Toaru Majutsu no Index:NT Volume6 Chapter7
Chapter 7: One Need Not be a Protagonist. Girls_Battle_Talk.
First, there was a conversation.
A certain multilevel overpass in District 7 was known as a bit of a landmark within Academy City. As the 12 boarding areas for a large scale bus roundabout were all connected by the overpass, it looked like an entire sports field created out of concrete. Also, the top level that could be called the “third floor” was made into a giant road and the underground area was filled with a complicated array of underground pathways that doubled as a shopping area. All the complex ups and downs made it commonly used in escape scenes for police dramas and it was well known but really only as being a good place to use as meeting up point.
Due to the large scale cultural festival known as the Ichihanaransai, the bus routes had been greatly changed. So that people could head to the different schools more efficiently, the routes had been specially changed to go directly from school to school. For that reason, the normally crowded bus roundabout was completely empty.
On the second floor of that multilevel overpass, Fräulein Kreutune wandered unsteadily through that concrete structure that somehow looked like a sports field, perhaps due to the plants growing here and there in an attempt to landscape the area.
A stinging pain ran across the skin of her face. It was not the pain of being scratched by fingernails or pinched on the cheek. It was a pain that felt like an electric shock and it seemed to be coming up from underneath her thin, thin skin. The pain tormented Fräulein Kreutune’s consciousness like insect legs were crawling underneath her skin.
It was often said that sharks followed the smell of blood to find their prey, but they could not accurately track anything relying on that alone. All living creatures had bioelectricity within them. When that was scattered into the ocean water, dedicated organs could capture those slight changes in the electric current to determine the target’s location.
These organs were known as the ampullae of Lorenzini.
Something similar to that had grown within Fräulein Kreutune. Even the king of the sea could only pull it off in the seawater which had exceedingly high conductivity, but she was able to do it through the air.
Technically speaking, she was not pursuing an electric current.
She was pursuing an electromagnetic signal.
She was pursuing the bioelectromagnetic information network that used the identical brainwaves of human clones.
She was pursuing the Misaka Network.
She was unable to read it. She was unable to write to it. She could only perceive the massive amount of signals traveling about as a “pressure”. And she could come to a general estimate of the location of a certain special individual on that network by the rise and drop of that pressure.
In other words, she could track her target.
She could track the location of the brain belonging to the friend known as Last Order.
This was a searching method that was impossible even for the monster known as Academy City’s #1 who could manipulate any vector.
Fräulein Kreutune’s position had already begun to draw closer to that place.
This was of course a function she had not had before.
It was as if the fact that her body had not smelled blood or tasted flesh had led it to urge her on, prod her, and preemptively seal off the idea of giving up because she could not find her target. She wanted it that badly. She wanted that massive amount of information. She wanted the preparations she needed to eclose. She wanted to cast aside all she had been like an empty husk and to become a new life form that did not fit any of the existing categories.
It had truly just been a slight crossing of paths.
That someone had called her a friend.
And now she was going to slip out of it all and cast it aside.
That was the kind of creature Fräulein Kreutune was. She was a living being that had happened to obtain that function. Just as a plant grew when it had water and sunlight and just like ants gathered around something sweet, Fräulein Kreutune was an existence that grew more complex upon consuming information.
Was there really anything wrong with consuming it?
Was it okay to toss aside all those who tried to get in her way?
If she asked, her body would surely give her an answer. It would prepare as many functions as necessary to head to the goal point as quickly as possible. And it would then wordlessly tell her, “Give up. This is the type of creature you are, so follow the guidelines and focus solely on acquiring as much information as possible. Become an existence that does nothing but that.”
The warmer the thing she held inside of her…
And the more she felt she should focus on protecting that thing…
The more she would feel the desire to cast all of that aside. And her inability to stop herself from doing so violently burned her on the inside.
She was painfully aware that she was a lost cause.
She was exhausted.
She wondered what the point had been of all the time she had spent in the past.
No matter what functions she acquired and no matter how much she could do that others could not, she could not stop herself from doing this one simple thing. What did that make her?
She did not want to continue living.
She just wanted it all to come to an end.
She did not want to continue on in this way. She would prefer for it to just stop here. She did not care if all the meaning behind all the time she had spent and everything she had built up was sent crashing down by some strike from the side.
But it would not end.
She could not end it.
Even if she was cut. Even if she was burned. Even if she was shot or struck or crushed or stabbed or bit or hanged or buried or split or ripped or drowned or thrown into molten lava or dried up or struck by lightning or soaked in a barrel of poison or forced between gears or fed to wild beasts.
None of the countless cruel methods that humans had used their high level of intelligence to come up with had been able to bring an end to the life form known as Fräulein Kreutune. She knew that down to the very core of her being.
“…Do you want me to bring this to an end?”
Suddenly, the monster known as Fräulein Kreutune heard someone call out to her from directly in front of her.
She slowly raised her head.
The eyeballs gazing out through the gaps in her long bangs stared at that person.
It was a girl of about 12 who had blonde hair and blue eyes.
Her blouse, miniskirt, and stockings created a contrast of black and white like a high class piano. The reason that outfit that had a certain type of classical air to it did not look out of place on that girl may have been due to the atmosphere of arrogance surrounding her.
Her name was Leivinia Birdway.
She was the boss of the Dawn-Colored Sunlight, the magic cabal that had the greatest scope and ability even in Western Europe.
“I was pursuing Gremlin, but finding you first works too.”
She was a member of the magic side, but she completely ignored the unwritten treaty that existed between magic and science in order to gather information on and research the conditions behind the charismatic people and great leaders that were at the base of each culture regardless of whether they were from the magic side or the science side. She was one portion of the hidden side of the hidden side of the world.
Just by her standing there, the speed of a clock’s hands could change and the blowing wind could overcome the age.
In the name of the intelligence and divinity held by her magic cabal, she could destroy basic knowledge and assumptions.
In other words…
She could even destroy the absolute conditions that prevented an end ever coming to Fräulein Kreutune no matter what.
“It seems the science side describes you as a creature that thinks using consecutive simple thoughts on the level of an insect and therefore are like the opposite of a complex AI, but we have something a bit different to say on the magic side. Of course, the fact that both sides are talking about it means neither side has come to an ultimate answer,” said Leivinia Birdway. “You are an existence with no starting point and no ending point. Or perhaps it would be better to say you have already gone all the way around an unknown number of times. Christianity is a religion that does not accept reincarnation, so they have a clear starting point and goal set. But at the same time, you can view humanity as beginning with the very first one committing a sin and being cast out of paradise and then achieving supreme happiness upon ‘returning’ to heaven. …I guess it is something similar to a marathon held in a city. At some point during the long, difficult journey, you turn around and head back to the stadium. Do you understand?” asked Birdway.
Fräulein Kreutune’s bangs swayed.
She was tilting her head in confusion.
“Perhaps you are an Adam Kadmon that left its mother’s womb before achieving clear individuality. Or perhaps you are an existence that finished learning everything and achieved optimization while inside its mother’s womb. Now you are like a Moebius strip with no front or back, but the conclusion is the same no matter what. What makes you so incredibly special as a human comes from your purity.”
This time, Fräulein Kreutune tilted her head at such a sharp angle that it looked like she was about to snap her own neck.
What about her was pure?
Had there ever been a creature as irrational, eerie, and unstable as her?
But Birdway continued.
“There are analogous examples in physics. For example, pure water, H20, is used in the manufacturing of semiconductors. When the water is heated up in a microwave oven, it may look like a stable liquid, but it will boil as soon as its container is shaken even slightly. You are an existence with that same strange balance.”
She was like a human that had fallen through the gaps of the theories.
In that way, Fräulein Kreutune did not really fall into the levels of complexity normally spoken of.
What she was could not be obtained at #1 or #100; it could only be obtained at the position she happened to be at.
“But the means to prevent the special behavior of pure water and to prevent it from suddenly boiling when it has been evenly heated are quite simple. Even if you are a being that cannot be fully explained from the perspective of the magic side, the techniques of the magic side are enough as long as I only need to defeat you.”
That magic cabal boss smiled.
It was a thin, thin, thin smile.
“Just adding a mere pinch of sand will turn pure water into normal water. That prevents the sudden boiling. And that method is perfect for someone like me.”
That may have been why organizations like the Anglican Church and the Roman Catholic Church had been unable to handle her.
They set forth to increase the purity of mankind and viewed anyone who got in their way to be evil and their enemy. And this naturally led to their methods of attack being dyed in the shades of eliminating impurities.
Leivinia Birdway was the opposite.
She was from a modern Western magic cabal.
Those groups attempted to create new ways of valuing seemingly needless additions by taking the knowledge of the past and sublimating it to techniques leading to the future. They viewed the pure white as being nothing but a canvas. In their minds, the impurities that mixed into that were possibilities to take in new colors and create art. They refused to turn back as they attempted to create colors more wonderful than simple white.
She was one of those people, so she could do it.
She could do it using techniques those with different values viewed as being nothing but a sign of temptation and corruption.
With just a pinch of sand…
Fräulein Kreutune could be transformed into a body that could be killed.
(If my assumptions are correct, he should be able to do this too. Perhaps he wanted to avoid definitively revealing his identity even if it would allow him to kill an inconvenience to his plan.)
“What will you do?” asked Leivinia Birdway. “Obviously, I am not doing this for free. I have my own reasons. A fair amount of sacrifice was forced onto me to obtain information on that spear, after all. I will be using you as bait to draw out that Magic God. But once that is over, you are free. I will end it all for you if that is what you wish.”
Fräulein Kreutune’s vision wavered.
That was her reaction to having the very base of her thoughts slip away at that extraordinary possibility.
And at the same time…
It felt like something she had been holding inside came gushing out. Something seemed to run from her cheeks to her ears. A new function allowing her to easily crush a skull between her jaws and efficiently devour the brain within was showing itself on her face.
Even so, she stayed put.
She forced herself to stay put.
She made sure her opponent had a chance to attack.
And that sign displayed how she felt about the situation.
“That was plenty.”
She heard the sound of something slicing through the air.
At some point a wand had appeared in Leivinia Birdway’s right hand.
“Do not worry. After I blow away your arms and legs, I will freeze you in a coffin at minus 195 degrees. Even if I cannot kill you before you exhibit your special behavior, history has proven that you can be sealed away. I will preserve you like that in order to use you as bait for that Magic God.”
After saying that, the magic cabal boss fell silent for a moment.
With the wand held at the ready and enough power stored within it to sever the limbs of the monster that forcibly turned aside even the power of Academy City’s #1 Level 5, Birdway finally whispered something more.
Her voice was quiet.
But it was certain.
“Everything is okay now. The situation will not grow any worse.”
When she heard that voice, Fräulein Kreutune’s face could be seen moving slightly from where it was hidden behind her bangs.
It looked like she was smiling.
Even though she had to be imagining her ultimate fate…no, because she was imagining it.
As Leivinia Birdway looked at her dead on, she cast aside all emotion to carry out this final attack perfectly.
Just before she could…
Some giant object fell right between Fräulein Kreutune and Leivinia Birdway.
As previously explained, the multilevel overpass had several levels between the road on the top level and the underground passageways. If one jumped from the road up top, that phenomenon was possible without needing to fly.
And the person who had done so was someone who had once betrayed Leivinia Birdway.
It was someone who always ended up in the middle of the world’s conflicts whether he liked it or not thanks to the special power residing in his right hand.
It was a spiky-haired boy.
It was a small hero who would become anyone’s ally.
“Hey, Birdway. How about we fight and make up?”
It was Kamijou Touma.
Even though he was always surrounded by misfortune he would always stand in the way of anyone else’s misfortune.
It did not matter how injured he was.
It did not matter if he had been betrayed, deceived, and shot in the side.
He would always raise his right hand to protect someone else.
“Why?” muttered Misaka Mikoto as she toyed with her hair on the road at the top level.
It might have been due to the unique population distribution of the Ichihanaransai or it might have been due to someone setting up some kind of trick, but the amount of traffic had disappeared to an unnatural extent.
“Why do I have to go along with what you say? Are you seriously asking a girl to help you in a fight? Come to think of it, I can’t think of a single reason I have to go along with this.”
The asphalt continued on and on and on like a runway.
Someone stood further down the road.
She had white feathers decorating her hair. She wore a short dress with pants forcibly worn underneath, a bulletproof vest, and protectors covering her elbows and knees. It gave her the silhouette of armor. And on top of it all, she had an unnaturally large sword called a claymore hanging down from her hand. It looked like she was holding one of the steel sheets used in construction.
As she walked, the tip of the sword…or rather, the “corner” audibly scraped across the surface of the asphalt.
Her name was Brunhild Eiktobel.
Without even trying to hide her killer intent or aggression, the blonde-haired, blue-eyed woman asked a question in a flat voice.
“Are you my enemy?”
“It’s kind of hard to say.”
Mikoto then heard a voice from behind her.
She was standing back to back with the Lightning God Thor who was in charge of direct combat within Gremlin.
He was facing a different enemy.
“I told you not to call me that! Who the hell are you anyway!?”
“They have formed a group to beat the shit out of Kamijou Touma, who has already been shot in the side, and then abduct a woman named Fräulein Kreutune before his eyes. And they’ll be whispering to Fräulein Kreutune that she’ll be happiest if they use her for their purposes and then kill her. So what do you think, Miko-chan? Do you approve of that? Do you oppose it? Or will you take the clever route and just look away? Which side do you want to stand on?”
With an annoyed tone in her voice, she said, “So it’s the same pattern as always.”
“Now you’re catching on.”
“I guess he hasn’t changed at all even after disappearing in Hawaii and heading to that Baggage City place.”
“I heard that was a horrible battlefield, but it seems he still managed to save some lives. I have no room to talk…in fact, you could say I’m just as much to blame…but Kamijou Touma is trying to finish things with the person you could call the primary cause of all this. Will you support him? Or will you get in his way?”
There was plenty she wanted to say.
But Mikoto just gave up and lightly clicked her tongue.
She did so because she had seen it. She had seen the look of anguish on a certain boy’s face after the incident in Hawaii had come to an end and he had realized he had been made to act for someone else’s purposes. He had fought, struggled, had some coincidences work in his favor, and had finally managed to reach a place where he could bring an end to the string of nightmares for which he had pulled the trigger himself. This was a one-of-a-kind situation that would never come again if he let it escape him here.
So now what should Mikoto do?
No, what did she want to do?
She did not even hesitate.
Bluish-white sparks flew from her bangs.
She slowly turned back to face Brunhild Eiktobel who was still approaching.
“You owe me one.”
“Shouldn’t you be saying that to Kamijou-kun?”
“It’s embarrassing, so I’m saying it here where he can’t hear me.”
With a slight smile, Thor turned around to face his enemy as well.
His enemy was Silvia. She was one of the fewer than 20 Saints in the world as well as an elite who was one of the highest ranked of the royal maids who doubled as shrine maidens and bodyguards for the British Royal Family. She was not wearing a traditional and elegant maid uniform. She wore work pants, a work apron, and goggles in a way that looked “somehow like” a maid uniform. A smile that could be viewed as lively appeared on her face.
“How about we get this started?” she asked.
“Sorry. It looks like I kept you waiting.”
“Oh, don’t worry about it. I got to see something wonderful, so I’m satisfied. …And it really was wonderful. I wish I had been on your side this time.”
“It’s not too late.”
“Unfortunately, I can’t.”
The sound of something slicing through the air could be heard.
It was coming from a long, long bundle of rope in Silvia’s hand.
“I am jealous, but surely you understand that this is not a situation where I can act based on my own personal desires.”
“My enemy certainly is pathetic.”
“Hearing that is painful. The sad thing about maids is that we can’t fight for honor like a king or a knight.”
A conflict could not be avoided.
That battle between the powerful would spread destruction around the area whether they liked it or not.
But if it could be contained to this one area that was nearly deserted, it would at least be better than the worst case scenario where the situation covered multiple areas of the city simultaneously, even those causing the damage had no idea who was getting caught in the middle of it all, and the overall scope was unknown.
“Mjölnir… Perform final connection check. Once it is done, begin supply.”
As soon as Thor muttered those words, the color of his eyes changed.
His hair and fingertips began emitting a pale bluish-white light. It looked like St. Elmo’s fire floating around a ship’s mast during a storm at sea. Unlike before, Thor’s power was being drastically raised by someone other than himself.
“I see. So you normally use it like that.”
“Don’t try to say this isn’t fair. You also have two sources of power as both a Saint and a royal maid.”
As he spoke, Thor lightly waved his right hand.
Beams of light similar to arc fusion blades were emitted from his fingertips.
And they grew to 10 meters right away.
Ignoring the explosive noise of the air being roasted, Thor opened his mouth to speak. He had a look of disinterest on his face despite drawing out enough firepower to level a building just by waving his hand like he was shooing away an insect.
And this was just a fragment of his power.
This was nothing but an experiment to see just how far his power had been raised.
“Let’s finish this quickly. I doubt a fight with someone as pathetic as you will be any fun at all.”
Accelerator and Kakine Teitoku.
Those two were the top ranking monsters created by Academy City and known as the city’s #1 and #2. They now faced off in the underground passageways at the bottommost level of the multilevel overpass.
Their conflict did not center on Fräulein Kreutune.
They did not have some grand reason for being there such as protecting the city, protecting world peace, or supporting or stopping someone’s conspiracy.
So were they acting based on personal emotions such as hatred?
A woman Accelerator knew had almost been killed thanks to a surprise attack carried out by Kakine Teitoku, and the violence created when Accelerator gave into his anger had crushed Kakine Teitoku’s entire body and driven him to the edge of death.
But that was not enough to explain it all.
What was down at the root of it all?
They gazed at each other, stared at each other, and carefully observed each other.
While holding his modern cane, Accelerator spat out, “Pathetic.”
“Is that so?” was Kakine Teitoku’s surprisingly honest response.
It was a bit unclear if that boy could really be said to be Kakine Teitoku himself since over half of his internal organs had been swapped out and even the color of the skin covering his body had changed to something inhuman.
“It’s simple. It really is simple. I was forced to do a lot of things while I was hidden deep underground. It was all humiliating, but I gained quite a bit too. And thanks to that I can use my own power to gather everything I lack. This is something that I did not have before. It is a brand new inspiration. And, well, now I’m curious. I’m so curious I just have to know.”
It sounded like he was whispering.
It sounded like he was making an appeal.
“How far have I come?”
Kakine Teitoku asked an honest question with the same look on his face as someone who had been deprived of all their special privileges by dropping out of a dark side organization yet had been freed from all sorts of bonds at the same time.
“How far can my Dark Matter go in this world?”
There were tons of things he wanted to try out. There were more items he wished to attempt than there were stars in the sky. But the one issue he had to take care of first overpowered the rest.
That is, had Kakine Teitoku surpassed Accelerator?
Nothing could begin without resolving that issue and everything would be over once it had been resolved.
That was exactly why the #1 only had that one word to say.
“If you really had prepared everything you lacked, you wouldn’t still be stuck on that issue.”
What did one gain by taking an Academy City esper power to its extreme?
What did one gain by defeating someone and claiming their throne for oneself?
Those powers were nothing but a means…nothing but a tool.
He had managed to survive the full brunt of Accelerator’s out-of-control attack, searched with all his might for a means of regaining his freedom after being hidden underground, and had ultimately gained a new ability not even Accelerator had that allowed him to regenerate his body and manufacture his own organs.
He had come so far and yet the monster known as Kakine Teitoku had not found anyone he wished to protect.
What if he had found just one person to protect?
Even if it was pitiable and unsightly, what if he had viewed a wider world and obtained that?
Academy City’s #2 monster might have been able to take his overwhelming and sinister violence and turn it into nothing more than a power.
“I’ve had enough of this,” spat out Accelerator in a tone of disappointment. “You may have worked out a strategy, made your preparations, waited for the opportune timing, and accounted for any nightmarish coincidences…but it’s no use. The way you are now isn’t even worth testing against me. You’re just overwhelmingly pathetic.”
“Don’t say that,” declared Kakine Teitoku with a thin, thin smile on his lips. “Those conditions you were talking about didn’t mention the location. The location can be very important. I made sure to wait for you here. Yes, that’s right. Let me say it again: the location can be very important.”
“Does this place bring back any memories? Or do you not even remember anymore? I suppose it was just one among many. With how overboard you went back then, it isn’t too surprising you wouldn’t remember every little one.”
Accelerator did not recognize the place.
For one thing, he had only fought Kakine Teitoku that one time during the conflict between the dark side organizations of Group, School, and Item. That had been enough to decide the victor between the #1 and #2. But that battle’s stage had not been in an underground passageway.
However, Kakine Teitoku continued speaking.
He spoke clearly and confidently.
“Do you really not remember? You really are a heartless bastard. You took so very many lives yet you don’t even bother to remember them?”
Something like a small thorn stabbed into Accelerator’s mind.
But it was too late.
Kakine Teitoku who controlled Academy City’s #2 Level 5 power of Dark Matter took his next action.
“Ha ha! This was one of those stages! This was one of the stages for those repeated experiments where you massacred human clones while going on about being the strongest or invincible or whatever!!”
“You don’t mean…!!” shouted Accelerator as he recalled that Kakine Teitoku had the power to create anything that was lacking.
But the change had already begun.
Some white substance that could not be called a liquid or a solid suddenly spread out in every direction from where Kakine Teitoku stood. The substance’s surface undulated, rose up, and took on new form.
Accelerator knew that form very well.
The form was modeled off of the clones who were themselves modeled off of a certain girl.
The people Accelerator had once killed during those cruel experiments. They symbolized his sins.
He could tell his vision was growing unsteady. He could not stop it.
Several girls with the exact same face tilted their heads in puzzlement, stared at their hands, moved their eyes that held little emotion, and otherwise checked on their situation.
And their lips moved.
“Misaka has encountered the food known as ramen. The best type is tonkotsu with thin noodles, analyzes Misaka.”
“No, no. Shio ramen with soft noodles is the true delicacy. Does Misaka have to kick your ass? asks Misaka as she grabs your collar.”
“Don’t you dare confuse shio ramen with shio butter ramen, says Misaka as she joins the fray to prove which is the best.”
It was so out of place.
The way those expressionless girls lightly hit at each other while inadvertently revealing their midriffs and flipping up their skirts wore horribly at Accelerator’s nerves.
They were not just dolls.
They breathed, had a pulse, and had the warmth of life just like any other person.
And he had…
“Oh, it isn’t like these are actually them.”
The innocent scuffle suddenly ended as if some switch had been thrown.
Their heads turned and the emotionless camera lenses of their eyes stared directly at Accelerator.
Something huge had forcibly interfered to make them ignore their individual beliefs.
It was as if…
As if some kind of experiment had begun.
“Not even I can fix someone that has completely died. Nor can I make something completely identical to them,” said Kakine Teitoku with a grin. It was the type of grin that would never have appeared on his face had he obtained what he truly needed. “This is why I chose this location. I suppose you could call it ‘residual thought’. At any rate, I have taken in all the information remaining in these areas and given them shape. There are plenty of ways to read thoughts, but for me it’s like a record or a CD. I run Dark Matter across the tiny ups and downs on the surfaces of materials to obtain the information. The event that once happened here left its mark in ways too tiny for the eye to see. The record of those vibrations allows me to replay their final moments.”
They were nothing but imitations.
It was like replaying a recorded scream over and over again.
But the original sound was real.
Ultimately, it was real.
Even if they were being used for someone else’s purposes and even if they were being led around in an unsightly fashion. Those girls had not been registered by the government, no notification of death was issued for them, they had no grave or remains, and even the recordings on security devices such as cameras and sensors had been completely eliminated. Not only had they been given an irrational death, but no evidence that they had ever even lived remained. This was truly the very, very last proof of their existence.
Could he really destroy that?
Even if he had the power to do so, was it right for him to do so?
After all, he was Accelerator, the one who had ruthlessly robbed those girls of their lives with his own hands.
Could he really erase the only remaining piece of evidence of them in the entire world?
“Heh heh. Looks like it’s actually working.”
The #2 smiled, and smiled, and smiled.
He spread violence on a level befitting of one who was still a monster.
“Academy City esper powers are controlled using high level calculation ability. Even if you don’t normally think of it that way, you are still carrying out complex calculations without knowing it. Throwing that out of order can be quite useful. There’s no harm in starting with that, don’t you think?”
Even all this was just the “start”.
He was merely casually testing it out.
“Now then, will you lose the conditions needed for your reflection? Or will you bring out those much, much more insane wings? However this goes, I’m looking forward to it. I do hope you at least make this worthy of testing out my ability!”
Kamijou Touma stared directly at Leivinia Birdway.
But even as he did, the one he was truly “facing” was Fräulein Kreutune.
“Are you going to die to bring it all to an end?”
“I don’t know who your friend is. I don’t know what exactly it is you’re dealing with. But you can’t be serious. If you can’t bear to lose your friend, you can’t seriously want to give that same pain to your friend.”
“There is someone who wants to protect you just as much as you want to protect them. There is someone who does not want to see you hurt just as much as you don’t want to see them hurt.”
His enemy was powerful and he could not take his eyes off her for an instant.
That was why Kamijou spoke with his back to Fräulein Kreutune.
“So don’t be so ready to say you want to die!! If you live, struggle, and suffer, then you can find it!! You can find the path to an ending in which everyone is smiling! It can’t just be about you. It has to be about this person you want to protect so much, too!!”
He could not continue speaking any longer.
Leivinia Birdway had silently begun to move.
It looked like all she had done was slightly wave the wand she was holding.
But in reality, the wand had turned into a sword at some point and an overwhelming gust of wind was created. It cut in between Kamijou and Fräulein Kreutune, and it completely sliced apart the giant overpass that looked like a sports arena.
With the point of the slice as the edge, the overpass tilted along one of its supports like a seesaw. Kamijou and Birdway slid down to ground level.
“…What a fool,” said Birdway as if spitting out the words. “Fräulein Kreutune is not a human like you think she is. I don’t know if she was lacking something at birth or if she gained this strange behavior by possessing too much, but everything down to her basic construction is beyond our understanding.”
“Is that so?” cut in Kamijou casually. And he continued further. “She may work on some complicated theory or some difficult to understand reasoning, but all I see is a girl desperately trying to protect her friend. All I see is a girl who has been putting up with so much pain for so long as she tries to endure and hold on so she is not swept away, and has ultimately decided it is easy to make excuses and just give up on everything.”
“And that’s all I need. The conflict between Gremlin and Ollerus’s group over her? The final piece to make some kind of special spear? …I don’t care about any of that. There is a girl before me who is seriously considering some ridiculous idea of throwing away her own life to save a friend! There is no possible reason to not reach out to help her!!”
As he shouted, Kamijou recalled what Thor had once said in a certain fast food restaurant.
My enemy certainly has become pathetic.
Kamijou finally understood what he had meant. Not doing even the things he could do out of a fear of failure was not his way of doing things. He may have been deceived, used, and unwittingly led around, but he had still had a small power back then. Even if all he could do was run down the rails someone else had prepared, he could still desperately stretch out his hand to grab hold of someone else’s hand.
What did it matter who won in the grand scheme of things?
What good was a decision made while only looking to the distant future?
Did he want to become someone who spent so much time looking at the big picture that he did not even notice that his giant feet were trampling others?
“I heard what she said. She may have been muttering about functions and eating brains, but I distinctly heard it. She said she doesn’t want to eat that brain. And so I made my decision. Wanting to lend a helping hand is human nature.”
“What if those words were nothing but an imitation?”
Birdway’s sharp, coldhearted words seemed to stab into Kamijou.
These were the words of an enemy.
She was truly trying to crush the core of Kamijou Touma’s being.
“You are mistaken. You are mistaken about the core of this issue. You are mistaken in your belief that Fräulein Kreutune has a mind like you do and that it functions in the same way as yours.”
“This is not an issue of good and evil or liking and disliking. Fräulein Kreutune is fundamentally different from us.”
Birdway lightly swung her sword.
At some point, it had transformed into a cup.
“She is a creature that only appears to think. That is what she is now and that is what she was when her name was recorded in the historical documents. She has always been like that.”
That living creature did not possess the function to carry out complex thoughts or to have deep emotions well up within her chest.
She merely made repeated “thoughts” that were even more simplified than those of an insect. It was similar to the thought processes that a robot not equipped with a complex AI used to control its actions and make decisions.
Cool places were better than hot places.
Warm places were better than cold places.
By repeating those decisions with only two possible answers one after another, she could continue to find the easiest environment to live in even without great intelligence or experience.
Eating sweet things was better than eating bitter things.
Choosing bright places was better than choosing dark places.
Wearing soft cloth was better than wearing hard cloth.
When thousands and tens of thousands of those simple decisions were made, that living creature was able live in the optimal spot, eat the optimal foods, and wear the optimal clothes. As she continually moved farther and farther in the more comfortable direction, the living creature came across a certain decision.
It was related to the living creatures known as humans.
Would she mimic them or not?
The living creature made her decision, but she failed. She went to live in a certain village, but she was too sturdy. This fact harmed no one, but it was enough for the people to treat her as something strange and different.
Even as she was thrown into a cell and treated as a witch, she continued her simple decisions.
The living creature decided mimicking the people around her and behaving so that she would gain the benefits of a village was the ideal path to live comfortably.
The kind priest said…
To repeat, that living creature did not possess the function of complex thought or the function for deep emotions to fill her heart.
She only had the function to constantly make simple decisions regarding the phenomena before her eyes in order to advance in the more comfortable direction.
The kind priest said…
Where did that image of the smiling woman in those old documents come from? Where was that woman who smiled and insisted she was but a mere human despite not shedding a single drop of blood while being thoroughly tormented in countless tortures and executions?
The answer was simple.
She had of course done nothing but carry out her simple decisions.
In that cell, she had observed the other women who had been rejected by the village and unreasonably convicted as witches. And she had mimicked their behavior.
I am a normal human.
I am most certainly not an evil witch.
Her surprisingly pure eyes had simply observed the women who had continued to insist that in their final moments.
That was the type of creatures she was.
That was just what Fräulein Kreutune was.
She had not spoken those things because she had thought them.
She had not insisted her uninjured state meant she was human because she had believed in the trials by ordeal.
It was nothing but simple decisions.
Nothing but yes or no.
A chain of zeros and ones.
It just so happened that her behavior had made it appear she thought like other humans and felt emotions like other humans. If it had not been a human village before her back then but a pack of lions, she would likely have tried to obtain the benefits of that group by mimicking those wild beasts.
The truth was much too simple and it was that simplicity that caused a chill to run down the back of those that heard it.
“When you get down to it,” said Birdway as she narrowed her eyes and toyed with the cup in her hand, “there is nothing inside of her. No matter how many words she uses and no matter how much she clenches her teeth and holds back tears, there is no real driving force within her. That is just the kind of creature Fräulein Kreutune is. …How can you believe someone like that? The human heart can seal away ‘functions’. But she has no real ‘mind’ so she is a slave to them. If the pattern of those simple decisions…of those zeros and ones changes just slightly, she will unhesitatingly eat the brain of someone she had previously thought of as a friend. And it is all nothing but her simple thoughts leading her in the more comfortable direction.”
“I believe her,” instantly replied Kamijou Touma despite hearing all that.
Even Birdway showed a tinge of surprise at that.
Kamijou continued, “If the ultimate answer a living creature comes to with its simple decisions meant to find the optimal decision is that she doesn’t want to hurt her friend, it doesn’t matter what process led to that decision. If she is the type of human that can come to such a kind answer, then I can believe in Fräulein Kreutune.”
“Are you saying you could even grow emotionally attached to a doll made of metal and plastic that’s expressions are controlled by a program!? Are you saying you are going to protect something that only has the appearance of a human even after you have been shot in the side!?”
“Yes. If something that smiles like a human, cries like a human, is considerate of others like a human, and tries to protect others like a human is about to be scrapped, then I will clench my fist. It doesn’t matter what she’s made of or what the inner workings of her head are. She isn’t a monster or something strange and different. I’m much more frightened by people who have a brain that can understand others properly but still enjoy deceiving and hurting others.”
But this was not just a hypothetical issue.
Kamijou had met quite a few people with complex circumstances surrounding them. He had met a girl created from an aggregation of AIM diffusion fields and he had met those who made up a network of human clones where the whole could influence the individual and the individual could influence the whole.
But what did that matter?
Did the fact that they had a different construction or makeup mean there was something fundamentally different about who they were?
How was it human to abandon them for that reason?
“And it was because you feel the same that you did not attack Fräulein Kreutune right away, wasn’t it?” said Kamijou as a challenge. His voice held conviction. “You stood before her and spoke to her despite knowing the base of her thoughts was fundamentally different from your own. Why did you treat her like an equal? Wasn’t that because you were taking Fräulein Kreutune’s heart into consideration!?”
A large amount of water appeared around Birdway. It swirled around creating a wall that completely surrounded her.
With cold eyes, that magic cabal boss held out the symbolic weapon controlling water.
“Even if she does have a heart that is just of a different type from our own, that does not change what must be done. To destroy Gremlin, the production of that spear must be stopped. If I prove I can do that, the one looking down from the center of that group will make her move. It took a lot of sacrifice to acquire this information. I must lure out the Magic God Othinus and crush her. That takes top priority.”
“So it comes down to that in the end,” muttered Kamijou as he clenched his fist once more. “But Birdway, you are probably going about this the wrong way.”
“…What do you mean?”
“Even if you defeat Othinus by sacrificing Fräulein Kreutune and even if Gremlin completely falls apart without that mental support, taking this quickest and shortest path by deceiving and hurting everyone will only create mutual distrust and suspicion. There is no point in this if you and your Dawn-Colored Sunlight just become more of a monster than Gremlin. For the world and the people you want to protect, this will only change the name of their enemy. This will never bring about peaceful days. And so,” said Kamijou without allowing his words to come to an end. “Let’s end this. I will stop you here so your determination does not lead to such a horrible conclusion and so that the role of the ultimate villain is not forced onto you!!”
In the underground passageways at the lowest level of the multilevel overpass, girls with the same faces as the ones Accelerator had once killed…or rather, something white that had taken their form…charged towards Accelerator. They moved as quickly as a motorcycle and they occasionally kicked off the walls or pillars to maintain their attack course. This was of course something the original girls could not have done. But it was still something Accelerator could easily imagine.
If the Sisters had gained bodies made of Dark Matter, they very well might have chosen precisely that sort of strategy.
His vision wavered. He could feel a prickling pain at the back of his head.
He instantly carried out the calculations to control the necessary vectors in the scene before his eyes. He perfectly grasped the movements of those girls who kept low as if sliding across the floor, circled around outside his vision, or kicked off of a pillar to attack from above.
He managed that, but he was not able to counterattack.
In a move that was truly rare for Academy City’s #1 monster, he simply moved his body aside to evade the attacks. He took action to just barely escape the range of those slender arms swinging from various directions at once.
He was not afraid of being hit by their attacks.
As they were made of Dark Matter, it was true that their fists had become blunt weapons heavier than large hammers that could easily destroy a human face. And their fingernails could rip apart their prey more easily than a pair of wire cutters that could easily slice through wires as thick as a finger.
He did not evade because he was afraid of having his own body torn apart.
It was quite the opposite.
He was afraid his own reflection would smash their arms and legs.
Of course, this was not a situation in which he could take such a half-hearted stance.
Kakine Teitoku held his right hand out in front of him from where he stood a bit away.
“You are full of openings.”
A great roar exploded out.
Kakine Teitoku’s entire pure white arm turned into a giant wing. The countless feathers that made up that wing turned into sharp blades. They shot out explosively. Or more accurately, they stretched out like spears with tremendous force, bent in places, and simultaneously attacked Accelerator from many different angles all around him.
They did not even bother slipping through the gaps between the Sisters.
The spears easily pierced straight through the girls.
Accelerator was unable to evade in time and his shaken thoughts were unable to fully implement his reflection. One of the spears tore a shallow wound along the top of his shoulder. Accelerator’s body was thrown through the air in a tailspin. He just barely managed to avoid collapsing to the ground and instead landed on the tips of his toes. Only then did he comprehend the terrible scene before him.
They were like insects.
They were like insects stuck to the wall with long, narrow, and very sharp pins.
He heard a strange squirming noise.
It was the sound of those things shaped like the Sisters repeatedly carrying out their predetermined actions despite having being held motionlessly in midair thanks to being pierced through the torso, arms, legs, or even neck. They made no cries of pain and their faces were not distorted in fear. They did not even realize they had been disposed of. Those hopeless dolls merely continued to faithfully carry out their master’s orders.
Accelerator’s face writhed ominously at what he saw.
No matter how hard he tried to suppress it, he could not help but remember. He remembered those girls who had once been treated like experimental animals as Academy City’s strongest monster unhesitatingly devoured them.
His vision grew dizzied.
If Kakine Teitoku was going to toy with him, Accelerator would do to him what he had once done to them.
But then Accelerator saw Kakine Teitoku draw in the countless spears extending from him. The white girls held in place by them once more regained freedom. As if to hold that monster in check, they moved in to attack while dragging their broken bodies along.
“I did a lot of research on you. After all, I had more than enough time to think,” said the #2 monster with a smile. “It’s no good. Your method just won’t work. …Sure, it looks like you have atoned for what you did. The host model that holds the overall will of the Misaka Network has forgiven you. But that does not mean you have been completely forgiven. And I’m sure you know that fact very well.”
As he was unable to defeat or even attack them, Accelerator merely continued to evade.
“After all, you view the Sisters as having an aggregate whole in the Misaka Network but you also seem to think the individual personalities of each terminal must be recognized. So the overall will has accepted you? So what? Only the one who was killed can understand the feelings of the one who was killed. If you think about it, it should be obvious.”
He tore at Accelerator with his words.
He dug into him.
He thought he had cut off all forms of airborne vibrations, but whether he liked it or not, that voice that was filled with true malice tugged at him, pried open his mind, forcefully slipped inside, and stabbed into his heart. Those thorns he could not pull out robbed him of his composure bit by bit. The equations that controlled his great power fell into disarray.
“And there is no longer any way for you to determine whether you have truly been forgiven.”
Accelerator was surrounded by Kakine Teitoku’s trick.
He was trapped in a cage made up of gentle words.
“The final piece that might be able to tell you what those you killed thought is this. These final pieces of personal information to remain in this world. But…does it really matter? If you crush them, destroy them, and send them into eternal darkness, your sins will disappear. Suspicions go unpunished. If it is something no one can ever know, then there’s no problem, is there? And then you can return to your peaceful world with all the loose ends tied up.”
Accelerator’s consciousness had been thrown into such disarray that he could barely grasp the words being spoken.
And Kakine Teitoku’s gentle voice tore at his nerves some more.
He was so filled with anger that he almost lost his balance. And only when he was truly cornered there did he finally realize something. Not only was he unable to control his power, but he was not even properly carrying out the calculations; he barely even noticed anymore that he needed to stand and walk on his own two feet thanks to his injured brain.
“Be crushed by the symbol of your own sins and die, you worm.”
The white girls with the same form as the Sisters rushed in to take advantage of that opportunity. Countless arms that rivaled large hammers and wire cutters shot towards him all at once.
It was all over.
Or it should have been.
A tremendous beam of light suddenly broke through the wall and blew away one of the white girls.
This scene occurred right in front of Accelerator who had hesitated to hurt his opponents despite the great danger he was in.
He looked dumbfounded.
He felt like his thoughts had been roasted with the color white.
A face peered in through the large hole in the wall that was glowing orange around the edge. The face naturally belonged to a monster the city had created with cutting edge technology just like Accelerator and Kakine Teitoku.
She was Mugino Shizuri.
She was Academy City’s #4. She was the girl also known as Meltdowner.
The appearance of this new threat caused the white girls to stop their attack and change their formation to deal with an attack from both sides.
Mugino ignored them and spoke in an annoyed tone.
“Come on now, #1. If you want to die, then just get it over with. It pisses me off to have to wait my turn. As you can see, I blew one of them away, but don’t get too upset. It’s your own fault for taking so long against something like this.”
Accelerator felt a scorching pain in his head. It led him to shout out.
“Don’t get pissed at me, little monster. You know you’re pointing that in the wrong direction, don’t you?” Mugino lightly waved her index finger made from cutting edge technology and continued. “Only the one who was killed can understand the feelings of the one who was killed. He’s right about that. But residual thought given shape? A phonograph replaying their final moments? Who cares? It isn’t actually them. He’s just making a human model by putting clay over the bones of a corpse.”
“There may be people out there who can truly imagine how the dead feel and shed tears based on it. There may be people who find something the dead left behind and finish it in their place. There may be people who save the dead in that way, but that is not something people like us who killed others while soaked in evil can do. There is nothing we can do,” said Mugino.
That last comment seemed to stab at Accelerator.
But she did not stop there.
“The dead cannot be brought back to life no matter what technology is used. Just speaking from the viewpoint of CPR, someone whose heart has stopped and someone who is clearly dead are two very different things. …You must live in quite the naïve world if you fell for something as simple as this. Did you think someone you had killed might come back to life? Did you think the crime of killing them might be cancelled out if that happened? Were you living while holding that hope inside?”
It had happened just before dawn.
The dark side of Academy City had attacked Mugino Shizuri using someone who looked exactly like Frenda Seivelun. When that had happened, her emotions had not prevented her from unhesitatingly crushing that enemy with her Meltdowner.
The dead could not be brought back to life.
Only the one who had been killed could speak of the feelings of the one who had been killed. Or at the very least, someone who had sullied their hands in the darkness could never speak of them.
What if something that looked just like them was set up and someone still living used it to put words in the dead’s mouth for their own purposes?
That would be desecrating the dead.
That was the lowest method possible that even a sinner could get angry at.
“I read the reports about you and those clones,” said Mugino readily. “It was almost cute compared to me who killed for no reason at all. You still have some room for complicated and convoluted excuses. You’re probably still going to hell just as much as I am, but there may be some things you can do before you go there. …So what will you do? If you want to fool yourself into thinking you’re actually facing the dead and let them kill you as revenge, that’s fine by me. If you want to retrieve the dead’s dignity and peaceful rest from the bastard who dug up their bones and added flesh to them for his own amusement, that’s fine by me too. It’s your pathetic life. Do whatever the hell you want.”
“I know…” The words slipped out of Accelerator’s clenched teeth as if he was trying to crush them. “I know that. I know I’m just licking my own wounds. I know they only look like the real thing because I’m superimposing my own wounds over them. But even so…”
It was as if Accelerator was opening up his own wounds and letting dark blood flow out.
He was choosing to touch his own greatest pain.
“That is…They are the final proof that those I killed ever existed. No matter how horrible a method they are being used for, they are still the final evidence that the lives I stole were ever here!!”
“…That’s all the more reason,” spat out Mugino. “You say that is all there is left. You say that is the entirety of what lives on of someone. Well, all of that has been stolen and is being used and controlled. If that is acceptable…if you – not the dead – find that to be acceptable, then just let yourself be killed like the loser you are. I’ll finish everything afterwards.”
She was not saying all this in order to warn him of the path he was taking.
With the path she had walked down, she was certainly not qualified to do that.
“Don’t think you can end this without getting your hands dirty.”
Even so, something did sit well with her.
And so she spoke.
“You have to dirty your hands to give the dead a clean end. Only the one killed can know how the one killed feels, but only the living can act based on their feelings for the dead. …Rejecting that and running away is not being honest or being a pacifist. It is being a coward.”
In truth, he knew that.
Even if he was injured, collapsed pathetically to the ground, and had his life taken here, the dead no longer existed, so they would think nothing of it one way or the other. The whole reason killing was such a taboo was because it robbed people of even that basic function.
He just needed resolve.
He needed to bring new doubt to what was supporting the very base of his psyche.
Even if the overall will of the Misaka Network had accepted him…
Even if the special unit known as Last Order had forgiven him…
That did not mean it was over.
That was no reason to abandon those dead who were now being used as playthings.
“…I will destroy them,” muttered Accelerator. Great power entered his voice. “It’ll be all right. If you need something to prove you existed, I will be that remnant. I will dig deeply into this world to leave behind an indelible mark that will prove that you were here as the ones who were sacrificed to the monster that I am. These twisted records are no longer needed. I just have to return you to a place where the dark side of science like me can’t reach you. I will end it all!!”
Finally, Kakine Teitoku opened his mouth after listening in with a thin smile.
He could have violently interfered at any time, but he chose to simply watch.
Like the audience that began speaking amongst themselves as soon as the play ended and the theatre lights came on.
“Is that how you’re going to accept it? Only the one killed can know how the one killed feels, so you’re just going to claim you don’t need to know and stop thinking about it?”
“You would never understand. You are the type who puts words in the dead’s mouth for your own benefit and never faces how you feel about the dead yourself. They say not even death can cure an idiot. Well, it looks like nothing can cure you of being pathetic. You’re powerful, but you’re pathetic. It might have been better for you if you had just died back then. That way you could have ended life as the high level esper that defeated me, the #4. But you didn’t know to quit when you were ahead, and now you’re going to lose even that.”
Mugino’s tone was one of disinterest.
An oddly bright light grew from her palm.
“And it isn’t like I don’t have my own reasons to be here. I was attacked by a false Frenda last night. You were the biggest factor of the darkness active at that time and the interest in playing with the dead was the same. I don’t know what your purpose in that was, but I’m going to make you pay for disturbing her grave, you piece of shit.”
The #1 and the #4 specialized in destruction.
The #2 had the ability to eternally create.
Those monsters had split into two groups and glared at each other. The battle began in the very next moment.
On the road at the top level of the multilevel overpass that had an unnatural absence of cars, Misaka Mikoto and Brunhild Eiktobel faced each other.
This too may have been a historic moment.
On one side was Misaka Mikoto the Railgun, one of the top ranked espers created by the science side.
On the other side was Brunhild Eiktobel who possessed the innate characteristics of a Saint that were exceedingly rare even on the magic side.
They were about to clash.
For a battle that was brought about by coincidence, it threatened to have great effects to both the magic side and science side.
However, the battle was overwhelmingly one-sided.
Academy City espers may have possessed quite a bit of power, but Brunhild Eiktobel possessed the rare qualities of a Christian Saint. And on top of that, she also possessed the rare qualities of a Norse Valkyrie. The two abilities worked against each other and the upper limit of her power changed over a set period like the waxing and waning of the moon. However, she did not currently appear to be having any problems related to that.
And there was a problem that came before trivial differences in power.
Brunhild Eiktobel could reach a top speed that exceeded the speed of sound.
And she brought out that top speed from the very first step.
By the time the explosive noise rang out, it was already too late.
From the perspective of one’s bodily senses, Brunhild seemed to just disappear. And since she was moving faster than sound, one could never react in time based on sound.
Brunhild Eiktobel charged up to a point right in front of Mikoto and vigorously swung up the claymore hanging down from one hand.
She also twisted her wrist to lay the giant sword down flat as she swung it.
Normally, this may have been an attempt to not hit one’s opponent with the blade of the sword. However, the situation here was different. Brunhild Eiktobel could move at supersonic speeds and the claymore she held was like a giant sword made by attaching a grip to a metal sheet.
By laying the blade flat, she could use it like a giant fan made of steel.
An overwhelmingly violent fan that used the massive shockwave created when an object moved at supersonic speeds.
That would end it.
Not only would it crush the girl’s fat and muscles from the outside, but her eardrums, lungs, and trachea would rupture from within.
She reacted just before it hit.
A dull noise came from below their feet. The ground below moved. The road at the top of the overpass was made in blocks that included the supports below. The girl controlled one entire block with magnetism to tilt it like a seesaw.
This caused Brunhild’s aim to be off with her claymore strike and the sonic boom flew off into the distance. All the glass in one of the buildings alongside the road was smashed to pieces.
(A broad-use electric type? So did she use some kind of radar? No, this is…!!)
Iron sand had been thinly spread all across the road surface.
Even if Brunhild Eiktobel’s movements exceeded the limits of the girl’s kinetic vision, she could clearly see what path Brunhild had taken thanks to her footprints.
And Misaka Mikoto did not stop there.
She snapped her fingers and shouted, “Be swallowed up!!”
The iron sand rose up in every direction.
It all began vibrating at high speed to create a storm of killer needles and then shot towards Brunhild Eiktobel from all 360 degrees around her.
Brunhild grabbed her giant claymore with both hands and swung it around in a full circle like she was performing a giant swing.
The explosive roar came slightly after the fact.
The air was agitated at tremendous speed and that deadly swarm that was being controlled by great magnetic power was struck by the even more tremendous power of the sonic boom created. The iron sand lost its form and was blown away.
Mikoto escaped the shockwave by controlling the rebar in the overpass road to create a thick wall of concrete in front of her. She used magnetism to once more gather the scattered iron sand and check on her next target.
Brunhild Eiktobel was aiming for Mikoto’s neck with her claymore, but the sword stopped in midair.
But once again it did not last even a second.
As if it was stuck in a wall and she was pulling it out, Brunhild ignored the great magnetic power and used her tremendous arm strength to forcibly swing the giant sword horizontally.
“One second…is enough!!”
She had taken aim.
Bluish-white sparks flew from Mikoto’s bangs.
With the roar of the air bursting, the lightning spear directly struck the steel claymore. Not even Brunhild was able to ignore that. The high voltage current passed from the blade to her wrists and then rushed throughout her entire body.
Meanwhile, Mikoto swung her left hand. It was the same motion as that used in a sidearm throw in baseball.
Something large moved as if following her palm.
It was a giant mass of reinforced concrete. It flew straight for Brunhild to perform a deadly body blow.
Brunhild forcibly recovered from the electric damage in an instant and used her claymore and her physical strength to stop that mass that could likely destroy a building wall.
A struggle began like two opponents with their swords locked together.
“From the looks of you, you have little to do with magic,” said Brunhild finally. It may have been that she had only now recognized her opponent as being worth speaking to. “Then why are you participating in this conflict over Fräulein Kreutune? I am not trying to start an argument over which side she belongs to, but approaching her increases the risk of getting wrapped up in the core of Gremlin.”
“I don’t want to hear that from the person who suddenly rushed in trying to kill me. …At any rate, I don’t know or care about any of those big picture issues. To be honest, I have no good reason to be fighting here.”
While using her left hand to control the concrete hammer, Mikoto used her right hand to create a sword of iron sand.
“But I do know one thing.”
“And what is that?”
“You don’t need a good reason to save a friend. If you want to save them, then save them. …I know someone who kept saying those stupid things even when he was driven to the brink of death, and he really did save over 10,000 people in the end. And that idiot that saved so many people is trying to save someone today like always. I know I can’t stop him. No matter how much I don’t want him to do anything dangerous, seeing him off with a push to the back is the sign of a good woman!!”
A loud snapping sound came from the thick concrete.
Something other than simple sharpness of the blade forcibly hacked through the obstacle and secured the claymore’s path.
At the same time, Mikoto swung the iron sand sword with all her might before the claymore could pick up speed.
But when it came to a competition of physical strength, she would lose.
In the very first strike, Mikoto saw the vibrating iron sand could not slice through the steel sheet making up the claymore. She immediately released the iron sand sword.
Instead, she took a coin she had taken out at some point and placed it on top of her thumb. She held her hand out towards Brunhild Eiktobel.
This was the technique she was named after.
She was about to fire the Railgun.
“I have my own reason. I want to save that idiot, so I will!!”
A great flash of light exploded out.
On top of the same overpass road, the Lightning God Thor watched the phenomenon behind him that resembled an explosion and felt the stinging vibration on his skin. A smile formed on the corner of his mouth. This was a wild and belligerent smile unlike his previous one.
“Ohh, ohh. Now, they’re having some fun. I don’t know whether I should praise Academy City for their creations or praise that Valkyrie for keeping up her supersonic speeds even after all that.”
“Cut the crap, boy.”
Silvia the Saint looked at Thor’s right hand with a surprised expression. Arc fusion blades stretched over 20 meters from his five fingers. Even at that level, it was unclear just how powerful an Electromaster of the science side would be needed to duplicate it.
Yet a clear look of astonishment could be seen on Silvia’s face.
Of all of Gremlin and all the Saints, she was the woman who was always standing closest to Ollerus. And yet this level of power was enough to make her look astonished.
She had that much power herself.
In fact, if they were not that powerful, neither Thor nor Silvia would have been able to stand where they were standing.
“With your level of power, you should be able to produce 10 times that length. No…It goes beyond that. If you are really named after Thor, then your true nature lies elsewhere. You don’t fit in the category of a lightning god.”
“Even so, I still feel ashamed.” Thor seemed to completely switch over his focus. He switched from watching a distant battle to facing the enemy before him. “I wanted to avoid this. This isn’t the worst possible turn of events, but it’s only two or three from the bottom. …This is no fun. My killing will involve many others and could even reach the level of a war. I didn’t start this fight for that to happen.”
“So you want to keep the extent of the sacrifices to a bare minimum?”
“If possible, I wanted to avoid having this clash in the first place,” replied Thor honestly. “If I and someone with power rivaling mine have a true battle, that alone could blow away half the city. So don’t worry, young lady. I will hold back as much of my power as I can. I won’t go beyond the lightning god level of Thor. If you die from just that, it’s really your own fault.”
“Hah hah. You don’t need to worry about that.”
Silvia laughed at that arrogant announcement.
It was a much too forceful laugh for a maid.
“I am probably the top ranked magician when it comes to that.”
The sound of something slicing through the air could be heard. It was coming from the bundle of rope Silvia held. She swung her arm around, swung her upper body around, and then spun around on the spot. By the time she did that, the rope had drawn out a complex shape in the air.
It was a complex collection of loops.
Just as Thor thought it looked like the string used to spin Japanese tops, a very bad feeling rushed through him.
She moved faster and faster and entered the supersonic realm of the Saint as she continued her ballroom dance that seemed meant to strangle one’s partner. As she did, complex power entered the rope.
The rope was forcefully pulled back and the many loops constricted and provided vectors as if to spin the object held within.
But there appeared to be nothing inside the loops.
Except there was.
There was air.
“Damn you!!” immediately shouted Thor.
There was an explosion.
She had grabbed the air. From the perspective of physics formulas, it was not impossible. After all, even the air had some resistance. It could create friction. And so it should have been possible to grab the air and spin it like a Japanese top.
But could it be done with the physical body of a human?
One needed to grab hold of a mass of air, spin it with tremendous power to turn it into a swirl of shockwaves, and send it after the target from multiple directions. Who could pull off such a wild technique?
Each one was larger than a crane’s wrecking ball that could destroy a building and was likely enough to bury even an underground shelter.
The phenomenon was created by overwhelming physical strength.
The tiny resistance of the air that people normally did not even notice was being used to produce such great power.
(But that isn’t enough to explain it!!)
Thor immediately swung the arc fusion blades on his right hand.
The air was nothing more than air. He was trying to blow away the swirls of shockwaves by heating up the air to a massive temperature so it expanded explosively.
But it did not work.
After two or three smashing blows, the arc fusion blades suddenly stopped moving. They stopped when their 20 meter length was just about to reach the rope that was still dancing through the air and Silvia who was spinning at high speed.
“My specialty is barriers,” said Silvia as she slowed down her spinning and planted her feet firmly on the ground. Even so, the several dozen meters of rope were still swimming through the air like the ribbon in rhythmic gymnastics. “People were always getting mad at me at Buckingham Palace for destroying the palace’s equipment too much for a bodyguard. And so I thought long and hard about a way to intercept the assassin without destroying everything around me too. What I came up with was a barrier to suppress my own power.”
“A pattern made from a single continuous line with a Christian angel base… So it’s a modern Western magic sigil.”
That was a method of drawing out Telesma from a different phase that existed on top of this world and sealing it inside an object. The charm was completed by referencing a rose pattern with the letters of the Hebrew alphabet arranged in a set pattern to trace out the name of the angel one wished to call.
In all likelihood, Silvia was not trying to access Telesma. She likely wanted something that functioned as a temple pillar that appropriately guided her great power into itself.
In other words, it was a barrier for a summoning ceremony.
It acted more like the semiconductors in delicate equipment than it did a simple wall. It would complexly switch back and forth between allowing power to pass through and sealing off that power depending on the time and situation in order to provide greater ability and delicacy to what would otherwise be a simple torrent of power. This type of technique was used to give form to “something that (looked like it) could answer any question” using the power flowing into this world from the other phase. It was the same as how sending an even electric current into an integrated circuit allowed complex calculations to be performed.
“I create a wall of Telesma along the rope which makes up a ‘hand’ that grabs the air.”
Silvia once more began spinning around at high speed.
The rope writhed through the air like it was trying to lure something.
That great serpent that swam through the sky then distinctly bared its fangs.
“So…well…don’t worry. I am probably one of the most skilled in the world when it comes to not getting others wrapped up in my fights. Just entrust your worries to this maid and go nuts!!”
(Not good. She isn’t just using one angel’s name. It changes from Gabriel to Raphael, then from Raphael to Michael, then from Michael to Uriel. She’s trying to build the power of each consecutive sigil off the power of the previous one!!)
Tarot could be used in many different ways, but in modern Western magic, a reversed card could be used to take advantage of the affinities between the four elements. What card was placed next to the current card could strengthen the useful symbols of the card or the troublesome symbols of the card.
This method was different from those of God’s Right Seat who had specialized in a single form of Telesma.
Even if this magic could never compare to them in any one of the four elements, it attempted to outdo them overall with its superior balance.
“Honestly, there really isn’t anyone normal around that monster!!”
“Can I take that as a compliment?”
Not even Thor could keep up with the movements of the rope anymore.
But he could see the effects.
The actual movements of the rope did nothing more than create symbols that activated magic. He could see something like a gray dust heading towards the overpass as if it was being guided by the rope.
In the very next instant, one entire block of the overpass road was forcefully spun like a top.
Those gray claws were much too primeval to be referred to as fingers. They had taken that single segment of the road that was several dozen meters long and flipped it over like it was a tea table. But the speed had been so incredible that the road did not simply flip upside down; it continued to spin in place like an electric fan.
It had been ripped off of the support that had held its huge weight.
And both Thor and Silvia herself were still on it.
(You’ve gotta be kidding me!!)
Thor had been suddenly thrown up into the air with nothing beneath his feet. Those feet swam through the air seeking something to land on. The soles of his shoes finally contacted the side of the road that had already made several full rotations. But it was difficult to call it a “landing”. For one thing, if he did manage to stand there, he would have rotated 180 degrees and fallen off after a single second.
But there were some people who could manage it.
They could move at supersonic speeds with no assistance.
There was a great difference between the breadth of options available to a normal person in a second and that available to Silvia in a second. Even if the side of the road was only pointing up for 0.1 seconds, it was simple enough for her to run across that edge like a sprinter and charge at Thor.
While licking her lips and continuing to control the rope that danced through the air drawing out complicated sigils, Silvia headed straight for him. The intense sense of danger Thor felt slowed the speed at which time seemed to pass for him, but that maid’s speed still overshadowed his.
“Mjöooooooooooooolniiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiir!!!!!” he shouted.
Thanks to his new supply of power, light explosively surged from Thor’s limbs. He did not use those arc fusion blades to slice through anything. He used them as electric boosters by explosively expanding the air to forcibly accelerate the movements of his own body.
Thor’s body was forced into a spin.
He managed to actually contact the side of the road.
At the same time Silvia reached him.
Instead of using her rope, she attacked directly with her fists two or three times.
If he tried to block those blows with his arm, the arm would explode. Thor forcibly twisted his body around to avoid the blows. Every one of his actions just about tore the joints of his arms and legs to pieces. He was keeping his movements to the bare minimum, but the human body was not made to function at those speeds.
Thor pushed forward his arc fusion blades as if trying to strike Silvia and used the fact that she repelled it with the barrier created by the rope’s pattern to send himself flying backwards.
He thought he had escaped.
But it may have been a mistake for him to think that.
With no footing once more, Thor began to fall as he was pulled down by gravity. Thor somehow managed to land on the support that was sitting along on the lower level now that it had lost the road that had sat on top of it like an umbrella.
And then he felt a chill run down his spine.
Silvia was clinging to the road block that was still rotating in midair. She was skillfully running along to match the movements of the road as it continually changed which face pointed up like a rolling die. It was similar to an acrobat balancing on a ball. As she did so, a new movement began in the rope. New sigil after new sigil was created and each angel name was overwritten by a different angel name. As this progressed, a tremendous power gathered around her.
And then Silvia jumped from the midair piece of road.
The rotating block of road made an odd movement that seemed to follow the way Silvia had twisted her body. It was as if she was controlling it via magnetism. As if it was connected to her right foot by something invisible, the giant mass of concrete and asphalt began rotating both horizontally and vertically…and then it suddenly dropped down like a morning star.
Thor’s eyes opened wide in shock and he shouted out, “Y-you idiot!!”
“I was called that a lot at Buckingham Palace too.”
A tremendous vibration shook the entire area.
It was like some horrid cup-and-ball game. As if she was returning the road she had destroyed, it slammed back down on top of the support that had been left behind. She even made sure the road surface was facing up.
Of course, she slammed it down so that it would catch Thor between the giant weight of the road and the support below.
“Well, that should do it,” muttered Silvia in disinterest as she landed on top of the road she had slammed down and retrieved the rope from the air with nothing but movements of her wrist. “If you want to fight a Saint seriously, you need to start by altering some of your basic assumptions. I can extend an instant so much with my speed that my movement options are orders of magnitude greater than normal.”
Silvia then turned around in order to deal with the remaining opponent.
In that direction, Brunhild Eiktobel and the Academy City girl’s battle was still ongoing. But a two-sided attack from two Saints would finish that quickly enough.
The ground wobbled. Silvia initially assumed just placing the road back on its support after ripping them apart must not have been enough to keep its balance, but that was not it.
It was not simply wobbling.
She could feel clear intent in the motion.
“Did you forget, you piece of shit…?”
She heard something from below.
That was when Silvia finally realized what was happening.
“Don’t tell me…you’re forcibly lifting up the road!?”
“The Lightning God Thor was a god of superhuman strength. Throughout all of Norse mythology only two could use the lightning hammer Mjölnir because of how damn heavy it was. My spiritual items include his belt. I hold the name of the god of war said to be even more powerful than the god that ripped apart Fenrir’s jaws. Do you really think a mere bridge is going to be enough to crush me!?”
Silvia’s vision rose by about 15 meters in an instant.
Thor had taken the block of road trying to crush him and thrown it straight up into the air.
(So he’s the type with strength that he cannot convert into speed.)
Silvia calmly thought while flying through the air.
She was a Saint. Given her athletic ability, she need not fear falling. After all, she could jump over to a nearby building rooftop with such ease she might as well hum as she did so.
Her eyebrows moved slightly.
She sensed danger.
Fifteen meters in the air was well outside the reach of a normal human. But how long had the arc fusion blades stretching from Thor’s right hand been?
“20 meters…shit! He can reach me!!”
Silvia frantically swung her rope to draw out the barrier sigil. The attack came in the next instant.
It was like a terrible cook battling a giant radish with a kitchen knife in hand.
Those five scorching claws moved mercilessly for Silvia and roasted unevenly through the road that was flying through the air.
The roar caused by that great mass striking the ground acted as a sign.
Leivinia Birdway was the first to move.
The symbolic weapon in her hand took various forms to match its use and element.
Right now, it was a cup.
That corner of the four directions represented water, the back, the moon, women, and blue. It also controlled one of the suits in the minor arcana of tarot.
The wall of water swirling around her stretched upwards all at once. Once it reached a set height, it stretched out in an even disk. That transparent piece of art that could be mistaken for a giant umbrella or tree grew hundreds and thousands of cold, sharp fruits.
Harvest time was represented by a torrential rain.
A shower of water daggers fell in every direction around Birdway. The umbrella-like silhouette was eaten away from the inside as its entire area was transformed into deadly weapons.
She knew that Imagine Breaker could negate any supernatural power but that it was limited to his right wrist and down. And so the optimal answer was not a single absolute attack but a huge mass of normal attacks that overwhelmed him.
He could likely negate one or two of them.
He might be able to evade a third and fourth.
But that would be the end of it.
The thousands, tens of thousands, and hundreds of thousands of daggers were packed in so tightly that they did not leave enough space for a human to hide. Everywhere but the location where that boy held his right hand would be skewered again and again.
Or so it should have been.
A high-pitched noise rang out.
Kamijou Touma had raised his right hand above his head and negated one of the many approaching daggers with his fingertips.
But it did not end there.
As the water dagger shattered like glass, its fragments scattered in every direction and struck the other surrounding daggers. This slightly altered their trajectory. This caused a chain reaction that created a blank spot that should not have been there.
It was a phenomenon that could only occur when the daggers were packed in so tightly that no space for a human was left.
All of the water daggers struck the asphalt and sent orange sparks flying throughout the entire area. Only the area one meter around Kamijou had avoided damage.
After so many battles with both scientific espers and occult magicians that they were commonplace for him, Kamijou had obtained that sense that resembled the instinct of an artisan. When he tried to understand it himself, it only threw off its accuracy.
But Birdway’s expression did not change.
“I already worked that into my plan, you idiot,” she quietly spat out.
She had aimed for that moment after Kamijou broke through the shower of water daggers with just his right hand and had switched his thoughts over from defense to offense.
At a point near Kamijou’s left side, a small flicker of white light appeared in what should have been empty air.
In the very next moment, a pure white flash of light exploded out. It was a spherical explosion with a diameter of about 10 meters. It tore straight through the road signs and asphalt. She unhesitatingly bared her fangs during that moment when Kamijou was switching gears in his mind.
She called it a summoned explosion.
This supernatural phenomenon was not caused by preparing temples, symbolic weapons, chants, or ceremonies to complexly draw out and use Telesma. She simply called forth the power and let it loose without giving it form. Saying she simplified and sped up the process made it sound nice, but it was the same as firing a rocket without going through any kind of a safety check. If a magician without the proper knowledge tried to use it, they would simply become the stereotypical horror victim as they were swallowed up by the power they themselves had called forth.
Kamijou forcibly twisted his body and tried to suppress the explosion with his right hand.
This created an even larger opening.
Leivinia Birdway had already transformed her symbolic weapon into the sword that represented wind.
She casually held it up and swung it down.
Her attack would cut straight through one edge of the battlefield.
And through the joint of Kamijou Touma’s right shoulder.
The boy was still in the middle of holding out his right hand to deal with the summoned explosion that had appeared near his left side. He did not have time to swing his arm back around and block the wind sword. And because he had forcibly twisted his body around, he was very nearly off balance and therefore could not jump back either.
In other words, this was checkmate.
Birdway was worried about the unknown phenomenon that occurred when his arm was severed, but Kamijou himself could not freely control it either. If that was the end of it, that was fine. If he started going on a rampage, that would simply create many, many more openings for her to attack. Just two or three more swings of her arm would end it even if that happened. There was no way he could turn the situation around. It was that kind of decisive checkmate.
The wind sword Birdway fired was knocked away by something.
That something was a pure white light.
It was the light of the summoned explosion that should have been attacking Kamijou Touma.
This time, Kamijou’s actions had left Birdway’s expectations. She immediately transformed her symbolic weapon into a wand and held it out horizontally.
It had been his right hand that had caused it.
Imagine Breaker was nothing more than the power to negate supernatural powers. It could not be used for anything other than that. But he could freely move those five fingers and make various different forms out of his hand. And whether it was fire or water, power would naturally flow in the path of least resistance.
Fire would spread in the direction with more oxygen.
Water would flow down a hill.
There were tons of technologies that took advantage of those properties.
For example, guns used a tube made of a strong material to send the explosive power of gunpowder in a single direction to fire a bullet.
For example, directional landmines attached the explosive on the inside of a bowl-shaped panel to use more of its force to pierce through a tank’s armor.
Air ducts, electric cables, gas turbines, a crane’s wrecking ball, steam locomotives, skis, smokestacks, pasta makers, fuel pumps…and in a broader sense, even the roads that controlled the flows of people.
It was no different from that.
He had not used Imagine Breaker to negate the supernatural power.
He had brought his five fingers right up to its border to create the ultimate “wall” with his right hand. That had created a sort of guide rail that made the direction he wanted into the “path of least resistance” for the explosive power. He had used that to send the summoned explosion in the direction of the wind sword.
“Did you forget? I directly fought Fiamma of the Right.”
The unexpected event created an opening in Birdway.
Kamijou kicked off the asphalt in order to make the most use of it. He ran.
“And so I know there are powers with a pressure great enough that I can’t completely negate them with my right hand. You just have too much power, Birdway!!”
For the first time, Birdway clenched her back teeth slightly.
And she spat out, “Is your hand the symbol of petty tricks? You may have gotten one strike in, but you’re still out of your league!!”
While still holding her wand out horizontally, Birdway spun it around once like a baton.
Orange flames shot out along its path. The flames grew into a giant wall which pressed towards Kamijou.
“That’s just a distraction!!”
Kamijou penetrated the wall without negating it with his right hand.
Instead of trying to destroy it head on, he swung his arm to the side in a pushing motion to divert the scorching wall in a different direction where it simply burned through the scenery.
Immediately after he got rid of that orange curtain, a group of gray daggers that appeared to be made of stone flew towards him like a storm.
Kamijou twisted his body with all his strength to avoid a single blade mixed in with the rest. A trail of red blood ran down from where his cheek was lightly scratched.
But Kamijou smiled.
“That knife alone was real. Isn’t that right, Birdway!?”
“Hah. Such interesting behavior!”
If he had simply tried to break through it all with his right hand, that blade would have pierced right through his palm.
While in an awkward position after swinging his upper body around, he forcibly swung his fist and destroyed one of the many remaining blades. The chain reaction of destruction and impacts with fragments opened up a slight safe area just like with the downpour of water blades.
There was now only a few meters between the two of them.
He would reach her with just a bit more effort.
“Well, I suppose there would have been no reason to give you so much focus if you were just a kid who swung his right hand around.”
As Kamijou stepped further forward, Birdway reached behind to her back. It was an action similar to pulling a sword from a scabbard on her back, but it was more likely she had something hidden in the back of her blouse.
Kamijou thought she was going to pull out some kind of suspicious card or crystal ball.
But she did not.
“I do not much like modern weapons like missiles and machine guns.”
She pulled it out.
She held it out.
“But these flintlock guns are a different matter. I told you that once before, didn’t I?”
It was an old-fashioned handgun that could only hold a single bullet. It was colored with black oak and gold, so it looked like something a pirate would have used long, long ago.
All the muscles of Kamijou’s body stiffened.
He had a single piece of proof.
That was the hole in his right side. The wound from being shot by Anti-Skill.
In other words…
Kamijou Touma did not have the physical ability needed to evade a bullet that had nothing to do with supernatural powers.
“I cast aside my pride.”
They were just a few meters apart.
He only had to take one more step. Then his fist could reach her. But Birdway’s slender finger touched the trigger to make the best use of that definite distance.
She was not aiming at his head. Even at that close range, she was aiming exactly at his lower abdomen that was his center of gravity. That made it near impossible for him to evade. Even if he frantically swung his body out of the way, she could still hit him somewhere on his torso.
With her voice almost in a whisper, she added, “So that I could be certain of victory.”
The limited space of the underground passageway may not have been spacious or sturdy enough for those three monsters created by Academy City.
The first attack came head on.
The white dolls created based on the residual thoughts of the Sisters charged towards Accelerator, and the hundreds of feathers of the wing that had been Kakine Teitoku’s right arm turned into a storm of spears that filled the entire area as they violently attacked without bothering to avoid the girls.
This time, Accelerator’s heart and mind did not disturb the equations that controlled his powers.
If he resolved himself and looked straight ahead, he only needed to see them off.
He would see them off to a place where no one could reach them from that shitty city that was forcibly holding them here.
“Use this,” said Mugino from next to him. “This is your job.”
In the next instant, a beam of light shot from Mugino Shizuri’s palm and headed straight for Accelerator. That Particle-Function Waveform High Speed Cannon was powerful enough to slice an Aegis ship in half. If any disturbance had existed in the #1’s reflection equations, he might have been turned to ash without even having time to feel pain.
But that did not happen.
He made sure of it.
Accelerator accurately grasped the vectors of that attack. He adjusted and focused the vectors to give them new form and properties. And then he used it to attack all three of the attacking girls at once.
There was only light.
This went beyond simply piercing through them or roasting them. They disappeared. Not even a single piece or 1 mm fragment remained. They were truly annihilated. He made sure they would never be controlled so unreasonably again. Those girls should not have been there, so he returned them to where they belonged.
The girls’ expressions had not changed even up to the very last moment.
He had no idea what they might have been thinking when that moment came.
But that was fine.
It was possible there really was someone in the world who could understand or determine the feelings of the dead and use that to save their hearts. There may have been someone who could honor the dead by helping resolve the things they regretted or had left behind. But that was not a job for Accelerator who had given himself into the darkness and killed too many people. However, before he went to hell, there were things he could do even with his power that was a like an incarnation of violence and destruction.
The feelings of the dead belonged to the dead.
They must not be used for the benefit of others.
To ensure that those feelings were not destroyed, Academy City’s #1 would gently seal them away and definitively see them off. And he would stand in the way of anyone trying to disturb them like a grave keeper before grave robbers. Because he reeked too greatly of death, he could not claim that humans were fundamentally good, but he would still work to protect the things he wished to protect.
He was finished chasing after a certain someone and focusing too much on that someone.
He would take a different path.
Even if he could not do what that someone did, he could do things that someone could not.
He would become what only he could be.
He grabbed at the large number of approaching spears, grabbed ahold of the vectors of something flowing through them, and forcibly reversed that flow. Dark Matter contained no blood, but Accelerator could feel a pulse signal similar to bioelectricity. Just like destroying the center by applying pressure to an extremity, he broke through all the countless spears at once. Kakine Teitoku’s body at the center twitched a bit.
Mugino fired a Meltdowner beam while Kakine Teitoku’s movement was briefly stopped.
The majority of his upper body was blown away.
“In the end…”
Some white substance had spread out around Kakine’s remaining legs.
It was on the floor, the wall, and even the ceiling.
“I can create almost anything, but it seems I’m the best at creating myself. The specs are highest with that. The single original is better than 10,000 clones. It’s a miniaturized version of one of Academy City’s set rules.”
Something stood “up” perpendicularly from the wall.
It was a pale white Kakine Teitoku.
Mugino stared at it like it was some gruesome piece of art.
“Your main body supposedly has a few flesh-and-blood organs left in it. Did you move them away into the floor just before I attacked?”
“Well, what do you think? Did I move my organs out of the way at the last second or did I just remake all of them? Were the organs ever in that body to begin with? Are they in this one now? Maybe they’re scattered throughout the city and connected by thin strands of Dark Matter. And of course, would it even do any good to destroy my flesh-and-blood organs now?”
Academy City had espers who could transform their appearance, but this went well beyond that. Was his brain creating his powers or were his powers preserving their existence by creating his brain? Was he alive or dead? Was this a dream or reality? He was a Moebius strip that jumbled all of that together. All they knew was that the existence known as Kakine Teitoku was standing before them in some way.
They could destroy him, but it would be exceedingly difficult to be sure they had killed him.
And if they did not kill him, they could not stop him even if they blew off his arms and legs or crushed his organs.
“Who gives a shit!?”
Accelerator charged directly forward. He stepped into the center of the pure white puddle spreading out over 10 meters, ripped apart the countless spears that shot out, and slammed his palm against the center point.
He grabbed at the electrical signals running through the Dark Matter and reversed them.
A loud snapping sound rang out.
A large hole in the unnaturally perfect shape of a hexagon appeared in the puddle. The damage had been intentionally cut off before it reached the entire system of Kakine Teitoku.
“It’s no use. Information is exchanged between the different blocks, but there is no direct connection. The blocks can freely communicate without any direct wiring, so your attacks cannot reach me. I suppose it is similar to an electronic wiretapping system that intentionally crosses the wires via alien crosstalk. An attack across those lines cannot reach me because the lines are not actually connected.”
“Then I will destroy it all.”
“As you do, I will be expanding the network. With every piece expanding at the same time, it will expand exponentially.”
“Then I just have to destroy it faster than that!!”
If Academy City was viewed as a single body, this was similar to a battle between cancer cells attempting to bring down the functioning of the entire body by infinitely multiplying and elements preserving the health of the body by urging old cells to commit suicide to prevent growing cancerous.
It was a battle between the #2 who could make someone suffer by creating something and the #1 who could protect someone by destroying something.
They wielded their massive powers in the opposite direction of that power’s initial image.
“How much time do you have left?” asked Kakine Teitoku mockingly.
Accelerator’s vector reflection and Mugino Shizuri’s massive beams of light were both tearing away at his body. But something pure white was continually spreading across the walls and ceiling. Kakine felt no fear over being destroyed. He was definitively missing that instinct that any life form should have.
“Once that limit comes, you are done for. That may be the cue for the appearance of those wings that no theory can explain, but you can’t use those for long periods of time or have complete control of them, can you? In fact, that unexplainable phenomenon must cause a huge amount of unexplainable consumption. Either way, you have no time left.”
“And I have nothing to worry about once it is just the #4 left. I don’t know how much she has grown, but the basic difference in power is just too great. No matter what she has overcome, she cannot defeat me.”
That comment led to Kakine’s head being annihilated, but the rest of the figure simply ignored gravity and “fell” into the puddle on the wall. A new Kakine Teitoku floated up in a different spot.
“This is a difference in the freedom our powers give us. And that difference is insurmountable for you. I need not even do anything. I do not simply have an infinite supply of Dark Matter. My inspiration also knows no bounds. No matter how many cards you gather in your hand, I can push it back with brute force as numbers means nothing to me. …Nothing you do will ever even reach me. To reach me, you first need to climb over the wall of infinity that continues on eternally.”
It was like continuing to do something that did not add up.
It was like being ordered to empty a swimming pool using a bucket while the water was constantly being filled by a waterfall.
“Choose.” Academy City’s #2’s lips moved. “Will you slowly dry up over a long period of time or will you die in a single painless instant?”
Countless spears burst out and rushed toward Accelerator and Mugino Shizuri.
The final weapon she held out at Kamijou Touma was a flintlock pistol that had nothing to do with magic.
It was not even worth wondering whether he should evade to the left or to the right.
The old-fashioned pistol was relatively low power, but he had no guarantee he could block it with just the bones of his arm.
He was not a tights-wearing hero from American comics. He could not dodge a bullet flying straight at him, and repelling it with a body of steel was out of the question.
As such, he had only one option.
He forced down his passive instincts and charged straight forward. He was only a few meters away from Birdway. Just one more step and he would be in punching range. His only option was to knock the hand holding the gun out of the way before she could fire. If he managed to divert the barrel just a bit to the side, the fired bullet would fly off in a harmless direction.
The extreme tension threw off his sense of time.
The movements of his arm as he desperately stretched it out felt horribly sluggish and slow.
Birdway continued to aim the flintlock pistol at him with no change of expression.
The finger on the trigger moved.
The small piece of metal that determined people’s deaths activated.
But first, Kamijou’s right hand…or rather, the very tip of the middle finger just barely touched the elegantly decorated barrel. The bottom of his finger gained a very slight sense of making solid contact. It was similar to raising a fishing pole when the hook was positioned so it might or might not catch in the mouth of a large fish. If the fish coincidentally happened to move just slightly, the hook would miss and the fish would escape into the water. The fisher would lose everything.
He forcibly swung his right hand to the side.
He attempted to dig the hook deeply into the fish’s mouth it had shallowly entered.
At the same moment, Leivinia Birdway’s index finger finished its movement.
She pulled the trigger.
The flintlock gun barrel was knocked away from Kamijou.
Kamijou had evaded near death, yet an intensely bad feeling spread from his gut.
(She pulled the trigger, but I didn’t hear a gunshot!?)
“Wrong move, idiot.”
He did not even have time for that girl’s voice to send a chill running down his spine.
With a dull roar, a stone pillar extended up from the ground and accurately slammed straight into the center of Kamijou’s chest. Not only did it knock the breath out of him, but it seemed to destroy his heart’s rhythm of expansion and contraction.
He frantically tried to recover his posture, but then all strength suddenly left his right knee. The disturbance in the flow of his blood that started with his heart in the center was belatedly spreading like a wave to each part of his body.
He just barely managed to keep one leg underneath him to avoid completely collapsing.
A dull shock struck his cheek.
Calling it a slap made it sound nice, but he had more or less been hit with the grip of the flintlock pistol. It felt similar to being hit by the end of a hammer’s handle.
The blow shook Kamijou’s brain and he finally fell to the side onto the asphalt road surface.
His movements looked as frail as a marionette that’s strings had been cut.
“At least do some research into how guns work... But I guess that might be too much to ask of someone from Japan. But you at least fought in the center of World War III.” Birdway spun the pistol around in front of herself while she watched Kamijou struggle on the road surface due to temporarily losing his sense of up and down. “With a flintlock gun, the gunpowder and bullet have to be inserted through the barrel before firing. The work can be shortened by switching out the fuse for a percussion cap, but you can’t avoid having to load the bullet. …Do you understand now, boy? This gun cannot be fired just by pulling it out.”
“All I wanted from you was an opening to get in a decisive blow. And I don’t blame you for faltering at the sight of one of these aimed at you. After all, the pain and fear of guns is still etched into your body.”
If Kamijou had calmly thought about the deficiencies of the flintlock design, he might have realized that. But he had not had time to think calmly. When that thing was suddenly pointed at him in the middle of a supernatural battle, he needed time to switch over the gears of his mind.
His options had been to freeze up in fear or aim for a miraculous recovery and steal the gun, but the result would have been the same either way.
Once his focus had been pointed solely at that elegant pistol, she had used magic to attack him head on.
At some point, a small bottle, a metal ball about the size of a pachinko ball, and a thin rod about the size of a chopstick had appeared in Birdway’s fingers. The bottle was filled with a black powder.
“I’ll teach you the proper way of doing it.”
Birdway pointed the elegant pistol’s barrel upwards, poured the powder in, and then dropped the metal ball in as if using it as a cover. Lastly, she stuck the thin rod down the barrel and used a bit of strength to force the ball and powder down.
“You really are not supposed to point this type of gun’s barrel downwards. But this one isn’t cheap. The bullet isn’t going to fall out.” Birdway tossed the rod and bottle away and aimed the gun at Kamijou where he lay collapsed on the ground. “Give up on Fräulein Kreutune. I will give you a reason to give up. You have shown that you are not the type to give up even after being shot in the stomach. Then what about the leg? Once you lose your ability to move around and your ability to support the weight behind your fist, you should have enough of an excuse to just lie in a hospital bed.”
The symptoms of his light concussion must have been gradually softening because Kamijou was now able to look up at Birdway with hazy eyes. A slight smile was on his lips.
“Do you feel the need to go this far because you feel anything less will not make up for the damage at Hawaii and Baggage City?”
“So what if I do?”
“Then you’ve already admitted that you’ve done something horrible. In that case, don’t head off in the wrong direction. Even if you capture Fräulein Kreutune, lure out the Magic God Othinus, defeat her, and bring about something like world peace…hell, even if billions of people thank you, there is no way you will feel satisfied.”
“I’m sick of hearing your appeals to emotion.”
“Is that so?” forced out Kamijou as he was breathing erratically. “I just don’t understand how anyone could try to save people purely based off of logic and efficiency. Because from that perspective it doesn’t matter, does it? If you pull out that easiest of arguments, you lose all reason to save them in the first place. There is a necessary level of evil to keep money circulating enough to support a society. It’s just a trivial fraction of the whole. Even if humanity goes extinct, life forms with a different type of thought process will eventually fill the earth. …Just from a logical standpoint, those arguments are good enough. If you only care about logic, you don’t need to save anyone.”
For Kamijou who lay collapsed on the road, Birdway’s gun barrel was an absolute threat.
He would not receive another chance to leap forward and take away that elegant pistol.
“It’s the same. We’re the same. We want to save them, so we do. You searched out all the best logical reasons for that. But you’re going about it the wrong way. What you’re doing is like saving starving people by chopping off pieces of human flesh to feed them.”
“But what have you managed to do?” readily replied Birdway. Her words stabbed into the core of that boy. “You know nothing of the makeup of the organization known as Gremlin. You don’t know where their headquarters are. You don’t know who their leader is. You have only been able to chase after the members causing sporadic problems across the world. And all you’ve achieved doing that is getting yourself thrown about and increasing the number of victims. That is all you can do. To use your example, what you are doing is leaving the starving people to starve and simply watching as they collapse.”
“Perhaps. No…You’re probably right,” admitted Kamijou.
He admitted his own powerlessness.
“It’s said I stopped World War III with a one-on-one fight against Fiamma of the Right, but that wasn’t just my power. I only managed it because the people fighting all over the world wore down the source of Fiamma’s power. What I can do alone truly is limited, and the kinds of things I can think up alone rarely work in this wide world.”
But even so…
“But, Birdway. Just because my reasoning is childish and wrong and just because my argument can be easily defeated with a bit of cleverness does not mean your reasoning is completely correct.”
“If the only way to feed those starving people is to chop up human flesh, why is it that you are completely unscathed?”
He stared at her.
Kamijou Touma stared directly at Leivinia Birdway.
He stared at something deep within her.
“I have fought many different people in the past. There were very few that I was truly able to do anything about on my own. I have exposed a lot of people to danger. …But the reason they all lent me their power and the reason I am still alive today has to be because I cut my own flesh first because I was the one to make the suggestion. You have not done that.”
“Are you saying I have no right to get others involved because I make the decision while looking down from above? Are you saying I can influence people’s lives so long as they accept it?”
“In a way.”
Birdway was a bit surprised how quickly he replied.
She had thought he would reply with some cheap argument about the basic goodness of people.
“And the way to get me to accept it would probably have been much simpler than what you went through,” muttered Kamijou while lying on the ground. “It didn’t have to be Hawaii and Baggage City. It didn’t have to be Fräulein Kreutune, the final piece needed for Gungnir.”
His voice was frail.
“If you truly needed a sacrifice…”
But there was a strong core hidden beneath.
“If you needed to be able to take action up until the moment the issue was resolved and therefore could not cut off pieces of your own flesh…”
It was as if he was explaining the very, very basics to a small child who did not understand some simple matter.
“You just had to choose me. That would have been enough for me to accept it.”
This time, Leivinia Birdway truly felt like time had stopped even if just for a moment.
He was not simply throwing a tantrum and saying she had to bring an end to all tragedy.
He understood tragedy was inevitable.
The boy was mad because she had moved the target of that tragedy in the wrong direction.
“Surely you could have done something,” Kamijou Touma’s words continued all the while. “You didn’t have to use Fräulein Kreutune. You didn’t have to offer up Hawaii and Baggage City as sacrifices. Surely you could have used some other means of luring out the leader of Gremlin or the Magic God Othinus herself.”
“Do you understand what you are saying?”
“Even if we don’t know the makeup of Gremlin, where their headquarters are, or who their leader is, we still have my right hand! You could have at least leaked false information saying it was a threat to Gremlin as a whole!! With the power of the Dawn-Colored Sunlight, you definitely could have done that!!”
“You are not a monster like Fräulein Kreutune. You will die if someone merely blocks up your nose and mouth. Do you have any idea what it means for you to stand in the center of a battle with Gremlin as an enemy of theirs they see no value in keeping around!?”
“Othinus appeared before me in Baggage City. She wanted to see what the right hand that resolved that incident could do. I was easily defeated, but she had to have at least viewed it as something she had to try out first. It may have been a thin, thin thread and it may have been nowhere near as sure a thing as Fräulein Kreutune…but why did you make the decision without me when there was another way!? Why did you choose such a fucked up method!? Why did you choose to make all these sacrifices!? Why did you choose the path that robbed everyone of their smiles!? Even if this is just me being selfish and even if it isn’t realistic, do you really expect me to accept what you did!?”
“…You’re insane,” muttered Birdway.
She had continually investigated the leaders and charismatic people of many eras and cultures who could have been ostracized had things been even a little different. And yet she could not help but let those words spill out.
“You’re completely insane. I had glimpsed some odd things in you before, but this settles it. …Why do you just assume that you will fight? Why do you see nothing wrong with having things taken from you? You aren’t some war-crazed person who has lost his place in a normal peaceful life. Nor are you some sheltered person who has never seen true battle yet wishes to join the world he sees on TV. I can’t figure out what it is that drives you!”
“You want to know why?”
Kamijou thought for a bit while still in that hopeless situation.
Why had he taken part in all of the previous incidents?
Was it because he was surrounded by misfortune? Was he constantly getting wrapped up in incidents he wanted to avoid and was constantly getting stuck in positions where he would be killed if he did not resolve them?
Had it been Tsuchimikado Motoharu, Stiyl Magnus, the Anglican Church, or Academy City? Had those different people or groups made careful preparations to ensure a situation where he could not run away?
Had it been because he had never once met a simple villain of the sort seen in movies? Had it been because he was terribly reluctant to simply discard any of them?
Many different ideas came to mind. And ultimately…
Kamijou Touma shook all of them out of his head and replied.
“I think it was because I never had a single reason to abandon them.”
“…I’ve heard enough,” spat out Birdway.
She aimed the flintlock pistol at his thigh.
This time, she would actually fire.
Her finger was on the trigger.
“I have always wondered how Academy City is able to control someone like you. The biggest threat you hold is not the power of your right hand or even that which is hidden within. Nor is it the precognition you have gained from your past experiences. Even with a right hand that can negate supernatural abilities, a normal person would not be able to accomplish much. The hand itself cannot burn anything or gather any information. And yet you have left accomplishments behind. You did not join in because of that right hand. It was you who made use of the power residing in your right hand.”
“You’re only figuring that out now?”
“In that case…”
Birdway’s expression suddenly changed around her eyes.
She had the look of someone pitying someone else.
“…You need to be careful from now on. What you hold is not good or evil. You hold the seeds to a great wave that cannot be described in those terms. Perhaps it is the same thing that was once brought to bloom by the man who built up a city of steel and electricity or the woman who smiles thinly in the depths of an old cathedral. Or perhaps it is something that will swallow up even that giant flower. If you can completely grasp it in your hand, it will give you great power, but if you cannot, it will be indescribably disastrous for you.”
“What are you saying?”
“You do not need to understand it right away. I will give you time to think on it. But my method may be a bit painful.”
This time, Birdway truly pulled the trigger. It was less like she was punctuating her sentence and more like she was trying to nip a new threat in the bud.
But just before she did…
Some powerful force pulled on Birdway’s right hand. The elegant pistol’s barrel was moved well off to the side and the bullet was fired in the completely wrong direction.
“Do you remember what I said, Birdway?”
A slight scraping sound was heard.
During the long, long conversation, Kamijou had slowly recovered from his concussion. As he worked to stand back up, he brought a hand to the ground and his fingernails scraped across the asphalt.
“I have fought many different people. But I didn’t do it alone. I barely ever truly fought alone. …There have been people willing to accompany me on my reckless challenges. And these people are a hell of a lot more softhearted than me.”
Leivinia Birdway looked up and finally realized what had happened.
On the top level of the multilevel overpass, a girl was looking down from the edge.
“Academy City’s #3… Did she control my gun with magnetism or something!?” shouted Birdway before taking a large step backwards.
An extremely long arc fusion blade cut directly in between Kamijou and Birdway.
This time it was Thor.
They were fighting on the road at the top level of the multilevel overpass, but Kamijou and Birdway were standing on the wide sports arena-like area one level down. Also, one section of the road above had disappeared.
The two of them were both fighting Saints who had special power even among the magic side. They were in a situation where an instantaneous mistake could result in their bodies being pulverized, bone and all, but those two who used thunder had used what small opening they had to its fullest in order to save Kamijou from his hopeless situation.
“A lot of people have fought today. All sorts of dangerous people are gathered here thanks to Fräulein Kreutune. I probably couldn’t stand up to a single one of them.”
White smoke continued to rise from the slice left by the arc fusion blade. Birdway could see a figure slowly standing up on the other side of that curtain.
“But in the end, you all can only split the work up between you. …You can only function as individuals.”
He had been shot in the side, he had weakened himself while continuing to act in that state and without getting any sleep at all, and he had even experienced a concussion.
And yet Kamijou Touma stood up.
“No one truly knows who Fräulein Kreutune is. And that is why no one feels any kind of attachment for her. She was only freed yesterday from being sealed away for so long, so of course no one does. But even if we do not know who she is, some of us still want to save her. No, there are even people fighting right now who know nothing about Fräulein Kreutune. They are fighting for some reason other than saving her. …But that doesn’t matter. Even if they don’t know the exact situation and even if all of our conditions don’t quite match up, we still managed to bring about this result! A great power has moved in the direction of saving her!!”
There had been no need to hold some great objective from the beginning.
It did not matter if they were fighting for completely different reasons.
Even if they were...
Once it was all over…
If they were told their actions had inadvertently saved a woman, no one would feel bad about that. At the very least, they would feel better than if they were told their actions had inadvertently killed a woman.
And Kamijou felt that was what it meant to be human.
“Birdway, you said I am crazy for doing what I do, but you are absolutely wrong about that. In truth, anyone would want to save someone if they saw or heard that they were suffering for no good reason!!”
“We won’t lose.” He slowly and distinctly held up his right fist as he stared at and spoke to that powerful magic cabal boss. “There is not a single reason why we would lose to people like you who would never consider something so basic!!”
While Rhinoceros Beetle 05 observed the intense battles on the multilevel overpass from a short distance away, it confirmed Fräulein Kreutune’s location on the middle level with the naked eye.
Fremea Seivelun banged on its pure white surface from where she stood next to it.
At this point, even that was enough to have a clear effect on the cracks inside Rhinoceros Beetle 05.
“Nyah, nyah! We found her!! We need to hurry up and save her!!”
“That would increase the risk of getting wrapped up in the combat activities currently occurring in the area. Even if the others have no intention of attacking us, we cannot escape the high probability of being struck by a stray attack. In addition, it appears some of those involved wish to prevent anyone from approaching Fräulein Kreutune. There is a danger of those people directly attempting to interfere if we approach her.”
Rhinoceros Beetle 05’s analysis indicated it no longer had the durability to withstand a battle of that class thanks to the cracks continuing to form within it.
Of course, if it informed the girls of that, there was a danger of the breadth of their actions shrinking even further. With an already risky situation, the beetle wished to avoid lessening their freedom of choice.
“Then what do we do? says Misaka as Misaka asks a question.”
“I will analyze their attack patterns and calculate out how wide an opening we have. …Human vision shrinks further than people realize when they are focused on something. At first glance, this multilevel overpass looks like a wide open space, but it is actually like a labyrinth with fluidly changing routes, so if we move based on set rules, we can safely-…”
Rhinoceros Beetle 05 trailed off.
The artificial voice created by its giant thin wings suddenly stopped.
Last Order and Fremea Seivelun had suddenly disappeared.
No, that was not accurate.
Someone had entered “within” Rhinoceros Beetle 05.
In a mysterious space void of color and sound where not a single leaf on the surrounding roadside trees moved, Rhinoceros Beetle 05 focused its attention forwards.
At a spot a mere 5 meters from its cannon barrel stood a boy with brown hair and wearing a high-class jacket.
His eyes contained a dark light that was only found in those who had continuously walked down the hidden back roads of life. The thin smile on his lips seemed to contain all forms of confidence. Despite Rhinoceros Beetle 05’s cannon being at such extreme close range, he did not remove his hands from his pants pockets.
In that world where all color had faded to black or white, that boy alone contained color.
It was as if he was illuminated as that world’s sole king.
Rhinoceros Beetle 05 was unable to tell whether it was actually using its wings to produce its artificial voice or not, but it muttered that name all the same.
And even as it made that deduction, it denied that possibility.
That could not be true.
The real Kakine Teitoku would not expend any of his power for a mere pawn like Rhinoceros Beetle 05. If he wanted to, he could create hundreds or thousands of powerful pawns in an instant.
The colorful monster slowly moved his mouth.
“So am I something like your aspiration?”
“C’mon, don’t just sit there. I’m the aspiration you created for yourself. I’m the wall you automatically set up to define what you think Kakine Teitoku is.”
It did indeed seem this was not the real #2.
This was similar to someone having a mental breakdown due to the massive stress of constantly hiding behind cover in fear of a sniper hiding in some unknown location of the darkness.
“You would know best why something like me has appeared. With a set amount of time having passed since you parted ways with Kakine Teitoku, you are turning into something else. But you yourself refuse to admit it. You are afraid of losing your powerful personality as a portion of Kakine Teitoku. You hesitate to lose it and you are frozen up with regrets. …That is why I am here. I am here to remind you what you are about to lose. I am here to supplement your data image of what your original form was.”
The cracks were even now continuing to run through Rhinoceros Beetle 05 and it could completely collapse at any moment.
Its actions taken to slow the progress of the damage and to compensate for lost internal data may have been similar to those of a human holding a wound to slow blood loss. It did not matter if those actions would actually save it or not. Whether one had received a fatal wound or one’s entire body had been skewered, one could not help but carry out those actions.
If its wavering essence was compensated for by renewing its data image here…
“It seems you have put off killing some brat with your pathetic misconversions, but that ends here,” spat out that someone.
His tone made the beetle loathe being a part of him, but no tone of voice could have sounded more like Kakine Teitoku.
“Who are you?”
That question reached Rhinoceros Beetle 05.
It reached it.
“What should you do to act like yourself?”
In the end, the real Kakine Teitoku had not seen the need to do a single thing despite the fact that Rhinoceros Beetle 05 had suppressed the clear relationship of master and slave. He had done nothing and left Rhinoceros Beetle 05 unable to explain the logical inconsistency of its own actions. When that happened, Rhinoceros Beetle 05 would need to take a second look at its own essence in the role of slave rather than master. In that process, it would need to rewrite itself using Kakine Teitoku as the starting point.
It could be said to be similar to a computer infected with a virus that would activate when the computer rebooted.
Once that was done, one need only wait until the inevitable freeze. The passage of time and buildup of work would ultimately lead Rhinoceros Beetle 05 into a catastrophic situation.
“You must have understood this from the beginning,” announced that someone with a mocking tone. He announced the decisive factor. “Your greatest enemy was not Fräulein Kreutune or the enemy beetles sent by Kakine Teitoku. It was yourself after you gained the trust of the targets and remained physically nearby. …You must have had the opportunity to explain this to the targets, but you told them there were only two threats, didn’t you? Why? It wasn’t because you could deny this possibility. It was because you would be forced to think about it if you put it in words.”
Rhinoceros Beetle 05 searched for the words to deny it.
Rhinoceros Beetle 05 searched for the words to deny it.
Rhinoceros Beetle 05 searched for the words to deny it.
But Rhinoceros Beetle 05 was unable to speak a single word in response. Of course it could not. This was not a game where multiple players revealed their hidden cards on the table one at a time. All of the cards were known and the beetle was going over the answers all on its own.
And so it could not stop the words of that someone.
The words merely continued.
“It is easy enough to claim to be someone other than Kakine Teitoku. But who are you really? Can you truly define yourself with some other name? The titles you have acquired in this short time are ‘someone opposing Kakine Teitoku’s orders’, ‘someone working to become independent of Kakine Teitoku’, ‘someone who wants to become something other than Kakine Teitoku’, and ‘someone who originated from Kakine Teitoku’. No matter how hard you try to get around it, you cannot escape the name Kakine Teitoku. If you force yourself to deny your very core, you will lose your essence and be unable to even define what your physical body is.”
He did it so easily.
He did it so definitively.
He crushed the budding hope that Rhinoceros Beetle 05 had obtained.
“That is why your true essence is that of a slave. No matter how much you struggle, you cannot reboot yourself as a new type of master.”
If Rhinoceros Beetle 05 did not become something other than Kakine Teitoku, it could not refuse the order to kill Last Order and Fremea Seivelun.
But no matter what it did, it could not completely reject Kakine Teitoku.
Rhinoceros Beetle 05 could not protect those two girls.
“It is simple logic,” whispered that someone. “As long as you are a part of Kakine Teitoku, you cannot hesitate to kill your proper target. If you are hesitating, that reluctance to kill must be coming from some portion that is not Kakine Teitoku. There is something you have gained in this short time…something that the targets trust. When you decide to kill using that excess portion of yourself, you determine that you are ‘betraying’ the targets.”
He was about to speak a decisive statement.
He had made the running start to get there.
“So release yourself from those conditions.”
That someone spoke those words that were like a password to release the safety device on some giant weapon.
“Let this kind Kakine Teitoku forcibly give you your orders. Kill the targets while selfishly resenting me.”
The conclusion was clear.
Rhinoceros Beetle 05 could not become something other than Kakine Teitoku.
No matter what.
Countless spears shot from the white puddle filling one section of the underground passageway. They accurately targeted Accelerator and Mugino Shizuri. They would be difficult to evade. And even if they succeeded, they had nowhere left to go. Kakine Teitoku’s ultimate creation ability gave him as much time, resources, and physical strength as he wanted. He was the worst possible enemy for Accelerator and Mugino Shizuri who had instantaneous firepower in the form of explosive destructive power.
They would eventually reach their limit, they would eventually find themselves cornered, and they would eventually lose their lives.
Kakine Teitoku did not have to worry about when or where that eventuality occurred. He only needed to wait for its arrival no matter how long it took. He did not have to worry about his own consumption. If he merely waited for victory to come his way, his wish would be granted. It was the ultimate wastefulness, the ultimate laziness, and the ultimate desecration. The #2 had gained the ability to extend the idea of ‘sitting and waiting’ to a level where it threatened to bring humanity to extinction.
That may have been the source of the subconscious fear people throughout history had felt towards Fräulein Kreutune.
It did not matter if she was actually able to do it.
It did not matter if she had any intention of doing it.
People just felt Fräulein Kreutune might do it.
Those people had originally been able to gently smile, but that thought was all it had taken for all of their morals to be thoroughly worn down, gouged out, stolen, and crushed. That idea was simply too frightening.
If it had ever actually budded, billions of people would have stood up to it, but could what was nothing more than a collection of individuals truly stand up to that?
And now someone embodied that idea using a different method.
That person was Kakine Teitoku.
Those malice-filled spears and their points filled with murderous intent were produced infinitely and rushed towards their targets. Simply by repeating those countless attacks, he could safely and surely pierce his opponents if he waited long enough.
“What was the point of it all? Now that it comes to the end, I just have to wonder. The #1, the #2, the #3, the #4, the #5, the #6, and the #7… How ridiculous. So this is what it is like to leave the realm of what can be counted with numbers. I guess that was the extent of Academy City’s society.”
The #1 and the #4 could do nothing.
It did not matter how much talent they had or how much effort they put into extending their ability.
“I guess winning is not always a good thing. It can be disappointing. Finding out how low the wall was can be truly disappointing. I suppose I learned one thing from killing you worms.”
By repeating that simple task over and over again, he would knock down and wash away the human culture that had been built up so carefully.
Or so it should have been.
The giant system that was Kakine Teitoku suddenly stopped.
A look of confusion appeared on Kakine’s own face.
The points of the expanding spears stopped just before reaching Accelerator and Mugino Shizuri.
One of Mugino’s eyebrows moved and she said, “Hey, what’s going on? Does this mean it’s okay for me to smash you to pieces? Of course, whether your answer is yes or no, I’ll be turning you to ash.”
“What?” quietly muttered Academy City’s #2 monster as if the word had just slipped out.
His lips could no longer make any movement greater than a slight tremble.
“The transmission rate is…? But…the material data system signal…hasn’t changed. It can’t have changed…”
Accelerator alone remained silent.
The #1 had been continually using his control over all vectors to attack the system that was Kakine Teitoku from within.
That was the only conceivable possibility.
“It can’t have… It can’t have changed…and yet… What did you do? Even if you interfered with the Dark Matter’s internal lines…even if you reversed the signals, you shouldn’t have been able to make it past that individual block. And yet… What…what did you-…!?”
“Oh, I get it.” Finally, Accelerator spoke as if it did not matter. “I guess it was a part those infinite possibilities you were talking about. I see, I see… Heh heh, that makes sense. I find it hard to believe a fragment like that would appear within you, but you did say it was infinite. Something like that must’ve gotten mixed into that network of yours.”
“What are you… What are you talking about!?”
“It wasn’t me,” replied Accelerator.
His response was the simplest response there was.
“I’d say it was you that stopped you.”
At that moment…
“Nyah. What’s the matter?”
The white Rhinoceros Beetle 05, Last Order, and Fremea waited near the multilevel overpass while watching for a chance to approach the intense battles there.
Rhinoceros Beetle 05 was unable to respond to Fremea’s question.
Its consciousness was focused on the image of Kakine Teitoku that only it could see.
“That’s right,” responded the image.
“So what will you do?”
Its thick horn-like main cannon slowly moved. Its aim wavered. As the master, Kakine Teitoku was giving a command to Rhinoceros Beetle 05 who was the slave. He was commanding it to quickly kill the two girls who stood nearby.
The only way to escape the basic order to kill was to acquire a personality beyond Kakine Teitoku.
But Rhinoceros Beetle 05 was nothing but a slave, so it would break apart the instant it lost the supporting pillar of Kakine Teitoku.
Therefore, Rhinoceros Beetle 05 could not reject the order to kill.
The formula was perfectly sound.
“I never had to become anything other than Kakine Teitoku,” said the beetle.
“There was never any need to forcibly think about acquiring a new personality.”
“Wait a second. That response was not in the preset version of Kakine Teitoku!!”
The sound of cracks running across the beetle’s body rang out.
The red light in its eyes flickered unstably like a malfunctioning light.
The cracks had finally become visible on the outside of its body.
It was as if those cracks were in payment for resisting something.
But it did not stop.
Rhinoceros Beetle 05 did not stop speaking.
Suddenly, the red light in Rhinoceros Beetle 05’s eyes completely disappeared.
It had ceased to function.
Or so it appeared.
But that was not the case.
“My name is…”
The light came back on immediately afterwards. But it had changed from red to green. The previous coloration that had indicated an error became a vivid green as if to announce it was now running properly.
“My name is Kakine Teitoku, Academy City’s #2 Level 5 and the user of Dark Matter.”
Some might have described it as a flower blooming.
The cracks continued to appear from within the white Rhinoceros Beetle 05. Without hesitation and without indecision, the beetle completely shattered. And what appeared from within those glittering fragmentary particles was…
A single white boy with a green light in his eyes.
A small cracking noise could be heard.
It had come from Kakine’s handsome face in that underground passageway he had complete control over. More accurately, it came from the small crack that had appeared at the corner of his mouth.
That was all he could manage any longer as authority over the giant system that was Kakine Teitoku began to transfer elsewhere, but “the thing he had been” shook off that restriction and shouted with all of his strength.
For better or for worse, the strength of his will may have been one of the reasons the #2 had been able to climb so high.
His handsome mouth split apart and his entire face opened and closed like a cheap toy.
“Don’t mock meeeeeeee!! Th-this is…This is all mine. I am me!! D-Dark Matter is produced from my brain…from my Personal Reality. How could that…how could the power I brought about myself betray me like this!?”
“It no longer matters who was first,” said Accelerator as if he was singing. “What the flesh-and-blood organs connect to is no longer an issue. You obtained the infinite, so you broke past the need for that kind of thing, right?”
The throat belonging to that which had been Kakine convulsed.
Mugino finally caught on to what was happening and tension left her shoulders.
“Ha ha. Being too powerful is its own problem, #2. When a network made up of flexibly replaceable equipment has a portion become isolated from the rest, the isolated portion becomes a small network of its own. And you have the ability to replace lost body parts like a planarian. In other words…”
“The one who stopped him is also Kakine Teitoku. …Or may be it would be better to say the one who stopped him is now the Kakine Teitoku,” said Accelerator.
It was only during that last statement that Accelerator did not smile.
He showed his respect for someone he had never seen who was not there at the moment.
“There had to have been a lot of different things that made up the whole of Kakine Teitoku. And a lot of those things would normally be invisible due to the great concentration of the whole. But when the network became isolated, things not normally seen rose to the surface. Like the gum syrup built up at the bottom of an iced coffee being scooped out.”
“There would have been the cowardly side of you, the short tempered side of you, the vain side of you…and the kind side of you. But who would have thought it would be this form of the #2 that would wrest control away from the rest?”
The desire to protect someone had won out over the desire to kill someone.
The desire to create something had won out over the desire to destroy something.
The desire to stop a fight had won out over the desire to continue a fight.
“I take back what I said,” said Accelerator without hesitation. That was something he did not often say. “Academy City’s #2 esper power of Dark Matter is one hell of a power. It was wasted on the likes of you. And it was clearly too much for you to control.”
“Come to think of it,” added Mugino Shizuri with a puzzled look. “Do we have any proof that this one was actually the core? The #2’s mind was scattered over the system, and this one was the closest to the surface. But nothing says what showed itself on the surface was Kakine Teitoku’s true nature. Weren’t we just battling the very outer layer of his mind this whole time? Then again, even just that was no easy task, so I guess the #2 really is no normal person. …Oh, and make no mistake. I wasn’t complimenting you when I said that. I was talking about the real one.”
Each time the thing that had been Kakine forced his body to move, more and more small cracks formed. He was trying to kill Accelerator and Mugino Shizuri by any means necessary. So that he could stop them from speaking. So that he could avert his gaze from that uncomfortable information.
But he could not manage it.
That final bit of power must have finally been taken from him. It may have been a mistake that he had held that power at all, even if temporarily.
A high-pitched noise rang out.
A certain line had been crossed.
A portion of the spears broke and the destruction continued in a chain reaction. Everything that made up the thing that had been Kakine noisily crumbled. Just like a child grew into an adult and just like an adult grew into a parent, that giant system grew into something more refined by eliminating the immature portions that remained even in the core of the personality.
“I…I’m dis…I’m disappearing? I…I am…Academy City’s #2…no, I went beyond that… Why is this happing…for such a ridiculous reason?”
“There will probably be nothing left to prove you were ever here,” whispered Accelerator. That someone who was continuing to collapse clearly twitched when he heard that. “Even if a massive amount of data is left concerning Kakine Teitoku, that data will not be referring to you.”
Those were his words.
Those were the words the living could pass onto the dead who would disappear from this world.
“But don’t worry.”
There was nothing he could do in that final moment.
But the thing that had been Kakine had a sudden thought.
He recalled the moment in that subway tunnel when that white Rhinoceros Beetle 05 had suddenly left his control and taken an irregular action.
He did not think that beetle had been given anything special. He had not set it up that way. The issue was who had been in that same location at that time.
A certain girl wearing a pink track suit.
She was a Level 4 with the ability to track others’ AIM diffusion fields, and she also held the hidden possibility of using others’ AIM diffusion fields to distort their Personal Realities.
Hadn’t Kakine Teitoku once made the following estimation of that girl?
She might one day grow to be the eighth of the currently seven Level 5s.
In that case…
Whether consciously or subconsciously, the one who had incited the change in the white Rhinoceros Beetle 05 had been…
“Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!! H-her!! That biiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiittttttttttttttccccccccccchhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!”
The #1 monster ignored that someone who suddenly cried out.
He said, “If you wish to leave some evidence behind, I will make a mark for you.”
The entire underground passageway shook so roughly it seemed like the very foundation would break.
His five fingers pierced through the center of that something that was just barely maintaining its form and it finally completely shattered.
Accelerator brought his hand to his own neck.
He flipped the switch for his choker-style electrode to deactivate his powers.
While supporting his weight with his modern cane, the #1 looked around the area. With no one left to command it, the Dark Matter began dissolving into the air, leaving nothing behind.
“…So it’s over.”
“What’s over?” said Mugino Shizuri with a shrug.
She spoke as if all that intense fighting had been nothing but a quick glimpse of scenery on the way to their destination.
“We still have a long way to go. The path ahead is especially long for those of us who have killed.”
Kamijou Touma forced his aching body along and prepared his right fist.
He was facing Leivinia Birdway.
She was a magician that could give fire, water, wind, and earth the form of deadly weapons just by swinging her form-changing symbolic weapon. She could also take the quickest route and forcibly send out a mass of that power before aligning it with an element to create a white summoned explosion.
She had a great variety of attacks and they all possessed great destructive power.
In a past event Kamijou had been involved in, it seemed she had worn down the organized power of a magic cabal and led it to destruction using nothing but those summoned explosions.
At the same time…
(Her secret probably isn’t the strength of her power.)
Kamijou knew little of magic, but he had picked up on some information during his long battles.
Magicians that could use massive amounts of unrestricted power from the beginning did indeed exist. For example, the Saints, the second princess of England who wielded the royal sword Curtana Original, or Fiamma of the Right who possessed the power to save the world. Those magicians could overcome an opponent with pure power alone. They may have been using up something with their attacks, but they were able to continue those overwhelming attacks to the point that it might as well have been infinite. That was just how they were.
But he had never heard anything about Birdway being that way.
He had heard she was the leader of a giant magic cabal and he had also heard magic was used to make up for a lack of natural talent using techniques. If Birdway was the head of a group that formed due to that fact…
(It’s the opposite. Birdway’s own strength is no greater than normal. …Without something completely crazy like being a Saint or having Curtana, there is little meaning in pushing up your own strength. That must just be how magicians are.)
So he had to think about it in reverse.
He had to figure out how she was creating such tremendous results with a normal level of power.
And in that case, the answer was very simple.
(It’s a trick.)
That was the only word he could think of to describe it.
This was not simple equivalent exchange where 1 unit of power led to 1 unit of results.
This was a crazy trick like some monstrous financial deal that took a single unit and raised it up to a thousand or even ten thousand units.
A warrior could charge in with a sword and shield made of bronze or a warrior could operate a touchscreen to send GPS precision guided missiles raining down. It was the same number of people, but the level of technology could easily push the amount of power he wielded up to cruel levels. Magicians always talked about gaining power via intelligence, so they would surely be ranked according to that.
And the most extreme example was…
Index who they viewed as highly dangerous due to the library of 103,000 grimoires she possessed.
(In that case, what is she doing? If I can destroy whatever Birdway is doing, I should be able to rob her of these hopeless attack methods... The first thing to come to mind is that form-changing symbolic weapon, but is it really that simple? If this method is what she is entrusting her life to while taking on the world, she would never let it be contained in a small handheld system like that.)
“What is it?”
Birdway changed the form of the symbolic weapon in her hand once more.
It now became a sword.
“Are you truly prepared to kill me now? Then hurry up. And if you refuse to attack first, I will.”
Kamijou did not even have time to respond.
She came in for the attack.
It started with a wind sword attempting to cut off his right arm.
Using the line being torn into the asphalt road surface as a sign, Kamijou moved to evade it rather than blowing it away with his right hand. He twisted his body to the side like he was heading for the exit in a crowded train. He used the same action to take a step forward and accelerate towards Birdway.
(Stiyl Magnus amplified the phenomenon he created by placing a ton of rune cards around the battlefield.)
The magician’s weapon had already changed from a sword to a wand.
She held the wand out horizontally and spun it around once. As soon as she did, a disk of fire was created along the path it took. It expanded all at once and became a scorching wall that moved towards Kamijou.
(Yamisaka Ouma created a rope barrier to create a ceremonial grounds, Sherry Cromwell used a bunch of symbols to make the underground mall crumble, and Biagio Busoni prepared a large fleet to destroy Academy City.)
By the time he destroyed the wall of flames with his right hand, Birdway had already transformed the wand into a cup. A large tree of water appeared with her at the center and a large number of daggers grew from its branches and rained down on the area.
(There has to be something. Something that lets her carry out these extraordinary attacks! I don’t know if it’s a matter of numbers or scope, but there has to be something supporting Birdway!!)
He negated one of the countless daggers that had been fired and the fragments of the destroyed dagger diverted the trajectory of the other nearby daggers.
With that safe area created, Kamijou was able to get in range of Birdway.
He still did not have his answer.
But if he had to decide what to target with his fist…
“Dammit, I guess it has to be that symbolic weapon!!”
“I thought that’s what you would choose.”
Kamijou felt a dull shock and the fist headed straight for Birdway’s weapon was knocked to the side.
It had gone from a cup to a sword.
And the wind sword created had been sent at Kamijou’s right fist rather than his body.
It was the same as how Kamijou had used the fact that her magic was too powerful to completely negate.
Birdway sent powerful magic at his right hand to alter its trajectory.
An unpleasant chill ran down Kamijou’s back.
His trusty right fist had lost all meaning at the last moment. Kamijou had already run right up to her and that also meant Birdway could attack him from point blank range. She could get a clean hit with any magic and any attack.
And she took action without hesitation.
“You were naïve to the end. Naïve to assume others are as goodhearted as you!!”
She swung the sword.
She swung it down from above.
And a giant wind blade appeared along that path and headed straight for Kamijou.
Kamijou practically collapsed to the side to avoid it and it just barely missed him.
He had survived. But he felt more confusion than he did relief.
Birdway must have felt safer when his fist could not reach her because she took two or three steps backwards. She must have carried out some kind of ceremony as she did so because several pure white summoned explosions exploded around where Kamijou lay on the ground.
He frantically created a safe area by receiving one explosion with his right hand and sending the explosive energy towards another explosion so they would cancel each other out. As he did so, his thoughts put together the puzzle at an accelerated rate.
(It wasn’t thanks to my own ability that I managed to avoid that. It was because she chose an attack I’ve seen before. But why? She can put spells together in so many different forms, so she should have been able to use any number of attacks I’ve never seen before. If she had done that, I would have been swallowed up because I couldn’t have reacted in time!!)
A wall of flames and a storm of stone knives headed his way, but Kamijou easily dealt with them using his right hand after standing back up. He knew those too.
And that meant…
(It isn’t that she could have done something else but didn’t. Was that all she could do?)
“…I’ve figured it out.”
A high-pitched noise rang out.
It was the sound of the stone knives shattering when Kamijou swung his right hand horizontally.
He was not merely ad-libbing a means of dealing with the attacking spells. This time, he knew it was no coincidence.
“I don’t actually know if it’s possible and I have no real evidence to back it up, but I’ve figured it out. Birdway, this is what lies at the core of your attacks. This is the source of what has turned you into someone extraordinary.”
“What do you know, amateur?”
“What makes you special is numbers. It’s like the rune cards Stiyl uses.” Kamijou once again accurately blew away a wind sword. “You always use the same spells with the same motions. That’s the answer. You have repeatedly done the same thing for a long time and it has built up. By making the exact same motions in the exact same way, you turn those very motions themselves into magical symbols to support you! Yourself a year ago, yourself a month ago, yourself a week ago, yourself a day ago, and yourself an hour ago. Those are the symbols you use!!”
But that was not something all magicians would be able to do.
Her motions were “the same” on a different level altogether.
If someone tried to copy their own handwriting from the past, could they reproduce it perfectly? This was the technique to forcibly draw out overwhelming results by remaining on the existing course and never being able to leave the category of “oneself” no matter how restrictive and disadvantageous that could be.
What she had built up was what made her powerful.
She had taken what everyone understood as an idea or as a concept and raised it up into its ultimate form as a real phenomenon.
She stood at the very top of those who attempted to gain the power to take on the world by polishing and improving their skills.
“You really are amazing. Especially in the way you don’t show it off. You put on a cool expression and pretend to look down on the world with a cold heart, but you are actually the most passionate and the hardest working one. You embody the hope that people will eventually be rewarded if they put in enough effort.”
She took on a different form from Kamijou Touma who spoke and listened in a conflict of beliefs.
Leivinia Birdway made no simple comments and yet displayed success with her actions. She showed that people could come that far based on nothing but their own efforts. That was what led people to be fascinated by her and prevented any of them from disputing whether she was worthy to stand at the top of a giant magic cabal.
In that case…
“Do you really think that’s the answer?” Birdway transformed her symbolic weapon from a sword to a wand and casually pointed it towards Kamijou. “Were you hoping to find a structure that simple inside me? I control the largest magic cabal in England, the Dawn-Colored Sunlight!! I am always searching for something new whether it is from science or magic!!”
A flash of light surged out.
It was a summoned explosion.
The way Birdway did not rely on the strict techniques of spells or ceremonies and instead shortened and simplified that technique as if ad-libbing was the proof of how non-standard she was.
“In the end, that’s the same. It’s the improvised, ad-libbed, off the cuff, and freestyle concert encore version. …You make it appear to be all those things, but it is actually a calculated action where you accurately repeat the proper technique. You arranged it that way to hide the fact that you can only use fire, water, wind, and earth magic using set actions!! I’m sure you could create new spells if you wanted, but then you would have to work your way up from nothing!
You can’t use anything new in battle right away!!”
He could break through.
He could handle it all with just his right hand.
He could oppose the same attack with the same method.
It was like a giant plantation intentionally filled with a single crop through selective breeding being wiped out by a single type of insect.
“The real knife hidden in with the stone knives and the flintlock pistol pulled from the back were means of betraying my expectations to make me think there was more to Leivinia Birdway than there is! You were trying to make it look like you had such a free range of attacks that it was pointless to count them all!!”
He did not tremble.
The fear that caused it could not be found within him.
He had found the clue he needed to achieve victory.
That confidence gave him the strength to clench his fist even tighter.
“How many cards do you have in your hand, Birdway?”
“What does it matter to you?”
“Is it 5? 10? 15? 20? No matter the number, it doesn’t matter. You don’t have an endless array of attacks; you have a limited number. I doubt I’ve seen them all, but I don’t have time to figure out how to handle all of them.”
“Then you can go to your grave with this misunderstanding.”
A great noise exploded out.
It was the sound of Kamijou kicking off the road surface and running toward Birdway.
Birdway did not take any further steps back.
She would meet him where she was.
(It’s no good, Birdway.)
A downpour of water daggers rained down, a flame wall blocked his path, a wind sword tried to slice through the entire area. Summoned explosions appeared to fill the gaps between attacks. A steel blade rotated like a giant electric fan and an electric attack bounced around the area like a pinball. A few of the attacks were things Kamijou had not seen before, but it was not enough to corner him. He found ways to deal with them, and cornered Birdway who was losing a card from her limited hand each time he did so.
(I think I know what type of person you are now. You love effort and do not turn away from hard work… You have not tried even once to target the weak point on my side where I was shot. You have charmed the people who support a large organization with something other than your words.)
He negated many different forms of magic, he blew away many different spells, and he took advantage of many different forms of attacks.
All the while, Kamijou Touma ran forward.
His vision opened up.
This time, he had truly made it up to Leivinia Birdway.
“You are…!! You are the person who taught so many people that hard work will carry you to the top! I can’t let you come to the pathetic answer that using Fräulein Kreutune is the best option!! I can’t!!”
His means of attack were limited to just one.
But he constantly reached that one means out towards what he could not reach, touched that which was said to be impossible, and grabbed at something that was not there.
His hand and its five fingers could freely make any number of forms.
It now took the form of a fist.
It happened immediately afterwards.
Kamijou Touma and Leivinia Birdway arrived at the same spot.
And the conclusion was reached.
On the top level of the multilevel overpass, Misaka Mikoto frowned where she stood on the road that was falling apart.
Brunhild Eiktobel had suddenly stopped those movements which contained such monstrous power. Even when Mikoto had magnetized her giant steel sword using a high voltage current so that all sorts of iron objects flew to it, the woman had used brute strength to continue to swing around that mass that had to weigh a dozen tons. But now she froze in place.
Her gaze moved from her opponent and off to some other place.
Mikoto did not view it as an opening. It was an uncomfortable silence like a bomb’s timer had reached zero yet did not explode. She felt something that made her hesitant to carelessly attack, so she called out to the woman despite how out of place it was to do so.
“Is something the matter?”
“It seems one issue has been resolved,” replied Brunhild quietly. “I am not sure if I should continue fighting, head over as reinforcements, or view the situation as unfavorable and make preparations to reorganize.”
On the sports-arena-like area one level down, Lightning God Thor and Silvia, the Saint he was confronting, were also looking off elsewhere. However, the two of them looked less confused and more appeared to be enjoying an unexpected outcome.
“Hm, what to do now?” said Silvia with the tone of someone trying to decide whether to hang up laundry when the sky was partly cloudy. “It looks like I just received justification to abandon a job that was necessary but that I was less than delighted to carry out. So what am I to do now?”
“If two Saints went after him, I’m betting you could manage somehow.”
“No,” replied Silvia despite having no obligation to give an honest answer. “All we need to rob Fräulein Kreutune of her power is a spell that adds a pinch of sand to the pure water that has such special behavior. But that is Leivinia Birdway’s specialty. She did not fully trust us. She wanted to keep that technique a secret, so there is nothing we can do now that she has been broken.”
This was not an environment where they could simply retrieve Birdway and continue their plan.
There was nothing they could do if the sole person who could carry out the spell had lost her will to use it.
That was what Silvia meant.
She scratched at her head while gathering up her long rope with the movements of a single hand.
“Dammit, this is why I said I wished I was on your side this time. Then I could have had an all-out fight without having to worry about anything.”
Thor grinned when he heard that.
“It’s still not too late.”
“Idiot,” spat out Silvia with a hint of regret. “I am not like you. I have some comfortable bonds. I have my bonds with an unreliable bastard who is negligent and a crybaby despite very nearly reaching the realm of a Magic God.”
“I am a bit jealous of that.” replied Thor honestly. He shrugged as he said it, but that alone was sincere. “I’ve given everything my all to make it as far as I have, but I’ve never been able to find that. And that’s why I am standing here.”
The action they both took was quite simple.
They took a step back from each other.
That was enough to leave the complexly interwoven situation. That action signified a disarmament where the game pieces that had been optimally set up to achieve checkmate were moved to completely meaningless positions on the board.
It was a sense that only those who had headed far enough down a certain path could detect.
They gave that signal because they knew their enemy was powerful enough to recognize it.
“We will withdraw now,” said Silvia with a smile to the person who was no longer her enemy. “But be careful. If what I hear is true, Fräulein Kreutune is a fully fledged monster. And that holds true regardless of how you try to treat her. A lion at the zoo will suddenly bare its fangs to the zookeeper who has been by its side for many long years. Even if the lion has no intention of doing so, its animalistic instincts and conditioned reflexes can overpower the ‘safety zone’ created by the attachment and experience it has learned. …Humans are in the most danger when they think everything falls into their own framework. Even if the lion has no malice or hostility, it can give the zookeeper a deadly wound when all it is trying to do is ask for food or play around.”
“I know that,” replied Thor quietly. But despite understanding Silvia’s warning, he still added, “But we are the people that gathered due to our dislike of calling her a wild beast and throwing her in a cage. We’re all big enough fools to be willing to risk our lives a bit for her sake. So that warning changes nothing. …We will rescue Fräulein Kreutune. That is our answer.”
While looking out for a chance to approach Fräulein Kreutune from near the multilevel overpass, the white Rhinoceros Beetle…no, Kakine Teitoku opened his mouth to speak.
“It appears to be over.”
“Then let’s go!! Let’s go save our friend! Nyah, nyah!!”
“That’s right, says Misaka as Misaka replies too.”
But he had his own worries.
“The battles on the multilevel overpass are over, but the threat of Fräulein Kreutune herself has not changed. Are you really going?”
She was a living creature that was trying to achieve eclosion by seizing control of a giant information network by eating a certain girl’s brain. That was what Fräulein Kreutune was. No matter how much one tried to beautify it, that truth would not change and that function of hers could not be changed.
Some pet enthusiasts who preferred oddities would tame venomous snakes and let them wrap around their bodies. Some would live with wild beasts and climb on their backs.
But human rules did not apply there.
Those reckless actions only worked when the animal’s rules were met. The instant one set foot outside those rules, the wild beast would not hesitate to devour its owner and the venomous snake would sink its fangs into its owner’s arm.
One could try to compromise.
One could try to make friends with them.
One could promise that everything would be okay.
But those words could not stop that function. No matter how much they had built up with her ahead of time, the instant Fräulein Kreutune’s inherent rules activated, the possibility that she would cast all that aside and attack was not zero. It was not an issue of the good or evil in Fräulein Kreutune’s heart. It was just the simple truth that she was a living creature with that function. That was why it was so powerful and that was why no one could judge her for it. Or rather, nothing would change even if they did judge her for it.
If you put a venomous snake or wild beast in jail after they attacked someone, would they reflect on what they had done? And even if they did reflect on it, would that do anything to keep their instincts and conditioned reflexes from making them attack someone again?
That was why he warned them.
Would their actions have any meaning?
And even if they did…even if some small miracle occurred, wouldn’t that be nothing but a small boat in the middle of the stormy ocean? Would it lead to any real safety?
“Don’t worry,” said Last Order. “She is probably the same as you and Misaka. She probably does not know for sure what she is or even who she can ask to find out, says Misaka as Misaka states her prediction. But that is why someone needs to save her. You can stay here if you wish, says Misaka as Misaka gives her conclusion.”
“In the first place, what do you mean she doesn’t know what she is!?”
Fremea raised her voice despite likely not knowing what the other girl had meant by that.
Even so, her words struck at the center of the issue.
“She is a member of the Hamazura Brigade and our friend! Nyah!! So what are you talking about? What more could she need to know!?”
That which had become Kakine Teitoku and the command tower named Last Order fell silent.
They felt like the ability to accept someone simply as a friend even in such a complex situation and to do it like it was completely normal held some kind of great meaning.
Kakine Teitoku then resolved himself.
He made up his mind.
“Let’s go. We need to save your friend.”
“Nyah! Don’t you mean ‘our’ friend!?”
Kakine stepped in front of Last Order and Fremea and proceeded carefully forward.
Last Order pulled out her cell phone.
“In the first place, what are you doing?”
“Telling her we’re on our way, says Misaka as Misaka gives her reply. The security buzzer we gave her can receive emails, says Misaka as Misaka quickly moves her thumb.”
Fräulein Kreutune leaned up against a guardrail in the arena-like part of the multilevel overpass. She noticed a change. Something began vibrating within her clothes.
She pulled out a small egg-shaped device.
It was the supposed proof of friendship she had been given.
Some small words were displayed on the screen.
That was all it was, yet it was filled with something warm. It was overflowing with something that had been missing in Fräulein Kreutune’s long, long, much too long time on this earth.
Her lips moved.
That may have been the rarest thing for her in her life. Even if it had appeared on her face before with no meaning or thoughts while she emulated someone’s movements as a part of her repeated simple thoughts leading her in the most comfortable direction, these movements of her facial muscles may have come from somewhere entirely different.
“…Thank you,” she muttered.
Those words naturally slipped from Fräulein Kreutune’s mouth.
“Thank you so much.”
She closed her hand around the small egg-shaped piece of plastic.
There was strength in her grip.
While still hanging her head down, she continued to speak.
She spoke a definitive statement.
“But I still cannot stop myself from eating you!!”
The time came.
It was incredibly simple.
And yet there was nothing she could do to stop that horrible conclusion that was about to bloom.
Kakine Teitoku…or rather, that which had been him…or had it simply been a portion of the outer layer of him? At any rate, the person who had used Dark Matter had been defeated by Accelerator and Mugino Shizuri. They headed up a stairway to leave the underground passageways and arrive on the aboveground portion of the multilevel overpass.
“Are you going to do anything about this Fräulein something-or-other?” asked Mugino.
“I don’t care. But it seems someone I know doesn’t want her to die. This person risked herself to stop me when I tried to kill that Fräulein person.”
“Same here. It doesn’t really affect anyone whether she’s saved or killed though, so I’m not so sure it matters.”
As they spoke, they made their way out into the sunlight.
The sounds and vibrations of battle had ended. Something must have come to an end. And if anything was still smoldering, they would stamp it out before moving on.
Accelerator had been looking around the area, but then he spotted something.
He gave it a second look.
He saw a tall, white figure.
“…Hey,” said Mugino as if she had seen something disturbing. “What is that?”
One level above ground level was an irregular overpass that spread out like a sports arena to connect the different stops of a giant bus roundabout. The figure had long silver hair that covered her face and wore a dress-like outfit made of a thin white material. Accelerator recognized her. He had lightly held her in check when she had tried to attack Last Order.
That much was fine.
The problem was…
She was sitting down with her head hanging down, she was in a balled up position…and she was covered in something.
It covered her hands and her chest.
And it covered her mouth and her teeth.
Whatever it was, it was closer to pink than it was a pure red. It was too soft to be meat. He could hear a wet chewing sound as Fräulein Kreutune’s jaw moved. She bit into something, chewed, and swallowed.
Even Mugino who had been involved more deeply in death than the average person could only mutter that in dumbfounded shock.
Accelerator was unable to respond.
Something like static had appeared at one point in his head. In no time at all, it spread explosively and filled every inch of his mind.
He could not move.
And that was why he was unable to stop the #4’s words.
“I’m not an expert…but that looks like a human brain to me.”
Who had Fräulein Kreutune been targeting?
What if this had been the ultimate objective of her actions?
What was it she was eating?
Where was that brat?
Something suddenly exceeded its capacity. Something that had been building up completely collapsed from a single blow and Accelerator’s mind was filled with nothing but the color red.
Accelerator did not even realize his hand had reached up to the choker-style electrode around his neck.
He stomped on the ground and controlled that vector to jump straight up into the air. By the time he reached the height of the arena-like upper level, he could already feel something writhing on his back. They were likely wings. Those wings could be either black or white, but the wings that would burst out in another second would probably be dyed in a color more grotesque than any anyone had ever seen.
He did not feel he could even wait that one second.
The instant the #1’s red eyes zeroed in on his target, he began moving his arm to reap that life.
“Wait!! says Misaka as Misaka frantically tries to stop you to save her friend!!”
A strange phenomenon assaulted Accelerator.
A certain someone’s brain was supposedly being devoured in front of him and yet he could see that familiar girl standing there when he turned his head. And she of course showed no sign of bleeding.
A question entered his confused head.
Who or what was Fräulein Kreutune eating?
Before the battles and before they headed to the multilevel overpass, there was a conversation.
It began with Misaka Mikoto after the Lightning God Thor egged her on. He had said something along the lines of “Hey, Miko-chan, Kamijou Touma is doing his usual thing by being nursed to health by some mysterious little blonde girl. What do you think about that?” and she had barged in on that spiky-haired boy without hesitation.
With bluish-white sparks flying from her bangs, she said, “First you leave me behind at Hawaii, then you suddenly grope my chest when we meet again, and now you’re flirting with some girl like it’s a normal thing! Do you never think about explaining anything or apologizing for anything!?”
As she shouted, she fired a lightning spear and Kamijou Touma collapsed to the side.
The blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl standing next to him shook her head and said something in French.
“Life is always a sudden thing. It is possible it could end right here. But I think it is only fair that I get a bit angry if such a coincidence occurred. This is my precious clue leading to Gremlin.”
“Huh!? What was that? You usually block it so easily…geh!? You’ve been shot in the stomach!? Why didn’t you say so!?”
As he lay collapsed and convulsing on the ground due to her much too unreasonable demand, Kamijou asked one thing of Mikoto.
He asked her to translate for him since he did not understand French.
The blood flowing from his side made Mikoto feel fairly guilty, so she did as she was told while still confused about the situation.
“Um…What? ‘Due to being reconstructed to my normal body after being turned into a human table, I can now freely disassemble and reconstruct my body’? N-no!! That’s not a mistranslation. That’s really what she’s saying!!”
“I-I get the general idea. I see…but that’s just crazy. Even if you had to slip past Academy City’s security, breaking your body down like that is crazy…”
It seemed they had come to some odd form of understanding.
A hint of jealousy appeared on Mikoto’s face, but what they were talking about was so brutal she did not particularly want to know much more.
“How did she get that small?”
“Um… ‘I broke my body down to the level of a few food ingredients to carry it in, but the person who prepared me did not follow the recipe so some of the ingredients were left over’? …??? Eh? Wait a second… What are you-…?”
Kamijou frowned and listened while still collapsed on the ground.
But then he sprang up into a sitting position.
“Did you say some were left over!? So we have some ingredients to a human body that can be freely made into whatever we want at least to a certain extent? And we have the person who knows how to use them too. Wait…In that case!!”
“Hey, Mikoto! Tell Cendrillon this: I want your help. With your ingredients and skills, we might be able to save Fräulein Kreutune from having to eat someone’s brain!!”
“W-what!? Cendrillon? But wasn’t she the one who went on a rampage in that Hawaiian airport…ehh!? But isn’t she smaller than before…!?”
As Mikoto gave that explanation while still confused, a somber look came over the face of the mysterious short girl named Cendrillon.
Mikoto somehow managed to put her French words into Japanese.
“I doubt that detour would help with my goal. I must take my revenge against Marian Slingeneyer for deceiving me. And those ingredients are a part of me. If they are used for something else, I will no longer be able to remake myself back to normal.”
“Eh?” said Kamijou without thinking. “Marian Slingeneyer? I defeated her back in Baggage City.”
Mikoto continued to translate as if on auto-pilot (She felt like her mind would burst if she did not immerse herself in something) and the small Cendrillon suddenly grabbed at Kamijou despite the words she understood coming from Mikoto. She started shouting something in French that the boy could of course not understand while shaking his head back and forth.
“G-gbh!? Explanation please!!”
“U-umm… ‘What have you done!? That is clearly beyond the level of what you should be doing!!’ ”
“It just kind happened! I couldn’t help it!!”
After grabbing at his collar with both hands for a while, Cendrillon finally realized that would not change the situation. She let out a heavy sigh and released him.
And then she said something very dangerous in French.
Mikoto translated it.
“I see, so the target of my revenge is already dead. In that case, I guess I have no reason to remain fixated over that.”
Kamijou did not remember saying anything about killing her, but he decided not to correct her. There were some things people were better off not knowing.
Cendrillon clicked her tongue and said, “Not only did you save my life in Baggage City, but now you freed me from the revenge I would have sullied my hands with. Ugh, you were supposed to be my enemy, so why do I keep growing more and more indebted to you…?”
“I don’t want to translate this,” said Mikoto.
“Please. We won’t get anywhere otherwise.”
Kamijou frantically pleaded against the sudden threat of a boycott and Mikoto finally got back to her job.
“Understood. I will pay back my debts with this,” said Cendrillon using Mikoto’s mouth. “What do I need to do?”
It seemed Cendrillon had snuck into Academy City by hiding inside a package. She had been in the form of cooking ingredients, so she had sent the cardboard box to someone who frequently ordered such things.
It had taken some doing to acquire that data, but it seemed Cendrillon had managed to gather data from a company outside of Academy City.
Kamijou Touma wanted her to use the leftover ingredients for something and had asked her to retrieve them, but she suddenly realized something as she ran down the road.
“…Where was that apartment?”
She had been taken to the apartment while packed inside a cardboard box, so she had no idea what path she had taken on the way there. And when she had left, she was being chased out by one of Academy City’s espers who had ridiculous destructive power, so she had not had time to remember what route she took.
That meant she had to start by searching for someone that knew the way to the apartment in which she had left the leftover ingredients.
Meanwhile, Hamazura Shiage and Takitsubo Rikou walked along next to the multilevel overpass. They had ended up there thanks to a casual comment from Mugino Shizuri when the girl had met up with the two of them.
“By the way, what happened to the security buzzer you gave to Fremea? Didn’t it have GPS tracking?”
An ominous creaking noise came from Mugino’s high-tech fake hand when the Hamazura-Takitsubo couple (who could both be rather stupid at times) let out that sound of realization.
“Oh? So you forgot, did you? So all this time I’ve been killing my legs walking around and around and around and around was for nothing? Haaamazuraaa…”
“Wait, wait, I’ll check it now!! I’ll check the GPS, so spare me that steel fist! You’d probably knock my jaw off!!”
And once they headed after the security buzzer’s GPS signal, they found themselves at that multilevel overpass.
“She’s not here.”
“The only person here is that strange woman that tackled me?”’
The security buzzer’s GPS signal pointed to that tall, pale woman, so they had to seriously think about the possibility that someone had stolen Fremea’s possession. And it also looked like some kind of fight was about to break out.
But then someone completely unexpected interfered.
A young girl began speaking in French.
“Oh, there you are, you asshole. You need to show me the way back to that apartment.”
“This is just a failing in my knowledge of French and you didn’t just say what I think you did…right?”
A dangerous creaking noise came from Mugino as if the special makeup on her face was having trouble withstanding the movements of her muscles.
Hamazura looked confused and asked, “Do you know her? …Actually, she looks kinda familiar. Is she someone’s little sister or something?”
Cendrillon ignored them and continued in French, “I left some of my ingredients in your apartment. I need them to resolve a large problem in this city.”
“Tch… So was I attacked last night by someone dressed like Frenda because of that? Were they trying to prevent that issue from being resolved for someone’s benefit?” spat out Mugino. But, “I don’t have time for that.” With a truly annoyed look, she grabbed the back of Hamazura’s neck and held him out towards the small Cendrillon. “Do you want to be turned to ash or do you want to get this stupid-looking boy to show you the way? It’s your choice.”
“Hey, wait!! What about Fremea!?”
As Hamazura flailed his arms and legs around in midair, they heard yet another voice.
It belonged to…
“I just called them,” said Yoshikawa Kikyou as she lightly waved a hand holding a cell phone. “Our girl and your…what was that blonde girl’s name? Well, they’re together. …They also said something about being with a rhinoceros beetle, so parts of the situation are a bit unclear. But they at least seem to be safe for the moment.”
“What?” Mugino gave Yoshikawa a horribly displeased look as she tossed Hamazura towards Cendrillon with a single hand. “And why are you telling us that?”
“Perhaps it was unfair of me to give you my information before telling you I want something in return.”
Yoshikawa’s expression did not change.
Takitsubo Rikou sensed the scent of a researcher in the way she seemed used to handling espers who had great power and an abnormal mental structure.
“Academy City’s #2 Level 5, Kakine Teitoku, is working to kill our girl. And if he succeeds, the odds are good your girl will be killed as well. So help me.”
“He’s after your brat, right? It doesn’t matter to us as long as we take Fremea away from her.”
“For you maybe. But what about…Fremea, was it? I doubt she would be happy about it.”
“No, no, no, no!! Mugino! Don’t look like she’s taking Fremea hostage! This is completely normal. If Fremea’s friend is about to be killed, there’s nothing wrong with fighting to save her!” shouted Hamazura.
“You have an odd idea of ‘normal’,” said Mugino in displeasure after giving a kick to Hamazura who she had already handed over to Cendrillon.
Mugino then asked for the necessary information in annoyance.
“So where is the #2?”
“In the underground passageways at the bottom level of the multilevel overpass.”
“How do you know that?”
“If you knew…well, I’m sure it would start a fight. But try to keep this in an area where Level 5s fighting will not affect anyone else. I also have to deal with the issue of Last Order being eaten.”
While keeping all but what she needed for the negotiations a secret, Yoshikawa gave a slight smile and thought to herself.
(I do not hesitate to get students involved in actual battles just because they are strong. I may be naïve but I really am not kind.)
Suddenly, the mysterious French-speaking girl spoke up.
“I do not know who is protecting who, but you will need my help to keep that girl from being eaten.”
“…Is my French rusty or something? Eaten…you say?”
“Don’t worry. That is what I heard too.”
Yoshikawa and Mugino exchanged a glance and Cendrillon continued speaking.
“Also, if you intend on protecting that girl’s friend, it seems you must also protect that Fräulein Kreutune woman who is being manipulated by her desire to eat the girl. …To be honest, it doesn’t matter to me. But that’s what Kamijou Touma said, so I have no choice.”
Hamazura thought briefly upon hearing Mugino’s lazy translation.
The fact that the name Kamijou Touma had been mentioned meant that same softhearted mood that pulled others into an effort he had seen at Hawaii was at the core of this. But setting that aside…
The security buzzer had ended up with that white woman.
But what if it had not been forcibly taken?
To keep Fremea from being sad, they had to save her friend Last Order. What if the same reasoning applied to that white woman?
“…Takitsubo, can I be completely honest? This is a pain in the ass.” Hamazura brought a hand to his forehead, but he did not stop there. “But it means we can’t overlook this.”
After having Cendrillon (who had apparently heard it from someone else) quickly explain the situation regarding Fräulein Kreutune, an obvious question floated up in Hamazura, Takitsubo, Mugino, and Yoshikawa’s minds.
“How…how are we supposed to stop this Fräulein Kreutune person?”
“It is simple,” said Cendrillon easily as she pointed at her own chest with her thumb. “She will eat a specific person’s brain. And I left the materials needed to use that against her in your apartment.”
As a result, Hamazura and Takitsubo led Cendrillon to their apartment, Mugino headed to the multilevel overpass to destroy Academy City’s #2, and Yoshikawa Kikyou…
“I can’t actually fight, so I’m left with nothing to do. The data analysis I can carry out is only any good for things inside test tubes.”
She ended up coming with Hamazura and the others to act as a French translator for Cendrillon.
They found Kinuhata Saiai cleaning up the apartment she shared with Hamazura and the others.
“I’m the only one!! I’m the only one doing any super work! Even if I handed off the dark side investigation to Mugino, super what am I doing in the middle of this once-a-year school event!?”
“Hey, Kinuhata. Why are you talking to yourself when no one else is around? Is that a habit of yours?”
Kinuhata, who had been shouting out to relieve stress, suddenly froze in place, slowly turned around, and leapt at Hamazura the instant she saw him. She beat him to a pulp with some strange professional wrestling move.
Cendrillon ignored that and headed to the kitchen space.
She pulled out some equipment that had been roughly shoved into a cardboard box.
“Here it is.”
“Can you really make a human body out of this? This is so nonsensical I get the feeling the translator of the Kaitai Shinsho is going to come haunt us.”
Yoshikawa looked at the items lined up on the kitchen counter with a dubious look.
As she poked at Hamazura’s cheek as he lay trembling on the ground, Takitsubo Rikou asked, “What do we need to do?”
Yoshikawa translated the question into French and Cendrillon replied, “Just follow my instructions using the specified amounts. …We just have to knead together the excess brain material into a paste that has a similar structure to the person the monster is targeting.”
“Oh?” said Yoshikawa before translating. “I would be best for that job. I know the structure of her brain quite well.”
While speaking both Japanese and French, she operated her cell phone with her thumb. She was sending an email detailing the plan to those who needed to know. The email to Last Order made it through, but it seemed the one to Accelerator did not as he was in those underground passageways.
“I don’t really get it, but is all of this on Kamijou Touma’s instructions? Did he say feeding this brain to her would stop that woman?” muttered Hamazura as his face paled a fair bit.
Cendrillon replied, “I do not know, but it would be a problem if she was fed too perfect a replica and it emulated the effects of the real brain. This paste is like the negative of a photograph. We will make a second replica based on it but it will be made out of candy. She will be fed the one that is pure candy.”
After packing what they created in a clear bag, Hamazura Shiage headed for the multilevel overpass.
As she walked next to him, Takitsubo said, “Hamazura, do you really think this will work?”
“I have no idea. But I think there’s a chance. It’s a bit of a stretch, but it does make sense.”
The object was too creepy to look at, but it definitely held the possibility of saving Fräulein Kreutune and keeping Fremea from losing a friend.
In other words…
Fräulein Kreutune had a function that meant she had to eat Last Order’s brain. It was not an issue of deciding to or not. The impartial string of ones and zeros would make sure she continued to pursue her prey no matter what.
So what if they used that function against her?
What if they fed her a completely useless replica that was exceedingly similar to the brain she used to identify her target?
Fräulein Kreutune would continue carrying out that command until the hole was filled.
But what if they filled the hole with something else?
If her function was satisfied with false information, it would never awaken again.
Fräulein Kreutune would be able to stand before her friends without having to fear anything.
“I may have been stuck behind the scenes without anything important to do,” muttered Hamazura under his breath. But he had a small smile on his face. “But getting a shitty role is no reason to slack off!!”
This was the final possibility that Kamijou Touma had reached for at the very, very end.
Many different powers were at work, traveling along the thin connections between people.
It all connected to the final moment.
They all worked for a single, true victory.
Time now returns to after the battles.
“Nyah. It’s okay now.”
“All the scary people are gone, says Misaka as Misaka responds too.”
Fräulein Kreutune jumped in surprise when she heard those words.
She looked back down at her own messy hands.
It may have only been an excellent replica.
It may have ended without anyone being sacrificed.
But her expression made it clear she felt she was a loathsome creature for being unable to stop herself from taking the action of eating. And the fact that the person she had been trying to eat had watched her do it seemed to indicate some kind of decisive ruin.
She felt like a criminal in a crime drama after being tricked into revealing information in public that only the criminal could know.
But that was not it.
The situation was completely different.
No one was trying to blame her.
“But…I…I wasn’t able to stop…I still…ate…”
“You may be a creature that ecloses upon acquiring a massive amount of information, says Misaka as Misaka gives her estimation. No one can change that and Misaka does not think it is necessarily a good thing to change it, says Misaka as Misaka repeats herself. You may have had a function that made you take the shortest route to eat Misaka’s brain and acquire lots of information from the network, says Misaka as Misaka smoothly continues. But…” Last Order did not stop there. “Even if your situation was not taken into account at all and whether you are good or evil was solely determined by your functions, that was only what you were a minute ago, says Misaka as Misaka makes a decisive statement. It does not apply to you now. You do not need to be afraid of anything or worry about whether you are good or evil, says Misaka as Misaka explains. …You are now nothing but our friend, says Misaka as Misaka makes her announcement.”
Could it really be settled so easily?
Could it truly have such a lovely conclusion?
The method of proving that it could was simple.
“Nyah! I don’t get any of this confusing stuff about functions, but we just have to test it out, right!?”
Fremea wrapped one arm around Last Order’s shoulders from behind and then the two girls charged towards Fräulein Kreutune’s chest.
A soft sound could be heard.
And that was all.
That target, that head, and that brain that had so heavily influenced her actions were right in front of her. And yet she was no longer ruled by that function. Fräulein Kreutune could simply embrace her friends without having to hurt anyone.
She heard a small sound come from within her own body.
Something was writhing within her. Her body was likely reacting to the information beginning to be taken in from the pink imitation. The strange sound continued and she began changing into some unknown new form in increments as small as the differences in a “spot the difference” puzzle.
Not even she knew what would happen.
But that was how it should be.
When humans put in effort, they could not decide in what way that effort would make them grow.
That alone said plenty.
By adding something to her past self, she had gained the right to head in a different direction.
She could move her path far, far away from one that led to biting into someone’s head and eating their brain.
She embraced someone for the first time in her life.
Strength slowly but surely entered the arms and fingers wrapped around her friends’ backs.
Someone gave a quiet smile when he heard that cry.
He moved back a step.
Everything was okay now.
The problem had ended.
Conviction could lose all meaning given the right timing. With the area no longer a battlefield, the thing holding them all there was gone.
The circumstances surrounding the boy named Kamijou Touma were complex and not all of his relationships were bound with friendship. There were some who were more or less enemies and some that were connected to him by nothing but the thin thread of being a friend of a friend.
But even so…
They would naturally gather in one place to handle someone’s crisis and then disappear once it was resolved.
They would head back to their individual paths and return to their proper place.