.
“Othinus, you’re staying home today.”
“Don’t be silly, human. Do you really think you can restrict a god’s rights?”
“You’ll be fine. The dolls will keep the cat from attacking you for a while.”
“If you know that’s a problem, then come up with a more fundamental solution!”
Othinus shouted back at him with her hair bristling, but human-sized Kamijou and Index did not take the threat seriously. Meanwhile on the floor, the cat held down a random doll with both front paws, bit at it, pulled, and produced an ominous ripping sound.
“I’m a little scared since I can’t tell what Kamisato is up to. Regardless, having you anywhere near him would be a bad idea. He might have some other plan, but there’s a chance his mind would go blank and he’d start using World Rejecter the instant he saw you. I can’t afford to have that happen at school.”
“You have a point, but he already knows where this dorm is. Plus, he is not acting alone. Couldn’t he have others attack the dorm while you’re at school?”
“It is possible…” Kamijou looked troubled. “But based on how he’s acted, I doubt he would do that.”
“He’s afraid of the Magic Gods.” Kamijou grabbed an asparagus with his chopsticks. “He knows he can defeat them with World Rejecter, but that’s all he knows. That means he doesn’t know if he can defeat them without World Rejecter. And harming the girls around him is the one thing he wants to avoid the most. That’s actually the source of his motivation to attack the Magic Gods, so he won’t compromise there. That means it would be a problem if he sent them on a mission and they never came back.”
The Kamisato Faction was not some evil secret cabal.
If they sent out a team and that team was defeated, they would not arrogantly conclude that it was the team’s fault for being so weak.
In fact, they could not sacrifice a single one of their own.
That was why they sent Kamisato, their central figure, to the front line.
And with that in mind…
“However they get there, Kamisato will definitely show up for the finishing blow. I just have to pay attention to what he’s doing at school.”
“We don’t know where he gets his information. He might know I’ve lost my power as a Magic God.”
“He probably does,” agreed Kamijou. “But he’s still afraid of the Magic Gods. They’re the source of all of this and they’ve taken a large chunk out of his heart. He will conclude that the Magic Gods’ power and influence still exists in this world until he loses the right hand that makes him special…or that he thinks does. Even if he’s been given a logical explanation and is 99.9% convinced that you’ve lost your power, he’ll still be cautious when it comes to you. And if he cares about those girls as much as he claims to, he won’t send them on a mission like that. He will wait until he can make the move himself. It’s not a logical issue. It’s just like someone checking again and again to make sure the door is locked. He understands, but he’s still afraid.”
Kamisato Kakeru would never think about having those girls clash with a Magic God when he was not around.
In his view, those girls had had something taken from them by the Magic Gods and that was why they were doing as he said.
They had already had something taken.
He would never leave a possibility of more being taken.
“What a pain. Is this what they call the influence of a god?”
Index had remained silent this entire time.
She did not join the conversation.
However, she did not seem in a bad mood or in deep thought.
“Hmm. I’ve been waiting so long for a normal meal like this, but it’s so normal that it’s just boring.”
“Oh, no. Now Index is approaching a much plainer sort of crisis!”
They were discussing their future plans, but time continued on all the same.
After making it clear that Index and Othinus would be staying home, Kamijou prepared to leave for school.
He looked carefree, but school was where he needed to figure out what Kamisato, the center of his unease, was up to. And if Kamisato did not show up or left early, he could conclude that something was going to happen.
“I’ll be back later.”
“Be back before it gets dark. …In all seriousness, I get the feeling that something is going to happen.”
Kamijou left the dorm.
He carelessly started on his usual path to school but then remembered he had a new school to go to.
The sense of danger gradually caught up with him.
(Huh? Does that mean it might be further away and I might not make it in time?)
He quickly changed direction, but then he spotted a familiar face.
It was Misaka Mikoto.
He panicked because running into some Biri Biri trouble now could be disastrous, held-back levels of disastrous, but then he frowned.
There was something there.
He could not put it to words, but something was wrong.
In an extremely rare occurrence, Kamijou was the one to initiate the conversation between them.
Not even he was sure what mindset had led him to do that.
But the instant she turned around and their eyes met, he distinctly felt a chill race down his spine.
But not because the look on her face frightened him. Her Tokiwadai Middle School uniform was clean and not dirty in any way.
And yet his entire body was stricken by a hopeless shudder like the tip of a bloody Japanese sword was pointed between his eyes.
He could not find an answer.
Meanwhile, Misaka Mikoto smiled.
All she did was smile.
“Aren’t you going to buy a winter coat or something? It looks like you’re wearing layers, but aren’t you cold with just that?”
There was nothing concerning in what she said either.
Nothing about it should have brought any tension or sense of danger, yet the idea that something was off only grew as their time together grew.
Her smile looked like a thin rubber film being pushed out by fingers within.
Her too-perfect tone of voice sounded like it was made with a metal diaphragm.
He finally figured it out.
It was not something there that scared him. It was the opposite. Something was not there. There was something he could not see or understand. Misaka Mikoto was smiling and speaking, but the heart and inner thoughts behind it were not reaching him.
“Well, I have to go this way. I want to stop by the office before classes start. I’m hoping it isn’t too late to change my elective gym selection for the third term.”
She sounded entirely casual.
And yet he felt like he shared nothing with this person.
“The standard would be arresting techniques, aikido, self-defense, or fencing to focus on my Iron Sand Sword, but if I want to go more the Railgun route, maybe sharpshooting or archery would be better. Well, I guess anything’s fine as long as it’s useful.”
He asked his question far too late.
Mikoto did not say what it was.
She simply smiled and gave her answer.
“And now I can’t assume I’m setting the pace at the head of the pack.”
He could not even chase after her as she left.
What was going on?
Kamijou walked slowly to school like a drunk following his homing instinct. He may have been following his usual routine to lessen the burden on his mind as much as possible.
The new school seemed to be closer to the dorm than the old one, so he arrived earlier than expected.
Or maybe he was no longer able to control the length of his strides.
He saw the new school scene filled with a variety of uniforms. After passing through the main gate, he spotted the student council president…what was her name? Anyway, he saw that palm-sized Jumpy Bunny vanishing back behind the school building.
He decided to follow her and found her at the trash dump.
She wore her uniform and had rubber gloves on her hands. A gelatin drink called “A Banana to Fill Your Mouth First Thing in the Morning” sold at convenience stores sat on top of the chained and padlocked lid of the incinerator. He did not do it himself, but Kamijou had heard of people going for fruits like banana, acai, or blueberry to wake them up in the morning. He mainly heard about it on TV.
“Hey, are you eating breakfast here?”
She hopped straight up when he called out to her from behind.
She must have thought he would take it because she quickly snatched up the gelatin drink. That was apparently a mistake because it erupted up out of the opening at the top.
It poured down over her head and she fell onto her butt.
“Wh-wh-wh-wh-wh-what is this!? Oh, it’s Problem Student #2-kun. You really scared me. Huh? Or am I in trouble all alone here with a problem student?”
“If you get it, then work on either closing your spread legs or on wiping that sticky white banana drink out of your hair. As things are, I’m not sure where to look… But I can see why you need a middle school underclassman to make you a lunch every day.”
“Nn. But this is the perfect meal because it’s healthy and you don’t have to get your hands dirty like with a rice ball or a sandwich. Mie-chan is just overprotective and worries too much.”
“That’s not the issue. This is just as bad as eating in the bathroom. Maybe I should tell that Akikawa girl about this…”
“Eeek! Eeeeeeek!! Um, Mie-chan is really scary when she’s mad. She piles up a bunch of arguments like a falling block puzzle and it feels like they’re crushing you!”
“Why are you always the one being scolded, student council president?”
The president seemed to be looking after the trash as usual. It was possible she would stay there until the garbage truck showed up and the garbage man actually took the garbage away without injury. Or maybe she intended to help load it into the truck.
After some thought, Kamijou asked a question.
“Should I stay?”
“No need. If I’m shorthanded I can talk to Mie-chan and call for the rest of the student council.”
“So that’s why you email her at the drop of the hat. Is she your servant?”
Arguing was not going to help, so he decided to leave the president for the time being.
His biggest reason was a simple one.
He had seen a boy enter through the back gate so as not to be seen.
This boy was a registered student of the school, but he did not wear either of its uniforms.
It was Kamisato Kakeru.
“Do you know something?”
Kamijou had no real basis for the question he asked the instant he saw the boy.
It may have been closer to a simple outburst.
“Someone I know was acting weird, Kamisato. Do you know what might-…”
“Salome is here.” Kamisato actually cut him off. “How large is the Kamijou Faction? Being in Academy City isn’t enough to keep them safe. I have no idea how many she might have ‘snacked on’ before arriving in this city! If you have a way of contacting them, then do it. I want to avoid any unnecessary bloodshed!!”
If something had happened, Kamijou had expected Kamisato to play dumb.
He had been prepared to read some subtle changes in the boy’s expression and tone of voice, so he was taken aback.
“From your point of view, I guess she would be a member of the Kamisato Faction. She’s also my little sister. We’re not blood-related, though.” Kamisato gave a gentle sigh. “But she’s completely out of control. No matter what I say or how many people try to stop her, she will spread destruction without end once she’s taken action. Oh, dammit. This is why we used some electrodes to cut off her neurotransmitters and keep her brainwaves below a functional level. As long as she can be kept below the critical point where she can infinitely work herself up with her own words, you can speak with her normally.”
Kamijou felt dread sneaking in through his skin.
It was just like when he had faced Misaka Mikoto earlier.
“How can I believe that? She’s part of the Kamisato Faction, right? I already know that entire group is centered on you! For better or for worse, those girls won’t act without your go sign. Right!?”
“Do you remember Claire? She’s the Gemstone esper who used to be in the gardening club. She’s the one with all of her cells almost identical to plant matter.”
“Yeah, what about her?”
She had played an important role in saving Patricia Birdway, so she had left a stronger impression than the rest of the Kamisato Faction.
But the “normal high school boy” had this to say:
“Last night, she had a run-in with Salome and her body was sliced in two.”
He said it so readily.
An extreme oddity enveloped everything.
“Fortunately, her power allowed her to survive. …But for anyone but Claire, that would have been a one-way ticket to the afterlife. And I’m not saying Salome only did that because it was Claire. She would do the exact same thing to Ellen, Elza, or anyone else who stood in her way.”
“What…is going on?”
“I don’t know either. But if something’s wrong on your end, odds are good it was caused by Salome. At the very least, I haven’t made a direct ‘request’ to her. If I wanted a war, I already would have attacked you. I want you to know that Salome is acting on her own here.”
Kamisato mussed up his bangs with a hand.
Then he spoke up as if he had just remembered something.
“A long time ago, Salome and I played a board game together. It was a minor foreign-made one and all the instructions were in German, so we had to translate it into English and then convert that to Japanese. All in all, learning the rules was a pain. Oh, and this was before she ‘broke’.”
That phrasing bothered him, but getting this story out of Kamisato came first.
“It was an election game. You rolled the dice, moved your game piece along, and played your cards as you competed to become president. You can think of it as a variant of sugoroku. And since it was a fictional game, you could use all sorts of methods. You could buy up all the TV stations and newspapers to advertise yourself like crazy. You could sabotage your opponent’s campaign vans so they got into accidents and affected your opponent’s public image. You could even steal ballot boxes just before the votes were counted for a last minute reversal. The ridiculous freedom it gave you was what made it so much fun.”
“What method do you think Salome used?”
Kamisato gave a hopelessly calm smile.
“Assassination. She gathered up all of those cards and used them all at once when the time came. And she didn’t assassinate the VIPs who required a really lucky roll for success. She would force her way into the normal houses of her opponent’s supporters and slaughter them. The limited VIPs were one thing, but you couldn’t protect all of your supporters. There was no stopping her. If someone so much as announced support of that candidate, she would kill them. If they brought the candidate up in conversation, they were a target. That forced everyone to leave the candidate. We laughed because it had turned into a Central or South American election where threats are more effective than persuasion.”
“You’re kidding, right? Then if Salome’s here in Academy City…?”
“It’s essentially the same. We both have our own faction and she’s trying to make yours crumble away so I can win. And instead of taking out you at the top, she’s focusing on the defenseless friends surrounding you. It isn’t quite the same as making an example out of a punished criminal, but once she devours a few of them, she thinks your base will crumble away and your circle of friends will scatter. So she won’t stop preying on them until they do scatter. Do you get the situation now?”
Was this why Mikoto had been acting odd?
Had she already run into Salome and had her life put in danger?
“What is it?”
“Nothing,” was all Kamijou said.
(That doesn’t fit with what I saw. She didn’t seem to be trembling in fear and afraid to bring up the incident. I felt something more ominous and hopelessly muddy.)
Something seemed horribly off, but that was only the impression he had received.
He had no proof of anything.
It would be better to solidify his footing with just the things he knew for sure. If it was true Claire had been bisected, Salome’s violence went beyond a mere fight. If he made a mistake and was too slow, then someone he knew really could end up dead.
The violence and killing were not the goal.
She was trying to work up the masses and control the general direction of his group as a whole. In a way, it was a perfect example of the original definition of a terrorist.
Of course, it was possible this was all some plot of the Kamisato Faction.
Claire’s bisection could just be an act and this Salome person might not even exist. They may have been trying to scare Kamijou into contacting everyone he knew so they could write up a list of the entire Kamijou Faction.
“What if I told you it was me that sliced Claire in two, not Salome?”
“Do you want me to kill you right here and now?'”
Kamisato Kakeru’s voice definitely grew a level deeper.
He skipped straight past his catch phrase about wishing for a new world.
To be blunt, Kamisato was not a trustworthy person, but Kamijou felt this at least was not a lie. He knew Kamisato would never sacrifice any of the girls around him. No matter the reason, even if that was the shortest route to his goal, and even if Claire herself offered to slice her belly open. That “normal high school boy” would never allow it.
“Okay, I get it. So what do we do? If this Salome person is wandering around Academy City as she pleases and she’ll bite at anyone I know that she comes across, what can we do?”
“My only advice is that you have them defend themselves. I’m doing everything I can do track Salome down, but I don’t know how much success I’ll have. She is a mass murderer. That monster camouflages herself within the crowds and, next thing you know, she’s dyed society red. And once she dives down into that sea of people, she won’t show herself until she attacks her prey.”
“Where did you get this information from? How much can you trust them?”
“Sunny and Rain. They’re fortuneteller sisters and they can gather very precise information over a very wide area using a globe that provides a weather map of the entire planet and the movement of the stars. Sometimes they even scatter silver iodide or dry ice from an airplane to alter the weather conditions and thus guide destiny in the direction they want. Those excellent Weather Girls were a powerful presence when it came to the weather market and weather derivatives, so their online trading was an important source of funds. …Until, that is, they removed the electrodes that acted as Salome’s fuse, failed to control that mass murderer in her critical state, and were attacked.”
Kamijou clicked his tongue.
Fortunetelling was a common technique on the magic side and he did not know how that differed from the technique that the Kamisato Faction had access to, but if they could access secret information like that, it was a fatal blow to any kind of data security. They could steal all the data they wanted even with the strongest firewall in place and even if the wire to the internet was physical severed.
That explained how the Kamisato Faction knew so much about personal memories. It could be online or offline and it could be mechanical memory or biological memory. They essentially had a global interception system in place.
“What did those sisters want to do with Salome?”
“I don’t know and it makes my head hurt. I guess we weren’t as solid a group as I thought. I was doing everything I could to ensure there wasn’t too much friction between them all, but something I wasn’t aware of must have happened.”
Positive emotions did not necessarily create smooth relationships.
In fact, a rumor with no statistical basis claimed over half of unplanned crimes were related to a romance in some way. And when focused on just Kamisato to such an extreme, that group had to be quite twisted. It was possible someone wanted to eliminate Salome by inciting her to action so she would end up in an accident.
What had happened to Sunny and Rain was unknown, but based on how Kamisato had presented this, they could not be in any state to move properly. That meant the Kamisato Faction had lost its radar and that made it all the harder to locate Mass Murderer Salome inside Academy City.
On top of that, Salome had escaped the predictions of those sisters who could predict things on a global scale.
If she had attacked them badly enough that they could not predict the future, it meant she had ignored whatever was supposedly predetermined and then harmed them.
Normal means would not be enough to find her.
And as they fell behind like that, blood would fill the city streets.
Kamijou sighed and arranged the conditions in his mind.
“Kamisato, you said Salome spreads out her targets over as wide an area as possible so no one knows who she’ll attack next. Since you can’t protect everyone, there will always be an opening. She would want to maintain that advantageous position.”
“Yes. What about it?”
“But her overall objective is still me. She wants to weaken or even defeat me.”
“Get to the point.”
“Let me answer your question with a question of my own. She’s decided I’m at the very top, so what if she sees me wandering around? Even if she can continue going after the gallery, won’t she attack me directly if she has the chance?”
“And this isn’t an election game we’re talking about. It’s a direct fistfight. It’s a war. There’s no need to wait until election day. If the two of us are fighting in the streets and if I gain the upper hand, she won’t be able to wait around. After all, her ultimate goal is to ensure you win, so her efforts are wasted if you, the big boss, are eliminated. She won’t be able to sit idly by. Even if it means throwing away her advantage, she’ll definitely come to save you. In shogi, going after your opponent’s rook or bishop is meaningless if your own king is taken.”
“I see. You have a point.” Kamisato shrugged. “If we can’t track her down, it’s faster to create a situation where we know she’ll show up. That does make sense.”
“Just to be clear, you’ll be selling out your ally here. And your sister at that.”
“That’s exactly why I need to do this. I don’t want any of those girls to end up a perpetrator or a victim. I just want to return this goddamn convenient harem.”
Kamisato pulled out his cellphone.
“In that case, I’ll make some calls. I’m fine with a fistfight in the streets, but if we put on too realistic a performance, Elza and the like would probably rush in to kill you.”
“No, that would actually be perfect. If your faction isn’t freaking out over it, Salome might notice something isn’t right and refuse to get close.”
“Do you not know how frightening girls can be?”
“I’d like to believe they’re marshmallow-like creatures full of compassion and kindness, but it doesn’t sound like we have time for that now.”
Their plan was set.
But there was another problem that Kamijou had to deal with first.
“What do I do? Really, what do I do about my attendance!? We’re not even talking about how many days I have left! I’m already in the negative territory where it’s hard to see how I can make up for it no matter how hard I try! So what in the world do I do!?”
Kamisato Kakeru did not give it much thought.
He simply gave an idea.
“Why not ask a classmate to answer the roll call for you?”
A miniature universe exploded inside Kamijou Touma.
He faced heaven and let out a roar
If it was that simple, couldn’t he have been doing that ever since the second term started? Even if it only worked once every ten times, that would still have bought him a few days. Then he would not have had one foot in the “held back” zone and he could have focused on this mission more easily.
But it was all too late.
All the lost time made him feel like an idiot.
“Ahhh! Ahhhh!! Ahhhhhh!!!!!”
“I know you want to revert to infancy, but I’m not going to play the mother role. I’m pretty sure it would be really bad for my back.”
Crying was not going to help.
To make use of this slight chance, he grabbed his phone and called Aogami Pierce.
“Answer the roll call for you? Sure, but will that really work in a small high school classroom? Don’t blame me if she sees right through it.”
“I believe in you, Aogami! …And what’s that commotion in the background? Did something happen?”
“I’m planning a bit of an event. I want to check the wiring, so I need to visit the faculty room. It’s times like this when I’m glad I carry figurine repair putty with me wherever I go. If the tool doesn’t work, I might need a spare key.”
“I’ll tell you later. Tonight’s gonna be great!!”
Aogami hung up, but at least Kamijou had someone to answer the roll call for him.
Now they needed to get moving.
“Do you know where Salome might go? No, I guess we wouldn’t be having all this trouble if you did. Still, she needs to see us fighting if we’re going to lure her out.”
“Let’s use a video site. She always preferred online videos to TV. If we upload our fight disguised as an amateur witnessing it, she’ll come running no matter where she is.”
“I guess that leaves just one thing.”
“Yes, let’s do it near a recognizable landmark she can see in the background.”
The barefoot girl wore raincoats directly over her bare, swimsuit tan-lined skin and had her long silver hair wrapped like disks or demon horns on either side of her head.
She was Mass Murderer Salome.
Her treasure was the list left by Sunny and Rain. She could achieve her current goal simply by continuing to attack the people on it.
The list may have been a symbol of tragedy, but its presence was a good thing for Academy City as a whole.
Without it, her targets would not have been so limited.
She would have randomly chosen Academy City residents and indiscriminately attacked them in a way that directed negative emotions toward Kamijou Touma and rejected him from society.
“Here we go.”
Salome muttered to herself while sitting on a bus station bench. Now that the morning student rush hour was over, that bench had become a rest area with zero customer traffic, so she had used it to lie in wait for someone.
She honestly had nothing against her opponent.
It just had to be someone on the list.
“Accelerator-chan☆ …Your real name is surprisingly cute.”
Her target had white hair and red eyes. One hand held a cane with a modern design and the other held a plastic bag from a drug store. He reminded Salome of white asparagus. No one could end up like that without being thrown into a uniquely arranged environment.
“Academy City’s #1. Since you’re famous, you’ve gotta be used to things like this. I’m here to kill you real quick.”
“Oh? You’re not onboard with that? Maybe you need some more motivation. Are you gonna say something like ‘I will never kill again (sparkle☆)’? Heh heh heh. Ah ha ha ha!! After everything you did, do you really think you can rid yourself of allllll that bad stuff you did and become a nice clean good person? Hyah hyah hyah hyah hyah!!”
“And you can’t just rid yourself of killings, don’tcha think?”
The raincoat girl’s smile vanished and an odd emptiness filled her eyes.
“We’re different. Then again, a proper human being might laugh if they heard that since it’s like a rapist insisting he isn’t as bad as a cannibal. Still, we’re different. If anyone wanted to put us in the same category, that would be more than enough reason to kill them, don’tcha think? But even if we’re different, I can still tell. You can’t get rid of your killing. Not even if we were the only people left in the world and I raised my hands and said I’d grown out of killing.”
“How about a little test?”
With the waterproof hood over her head, Salome held out her index finger.
She pointed at Accelerator.
No, at the plastic bag in his hand.
“I can understand the milk and chocolate. The rubber ducky and shampoo hat might just be your idea of a fun bath time. …But there’s just no way your feet would fit in those tiny shoes, don’tcha think? In that case, might their owner be somewhere nearb-…”
Before she could finish speaking, Salome’s pointer finger and the arm attached to it were gone.
He had not done anything special.
He had simply approached her, simply grabbed her arm, and simply torn it off.
The series of actions merely had some vector manipulation involved to provide superhuman speed.
“Hyah hyah hyah hyah!! Oh, wow. I’ve gotta have struck the jackpot here!!”
No pain or fear filled Mass Murderer Salome’s mind.
In fact, she showed the relief and excitement of someone who had finally run across another eccentric that could discuss an old movie that had long since stopped playing.
She took a step back and the bottom of her double raincoat floated out like a jellyfish or clione. She bent forward and held her stomach with her remaining arm while not even trying to hide her continued laughter.
Then she used that remaining hand to grab the toy pocket watch hanging from her neck and kissed it.
“My External Offering can absorb any weapon or armor that I can destroy barehanded and build it into my own power. And after that snowball rolls down the hill far enough, no one can stop the chain, don’tcha think? So that’s the thing. I’m not a good match for people who don’t rely on civilized tools such as weapons and shields. There isn’t much I can do when they’re stupider than a chimpanzee and just use their own two arms.”
“Spare me any hackneyed lines like ‘What did you do to your body? (sparkle☆)’. Heh heh. At the very least, it isn’t as strange as that brain of yours.”
There was a sound like the straining of a wet roll of thread.
No blood came from the torn raincoat and severed arm.
It also felt odd.
The surface of her brown suntanned arm was smooth, but it contained the inhuman eeriness of a mannequin.
“See, what matters for a sacrifice is how important it is to the person offering it. If you had such a great season that you have way more food than you could ever eat, then rice or fish isn’t gonna count as a sacrifice. And some stranger you abduct won’t work as a living sacrifice. Do you know anything about Voodoo rituals? When they sell their soul to the devil, once a year they have to offer up someone who it pains them to sacrifice: a family member, a lover, a beloved teacher, etc. But once they run out of people, they’ve gotta pay with their own life. This is the same. Only the External Offering just wasn’t quiiiiite enough for peace of mind as a mass murderer. I needed to offer up something even more precious…and that’s where the Internal Offering comes in. In other words, I gave my own body to my god.”
A living sacrifice.
The simplest form was to exchange one’s own life for having a wish granted.
But even if she surrendered her own heart, there was a way to survive.
She replaced herself and turned herself into a tool.
Misaka Mikoto should have noticed, but she had been distracted by the initial impact. The External Offering was a form of the occult that absorbed any weaponry that Salome destroyed with her own hands. But grabbing and breaking the Iron Sand Sword was beyond the limits of martial arts. A normal human could never do that.
“This is messed up.”
Accelerator glanced at the torn-off arm, tossed it aside, and spat out his comment.
But he was not interested in her occult explanation or that she had replaced her flesh and blood body for an artificial one.
“That’s not made in Academy City.”
“Ha ha ha! I guess you would notice. Yeah, I have no connection to this crazy city. So I had to gather together whatever I could find, open up my own gut, and exchange it all on my own. And all the while, I sold off each part of my maiden’s body to my god.”
She made it sound simple.
But if it was not made in Academy City, there was little guarantee it would work properly. If it was handmade, no one else could fix it in an emergency and odds were good it was not perfectly shielded against germs, chemicals, rust, electromagnetic waves, etc.
Even if you needed it to keep your heart beating, would anyone really use a pacemaker made using the chip taken from a toy gimmick light or alarm clock sold at a 100 yen shop?
Yet just such a reckless person stood before him.
For one thing, why was Salome wearing raincoats directly over her naked body?
Was she placing a frosted glass filter over her distorted artificial body to make it look real? Or had she needed to cover her entire body with thick plastic to keep water and dust out?
She was partners with death in more ways than one.
Rust or germs could reach her brain at any moment.
She was truly an insane mass murderer.
But her smile remained intact as if she were enjoying this tightrope walk as a form of entertainment.
“But you’ve gotta be more insane than me. You claim you don’t kill anymore, but you didn’t hesitate to rip off someone’s arm which has gotta knock people unconscious from traumatic shock. That’s the same as Mr. Elephant claiming to be friends with the humans while also throwing rocks at them, don’tcha think?”
“Then would you prefer I gave you a nice pat on the head?”
“With that hand? Don’t joke. Who knows how many times you’d shake up my brain.”
The raincoat girl smiled as she pulled something from her pocket. It was not a pen nor was it a stick of candy. It was a steel hook and it was probably meant to stab into a human’s back and lift them up. She spun that cruel execution tool in her fingers like a pen and then bent it between her fingers.
It looked like some kind of ritual.
It looked like someone lighting their glow stick at a concert.
“But just as my data said, your trigger is the one called Last Order. I’m not trying to provoke you this time. I’m completely serious. Isn’t it exhausting living like that? No matter who or what you protect, it won’t wipe your history clean. Hanging around good people, heroes, and holy women isn’t going to make you any of those things. You’ve gotta understand that. You think going to a concert makes you one with the idol? You think wearing a limited edition happi coat and waving fans around links your hearts together? Did you know the performer can’t even see the audience’s faces in the darkness created by the bright lights shining on the stage? That’s exactly the position you’re in, don’tcha think?”
“…I know that.”
“But if you’re happy clinging to the announcement of a new song and going to every last performance of the national tour, from Hokkaido in the north to Okinawa in the south, then I won’t stop you.”
“I know that, I know that, I know that, but it still pulls the trigger.”
“How long are you going to be some little kid’s attachment? The title of the strongest is weeping.”
Something dry burst between the two of them.
Two low voices acted as a signal.
“I’ll kill you.”
“Feeling motivated now?”
Plenty of blades, blunt weapons, and projectiles overflowed from the sports bag.
A clash between two who knew the taste of killing immediately followed.
District 7 had all the basics, making it a convenient district to live in, but that also meant it was difficult to find any major landmarks. Kamijou and Kamisato wanted to fake a fight on an online video so Salome would contact them, so they wanted to surreptitiously slip in something anyone would recognize.
“What should we do? All I know about this place is from the sightseeing pamphlets.”
“That’s right. I guess we should go with the Windowless Building. Some VIP called the Board Chairman lives there, so it can supposedly survive a nuclear attack just fine. That should be listed on the guide maps at any train station.”
With that, the two of them changed direction.
But as soon as they did, over one thousand copper coins filled the area above Kamijou Touma’s head like a meteor storm.
At first, he did not know what this meant.
As he stood there dumbly, the downpour of projectiles descended like a suspended ceiling and quickly reached him. He frantically raised his right hand overhead, but that was no help. Orange sparks filled the air, a cloud of dust formed as the asphalt was torn away, and the spiky-haired boy was struck all over and bounced a few times as he rolled along the road.
Finding himself on his side, he arched his back and screamed, but he could not get up.
Meanwhile, someone waved down from the roof of a short multi-tenant building.
“Yahoo. Everything going all right, boss?”
The delinquent girl’s long brown hair was cut so that two tufts looked like fox ears. She held an empty plastic bottle upside down in her hands. When she shook it a little, the countless ten yen coins wriggled on the road. They slowly gathered together in a whirlwind shape.
The unharmed boy waved back from the ground.
“Right on schedule, Elza.”
“Heh heh heh. He praised me.”
Intense heat spiraled through Kamijou’s head.
Was this how it would be? Did Kamisato not care about any damage to his side after all? Would he let Mass Murderer Salome go on her rampage, harm all sorts of people in Academy City, and leave the people and world Kamijou cared about floating in a pool of blood? And would he consider that a happy ending as he clapped his hands and smiled at his new high score?
“Pipe down. Sure I betrayed you, but I’m giving you what you want. This is the best way to stop my sister.”
Kamijou did not understand.
“Hey, Kamijou Touma. Do you remember what I told you? Salome is slaughtering your friends and acquaintances so that my group will win. Then isn’t the solution obvious? You decided that having Kamijou Touma and Kamisato Kakeru clash in front of the camera and faking my defeat would send her running to us. But there’s still a risk of Salome realizing it’s an act, not being fooled, and continuing her killing. Basically, it leaves the initiative in the hands of that sister that’s known as a mass murderer. That’s a risk we can’t afford to take. So I like the sound of a simpler and surefire method that takes the initiative away from her.”
“You just have to die.”
World Rejecter gave the simplest death sentence possible.
“Remember what I said? Salome’s goal is to guide my faction to victory. So we just have to make sure you, the enemy king, die on camera. Do that, and her reason to fight will naturally vanish. Then you don’t have to worry about any of your friends dying. And since it isn’t an act, there’s no risk of Salome not being fooled and remaining out of our control. Isn’t that just a wonderfully perfect solution?”
Kamijou could not get up thanks to the previous impact and he could tell his pulse was racing.
An unpleasant sweat covered his palms.
The disconcerting pulsation from his neck grew louder.
Kamisato sounded like he was reciting something.
“Fran, Maya, Luca.”
One was a pajama UFO girl with tons of antennae coming from her backpack as she used a giant balloon to float around. One was a ghost girl dressed in white who floated above the artificial fog machine at her feet. One was a pirate girl with an eyepatch, pirate hat, miniskirt, cutlass, and large musket.
“Aileen, Lime, Lisa, Mary, Anna, Iris, Nina, Maive, Elly, Clara, Deborah, May, Sophia, Siren, Sandy, Marine, Rosary, Scala, Yuny, Lemon, Nikita, Lemy, Machina, Catherine, Dorothea, Athena, Muse, Berry, Susan, Melon, Milcah, Amy, Linda, Fia, Snow, Laika, Honey, Eve.”
One was, one was, one was, one was, one was, one was, one was, one was, one was, one was, one was, one was, one was, one was, one was, one was, one was, one was, one was, one was, one was, one was, one was, one was, one was…
Kamijou could not even speak as girl after girl appeared from every direction.
He could not move, he was hopelessly outnumbered, and each of them had undergone an extreme mutation like Claire and Elza. Each and every one of them would have been a formidable foe on her own, so he felt nothing but despair as they approached in numbers rivaling the stars in the sky.
“I hate doing this. I was supposed to be handling this, but I really do want their help here. They’ll just be holding you down while I provide the finishing blow, but just getting some help is a pretty big problem.”
Kamisato Kakeru pulled out a cheap cellphone.
He pointed the lens at his prey like the master of an insane classroom undergoing a moral hazard.
And he spoke coldly.
“I’m dirtying my hands by making this unpleasant snuff film for the sake of your friends. So at least let me finish this quickly, Kamijou Touma-kun.”
A curious look came over Mass Murderer Salome as she glanced down at her vibrating smartphone.
What had happened?
The asphalt around her was torn up, the street signs were bent, and flames rose vertically from an underground gas pipe like a flamethrower.
Someone’s little sister ignored it all as she spoke to herself.
“Now, now. You’re really doing something silly, cursed Onii-chan.”
“Hm? The hell are you talking about?”
Academy City’s #1, Accelerator, gave her a puzzled look from ten meters away. He frowned at what the raincoat girl said…or rather, at the fact that she was recklessly looking down at her phone in the middle a fight to the death with the #1.
But Salome only shrugged.
“But depending how this plays out, it could be interesting, don’tcha think?”
“Hey, #1. Let’s call it quits here. I’ll give you a little more time to live as a pitiful little attachment.”
“Do you really think I give a shit about what you want?”
“Oh, I think you will.”
Salome rolled her head around.
“Fremea Seivelun, Fräulein Kreutune, Kuroyoru Umidori, Misaka Worst, and Last Order. Such naughty children, not going to school. And if the unfortunate befalls a naughty child, that’s gotta count as divine punishment, right?”
“Yes, you can’t possibly know where all of them are, can you? And there are plenty more on my list, maybe even some in that crowd over there. I’m fine with continuing here and I doubt you’ve got anything to be afraid of with your reflection. …But will every single projectile you reflect back really end up hitting me? And if they don’t, we’ll have some stray shots and ricochets flying around, don’tcha think?”
He hesitated for just a moment.
Mass Murderer Salome used that opening to leap backwards. Her double raincoats fluttered like a dancer’s veil. In an act impossible for a flesh and blood body, she jumped onto the sign sticking out from a building wall, jumped up onto the rooftop, and began travelling quickly from building to building.
A chill stabbed into her back almost immediately.
She did not even need to turn back to check.
“Here he comes, here he comes. I guess this isn’t someone you can lose on handmade legs.”
The raincoat girl laughed as she continued her jump of death from rooftop to rooftop.
“But that’s perfect.”
The situation was immediately set into motion.
A raincoat girl suddenly appeared and kicked away the pirate girl approaching Kamijou.
There was nothing she could do.
The bottom of the double raincoat fluttered so calmly it looked out of place.
The circle of girls crumbled all at once. Kamijou Touma was unable to get up, but the mass murderer girl crouched down nearby and lifted him up onto her shoulder like he was a bag of rice. She then looked around at the surrounding girls and laughed at the top of her lungs.
“Hah hah hah!! How are you doing, Onii-chan?”
Her focus shifted to the toy pocket watch hanging from her neck, but then she clicked her tongue a little.
“Oh, honestly. I had one arm blown off and the other one’s full… I can’t do my good luck charm like this.”
“What is the meaning of this, Salome?”
Kamisato Kakeru narrowed his eyes a little.
The naked raincoat sister looked at her dangerous brother and laughed.
“You know perfectly well everything I do is consistent, Onii-chan. Crazy people aren’t crazy because their actions don’t follow any rules. They’re crazy because they never break a set of rules that only they can understand.”
“I’ll do anything if it helps you. And that includes murder.”
Salome still held Kamijou who was utterly confused.
“But to put it another way, I’ll never kill if it won’t help you. I mean, what did Kamijou Touma ever do to Kamisato Kakeru? Is he your enemy for protecting the Magic Gods? Attacking people in a mistaken outburst of anger is just wrong. And it’s not like you have any proof that slaughtering all the Magic Gods will erase World Rejecter and return all those idiots around you to normal. That’s why I’ve gotta go for a more certain method. Killing Kamijou Touma and slaughtering the Magic Gods won’t necessarily return you to normal. So who can I kill to return Kamisato Kakeru to normal? There’s just one absolutely certain answer there, Onii-chan.”
“You can’t mean…”
The sister smiled evilly at her brother’s words.
“I’ll kill every last one of those girls surrounding you. That’s gotta be the correct choice, don’tcha think?”
“It wasn’t Kamijou Touma or the Magic Gods that messed up Kamisato Kakeru. Hamazura, Misaka, and the #1. Also an Academy City airport and bank, I guess. I tried a few different people, but none of them felt right! I mean, the Kamijou Faction has done nothing wrong!! The source of it all is that goddamn stupid harem you call the Kamisato Faction. These idiots are in heat year-round and have even thrown out the term ‘self-responsibility’. And the only reason you wield that inexplicable right hand called World Rejecter and get into these pointless fights is to turn them back into complete strangers, don’tcha think? You’re not Zeus and Hera. Have you ever thought about the commoners who get caught in the middle of your ridiculous farce?”
“See? The source of it all has gotta be pretty clear now, right? Besides, even if the victims belong to a crazy category like ‘Magic Gods’, the kind of normal high school boy you can find anywhere shouldn’t be dirtying his hands with killing, don’tcha think? And a snuff film to save everyone? Don’t make me laugh, Onii-chan. What the hell is this disturbing orgy of violence with no guilt whatsoever? You’re not a mass murderer. It might look like you’re standing at the top, but you’re really letting all those crazy people push you forward. What’s this Kamisato Harem nonsense? Those girls are pretending to serve you while they’re really possessing you. They’re holding the strings to the foolish emperor decked out in his ‘new clothes’ and they can move his arms and legs exactly how they-…”
The raincoat girl stuck out her tongue.
“Did you think you could hold back a mass murderer or two by force if you had the whole laughable Kamisato Faction together? Well, I’m sorry to say you chose the wrong opponent here. And doing it on camera was basically suicide.”
“Silly Onii-chan. Didn’t you know Kamijou Touma has a really, really pain in the ass fan?”
A moment later, a white tornado fell right in the middle of the circle formed by the Kamisato Faction.
Academy City’s #1 had arrived.
There was no need to watch it all play out.
Salome laughed as she left with Kamijou Touma over the shoulder of her one remaining arm.
“Ah ha ha ha!! Hah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Oh, that worked almost too well! My sides hurt!! I can’t stop crying. The dams of tear ducts across the nation have burst! My sides… Heh heh. Oh, I can’t stand it. Nooo☆ This is gonna destroy my sides!!”
“Hee hee. The role of strategist doesn’t suit you. If you’re gonna play the normal high school boy, then it’s gotta suit you better to go with adlibs and grinding your teeth in anger afterwards. Now farewell, Onii-chan. Adieu. Peh heh heh. Bwa ha ha ha ha ha!!”
Kamisato Kakeru tried running after her, but he was swallowed up by the white storm.
Meanwhile, Kamijou Touma was about as confused as could be.
“Wait a minute! Please explain…well, all of this! Why are you naked? Why do you only have one arm? You aren’t bleeding. And since you’re acting like his sister, does that mean you’re Salome? What is all this about you being a mass murderer? And why are you naked!?”
“You ask about the nudity twice? Does that bother you the most, Adolescent-chan? But this is my battle body, so I omitted the organs needed for that kind of thing.”
The raincoat girl sounded annoyed as she jumped up to the roof of a three or four story building.
“Don’t let this sibling fight fool you. I’ll always be my brother’s ally. I’m not like those dubious hangers-on of his, so I’m not about to fall in love with someone after running into them when turning a corner. My chastity is more important than the entire planet, so make no mistake there.”
“You’ve been running around with my brother, so you’ve gotta understand what I’ve been doing. I was poking at the Kamijou Faction to throw them into disarray. Once they know simply being an acquaintance of yours gets them attacked, the foundation supporting you would crumble. So really, it didn’t matter whether I actually killed them or not. In fact, slaughtering every last one wouldn’t spread fear quite as efficiently, so I needed to spare someone who could get the word out. It’s a lot like a riot started by a baseless rumor, don’tcha think? Just like with zombie computers or roach-killing bait, it has to be taken back to the inner network to infect all of them. My goal was to create people who would spread fear like that.”
“I don’t know all the details, but that still means you’re my enemy and the one attacking my friends, doesn’t it? Then why would you save me!? No, wait. Are you really saving me? You aren’t just taking me back to your lair, are you!?”
“Not to worry. If I was gonna kill you, I already would have.”
Salome jumped from building to building.
“I truly am crazy. I was a mass murderer before my brother ended up ‘like that’. It was only recently that I threw away my body with my Internal Offering, but that isn’t the point. At the core, I’ve been a monster for much longer.”
“But regardless, a crazy person will end up thinking crazy things. Namely, that I want to help my one and only brother who’s been messed up by the Magic Gods or whatever. And I don’t think those lukewarm horny girls surrounding him are the way to do that. What I need is you, since you’re boiling at precisely 100 degrees. If you can blow away that goddamn stupid harem boy, he’s gotta return to normal, right? It’s because those sluts who can only say ‘yes’ and ‘of course’ are pampering him that he’s got a screw loose while pretending he’s still sane, don’tcha think? And you’ve got the perfect fist for this. …That thing’s supposed to destroy illusions, right? That giant moron is high on himself and his embarrassingly shallow ‘ultimate harem’ of his, so give him a nice painful taste of reality.”
“Please spare me… With the slaughter of the Magic Gods, the secrets of the world, and the mystery of my right hand, I’m overwhelmed by so many questions as I approach some kind of turning point in my life, so do you really have to open the lid and shove me in between a crazy brother and sister too!?”
“Hah hah! That’s generally what happens when you run across a crazy person, don’tcha think? They say it’s just a stroke of bad luck, don’t they!?”
Kamijou seriously wanted to go to bed and refuse to deal with any of this, but that was not an option here.
No matter their reasons for using it, that power was real.
They were still a threat.
He thought about the idea of a normal high school boy once more. Anyone would be afraid if someone like that had the power to change the world. They would chaotically and recklessly wield that power. They would be no different from a natural disaster.
“Who is Kamisato Kakeru to you?”
Kamijou Touma sounded almost casual as he asked the question from her shoulder.
The effect was (for some reason) instantaneous.
Raincoat Mass Murderer Salome spat out the contents of her mouth while jumping between buildings and she lost balance in midair. She somehow managed to avoid falling to the surface, but she did face plant on a square rooftop. She naturally let go of Kamijou while rolling around.
The plastic hood of her raincoat fell away from her head and she shouted at him with the tip of her nose red.
“Wh-wh-wh-wh-wh-why would you ask that so bluntly!? You’ve gotta be stupid! I’m his sister! Not blood related, but his sister! How can you look me in the eye and say that!? Is this a hill in the setting sun? Just how difficult an adolescent life have you had!?”
“B-before that, can I have time to writhe around in pain too?”
Kamijou was covered in scrapes, but he finally managed to get up.
“Oh, I thought you had your hair wrapped around on the sides, but those were twintails?”
“Eh? Y-yes. Dammit. Did they come undone from the impact?”
“You’re actually pretty cute with that off your head.”
“You don’t have to point out every little thing! The Kamijou Faction is surprisingly frightening. You’re not my brother!”
Salome tried to quickly put her hood back up, but the twintails seemed to get in the way. She must have decided wrapping her hair back up with just the one hand would take too long because she finally gave up and let go of the hood.
“Don’t tell me…”
“Wh-what is it now?”
“Is that pocket watch hanging from your neck something you’ve always worn since Kamisato bought it for you when you were little? And do you also have a serious-grade full-spec nyan-nyan body you polish up every night for your ‘Onii-chan’, you crazy sister?”
“What is with you!? Honestly!!”
The mass murderer was flailing around now.
She used her one arm to grab the pocket watch and hunkered down as if to protect it from everything in the world.
“I’m not going to take it, so don’t worry.”
“Th-that isn’t the issue!”
She was still blushing, but she must have been mad that he had taken control of the conversation and was looking down on her. The (naked) raincoat girl heavily crossed her legs and intentionally winked.
“You wanted to know what kind of person Kamisato Kakeru is, right? You can ask if you want, but who knows who’s chasing after us. Do you still have the guts to sit around chatting?”
“I barely know anything about him, so anything you could tell me would be a plus.”
“Oh, is that so?”
Salome tried to cross her arms but then realized she only had the one.
She sighed before continuing.
“He once prayed for me by folding origami cranes.”
“He taught me how to ride a bike. And how to use chopsticks. Maybe he taught me how to hold a pencil too, but I forget. We bathed together when we were little. He held my hand when we went to school. He helped me with my homework and he made sure I had everything packed before we went on trips. I think he gave me some advice when I got my first love letter from someone I didn’t particularly like.”
At that point, she grabbed the pocket watch hanging from her neck by a thick thread.
It was a cheap toy mostly made from plastic.
But that meant its manufacturer would no longer be supporting it. If she brought it to a watch shop, they would just tell her to buy a new one. The fact that it was still running meant she had treated it with care.
“And as you guessed, he bought this for me. I was always late for everything, so he chose to forgo some candy and spent his own allowance on it. Funny, isn’t it? There really was someone who tried to teach a hopeless mass murderer something as simple as how to be on time.”
Kamijou had wanted an image of the monster known as Kamisato Kakeru.
This answer seemed useless for that, but he was wrong.
“When you get down to it, there’s nothing special about him. You can even say that’s why I fell for him. Normality can really get to you. Especially for a mass murderer like me.”
“Could you make this a little simpler?”
“Hmm, I’ll try… For example, greeting the people you meet on the way to school is normal, right?”
“What if that person you met was a bank robber? Would it be normal to smile and greet them?”
“That’s what I mean. Normality doesn’t always lead to never-ending and unconditional compassion and benevolence. I chose the path of a mass murderer, so anything that happens to me has gotta be my just deserts. But even so, something that isn’t special really gets to me.”
Kamijou realized Salome had never mentioned anything about Kamisato’s parents.
Nor had Kamisato Kakeru.
That monster had said he started off as the kind of normal high school boy one could find anywhere. He had said it again and again. That meant he had to have been supported by the kind of normal mother and father that one could find anywhere, but what had been their “normal” reaction to Kamisato and Salome?
Had they accepted them?
Or had they not?
“I think they did submit a missing person report. But neither our parents nor the police seriously tried to find me. After all, I was still showing up at school now and then, even after running away from home. For the adults, it was best if they were trying to find me but never actually did. If I was missing and they had no idea what I was doing, then the parents couldn’t be blamed as the ones holding the reins. And if I was under a different jurisdiction, the police could escape responsibility for not protecting the peace. They had no intention of doing a serious investigation and arresting me. But that’s just how society works when it runs on a demerit system. If the police arrested me alone and discovered there had been one or two hundred more cases in their jurisdiction, who could say how many of them would be fired. They were afraid of people asking why they hadn’t noticed sooner and how they could let themselves be manipulated by a child like that. It had reached the point where arresting me would actually make things worse for them.”
“Are you serious…? And Kamisato has the nerve to call himself a normal high school boy?”
“Hah hah! No, a normal family will reject a mass murderer. Of course, with me it was generally groups. Hence ‘mass’ murderer. I always attacked hopeless cults with end-times philosophies or divers carrying small plastic packages from the sea at night, so the higher ups in the police must’ve been in complete chaos. They probably over-optimistically hoped they could control me and force onto me all the dirty work that the public security and foreign affairs divisions didn’t want to deal with, don’tcha think? Just like how a hunter isn’t allowed to shoot someone with their rifle, but they can still press that gun against someone’s back, guide them into the jungle, and let an un-prosecutable wild animal chow down on them. …I didn’t really care how I was treated or what my position was. I mean, I don’t want to attack defenseless commoners. It’s too boring. When you’ve got a nice shiny rifle in your hands, it’s just rude to turn your back on the forest and aim for the side of a cow happily eating grass on a farm. That’s animal abuse and it’s pointless. Hunting isn’t the same as being a predator, don’tcha think? You aren’t fulfilling your natural role and targeting your prey. It’s the opposite. You’re using your intelligence and tools to challenge something higher up on the food chain. It’s the prey overturning the pyramid and killing the predator. That’s why it provides such a thrilling tension and why the kill has value as a trophy. That’s why hunting is a game that only humans can play.”
It was a hopeless conversation.
Due to its scale, its presence seemed to overturn good and evil.
No, it had a powerful influence provided by the truth contained within.
“And he was the only one. While everyone else was glancing my way, he looked straight at me and spoke to me. Although I got sick of him scolding me again and again and again that killing is wrong.”
Which one of them was normal and average?
Were their parents normal for rejecting a mass murderer? Or was Kamisato average for facing her nonetheless?
“So I, um, well, pretty seriously look up to my brother. Oh, b-but don’t tell him! If you do, I really will kill you!!”
“I won’t tell him. And how can you possibly look so friendly? My brain isn’t adding a filter since you’re a girl, is it?”
“You’ve gotta promise me you won’t… Oh, what am I even saying anymore? But it would feel wrong to stop after coming this far. Well, anyway, if he was normal, he would have abandoned a monster like me long ago. He would have run off during the night with our parents or he would have gotten sick of looking after me and killed me. But he didn’t do that. Not even I know if I would have been able to stick with him to the end if our roles were reversed. That’s why I look up to him. …Or I did until that goddamn idiot got that right hand.”
That right hand.
“So do you think the same thing?”
“Do you think all those people have gathered around him because he has that special right hand?”
There was definitely something wrong with Salome.
But despite that…no, because of it, the rest of the Kamisato Faction seemed somehow off. Asking the opinion of a girl known as a mass murderer was ridiculous, but he felt like there was something there that was only visible to someone like her whose gears were out of place.
If that mass murderer immediately answered “yes”, even Kamijou would have doubted himself.
Was that right hand really the whole of it?
Were those girls nothing more than World Rejecter?
Did it have nothing to do with Kamisato Kakeru’s personality?
“What do you think?”
But Salome dodged the issue with a question of her own.
“I do think that right hand, including that aspect, is Kamisato Kakeru’s curse and that’s why someone needs to destroy it eventually.”
It was not a clear yes or a clear no.
Even that twintails girl who was feared as a mass murderer may have wanted to avoid saying anything for certain here. Putting it to words might make it a reality, so she was stopped by an occult chill. Kamijou and Kamisato were enemies, but Salome was different. She had to stay with him forever, even if certain things proved to be the case.
“I’ve cooled down. Both physically and mentally.” The raincoat girl got to her feet. “We should probably end this here. Wasting any more time has gotta be dangerous. We can finish our chat when we reach our destination, Kamijou-chan.”
“Hey, wait! Wah!?”
They did not have time to argue.
Salome immediately grabbed Kamijou and held him rice bag style.
She took another running start and leaped.
She casually hopped from building to building.
“So what are you planning to do about Kamisato Kakeru? In fact, where are we headed!?”
“It doesn’t matter where. It just has to be somewhere with the ‘numbers’ I need to rival that goddamn stupid harem called the Kamisato Faction.”
“Oh, c’mon. My brother’s used the mysterious powers of his good looks to gather that suspicious fighting force. Whether they’re gonna attack someone or protect him, they’ve gotta have all their cards in one place. Otherwise, they’ll all melt away.”
“Please wait a moment. Are you going to get more people involved in this!? In fact, we need to keep an eye on Kamisato now that he’s making his move! Who knows when he’ll attack Index and Othinus in my dorm! You’ve gotta be kidding me. If he’s gonna do this, why can’t he only target me!?”
“You’re dyed pretty deep yourself if you don’t even hesitate to offer yourself up like that. This isn’t my Internal Offering we’re talking about. But no matter where he starts this, it’s gotta be best to crush him sooner rather than later. So will you follow my plan for now?”
Salome sounded exasperated as she jumped from building to building.
Kamijou gradually realized this was the route to school.
“But make no mistake. Offering yourself up won’t save the others. There’s no distinction between home and away. We’re talking about that brother of mine, so there’s no safe zone. I wonder just how far the invisible contamination has spread. The setup might already be complete, so things might be heading to the finale.”
He did not have time to wait for an answer.
With Kamijou Touma over her shoulder, the raincoat girl took an extra long leap toward the school building’s roof.
This might be sudden, but I think anyone would be shocked if a mass murderer dropped down onto the rooftop during lunch.
Especially if she was a girl wearing only raincoats over her dazzling bare skin that had swimsuit tan lines, if she was acted perfectly fine despite having an arm torn off, and if she was carrying a teenage boy over one shoulder like a bag of rice.
“Hi, coming through. It’s just a suspicious person breaking into your school, so don’t worry. But stay away, cause I’m pretty dangerous.”
The palm-sized student council president known as the Jumpy Bunny was just about to open her lunchbox, so she hopped straight up while still in her seated position.
The mass murderer naturally did not care and casually tossed Kamijou aside.
The modern girl in a middle school uniform widened her eyes next to the president. Her lunchbox had an identical design, so it must have been true that Akikawa Mie was providing food for the Jumpy Bunny. And since they were eating together, this must have been a “bring-your-lunch day” for the middle school.
“Eh? Eh? Wait…what…?”
“You don’t have to get involved in anything like this, Mie-chan! I-I need to demonstrate my dignity as the student council president… I-I’ll give you my octopus wiener, so please spare Mie-chan!!”
“Well, if you’re offering.”
The raincoat mass murderer grabbed the offered item from the upside-down lunchbox lid and tossed it into her mouth. She showed no interest in the palm-sized president as she licked her fingertips and toyed with one of her silver twintails that was still exposed. She seemed unable to relax with them out like that.
However, the gazes of the president and modern middle school girl were painful.
But not for Salome, the one-armed naked raincoat mass murder. It pained Kamijou to be thought of as “with” her.
“Anyway, I’m going to fix my hair and find anything I can use as a weapon. I used up everything in my sports bag back with the #1, so I’ve gotta get some material to keep my chain going.”
“What’s the matter? Are you worried? I’ll admit it isn’t every day that a dangerous mass murderer wanders around school searching for knives, but you don’t have to worry this time. I’m on your side, Kamijou Touma. As long as you’ll continue being a ‘proper enemy’ for Kamisato Kakeru, that is.”
She stopped speaking there.
But then she glanced over at her torn-off arm as if she had just remembered it.
“No, I guess my arm would come first. I can’t exactly fix my hair without my dominant arm, can I? There’s gotta be an art room here. Do they have all the standard paste products like putty and plaster?”
“Your body’s made out of that?”
“No, but I need it to make the model. Then I add in some chemicals. I’m not an electronic cyborg, so I use chemical reactions instead. I guess I’ll have to start working on a suspicious recipe in the cooking classroom.”
“Again, your body’s made out of stuff like that!? We’re not talking about a summer project here!!”
“Honestly, everything’s so cutting-edge here I’m worried it won’t agree with me.”
Salome laughed and waved her remaining arm.
The true threat of Salome may not have been her extraordinary athletic ability or the strategic ability needed to escape the entire Kamisato Faction. It was her ability to conveniently repair herself with any materials she came across.
Then her tone grew more serious.
“Kamijou Touma. While I’m getting everything ready, you talk to everyone you know here and see if any of them are acting oddly.”
“Not all attacks are made by harming your opponent in a visible way. Especially when it comes to that goddamn stupid brother of mine. Just check over everyone. It couldn’t hurt, right? And if you find your normal class, your normal club, your normal committee, and your normal part-time job…well, that’s for the best, don’tcha think? That’s what I’m hoping for. But…I think the odds are about 50/50. There’s gotta be about a 50% chance of rain.”
Salome seemed to be sniffing something as she spoke.
Kamijou could not hope to guess what that crazy girl’s nose had picked up.
Regardless, the raincoat mass murderer said one final thing.
“I recognize this cloyingly sweet sense of bottomless candy. It’s just like that goddamn stupid Kamisato harem.”
Between the Lines 3
What image comes to mind when people hear the term laboratory? Perhaps a storage center for suspicious bacteria hidden deep in the mountains. Perhaps a development base for new fighter craft built in the middle of the desert. Or perhaps a deep sea experiment facility disguised as an offshore oil platform or a zero-g testing facility built into a space station module.
A specialized research facility might sound like something needlessly large that could never be paid for with personal funds. And it was true that not even an entire university would be enough for an almighty all-in-one laboratory that allowed for research in every field imaginable.
But on the other hand, a laboratory could be made quite compact if it only had the absolute essentials.
For example, a metalworking lab that created firearms, a biological management lab that cultivated viruses capable of wiping out a city of a million in under 24 hours, or a pharmaceutical lab that created synthetic drugs that could become an unlimited source of funds if used correctly. If one abandoned the scholarly idea of infinite possibilities and focused on one clear “goal”, their laboratory could fit inside a port container.
Kihara Yuiitsu, a woman in a cheap suit and a lab coat, arrived in Academy City’s District 17.
The district supported Academy City’s manufacturing industry infrastructure and was almost entirely made up of unmanned factories, but Yuiitsu was not interested in the factories themselves.
Containers were piled up in an abandoned factory that was no longer in use. There were blank spaces everywhere like the result of a poor attempt at a puzzle game. A black luxury car sat inside a space the size of a basketball court. It was incredibly long like a dachshund that had taken a wrong turn somewhere along its evolutionary history.
Its development codename was Griffon Driver.
It was a bulletproof vehicle for VIPs originally developed for the twelve members of the Board of Directors for use during World War Three. It used a policy of active defense (i.e. remaining on the move at all times so no one would know where they were). From a distance, it looked just like a limousine parked in front of a casino, but as Yuiitsu approached, it became clear that it was over two meters tall and over twenty-five meters long. Yuiitsu could step through the door while standing. The body was made of composite armor, the bulletproof glass was more than fifty centimeters thick, and the door rivaled a bank vault with its eight rods and vacuum lock. Rather than air, the tires contained sponge in case of a hit from a sniper rifle or anti-tank mine and to prevent it from rendering itself useless by blowing the tires under its own weight.
There were several of these vehicles.
These polished luxury vehicles lined up side-by-side were Kihara Yuiitsu’s fortress.
“Hello, Ms. Yuiitsu.”
A young male voice spoke over the radio.
Then a further flood of voices reached her.
“Keep up the good work.”
Despite all the greetings, no one stepped out of the driver’s seats. Yuiitsu did not bother pulling out her radio and simply waved while looking to the front of each vehicle. They asked no questions about their boss or the rear of the vehicles. The windows were all tinted and there was a thick barrier between the driver’s seat and the rear area, so they could see nothing. That was a basic courtesy in this business.
(Although it would probably cause a blood vessel to burst in their heads and give them a brain hemorrhage if they knew a P4 level biological weapon was being cultivated in the back of the vehicles they’re driving around the city all day.)
She walked toward one of the black vehicles and grabbed the knob to the back door. Several forms of biometric authentication were run and the door opened surprisingly easily.
The inside was entirely different.
A bluish infrared light illuminated the cold material that resembled silver stainless steel. Kihara Yuiitsu stripped off all of her clothes in a small space, sterilized her entire body in a complete decontamination room smaller than a phone booth, and put on a thick protective suit before opening the door to the main area.
It resembled the plant factories that were popular lately. Something like water tanks with no water inside were lined up on metal racks. The small digital counters on the glass surface were apparently used to manage the temperature and humidity. But unlike a tropical fish tank, there were two round holes in the sides of the tanks with thick rubber plastic gloves attached on the inside. In other words, they were set up so work could be done inside a completely sealed environment.
Each tank had about ten glass Petri dishes inside and the tanks were divided into multiple levels on the metal racks covering the left and right walls.
Kihara Yuiitsu snapped her fingers to activate the room’s recording functions and reported on her progress as if speaking to herself.
“Discard #17-25, discard #40-60, discard #130-156. Make #1, 9, and 30 the top candidates. Make #5, 6, 70, and 99 the secondary candidates.”
She did not bother observing each and every Petri dish under a microscope.
The samples to be discarded would be instantly neutralized by frying them with powerful ultraviolet and electron beams.
“Based on the traces left on the Anti-Art Attachment that was the foundation of Sensei’s combat ability, we can estimate Kamisato Kakeru’s power to be an extremely sharp cutting power that provides complete destruction without crushing the material along the slice. He should have been able to destroy Sensei’s physical body as well as his weapon, but it is unknown why he did not. We can abandon the idea of some uncertain idea of good sense and assume there is some kind of condition needed to activate the power.”
She used the microscope to view the remaining Petri dishes, especially the ones labeled a top candidate.
“That condition is unknown, but based on the traces on the armor, Kamisato Kakeru seems to be focused on his right hand. Some of the marks even resemble a hand print. I can’t think of any defense greater than that armor, so stopping an attack from him would be nearly impossible. Thus, a long-term battle would be unrealistic.”
She never directly touched it.
Utterly separated by cold glass and thick plastic, she used a fine dropper to add in chemicals by the nanogram as she looked after the cultivations.
“Kamisato Kakeru’s blood and tissue fragments were found on Sensei’s fangs. That means he allowed Sensei to get close, so he either lacks a means of attacking at long range or the environment prevented him from doing so.”
She did not add the same chemicals to any two Petri dishes labeled as top candidates.
They were all different.
She only needed one of them to fulfill her hypothesis.
“This leads to the conclusion that Kamisato Kakeru’s strange power uses some method based on his physical body to aim at a mid- or close-range target. Whether it can be defended against or dodged is unknown, so it should be assumed the activation of his power means death.”
She spoke quietly as she stared at something that could continue wriggling even in the coldest weather.
“In other words…”
She breathed in and out.
And she uttered the decisive words.
“The most effective attack method for Kamisato Kakeru is to ****** his ******** with ******* and *******.”
A sticky sound burst out.
Something had wrapped around the tip of the fine dropper Yuiitsu was using. Something black was sticking out of the Petri dish. It also contained the colorful patterns of a tropical frog or lizard.
She pulled on the fine dropper a few times, stared at the uncooperative sample with a smile, and then laughed.
She said one last thing as she laughed.
“Isn’t that right, Shoggoth-chan?”