Toaru Majutsu no Index:NT Volume21 Epilogue
Epilogue: I Can’t Let It End Like This – Go_for_Broke!!
The sun had already risen and the sky was dyed blue.
It was a winter morning.
The Royal Family carriages had safely arrived at Edinburgh Castle.
There were apparently a few museums and memorial halls on the grounds, but the people who came out to greet the carriages were obviously not the ordinary staff. It was unclear how long these officials and knights had been waiting inside the castle, but this introduced a new problem for Kamijou Touma. He had joined this fight without a passport, so would they give him a warm welcome? He concluded they would not, so he quickly jumped down from the carriage roof and began sneaking away.
“So what exactly happened? I lost sight of the Golden group a while back.”
“(Well, there’s no good reason to tell him.)” Othinus sighed while crossing her legs on his shoulder. “But more importantly, you don’t need to bother with the United Kingdom’s formalities, do you? We aren’t using their welfare or public services, so circle around to the graveyard. We can actually secure Mathers’s corpse this time, human.”
“The Royal Family is part of the government, right?” asked Mikoto. “With everything they’ve done, I’m worried they’ll arrest us and be pretty mad.”
She opened the giant motorcycle’s throttle and turned the handlebars to approach. It was apparently hard to use those monstrous rocket engines to move around slowly. She might have rolled over without the hovering support legs.
“Okay. Wait, hey, where are you going!?”
“There’s no point in hiding it now, so come with me, Misaka! And that honey person too!!”
Right in the heart.
Did that boy realize his words just about stopped Misaka Mikoto’s heart?
“~ ~ ~”
She hung her head a bit, clenched her teeth, and realized no grand and significant words would come to mind when you really wanted them.
So she let her honest self out.
“Really, why couldn’t you just say that earlier!? Like way, waaaaaaaay earlier!!”
“And have you found some weird way to categorize me since your normal memory ability doesn’t work?”
The motorcycle changed shape with some clanking sounds and attached itself to Mikoto’s back. It looked like its several tons should have crushed her, but the mechanical support legs appeared to support its own weight without applying any pressure to her.
“What’s the layout of Edinburgh Castle?” asked Kamijou.
“You started running before you knew where you were going!?” shouted Mikoto.
“Sigh. That’s just how he is,” added the other girl.
“Sticky person, why are you acting like you know everything about me!?”
“(He’s categorizing me in an even weirder way than I thought! If I wasn’t in love, I would be really mad right now!!)”
When they circled around inside the castle walls instead of the stone building itself, they found a gloomy area. The castle graveyard was cleverly hidden by the walls and trees surrounding it.
They were finally there.
And this time it was the right place.
After stepping into that abode of the dead, they found a girl already there with her long silver hair blowing in the wind. She held a shovel she had found somewhere and she was already dragging out a coffin.
How far could this girl fly with nothing more than a broom?
“Aleister, what happened!? You look like you’re an inch from death!”
Mikoto and Shokuhou responded to that in surprise.
They were unaware of the legendary human named Aleister Crowley, so they only associated the name Aleister with Academy City’s board chairman.
“Ehh!? Wait, you mean the person inside the Windowless Building was a girl like us!?”
“(No, that can’t be. The person floating upside-down in there was a-…but, wait. This rejection ability? Is the structure inside exactly the same?)”
“Be quiet, Misaka. And that lewd person too.”
“Okay, that’s it! I really am going to be mad if you’re that lazy about labeling me!”
But Kamijou had more important things to worry about than that lewd person who smelled like sticky honey. He glanced over at Aleister and the coffin.
“Can you do it?”
“Yes. It is real this time. This is Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers. I will use these remains to relay a stop command to Great Demon Coronzon. The work itself is quite simple. Kamijou Touma, you stay over there. I don’t want Imagine Breaker destroying this.”
She laid out several tools on top of the coffin lid.
A wand, a cup, a dagger, and a disc.
“Wait, I recognized those.”
“My personal rule was to always create my tools myself, but if I am willing to violate my own taboo, I can also use someone else’s consecrated tools. If it is there, why wouldn’t I use it? Although this is a heresy among heresies, so I do not recommend it.”
Not even Kamijou could tell what each of them meant. Regardless, the silver girl moved the four tools on top of the coffin lid. It was reminiscent of the game in which you placed three paper cups upside down, put a die or coin in one of them, and then shuffled them around.
“It’s been so long.”
Finally, Aleister spoke while kneeling in front of the coffin.
She had stopped moving her hands.
“So very long.”
There was one person who would not accept that.
They were outside the atmosphere on a ballistic trajectory at an altitude of 3,500 kilometers.
“Indeed it has been long.”
That twisted being floated there with two bat-like wings. She stared down at the northern end of Great Britain.
There was still time.
If you assumed it was over with Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers.
“It has been far too long, Aleisterrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!!!!”
Her path clearly changed.
Great Demon Coronzon dropped toward Edinburgh Castle with the force of a meteor.
She fell and pierced the surface.
If it did not burn up in the atmosphere, a human-sized mass was more than enough of a weapon. If it crashed into the ground like that, it could erase something the size of Edinburgh Castle from the map.
Light and noise exploded out.
The air was compressed into a solid wall that scattered in every direction like a shockwave.
It was Mikoto’s A.A.A. that stepped forward, not Kamijou’s Imagine Breaker. Its giant wings spread out like steel shields and protected the flesh-and-blood humans.
“Is it really that shocking, Coronzon?”
There were two voices.
One came from Aleister as he kneeled before the coffin as if in prayer. The other came from Great Demon Coronzon who had crashed down right next to the girl. She had only made it near him. For some reason, she had not managed a direct hit.
But that was not a failing on Coronzon’s part.
It was a success on Aleister’s part.
“Stop right there, demon.”
That demon’s pure power should have surpassed that of Holy Guardian Angel Aiwass, yet she came to a complete stop when the silver girl spoke those words.
She was just a few centimeters away.
But she could not simply jab her right hand’s gathered fingers into the face beyond those few centimeters.
That human had been plagued by constant failure, but after all this time, she had finally grasped the core of it all.
“As expected, your connection to Mathers still exists.”
“I won’t…allow this.”
“Then I command you through his corpse. 333, dispersion. Leave my second daughter, Lola. There is no place for an impure demon in the surface of the four worlds, so immediately return to the abyss!!”
“Separation and scattering are the natural process of decomposition. I will not allow you to reject them! I will not allow iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit!!!!!!”
Once it was over, it felt almost too easy.
It was as if the demon had never really existed in the first place. The girl with extremely long blonde hair wobbled and then collapsed forward. Aleister gently reached out her hands. Her bloody and muddy hands. She looked very different now, but she still held her daughter as a father.
She wrapped her arms around her.
And as she recalled that definite warmth, the magician whispered into her ear.
“Welcome back, Lola.”
The silence had softened and only contained kindness.
And that may have been why.
In the RV parked by an oasis in distant Egypt, the baby sleeping in the crib gently opened her eyes.
She should not have been able to speak.
But Mina Mathers’s sensitive cat-like ears picked up on a definite physical voice spoken through the toy trumpet.
“No, this is not over yet.”
The sound of a blade piercing flesh rang oddly loud.
Kamijou was even more confused than the stabbing victim.
It was a perfectly ordinary knife.
It was unclear where she had hid it, but Lola Stuart’s hand was soaked with red.
Why had this happened?
Kamijou was so baffled he could not even voice his question.
Great Demon Coronzon should have left. This should have been Lola, the saved daughter.
Soaked with her father’s blood, the girl slowly and silently tilted her head and whispered in an oddly monotone voice.
“I always hated you.”
And back in London – specifically, in the British Museum’s repair room – Index spoke to herself with a stack of thick tomes on the reading desk in front of her.
“Wh-what is it? Was it as we feared?”
The hoodie bikini rabbit-ear antennae girl named Karasuma Fran sounded shaken next to her.
Kamijou Touma, Othinus, Accelerator, Aleister, Hamazura Shiage, Takitsubo Rikou, Nephthys, Niang-Niang, Lessar, Birdway, the female knight, and more had been acting on their own free will to solve this problem.
Index and Fran had as well.
And not all of them had gone to Scotland.
They had thought it was odd.
“Lola Stuart is supposedly Aleister Crowley’s second daughter.”
“What about it?”
“But we only have Coronzon’s word to go on there. That demon obstructs the world’s and people’s bonds, but you expect her to just tell the truth like that? Not a chance.”
Index had a perfect memory she had used to memorize 103,000 grimoires. But at the same time, she could only memorize the things she had seen and heard with her own eyes and ears. If she had never seen or heard of a certain document, she had to find it herself.
“Lola Stuart first appears in the documents as the Anglican archbishop in 1909. Ever since, she has appeared at important turning points in history while never seeming to age.”
“What’s wrong with that? That is the same year that Aleister thought he summoned Coronzon.”
“Would his second daughter, Lola, really be fully grown by that time? His first daughter, Lilith, was only born in 1904.”
Fran had no response to that.
Index and Karasuma Fran had no way of knowing, but if Aleister or Accelerator had been here, they would have recognized this as the same method Qliphah Puzzle 545 used.
For better or for worse, history provided an air of legitimacy. They had been fooled by a plausible-sounding story.
No one had thought to equate Aleister’s daughter with the archbishop before this, so no one would have compared the numbers before.
The hoodie bikini girl’s mouth flapped wordlessly and Index slapped a paper document.
“Then who is this?”
An arrow covered in fresh leaves was stabbed into the ground. The rustling of its thin branches and green leaves gathered into the harmonic sound of Index’s voice.
Orsola Aquinas had stabbed the palm rod into the ground.
Karasuma Fran had brought back the communications spell.
No matter how small a connection it was, it all formed a single thread leading to Kamijou Touma.
“It’s okay, Aleister.”
There was nothing they could have done.
There may have been no saving her.
Even so, he could not let her die still thinking her daughter had always resented her and had stabbed her.
“And that’s enough, Coronzon. Cut the act. Lola Stuart was never here. Aleister’s second daughter was somewhere else entirely and lived a perfectly normal life without knowing about any of this. Inside and out, you were only a created demon!! The real Lola would never have done that!!!!!”
Flames burned wildly.
She had only needed to create a brief opening. Instead of Kamijou Touma or Aleister Crowley, Coronzon had burned Mathers’s coffin with a pitch black fire.
Why had she not done so before? Had her contract with Mathers ended once she made that merciless attack on Aleister?
“Hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee!! I killed him, I killed him! I – killed – him!! Now I can finally cut all ties with Mathers. I can say goodbye to that damned contract!! Ah ha ha! I had to wait so long to burn this coffin. 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!!”
She stepped on the head of the silver girl who had collapsed with great regret and could not get back up.
She did not hesitate to do so.
“You wanted to save your daughter? Not happening! Lola Stuart? Who’s that? Did you really think you would have a chance to make amends!? Hee ha ha! You wanna know why she must have hated you!? Because you’d mistake a complete stranger for your own daughter!!”
“Not even the Morning Star and Lord of the Flies have their own physical body. And the idea that incubuses and succubusses do is only a theory born of religious debate. …It’s me. Only the Great Demon Coronzon has obtained a physical body under her own power!! You don’t stand a chance against that, do you? You struggled constantly trying to give a body to your Holy Guardian Angel, but even that master plan of yours came crashing down the instant you heard the name Lola!”
Everything always backfired for that human.
If she had not been shaken and had continued calmly following her plan in the Windowless Building, she might have found a way to use Aiwass to defeat Coronzon.
But this was the story of Human Aleister’s life.
“But what to do now? I am finally free. After so many years of denial, I don’t want to waste my very bite on some hard and stale bread. Ha ha! I know. Yes, that’s perfect. I think I’ll go tear Lilith to pieces!! Ah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!”
Now that the true Mathers’s remains had been burned, Aleister had no way of stopping her.
That was a fact ruled by cold logic.
But Kamijou Touma did not think it was over yet.
Coronzon had made a big deal about Aleister being dead and how she had killed the silver girl, but Kamijou was not going to be fooled this time. That demon would not answer truthfully when asked, so there was no way she would offer up information unbidden.
The silver girl was still squirming on the ground.
Even as her nemesis stepped on her head and trampled on her heart.
Her breathing was beyond shallow.
This wound would kill her at this rate. If nothing was done, she really might die.
But this would not be the end for Aleister.
Defeat was not enough to crush her!!
“Misaka, can you take care of her wound? I’ll do something about Coronzon, so use your power or whatever else it takes to overturn this ending!!”
“I’ll try, but I can’t make any promises. Shokuhou, you help too!!”
“Kamijou-san, what are you going to do?”
Kamijou Touma clenched his right fist so tight he thought he would break his own bones.
He could not bear to see the silver girl with her head under the demon’s foot.
Not for a second longer.
So that boy spoke to the demon who surpassed even Holy Guardian Angel Aiwass.
“I will smash that nonsensical illusion to pieces!!!!!!”
Accelerator shook slightly while curled up with his back against the wall in the enclosed back of a large truck. He slowly opened his eyes and raised a hand to his neck. The battery was fully charged. He could not see outside since there were no windows, but if the truck’s speed had remained the same, they would still be in England.
And then he realized something.
Something else was trembling in that dimly-lit space.
It was curled up in a corner of the enclosed back of the truck. Wherever they had originally been, scraps of torn English newspaper seemed to be crawling around.
The translucent demon was curled up even tighter than the defenseless #1. She had a lovely and sexy appearance that looked like the fusion of a human, a bat, and a mollusk, but she was also extremely imbalanced for a human. Qliphah Puzzle 545 wore her cheap dress made of English newspaper held together by duct tape.
“Ghhh. Ghhhhhhghghgh!! Ah, agh, ahh, ahh, gh, gbh, this may be the end for me. I was lucky we were moving so slow. Aleister’s attack didn’t affect me too weirdly, but overwriting my contact wasn’t as easy as I hoped.”
It came from inside.
The translucent demon’s soft-looking outlines were throbbing irregularly from within. This was the conflict between contracts. It may have been like trying to fly a drone with more than one remote at the same time. It would normally crash and break apart.
“But fortunately…I was able to wait…until your preparations were complete.”
She had kept it inside.
So she would not crash.
So she would not harm the person here with her.
“I left scratch marks – pant, pant – all over the walls and floor. It’s the same idea as a phonograph. Trace your fingers along the bumps and indentations and convert the data into a voice. That should be easy with your vector control. Coronzon is still trying something… Nee hee hee. I’m headed for hell already, so at least get a hit in on her for me.”
How long had she been like this?
He had left her in charge while he slept.
And she had kept her promise while suppressing this the entire time. With the conflicting orders bleeding together, she might not have faithfully carried out Coronzon’s instructions, but if she had taken action in that confused state, she might have removed Accelerator’s head while he slept without any defenses.
So she had suppressed it. She had continued attempting to do what should have been impossible.
That was the emotion in the translucent demon’s eyes when she saw the #1 opening his eyes.
It may have been a miracle she lasted this long.
“I leave the rest with you,” she said.
“Yeah, you don’t have to worry about that.”
His battery was fully charged.
Accelerator slowly stood up, narrowed his eyes, reached for his neck, and produced a clicking sound. He had flipped the switch. Still curled up on the floor, Qliphah Puzzle 545 looked up at that monster and slowly smiled even as she trembled. But this smile was different. It had to be the true expression she had never let Coronzon or Aleister Crowley see.
There was a dry bursting sound.
She blinked her eyes.
The translucent demon girl forgot to breath.
Her heart had not come to a stop.
She had simply seen Accelerator forcefully stomp on the truck’s floor. That was all. But something like a shockwave radiated from that point and, when it passed through Qliphah Puzzle 545’s body, the contract with Coronzon – the thing inside her that had been driving her to act – was mercilessly shredded
She was freed from her bonds.
Did this mean she was free to do as she wished?
Could she really accept that the world had opened up before her?
“Really? Why do you look so shocked?”
“Um, umm, uh, why???”
“Was it called an original grimoire? Whatever it was, you can keep them from functioning by bringing the energy in the area to the saturation point to obstruct the transfer of power, right? The basic idea is the same as electrocuting someone by screwing with the transmission of their nerve signals. I learned how it’s done when it happened to that Edward Berridge guy. So the rest is all about control. If I keep my output below what would destroy you, I can remove just the malfunctioning parts.”
“B-but, huh? Aren’t you a little confused? I might be an artificial demon that exists as a contrast to the Thoth Tarot, but I don’t actually use tarot cards. So you shouldn’t be able to save me with the same method used on grimoires.”
He sounded like she had just returned without the drink he had asked for.
The #1 seemed fed up with it all as he responded.
“You hadn’t figured it out? You were created by passing energy through the Qliphoth according to a special process, so you’re made from a type of energy, right? How is that any different from the grimoires that suck energy up from the ground or whatever?”
“Hold on. Isn’t your job to full in the gaps in my knowledge? Are you screwing with me?”
The logic checked out.
But Qliphah Puzzle 545 could not even hazard a guess at how difficult it would be to actually do it. It was as reckless as trying to use a giant chainsaw to slice just the shell of a raw egg without breaking the yolk.
And he had seen through to something not even she had realized about herself.
She had recovered after being defeated, but that was only because she was very similar in nature to an indestructible grimoire.
This was likely the ultimate technique that not even Aleister Crowley or Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers had even considered as a possibility whether or not they could have done it.
Yet he was supposed to be an amateur.
Even though he had only just now peered into the other side of the world.
The #1 could not even manage the fundamental act of refining life force into magic power. Here, he had only manipulated some vectors to bend and gather the thinly distributed energy that was already there.
Could a true and legitimate genius absorb the information to this extent?
It was not about the amount of knowledge he had accumulated.
His inspiration was entirely different.
“W-well, why did you…save me???”
The contract had been for him to guarantee her life as long as she was useful, yet this was not covered by that agreement.
It was unnecessary and inefficient.
It seemed to hint that the contract did not really matter.
“Hmph,” snorted the #1.
The owner of the ultimate brain did not overlook the scratches on Qliphah Puzzle 545’s arms from where her nails had dug into them. That was proof of just how hard she had worked to suppress the urge within her and had instead kept the promise she had made. Even though she could have just ignored that promise. Because that was how demons worked and because Coronzon was her creator. But she had not done that.
She had kept her promise.
Academy City’s #1, Accelerator, sounded uninterested.
“People controlling others and people being controlled is the most basic form of cruelty. That’s what was at the root of the century-long feud between Coronzon, Mathers, and Aleister. So I was on guard. After seeing it so many times, I could figure out how it worked and how to fight it.”
She had survived.
But did she really deserve to survive?
This second chance started to feel real.
Even though she had driven a nation mad.
Even though she had been created as a weapon.
Even though she was a demon.
“You belong to me.”
“I don’t really get all this about a Great Demon or Coronzon or whatever, but I won’t let her interfere now. It’s up to me to decide what you do and what kind of ending you get. It’s all up to me. Listen, I won’t let anyone waste you on some meaningless cruelty. I’ll use every bit of your life for something useful. I don’t care what kind of life and death is appropriately ‘demonic’. Whether you end up smiling in the sunny side of the world, end up living in peace for a hundred years to come, or end up surrounded by tons of friends is all for me to decide! So don’t question my decisions!! You’re an artificial being? I don’t care. You were born, so you should enjoy your life. Got that, Qliphah Puzzle 545!?”
“Yesh!! I will keep that in mind!!”
She sobbed for a while after that.
She had finally realized that this contract was endlessly liberating and infinitely strong.
That demon had never looked more unsightly than she did when she raised her head to reveal a face covered in tears and snot.
But Accelerator gave her points for not trying to hide it.
Not batting an eye and trying to look cool while you built up to a clever victory was not a true battle. A supposed “strongest” who would not tear themselves down was second-rate. They were the same as a soldier who could only use the by-the-book practice moves. If you could not find something you were willing to crawl through the mud to acquire, you were no more than a loser.
Qliphah Puzzle 545 was an artificial demon.
She was the same as Accelerator had once been. But now she had thrown out her grin and learned the flavor of mud.
If you might lose your life, it was okay to be scared.
And who could mock you if tears came to your eyes when you realized that threat had passed?
It all started here.
It had been the same with Amai Ao, Kihara Amata, and World War III. Accelerator remembered his silly acts of self-sacrifice when he had tried to play the villain and given up on so very much. But that was why that monster had an answer here. If you could not take care of yourself, how could you be strong enough to find something important to you and then protect that thing?
You had to throw out the evil.
You had to create yourself anew.
She had done a lot already, but she would be judged by what she did from now on.
“Let’s start the counterattack.”
He would decide what to do about the translucent demon.
So the #1 spat out his words.
“If Coronzon has made her move, then things must not have gone the way Aleister hoped. They went to Scotland, right? That’s the next stage. So you’ll go and save the country you made a mess of.”
While curled up and staring up at him, the demon girl tugged at his pants leg.
The monster gave a snort of laughter.
“This outdated information on the walls and floor is meaningless. Tell me yourself. I don’t want some gloomy nonsense from someone with a death wish. I want to hear it from you now that you have the strength to survive. So tell me everything you know about Great Demon Coronzon.”
When Board Chairman Aleister was involved, there was no way it would all be smooth sailing.
“Tell me everything. Because that dumbass couldn’t end it after all.”
That was the logic of the strong.
How would someone with far less power respond when faced with tragedy?
The stolen four-wheel-drive vehicle was stopped at a random point along the highway.
A slow-moving semi-truck passed it by.
Hamazura Shiage silently pressed his forehead against the steering wheel.
Yet again, he had not arrived in time.
The situation continued on its own and he felt left out.
He did not respond to his girlfriend in the passenger seat.
There was an unnatural gap in the back seat. It should have been occupied by a girl he had only just met today. Based on what she had said, she did not seem to be a normal person. They did not know each other well enough to throw his life away for her. He could have simply labeled it as “a sad memory” and continued on his way.
“Did you see her face?”
He groaned the words.
And his voice quickly grew into a distorted shout.
“She looked like she just accepted it as inevitable. Dion Fortune did!! Are you kidding me!? She should have cried and yelled!!”
He could not just set this aside.
He could not cleverly avert his gaze and escape to a happy life.
If he did not address this properly, he would never be able to hold a positive outlook for the rest of his life.
He did not know if what he was considering was really possible. If those magicians or Magic Gods heard it, they might find it laughable. But Hamazura decided that would be his goal. He would not be satisfied otherwise.
He recalled the flavor of the gum in his mouth.
He had promised to teach her how to blow a bubble. And that was not all. She had promised to buy a cheap phone and let him put Aneri on it to help her overcome her issues there. They had discussed her future.
Had she known this was coming the entire time?
Had she known these long-term promises would never pan out no matter what happened in the short term?
Had she known, breathed a sulky sigh, and still agreed for his sake?
He felt a scorching heat.
Something was boiling in his chest.
Could he accept that?
Could he just let it go as a done deal?
Could he really ignore something so unfair!?
“I’ll do it.”
His motive was the weakest. That was what made him perfect as a bystander.
But who cared what those gods wanted?
“I will take back Dion Fortune. No matter what it takes!!”
With that, a certain boy undoubtedly returned to his position as a protagonist.
He would save that lonely girl who had convinced herself her life was over.