Toaru Majutsu no Index:NT Volume21 Prologue
An RV was parked near an unnamed oasis in Egypt.
A gentle knock came at the door even though no one should have known the RV was even there.
Needless to say, Mina Mathers, the black cat witch looking after the RV, had to be cautious. She softly lowered baby Lilith into the crib and produced a palette knife in her hand. She had used her art to introduce simple graphics to the formal magical symbols. It was similar to the revolution caused by adding icons and a mouse cursor to personal computers instead of just a black screen covered in alphanumeric text that looked like more like an alien language than anything.
Her cat ears moved like directional microphones to focus on the sounds beyond the steel door. She would have to use that to decide whether to burst through the door and fight or grab the steering wheel and flee. At the very least, doing nothing would not improve her situation.
…Or so she thought.
Tingling tension surrounded her, but her face clouded over behind the veil of her mourning clothes. It was a cloud of doubt. This was odd. They definitely had a visitor. The sounds from beyond the door were enough to know that. But she also sensed a distinct lack of caution. There was just the one person and they did not appear to be holding a weapon at the ready or refining magic power from their life force using meditation or a special breathing method.
She thought for a bit.
And then she spun the palette knife around in her hand and threw it at the closed door.
With a dull sound, the dull palette knife stabbed dead center into the door. It did not sink deep enough to break through to the other side. It really was just the tip sticking into the metal, but it was what it was. The killer intent would have reached whoever was on the other side.
But even that produced no change in the presence beyond the door. She sensed some slight movement, but it was only surprise at the sound from the door. In fact, the calico cat curled up at her feet reacted more when it jumped up in surprise. Whether or not the attack hit was not all that important when the force of her will and its killer intent would have passed right through the flat steel door.
(They aren’t an expert?)
Then who were they?
The RV was parked in the middle of the desert, so she doubted a door-to-door salesman or an official seeking payment for public utilities would be paying it a visit.
This visitor was a complete mystery.
Mina Mathers approached the door, pulled out the palette knife, and pushed up the chain lock with the blade portion. She flipped the knife around and hid it up her sleeve before opening the thin metal door. The chill of the desert night snuck in through the gap.
It was a casual greeting.
She had never directly met this person, but she had seen him on documents listed as an important individual. That showed just how valuable he was to Board Chairman Aleister.
“I received a message asking me to run out here if it became necessary.”
He spoke Japanese with an odd rising tone at the end of his sentences.
His white coat looked out of place in the sandy desert.
And his large face looked somewhat froglike.
This doctor had become something of a legend in Academy City.
“Oh, it was you, Heaven Canceller.”
“Sorry, it took me a while to heal this good boy here. Animals just aren’t my specialty, you see.”
Once he mentioned it, Mina Mathers looked down and saw a golden retriever wrapped in bandages and obediently lying at the man’s feet.
It did not matter to this man if a wound was “lethal” or if a patient’s condition was “hopeless”.
He would overturn those assumptions.
If he said he would save someone’s life, he would do it.
He carried a different sort of legend from Kamijou Touma, Accelerator, Aleister Crowley, or any of the Golden magicians.
In that case, there was only one reason why he would have been called here.
“This is about Lilith, isn’t it?”
Lilith looked like a healthy baby now, but she was literally the product of a miracle and a specialist would probably want to scream if they examined her. After all, she lacked the physical body and the cells which were fundamental to the standard definitions of life. She was an exposed soul without original sin. The high quality of her spirit had caused a number of miracles and allowed her to temporarily remain in this world, but a child without a vessel of flesh was far too fragile. If nothing was done, her soul itself could dissipate at any time.
The soul was described using a number of different media: fire, water, electricity, incense, etc. But that meant a definition of what it actually was had yet to be found. Refining one’s life force into magical power was the foundation of magic, but that did not necessarily mean they had actual definitions for everything involved in that process. It may have been similar to how people could leave behind offspring without fully understanding their own DNA.
But the various theories that did exist came from the need for a physical vessel to stabilize that energy in the real world. Even angels and demons usually sought out a vessel or spiritual medium. And if they could not get that, they were only summoned to the extremely limited space of an artificially-created magic circle or an accidentally-created spiritual location. While it was not entirely unheard of, it was extremely rare for such a being to walk around freely while in that exposed state.
So even if a soul lacked original sin, it was too much to ask them to constantly maintain a level of paranormal power greater than an angel or demon. If it was really so easy, Fuse Kazakiri and Aiwass would not have needed to use the entirety of Academy City to make an appearance.
The frog-faced doctor spoke up while stepping inside the RV.
“Now, I would like to confirm some essential information here. I was given a message, but the writing was a tad too poetic, which just confused me. Maybe I’m getting old, but I’m not sure if I should take it at face value or view it as an indirect reference to something else. So I would like to ask some questions before I get started.”
“Yes, magicians do tend to be like that.”
“And now another poetic term has been introduced. I would like to get to work saving my patient, but I feel like I was given some ancient text instead of a medical chart. Perhaps this is what the Edo period translator of the Tafel Anatomie felt like.”
The golden retriever shook before entering the RV. He(?) seemed to be shaking off the sand that had gotten into his fur. He may have known now was not the time to interfere because he stayed away from the crib and instead jumped onto the sofa bed and lay down.
“Lilith is in a dangerous state with nothing to contain her. She needs a new vessel.” Mina Mathers worked to translate the situation into sensible terms. “I will try to use science side language. For now, let us set aside how to define life. As a pure technique, do you know of a way to restore or transplant lost experiences or memories? Or you can think of it as someone’s entire personality if you would prefer.”
“Perhaps the hormone balance produced by the brain, nerves, and organs? There are a number of things I could use, but it really depends on the specific situation. And when it comes to memories, there is a boy who even I failed to save.”
“You are referring to methods not listed in the Bank, aren’t you? For now, please list out everything you know. The truth is, just the memories and personality would not be enough. Heaven Canceller, Lilith must be placed within a complete vessel of flesh. Now, I will attempt to provide a simple explanation of life force and magic power.”
“Oh, about that. You needn’t bother.”
He readily cut her off.
This puzzled the black cat witch.
“I don’t know about the actual Mina Mathers, but you at least are Aleister’s friend, aren’t you?
“I am not sure if I would use the word friend, but it is true I support his actions.”
“What word you use is of little importance. It’s an issue of definitions, isn’t it? So I assume you would not mind if I provided the name I once used as one of Aleister’s few friends, if we use your position to define that term.”
The black cat witch’s ears twitched slightly.
She remembered hearing someone describe themselves as one of Aleister’s few friends. But those words had not been spoken to Academy City’s Board Chairman. They had been spoken during the legend of a much older era when London had still been wrapped in fog and steam.
“That man was the only teacher Aleister ever accepted and his greatest friend. That man was a victim of the opium addiction he developed from his inexperienced medical techniques. That man was the first to face defeat and have his path distorted during the Battle of Blythe Road. That man left the struggle for power in the West, learned yoga in Ceylon to treat his addiction, and ironically regained a healthy body thanks to being ostracized from the Golden cabal and failing in life.”
The crawling feeling felt like an even greater taboo than touching a coffin of the dead.
That strange tremor started at Mina Mathers’s fingertips and crawled up her spine. This might be exactly what she would feel as her palm rubbed softly against a door she must never open.
Kihara Noukan supposedly had the absolute advantage here, yet this man had easily gotten that dog to follow him using nothing but brutal scientific ability (although wielded to save rather than to fight as the dark side was wont to do). And that man gave the exact same smile as he continued his explanation.
He clasped his hands in front of his chest.
And he winked.
“My name is Golden Magician Allan Bennett. Although I took the name Swami Maitrananda as a Buddhist monk. I escaped the toxins permeating me from the West and now I work to save everyone I can in the East. Is that enough of an introduction for you?”
Prologue: The Golden and Its Past – True_Wizards.
There was once a magic cabal known as the Golden cabal.
It was only active for a short period of time between the late 19th century and the early 20th century. Nevertheless, that cabal is still known as the “world’s greatest”. Some had public-facing identities as a pharmacist, a stage actress, a coroner, or a genius author, others barely survived off of translating old texts or suggesting speculative financial deals, and others simply remained unemployed and reclusive. The cabal was like a sample set or encyclopedia of every sort of person.
The Golden cabal had a kaleidoscope of different faces depending on which aspect of it you were looking at: everything from a salon or club for those with odd hobbies to a legitimate magical research group or warmongers armed with curses. However, there were two prominent figures who had to be discussed no matter which view you took.
One was Aleister Crowley.
The other was Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers.
The Golden cabal was a convenient container for those eternal rivals who normal society could never understand. They learned together, spoke together, and laughed together, but they also loathed each other, opposed each other, and tried to kill each other. Like two beasts living in the same cage. Later on, many magical researchers attempted to analyze the depths of the strange relationship between the two geniuses based on how the surviving texts described it, but most likely not even those two knew the truth.
They were teacher and student, yet they saw each other as heretics.
They were good friends, yet they saw each other as nemeses.
Crowley and Mathers existed alongside each other in the framework of the Golden cabal, but they had a habit of arguing over their differing theories. Take the Great Demon known as Coronzon. Mathers defined it as an unwavering and absolute evil, but Crowley rejected that and said it was a relative evil.
That may have been why.
Those two walked the same path yet could never get along, so in April of 1900, a critical armed conflict developed between them, beginning in Hammersmith.
That conflict became known as the Battle of Blythe Road.
It was a battle between Mathers, who thought sacrifice was an unavoidable part of magic, and Crowley, who refused to accept that. The details of that need not be described here. But as a result of that battle, the Golden cabal no longer exists in its pure form. At the end of that conflict which was intense enough to be recorded in non-magical history, a certain human had either killed or robbed the possibility of success from every last magician belonging to the Golden cabal. The Dawn-Colored Sunlight, New Light, and other self-proclaimed “official” successors would later arise, meaning it was not entirely snuffed out, but those were no more than the futile struggles of a dwindling line.
Yes, it was a thing of the past.
“This isn’t Mathers…? That can’t be. But wait…”
“What’s going on? Can you really tell just by looking at the bones!?”
Then what was this?
What had happened in that Westminster Abbey graveyard in the center of the political and religious city of London?
They had wanted the remains of someone who had died long ago.
By making a command through that contractor’s body, they had hoped to stop Coronzon who was sure to break free of her seal and create innumerable victims around the globe.
“What’s wrong, what’s wrong, what’s wrong!? You tore apart the Golden cabal I built up and took control of all the world’s magic, but did you neglect your studies afterwards? Is this all your magic has to offer!?”
There was no mistaking that masculine figure wearing a bright Scottish military uniform with a witch-like hat and cloak. That man had called himself a descendant of the highlanders and sown the seeds of magic across all of Europe by translating many grimoires. With his knowledge, his diverse vocabulary, and the help of his artist wife, Mina Mathers, he had provided simple graphics to help understand various magical systems – yes, much like personal computers had spread so explosively after the introduction of icons and the mouse cursor instead of just strings of alien language. He was the one who had mentored Crowley as a teacher but also opposed him in debate. If history had turned out even a little differently, he may very well have succeeded in his dark aspiration to become the founder of modern Western magic.
If only he had not succumbed to paranoia.
If only he had not summoned Coronzon and ordered her to attack the person who held enough power to take the Golden cabal’s throne from him.
Then neither Lilith nor Crowley’s second daughter would have been sacrificed.
“And do not think of this as unfair.”
“Now, let us redo the Battle of Blythe Road. Crowley, you once stole everything from me!!”
What, ultimately, was happening here?
Was it not Coronzon who stood at that malicious peak?
That human was supposedly at the center of it all, yet she felt several steps behind.
Everything she believed in had been shattered. The taste of victory that had supported her had been shaken. Her breathing was heavy, her legs were shaking, and tears threatened to wet her eyes.
But. Even so.
“Oh, I see.”
“Aleister, your daughter should not have been saved.”
That alone, she could never accept.
No matter what, she had to stay strong and fight back against it.
Her enemy was the world’s greatest cabal: the Golden cabal. Mathers was accompanied by Westcott, Fortune, Regardie, Felkin, and more of those original magicians who each had their own legends.
But that human had not spent the peace of the last century twiddling her thumbs. Science and magic. She had needlessly split the world apart to create an age in which it fought against itself. And in the chaos following the war, she had established a giant academic institution in the Far East on the pretext of restoring the capital city there. Its name was Academy City and it was the Abbey of Thelema itself, created by gathering the shards of the dream that had failed in Sicily and repackaging them in the form of science.
“You said we need to go all out to celebrate your reunion, right?”
It was all a mirage created from lies.
Nevertheless, many people had gathered in Academy City.
And they had grown far beyond what its founder had ever imagined.
“Then you do the same, Aleister! The magic doesn’t even matter!! Bring out everything you have as the Board Chairman of Academy City!!”
“Aleister is not alone. The fruits of her labors are right here!!”
Now, the time of reckoning has come.
There is but one win condition: survival. Which will it be: science or magic?