Toaru Majutsu no Index:NT Volume22R Chapter 4
Chapter 4: Overcome the Barrier of the Self – Break_the_Wall.
This battle would never be recorded in history.
But it was also an utterly unavoidable fight for liberation.
Windsor Castle was both a tourist destination and an actual residence for the queen.
It naturally contained daily necessities in addition to antique pottery and musical instruments.
Elizard stood all alone in her private room.
The chocolate-colored computer on the ebony desk was an all-in-one model so it would not get in the way and it currently displayed a list of more than 500,000 unread emails.
The royal family’s email address had actually been released to the public.
The Vatican ran a dedicated freight train to deliver Christmas cards sent from all over the world, but this was a bit more modern. When the Christmas season rolled around, they received an unbelievable number of emails and social media messages. But the ones from today were a little different.
These were not from the knights, the maids, the magicians, or the nuns.
These messages were from people who knew nothing of what was really going on.
“Are you doing well, Your Majesty? I am relieved to find we might actually make it to Christmas this year.”
“I invented a new kind of cake. It is a roll cake with a tunnel through the center. Would you be willing to let me name it after you, Queen Elizard?”
“I can see the firewerks from the gardin. Wow! I hope you can see them to, your majisty.”
She said nothing.
She could only bring a hand to her forehead.
She realized she was not worthy of receiving these words. Not after she abandoned an innocent boy for her country and placed professional fighters in his way after being threatened. Kamijou Touma and the magicians being ordered to fight would be biting their lips at this situation. And it was all the result of the orders she had given. This was all happening because of her mistaken command.
She did not think she could go to heaven now.
Her soul would be damned to burn in hell.
“I can’t abandon them.”
She agonized over it.
But there was only one answer.
She was not about to call her people weak, but she could not let this great pressure fall on their shoulders either.
After reconfirming what she had to protect, she squeezed Curtana Second tight, and roared all on her own.
“I can’t abandon the people of this country, no matter what it means for me!!”
A chilly December breeze blew and an eerie rustling came from the artificial woods around Windsor Castle.
Security had been beefed up.
It was all on Queen Regnant Elizard’s command.
Many flickering lights moved around like will-o’-the-wisps wandering the earthly realm. Each and every one of them was a lantern carried by former Catholic nuns. The bizarre silhouettes producing the creaking sounds of artificial joints and pulleys would be the Maids of Honor. They had brushed off the festive mood and changed into their combat equipment.
None of them wanted to fight.
Yet a force wielding deadly spiritual items had still been gathered.
(I can’t believe this.)
They all had to be thinking the same thing: How could this happen?
(Why do we have to fight him of all people to protect the place we call home!? How many trials is our Father in heaven going to put us through!?)
It was like a beehive. They looked like a single large group at first glance, but they were actually divided into small “rooms”, each with different circumstances. The circumstances as Kanzaki Kaori saw them may have been different from the circumstances as Agnese Sanctis saw them. For that matter, not even Agnese and Lucia may have seen it the same. But they were still all directing violence in the same direction, so this may have been a testament to the logic of the angry mob.
The answer was obvious.
The Anglicans who Agnese and the others were temporarily working with had won the war and yet lost. The original cause of the entire conflict had been Lola Stuart, aka Great Demon Coronzon, who had served as their archbishop. Agnese and the others had been on the side that caused the conflict and that ultimately “lost”, so they could not resist if Elizard, Queen of the United Kingdom, ordered them to take responsibility by ending the current chaos.
Their personal circumstances were overshadowed by the interests of the nation.
(I really wish I could have at least removed these chains from Sister Orsola!!)
It may have been easier on them if Shokuhou Misaki had been the villain and they were all being controlled by her. But it had been Agnese, Orsola, and the others who chose to rise to this nightmarish next stage by escaping that girl’s control using the auto-fuse that used the symbol of a temporary funeral.
Just as Agnese was thinking that, a piece was blasted out of a tree trunk as if from a bite wound.
She clicked her tongue.
“A sniper!? Attention everyone, move away from the light sources!”
But another boom erupted out before any response arrived. Except it did not stop with just one this time. A full-auto spray linked the booms into a continuous roar. She heard multiple sounds like bush branches thinner than chopsticks snapping. She concluded someone had been taken out.
(Was the first shot meant to work out a baseline they could use to adjust for the wind and gravity!?)
They were likely on the other side of the Thames, but she could not work out where exactly they were located. The muzzle flashes were being hidden and they were probably using a few reflection boards to obscure the source of the noise.
In no time, the grassy ground and the tree bark burst and flew through the air. Dirt and dust filled the air like dry ice, covering Agnese and the others’ vision.
She wanted to believe this would work against the enemy as well, but she could see more and more light sources dropping to the ground through the dust cloud. Her fellow nuns were dropping their lanterns after getting shot.
“Sister Lucia, Angelene!?”
“Angelene is down!! But something isn’t right! She isn’t bleeding after a hit from this calib-…!!”
The tall nun’s voice was cut off.
Agnese could have sworn she felt icy fingers crawling along her spine.
A moment later, a familiar nun collapsed to the side after taking an attack.
(The gunshot from the opposite bank didn’t match when Sister Lucia collapsed.)
And as Lucia had said, there was no rusty smell.
A wave-like sound crawled along at her feet. The dust cloud acting like the dry ice at a fancy wedding had grown quite thick all the way up to her hips. And that was not all.
(They weren’t knocked out by bullets.)
There was something here.
Something was crouching low and approaching like an animal.
She heard a low electric rumbling similar to a midsummer bug zapper, but was that a stun gun?
(The heavy machine gun on the opposite bank was a distraction!? The real attack is right here with us!!)
By the time she finally caught on, Hamazura (assisted by Aneri) and Golden Dion Fortune approached from the left and right to simultaneously tackle the girl’s slender hips.
Another attacker came across a strange situation.
Accelerator lightly clicked his tongue at what he saw after blowing away a few Amakusa magicians with a single kick.
“What the hell are you doing?”
“I am not sure myself. I was confiscating this lady’s weapon so she would not trip and stab her own leg, and then this happened.”
He saw a chubby knight.
It was Holegres Mirates.
But he seemed different from when Accelerator had dangled him upside-down from the top of a tower. A nun with a nice figure visible even through her plain habit was lying gently at his feet. It was likely the nun’s scream and collapse rather than the overweight man himself that had called people here. The knight in old-fashioned silver armor was surrounded.
But there was no panic on his face.
And either way, Accelerator and Hamazura Shiage’s job here was to act as a diversion.
For this fight alone, it had to be that boy who brought it to an end.
That bastard shoved this pain-in-the-ass job on me without thinking it through properly. I don’t make good bait since my battery doesn’t last long. I’ll have to buy extra time by switching it off whenever I can.
“What is with you? You look oddly happy given the circumstances.”
“Do you want me to rip that fat from your body, trash?” asked the #1 monster while reaching to his neck to recalculate his choker’s remaining battery power. “So how many of you are still sane?”
“To be honest, not many. Princess Villian managed to convince me, Knight Leader, and another knight who was riding Alex, the second princess’s warhorse, but most of the others succumbed to the fear and humiliation. Even if it was to protect the people, Her Majesty giving in was a damaging blow.”
“Your cheeks sure are tense for someone acting so confident. You had the perfect excuse prepared for you, so wouldn’t it have been easier to just be controlled?”
Holegres smiled a little.
“I have already faced defeat once, so I no longer fear loss.”
As soon as he drew his blade, it fanned out using springs.
That was a parrying dagger.
It was a defensive left hand dagger used to catch the opponent’s blade during a duel.
And of course, he was directing it at an opponent other than the white monster.
“Nics Everblind who embeds artificial objects inside his own body, Ange Catacombs who manages portable coffins, and Cutia Virginroad who specializes in the use of combinations of noble blood and execution tools.”
“Got any proof of that? How can you be so sure when you can’t see them?”
“The taboo changes the atmosphere. Just like that demon serving you.”
Accelerator clicked his tongue and the fallen December leaves whirled around like a tornado right next to him.
As soon as they burst apart, a translucent girl appeared with her arms around the #1’s neck.
“Yikes… This guy’s a lot sharper than before. I don’t think my war madness would even work on him anymore.”
The tense chubby man did not bat an eye.
The sweet words of a demon would not shake him.
His eyes were focused on a much more important goal.
“And it is a knight’s duty to support Her Majesty when she is unwell in body or mind. So until Queen Elizard can get back on her feet, I, Holegres Mirates, must not direct my blade in the wrong direction.”
Thundering footsteps surrounded them like an intense vortex.
The enemy apparently intended to remake their encircling ring to surround Accelerator as well. They would continue using their dirty methods out of fear of losing. But those proper elites did not seem to realize that they had already lost this round.
“Nee hee hee. What are you gonna do, master?”
“My job is to make a scene.”
They all had their own way of doing this.
The white monster stood back to back with the mysterious cool fatty while he made a threatening roar toward everyone surrounding them.
“But I’m sure you’ve figured out what I’m like by now. Nothing disgusts me quite like some bland-ass teacher’s pets!!”
Battles were beginning all over.
Among it all, a bizarre monster sliced through the dark night.
He was colored sky-blue and lemon-yellow.
That winged lizard had crocodilian jaws, thin wings, and a thick tail.
The palm-sized Othinus spoke to him from the back of a large bird of prey.
“Overall, they have the upper hand. Like Riméa said, the more time passes, the more national-level manpower they can use to their advantage. Do not let them drag this out into a test of endurance. You have no chance of winning unless you end this quickly.”
This was Kamijou Touma’s fight.
No one else would gain anything if he won and they would mercilessly lose their lives if he lost, but some people had still agreed to accompany him in this absurd battle.
He would never have a better opportunity.
He could wait a millennium without finding a better chance at victory.
“This is actually working, human."
The boy’s voice faintly stood out from the snapping of the crocodilian jaws.
Othinus tilted her head while controlling the bird of prey.
“Is this because you lost Imagine Breaker? The luck is most welcome, but it doesn’t feel right. Relying on the people around you is fine, but at this rate, you might start to assume that people will gather around you and give you a chance.”
Dion Fortune had said it was not memories that made someone who they were.
She had said it was faith and love that changed them.
In that case, he had to be all the more cautious.
If his heart changed here, he would finally have nothing left to claim he was Kamijou Touma.
“Falling from the second-story balcony without getting hurt wasn’t because of the changes to my body. I got lucky and escaped unscathed. Just like a baby that’s just fine after falling from high up.”
“You know, I feel like you could accept that kind of luck.”
“I don’t want to become the kind of person who gets mad at people for not showing up when I expect them to. So I need to reclaim my misfortune before that happens. That way I can take back the life I know.”
“You have issues. Getting lucky does not deny your skill, you know?”
He could not forget how thankful he had been about what Hamazura Shiage and Accelerator had said at that table:
“—You’re fighting to reclaim yourself, right? I get what that’s like. I caused everyone a lot of trouble by siding with Coronzon in that war.”
“—We’ll only be causing a diversion. Breaking into that castle is your job.”
He recalled the people being forced to fight here and the girls trapped inside the castle.
He recalled that honey-blonde girl who he could not seem to link to any clear image in his mind.
Perhaps it was the ability to transform those thoughts into a fighting spirit that let this sky-blue and lemon-yellow monster call himself Kamijou Touma.
He would reclaim it all even if it meant crawling through the mud.
He would latch on with his bizarre teeth.
He had no idea what was going to happen with his body, but he still made an announcement in a low voice.
“This is something I have to do myself!!!!!!”
Unleash your soul.
Kamijou Touma charged toward Windsor Castle which had become a prison binding so many people’s freedom.
This was Windsor Castle.
Truly deadly battles were developing all over its dark grounds.
But once inside the castle itself, Kamijou Touma’s expanded sky-blue skin sensed a change in the atmosphere.
An orange light was slowly flashing at the end of a long, long hallway.
He could sense the smoky smell from here, so was that another of the mysterious changes to his body? While cutaneous respiration was a minor thing for humans, it was said that it made up thirty to fifty percent of breathing for some animals.
His eyes met those of his enemy.
The sky-blue monster realized something only after speaking the name.
Laminated cards were cleverly hidden across every surface to construct this boy’s territory: on the bottoms of the vases, below the carpet, and probably above the ceiling as well.
What threats or temptations had he been presented with?
Kamijou did not know and he did not need to force it out of the boy either. That red-haired priest had always been the type to swallow even mud and keep moving if it would put a smile on that girl’s face.
In that case…
“Is there no way to avoid it, human?”
“Why would I want to?”
Avoiding conflict through compromise was not the only form of friendship.
When he thought about it, this was always how he had gotten along with this priest ever since he had been thrown out into the wide world with no memories. And he could not change that now.
He had a bizarre form.
He had been hopelessly transformed and had even lost Imagine Breaker.
But Kamijou Touma tightly clenched his right fist in preparation.
“Bring it, magician. No holding back.”
He was pretty sure he had a slight smile on his face.
A moment later, orange flames roared out. A straight sword of hellfire erupted from both of the priest’s hands.
He specialized in the witch hunt.
When faced with an unknown form of the supernatural, he would gather information and accurately put together a countermeasure in real-time and then use that to take its wielder’s life. He used both academic and military talents as tools for killing.
Kamijou Touma ignored the tall priest at the end of the hall and instead threw a serious punch toward the wall to his side.
It was almost like both sides had matched their timing.
The thick inner wall crumbled away as a black-ponytailed swordswoman burst through. Kanzaki Kaori’s long sheath crashed into his thick claws.
“Did you use your transformed senses?”
The blow was stopped well before she had expected, so it had to have hurt as bad as swinging a bat into a concrete wall. Kanzaki grimaced a bit from the unexpected pain.
“No, that wasn’t it. Did you notice the change in movement from the bird of prey ridden by that war god, Kamijou Touma!?”
Even after that fearsome surprise attack, Kamijou Touma was smiling within his sky-blue outer shell.
“I did say no holding back.”
Stiyl had destroyed his dual swords to create a fiery explosion…but he was too far away for it to be very effective.
Plus, he showed no sign of using his greatest magic: Innocentius.
“There was no way this would end with a simple one-on-one battle!! You’ve got a Saint as an obvious trump card, so of course you’re gonna use that right at the start instead of working up to it. Even if it gets you labeled as cowards!! Isn’t that right, Stiyl!?”
However, revealing this did not change the difference in skill.
He had gotten past the initial attack using the bird of prey’s senses and his strengthened body, but that would not work again. Also, he was not really sure what was happening to his body. He would hardly be surprised if he swung his arm too hard and it just tore off of him.
That was all under normal circumstances.
Before Kanzaki’s lips could form the word “Nanasen” and before the seven wires could attack him from every direction simultaneously, there was a sound of something soft being twisted.
The sky-blue and lemon-yellow unraveled.
The pointy-haired boy was exposed to the outside air, but he was not disarming himself.
He held something to his chest.
It was a black gardening pot made of flimsy plastic.
And it contained a strange plant that resembled a carrot with a split end but that also had a pattern resembling a human face.
“These were called mandrake mines, right?”
He pulled the string at the bottom of the pot to wake it up like he was activating a party cracker. The awakened(?) mandrake hopped up in front of Kanzaki Kaori’s face.
At the same time, Kamijou covered himself in the sky-blue once more and broke through a nearby window.
The indoor space was filled with a scream even shriller than the shattering glass.
Kamijou had unleashed that scream himself, but his skull was still badly shaken. It was this bad even with the sky-blue shell covering his entire body. Was it Othinus who had said the scream traveled from the inner ear to the heart? What would have happened to him without the shell?
And besides that…
(I pulled the string, launched the mandrake, and escaped outside.)
It sounded simple enough, but that meant performing three actions in front of a Saint who could move at the speed of sound.
It was only for a moment, but he had kept up with Kanzaki Kaori’s speed.
This was no time to be thoughtlessly chalking it up to luck. He might never return to being human now. After all, no doctor could explain what was happening to him here. This went beyond simple athletic abilities. He felt like there was something subtly wrong with the world he was seeing and hearing and even the flow of time. Incredible fear crawled along his spine.
Othinus shouted down from the large bird of prey flying overhead.
“Do not let your guard down, human!”
He heard the sound of breaking construction materials from the area the scream had hit and thus where everyone should have been defeated. That was the sound of someone’s merciless grip crushing the stone wall near the windowsill that had stood for centuries.
She was getting up.
Kanzaki Kaori would soon be back in action inside that hallway.
“She is one of the world’s fewer than twenty Saints. A single mandrake born from a sinner’s bodily fluids is not going to kill her so easily!”
“That only worked because it came as a surprise, but she will overwhelm you once she starts moving in earnest. Your symbol is the dragon. Whether that outer shell qualifies as the Japanese water god or the Western devil, who can say what a hit from Yuisen will do to it. It might even slice through you inside. So stop her immediately. What did Riméa give you!?”
It was time to make a choice.
If that was not enough to bring her down, he would have to use his true trump card.
Kamijou reached into his pocket and pulled out a clear cylinder thicker than a pen. He bent it between his hands and mixed together the chemicals inside to produce a sticky light similar to glow-in-the-dark paint.
These were commonly seen at idol concerts, but he had a different use for it.
Kamijou tossed it toward where Kanzaki Kaori was recovering.
The glowstick was sliced in two before even reaching the floor, but now was not the time to tremble in fear over her accuracy. He raised his voice instead.
“Take care of this!!”
A white dress filled up with air soared through the sky.
The person who crashed down atop the Saint like an artillery shell was another extreme exception on the magic side: Dion Fortune, the humanoid original grimoire.
“Are you kidding me!? Those former Catholics who let their numbers do the talking were enough of a pain, but now you express-summon me here!? That is no way to treat Magician Fortune of the Golden cabal!!”
“Sorry, Othinus, but can you translate her English!?”
“She says she was feeling lonely because you keep ignoring all her many attempts to show off.”
This was a signal Kamijou had been given to inform the others of a priority enemy if he was in trouble, but he only had so many of those. Whether it was Accelerator or Hamazura Shiage, they would have to abandon their current opponent to prioritize the one he was indicating, so he could not overuse this.
They had a plan.
But whether or not it worked out had been partially up to luck.
And here it was working.
He got lucky again. Even though he might start to expect this if it kept happening.
He could not let his heart grow flabby.
He was a sky-blue and lemon-yellow monster right now. He had transformed so far not even his parents would recognize him. If he also let his heart rot away, it really was over for him.
If he wished to still call himself Kamijou Touma, he had to stay true to his usual self. No matter what happened.
“Do not simply rely on them, human. You decided on that yourself, remember? You can summon them to you from the overall battlefield if you like, but you are the one who will pay the price in the end!”
“I know that! And I didn’t come here to just sit on the sidelines and watch!”
Kanzaki Kaori and Dion Fortune were grappling in the hallway.
But that was not his true enemy here.
That title belonged to Stiyl Magnus.
Kamijou crouched low and ran across the grass along the outside wall, grabbed something sitting by the wall, and crashed through another window to dive inside where Stiyl awaited.
The red-haired priest roared while relying on the rune cards cleverly hidden all around him.
Kamijou would gain nothing from charging directly at the flame giant. After all, it constantly regenerated itself, so that led to an impasse even with Imagine Breaker. And in his current state, he would only get himself incinerated by the mass of three-thousand-degree flames.
There was no point in staying here long.
He had picked something up outside, so he used the strength of his glowing sky-blue shell to throw it at Innocentius.
It was a bag of synthetic fertilizer.
Specifically, it contained ammonium sulfide.
It must have been like a sudden wall of stench assaulting Stiyl’s sensitive eyes and nose.
That was not a substance people should breathe in.
But to be honest, Kamijou had not really considered the specific properties all that much. Any fertilizer or agrochemical would have worked.
After all, his opponent was a mass of three-thousand-degree flames.
Most substances would still leave some trace powder in the air when sliced through, so Stiyl had likely increased his firepower enough to eliminate that. However, that was not always a good thing. He may have had some resistance against heat and lack of oxygen, but an attack coming from an entirely different direction could always be an exception. And even if the priest really could deflect everything, there were ways to take advantage of that like, with Accelerator.
It was doubtful he could use his eyes or nose very well at the moment.
And his ears alone would not give him an accurate location for his enemy.
Stiyl Magnus managed to swing his flame swords blindly even with his senses robbed by an intense pain similar to teargas, so he did deserve some praise for his fighting instincts. A slight misstep could have meant setting himself ablaze, but he remained firmly focused on victory.
And it was all for a certain girl.
It only took a moment.
Stiyl fell back not because of his flame swords but because he feared running into Innocentius which fought automatically. And once he did that, Kamijou had what he needed.
That large boy was not Kanzaki.
He was skilled in magic, but his athletic abilities were no greater than the average person’s. Those two flames swords may have been more than enough of a threat if Kamijou had nothing but his ordinary right hand to work with, but he was covered by sky-blue and lemon-yellow.
That shell had briefly reached Kanzaki’s level.
He did not care if he was pushing himself too hard here.
He rushed in and forcefully swung his right arm which carried thick claws.
A dull sound burst out.
Stiyl Magnus was thrown to the Windsor Castle floor.
Kamijou had been in too much of a hurry to think about holding back.
Even if the priest was swinging them blindly, a hit from one of those flame swords would have scorched his body.
Was this another example of luck?
“This is not over yet, human.”
Othinus hopped down onto Kamijou’s sky-blue shoulder.
The bird of prey that palm-sized fairy had been riding may have refused to get close with all the strong chemicals scattered around. Or was the bird not much of an advantage inside a building?
“This is all over if you do not reach the center before you run out of cards to play, human. You are up against the United Kingdom itself. They can call in all sorts of extraordinary reinforcements, so time is not on your side here.”
“I get that, Othinus.”
Kamijou made his way to the stairs while feeling a bit woozy from the fertilizer smell and the extreme tension that refused to leave him.
He did not know exactly where to find the person who was dressed up in his past.
But he did know where to start the search.
As he always had since losing his memories, he would rely on what little information he had gathered with his eyes and ears.
“Let’s check that dance hall that acts like a symbol of his success.”
Takitsubo Rikou, the girl in a pink track suit and fluffy sweater, was seated on the bank of the Thames. She was peering through large goggles that provided night vision with an electronic attachment. Her butt was placed on the ground and her knees were bent and spread out. That indecent pose (which may have been like someone whose hips gave out during a test of courage) was so she could hold the heavy machine gun sitting on a tripod between her legs.
Looking at the size alone, that mass of steel was larger than she was tall.
That large weapon would normally require a group of four to operate, but she was handling it well for an amateur. Although that may have been because she was meant as a diversion and distraction, so accuracy was not a requirement.
She was more than three hundred meters away from her targets.
Given the heavy machine gun’s range, she should have been able to hit a stationary target at ten times that distance, but the boxy buildings and artificial woods in the way meant she did not always have a line of fire.
(Hmm, there’s no real reason I have to fight here.)
The deep vibration of the heavy machine gun passed through her entire body and needlessly shook her surprisingly large chest, but she still managed to dryly think to herself in her usual absentminded state. That may have been thanks to her experience deep in the dark side.
That said, she was also right in a way.
This was Kamijou Touma’s problem and it was not directly linked to the fate of the world or her group’s happiness. She was willing to do her duty, but taking that too far could mean losing the stability they had finally found.
She was willing to say something very basic here: I refuse to die a meaningless death after coming this far.
“Dion Fortune disappeared, didn’t she? I imagine a request must have come for her, but you should up the barrage. This is too much for that one Asian alone.”
The person using electronically-enhanced binoculars next to her was First Princess Riméa. She was close enough to lean against the girl, but they were still using shared radio earphones to converse. The heavy machine gun would have drowned out their voices otherwise.
Also, it had been the British princess who lent them all this equipment.
Takitsubo was very careful to not hit the nuns and maids she saw running around in the artificial woods.
“Hm. That means it’s just Hamazura in there. Hm, hm.”
“Did you find some personal rules to follow mid-battle? I’m glad to see this is motivating you in some weird way, but humans really are frightening beings. Is it really that impossible to hold a friendship and romance simultaneously?”
Just then, something cut across in Takitsubo’s greenish vision enhanced by the electronics.
She immediately pulled her head back to remove her eye from the scope, but that was meaningless in this case. She reacted the same as if a bug were flying near her face, but with the naked eye, the area three hundred meters away was simply wrapped in darkness.
She saw a bitter look on the first princess’s face next to her.
After that comment to herself, she used her radio to call to someone while sending out identical signals from the many drones in the air to disguise the origin of the signal.
“Okay, Villian!! If you can respond, then explain what’s going on in Windsor Castle right now. Although I’m sure the answer is not going to delight me!!”
Takitsubo’s eyes widened in shock while the rest of her expression remained blank.
She blinked a few times.
“What was that?” It looked like she could not believe her eyes. “Did someone intentionally move into the line of fire and deflect the bullets with a sword?”
“Keep that barrage going. That boy on the opposite bank will be killed in no time as things are.”
Takitsubo was dumbfounded by Riméa’s words.
She had known they were not strong enough. That was why their assistance was only meant as decoys and diversions to fill in the gaps. But it was still much more powerful to hear someone else talk about dying or being killed. Especially when it was based on rational calculations instead of emotion.
“You want to know who that was? Saying you don’t recognize her might just qualify as lèse-majesté,” explained First Princess Riméa. “That was humanity’s least mature person going on a rampage with Curtana in hand.”
An intermittent low rumbling shook the dance hall’s floor.
The pointy-haired boy in a tuxedo and ascot tie looked up at the ceiling with a carefree attitude.
“Yeah, that seems about right.”
His tone made it clear he did not expect much from the people he had forced to fight. He knew they were an enemy he would have to defeat eventually, so he may have only wanted to wear them down as much as possible before that happened.
“I’m gonna go motivate Elizard a little more. Maybe I should destroy a few more national treasures with my right hand to make sure she follows that command to the letter.”
That boy did not know much about magic, but there was one thing he could figure out from his experience.
“The truly dangerous things aren’t hung up as some prominent sign or symbol like a huge bell, a statue, a fountain, or a painting. I mean, they’re afraid someone will realize how important it is.”
“It’s the same logic used when transporting art and antiques. So the true protective signs will be hidden in the creases, patterns, frameworks, and other places that aren’t obvious at first glance. That’s the kind of things Imagine Breaker destroyed in the Tower of London, after all. If I’m ever in trouble, I just have to remember that. I’m sure to find the answer there.”
He spoke to himself like he was reviewing how to cook something.
There was a Kamijou Touma that Shokuhou Misaki did not know. One was sky-blue and lemon-yellow and the other was shocking-pink and emerald. There was nothing she could use to judge it properly now. She was in such an extreme state of confusion that the waves of emotion had died off. She doubted she would be all that surprised if a third and fourth one showed up now.
Then this boy directed his focus outwards while an emerald light scattered from the corner of his eye.
“Shokuhou, you set things up here. In that perfect way of yours.”
The door was standing open.
She could have escaped if she had made a run for it.
But she could not move.
She could not take even the first step beyond the fluttering curtain over the window.
There were no chains, but an invisible weight seemed to be dragging her to the water’s depths.
She let out a soft breath and then grabbed her TV remote again.
She had two trump cards: Index and Misaka Mikoto.
She had been told what to do with both of them. She could probably control them both, but Mikoto would be the easier one. So the girl with her honey-blonde hair worn back in two stages walked to that girl first.
She bit her lip.
But after being driven to the edge of the edge, she could not stop her mistake with her own power.
She could not even lift her hanging head.
A wet sobbing sound continued endlessly.
Her self-respect was so badly damaged that her eyes did not even look the same size, but she still moved like a marionette. Her thighs pushed dangerously far from the slits in her dress. The hips of the dress that shined like enamel strained as she moved.
The honey-blonde girl was already unable to get up under the mountain of weights pressing down on her, but further weights of violation were plopped down atop that mountain.
It was similar to being buried under multiple crushing debts.
“I’m sorry, Misaka-san.”
With those meaningless words, her thumb touched the button.
The calico cat mewed at her feet, but that was not enough to stop her.
Unlike the British magicians(?), Misaka Mikoto was a pure Academy City Level 5.
It was still unknown how much of her power the Railgun could deflect, but there should still have been an access point left open for their joint work with the A.A.A. There were decent odds she could control the girl with Mental Out now.
The girl showed no concern over the underwear-like transparent material or her exposed back.
Her skin was not flushed like after a bath, nor was it pale.
It was simply an emotionless milky white.
The black, bench-sized mass resembling a streetcar or police van approached the short-haired girl while she stood entirely motionlessly. It must have received a command from its true master because the A.A.A. changed shape with several mechanical noises. It regained its original form that remade the girl’s silhouette into a metal-winged demon.
With that, the weaponization was complete.
That girl was now a fighter who would crush that other boy.
A moment later, one of the weapon arms gave a roar and opened fire on the tuxedo boy standing nearby.
Shokuhou was even more surprised than the target of the gunfire.
The cat could not “scream”, so it instead uttered a twisted meow.
Misaka Mikoto was still unconscious. She had to be.
Nevertheless, the blue veil on her head fluttered like a curtain while her arms and legs were forcibly moved by an external force, as if they were attached to invisible strings. The blue lingerie dress clearly revealed her bodylines, but she made no attempt to hide the milky-white skin seen through the lace and she did not even blush.
A few tufts of black hair fluttered through the air.
The attack had been too quick to dodge if you reacted only after the oddity had begun.
Did that mean the boy had been considering this a possibility in some corner of his mind? He was powerless, weak, and unable to survive even a single hit. But that was why he had to be cautious.
There was a slight flash of shocking-pink.
It came from the corner of his mouth.
“No! It wasn’t me!!”
Even as she shouted, her clever mind worked out the answer with a swiftness that disgusted her.
The A.A.A. is a purely mechanical product, so Mental Out doesn’t work on it. So did Misaka-san change some settings in its programming in advance so it would attack him once it connected to her!?
That girl would be of no use like this.
Shokuhou could only control Misaka Mikoto who was dangling from the machine like a limp doll. If the exterior A.A.A. had taken control of the human-machine unit, then any stop command Shokuhou sent would be meaningless. That would only start a hopeless arm wrestling match in which Mikoto tried to use her muscles to stop the mechanical arms from moving.
It was possible this was the final branch in the road.
She could have taken this chance by assisting the A.A.A. and shoving on the tuxedo boy’s back while standing closer to him than anyone.
“Help me, Shokuhou!!”
He called her name.
With a pleading tone.
That might not seem like much to most people, but to her, it was something she had given up all hope of ever hearing again.
The hand holding the TV remote moved.
She bit her lovely lip so hard she tasted blood.
She knew this was wrong, but she could not escape it.
The cat rubbed against her ankle and meowed as if trying to stop her.
(The other trump card!!)
She targeted the silver-haired girl.
The one in a storybook princess dress colored white with reddish-purple lines.
She apparently worked for the Anglican Church(?) as a magician(???), so Shokuhou did not know if she could actually control her. An auto-fuse that used some system related to a funeral or something was currently in effect, but the pointy-haired boy in a tuxedo had said there was a loophole there.
That trap had supposedly already been lost, but if the residual memories remained, Shokuhou Misaki’s Mental Out could restore it within the silver girl’s mind. She could not directly control the girl, but that could change if she restored the backdoor previously installed there. It was like restoring your malfunctioning computer to an older state and bringing back a virus you thought you had already eliminated.
“Stop Misaka-san! Hurry!!”
“Warning: Chapter 0, Verse 0.”
Creepy magic circles appeared deep in her lovely eyes.
The silver-haired girl in a storybook princess’s dress moved in an inhuman way that may have been even more lifeless than Misaka Mikoto with her blue veil fluttering like a curtain.
“Illegitimate contact detected. Response level: top priority. Destroying all possible suspects to restore security stability.”
That may have been a taboo she never should have touched.
Shokuhou Misaki knew she was no longer worthy, but she still reached for her chest.
She reached for the cheap emergency whistle she had been unable to throw away.
But was it really any help at all?
The uncontrollable conclusion had finally begun.
A violent tremor shook the entirety of Windsor Castle.
Directly above the sky-blue jaws that resembled a violent crocodile, a giant chandelier swayed like a pendulum over Kamijou Touma’s head and cracks ran through the windows even though he had not touched them.
“What the hell!?”
“This isn’t like our planned disturbances. Something is happening, human. And I don’t think it is those morons outside getting carried away!!”
The electric wiring inside the thick stone walls must have broken because all of the castle’s indoor lighting began flickering unreliably.
He had apparently chosen the right direction.
And besides that, he heard some kind of shrill, ear-splitting noise.
“What was that?”
It was unusual for Othinus to express such obvious confusion.
And she continued with doubt in her voice.
“Was it a whistle???”
Kamijou Touma had a blank in his memories that he could not remember.
But he definitely felt something in his heart. Wasn’t that sound—that whistle—a sign of danger that he had hoped to never hear?
(Calm down. Stay calm.)
He felt himself growing irritated at this unexpected event that he could not figure out on his own.
He could not assume that luck would always be on his side. If he did that, he would become a true monster.
(I can’t let this formless unease control me. I have to stay in charge. This isn’t fortune or misfortune. I just have to head to the source of the noise. That’s all it is.)
He slowly breathed from the crocodilian jaws and demanded self-examination from himself.
“You can figure this out one thing at a time.”
The mysterious intermittent shaking seemed to come from up on the second floor. The dance hall he had entered before was located there.
He climbed the stairs.
There were no strange traps or unexpected ambushes waiting for him.
But the extreme tension squeezing at his chest did not go away. He was meaninglessly reminded of how haunted houses could not have ghosts popping out at you all the time so they intentionally included long passageways and corners where nothing happened.
“There’s the door.” Othinus seemed to notice something from his shoulder. “But something isn’t right. Is it opened toward us a little? No, the door itself is bent out this way. Has the entire knob structure broken???”
It was like someone had tackled it with all their might.
No, you would need a large explosion inside the dance hall to cause that.
And that seemed likely enough given how much the entire stone castle had been shaking.
Kamijou gulped and continued down the hallway inside the sky-blue and lemon-yellow outer shell.
He moved slowly, although he had no idea what he was so afraid of.
Othinus had been right. Whether it was made of brass or gold, the golden-glittering knob was broken and bent. The rectangular bolt meant to open and close the door when the knob turned had been snapped by a powerful force and lay there on the carpeted floor. The double doors were swelling out toward him, but it looked like they were originally meant to open inwards.
There was nothing to grab or turn.
He pushed his clawed palm against the bent door and used his weight to open it inwards.
Something immediately leaped into his field of vision.
White and blue dresses flapped in the air.
Two girls surrounded by crystallizations of magic and science were flying every which way in the wide space and repeatedly clashing. It was like walking into a nightmare.
He nearly forgot why he was even here.
The girls showed no sign of worrying about their fluttering skirts or their skin showing through their dress. But there was no time to consider the sex appeal of their backs or thighs when it looked like they might strangle themselves with those mechanical arms at this rate.
He shouted and tried to move between them.
But he had not seen the true depths of this hell yet.
Just as he stepped forward without heeding Othinus’s warning, his sky-blue foot felt something sticky.
He also heard a straining sound from right next to the bent door.
A honey-blonde girl was seated there and leaning against the wall. The sound must have been the rubbing of the hard-looking dress that resembled a yellow bunny suit. He did not even notice the slits in the skirt. Her body was unnaturally tilted and the small crown decoration swayed on her head like dead grass. Dark red liquid spilled from where one hand weakly held her side.
It was a blood red.
The way it heavily contrasted with her white skin seemed like the aesthetic of death.
Her other hand dangled down with something gripped in the slender fingers.
The calico cat was endlessly meowing nearby.
That may have helped her stay conscious. The cat had no supernatural power or strategic power, but how much of a help had that small life been to that girl when she felt crushed all alone with no one to confide in?
Once someone died, that was the end of it.
There was no such thing as resurrection beyond what the god in heaven had declared.
Kamijou Touma no longer had that right hand which had stripped away all of his luck.
But was this another form of fortune?
Did arriving before she fully lost consciousness still fall into the realm of “lucky”?
(No, screw that. To hell with that idea!!)
“I knew it…”
A faint breath left the girl’s lovely lips.
The blood flowing from her brow kept her from opening one eye.
But when she saw those bizarre jaws colored a sky-blue and lemon-yellow found nowhere in nature, she managed a smile despite the blood soaking her dress.
“I knew I would be punished for what I did… even if that’s not something a Level 5 made in a city of science ability should be saying.”
“What’s that look for?”
Was she in pain or not?
It may have been the same as how someone stranded on a snowy mountain would feel a strange warmth in the very, very end.
What expression did she see on that toothy monster’s face?
“Don’t worry. You don’t have to yell. It might hurt now, but that sadness won’t stay in your heart. You’ll forget all about it in the end.”
The person before her was no hero or an older high school boy.
In fact, that boy felt so cornered he revealed his own weakness.
“How did this happen!? It’s true—I can’t seem to remember your name or what you look like! That’s why I can’t understand why you did this and I doubt I would remember even if you explained it to me!! So why… why can you smile now of all times!?”
“Yes, that’s right.”
His words only seemed to rid the honey-blonde girl’s smile of its stiffness.
“I really did know it from the beginning. I knew that was the real you. That’s why I blew the whistle to call for someone else even though he was right in front of me. I’m so stupid. If I wanted to ignore reality and have a nice, convenient dream ability, I might as well have pressed the remote to my own head. And I’m the one who said in the very beginning that would be meaningless…”
“Hey, stay with me!”
“But I just wanted to hear you say my name one last time… no matter what form it took.”
“Don’t act like this is over!! Look me in the eye! Look me in the eye, dammit!!”
It was a natural smile.
She looked more mature than Kamijou, but that smile was as carefree as could be.
It was a warm smile that reminded him of the summer sun.
It was a fleeting expression he was guaranteed to forget soon enough.
“I completely lost my way, didn’t I? I’m so… so stupid…”
Her head slumped weakly to the side.
The silver emergency whistle fell from her hand and to the floor.
And that was that.
No matter how much the cat meowed and poked her with his small front paw, she did not respond.
Her slender shoulders shook with the vibrations erupting intermittently in this space, but there was no human will behind it. It was the same as a rose in a vase.
What was the right thing to do here?
Kamijou Touma realized how fake those drama and movie scenes of wailing and weeping were. When you actually encountered it, you could not organize your emotions properly. When that unorganized impact hit you like a solid wall, you simply stood there in a daze. You could not keep up with the world around you and you grew motionless. He realized that was how it really worked.
There was nothing he could do.
His mind cranked away fruitlessly and could not come up with a single idea!!
“She is showing cyanosis from a drop in blood pressure.” The small Othinus hopped down from his shoulder. “I will do what I can, but that will not amount to much here. Extending the time limit until her death is the most I can manage. And it’s all over if she’s hit by a stray shot from those idiots filling this room with warship-level firepower. Do something about that or what little chance remains will be blown to smithereens.”
He repeated those words like they were a strange incantation.
He simply parroted them without understanding them.
“Extending the time limit???”
Something rolled over toward him.
It came from Index who was being manipulated by a strange power, although she may not have done it on purpose. It bore the symbol of a rose in the center of a cross. Othinus tore open the plastic package that looked a lot like an overnight toothbrush set and pulled out bandages and a tube of disinfectant that were like a shield and spear at her size.
“I am saying she has a chance if we get her in an ambulance where she can receive a transfusion and stitches. There is no such thing as complete resurrection in this world, so even Christian Rosenkreuz’s corpse simply does not decompose. Even the Chinese Shijie-Xian only has a false funeral to cut their ties to this world, so they do not actually die and come back to life. Death is a holy ground. Once people die, that is the end.”
That god had once destroyed the entire world, remade it as she saw fit, and created a world where all the dead in the world had been saved in order to drive Kamijou to the edge, so now she had to describe the inconvenience she herself had brought about.
“But on the other hand, there is still a chance of salvation if they are kept alive. Plus, do not forget that a certain doctor is still here in the UK. Or have you grown so full of yourself that you’re willing to give up on someone else’s life, human?”
With that, the many misaligned gears fit back into place once more.
Or so it felt to him.
“Panacea,” said Othinus out of the blue. “Fortune’s tarot explanation was fascinating, but those cards are a means rather than an end. Just like Aleister used them as a simulator and Coronzon as a defense system. So I was thinking about this from the magical side of things to see if I could figure out what acts as the driving force behind it.”
Kamijou did not know what that meant or even what language it was in.
“That is one of the few goals held by the old-style Rosicrucian magic cabal. It generally refers to an all-purpose medicine. While I thought about it, I started thinking that might be the role of your right hand.”
“My hand is… a medicine?”
That was not what he had heard before.
Aleister and others had talked about Imagine Breaker like a ruler or a reference point that could never be distorted. It seemed wrong to suddenly start saying it was something you rubbed on a wound or swallowed.
But Othinus had more to say.
“Who ever said it was a medicine for human use?”
“The macro universe and the micro human body are mutually linked. That is a common understanding between the Golden and the Rosen… So to use a broader interpretation, creating a medicine that works on humans would also be able to heal the world. Human, that is the kind of all-purpose medicine I am talking about. It can either gently heal the bad parts of the world or it can coldly cut them away.”
It could purify.
Or it could slay.
“That wonder drug can also describe the Rosicrucian experts. If it is necessary to heal the world, they will shatter their glass coffin and travel the outside world, but once their goal is complete, they will return to wherever they came from. I thought what came from your right arm might be similar.”
His understander looked awfully grim for what she was saying.
Kamijou did not know what all this talk about the macro and the micro was about, but if there really was a medicine that worked on anything, he wanted to use it on the honey-blonde girl limply approaching death in front of him. Yet Othinus said nothing about doing that.
“But I was wrong.”
In an extremely rare occurrence for that Magic God, she actually announced her failure.
“I am fairly certain that is the wrong answer. That means not even a Magic God like me understands it! Human, Imagine Breaker may be a reference point for the world and it may be the ultimate exorcism spiritual item said to have been managed by the Golden at their Blythe Road hideout… but it must be more than just that. Aleister might be gone, but he discovered something else inside your right hand!! Do not be led astray. That is not some convenient panacea. No matter how convenient it might look, that medicine comes with horrific side effects that eat into you before you even notice!!”
“I don’t care what it means for me,” spat out Kamijou.
He was not talking about himself here.
There was so much more he had to think about instead: the girl being controlled, the girl who had lost control, and the girl who was collapsed in a pool of blood with a smile on her face.
What thoughts did he need if he was to untangle all those threads?
He would not think about solving it all in one fell swoop.
If he untangled them one at a time, he was sure to solve the problem eventually. It might look like taking the long way around, but that had to actually be the fastest way to figure it all out.
“We’ll have an answer to all those questions once I kick that bastard’s ass. I don’t know if it’s from the Rose or whatever else, but we’re talking about magic made by humans, right? Once I get Index back, she can explain everything for us as long as it belongs to the magic side. If that gives us the answer, we’re good. If it doesn’t, we’ll just have to look to the other side. In other words, it must have to do with the science side like Misaka or that girl.”
“The Index Librorum Prohibitorum, hm? Even though she never noticed this after being with you for so long?”
“But had this change in me ever risen to the surface before? She might be able to tell us something she couldn’t before.”
Saving everyone was the nonnegotiable goal.
He had made a lot of mistakes getting here.
But the more he had taken from him and the more was whittled away, the more clearly he could see the core of his own being which he could not afford to lose sight of.
There was a girl here who could not even ask for help.
But he was free to reach out a helping hand regardless.
So he would not back down on this. No matter what.
“I can’t believe this.”
A rude voice cut in.
It was the person who carried Kamijou Touma’s forgotten past and had stolen Imagine Breaker.
That bastard clenched and unclenched his right hand from a short distance away.
With a sound like a small child tearing the wrapping from a present, shocking-pink and emerald covered his entire right arm.
He too was abnormal.
Yet this was the opposite of Kamijou’s sky-blue.
Instead of covering and swallowing him from the outside, it burst out from within.
The sleeve of his shirt and tuxedo tore to expose his bizarre arm and neon muscles swelled out, but the boy spoke with the exact same expression as before.
“I lose Mental Out now? Man, having this thing really does bring in the misfortune, doesn’t it?”
He dared say that here?
When everyone else was biting their lip despite having their festivities ruined by all this damage and being buried below bad luck and despair?
Was the word misfortune really the right way to describe this?”
Kamijou Touma felt truly overwhelming emotion bubbling up from deep within his chest.
Even though he knew this was an emotion he must never reveal in front of someone like that girl collapsed behind him with a smile on her lips.
“Why are you still alive?!”
“Ha ha. Do you think I have some safe zone marked out for myself here!? No, it’s just that I happened to have this right hand. I mean, with all this misfortune, I bet I had more stray shots flying my way than anyone else.”
“Then why!? If you had such a wonderful power, why didn’t you use it to protect herrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!???”
Imagine Breaker’s presence could not be proven with just the object itself.
That power only revealed its true value when faced with a supernatural power.
And that was not just true of the ability itself. How one wielded it also revealed so much about the person using it.
Hamazura Shiage was running through the artificial woods. Now was no time to worry about not leaving any trace on the battlefield.
For one thing, they operated on a different type of logic here.
They made no attempt to hide the rustling of the underbrush as they surrounded him. The lights floating around like will-o’-the-wisps had to be the lanterns held by maids and nuns.
First Princess Riméa had given him a stun gun, but the non-Academy City electronic was of poor quality. Its battery had died in no time. Stun guns were one of those tricky self-defense products that you rarely used but always wanted the battery full. That might lead you to keep the charger plugged in 24/7, but that would wear out the battery.
That was a common mistake for back alley delinquents, but had it been too tricky for a fancy princess too!?
“Further orders!? There’s no way I can do that!!”
Aneri was on his phone, but the device could apparently pick up signals on other frequencies as well. He received a command from Riméa’s radio. According to the translation made by clever Aneri-chan:
…Contact Third Princess Villian who should be somewhere in Windsor Castle and find a way to connect her to outside communications. That should do wonders to reduce the chaos in England.
“There’s just no way!!”
He had screwed up.
His role had been to make a mess of things here as a decoy or diversion while receiving support from Takitsubo across the Thames. They just needed the pointy-haired boy to end things in the meantime, so he did not have an ultimate goal to achieve or target to destroy. To be blunt, he could have done anything he wanted as long as it bought them time. However…
(I’m trapped! Crap, and I can’t hope for help from Takitsubo’s heavy machine gun at this angle!!)
“You are only meant as a diversion and you don’t have Fortune guiding you anymore,” said his girlfriend through his phone. “Hamazura, isn’t it time to leave?”
“How am I supposed to withdraw now!? Besides, I can’t back out of this!!”
He did not hold a grudge against anyone involved, but there was one thought in the back of his mind.
“Because Aleister kicked the bucket before making good on his end of the deal! And you know who the current board chairman is, don’t you? He says he might honor Aleister’s deal if the conditions are right. That means our safety is guaranteed without needing the Parameter List!!”
Like Takitsubo had said, Dion Fortune had vanished at some point, so she must have received an SOS from the pointy-haired boy. That left this Level 0 all alone and he was really nothing more than a delinquent.
“Aneri!! You’re my only hope right now, so please do something about this!!”
Hamazura could hardly be blamed for wanting to rely on Aneri, but activating his phone’s backlight in the darkness may have been a mistake.
A solemn voice spoke from that darkness.
“I will give you one warning.”
The idiot’s failure to understand English may have been part of the problem.
A moment later, all the thick trees in that area were sliced through at the same height.
And that height was precisely the same as Hamazura’s.
Tree trunks thicker than his torso were sliced through like a hot knife through butter and low enough to graze the top of his head.
He had no idea what had happened.
His legs tangled up below him and he fell to the ground.
While surrounded by the sounds of the scenery bending and breaking, a silhouette holding a flat-tipped sword slowly approached him.
But did he realize that they had been showing him a kindness here?
And not just because of what would have happened had that slash been made ten centimeters lower.
The cut had not gone beyond the third dimension.
If it had sliced through all dimension simultaneously, it would have formed a massive piece of ruined materials that fell like a suspended ceiling to crush his entire body.
“But just the one. Disarm yourself and surrender immediately. Setting foot in the queen’s castle without permission is a crime in and of itself.”
When he viewed Aneri’s translation on the screen, he felt an even greater squeezing at his heart.
People tended to gather information to calm themselves down when they were worried, but he regretted it this time because not knowing would have been far better. That tendency was useless when the information simply overwhelmed you. …Now, was he at all aware that a magic cabal from several centuries ago had warned that darkness and ostentation were found in all fields so it was difficult for even a wise man to find the proper path?
Queen Regnant Elizard.
The sword she held was likely different from the Sword of State that Hamazura had briefly stolen from Scotland, but he could easily imagine it had some kind of ability he did not want to mess with. Not from rational thought, but from the tremor in his spine. Its destructive power was probably on the same level as Mugino Shizuri’s Meltdowner, if not even more powerful. Plus, he had no idea if simple destructive power was really enough to describe it.
(I-I’m supposed to find the youngest daughter, and now the crazy-strong mother has shown up!)
When he did not respond in English, did she take it as a rejection?
The queen said nothing more and simply raised her sword to the side.
Was she going to keep him just barely alive so his screams would lure out his allies, or would she simply lop off his head and begin searching for another target?
Relying on her was his only option, but when he viewed the scenery through the small screen, all the predicted escape routes displayed there took superhuman curves that he had no chance of following.
(Am I screwed!?)
Just as his throat dried up, something else happened.
A large shadow blew away Elizard’s body as if snatching her away from the side.
He heard a tongue click.
Elizard slid to the side and dug her shoes into the ground to forcibly apply the brakes. And the hand not holding Curtana Second held a girl in a classic maid uniform.
She spoke in a deep growl when she saw the unconscious girl she was holding by the back collar.
“A Maid of Honor.”
The maid had a spidery unit on her back and Elizard tossed her into the bushes to the side.
The person who had thrown the maid slowly stepped out from the darkness.
He had white hair and red eyes.
That monster with a modern design cane was accompanied by a translucent demon wearing a newspaper dress.
“Not gonna ask who I am?”
“It does not matter who you are.” Queen Regnant Elizard once more held Curtana Second in both hands. “Call me below contempt if you like, but I have a duty to protect the people of this country.”
She recalled the reports expressing so much relief sent to the British royal family’s email address.
They did not need to know that the world had fallen to this point.
“The people have enough power to give shape to a nation, but I still cannot force this absurdity onto them. He must be eliminated, but the people will crumble if they are not first given a chance to recover from all the chaos that began with the Crowley’s Hazards. So I will support them. I will support this nation no matter what form that takes. I made a mistake, but I cannot bring myself to abandon this nation!!”
The #1 was not foolish enough to take his eyes off the enemy here.
But Hamazura Shiage had definitely vanished from the board at some point. Was that boy’s skill the ability to take whatever chances were given to him?
“This is a difference in positions, so forgive me. I am not about to call you evil. I will make sure to remember that you both carried a different form of justice from me. In every report, I will say we were equals.”
“Once I am done with you, I will clean up the castle. I am not happy about it, but bringing an end to this chaos takes top priority. I do not know which of you is more dangerous and you might both be dangerous. If necessary, I will cut you both down.”
“Master, here it comes!!”
The white monster gave a snort of laughter.
A moment later, Curtana Second was swung down with the force of a lightning strike.
The apparent distance between them did not matter.
Not when that queen used her full power.
That sword was an extreme spiritual item that fully united the three factions and four regions of the United Kingdom; it could draw on a portion of Archangel Michael's power while on British territory. If a qualified user released that power even for a moment, a swing of the sword would sever all dimensions at once and giant ruined materials would be created along the line of the slash.
Yes, all dimensions.
Assuming it could hit, that extraordinary power could penetrate the barrier between worlds and kill a being lurking in a different phase… for example, Holy Guardian Angel Aiwass who stayed in the layer of physical laws at the very bottom.
Immediately afterwards, a deafening metal clang filled the air and Curtana Second shot upwards.
(Did he alter the course of blade by directly hitting Curtana with a projectile instead of going for the line of the slash!?)
That said, Elizard could directly deflect heavy machine gun bullets with that sword.
To knock her off balance like this would require something on the level of a strategic bombing.
When Second Princess Carissa had held Curtana Original, she had ordered a cruise missile strike on herself and used the sword to escape unscathed.
The sword’s unnatural movement pulled both Elizard’s arms up like she was cheering, but Accelerator did not make a further attack. Even though he could have kicked a pebble and manipulated its vector to tear through her organs while her torso was exposed like this.
“A difference in positions? Protecting your nation? …So other people’s circumstances don’t matter? Don’t screw with me, you conceited member of the privileged class. That logic ain’t gonna work here.”
“You simply do not understand—”
“Finish that with ‘this pressure’ and I really will punch you to open your eyes. It’s painfully obvious you’re assuming no one else understand your worries here. You’re subconsciously looking down on us.”
Elizard returned Curtana to proper position.
She also took a step back to readjust the distance between them.
Accelerator was surrounded by the sounds of rustling underbrush. Maids, nuns, knights, and priests. A vortex of hostile eyes turned on him from a wide variety of enemies who were probably all noble followers of good and righteousness.
“I already said I would do whatever it took. I am not fighting this war based on what the historians will think of me. I am fighting to protect the lights of those ordinary homes!!!!!”
The white monster was isolated.
But his confident smile remained.
“Is this all the vision you’ve got? Aren’t you supposed to be the representative of the United Kingdom? And here I thought I could learn something from you, Senpai.”
“It wasn’t just the interests and greed of the filthy adults that made Academy City the way it is. It was me. I stood at the top as the #1, but I couldn’t give them any real vision. I stifled them. I robbed them of their dreams and left them there to rot. They studied and studied and studied and filled their heads with all sorts of crap, but they couldn’t become anything more than murderous shits. I’ve finally started to think that’s the real problem with that city.”
After spitting all that out, wings with a pale platinum shine erupted from his back.
“You’ll cut us both down just cause there’s a possibility we’re dangerous? How boring can you get? Don’t go placing people’s lives on the scales as nothing more than a safety measure, you piece of shit! I bet it’d make your precious people cry if they could see you now, #1 of the UK!!”
“When you stand at the top, you’ve gotta watch how you act.”
That monster spread his wings as he spoke.
“I’m Accelerator, Academy City’s #1. And I’m also someone who needs to become a role model for the entire science side. So I’ve got a question for you. Now, show me how a leader at the top is supposed to act!!”
That battlefield was hell on earth.
As large as the dance hall was, it was still just one indoor room. Index and Misaka Mikoto were targeting each other and firing all throughout that space while controlled by John’s Pen and the A.A.A. respectively. They did not show any ordinary reactions such as worrying about their storybook skirt spreading out or their flat chest’s contours showing through their lingerie-like dress. It was like being caught between two warships engaged in combat. Even if they had no intention of doing so, a single hit would kill you instantly. In fact, Windsor Castle itself might not last if a wall or the ceiling was blown through. The building could crumble and bury them alive at any moment.
Sky-blue and lemon-yellow.
Shocking-pink and emerald.
Neither of them took their eyes off each other for even a moment.
Even if there were millions of mines buried here and millions of tripwires set up, Kamijou was too preoccupied to go running to those girls.
Of course, that did not mean Index and Misaka Mikoto were not on his mind.
But all the problems led back to this other boy.
Every second and even split second was a waste.
The sooner he could kick that bastard’s ass, the sooner he could free those girls and the sooner he could save everyone’s lives.
It had always been this way.
When someone’s life was on the line, a normal high school boy could become a hero who could overcome any threat and defeat any opponent.
The calico cat’s meow acted like the starting pistol.
An explosive roar erupted out.
The sky-blue and shocking-pink slipped through the barrage of light arriving chaotically from either side and raced along the shortest distance across the dance hall.
Every little thing about that other boy pissed Kamijou Touma off.
The enemy’s transformation still only covered the right side of his body.
Kamijou gave a roar from his crocodilian jaws, but he did not wait for his opponent to reach full power. If he was going to hold back now, he might as well sink to the depths of the earth clutching his precious deck of cards to his chest.
The sky-blue shell was honestly too weak to call a trump card.
It was only the dregs and most of the power had to have been taken by the other boy.
Kamijou himself was unsure how much it could do and his enemy could negate all supernatural powers with Imagine Breaker. That powered suit made of creepy flesh would shatter the instant that boy laid a finger on it. He had a hard time imagining himself rushing straight in and pulling off a win without taking a single hit. That meant he had to come up with a plan that would work even after taking a hit and having everything taken from him.
It was true Imagine Breaker had been taken from him.
But Kamijou had learned all too well how it worked.
(I need to charge in with as much speed and weight as I can!!)
That might look like a reckless charge, but there was more to it.
Imagine Breaker was only the right fist.
If he kept his hips so low he was practically crawling along the floor and charged in along a straight line, the villain’s only choice would be to swing that fist down at him. Yes, it would have to be an impractical attack similar to breaking tiles in a karate demonstration.
That was a pinpoint attack that could only hit once he was ten centimeters away.
And it would be a downwards blow from above instead of a direct cross counter. Even if he got a clean hit on that crocodile head, he would have a hard time stopping Kamijou as he rushed in like an artillery shell.
“If I’m willing to take a hit, I can definitely reach him!!”
“You son of a bitch!”
Shocking-pink light shined from the corner of the other boy’s mouth.
In his unfamiliar tuxedo and ascot tie, he flipped over the stacks of plates on a nearby table and threw some full drink bottles, but Kamijou did not need to worry about that. He charged right through them using his reptilian shell made of sky-blue and lemon-yellow lines. He clenched the large jaws to ignore the dull pain.
He only had to remain conscious.
He only had to reach that other boy.
A great roar exploded out.
As expected, the other boy swung his right hand down.
But instead of a fist, it was claws.
It was like a shocking-pink lightning strike.
A strange heat raced across the back of Kamijou’s head and he felt dizzy.
The sky-blue shell that had partially kept up with Kanzaki Kaori’s movements vanished in an instant as if unraveling.
But the exposed boy’s speed did not fall.
He clenched his teeth and slammed his shoulder into his opponent. He aimed for the solar plexus. He poured all his weight into it while thinking of it as lifting up that boy’s organs.
The two of them flew horizontally.
They briefly broke free of gravity.
And they hit the floor.
They kept moving and bounced along the carpeted floor like flat rocks skipping on a river. Kamijou might have been able to slit the other boy’s throat with a thick claw if he could still use the sky-blue and lemon-yellow shell, but Imagine Breaker had already negated that. But to “no more than a boy”, that Imagine Breaker was no more than some claws.
An odd cracking sound continued on and on.
It did not come from Kamijou or his destroyed outer shell. The damage of being slammed back-first into the floor must have affected his target because shocking-pink and emerald erupted from all over his body and his tuxedo was torn to shreds as the colors surrounded him.
No, that was not quite accurate.
While Kamijou had been enveloped by the sky-blue, this boy was revealing the shocking-pink within him.
Kamijou had revealed his ordinary boy’s face while the monster roared with giant shocking-pink jaws. They had entirely swapped out their appearances.
The difference in ability was unknown.
But if he had the same or even greater ability than Kamijou, he could reach Kanzaki’s speeds at least for a moment.
If that monster was given any freedom, exposed Kamijou Touma would be more than just torn to pieces.
(I won’t let him… use that properly!!)
From here on, there would be no more tricks.
He did not care how dirty it was. They would go for the finishing blow from the start and whoever remained standing would claim everything for themselves.
The shocking-pink monster made it on top first, but the puny boy being crushed below him desperately swung his sky-blue and lemon-yellow right hand. He targeted the leg supporting a table. That table toppled over and dumped a steam oven toward his opponent’s head. The boiling water inside spilled from the gaps and poured over that monster.
The exposed shocking-pink must have been able to feel pain. Or was it even more sensitive? Kamijou could only speculate.
At any rate, he swung his thick tail around while screaming and Kamijou managed to escape while he flinched.
There really was something different about this.
Kamijou Touma realized anew that humans could not draw out normal emotions at times like this. Everyone was suffering, Index and Misaka Mikoto had been forced into a meaningless battle, and a honey-blonde girl was soaked in blood after dirtying her hands against her wishes.
It was all that other boy’s fault.
This had long since passed the point where he simply wanted to dump hot water on him to cause him pain.
He roared to burn away the guilt he felt toward this violence.
It was not quite the same thing as a hammer thrower or weightlifter shouting to intentionally release the limiters in their mind.
(Even if he can reach Kanzaki’s speeds, we’re only talking about something like maximum instantaneous wind speed. He can’t do it all the time. If I don’t give him a chance to get up to speed, I can still do this!!)
The shocking-pink and emerald villain held his crocodilian jaws but still grabbed a bundle of metal cooking skewers while exposed pointy-haired Kamijou Touma grabbed a still-plugged-in induction cooking plate and swung it down at the monster’s face.
The alternating current magnetic field was capable of boiling a pot of water, so it quickly heated up the metal skewers.
“~ ~ ~!?”
The monster flinched once more and let go of the skewers. He also spread his wings as some kind of threat.
Kamijou went for another hit.
He was hesitant to use the induction cooking plate, but he still swung it horizontally toward the monster’s face like he was throwing a slap. That must have pulled out the plug. It did not provide any heating this time, but it was still quite heavy. That heavy mass of metal was like a brick or concrete block and it knocked the shocking-pink villain to the floor when it smashed into the arm he had raised to protect his face.
Index and Misaka Mikoto had been made to fight for no reason.
A girl had smiled and continually apologized for something while she let go of the reins of her own life.
He thought about the things this person in front of him had trampled underfoot.
“…I’ll kill you.”
His throat shook with a curse Kamijou Touma never would have uttered under normal circumstances.
If there had been other people gathered here and arguing which was the real Kamijou Touma, those words would have left a bad impression that would only have worked against him.
But he no longer had to fear anyone or watch what he said and did.
Words were born from within.
And that was the feeling within Kamijou Touma as his mind boiled with rage.
He could not have cared less about the duality of good and evil.
He roared in anger. Like a dragon.
“I’ll kill you!! You and only you!!!!!”
He raised the unplugged induction cooking plate overhead. If he used gravity to swing it down with all his might, surely it could smash that bastard’s skull as he lay there on the floor.
But that opponent gave a definite smile despite having large crocodilian jaws.
He smiled and threw the many skewers he still held in his shocking-pink arm.
But this was more than just a cheap distraction for Kamijou Touma who only had soft skin now. What did the softness of his skin matter? Not even a specialized stun grenade would have worked against that boy while he was so boiling with rage that he had not even blinked as the hot water poured down on him as well as his enemy.
(Don’t show an opening! I can’t keep up if he gets a chance to accelerate!!)
So those skewers had a different purpose.
Kamijou heard a voice from an unexpected direction as he continued leaning forward.
“Warning: Chapter 5, Verse 2. Enemy attack detected; adding to interception list. Thou shalt remove the binding nail to release the rose from the cross.”
A change came over the barrage being exchanged by the two girls.
One of the weapons making up the A.A.A. surrounding Mikoto’s body—a giant nail gun taller than she was—slipped past the resistance it had previously faced and fired a nail right past Index’s face, but the silver-haired girl in John’s Pen Mode did not bat an eye.
And her diverted attacks were directed elsewhere.
It was like a destructive searchlight sweeping around.
A thick beam of light shot through the space and vaporized the airborne metal skewers into an orange light. Kamijou barely made it in time. He let go of the excess weight and ducked down just before the induction cooking plate he left behind was erased from the world. Had he been even a split second slower in letting go with his sky-blue and lemon-yellow hand, his fingers would have been vaporized along with it.
And he was actually thankful for this.
If that attack had happened to take his side, he would have been swallowed up by that comfortable good fortune. And then he might have lost sight of everything.
He would have started to assume he would be saved.
He would become an arrogant monster who grew enraged when that did not happen.
(But that let him recover. Is that monster’s full speed coming!?)
“You seem to be a very forgetful creature.”
He heard a mocking voice.
The shocking-pink jaws snapped open and shut.
“No matter what anyone says or does, you act like it never even happened!! If you never cared about any of it more than that, you don’t deserve to have any of it!!”
He would use everything at his disposal to win.
So did that winged monster see the manipulated girls as no more than a usable terrain gimmick!?
“Give it a goddamn rest,” growled Kamijou.
“I’ve got a pretty good idea what you’re thinking,” responded the monster.
A dull sound followed.
It was the sound of him selecting a different weapon. But this was not a long skewer meant to pierce meat, a steam oven, or an induction cooking plate.
He used both shocking-pink hands to lift up the entire long table of food. Large plates of sandwiches and fish crashed to the floor.
He raised that long blunt weapon like a ladder and its far end just about reached the ceiling.
The bastard roared with his claws digging into the table.
“And the answer is yes!! Nothing you do changes that winning is my only option here!!”
It was a bulky weapon to swing, but once it picked up speed, it would be even more powerful than a metal bat. That was obvious given its weight combined with the centrifugal force.
Kamijou needed something to block it.
His bare hands were nowhere near enough. He grabbed one of the large stainless steel plates from the floor, but he also misread his enemy’s intent.
The calico cat ran away with a distorted meow.
That long table was not being used as a weapon to swing down at him.
Its target was at the ceiling.
It struck the giant crystal chandelier up there, making it sway above Kamijou’s head.
With a shattering sound, the giant hook was torn through and a solid mass weighing more than two hundred kilograms rained mercilessly down toward him.
“Translate, simplify, and create anew.”
The carpet of Windsor Castle’s hallway was torn up, the windows shattered, and not even the paintings and ceramic vases were spared the damage.
Two people fought a fierce battle in the center of it all.
One was Kanzaki Kaori, an Asian Saint with a long black ponytail.
The other was Dion Fortune of the Golden cabal whose silhouette was inflated by her white dress.
Just as seven wires flashed and tore through the air, Fortune held out her palm. Technically, she was holding out a floating black box. The box opened its maw, tore through the wires, took them inside, and remade them into a completely different shape.
Nanasen was partially a ceremony meant to use blades to cut away a space as holy ground to form a sort of rejecting wall or a defensive magic circle.
By adding a physical attack to that rejection and replacing the blade with wires, she could mix in the drawing of her blade to release slashes at unexpected timings. She created a cutting edge that made the entire space her ally.
But now it was distorted.
From English to Japanese and back again.
In a process similar to retranslating a text over and over and over again, the meaning and symbols in a piece of magic were forcibly remade into something else entirely.
That was Dion Fortune.
This was the unconscious rearrangement technique used by someone whose grimoires had been so unique that even the rest of the Golden cabal had suspected they were an original creation with no connection to the main Golden line.
As a result, many broken wax dolls of varying sizes were expelled from the black box with a sticky sound. Not only were they not wires, they were not even metal. Conservation of mass was of course entirely ignored. Only the traits of spilling blood and rejection were retained as it was remade into something entirely different.
Countless needles emerged from empty space and pierced the dolls.
By that point, the wax dolls and Kanzaki Kaori were already linked.
The damage to those dolls, who already had their arms, legs, and head separated from their torso, should have rushed in toward the ponytailed swordswoman, but she did not bat an eye.
There was light.
The curse that should have attacked her was instead tangled within invisible threads and scattered elsewhere.
This was a magic circle made from seven wires.
And it was freely controlled by a Saint.
Dion Fortune clicked her tongue and fell back with her black box.
“I guess you’ve figured it out, huh?”
“You are an original grimoire. I cannot kill you by normal means, but since you lack your own lifeforce, you cannot refine magic power. That means you must be drawing power from the ley lines to use anything resembling magic.”
“I’m pretty sure even a Saint will have a hard time entirely changing that current.”
“Yes, but your supply of power from the earth is not always coming from the same point. Just as gas and water have different sources in different parts of a city, your supply point should change depending on your location and circumstances. If I strike in the instant you switch between sources and your power supply wavers… you may be unable to maintain that form and return to being a deck of cards. A barrier created from a Saint’s body and seven wires should be enough for that.”
(You make it sound so easy,) complained Fortune in her heart.
She had almost immediately found an answer to defeating those seemingly unbeatable Golden magicians.
“I… must protect them.”
Her voice was low, as if she felt cornered.
But this anger fell on the good side of the duality.
“It might be a minuscule thing compared to the UK as a whole and it might not be a large organization with the power to alter the history of the world… but still. To me, the people of the Amakusa Church are worth risking my life to protect.”
Dion Fortune kept her voice flat as she asked a question.
Perhaps this was her voice as a professional fortuneteller.
“Even if it means killing an innocent boy?”
“Besides, if you were really trying to kill him, you would’ve sliced through him with your seven or your one before I arrived. Whatever you might say, you’re clearly hesitating. There’s no way you can kill that boy or the other one at the center of the castle like this.”
There was no response.
Not that Fortune was expecting one as she spun the black box atop her index finger.
“I don’t think this is about you being indecisive. You were faced with the ultimate question of having to kill one or the other. But the situation is progressing as we speak. The boy receiving my godlike help seemed to want to save someone. So if that puny Asian is defeated before managing it, what do you think will happen to the girls trapped in this castle?”
She heard someone grinding their back teeth together.
Yes, Kanzaki Kaori appeared righteous at first glance, but she was contradicting herself.
The British forces may have been affected by the war madness before, but Kanzaki had clearly come back to her senses since then.
Dion Fortune narrowed her eyes.
This did not appear to be anything as simple as turning her sword on herself once it was all over. Dion rubbed a slender finger of her empty hand against her temple.
“Are you intentionally pushing your body too far?”
“Why should I answer you?”
There was a painful tone reminiscent of oozing blood in Kanzaki’s voice.
The white dress girl sighed.
“Inertia. Saints can instantaneously break the sound barrier while moving around the battlefield. But there’s still a burden on your body. If you do not follow the rails of the optimal movements, you will destroy your own blood vessels and joints in no time. It’ll be like having your entire body slowly crushed by a suspended ceiling or a press. It looks to me like you’re trying to punish yourself. But if you’re afraid of killing, you could always just set down your sword.”
Even after all this, Kanzaki Kaori still could not kill that boy.
When he had reached the same speed and experienced the flow of time the same as her, she must have bit her lip. She must have been horrified at what a dangerous a thing he was doing. If she had simply swept his feet out from under him to trip him, he would have died so easily, but she could not bring herself to deliver a finishing blow to the boy who had wandered into an unfamiliar world.
“Now I definitely can’t afford to lose this. That kid doesn’t look like he could handle a tragedy.”
The Saint had said she would thoroughly disturb this location to rob the grimoire of its power.
She would use her supersonic speed to target the very instant of instability when Fortune switched power sources.
Perhaps it was her ability to actually do something like that made her one of the miracle workers known as Saints.
“A Saint, huh? You really just use brute force, don’t you? Simply relying on your talent doesn’t show any of the intelligence Great Teacher Fortune likes to see.”
“A Golden magician and original grimoire has no right to criticize anyone for being abnormal.”
“You’re a lot like an esper.”
Dion Fortune casually dropped a bombshell.
“You aren’t actually one, though. Your skeleton and organ placement are similar to the Son of God’s, so you can draw on a special power. But if you performed some selective breeding to reach that point, you would end up relying on scientific concepts like genetics and DNA. Just like the twin synchronicity where twin siblings with identical internal clocks have similar ideas, you may have gained a world only you can see or reality only you can understand by relying on the lord’s biorhythm instead of through knowledge or technique. It all comes from the distortions to your mind and perception… It really pisses me off as someone who tried to create a work kit anyone could use.”
“So what? You still can’t do anything about me.”
“Oh, oh? All this fighting wasn’t enough for you to figure it out? My magic can remake any spell or spiritual item into a form no one could ever imagine. It’s like a cloud—something that obscures the truth… So even if it only looks like ordinary magic to you, don’t you think I could mistranslate it into some irregular science?”
There was a straining sound.
Did it come from the wires surrounding Dion Fortune, or was it the grinding of Kanzaki’s teeth?
“And while you might be an irritating Saint who reigns supreme in the field of magic based on inborn talent alone, who can say how you will be shaken if I hit you with the top of the neighboring hierarchy of science. I mean, how long has it been since the concept of the science side came to be? You might be the elite of the elite, but you never did manage to eradicate the concept of science, did you? You can no longer assume you’re safe just cause you’re a Saint. The predetermined top ranks don’t necessarily get presented with victory. Surely you’ve seen some more liberated battles where anyone can break through and strive for victory!”
Dion Fortune was different on a fundamental level.
She did not see a taboo in crossing the line between science and magic.
Kanzaki wrinkled her brow in pain.
“Do you feel no fear?”
“Don’t throw me into the same category as you based on your own biases. I am Golden Magician Dion Fortune, the teacher of love and beauty and the pen pal of everyone in need of some advice. I am one of those who went to great lengths to replace all that intentionally confusing magic with a work kit anyone could understand. When you leave those ancient texts in their original forms, you’re not even talking about magic anymore. My love-filled grimoires used modern English, not Latin or Hebrew, and I used letters and correspondence education to pass my magic knowledge onto my students… Do not let it trap you, young one. People were always meant to use everything out there. The general divisions of magic and science are unnecessary lines that get in the way of claiming all the knowledge we desire.”
Would Kanzaki Kaori forcefully slice through the grimoire?
Or would Dion Fortune rearrange even her opponent’s traits as a Saint?
There was no signal.
Shichiten Shichitou and the black box. With their surefire weapons in hand, the two magicians clashed once more.
For a while, they said nothing.
The black box floating in front of Fortune’s palm had opened its lid like a great maw, but Kanzaki’s movements as a Saint had been superior. The box had failed to capture and devour Shichiten Shichitou.
If she could not stop the priestess’s movements, she could not stop the seven wires either.
That was a defensive magic circle with a cutting edge.
Like with gas and water, the point at which she received her power supply from the earth changed depending on her location and situation. If she was attacked during that brief change, she would lose her current form and break apart into a deck of seventy-eight cards.
“I captured it. Maybe I’m just too brilliant for this world.”
The one who ended up smiling was the redhead with her skinny silhouette forcibly expanded by her white dress.
“Your fear of having your traits as a Saint devoured restricted your actions. Yet if you really, truly hated those traits, you might have rejoiced at this chance to lose them and be freed. In the end, that’s the way it is with gifts. No matter how much of a complex you have and how much you hate yourself, you can’t agree to throw them out so readily. Just like I spent so long clinging to the grand title of the world’s largest magic cabal. This isn’t some particular flaw in you; all humans are this way.”
It was true she had failed to reach Shichiten Shichitou.
But she had never intended to.
For one thing, Kanzaki had yet to draw that blade. Dion Fortune’s black box had chomped down on and bitten through one of the seven wires set up around her. If she had honestly thought the sword was coming, she would have missed her timing and been cut through in that fatal instant.
She had used the cloud to her advantage.
Her interpretations were so unique that some said they were wholly original and not even a part of the Golden, and she now used the black box she had completed without even meaning to.
What happened when the preparations ended in failure?
It happened at close range. Dion Fortune spun around quickly enough for her dress’s skirt to flip up and dodged the dreadful sword strike that Kanzaki Kaori finally unsheathed at her hip. They moved at such close range that it resembled moving in and out of a revolving door while back to back. When drawing a sword, the moment after drawing it was the riskiest. The wires of Nanasen were a card she had placed in her deck to shift that timing in the first place.
And before Kanzaki Kaori could return the long blade to its sheath, a dull sound erupted from her temple.
It was the black box.
Dion had slammed its pointy corner into her.
“Saints have similar traits to the Son of God, right?”
Kanzaki Kaori wobbled to the side, could not regain her balance, and collapsed.
“So no matter how many miracles you can use, you can still be surrounded and captured, you can still be betrayed by a friend, and you can still be killed by human hands. You inherit all the fragile aspects along with the powerful ones. All it took was a mere thirty pieces of silver. Surely you understand that.”
There was no response.
Kanzaki Kaori lay limply on her side, but it sort of looked like there was a smile on her lips.
As if to say she preferred to be killed than to do the killing.
Fortune sighed and brushed up her red bangs in exasperation at how far that Saint took it.
“Similar traits, huh?”
(Maybe that’s why she’s so easy to lie to. Saints are a lot like espers? Yeah, right.)
That was another cloud.
But yet again, it was all in how you used it. The magicians of the ancient Rosicrucian Order had not lamented over the prejudices that befell them. Instead, they used them to preserve the secrecy of their cabal.
“Intentionally tearing apart your own body through the power of inertia, huh? I wonder if my healing magic is good enough. Then again, a Saint’s own blood probably has a healing effect.”
And she would not let it end here.
Dion Fortune crouched down and peered at the collapsed Kanzaki’s face.
“Well, I am a magician of the Golden cabal. Overcoming this kind of threat will only serve to earn me even more respect!”
His consciousness flashed in and out.
His vision was collapsed on its side and his entire body felt hot. But when Kamijou Touma focused carefully on the sensation in his skin, he could tell the heat came from a few different throbbing wounds.
He must have avoided being crushed by the chandelier itself.
But when rolling out of the way, the shards of crystal crashing against the floor had mercilessly stabbed into him with the force of a horizontal downpour. Every part of his skin and clothes was soaked with blood. Without the winged lizard formed by the sky-blue and lemon-yellow shell, he was only a boy.
He of course lacked that convenient flesh armor after it was blown away by Imagine Breaker and he could only defend against so much with just the sky-blue and lemon-yellow arm to work with.
But the pointy-haired boy realized luck was on his side today. Even in the worst situation, he could still find a silver lining. The boiling rage in his mind left him unable to feel the pain properly.
So he could stand up.
He could fight.
And it was all for those captured girls.
“What, it’s not over yet?”
He heard the heavy table fall to the floor.
The shocking-pink and emerald monster was a winged lizard with crocodilian jaws and giant bat-like wings. He must not have escaped unscathed either. That storm of shards had scattered in all directions equally, so he had been hit as much as Kamijou.
But he must not have cared.
That was why the villain had not hesitated to bring down the chandelier.
Shocking-pink light scattered from that other monster’s entire body as he opened his jaws wide to roar.
“Just end it already!! If you die, it all ends!! Or is this the misfortune that’s decided to plague me!?”
“What even are you?”
Kamijou Touma had a reason for sticking with this to the point that his clothes were plastered to him with blood.
He had to save the girls being forced to fight to the death and clear the way for someone on the verge of death to reach an ambulance. He had to do it as soon as possible, so he burned the pain and fear from his mind to stand against this foe.
Someone else’s life was on the line here, so he could not afford to lose.
But what was this thing?
What drove him as he slowly approached?
“What do you hope to accomplish by making so many people suffer!?”
“Because I can save them like this.”
His words sounded like a curse.
Kamijou Touma worked his mind in overdrive to search out any weakness and opening in even the slightest comment, but…
“If the fighting ends right this instant, I can save Shokuhou, can’t I!?”
Not even Kamijou could respond to that one.
But he had heard correctly. That malicious monster was definitely saying this as he opened his great jaws wide.
“Same with Index!! John’s Pen should have been controllable using Mental Out. And Misaka! If she hadn’t messed with the A.A.A., she never would have been in any danger!! …where did it all go wrong? If no one had questioned me and they had simply obeyed, this could have ended without issue!!!!!”
The foundation of it all was overturned.
Or so it seemed to Kamijou Touma.
“Besides, you should have been able to try a little harder. You didn’t need to give up on those lives if you had used your right hand properly!! What about the Golden magicians? Or Aleister and Coronzon!? Can you really say that conclusion was the best possible one!? Well, can you!?”
Even if the unexpected had happened, he could not back out now. He could not admit it had been a failure.
“Wasn’t that who Kamijou Touma was supposed to be?”
So he played the villain.
He claimed he had always intended to do it while desperately trying to fix things.
All while trusting that he would come up with some way of fixing this if he bought himself enough time.
“When you had nowhere to escape to, you didn’t hesitate to rely on Komoe-sensei. When you couldn’t win with your arm, you held back the magicians with pleas to their emotions. You didn’t care about the suffering girl’s time limit; you were just afraid of losing everything yourself. It’s pathetic, but wasn’t that a part of who Kamijou Touma was!?”
Kamijou had lost his memories and could not recall when he first met the electric middle school girl or initially encountered the grimoire library, so how had that boy behaved at those times?
Did the person observe the ability, or did the ability observe the person?
He felt like everything was flipped around before his eyes.
His mind went blank.
Kamijou had previously seen an ability that gained an autonomous mind of its own and left the person’s control: Academy City’s #2, Dark Matter. But once it happened to him, the pressure on his heart was unimaginable.
(You wanted to save them too???)
Humans could observe their environment to intentionally alter probability, produce various abilities, and control things. That had grown to the point of the Personal Realities that actually altered the world they could observe. That was the basic logic behind the scientific espers of Academy City.
What if the abilities were watching the humans as well? If they had the observer’s ability to alter probability, then could that unknown power control not just Kamijou himself, but the interior and exterior of every thinking being of the human race?
For example, even a being like Magic God Othinus could be remade like a puzzle.
Was it the High Priest who had said Magic Gods were the world’s crucial gears and Kamijou was their scorer? And if necessary, he could adjust how the gears fit together?
A dragon, a guardian of treasures.
A being who crossed the duality of good and evil.
In other words…
(The One who Purifies God and Slays Demons?)
A medicine to heal the world.
Something used to kindly purify or coldly slay the bad parts of the world.
The panacea theory.
…That should have been a useless fantasy since Othinus herself had rejected it immediately after proposing it, but something about it stuck with him. He could not forget it as readily as what he had for dinner three days before. He felt like it contained something he had to remember no matter what.
Terra of the Left, an expert in the execution of the Son of God, had acted like he understood what Imagine Breaker really was.
…If that right hand’s power was related to that, had that man been looking to the power to gently heal, or the power to coldly destroy?
Shocking-pink and emerald.
That monster really was the opposite of Kamijou Touma.
While Kamijou had been remade into a sky-blue and lemon-yellow winged lizard when it surrounded him from the outside, the monster hid his shocking-pink and emerald form beneath the skin of a boy.
That summed it up quite well.
Was it a boy controlling an ability, or was it an ability defining itself as a boy?
In his own way, he had tried to carry everything on his own shoulders.
But it had all fallen apart before his eyes.
Had he played the villain and pretended to be so coldhearted because he had not known how to accept that? Just like Aleister had pretended to see everything coming?
“You didn’t think that ability was nothing more than a colorful shell to cover your body, did you?”
“I’m here because you wished for me, Kamijou Touma. That’s why I have this form. You made the wish, didn’t you? You knew it was an absurd idea, but during that war you wished you could have used Imagine Breaker more effectively. You wondered if the real way to use it was hidden in your lost memories. If it wasn’t for your regrets, I never would have had to think about something as silly as using your lost memories to play the role of Kamijou Touma and using Imagine Breaker more cleverly than you!!!!!!”
“You never would have… had to think?”
“I’m nothing more than an an ability: something that distorts quantum physics. I was supposed to have nothing of my own. My sense of self, my personality to overcome any adversity, and my memories that you lack? It all only exists because you wished it to.”
Then… what even was this?
This conflicted with everything Magic God Othinus and Human Aleister had explained to him.
Had they misread something about the Imagine Breaker in his right hand?
Fiamma of the Right had thought of everything in terms of Christianity, so he had been ineffective against Aleister who viewed all of magic and all of science.
When Kamijou had failed to accept the selfish wishes of the combat-obsessed Magic Gods like High Priest and Nephthys, a portion of its power had leaked out and gained an entirely different nature as Kamisato Kakeru’s World Rejecter.
Then what about with Aleister’s logic?
The ruler of the depths and a guardian of treasure.
What had been the ideal for that human who disliked simple moralization and did not let that limit his options?
What had Nephthys and Niang-Naing wanted from Kamijou Touma?
They had said his right hand was something extra and that the One who Purifies God and Slays Demons referred to the boy himself and not his right hand.
He thought of all those ideas that appeared to be false based on what was happening here. The Academy City Board Chairman had sacrificed so much to bring his grand plan to fruition. He had used everything in order to raise something, but…
“It wasn’t Imagine Breaker?”
“You really thought this could be explained with something so cheap, you scum?”
More and more explosive noises rang out.
Accelerator and Elizard’s battle was no longer limited to the ground. They kicked off the castle’s stone walls, jumped up to the flat roof, and continued their persistent clash.
Who was more frightening here? Elizard for continually parrying Accelerator’s attacks that came with his reflection that could kill at a touch, or Accelerator for facing Curtana Second’s omnidimensional slicing without even taking a scratch?
The girl in a newspaper dress spoke while wrapping her arms around the white monster’s neck.
“Accessing Clonoth. Calculation substitution has begun.”
Even using strange magic could no longer harm the #1 with an unnaturally distorted reflection.
And his interceptions did not just take the form of physical pebbles and metal nails.
“Don’t assume you alone can use magic. He’s already analyzed that world!!”
Even the course of the physical sword itself was twisted at the moment of impact.
“It would seem you cannot prevent the actual omnidimensional slicing.”
The child clicked his tongue at the adult’s comment.
“Curtana Second will take priority over all else and cut through all dimensions as long as it is in this country. I don’t fully understand that reflection of yours, but if I slice through the very coordinates at which the barrier exists, the damage gets through. Isn’t that right?” Elizard flipped the flat-tipped sword around to change her stance. “Knowing you are not untouchable is enough for me… Now it comes down to whether or not I can focus on finding an opportunity.”
With the sound of something slicing through the air, Elizard disappeared.
Accelerator did not even turn his head.
He took a casual step back just before the giant guillotine of omnidimensional slicing swung down at him from the side. It grazed the tip of his nose, but he was not the type to let anything show on his face.
“I doubt you’re just swinging that thing around at random.”
“You were a little slow to move there.” Perhaps as a sign of respect for his observation, the queen regnant spoke up with Curtana Second at the ready. “Nothing I do can arrive in time in the areas you have already calculated out, but you are only acquiring information through your ordinary eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and skin. That means the direction you face is a crucial factor. The difference might be small, but if I keep it up, it will grow to an expanse too wide to ignore.”
“Oh, is that so?”
This might have been a deadly situation for him not long ago.
No matter how powerful it was, Accelerator only had the one ability to use, so having its idiosyncrasies and blind spots revealed was a major risk.
He pulled a phone from his pants pocket and casually operated it with a thumb.
A moment later, an electron beam resembling lightning shot down toward Queen Regnant Elizard’s head.
This was not enough to kill Elizard.
She roared and swung Curtana Second overhead. She released the omnidimensional slicing in the shape of a crescent moon to slice apart the electron attack that could easily bisect an underground nuclear shelter.
The beam of bluish-white light scattered like spray.
“Don’t let this surprise you,” said Accelerator. “If I’m doing this, I’m using everything I’ve got. If you’re gonna harness the power of the UK as a whole to win this, then I’ll harness the power of Academy City… no, of the science side as a whole. All for this one victory!!”
But it did not end there.
The massive electron beam was only a smokescreen. In truth, there had been a cylindrical hole down the middle like it was a giant piece of macaroni. And that meant there was room to send something down that empty space.
The item had already been launched from the space station to the surface.
“Didn’t I tell you? This is a clash between the #1s who stand at the top. You can stand up to my esper power? So what? That’s just one genre of power held by the science side!!”
“You yourself are just one piece? Even though you are strong enough to deflect Curtana Second!?”
“Again, this is a battle between those at the top. Your sword carries the weight of the entire UK on its back, but you want me to fight without getting any help whatsoever? Does winning a war rot the brain? Don’t just expect everything to work out for you!!”
“You want to protect your nation? So you’ll do whatever it takes? Do you really think your people will cry tears of joy to learn they’re being used as an excuse for your own cowardice? If you don’t have what it takes to carry the responsibility on your own shoulders, then don’t even start down the path of evil!!”
He showed it off.
He could have operated the phone while hiding it behind his body or below his clothing, but the monster calling himself the top of Academy City let her see the phone that acted as the key.
“I will return to Academy City no matter what.”
He might be the pinnacle of evil, but he was up front about it and avoided all that cowardice.
“And I’ll change the entire system of the science side. I’ll create a world where that shit can never happen again. We carry equal weights on our shoulders, so I’m not holding back, Queen. I’ll use everything I’ve got to beat you down. After all, it’s one-on-one: me versus you.”
“Don’t assume that was just a bunch of light. I said I’ll use everything and I mean it. By destroying the tunnel, you scattered it everywhere… I believe in Academy City it was called Mimosa.”
They were surrounded by a sound much like the rustling of leaves. But they were on the stone roof of Windsor Castle. Unlike in the artificial woods, there were no leaves to rustle here.
These were microscopic specks of metal.
Those micro-weapons would respond to EM waves by opening and closing their tiny arms and tearing away a human’s cells one at a time.
Did Elizard realize what it was?
Or had she decided to cut through space with Curtana’s omnidimensional slicing to block up the area between them with ruined material no matter what was approaching?
“You want to change the world by wielding some great power?” roared Elizard. “Don’t make me laugh, monster! It is the power of the people that changes the world!! We can only ever show them the way! Did you really think the power of an individual could change history!?”
The queen regnant once more swung Curtana Second in both hands.
“I refuse to make a gamble like trying to change the world on my own. I will not attempt any fights I do not know I can win. Because when I make a gamble, it is my beloved people’s lives I must use as chips!!”
She did not think she could destroy all of the micro-weapons like that, but if she destroyed the nearby antenna towers, her opponent would likely lose control of his orbital and microscopic weapons.
It had been like fluff scattered in the air.
And it was not over yet. With control of the Mimosa gone, the prison of fluff was destroyed. And the true threat appeared from within.
It took the form of lovely flowers.
However, these were predatory plants with sharp scythes and sturdy mandibles made of flowers and other plants.
They looked a lot like orchid mantises.
But instead of being camouflaged, these insects really were made from plant material.
“Flower Resistance. Cloning and genetic manipulation isn’t exclusive to animals. In fact, with selective breeding, it’s a lot more common with plants… It honestly sickens me to see it, but this kind of shit is free to roam the city if I don’t get back there. And then there’s no changing the world.”
The swarm of mantises would devour human flesh and yet were as beautiful as jewels. They rushed toward Elizard with the force of a sandstorm. These plants moved faster than animals, moved more powerfully than animals, and would feast upon animals. That was the extent of the abnormality made a reality here.
“Don’t worry. They won’t ruin your country’s ecosystem. They’ll apparently somewhat do what you tell them with a remote because they’re susceptible to EM waves.”
The wielder of Curtana Second actually had a wild smile on her lips.
Perhaps it was her ability to smile at a time like this that made her so charismatic.
“This is a lot simpler when I can see what I’m up against!!”
The other voice softly slipped into her ears.
“Oh? It’s simpler is it? Then why are you looking that way?”
“Didn’t I tell you? My power as Accelerator is just one science side technology. So don’t expect to see what’s really going on just by looking to the surface. I carry the weight of the entire science side. That’s fifty percent of the planet.”
He was Academy City’s #1.
But was he also… more than that?
“I am Academy City Board Chairman Accelerator.”
He made an announcement.
And the monster charged straight toward her.
He moved right up to that frontline fighter to reach her as fast as possible no matter what the risk.
He had such great speed that the sound exploded out only after a short delay.
This was not about logic.
It was okay to start here.
He could work to become somebody who someone might actually look up to.
Which was why this had to be the final trump card he played: #1 Accelerator. Not the orbital weapon, not the Mimosa, and not the carnivorous plants. Even with all those next-generation weapons flying around, he would not hesitate to deliver the finishing blow if he carried the most appropriate destructive force.
Because that was his image of the person who had awoken a certain monster. That was the person whose back he had chased after while still walking down a different path!!
“If you’re gonna lay a hand on my students for your own selfish reasons, then don’t think you’re escaping this unscathed!!!”
He charged in from dead ahead using no tricks whatsoever and swung his right first toward Queen Regnant Elizard.
There was no loud impact.
That would be because he had complete control over the vectors.
The entire impact of the attack was directed inside Elizard’s body, so it was actually a quiet ending.
His punch was a different beast from the pointy-haired boy’s.
Instead of knocking them backwards, they simply collapsed on the spot.
“Ohh? You aren’t going to finish her off, master?”
“Don’t be dumb. Kill her and I’ll turn into the kinda person who kills anyone and everyone.”
Accelerator reached to the side of his neck in obvious exasperation.
He flipped his choker’s switch.
“I’m Academy City’s board chairman, so my actions will color the city’s overall image. In that sense, this is my first job and my diplomatic debut. The Crowley’s Hazards, were they called? If the UK endlessly demands compensation for the damage they caused, Academy City has no future. I need to punish both sides to cancel out any debts. That’s a lot better than allowing some long, drawn-out conflict.”
“Sigh, you are so very mature today, master.”
For a while, the board chairman simply stared up at the moon while leaning on his modern design cane.
Meanwhile, a nearby skylight opened upwards.
A small animal of a princess with her long blonde hair worn up climbed out like it was a submarine hatch.
She wore a yellow helmet with “Safety First” written on it in Japanese, so it may have been an Academy City product. It appeared to be too big for her because it had slid over at an angle.
“I-I am Third Princess Villian! I am here to take the rioters into custody. Th-there were no injuries, I hope?”
“Injuries for who? If you mean your mother, she’s fine.” Accelerator jerked his chin over toward collapsed Elizard. “Everyone else is too worked up to deal with, so can I use you as a contact point for discussing how we continue from here?”
“I-if you like.”
“Don’t play dumb. Elizard’s tactics weren’t wrong. I can’t access my weapons with my phone with all the antenna towers in the area destroyed. It was your protegee who set up a wireless connection for me, wasn’t it?”
Something was floating in front of the moon.
It was Karasuma Fran, the rabbit-ear antennae girl dangling from a UFO balloon.
“With that playing a role, it’ll be hard to say this was a win for Academy City technology alone. To put it another way, you just barely managed to let the UK save face here. You act all innocent, but you’re one crafty princess.”
Accelerator had not seen the entirety of the conclusion, but if Great Demon Coronzon had been behind everything, then the hoodie bikini and rabbit-ear antennae girl would be in an awkward position. Back in Academy City, he had also seen her being controlled by a gem in her forehead.
She would need an organization backing her if she was to avoid living a life on the run.
If she had contacted the white monster beforehand, she could have been considered a part of the science side and it would have been entirely Academy City’s power that ended this. But this way, she proved that there were reasonable people left in the UK and that victory could not have been achieved without their help.
(So violence isn’t the only way to work your way into a nation or organization. I don’t want this to be a waste of time, so I’ll learn what I can from it.)
Accelerator exhaled and tapped the roof below his feet using his modern design cane.
He was Academy City’s #1 and board chairman.
But this was all that strongest white monster could do.
“The rest is up to him.”
Kamijou Touma received an immediate response from the monster confronting him.
He was a dragon.
A guardian of treasure. An odd symbol that represented the devil but was also used for houses and organizations.
This was something else that had been restrained by Imagine Breaker.
Of course, it was perhaps not the best idea to simply accept everything he was told by the person he was currently fighting. He knew he had to weigh these things carefully.
Fortune had said she could only talk about it from the magical side.
Othinus had crossed between magic and science, but even she had confessed she was stuck at the panacea theory.
Which side was he seeing Kamijou Touma’s power from here?
“I am here because you wished for it.”
The monster repeated the words at the source of the curse.
“If you hadn’t interfered and hadn’t gotten in my way, that happiness would have remained intact. If you had let me take your place for this one day and then let me leave, no one would have gotten hurt. Even if I’m just pink and emerald encased in human skin, I could have had that brief time. That wasn’t your time to show up!! That really and truly was nothing more than your own damn ego!!!”
Kamijou Touma had no way of knowing because he did not remember any of it, but when that honey-blonde girl had seen him remembering her and her name, she had prayed so desperately for that miracle to continue.
That was enough of a reason to fight.
“So I will protect this.”
He no longer seemed to care how contradictory this was.
Not even pointy-haired Kamijou Touma had not come this far while making sure every little thing he did was right.
No one was talking about things on that level.
“Since I’m here because of your wish, I will fulfill that wish. Everything leading up to this point was just a bad dream and only happiness lies ahead of us. It might take reversing our positions, but I have to protect this!! I have to gather up everything you let slip from your fingers!!”
“…Is that so?”
After that, Kamijou slowly inhaled while ignoring the crystal shards piercing his soft skin.
The sound of the shards crunching together came from the floor.
“I don’t care what anyone says or how emotionally you describe your position here. If you hadn’t done this, none of this would have happened. Maybe I played a role, but it started with you. You don’t get to run the credits and tie it all up in a nice pretty bow. I can sense your fear in the fact that you’re trying to swap out the problem at hand and get yourself alone to safety!!”
They could point out each other’s flaws all day.
Because in a way, they had been viewing each other more closely than anyone else.
They had long since passed the point for making arguments to get their point across.
They had tried to save the people closest to them in their own ways, but their paths had never crossed.
They were both bizarre and psychedelic.
And they both clenched their bloody fists.
Past and present, illusion and reality, heartless and passionate, usurper and reclaimer, ruin and conclusion. Salvation and rescue.
Good and evil.
Even with that reference point for the world before their eyes, all the values of the world revolved around them like planets in their orbits.
Was the human viewing the ability, or vice-versa?
It all seemed to reverse itself.
Their gazes collided and they both shouted the final line together.
In order to reach a definite conclusion.
“I can never let you get away with this!!!!!”
“I can never let you get away with this!!!!!”
Another deafening roar followed.
The calico cat fled along the floor in shock.
Kamijou Touma ran forward while his sky-blue right arm unraveled and surrounded his entire body. If their basic specs were the same, that other boy could not block the sky-blue and lemon-yellow winged lizard’s claws with his bare hand. Trying would only get his entire arm severed, so he had been forced to rely on Imagine Breaker.
Instead of going for a solid blow, the shocking-pink light surged out in order to simply make contact and negate the sky-blue and lemon-yellow. The right hand made a sweeping motion instead of a punch and Kamijou Touma’s shell unraveled.
But that was fine.
What had that other boy said?
Index had ended up that way because Mental Out had failed to fully control John’s Pen. But what about Misaka Mikoto? Hadn’t he said he would not have lost control if she had not messed with the A.A.A.?
In other words…
(Only Index has lost control. The mechanical weapon is simply immune to Mental Out and Misaka herself is not attacking everyone on his command!!)
“A.A.A.!! Help me out if you want to protect Misaka!!”
The villain’s shoulders shook when he heard that.
The pointy-haired boy heard an odd noise and looked up, hoping it would be something he could use, but he was almost impressed by what he saw. Instead of just the claws on his arms, the other boy had claws piercing from the bottom of his feet like brutal cleats and he used that to secure a more powerful grip he could use to escape to either side more quickly.
He might seem like Kamijou, but he really was different.
The one boy was swallowed up by the sky-blue and the other let the shocking-pink tear apart his skin to erupt out.
“You son of a bitch!”
He swung his thick tail around and roared.
The A.A.A. naturally did not respond to the command of someone other than Misaka Mikoto.
But that was fine.
He did not need any help.
He had only needed his opponent to seal off his own possibilities out of fear of the possibility.
Kamijou Touma would not expect good fortune.
He had come all this way to reclaim himself and free those who were trapped here.
The shocking-pink and emerald lizard had large crocodilian jaws, thin wings, and a thick tail, but this was not Kamijou Touma’s first time seeing any of it. He had worn the same thing and used it as his own weapon.
He knew how it worked.
And he knew its weaknesses and flaws.
Of course he did!!
With a roar, the ordinary boy mercilessly threw a punch with a right fist covered in sky-blue fibers.
He sent it toward those crocodilian jaws that were too big to miss.
The jaws of course chomped down on his arm.
Unbelievable pain burst in his head like sparks.
But that bizarre right arm had never been simple flesh and blood.
And had anyone really thought he would not put together some kind of plan from the moment the chandelier fell to when he got up and clenched his bloody fist here?
Dark red blood did not just spill from Kamijou Touma’s bitten-off arm.
It spilled from those jaws as well.
Blood other than Kamijou’s poured endlessly from between those brutal teeth.
Kamijou staggered woozily backwards with a cold sweat soaking him, but he had a thin smile on his lips.
“How’s it taste, monster?”
He could not use Imagine Breaker.
But he still had to win at all costs.
He had to free those girls no matter what kind of cheap and underhanded methods it required.
“'How’s a fist full of crystal shards taste? Pant, pant. It’s too late to spit it out now. Your throat and stomach must’ve been shredded!”
He had used his right hand.
He had used that fist to destroy the supernatural.
“Agh, you, khah…”
Pointy-haired Kamijou Touma held something in his remaining left hand. It had likely been here as a tool for cooking. The large carving knife would have been used for making thin slices of roast beef or something. And instead of the ornamental ones a delinquent might carry around, this was a well-honed blade used by professionals.
This was his left hand, the opposite of the one he had relied on all this time.
But destroying the supernatural power was not enough to end this.
He needed to take it a step further.
This time, he had to destroy the physical body as well.
Othinus had said his strength was not in the amount of direct violence but in his ability to reach out to people without giving up on them.
But just this once, he had to settle things once and for all.
“I see. So that’s why it chose you… why it flew in from outsi-”
The bizarre monster had already been shredded on the inside and now an attack from outside pierced the center of his chest.
Kamijou did not need to use much strength.
He only had to lean against his foe and collapse against him as he grew weak.
The monster did not collapse.
Even with the large blade stabbing him in the chest, he spread his wings wide to catch Kamijou like the boy was weakly leaning against a wall.
“This isn’t over.”
“I am here because you wished it. And you just rejected that obvious answer to have it your way. Do not let them die… If you had used this thing right, you might have been able to save the Golden magicians. At the very least, Aleister didn’t need to die and leave his daughter behind. Don’t you dare make a mistake like that again.”
There was a sound like something twisting around.
The other boy came apart into shocking-pink and emerald that swirled around in the air and gathered around Kamijou Touma’s right shoulder.
As if it had recalled that it should always have been there.
His right arm alone was back to normal.
It fit perfectly to where the sky-blue had been and did not allow even a single drop of blood to be lost.
This was different from the psychedelic shell.
This was the boy’s flesh-colored arm that carried Imagine Breaker in the fist.
His reclaimed hand held something: the phone that he had lost.
He had never known ordinary plastic could feel so comforting.
The pain had receded and he could feel his normal arm again.
But this was not over.
A low rumble shook Windsor Castle’s dance hall.
Killing that other boy had not been his goal.
He had entered the castle to rescue the captured girls.
“This is where the real job begins.”
The Mental Out girl was still unconscious and her commands apparently remained in place until she actively removed them. Index and Misaka Mikoto continued their clash, so he had to get between them and stop it before one or the other won.
Specifically, he had to stop John’s Pen and the A.A.A.
Words were not enough to describe them.
It no longer mattered what their original purposes had been. It was irrelevant that those grand plans had failed and the tools were of no use to anyone.
He was short on blood.
His right hand had returned, but he still had crystal shards piercing the rest of his body.
Nevertheless, he moved his woozy body to take the first step toward the blast site.
He quickly picked up speed and reached a full sprint in no time.
He clenched his fist as tight as could be.
Good and evil did not matter.
This was not about the fate of the world or the future of the human race.
This boy could risk his life for much smaller things.
“Ending this won’t prevent tragedy? A normal high school boy can’t change anything? If that’s what you’ve convinced yourself of…”
After all, this was the power that gave concrete form to those thoughts.
“Then I’ll destroy that illusion!!!!!!”
Index was being controlled by her John’s Pen mode and Misaka Mikoto was unconscious inside her A.A.A.
Magic and science.
If they were allowed to continue fighting, they would keep at it until one or the other had stopped moving altogether… in other words, until they were dead. And who could say how far the damage would spread as that chaotic storm of stray shots continued to fly.
There was only so much Kamijou Touma could do.
His right hand was back.
But that meant he could no longer use that sky blue shell that covered his entire body.
And he was fine with that.
He felt a hundred times more comfortable relying on his right hand’s power to negate the supernatural than on a mass of violence that could kill his opponent if he did not control it carefully enough.
Someone had appeared based on a wish of his.
They had been given memories and a personality, but were not satisfied with just that. They had also tried to protect someone in this messed-up world. They had stepped aside to give him that seat, so he could not screw this up.
And with that in mind, Kamijou Touma viewed the entire scene and immediately ran in a certain direction.
He had a single target:
He ran toward the girl in a storybook princess’s dress colored white with reddish-purple lines.
It also had a collar-like bit of decorative lace.
She had never liked fighting. He did not know where she had found it, but it must have been her concern for those around her that led her to search out that first-aid bag that resembled an overnight toothbrush set. And those supplies had made it to Othinus where they were just barely keeping the honey-blonde girl alive.
Of course, part of it was the fact that Kamijou’s Imagine Breaker was useless against the A.A.A.’s simple guns and heavy metal blades.
But there was a more fundamental reason than that.
Mikoto in her lingerie dress with the open back was simply along for the ride in the A.A.A. And that machine was responding to and resisting against any danger to its user, so its hardware or software had not broken, sending it out of control.
In other words.
John’s Pen had somehow returned after Mina Mathers supposedly destroyed it, but if he could stop Index from attacking, the A.A.A. would also stop. And this was not something he could persuade with an argument.
Something he could not quite remember throbbed in Kamijou Touma’s mind.
There was a collar.
It was the source of all tragedy that robbed that girl of her freedom and dignity by controlling her as a tool.
Something in his mind told him this was something he had to destroy no matter what.
He raised his voice and ran.
He ran toward the nun who swung her body to the side to avoid a head-on attack from the A.A.A. and attempted to make a deadly attack to the side of Academy City’s #3 girl who made no attempt to hide her blue lingerie dress or milky-white back.
The gatekeeper of death must have heard his explosive footsteps because she turned her head.
She turned toward him.
“Warning: Chapter 43, Verse 625. Searching memory data. Saved countermeasure found. Beginning counterattack with countermeasure found in reserve block.”
Light appeared in both her eyes and two magic circles appeared in the air.
A black crack ran vertically down where they intersected and something peered out.
That was bad news.
Something told him not to use his right hand here.
That was why he had to do it.
He did not understand any of this and he was following some memory hidden behind a heavy layer of static, but…
(I have to do it.)
He could feel himself clenching his right fist harder than ever before.
Kamijou Touma did not fight the feeling in his heart.
(This time, I have to challenge this and overcome it!!)
Just as a pure white beam of light was unleashed, Kamijou swung his body to the side with all his might.
But it followed him.
The beam of destruction swung around like a searchlight, destroying the castle wall all the while. It was a horizontal sweeping attack, but…
(If that’s all it is, I can dodge it!!)
He only had to bend his hips and duck down while running so it passed by overhead.
He adjusted his course so he ran side to side in an S-pattern.
His target was not Index.
It was the intersecting edges of the two magic circles. It was the unidentified monster peering out from the depths of that black vertical crack.
“I won’t leave anything undone.”
He could not remember it, but this was something that had once led to his defeat.
It was something he had needed to overcome eventually.
“This all ends here!!!!!”
He charged forward.
Whatever it was, if Index was relying on it, it had to be magic… and thus a supernatural power. He could destroy it if he made contact. He could take back that gluttonous and selfish girl who still worried about people more than anyone.
He wanted to see her smile again. That was enough for him. Even if it was selfish!!
“Correction: Chapter 91, Verse 55. Overwriting countermeasure found in reserve block based on newly acquired data. Reinforcing countermeasure and resuming attack.”
The beam was adjusted to be at hip height.
This was the most difficult height to dodge. If he tried to jump over it, it would hit his legs. If he tried to duck below it, his head would be vaporized. But if he used his right hand, he would only begin a hopeless stalemate. Even if he got down on the floor to dodge the first sweep, the beam would only be swung down at him the next time. That would mean checkmate.
He was still one step too far away.
But just then, a dull metallic sound erupted from directly to his side.
It was Misaka Mikoto.
No, it was the A.A.A. protecting her. The many arms moved while spread out like wings as it charged toward Index who was in John’s Pen’s grasp. It was working to stop her for even a moment to give the boy time.
A faint sweet aroma tickled his nose.
Had it come from the nape of the girl whose short hair was tied back?
“Stop that, Misaka.”
He spoke up without thinking.
He had his right hand back and his misfortune along with it, and yet…
“I’m not used to good things happening. You’re gonna shake my resolve.”
Kamijou did not know how the power controlling her mind worked, but he doubted there was much chance of her hearing anything he said now.
On a level beyond logic, the blue lingerie dress girl’s slender shoulders did twitch just a bit. That was definitely the girl herself moving and not the A.A.A. moving her.
And that was enough.
With the help of someone close to him, he made it somewhere he could not have on his own.
Kamijou Touma took one last step.
This time, he made it right up to the robotic nun with her silver hair flowing behind her.
The time had come for him to clench his right first with as much strength as he could muster.
“This is over, Index.”
He would actually end it this time.
He would clean everything up.
He would not lose anything more.
Not even his memories. He would not allow there to be a price.
“Don’t worry. We can all smile together and head back to Academy City.”
The sound of the conclusion reverberated through the dance hall.
That was all it took.
The black crack directly opened in space itself was shattered. No, his fist had clearly reached the thing lurking within and trying to break out. With the sound of something solid shattering, the magic circles, the crack, and the unseen thing were all destroyed in the span of a breath.
None of it remained.
Kamijou gently caught the silver-haired girl who collapsed limply toward him like a marionette with its strings cut.
Something was floating around them.
White, angelic feathers fell like snow.
There was only a quiet popping sound.
Just before one of them touched the back of Kamijou Touma’s head, he used his right hand to brush aside that final malice without even looking back.
He did exactly what he should have done at some other time in some other place.
“Like I said, it’s over.”