Toaru Majutsu no Index:NT Volume22 Epilogue
Epilogue: A Man’s Life Comes to an End After Receiving Countless Wounds Over the Course of a Long Journey – (Untitled)
The sun had risen high into the sky.
It was noon.
They had ended their second national crisis, this one caused by Great Demon Coronzon who had gone by the name of Archbishop Lola Stuart.
Black Cat Witch Mina Mathers descended from the internally split Queen Britannia and easily landed on the ice before casually setting down some items.
“Please take these.”
They were a sword, a crown, a sceptre, and a giant rectangular stone.
Those were the Scottish treasures.
“My crazy obsessed husband might have drooled at the chance to swipe them, but I do not need them. From a cultural perspective, it would be a shame to let them sink to the bottom of the sea, so I will return them.”
“What happened to Coronzon? The hair seems to have stopped moving.”
“Your Majesty, you are free to pepper me with questions if you like, but your ship will soon sink. This ice may be magically supported, but the sinking of a two-hundred-meter ship is bound to affect the surrounding water. If you do not want these treasures to sink after I went to the effort of rescuing them, I recommend withdrawing.”
In fact, she likely planned to use this confusion to slip away from the battlefield crawling with Knights and Anglicans. The actual fighting had ended, but with the recovery of the wounded and of the dropped spiritual items, there was a lot they had to do. Not even Knight Leader or Kanzaki Kaori could respond immediately in this situation.
Mina Mathers kept a composed expression while holding the baby.
“The new vessel of flesh should soon be complete in its glass container. We were right to bring Lilith’s soul to the front line in order to distract Great Demon Coronzon from that. If she had wanted to, she could have attacked it remotely with her Aethyr Avatars.”
The baby groaned and waved her short arms and legs around.
Elizard called out to the black cat witch just as she started to leave and it looked like even her shadow would disappear.
“W-wait. So was Coronzon defeated? What happened to Aleister!?”
“The Scottish treasures are here. Doesn’t that tell you everything you need to know? …They should be settling things about now and it would be crass to interrupt them.”
Once Takitsubo Rikou woke up, Hamazura Shiage changed mental gears.
Dion Fortune kept talking in English, so he had Aneri translate for him via his phone.
“The Queen Britannia is going to sink soon. We can’t just sit here and wait and we need to use this confusion to escape before the British capture us. Since you were working with Coronzon, you’re in a pretty bad position, right? If they capture you, there’s no way you can avoid a cavalcade of torture in the Tower of London.”
Simply entering the country without a passport was bad enough. And it was unclear what had become of Aleister who had been waving the flag in the lead. If he was abandoned now, he could be convicted and thrown into prison under the laws of a country where he did not understand the language.
A lot had happened along the way, but his overall goal had been to ensure a safe life without making threats using the Parameter List. He had hoped to get that by assisting in Aleister’s fight, but that was useless if the board chairman might be dead. He did not know how many trusted confidants and faithful servants Aleister had, but it was possible the promise with Hamazura would be null and void now. Those people would probably treat their lives as coldly as a call center employee did customer requests.
Escaping the sinking ship would be easy enough.
But where were they supposed to go afterwards?
Mugino and Kinuhata would have left Academy City when it was shut down, so was it even necessary to return to there now? He would have to ask what those two thought, but hiding in the outside world might be an option. …But that also depended on how persistently the UK pursued them. He could not forget what happened in that shooting range. He and Takitsubo had been helpless against that ponytail samurai woman. He wanted to avoid being entirely reliant on Dion Fortune after rescuing her. This would all be for naught if she was pushed too far and collapsed.
Would they try to live inside or outside of Academy City?
Which would be the better option?
“Let’s go outside, Hamazura.”
Takitsubo Rikou said that while the boy supported her somewhat overheated body.
But what did she mean by that?
“There’s a whole world out there, so it would be a shame to stay holed up inside.”
On the top level of the Queen Britannia, the gray heliport sat below the blue sky.
That decagon the size of a tennis court had once been called a temple.
Thanks to the massive beam released from the spiky-haired boy’s right shoulder, it had burst open like a can that was thrown out after being only partially opened with a can opener. The entire ship was deeply slanted as well. No one could predict when it would completely roll over onto its side.
A girl with long silver hair lay face up there.
And when Aleister’s eyes slowly opened…
“Hi, Aleister. Can you still see me?”
The silver girl’s bloody mouth moved, but no words came out for a while.
And this was not just due to the wound that had destroyed her internal organs.
“No, it can’t be… It just can’t…”
“I am Anna Sprengel, the expert who allowed the seeds of a cabal to be sown in the United Kingdom. Did you think Westcott had invented me?”
A lady in a gaudy dress made from a red leotard and a long skirt laughed and then looked around.
She viewed the hopelessly shredded temple.
“I was right to spread some chaos using Takitsubo Rikou. Hamazura Shiage is a small speck, but he is a dangerous element that can do things no one can ever predict. That said, he is an amateur that comes to a stop once he feels like he has accomplished something. In that sense, giving him a small battle to fight was best. And in fact, Coronzon was unnaturally shaken at the end there. If Hamazura Shiage had been free to act, it never would have ended this way.”
“Really though, this was awful. This mess was so very far removed from the essence of magic. It is fortunate you managed to stop Great Demon Coronzon like that. Now I can finally avoid any further damage to my reputation. It isn’t like I did it myself, but I do carry some responsibility for authorizing your cabal.”
She was different from the Golden cabal.
She was closer to the origin point than that magic cabal which had aimed to distribute a work kit anyone could use.
To put it another way, she came from a magic system that chose to keep the confusing parts confusing. Their group saw no problem at all with only a chosen few being able to wield miracles while the masses only accepted the blessings given to them.
And that group was called…
“The Rosicrucian Order. But the ancient founder was nowhere to be found. That story was no more than nonsense invented by Johann Valentin Andreae.”
“As in, he invented the whole history himself?” asked Anna in a singsong voice. That woman with reddish hair worn in several fried shrimps was still smiling. “We honestly don’t care how it started anymore. What matters is that the Rosicrucian system works and allows us to control the supernatural. Johann seemed to think he was at the center of it all, but no one was actually paying any attention to him. He revealed the truth? So what? The great monster known as Rosicrucianism had already left his control to freely wander the world. …You should know that all too well since you came from the Golden cabal that cut away a portion of Rosicrucianism and used it as a foundation.”
It may have begun with a made-up story.
There had been no basis for it.
Even the Golden cabal had realized the secret story of its founding was a farce during the conflicts over who would lead the cabal. …But now that Anna Sprengel was standing right here with that bewitching smile on her face, could Aleister really be so certain of that?
The Rosicrucian Order continued to function in the shadows of history.
Johann had been telling the truth, but no one in the world had been willing to listen.
“I will be going now.” The lady in red leotard and long skirt spoke coldly while toying with the rose in her hair. “I have seen this through to the end and the ridiculous mess caused by the Rose-derived Golden cabal has ended. You are the cabal’s final magician, so once you die, all trace of it will have vanished from this tiny island nation. …Well, after I deal with the other irregularities like Mina Mathers and Dion Fortune.”
She may not have had to go this far.
Aleister’s body was at its limit after the severe wounds she had received. The silver girl would have died regardless. She could not even get up from the floor, so she could have let the next generation handle the rest.
Baby Lilith was with the black cat witch.
She could not just lie here and let that monster go after her daughter.
“Is this the final task for which you will risk your life?”
There was a sound of a rattling chain.
The founder lady named Anna Sprengel held the symbol of an old magic cabal. It was the Rosicrucian emblem she wore at her chest on a thin chain. Even the Golden cabal had made use of that symbol. Each of the petals was engraved with one of the 22 Hebrew letters. That all-purpose spiritual item could mass-produce powerful sigils by extracting the name of an angel or spirit by spelling it out in a single stroke.
It had an optimized complexity.
The true experts were never careless with the fundamentals. Why did new initiates need to study those things until they were sick and tired of them? The experts understood the true value and risk found there.
“Sorry, but that isn’t actually useful in battle.”
The result was clear.
The human was going to die anyway, so she was not even considering how to survive this.
And a moment later…
“I see. Very well. But if you want to talk big, why not use your real name and face, Madame Horos?”
A wet sound followed.
It had not come from Aleister.
It came from the lady in a gaudy red dress. A slender arm had stabbed into the back of her head.
“Hm, if that is all you can do, I am impressed you had the guts to continue calling yourself Anna Sprengel all this time. It has been over a century since the time with Mathers, hasn’t it? Still, I had a feeling you would make an appearance if the problem grew to this extent, you despicable fraud. This might be worthless to you personally, but I knew you would have to make an appearance as Anna Sprengel. I was waiting for this.”
Anna Sprengel was the legendary magician said to have been involved in the founding of the Golden cabal, but she had actually appeared in two different ways.
The first was as a fictional name only appearing the letters exchanged with Westcott.
The second was a direct appearance to Mathers where she snuck up to him and ran off with crucial cabal documents.
…The self-proclaimed niece of Lady Sprengel that Felkin had seen during his journey through Europe in search of the Secret Chiefs would be an offshoot of the second variety.
And after the Mathers incident, they had arrived at the following conclusion: That was not Anna Sprengel. It was Madame Horos using the name to deceive Mathers.
The silver girl would die soon.
Magician Aleister Crowley called the executioner’s name while lying on the slanted heliport.
“Yes, that’s right, human. I am sure there is a lot you would like to ask me concerning Lilith, but I have only one answer for you. When you thought you had summoned Great Demon Coronzon, it turned out she had already been summoned by Mathers to target you. Did it never occur to you that I may have been summoned by someone earlier than you in order to kill someone even if it took more than a century? And I of course do not mean you, Aleister.”
“Yes, wait just a moment. Now, let us finish our business together, Madame Horos, you detestable woman. It is time you returned Anne Sprengel’s vessel.”
There was a wet sound.
Aiwass pulled his arm back, leaving a large hole in the lady’s head. But she was not allowed to fall because he casually stuck another sticky mass deep inside the gaping hole to seal it.
The change was dramatic.
The blood, flesh, bone, muscle, hair, and skin were all sucked inwards. With a sticky sound, a great transformation came over that physical body.
All while the basic silhouette remained unchanged.
It was now a white-skinned girl with reddish blonde hair rolled and squished into multiple fried shrimps.
However, her height had shrunk by thirty or forty percent. Her apparent age had been reduced. She looked to be between ten and twelve. The gaudy red dress that had contained her previously ample body was now too large for her, so a small hand had to hold the luxurious fabric at her flat chest to ensure it did not fall down.
“It has been far too long, Aiwass.”
Her tone of voice was different as well.
No, this may have been how Anna Sprengel was meant to sound.
Someone with a decent knowledge of magic may have been reminded of the magician named Cendrillon who had managed to dismantle and reassemble her own body.
This girl waved her empty hand with an exasperated look on her face.
And then her slender arm stabbed mercilessly into the center of Aiwass’s gut.
“…Bh. I really did serve you for more than a century. Doesn’t that deserve at least some gratitude, Fräulein?”
“I can’t kill you with a single attack? Unbelievable. I really have lost a lot. Curse that old fraud. She seems to have wasted an awful lot during the century I was gone.”
Even Aiwass was only a test target.
He could not remain standing, so he fell to his knees and finally onto all fours. Then the ten-year-old girl sat her small hips right down on his back, crossed her legs, and observed the back of her right hand like she was checking on the nails.
“What to do, what to do? Spending a century of training to make up for the century I lost would just be silly. It would probably be best to rely on the seven-walled tomb.”
But despite being used as a chair, the Holy Guardian Angel whispered with no sign of anger.
“You can easily make up for this delay. Shouldn’t you be thankful I managed to drag you from the depths of the bog at all?”
“The fact that it took you a century to complete such a simple task shows a problem with your specs. In fact, what were you even planning to do if this failed?”
“I would have kept trying until it did work. I could wait for thousands or tens of thousands of years until another opportunity presented its-…”
“Fool, you know I hate being so indirect. If you’re hoping for a nose hook, then just come out and say it.”
According to history, Anna Sprengel was a magical expert, but she herself was not said to be one of the bizarre beings known as Secret Chiefs. She was more like a priestess who could freely contact those transcendent beings.
And Aleister had in fact stated that Holy Guardian Angel Aiwass was the Secret Chief who gave permission for the founding of all magic cabals. Aleister’s own ability to directly contact Aiwass was given as a reason why she could create as many new cabals as she pleased.
“You were…connected?” asked the silver girl.
However, their roles seemed different from what the legends claimed.
The girl holding up the loose red dress was sitting on her “chair”, crossing her legs, and viewing her own nails.
“I am supposed to be one of the humans who hold out our hands to accept the blessings granted unto us. All I should need to do is look up and receiving the blessings and guidance provided by heaven. …But this world is too small. There is no longer anyone above me, so all I do is float around restlessly like a balloon. Aiwass, are you kidding me? I am pissed because your specs are just too low. Do you have anything to say for yourself?”
This was not a supernatural being and his priestess.
It looked a lot more like Anna Sprengel held Aiwass’s leash.
The girl with her reddish blonde hair in several fried shrimps spoke while viewing the back of her hand and the nails.
“Another thing, Aiwass. Why have you not killed this yet?”
“She will die on her own. You seem upset by your wasted strength, so wouldn’t it make more sense to leave her be?”
…But in truth, the actual balance of power was still unknown. It was possible they would not boldly reveal the actual truth while in front of an enemy, even if that enemy was on death’s door.
Still, Aiwass had to at least be accustomed to this lady’s selfishness.
He did not seem particularly surprised and readily responded to it all.
Was this all Aleister Crowley’s life was worth? Was this the identity of everything she had believed in? For better or for worse, the silver girl had manipulated the world around her. But now someone had appeared on the center stage who could toss her aside so easily.
“Do not worry, Aleister. Unlike Madame Horos, we have no interest in what happens to Mina Mathers or Dion Fortune. So we will not pursue them and bring harm to Baby Lilith.”
“You need to fill me on an awful lot,” said Anna Sprengel. “What happened in the outside world while I was bottled up? That trap was set up over a century ago, wasn’t it? Wasn’t Lilith supposed to die a lot sooner than this?”
“Your little game failed. Aleister did not use Lilith. Not even at the very end.”
“Well, that is disappointing.”
“You really are a cruel one.”
At that point, Anna Sprengel suddenly looked up.
She looked up at the expanse of the blue sky while truly exposed since the barrier had been broken.
What were her senses focused on while she toyed with the rose in her hair?
She got up from her chair while still holding the red cloth to her flat chest with one hand. Then her small foot lightly kicked Aiwass’s jaw to force him to stand up.
“Something is coming, fool. Fool as you are, prove your sincerity by preparing things for us. To be clear, I have no intention of giving or handing out anything. If you naively think you can pray to me and take me for everything I am worth, I will kick your ass right here and now.”
“This could be trouble. I recommend making a safe withdrawal.”
“A third tree? Surely you aren’t going to come crying to me over something as trivial as that.”
“Don’t you want to avoid wasting more energy?”
“...Honestly, I really want a collar. I learned my lesson with the Golden cabal, so I am sick of being a queen who grants things to others. Sigh. Where can I find a true master who I can subdue with my power and have them provide me with never-before-seen wonders on demand?”
“If you are going to dream of some fantastical protector, why not just come out and ask for a storybook prince charming, lady?”
“You are too far gone yourself. I am a little afraid to report what happened with Lilith now. Besides, how many wonders are left that you still have not seen? You are not so pure of heart that a Great Demon or Holy Guardian Angel will surprise you. When faced with the only surviving original member of the Golden cabal, you are the first to have ever breathed a sigh instead of feeling any kind of excitement.”
“The world is too small.”
“Do not ask for the impossible. Not even I know how to handle a tomboy like you.”
The Holy Guardian Angel of 93 casually opened a hand and held it out toward the young girl. He then gently closed his empty hand. In a sort of pantomime, Aiwass moved as if striking an invisible egg against the same invisible desk corner.
“Black egg, thy symbol befuddles the senses of all who gaze upon thee, so hide us from the sensory realm.”
Immediately, the two of them faded into the empty air like they were surrounded by a thin film that displayed the scenery behind them.
“Invisibility!?” exclaimed Aleister.
“This mystical power was even referenced in Regardie’s tell-all grimoire, so I know it cannot fool you,” said Aiwass. “But we will have left before you can reveal this to those arrive next. You will soon die. If you wish to drag the others into death with you, then you can tell them. If you would prefer not to, then hold your tongue. And with that, I bid you farewell.”
By the time Accelerator stepped into the broken and tilted temple, there was no one there.
He looked down at the girl lying on her back with silver hair splayed out around her. A lot of blood had flowed from the deep wound, the color of the skin exposed to the winter sea breeze showed a considerable drop in body temperature, and then there was the internal damage. There was no saving her. All Accelerator could do was manipulate vectors. He could optimize what was there, but he could not provide what was not.
Accelerator and Aleister.
Both of them were covered in blood.
“Revenge, is it?”
One had built a bond of trust with a demon and crossed the Abyss. The other had failed and been rejected.
This was the moment when the child surpassed the adult.
“You succeeded, #1… Your world was beyond my reach.”
“Is this all?”
The #1 monster’s voice was low.
“This is how it ends, Aleister? This doesn’t even count as revenge.”
“Are you dissatisfied? A century ago, Mathers and I were so obsessed with the 5=6 promotion issue and the honorary 7=4 title, so our souls would have raged with envy had we heard you say that. Still, I am sorry. It is true this is not an end for me you could accept. Looking at it again, I am tapping out with so much left undone, aren’t I?”
Hypothetically speaking, what would you do if you hated someone so much you wanted to kill them, but then you found them collapsed near death due to nothing related to your own actions?
Would you point and laugh until your sides ached?
Would you consider it a stroke of good luck and supply the finishing blow?
…Accelerator could not imagine it. It was not that he could not do it. He could not picture a future where all the feelings in his chest had cleared away if he went ahead with it.
“You need not feel guilty,” said Aleister with a smile. Dark red blood spilled from the corner of her mouth. “No matter how awful the person, everyone has just the one life. I will die no matter what you do here. If you do not deliver the finishing blow yourself, you may regret it for the rest of your life…”
“Shut up,” spat back Accelerator. “Didn’t I explain this already? It’s meaningless if you don’t feel any fear. Doing it now would be a failure. Look at that satisfied look on your face. There’s nothing I can take from you now.”
“…Heh. You’ve grown into a much kinder person, #1.”
“You followed me this far, so I know you can think of several cruel methods of gouging into my heart. You know what you could take from me to hurt me the most. But you chose not to. That change is something I did not foresee.”
“Are you kidding me? Quit assessing me right in front of me.”
“Well, I am an educator, after all. But more importantly, can I leave my daughter with you?”
“Is that too much to expect of a student? Then I will leave Mina with her as a wet nurse. For better or for worse, she will make no mistakes there.”
Qliphah Puzzle 545 gave a puzzled look around the area, but the silver girl soaking in a puddle of blood placed her left index finger to her lips.
In the Golden cabal, that was a sign of silence with its origin in Harpocrates.
Do not say a word. Do not pursue them.
Anyone who challenges them before they are ready will be destroyed.
“Take care of the rest… Remain ever vigilant and prepared. The problems are not over yet. Another threat is sure to arrive. And much sooner than you think.”
After breathing a few shallow breaths, Aleister pulled a boxy object from her bloodstained skirt pocket. It appeared to be a perfectly ordinary smartphone. It was in fact the one Academy City’s board chairman had used to perform the satellite bombing. She had used it to release the lock on Academy City. It had to include an incredible list of codes.
“I used my life for my own purposes, so I will give you the other methods. You may be able to fulfill your desire for vengeance using this…”
She may have known this would be her final breath.
Aleister breathed in deep and smiled as she spoke.
“If you hate the adults, then take control yourself. I leave you with the full authority of board chairman. Create the kind of Academy City where everyone remaining can smile together.”
The gray ship slowly sank over the half hour following noon.
While it had been retired, it was still a valuable piece of equipment for the royal family. It contained a large number of antiques and pieces of artwork. Professional divers would be searching it at the bottom of the sea, but Kanzaki Kaori found something floating in the cold water while standing far enough away to not be caught in the cracking ice.
“That confirms it…”
The Amakusa priestess was unsure what to feel about this.
She checked the pulse, breathing, and eye movement before giving a calm report.
“At 1:05 PM, Magician Aleister Crowley was confirmed dead.”
This felt like the end of an era.
And when a certain female knight was placing the dead girl in a black body bag…
She was stopped by Queen Elizard.
The old woman slowly sighed.
“A lot about this is still unknown, but I doubt we could have stopped Archbishop Lola Stuart without her actions. The royal family will handle the paperwork, so treat her with care.”
“This magician will receive a state funeral. …Not that I think that is enough to make up for how she was treated in the past.”
Elizard could not bear to see those eyes sitting open, so she crouched down, placed her hand on that cold forehead, and lowered the eyelids.
She looked like a parent helping a small child go back to sleep after a nightmare.
And the queen had one more thing to say.
“Welcome back, Aleister, to the United Kingdom, the country of fog, magic, and peace.”