Toaru Majutsu no Index:NT Volume15 Chapter 5
Chapter 5: Hope, or Depthless Darkness — To_the_Magic.
The location was the schoolyard. The time of day was night.
The major players were Kamijou Touma with Imagine Breaker and Kihara Yuiitsu with the stolen World Rejecter.
A few girls were also there.
As was Kamisato Kakeru, collapsed on the ground without a right hand.
After reviewing those conditions in his mind, Kamijou opened his mouth for a shout.
“Salome!! Circle in from the right!!”
“Why would you yell your plans in front of the enem-…oh, I get it.”
The naked raincoat girl grinned in realization and obeyed Kamijou’s instructions.
Kamijou took a small arc and Salome took a larger one.
Kamijou had started running first, but due to their difference in potential, Salome easily passed him. The raincoat girl approached Kihara Yuiitsu with a shifted timing that messed with one’s vision.
But the woman in a lab coat and cheap suit was unfazed.
She simply raised the right hand forcibly attached to her arm.
Kamijou felt fear rising in his stomach.
If Imagine Breaker and World Rejecter clashed, his right hand would be torn off. And then that mysterious “thing” would burst from the wound and spread uncontrollable damage. If that was directed toward Salome, Kamisato, or the others, it would pull the trigger on the worst possible scenario.
Kamijou pressed the soles of his shoes into the ground to slam on the brakes, but then something odd happened.
No, it was the opposite.
Nothing happened. Nothing at all.
(What? It didn’t work!? Or was it a feint!?)
Even Kihara Yuiitsu tilted her head.
She clenched and unclenched her own(?) right hand and gave it a puzzled look, but then the naked raincoat girl reached her.
“Kee hee hee!!”
Several dry sounds came in quick succession.
Salome was swinging both hands with enough force to tear apart the air and Kihara Yuiitsu used only her right leg. Without letting her foot touch the ground, she made a double and then triple kick.
Afterwards, feet could be heard sliding along the ground.
Surprisingly, it was Salome who was forced back.
The bottom of her double raincoats swayed like a clione.
Without even glancing at the raincoat mass murderer, Yuiitsu stared up at the right hand she held toward the moon.
“Yes, I suppose you wouldn’t let something like that kill you.”
She finally lowered her hand and smiled thinly.
“The shockwaves propagating from multiple points of impact collide within your body and create deadly bubbles inside your blood vessels. …A normal human being would have fallen over dead after that. Then again, I’m only using a cheap imitation of one of Amata-chan’s techniques. Plus, it wouldn’t be very romantic if you died already.”
She had more than just World Rejecter in the stolen right hand.
Eliminating that would not be enough to defeat her.
Unpleasant sweat poured from Kamijou’s body, but he had no choice but to focus on what had to be done. The problem was like tangled yarn or a great mountain, so he could not solve it all at once.
Also, there had been a reason behind Kamijou and Salome circling around to attack from the right.
Kamijou placed a hand behind his back and used his fingers to gather the attention of Ellen and Elza who had been slow to take action. There was something he needed them to do.
“ ‘Getting Kamisato first-aid comes first. We’ll hold her off, so you tie off his wrist.’ …Is that it? Hee hee. Just kidding!!”
It was almost like the woman had directly read his mind.
The sweat must have been dehydrating him because he could feel his throat growing dry.
Kihara Yuiitsu laughed quietly.
“Well, don’t mind me. Do your very best in that fight. Because every minute and second you extend his life is another minute and second of suffering in the knowledge of what he has lost. Hmm. I suppose between good and evil it’s evil and between like and dislike it’s like. Which is perfect.”
This time, she opened her right hand wide.
She prepared to swing it mercilessly toward Kamisato Kakeru’s sister who was so close by.
That was the perfect target to kill in front of the boy to tear his heart to shreds.
“Dammit. Watch out, Salome!!”
“Don’t get inside her right hand’s shadow! Saying ‘do you wish for a new world’ acts as the trigger, so use that to time when you dodge!!”
“You morooooooooooooon!! Why would you tell her how to use iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit!?”
Kamijou’s lips grew pale.
“Oh, I seeeee,” said Yuiitsu in a jocular tone.
“Do you wish for a new world?”
It sounded like a chunk of the world had been torn away.
Salome, who was so near Yuiitsu, bent her hips. She bent straight back while still standing, as if performing a bridge in gymnastics. Having missed its target, World Rejecter tore into the schoolyard and the dirt completely vanished.
The raincoat girl did not stop moving.
To avoid the second and third attacks sent her way, she performed midair flips for an irregular escape. Her double raincoat fluttered about like a dancer’s veil.
“I see, I see. So that’s how you use it. Ah ha ha! Amazing. Simply amazing. This completely violates relativity and conservation of mass! Does it use teleportation? In fact, this supernatural phenomenon is so amazing I have to wonder how it avoids triggering the kind of explosion that comes with splitting the atoms!!”
Now Kihara Yuiitsu could make full use of the right hand she had stolen.
Kamijou looked down at his own right hand.
When Fiamma of the Right had taken that hand, Imagine Breaker had ultimately returned to Kamijou because “that which resides in Kamijou Touma’s right hand is the medium that contains Imagine Breaker”.
Was Kamisato’s World Rejecter different?
(That which resides in Kamijou’s right hand.)
He gulped and applied that same condition to someone else.
(So if something is making Kihara Yuiitsu appear to be Kamisato Kakeru, will World Rejecter continue to view her as its master!?)
The night wind carried whispered voices.
“This ain’t good. That mass murderer is being forced back. Isn’t this really, really bad?”
“Even if it was a surprise attack, taking out Kamisato-san in a single blow is enough on its own for this to qualify as ‘bad’.”
“Academy City is crazy enough at the best of times, but how many bonuses is she gonna place on top of that?”
They came from behind roadside trees.
They came from building rooftops.
“To be honest, I don’t want that sister to get all the credit.”
“It’s not like we have a choice. If we get picky here, Kamisato-kun might die.”
“And unfortunately, it looks like giving Salome a boost would be the best method here.”
It may not have mattered much who had said it.
What mattered was that those girls settled on that as a whole.
“Then let’s go do this.”
“Yes, to save Kamisato Kakeru.”
“If it will save him, I’m willing to give up my humanity.”
Mass Murderer Salome raised her head a little.
Then she shouted to Kamijou.
“I’ve got a bit of business to take care of! Kamijou-chan, buy me some time. Thirty seconds should do!!”
He quickly looked over in time to see the raincoat girl kissing the pocket watch hanging from her neck.
That must have been a sign of resolve for her.
Then she jumped straight back so Kamijou moved out in front of her. This naturally sent him toward Kihara Yuiitsu who was pursuing Salome.
They did not even speak a word.
They only exchanged a momentary glance.
“Do you wish for a-…”
As she casually swept her hand over, Kamijou’s fist struck her wrist in the opposite direction. It was not as nice as a parry, but he had to divert the path of her arm if he could.
But no change came over Yuiitsu’s expression.
She twisted her entire body in the same direction as her redirected hand and her knee jabbed sharply into Kamijou’s side. The heavy blow brought him to a stop. The single blow took out his diaphragm and forced the oxygen from his lungs.
His mind went almost entirely blank, but he could not allow himself to lose consciousness.
Kihara Yuiitsu herself had said she let the shockwaves of multiple blows collide in her opponent’s body to create deadly bubbles inside their blood vessels.
If she used that, it was all over for a flesh and blood human like him.
He forced down the rising urge to vomit and pressed his feet to the ground as they threatened to rise into the air. And in so doing, he pinned down the bottom of Yuiitsu’s lab coat as it fluttered around from her spin.
He had no idea what happened next.
He just knew that some kind of impact struck his entire body. He felt like he was enveloped in blows of unclear number and direction, as if he had been thrown in a metal drum which was being beaten with metal bats. His vision was spinning around, so he guessed he himself was spinning vertically through the air.
His back struck the ground with a dull sound of impact.
His sense of time returned.
“Gah!! Agheh!? Khah!!”
Kihara Yuiitsu sounded lightly confused.
She sounded like someone who had finished cleaning the kitchen and then found an oil stain on the back of the gas range. She had to have analyzed the situation and discovered that the foot on her lab coat had shifted the blows from their calculated positions, but there was no powerful wave of emotion in her voice.
Instead, she made a further barrage.
Her high heel came down like a stake as it targeted Kamijou on the ground.
He rolled to get as far away as possible, but…
“Do you wish for a new world?”
While lying on his side, Kamijou used his arms and legs to hop over like a shrimp and an all-erasing power tore into the spot he had just vacated. The sight of the gouged-out dirt was enough to feel a chill.
He somehow managed to get back on his feet, but there was nothing more he could do.
Imagine Breaker was useless against World Rejecter and he was outmatched when it came to pure martial arts as well. Kamijou had no way of holding back Kihara Yuiitsu.
“Sorry about the wait, Kamijou-chan. I’m all replenished. Great job lasting thirty seconds there.”
That voice changed everything.
A smaller form moved past Kamijou. But rather than on the left or right, she jumped by directly above him. Her double raincoats swelled up as they caught the air. This superhuman athletic prowess came from the naked raincoat girl known as Mass Murderer Salome. However, something had changed with her. As her translucent raincoats fluttered around her, she licked her lips, charged in toward Kihara Yuiitsu, and swung her right arm to the side.
Something odd happened.
The entire schoolyard was torn in a half-moon shape along the path of her hand. It was just like she held an invisible blade measuring twenty or thirty meters long.
Kihara Yuiitsu spun on the spot like a figure skater and let her lab coat spread out into the empty air like a demon’s wings.
That was all.
After the violent sound of tearing cloth, the mass murderer gave a belligerent smile.
“Not bad. You actually diverted that blow. Normally, an invisible slash has gotta be a one-hit kill.”
“You shouldn’t use the convenient word ‘invisible’ so much. The path is readily apparent from the motion of the particles in the air.”
People often thought of shields as tools to block a blade with their weight or thickness, but that was inaccurate. A hail of falling arrows was one thing, but a mass of steel swung down with all of the enemy’s might would break one’s arm if caught one-handed on a small round shield.
Shields were meant to “divert” or “deflect”.
Take that far enough and a single piece of cloth…no, a single piece of paper could be used to alter the path of a slash and avoid a lethal blow.
“But it’s looking like you’re about at your limit too,” said Salome.
“Isn’t there only one way to find out?” replied Yuiitsu.
The raincoat girl and the cheap suit and lab coat woman resumed their intense clash.
With Yuiitsu no longer locked onto him, Kamijou felt some careless relief and wiped the sweat from his brow.
Then he grew curious about something.
(What did Salome use that thirty seconds for?)
Salome had not used that violent “invisible blade” before. That meant she had done something. She had said she was replenished, so what exactly had she done back there? For no real reason, Kamijou looked back.
And there he found the answer.
Several dozen girls were carelessly strewn across the schoolyard behind him.
It had happened just a moment before.
If one ignored her incredibly unstable personality, Mass Murderer Salome was the Kamisato Faction’s strongest fighter by a wide margin. The girls all had a tacit understanding of that, no matter how infuriating they found it.
In the Internal Offering, she had abandoned her body using a chemical cyborg treatment and she had offered up her spare flesh and blood to her god in order to drastically raise her physical abilities.
In the External Offering, she destroyed weapons and shields with her bare hands as a way to offer them up to her god and accumulate their destructive power and traits in a snowball effect.
If the conditions were right, it was rumored that mass murderer could realistically conquer the White House all on her own.
But at the same time, if the conditions were not right, she could not make use of her true power. If her chain of destroying weapons and offering them to her god was broken, she would be nothing more than an eccentric with enough ridiculous strength to break a Japanese sword barehanded.
What did she need to do if she was to defeat as powerful a foe as Kihara Yuiitsu?
What was the best course of action to save Kamisato Kakeru who had lost an arm?
What was necessary if the Kamisato Faction was going to reach for victory as a group rather than working as individuals?
Someone gave a shout.
It was Olivia. She was known as an excellent cosplay girl, but whether it was a jet booster, a magic wand, a laser blade, or special boots for running along a wall, she would perfectly recreate every single one of the character’s gimmicks using either science or magic. This made her incredibly dangerous in a way the original creators did not want in the slightest, so she was constantly kicked out of events.
“I hate to admit it, but giving this to you looks like the best method.”
Someone dressed as Magical Powered Kanamin jumped into the dark schoolyard, but she clicked her tongue in a way Kanamin never would.
“So hurry up and break me. That’ll give you what you need for your External Officering, won’t it!?”
Salome could not use her full power as a mass murderer because she lacked the stock of weapons she needed to destroy.
More accurately, she had used up her stock from that day by slicing the incinerator and had lacked what she needed to keep her chain going.
That just meant she needed a replacement.
Figures surrounded Salome as she slid back.
There was a pirate girl, a ghost girl, a UFO girl, a phantom thief girl, and a swordsman girl.
The Kamisato Faction was too numerous to count and they all wielded weapons the mass murderer could destroy. Salome was a magician who hunted her prey, but knowing how the power she consumed was used was another factor toward increasing her strength. It was a lot like she held the “soul” of the one who knew the true value of the weapon. It was just like the dances or military performances offered up to a god in ancient times.
Those girls did not seek an individual victory.
They were only thinking of the Kamisato Faction as a whole.
Thus, Salome did not hesitate.
The raincoat girl held her hands together in front of her chest and licked her lips.
“Thanks for the meal☆”
He could only watch in a daze.
Kamijou Touma could only watch Salome fight using her dirty strategy.
Salome and Kihara Yuiitsu were continuing their clash.
But unlike before, the raincoat mass murderer was the one gaining ground. Yuiitsu was well versed in killing techniques and had stolen World Rejecter from Kamisato Kakeru, but Salome did not give up a single step and she clearly knew the secret to victory here.
“Clara. I need a sharper edge! Sacrifice yourself!!”
Salome was fighting empty-handed, but she was still wielding an invisible blade.
And she had more than just that one form of attack.
“Lime. I need more reach. Time for a trip to the graveyard!!”
“How can you tell people to die so easily!?”
Each time Salome made a request and a girl jumped in, her attack would change.
She literally used the girls as ingredients by breaking their weapons and sweeping their bodies aside.
“Luca. I need to corner her with a quick barrage! You’re up!!”
“Dammit. At least put this to good use!”
It could be a blade, a blunt weapon, a gun, or a chain.
An invisible attack was hard enough to defend against or avoid as it was, but the level of confusion only grew as she freely rearranged its range and type of damage.
It was truly the ultimate consumption strategy. In a nightmarish vision, more and more girls collapsed, passed out, and were thrown away as she continued swapping out weapons and attack methods.
And it did not stop there.
The essence of Salome’s ability was not the invisible attack; it was placing as many different attacks as necessary on top of her empty hands.
“Flamethrower + katana.”
The entire landscape was torn apart. Kihara Yuiitsu and even Kamijou, who was watching from the side, felt their thoughts nearly grind to a halt. It had seemed like an invisible attack from a nonexistent weapon, so the slash had seemed like an effect placed on top of her empty hands. But that was wrong.
It was as if a ton of sharp Japanese swords shot out with the force of a flamethrower.
Kamijou gulped as Salome sacrificed even more girls, transformed them into dreadful attacks, and sent them flying toward the woman in a lab coat and cheap suit.
“Tear gas + sledgehammer.”
Once, it was a pressure attack that scattered a blinding smokescreen that contained physical pressure.
“Explosive + longbow + electric guitar.”
Once, it was an explosive acoustic weapon that blew out the target’s eardrums just by plucking the strings.
“Stun gun + water gun + bullet + hammer throw.”
Once, it was a giant anti-materiel sniper bullet that’s ballistic path bent complexly like electricity running along a body of water.
(Now I get it.)
Kamijou came to belated understanding of at least a portion of the darkness held by Kamisato Kakeru.
Salome was not forcing the girls of the Kamisato Faction to sacrifice themselves. She was not threatening them or coercing them. It was entirely voluntary. The girls were delighted to offer up their own bodies and they wished to be destroyed. They gave up on an individual victory in order to obtain a group victory. To put it another way, they did not care what happened as long as they could save Kamisato Kakeru who had lost a hand and was suffering from shock due to blood loss.
(That’s why it got to him. If he saw this, of course he’d blame the power that had suddenly come to his right hand. This goes well beyond just being a group of friends!!)
It was not the power of his right hand that made Kamisato Kakeru special.
He had not realized it was him himself that had drawn all of those girls to him.
Kamijou had once told him that, but even he felt a chill run through his entire body now.
Hypothetically, if the girls surrounding Kamisato Kakeru truly were only a side effect of his right hand, then wouldn’t they gradually change affiliation as that hand settled in with Kihara Yuiitsu? Kamijou knew that would never happen, but the idea still reared its ugly head like a meaningless theory about the world coming to an end.
But frustratingly enough, it was effective.
Kihara Yuiitsu was using her lab coat to divert the various attacks and keep the damage to a minimum, but that shield of cloth was growing tattered. If the attacks continued, the article of clothing would completely tear apart and no longer function as a shield. Once she could no longer use it, it was all over. Salome continued changing her attack method, adding on new traits, and raising her destructive power with her never-ending chain. Once she got going, she really did seem to become an unstoppable force.
Kihara Yuiitsu must not have wanted a long battle because she took a somewhat forceful step forward.
She put herself in danger to move closer and she swung her forcibly attached right hand.
Its shadow crawled along Salome’s body.
And this other monster spoke the words needed to stop the raincoat mass murderer’s violence.
“Do you wish for a new world?”
This time Kamijou Touma’s mind truly went blank.
He did not even have time to shout Salome’s name.
This one was fatal. It had been a clean hit. The woman had spoken the words with her hand’s shadow entirely placed on the girl’s body. When World Rejecter activated, it held enough power to defeat even Magic Gods by the dozen. Salome’s body would be swiftly “exiled” to the spare territory between related timelines. Basically, a living human being would be sent to another world, never to be seen again.
Or so it should have been.
“Of course that won’t work. Don’t take the Kamisato Faction so lightly, especially when you’re just borrowing that thing.”
Kamijou had only seen one side of the previous events, so this was beyond his understanding.
But Kamisato Kakeru’s right hand only blew away indecisive people who had conflicting desires. And anyone he had accepted had no such conflicting desires and had found a single path to follow in this wide world.
Patricia Birdway had been the same.
It was because she had that qualification that Kamisato Kakeru had been able to rub her head and shake her hand. He had accepted her personality and announced his respect for her specifically because of the pure mind that prevented her from being blown away by the touch of that hand.
“World Rejecter’s not gonna work on anyone from the Kamisato Faction, don’tcha think? After all, we were all accepted by Kamisato Kakeru and we’ve all proven that we don’t have any conflicting desires.”
Kihara Yuiitsu must not have known about that condition.
If she had, she would not have been so careless. That was hardly surprising since she had only just stolen the right hand and her knowledge of it was based on the “mistaken warning” that Kamijou had let slip.
On top of that, Salome had made a show of avoiding her right hand until now.
“And I’m sorry to say, Miss Revenge, that I’m willing to kill if it’s for that goddamn stupid brother who so enjoys that creepy harem of his! That conviction will never be shaken!!”
But even so, the mistake was a devastating one.
Once the initial attack failed, this was back in Mass Murderer Salome’s territory.
She had consumed so many girls to thoroughly polish up her External Offering’s chain. She could now slice a warship in two with a single swing of her arm and she swung that arm almost casually.
Kihara Yuiitsu gave up on using her shield.
For the first time, she jumped to the side with all her might to dodge.
But not even that was enough.
A moment later, Kihara Yuiitsu’s right hand was severed with a noise so pleasant it seemed out of place.
The rough black threads that had sewn on the stolen hand were torn. It was not a perfect cut, but it made it more than two-thirds of the way through and it looked even more painful dangling there only partially severed.
“First, I’ll be taking that right hand back.”
The raincoat girl smiled fiercely.
“That belongs to my goddamn stupid brother. That power was given to Kamisato Kakeru. Figuring out how to deal with it is his job, so an outsider like you can’t decide for him.”
Then something odd happened.
Kihara Yuiitsu laughed despite having her right hand more than two-thirds severed.
“It’s true I didn’t know the exact conditions for activating World Rejecter. But you seem to be mistaken about something too. Perhaps I’m only aware of this thanks to gaining the power for myself.”
“Such strange symbolism. Just like Imagine Breaker is both the power to reject and a reference point or restoration point for everything, World Rejecter is both the power to accept and something like deletion software. Instead of simply destroying its target, it erases it by processing it into something no one can read.”
She sounded calm and she did not stop.
“Maybe that was a little off topic. No, I suppose not. World Rejecter holds the power to erase Magic Gods by the dozen, but it does not completely destroy them. If you can never see them again, it might as well be death, but that isn’t quite accurate.”
“Salome… This isn’t good. Fall back. This is really, really bad!!”
“If it can send them there, this right hand must cross between the two territories. You can think of it like Dejima during the isolationist Sakoku period. And if this right hand acts as a convenient ‘end of the world’ for what lies on the other side…”
Kamijou felt something crawl down his back.
He could not let her say this.
This alone he could never let her say.
And then Kihara Yuiitsu raised her nearly destroyed right hand as if to smash those strange warning bells in his mind.
She held it forward.
“…then wouldn’t I also be able to use it like this? …Paging Niang-Niang.”
Something bubbled out from Kihara Yuiitsu’s wrist…no, from within the right hand.
Before Kamijou’s thoughts caught up, it was already beginning.
Something flowed out from the gaping wound. It resembled a sticky fluid and it wrapped around Kihara Yuiitsu’s arm as it moved up to her shoulder. Its surface began bubbling even more intensely.
Something was swelling out from her shoulder.
It looked like two arms were attached to the same shoulder, but that was inaccurate.
Something had grown there.
Something long and slender had crawled up from the broken right hand and grown out from the shoulder.
It was a slender girl’s body. Her skin was far too pale to be a living human, a charm was attached to her forehead, a white mini China dress covered her body, and a provocative look filled her eyes.
“Niang-Niang. She should have only been able to appear ‘within’ the right hand, but you just had to do this, didn’t you? Even when they sealed off the nation, Western ideas still found their way in and everyone who saw the black ships floating out at sea could not help but tremble. In the same way, you might be able to restrict their coordinates, but there is no way to suppress the very existence of a god.”
Kamijou Touma screamed at the top of his lungs.
A moment later, Niang-Niang spread her arms and all ten fingers transformed into independent swords, spears, axes, staffs, etc. They all shook like musical instruments and sent out a high-pitched din.
This was the ultimate majesty of a god.
It was what lurked within a certain boy’s right hand.
The power of a supposedly defeated Magic God filled the dark night of that school.
Starting in District 7, a hopelessly powerful shockwave swept across Academy City.
To be honest, Misaka Mikoto was hoping for some kind of excitement.
Just the day before, she had run across a raincoat girl while walking around town at night. That girl had seemed to exist beyond all common sense and she smugly wielded a “new possibility”. That was a great hope for Misaka Mikoto who was just stewing at the moment. Tokiwadai’s Ace had inappropriately hoped that she might find some more excitement that would act as a road sign.
But once she flinched back from that tremor in the earth, she felt her head rapidly cooling.
She realized just how much her mind had been boiling.
She turned toward it.
Something she was unfamiliar with was there. If she went there, she could find out what it was. A new world would open up before her eyes. However, she felt none of the previous elation. Her heart began pounding in her chest, but it only contained an ominous tension. She could tell something she did not want to see and did not want to accept awaited her there.
It seemed to be at a school.
Based on the size of the campus and the number of school buildings, it may have been a combined middle and high school.
But the metal fence had toppled, the trees had fallen, and the recently restored glass had shattered.
People were collapsed all over the schoolyard, but were they really students? Several dozen girls of middle and high school age were passed out there.
And on top if it all, she saw three other people.
One was a raincoat girl who had been torn to pieces.
One was a spiky-haired boy holding that “wreckage” while lying bloody on the ground.
One was a woman in a lab coat and cheap suit who had a truly bizarre monster growing from her right arm.
She did not actually say anything.
Her scream was more like pure noise.
Misaka Mikoto ran past the collapsed fence and toward the boy. Kamijou Touma looked unsteadily back at her while holding the raincoat who had lost everything below her waist and whose head was bent at an odd angle. He mouthed the words “stay away”, but she could not obey that.
The lab coat woman did not seem particularly bothered by the sudden intruder.
With an odd noise, the right arm with its split wrist underwent a great transformation.
“Eh heh heh.”
Something happened as the boy and girls watched on.
A mini-China girl had already come from that right arm, but now some even odder things burst from the shoulder.
One was a tall gentle-looking blond man with fur attached much like a lion’s mane.
One was a brown man with a black, polished round mirror in place of a leg.
One was a young and beautiful woman with a black Western mourning dress and a veil of the same color hiding her expression.
One was a half-naked young man with war paint tattoos covering his entire body and a silver prosthetic for his left arm.
Including the mini-China, there were five in all.
The original human hand was hidden from view as if buried inside a sea anemone. The five figures had become giant fingers and the whole functioned as a gigantic hand which the lab coat woman freely opened and closed as her new fingers.
“Ah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!”
Her loud laughter seemed to rule the world.
“Yes, yes! This right hand truly is unfair. They’re not the strange ones. The problem is this World Rejecter that allows them to appear in this world despite belonging to another category altogether!!”
As Mikoto ran toward him, bloody Kamijou opened his mouth while trying to catch his breath.
“Run… We’re…we’re no match for them…for that…”
“What are you-…?”
Could he not even raise his dangling arm and point forward?
He looked like he was going to stop breathing at any moment, but he forced his lungs to keep working and squeezed out the words.
And they were nightmarish words indeed.
“You remember…that Magic God called the High Priest, right? They’re all like that. …She can pull out monsters on his level by the dozen!!”
Her mind went blank.
This went beyond blanking out her memories or thoughts.
Her very sense of self vanished.
She thought the individual named Misaka Mikoto would be smashed to pieces.
After all, there was no way they could win. After fleeing through Academy City on the acrobike, it had been someone else who had ultimately finished off the High Priest. If that had failed, the Arrowhead Comet might have blown away Academy City.
And there were more than one?
They were going to attack by the dozen?
Mikoto desperately supported Kamijou’s bloody back and turned her head.
And she saw…
That hopeless lab coat monster was laughing in the moonlight.
“Yes, yes. Involving unrelated people in your personal revenge is foolish. Between good and evil it’s evil, and between like and dislike it’s dislike… Sensei never would have allowed this. Ah ha ha.”
“But I don’t care. It may be different from Sensei, but that’s what makes it so wonderful. I’m realizing that more and more now. I still have a long way to go and I’m still pathetically soft like clay, but…that’s exactly why. I must not hesitate to mold each little thing into shape to create my unique path. Yes, yes…no. Maybe abandoning your ideals for your goal is another form of romance. But anyway…”
She tilted her head a little.
She held out that right hand which held the greatest and most dreadful power.
“If you’re going to interfere, then die. Right here and now.”
It was all a copy of that day.
Misaka Mikoto had clenched her teeth at her own powerlessness while fleeing from the High Priest.
And now they did not even have the convenient acrobike.
Plus, the Magic Gods would be approaching by the dozen.
A small form groaned in an Academy City hospital.
It was Patricia Birdway.
She was the girl who had a large part of her body replaced by a Magic God known as Nephthys.
Kamijou was pretty sure his consciousness had repeatedly cut out intermittently over the course of a few seconds.
Once his mind finally stabilized like a fluorescent light on the verge of dying, he realized Misaka Mikoto was carrying him over her shoulder.
His vision was spinning, he felt the biting night wind, an odd sense of floating lifted his stomach, he felt the vibration of non-solid footing like building walls and signs, they were moving with overwhelming speed while seemingly ignoring gravity altogether, and the lights from car headlights and building windows were trailing behind them at unbelievable angles.
He gradually realized what was happening.
(She’s using magnetism or something else to jump from building to building?)
Since he was draped over her shoulder, his unsteady vision saw the scenery behind them.
And he saw something there.
Mikoto was jumping from wall to wall of the high-rise buildings without using any noticeable footholds, but someone was accurately following her.
It was Kihara Yuiitsu, usurper of World Rejecter.
She had forcibly drawn out the power of the many Magic Gods that Kamisato Kakeru had blown away.
Kamijou gulped and heard a trembling girl’s voice in his ear.
It came from Mikoto who was at the center of the action.
Something major must have happened because the tattered cloth of her coat was carried away by the wind.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry for wanting some excitement and wanting to leave the normal rails without knowing what that meant. If this is because of me…because I asked for this…then…uuh…”
Kamijou did not know what lay at the foundation of those words.
He was unsure how to respond as she held him.
“She’s been like this the whole time. There’s nothing as bad as a depressed romantic, don’tcha think? Who knows when she’s gonna take a dive from the top of a long escalator.”
“Eh? Ah? Wah!? Salome!?”
Kamijou was so surprised because he had not thought the weight clinging to his back was enough to be a human being. It was only as heavy as a collapsible bicycle or maybe a little heavier. He hesitantly turned his head and saw the silver-haired girl’s head close enough to rub her cheek against his upper arm. However, he did not feel her legs because everything below her navel had likely been destroyed.
It was a lot like how self-proclaimed TV personalities would wrap a cardigan’s sleeves around their neck.
In addition to the feminine softness (even if her body was technically artificial), he felt something pointed and hard that must have been the toy pocket watch hanging from her neck.
She may have made sure to protect that even if it meant losing her lower body.
“Oh, dammit. This must be what I get for tearing Claire in two. This has gotta be what they mean when they talk about karma.”
“What kind of visual is this!? I’m being carried like a bag of rice by a middle school girl who’s jumping around the city at night and I’ve got a mass murderer clinging to my back after being torn to pieces!? Fake ghost photos are less horrifying than this!”
“Well, of course the killers stand out more than the killed. And this isn’t the time for a nice chat, don’tcha think? …That woman’s way crazier than me and she’s about to reach us!!”
Kihara Yuiitsu’s right arm had split apart at the shoulder. It formed the five upper bodies of the five Magic Gods. One of them moved. It was the one that looked like a small girl with pale skin and a white mini-China.
It was Niang-Niang.
Her fingers transformed into swords, spears, axes, staffs, etc.
Those weapons tore through the dark night like laser beams.
No lightning surged from the tips of the blades and the spears were not actually thrown.
The ten weapons grew explosively and spread out in a fan shape. Shocked, Mikoto quickly used magnetism to change direction in midair and just barely avoided them. One after another, they stabbed into the wall of a nearby building.
Next thing she knew, there was a face there.
The concept of distance was meaningless. It took her a moment to realize that Niang-Niang’s weapons had shrunk back down and forcibly “pulled” her and Kihara Yuiitsu to instantly fill the gap between them.
Yuiitsu twisted her body in midair to unleash a kick.
This absolute method would create bubbles in the blood and kill anyone cleanly hit by it, so Salome placed her half-destroyed but still artificial body in the path of the attack and the heavy blow struck her body.
Mikoto shouted something.
She could no longer feel the weight of Salome or of Kamijou.
She wondered whether to go after the boy or fight back against the threat before her eyes, but then the lab coat woman held out her right arm.
She recognized what grew from there.
It was the strange being that had appeared before Mikoto and Kamijou almost for fun while they were being pursued by the High Priest.
It was the owner of the strange weapons that had pierced her flat chest.
It was Niang-Niang.
Her fighting spirit was drowned out by fear.
Niang-Niang’s fingers seemed to explode and the many weapons shot forward at close range. Mikoto immediately created a shield out of iron sand, but a dreadful impact ran through it. She flew back like she had been shot point-blank by a shotgun with only a metal door to protect her. She fell toward the scattered artificial lights of the city’s night.
Meanwhile, Kamijou crashed through a nearby building window like an artillery shell. The spiky-haired boy bounced along the dusty floor with Salome along for the ride like a backpack. He finally stopped when his back slammed into an exposed square column.
There were no partitions and no wallpaper. There was nothing but identical columns at regular intervals.
He smelled glue and synthetic fiber construction boards.
(The building’s…under construction?)
“And what happened to Misaka?”
“We have bigger things to worry about! Here she comes!!”
He did not know why, but Kamijou felt an unpleasant sweat covering his entire body.
He immediately moved from the column and rolled to the side as a fierce rush pursued him from outside the window.
It was just like machinegun fire.
Some kind of projectile flew in at incredible speed. Kamijou could no longer follow them visually. As he fled to another column and glanced back at the floor, he did not see obvious bullet holes.
He saw masses of darkness the size of baseballs.
They must have been bending the light because the surrounding scenery stretched a bit like candy art. It looked like everything was being sucked in toward the center.
“That’s gotta be pomegranate seeds,” said Salome. “This would be Persephone…no, maybe Proserpina. Anyway, there’s a legend of a goddess being taken to the underworld, falling for a trick on the way back to the surface, eating a pomegranate of the underworld, and being unable to remove the curse of death. That fruit forcibly brings one to the underworld…to death. However it happens, there’s no escape once they get inside you.”
Was this another Magic God like Niang-Niang?
However, Kamijou finally took an intentionally slow breath.
He was still covered in an ominous sweat, but his tension was now directed elsewhere.
“This is odd.”
“What is? And can someone raised in Academy City really analyze magic?”
“It’s not that.”
Kamijou leaned against the square column to hide with Salome positioned between himself and the column.
“Or rather, all of this is odd.”
“It does look like Yuiitsu is using magic and I’m willing to bet your analysis is correct. But she isn’t Kihara Kagun…that is, Bersi. I doubt there are all that many Kiharas that can just use magic like this. This probably really is that…Proserpina? person’s spell though.”
“This isn’t a web novel and I don’t have time to listen to you go on and on about your interests. Try to keep it under 140 characters.”
“If this was a Magic God’s attack, I doubt this would work as a shield,” rapidly summed up Kamijou. “At full power, Othinus could instantly crush the galaxy down to its pre-Big Bang state. And with some of his power gone, the High Priest could fuse with a comet and bring an ice age to the earth. Yet we’re fine just by hiding behind a column? They’re firing like crazy and we defended against it with a mere shield? That’s not possible. The Magic God brand isn’t that cheap.”
His mind had gone blank because Niang-Niang, a major figure for that brand, had appeared.
But even that was odd.
Even if Kihara Yuiitsu could draw out the power of those many Magic Gods, she wouldn’t need to show it off. Kamijou and the others had no way of killing a Magic God. It was hard to say they had even defeated Othinus or the High Priest.
The Magic Gods were just like an immortal monster from an old splatter film. You ran across them in an unreasonable encounter, you were chased around by them, and the best you could hope for was to escape in the very, very end. There simply was no defeating them. Even the police or the army would be killed if they challenged them to a straight fight. That was what the Magic Gods were supposed to be.
World Rejecter might be the only thing in the entire world that could defeat them. That was what made that right hand so special. And at the moment, Kihara Yuiitsu had exclusive use of that hand. She had both the wild beast and its natural predator.
In other words, nothing made any sense from the moment they had survived Niang-Niang appearing in that dark schoolyard.
“I think Kihara Yuiitsu is definitely using magic.”
“But I think she’s using something other than the Magic Gods.”
“I don’t think we have time to sit around and think! Dammit!!”
Someone ignored all common sense and jumped in through the high-rise building’s window.
It was a woman in a cheap suit whose tattered lab coat fluttered like demon wings as several Magic Gods grew from her right arm.
She may have been laughing, but that was not comforting in the slightest.
The force and pitch of her voice were unstable, so it scorched the nerves of anyone who heard it.
“Eh heh heh.”
There was no speaking with her.
Even if they did exchange words, they could never share in what she was feeling.
“Heh heh heh hah hah!!!!”
Of the five Magic Gods, it was of course Niang-Niang that moved.
Ten weapons shot from her ten fingers and tore through space like laser beams.
Kamijou Touma’s right hand easily deflected those surefire attacks.
He did not even need his fist.
It was the casual action of brushing aside a fly.
Kamijou had destroyed Niang-Niang’s weapons with Imagine Breaker back when the countless weapons had shot from her sleeve and pierced Mikoto’s chest.
But even so, this was different.
There was tension, unease, and even fear.
But those nerve-frying and dangerous emotions were only those caused by Kihara Yuiitsu herself. With five extraordinary monsters like the Magic Gods, he could easily have given up on any attempt to fight and passed out.
But he had finally seen it.
He had grasped the truth.
“Those aren’t the real Magic Gods.”
He looked at his enemy again.
He faced their true identity.
“They aren’t even ‘what lurks inside that right hand’.”
It was odd that he had been able to deflect a Magic God’s attack with just one hand.
He relied on that sense that something was not right.
“Those are only fakes made to look like the Magic Gods. Yes, you let Sample Shoggoth invade your body in order to attach that severed right hand!!”
That was the same thing that had once eaten into Patricia Birdway.
It was an amorphous monster that could take any form.
He had no idea how she had tamed it and it may have been eating into her as they spoke, but she had accepted it as her weapon despite the risk.
“You created models of the Magic Gods and you had some seemingly-related magic prepared from somewhere else. …The attenuated St. Germain virus. It’s hard to believe, but you apparently surrendered your own brain to trick the right hand’s recognition. If I’m remembering right, the people controlled by that could use magic regardless of their original knowledge or ability! Specifically, they could use magic related to carbon and plants, and that means that pomegranate spell you just used!!”
She had just been borrowing the Magic Gods’ reputation.
By creating a hollow image of them and using magic when she should not have been able to, she had made it look like she had summoned the Magic Gods.
Also, Kihara Yuiitsu had switched strategies as soon as she had learned World Rejecter was useless against Mass Murderer Salome and the rest of the Kamisato Faction girls.
In other words, she had wanted to change the stagnant and unfavorable mood covering the dark schoolyard. World Rejecter had proved less almighty than hoped, so she had wanted to give it new value using the great impact of…no, the bluff of drawing out the Magic Gods at will.
She had even intentionally let her hand nearly be severed as part of the act.
“Come to think of it, a Magic God and something crawling out of a right arm were part of Baggage City. At the very end there, the incomplete Othinus destroyed my wrist and then crushed what came out. And Kihara Kagun and some other Kiharas were there. Kihara Yuiitsu, were you there too by any chance? Maybe in a position that gave you access to a report on everything that happened?”
That was why she had been able to do it.
She had what it took to come up with that strategy, to prepare everything needed to pull it off, and to put on an act that would fool even someone who had actually met the Magic Gods.
Once he knew that, there was nothing to be afraid of.
There was no more need to be bound by fear.
His opponent was not absolute. She was only human, so out of fear of defeat, she had thought up a trick and twisted the truth to make herself look greater than she was.
He had to correct that.
He had to solve that.
He had to reveal that.
But Kihara Yuiitsu only tilted her head a little as she held up her misshapen right arm.
This had done nothing to her.
She had taken no damage whatsoever.
An explosive noise followed.
Niang-Niang, Proserpina, and the Magic Gods of unknown names stickily lost their shape and became a single large stream which surged toward Kamijou like sticky pollution sprayed from a water truck.
He immediately held up his right hand.
“How many times do I have to tell you? My goal has been revenge from the beginning.”
Her voice reached him.
That cruel parasitic lifeform tore into one’s flesh with its countless fangs and claws, slipped inside the body, and melted the fat away to reside within its new host. Kihara Yuiitsu remained unfazed as that precious weapon was blown away by his right hand.
Making a flashy attack like that forced Kamijou to use his right hand.
In the meantime, he was pinned to the spot and could not move or flee.
She had used up Project Shoggoth just to hold him in place.
“The power of the Magic Gods never mattered. Whether I could reach that level or not was irrelevant. I only needed to mow down Kamisato Kakeru and everyone he cares for. Between good and evil it’s evil, and between like and dislike it’s dislike. This is my unique romance that not even Sensei could reach. To put it another way, the Magic Gods’ power would have been entirely meaningless if I couldn’t use it for my revenge. That’s all this is.”
“You idiot! Don’t try to block that!!”
By the time Salome shouted from his back, it was too late.
Kihara Yuiitsu’s foot was flying his way.
Just like when a ball was suddenly thrown at someone, Kamijou reflexively held his arms up to guard. He immediately realized that was a mistake.
Yuiitsu’s attacks were not meant to thrash him with their great speed or weight.
The shockwaves propagating from the multiple points of impact would shake his blood in a way that created enough bubbles to make this single attack deadly.
In other words, it did not matter if he blocked it or not.
It was like a needle soaked in deadly poison. Once it touched him, it was all over.
Intense heat filled his arm and he could feel it flowing from his arm to his torso.
Salome took action on his back.
This time his supposed ally struck his aching arm.
Immediately, the strange heat vanished.
“Hm. So you used the same sort of shockwaves to counteract the bubbles. Well done copying it in so short a time.”
Yuiitsu did not sound amused in the slightest.
“But didn’t I tell you? This was always about my revenge. I am taking my own path and it is different from Sensei’s. That’s why I’m not too picky about this kind of thing.”
“I’ll use whatever it takes. That includes magic, martial arts, and even…something like this.”
She reached into her tattered lab coat’s pocket.
That action sent an unpleasant sensation down Kamijou’s spine, but even as close as Yuiitsu was, he did not have time to stop her.
A moment later, she held an oddly-shaped gun.
It almost looked like a toy. Rather than a handgun optimized for military use, it looked like the starting pistol fired to begin an athletics festival race.
But he could tell.
His throat went dry as she aimed it his way.
“This is the UL Exploder. Then again, your average person might not be able to figure out where its name comes from or how it does what it does.”
As soon as she pulled the trigger, space itself seemed to explode.
When the blast struck the boy, he flew across the partially constructed building.
He was tossed right out a window that lacked any glass.
(My data says he is a top priority target for Kamisato Kakeru. Not that I expect being thrown from the twentieth floor will kill him.)
Yuiitsu slowly walked toward the window while shaking her cheap-looking handgun that was reminiscent of an athletics festival starting pistol. The surging river of her right arm audibly dispersed and the original slender arm reappeared from the eye of the storm.
The injury to the wrist had been forcibly sewn back together.
That also meant Kamisato Kakeru’s right hand was connected to her once more.
The UL Exploder induced false dust explosions. It was only effective within Academy City, so even one step outside the city and it would be entirely useless. However, it had not been originally developed to cause anything as dubiously effective as a dust explosion.
The voyeur of a Board Chairman had covered the city with nanodevices known as Underline.
By gathering them together and detonating them, she could create a space that, for a very short period of time, could not be monitored by the higher ups. With that in mind, its name should make a fair amount of sense.
She had built this during a happier time.
When she had shown it off to the golden retriever who she respected more than anyone else, he had praised her skill yet still scolded her for some reason.
Yes, he had said not to bully “him”.
For just a moment, Kihara Yuiitsu’s eyes gently narrowed.
But they returned to normal a moment later.
The warm kindness of what remained in her heart led her to coldly freeze her expression all the more.
“It’s about time I finished this.”
Between good and evil it was evil, and between like and dislike it was dislike.
She knew that, yet that monster continued down her own path.
The one traveling that unique path was not interested in the concepts of good and evil that controlled the masses.
“For whatever reason, Kamisato Kakeru needs Kamijou Touma. I can’t wait to see the look on his face when I toss the boy’s corpse in front of him.”
There was nothing he could do.
Kamijou Touma was thrown out into the dark sky with Salome clinging to his back.
Flailing his limbs around was meaningless.
The countless invisible hands of gravity grabbed at his body and forced him down toward the ground. Needless to say, he would die on impact.
His fall had started at the twentieth floor and salvation came at the tenth floor halfway down.
Misaka Mikoto was clinging to the wall there and she matched their relative speeds to catch Kamijou in her arms.
“Gh…!!” she groaned. “Are you okay?”
“What happened with you after that? You aren’t hurt, are you?”
Mikoto stood on the building wall and let her shoes slide down to negate the impact, but Kamijou’s eyes were focused upwards.
“Our questions can wait!”
“Yeah, it’s looking like we have bigger things to worry about!!”
The enemy was coming from up there.
She used the amorphous Sample Shoggoth to cling to the wall and crawl down like a strange insect. The monster named Kihara Yuiitsu had locked onto them.
“Run, Misaka!! If you aren’t going to make it otherwise, then leave me behind!!”
It was too late.
An explosion burst directly behind Kihara Yuiitsu. It was likely the power of that mysterious handgun-shaped device she had used to toss Kamijou and Salome out the window earlier. This time, she used the explosive blast to accelerate her own body and she approached with the speed of an artillery shell. She fell far faster than free fall in a suicidal dive toward the depths of the earth or toward the underworld.
The distance between them vanished in an instant.
Truly just an instant.
Mikoto immediately kicked off the wall and threw herself into the night sky with Kamijou in her arms. Having missed her target, Yuiitsu slammed on the brakes using that same wall and she did not hesitate to aim her UL Exploder at them. As she pulled the trigger, small explosions several meters across pursued Mikoto through the air.
They never actually hit Mikoto, but they greatly restricted her range of movement. Then Yuiitsu played her next hand.
It was literally a hand.
Her entire right arm changed form. It became a black torrent which bent like a whip and struck the girl’s entire body from above.
This time, there was no avoiding it.
With a tremendous roar, Mikoto’s body was sent hurtling toward the ground.
She tried to attach to another building with magnetism, but it was too late.
She only managed to shift her landing point a little.
After slipping from the girl’s arms, Kamijou and Salome fell into one of the trees placed at even intervals alongside a major road. Multiple branches broke beneath them which eliminated enough of their momentum. He just barely avoided dying from the fall, but now he had scratches all over his body.
“Agh…cough, cough! Wh-where did Misaka end up?”
“Focus on what’s above us instead!!”
Salome warned him from his back, but then something unexpected happened.
Kihara Yuiitsu’s next attack never came.
That in and of itself was delightful, but there had to be more to it than that. That woman had no reason to be cautious or hold back, so this result was strange.
“What is she looking at?”
Kamijou caught his breath while looking up at Yuiitsu as she clung upside-down to the building wall.
The monster was not even looking their way. She was focused elsewhere.
Also, Mikoto was not with them.
She seemed to have fallen somewhere else.
“Dammit. Is Misaka her top priority!?”
Misaka Mikoto made sure nothing was wrong with her bones and organs after her fall. She moved each of her fingers and toes and took deep breaths to see if anything hurt.
(Where am I?)
The ceiling was far overhead and she could guess she had been the one to create the hole there. Once she got up, she found a space much larger than a school gym. Based on the facilities and equipment, it seemed to be a cold storage warehouse, but it was not functioning. It was room temperature and actually warmer than the December night outside.
However, that was not what bothered her most of all.
The warehouse was not lined with ice cream and other frozen foods or fish and other meat products.
There were weapons.
Just a lot of weapons.
There was a missile pod shaped like a giant container. There was long excavation drill that could probably break through a bank vault door. There was a flamethrower and a plasma blade. There was even the weapon from which Mikoto’s signature Railgun got its name. She also saw the ammunition, fuel, power sources, and maintenance equipment for them all.
Surprisingly, they did not seem made to be loaded on tanks, armored trucks, fighter craft, attack craft, cruisers, or battleships.
(You’re kidding, right?)
As she looked across, circled around, and observed the mountain of weaponry, Mikoto reached a general and unbelievable conclusion.
(Are these weapons meant to be directly equipped to and used by someone? What kind of crazy concept were these designed for?)
She doubted these would be stored in a mere cold storage warehouse.
She did not know why someone had stored them here, but the cold storage warehouse was clearly just camouflage.
She heard a small sound from the mountain of silhouettes.
She thought someone was hiding there, but that was not the case.
With a great roar, the collection of machines rose up like a plesiosaur and looked down at her. Just like metal nails sucked in by a powerful magnet, the countless weapons were gathering together and taking a biological form.
(Is this thing…appraising me as its user…?)
Mikoto gulped and looked at it once more.
She traced her fingers along the barrel of a Gatling gun twice her height that had not joined the plesiosaur and she read off the letters engraved there.
Misaka Mikoto did not understand what that meant.
But a fleeting thought occurred to her. If she had this, might she be able to oppose an extraordinary monster like Kihara Yuiitsu? She did not know what kind of operating system it used, but as Academy City’s most powerful Electromaster, might she be able to hack into that system, rewrite it, and hijack it?
It helped that a burning tension assaulted her.
That woman in a lab coat and cheap suit had surpassed the category of a single human and seemed to send great pressure toward Mikoto from the darkness surrounding the girl on all sides.
No matter how dulled by peace she was, Mikoto could not imagine exposing herself to the city’s dangerous night while unarmed.
The thought came to her almost like a devilish temptation.
It may have been unfortunate for her that she had been separated from Kamijou Touma.
She slowly exhaled and once more placed her hand on the giant Gatling gun.
She tried to reveal the structure of its system to see if she could use it or not.
Something happened almost immediately.
She felt a strange chill like a giant tongue licking vertically across her entire back, so she instinctually let go.
It was not just this one weapon. She heard the strange sounds of the various machines in the large warehouse linking together.
What was she to do?
Was she prepared to grab this and pay the price?
Her heart was pounding. An unpleasant sweat poured from her forehead. Inescapable confusion filled her mind. To repeat, Misaka Mikoto was Academy City’s strongest Electromaster. She could directly control electricity, so there was no programming language she could not read and no firewall she could not break. Even if it was a brand new sort of firewall built in a completely unknown language, it had already nearly raised the white flag just by relying on electricity in the first place.
Yet she had been unable to read it.
There was an entirely blank spot.
No, it was not that there was simply nothing written there. The weapon operating system was laid out in exacting detail, but with that alone, the circle was closed and it did not function as a circuit. And that blank spot was clearly filled with something Misaka Mikoto was unfamiliar with or could not understand.
What was it?
What was that system built to control?
It was shaped like a weapon, but it was not a weapon. It wore the skin of science, but it could not be explained using science. It reminded her of the stimulation, expanse, and possibilities she had felt in her clash with Mass Murderer Salome, but this was much stronger. It was hopelessly powerful and seemed to have no end at all.
A human might be able to manage the water filling a cup.
But that same human could not hope to manage all of the seawater filing the seven seas.
If she dove in or incorporated this into herself, she would more than just drown. The waves would toss her about and dash her against the rocks until she changed form like the fine white sand of the beaches. Then it would drag her down to the watery depths and the immense pressure would crush her until she had no form left at all.
There was a brand new possibility here and it might allow her to peer into a world she had never before seen, but if she did that, it would be “someone else” standing there, not Misaka Mikoto. Or so it seemed to her.
She took back what she had thought before.
The threat she felt here was equal to or possibly even greater than what awaited outside. The threat in here – or the identity of what it would produce – far surpassed what she could handle on her own.
She must not touch this dragon.
Doing so would definitively set her growth in the wrong direction.
If she wished to walk by that boy’s side, she could not continue this way.
She could not.
She could not.
She could not.
As Kihara Yuiitsu clung upside-down to the building wall using Sample Shoggoth, she stared into the cold storage warehouse through the hole and clicked her tongue.
This was the first major unexpected event for her.
(Damn, I missed one. You’re telling me there was an entire spare storage warehouse for Sensei’s Anti-Art Attachment left over!?)
That golden retriever had stored his equipment in all twenty-three districts of Academy City. As his aide, Kihara Yuiitsu had been aware of Kihara Noukan’s “possessions” to a certain extent, but her knowledge had not been perfect.
Kihara Noukan had stood out even among the Kiharas and he had been working with Board Chairman Aleister.
Even if their technique had been as bizarre as could be, the basic frame around it was just a powered suit and thus entirely belonged to the science side.
And now Academy City’s #3 had fallen there.
She was the most powerful Electromaster.
The strict firewalls and authentication would be entirely useless. Tokiwadai’s Ace could directly manipulate the electricity, so it was possible she could rewrite a portion of the system and equip the weapon as her own.
Yes, rewrite it.
That would mean erasing a trace of that golden retriever.
Kihara Yuiitsu’s revenge should have been top priority for her, but that possibility briefly erased all other thoughts from her mind.
Her unique brand of romance whispered to her that there was something else to be done.
“…Don’t touch that.”
This had nothing to do with the frightening specs of the Anti-Art Attachment.
Her thinking did not even get that far.
“Get your dirty hands off what Sensei left behiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiind!!”
For Kamijou and Salome, this was their first and last chance.
“She’s looking away… We’ve gotta make a surprise attack now!! To be honest, I don’t know what this St. Germain and Shoggoth stuff is about, but that shouldn’t change the fact that, unlike me, she’s still a normal human behind all that. So slipping past that bizarre stuff and getting an attack in on her physical body should silence her!!”
“And how exactly am I going to do that? I don’t know any convenient techniques to knock out a girl with a tap to the neck or punch to the gut!”
“I have a bit of an idea. So c’mon, chase after that Kihara Yuiitsu woman. There’s nothing you can do if you don’t get close!”
He heard the sound of fluttering cloth from overhead.
It was Yuiitsu.
She had been clinging to the building wall until now, but she had spread out the amorphous Sample Shoggoth like a paraglider to soar through the night sky. Kamijou had no idea how she had tamed either St. Germain or the Shoggoth. In fact, he could not understand how anyone could let those things into their body even if they were safe.
“Is she headed straight for that warehouse!? We’ve only got my two legs, so there’s no way we can catch up!”
“No, that’s fine. Just run along the surface and keep her in sight. I’ll make sure this works.”
“Ahh, ahh. I’ve fought so many people I don’t remember who I told what. Kamijou-chan, did I tell you about the exact conditions needed to activate my External Offering?”
Salome grinned with her arms around his shoulders like a strange TV personality’s cardigan.
“My External Offering is Celtic sacrifice magic, you see. Any weapon I destroy is offered up to my god and I gain its effects and traits. But if I don’t keep the chain going within three minutes, it all resets to zero. The growing snowball will fall apart.”
“And? How long has it been since we were in the schoolyard? Your chain or whatever has to have broken by now, so you’ve lost the effect of the Kamisato Faction’s self-sacrifice.”
“Who ever said that?”
She whispered in his ear and he felt an ominous chill, even though Salome was supposed to be an ally (for the time being).
The mass murderer ignored that and continued.
“Hey, Kamijou-chan. A mass murderer like me needs to make sure her weapon is nice and sharp, don’tcha think? I like to keep my snowball intact as long as I can, so I need to keep my chain going no matter what it takes.”
“Even the most pitifully weak weapon will preserve the chain. And conveniently, when I’m holding onto you from behind, this hood sticking out from inside your uniform – is it from a hoodie? – creates a nice big bag that no one else can see inside.”
“Wait. Don’t tell me…”
“And…have – you – forgotten? My entire body is artificial. That means I’m a weapon myself. I certainly didn’t expect for that Yuiitsu person to tear me to pieces, but that just means I need to use that to my advantage, don’tcha think? By gathering the artificial organs that were still usable and stuffing them in your hood, I have a decent stock to keep my chain going. Each time the chain is about to run out, I bite into one to destroy it and offer it up to my god. That way I can maintain my destructive power.”
He was no longer even sweating.
Goose bumps covered his entire body.
Even if they were artificial, these were still the “contents” that kept a human body moving. These were the toes, tendons, cartilage, and entrails of her lower body. And Mass Murderer Salome was continually biting into her own “contents” to destroy them.
He felt a floating sensation on the nape of his neck. It no longer felt like his own body.
This was a member of the Kamisato Faction.
It was Kamisato Kakeru’s little sister.
Was that why she had this many screws loose?
“But this time, it really is a one-time thing.”
Salome sounded like she was planning a surprise birthday party.
Kamijou heard a small hard sound behind him. It was possible the raincoat girl had lightly bit the pocket watch instead of kissing it.
That was a sign of her resolve.
“I’ll leave the final blow to you, Kamijou-chan!!”
The mass murderer’s right arm mercilessly tore through empty air.
Salome had destroyed, absorbed, and offered up a great variety weapons to thoroughly increase her own destructive power, so a few dozen meters of distance was nothing to her.
An invisible attack shot toward Kihara Yuiitsu who flew through the night sky.
The large wings supporting her like a hang glider were torn apart and she lost her lift. Gravity seemed to grab her with almost unnatural intensity and she began to drop.
If Kamijou ran, he could reach her now.
Kihara Yuiitsu sent the amorphous Sample Shoggoth below her as a cushion to absorb the shock of landing, but that meant she could not move until that was complete.
Kamijou Touma reached her.
He first sent his right fist toward the Sample Shoggoth at her feet rather than her herself.
The amorphous mass was blown away and Yuiitsu slammed into the ground with her cushion gone.
Still, she did not break.
Kamijou Touma and Kihara Yuiitsu’s gazes clashed.
This time, they both sent out attacks.
Kamijou made a scooping uppercut.
Yuiitsu let a torrent of Sample Shoggoth erupt from her right wrist.
Both attacks hit, but that meant neither one was a clean hit. Kamijou’s right fist caught Yuiitsu’s jaw and Yuiitsu’s torrent swept Kamijou away.
They both rolled back as if an explosion had occurred between them. Kamijou could not let this continue much longer. Especially when Kihara Yuiitsu seemed to be targeting Mikoto more than him.
But when he tried to place his right hand on the ground and get up, intense pain shot through his shoulder.
It was Sample Shoggoth.
It had changed form to gain fangs which had dug into his shoulder near the collarbone.
He yelled, but it was no use.
His right hand had grown limp.
Meanwhile, Kihara Yuiitsu was trying to get up. What would she use next? Sample Shoggoth’s torrent, St. Germain’s magic, or Kamisato’s World Rejecter? Any one of them would defeat him now. He could still use his left hand, so he slid it along the ground and felt something hard.
He grabbed it.
Only after picking it up did he realize what it was.
(The UL Exploder!?)
It was the handgun-like device belonging to Kihara Yuiitsu. However, it looked more like an athletics festival starting pistol than a military weapon and it did not actually fire bullets. He did not know how it worked, but it caused an explosion in the empty space it was aimed at.
He held it up with his left hand and placed his finger on the trigger.
He gasped for breath and unsteadily aimed it.
If he fired like crazy, he might just defeat her. Kihara Yuiitsu had a bizarre collection with the St. Germain virus, Sample Shoggoth, and Kamisato’s right hand, but she still had a human body below it all, unlike Mass Murderer Salome. While a bullet attacked at a single point, this explosive blast attacked an entire surface and was thus much more difficult to defend against. That might allow him to damage her human body.
This would allow him to stop her.
This would allow him to rescues Misaka Mikoto, who seemed to be Yuiitsu’s top priority for some unknown reason, and Kamisato Kakeru, whose hand had already been stolen.
That meant this was not wrong.
He would be right to do this.
Kamijou Touma clenched his teeth as he told himself that.
For some reason, he heard the voice of someone who was not even here.
“Give up on that idea. Would you be able to save more people if you trained in martial arts? Would you be able to resolve things more smartly if you had a gun or a knife? That would have the exact opposite effect. The more means of killing you have and the farther you move from the path that saves your opponent using their own power, the weaker you will become.”
He had been told that when he had been unsure what path to take.
His Understander had told him that.
“Martial arts, a gun, a knife, or any other obvious offensive power would only increase your ability to ‘cut people off’.”
This may not have been something to remember now.
The ideal and reality were two different things. It may have been fine for him to make that distinction and pull the trigger.
“Your greatest weapon is the powerful arm that reached into the abyss and saved even someone as hopelessly evil and rotten to the core as Magic God Othinus. That ability to connect is your ultimate trump card.”
But was that really okay?
After being saved by those words, could he really sully them like this?
“What is wanted from you is not violence on the same level as World Rejecter. It isn’t the power to kill. It is the power of human reason that can envelop that violence.”
He clenched his teeth.
And that delayed him too much.
He groaned from intense pain.
Both Kihara Yuiitsu’s arms had become amorphous torrents. They swept down from above onto the boy’s shoulders. They smashed Mass Murderer Salome’s arms as she clung to his back and they mercilessly tried to dislocate his shoulders.
His left hand went limp and the UL Exploder slipped from his grasp.
He had lost his chance.
“This kind of power…”
He knew that, but he still spoke.
Or perhaps this was the ultimate counterpunch against this woman who was justifying her violence with her crazed obsession with revenge.
“…isn’t what I wanted.”
Death rushed toward him.
The woman in a cheap suit and a tattered lab coat approached him. She grabbed his cheeks between her hands.
He heard an extremely sticky sound in both ears.
“I don’t feel like messing with you anymore, so I’ll use a much more certain method.”
“Now, it’s time for romance. How would you like to die? Everyone must have had that truly worthless discussion at some point or another. So how would you like to have your body eaten away? Do you want your fat slowly melted away from the outside by Sample Shoggoth?”
Her lips parted right in front of his face.
Something round sat on top of her seductively wet tongue.
What had originally been a black pill was now a bright red piece of candy.
“Or do you want your brain infected from within by the St. Germain virus? It may have been attenuated, but it can’t be a fun way to go if you don’t have any resistance to it.”
Meanwhile, Misaka Mikoto could not have understood even half of what was going on.
She had not been directly involved in the incidents the St. Germain virus and Sample Shoggoth had come from, so it was hard for her to understand just how frightening they were.
But she could intuitively tell.
She had shaken off the ominous temptation of the Anti-Art Attachment and started to leave the non-functioning cold storage warehouse through the staff entrance, but then she saw it.
She saw Kihara Yuiitsu holding that battered boy’s jaw and attempting to feed him “something” in the form of red candy directly from her mouth.
She was going to “infect” him with her hands or with her mouth.
That would be irreversible.
It was just like damaged cancer cells affecting the healthy cells around them. Once that entered him, it would remake the structure of his body and decisively destroy that boy who had approached her like normal so recently.
She had to stop this.
She had to stop it immediately.
But there was nothing she could do. Kamijou Touma had far surpassed the stage she stood on, so even her signature Railgun would be easily deflected. She had learned that all too well against that High Priest guy. But she could not just sit here stricken with a sense of helplessness.
No matter what.
By any means necessary.
Even if it meant violating a taboo.
She needed to utterly, decisively, and immediately end this with a single attack.
Otherwise she would lose that boy forever.
“I can’t let that happeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeennnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn!!”
Frightfully powerful electromagnetic waves spread out from that girl.
The many possessions of the dead inside that cold storage warehouse had supposedly fallen into an eternal slumber, but she summoned them back to the world of the living.
Those weapons had formed an evil plesiosaur, but that silhouette crumbled. They gathered around the girl like a ferocious tornado. They broke apart, lost their great meaning, and transferred away from their original owner as they changed their design to better match the young girl. Countless weapons attached to the armor on her limbs and the joint on her back. A supporting leg situated itself behind her so she would not be crushed by their weight. It was all bizarrely shaped, yet it all fit her perfectly.
There was a giant missile container, an excitation rod for a laser beam, a liquid weapon turret that included sprayers for a flamethrower, liquid nitrogen, and powerful acid, a giant drill meant to break into shelters, a Gatling gun, a rapid-fire cannon, and – as a finishing touch – the weapon from which her signature Railgun took its name.
That weapon was meant to be used as a railway gun.
The large caliber railgun was meant to destroy fortresses.
Part of the system was missing. It was like a jigsaw puzzle completed by filling in some gaps with pure white pieces. The original owner had likely not meant for it to be used like this. It was likely entirely defeating the purpose of the system, much like keeping a battleship’s engines inactive and moving it with sails.
But she did not care.
If she could overturn that definite destruction right this instant, she did not care how foolish she looked.
In the final instant, Kihara Yuiitsu was just three millimeters away from forcing the red candy on her tongue into Kamijou Touma’s mouth.
Without turning her head, she moved just her eyes to glance over.
A moment later, all sound and light vanished.
It did not move at three times the speed of sound. It did not have the small mass of an arcade coin. This blast had been made to create a crater out of a fortress designed to withstand even the most powerful tank.
In all seriousness, a slight mistake in calculation would have swept away an entire section of Academy City’s buildings.
If the District 7’s Windowless Building had not acted as a cushion, the damage would have spread without end.
Kihara Yuiitsu’s body vanished as it was torn away from Kamjiou. The boy could not hold his ground either. He was sent flying into the air and he slammed into the branches of a roadside tree when the shockwave nearly blew him away.
He really did nearly cough up some blood, but he only became aware of that later. For the time being, he could not perceive light or sound.
As his senses returned and his perception of time returned to normal, he finally slipped down from the tree branches.
He crawled along the ground and moved his swollen eyelids to view the world.
“I don’t know.”
The response came from Salome who was lying on the ground as well.
But she had lost her torso and arms, so she looked in a much more painful state than him.
“The cold storage warehouse’s wall was blown away. Unless some complete stranger interfered at the last second there…that Misaka Mikoto person must have done something, don’tcha think?”
Kamijou slowly exhaled.
Was everything over for the time being? He was curious whether Kihara Yuiitsu had survived or not, but he doubted she could continue fighting after taking that tremendous blast. He needed to remain cautious, but he was pretty sure he had managed to survive this day at least.
“Will it really work out that well?”
Salome made an ominous prediction.
“Well, that can wait until after we check on my goddamn stupid brother we left at the school.”
How much did she know about that strange right hand?
These right hands did not choose people at random. They based that selection on something.
Magic God Nephthys had said that once. And during the battle with Fiamma of the Right, Fiamma had been unable to receive that power since he had not been “chosen”. And that was even after severing and stealing Kamijou’s right hand.
If Kihara Yuiitsu was neutralized, then World Rejecter would likely return to Kamisato. Whether the entire arm would regenerate as with Kamijou was unknown, though.
What if it did not return?
That would mean the system that Kihara Yuiitsu had built up was still active. In other words, she still possessed World Rejecter and could still fight. They could assume she would appear as an enemy again.
It was exactly as Salome said.
The first step was checking on Kamisato Kakeru’s condition.
But the mass murderer’s ominous predictions did not end there.
He slowly got up and picked up Salome who was pretty much only a head at this point. That girl who smelled of death continued.
“You should watch out for Misaka Mikoto.”
“Before long, she will take a large step down the wrong path. You could even say she’ll break. This no longer has anything to do with whether I mess with her or not.”
He thought it was a bad joke.
He thought that crazy girl was reading too much into this and becoming overly suspicious.
But that was a lie.
If he had truly believed that, he would not have felt the need to check.
There was no sign of Misaka Mikoto inside the cold storage warehouse.
He only saw what looked like scrap metal that had apparently been blown to pieces by the massive blast.