Toaru Majutsu no Index:NT Volume17 Epilogue
Epilogue: Or Doubt Contains the Truth – Bet_Time.Red_or_Black.
This was what happened at dawn.
“This is Useful Spider. We are pleased to report that the 48 Hours to Restore Order has been completed. Our Academy City has returned. Please rest easy as you return to your studies.”
Kamijou Touma heard the voice amplified by a loudspeaker.
“Ow, ow, ow, ow! Don’t bite me, you idiot! Don’t bite me, Index!”
“First you vanish like you know exactly what you’re doing and then you call us out to the station only to never show up. Touma, I think you need to rethink your life in several different ways…”
“What is this quiet anger? Have I really crossed some kind of line this time!?”
“And don’t forget that you stood me up as well, human.”
“Gnyaaahhh!? I don’t need a god picking up that biting habit! You’re gonna tear my earlobe right off!!”
Once everything appeared to be over, Kamijou hobbled back to the shelter school and found a number of tragedies wrought by his own failure to explain anything.
Fukiyose crossed her arms (in a way that lifted up her large breasts) and sounded utterly exasperated.
“You reap what you sow…”
“Can you explain to me what exactly he sowed to warrant reaping this!? With the way everyone’s carrying on around him, Kami-yan must’ve been on one hell of an unstoppable rampage!!”
Akikawa Mie, who was struggling in a school swimsuit, and the Jumpy Bunny also sighed.
“Anyway, now I can leave…”
“You did a good job through all of this, Mie-chan!”
“Yeah, right. I’m leaving this important position to you, Onee-chan. I’m getting home and going to sleep.”
When the people in the student council room left the school, the rest of the students in the shelter saw it as their cue. They hesitantly started walking out past the fence.
They ran into students from another school on the way home.
It was the high class girls of Tokiwadai Middle School who had apparently just left the frog-faced doctor’s hospital.
When he spotted a familiar face, Kamijou raised a hand in greeting with a pair of jaws still firmly latched onto his head.
It was Misaka Mikoto.
She gave a puzzled look to the girl clinging to the spiky-haired boy’s back and to the fairy(?) on his shoulder, but then she caught up to him.
“Are you headed back to your dorm too?”
“I’m really worried about the contents of the fridge and the rice cooker. Although I guess anything’s better than opening the door to find a stray Element saying hi…” Kamijou slowly sighed. “More importantly, are you okay? I don’t know what that curse business was about, but you’re still recovering, right? If it’s like a cold, you should probably get somewhere warm and get some rest.”
“Eh? Wait, not so close!”
“Hmm, you don’t seem to have a fever… But touching you with my right hand isn’t really doing anything. Maybe all you can do at this stage is rest to recover your strength.”
“I-I-I said not so close!!!!!!”
Squeezing her eyes shut and shoving him away with both hands was all well and good, but the electricity surging form her palms was more of an issue. Kamijou was not the only one blown away. In case you had forgotten, he had a fairy on his shoulder and a nun clinging to his back.
And when she saw the three of them lying in pile, the look in Mikoto’s eyes cooled.
“…No matter what happens, everything continues like normal for you, doesn’t it?”
“Ugh, cough. I’m prepared to chalk your emotional instability up to a teenage rebellious phase, but how about you tell me what the root cause of it is…?”
Kamijou’s voice was quiet and unstable as he lay on the road, but Mikoto did not seem too bothered as she struck a daunting pose next to him.
“I don’t have to worry about it personally since my dorm is outside, but the girls in the dorm inside the School Garden aren’t going to have it easy. And with what happened to the school building, the recovery work is going to take a lot of manual labor.”
Kamijou recalled the tragic state of Tokiwadai Middle School and that brought something else to mind.
And the mysterious nosebleeds that were likely related to that somehow.
“I think I’ll have to use that thing a while longer. And instead of military weapons, I can put together some construction attachments…”
Kamisato Kakeru heard the voice amplified by a loudspeaker.
As lights started coming on in the early morning city, a great cheer shook the air like during an international sports competition. He could feel the vibration in his skin and in the ground and not just his ears, and he let out a deep breath.
He sensed some other breaths as well.
“That is the end of that,” said Ellen. “I had no idea what was going to happen when you vanished before our eyes.”
“I feel like I understand you a little bit better now, Kamisato-san,” said Claire. “Maybe we should give you a collar or give you a GPS ankle bracelet.”
“Stop it, Claire,” said Elza. “It’s because we don’t give him enough space that the boss wanders off like that.”
The girls were speaking cheerfully to him now, but things had been much worse when he had first “returned”. In all seriousness, they had nearly killed him. He could accept Machina, the young wife and kitchen drunk in a swimsuit and apron, who had been so overwhelmed with emotion she had smacked him with a frying pan. It was to be expected that Elza, the girl with roughly cut fox ear hair, had hit him with her bottle of 10 yen coins. But he had been truly prepared to die when Plant Girl Claire had wrapped his entire body in vines, Mass Murderer Salome had wordlessly chewed through a utility knife blade to gather power, and Trucker Deborah had turned the corner of the intersection in a gigantic semi-trailer truck pulling a 20-ton container. For an instant, he had suspected that the cruel Magic Gods had created a happy-looking hell that only appeared to be a safe return.
In his usual habit, Kamisato tried to crack his neck with his hand, but then he recalled he had no hand.
“What do I do about this? Maybe I should get a prosthetic.”
“Wait, boss! I won’t let you take a step into Salome’s world!”
“That’s right. If you’re gonna do it, at least make it something cooler.”
“Like a drill!!”
“Or a pile bunker!!”
The girls all cheerfully gave their opinions, but his cyborg sister did not actually step forward. She wore the incredibly aggressive outfit of a naked raincoat, but she now had a cooler hanging from her shoulder by a strap.
It could only contain one thing.
“What do we do about this?”
“Sew it onto me now and I’ll probably be blown away again. But I can’t exactly let someone else have it either. I guess we’ll just preserve it while searching for a way to erase its power.”
He was implicitly saying he had grown beyond his undivided focus on taking revenge against the Magic Gods.
“By the way…”
“What is it, goddamn stupid Onii-chan?”
“No, it’s nothing.”
Kamisato looked to the cooler once more.
Taking it back was fine and he should celebrate the fact that they had settled this before someone like Kihara Yuiitsu could use it maliciously.
But how had they taken it back?
What had happened to that usurper?
The girls’ smiles did not give him an answer.
“I’m surprised Maya could recover from that muddy mess she’d turned into.”
“If anything, she’s looking better than ever after remaking her Censers from Academy City parts. The real surprise was getting Mary back.”
“Yeah, she can be stubborn, so catching her wasn’t easy. She’s supposedly inherited the noble spirit of the Japanese wolf, but we really need to put a collar on her or something. We never would’ve found her if she hadn’t reacted to those Useful Spider people’s siren by howling on the rooftop.”
“Has anyone seen Fran?”
“No, but I’ve heard the cosplay girl hurt her shoulder in a minor collision.”
“She said she was about ready to move on from Kanamin, so she might actually be happy about that. I mean, aren’t sickly girls the big thing right now? She’s so dedicated to realism that if the character’s arm is in a sling, she’d probably smash her own bones with a hammer.”
“And Ellen, you’re pretty sturdy yourself.”
Kihara Yuiitsu had once said the following:
“I must become a unique Kihara that surpasses my teacher. But what kind of accomplishment would prove I had done that? I gave it a lot of thought.”
She had never been focused on the 100 girls.
She had been fighting against something else.
“And I think the most obvious answer is to monopolize through numbers. Kiharas like us will no longer be special. Every last one of the 6 or 7 billion will be Kiharas. If I accomplish that, even Aleister will be at a loss as he tries to manage us with his Archetype Controller. After all, he manages us by twisting the definitions to crush the minority, but that won’t work once all of mankind is a Kihara. And the Kihara growing in everyone’s hearts will not be unique, so no single method will be able to defeat them all.”
In that case, this was not a victory or a defeat.
Or perhaps the fear that had bound those girls via that special right hand had released into the world a type of Kihara that not even Yuiitsu had seen before.
Or perhaps she had drawn out the cruelty that had already existed within them through some other method.
Now for one other story.
This occurred before Kamijou Touma and Kamisato Kakeru parted ways.
“The people following me weren’t being manipulated by my right hand’s power. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but they’re with me for some other reason. I’m not about to deny that anymore.”
Kamisato had given a pale smile, but that had not been all he had to say.
He had continued.
“But it still seems weird to me that Claire is a lot like a plant, that Luca can use the magic of Legba Atibon who is connected to Voodoo and pirates, and so on. Something has twisted them. And I think my right hand was a part of that.”
“So a similar distortion might exist around you,” Kamisato had stated. “But at the same time, the things around you should still be explainable with what you consider normal. So unlike with me, it isn’t a distortion that infects the people around you.”
The root of the power that had created the Kamisato Faction.
“In that case, where is that distortion?”
There was “something” that rivalled the strange powers and abilities of those girls.
“That distortion exists; you just can’t see it. It might behoove you to give that some serious thought.”
Kamijou Touma and Kamisato Kakeru’s paths parted.
Then what about the girl who did not follow either of them? What path did she wander onto?
Karasuma Fran walked all alone through the city that was regaining signs of life.
She had fought with all her might to bring back Kamisato Kakeru.
But as a result, she could never walk with him again.
She had chosen this path.
She had deceived everyone by claiming to be a science-based UFO freak whose Gemstone powers were amplified by the chip she had implanted in her neck. But she was actually a magician from the Anglican Church. No matter what her feelings, she could not escape the sin she had committed. She had also said she would take responsibility for what had happened to Academy City once the recovery was complete.
Happiness was nowhere to be found.
But she was not seeking it.
“Yes, this should make a good location for a conclusion.”
Someone stood before the girl who had nowhere to go.
That “human” looked like both a man and a woman, like both an adult and a child, and like both a saint and a sinner. He stared at the traitor with an expression that could not be explained by any of the known emotions.
“Were you hoping for this from the beginning?” she asked.
“If so, I would have been a tad cleverer about it.”
Anyone who had done even surface level historical research would know that the man named Aleister Crowley had never succeeded in anything. From a very young age, he had lived a life of one setback after another. Once he resigned himself to the fact that he could not grasp the truth through the proper methods, he had dabbled in the hidden methods of magic and ultimately become one of the sparks that set off a great internal conflict within the world’s largest magic cabal.
His innocent daughter had collapsed and his beloved wife had broken.
The monastery that supposedly shared their wisdom with all people had made a mistake when treating the sick and it had all fallen apart.
Thanks to this, he knew from the beginning that nothing in his life would work out as he wanted. He knew that, but he put everything together so that it would ultimately converge on a single path no matter what crises befell him. That was the series of flowcharts he referred to as his “plan”. Anyone unfamiliar with the facts behind it would likely see it as a nightmarish destiny that could never be corrected.
But those who had been blessed from the beginning and were fulfilled enough to never question the status quo would never seek out magic in the first place.
The Magic Names they carved into their hearts were like scabs or scars that filled in what that person was missing.
“Kamisato Kakeru or Misaka Mikoto. From that decision, I saw another abbreviated line. While I pursued those two on the surface, I used that line to pursue another target that did not show itself on the surface. That line connected directly back to Lola Stuart, it hid the presence of World Rejecter while secretly guiding it here, and it even caused great damage to Academy City, including Kihara Yuiitsu’s rampage. …My intent was to draw out you.”
“There is no need to be so worried. This was an entirely unplanned prize. I am not about to say this is all following some absolute plan I set up 1000 years ago. The world of man has a nasty habit of tripping me up from both the good and evil side of things, but as long as I can turn all of that in the correct direction, I can accomplish my great desire. Just as both the Sephiroth and the Qliphoth can provide man with hidden knowledge when used correctly.”
“What do you plan to do with me?”
“I will provide you with a result worthy of what you paid. The most painful part of this entire series of events was not the Elements filling the city or the microwave heat wave destroying most of the electronics. …It was the fact that I had to descend from my vertical ship and step out into the public eye. That was a high price, but it means a lot that I have in turn acquired a spy with a direct connection to the Anglican Church’s Archbishop. No matter how much pressure I put on Necessarius through the official channels, I never receive a response, but things should be different with you.”
Karasuma Fran recalled the time that had passed and the people that had been there.
She wondered if the quake starting from her would reach them.
“And…if I refuse?”
“I was never expecting you to agree. Even if you have been set up with a trick that prevents you from divulging your secrets, that security system will no longer function if I separate your memories from your personality. I dirtied my hands quite a bit during the conflict within that cabal. After all, one’s stock of knowledge was directly linked to their power back then.”
So would he cut open her skull and directly attach electrodes?
Or would he slice her brain itself into blocks and throw out the portions related to life support and personality?
“What is so funny?”
“Oh, just that it’s a fitting end for a UFO girl to be abducted and mutilated.”
Any camouflage would have worked as long as it disguised that she was a magician, so why had she continued to seek a new friend in the stars of the night sky?
She had been trapped between science and magic. She had been tired of turning a false smile toward someone she cared for and the girls around him. She had been sick of this small planet where she could not escape its influence. It may have been a pure form of the juvenile desire to be taken away to somewhere far, far away.
It may have been that desire that led her to work alongside another boy altogether while still thinking about Kamisato Kakeru. She may have been seeking someone who existed outside the rules she was familiar with but that still spoke a common language with her.
(In other words, did I just want someone I could open up to?)
Someone she could speak to about the worries she could not tell anyone else about.
Someone who would still accept her afterwards.
Someone who would help her think of a way to make up with the others and let her get into a fight if it did not work.
But there was no one like that here.
No one came to save her.
The story of Karasuma Fran had ended with saving Kamisato Kakeru and the rest was unnecessary. So no one would hear the screams of someone whose story was already over.
She resigned herself to that fact.
Or she thought she did.
The situation entirely ignored her intentions and underwent a great change. That change was brought about by dry gunshots.
The hoodie bikini girl was not the only one to widen their eyes with surprise.
The “human” had seemed like an intangible shimmering of the heat, but he doubled over like normal when the bullets flew in from the side. There were holes in his green surgical gown and a great quantity of fresh blood flowed out a moment later. This was a perfectly natural result, but Fran could not believe it. She might have accepted it more readily if the blood had been green.
The “human” tried to call for something, but dark red blood spilled from his mouth.
Fran too turned toward the source of the noise.
There she saw a boy of high school age with short blond hair who wore a school uniform and thin blue sunglasses. He readily wielded a handgun, but his words were far from logical or efficient.
“Did you expect this too? Or is it part of what your plan can correct for even if you didn’t expect it? Answer me, Aleister! In your own words!!”
Those two had been connected in a position unseen to Fran.
“That virtual reality theory…”
“I manipulated the crowds using the Spheres and it was all to orchestrate this moment. It was all so I could make progress from the shadows.” Tsuchimikado’s voice was horrifyingly cold. “We had an agreement that you would save my little sister Maika. But you didn’t do a damn thing when the Elements attacked or the heat wave struck. It’s time to end this, Aleister. Your time is over. Be swallowed up by ordinary familial love and die.”
The “human” held his mouth as fresh blood spilled out and he held his empty palm out toward the sunglasses boy.
But then the “human” stopped moving.
“The Archetype Controller. The nightmarish culmination of your work that allows you to divide people between good and evil, like and dislike. But it’s too bad. I was always a double spy that belongs to both the magic side and the science side. You can turn me towards one side to rob me of the other, but that first side will kill you. So which identity do you want to be killed by, the magician or the esper?”
More gunshots rang out.
The “human” in a surgical gown collapsed on the spot, but it was the blond sunglasses boy who clicked his tongue.
“Karasuma Fran. You are Kamisato Kakeru’s controller. I don’t know if you’re still connected, though.”
“Tsuchimikado Motoharu.” He answered quickly as if he were in a rush. “I was an Anglican spy sent to Academy City, but I sold Anglican information to Academy City. You could say I’m the Kamijou Touma version of Karasuma Fran.”
“Just like you failed, I failed too. Aleister promised to keep my step-sister safe, but he didn’t actually do anything. As I said, it’s time to end this and retreat. But Maika knows nothing of the world’s truth. If I have that normal little sister run through the back alleys with me, she’ll collapse. And if I’m after the support of an organization, which organization should that be? But then you showed up.”
“Are you going to get the Anglican Church’s help?”
“They’re not exactly great either, but it’s better than staying in Academy City. Either way, I was fortunate to contact someone with a direct link to Lola. You’re the lifeline for my sister and me, so I’ll deal with the problems surrounding you. It doesn’t sound very pretty, but it’s something like a murder exchange. I’ll save you, so you save me. We can both play to our strengths, so I look forward to working with you.”
Fran was unsure whether or not she should take his proffered hand.
And he did not wait for her to decide.
“Anyway, we need to get away from here. Staying here would be a bad idea.”
“B-because Anti-Skill has recovered enough to show up after those gunshots?”
“Don’t be silly.”
More gunshots followed.
He clearly aimed for the head of the collapsed “human” and several dark red holes really did appear in it.
“This monster won’t die so easily. We’ll be the ones in trouble.”
The rabbit-ear antennae girl felt a definite chill in her spine.
She did not know what Tsuchimikado was talking about, but her fear and confusion was not directed at him.
It was at the supposedly lifeless and unmoving corpse.
However, she sensed some kind of invisible miasma escaping the entire body.
It was murderous intent.
It did not matter where the bullet holes were located. He could reboot himself at any time and spread much more obvious disaster. Fran could tell with such certainty that it felt downright prophetic.
The die had been cast.
The world was filled with incomprehensible logic. It was like speaking with an alien. But when she was faced with something she could not explain with her own rules, it was hope that grew in Fran’s heart. This was not a situation she could overcome with her own deck of cards, so that meant the only escape route required using the world’s black box.
She had to grab at the alien’s hand.
She had to board their ship.
“My name is Karasuma Fran.”
“And mine is Tsuchimikado Motoharu.”
She left the scene with the boy who stuck the handgun in his belt.
“But what exactly do we do? I can use my communication equipment to contact the Anglican Church waiting in the background, but they aren’t enough to send reinforcements into Academy City right away. We can’t rely on the strength of an organization.”
“He’s gathered a bunch of adolescent boys and girls in one place, he’s spreading unique teachings, and he’s even injecting them with drugs to achieve further knowledge. To Aleister, Academy City is the return of Thelema. An individual can’t overcome that kingdom with a direct attack.”
“Then what do we do?”
“If you challenge the police to a car chase, you normally can’t shake the cop cars and choppers. But things change if you drive right into an art museum. They’ll be too afraid of damaging their surroundings to pursue.” This person calling himself Tsuchimikado readily answered. “Basically, we go to the last thing Aleister wants destroyed and use it as a shield. It’s such an extreme singularity that he doesn’t know when he could get his hands on it again. And it’s at the very foundation of Aleister’s precious plan.”
“What is it?”
“You’ve already seen it.”
After slowly exhaling, the professional among professionals answered.
“Kamijou Touma. When you’re in trouble, it’s always a good idea to ask a classmate for help, nyah☆”
He was clueless.
He thought it was all over.
The spiky-haired boy honestly believed he could sleep like a log all day long since school would certainly be called off for the day.
But he had forgotten something important.
Kamijou Touma was always hopelessly plagued by misfortune.
“Ahh, we’re finally back home.”
“Welcome back… I’m already exhausted…”
There was a bright smile on his face.
But only because he had no idea what fate had in store for him 5 seconds later.