Toaru Majutsu no Index:NT Volume16 Epilogue
Epilogue: A Model Answer that Exceeds Disaster – Nightmare_by_Lost_Boy.
Meanwhile, Fran, the UFO girl in a pink pajama hoodie and a bikini, held onto her giant balloon with one hand and slowly circled around the Windowless Building. Her rabbit-ear antennae moved around and the round pod on the back of her hips focused here and there. Not to mention the backpack she wore. The bob-cut girl’s job had been to observe the opening of the secret entrance when Kihara Yuiitsu panicked, so she had been on standby since the battle had begun.
Claire, the glasses plant girl who had created an A.A.A. silhouette out of plants, floated nearby with her alcohol fueled boosters.
“Honestly,” said Claire. “When is Kamisato-san going to come out?”
“I don’t know, so don’t ask me.”
“And since our enemy and allies are all gathered underground, can’t you switch off the heat wave? It’s 55 degrees and I’m wilting! I’m going to shrivel up!! Are you trying to turn me into dried fruit!?”
“Direct any complaints to Kamisato-chan.”
The rabbit-ear antennae girl replied bluntly, but then she noticed something.
Someone ran out of one of the square holes located in the four cardinal directions from the Windowless Building.
“Kamisato-san!! …No, it’s that…what was his name?”
Fran shook the carrot stoppers at the end of her hoodie’s strings and released some of the gas from her balloon. Gravity seemed to remember she existed and she lightly descended toward the pointy-haired boy.
“What is it?”
A simple question was enough for the boy to jump in surprise, fall backwards, and land on some dried bushes.
Fran tilted her head while carrying her antennae-covered backpack.
The boy had been acting odd since he came out. Instead of feeling triumphant after defeating Kihara Yuiitsu, he seemed to be desperately fleeing something. And he was not making a planned escape from their expected enemy. He was truly desperate, like he had run across something entirely unexpected. It was like he had seen a ghost or evil spirit.
“Where’s Kamisato-chan? What about the others? Why did you come out alone?”
Kamijou gulped and hesitantly asked a question while forgetting to extract himself from the bushes.
“You’re still ‘normal’…?”
The rabbit-ear antennae girl did not know what he meant. The Kamisato Faction was sometimes asked that sort of thing because of their extreme adoration for Kamisato, but this seemed different.
And then Kamijou Touma’s shoulders trembled. He was clearly looking at something other than Fran who shook the round pod on her butt. The small girl looked back toward the entrance the boy had come from. She could hear several footsteps inside. They were not Element footsteps and she doubted they belonged to Kihara Yuiitsu who worked alone. She guessed this meant the Kamisato Faction was safe after all.
But a moment later, the pointy-haired boy made a suggestion.
“If you’re still ‘normal’, then hear me out. We can’t stay here! You need to get away from here! You need to go hide with me!!”
“What do you mean?”
“They’ve changed sides!! The girls of the Kamisato Faction have all joined Kihara Yuiitsu!!”
It happened earlier in the vast space below the Windowless Building.
“…Is it over?” muttered Kamijou.
Yes, it was over. The great number of boosters that Kihara Yuiitsu had set up as the final fireworks had not ignited. In fact, they had all been devoured by World Rejecter and sent to a supposed new world. That meant everyone was alive. No one had been fried in flames hotter than a crematory.
Except Kamisato Kakeru.
That boy alone was missing.
Only his right hand remained on the floor.
“Ah, ahhhh, ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…”
The white swimsuit and raincoat girl groaned on the ground.
Kamijou had the same thought again.
It was over. Was there nothing more they could do? Did they have no right to say anything now that it was over? After all, this was too much. Since Kamisato Kakeru had vanished, it meant there had been more to him than revenge. He could have lived a kinder life in which he could laugh with the friends and acquaintances who adored him, but that bright possibility had strangled him and eternally “banished” him from this world.
Then some out of place laughter reached Kamijou’s ears.
“Ah ha ha. Ah ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!”
It was Kihara Yuiitsu.
She had been pinned to the ground, her precious A.A.A. had been mostly stripped away, and only the miserable remnants remained of that swimsuit and lab coat woman. A sticky sound came from the stump of her wrist and something half-liquid and half-string shot out. They connected to the hand that Kamisato Kakeru had taken back but never truly reclaimed. The hand was pulled in and sewn on in the blink of an eye.
She wiggled the fingers as she laughed.
“Yes, yes. That was quite amusing. Between good and evil, it was good, but between like and dislike, it was dislike. You don’t see that combination every day! Kamisato Kakeru was blown away by his own power. Well, it didn’t go entirely as planned, but I’ll overlook that since the end result was the same. I have had my revenge!!”
“You… Give back my brother’s hand!!”
“Oh, are you sure you should be saying that?”
The mass murderer pounced at her like a beast, but Kihara Yuiitsu got up and held out her right hand.
World Rejecter was useless against the girls of the Kamisato Faction, but Yuiitsu was not talking about that.
The evil inspiration of a Kihara would not stop there.
“Aren’t you forgetting something? Kamisato Kakeru was blown away by this right hand. That is an eternal exile from which he can never return. But this right hand is still the key.”
“If you smash me into mincemeat, you might lose that key along with me. I’m asking if you really want to do that. Yes, this comes with an absolute guarantee that there is not even the slightest chance of him returning, but this is still the final key that might just be able to overturn that. …So wouldn’t you be cutting Kamisato Kakeru’s final lifeline if you did that?”
Someone’s sister screamed.
She shouted, roared, and wailed, but she could not lay a finger on her nemesis who was well within arm’s reach.
“All of you, listen uuuuup! If you don’t want to give up on Kamisato Kakeru, then you need to obey me, since I hold the key. Even if it’s impossible now, some advance in technology might be able to bring him back one day. But that doesn’t help you much if this right hand rots away before then, does it?”
This was as true reversal.
Had her ridiculous speech even lasted a full minute? But that tiny bit of information was enough to wrap the girls’ hearts in thorns.
Kihara Yuiitsu alone laughed in the center of the despair.
The one who usurped the right hand became the king who ruled over those girls.
Kamisato Kakeru had feared this for so very long and had finally rejected it, but that nightmare had come true.
Was this an extension of her revenge?
Kamijou Touma was all alone.
He was isolated.
He had been overwhelmed by the atmosphere, but now the pointy-haired boy was the only one separated from the Kamisato Faction.
“I already gave you a chance to leave, so no matter how brutal this gets, it’s your own fault.”
“Kill that brat, girls. That way I can judge the loyalty of my new tools.”
He did not want to remember what happened after that.
It had been a hellish escape. Each of those girls used a unique system of special techniques, magic, or esper powers and they had become an army from hell to hunt down their poor prey. It felt like a miracle he had made it aboveground alive.
Of course, the girls were probably still hesitating. That may have been what allowed him to survive.
But the scales would tip in the end. They would tip from a stranger like Kamijou Touma to the vanished Kamisato Kakeru. Mass Murderer Salome had seemed relatively unaffected by the Faction, but even she had bit her lips and gained a hopeless expression as she moved her eyes around and seemed unable to stop herself from attacking.
He could not blame them.
What the girls were doing was wrong, but Kamijou could not blame them given the circumstances. After all, he had been there too. If things had been just a little different, Kamisato may not have been lost. If Kamijou was only standing here thanks to that boy’s sacrifice, he needed to think about what that meant.
It did not matter if it had been intentional or not.
It was still true that Kamijou Touma’s words had built up inside Kamisato Kakeru and bared their fangs against him in the very, very end.
On top of that, he had to think about what to do.
What had Kamisato Kakeru said? Was there anything he could do for that boy!?
“He said to take care of them.”
“At the very end, Kamisato smiled and said to take care of those girls. I won’t ignore that!! I won’t let Kihara Yuiitsu turn the Kamisato Faction into her playthings!!”
Whether Yuiitsu had known it or not, she had fulfilled Kamisato Kakeru’s greatest nightmare.
This was the greatest insult.
Kamijou could not overlook it. He had to prove it was something much kinder and stronger that bound people’s hearts together. He felt obligated after being saved by that boy who had worried so very long about this.
And then he heard another voice from overhead.
“I see. So that’s what happened to Kamisato-san.”
Kamijou looked up.
The girl had been waiting in midair with the fake A.A.A.’s alcohol boosters, so she had not descended yet. That meant she had not received that shock directly. She had not been bound by that curse directly. She might listen to him like Fran had.
“Good. I can use as much help as I can get. You help out too!”
“Yes, that’s right. I need to think about what I can do to help Kamisato-san.”
Kamijou was confused, but Fran narrowed her eyes.
A moment later, the plant girl was struck by an explosion of light even more frightening than lightning.
Kamijou was blinded by the nearby light.
As he shouted and writhed around, a small hand tugged at his arm.
It was probably Fran, but he could not see her face even from this close.
The pajama hoodie and bikini girl whispered to him.
“Come with me. Claire can regenerate, so that isn’t enough to kill her.”
“What? What was that!?”
“It’s like focusing the sunlight with a magnifying glass. I take the microwaves covering the city and narrow them down onto a single point. The flash you saw wasn’t the microwaves. It was like the light from a heated filament.”
Kamijou could hardly believe it.
Or perhaps he should have praised the plant girl who was so tough that something on that scale was needed to bring her down.
And blinding him kept him from seeing the approaching despair. It felt nice simply to follow the tug on his hand. The Kamisato Faction had joined Kihara Yuiitsu’s side, but this rabbit-ear antennae UFO girl was fine. She would fight alongside him.
“I would like to confirm a few things.”
“What happened to Kihara Yuiitsu? Are the Elements still active?”
“They were food meant to build up Kihara Yuiitsu’s A.A.A. She completed it, but it was destroyed in the end! And I doubt she’ll remake it from scratch. After all, she’s found a ton of toys she can enjoy a lot more than the A.A.A.!!”
“Then I suppose we no longer need the heat wave to suppress the Elements. …Next, how many of my companions sided with Kihara Yuiitsu?”
“Pretty much all of them!! Salome still seemed hesitant, but she couldn’t fight the possibility of Kamisato returning. Ahh, putting it in words is sending a chill down my spine again. This means we’re up against the entire Kamisato Faction that could overpower all of Tokiwadai Middle School!!”
“Then one last question. How exactly do you intend to end this?”
“I’m not sure about the specifics, but I only have one goal.”
“Kihara Yuiitsu is only able to threaten the Kamisato Faction into following her because Kamisato Kakeru was sent to a supposed new world by World Rejecter. Kamisato himself said nothing could ever return from that, but Yuiitsu is intentionally hinting at the possibility. If the right hand is lost, there really will be no chance of him returning, so they have to obey her to keep that possibility alive.”
He held his aching eyes and forced his eyelids open.
A new world.
On this entirely unexpected battlefield, only one girl remained to share his fate. He looked to Fran who shook the rabbit-ear antennae on her head and the round pod on her butt.
“We need to bring Kamisato Kakeru back ourselves.”
“That’s the only way to free those girls from this curse! It’s the only way to end the nightmare Kamisato Kakeru feared more than anything else!! I don’t know how to do it, but we can gather everything in the world and find a way to make it work!! That’s the only way to reward his soul for betting his own life on protecting those girls he cared for so much!!!!!”
It was an utterly impossible hope with a mistaken premise.
But he would make it work. He had to.
“I let it happen.”
Kamijou confessed his own sin.
He confessed it to one of the girls who had adored that vanished boy above all else.
“Yes!! I knew he would almost certainly be erased, but I just stood there and let it happen!! I didn’t try to stop him with my words and I didn’t punch him to hold him back! I thought that was the only way of keeping the girls he cared for from frying, so I stood there obediently and hesitated to reach out my hand! I gave up on thinking and let him make the decision!! He didn’t criticize me for my cowardice, he fulfilled his role, he protected everyone, and he alone vanished!! …I can’t let this happen. Whatever Kamisato Kakeru might have thought, this pathetic boy named Kamijou Touma can’t let this happen!!!!!”
There may not have been another option.
There may not have been any time to think much about it or avoid it.
If he had punched Kamisato and stopped him, they may have all been fried by the rocket boosters.
“I won’t hold back any more…”
The boy seemed to spit out the words and seemed to stab himself with them.
He had let it happen. He had given up on him. He had let him die.
He would not let himself forget that sin. And so he spat out the words that he had swallowed and failed to say.
“That wasn’t for his sake and I didn’t hold my tongue to reduce the risk! Like hell I did!! I can say it now. You didn’t really want to disappear, did you!? You wanted to stay with the girls who had followed you so far, didn’t you!? You didn’t want to let anyone else have them and you wanted to keep them for yourself, didn’t you!? We’re just kids who haven’t even lived two decades, so don’t act like you’ve lived for a century and seen everything there is to see! It pisses me off!! Don’t act like you know what you’re talking about while you throw away your own life and yet look so satisfied!! Let your uglier side show, you idiot! That’s what humans are supposed to do! You can accept the ugly feelings that are far from perfect!! You had a future, so what’s wrong with reaching for it!? Just because you had the qualifications for that right hand doesn’t mean anyone will blame you if cling to them and cry that you don’t want to die!! And yet you clearly failed. Self-sacrifice? All you did was let Kihara Yuiitsu manipulate you into running full-speed into a dead end! So I’ll destroy all of this. No matter how cool you tried to make your final moments look, I’ll tear it all apart and drag you up from the depths of hell!! I’ll make the impossible possible and show you a future beyond the ending! I’ll shove you in front of all those girls for an awkward reunion!! Get ready to bow down to them, because I’m coming for you!!”
Those many girls were pursuing him.
Kihara Yuiitsu was manipulating their feelings.
And the boy who supported those girls in their twisted rampage was nowhere to be seen.
But in the midst of that despair, “the kind of normal high school boy one can find anywhere” raised his voice to challenge something invisible.
“To hell with all of that!! Wait for me, Kamisato. I’m done not acting like myself and I’m going to turn this around! I’ll show this piece of shit world just who Kamijou Touma is!! If you think what you’ve forced onto us will make even a single person happy, then I’ll destroy that illusion until not even the smallest piece remains!!!!!”