Toaru Majutsu no Index:NT Volume4 Period.07
Weissland Strainikov suddenly opened his eyes. He last remembered cornering Kamijou Touma and Saflee Opendays in the business passageway of an off limits resort hotel with some guards. However, he was no longer in that passageway.
He was in the top floor of the high-rise hotel he knew so well.
Weissland was collapsed on his back on the floor in that wide area filled with mountains of documents.
His body would not move properly.
His joints trembled stiffly as if he had been chilled for a long period of time in a refrigerator.
And then he heard an unfamiliar and painful voice stab into his consciousness.
“Ahh, ahh, ahh, ahh. No, no, no, no, no. After all the effort I went to fine-tune this, you wake up to an inconsistent scene.”
The voice was that of a young man.
However, it was not the voice of Útgarða-Loki.
For one thing, this voice was speaking Japanese.
“Hi there. I’m Kihara Ransuu-chan, come from Academy City. Surely, you figured this would happen sooner or later. I don’t have to explain what’s going on, right?”
Weissland was not listening to the words of the Kihara sitting atop the large desk.
He had spotted something horrible.
It was beyond the large window on one side of the high-rise hotel.
An ominous red light was flickering amidst the white scenery of Baggage City. The scenery should have been pure white, but this strange new color was now mixed in. And not in just one place. It had spread across almost the entire area.
Collapsed on his back and unable to move, Weissland worked to get his words out.
“What did you do? What did you do!?”
“Hmm? On a personal level? Or to Baggage City as a whole?”
“I am asking about the innocent residents of this city and the unrelated spectators!!”
“Now, wait just a second. Quit acting like you’re some kind of just hero. Surely you know the difference between justice and a sense of justice. But then, I hate both.”
“Innocent residents? Unrelated spectators? There’s not even a single person like that here,” said Kihara Ransuu casually.
If you took the frivolous evil found anywhere and let it solidify in one place, you would have something like the smile of unfathomable darkness on his face.
“The members of the Anti-Academy City Science Guardians fear a counterattack or retaliation from Academy City. Some of them only joined in order to receive protection from Academy City. …But y’see, that’s a problem. If it was just one or two, whatever. But when you start moving people in the millions, that gets to be an issue. It takes time and money, and information has a way of leaking out. If they’re attacked on the way, it’s all over.”
As Kihara Ransuu sat on the desk, the red flames grew larger in the window behind him.
“So I’d say all these Natural Selector spectators are actually part of the Anti-Academy City Science Guardians, or their beloved family, friends, or lovers. Not even one of them is some unrelated person. Oh, and this includes the people who supposedly lived here before. After moving millions of people to this one place for the tournament, some will be brought into your fortress on the pretext of returning home. Of course, Academy City would find that suspicious, but if you can get them inside before any proof can be found, it’s not a problem, right?” Kihara Ransuu crossed his legs and grinned. “So let’s not play these little games. I can just think of everyone here as an enemy or someone with some connection to an enemy. Oh, and a few other Kiharas were sent here too. They’ll be having their own fun in other parts of the city. I don’t really know what they’re up to, though. When I attacked my quota or section or whatever, it all ended way too easily!! Since it seems like it’ll take some time before the other Kiharas are done, I decided to have some fun with you to kill some time.”
“It ended…way too easily?”
Weissland could not grasp what he meant.
He was not in denial.
He truly could not keep up. Even so, he could hear an ominous ring to what Kihara Ransuu was saying.
Meanwhile, Kihara spread his arms wide in a dramatic fashion and shrugged.
“That’s right!! Since you Anti-Academy City Science Guardians required sending in a group of Kiharas, I assumed things were gonna be pretty bad. But I get here and I’m like, what the hell was that!? That was nothing!! Nothing at all!! What you call security was nothing more than an obstacle course. It wasn’t worth anything more than having a bit of fun. What do you take us for anyway? Do you know how many Kiharas were sent out to eliminate all of the traitors, be they regulars, substitutes, spectators, guests, or supporting characters!?”
“Wh-what happened to Útgarða-Loki?”
He had been sent from Gremlin. Instead of the military force of a group, he had the power of an individual that showed its true worth when an irregular enemy appeared.
However, the man naming himself a Kihara frowned like he was listening to someone talking about a leading figure in a genre of music he did not care for as if that person should be known by everyone on earth.
“Is that a tongue twister or some kind of technical term? Eh? It’s someone’s name? You idiot. I don’t know the names of the individual people!! The guy’s probably smashed to a pulp with all the other small fries. Hmm, I do recall hearing something about a favorite for winning Natural Selector using magic. I remember crushing him, but I don’t remember his name. He was a fake, but he did have a unique way of begging for his life. Eh? That isn’t who you’re talking about?”
“Well, whatever. He’s probably dead. All the other leaders are in pretty much the same situation. And if he’s dead, he wasn’t worth much anyway, right?”
Kihara Ransuu so easily and casually spoke of the fate of an official member of Gremlin while scratching at his head. And it went farther than that. His comment about the “other leaders” was an announcement that they were targeting the representatives of the 27 companies making up the Anti-Academy City Science Guardians.
He said it so lightly.
He said it so simply.
He overturned all of the previously established assumptions.
“Impossible… But how…?”
“I don’t know about the other Kiharas, but for me, it’s this.” Kihara Ransuu moved his hand around randomly in what looked like empty space. “My specialty is world peace. Oh, is that not enough of an explanation for you? Think of it like this. There are various famous international competitions in things like soccer or track and field. People around the world get all excited and have fun while obeying common rules. In that time, things like race, belief, and national borders no longer matter and people feel a strong unity. Now what would happen if that kind of thing was artificially created?”
“I…don’t understand. What does that have to do with what is going on here?”
“If you still don’t understand, that’s just cause you’re an idiot. It’s all chemicals in the end. They’re what increase or decrease people’s emotions. I’ve taken tiny particles with the same effects as the chemicals secreted in the brain and scatter them on mold. The tech has its base in research derived from the #5’s Five Over series.”
“If that isn’t enough, it isn’t worth explaining further. With wind, temperature change, and static electricity, it’s not too hard to control once you get used to it. Having it spread in the direction you want and ensuring a safe zone can be handled with a single program. During their sweet dreams, everyone just stands around. Do you understand now?”
It was simple enough to say, but the level of technology required to show a certain person the image you wanted them to see was unimaginable.
“It’s still not easy, though. The chemicals themselves have names like Red Fury 03 and Blue Fear 07, so anyone with a middle school level knowledge of English can tell they increase certain emotions. The real trick is combining them in the right way to give the experience you want. When you also want to affect multiple people at the same time, it starts to be something like cooking. Well, just like how what you eat affects how you smell, the substances in your blood have external effects, so it isn’t like I don’t get any kind of hint.”
If what Kihara Ransuu was saying was true, how long had Weissland Strainikov been seeing an illusion? Since he had confronted Saflee Opendays? Since he had spoken with Útgarða-Loki? Or had that conversation actually occurred within the “experience” and they had both been seeing an illusion?
“Anyway, don’t you find it a little odd how when Kamijou Touma gets here he struggles but eventually tries to save both enemy and ally? You’re the Anti-Academy City Science Guardians. You’re clearly in opposition to him. No matter how irregular a hero he may be, this world isn’t the kind of place that allows him to do that at a point like this. If it was, we Kiharas would have lost our place in the world long ago.”
By spreading mold covered in chemicals that threw the brain into disorder, he had shown the guards of Baggage City illusions so they merely mindlessly stood in place.
In that state of temporary incapacitation, he had finished each of them off, one by one.
How much of it was true was unknown. It was possible it was all a lie. But whatever the answer, flames were truly spreading through Baggage City, Weissland was unable to move, and a strange attacker sat before him.
His situation was hopeless.
As the one in control of that situation, Kihara Ransuu slowly brought his feet down from the large table and to the floor. He held a smartphone in his hand. Weissland guessed it was what he used to send signals to the mold. However, the screen was not displaying some complex set of controls. It was merely a video player application.
“Now, let’s get this started.”
“Wh-what more are you going to do to Baggage City?”
“I already told you, the other Kiharas are in charge of that. I have nothing to do because I finished up so quickly, so I just need to kill some time.”
It did not even progress to the point of a fight.
Getting the help of Gremlin had been no use whatsoever.
The difference in power was so great, it simply did not seem real. Kihara Ransuu approached further. Once he was right next to Weissland, he crouched down showed Weissland the footage being displayed.
“Recognize these people? You should, they’re your wife, your daughter, your son-in-law, and your two grandkids.”
If the enemy already knew about the plan to move millions of related people to Baggage City under the guise of spectators of the Natural Selector tournament, it was not surprising that they would know that much.
However, seeing it displayed right in front of him was like a sharp knife to the chest for Weissland.
“Okay, let’s get started!! The rules have been switched up a bit, but we’ll be playing a game of Russian roulette!!”
Displayed on the screen were five chairs lined up next to each other. Each one held someone Weissland knew quite well bound in it and handguns were attached to poles such that one was aimed directly at each person’s face.
Each handgun had a numbered label attached.
“Now then, it’s time for a quiz! Our contestant is Weissland Strainikov!! I’ll explain the rules! Only one of those five handguns is loaded!! You choose a single one. If no bullet comes out, they all go free! Quite simple, don’t you think? Now, will our contestant be able to correctly choose a safe gun and regain his family bonds!?”
“Using the questioner’s mental state as a clue is fair game! Searching for a hint in the video footage is fine too! You’re also free to pray to god and choose at random! Or you can choose a family member you’ve always hated! But be careful, Mr. Weissland!! Your time limit is only one minute. If you do not answer within sixty seconds, the ‘real’ gun will be fired!!”
“You would do this…just to kill time…? How can Academy City go this far…!?”
“I don’t care how this turns out, so just hurry it up. I mean, if someone does die, that’s just more resources for me.”
That comment of unknown meaning oozed into Weissland’s ears.
“The thing about humans is you can get mold to grow on them if all the good bacteria is scrubbed away from the surface of the body. Did you know that? But the molds that have a taste for people really are something else. Well, there’s no real scientific basis for that claim. Really, the only problem is that the types that eat living humans are much livelier than the ones that go for corpses.”
Weissland could not believe what he was hearing.
That went beyond just a threat. Kihara Ransuu simply said it all too easily. To him, covering living people’s bodies with mold was nothing worth getting worked up over.
Weissland had to choose someone and then the trigger would be pulled.
One of the guns was loaded.
From a purely probabilistic standpoint, the odds of no one getting hurt were much higher, but the possibility of choosing the wrong one kept him frozen in fear. However, he had to choose. If he did not, someone would die for sure.
“D-do I get a hint?”
“Only if you can find one.”
“Shit!! Please, I’ll do anything. You can take one of my arms or eyes in exchange. Just give me a hint!!”
“Twenty seconds left. Do I need to start a countdown!?”
He had no time. A family member was going to die. As he realized that, tears gushed from his eyes like a child. He had not time to think. He gathered all his strength into his barely functioning arm and touched the smartphone screen with a trembling fingertip.
“Number three, hm? Is that your lucky number?”
“Really, choosing the son-in-law doesn’t really come as a surprise. Are you the type that sees a blood relation as above all else? Or were you against your daughter’s marriage?”
“Wh-was that one loaded?”
“You wanna know? Are you hoping it wasn’t loaded? Or that it was?”
“How could you ask that!?”
“At the very least, I know you had to choose him. Now, time for the moment of truth!!”
Kihara Ransuu spun the smartphone around in his hand before pointing the screen back toward Weissland.
“The footage you’re seeing here is not live. This is from the past.”
“But your entry into the touchscreen was directly linked to the trigger! In other words, you essentially pulled the trigger yourself!!”
Having the timing switched up on him after he had already prepared himself caused Weissland’s fingertips to tremble even more.
However, Kihara Ransuu’s cruelty did not end there.
“And the biggest climax is yet to come!! Remember when I told you only one of the guns was loaded? That was a lie. The real answer is that all the guns were loaded!! Don’t you love quizzes so simple that you’d have to actually try to get it wrong!?”
“And so our contestant has pulled the trigger that killed one of his family members!! The odds are 100%! One! Hundred!! Percent!!! How does it feel to have blown out the brains of your son-in-law!?”
Weissland could do nothing but flap his mouth open and closed while Kihara Ransuu put on a satisfied smile at having achieved his goal there.
“It seems he is so overcome with emotion that he has been left speechless. Now, let’s take a look at the real footage…or rather, the live footage!!”
“By the way, the family was only told that Mr. Weissland would be choosing who would die, so make sure to take a look at the survivor’s faces!! Now, have the familial bonds been shattered!? Can his five-year-old grandchild hold onto her sanity after seeing her father’s brains blown out right in front of her!? This shocking footage has plenty to focus on!!”
Weissland yelled to the point that the capillaries in his eyes burst and he cried literal tears of blood. However, his cries did not reach Kihara Ransuu. No, they did reach him, but they only made him enjoy himself even more.
The screen switched over to the scene after the tragedy.
What it showed was…
“…Ah?” grunted Kihara Ransuu in confusion.
What should have been displayed was a scene of fresh blood and panicked civilians bound to chairs. Anything else made no sense.
And yet something else was what he found.
The chairs were there. As were the handguns. However, the hostages were nowhere to be found. It wasn’t just the son-in-law missing; they were all gone. The ropes used to bind them were lying on the ground, but the hostages were nowhere to be seen. While Kihara Ransuu had not been looking, something had happened. But what?
“Who the fuck interfered with my fuuuuuunnnnnnn!! I put a lot of effort into this, so who the hell do they think they…hmm??”
His shout turned to a question partway through.
Something was visible at the edge of the footage.
A figure could just barely be seen.
The figure was likely the one who had freed Weissland’s family.
The figure was a spiky-haired Asian boy.
“I’m glad to see you’re still in a state where you’re able to see this,” said the person in the footage.
The boy had proven with deeds rather than words that he intended to save his enemies as well as his allies.
He ignored Kihara Ransuu and spoke to the restrained Weissland Strainikov.
“I’ll take care of the guy with you soon enough, too. That will resolve all of this.”
The screen shook.
With a wave of static, the signal cut out.
He had likely crushed the camera between his hands.
The boy would of course be there soon just as he had announced.
Kihara Ransuu’s thoughts cut out for a bit. He could not believe that boy would truly get involved. But then he shook his head.
“Yeah, right,” he muttered. “Nothing’s that convenient!! The timing’s just too perfect and it came out of nowhere! There’s no way he would swoop in at exactly the right time like some kind of hero!! But then what the hell is going on!? How did something this lame end up happening in this world!?”
And then he realized something.
He realized the sole reason Kamijou Touma had appeared where he absolutely should not have been.
Kihara Ransuu himself had been caught in a trick set by Weissland and the others from the Anti-Academy City Science Guardians in Baggage City.
He could only think of only one possibility.
At the very least, it was the only possibility he found more likely than Kamijou Touma truly having appeared there.
“Is this…an illusion too…?”
“Cough, cough…!! Pant, pant…!!”
As a few piles of documents collapsed, the Gremlin magician known as Útgarða-Loki slowly stood up. His body was covered in blood and the collapsed documents were stained red. Kihara Ransuu had driven him to the verge of death, but he had succeeded in activating an illusion at the very end.
The name Útgarða-Loki referred to a giant of Norse mythology, and this giant had been an expert in all kinds of illusions and had even fully duped Thor, a major player in the mythology. Given that, the magician’s specialty was obvious.
“Th-that was a close one… That bastard went the superhuman route from the very beginning!!”
His front teeth were broken and he could only see out of one eye due to all the blood. Even so, he had survived. His magic allowed him to transfer the information sent to one of the five senses to a different sense. Simply put, he could make someone feel the pain of burning by showing them a picture of fire. Used correctly, that ability held quite a bit of destructive power, but many materials used together in the right way were needed to give a more accurate and long-lasting illusion.
Even so, he had managed to survive.
He had no idea if Weissland was still alive, but ensuring his own safety took top priority. To do that, he had to do something about Kihara Ransuu who stood mindlessly in the middle of the room. He had no idea how long the illusion would last on the man.
Útgarða-Loki slowly grabbed a random pile of documents. The documents were A4 size and the pile was about ten centimeters thick. The weight felt like more than that of a brick.
He unhesitatingly raised the blunt weapon.
“Don’t make!! An illusion specialist!! Like me!! Have to!! Do any!! Physical work!!!!!”
After knocking him to the ground, Útgarða-Loki climbed on top of him and continued sending dozens of blows down on the man. Partway through, the sounds of the impacts became more wet and sticky sounding and Kihara Ransuu’s body convulsed on the floor, utterly defenseless. When the documents soaked up enough blood to be of no more use, Útgarða-Loki tossed them aside and grabbed a new nearby pile.
“Ha ha ha!! Ha ha ha ha ha!! I won dammit. I finally have my safety. I’ve returned to the world of the living! I! Am! Aliiiiiiiiiiivvveeee!!”
Útgarða-Loki wiped the blood from his hands with documents of unknown value and then wiped the blood from his face. The dry paper scratched, but he saw that as proof that he was alive in the real world.
Someone then tapped Útgarða-Loki’s shoulder from behind.
The illusion expert turned around and saw…
A spiky-haired Asian boy standing there.