Toaru Majutsu no Index:NT Volume5 Chapter2
Chapter 2: Who is the Real Enemy? Secret_Promise.
Kamijou ate some dinner in a local burger shop with Thor, a combat member of Gremlin.
“…What is this?”
“It’s the new salsa burger meal. Ugh, they tried too hard to make it unique and ended up making the flavor way too strong. And it’s spicy!! I can see why the standard large burger never stops being the best seller.”
“That’s not what I meant, you idiot!! We! Are!! Enemies!! There’s something wrong with us eating together like this!!”
“What? Is it that odd for us to have a bit of a chat? Whether I was a member of Gremlin or not, I’m betting you would be treating me differently if I was a short girl with large breasts that clearly wanted you to protect her.”
“Are you making fun of me?”
“That’s why I tried to make this easier by disguising myself as a girl you know.”
“Come to think of it, how did that work?”
“You wouldn’t understand me if I got into the details of the magic, so I’ll try to keep it simple. In Norse mythology, when the thunder god had his weapon stolen, he disguised himself as the goddess of beauty, Freyja, in order to lure out the thief. I put together a disguise spell based on that legend, but that means I can only disguise myself as girls.”
“…How did you know about what Misaka and I said back in Hawaii?”
“When that argument happened, the FCE surveillance network that used cameras throughout America was still running. In other words, it all went straight to Gremlin. I’ve gotta say, Misaka-chan is quite the young lady.”
“Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!! My yoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooouuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuttttttttttthhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!”
Thor gave a cheerful smile as Kamijou held his head and wailed.
“Don’t worry about it. With the life you live, you can’t afford to get embarrassed over every little thing like that.”
“How can you say that!? Are you trying to pick a fight after all!?”
“In a way, I suppose I am,” said Thor as he lightly shook his blond hair that reached his waist. “But the type of fights you saw in Hawaii and Baggage City are not my type of fight. That kind of thing is no fun. Of course, I suppose I am a villain if I use that as the basis for my decisions.”
“C’mon, eat. Don’t just sit there. I’m paying, so you might as well eat as much as you can, right?”
Thor must have not liked spicy foods because he seemed to give his tongue a rest with a bite of salad or sip of soda between each bite of the salsa burger. Since he did not seem to like that kind of food, he may have been won over by the temptation of ordering a new item on the menu.
Kamijou grabbed the wrapper for his hamburger while making sure not to get any red sauce on his fingers.
“…So what did you want to talk about? Are you here to make a declaration of war?”
“This would be a lot simpler if I could. Even without doing that, the situation here is tangled up in a complicated mess. Basically, I want to clean up that mess before getting to the real issue at hand.”
“What are you talking about?”
Thor spoke a single name.
With that name spoken, Kamijou knew he could no longer remain wholly uninvolved.
“He told you some things without giving you any proof while looking down on you the entire time, didn’t he? And now you have grown rather nervous about what crisis is going to occur. Am I wrong?”
“…Without giving any proof? Are you saying he was lying?”
“You are afraid of being made to fight according to someone else’s wishes again, aren’t you? Like with Leivinia Birdway in Hawaii or Kihara Kagun in Baggage City.”
“Don’t glare at me like that. We know we are at the root of it all. But do you truly believe that just because we in Gremlin are the villains that Ollerus is wholly good and just simply by opposing us? Or to go even further, can anyone who resolves his problems with violence truly be considered good and just?”
He was no longer referring only to Ollerus. That last comment denied all the actions Kamijou had taken up to that point.
And even Kamijou was not so sure he was wrong.
For example, there was Tsukuyomi Komoe.
For example, there was Last Order.
For example, there was Oyafune Monaka.
A truly good person and a truly just person may have been someone who was able to choose to not fight even in a crisis and yet was still able to save their enemy with that choice.
That was a territory that lay far, far ahead of Kamijou who would clench his fist without thinking whenever a problem occurred.
“Now, let’s talk about Ollerus. Let’s talk about that man who relies on violence just as much as we do in Gremlin,” said Thor as he put ketchup on a nugget. “He did not come to Academy City alone.”
“He brought the Saint named Silvia, Fiamma of the Right who was the true leader of God’s Right Seat, a Valkyrie named Brunhild Eiktobel, and Leivinia Birdway, the boss of the magic cabal named the Dawn-Colored Sunlight. Every one of them is enough of a monster not to lose to your average member of Gremlin. They go well beyond the level of a normal magician. …Basically, they detected our movements and gathered in Academy City to stop our plan.”
Kamijou felt an ominous feeling in his chest when he heard that name.
The boss of the Dawn-Colored Sunlight. She had tricked Kamijou and the others when they went to Hawaii to resolve the situation there, creating a large crack between Academy City and its cooperative institutions. She had been one of the root causes behind the disturbance in Baggage City.
But this was no time to get caught up over that.
“What about it? Aren’t they here to protect the people of Academy City from the likes of you?”
“If so why did they choose to make Academy City the battlefield?” pointed out Thor in annoyance. He threw a nugget in his mouth and continued, “If they truly wished to protect Academy City from us, it would have been in their best interests to put an end to this before we snuck into Academy City. Simply put, it would have been easy enough to set up a defensive line around Academy City rather than waiting within. The sea around Japan or the mountains around the Kanto district would have worked nicely.” Thor licked ketchup and grease from his fingertips before continuing in a lower tone. “So why did they set up this great force within Academy City? They know how dangerous we in Gremlin are. Surely they have taken into consideration the possibility that we have already made our way in by this point. It seems to me that they are intentionally setting things up so Academy City is involved. But what do you think? Does this seem like the work of pacifists?”
“Just as we have our own objective in Gremlin, Ollerus’s group has their own objective. And they will use Academy City to carry it out. That is the meaning behind how they are setting this up. Who knows if it will work or not, but they want a conflict to break out in Academy City so the city’s defensive forces target us in Gremlin. I doubt those defenses can actually kill me, but having to fight the science side and Ollerus’s group at the same time would make things quite a bit more difficult.”
Every individual magician belonging to Gremlin had monstrous powers.
But that was not the most frightening thing.
That would be the fact that those powers were wielded as a group.
“So you’re saying Ollerus’s group chose this location so events would stray from the standard pattern and interfere with Gremlin’s teamwork?”
“That’s my theory anyway.”
Kamijou put his half-eaten burger down on the tray.
He had suddenly lost his appetite.
They were allowing the fires of war to spread through Academy City to carry out their own objective.
If that was true, the friend/foe chart had suddenly changed.
“…Do you know what Ollerus is after?”
“No. In the end, it really comes down to the antagonism between Ollerus and Othinus. They’re both monsters completely immersed in the territory of a Magic God. I have no idea if a mere member like me would be privy to the true intentions behind it all.”
“You’re telling me to trust you based on that!? That’s exactly the kind of thing an enemy would say!!”
“I never said to trust me, you idiot. I’m telling you not to rely too much on information from just one side. I’m sure Ollerus told you all sorts of things. So now hear what our side has to say. Once you’ve gathered as much information as you can, you can come to your own conclusion. The only way to escape being someone’s puppet is to think for yourself. And if you’re going to do that, the more information you have, the better. Am I wrong?”
“…Then what are you after? No matter which path I choose, I’m still going to be your enemy.”
“Even if we are enemies and we must fight eventually, I think we should have everything settled beforehand so we can fight with no reservations. To be honest, the situation surrounding you is pretty pathetic. Everyone is desperate to lead you around like a trained monkey so they can use your right hand’s power for their own benefit. A fight with you under those circumstances wouldn’t be any fun. What is your view of the situation?” Thor continued speaking as he battled the salsa burger even though it seemed clear he had already lost. “The thing is, Ollerus has shown off an odd characteristic at times. I don’t know if he has always been like this or if he became like this as he approached becoming a Magic God, though.”
“He is fundamentally a philanthropist. If he sees someone in trouble, he will use any amount of power to help that person. But he loses sight of his surroundings when that happens. To be blunt, he is a man who would slaughter a military force of 1 million to save a single child he had never met before. I do not know what Ollerus is telling himself his actions are saving here, but if it is something outside of Academy City, it is entirely possible he would see no problem with using Academy City to save it.”
It was unclear how much of what that boy was saying was true.
However, it was true that Kamijou knew nothing when it came to Ollerus. He had been saved by the man in Baggage City, but that was not enough to say that Ollerus was truly his ally.
It had been the same with Leivinia Birdway, the boss of the Dawn-Colored Sunlight.
Kamijou asked a serious question.
“Let’s say for argument’s sake that Gremlin is up to no good and Ollerus’s group is not being exactly benevolent despite opposing them. What do you gain by explaining all of this to me?”
“Oh, that’s simple,” said Thor offhandedly. “Gremlin has come to Academy City because there is something here we want. And Ollerus has come to Academy City to stop us. …I happen to know of a way we can completely dumbfound both of those groups as they take their annoyingly careful and hesitant actions. Don’t you think that would be fun?”
“The two of us can rescue the prize they are fighting over.”
The surgery in Fremea Seivelun’s mouth was over.
The effects of the anesthetic must have still remained to a certain extent because she let out a moan over how odd her mouth felt. She was leaving the dentist’s office with Hamazura and Takitsubo who had accompanied her to prevent her from running off.
“In the first place, I want to eat something!” she said to them.
“After all that crying and screaming, you still haven’t learned your lesson!?”
The footpath they walked along was enveloped in the restless mood of the Ichihanaransai preparations. As the Ichihanaransai was a giant collection of cultural festivals, the shops were set up on the school grounds, but cheap stands targeting students were set up along the streets and paths during the preparatory period. This helped add to the festive mood during the preparations.
Takitsubo Rikou’s gaze blankly wandered around the surroundings.
“…Hamazura, what are we going to do now?”
“We’ve done everything we need to do, so we head home. First we need to take Fremea back to her dorm.”
Hamazura and Takitsubo currently lived together. However, Mugino Shizuri and Kinuhata Saiai were there as well, bringing all of Item together. Simply referring to them as roommates was simple enough, but it put some severe restrictions on Hamazura. He cared enough about appearances that he could not bring himself to flirt with Takitsubo in front of the other girls. In the end, he was forced to calculate things out based on everyone’s mysterious schedules to get any time alone with Takitsubo Rikou. (And whenever he did, Takitsubo seemed to get so caught up in popping bubble wrap that she did not pay any attention to him.)
“Hamazura, we need to buy some detergent before going home.”
“So get some money out at the bank.”
“Convenience store ATMs have a handling fee, so we need to get to the bank ATM before they close.”
“…There’s just no sex appeal to that attitude, y’know?”
The girl wearing a pink track suit tugged at Hamazura’s clothes.
“Fremea is gone.”
Hamazura frantically looked around, but Fremea Seivelun was nowhere to be found.
However, he could hear a familiar soprano voice coming from amid the crowd.
“Nyahh nyahh!! In the first place, this says they have bite-size fruit marshmallows with 30 different types of fruit filling! I’m gonna keep eating them until I’ve found every kind!!”
“That damn brat!! Why isn’t she afraid of having to get more fillings!?” shouted Hamazura as he ran off to go protect the peace inside that girl’s mouth.
He couldn’t let her get so excited over those black creatures armed with road construction equipment.
After finishing most of his burger meal, Thor ordered some hot coffee and cheesecake for some reason.
“By the way, what do you think of fast food coffee? Is it good enough for you?”
“If you don’t like it, don’t order it… Personally, I don’t even have any real problems with canned coffee,” replied Kamijou with a disheartened expression.
Thor happily sipped at the cheap coffee and said, “So how far did we get?”
“You said Gremlin led by the Magic God Othinus and the group of monsters led by the almost-Magic-God Ollerus are after some prize, and we can get to it ahead of them.” Kamijou wiped the grease off his fingers with a paper napkin. “So what exactly is this prize?”
“What Othinus wants is a person,” replied Thor. “A person who has not been dyed in the colors of magic or science and therefore could go either way. But doing that would put a major burden on the person’s body, so this person also has to have exceedingly high durability allowing them to undergo modifications that would kill any normal person from the shock.”
“…What do you mean?”
“Who knows. To be honest, not even we know the specifics. This specific person’s name can be glimpsed in records of the witch hunts from the middle ages. It comes up in accounts of a very strange incident where the holy men who were known for killing anyone they found suspicious, that they were jealous of, or that they simply did not like gave up on killing someone because this person was simply too durable for the holy men to deal with.”
Kamijou could not imagine how what Thor had just mentioned could be connected to the current situation.
Whatever those records were, they had to have been from hundreds of years ago.
He simply did not see how they could be related to Academy City, the headquarters of Japanese science.
When he asked about it, Thor readily replied.
“It still isn’t over.”
“This woman would continue smiling even when they tried to burn her alive or crush her with weights, and it seems not even the flow of time could do her in. So you see, this is related. Even if her name is seen in records from hundreds of years in the past, she has yet to die. Presumably, she is still smiling somewhere on this earth.”
“Exactly. Of course, I doubt she’s just some especially durable human. Whatever she really is, her core or true nature must lie elsewhere. This durability is likely nothing more than one facet of her special characteristics.”
Thor tried to slice the cheesecake with a plastic fork but accidentally squashed it flat.
“And just so you know, the odds are good she is here in Academy City.”
“Why? If she was in records of the witch hunts, wouldn’t she have a closer connection to the magic side?”
“She only happened to get caught up in the witch hunts that were sweeping society at the time. It is actually unclear which side she truly lies on. It’s possible she does not belong to either.”
Thor stabbed his fork into the flattened cheesecake, but it fell back to the plate when he tried to lift it to his mouth. He then grabbed it directly with his fingers and brought it to his mouth.
“But we do not think Academy City took her in in order to carry out some kind of scientific experiment. …If that were the case, some simple results of that research would have shown themselves on the surface.”
“A last-ditch effort.” Thor gave a thin smile as he licked his fingertips. “Whatever she may be, she has proven in those cruel witch trials that she cannot be killed by any means. She is an existence that goes against the wishes of Academy City’s leader, but she cannot be dealt with in a simple assassination. Having her wandering around the world smiling destroys the hopes of the city’s leader, and yet she cannot be killed or otherwise disposed of. What do you think the city’s leader would do to deal with this problem?”
“He can’t kill her to silence her, but he can’t have her wandering around freely? Also, you say she is in Academy City but I’ve never heard of someone like that.” Kamijou thought for a bit. “You don’t mean…She’s being imprisoned somewhere?”
“Exactly.” As he had just finished eating the sweet cake, Thor’s expression grew grim as he took another sip of his coffee. “If you can’t kill someone, the fastest way to isolate them from the world is to rob them of their mobility. Most likely, she is being imprisoned in the most solid building in Academy City. …And that is why the situation has grown even more complicated.”
The most solid building in Academy City.
Kamijou frowned as he thought for a bit.
Could it be a shelter in the vast underground area of District 22? Or could it be somewhere in the highly secretive District 2 or District 23?
But Thor shook his head.
He said, “There is an incredibly obvious answer.”
“The windowless building.”
With no hesitation, the Lightning God Thor spoke the name of Academy City’s “heart”.
“That is this city’s greatest fortress. Aleister, the chairman of the city’s board of directors, uses it as his castle. That woman…Fräulein Kreutune is imprisoned there.”
There was once a project known as the Dark May Project.
It had been carried out by a research institution affiliated with some of the darkest parts of Academy City. The thought patterns of Accelerator, Academy City’s most powerful Level 5, had been analyzed and a portion of them had been implanted in other espers to raise their level of power.
There had been few successes.
Even fewer had managed to survive to the present day.
“You super annoy me, so please do not speak to me.”
Two girls walked through Academy City in the evening during the preparations for the Ichihanaransai. They were both survivors of that nightmarish project, and they were both Level 4s that manipulated the nitrogen in the air.
One was Kinuhata Saiai.
She was a girl of about 12 who wore a fluffy knit dress. Her hair was brown and in a bob. Her power was known as Offense Armor and was specialized for defense. She covered her body in armor made of nitrogen concentrated a few centimeters thick which allowed her to automatically defend against any attacks coming her way. She could easily handle a direct hit from a sniper rifle.
The other was Kuroyoru Umidori.
She was a girl of about 12 who wore a punk-style tank top and pants of black leather as well as a white coat hanging from its hood on her head. She had long black hair, but the strands hanging down by her ears were dyed yellow. Her power was known as Bomber Lance and was specialized for offense. She could produce nitrogen spears several meters long from the palms of her hands. However, she was a cyborg as well as an esper, so she could add as many mechanical arms as she liked to increase the number of spears she could produce.
They were both members of Academy City’s dark side.
Those girls had a villainous side to them that prevented them from purely being considered victims.
And this was why they saw no reason to try to get along simply because they had both been involved in the same project.
In fact, the atmosphere between them was so strained it seemed they would take a fallen glass as a sign to begin grabbing for each other’s throat.
Kuroyoru twisted her lips in a sneer.
“I may not be the best person to bring this up, but what are you doing? I just can’t get a grasp on your position here. If you just want to protect Fremea Seivelun, wouldn’t it be easier to just kill me and bury me somewhere?”
“I will make sure to super kill you if I get the chance. Unlike Hamazura, I have no intention of super getting along with you, so don’t worry.”
“Speaking of Hamazura, what is with him? You’re taking me somewhere on his orders, right? Why don’t you just ignore him? We both had that monster’s thought patterns implanted in us, so I don’t see why you wouldn’t hesitate to refuse any orders someone gives you.”
“That only applies to you since you had that monster’s offensive side super implanted into you. I was specialized on the defensive side, so I have super no idea what you’re talking about. And it isn’t like Hamazura ordered me to do this. But I guess it would be super hard for you to imagine since you’ve never known anything outside of vertical relationships.”
“Where are we headed anyway?” asked Kuroyoru suspiciously.
That caused Kinuhata Saiai to smile.
However, this expression had none of the kindness or sympathy one generally associated with a smile. Perhaps the best description of it is a “dark joy”.
And so she gave her response.
“It is super the same place as Fremea Seivelun was sent to.”
“Tah dah!! The most frightening super dentist in District 7, aka the Hero’s Cave!!”
A slight commotion was then heard.
It was the sound of Kuroyoru trying to take a few steps back and Kinuhata grabbing her collar to stop her.
Kinuhata Saiai poured everything she had into her smile.
“There is super no use in trying to hide it. Hamazura is super sensitive to even the slightest change in his comrades. We know that you have been super avoiding chewing with your back teeth.”
“Comrades!? What do you mean comrades!?”
“Oh, don’t worry. That super bothers me as much as it does you. Anyway, I have super intentionally brought you to the dentist that is known as the most skilled and is the most feared by the neighborhood children.”
“Oh? Is Kuroyoru Umidori-chan, the great representative of the Freshmen, super afraid of the dentist? Are you the kind of crybaby that actually raises her hand when the dentist super tells you to raise your hand if it hurts?”
“I-I…!! I am a cyborg!! If there is any defect in my body parts, I swap them out for manmade parts!! So there is no need to inefficiently carve away at my teeth!! I just have to get completely new ones, so this is completely pointless!!”
“Yes, yes. Now super get in there. I super have your insurance card, so don’t worry about that.”
“…Give it a fucking rest. If you keep looking down on me, I won’t just rip out a tooth. I’ll tear your entire body to pieces!”
Kuroyoru Umidori let out a small breath and tried to emit a nitrogen spear from her palm that could sever even a steel plate. But…
“Super nothing is coming out, is it?”
“Wh-what!? What is going on!?”
“Heh. Your power is super reliant on your mechanical arms, right? Well, it seems Hamazura super stuck a bit of gum in the ports inside your cyborg parts to prevent proper contact from being made. Without your arms, you super cannot use your power. Hah hah hah! Now you are a super harmless normal person.”
“I can’t just let that go!! What the hell have you been doing to me while I’m asleep!? And isn’t sticking some foreign object in my body a lot more dangerous than a cavity!?”
“Haahhhh hah hah! Super what are you saying? Academy City’s dark side operates on a survival of the fittest policy. And so let’s super get to the dentist already, temporary Level 0. Resistance is futile, so super give up.”
Tears really could be seen in Kuroyoru’s eyes as Kinuhata Saiai dragged her in through the door of the dentist’s office.
The windowless building.
The castle of Aleister, Academy City’s board chairman.
It seemed the woman known as Fräulein Kreutune was imprisoned there. Also, Gremlin was trying to acquire her to carry out some objective of theirs while Ollerus’s group was prepared to do anything to stop them.
The windowless building was known for being strong, but would it be able to stand up to the likes of those powerful magicians?
It was not being in a known, defended location that mattered for Fräulein Kreutune. It would likely be best for her if no one knew where she was. That was what Kamijou and Thor had to do.
It was simple enough to say.
What that meant was…
“The two of us need to open the way into Academy City’s most impregnable fortress and sneak in. And we need to do it before any of the others can do so,” said Thor as he sipped on his coffee that had begun to cool. “This is the best option. Gremlin under Othinus’s command is of course working to get their hands on Fräulein Kreutune as well. And they know they need to do something about the windowless building to do so. However, they will not rely on tricks. If they decide they need to destroy that building no matter what, they will use unadulterated violence to tear it down.”
“To acquire Fräulein Kreutune, Gremlin will try to smash that building that not even a nuke can destroy. Meanwhile, Ollerus simply has to ensure Gremlin cannot get their hands on her. It is entirely possible they will not even bother entering the building. They might opt to use some curse to kill her from outside.”
“I thought she couldn’t be killed?”
“So history says. But just because normal methods don’t work doesn’t mean monsters on Ollerus’s level can’t pull it off. I don’t know what system Fräulein Kreutune uses to survive, but they might be able to calculate out a way to kill her if they know. It is best to think that she currently has two blades held at her throat.”
On one side was Gremlin who might very well have the firepower needed to destroy a building that could withstand a nuke.
On the other side was Ollerus’s group that might very well have the magic ability needed to kill that woman who was so durable the church had given up trying to execute her.
Both sides were made up of veritable monsters.
Both sides held ridiculous levels of power.
At the same time…
“Can we really pull this off?”
“What do you mean?”
“Get into the windowless building. It’s supposed to be impregnable, right? Can we really do anything about it?”
“Who knows. I do know that, true to its name, it has no windows or any other type of entrance or exit. Every one of its walls is strong enough to withstand a nuclear attack, and all forms of infrastructure are independently circulated inside the building. When someone or something is needed inside, a teleportation esper is used, but we have to keep in mind your Achilles heel.”
“In the end, it’s a manmade system. And humans have even landed on the surface of the moon. I have an idea. All that is left is for us to make up our minds? What will you do?”
“Just to be clear, I am not your ally. It should be obvious, but I have my own reasons for doing this. So don’t worry yourself over pointless doubts about whether I will betray you. I will betray you in the end. And yet I am still asking for your help. …You can just abandon me when you feel you no longer need me. That way we will be even.” Thor shook his paper cup so that the black liquid inside became a small whirlpool. “And no matter what anyone is planning, Fräulein Kreutune herself has done nothing wrong. That alone is clear. It was wrong for her to be forced through the tortures of the witch hunt or to be sealed in a dark room with no exit just because someone else did not like who she was. Don’t you agree? Just as I will work towards my own ends, you can betray me as soon as we have safely secured Fräulein Kreutune. Simple, isn’t it?”
“Don’t fall silent. Just tell me yes or no,” said Thor with a thin smile. “Are you in or not?”
Gremlin led by the Magic God Othinus and the group of monsters led by Ollerus had entered Academy City.
They were both after Fräulein Kreutune, the woman imprisoned in the impregnable windowless building.
Gremlin was the group that had caused such a great disturbance in Baggage City and they wanted Fräulein Kreutune “because she was durable”. So what exactly would happen to her in their hands?
However, she would not necessarily meet a good end if everything was left to Ollerus’s group either as they only wanted to put a stop to Gremlin’s conspiracy.
Those two groups would make their move shortly.
They had no time.
Kamijou wracked his brains based on the limited information he had.
Who would be the best ally in this situation?
It was unlikely Ollerus, Thor, or even Academy City which had been hiding any information on Fräulein Kreutune were disclosing everything about their true motives and objectives. Kamijou was trying to use the information he had received from each party to somehow determine what the actual truth of the situation was that cut a straight line through all the plotting.
And he came to his conclusion.
“You can’t what?”
“I have nothing to substantiate the information you’ve given me. If Fräulein Kreutune really is imprisoned in the windowless building, that is certainly a problem, but you have given me nothing to prove that she is even there.”
“Also, I just can’t bring myself to believe you would betray Gremlin to rescue Fräulein Kreutune. Why would you? If you’re part of the group, you must have similar goals. Plus, if you betrayed an organization like that, you could easily meet a horrible fate. So why would you go behind Gremlin’s back to speak with me?”
“I agree with you that Ollerus is not a wholly good person. But is that any reason to see you as my ally? How am I supposed to come to that conclusion? It seems more reasonable to assume everything about Fräulein Kreutune and the attack on the windowless building was a lie and you’re trying to lead me to take some actions for some secret plan that—”
As if to cut Kamijou off, Thor brushed up his bangs with a hand and let out a quiet but very long sigh.
Kamijou frowned and Thor began to speak.
“I do see why you would be suspicious of something like that after what happened in Hawaii and Baggage City. I even feel some sympathy and compassion. But…” He finished off the rest of his now-cold coffee and crushed the paper cup in his hand. “My enemy certainly has become pathetic.”
It happened directly after that.
In an instant, Kamijou Touma’s vision blurred.
It was only when a ripple of intense pain spread across his face starting at his nose that Kamijou realized that Thor had casually tossed aside the paper cup, grabbed Kamijou’s hair, and slammed his face into the plastic table.
He had a feeling he heard a muffled noise slightly afterwards.
He could hear screams coming from the students gathered at the no smoking tables for a pre-dinner break.
But Thor paid them no heed.
He stood up from his seat while still holding Kamijou’s hair. He then spun around as if twisting his hips to throw the other boy while he was still bewildered by the sudden pain.
Kamijou rolled across the floor, slamming through two or three identically designed tables as he did so.
The students that had been sitting at those tables let out shouts and frantically moved away. The boys and girls far enough away to feel safe initially clicked their tongues at the drinks that almost splashed on them, but their throats grew dry when they saw Thor’s face.
As they had never seen anything more than street fights, that was not too surprising.
The violence Thor wielded went beyond the level of a mere murderer.
“Well, if you’re going to be so negative about everything, I’ll just go do it on my own.”
Whatever those around him may have thought, Thor felt he was still showing quite a bit of calm in his expression as he ignored the onlookers and slowly approached Kamijou.
“Lies? Secret plans? I don’t care about any of that. A girl named Fräulein Kreutune is being imprisoned. That should be enough for you to go save her. What does it matter if there is more to the story or if someone else has some other goal!? If there is a girl closed up in some dark room being treated cruelly, that should be enough for you to go save her! I thought that was who the ‘wonderful enemy’ I had imagined was! Was I wrong!?”
Before Kamijou could recover from the shock and stand up, Thor kicked him in the gut. Kamijou’s breath burst from his mouth, but Thor jammed his toes into his gut a second and third time.
No one tried to stop him.
And no one tried to flee either. If someone headed for the exit, they might irritate Thor and receive similar treatment. That was why no one there wanted to be first.
“Yes, you may have been used for other people’s plans in Hawaii and Baggage City. So what? What does that have to do with Fräulein Kreutune who is suffering now? Are your pathetic experiences enough of a reason to abandon her with a smile on your face!? If you truly think so, there’s no hope for you. The only reason you have just barely managed to get by in a world of experts for this long is that you have always been acting on a desire to rescue someone even if you did not always succeed in the end. If you lose that, your fist becomes nothing more than a tool for your own selfish desires!! Don’t you understand that!?”
The next kick sounded muffled.
This time, Thor’s toes had not reached Kamijou’s gut. Just before they did, Kamijou had blocked it with both hands.
“…Shut up,” said Kamijou Touma with a voice that seemed to come up from the depths of the earth. “How can someone from Gremlin, the ones behind all this, say all that while looking down on me? Not even Leivinia Birdway’s plan was this bad. If Gremlin hadn’t been going on rampages all over the place, none of this would be happening in the first place! The incident in Hawaii would never have happened, the incident in Baggage City would never have happened, and this incident regarding Fräulein Kreutune would not be happening!!”
“Were you even listening…?”
Thor lightly lifted up his right foot that had been blocked. It looked like he was just trying to remove it from Kamijou’s grasp, but instead of going in for another kick, he stomped the foot down on Kamijou’s upraised side.
The sound of the impact rang out.
“I’m going behind Gremlin’s back to put a stop to Othinus and the other’s rampage!! The infighting in Hawaii? The destruction of Baggage City? Do you really think everyone in Gremlin supported those things!?”
“I was wondering what Othinus was doing in secret while leaving me out of the loop, and it turned out she was pathetically working at tormenting the weak. Listen up. I have no grand plan. I just crush those I don’t like. And that’s why I have betrayed Gremlin!!”
Thor swung his right leg back and kicked Kamijou in the gut with a similar motion to kicking a soccer ball as hard as one could.
Kamijou rolled a few meters to the side and Thor asked him a question.
“You’ve acted all full of yourself, but what do you have now? You keep denying other people’s opinions and suspecting them, but what does that leave you with? …I don’t know if you’ve gotten drunk on tragedy or if you’re just pretending to be clever, but you are not shining in the slightest right now. You were better when you were being tricked by everyone around you but were still reaching your hand out to help any crying girl you saw.”
“How many people do you think were in danger in Hawaii? Or in Baggage City?” muttered Kamijou.
He grabbed the edge of a collapsed table and slowly stood up.
“I don’t know either. More people than I could count were caught up in those incidents. A single decision by me could have increased or decreased that number!! And this isn’t just a number we’re talking about. These are lives of living human beings! What’s wrong with wanting to be cautious about that kind of thing!?”
“But is your hesitation really so that you can make the best decision?”
A sound like a spark rang out.
Some kind of bluish-white beam of light came from the Lightning God Thor’s fingertips.
This was what his name referred to.
This was the scorching lightning that was similar to an electric arc and could slice through thick steel.
“If it’s really just that you’re afraid of choosing…”
“If it’s really just that you’re afraid of having to deal with the consequences of your decision.”
Thor took a step closer.
“If that is your reason for abandoning someone, then you are a true villain.”
It came in a horizontal strike.
The bluish-white beam of light grew to about the size of a sword and mercilessly flew towards Kamijou’s neck. The beam explosively expanded. The scattered light melted a toppled table like it was cheese and set some burger wrappers on fire.
That electric arc that could slice through a metal plate over 10 cm thick like it was the paper of a goldfish scoop did not decapitate Kamijou Touma.
This was thanks to his right hand.
Kamijou Touma’s Imagine Breaker blew away the light blade that Thor had used.
“You’re taking me too lightly,” Kamijou said clearly while breathing heavily. “I never had any kind of overarching plan either!!”
Just as it looked like another bluish-white beam of light would appear from Thor’s fingertips, Kamijou dashed over and grabbed his right wrist. The blade that could slice through steel disappeared before it could fully form.
Kamijou did not wait.
While Thor was distracted by the vanished blade, Kamijou slammed his knee into his gut.
“All I hear is you shouting out whatever crap you like. What I don’t like is when I do what I want and someone else uses it to their own ends in some completely different place!!”
With his bent knee still digging into Thor’s gut, Kamijou swung his head forward and slammed it into Thor’s head.
A dull noise rang out.
“I would stop a fight. Or I would save a crying girl. That was enough for me, but everyone else wouldn’t stop carrying on and would eventually lead it to some completely different conclusion!! If 1 plus 1 equaled 2, there wouldn’t be a problem. The problem is that it somehow ends up equaling negative 5 or negative 10!! Will this really end up saving Fräulein Kreutune!? Well!? Will it!?”
When he saw that the magician was unsteady on his feet, Kamijou let go of his right wrist and swung his own clenched fist toward the magician’s nose.
But Thor blocked it with his left arm.
At the same time, Thor tried to use a leg to sweep Kamijou’s feet out from under him. Instead, Kamijou stomped down on the lightning god’s foot.
“I’m sick of trying to save someone and only causing more suffering as a result!! That’s why I want to be properly prepared before taking action! Why don’t you understand that!?”
“Now you’ve said it…” muttered Thor.
He grabbed Kamijou’s collar with both hands.
He lifted Kamijou’s entire body up.
Kamijou’s feet left the floor.
“Is that why you end up never taking action at all? Because they don’t have some grand title? Because you don’t know them? Because you don’t recognize them? Because you’ve never met them? …You’re wrong, Kamijou Touma. You just gave your own answer. You just showed what stage you’re having trouble with. Just realize it already, you dumb bastard!!”
He slammed Kamijou’s back to the ground.
In all seriousness, Kamijou’s breathing stopped for an instant.
And then Thor’s fist fell down upon Kamijou’s face two or three times.
Kamijou did not even know how many blows he had received before he managed to twist his body and just barely avoid Thor’s next blow.
After that, the situation grew utterly confused.
They were both trying to get on top so they could keep the other from moving, but even that simple goal grew uncertain partway through. They would punch, be punched, and then punch again. As the exchange of blows continued, all their complex thoughts were torn from their minds.
It was unclear what exactly caused it, but Kamijou and Thor both suddenly stopped their scuffle. The right third of Kamijou’s vision was blurred. He had no idea how Thor had fared, but he was a member of Gremlin. He surely could have used several pieces of magic that would blow away the entire fast food restaurant. He must have had a reason for not doing so.
As he breathed heavily, Thor asked his question once more.
“So do you want to help her or not?”
“If she really is suffering,” replied Kamijou while ignoring the people watching on from a distance. “But if you are trying to use me for your own ends like Leivinia Birdway and Kihara Kagun, prepare yourself. I will rescue Fräulein Kreutune even if I have to crush your plan.”
Hearing that, Thor gave a thin smile.
“Do as you wish.”
“I am taking action tonight. You choose whatever you think the best option is to save Fräulein Kreutune. It doesn’t matter to me if that is to help me or oppose me. …As long as you end up saving Fräulein Kreutune in the end, I don’t care what your methods are.”
Thor placed his hand atop a table that was still standing and wrote something on a paper napkin using a bluish-white beam of light. He showed Kamijou the writing burned into the napkin before tossing it aside. The paper napkin caught fire around the writing and burned away, leaving no trace of the information written there.
He turned his back on Kamijou and spoke softly.
“I will be there. You should be able to use that information to your advantage whether you plan to help me or oppose me.”
Between the Lines 2
It used to be that criminal punishments were the greatest form of public entertainment in Western Europe.
After all, this was before the day of basketball and video games. Books did exist at that point, but most people did not know how to read or write. They could always appreciate music and theatre, but the majority of the masses had little opportunity to experience such things.
And so public criminal punishments held in the city square were the greatest form of entertainment because they moved people’s emotions in one way or another and would provide a stimulus outside of the normal rhythm of daily life. (Of course, the official reason was so everyone could show their disapproval of the criminal.)
And they did not always simply watch.
In some cases, they would actively participate.
Here is one example.
One possible penalty was public humiliation. It was one of the kinder punishments when compared to being decapitated with an axe or having one’s arms and legs broken and tied in a knot using some giant wheel-like objet d’art.
The person being punished would simply be made to stand in the center of the public square with their arms and legs bound and then left there for a certain amount of time. The level of humiliation of the punishment was increased for the severity of the crime committed. Sometimes the person would have their clothes ripped open or be forced to wear a pig mask.
At first glance, public humiliation did not involve any direct violence.
Nothing was done to the criminal beyond the bound hands and legs.
However, there was an implicit understanding that the criminal had no way to stop the masses whatever they might do. These “good neighbors” who were starved for some kind of stimulation would do all sorts of things to the immobile criminal. They would throw stones at him, hit him with sticks, bring human waste from their houses and dump it on him, and otherwise enjoy the “justified punishment”.
And on top of that, the criminal investigation abilities of the time were quite sloppy even when you did not take the infamous witch hunts into account. And the people were well aware of that. They pretended to do what they did because they could not go against the wishes of the authorities, but it can be guessed they felt a dark joy at punishing these people that were not evil but were neighbors they wished to treat as evil.
That was the way of things in that era.
In that era, criminal charges and legends about the criminal were often added after the fact.
There were many stories told of someone who bumped into a wealthy man being beheaded as a legendarily great thief, or a wife criticizing her husband for cheating on her being proclaimed violent due to demon possession and then her decapitated head blinking or a strange plant shaped like a woman growing from the ground where her blood landed. In fact, these stories even made it into official government records, so a lot of information from that age was of dubious accuracy.
And that is why the legends of that woman were buried amid all the other legends.
That woman outlasted 308 of the trials by ordeal that became for the basis of the “confession by torture” method that was later often used in witch hunts.
It did not matter if she was left within great flames for hours on end or forced to hold scorching hot stones in her hands.
It did not matter if she was tossed into a spring with her arms and legs bound.
It did not matter if she was tied to the top of a tower and struck by lightning.
It did not matter if she was left in a cell without food or water for over a month.
Not only did she not die, but her expression did not even change much, if at all. That woman’s true identity and the trick behind her survival could not be determined simply by calling them legends of the day.
The general form of those trials by ordeal was to put the suspected witch through various ordeals. If she was guilty, god would abandon her and she would be harmed. If she was innocent, god would save her and she would not be harmed.
Later, it was decided that trials by ordeal were testing god which was forbidden, so they changed their methods to simply obtaining confessions by torture. However, the trials by ordeal did achieve some results when it came to Fräulein Kreutune.
Ironically, the judges at the time could only come to one conclusion.
Fräulein Kreutune had not been injured and ergo she was innocent and nothing but a mere human.