Toaru Majutsu no Index:NT Volume3 Epilogue
Epilogue: Reliable Birdway. Queen_Period.
(November 10th – Oahu – Honolulu International Hotel – From the lounge security camera)
A few hours had passed since the Hawaiian Islands had been rescued from the menace of the PMC known as Trident and the magic cabal known as Gremlin. Kamijou and the others had gathered at the hotel the president constantly used for his press conferences and scandals.
Lindy Blueshake was there with them.
Being mindful of the young girl, Roberto Katze turned toward Kamijou and the others to speak.
“Trident has been confirmed to have disarmed itself and surrendered. For now, the problems in Hawaii have been solved.”
“…You look rather displeased for someone with such good news.”
“Only Trident remained,” said the president with a heavy sigh. “Those people who had the power of the occult were among them before wearing the same silver uniforms. And there were a lot of them. If they gathered together, there would be a few hundred of them, but we can’t find any sign of them among the Trident forces we’ve captured.”
Some of the magicians mixed in with Trident had been defeated at the beginning of the invasion, but those had disappeared at some point too.
They must have used the chaos in Hawaii to escape.
Given their numbers and role, those Gremlin magicians almost simply seemed like “the others” who had been helping Trident. They had likely been less closely guarded than Cendrillon or Saronia, but disappearing completely like that was still quite a feat.
That disappearance almost seemed to outdo the impact of the supposed major players like Cendrillon or Saronia.
Those were the enemy Kamijou and the others were faced with.
Those magicians were not just “others”. Each individual one was very different and they had displayed in Hawaii that they could gather together as an organization.
“We only have Saronia A. Irivika and that Cendrillon girl to rely on due to the extra guards we put on them. However, others from the group may try to crush anything or anyone that could give us a hint.”
When had Gremlin withdrawn and where had they gone?
The magic side had its own rules and formalities, but they acted so efficiently it almost made Kamijou forget that.
With a bitter expression, Kamijou said, “And we still haven’t found the other person behind this.”
“Olay Blueshake,” said Roberto Katze with an annoyed sigh.
Hamazura frowned and said, “But didn’t you say no one knows where she is? A search not just through America but across the world isn’t going to end in just a day or two, right?”
“That lady has a lot of enemies. To be honest, I doubt she’ll show her face for over a decade. However, we can use that disappearance to our advantage.”
The president’s words left Kamijou and the others puzzled.
Roberto ignored them and pointed toward Lindy with his thumb.
“Finding Olay would be difficult, but with this girl’s cooperation, we can strip Olay of all the power that makes her special.”
(Unknown Time – Unknown Location – Unknown Camera ID – From footage with altered video and audio)
“Trident has failed.”
Hearing those words from her aide, Olay Blueshake sighed.
“What about Gremlin?”
“The hotline has been disconnected. They have likely cut off the cooperative relationship from their end.”
“…So they’ve given up on me,” muttered Olay. “The fools. A failed plan or two does not rid me of my economic power. Just leave them be. Later, they’ll come back, crying to be back on my side.”
“Do you have an alternative plan for conquering the United States?”
“With Saronia’s control gone, my control of Congress has crumbled a bit, but I still have plenty of pawns I can manipulate using my control of information for elections. Even If I can’t control a majority, I can still cause confusion. First I create a political vacuum to buy some time. During that time I contact Gremlin or some other organization and make preparations to rebuild.”
Suddenly, something on the TV she constantly left on caught Olay Blueshake’s eye.
Even overseas, Olay usually had some influence as to what was shown on the news, so she normally paid little attention to the TV. She only kept it on to check on the information she herself had created.
But this was different.
The female newscaster was saying something Olay did not expect.
“The American Bar Association has just held a press release. In accordance with the inheritance wishes of Olay Blueshake, who is known as America’s media queen, the management of her group has transferred all of her assets and economic foundation to her only daughter, Lindy Blueshake.”
For an instant, Olay’s mind went completely blank.
“What…? I never said that!!”
But immediately afterwards, she opened her notebook computer to check on her internet bank account.
However, she was unable to do so.
When she inputted her ID and password, a simple message was displayed: Either the entered ID or password is incorrect or you do not have authorization to view this page.
“It’s my account!!” Olay shouted as the newscaster’s voice continued on.
“Lindy Blueshake is only eight years old, so her legal guardian, Harzak Lolas, will be temporarily put in charge. However, it has come out that Olay may have been deeply involved in the incident in Hawaii. If these allegations turn out to be true, it is likely most of her assets will disappear to compensate for the damage done.”
It was all disappearing.
Her assets, her economic foundation, her network, her power.
That power had allowed her to hire a PMC, make contact with a magic cabal, and control America’s information networks.
And if she lost that power, all of those on her side would disappear too.
Her opportunity was disappearing.
“Shit!! Call the lawyers from Holdings! I won’t let my power be stolen by a joke like this!!”
“Do it anyway! The longer we wait…!!”
“This is not a normal method!! This isn’t just slightly flawed; it’s full of holes!! And yet it’s going through as legal! The president and those around him have likely made some kind of move. This is not something that can be resolved in a normal trial!!”
“Liquidation of the subsidiaries, public companies, real estate, and the like has already begun, but this seems to be a means of minimizing the damage to the shareholders. The group’s market value is headed down and trust after transferring to new ownership is…” continued the news.
“I can’t deal with this here…” Olay said.
While all that she had built up was crumbling around her, Olay gritted her teeth and reached for the coat on the wall.
“Wh-where are you going!?”
“I am going out. A representative is putting words in my mouth. If I show myself to the government…!!”
“Once your location is known, you will be assassinated!!”
“You have made too many enemies and there is no guarantee that you will regain the assets you need to protect yourself. And even if you are not assassinated, that news report made it clear that you are already being pursued as a major suspect. If you make a public appearance, you will be arrested!!”
“It may be risky, but as long as I can regain my money…my power…!!”
“Some of it will return to Miss Lindy, but if the company is reorganized and all the funds are sent there, any money that would go from Miss Lindy to you could disappear! And since they are trying to strip you of your power, they will surely ensure that is what happens!!”
“Then…then…what am I supposed to do…?”
Her aide did not immediately reply.
Now that their connection via money was gone, he had no reason to remain on her side. In fact, that room itself would soon no longer be hers.
He had no way of knowing what would happen to Olay Blueshake after that.
The only things that remained after her money disappeared were her enemies.
In fact, once they knew Olay’s money was gone, the anger of those she had held down would erupt. It was likely anger would even be sparked in those who she could no longer pay and those she had allied in the black market. And with the history of abuse between Olay and Lindy, Lindy and the “excessive gift” she had just received would be against her too.
“I-I have a thought,” said her aide.
As ordered, her aide gave her the best option available to her.
It was the fate of one who had lost it all.
“W-wouldn’t it be best if you purposefully showed yourself and had yourself imprisoned for your own safety?”
“Y-you mean I remain broke…?”
“A-and go to prison…?”
“Yes! Before long, it will become known that we are here, so now is your only chance to act!!”
Manual % “Knowledge12” has disconnected the circuit.
Manual % “Unknown” has connected.
Username “Unknown” has reconstructed the FCE surveillance network.
(November 10th – Oahu – Honolulu International Hotel – From the lounge security camera)
Kamijou and the others were watching breaking news on the large television in the lounge.
However, this news was not about Lindy Blueshake.
Another piece of news had run right after that one.
“Twenty-seven of Academy City’s cooperative institutions have made a joint declaration.”
A cool, steady voice began speaking.
“We are deeply concerned over the likelihood that Academy City personnel intervened in the recent issues in the Hawaiian Islands. We do not wish to hold power that can easily influence the flow of events of an entire nation, especially one large enough to be known as the world police. We began cooperating with Academy City in order to increase the benefits for both parties, but our roots remain in our respective countries. Dispatching personnel to alter the history of other countries like this is not what we would call ‘cooperation’. We may work for Academy City, but we are not its slaves.” The voice paused for a second. “As the twenty-seven largest cooperative institutions, we are now ending all cooperation with Academy City. This is a necessary step to protect our own countries.”
Kamijou Touma’s face paled.
He had just been shown what his actions to save someone looked like from a different angle.
Or perhaps that had been the objective of the events in Hawaii all along.
“Was Olay Blueshake not the only one looking through her FCE? Did the cooperative institutions force their way into the network too?”
And then he remembered something.
He remembered who it had been that had told him that Gremlin was in Hawaii and had invited them to take action to stop their plan.
And this person was a magician.
She was a magician who was not on the side of justice and protecting the peace like the Anglican Church.
He looked around, but she was nowhere to be seen.
Kamijou looked out of the lounge and into the hotel lobby, but Birdway and her subordinates in black were gone. He pulled out his cell phone. He knew there was no guarantee she would answer, but she surprisingly did.
“So even now you can’t come to your own conclusions without my help?”
“Did you have us come here knowing this would happen?”
“Twenty-seven is quite a lot. Decision making takes time and each of the companies is too highly specialized to function independently. Most likely, they will gather into three or four large groups before long.”
“Answer my question, Birdway! Are you…are you…”
Twenty-seven major cooperative institutions breaking off from Academy City.
A civil war within the science side.
That would put Gremlin in a good position to gain a lot of power.
“Are you part of Gremlin!?”
Kamijou was afraid to hear the answer to that question.
But Birdway’s response was simple.
“…I’ll leave that up to your imagination.”
That was it.
She hung up.
As Kamijou squeezed his phone tightly in his hand, he heard the announcer on the news.
“The technology of the cooperative institutions that made this declaration is not up to the level of Academy City, but they were loaned a great number of leading edge unmanned weapons during World War III which are still in use after the war for the sake of keeping the peace. If these weapons are not returned, it is possible a large scale military conflict will break out with Academy City made weapons on both sides.”
(November 10th – Oahu – Honolulu International Hotel – From the cell phone camera of a guest in the lobby)
“Are you part of Gremlin!?”
Mikoto heard those words when she chased after Kamijou upon noticing his odd behavior.
She could not hear the details of what he was saying.
And shortly thereafter the conversation was over.
For a short while, Kamijou Touma merely stared at the small screen of his phone. He stared blankly. His spiritless expression was not like that boy’s usual self at all.
Mikoto half-instinctually realized that something was very, very wrong.
She recognized that expression. Misaka Mikoto had once been wrapped up in a large incident involving clones. Her mind and body had been driven to their limits and she had decided to try to crush the one behind the incident, knowing full well she would be destroyed. The expression on that boy’s face was the same one she had had back then.
What did that boy know?
Where was he headed?
Mikoto did not know the details, but she could make a guess. Someone with that expression was not headed for the goal. Even if he had hundreds of paths spread out before him, each and every one only led to failure and the depths of hell.
He was at a crossroads.
She knew that the slightest mistake could greatly change the path that boy headed down.
“(…I am here.)”
Mikoto repressed her heart that threatened to be overwhelmed and headed forward.
She took a single step.
She was clearly headed for that boy.
“(I won’t just watch. I won’t just learn what happened after the fact. I am here. I am in a place where I can change the reality I see before my eyes!!)”
How had it been for that boy?
That boy had stood before her during that clone incident when she was determined to head off to her own destruction. What kind of conviction had he held that stood up to that pressure that seemed to distort even the atmosphere?
She did not care if she was not thinking the same thing he had at that time.
As long as she could bring that boy back, she did not care.
“(I grabbed that idiot’s hand and came this far.)”
She would reach him.
She could reach him.
“(I did that because I wanted this chance to drag him back to where he belongs!!)”
But then the boy suddenly moved his thumb, turning off his cell phone.
“…I was wrong,” he whispered.
His voice was cracking. The amplitude of his voice was low, so it was hard to hear. However, that short sentence was enough to make Mikoto feel like her feet had been sewn to the floor. Those words of a defeated man were enough to stab through the gears of her mind like some kind of curse.
“I was wrong!! She set it all up from the beginning! Why didn’t I see it? I had so many chances to notice. All the information on Gremlin our actions were based on came from the Dawn-Colored Sunlight, so why didn’t I think of the possibility of them having some ulterior motive!?”
“The Dawn-Colored Sunlight…?”
“Birdway. Leivinia Birdway. She and her subordinates used the incident here in Hawaii. She created a confrontation between Academy City and its cooperative institutions to damage the science side!! …There’s no guarantee that the newly independent cooperative institutions will follow the rules of the science side. If Gremlin wants to obtain technology and the power of the science side, they now have the perfect opportunity!!”
The balance between science and magic had crumbled.
Gremlin had torn it apart.
“…Misaka. I will not be returning to Academy City.” That boy clearly declared his intention to set foot in that strange world. “I will make up for this failure. I will not return until I do so. Until I resolve everything related to this terrible result, I have no right to return to my normal life!”
Her paralyzed thoughts started shaking.
That small tremor held power.
“This wasn’t a failure.”
Clearly this time, she spoke.
No matter how overwhelmed she felt, there was something she had to deny.
“No matter who we were used by, we still…you still protected the people of Hawaii from Gremlin!! I won’t let you deny that fact. I won’t let you say that saving those people was a failure!!”
“Those people being saved was part of Birdway’s plan. Now if the conflict between Academy City and the cooperative institutions intensifies, those people saved will surely feel that others are being hurt because they were saved. I cannot allow those people to bear that burden. As the one saved by the Dawn-Colored Sunlight in the Arctic and used by them, I alone should bear that burden!!”
There was a difference between having made a decision of one’s own free will to get involved and merely getting wrapped up in something.
This time, Kamijou Touma had been one of the people who had made a decision at the beginning. And he had clearly failed. That was why he planned to carry that weight alone. He would ensure those who had been given no option would not be seen as villains. He would ensure that those saved in Hawaii would not be called the cause of it all.
That idea in itself may not have been wrong.
It may not have been something that could be defeated with an impromptu rebuttal.
“…Then I will bear that burden too.”
“You say your decision here in Hawaii was wrong, but I made that decision too! If I had chosen differently, this may have turned out differently. And I had opportunities to speak with that Birdway girl, so I too might have been able to see her true intentions beforehand!! I overlooked that, so I won’t let you bear this alone. Just because you were wrong about something does not mean you need to bear it all alone!!”
Having said that, Mikoto felt a little refreshed.
It may have been partly due to the boy’s dumbfounded expression.
Mikoto added one last thing as a finishing blow.
“You and I are heading down the same path. Don’t forget that.”
(November 10th – Oahu – Honolulu International Airport – From the camera in a handheld game system forgotten on the lobby sofa)
Incidentally, Misaka Mikoto had forgotten one thing.
She finally remembered it when she felt something in her palm. However, she closed her hand to hide what was there.
They were two rings.
They were the Cupid Arrow tag rings.
They were made of titanium so the pair of rings could be colored using electrolysis which would create a unique pattern for the pair. Unscientific rumors said that technique worked as a charm to prevent cheating.
At a fundamental level, Mikoto did not believe in unscientific phenomena.
Due to strange things happening before her eyes during World War III and during the events in Hawaii, she understood that apparently some unexplainable things existed in the world. However, even when she saw them, she would not readily identify them as “the occult”.
And that was why, as she put the rings back in her pocket, there were some questions the answers to which she did not even consider.
What did it mean that she had not given him the ring? Had something happened that had led to her being unable to do so?
(November 10th – Oahu – Honolulu International Hotel – From the camera in a tablet on the table used for placing orders in the lounge)
Kamijou Touma ended up being dragged around the airport by Mikoto.
Kamijou was honestly thankful for what Mikoto had said.
However, he had the following thoughts.
I cannot allow someone who would go that far for me to get wrapped up in all this.
I really do need to settle this on my own.
A few dozen centimeters.
A small action not taken.
That was all it took for the future to change.
(November 10th – Oahu – Diamond Beach – Cell Phone Store – From the camera in a cell phone on the store’s counter)
America had simplified the cell phone business much further than Japan, so the stores were overflowing with prepaid models. A few sample phones were lined up in an open air stand type of store. A girl was using her index finger to fiddle with a sample smartphone.
Oftentimes sample phones were dummies, but being able to test out how using it felt was one of the major selling points for that smartphone. Perhaps some things were difficult to imagine just by hearing an explanation.
The girl had silver braids and brown skin.
She wore overalls directly over her bare skin and wore glasses.
“This thing is fun, but I’m not sure fun is enough to warrant buying a second phone…”
“It isn’t just a phone. You can think of it as a small internet terminal. Carrying a computer around all the time is a pain, right?”
“Those have gotten pretty small themselves, though.”
“It’s the same thing as air conditioning, cell phones, and convenience stores. You didn’t miss them when you had never used them, but once you start using them, you can’t get by without. A smartphone is another one of those convenient goods.”
“…You make it sound like I’d be better off never using one. That sounds like something out of a drug PSA.”
The brown girl and the clerk went through the standard dialogue.
The girl then made the screen slide to the side and had her interest grabbed by the preset applications.
“Hehh. You can bring up a map.”
“You can do anything. If you get lost with one of these, there has to be something wrong with your brain.”
“It’s amazing that such a small device can connect with the satellites up in space,” said the girl as she repeatedly swiped her index finger across the map.
And then something odd happened.
The map screen suddenly blurred and when the clerk tried to fix it, screen after screen he did not recognize appeared. It was not a mere malfunction. Some kind of different code had been overwritten into the device.
“Okay, if it’s this high level a device, maybe I can link it with my spiritual item. And it uses gold in the chips.”
“What are you—?”
“Brace yourself,” said the girl slowly just as a brilliant white light fell down from the heavens.
It struck a few kilometers away, but a shockwave assaulted them like from a lightning strike. The roof of the open air stand type of store was blown off and slammed into creaking palm trees. The clerk was knocked over, but instead of fear, his expression was that of someone faced with difficulty.
“I’ll take it.”
“I said I’ll take it. Oh, and I don’t need a contract. I’ve changed the settings so I can use it without one.”
At that point, a high-pitched noise like crystal being struck rang out.
The brown girl looked over to see an unnatural object approaching. It looked like a drum made of black stone.
It was unlikely anyone else there realized it was the result of utterly remodeling a human being.
The brown girl spoke lightly as if speaking to a childhood friend.
“Hey, you really are spoiled, aren’t you? If you keep following me around like this, a certain exhausted Dvergr might just have to sit down for a rest on you.”
Without waiting for approval, the brown girl sat right down on top of the drum.
She immediately brought her finger to the smartphone’s screen and started operating it with a gleeful expression. That aspect followed the stereotypical response of someone using that type of device almost exactly.
However, what she said after she made a call was clearly not normal.
“Hey. Saronia A. Irivika failed. As expected. Right now, they’re probably breathing a sigh of relief over having saved the United States. None of them would ever imagine that we achieved our goal back when Kilauea erupted,” whispered the brown girl with a smile. She seemed to be speaking to no one in particular rather than into the phone. “You would think they would find it odd. The Trigger was supposed to cause an artificial eruption in Kilauea, but the type of lava was changed as well. Normally, thick lava should have come spewing out, but for some reason smooth volcanic ash came out instead. Normally, you would think there was some other trick at play, don’t you think?”
“What about the output?”
“It was within acceptable levels I guess. As far as natural reactors go, it’s above Iceland. The necessary energy was extracted and solidified, so we’re done here. I guess you could say stage 1 is complete.”
“This is a long process.”
“The fact that I had to be called in should have told you this wouldn’t be easy. Anyway, how is the blueprint coming along?”
“I have a report for the natural Valkyrie…Brunhild Eiktobel was it? It seems to be only a portion of the spear, but if she can use it, then we are in the clear.”
“I see. Then let’s do this.” The brown girl grinned. “We have a steady path to Gungnir, Odin.”
“Yes we do, Dvergr.”
The girl ended the call with a tap of her index finger and the black cylinder she was sitting on started rattling around.
“Stop that. How rude. I’m not heavy. Next we need to think about what to do about the Academy City cooperative institutions that have broken away. …Hm?”
The brown girl suddenly looked up because she saw a magician covered in wounds approaching.
“Umm, who are you?”
“Hm…? Oh, right, right. I remember now! You’re the French magician that was easily taken out at the airport. What happened to you after that? I thought your head was smashed in.”
“I managed to escape during all the confusion of Kilauea erupting and Trident invading. But more importantly…” She spat out some blood. “What was all that about?”
“What was all what about?”
“All that about expecting the plan to fail, Kilauea as a reactor, and Gungnir!!”
“You don’t know about any of that because we never told you.”
“Weren’t we trying to bring down America using Trident in order to twist the balance between the magic side and science side by turning the United States into a theocracy!?”
“Of course not,” said the brown girl still sitting atop the cylinder. “In fact, Gremlin isn’t even a collection of losers from that war.”
For a bit, Cendrillon’s mind went completely blank.
Meanwhile, the brown girl continued to speak.
“I won’t deny that we were created by that war, but our objective lies elsewhere. Really, you all were only temporary workers. We didn’t want to lose any of the actual members, but this couldn’t have been completed without some sacrifices. The easiest way to get around that was to get some recruits by saying whatever would bring them aboard. It really worked well. That was how we got Trident, Saronia, and you. You did manage to contribute to the organization though, so you can pride yourself in that.”
“Why you goddamn—!!”
Using her magic that gave her overwhelming speed, Cendrillon tried to grab at the brown girl.
The brown girl got down from the cylinder as if she had fallen off backwards at the same time as bluish-white sparks scattered from the front of the cylinder.
They quickly pierced through Cendrillon’s body, bringing her down.
The brown girl lifted just her upper body up from the ground and said, “C’mon now. If you’re taking on someone with projectiles, you need to find cover first. You can’t even get close to a method of defeating Mjölnir, my prized creation here. Our output is great enough to roast the snake that wraps around the world. I won’t say brains are everything when it comes to magic, but if you have difficulty with calculations, you shouldn’t be on the front lines.”
While grinning, she stuck her hands into the open sides of her overalls and pulled out a few tools.
She had a hammer, a screwdriver, a saw, a hand drill, a file, a plane, and others.
Other than the fact that they were all made of gold, it would not have been surprising to find any of them in a hardware store.
“Now then, Marian Slingeneyer, one of the extremely rare Dvergr, has a question for Cendrillon, a former French elite who is not only a loser but is starting to complain and is becoming quite annoying,” said the brown girl as she took those tools that certainly did not look like objects that could alter a human’s form and lined them up atop the cylindrical “human”. “You are about to lose your current form. Which would you rather be remodeled into while still alive, a table or a wardrobe?”
(November 10th – Oahu – New Honolulu International Airport – From the entrance gate security camera)
Leivinia Birdway had come to the airport.
One of her many black-wearing subordinates, Mark Space, gently spoke to her.
“Was that really the best way to leave that?”
“Given what I did, it’s only natural for him to criticize me.”
“I think you should have told him your true intentions.”
“How would that have helped?” Birdway gave a cynical smile. “You’re saying I should have told him that we wouldn’t be able to see the full extent of the organization just by defeating Saronia A. Irivika, that it was necessary to bring the magicians closer to the center of Gremlin to the surface, and that to do that we needed to split the science side in half leaving the cooperative institutions as bait?”
“It is an effective method. Gremlin went as far as to bring science side aspects into their magical constructions. It will not be easy for them to find an organization large enough to replace Trident and the America’s media queen. And that collection of cooperative institutions has Academy City unmanned weapons. Gremlin’s ultimate objective may be unclear, but if they require scientific power to accomplish it, no bait could be more tempting.”
“But it isn’t a sure thing. If they suspect it to be a trap, then it’s all for nothing.”
“Even if they do suspect a trap, they will take action based on that suspicion. Gremlin wishes for an anti-Academy City structure that is on their side. They do not want this collection of cooperative institutions to interfere and destroy the balance of influence. Whether they cooperate with them or make enemies of them, Gremlin’s next action will be centered on that collection of cooperative institutions. That means they function as bait either way.”
“And so you’re saying our actions were just? Don’t be foolish,” Birdway said without hesitation. “Whatever our reasons, we still led those twenty-seven cooperative institutions to leave Academy City and diverge from the side that protects the world.”
“They may have already had this desire deep down, but I am the one that purposefully drew it out. They will now be criticized by others as those who are destroying the world’s peace and if they are directly attacked, there will be casualties. And it may not end there. I simply don’t see how doing that can be called just.”
Birdway paused for a second at that point.
It was as if she was reaffirming the position at which she stood.
“I don’t recall ever saying I stood on the side of justice, boy.”