Toaru Majutsu no Index:NT Volume7 Chapter1
Chapter 1: Altar of the Wisdom King. Foreign_matter.
“Where did that pervert go!?”
“He sent himself to the lacrosse team’s locker room in that tiny box!?”
“That is actually rather impressive in and of itself… I almost feel sorry for him. He is probably the type of idiot who could think of nothing more than sneaking into the women’s bath even if he had a revolutionary world-changing power like stopping time or invisibility. Curse that hidden camera show reaction performer. He must die!!”
“Kill him, kill him!!”
The words of the girls running along the main road stabbed into the fugitive’s heart.
Kamijou was observing the situation while hiding in a nearby alley with his back pressed up against a building wall. He was also near tears.
“Dammit, Tsuchimikado. Answer, answer, answer, answer!!”
Kamijou was pressing buttons on his phone with his thumb, but the boy who had created this tragic situation would not answer. Eventually, Kamijou received an announcement saying his call had been rejected.
“Why!? That bastard shoved all the responsibility onto me and then disappeared!!”
Kamijou only knew the term Altar of the Wisdom King. He did not actually know what shape or color it was. There was only so much he could do to save the people of the School Garden.
As far as a pure search went, the School Garden was only two kilometers square. While that was still a lot of space, full use of two hours gave him a much better chance of finding his target randomly than if he had to deal with the entirety of Academy City.
However, Kamijou had been thrown into an area where boys were forbidden with no preparation time whatsoever. If he carelessly walked around, he would be arrested. And it was entirely possible he would be ganged up on by high level espers before being arrested. If that happened, he could be “accidentally” killed in the process.
He could not give up and go home, but he could not brazenly walk around either.
He had to carefully sneak around, but doing so would cost him a lot of time.
Before he took any action, he needed to come up with some likely locations to search. That way he could locate the Altar of the Wisdom King as quickly as possible and defeat Umezaki Yuuga, the Vajrayana-style magician preparing it.
(He said it was a Homa altar, right? Wouldn’t an old occult antique like that stand out in this scientific city? Then again…)
Kamijou looked around.
The entire area was modeled after a “traditional” European city.
Due to the tastes of a high-class girls’ society, that kind of old-style antique was everywhere. He was worried the Altar of the Wisdom King would blend in too well.
(But Umezaki Yuuga has the same restrictions as I do. …And I’ll be really pissed if it turns out he’s actually a girl with a masculine name or he can turn invisible.)
The magician would naturally not want anyone to interfere with the ceremony.
Kamijou’s top priority was not getting captured.
After that was searching for places where a Japanese antique could be left without raising suspicion.
“These are high-class girls’ schools. They probably have tea ceremony clubs, flower arrangement clubs, calligraphy clubs, and all sorts of old-fashioned stuff…”
That biased opinion would have annoyed a “real” high-class girl like Misaka Mikoto, but she would probably blast him to smithereens if she knew he had snuck into the School Garden.
(Whatever I do, I need a map first. The School Garden is filled with secrets, so the satellite maps are kept private. My first goal is to get one from somewhere.)
Suddenly, he heard the (sadly not high-pitched) voices of numerous girls from the main road. It seemed a wild animal search party had already been formed out of volunteers. Kamijou immediately looked further down the narrow alley.
(No, I have no idea where this leads. They might be advancing from both directions or it might lead straight to another major road. I need a safer way out of this.)
Kamijou glanced around the straight and narrow alley, twisted his head around, and then froze in place.
What he saw was…
Multiple sets of footsteps entered the narrow alley.
“What!? He is not here!”
“Was that witness testimony inaccurate?”
“…U-um, senpai. That was not some new type of UMA not recorded in any animal encyclopedia or a materialization of all the girls here’s desires for some as-yet-unseen gentleman, was it?”
“He was nowhere near pretty enough to be that.”
“Oh, of course!! No one would want a reaction performer like that!!”
(You don’t have to insult me like that!) cursed Kamijou in his heart.
He was up above them.
He had pressed his arms and legs against the buildings on either side of the narrow alley to climb up to the fifth floor. To make sure they would not look up and spot him, he had climbed onto the roof and rolled onto his back.
(Dammit. Tsuchimikado still isn’t answering.)
Kamijou was staring at his phone, but then…
“Oh, wait. This will be sending out an unknown cell phone signal.”
Kamijou’s body stiffened in fear.
He frantically turned the phone off, but it was too late.
“Are you sure you were not mistaken? There is no one here.”
“There would not be a dot here for no reason. That reason might be an error, but there has to be a reason for it to be displayed here.”
“Wait a second. This map only shows two dimensions. It does not display any differences in height.”
“In other words…”
Kamijou held his breath.
The Altar of the Wisdom King would activate within two hours, so he could not let himself be captured here.
“Is he underground!? Did he climb into a manhole!?”
“He continues to display more and more of the special techniques you would expect of a pervert! This goes beyond a mere performer! Horokawa-san, do not think of this as practice. We will use our sabres for real!!”
“But if this mysterious being can move freely within the sewer, does that mean he is a monster similar to a white alligator?”
After he heard the footsteps leave, Kamijou rolled onto his stomach.
He stuck his deactivated cell phone in his pocket.
It seemed the wild animal search party was running around with the fencing sabres from a high-class girl’s school. From what he had heard, he would not simply be poked at if he was found. They would be trying to stab him through the chest and out the back.
(I can’t travel on the surface. I-I guess I’ll have to travel by rooftop.)
No matter how many secrets the School Garden had, it was still made for students. Signs and pamphlets with maps could be found here and there.
The problem was how to check one of those without anyone seeing him.
(If I had binoculars, I could check one of the signs from a rooftop. If only I could use my phone. Then I could zoom in with the camera. Well, finding some generic tool to use like binoculars will probably be easier than getting a map of an area with as many secrets as this.)
Kamijou forced himself to think positively as he tried to suppress his trembling.
Travelling by rooftop naturally meant he would have to jump between buildings with no lifeline.
“Wow. I can’t hesitate. It’s all over if I hesitate.”
He looked down from the edge of the roof and wiped sweat from his brow.
It was only about a meter to the next building, but this was not the same as jumping over a puddle on the sidewalk. The fact that he would die if he fell through that gap provided a different type of fear than that of simply falling from a cliff.
(Fortunately, I don’t have to worry about being chased by those girls if I use the roofs. I can take it slowly. Just calm down and focus. I don’t need any more strength than I usually use. If I move the same as I always do, I can easily clear this gap.)
Kamijou took several deep breathes and backed up away from the “chasm”. He was preparing the space for his running jump. He gave himself 10 meters. If he did not hesitate and let his momentum carry him after he kicked off the concrete roof, he would reach the neighboring building.
Misaka Mikoto used magnetism to jump up far above the stone-paved ground. She pressed the bottom of her feet against a building that had proper base isolation and rebar despite looking European. She then took another large leap.
She used this process to reach the roof of the building in only two steps.
(Honestly. I know I can’t do anything about it since it’s part of the school’s Curriculum, but I just wish the school would handle transportation.)
School had already let out for the day, so sports clubs could be heard jogging here and there. The seven Level 5s of Academy City had specialized analysis and research facilities created for them. The other students were usually jealous of this, but it actually meant she had to match her schedule to what the adults wanted regardless of when she was supposed to have free time.
And those supplementary Level 5 facilities were not all contained within the grounds of Tokiwadai Middle School. She sometimes had to leave the school grounds and travel to an external facility.
(My free time after school is limited enough already with the dorm’s curfew and then they suddenly cut into it further by scheduling an analysis in that external facility. I need to use any shortcut I can to leave as much free time as possible.)
Mikoto had those worthless thoughts as she jumped from rooftop to rooftop. Her strict dorm supervisor would lecture her if she found out about this, but Mikoto did not hesitate because the entire problem stemmed from the early curfew set by that same dorm supervisor.
She saw something that should not have existed. For an instant, she thought she was seeing a hallucination brought on by her private feelings. She started to blush as she analyzed why she was seeing this hallucination, but then she realized something did not add up. She would not be seeing this without the influence of some external factor.
And so she finally reached the much too obvious question.
Why was that idiot inside the School Garden where no boys were allowed?
Mikoto thought silently for a moment, but could not come up with a reasonable answer.
She realized she did not need a reasonable answer for this.
And so she switched over her focus.
“Yoooooooooooooooooooooooooooouuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu!! What the hell are you doing here, you perveeeeeeeeeeeeeerrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttt!!”
“Noooo! Why does the most intense and troublesome one have to show up now!?”
Kamijou Touma frantically began running. It looked like he was planning to jump the narrow gap between buildings. Realizing that, Mikoto swiftly ran forward to capture the criminal. However, no outside observer would have thought this was a case of “Ah ha ha hee hee hee.” “C’mon, wait up☆” It looked more like he was being pursued by the Jumping Babaa or a Kuchisake-Onna.
Mikoto was moving faster, but Kamijou was closer to the edge of the roof. When Mikoto realized the boy had enough of a running start to easily clear the gap, she changed her tactic.
She manipulated magnetism.
She focused on the metal of his belt buckle and pulled him back toward her just as he began to fly through the air.
To her, it felt like she was holding a thick wire pulling him toward her, but then that wire completely disappeared. It was as if the fishing line had snapped and the fish got away.
Whatever it was the boy used to negate supernatural powers had taken effect.
She suddenly realized the boy had vanished.
He had been trying to jump between rooftops but had been partially slowed down with no way of pushing himself forward.
“No way… He fell?”
Mikoto’s face grew pale, but then she heard a shrill girl’s voice and the sound of a dinner plate breaking against a wall.
“Fuck you!! Do you want me to beat you until you’re foaming at the mouth and every orifice too, you pervert!?”
“Me no speak Japanese!! Me no understand!!” shouted the boy in desperation.
After confirming that he was doing well, Mikoto resumed pursuit of her prey.
After being rapidly decelerated in midair by a mysterious magnetic attack, Kamijou reinforced his reputation for misfortune by falling right into the gap between buildings. However, he desperately reached out and managed to grab onto the railing outside a window.
Letting go and dropping down would mean his death, so his only option was to climb into the window. However, a girl who seemed to work at the fancy shop inside splendidly attacked him repeatedly with brand-name tableware and he had to run across the storage room and into a hallway.
“This is horrible. This is so horrible it’s almost laughable!!”
Kamijou frowned as he tossed up a pair of opera glasses (printed with an animal mascot) he had found in the storage room.
With those opera glasses, he could check the signs on the road without climbing down to the ground.
However, Mikoto and the female store clerk knew where he was, so that wild animal search party would soon arrive at the building. Naturally, he could not head down to the surface, but heading up to the roof would only let Mikoto spot him again.
(Is my only option jumping from window to window? But I can’t get a running start in the building. If I could place a ladder across the gap, I could make it…but I get the feeling this commotion is only growing larger.)
He had turned his phone off, so he could not check what time it was. According to a clock on the wall, 20 minutes had passed since his explosive birth in the girls’ locker room.
(Could I tell Mikoto what’s going on and get her help? No. I completely lost the timing for that. By the time she calms down, Umezaki Yuuga’s Altar of the Wisdom King will have already destroyed everything!!)
Kamijou made up his mind. He could not afford to be caught, so he had to try to travel from window to window. He first headed for the staircase. If he was going to try it, he wanted to be on the 2nd or 3rd floor.
But something happened as soon as he set foot in the staircase.
A single girl stood on the stairs leading down as if to block his path. She appeared to be middle school aged. She was short, had white skin, and had black bobbed hair. She somewhat resembled a Zashiki Warashi from an old picture book. She wore a blue sailor uniform instead of the Tokiwadai uniform, but she probably belonged to one of the five girl’s schools that jointly controlled the School Garden.
The girl looked small and delicate, but as a student of the School Garden, she likely had enough of an esper power to be useful in a fight. Depending on how she used it, her power might match or even exceed a gun or blade. That was bad enough on its own, but being stopped here could allow other high level espers to arrive.
He audibly gulped.
He could not decide whether to force his way past her or to look for another route.
As he hesitated, the bobbed hair girl opened her mouth to speak.
Kamijou naturally took a defensive stance.
A voice or a sound could possibly act as a trigger for some sort of esper power.
“Oh? I sent someone to increase my information gathering ability because I thought something exciting was happening, but it looks like I found something even more interesting than I was expecting.”
That voice sounded incredibly odd to Kamijou.
There was no problem with the tone or volume of the voice. As one would expect of a slender girl, it was a high-pitched soprano that sounded like it could cause a glass to vibrate. However, the intonation was oddly alluring. It was as if an adult’s voice was being forced to sound younger with a voice changer.
Also, the actual words spoken were odd. The bobbed hair girl had said she “sent someone” despite standing right in front of Kamijou.
The bobbed hair girl spread her arms wide and ultimately brought one hand up to her eye in a horizontal peace sign.
As she gave a casual wink, Kamijou noticed something like a star in her eye.
This action did not fit at all with her original obedient image and she then spoke with a superior elegance.
“I am Shokuhou Misaki, Academy City’s #5 esper. Nice to meet you☆”
Misaka Mikoto burst through the door and into the fancy shop. She passed by a few other girls as she made her way further into the store, but she could not find the person she was looking for.
(He isn’t here?)
She spotted a door behind the register that likely led to the employees only area, but the girl working in the store would stop her if she tried to force her way in.
But the same had to be the case for that spiky-haired boy.
She tried simply asking the girl behind the register.
“Um, was there a commotion up above a bit ago?”
“Eh? Oh, yes there was. I found it a bit hard to believe myself.”
Mikoto had the girl summarize what she had “found a bit hard to believe”. Someone had suddenly entered a fourth floor hallway through a window and this intruder had been a boy, something that was rare (or rather, unheard of) in the School Garden.
A worker’s scandal was one thing, but the girl had no obligation to hide a crime of a complete outsider. She may have even thought trying to hide it would create some rumors that would negatively affect the store’s image.
“Eh? You told me where he got in, but where did he go after that?”
“I don’t know. I heard a team made up of mostly teachers is being sent after him, so the other girls are waiting at the exits to make sure he does not leave.”
It seemed the situation was continuing to grow in scope.
Although given the special characteristics of the School Garden, that had not been hard to predict.
Mikoto left the store and then used magnetism to jump straight up. She supported her body with the rebar in the wall and entered the third floor similarly to how a certain criminal had.
But she could not find the boy.
In fact, all the workers not guarding the exits must have been evacuated because the place was deserted. A deafening silence filled the area. With how quiet it was, Mikoto felt she would hear any noise on the floor above and below this one as well.
(Has he already left the building? But the workers are guarding all the exits.)
Mikoto looked around and her gaze landed on a window.
Just like on the roof, the gap between windows was narrow enough for even a normal person who could not manipulate magnetism to jump across.
When she entered the room with the window and stuck her head out to look, Mikoto frowned.
She looked out to the end of the alley compressed between two walls.
On the main road’s sidewalk, she saw around 10 girls wearing the Tokiwadai Middle School winter uniform.
(They’re from Shokuhou Misaki’s clique. What are they doing here?)
In Tokiwadai Middle School, students gathered into cliques in the name of independent learning and research cooperation. Unlike school clubs, the cliques had no teacher act as an advisor and were not officially recorded with the school. However, some students viewed joining a clique as giving one a certain type of status.
Shokuhou Misaki was the “queen” who controlled the largest clique in the school. Those girls were a lot like her hangers-on.
(Those two are definitely in one of the sports clubs. Club activities shouldn’t be over yet, so were they called here for some urgent task?)
Mikoto was mainly focused on one clique member who had splendid ringlet curls. She was carrying a large brand-name gym bag over her shoulder.
A gym bag large enough to hold a grown man if he was curled up in the fetal position.
(…This is suspicious.)
The bag must have been heavy because the ringlet curls girl would occasionally lose her balance and stagger a bit as she left the fancy shop with other girls from the clique.
(I can’t think of any logical reason for Shokuhou to be in contact with that idiot…but it’s entirely possible she would do something just because I know him.)
Mikoto did not even know why that boy was wandering around the School Garden. This added another level of unknowns on top of that, so guessing what was going on had grown much more difficult.
At times like this, it was best to find a way to simplify the situation.
(Whatever is going on, I just need to force that idiot to explain it to me!)
After watching Misaka Mikoto run off in the wrong direction, the black bobbed hair girl walked unsteadily away from the fancy shop’s exit. She was one of the girls who Mikoto had passed by on the first floor of the shop.
The girl used both hands to carry a bunch of flowers so large it would be better suited to decorate the front of the store than to arrange in a vase. It was over 150 cm tall, so it was unclear if she could actually see in front of her.
“Sorry about this. This girl is doing some basic work at the official school store which doubles as social sciences training, so the only way to get through the employees only door was to bring out all of my acting ability to say she was taking out the trash.”
Kamijou Touma was buried in all of the flowers.
The background behind him was filled with flower petals, but it did not make him look handsome.
The leaves were crushed and it all stank of dirt.
“I’m not sure I understand that, but is it like a part-time job?”
“This girl is in middle school. Also, no student with enough wealth ability to be in the School Garden would need to work. Girls who are worried they are so sheltered they will have difficulty getting along in society will get a job almost as a good luck charm.”
Working after school just to know how commoners lived seemed exactly the sort of thing a celebrity would try. Kamijou Touma could not be more jealous as he was the type of working student that raayu was made for and he barely scraped by yet had no time for a part-time job.
“How far do we need to go?” asked the girl.
“Just as far as a sign showing a map of the entire School Garden. …By the way, was there really no other way of keeping me safe? Ugh, I feel like there are caterpillars in my mouth.”
“I told you it would have been easier to travel with my clique pressing their backs against you.”
“…I don’t think I could do that.”
“(That way sounded like it would have a lot more amusement ability.)”
Kamijou wanted to ensure the accusations of him being a tremendous pervert remained false accusations. Even if he had a good reason for doing so, he did not want to become a pervert based on his own choices.
To outside observers, it looked like the bobbed hair girl was holding the flowers he was hiding in, so her lips were located much closer than he expected as she spoke. He had to be careful that his right hand did not touch her body.
“Today certainly has taken an odd turn,” she commented.
“By the way…um, #5 was it? Why did you help me? I doubt you understood that explanation. You didn’t know what I meant when I was talking about magic, right?”
“Oh?” The bobbed hair girl’s eyeballs rolled around once in her head before looking back at Kamijou’s face. “I suppose hearing that from you at a time like this certainly is a lot like you. But make no mistake. I am more annoyed than impressed.”
“What? Have you seen magic before or something?”
“No, I have not. But I have a reason to trust what you say that is completely unrelated to that cheap nonsense.”
“What…do you mean?” Kamijou frowned while covered in flowers. “Have we met before by any chance?”
“If you are talking about the side event ability of the Daihaseisai, you are quite mistaken,” said the bobbed hair girl as if rolling a hard candy along the top of her tongue. “But you are always like this. Perhaps that is the proper form for our relationship ability. No matter how many times I ask or our paths cross, the answer is always the same. Saying this will probably make you angry just like back then, but perhaps that is my punishment for having this power. After all, these repeated coincidences cannot be explained logically☆”
Kamijou looked truly confused now, but before he could ask anything further, the bobbed hair girl suddenly stopped walking. They had reached an intersection with an even larger road. Here, people would be looking in their direction from 360 degrees around them.
They had arrived at a sign displaying a map of the entire School Garden.
Kamijou very nearly stuck his head out of the flowers while focusing on the sign, but he frantically stopped himself.
“What? Over half of the blocks are grayed out.”
“Of course they are. This only needs to give the main entrances and service entrances for the five schools. The schools may jointly control the School Garden, but they are also rivals. Anyone who knows the value of information is not about to leave the details of their school on a public sign.”
That was a problem.
Kamijou had no idea where Umezaki Yuuga would set up the Altar of the Wisdom King, but he would not leave it on a major intersection like this. There had to be somewhere easier to set it up. Some blind spot no one would check or some facility where a Japanese antique would not stand out. Kamijou’s general strategy had been to determine where those places were and then go investigate them.
“That means I need the maps of each school as well. Am I going to have to sneak into every last school!?”
“Hee hee. Oh? It seems your choosing ability was right on target when you teamed up with me instead of Misaka-san.”
“You want maps of the five schools, right? I can easily get you those. …After all, I have sent my preset to students in each of the schools.”
Her “preset” may have been some kind of hypnotic suggestion.
And that also meant she had spies in each of the rival schools Tokiwadai cooperated with.
(This is no time to worry about that.)
“If you can get the maps for me, please do. You probably wouldn’t understand, but the School Garden has only…90 minutes left. I wish I could have everyone evacuate, but I am in no position to have them do that.”
“Yes, yes. I believe you. If you say that is the case, then that must be the case.”
Kamijou found it disturbing how easily she accepted it, but this was no time to worry about that either.
“I am sending instructions around with my remote, so they should gather with the maps in five or ten minutes.”
He would be able to acquire the maps.
However, that was only the starting line. He had no other hints and only 90 minutes left. He did not have the time for a thorough search of the School Garden’s two kilometer square area. Also, travelling while buried in flowers was an excellent way of ensuring his immediate safety, but it was a slow means of transportation. If he was too slow, the number of possible locations he could search would be severely limited.
That worry must have shown on his face because the bobbed hair girl grinned and tilted her head from very close by.
“Neh heh heh. I do have a bit of countermeasure ability for that problem☆”
“The map group will take five or ten minutes to arrive, so how about we make a quick change of clothes while we wait?”
Kamijou sensed something very dangerous in those words, but the bobbed hair girl was the one holding the huge bunch of flowers. When she began walking, Kamijou had no choice in the matter.
He was practically dragged behind a nearby building. As soon as he entered the building, Kamijou smelled a chemical odor that reminded him of rubber or plastic.
“Okay, you can come out now.”
The bobbed hair girl tossed aside the huge bunch of flowers, forcing Kamijou into the open.
The room looked like a storage room for a clothing shop. A great number of cardboard boxes with a company logo on them were piled up to one side. The bobbed hair girl ripped off the packing tape sealing a nearby box and rummaged around inside.
“…What are you doing?”
“Neh heh heh. These are not normal products. They are replicas of Anti-Skill equipment.”
“What are those doing here?”
“For safety training! They are used for the ‘outside world simulation’ stage performances put on for the pure girls here.”
“Being a high-class girl sounds like a lot of work.”
“Even for a special performance, real male Anti-Skill members are not allowed here. Instead, girls play the role using replica equipment made with quite a bit of accuracy ability.”
In the School Garden, it seemed even being a member of the professional law enforcement group made up of teachers was not enough for them to trust a male. Kamijou began to understand just how much of an oddity it was for him to be here.
“You don’t seem like that at all. It’s more like you heard about this from someone else,” he pointed out.
“Fwa ha ha ha ha! Well, yes. There are two different types of students here: those that leave the School Garden and those that don’t. And do I really look like a pure girl who knows nothing of the outside world?”
“You’re controlling this bobbed hair girl, so I have no idea what you look like.”
The School Garden likely had a lot of security cameras, but if he was dressed in an Anti-Skill uniform, he would have no problems walking through the streets.
(Wait. But she just said even real Anti-Skill members aren’t allowed here. Something isn’t adding up…)
Kamijou looked confused and was about to ask the bobbed hair girl about it, but something stopped him.
Without hesitation, the bobbed hair girl began removing the top of her sailor uniform.
Kamijou made a splendid leap behind the pile of cardboard boxes as if he was evading a barrage of bullets.
“You idiot!! Did you forget you’re borrowing this girl’s body!?”
“Oh? But I don’t mind at all.”
“Of course you don’t! You’re controlling someone else!! Don’t you feel any guilt!? Even if I tried to apologize, she can’t hear me!!”
“It is true that this bust size ability is rather disappointing.”
While still hiding behind the cardboard boxes, Kamijou put on the black bulletproof and stabproof armor. He peered out when he heard a voice saying “You can come out now!”, but the girl was still wearing nothing but her underwear. Kamijou silently hid right back behind the boxes and slammed his forehead against the floor. This made a loud noise, but it had no real meaning.
“…There is no way in hell you are going to have a pleasant death.”
“I can’t think of any death that would be pleasant☆”
The bobbed hair girl made another sideways peace sign next to her eye before starting toward the back entrance.
Kamijou frantically stopped her.
“Wait a second. You said even real male Anti-Skill members aren’t allowed in here, right? Won’t I cause a commotion even with this disguise?”
“Don’t worry, don’t worry. Just leave it to me.”
“Y-you’re kidding, right!? I have no idea what’s going on anymore! You’re not just having fun with this, are you!?”
“Oraaahhh!!” shouted the bobbed hair girl as she shoved Kamijou out the door.
As expected, he ran across several energetic girls about three seconds after finding himself outside. One girl was carrying that thing used in lacrosse (he did not know what it was called), one was carrying that monstrous trumpet like instrument used by wind instrument clubs (he did not know what it was called), and one was carrying a morning star (…!?). Their faces grew pale when they saw him and they were clearly about to scream.
But the bobbed hair girl shouted loud enough to drown them out.
“What are you girls doing here!?”
“Haven’t you heard that a suspicious boy has entered the School Garden!? You need to evacuate to a building somewhere! Hurry!!”
“Um, uh… Why is that gentleman in the School Garden?”
“That is just how urgent the situation is. They had to call in backup on a large enough scale that we couldn’t worry about gender. By the way, I was called in to help as a Judgment member. Do you know what my power is?”
They of course did not.
As the girls (and Kamijou) stared blankly at her, the bobbed hair girl pointed her thumb toward her chest.
“I have a water control power that has been confirmed effective as a means of emergency birth control.”
“This intruder is a member of a natural talent cult that focuses on genetics. I hope I do not need to explain why a beast like that would have snuck into this girls-only area. Hurry! If you do not want to need my ability, you have to go hide now! Email your friends, too! Make sure everyone knows! Do not come out of hiding until we send an email explaining the situation. Do you understand!?”
The girls ran off as quickly as they could.
And then Kamijou collapsed onto his knees.
“Why are you increasing my supposed list of crimes!?”
“All I had to do was make sure they knew this is an emergency where their common knowledge does not apply. In a small world like this, rumors spread very quickly. The School Garden can be filled with sensational emails within minutes. If all of those emails say the same thing, even the adults should accept it.” The bobbed hair girl grinned. “And did you notice something else? Those girls realized you were a guy, but they did not realize you are the rumored intruder.”
Now that she mentioned it, he noticed it too.
If they were pursuing the criminal based on something they had heard from “a friend of a friend”, they might very well have never seen his face. However, a high school boy walking around in an Anti-Skill uniform should have been out of place enough that they would suspect him. And yet they had not.
“They never even looked at your face. They may have been keeping their peace of mind by not looking you in the eye and keeping their mind off of you.”
“Those pure high-class girls are not used to seeing guys, so they were intentionally ignoring you. They probably assumed you were an adult because you were wearing that Anti-Skill uniform. They may have been judging you by your clothes more than your face”
Once again, he realized she was right.
The bobbed hair girl had been the one to give a lot of false decoy information because the one dressed in the Anti-Skill uniform would be the first one they would suspect.
Kamijou was unsure how much they could deceive the adults monitoring the area with security cameras, but they might actually overlook it once they saw the decoy emails spreading among the girls and saw the girls who had accepted the explanation in the grainy security camera footage.
“Okay. The girls I asked to gather the maps are here, so it is time for our next action.”
The Anti-Skill uniform was a fully functional replica. Even if the bulletproofing and stabproofing had been kept as lightweight as possible, it was still quite heavy. And the plates embedded in it made it hard to move in. However, it was well worth it since it allowed him to walk around without worrying about hiding.
“Okay, okay, okay. I’ve gathered the maps of the five schools. If I connect here to here like this…done. Their secrecy ability and hiding ability mean nothing now. I have a full patched-together map of the School Garden☆”
“…That’s one more thing to add to my list of crimes.”
“If they find out, you’ll probably never be allowed to leave. Or they might rip out the corresponding brain cells.”
She smoothly made that horrifying comment.
Kamijou desperately hoped it was only the black humor of a high-class girl’s school.
“I don’t actually know what the Altar of the Wisdom King looks like. It should be some Japanese-style container in which a fire can be made. Where could someone leave an antique like that without raising suspicion?”
“Hmm. If it can be as small as a censer, it could be in a tea ceremony clubroom, a flower arrangement clubroom, or in someone’s personal possessions. It might even be in one of the student dorms within the School Garden.”
“If it is, we’ll never find it. We only have 80 minutes left. How many people can you use inside the School Garden?”
“Just barely reaching triple digits. But I can’t completely control all of them at once. I can program them to automatically carry out simple commands, but I can only control 10 people at once with this level of skillful ability.”
However, that still meant she could accurately control 10 people at once.
The ability to constantly switch between the different people like that reminded Kamijou this was a Level 5.
“After the 50 minute mark, you need to get everyone out of the School Garden. Tell them I set up a nuke in here if you need to!”
“That is quite a tempting suggestion, but I have an idea with a bit more peaceful ability.” The bobbed hair girl gave a sticky grin. “The School Garden has a total of eight gates. Items can be brought in through five of those. However, if someone was bringing in a piece of artwork or an antique, it would have received a special inspection. And there would be a record of this.”
“Why would they do that?”
“Recently, some idiot tried to sneak out a chip loaded with classified information hidden in an impressionist painting. The use of nondestructive examination methods such as magnetism and X-rays has been increased since then. I suggest we check the inspection records for the gates.”
Kamijou started by using the composite map created from the gathered maps to locate the closest luggage entry gate. The bobbed hair girl had no obligation to stay with him now that he had a safe means of moving around, but she stayed with him for some reason.
A rectangular station surrounded by thick walls was located next to the giant gate. The inspection personnel likely worked inside.
“By the way, can you control them?”
“This girl’s brain cannot use my powers.”
She could not use her brainwashing.
That meant the high school boy dressed in an Anti-Skill uniform and the bobbed hair girl needed to find a way into the station. Kamijou saw no way they could get in without anyone noticing.
“Okay, let’s use the usual trick☆”
“I don’t want to think of that as being ‘usual’!!”
The bobbed hair girl dragged Kamijou up to the station door and then knocked violently on it. A female inspector came out and the bobbed hair girl shouted with a voice as sharp as a knife.
“What took you so long!?”
“What…eh? Wait a second. Who are you two?”
Her tone strengthened, but it may have been due to her unease. Inspectors were not the same as professional Anti-Skill members. The bobbed hair girl pulled something out of her pocket and tossed it at the inspector’s face.
It was a pair of panties.
“We’ve already had several victims!! Do you really think this is any time to sit around asking questions!?”
“I’m sure you’ve heard that a suspicious boy snuck in here while packed in a box, but don’t tell me you really thought it was just the one! Incidents are cropping up all over the School Garden. We have confirmed somewhere between 30 and 40 people have snuck in. If we don’t find out how they snuck in through this gate, who knows how many girls will be impregnated!!”
“Are you serious?”
“Hurry! You need to hurry! Pull up all the data you have so we can find when and where they snuck in! Hurry!!”
The bobbed hair girl half forced her way into the station while pushing the inspector. As Kamijou followed, he had a smile on his face but was crying in his heart.
“(Ah, manipulating those arrogant adults gives me such pleasure ability. I absolutely love it☆)”
“(Is it just me or are all the false accusations you’re pushing onto me absolutely horrible!? And has this girl not been wearing any panties since we changed!?)”
As the crowd of inspectors held their heads in their hands and fought in front of the screen, the bobbed hair girl and Kamijou peered in from behind to catch a glimpse of the inspection records.
“Damn, there’s just too much data! Do you have any information we can use to narrow down our search!?”
Kamijou thought a bit after hearing that inspector’s question.
(I was thrown in here 50 minutes ago. I don’t know when the Altar of the Wisdom King was brought in, but there couldn’t have been too much of a lag. With this much security, the magician wouldn’t want to stay here any longer than necessary.)
“The first suspicious person was spotted 24 hours ago. Try to focus your search on objects that were registered as pure Japanese antiques.”
“Okay, okay, okay… Found something. Is it this!? Would you say this is suspicious!?”
The inspector urged him to look at the screen, but a high school boy could hardly decipher that list of numbers and item names.
However, the bobbed hair girl next to him said, “Shiraha Social Support Club.”
“It is an unofficial salon led by students. It has about 20 members. Officially, it is an independent archery training group, but the members’ actual goal is to create connections with large corporations mainly from the financial world. If I recall, the leader loves kimonos and wall scrolls.”
Some of the terms mixed in there had Kamijou doubting this was a middle school girl speaking, but it may have been that he was the odd one out.
The inspector tapped on the screen and asked, “What should we do? Call in reinforcements and surround the place?”
“We will handle it.”
The bobbed hair girl waved her hand while pulling Kamijou out of the station by the hand.
The girl led him to the building in question.
The Shiraha Social Support Club had rented out an entire small building along the European-style street. It looked like a bank, but it was protected by a door even sturdier than a bank’s.
Girls would occasionally pass through the door. When they did, they held up some kind of card, but it was unclear what sort of system it used.
“So the Altar of the Wisdom King is in there,” muttered Kamijou. “Any idea how to get in?”
“As I already explained, I cannot use my powers with this girl’s brain. That means it is impossible to control someone’s mind to get in. And my powers do not work on anything electrical anyway.”
“I know someone who’s good with that kind of thing, but…”
Kamijou brought his head into his hands.
He had not seen Misaka Mikoto since their brief chase scene on the School Garden rooftops. If he tried to explain everything from the beginning after that, the time limit for the Altar of the Wisdom King would arrive before anything got done.
“It looks like we need to steal one of those authorization cards.”
“How about you beat one of the girls up and steal it?”
“Girl, it may be way too late already, but I want to avoid any decisions that will earn me a bullet to the head.”
The bobbed hair girl tilted her head with a look that said, “Then what can we do?”
Kamijou replied, “What combination of food and drink wouldn’t stand out for someone wearing an Anti-Skill uniform?”
“Anpan and milk.”
“Do you know where we can buy that in this land of high-class girls?”
What they had to do was simple in and of itself.
“What I’m afraid of are ticks. Y’know, those blood-sucking bugs. They act like tiny little droppers of blood and spread disease.”
“Insecticide is used here weekly. Although I suppose that might actually affect your health ability too.”
They started by choosing a target. They staked out the area around the Shiraha Social Support Club and spotted one of the girls going in and out of the building. After that, they waited in a position a short distance away from the building. They had to wait for the proper timing.
“If a tick won’t go near a house, doesn’t that mean it is like a sick house? It has to be full of chemicals.”
“But you don’t want a house full of ticks either, do you? In fact, that would be much worse.”
Kamijou and the bobbed hair girl held freshly-baked and delicious-smelling anpan and a bottle of oddly deep-colored milk. The food and drink were much more elegant than what Kamijou had been imagining.
“That has the same question ability as asking someone whether they want to kill themself or be killed by someone else.”
“If I had to choose, I’d scrub everything clean with antibacterial cleaning supplies even if it might kill m-…wah!?”
Kamijou intentionally stepped out just when the target girl was walking past. He bumped into her and dumped the bottle of milk over the girl’s head.
“Gyah!? Eh? What? You’re kidding! Milk!? Really!?”
“Oh, sorry, sorry! Quick, take that off. If you don’t get the milk off, the smell won’t come out!!”
Kamijou politely took the girl’s blazer, but his false smile froze over when he stuck his hand in the inner pocket.
He could not feel a wallet or card inside.
“…Um, is something the matter?”
“Uh…no. I just need to make extra sure I get any stains out, so…”
It was all over if his poor attempts at buying time made her grow suspicious.
Kamijou had no choice but to return the girl’s blazer…but then he felt something hard against his index finger.
It seemed it had a pocket he had not checked.
“What is it?”
“Eh? Oh, um…”
“I certainly hope you did not intentionally dump that milk on me so you could steal my wallet like some New Yorker pickpocket. That isn’t what this is, right!?”
“N-no! Of course not!!”
“And there was no obscene meaning behind dumping unnecessarily thick milk in my hair, was there?”
“If that’s what came to your mind, there is something wrong with you!!”
Kamijou instinctually spread his arms in a sign of nonresistance.
It took him a second to realize the hard feeling was gone form his index finger and that the blazer was no longer in his hand. But by then it was too late. It would be too unnatural to grab the girl’s blazer out of her hands now.
Meanwhile, the girl checked on her wallet in the inner pocket.
“Well, I suppose Anti-Skill has not fallen that far.”
The bobbed hair girl waved a hand from behind the relieved target. She held a card between her index and middle fingers.
(How did she do that!?)
Kamijou’s eyes opened wide in shock and the bobbed hair girl used her other hand to point at the target’s skirt.
The target did not notice this at all.
“Please be more careful. In fact, I will charge you if the smell does not come out!!”
“I-if you have a complaint, just contact the teaching department…” said Kamijou before walking away.
The bobbed hair girl pressed the card into his hands.
“Here you go, honey.”
“Stop helping me commit crimes and then acting like I’m taking advantage of you.”
“Calm down. If you hadn’t acted as the decoy there, I could not have stolen it so easily.”
“The next time you don’t tell me something beforehand, I’m going to start taking countermeasures against it.”
Kamijou and the bobbed hair girl headed for the Shiraha Social Support Club building. They stuck the card in the reader and the thick door of tempered glass unlocked.
From the outside, it looked like an old bank lobby inside, but once the door opened, they found a Japanese-style room with tatami mats and paper sliding doors. Kamijou was confused by the sudden change of scenery.
“It’s part of the scenery preservation. It’s the same as a hologram. Tiny indentations and protrusions are made on the glass like on a CD to alter the condition ability of the light to make a Japanese-style room look like a Western-style lobby.”
No one was inside.
There might be people on other floors, but Kamijou hoped there were not.
“The Altar of the Wisdom King,” muttered Kamijou as he looked around the room. “Where is it? It should be in this building. Umezaki Yuuga brought it here! It’s a tool that can hold the fire for a Homa altar. If I only knew where it was, I could destroy it with my right hand!!”
However, he found nothing that could be it. Was it on another floor? Heading upstairs would increase the possibility of running into someone from the Shiraha Social Support Club, but this was no time to hesitate. Kamijou looked over at the wooden staircase, but then the bobbed hair girl suddenly spoke.
“Um, this is a simple question, but does your intuition ability sense any sign of finding this object?”
“I have to find it here! Destroying it is easy, but if nothing is done before the time limit, the School Garden will be completely destroyed. I have to keep that from happening!!”
“Are you sure?”
The bobbed hair girl continued to raise more doubts.
Kamijou assumed she was suggesting Umezaki had already arrived and taken the item elsewhere. But she actually said something he did not expect.
“There is no sign of this thing and you cannot find a single clue to its existence. …If I were you, I would begin to doubt the accuracy ability of the information I had been given. Or is that a personal issue due to my mental esper power?”
Kamijou started to feel something unpleasant roiling in his stomach.
When it came down to it, his information was nothing more than what Tsuchimikado Motoharu, a single person, had told him. He did not know how the boy had gotten him through the School Garden’s security, but Tsuchimikado had completely disappeared after shipping Kamijou in and calling him once for that explanation.
(I’ve been thrown into ridiculous battlefields by Tsuchimikado before, but they never had such a short time limit. …It’s almost as if he never intended me to succeed in the first place. Tsuchimikado is always so thoroughly prepared, so this just wasn’t like him.)
But what did that mean?
Kamijou stopped thinking at that point. It had a lot to do with him not wanting to think about it, but he also had too little information to make any real judgment.
He spotted something outside the wall of windows facing out of that Japanese-style room. It must have been made like a one-way mirror because the image coming in did not seem to be altered. An airship was flying above the School Garden. It had a large screen on the side which was showing Academy City’s headlines.
It currently showed the following:
“Breaking news of a fire in District 7. One room of a student dorm was partially destroyed in the fire. The single confirmed fatality was the room’s resident, Tsuchimikado Maika-san. An investigation has begun to determine whether this was arson or an accident.”
Kamijou’s thoughts went completely blank.
The words scrolling by on that giant screen were simply so inhuman that Kamijou had difficulty connecting what they said to the person he pictured in his head.
She was dead?
That girl who always wore a maid uniform and sat seiza-style on a cleaning robot was dead?
How were Tsuchimikado Motoharu’s actions related to this incident?
“What is…going on…?” muttered Kamijou blankly.
Whether she knew what he was thinking or not, the bobbed hair girl spoke in that alluring intonation that did not match her soprano voice.
“What I am suggesting is that someone might have made up a reason to keep you locked up in School Garden like a cage while they did something else in Academy City.”
The sirens of fire trucks blared
Rows of similar buildings lined District 7. One room in one of those buildings had been burned black and then flooded with water.
Tsuchimikado Motoharu operated his cell phone in the parking lot of a convenience store across from the building. Instead of his usual outfit, he had his hair dyed brown and wore a chic jacket. A truck passed right by him and covered him in exhaust, but the boy did not move at all.
His cell phone’s small screen displayed a news site.
He focused on one of several headlines.
“A fire in a District 7 student dorm. One student dead.”
It was a simple line of text.
The text had been made into a link that would likely lead to a page with more details, but that would be no more than 1000 characters.
It finally felt real to Tsuchimikado Motoharu when he saw it posted on that news site.
It was as if it finally hit home that she was dead.
He felt something silently well up within his chest. By the time it began noisily simmering and producing a strange heat, he could no longer control it. Once the subjective symptoms showed themselves, it was like an extremely advanced cancer. How could this have happened? What had he done wrong? He could not stop himself from thinking those things. And in his current state, Tsuchimikado had no intention of trying to suppress it.
His expression did not change.
He did not bare his teeth like a beast nor did he let out a roar that would rip apart his lungs. However, this did not mean he felt no emotion. Tsuchimikado Motoharu knew that he needed to suppress any meaningless signs of emotion when failure was absolutely not an option. The path to success only opened when he feigned calm, acted harmless, and fooled everyone. The more difficult that was to do, the more of himself he had to stifle.
And so he forced it all down.
Tsuchimikado Motoharu forced it down while feeling deep scorn for the fact that he had to do so.
Tsuchimikado Motoharu moved his lips just once. It was as if the words had slipped out rather than an intentional announcement.
He said, “It’s time to get revenge.”
He no longer had any collar or chains holding him back.
Those who had removed them needed to learn what exactly that meant.
Between the Lines 1
Academy City’s aerospace facilities were concentrated in District 23, so it of course functioned as the city’s main entrance from the air. Several sets of footsteps caused quite a commotion in the lobby of an international airport there.
One of them belonged to Yomikawa Aiho, an official member of Anti-Skill. Her jurisdiction was District 7, but her skill must have been widely known because she was often called in for help with major incidents in other districts.
“Yes, that authority in fluid mechanics that even children have heard of. He wrote the best seller ‘The Future of Next-Generation Processors using Viscosity and Density’.”
For some reason, the flight attendant showing her the way almost seemed to be advertising for the man.
Yomikawa wondered why such a dry technical book would be so popular with children, but that may have been yet another special characteristic of Academy City.
There was something else she needed to focus on now.
For example, the other Anti-Skill member walking next to her.
Yomikawa glanced over with a look of extreme displeasure.
“Oh, c’mon. Why did they let someone like you out?”
“Long time no see, Aiho-chi. It’s your old friend, Stephanie Gorgeouspalace. I didn’t buy you a souvenir, but I hope you can forgive me.”
“I heard you fled Academy City, became a mercenary, and then came back as a terrorist.”
“That had a lot to do with the city’s dark side, so good job finding all that out. But I’m not back on the job because I want to be. They must not have wanted to waste anyone they can use. I’ve also heard Sunazara-san is lending his sniping experience to others via some electronic equipment despite still being in a coma. You didn’t lose a bunch of the adults during World War III, did you?”
Sending Yomikawa from her District 7 jurisdiction to District 23 was irregular enough. But now Stephanie had been temporarily released from her cell. It sounded nice to call it the creation of a cruel dream team, but it basically meant this problem had been deemed just that dangerous.
Yomikawa scratched lightly at her head with one hand.
“I guess this is no time to worry about this. You’re not too rusty to trust in a fight, are you?”
“Heh heh. Just leave it to me. Tah dah!! Take a look at this week’s special weapon!!”
As she spoke, Stephanie opened the latches of the two musical instrument cases hanging down from her hands. She produced giant masses of metal over 2 meters long from within. Each one did not have just a single barrel. Instead, three were bound together in a ring. Instead of a trigger pulled with the index finger, they had a button for the thumb with a safety cover over it.
When Yomikawa saw the ridiculous weapons, she brought her head into her hands.
“Please just leave.”
“Eh? Why? Why?”
“I can’t trust you!! You have to be completely insane to use two Gatling guns that need to be staked into the ground to use! You can’t possibly aim those things!!”
“They have legs, so you don’t need to worry about that. Can’t you see the joints on the bipods? They use robot technology, so they absorb all of the recoil and I can aim them in any direction just by twisting my wrist slightly.”
“If they have legs, why don’t you control them remotely?”
“Just calm down. You won’t be saying that for long. I’ll be firing at extreme close quarters with 20mm weapons. Each of these can fire 4000 rounds a minute. Once you see it in action, I’m sure you’ll love it.”
“You make it sound like a fireworks show…”
Two security robots following behind Stephanie were attached to the Gatling guns with thick belts. They were likely disguised self-propelled magazines. Yomikawa followed Stephanie through the airport while Stephanie dragged along the giant drum-shaped magazines that were connected to the guns like a vacuum cleaner.
An airport worker who was speaking with some other Anti-Skill members noticed Yomikawa and approached her.
“Dr. Matsusada is in that…business cargo collection lane. We confirmed it in the camera records, but he has shown no sign of leaving from any of the exits.”
“Is it locked?”
“Every entrance was locked since before he fled inside. That means the electronic locks were of no use. We have no idea what is going on.”
“Hee hee. Well, that is his field of expertise. Given his skill, maybe we should question the camera footage as well.” Stephanie cut in from the side. “But would such a brilliant doctor really overlook such a simple fact? Whether you are an adult or a child, you cannot go for an overseas trip without a security check and some nanodevices.”
“I don’t want to hear that from someone who ran off.”
“I’m just saying he needed to make the proper preparations.”
“So what do you think?”
“Maybe he was trying to hide in the cargo to escape without buying a ticket.”
“Or he is trying to make us think that so he can use the confusion to escape via some other route.”
The airport worker handed Yomikawa something like a USB memory stick.
“It normally uses a palm print, but this is the master key. You use this by opening the authorization panel with a screwdriver and-…”
“He’ll have rewritten the data for the lock,” said Stephanie as lightheartedly as if she was singing a song she did not know the words to.
As she did, she unhesitatingly aimed her Gatling guns at the locked door.
An explosive noise rang out.
After only a few seconds, both the metal door and the wall were filled with as many holes as a sponge. The door did not collapse in the opposite direction. Before it could, something exploded and shockwaves and orange flames scattered in every direction.
Yomikawa immediately jumped to the ground, covering the airport worker with her body. She then shouted loud enough to be heard over the din.
“Stephanie! You goddamn idiot!!”
“What? That last explosion wasn’t me. Some kind of clay must have been stuck on the door. It’s a good thing we didn’t try the master key.”
With that casual comment, Stephanie walked toward the giant hole where it was impossible to tell what had originally been the door and what had originally been the wall. If Stephanie was left to her own devices, the entire airport could easily end up destroyed, so Yomikawa frantically ran after her.
When Stephanie stepped into the room beyond, she looked around and let out a whistle. The area was as large as a gym, but it had conveyer belts running every which way, giving it a cramped feeling. And on top of that, Stephanie’s storm of bullets had clearly made their way inside because several of the conveyer belts had burst apart or crumbled.
(Damn her. She intentionally gave away her position!)
At first glance, it had seemed Stephanie had whistled without thinking, but it had likely been intentional. She was an oddity who used light machine guns, semi-auto sniper rifles, and other difficult to handle guns in the type of extreme close quarters gunfights seen in movies. She must have felt it was best to quickly determine the enemy’s location even if it gave them a chance to attack first.
That analysis of the woman’s actions had been too naïve.
Stephanie Gorgeouspalace aimed her two Gatling guns in completely different directions in that obstacle-filled cargo lane. Yomikawa did not even have time to call out.
An explosive noise rang out.
A large number of bullets tore through the sturdy conveyer belts like they were made of paper and reached the opposite wall. Stephanie continued to fire bullets in short bursts here and there. This continued until Yomikawa grabbed Stephanie by the collar.
“Yes, what is it?”
“Do you have any idea what you are doing!?”
“Cutting off the wiring to all of the exits. This man may be an expert programmer, but the deadbolts will never open if there is no power reaching them. This is the best way to trap him inside.”
“Listen. Our objective is to capture Dr. Matsusada who is trying to escape Academy City, not to kill him! If those 20mm bullets of yours so much as graze that old man, his fat guts will be splattered on the wall!! You’re shooting those things at a rate of 4000 a minute! Do understand what that means!?”
“If he was someone who would die from this, I would not have been called in from my cell.”
At that point, they heard a small noise.
It was not the sound of the smashed wreckage of a conveyer belt falling to the floor. The sound was oozing with the will of a human. Yomikawa let go of Stephanie’s collar and focused in the direction of the sound. A small old man poked his head out from behind some rubble with his hands raised.
“Checkmate, old man. You aren’t being shot on sight because Academy City still has a conscience. But that conscience does have its limits.”
“…You don’t understand.”
Dr. Matsusada was trembling with his hands still raised.
The sweat on his face was due to fear, but he did not seem worried about the heavy firepower Stephanie held. He was afraid of something that was located elsewhere.
“You people understand nothing! The only way to escape its effects is to leave the city!! How can you be so carefree? The changes have already begun!! No, wait. Have you already been taken in by it…?”
“Dr. Matsusada? What are you talking about?”
“I didn’t mean to create something like that,” said Dr. Matsusada with an expression of anguish as if he was clenching his back teeth.
No, he really was clenching them. And it was too late by the time they understood what that meant.
“I-I! I!! I know more than anyone just how frightening the ‘child’ I created is! How frightening a world without heroes is! Gh..gbh! I…”
By the time Stephanie frantically cried out, Dr. Matsusada had already collapsed to the ground.
Yomikawa quickly ran over, but the small old man’s eyes were already wandering aimlessly.
They were slowly wandering.
“He had something in his back teeth…”
“cp-191. A hibernation drug developed for a manned Mars investigation project that never got anywhere.”
“He isn’t going to wake up no matter what we do for three months. I will send for an esper with a mind-related power just in case.”
“The signal is too flat, so I doubt anything will be able to shake him into consciousness. Nor can any information be taken from his brain.”
In that case…
Yomikawa and Stephanie exchanged a truly annoyed glance.
Yomikawa spoke what they were both thinking.
“What research results had Dr. Matsusada so afraid?”