Toaru Majutsu no Index:NT Volume16 Chapter 2
Chapter 2: Attacking a Base with a High-Class Girl – Tower_of_the_Crystal.
Kamijou Touma felt dizzy.
He could tell he was wearing his swim shorts and that someone had laid him down, but it did not feel like a stretcher below him.
He shook his muddy mind.
He felt a scorching heat on his chest, stomach, and everything else. However, this was not the air of the heat wave or the asphalt and concrete heated like a stone stove. Experience told him what this was. The slippery sensation surrounding him was a liquid. In a hellish 55 degrees, a bottle of water would rise to a temperature ten degrees higher than a hot bath.
That thought rapidly brought his focus back to reality.
Water? Someone was using valuable water? And not to drink but to pour over his body?
“Ah, ahhh, ahhhhhh!?”
He panicked and tried to get up, but his body refused to listen.
When his senses finally caught up, he found himself on a rooftop in the late night darkness.
He was lying on his back and the high-class Tokiwadai Middle School girl named Misaka Mikoto was sitting nearby and peering down at his face.
She wore a racing swimsuit and poured a clear two liter bottle of water over him.
“C-c’mon, don’t move. And what were you all even doing here? You’re covered in mud.”
“M-Misaka? Huh? But…that’s water!?”
She cutely tilted her head.
Behind her, he saw the steel winged demonic silhouette. There were weapons that looked like tank guns, Gatling guns, laser cannons, flamethrowers, excavation drills, and more sticking up as if inside an umbrella stand. Mikoto wore a swimsuit, presumably to help with the heat, but the hand holding the water bottle was covered in armor from elbow to fingertips. The cables wrapped around her soft upper arms and thighs may have been to control the devices.
Kamijou had no idea what to make of this.
“What? What in the world is that?”
“Oh, you haven’t seen this version yet, have you?”
Just after her casual reply, a light appeared in the late night darkness. It was not a streetlight or a flashlight. Just like a firework, it was a blue light made from burning a thin piece of metal. When Mikoto saw it, she set down the water bottle and brushed up her sweat-soaked bangs with her armored hand.
“Oops. Wait just a second.”
A moment later, one of the feathers making up the wings (i.e. a tank gun) produced a frightening explosive roar.
The blast was powerful enough to send Kamijou rolling along the rooftop just after he started to sit up.
A shell flew in an orange arc toward the distant point of light fired into the air and it fell through the gaps in the dark buildings.
There was a flash of light, a short delay, and a thunderous roar.
The phenomenon reminded Kamijou of a lightning strike, but it was actually a shell landing and exploding.
A new green light flashed. It was most likely a flare.
“Hit confirmed. Destruction complete.”
After checking the color of the light, Mikoto recited those two quick phrases in a singsong voice.
“Sorry about that. I’m not obligated to do so, but I like to help defeat the Elements when I see a request for assistance. I’d like to know if Uiharu-san and Saten-san are okay, but finding them hasn’t been easy. So to help protect anyone I know, I’ve been working to eliminate as many of the Elements as possible in this area. So…huh? How much had I told you?”
Kamijou had no words.
He still did not know what that was Misaka Mikoto was wearing, but was this how different the world was when the #3 Railgun, one of Academy City’s seven Level 5s, was around?
They had been so afraid of even running across a single Element that they had risked their lives sliding down wires strung between buildings, so this was simply too different.
There was so much he wanted to ask.
He stated his first question while working his dizzy head and managing to move his arms and legs enough to get up.
“Where are the others? What happened to Fukiyose and Aogami Pierce…?”
“Um, do you really think I can answer you when you name people I’ve never met and even use a nickname for one of them? Who are you talking about?”
“My classmates. They were attacked by the Elements at the water department!”
“Hmm.” Mikoto tilted her head like she was watching a quiz show on TV. “I’m really not sure. I did slaughter all of the Elements in that area, so I doubt there’s any reason to worry about their safety. They probably returned to their base.”
She casually mentioned an unthinkable word, but he doubted she was lying.
He recalled the steel winged demon flying through the night sky and the Elements being turned to Swiss cheese after looking like such a hopeless obstacle.
This girl could pull that off.
This was not one-on-one hand-to-hand combat where either side could die. Countless shells had rained down and wiped them all out with no friendly fire damage whatsoever.
Kamijou finally breathed a sigh of relief.
Fukiyose and Aogami Pierce had safely returned to the school. And with the water purification microbe mud from the water department. Once they could drink the pool-full of water, the shelter’s strained atmosphere would vanish. They could hole up there until this was all over without Index, Othinus, or the others getting caught in any unnecessary conflict.
They were safe.
They had been saved.
Kamijou had been collected by Mikoto and taken here because they had decided to leave him behind in the confusion, but he did not feel shocked or angry. He was just glad that the situation was headed in a positive direction.
“Oh, right. I need to contact them. …Hey, Misaka? What building is this? Do you know which way to my school?”
“Ohhh, your school? I stopped by it earlier, but it had collapsed into rubble.”
Kamijou felt his throat instantly dry up.
He felt like an invisible hand was squeezing at his heart.
What had happened while he slept? Had the Elements made a major attack? Was everyone in the school okay? So many thoughts spiraled around in his head, but…
“There weren’t even any real barricades up. There obviously weren’t any normal lights on, but there wasn’t any from fires either. Were you really hiding there? It didn’t look like it would be much help.”
That was right. He had forgotten.
The Magic God known as the High Priest had partially destroyed his school, so they were borrowing empty classrooms at the Jumpy Bunny’s school. But Mikoto was unaware of that. They were talking about two different schools, so she had gone to the wrong place.
He scratched at his bangs.
“Anyway, can you tell me where we are? I need to get back and let them know I’m all right.”
“Sorry, but no.” Mikoto readily rejected the idea. “Your heatstroke is a lot worse than you think. Do you know what time it is?”
“No. Around four in the morning?”
His cellphone did not work, so he had no clock at hand. He gave a guess based on the fact that they had left for the water department at around two in the morning.
But Mikoto shook her head.
“It’s already past six.”
“You’re kidding… How long was I out!?”
“That isn’t your fault, but do you see how weak you are? I tried giving you water and placing a wet towel on you, but it isn’t enough. …That means I’ll have to take you somewhere with more specialized equipment, even if it’s supposed to be girls only.”
“I don’t know where you were hiding before, but if it doesn’t have the equipment to heal you, I’m not taking you back there. Come with me. If you want to let them know you’re all right, you need to make sure you really are all right first.”
He leaned forward, but that was enough to make him dizzy.
He started to fall forward, so Mikoto gently grabbed his shoulders with her armored hands and supported him.
She then whispered in his ear.
“And based on what we’re planning, it might be best for your friends if you come with us. You might end up saving them.”
What was she talking about?
Kamijou blinked his eyes in confusion, but she said nothing more. The racing swimsuit girl looked around while supporting his body.
“It’s almost time for sunrise. Let’s get back. We can talk more once you have your strength back.”
“Eh? Wait, wah!?”
Kamijou Touma cried out hysterically.
Mikoto circled behind him and passed her arms below his arms to grab ahold of him. It was a lot like the safety bars on a roller coaster.
A moment later, they took flight.
The steel winged demon took its true form.
It only took an instant.
Truly in only an instant, Kamijou’s view changed to something like a search engine’s map app or satellite service.
He guessed they were one or two hundred meters up.
He started feeling silly for thinking of the wires between buildings as “elevated”.
“How does it feel?” quietly asked Misaka Mikoto as bluish-white light erupted from the boosters attached around her round hips.
Kamijou answered honestly as she held him in her arms with his unsupported legs dangling down.
“I’m a little distracted by this really strong feminine scent and the soft sensation squishing against the back of my head. Oh, I get it. You’re wearing a swimsuit, aren’t you?”
“Stop wobbling, Misaka! And if you let go, I’ll fall to my death!!”
“D-d-d-don’t make it sound like I’m some kind of pervert walking around town in a swimsuit! You gave in to the heat too, didn’t you!?”
A boiling heat still filled the night and the city down below was dark. The power was dead and the city had ceased to function. But at the same time, there were unsteady flickering light sources. If they were not coming from Fire Elements, then they were fires started by humans.
This was not over yet.
And the number of lights was surprisingly high. He belatedly realized just how many other people were out there building barricades and fighting against the heat wave and the Elements.
He felt his tear ducts loosening.
He felt like a lost child finding his mother after wandering through an unfamiliar city.
Some blue flashing lights appeared here and there.
“Cover your ears and open your mouth. This is going to be a little loud.”
After Mikoto’s comment, the steel winged demon changed course.
They took a zigzagging route between the blue lights, the arms on her back squirmed, and a great number of shells and beams shot toward the surface.
A single stray shot could have caused a major disaster.
But Mikoto did not miss. The shots weaved perfectly through the gaps between buildings and exterminated the Elements walking on the surface.
Green lights were added where the blue lights had appeared earlier.
Hit confirmed. Destruction complete.
“What’s that glittering over there? It looks like some flashlights on the surface.”
“Those are fluorescent lights. That’s probably a trash dump.”
“So…not streetlights? Should we go check them out?”
“Don’t worry. If they aren’t moving around in someone’s hand, I seriously doubt there’s anyone there. …Wait, does that mean you haven’t figured it out? Well, it is true most places have switched to LED lights for energy conservation or whatever.”
Mikoto flew right past and Kamijou looked puzzled.
And he had a more fundamental question than just the lights down below.
(I thought the heat wave had taken out all of the electronics like our cellphones. So how is that thing on Misaka’s back working?)
Was it because she was a skilled Electromaster?
He doubted it was that simple.
Not to mention…
(What even is it?)
His hazy mind was full of questions.
She had washed the mud from his body. Using valuable water for nothing more than that was simply too far removed from the boy’s current view of the world.
He asked the most immediate question.
“So where are we headed?”
“My home of course.”
As Mikoto held him from behind, her answer slipped into his ear.
“Tokiwadai Middle School.”
District 7 contained a special zone filled with prestigious girl’s schools.
It was known as the School Garden.
Those girls were sheltering in Tokiwadai Middle School and the territory it shared with the other schools. Since most people were not allowed inside, that territory was surrounded by tall walls. The entrance gates were fortified with barricades and watchtowers were built at even intervals along the wall to allow a view out from within.
And of course, high level esper girls took turns as guards.
If the Elements got close, they would intercept them. If that was not enough, they would call for air support from the flying steel-winged demon.
Mikoto apparently did not need a runway for takeoff or landing. She weakened the force of the two boosters to decelerate in midair and descend onto her schoolyard like a helicopter.
Kamijou Touma had actually been thrown into the School Garden once before (as a part of a plot by Tsuchimikado Motoharu), but this was his first time at Tokiwadai Middle School itself. It looked more like a white mansion than a school. Since the School Garden as a whole was barricaded, the school’s windows and doors had not been covered. Compared to this, the life Kamijou had been living felt downright primitive.
But that was not the biggest surprise.
His knees nearly gave out the instant he set foot on the schoolyard.
But not just due to the heatstroke.
The schoolyard’s dirt was dry and cracked, but that stopped partway along. A flower garden decorated the sidewalk alongside the school building. And it was not filled with shriveled brown weeds.
It was just past six in the morning, so it was just in time for sunrise.
The sunlight began to illuminate the entire scene before Kamijou’s baffled eyes. Color filled the dark night. That was true of the white mansion and the sidewalk flower garden. He saw bright reds, yellows, and blues on the sunlit flowers.
“You’re kidding… They haven’t withered? You’ve been watering the flowers during this heat wave!?”
That was not all.
At the intersection between two flower gardens, something else glittered in the sunlight.
A pillar of water erupted from a modest fountain.
“Is it that weird? With several espers, it isn’t difficult to search for underground water veins.”
“I don’t know what things were like where you were before.” Mikoto responded to Kamijou’s dumbfounded look with an exasperated sigh. “But water is more than just something to drink. It might look like a luxury, but you need to look after your mental health too. In the long run, this will conserve more water. When people can’t manage their stress, their desires grow more and more simplified. They start to use food and sleep to deal with the stress that hobbies and entertainment used to handle. Have you ever eaten too much just because you were stressed? It’s all over once you start confusing the water you need to live with the water used to escape your stress.”
That seemed to describe Kamijou’s school perfectly.
They wanted to stock up on and preserve their water more than anyone, but water had been the only thing on their mind. They had not been able to think about anything else.
Had they been trapping themselves like that?
Had that been hastening the consumption of water, building up even more irritation, and creating the buds of conflict?
“It’s all so unrewarding,” muttered Kamijou.
“It sounds like your home might be in trouble. You can tell me all about it once you’re feeling better. If we don’t go save them soon, things could fall apart in a number of ways: running out of water, an Element attack, or infighting.”
Either they had guard shifts here as well or these high-class girls simply woke up early. When they saw Mikoto and Kamijou land in the schoolyard, girls gathered from the white mansion. Instead of their personal swimsuits, they all wore the same design of racing swimsuit as Mikoto. It was probably required by the school. That showed another difference in “character” from the school Kamijou had been in.
It was not a shelter where different groups had gathered. They maintained the colors of a single unified school.
That gave them more leeway to act.
The swimsuit girls smiled at Misaka Mikoto and spoke with a carefree tone that did not match Kamijou’s internal clock.
“Welcome back, Misaka-san.”
“You must be exhausted. Thank you for your air support.”
“Now, now. We have food prepared over here.”
As they spoke, they reached for the armor and weapons on Mikoto’s limbs and back. It must have been difficult to remove on one’s own because the racing swimsuit #3 let them do it without complaint.
She gave an awkward look as they removed the armor from her back, but then she spoke to Kamijou.
“This is like a new club. I had a garage prepared and leave the constructed device there. These girls can handle the maintenance on their own.”
“Oh, wow. There are girls in swimsuits everywhere. Talk about pressure…”
“Are you even listening, you idiot!? You sure are calm for someone in such a critical state!!”
With a fairly violent-sounding sound much like the severing of a train’s high-voltage wire, bluish-white sparks scattered from her bangs.
The other girls followed the course of the conversation with their eyes, so their focus belatedly turned toward Kamijou.
He was out of place in this girls only school.
“Who is this gentleman?”
“Oh, my! Now that you mention it, that is a gentleman!”
“So this is what I have seen in my dreams…!”
It was quite a commotion. Plus, one of them sounded like she had some latent sluttiness mixed in.
The crowd was filled with a mixture of fear and curiosity, but then another girl forced her way through. She had long brown twintails, she wore the same racing swimsuit as everyone else, and she had leather belts wrapped around her thighs. Her body was coated in sweat and a few tufts of her twintails stuck out, but her eyes drew Kamijou’s attention most of all. The pupils were opened wide, as if she had seen something truly unbelievable.
“Wh-wh-wh-wh-wh-why did you rendezvous with some rotten ape!? In fact, where did you even find him!? No, you may not keep him! Go put him back where you found him right this instant!!”
“K-Kuroko? Calm down. I can explain. It might take a while, but…”
Mikoto trailed off when she spotted something behind Shirai Kuroko.
A girl had casually blended into the crowd despite her unique presence. She had long honey blonde hair, bodylines unbelievably nice for a middle school girl, and a small brand-name purse with its thin, plastic strap worn diagonally across her racing swimsuit. She was the Queen who reigned opposite the Ace as Tokiwadai Middle School’s two Level 5s.
Her name was Shokuhou Misaki.
She wore long white gloves and she spun a long skinny object in her hands.
It was a TV remote.
It was a symbol that helped control her own Mental Out power.
The gentle smile in her eyes spoke for her.
She pressed a remote against the back of Shirai Kuroko’s head as the girl continued fussing. If nothing was done about this commotion, she would do something about it herself.
Mikoto tensed up, but then Shokuhou whispered softly into Shirai Kuroko’s ear.
“(If you hand over that gentleman, who has such an excellent attention gathering ability, you can do whatever you want with your beloved Onee-sama. Not a bad deal for either of us, don’t you think?)”
“F-fwohhhhhh!! I-I’ll never have a better chance to make Onee-sama mine while separating her from not just that ape but from her own kind as well!!!”
“What nonsense are you pouring into my underclassman’s heat-addled mind, Shokuhouuuuuuuu!? And wait…not so close…ahhh, you’re covered in sweat!!”
After a mysterious three and a half twists leading into a tackle to the waist, Misaka Mikoto and Shirai Kuroko rolled away together. They left the ring of people. Kamijou was caught off guard by the novel forms of communication used at a high-class girl’s school, but then he started feeling dizzy again.
He had been treated, but he had not recovered yet.
Without Mikoto’s shoulder for support, he would succumb to his own body weight before long.
But just as he was about to collapse to the side, another girl gently supported him.
The racing swimsuit girl had long honey blonde hair and a brand-name purse.
“Hee hee hee. Caught you☆”
Who is this? wondered Kamijou with a frown.
He felt like he knew her quite well but also like he did not know her at all. It may have been due to the heatstroke hampering his brainpower and it may have just been the familiarity of seeing the same racing swimsuit that Mikoto was wearing. He did not know what kind of weird connection his brain was making, but when he saw the girl’s smile from so close, it brought a certain thought to mind.
It looked just like the innocent smile of a small child.
And it seemed oddly familiar.
“Oh, I’m sure you won’t remember me, so don’t worry about it.”
The blonde girl suppressed the smile that seemed to have escaped onto her lips.
“But I can tell just by looking at your face. There’s a lot you want to ask, but you need to regain your strength first. Eh heh heh. I’m all grown up now, so I can take you to the infirmary.”
She tugged on his arm and placed it around her shoulder. A sweet scent reached him from her hair and he could feel the heat from her flushed skin. But he did not have time to feel his heart pounding. The blonde girl just about collapsed under his weight.
She did not seem to have much muscular strength.
“Oh! Oh, no!”
A girl with splendid ringlet curls reached in from the side like a helper, but Shokuhou held out her empty hand to stop her.
“I appreciate the thought.”
“Please. …Can you let me do this on my own?”
There was a strange power to her quiet voice.
The ringlet curl girl argued no further and started guiding the other girls instead.
“I know this is being selfish, but my pride demands I show you I’ve changed some since then.”
Kamijou was confused, but he did not have time to actually ask about it.
He heard large wheels rolling through gravel. He looked over and saw girls dragging a wooden cart that looked out of place at this high-class school.
He tried to move out of the way so it could get past, but then he felt a squeezing at his heart.
It resembled an existing plant or animal.
It was made of a substance similar to translucent glass.
It was an Element.
That great enemy was being casually carted around like old trash.
It was most likely a Class 1. It was about three meters tall. However, it had already been defeated, so the will-o’-the-wisp of a core was missing from the center and its joints had come apart. He could tell at a glance that it would not be moving anymore.
The girls pulling and pushing the cart from the front and back smiled at the blonde girl with no real tension.
“What about this one?”
“Hmm. Take it to the gym like usual. I know Misaka-san’s hanger takes priority, but we really need a proper lab instead of something with so much makeshift ability.”
“And who is-…? C-could that be the legendary creature known as a gentleman!?”
“You don’t get to study him in the lab☆”
The high-class girls seemed more interested in the boy on campus than the mysterious Elements. That showed just how low a priority those were. The Elements were not absolute enemies to them. They could defeat them and analyze them.
(So this is the difference esper powers make.)
Kamijou thought about that fact again.
(Does the world really look this different with enough high level espers around?)
His vision shook.
He was in the early morning schoolyard, but his vision blinked in and out like a dying fluorescent light.
Oh, no, he thought.
Something was breaking. He was losing his support. He was going to fall.
But just before he did…
“There’s nothing to worry about.”
He had not said a word, but a gentle voice reached him.
It was the mysterious blonde girl who was struggling so hard to lend him her shoulder.
“It’s true some people are more suited to some things than others, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try your hand at something you aren’t suited to. You know that very well, don’t you?”
He once more asked himself who she was. He was fairly certain she was not someone who knew him well enough to practically read his mind like this, but…
“If you feel like taking that sort of challenge, I’ll stick with you as many times as it takes.”
She breathed a somewhat sorrowful sigh.
Then the blonde girl continued with a bright smile.
“I doubt you’ll remember, but that doesn’t meant I can’t try, right?☆”
He had fallen asleep.
In an infirmary that smelled of disinfectant, Kamijou Touma sat up in the bed and froze in place.
Covering his face with his hands did not change reality.
The sun had already risen high into the sky. It was probably around midday.
He wanted to let Index and Othinus know he was okay, he wanted to know if Aogami Pierce and Fukiyose Seiri were okay, and he wanted to know if the water purification microbe mud had resolved the potable water problem. And yet he was stuck here. Not even this place had the air conditioning back up and the infirmary was wrapped in boiling heat, but there was one devilish tool here.
“D-dammit… How can something as simple as a water pillow steal away Kamijou-san’s soul so easily? I’m so shallow I want to die! But how is this even remotely fair, dammiiiiiiiiiiiit!?”
Not only was the pillow filled with water, but it had some kind of chemical inside too. It maintained the chill of a canned drink straight out of the fridge and it had a somewhat minty smell.
The girl with honey blonde hair sat on the round chair next to the bed, crossed her long slender legs, and cooled her forehead with a liquid-filled plastic bag like the ones used for the goldfish won at goldfish scooping. She giggled.
“The human mind has trouble fighting the most primitive desires, so it’s nothing to be ashamed of. And you must have been very tired.”
“I gave in! I gave in to my desires!! Wahhhhhhh!!!!!”
Kamijou felt somewhat defiled, but he oddly felt no desire to quickly take any kind of action to make up for oversleeping.
According to Mikoto, all of the Elements around the water department had been wiped out, so Aogami Pierce, Fukiyose Seiri, and the others would be fine as long as they had not hung around for no real reason. If they had brought back the water purification microbe mud, the potable water problem would have been solved and the decaying relationship between schools would have been mended.
He was worrying them since they did not know if he was okay, but he could deal with that later. In fact, he was starting to feel like he should bring back as much information as possible.
“I have some questions.”
“I’m a little worried you won’t remember much of my answers, but I say ask away. Still, you should probably ask Misaka-san the same questions later to fill in the ‘gaps’.”
“You don’t need to understand. I’m just saying it’s best to have multiple sources. You want the most accuracy ability you can get, don’t you?”
“Hmm. Not a bad idea. Are middle school girls really this calm these days? I mean, you just seem so different from Misaka. You’re more like a big sister.”
Something must have struck her as funny because the mature-looking girl started laughing.
“Heh hah. Eh heh heh ha ha ha ha ha!! Yes, yes, yes. That’s what I want from you. I’m not the same girl I was back then. And I won’t let you say these common breasts disqualify me from providing the support of a young woman!!”
(Wh-what kind of spoiled bastard told a girl as blessed as this that she had common breasts? Whoever they are, they can go straight to hell!!)
Kamijou did not understand any of this, but the topic of discussion led his eyes down to the blonde girl’s ample breasts.
Either due to the heat or due to Kamijou’s gaze, the racing swimsuit girl moved the bag of water from her forehead and squeezed it into the chest of her swimsuit.
Kamijou was left speechless, so a hint of teasing entered the girl’s smile and she stretched her arms upwards to push out her chest. The large mounds pressed against the swimsuit even more.
“They get so sweaty when they’re big. I suppose a boy wouldn’t understand, though.”
“Yes! Yes! I’m finally being rewarded for those days of mockery!! Oh, revenge is so delightful.”
She desperately kept her lips from relaxing and an irregular tremor ran down her spine.
“Ahh. I wish I could do this forever, but I suppose that isn’t an option.”
“Do you know something about that thing Misaka was using?”
There were a lot of differences between Kamijou’s school and Tokiwadai Middle School, but the biggest one was the strange flying machine that Mikoto used. He felt like its presence had freed these girls from the fear of the Elements and given them the environment they needed to focus on the heat wave.
“I don’t know. That I can’t tell you.”
But the blonde girl expressed ignorance on that key to her survival.
She did not know.
“The heat wave and the Elements arrived without warning, but Misaka-san’s machine was also incredibly sudden. Out of the blue, that lone wolf of a girl requests the creation of a new club and then she loses herself in mechanical work using the space she was given.”
“Wait a second.” Kamijou interrupted. “Are you saying that wasn’t put together as a way to fight the Elements?”
In that case, why had Misaka Mikoto felt the need to build up that kind of firepower in the original, peaceful world?
A motorcycle gang with handguns might seem reliable in a city overrun by zombies, but it did raise certain questions. Where had those guns come from? And why had they had them on hand?
The swimsuit girl pulled the water bag from her impressive cleavage and stuck it under her armpit.
“Didn’t I tell you? I don’t know. Of course, I seriously doubt Misaka-san is in league with the Elements to show off. And I’m only overlooking it because we need all the help we can get to overcome this.”
The blonde girl used her empty hand to spin a TV remote like a baton and continued in an exasperated tone.
“If only I could control those Elements with my Mental Out, but it looks like physical force with plenty of savage ability is a better match. Thanks to that, I’ve fallen into the background and have to work as something like a class president who keeps an eye on things to make sure the school can continue to function as an organization. But it’s not like I want to run around outside in this awful heat, so I’m not really complaining.”
“It looked like she would bombard things if people put out a request, but how large an area does she cover?”
“I don’t know that either. My guess is just this southern part of District 7 where the School Garden is located. But Misaka-san needs to eat and sleep too, so she’s still just a volunteer. She can’t exterminate all of the Elements with 24/7 support.”
Even now, Kamijou’s school was living in fear of the Elements while also in southern District 7, but even those hellish days had been somewhat protected. It was possible the entire school building would have been inundated by monsters if Mikoto had not been sporadically wearing down their numbers. The possibility made him shudder, but it brought another thought to mind.
“Come to think of it, you were collecting the defeated Elements. What for?”
“To dissect them. Or maybe disassemble would be the better word.”
The racing swimsuit girl smoothly gave an unbelievable answer.
“Our main goals are learning about their bodily structure to find a weak point and checking for sensory organs to learn how they communicate. If we investigate their throat and find the frequency range they use to speak, we might be able to confuse them with similar sound waves.”
They were on a different level entirely.
They were far beyond throwing bricks from rooftops and relying on a desperate charge from Imagine Breaker while the Element flinched back. The girls of Tokiwadai Middle School still had human rationality.
“But since we’re still gathering their corpses, you might be able to guess we’re far from finished there. If we want to study how they live, we need a living sample, but we can’t think of any kind of cage that can perfectly contain an Element.”
The blonde girl placed the cold water bag on her thighs and then slid it below her knees.
“It would be nice if Misaka-san could watch them from a distance like a birdwatcher instead of blindly blasting them all. She can defeat them without worrying about the details, so she refuses to go to trouble of gathering information like that.”
“…I can’t believe this.”
“Really?” The blonde girl responded honestly and with no humility. “I’m personally more impressed by the way you struggled to survive this long and never gave up hope despite every calculation you made proving you were gradually using up all of your limited resources and manpower. I mean, we’re doing this because we know we can. If we had everything taken from us, I’m not too confident we would be able to crawl back up from the bottom.”
“We’re not all that great.”
He did not decorate his response either.
While being worn down by the heat wave and the Elements, Kamijou’s group had taken a step down the path of bandits. It was all to get water and water purifying microbes. They had snuck into buildings without permission quite a few times and what would have happened if they had run into students from another school? Would they have peacefully talked it out? Or would they have given up on their share of the water and handed it over? …Of course not. In that tense a situation, Kamijou would have clenched his fist and truly crossed the final line.
But the blonde girl laughed and said more.
“But even so, you didn’t cross that final line. Isn’t that right?”
“Hee hee. That’s what makes you so strong. You aren’t too stupid to imagine it and you can list plenty of hypothetical situations, but you wouldn’t actually do it. No matter what kind of crisis you found yourself in, you would protect that final line when it actually came down to it. Even if it put you at a disadvantage, you would accept that disadvantage. That is a noble thing. We only do what we know we can, so who can say if we would make the same decision.”
He had thought his school was inferior. He had thought they were inhuman and shameful.
But was he allowed to be proud of those few days of desperately working with the others to stay alive?
“Of course you are. Being alive is a noble thing in and of itself.”
The blonde girl seemed to be peering into his eyes as she spoke.
Her voice had an odd strength it had lacked before.
“So you and your friends should be rewarded for all the effort you put into surviving this long. Don’t worry. Leave everything else to your big sister here☆ We’ll have all of this dealt with in a few days’ time.”
Kamijou blankly repeated her words.
After a short pause, he grabbed the blonde girl’s shoulders.
“By dealt with, do you mean you see an end to this!? You see an end to this seemingly hopeless problem!?”
“N-n-n-n-not so close! I-I mean, it’s not a bad thing, but, um, no…don’t sell yourself so cheaply, Shokuhou Misaki. Don’t give in just because you’ve dreamed of this moment. Work to keep your cool!!”
She shoved him back toward the bed.
She cleared her throat, sat back on the round chair, and continued with a blush on her face.
“I-I may have gotten too excited and overstated things somewhat. There are technically two problems at the moment: the heat wave and the Elements.”
“To be blunt, the heat wave is going to be a challenge, but the Elements are a different matter. We might be able to fundamentally destroy them soon. Instead of sporadically reducing their numbers, it would be a true extermination. That’s what I am talking about.”
They had to have used a lot of water on Kamijou before he could walk on his own. And just the day before, that water had been as valuable as pure gold in the dimly-lit and barricaded school building he had sheltered inside.
He sighed in the infirmary and the blonde racing swimsuit girl gave an exasperated sigh of her own.
“We really can’t take our eyes off you for a second, can we? You won’t drink the water we give you and you hide it in places if you have a chance.”
“Y-yeah, but, um, I have my reasons.”
He felt it was wrong of him to drink all the water they brought him when he was just lying in a bed. His school could probably drink the pool water now that they had the water purification microbes, but they had not known exactly how much longer they needed to wait before obtaining clean water. He knew he needed to recover, but when he saw the bottles of water, he felt an urge to preserve it, stockpile it, and share it with everyone else.
“You really are noble.”
He had trouble understanding what that girl meant as she gently narrowed her eyes.
At any rate, he could not hog the infirmary bed forever now that he could actually move. Things were not as bad as at his school, but even the Tokiwadai girls might run into some unexpected heatstroke and injuries.
“If you want to know more about defeating the Elements, you’ll have to go ask Misaka-san. And to be honest, that fact does irritate me.”
“As you can see, she handles alllll the outside work. Thanks to that, she’s taken a lot of the celebrity ability away from me.”
The blonde girl waved a hand.
“And if she keeps doing everything herself, I get the feeling some unfounded rumors are going to spread. It’s ridiculous to do everything with her power and I really wish she would give everyone else a chance to let off a bit of steam. …But only a bit.”
For some reason, she emphasized that point.
He parted ways with the blonde girl, left the infirmary, and walked down the hall. Where was Misaka Mikoto? He tried to ask a swimsuit girl walking nearby, but she ran away with a quiet shriek. But when he looked around, he noticed people peeking out at him from behind columns. He was a little unsure whether he was being welcomed or rejected.
After walking around aimlessly for a while, he found a promising-looking facility.
It was a separate building from the white mansion.
He guessed it was a club building…or something.
Compared to the Western architecture that matched the overall feel of the School Garden, this area was centered on a boxy building with a modern design. It looked something like an airport storehouse and it was about the size of four normal classrooms.
He had a feeling that girl whose face he was having trouble recalling had said something about Misaka requesting the creation of a new club.
If this much space was a single piece of paperwork away, then a high-class girl’s school was even more exceptional than he had thought.
He saw a small human-sized door next to the giant sliding one that covered an entire wall. He made sure to knock before peeking inside.
The floor of the large space was covered with countless weapons, both large and small.
He saw tank guns, laser cannons, flamethrowers, Gatling guns, large chainsaws for use on special steel, anti-trench drills, air-to-air missile containers, precision guided aerial bombs, heavy metal disintegration plasma cannons, electromagnetic burning weapons, ultra-high frequency acoustic cannons, electric melting blades, and fortress-attack large-caliber railguns.
Kamijou was not obsessed with next generation weapons, so they just looked like an unidentified jumble of metal containers and mechanical contents.
He could only list off their identities because of the plastic plates lined up on the floor like this was a crime scene investigation.
“Hm? Have you recovered enough to be up and about?”
The racing swimsuit girl stood at the center of the mountain of weapons.
“You really are wearing a swimsuit, aren’t you?”
“Sh-shut up! I-i-i-it’s not like I’m the only one!!”
She blushed as she used some tools to combat the foundational component that directly attached to her slender back and connected all the different weapons together.
Why does Misaka’s swimsuit bother me more than anyone else’s? wondered Kamijou with a tilt of the head.
It may have been the defensive gap between the sturdy equipment and the swimsuit. That said, the heat would do her in if she covered herself in thick armor during this heat wave, so it was survival of the fittest.
“Anyway, what is that thing?”
“The A.A.A. I don’t know where it came from, but I showed it to you once before. This is a version modified for my use. That said, I don’t think I’ve managed to recreate the ‘contents’ yet. I’m just doing my best to imitate that black box.”
Before? frowned Kamijou.
Meanwhile, she added a name to her explanation.
He finally remembered. Before the heat wave and Elements had covered Academy City, he had fought a scientist by that name. No, he had been utterly defeated at that point. It was only thanks to the interference of a mysterious attack that he had survived.
Had Misaka Mikoto been the one to do that?
And using this?
“I heard talk of driving the Elements out of Academy City, but do you know the details of that?”
“Oh, you mean the Crystal Tower.”
“As you can see, I can fly around all I want and I’ve checked around over a wide area, so I know more about things ‘outside’ than the others.”
Misaka Mikoto wiped sweat from her brow.
“So the city is crawling with those Elements, right? But where do you think they’re coming from?”
“How should I know? I don’t even know if they’re living creatures or machines.”
“Yeah, I guess you normally wouldn’t. Anyway, it seems they’re living creatures and not machines.”
“So they’re alive? Then are they hatching from eggs belowground or underwater?”
He had seen Elements swarming out of subway station stairways and culverts below roads, but the thought made his skin crawl. Was the ground below the city filled with mountains of giant eggs?
But Mikoto shook her head.
“No, no. They’re coming from there.”
He had no idea what she meant.
For some reason, she was pointing straight up. And then she continued.
“I’m not joking. I spotted it while out on a night patrol flight. I saw some orange glowing rain. They descend from the sky like shooting stars when no one’s looking.”
“Very. Although I don’t know if they’re really coming from space or if they’re born on earth, fly up into space, and drop back down again.”
This was getting absurd.
Kamijou’s school had been barricading the doors and windows and they had been traveling between building rooftops to keep away from the Elements crawling on the ground, but the safety that brought had been entirely imaginary. The odds may have been as low as being hit by lightning or a meteor, but it had been possible an Element could fall on top of them while on the roof or inside their barricades. Two dimensional defenses alone were meaningless.
Although that might change with the help of a high-power anti-air defense system like Mikoto wore.
Mikoto herself gave an exasperated sigh.
“It might sound impossible to wipe them out when they fall endlessly from the sky like raindrops, but there is one thing we might be able to do.”
“And that is?”
“Dropping the Elements from space is easier said than done. If their angle of entry into the atmosphere is even slightly off, they’ll be deflected outward or burned up. And it’s even harder to constantly pinpoint just Academy City in western Tokyo out of the entire planet. They would need guidance from the surface.”
“Wait. You mean…?”
“Yes. There’s something in the center of Academy City guiding the countless Elements waiting up in space. That Crystal Tower is intermittently sending an optical signal into the heavens.”
They had entered the space of time between early afternoon and the beginning of evening.
Misaka Mikoto and Shokuhou Misaki had gathered in the same dining hall.
And the pointy-haired boy named Kamijou Touma was sitting uncomfortably across a round table from them.
“To get right to the point…”
For sitting next to each other, the two girls did not look very friendly and the blonde racing swimsuit girl looked upset as she rested her head on her hand and opened her mouth to speak.
“You had that much time and you never got further than that in your explanation? Are you that bad with words, Misaka-san?”
“Sh-shut up. It took some time to get him up to speed on the more basic information.”
“He’ll just forget if I explain it, so try to do a better job.”
They had a simple reason for being here: Kamijou’s stomach had growled during the explanation in the hangar. Misaka Mikoto had said she would give him something to eat and then dragged him to the dining hall, but there they had run into the blonde girl elegantly sipping on some iced tea.
“Water is so valuable, but you’re making it into tea here?”
“It’s partially the remnants of a safety measure. We know we don’t have to boil it anymore, but we still find ourselves making it into tea.”
Was there any logic to it or not?
“We don’t know how many Crystal Towers there are in Academy City, but since we can’t seem to find something so large, there can’t be many of them. At most, I’d say less than ten. And at the least, there of course might just be the one.”
Racing Swimsuit Misaka Mikoto pushed aside the blonde girl’s coaster and spread out a map on the table. It was a detailed map of District 7 and colorful markers had drawn a large X and a few arrows leading to it.
Meanwhile, the blonde girl scooted her chair over to follow the coaster. It looked like an obedient act at first, but they were sitting at a round table. Moving around its perimeter would take her to the pointy-haired idiot.
“Shokuhou, I’m trying to have a serious discussion here.”
“How selfish can you be? You’re the one that drove me away and left me with no choice but to give up my spot. I’m sorry, Kamijou-san. Things might be cramped at such a small table, but try to put up with it.”
“I’m not sure why you need to move your chair right up against mine! And…”
“ ‘Kamijou-san’? Did I tell you my name?”
The blond girl’s eyes widened in surprise at first, but then they narrowed slightly.
“You really are good at tugging at my heartstrings with even the most trivial comment. You haven’t changed at all.”
Kamijou tilted his head, but then Mikoto interrupted.
“Stop!! Back on topic!!”
The blonde girl responded instead of Kamijou. She slightly pulled back the shoulder she had been leaning up against his.
Mikoto cleared her throat.
“Okay, how much had I told you?”
“Eh? Oh, um…”
“Are you an incarnation of worldly thoughts!? Is the immediate crisis less important than some pointlessly large bags of fat!? C’mon, try to remember! Take this seriously!!”
“Oh, ohh! You were talking about the Crystal Tower, right?”
“Much better.” Mikoto breathed out through her nose. “No one knows when it got there. In fact, we’ve even started saying it ‘grew there’. But if we take it out, the situation should change dramatically.”
“So…if it’s like an antenna to guide them, will destroying it stop the Elements from coming here?”
Kamijou honestly had trouble understanding how difficult it was to throw a stone from space and have it accurately fall in a specific city. He just assumed it was too difficult to pull off without any practice.
The blonde girl giggled.
“Do you want the actual equations?”
“Shut up. Shove those in front of my face in this god-awful heat and my head really will boil.”
He had no idea how many Elements were waiting “up above”, but reducing their odds of successfully dropping into the city by a factor of a thousand or ten thousand would indeed change things quite a bit.
“I’m a little afraid they’d fall somewhere other than Academy City and cause some damage.”
“If you look at the actual equations…”
“Please just give me the final answer!”
“The atmosphere is incredibly powerful,” simply stated Mikoto. “If they attempt an entry without any guidance from the surface, they’ll either be deflected by the atmosphere or burn up on the way down. People aren’t aware of it, but an unbelievable amount of pebble-sized debris falls toward the earth on a daily basis.”
So if they destroyed the Crystal Tower, they could overcome the current crisis.
They apparently did not know how many there were in all, but they would gain nothing by ignoring the one they knew about.
“It’s just about in the center of District 7, which is about five kilometers north of here. I don’t know if it was lucky or not that it ‘grew’ inside a domed stadium. It looks like it broke through from below.”
It did sound more like something that had ‘grown’ than something that had been ‘built’. He could not think of any reason for someone to intentionally place it there.
“They’re only estimates, but we think it’s two hundred meters tall, thirty meters thick at the base, and gradually thinner the higher you get. We don’t know what it’s made of, but it looks just like the Elements from a distance. We might be able to judge its durability based on that.”
“You’re kidding, right?”
Kamijou’s class had been risking their lives against the Elements in their own inept way.
They had thrown bricks from rooftops and dropped bundles of steel beams suspended by ropes. Their attempts would have been enough to crush a normal car and trigger an explosion, but not even that had stopped the three meter Class 1Elements which were the smallest type. Without Imagine Breaker as a joker, they would have been helpless.
Yet this was two hundred meters tall? And thirty meters thick?
It was too much. Crushing it and toppling it were too different things and toppling something might get easier the taller it was, but what could a student do if he was placed in front of a famous radio tower and told to do whatever he could to topple it? Kamijou had trouble imagining a successful scenario.
Except for using his right hand.
“Luck might just be on our side,” said Misaka Mikoto. “It might be difficult to utterly destroy something that massive even with my A.A.A. That’s why I’ve been observing it from a distance in the hopes of finding a weak point or a focal point of its weight. But back at the water department, you defeated an Element in one hit, didn’t you? I still don’t really understand it, but you used, um, a different method from me. We might be able to skip a few steps with that. All we have to think about is getting you to the base of the Crystal Tower.”
That was exactly what Kamijou wanted as well.
It would not solve the heat wave problem, but if he had a chance of wiping out the Elements, he had no reason not to use it. His answer sounded so halfhearted because of the blonde girl who had taken up her position next to Mikoto and across from him.
She silently narrowed her eyes.
She looked like her iced tea had started tasting like some roots from traditional Chinese medicine.
“My school had its hands too full to even think about it, but if the Elements are gone, it might reduce the claustrophobic feeling. Being able to walk along the ground to search for water and food is bound to make a difference. In fact, we wouldn’t have to stay at school. Without the Elements, we might be able to make our base in an underground mall or some other cooler place out of the way of the sunlight.”
He had thought that was a shared understanding throughout Academy City, but Swimsuit Mikoto looked confused.
“Hm? You hadn’t figured it out?”
“If we defeat the Elements, we might be able to deal with the heat wave too. I mean, surely you didn’t think this was just some abnormal weather.”
He had not seen it all yet.
There was even more of a culture gap between his school and Tokiwadai.
“For one thing, this heat isn’t caused by the sunlight,” said Mikoto.
She snapped her fingers and a small line of purple electricity ran between the fingertips.
“It’s microwaves. A ton of electromagnetic waves are being sent down from space and they’ve essentially turned Academy City into a giant microwave oven.”
He had trouble believing that.
“It was more than just residual heat keeping the temperature up during the night. And in reverse…”
But a moment later, Kamijou began shivering in his swimsuit. The sweaty and boiling hell of 55 degree heat left him and the forgotten December chill mercilessly attacked his bare skin.
“Well, you get the picture. If I use my power to divert the electromagnetic waves, the heat quickly withdraws. It doesn’t work as well everywhere, though, since the asphalt and such have absorbed so much heat.”
As she said that, the abnormal temperature (or was that the proper temperature?) left him and he was thrown back into the scorching heat.
“But if I was constantly diverting my powers to apply that heat-resistant coat, I’d wear myself out in no time. That’s why I put up with the heat and focus my energy on using the A.A.A.”
“Are you serious…?”
Now that he had felt the change for himself, Kamijou had no choice but to accept it.
But he felt like he had seen signs of this here and there.
“The solar cooker wasn’t working…”
“And the fluorescent lights at the trash dump…”
“Right. New or broken, fluorescent lights will still emit light if they’re exposed to powerful electromagnetic waves. There were experiments where people threw them in a microwave oven. And this is powerful enough to bring all of Academy City up to nearly 60 degrees. It’s hardly surprising we’re seeing that happening. Although it isn’t that noticeable thanks to the recent change to LED lights.”
“Honestly,” said the blonde girl. “And LED lights emit all that blue light that’s bad for your eyes, so I’d rather they didn’t use them in a place of learning.”
Until now, the heat wave had been a demonic presence wearing away their lives and lifespans.
But the terms “electromagnetic waves” and “microwaves” made Kamijou tremble for a different reason. He did not have a phobia of electromagnetic waves, but he still did not enjoy the thought of all his body’s moisture being constantly vibrated by some outside force.
“The properly shielded hospitals and labs may have actually escaped the heat wave altogether. Of course, the Elements seem to target those cool and dark places first, so that might not be a good thing.”
“So it’s from space again?”
“Right. I can’t figure out why whoever it is would be bombarding us with so many microwaves. For a time, we thought it might be the Elements’ power source, but based on the corpses we’ve collected and opened up, they don’t seem to have any organs to receive that power.”
“Then is it just to make us suffer?”
“Perhaps. The heat wave is outdoors and the Elements are in the cool dark indoors, so it does seem like a nice division of the threat.”
But why were the Elements even attacking Academy City in the first place?
Kamijou could not find an answer to the most basic question.
“Anyway, we really have seen some hope. Your presence here makes a huge difference in the path to the Crystal Tower. We’d appreciate it if you would help.”
“Understood. My school will be at its limit soon and I can’t just sit around eating your food while everyone’s in trouble. If the heat wave and the Elements come from the same source, we might be able to stop it all by toppling that Crystal Tower. I definitely need to go with you.”
“Okay!! Then let’s get ready as soon as-…”
Mikoto clenched a fist and lightly punched her own palm, but then…
“Oh, dear, Misaka-san. You have a nosebleed.”
“You can get excited around a gentleman if you want, but isn’t this a little much?”
“Th-that isn’t what this is! The heat’s getting to me is all!! It’s twenty degrees hotter than a bath, so I can’t help it! Umm, where’s a tissue…?”
“Oh, here, Misaka. Use this.”
Mikoto moved her hands around in a panic and finally took the paper napkin Kamijou had picked up from the table. For some reason, she looked away after that, so she may not have wanted to be seen stuffing something into her nose.
(I’ve seen a lot of dehydration and heatstroke recently, but apparently it can give you a nosebleed too.)
Kamijou was oddly impressed.
Diverting the microwaves for her demonstration may have put a bit of a burden on her. As a Level 0, he had no idea what it was like, but exerting herself may have brought the blood to her head.
As Kamijou circled around the table to look after Mikoto, a whisper reached his ear from the side.
“(Things seem to be progressing smoothly, but you should stay on your guard.)”
When he looked over in confusion, the girl with a honey sweet aroma said more.
She almost made it sound like she knew the boy better than he did.
“(I mean, misfortune follows you wherever you go, doesn’t it? Shouldn’t you be suspicious when the perfect solution just falls into your lap?)”
The temperature was still hellishly hot, but Kamijou felt oddly freed from the pressure that had been burning at his nerves.
According to Mikoto, they had a plan but it would take some time to prepare. He could guess she was talking about that weird machine called the A.A.A., but he was also a little bothered by her nosebleed. Even if it may not have been a real issue if it was simply her overheating.
(Hmm, what was it like at the other school? The teachers were dealing with the people sleeping in the gym, so I don’t really know.)
Roses, lilies, and plenty of other difficult flowers were blooming in the schoolyard flower gardens and a small fountain sprayed water into the air at the center. That circulating water may have been clearer than the life-saving water Kamijou’s school had been so desperate to gather.
He felt like he could scoop it up in his hands and drink it.
In this environment, they could use it freely.
They had enough to spare.
Even under the rules of this (ridiculous) new world, Tokiwadai managed to maintain its high-class position. In a world where water determined everything, this was an asset on the level of an oil field.
What had happened at the previous school?
He hoped Index, Fukiyose, and the rest had acquired the water purification microbe mud, successfully turned the pool water into potable water, and escaped the pressure of that heavy ceiling suspended above them.
As he stared out the window at the schoolyard and thought about that, he heard a girl’s voice behind him.
She was saying that aloud.
He looked back in confusion and saw an unfamiliar racing swimsuit girl right behind him. When their eyes met, her shoulders gave a jump. Her face quickly grew red, her mouth moved silently, and she made a rapid U-turn.
“I-I-I couldn’t do iiiiit!!”
The mystery swimsuit girl raced down the hallway with incredible speed and vanished around a corner leading to the stairs. She apparently was unfamiliar with the basic rule that well-behaved high-class girls did not run in the hallway.
He trailed off.
Someone had snuck up behind him again. And this time he felt a soft finger press against his back.
He did not have time to turn around.
He heard footsteps taking off at high speed. When he finally did check behind him, he saw a ponytail girl (who of course wore a racing swimsuit) regrouping with a few of her friends in the distance.
“I-I-I did it!! I touched a gentleman for the first time in my life!!”
“I-I never thought you would be the first one to climb the stairway to adulthood, Nanami!”
“M-maybe we need to find the courage too. (Glance, glance) B-but he’s so scary! It’s the same pressure as facing down a lion!!”
Were they afraid of him or playing with him?
Kamijou tilted his head.
“I just don’t get these high-class girls.”
With that exasperated comment he decided to leave that hallway.
“Whisper, whisper. (Is that the rumored gentleman?)”
“Mutter, mutter. (I heard any lady with the courage to overcome a certain trial with a gentleman is given the right to start her own clique.)”
“Murmer, murmer. (I-is that why Misaka-sama and Shokuhou-sama are working so hard!? I-I can’t just sit around. I am the daughter of a company president who supports the futures of 70,000 employees! I must bring glory to the future of the Andou Frozen Foods Group!!)”
Kamijou felt an unpleasant shiver in his spine.
He quickly checked on his surroundings and saw nothing but smiling high-class girls in racing swimsuits. However, the instant he took his eyes off of them, he felt the piercing glares of carnivorous beasts staring at their prey.
(Umm, am I in trouble here?)
A certain piece of trivia came to mind: A strange god of fortune statue at a certain Osaka radio tower was seen as a symbol of good luck, but so many tourists had rubbed the bottom of its feet that the metal statue was worn away more and more every year.
In other words…
(If a living human is treated the same way, would all their skin and flesh be torn away in no time!?)
“Wait!! You there!!”
He jumped straight up when a shrill voice seemed to explode nearby. He used both hands to strike a weird defensive pose and desperately pleaded to their human rationality.
“W-wait, wait! If you’re going to rub me, at least stick to the cheeks! If this is my only option, then I’ll turn myself into one of those pointy triangle chin guys from shoujo manga!!”
“What on earth are you talking about?”
The utterly exasperated voice told him this was not one of the overly-excited beasts(?) of this high-class girl’s school. He peered out between his complexly crossed arms and saw a short middle school girl with her undeveloped body contained in a Tokiwadai racing swimsuit, with brown twintails, with belts around her thighs, and with metal darts or crossbow bolts contained in those belts.
As he slowly spread his arms, the scene gradually came into view.
“Y-your name was Shirai-san, right? A-aren’t you Misaka-hyan’s fwiend and that lehendary spehial-…”
“Why do you look on the verge of tears and why can’t you enunciate properly? Now, excuse me, but could you not bring an unneeded storm to our school!? I am with Judgment, so-…oh, I hate how this swimsuit doesn’t have a sleeve for the armband!! Anyway, I stand on the side of law and order, so I cannot have a troublemaker like you wandering around!”
As she spoke, Shirai Kuroko tugged on Kamijou’s arm and they quickly escaped the carnivorous(?) crowd. She completely ignored the various comments: “That’s Misaka-sama’s right-hand girl for you!” “Do you think she will be the next Ace?” “Isn’t Shirai-san connected to White Spring Holdings which owns all those convenience stores and imported goods supermarkets? I need to check the stock prices!”
“Did I just hear a middle school girl mention stock prices?”
“Let them say what they want. More importantly, over here.”
Shirai dragged him into an odd room. It was slightly larger than a special classroom and was divided into smaller rooms like a box of luxury chocolates. It was more sturdily built than a net café, but it had a similar atmosphere.
Shirai Kuroko looked puzzled.
“Have you never seen a study room before?”
“What!? Y-you mean people actually study outside of the classroom?”
“Y-you don’t even try to hide your lack of culture, do you?”
The twintail swimsuit girl threw Kamijou into one of the small rooms with a single study desk and chair and she shut the door behind her.
He frowned when he heard the click of the lock.
“What is it? This room is soundproofed, so we can discuss whatever you like.”
“Did you just lock the door? A locked and private soundproofed room in a high-class girl’s school!? L-lewd!!”
“Again with the lack of culture!! Are you at an age where you see everything in an indecent light!?”
She said that, but how could he help it when he was forced into a room where he would be within a meter of a swimsuit girl at all times, even if he pressed his back against the wall? And even if everything was already hot and stuffy thanks to the heat wave, he was having trouble distinguishing the heat of the room from the girl’s body heat.
“Oh, no. I’m feeling dizzy…”
She readily held out a water bottle, but he refused to take it. They had to have used up quite a bit of water just to get him conscious again.
When he did not take the bottle, Shirai placed it on the study desk.
“Just to be clear, I have no desire whatsoever to be anywhere near an ape like you. But leaving you out there could have caused a riot on the level of a year-end sale, so I preemptively put a stop to it.”
“And I’m grateful for that. What is all this? Things have been so weird for me since I got here. Are boys really that rare a sight for you?”
“I suppose this hasn’t been easy for you either. Well, as long as you don’t try to take advantage of your position here.”
The twintail girl raised both hands and waved dismissively.
And since he had someone he could actually speak with, Kamijou decided to ask a question.
“By the way.”
“I heard some of you were working at…dissecting? Disassembling? Anyway, doing that kind of thing to the Elements.”
“Yes,” confirmed Shirai while sighing and crossing her arms.
Kamijou leaned forward a little.
“So how much do you know about them? Do you know any weak points or anything!? Are they weak to a specific gas or acid? Do they rely most on their sight or is it some other sensory organ? That could really help once we’re out in the city!!”
“Not so close! I really will punch you!!”
“Pant, pant. Honestly, boys are always like this when you give them the slightest opening. Anyway, um? Oh, that’s right. The Elements. It is true some of the girls are carting in the relatively small ones that Onee-sama has taken care of.”
The smallest ones would be the three meter Class 1 ones. However, even they would be too heavy to carry on one’s own. They were much bigger than a large motorcycle.
“However, we don’t know very much. They don’t seem to be using any mechanical parts. They inefficiently copy the structures of living creatures. They are made from a carbon base rather than a metal or silicon. And that’s about it.”
“Carbon?” Kamijou looked puzzled. “Then are those translucent things living creatures?”
“That’s hard to say. When you look at a mannequin made from a carbon material, do you call it a living creature?”
“And besides! The ones doing the so-called dissections are just a pathetic clique that doesn’t want Onee-sama to have all the attention, so they’re desperate to show any results at all. They’re assuming they have some great new discovery and then going over everything to find anything at all they can announce in a newspaper or the online news. If they found a piece of corn caught between an Element’s teeth, they would blow it way out of proportion. It’s all exaggerations, so I wouldn’t trust them or expect much from them.”
“…Is that so?”
This may have sounded like a reaction to the heat wave and Elements, but in a way, this was still somewhat rational. Kamijou’s school had gone full post-apocalyptic, so a lot of them would run into trouble once the world returned to normal.
“Also.” Shirai raised her index finger. “Even if you’re ‘officially’ allowed to do what you want here, this is still Tokiwadai Middle School. I will make sure you obey the rules. Yes, to the letter! …I must teach you just how rude it is for you to sit at the same table as Onee-sama!! I have been skipping sleep to patrol the school and maintain peace, so please do not ruin all of my efforts!!”
“Oh, I can’t believe you! That way you make that question sound so natural pisses me off more than anything!! Fine then. As Onee-sama’s herald, I, Shirai Kuroko, shall give you a detailed lecture on the wonders of the treasure of mankind known ash Mishaka Migodo…”
Her enunciation rapidly deteriorated.
Her twintailed head wobbled and her swimsuit-covered back bumped into the wall. She then slid down and her small butt landed on the floor.
Even now, she had an elegant way of sitting.
Kamijou Touma frowned but finally caught on.
“Oh, no! Heatstroke!”
Not only was the temperature so dreadfully hot, but their own body heat had increased the room temperature in this locked room. She had also said something about skipping sleep and then she had gotten herself so worked up the blood rushed to her head.
Kamijou grabbed the water bottle from the desk. He had heard it was best to place it somewhere with a major blood vessel, such as the inside of the elbow, the back of the knee, or the armpit, but he doubted this would help much since it was hotter than bathwater. He removed the cap, held the back of the girl’s head with his other hand, and titled the water bottle so it would part her small lips, but she did not seem able to swallow it on her own. If he kept pouring, the water would flow out the corners of her lips, down her chin, and onto her swimsuit.
This may have happened for a silly reason, but it was no laughing matter.
It looked like he needed to carry her to the infirmary and have a teacher or health committee member look after her.
“…Carry her on my back?”
Every option pressed her chest against his back. If she found out, she would kill him.
“…Like a bag of rice?”
It did not seem right to walk around with a swimsuit girl’s butt sticking out like a bazooka at face level.
He tilted his head and found the only acceptable answer.
A sound like flapping wings came from Misaka Mikoto’s feet.
She had dropped the A.A.A. maintenance report she had been holding.
Academy City’s #3 Level 5 had seen it!
“Ah, ahhh, ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!”
Kamijou’s entire body jumped as he carried something.
Or rather, someone.
For some reason, he was princess carrying Shirai Kuroko.
“Wh-wh-wh-why are you-…!? Why would you-…!? Why are you-…?”
“She has heatstroke.”
“You mean you found my underclassman unable to move or resist and decided to take advantage of it by carrying her off somewhere!? O-oh, no. Why do I feel such a sense of defeat!? Get it together, me!!”
“Hmm.” Kamijou thought for a longish moment. “Don’t get so upset that I stole your chance to princess carry your underclassman. And didn’t I already do this back during that incident with the other Teleporter? Girl’s schools sure are scary…”
In a reaction even more reflexive than a sneeze, bluish-white sparks burst from her bangs.
They quickly formed a spear.
“That’s not what I felt defeated about!!!!!!”
“Nice serve, Kongou-san.”
Kamijou heard shrill voices from the schoolyard. He glanced out the window and saw girls in racing swimsuits chasing after a ball on the tennis court. They seemed to be playing a doubles game.
(Now this is an incredible sight.)
He had grown used to curling up in a dimly-lit room with barricades over the windows and doors. But which was actually healthier? Keeping up some light exercise and maintaining mental stability may have actually reduced the physical and mental drain.
Of course, they could only do this because those sweating girls did not have to worry about the supply of water they were casually drinking.
The next real development arrived that evening.
As the only boy at the girl’s school, Kamijou stood out wherever he was. He was not too fond of the girls’ mixture of curiosity and fear, so he was killing time at a relatively deserted part of the hallway when Racing Swimsuit Mikoto called out to him.
“Hey, Princess Carry Abductor.”
“I don’t know why I’m being treated like some new generation of criminal, but you already shot five lightning spears at me! I don’t know what you’re so mad about, but can you please just let it go!?”
Kamijou was half in tears, but Mikoto ignored it.
“We’ve finished our discussions and I’ve taken care of all the Elements around the School Garden. It doesn’t give me much of a break, but we’re heading out as soon as the A.A.A.’s maintenance and condition check are complete. We’re headed straight for the Crystal Tower.”
“This could all be over tonight. Academy City’s December will once more be the realm of Santa Claus and a white Christmas.”
That was good news.
He had hoped this day would come, but it was all happening so quickly that it actually made him a little scared.
“You get ready too. The two of us will probably be the cornerstone of this mission.”
Just as she started to leave, Kamijou spoke to her back.
“By the way, are you doing okay?”
“I-I dyon’t mind the princess carry thing!! I dyon’t mind at all!!”
“Hm? What are you talking about? I meant that nosebleed.”
He had tried to put it gently, but her shoulders jumped a bit.
He had not been all that worried, but that may have been a disgraceful scene that a high-class girl would rather not remember.
“It’s not a problem. I don’t have anything serious like heatstroke or dehydration.”
(…Hm? Then what caused it?)
That was the extent of their conversation. They parted ways for the time being.
She had told him to get ready, but there was not much for him to do. Unlike with the water department, they did not need to bring anything back with them.
When he stepped out onto the schoolyard, Mikoto was wearing her excessive machinery and the two boosters on the back were gently emitting bright bluish-white light.
And she was not alone. Fifty to sixty other girls in identical racing swimsuits were gathered around her.
“Now, let us depart for the Crystal Tower.”
“This will be a group effort. We need to be draw out our fighting spirit.”
“The gentleman will be with us. And the sun is about to go down…heartbeat heartbeat.”
Kamijou only took a bottle of water from them and then looked over to Mikoto.
She had a troubled look of her own.
“Flying you straight to the Crystal Tower was an option, but we have no idea how much of a resistance the Elements will put up if they notice what we’re up to. Just to be safe, it would indeed be best to bring some high firepower espers with us.”
In general, the Elements were confined to the ground and had difficulty with elevated areas, but that was only “in general”. At the water department, Kamijou had seen an Element that could fire an ultra-high pressure water cutter like a laser.
Another group had gathered in addition to the volunteers.
The blonde girl was at the center.
“Misaka-san, with you and the rest of our high firepower group at the Crystal Tower, our defenses back here will be a lot weaker. Don’t you forget that. So don’t waste any time in finishing this and getting back.”
“I know that.”
The blonde girl placed both hands on another girl’s shoulders from behind.
It was the girl with brown twintails.
“Ghhhhhh! Wh-why does that ape have to be the one going with Onee-sama? As her herald, this is when I need to act as her shield. But from what I heard, I was helplessly princess carried in front of her. Oh, what a nightmare…”
“This is all about dividing our forces up effectively. If you left too, we really would be defenseless. Now, if you don’t want me to mess with your head, come over here☆”
As everything was dyed orange in the twilight, they began their march toward the Crystal Tower.
Misaka Mikoto flew out ahead using the bluish-white boosters. As she shot straight across Academy City, explosive flames blossomed like overlapping flowers on the surface. All of it accurately blasted the translucent and camouflaged Elements to pieces.
Before, travelling five kilometers on a single search for water would have been suicide.
But things were different now. They did not even climb onto the roofs. They were hesitant, but the group of girls set foot on the scorching asphalt and walked along with Kamijou in the lead. They walked down the manmade road that everyone had used without a second thought just a few days before.
“Wow…” muttered Kamijou as he watched Mikoto make a U-turn overhead while waving a giant tank gun a little.
This was on a whole new level. The common knowledge and assumptions that Kamijou’s school had built up no longer applied among these high-class girls. They walked right past the smoking remains of translucent Elements. Those had been six meter Class 2s. Kamijou’s class could not have stood up to them without being prepared for a 50/50 chance of losing someone to defeat them.
The scale of five kilometers seemed to change.
Time no longer seemed to stretch out infinitely as it had during his previous risky journeys. Before, falling to the ground had seemed like the end of the line for them, but now they were walking along it just fine.
The racing swimsuit girls were calmly waving and yelling into the sky.
“Misaka-saaan, you missed some in this back alley!”
“There is no need to bother her with such a small number. How about we deal with them instead?”
They sounded almost carefree as they produced deafening explosions. As they held up their hands, explosive flames and ice spears filled the entrance to the alley.
They did not bother checking what remained beyond the smoke.
The hunters had become the hunted.
Kamijou felt very glad that these girls had solved their water and food problem on their own.
Fighting them over supplies would have been truly reckless.
If his class had run into them at a supermarket or a drug store, it would have been Kamijou and Aogami Pierce on the receiving end of that. Kamijou had a renewed appreciation of how well Academy City managed all these esper children.
“Oh, I remember this area,” said a girl with wavy brown hair.
“Hm? Did you used to stop here for food after school or something?”
“What!? U-um, um, no, I live at the dorm by the school, so I don’t have many chances to leave the School Garden and, um, um…Awatsuki-saaan!!”
He tried to be conversational, but for some reason the girl blushed and ran away. It seemed out of place given how much firepower they had been demonstrating before.
In her A.A.A. flying machine, Mikoto weakened the bluish-white plasma to slowly descend. She hovered nearby and spoke with some exasperation in her voice.
“How did you end up being the biggest threat around here?”
“I’d like to know that too. It’s just those girls were saying something about remembering this area.”
“Oh…” Mikoto gave an exhausted-sounding sigh for once. “By the end of that first day when the heat wave and Elements appeared, we already had our defenses set up. We had plenty of water and food, so we tried to share some with another school. We chose an elementary school that probably couldn’t build up a foundation on its own.”
“That sounds like a good thing to me. So was that elementary school near here?”
“The thing is…I haven’t told the others because it would affect overall morale, but…”
She placed a hand on her forehead.
“There was a fight over the water and food.”
“Several schools were fighting it out with weapons and esper powers and everything. Luckily, I noticed pretty early on. I made a quick U-turn and drove them off. I think the elementary school kids were fine. …But that scared them. In the end, no one took the supplies. They all ran off.”
It was not a pleasant story.
“Hey,” asked Kamijou. “How many schools do you think have been isolated?”
“I don’t know. The elementary schools are better protected for security and disaster-prevention, so I think everyone can last a few more days if they realize there are underground supplies there and share that water and food.”
Kamijou’s school was not the only one approaching its limit.
That was another reason they had to destroy the Crystal Tower as soon as possible. Once the countless Elements were gone, the people could freely move about in the heat wave. They would be freed from isolation and they could work together.
(And I’m kind of glad we hadn’t realized the elementary schools had those supplies.)
He did not hide that thought from himself.
He could make the proper judgement now, but could he have done the same thing while surrounded by those barricades and with only darkness in the foreseeable future? And even if he had been able to, could he have stopped the others from boiling over? He was not entirely certain of that.
At first, they had said they were “borrowing” water instead of “hunting” it, but he doubted anyone was calling it that anymore.
Kamijou gulped as he realized just how fine a line he had been walking. But that was what naturally brought words to his lips.
“We need to settle this here.”
“Yes. Let’s end all of this.”
Mikoto used her boosters to fly back up into the sky.
They repeated the same process from there. On the urban battlefield, Mikoto would use the A.A.A. to circle through the sky and bombard any apparent Elements. The girls would use their own esper firepower to blow away any Mikoto missed. They did not even need to approach the violent Elements. They unilaterally annihilated those monsters from a safe distance without giving them a chance to counterattack.
The group of girls had not taken any real damage.
Not even the glass-like shards of the Elements themselves had harmed their soft skin.
“I can see it now,” said a black-haired girl.
He had a feeling she would blush and run away if he responded, so Kamijou silently looked in the direction she was pointing.
Below the purple sky of late evening, the last hints of sunlight glittered off of a giant structure between the buildings. It was indeed a Crystal Tower. It looked like a roughly-cut icicle stabbing upside-down from the earth.
It was so large he nearly lost sight of the proper scale, but it was apparently thirty meters thick and two hundred meters tall, making it about the size of a radio tower. It had also apparently broken through a domed stadium from within. He climbed on top of a nearby pedestrian bridge to gain some height and he indeed saw something like a burst and flattened airbag at the bottom.
“What is that?”
A heavy tremor ran through the ground and the scorching metal pedestrian bridge swayed and creaked ominously below him.
He could see the smashed airbag of a domed stadium at the base of the Crystal Tower.
But that was not all.
There was something there. It was coiled around the base of the tower. The reptilian silhouette had long vertical pupils never seen on a mammal. It had four legs and a tail longer than the rest of its body. The second he saw it, Kamijou forgot any of this was real.
The word “dragon” came to mind, but that did not follow the Elements’ rules. It was probably based on a lizard or something, but Kamijou’s mind jumped to a flightless dragon because of its size.
The Element that seemed to embrace the Crystal Tower was about half as long as the tower was tall. The distance may have been messing with his sense of scale, but that giant structure rivalled a radio tower at two hundred meters.
Half of that was one hundred meters.
This was different from running across a crocodile or a bear. Of course it shocked even the proper danger signals from his mind.
Class 1 was 3 meters, Class 2 was 6 meters, Class 3 was 12 meters, and they had assumed Class 4 was the largest at 24 meters.
Then what was this?
Didn’t this skip right past a theoretical Class 5 and reach Class 6!?
“Watch out… Be on your guard!” shouted Kamijou. “This is bad. This isn’t like the others!!”
The giant Element that could be mistaken for a flightless dragon had a will-o’-the-wisp core in the center of its chest. It was blue, the same color as the common octopus he had seen at the water department. The light was so large he could see it clearly from this distance and it pointed to a certain fact.
An instant later, a dragon-like blast of ultra-high pressure water shot through the sky and struck Misaka Mikoto.
Kamijou’s mind went blank.
He could not tell what was happening in the sky. The site of the collision was enveloped in an explosion of steam, so the details were obscured. What had happened to Misaka Mikoto? Was she still airborne, or had she fallen?
A strange chill lifted his entire stomach.
Yes, he recalled that he was on the “ground”, where the Elements ruled and death was guaranteed.
His instincts told him they were no longer protected by their god of war.
As the far-too-large lizard clung to the side off the Crystal Tower, its eyes wriggled around inhumanly. It was staring down at the raw meat walking defenselessly along the ground.
His height from the ground did not matter.
Kamijou grabbed the scorching railing and threw himself from the pedestrian bridge just as the second shot tore across Academy City. The ultra-high pressure water cutter tore through and blew away the metal pedestrian bridge itself.
He somehow managed to land, but his momentum got the better of him and he had to roll along the scorching road before shouting to the girls around him.
“Get inside a building!! We can’t let it see us! We’ll be worn down bit by bit if we do!!”
But the girls did not react much.
They seemed confused and he felt no urgency from them.
“Misaka-sama will take care of the Elements.”
“We don’t need to worry about anything.”
The smooth sailing so far had backfired. They did not understand what it meant to lose to the Elements. After being so perfectly protected over the past few days, they had learned nothing.
And their opponent was not going to wait around.
The giant lizard opened its mouth while clinging to the Crystal Tower.
He thought his raised stomach was going to turn inside out.
But he managed to get up and step forward. He moved in front of those racing swimsuit girls who had been completely left behind by this twisted reality.
The explosive roar and his right hand just barely overlapped.
An explosive blast scattered across the area, but no one lost a limb. They were still alive. But he could not let his guard down. The common octopus had used its water for more than just direct destruction. The water had been turned to steam by the heated concrete and asphalt. That thick cloud had acted as a smokescreen and sapped people of their strength like a sauna.
The nearby explosion and tremor seemed to finally bring the girls back to “reality”.
The relaxed atmosphere was replaced by one of much rawer fear. Kamijou gave his instructions again before that atmosphere could become confusion or panic.
“Hurry inside!! We can’t stay in its line of sight!!”
The high-class girls frantically began to move.
Kamijou wiped sweat from his brow, forcibly grabbed the hand of a girl sobbing where she had fallen to the ground, and ran inside a nearby multi-tenant building.
It was full of Elements.
Three meter Class 1 spiders and octopuses had crowded into this dark cool spot.
On Kamijou’s shout, the sobbing girl he was pulling along by the hand almost reflexively raised her other hand. After several explosive sounds, the small Elements were smashed against the wall behind them. More due to the side effects of her own attack than the Elements, the girl had small rips all across her racing swimsuit.
After a low and heavy rumble from outside, the entire building shook.
Kamijou did not even need to check out the window. “It” had dropped from the Crystal Tower. What for? To hunt down the insolent criminals and to approach enough to see them.
Like a doll without a skeletal framework, the swimsuit girl pressed her small butt against the floor as she sat back down.
Kamijou thought while using the hand not holding her hand to wipe sweat from his brow.
The girls had extraordinary firepower. They could instantly kill Class 1 Elements on command. But it would take a lot of time to wear down the 100 meter lizard like that. And he did not want to think about how many of them would fall victim to the ultra-high pressure water cutter in that time. In fact, if it just got close, it could knock the entire building over with a tackle. Sacrifices would be unavoidable.
A one-shot kill was the only option.
And since they could not contact Mikoto, there was only one person who could pull it off.
As the girl sat on the floor and sobbed like a small child, Kamijou placed his hands on her shoulders and crouched down. He made sure to put himself on her eye level.
“You tell the others not to go outside no matter what. I’ll draw that thing away. And it will be easier to guide it if it can only see one target. Understand?”
“B-but, hic, um, what about you…?”
He did not answer.
He pushed lightly on her slender shoulders and used that to push himself up.
He stood up again, grabbed a bundle of plastic ropes, and walked to the emergency staircase door.
(I have no one supporting me. On my own, I’ll have trouble with just the small Elements crawling along the ground. I guess that means I’m confined to the rooftops again.)
He opened the door.
He stepped outside. The metal staircase attached to the outside wall continued up from there. He grabbed one plastic rope and pulled it out. To slide down the metal wires connecting the buildings, he would normally need a pulley made from a small roller skate wheel and a thick S-shaped hook meant to hang heavy equipment in a garage, but he could not be picky now. By wrapping the plastic rope around the wire in an upside down U-shape, he could at least hang down from it.
After climbing to the roof, he saw a section of the ground filled with a cloud of dust.
The giant lizard poked its head out from there. It broke the roadside trees, crushed the remains of abandoned cars, and broke through building walls as it fiercely approached him.
It was between three and four hundred meters away.
From the rooftop, Kamijou’s eyes clearly met those of the twisted translucent dragon.
Kamijou practically jumped from the building as he caught the metal wire between buildings with the upside down U-shape of his plastic rope. He grimaced at the stench of a burning petroleum product, but he could not stop sliding down the tightrope once he had started.
That was when an explosive roar seemed to tear at his back. It was that ultra-high pressure water attack. He had somehow managed to avoid the first shot and the second shot tore away the roof of the building behind him. The metal railing flew through the air, the water tank’s steel supports were torn away, and the metal wire supporting Kamijou’s weight lurched ominously.
Would it snap or not?
At the very last second, he let go of the plastic rope.
Just as he collapsed onto the neighboring building, the third shot blasted right through the center of the metal wire. The wire wriggled like a snake and struck him on the back, sending him rolling a few more times along the scorching rooftop.
The unbearable pain elicited a scream.
But that told him the giant lizard was definitely targeting him. He sensed a sticky intent to kill not found in unmanned machines. It would not grow fixated on the building itself or try to dig out the girls inside. Kamijou slowly got up and moved toward the next wire. Staying in one place would only get him shot.
He was about three hundred meters from the giant lizard and less than a kilometer from the Crystal Tower.
He pictured the general lay of the land and shouted to the ruler of the “ground” which was covered in the stench of death.
“Bring it on, monster!! I’ll show you who this city belongs to!!”
He knew it could not understand him, but it still shook its head as if in annoyance and then opened its great maw.
Kamijou was almost blown away again and again as he used the metal wires to move from building to building. Several of the wires and emergency staircases were sliced through on the way, so he could not turn back. Not to mention that the tightropes only worked one way due to the height difference. If there was no wire to the next building, he would be at a dead end, but he continued full speed through the unpredictable labyrinth.
(With that high initial speed, this won’t get harder to dodge the closer I get, so it would be best to continue approaching and get within punching range of this thing. Moving away will only let it wear me down slowly!!)
The Element did not seem interested in predicting what route he would take. If it had done that, it could have destroyed all of the adjacent buildings to isolate him on a single rooftop and then taken its time targeting him there.
They were within 150 meters of each other now.
There were only four or five buildings between them.
(I can do this. I can even see all the metal wires I need! I can take it out when we cross paths!!)
However, he had forgotten a fundamental fact. Setting up two-dimensional barricades and fleeing to the rooftops was not enough to keep Elements away. Even if it was only as likely as being hit by lightning or a meteor, such a tragedy was still possible.
In other words, the Crystal Tower could request for Elements to be dropped from space.
Just as Kamijou thought his victory was assured, a fiercely massive shadow passed over him.
He forgot to wrap the plastic rope around the metal wire and stared up instead. He saw an unbelievably large mass. It rivaled the giant lizard that he saw as a flightless dragon.
It was a 100 meter Class 6.
Countless teeth lined the jaws which opened wide to the left and right.
It could likely bite right through not just the rooftop but the entire building he stood on and Kamijou finally realized what it was.
This incarnation of death was a far-too-large…
A moment later, a dreadful tremor shook the entirety of Academy City’s District 7.
There was nothing he could do.
Faced with this direct hit, the fear may have stopped his heart a few seconds early.
But Kamijou’s life did not actually end.
Then what had caused the thunderous noise and shaking?
The answer lay before his eyes.
Several shells and lines of light were released from the ground and were mercilessly thrown right into the massive crocodile’s mouth.
If a one hundred meter mass had dropped straight down in freefall, it might have created a large crater in Academy City, but that did not happen. The anti-air bombardment fired from the ground pushed back the giant crocodile, causing it to bounce in empty air. It collapsed into the city on its back, like it had failed in a backflip.
Only one person could have done that.
Kamijou grabbed the metal railing despite the heat it had absorbed and leaned out to look to the ground. He saw someone wrapped in wriggling mass of machines.
“Misaka!! You survived!?”
“You’re one to talk! I’m grateful you protected those girls, but that was beyond reckless!!”
They did not have time to complete their conversation.
Kamijou threw himself to the rooftop to hide. The giant water lizard still remained. With an explosive roar, an ultra-high pressure water cutter cut through Academy City’s evening sky just above the rooftop.
He grabbed the plastic rope again, got up, and shouted to Mikoto.
“The croc had a yellow core! It’s probably a Wind one, so be careful!!”
“You’re kidding. It’s still moving after I blew off its upper jaw!?”
A biological crocodile would have lost its brains, but the Elements were only modeled after living creatures. They seemed to keep moving until the glowing core in the center was gone.
There was another low rumble.
It came from a different direction than the water lizard or wind crocodile. Kamijou spotted the source as he slid to another building on a metal wire.
Two more similarly-sized monsters were lifting their heads above the buildings and snapping all of the wires around them.
The one with a red Fire core was an emperor scorpion. The one with a green Earth core was a leaf mantis. This made a total of four and one each of the known core varieties.
(The Crystal Tower really must be important to them!)
Mikoto’s great destructive power arriving so close to the Crystal Tower may have acted as a trigger. If these giant things had been walking around freely before, Kamijou’s school would have been crushed with no way to fight back.
And this did not change what they had to do. Kamijou continued to focus on the Water lizard that would be the easiest to approach. After he touched it with his right hand and it fell apart, he could focus on the other Elements.
He raised his voice and placed the plastic rope in an upside-down U-shape to reach the final building on a wire that seemed about to snap already. The giant lizard had just collided with the building wall and come to a stop. It was dangerous, but if he jumped down now, he could land on its back!
The dragon pulled its face from the building and swung its head straight up.
It opened its large maw toward Kamijou.
His throat grew dry, but something else happened a moment later.
With a series of explosive roars, the equally large crocodile was blasted into the air and landed on the giant lizard’s back while giving off black smoke. Needless to say, the crocodile had been thrown there by Tokiwadai Middle School’s Ace.
The lizard’s aim was thrown off, so the ultra-high pressure water tore through the empty evening sky.
Kamijou would not be given a second or third chance at this, so he climbed over the metal railing and jumped down. This was no time to be thinking about looking cool by slamming his fist down as he fell. It was more like he accidentally touched it to support his body when he nearly slipped off.
Nevertheless, it was tremendously effective.
He heard cracks running through the giant lizard and its joints came apart one by one. Its giant body scattered across the road like a doll someone had forgotten to assemble. Even the giant blue will-o’-the-wisp in the center of its chest readily vanished like a candle being blown out.
Then Mikoto shouted up at him from the ground.
Countless lasers burned through the air and collided with the crocodile on top of the lizard. She finished it off with a roar from her fortress-attack large-caliber railgun. Rather than causing an explosion, the yellow will-o’-the-wisp in the center of the crocodile’s chest was pierced straight through and blown away.
Kamijou descended the translucent remains like a slide and set foot on the scorching ground once more.
Misaka Mikoto was there. A drill, an acoustic cannon, and a few other weapon barrels were bent, so she had likely used them as a shield against the water cutter. Thanks to that, she had survived unharmed.
“Two down, two to go.”
“How much can you do, Misaka? Do you think you can fly?”
“I can now that you’ve silence that anti-air water cannon. Let’s go!!”
She ignited her boosters and flew in a straight line again.
Kamijou had no way of keeping up with her speed, so he ran along the asphalt while watching her move ahead and fire down shells and Gatling gun rounds.
Their enemy was a Fire emperor scorpion and an Earth leaf mantis.
Unlike the Water lizard, they did not seem to have any direct striking power, but Mikoto could not relax. If the scorpion covered the ground in a sea of flames, the brutal heat of the updrafts would assault her entire body. If sharp pointed pebbles were part of that, it would become a shower that tore into her soft skin. She was flying in and out at random angles to make sure they could not narrow down their aim.
And while the gigantic Elements were focused on the sky, Kamijou ran along the ground without producing any light or noise. He approached their feet.
If Mikoto was fighting with a direct exchange of blows, then Kamijou was more like a poison stinger.
If they noticed him, they would trample him, but if he completed his approach, he could end this in a single blow.
The emperor scorpion came to a sudden stop.
Kamijou actually needed to run for his life to make sure he was not caught in the landslide of remains as its giant body fell apart at the joints.
The leaf mantis finally seemed to notice the venomous bug creeping along the ground, but it could not swing its scythe. There was only one left now. Misaka Mikoto focused her aim and an even more concentrated line of fire poured down on Academy City. The translucent silhouette was helplessly torn apart and the will-o’-the-wisp in its chest vanished.
All four had been defeated.
But they could not rest easy.
Fully-equipped Misaka Mikoto looked up and raised her voice.
“More are on their way! It’s six more of the same size!! At this rate, they’ll have a never-ending supply of reinforcements from space!!”
“Then what are we supposed to do!?”
The racing swimsuit girl answered Kamijou’s question by forming a gun with her right hand and pointing at the Crystal Tower.
“Blow away the beacon before they finish falling, and they’ll mess up their landing. It’s all a race against time!!”
Kamijou cursed and started running toward the gigantic landmark.
Mikoto had the greater speed, but she used her boosters to fly straight up instead. She likely wanted to blow away as many of them as she could before they landed and could actually fight. And if she could not make them “bounce” in midair like with the crocodile, their landing could create a massive crater. In fact, it was a bit of a mystery how the original lizard had arrived on the surface.
They were falling from outside the atmosphere, so it took a fair bit of time even after they came into view. Kamijou was seven to eight hundred meters from the Crystal Tower. That was approaching the limit of what he could run at full speed. The threat approaching from above squeezed at his heart, but he kept his legs, his arms, and his entire body moving to continue running.
He was leaning forward nearly to the point of falling as he charged into the domed stadium. Even from outside, he could tell the gate had been blown away. This type of dome was apparently supported by the air instead of pillars, but that internal pressure may have run wild when the Crystal Tower had broken through from within.
He stepped over the glass and twisted metal of the gate and continued on inside.
The stairs down from the stands and the great size of the mound were an annoyance. Even with the crushed roof, there was still a clear area with the height of a tunnel. He ran and ran and ran and ran to reach the base of the eerie Crystal Tower.
He clenched his right fist.
With the sky blocked from view, he could not see the time limit.
He had four meters to go, three meters, two meters, one meter…
And then an Element modeled after a longhorn beetle aimed at him from the side.
It had used its translucent camouflage.
The threat had been nearly invisible to human eyes. As a three meter Class 1, it was nothing compared to the one hundred meter monsters he had defeated with Mikoto, but one of its attacks could still easily take his life.
Kamijou clenched his teeth and glared at the large jaws approaching so close.
“Ah, ahhhh, ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!”
He shook off all of the fear.
He twisted his body to direct his fist forward and slammed it into the Crystal Tower.
The deadly jaws prepared to clamp down on his fragile torso.
The very instant before they did, a tremendous number of cracks spread from his fist. The great tower had broken through the domed stadium from within, but now it crumbled almost too easily. A fragment larger than a tour bus broke through the cloth canopy and fell on the longhorn beetle. There was no more need to swing his right hand. The Element shrieked as more of its master’s betrayals rained down on top of it.
“Wah, wahh, waaaaaaahhhhhhhhh!!!???”
Kamijou was not safe either.
He initially dove down onto the artificial grass, but he did not feel at all safe with the boulder-like fragments pouring down. Not to mention that the Crystal Tower as a whole was shaking unsteadily.
He could not just get down on the ground. Staying here would get him killed.
The fear of death drove his heart and all of his organs out of control. He sprang to his feet and ran with all his might. He made a beeline for the domed stadium’s exit.
He spotted a few smaller Elements on the way, but he did not have time to fight them.
Translucent remains poured down like rain and crushed the Elements that did not even try to dodge or defend.
At the end of his mad dash, he just about rolled out of the crushed dome just in time for the Crystal Tower to topple over.
That thing was mankind’s enemy to the very, very end.
Of all things, the giant’s sword swung down toward him even though he had changed direction.
“You’ve got to be kidding me!! Does my misfortune never end!?”
He desperately threw out all shame and respect. He tripped, rolled, and crawled to move as far to the side as possible. He continued his flight.
He avoided a direct hit.
However, the collapse stirred up an intense cloud of dust and scattered small fragments of broken concrete and asphalt like a thick sandstorm. He frantically got down on the ground, but the repeated blows to his body sent him rolling.
When he came to a stop, he saw a piece of rebar stabbed into the ground.
It was mercilessly embedded in the asphalt just a few short centimeters from his neck.
He did not feel like he was alive.
Nor could he believe what he had done or what that had accomplished.
He grasped the reality of the situation when he heard the explosive rumbling overhead.
After flying through the orange sky for a while, Mikoto noticed him, weakened the bluish-white light of her boosters, and slowly descended to hover nearby.
“I destroyed three of them in the air. The others were swept away by the atmosphere. Based on the angle, they definitely ended up in the Pacific. Judging by the corpses we’ve looked at, their specific gravity is pretty high, so they shouldn’t float back up in the water.”
“A-are you sure that’s okay? They aren’t going to arrive at Tokyo in a few months like a kaiju movie, are they?”
“I have no way of knowing that, but I’d like to believe the adults are smart enough to check with satellites and send out underwater probes.”
Either way, they had no way of finding out immediately from inside Academy City.
They would have to settle the chaos inside the city before they could deal with a problem outside it.
“So did we settle this for the time being?”
“Looks like it.”
“It doesn’t feel that way at all.”
“But no more Elements are showing up. They were sending out tons of their precious hundred meter ones before, but now it’s stopped completely.”
Kamijou looked up into the evening sky, but the human eye could not see into space. If he had known in advance the world was going to end up like this, he might have bought himself a telescope.
Racing Swimsuit Mikoto used her gauntlet to wipe the sweat from her brow and smiled.
“We need to focus more on monitoring the sky for a while, but this really might have been the only Crystal Tower. If so, we can assume there will be very few additional reinforcements. If we mop up the Elements on the ground, people can return to the streets.”
It took Kamijou’s brain some time to realize what that truly meant.
His understanding slowly caught up.
If he had let his guard down, the dams of his tear ducts would have burst.
They had made it. The people confined to isolated points around the city had made it. Kamijou’s school, the elementary schools that probably could not build up a foundation for survival on their own, and everyone else were saved. Of course, they could not let their guard down. No one had kept statistics on the total number of Elements, so there was still a chance of a surprise attack after everyone thought they had been mopped up. Still, this was far better than when the Elements had ruled the entire city. This was no different than a redback spider lurking behind a harbor vending machine during the winter. They would not let those monsters have their way. It was the humans’ turn to find them and crush them.
As the whirlpool of information spread explosively through his mind, Kamijou uttered two simple words.
“Yes, thank goodness indeed.”
Misaka Mikoto softly placed her armored hand on the boy’s shoulder.
“Let’s regroup with the others and get back to Tokiwadai. Once things have calmed down, I’ll take you to your shelter. Once they know the threat of the Elements is gone, every school should see a drop in internal pressure. That will allow them to regain their humanity.”
“Yes. Yes, that’s right…”
He was unsure if he could believe that. But that hopeless worry may have been the kind of extraneous thought that proved he had escaped the stinging fear of death.
He spoke while walking back the way he had come.
“Well, it seems the heat wave is still with us. This would have been a lot simpler if all of it had been on the Crystal Tower’s orders.”
“Even if things aren’t that convenient, we can overcome this once the flow of people grows more active and we can all work together. The heat wave is caused by an incredible amount of microwaves, so the temperature won’t rise as long as you’re properly shielded. With help from the chemistry and physics teachers, they can gather supplies at discount stores and hardware stores to apply shielding to their shelters. That will gradually build up larger living spaces. And by cutting the heat off from the infirmaries, the collapsed people should recover faster.”
“It sounds too good to be true.”
“And yet that’s exactly what the two of us accomplished.” Mikoto smiled while gently hovering nearby in her machine. “Once I have the time to spare, I’ll turn my focus up toward space. I want to know what’s going on up there. What’s creating the Elements and the microwaves? …I wonder if the equipment and facilities in District 23 survived. If we can breathe life back into that specialized space development equipment, we might be able to reach the source of all this.”
“Come to think of it, we used a mass driver back with the High Priest, didn’t we?”
Kamijou had trouble picturing it, but even if there was a giant UFO mothership or space station up in satellite orbit, they might be able to shoot it down by loading a ton of explosives in a mass driver. But that too would come “later”. It was different from everything “so far” which had been focused on the survival of the children who made up 80% of the city’s population. The space stuff could be handled by the adults who made up the remaining 20%. But if their circumstances conflicted with Kamijou’s, then they might end up clashing.
After thinking that far, Kamijou smiled.
He smiled because he could actually think about things more than 24 hours in the future.
They had entered a new era.
“Let’s get back.”
They easily regrouped with the girls who had remained in the nearby multi-tenant buildings. The glass shattered by the shockwaves had left cuts in the chests and stomachs of their racing swimsuits and some of them had injuries on their fingertips, but that was the only noticeable damage. Kamijou was grateful that the ultra-high pressure water cutter and rubble from collapsed buildings had not hit any of them.
“Ohh, yes, yes. We dealt with the Crystal Tower, so it’ll be okay now. Let’s get back and take a shower, okay? I just hope the power comes back up soon so we don’t have to use a compressed air pump.”
When Kamijou saw Mikoto comforting the sobbing racing swimsuit girls, he could really tell she had become their psychological support as a proper “Onee-sama”.
But then a few of the girls hesitantly spoke to Kamijou himself. They sounded as nervous as before, but…
“Thank you very much for, um, protecting us and Misaka-sama!”
When they looked straight at him, he could not decide what to say.
He had been saved more than anyone. He had only delivered the finishing blow with his right hand and it had been these girls who had paved his way there. On his own, he would have been killed while trying to figure out how to even get close to the Crystal Tower.
And that was why he said what he did.
“No, thank you.”
He kept it short so as to not provoke too extreme a reaction, but they started shrieking in excitement as they ran back to the group of girls. He was still having trouble deciding if he had gotten closer to them or farther away.
At any rate, they began their return to Tokiwadai Middle School.
There was no guarantee the danger had passed, but they fortunately did not run into any leftover Elements.
However, they began to speak less and less the closer they got to the School Garden.
Something was not right.
A tense, prickly atmosphere grew. They had toppled the Crystal Tower and the threat of the Elements should have been gone, but the sense of death gradually grew and wrapped around Kamijou, Mikoto, and the others.
“What…is that?” someone asked.
They saw a stain rising into the evening sky. It was a line of black smoke. And it came from the School Garden…no, from Tokiwadai Middle School.
“What is that!?”
One of them uttered a definite scream.
The School Garden was a special zone containing several girls-only schools, so it was surrounded by a thick wall and they had built a barricade over the entrance gate.
However, that barricade had been smashed to pieces like a dump truck had crashed through it. There had been tall watchtowers inside the gate and high firepower espers should have intercepted any Elements that got close. Those watchtowers were nowhere to be seen. Speechless, they climbed through the gaping hole and saw the watchtowers had fallen to the ground.
They ran over when they spotted a girl groaning with her leg caught below a steel beam.
“It hasn’t pierced her leg. She’s just caught. Can we lift this steel beam somehow!?”
“I’ll try to use my A.A.A. Once there’s a gap, you pull her out!”
Mikoto stuck a uselessly bent drill between the steel beam and the ground to forcibly secure the space they needed. Kamijou reached below the girl’s arms and pulled her out.
Her leg was bent at an odd angle, it had grown purple, and it was quite swollen. It was definitely broken.
“I can make a splint from some branches and plastic rope. But there’s nothing I can do about internal bleeding. What do we do!?”
“I’ll gather volunteers from our girls. Not all espers are about destructive power. …More importantly, what in the world happened!?”
The racing swimsuit girls quickly set to work relieving the pain, stopping the blood, disinfecting the wound, removing the pooled blood, and setting the bone. They made quick progress.
Kamijou honestly did not know if his school could have done this well. He could only imagine they would have laid the injured girl down in whatever bed they could find.
While they treated her wound, the guard girl forced out a scratchy voice as if desperately holding onto her consciousness.
Had they really attacked the School Garden? Even with all these defenses in place? Kamijou could not picture it. He had to admit the School Garden would have been helpless against that hundred meter lizard, but a sporadic attack by normal-sized Elements should have been easily wiped out by the high firepower girls.
Or so he thought.
However, the injured girl had more to say.
“That person was leading the Elements…”
“That person?” he asked back. “What do you mean? Who is ‘that person’!?”
But that was as far as she got. A large tremor ran through the girl’s shoulders. Speaking and giving her report must have relaxed her enough to pass out.
“It’s okay, it’s okay! She has a solid pulse. Let’s let her rest.”
When another girl said that from the side, Kamijou could not argue the point. Even if someone’s esper power was reducing the pain, it would have been cruel to wake her back up with that broken leg.
“But who is ‘that person’? And they were leading the Elements?”
Until now, he had thought they were led by the Crystal Tower, giving them an entirely mechanical chain of command. But that did not explain this conversation. The girl would not have referred to something mechanical or inorganic as “that person”.
However, Kamijou had found himself viewing the more powerful ones like thinking beings. It was possible there was a more human-like Element out there.
He wanted to believe that.
He could not imagine anything else.
But what if “that person” really was a human like them? That would mean whoever it was had the power to lead and command several Elements. Did that mean they had not overcome the threat of the Elements by destroying the Crystal Tower? Just like people gathered in a crisis, could “that person” be gathering the surviving Elements to make a comeback?
He did not want to think about it.
He did not want to find that was true.
And so he avoided that line of thought. He shut down the workings of his brain. Then he slowly looked over to Misaka Mikoto.
Their greatest power in a racing swimsuit made her decision in a calm voice.
“Let’s head back. We need to find out what happened while we were gone.”
They left the other girls there. They did not know what dangers lay ahead and they did not know how many were injured. Setting up a first-aid base as a portal would be better than taking everyone with them.
Kamijou and Mikoto continued on alone.
The School Garden’s European-style road was a complete mess. Glass had shattered, walls had crumbled, and stone pavement had been torn up. However, there was an odd aspect to it all. There was sporadic damage, but not the thorough destruction of a carpet bombing. It was like someone had made a somewhat regulated march while holding the reins of unruly wild beasts.
They noticed frightened gazes here and there.
When Kamijou looked over, curtains were pulled over the windows in the partially-destroyed buildings. The people inside did not want anything more to do with what was going on. They had destroyed the Crystal Tower and supposedly freed the city from the Elements, but the atmosphere of fear was spreading once more.
Everyone refused to respond, so that question remained unanswered.
Mikoto could have flown up into the sky and instantly found the answer, but she did not. She did not increase her altitude at all. She nearly blocked the road as she made progress near the ground. Just like after the hit from the Water lizard, she was clearly worried about a surprise attack. She could instinctually sense “something” that forced her to let go of the previous victorious mood.
Evening was ending and night was beginning.
As everything was wrapped in darkness, Kamijou and Mikoto returned to that school of despair.
They saw Academy City’s prestigious Tokiwadai Middle School once more.
The density of destruction was no comparison to the street. It was so bad that they were hesitant to even step onto the grounds. Some sort of unseen pressure was holding them back.
Then they saw something.
Just as they worked up their resolve and took the first step, they saw a collapsed girl with her back leaning against the half-crumbled wall on the reverse side of the main gate.
She had long blonde hair, a racing swimsuit, a brand-name purse with its thin plastic strap worn diagonally, and a honey sweet aroma.
“Ha…ha ha. They got us.”
That panicked cry came from Mikoto who actually knew her name.
But for some reason, it was Kamijou the girl looked up at while leaning against the wall like an unmoving doll.
The blood flowing from her forehead had gotten in her eye, so only the one was open. She must have been scratched by sharp claws because her racing swimsuit had large rips in places.
“Well, leaving my prince with Misaka-san was essentially handing over my stock of miracles, so this was my choice. You don’t need to worry yourself over it…”
“Don’t be silly. You don’t need to force yourself to remember right now. You don’t remember anything and you can’t remember anything. Right now, you can even think of that as a strength.”
“What happened here!?”
She was in a bad enough state that he hesitated to grab her shoulders and shake her.
The white mansion had not escaped unharmed. The tennis courts and club buildings were a tragic sight as well. But most important of all was Misaka Mikoto’s hanger. The damage seemed to have been focused there.
“The Crystal Tower was bait…”
The blonde girl spoke in a whisper. No, even that whisper was the result of drawing out all of her remaining strength while her throat was clogged with blood.
“It was meant to identify anyone who could reach it in order to exterminate their base of operations. The Elements arriving from space and the conspicuous Crystal Tower were mere decorations meant to create something as many people as possible would notice… That person was laughing. Laughing while they destroyed everything. Even with the same numbers, a unified whole is entirely different from scattered individuals. With most of our high power group gone, there was nothing that Shirai-san, Kongou-san, and the rest of us could do…”
What? But who was it?
The phrase “that person” had come up again.
“Be careful. That person attacked the base of operations first to cut off the supply line. They haven’t left yet. They’re sure to be targeting you.”
“Who is it?”
It should have been over.
However, their assumptions had been overturned. The Crystal Tower had been a decoy and a trigger. It was because Kamijou and the others had reached it that “that person” had noticed Tokiwadai Middle School’s great power and led a group of Elements to attack it. In that case, who were the Elements working for? Who was “that person” and what did they want?
“Who is ‘that person’!?”
The blonde girl’s eyes widened unnaturally.
She even forced open the bloody one.
Her dangling right hand started to twitch. She was trying to raise her arm, but it refused to move.
However, her intent got through to Kamijou.
No, he saw it reflected in her widened eyes.
Kamijou Touma and Misaka Mikoto turned around in unison.
But it was too late.
The true threat had silently snuck up behind them and it swallowed up the entire world…
Between the Lines 3
Academy City Crisis Management Manual #1109
Hypothetical Destruction Filename “Operation Blackout”
Needless to say, a metropolis with a population above a certain level will tend to be reliant on electricity. For example, New York and London are watched by more than five hundred thousand surveillance cameras, but in a complete blackout, riots will develop in the blink of an eye.
There are a few different levels on which these riots can be triggered: the regional level of sociability, individual financial situations, and the strength of the weapons on hand.
There is a “safety myth” that riots will not break out in Tokyo even during a blackout because the city is relatively financially stable and handguns are banned, but that is nothing more than a prediction calculated from that idea.
Academy City is a part of Tokyo and yet a unique environment, so it would be especially weak to a blackout.
First, students make up 80% of Academy City’s population. Their individual psychologies and regional level of sociability are still developing. To put it another way, they are immature.
And as they are minors, they have almost no income of their own. They may appear affluent due to allowances from their parents and scholarships from their schools, but they subconsciously hold an oppressive complex about having to live on someone else’s yen. This desire for independence can be found to some extent in almost every student, from the lowly Skill Out to the high-class girls.
Then there are the weapons. Needless to say, the children of Academy City have esper powers from Level 0 to Level 5, so they are constantly wielding (or can claim to wield) deadly weapons. And the city’s excellent technology would allow them to create handguns with 3D printers, so there is a great possibility for misuse of technology if the adults do not manage it properly.
For the above three reasons, the odds are good that a blackout would trigger a largescale riot despite being in Tokyo and that riot would be extremely dangerous.
The Board of Directors that currently leads Academy City seems to be reducing the risk of a blackout by distributing the power generation over countless wind turbines, but there is a flaw in this solution.
A largescale blackout is not necessarily contingent on the loss of the power generation.
For example, if a nuclear weapon detonated near the atmosphere, a massive electromagnetic pulse would descend on the city and destroy all of its electronics.
Even if sturdy spare power generators are stored deep underground, a blackout is unavoidable if the devices that use the power have been destroyed.
And if a large number of espers take part in the riot, it would be incredibly difficult to quell during a blackout. The adults of Anti-Skill use next generation weapons…that is, everything from their rifles to their unmanned tanks and fighters have been made into high-tech devices, so it is unknown what percentage of our current weaponry would still be usable.
(A different document contains hypothetical combat data concerning Academy City’s #3, aka Railgun. Use it as a reference on the vulnerability of next generation weapons containing electronics.)
Also, a complete blackout would affect the management of bacteria and chemicals stored in research facilities. If they were to leak out, Academy City would become a city of death within half a day, without even taking a possible riot into account.
The dangerous specimens kept in cold storage would be most affected by a blackout. For the time being, I have a strict policy of installing secondary freezing systems that use chemical coolants rather than electricity. I also strongly recommend that Anti-Skill use old-fashioned iron sights in addition to their high-tech targeting devices.
Also, cold sleep devices should be given a thermos-like structure and sealed in with chemical coolants such as liquid nitrogen or helium. However, exposing them to room temperature while still sealed will cause an explosion due to the expansion upon vaporization, so be careful. The thermos-like structure requires a plug to allow the vaporized gases to escape.
What matters most is to maintain the “power of the adults” even during an emergency.
I believe the most effective way of doing that is to adopt a combination of high- and low-tech rather than just using the cutting edge.
Academy City Hypothetical Disaster Planning Calculations Director – Kihara Yuiitsu
(The following is handwritten)
Heh heh. I made sure to get it done by the deadline, so make sure to praise me.
Let’s get something to eat once you’re finished grading it, Sensei.