Difference between revisions of "Toaru Majutsu no Index:NT Volume3 Chapter2"

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(Chapter 2: The Trigger. Natural_Bomb.)
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The large black man was trembling and tears were falling from his eyes, but he did not hesitate. He tossed aside an empty magazine and put in a new one.
 
The large black man was trembling and tears were falling from his eyes, but he did not hesitate. He tossed aside an empty magazine and put in a new one.
   
At that point, the #1 finally came to his senses.
+
At that point, the Number One finally came to his senses.
   
 
He hit the switch of the electrode on his neck and the Level 5 powers that gave him his name activated. He was thinking of breaking the man’s wrist before crushing his neck when…
 
He hit the switch of the electrode on his neck and the Level 5 powers that gave him his name activated. He was thinking of breaking the man’s wrist before crushing his neck when…
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When he had done the deed but failed, the pyramid of cards had come tumbling down.
 
When he had done the deed but failed, the pyramid of cards had come tumbling down.
   
If he had rationally built it back up from the beginning – if he had mentally rearmed himself by recalling what situation his loved one was in – he may have been able to shoot Birdway once more. However, he could not balance the cards with his trembling fingers. Now that he knew the shock he had experienced when he had fired that first shot, he could no longer put a stranger’s life on the scales so easily.
+
If he had rationally built it back up from the beginning—if he had mentally rearmed himself by recalling what situation his loved one was in—he may have been able to shoot Birdway once more. However, he could not balance the cards with his trembling fingers. Now that he knew the shock he had experienced when he had fired that first shot, he could no longer put a stranger’s life on the scales so easily.
   
 
A cry of desperation burst from him.
 
A cry of desperation burst from him.
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“It’s your own fault for being careless.”
 
“It’s your own fault for being careless.”
   
“Not really. The magician would only have put together that plan if she knew I had analyzed her spell. So where did Gremlin learn that? My methods were perfect and there was no flaw in your retrievals. And yet…”
+
“Not really. The magician would only have put together that plan if she knew I had analyzed her spell. So where did GREMLIN learn that? My methods were perfect and there was no flaw in your retrievals. And yet…”
   
 
“…”
 
“…”

Revision as of 15:41, 17 December 2011

Chapter 2: The Trigger. Natural_Bomb.

(November 10th – Oahu – Hotel Firefly 49th Floor – From a camera recording the proceedings.)


They were within a hotel room that was far from being the nicest in Oahu. They knew of other high class hotels suited for VIPs and facilities with suites that normal people did not even know existed, but those places could possibly have been marked by dangerous elements.

“Why are you still running that thing?”

That displeased voice belonged to a woman named Roseline Krackhart. She was the president’s aide. She was in her early thirties and had an atmosphere that made her seem extremely well suited to being a tutor (in more ways than one). However, she had once broken a reporter’s nose on national television when he had asked her about the veracity of rumors saying she “knew every inch of Mr. Scandal’s body”. Fortunately, this had given her the image of a guardian who would protect any potential victims of sexual harassment, so the president’s approval rating improved due to the incident.

Her general behavior was also evident in how well her suit that was custom-made by a supporting menswear company suited her.

“It is my duty to record all conversations while we are on the job,” replied a secretary holding a video camera.

“I see. Thanks.”

Roseline lay down across a three-person couch and grabbed a business magazine. The featured article was about the 100 most important people who kept America running. She glanced through articles on Flack Kateman the car king, Olay Blueshake the media king, Douglas Hardbell the rock star, and others before narrowing her eyes.

“…The president’s name not being on the list of people who keep America running is indeed a problem.”

“Ma’am, how about we get down to the main issue at hand?”

“I always end up putting off things that I know are just going to depress me.”

Roseline tossed aside the business magazine while sprawled out on the couch.

She then looked over toward one wall.

“General, have you found the president?”

“N-no, but we are currently searching for him with everything we have.”

“It’s that hard even for the Marines?”

“He abandoned his GPS in a garbage can near the press conference building. For some reason it was inside a contraceptive with the end tied shut. Our code breaking team says it may have been some kind of message…”

“That was just his idea of a joke.”

Roseline put her hand to her forehead.

She was irritated, but it was not due to direct anger at being toyed with.

“That idiot. A condom? If the Christian groups find out the president was carrying one of those around, we’ll never hear the end of it.”

“Wh-what about the secret service? We are of course doing everything we can, but the cooperation of specialists like them is essential.”

“General, you are the Commandant of the Marine Corps. You can complain about a lack of man-power all you want, but we cannot have you fearing the possibility of having all responsibility fall in your lap in an unforeseen situation like this. I believe we already explained to you why we went beyond the normal boundaries and asked for your help.”

Roseline reached for a wine bottle on the table but grabbed some mint gum once she remembered the camera was running.

They are suspicious.”

“…”

Her voice had been quiet, but her words had held great meaning.

The general naturally fell silent.

“We know something is happening, but that is all we know,” Roseline continued. “We cannot figure out what exactly that something is. This is not simple bribery or coercion. Merely using a blacklist to quarantine it is not enough. They are suddenly becoming enemies of the United States as if they are being possessed by a demon.”

If the hostile elements were simply spreading out from a single person behind it all, they could possibly stop the spread by quarantining every single hostile element. However, when the person behind it was like an invisible demon that chose other people to control, the quarantine method lost all meaning. If they could not stop this person behind it, they could not guarantee their fundamental safety.

It was unclear by what means the people were being controlled.

Roseline and the others had surmised that there was a certain type of person that was more easily controlled and they were maintaining their safety by distancing themselves from anyone who showed the slightest evidence of being controlled. However, they were unsure how long that would suffice.

“As for the Senate and the House…well, about half of them seem suspicious.” It seems to be spreading below the surface. And the military is no exception, general.”

“I-I had been told, but it simply does not seem real…”

“I know what you mean. I have seen it with my own eyes, yet I still can’t believe it. However, the fact remains that it is happening. Fortunately, the only confirmed victims so far are American officials. That is why you and the few units you accompanied in the joint operation cleaning up after the war with the Australian military did not run into any difficulties.”

Roseline Krackhart knew relatively little of the occult. She was only aware that it seemed somehow different from the esper development occurring in Academy City.

The president on the run likely had a similar level of knowledge in that regard.

A few teams were working on analyzing the mysterious phenomena that had occurred during World War 3, but they had yet to come up with any real results.

That was why she was only able to give vague descriptions despite having witnessed clearly abnormal occurrences in the White House.

“Th-then…”

“Yes, we are only here due to our good fortune. However, we need to investigate as to why we had that good fortune. After all, we are in a situation where it is possible we could become possessed the instant we step outside. In all truth, the world police are being eaten into. I cannot guarantee that a child or old man on the street won’t suddenly start firing into a crowd, much less that the government can continue to function. Everyone in this country is at risk of being a victim or an attacker. If we do not find the occult conditions behind this and stop whoever is behind the invasion, even the nuclear launch codes could fall into enemy hands.”

“Is this why the president went off on his own…?”

“Probably. When that idiot learned of the situation, he started thinking about what he could do on a personal level to deal with this danger that is on a national level. He realized he would be immediately surrounded if he tried something on the mainland, so he played along until he reached an area where they had less influence. He must have thought their influence had not yet reached an island so far from the mainland. …And yet no one knows the actual rules behind this.”

“Th-then…” The general wiped sweat from his brow. “Are we putting the president in even more danger by chasing after him? If he has some means of victory…”

“Do you seriously think he does?”

Roseline glared at him with piercing eyes but softened her expression after she grew overly conscious of how the man winced.

“No matter the reason and no matter how dangerous the situation, we must have continual access to the president on the center stage. If it gets out that he has disappeared, he will be deemed no longer able to perform his duties and all authority will be passed to the vice president. …Because he has you know what, that is unlikely to happen right away, but we still cannot relax,” she said. “And the vice president has already become suspicious. He has done nothing wrong yet and he says he is trying to cooperate with us, but it is possible he is the type of person easily controlled by whoever is behind this. As such, handing the duties of the White House over to him is too much of a risk.”

No one dared put the rest into words.

They all felt the idea of one of the world’s superpowers being usurped by some unknown person was not something to say even as a joke.

“(…Well, the one piece of luck is that the president took that with him,)” muttered Roseline before speaking up. “Do whatever it takes to find the president. Find him before his disappearance is discovered by the vice president and the other politicians undermined by whoever is behind this.”

Roseline did not even look over as the general gave a proper salute. She muttered to herself with a look of pure displeasure on her face.

“(…More importantly, going missing is not the only way he can be made unable to perform his duties. A bullet through the head would do the trick just as well.)”


(November 10th – Oahu – Dear My Car, Oahu Branch – From an in-car camera.)


Roberto Katze, the American President, entered a rental car shop with a silver attaché case in one hand.

He spoke to the young woman at the reception counter.

“I don’t care what, but just give me something cheap. Hmm, I think electric cars are supposed to have a good image. Roseline is never shutting up about it. Well, gasoline or deuterium or whatever is fine too. Just don’t give me a car that was just used for sex. Even if you wipe it down with ethanol, the smell sticks around.”

“You certainly have an attitude. Just who do you think you are?”

“The president! As one of the citizens supporting this nation, could you at least watch the morning news!?”

“Oh, so you’re an impersonator. Can you do his ‘We will save the world!’ thing?”

“…Whatever. Just give me the key already.”

Roberto tossed some crumpled up bills on the counter and the woman tossed the key back toward him. He walked down a line of two-person cars and looked over at an especially battered convertible.

He was about to kick the tire, but stopped himself when he realized it was made by a company that supported him. He instead opened the door.

Just as he was inserting the key, the young woman came running after him.

“Sorry, sorry. I missed part of the procedure! Mr. Impersonator, I need to input the information from your license before I can let you rent that.”

“Can’t I just give you my social security number?”

“It has to be your license.”

“…What a pain. Maybe I should submit a bill to get that changed next chance I get,” muttered Roberto as he pulled a card out of his wallet.

The woman held out a reader similar to a cell phone’s wallet function.

Roberto Katze held his license up to it. The young woman nodded in satisfaction upon confirming that the device had read the information from the integrated circuit inside.

“Okay. So your name is Roberto… Roberto Katze. You live at… the White House? H-hey, wait a second!!”

“May I go now?” he asked with a grin.

“Did you go so far as to change your name!? I can’t believe you found an apartment complex called ‘The White House’! And it’s even in Washington DC! You certainly are a dedicated impersonator!!”

“Well, why don’t you just believe that until the day you die!? Waaahhhhh!!”

The president drove off with tears in his eyes. He was further made a fool of as the woman saw him off by imitating his “We will save the world!!”

After leaving the grounds of the rental car shop, Roberto drove with one hand and used the other to open the attaché case lying in the passenger seat. The case was secretly a computer. He connected the cables inside to a GPS-like device.

It was known as the Imperial Package.

It gave him president-level access to all government cloud systems. With that one device, he could send orders to any government office or prepare ballistic missiles for launch. Of course, it used various methods of ensuring that only the current president could use it.

“…This way I can check on what the people who have become suspicious are accessing.”

Areas where the flu is spreading tend to have more people searching for information on the flu using search engines. This fact could be used to determine how far the flu had spread by checking the search records of the search engines.

Roberto was doing essentially the same thing.

However, he was checking on what he estimated the suspicious people were after rather than the flu.

From what he could see of the people taking suspicious actions, Roberto could not tell if the total number of enemies was increasing or if the enemy was merely switching over to controlling people closer and closer to their objective.

However, he had to assume that anyone that showed any suspicious behavior even once would once more become suspicious as if they were switching back and forth between good and evil.

He may not have been able to see it clearly, but it all had to be a clear attack,

The people being used as pawns all had their own individual lives.

With each person taken over, whoever was taking control of them was getting access to the information that person alone had access to. If Roberto could figure out what the person behind it was searching for, he could get a better understanding of what the enemy’s true objective was.

As he used the Imperial Package to view the secret cloud, Roberto searched for areas of concentrated accesses that had nothing to do with the people’s normal duties.

Roberto Katze clicked his tongue lightly.

“…So I was right. It is the trigger being stored in Oahu.”

It was a top secret piece of equipment that had been developed in an American military research facility.

Depending how it was used, the special device could be used to take the lives of hundreds of thousands of people at once.

The president’s grip on the steering wheel naturally tightened as he thought about how it could be used in Hawaii.


(November 10th – Oahu – Green Café Iwamaki – From the camera in the tablet terminal installed on the table.)


A broadcast of a football game seemed to drag on forever within a café near the airport. The café specialized in Japanese tea, so the sport did not fit the atmosphere. A major broadcasting company had bought the rights to broadcast all of the team’s games, so it was being broadcasted for free. The customers seemed quite excited about it. A cardboard speech bubble had been attached to the edge of the flat screen TV that said “A round of applause for Olay Blueshake the media king!” in English.

Kamijou Touma was carefully listening to a phone call from Birdway so that he could hear over the surrounding noise. He had his cell phone on speaker phone, so Hamazura and Kuroyoru could hear as well.

Kamijou had been about to ask what would make a good souvenir for Index (it had to be food of course), but what Birdway told him made it clear it was hardly the time to be thinking about things like that.

Incidentally, Kuroyoru was cowering from Kamijou who had suddenly appeared earlier and Hamazura was trembling while looking over at Kuroyoru.

“Due to Cendrillon being taken out, I have succeeded in drawing a different GREMLIN magician out from the crowd. This new one is the type of magician that controls other people. That type almost never comes out to the front stage themselves. Getting them to come out into the spotlight is the true battle when it comes to that type.”

“What do we do now?”

“We go fishing,” said Birdway sounding very pleased. “It would be foolish to think a magician like this can only control one person. The more people this one controls, the more her power grows, so it would be best to assume she is targeting the normal people in the area as well. The reason she leaves everything around her to others and does not stand in the path of danger is likely due to a complex over her own lack of power. She’s trying to overcome that with numbers. Therefore, I need to first gather some samples. Two or three of the poor victims being controlled by GREMLIN should do it. With that, I can analyze her spell. I need to know what conditions are needed for its use and what kind of line connects the user and the victim. Knowing that will allow me to find her… and make a direct magical counterattack.”

“And that investigation will best be carried out without letting this magician know you’re doing it, right?”

“Of course.”

“What if she isn’t in Hawaii?”

“I will hide even the fact that I can detect where she is. If she is outside Hawaii, it’ll take some time, but we’ll still be able to catch the idiot by surprise. In fact, we could even purposefully fail in our attack. Each time the idiot gets away, she will only lead us to a new hideout. During that process GREMLIN will lose manpower and assets. GREMLIN will likely eventually begin to suspect the idiot, but if we give the right false hints we can make them think she’s a traitor and a spy and they’ll end up taking each other out. The whole process will likely uncover the identities of other GREMLIN members, so we just have to change who the target of the search is at that point.”

“…You certainly play dirty.”

Kamijou would get into a direct fistfight and solve things on the same day they began, so that was a completely different style of fighting than he was used to.

To be honest, he did not feel he could completely approve of the method.

However, he could not come up with an alternative method.

“What do I need to do?”

“Just stay where you are,” replied Birdway over the phone. “I have another hero. And unlike you, this one is quite skilled at working behind the scenes.”


(November 10th – Oahu – In front of Hotel Firefly – From a tourist’s video camera.)


Only the most commonplace hotels did not have a doorman and porter standing in front of the entrance even in an area as ungodly hot as Honolulu. A set of three was created when the valet who parked guests’ cars in the underground parking garage was included.

However, services like that would require a tip and the hotel parking garages were often quite expensive. As such, cheaper parking areas were established around the hotels and it was not uncommon for people to park illegally.

In an area full of tourists coming and going, leaving one’s car out in the open was quite dangerous, but most of the tourists were not from the island and therefore usually had rental cars. By purchasing the cheap insurance beforehand, a broken window was no big deal. And no one was stupid enough to leave their valuables in the car while staying in a hotel, so there was no danger of having their possessions stolen.

Edward Torke stepped out of one such illegally parked car.

The white man was wearing a suit that—while not the nicest—was at least not mass produced. However, the heat of Hawaii had ruined his usual style. His tie was loosened and his jacket was off and draped over his arm. From the look of him, the sleeves of his shirt would likely be rolled up after another hour.

However, even as the glaring light of the sun reflected off of the hotel windows, Edward Torke did not hold his hand in front of his face or even narrow his eyes. His pupils underwent no change. The frequency of his blinking was as accurate as if it was being timed with a stopwatch.

He was not a tourist. He had come to the island for a business negotiation.

He was supposed to be speaking with a local fishing union about the safe collection of deep ocean water as the first step toward creating a foothold in the business of manufacturing and selling a health drink based on it.

They “had decided on” a room in that hotel as the location of the negotiations about the price.

He “accurately remembered” that the negotiations would take place in Room 4911.

In reality, the hotel the negotiations were to occur in had a completely different name and someone completely different was staying in the Room 4911 in question. Edward Torke had just stuffed a large contract and check into an attaché case. If he were to notice someone he did not know (named Roseline) in the room, he would conclude that she was a robber after his money.

And in the great gun nation of America, flight was not the only action people instinctively took in order to protect themselves. He had a revolver with a four inch barrel in his pants pocket.

A single piece of altered information could lead to a great chain reaction.

Edward Torke hummed a tune at the thought of the great business deal he was about to make while not suspecting that his actions were being used for someone else’s purposes.

And then the electronic billboard attached to the hotel wall fell down from directly above him.

The great crash left the surrounding people dumbfounded and finally a great uproar began. The hotel workers hesitated to leave their posts at the entrance, but once their boss exited the building, they frantically ran over to the scene of the accident.

However, they were unable to immediately move the crushed electronic billboard out of the way.

It was disconnected from its power supply, but the internal circuits and other electronic parts must still have had some electricity stored within them. A great shower of sparks kept the hotel workers from approaching.

No one was sure who had called it, but the siren of an ambulance approached.

It was not until 20 minutes later that the rescue team managed to get the electronic billboard out of the way.

And…

“What?” said one of the rescue workers in surprise.

The electronic billboard had been removed and the cracked asphalt showed just how great the shock of its impact had been.

But that was all.

Edward Torke, who had supposedly been crushed, had disappeared.


(November 10th – Oahu – Sewer Rainwater Pipe – From a camera for monitoring water levels during a disaster.)


“This is the third one,” muttered Accelerator as he dragged the poor “victim” down through the manhole and into the sewer.

Birdway nodded in approval.

“That’s all of them. Excellent work.”

“Are you sure the person controlling them didn’t notice this?”

“Pretty sure.”

The rainwater pipe was filled with rotting mud and the like which gave it quite an odor, but Birdway did not seem to mind. Despite her appearance, she may have been fairly used to harsh environments.

“The magician controlling them most likely collects information using the five senses of the victims. She would notice if you just outright attacked the victim, but she won’t sense any danger if it looks like they were knocked out naturally.”

“How can you be so sure? How do you know this magician can’t continue moving the targets’ eyes around after they lose consciousness?”

“I can’t say for sure, but we do have a precedent.”

“A precedent?”

“Cendrillon. If she could do that, she could have continued to collect information after Cendrillon collapsed and used it to put together a plan against us.”

However, that had not happened.

“Once I analyze the spell, I can track down where this person controlling the victims is as well as detect any pawns trying to attack us while hidden in a crowd. That will be a perfect defense against the spell. Simply put, it’ll be checkmate.”

The threat of having a normal person attacking disappeared once an enemy could be detected and dealt with head on. Birdway and Accelerator were not people who feared a handgun.

“…So you couldn’t perfectly detect them up until now? So there’s a possibility I was confidently attacking completely unrelated people?”

“Don’t get so upset. In all likelihood, these were accurate. This just brings that up to a full one-hundred percent.”

The rainwater pipe had pathways for workers prepared on both sides and the three “victims” were lying on one of those dirty pathways.

“Now then… Since I now have all the necessary materials, it’s time to get started on the analysis. If you want to learn a bit about magic, you can watch.”


(November 10th – Oahu – Smoking area within Coral Street Shopping Mall – From the camera in the magician’s cell phone.)


The strangest aspect of modern cell phones was the increase in the number of camera lenses.

They had a lens on the back of the phone for normal photography, a lens on the front for showing oneself in a video conference, and the number only went up with the addition of 3D photography and other features. At the current rate, it did not seem long before the entire phone would be covered in camera lenses like they were beads.

A girl of about 15 was flipping her cell phone back and forth between front and back. She had short blonde hair and white skin. She wore a primarily green turtleneck and miniskirt as well as thick boots that passed above her knees. On her head, she wore something like a headband made of tree branches. Her outfit made her stand out from the building made of glass and concrete.

With an expression that showed that the clearly multi-function cell phone was just too much for her, she spoke into the precision device that she simply could not get used to.

“Yes, yes. It seems he failed. The attacker, Edward, has lost consciousness and the room on Hotel Firefly’s 49th floor is still untouched. It seems they are planning to move somewhere else due to the uproar over the electronic billboard. It looks like attacking the aide group is unrealistic after all.”

The way she spoke made it clear she was not used to speaking politely.

Her tone of voice made it clear she was giving no thought to whether she was angering the person she was speaking to or what would happen to her if she did anger whoever it was. This was because she was skilled enough to avoid any danger coming her way.

She was especially skilled at avoiding danger by using others as a shield.

“Yes, yes. I understand that. The incident at the airport was indeed bad, but the basics of the plan will fall apart if the immunity is not activated. Well, we now have an idea as to how many of them there are and how serious they are. Also, they can be used as a positive factor from here on out. In the end, it is not a problem.”

The magician was simply saying whatever she could to pacify the person she was speaking to rather than logically analyzing the situation.

“Anyway, we just have to follow the plan now. After blowing through the side-quest, we just have to work on the main quest of the trigger.”

The magician’s eyebrows then moved slightly.

She seemed to finally be showing interest in something the other person had said.

“Oh, really? I knew it. I had thought that was a little too convenient. So they are interfering.”

The magician’s tone showed that she did not particularly mind.

“Well, thanks for that. When it was just me, I denied it, saying I was overthinking things. Having proof really is important. Proof is so much better than guesses. Yes, yes. I will do something about that, too. Bye.”

She hung up, spun the phone around in her hand, and then stuck it in her pocket.

At the time, no smoking campaigns were quite popular worldwide, so there were no smokers in the smoking area. The grotesque enlarged photo of a sperm with a note about smoking reducing sperm count was probably not helping.

The magician shrugged and turned around.

A man was standing there. The large black man was wrapped in powerful muscles and seemed to have a military background.

He was one of the people she was controlling. The method of control she was using on him was a bit more complex than some of the others.

You’re up, Mr. Secret Trick.”


(November 10th – Oahu – Coral Street Shopping Mall – From a security camera near the east entrance.)


“Oh, I already have all the data I need to analyze her spell,” said Leivinia Birdway with complete confidence.

She was waving around a single scrap of paper. It was about the size of a small certificate of commendation, but it was thicker and had a rough surface.

“It’s papyrus,” Birdway explained.

Apparently, she had bought that item used as a royal burial accessory from a plant specialist.

“Now we just have to wait for her weaknesses to be exposed. The automated work should finish in about an hour. Even now, I’m receiving information bit by bit. For example, I know what kind of line connects her to her victims and from where she is controlling the victims.”

Accelerator listened to her while walking through the shopping mall with his modern cane.

“Basically, she used to be with the Russian Orthodox Church.”

“Russian?”

“She uses a spell based on a fairy. In her case, it is the Leshy. The Leshy is the ruler of the forest and the king of all animals that live there. Do you remember when she and Cendrillon said red something and black something when Cendrillon was giving up control?”

“What about it?”

“That was roulette. They were gambling. The Leshy loves gambling with the forest animals. The winner is of course given control of the loser.”

“…”

“In this case, the Leshy is likely viewing her surroundings as the forest and the humans who live there as the animals. I don’t know the exact conditions for that yet, but the analysis spell will reveal those conditions soon. Then it will all be over.”

“For not having finished yet, you certainly are sure of yourself.”

“I have enough to search out anyone she’s controlling. Even if she tries a surprise attack, it has essentially no chance of succeeding.”

Despite having just said that, repeated gun shots rang out.

They came from behind Birdway.

From only five meters behind her.


(November 10th – Oahu – Beachside – From a camera along the main road to enforce the speed limit.)


A station wagon slammed into Roberto Katze’s battered convertible at high speed at almost the exact same time Birdway was attacked.

The two vehicles strayed from the road and struck one of the palm trees lining the road at even intervals. A coconut fell down and hit the president right on the head.

“Gwehh…N-nice. Now that’s about as Hawaii-esque as you can get. If I wrote that in my journal, no one would believe it actually happened.”

The side of the car was crushed in, but the station wagon had struck the passenger side. The driver’s seat was safe. He was worried about the Imperial Package for an instant, but it was meant to be used in emergencies, so it was surprisingly tough. It was not even scratched.

The president closed the attaché case, ignored the door that refused to open, and jumped out of the convertible.

Roberto Katze used a hand to motion back the panicking tourists who were approaching and then headed toward the station wagon.

“I’m not used to getting run into from the side at full speed.”

Despite the great shock of the impact, the station wagon’s windshield was not broken. And the glass was tinted. Roberto was pretty sure the station wagon was not just some random vehicle, but he still approached the driver’s side door and tried to peer through the window.

“Mister, there’s something wrong when the one who ran into me is the one to pass out.”

As if in response, the window started to lower.

And a right hand holding an automatic handgun stuck out.

“…I can still kill you. Anyone who has a gun and a finger to pull the trigger can be an assassin.”

“C’mon, stop that. War & Safety handguns are the most used in the country. It would be pretty sad if I had to be shot by a product from one of my supporting companies. They’d probably ask for their money back at my funeral because I gave their company a bad image.”

As Roberto Katze complained, he noticed something about the eyes of the man who was still leaning against the airbag.

“…Mister, you aren’t being controlled, are you?”


(November 10th – Oahu – Smoking Area within Coral Street Shopping Mall – From the camera in the magician’s cell phone.)


As the magician pulled out her cell phone to check the time, she heard dry gunshots in the distance soon followed by the screams of onlookers.

“The scary thing about amateurs is how they will go through with something to the end once they are determined to do it.”

She was not speaking to herself, but she received no response.

Standing next to the magician was a black girl of about 10.

The girl was standing utterly still while using her right hand to hold the end of a flathead screwdriver up to her temple.

“It truly is frightening,” the magician whispered. “All I had to say was that I would have you tear your head apart like a frozen orange and he was ready to do it.”

Birdway had analyzed the magician’s spell.

She knew that the magician used the stories of the Leshy to control people by spreading her role as the ruler of the forest animals.

If the magician had sent one of the people she was controlling with the Leshy spell after Birdway, the traces of magic power and the spell would have been detected and eliminated before they could get close.

The people controlled by the magician’s magic could not approach Birdway.

That was a foregone conclusion.

However, there was not just one way of controlling people.

For instance, she could control a certain daughter and order her father to do things while he maintained his true self.

“She is quite skilled, but that in itself creates openings. Since she is determining danger by the presence of my spell, I can slip right past her defenses.”

The magician grinned.

In addition to the black girl, she had a few other children gathered in the smoking area.

Every one of them would function as a hostage to pull off that kind of secret trick when it was needed.

The magician had prepared as many disposable pawns for those tricks as she had hostages. For instance, one was targeting President Roberto Katze.

“And once he is past her defenses, it’s all over. Whether she is a magician or not, she is still a human who can be killed by a single bullet.”

The girl’s father must have wanted to make absolutely sure she was dead or a police officer had shown up and shot him to death because further gunshots rang out. However, it did not matter. When Birdway was in a completely defenseless state, the first shot was all it would take.


(November 10 – Oahu – Coral Street Shopping Mall – From a security camera near the east entrance)


Having been struck in the back by countless bullets, Leivinia Birdway collapsed to the polished shopping mall floor. Even so, the large black man continued to fire bullet after bullet from his handgun.

The dumbfounded tourists frantically tried to flee in all directions from the center of the incident.

Shouts and screams exploded out.

Accelerator’s eyes opened wide as he took in the developing situation.

The large black man was trembling and tears were falling from his eyes, but he did not hesitate. He tossed aside an empty magazine and put in a new one.

At that point, the Number One finally came to his senses.

He hit the switch of the electrode on his neck and the Level 5 powers that gave him his name activated. He was thinking of breaking the man’s wrist before crushing his neck when…

“Sh-shit. That was dangerously close to being my moving death scene,” said Birdway as she raised her head.

The black man fell backwards in shock and shouted something. As Accelerator kicked him in the chest, he shouted at Birdway.

“What the hell did you do!?’

“Having a body substitute just in case is one of the most basic of precautions. In fact, modern western magic goes so far as to embarrassingly say we need to kill our old self and be reborn as our new self.”

Birdway pulled a card from her pocket. It was a tarot card from the major arcana, the Hanged Man. The card showed a man hanging upside down from a tree branch, but it had holes through it.

Meanwhile, Birdway herself had not shed a single drop of blood.

“If you use Crowley’s tarot, it is the symbol of the death of the Son of God, who himself represents an age. It was originally not a symbol of execution, but if you intentionally misinterpret it, it can be extraordinarily compatible, especially for things piercing into the body. …I wanted to make sure I had some defense against bullets before setting foot in a major gun country like this, but I didn’t want to deal with a thick, sweaty bulletproof vest,” Birdway explained. “Now then, I know you’re about to awaken to your true power due to the anger and sorrow of believing I had died, but let go of that man.”

“…Psychic powers aren’t that arbitrary.”

“Even if we push him, we won’t get any hints about who’s behind this. I already have all the information I need on the spell and he isn’t being controlled by it in the first place.”

“What?”

“This is an indirect method. To be honest, I’m pleasantly surprised. It isn’t often that I praise someone, so remember this.”

Birdway ignored Accelerator’s puzzled look and approached the large black man with long strides. The man immediately held the handgun up with both hands. It was unclear whether he had remembered what he was supposed to do or if he was merely reacting to the threat of the strange monster approaching him.

“If the magician’s specialties lie solely in the field of controlling people, then guessing at the rest is a simple matter. Most likely, she is threatening you with someone close to you who she is controlling.”

“!?”

“I am not some hot-blooded idiot, so I will not give you some annoying speech. Nor am I going to kindly discuss this with you. I am simply going to tell you the truth as bluntly as I can.”

Despite the man being able to shoot her at any moment, Birdway let out her stabbing words while striking a daunting pose.

“You lucked out this time.” She pointed at her small chest with her thumb. “But next time will be different. No matter the reason and no matter what emotions are driving you, if you pull that trigger now, I will die. The trembling of your body will change to an irreversible truth. You won’t get a third chance. People aren’t normally lucky enough to get this second one.”

With a terrible light in her eyes, the victim spoke to the attacker.

Her tone of voice made it clear she knew what it was like to cross that line.

“…Are you still willing to shoot me? Do you have the guts to go through that great shock you gave yourself once more from the beginning?”

The large black man’s trembling reached its peak.

He had likely worked hard to prepare himself on his way there. He must have repeated the justifications for what he was doing again and again, piling one atop another.

When he had done the deed but failed, the pyramid of cards had come tumbling down.

If he had rationally built it back up from the beginning—if he had mentally rearmed himself by recalling what situation his loved one was in—he may have been able to shoot Birdway once more. However, he could not balance the cards with his trembling fingers. Now that he knew the shock he had experienced when he had fired that first shot, he could no longer put a stranger’s life on the scales so easily.

A cry of desperation burst from him.

It sounded like anger at his dead end of a future and also like atonement for what he had done to Birdway.

The man’s eyes opened wide as he shouted and he stuck the barrel of his handgun into his mouth.

Accelerator and Birdway let loose kicks at the same time which knocked the handgun from his hand and knocked him unconscious.

“I went too far,” said Birdway, making a conscious effort to bring her tone of voice back to normal. “This has gotten a little trickier. I no longer have the Hanged Man.”

“It’s your own fault for being careless.”

“Not really. The magician would only have put together that plan if she knew I had analyzed her spell. So where did GREMLIN learn that? My methods were perfect and there was no flaw in your retrievals. And yet…”

“…”

“This is not an enjoyable situation to be in, but we might find something enjoyable if we look further into this.”