Toaru Majutsu no Index:NT Volume7 Chapter3
Chapter 3: ??? Agitate_Halation.
He could not just sit around in that District 3 high-rise office forever.
Kamijou Touma pulled out his cell phone.
His top priority was the safety of Tsuchimikado who had collapsed bloodily to the floor and the old man who was bound with wire to his luxurious chair.
Tsuchimikado was in especially bad shape. He had already lost consciousness. Kamijou had not trained enough to kill with just his fist, but Tsuchimikado had apparently been gravely injured before Kamijou had arrived. His clothes were stained red.
Tsuchimikado had a self-healing ability that could repair his injuries, but it was incredibly weak and could only place a thin film over burst blood vessels. It was better than nothing, but he would not recover if nothing was done.
But just as Kamijou was about to call an ambulance, a dignified elderly voice spoke up.
“…Stop that.” The old man bound to his luxurious chair had spoken. Kamijou did not know who he was, but it seemed he had regained consciousness at some point. “They will check the hospital and emergency radio signals first. If you call for an ambulance, his ambulance will undoubtedly end up somewhere other than the hospital.”
“If you wish to save him, you must avoid the decisions that will surely lead to his death,” said the old man in a low, quiet voice that still contained great power. The old man continued speaking as Kamijou looked back and forth between him and Tsuchimikado. “It seems the person behind this hoped to eliminate anyone who would interrupt the Agitate Halation project by having them defeat each other. The odds are high you were built into these plans. …But do not worry. The fact that we are all still alive shows that the situation has already left their expectations. He will not die. This situation proves that.”
“It is possible their original plan for the situation was for the Wild Card Coccus Tsuchimikado Motoharu possessed to leak out during the battle. That would have infected and killed every single person here. That would have given them quite a laugh. I do not know at what stage the situation shifted away from that, but this is an excellent opportunity. And if you do not use this chance, it will lose all value. Do you understand what I am saying?”
Of course he did not.
What was going on?
Who was fighting who?
How was Kamijou Touma supposed to fight?
And most importantly…
What had led Tsuchimikado to continue fighting even with such serious injuries?
“If you claim to be his friend, your top priority must be what he was trying to protect,” said the old man plainly. “Tsuchimikado Maika. Tsuchimikado Motoharu feared that his sister would be used as a negotiation card in this battle over the Agitate Halation project. This incident began when he attempted to pull off the perfect surprise attack. However, if the ones running Agitate Halation have a greater information gathering ability than any of us, there is a serious risk that they saw through it all. If nothing is done, they will reach her. Someone has to stop them now, but the number of people who can do so is limited.”
“…This should be Tsuchimikado’s job.”
“Yes, but he is out of the picture now.”
“You make it sound like he’s already dead!! Don’t talk about him like that!!”
The old man let out a long sigh while still bound to his chair.
This was the reaction of a man who knew well how to take control of the flow of conversation rather than just trying to force his opinion on others.
“What will you do?”
He trimmed as much of the fat as he could and spoke a quick statement that would produce countless words in Kamijou’s head.
Kamijou gritted his teeth.
Even if some mastermind had placed countless balls on the table based on thorough calculations, it had been Kamijou’s violence that had forced Tsuchimikado down in the end.
He owed Tsuchimikado Motoharu a debt.
When that terrible friend awoke, he did not want the first thing he heard to be tragic news about his sister.
“Do you know where Maika is?”
“I could only determine that she was not in her dorm. After all, she is who this boy wanted to protect most. He would not let anyone find out so easily.”
However, it was possible the person behind Agitate Halation knew.
Protecting Maika was his top priority, but he did not know where Maika was. That left only one option. He had to attack whoever was running Agitate Halation to stop the attack plan.
Kamijou glanced at the countless documents scattered across the floor.
“I’ll be borrowing these.”
“What truly matters to me is that you stop Agitate Halation. But try to save a life in the process.”
“I will, but it is only her life I will be saving,” cut in Kamijou decisively. “Only one person can truly save Maika and that person isn’t me. Remember this: I will untie you, but I will become your enemy if you let Tsuchimikado die.”
Afterwards, Kamijou quickly left the office and pressed the elevator button. It had not moved to any other floor, so the door immediately opened.
The elevator shaft was covered in glass, so he could see the dazzling nighttime scenery of District 3. The buildings he could see were more than just high-class hotels. This area put a lot of effort into diplomacy and VIP reception. Psychology and sociology had to have been taken into account all the way back at the town planning stage.
The boy stepped into the elevator and pressed the first floor button.
After the door closed, he leaned against the glass wall and ignored the carefully-designed nighttime scenery to instead look at the bundle of papers in his hands.
They were the documents that had been scattered across the office floor.
He had gathered a few dozen of them.
At the top they said:
Agitate Halation Project.
Hypothesized Catastrophe 034. Concerning Damages Caused by the Sudden and Coincidental Appearance of Heroes and a Countermeasure against Them Using a Likely Level 0.
From the very title, the document was written to be as difficult to understand as possible. This was not a report written for that old man. He may have taken the documents from somewhere else.
Kamijou skipped over the detailed numbers and graphs and absorbed the information from just the parts he could understand. It was as if he was running through the document with a highlighter.
Uncertain elements referring to themselves as heroes pose a threat to the development of the advanced technology that lies at the core of Academy City. Locating a certain weak individual can solve this problem. It has been statistically proven that an immature girl is most likely to fill the role.
This individual shall be henceforth referred to as the protection target.
This project aims to artificially create a protection target so that the unpredictable heroes will swiftly eliminate each other with a minimum of sacrifices.
Killing a hero with standard means is difficult. They possess a unique ability to suddenly reverse situations where they have an overwhelming disadvantage. However, that ability cannot help them in a conflict between two heroes.
The elevator descended quickly and surprisingly quietly.
Even the sound of Kamijou flipping through the pages sounded loud in the silent space.
This is not simply a plan to send the heroes against each other to eliminate themselves.
The energy caused by their collision will not always be cleanly cancelled out. It is possible it will instead influence yet another hero.
This can be visualized like a game of billiards.
If the countless heroes are the balls, then the protection target is the cue that strikes the balls. The initial strike can lead to a happy ending, but it can also lead to unavoidable self-destruction.
Several complex equations followed.
Kamijou could not even understand what field of science or mathematics they were based in.
The balls are already in place. What matters is the cue, the protection target.
A protection target will occasionally appear from within the ranks of the powerful, but statistically they appear overwhelmingly more often from within the weak. An individual who will function as a cue will be chosen from among the Level 0s. This individual must be remade into a spokesperson who will give his or her own opinions as a representative example of all of the weak.
The backup plan using Skill-Out, the primary plan using the Freshmen, and the secondary plan using Kakine Teitoku all progressed well. The artificially-created weak individual was confirmed to fill the position of the cornerstone to resolving each of these plans. Details can be found in the corresponding documents.
If “she” is now captured and given a simple card problem that relates to the desired heroes, she will become the cue that hits the balls across the table as we wish.
The protection target’s brain must be destroyed so that she holds no questions about solving the simple problems given. She simply needs the same level of intelligence as a dove so that she can solve the quiz in exchange for food.
Once the project is complete, we can send any and all heroes to defeat each other at the press of a button. With no burden on our part, we can eliminate them to create a world without heroes.
The person behind the project was Yakumi Hisako, a member of Academy City’s board of directors.
Her influence was especially strong in the medical field.
The person this woman had chosen as the cornerstone for her greatest project was…
Fremea Seivelun. Once this artificial protection target has been harvested, this project will be complete.
A soft electronic tone sounded.
The elevator had arrived on the first floor.
Kamijou did not know where Tsuchimikado Maika was being hidden, so the only way to stop the attack on her was to head to the place Yakumi Hisako’s group was most likely to attack. He would defeat the attackers there.
The door automatically opened and Kamijou stepped out into the first floor lobby. He threw the dozens of papers into a trash can by the wall.
Overall, the lobby’s atmosphere was very calm, but some sort of explosion seemed to have occurred near the stairs. Kamijou could see some blood, but he could see no sign of anyone there.
Without giving it any more thought, Kamijou headed for the building’s exit.
He was choosing for himself to step out into the darkness of the night.
When he thought about it, it had been an odd day.
He had felt what was commonly referred to as a “bad feeling”, but such feelings held no meaning if nothing was done about them. And so Hamazura Shiage had felt that strange gloomy feeling but had continued through the motions of his everyday life as if riding a conveyer belt.
The day had ended and night had arrived.
He was sitting at a window-side table in a café near Fremea Seivelun’s student dorm in District 13. He was accompanied by his roommate Kinuhata Saiai, a small girl wearing a knit dress.
“We really are getting relaxed with this,” muttered Hamazura with his cheek resting on his hand while he used a straw to mix around a café au lait filled with way too much tapioca. “We started secretly guarding Fremea because we thought the remnants of the Freshmen might try another attack.”
“Well, we did super defeat the pillars of the organization, Kuroyoru and Silver Cross. And it seems there are no members who plan to super attack out of emotional revenge after their logical attack plan failed. The odds are super low anything will happen now.”
“But shouldn’t we still be taking this a little more seriously? For example, we shouldn’t be spending the whole time staring at movie magazines!!”
“I super can’t decide whether to choose ‘The Fiery Indian Cook Runs through New York’ or ‘Saitama☆Vocal Crisis’. Ah, dammit! I’ve heard you super can’t see the graffiti on the walls during the dark scenes of Vocal unless you watch it in super high quality, but none of the big theaters are showing it!!”
“You chose to eat curry, so are you leaning toward that Indian one? …Come to think of it, why are you eating curry in a café? You really aren’t taking this seriously.”
“You say that, but aren't you super worse with how you always try to pair up with Takitsubo-san for these protection missions!? Do you super realize that someone’s life is on the line here!?”
Hamazura and Kinuhata began grappling (this primarily took the form of Kinuhata’s small hands turning Hamazura’s face even uglier), but they had a good reason for being so relaxed.
“This Fremea girl has that rhinoceros beetle super attached to her backpack, right? Can’t we super end this routine work already?”
“…? Super what are you trying to say, Hamazura?”
“You're pulling my gums out!!”
Hamazura began using all his strength to put out an SOS as the transformation to his face by Kinuhata’s fingers began leaving the realm of humanity.
Kinuhata let go with a sigh of annoyance, but Hamazura was unsure if his face had actually returned to normal.
Something happened outside the café window. All light left the many windows in the student dorm across the street. Only the dorm supervisor’s room on the first floor was still lit.
Hamazura checked the time on his cell phone.
“8:30 PM. Lights out. Nothing out of the ordinary today either.”
“Then let’s super head home.”
Hamazura and Kinuhata stood up and began grappling once more over who would pay the bill. Once more, Hamazura’s face was made even uglier.
Hamazura saw a bright light out of the corner of his eye.
He and Kinuhata looked out the window and saw one dorm room turn its light back on despite lights out having passed. After a few dozen seconds, the light disappeared once more.
The light had been from Fremea Seivelun’s room.
The two exchanged a glance.
“She forgot to do her homework.”
“She was super double-checking on what was in her backpack.”
“She spotted a roach.”
“She had a super bad dream.”
They gave various speculations, but they of course still did not know the answer.
After thinking for a bit, Kinuhata pulled out her phone.
Hamazura frowned and asked, “Hey, wait. Do you really have to go that far?”
“We know that Fremea is still super awake. This will super not be a bother.”
Kinuhata scrolled through her address book and called Fremea’s phone.
But after holding the phone to her ear for about 10 seconds, she frowned and took it away from her ear.
“She super isn’t answering.”
Kinuhata hung up once she received an automatic announcement.
The look in her eyes switched over to one befitting a bloody world.
“As I said before, we know she is still super awake, but she super isn’t answering her phone. We need to assume something super happened.”
Kinuhata grabbed the bill, slammed it against Hamazura’s face, and then rushed out of the café.
By the time Hamazura paid the bill and caught up, something else had happened.
“What is that noise?”
It was not an electronic tone. What sounded like a distant fire alarm was carried in on the night wind. This must have caused a commotion because lights began turning back on in the student dorm.
“Is that a fire alarm? …No, it’s the alarm to an emergency exit.”
“Either someone has forced their way in or someone left.”
Kinuhata and Hamazura exchanged a glance.
Either option was bad news.
“But…what about the rhinoceros beetle? I thought Fremea had the #2 as her bodyguard!? No normal attacker would stand a chance!!”
“Super don’t ask me! We need to super check on the situation for ourselves!!”
Hamazura and Kinuhata had overlooked one simple possibility.
This is what happened a few minutes before the emergency door alarm went off.
“Homework: check! PE uniform: check! My knife and fork are in there, too! Nyah, nyah. My preparations for tomorrow are perfect!!”
Fremea Seivelun checked on her possessions while peering into her red backpack. She was in her dorm room and wearing pajamas. She was speaking out loud because she had been scolded by her teacher that morning for forgetting her homework.
The white rhinoceros beetle key chain on her desk then stirred slightly.
The smoother outer shell on his back opened up and wings so thin they looked translucent spread out. The wings vibrated the air such that they created an artificial voice.
“Did you make sure to put your toothbrush set inside?”
“N-nyah! In the first place, I was just getting to that!!” frantically replied Fremea as she tossed a narrow cylindrical plastic case into her backpack. “All done!”
Lights out would soon arrive. The rhinoceros beetle used his six small legs to move from the desk to the windowsill. Fremea must have suddenly felt tired after finishing her final task for the night because she began rubbing her eyes sleepily as she watched the beetle.
“Nyah. You could always stay here.”
“I cannot do that,” replied the beetle while sticking his horn into the crack between the window and the windowsill.
As he used his horn to widen that gap and create an exit, Fremea tried to grab him, but then a red light flashed on the room’s wall clock. That signified lights out.
Fremea frantically ran to her bed.
If she did not know where the bed was, it was all over. A nightlight was allowed after lights out (and it could be kept on all night), but that was the sign of a coward.
As soon as she jumped onto her bed, the lights went out.
She could still dimly see the windowsill due to the lights outside. She turned toward it and spoke.
“Nyah. Good night.”
“Good night. See you tomorrow.”
But just after the rhinoceros beetle finished speaking…
A sound like a thin piece of ice cracking could be heard.
It had come from the beetle. It had been loud enough for Fremea to hear it from the other side of the room. The beetle standing on the windowsill with his six legs then rolled off and dropped to the floor. It happened much too easily.
“Nyah, nyah? In the first place, what’s wrong!? Are you okay!?”
If she turned on the fluorescent light after lights out, she would be scolded by the dorm supervisor, but that fact had completely left Fremea’s mind.
She turned on the light and ran to the windowsill.
The rhinoceros beetle was still lying on his back with his six legs twitching. Cracks were running through him, but it seemed unlikely they were from the impact of the fall. It looked more like it was the cracks that had caused the fall.
The beetle desperately tried to open the outer shell on his back to spread his thin wings.
He was trying to create his artificial voice.
(Someone is interfering…with the Dark Matter…? I do not know who is doing this…or how…but their draw…is very powerful!!)
However, the beetle was not trying to inform Fremea of his symptoms or to ask for help.
He was trying to do the opposite.
(The damage is focused on my outer shell. I detect no intent to target my weak spots at the joints and sensory organs… That means the enemy is trying to let others know that I am injured. The enemy is trying to concern Fremea Seivelun so she will leave the room on her own!)
The rhinoceros beetle gathered all his strength to move his body and vibrate his wings, but he only produced a sort of static.
This failed voice only concerned the girl further.
The method was the same as a sniper shooting out the legs of an enemy soldier to draw in other soldiers who tried to help the first one. The beetle only now realized that the enemy had been expecting him to let out that “scream”.
He was meant to produce a state of panic.
That panic would remove Fremea’s thought patterns from their normal rails.
“Nyah…nyah! What should I do? Call an ambulance? …But he’s a beetle, so maybe I need a vet. Do they heal bugs? A-anyway, I have to do something!”
His warning did not reach her.
Just as the enemy wanted, Fremea scooped the beetle up into her arms.
“Hamazura… Nyah! That’s right! Hamazura! Ahh! Why does he never answer when it’s important! Nyah, nyah!!”
She changed into her outdoor clothes and charged out of her safe room.
Her plan was to meet up with Hamazura Shiage to discuss the problem.
Academy City’s #2 was supposed to be a powerful bodyguard protecting Fremea Seivelun, but he had instead been used as a tool to drag her down into the darkness.
And then a high-pitched alarm blared to indicate the emergency door had been opened.
The enemy had not needed to send an attacker to harm Fremea.
They had merely needed to have her move to the target destination.
Fate took effect.
A girl who could be called the exact opposite of Fremea Seivelun was dragged up onto the stage.
“Shit!!” swore Kuroyoru Umidori with her back leaning up against a building in a District 13 alley.
She was a Level 4 who could control nitrogen as well as a cyborg who had remade a portion of her body with a focus on her arms. She had once controlled the new darkness of Academy City known as the Freshmen, but she was now preparing for the return of that group by working to repair the connections that had been torn apart back then.
To put it simply, she was performing jobs for higher ups in the city.
This job should have been simple. She was aiding a VIP in one of their occasional moves from one stronghold to another. She did not know if it was in the form of checks or bonds, but she had to move the “money” in an attaché case from the old stronghold to the new. This was obviously something that could not be allowed to get out, but she was used to handling this sort of thing.
“Goddamn them. It was empty from the beginning!”
By the time she had noticed something was off and broken the attaché case’s lock, it was too late. There was nothing inside. It had not been lost en route; nothing had ever been inside. And she had not been used as a diversion as was common when transporting cash.
She was being framed.
The VIP who had given Kuroyoru the job would soon officially accuse her in the form of an assassin. The VIP would demand she return the money she stole in order to cheat her out of a large sum of money. The entire job had been a lie. The very agreement over who would be paying who had been a lie.
(But that’s fine. Now that I know I can’t use this connection, I have plenty of other ways to use this. I just need to find people who are afraid of this VIP or people who want her dead. I can create several different connections from this.)
Her power was only effective at close range, but she possessed the destructive power to slice a tank in half.
Even her thought patterns were dyed in the colors of offense.
“Don’t make me fucking laugh, Yakumi. Thanks for the opportunity. I’ll tie a ribbon around your head and use it as the foundation for the Freshmen’s revival.”
She heard soft footsteps approaching.
From the way the person was carrying their weight, this was not a professional. However, Kuroyoru did not let her guard down. An amateur could still kill. Their cell phone’s camera might have been taken over to send target data to a sniper or they could be carrying liquid nitrogen without knowing it. Those who relaxed when up against a child or the elderly would not live long. They would just end up being killed by a child or the elderly.
Finally, a “girl” showing no sign of caution appeared.
“Ny-nyah! In the first place, where is Hamazura!?”
It was Fremea Seivelun.
She had been the target the Freshmen had once tried to crush to achieve their goal. However, it had been Silver Cross Alpha who had actually taken action to abduct Fremea and he had used various types of powered suits and unmanned weapons. Fremea had never actually seen Kuroyoru.
The girl showed no concern when she saw Kuroyoru Umidori in that alley.
Fremea was more concerned with a strange noise coming from deeper in the alley. It sounded like several metal pieces grinding together.
Kuroyoru could think of only one possibility.
“Yakumi Hisako’s assassin,” spat out Kuroyoru as she kicked away the empty attaché case at her feet.
She did not know what exactly happened to the metal case after it flew into the darkness of the alley in a parabolic arc. She could only hear a great din that was not quite sounds of destruction and not quite sounds of chewing.
“Ee!” shrieked Fremea as she stood paralyzed with fear.
Kuroyoru ignored her and glared into the alley. Someone was walking their way.
From the clothes, it appeared to be a nurse.
However, the look in this nurse’s eyes showed that she did the opposite of “save” lives. Her long hair was worn up to keep it tidy, her fingernails were cut short with no manicure, and her other outward characteristics were just as focused on being hygienic. This made her look very plain, but the look in her eyes was anything but plain.
The nametag on her chest said Rensa.
It was unclear whether this was her family name or given name.
Very few people would want to give away their identity on a field of killing, so this was either a fake name or a declaration that she would kill everyone here.
“I will collect the money later,” Rensa said to Kuroyoru with a sharp glare before turning her gaze to Fremea who stood behind Kuroyoru. “Fremea Seivelun spotted. The situation is progressing well. Given the difference in priority, I am setting her capture as my primary objective.”
Kuroyoru had not even the slightest obligation to protect Fremea.
If she had been the type of person who would risk her own life to protect a strange girl, she would not have chosen to give herself into the darkness and she would not have decided it was a comfortable place to be.
“Is that supposed to be a joke? Your terrible sense of humor is the only thing laughable here,” spat out Kuroyoru as she held her right hand forward. A nitrogen spear appeared from her palm. “Don’t underestimate the Freshmen. You assumed trust was more important to me than money. That was a mistake. A terrible mistake. You want to know what’s top priority here? It’s killing you!!”
“…The situation is progressing well.”
A smile appeared on Rensa’s face. It was so small it was hard to tell anything had changed.
The smile seemed even less human than the lack of expression from before.
“The artificial protection target has even shown enough control over her enemy to create a dark hero variation. Everything is progressing as expected.”
“Just to clarify, I am not taking the Freshmen lightly or making any erroneous assumptions,” continued Rensa at a constant slow rate. “The Freshmen were only created to input set values of fear, anger, and joy into Fremea Seivelun’s mind. In other words, you were the villains who were intended to fail. From that perspective, you played the command role near perfectly. You lost perfectly.”
“I take it you want me to kill you?”
Kuroyoru Umidori lowered her body slightly.
After shifting her timing just a bit, Kuroyoru charged toward Rensa. After drawing her opponent’s focus to the spear in her right hand, she extinguished it and produced a new nitrogen spear from her left hand. Drawing the eye like that was the basis of stage magic. It only gave her 0.5 seconds, but that was more than enough.
She moved to decapitate the girl.
Kuroyoru swung the left spear up and across toward Rensa’s head. Rensa stood perfectly still as the nitrogen spear approached in a crescent moon trajectory.
And then Kuroyoru Umidori’s Bomber Lance was immediately stopped.
Rensa had produced a transparent nitrogen spear of her own from her palm.
Her powers had been developed in the Dark May Project. There were others who used nitrogen powers, but Kuroyoru had never seen anyone else who could produce spears with nitrogen. Rensa was clearly using the same power as Kuroyoru.
“The situation is progressing well.” Despite the two of them being in a situation similar to locking swords, Rensa’s expression did not change. “The dark hero ball has indeed been influenced by the cue that is the artificial protection target. It should be possible to create a collision between her and a normal hero. Agitate Halation’s usefulness has-…”
“Shut the fuck up!!” shouted Kuroyoru as she intentionally extinguished the spear in her left hand and bent her upper body to avoid Rensa’s spear which continued forcefully toward her.
When Rensa lost balance, Kuroyoru held both palms toward her.
If she fired two more Bomber Lances from those palms, it would all be over.
The girl could not defend this time.
Even if she could use the same Bomber Lance as Kuroyoru, Rensa’s stance prevented her from using the spears to defend.
Something else happened.
Kuroyoru heard an odd sound as if multiple piece of metal were scraping together.
She felt as if the world had entered slow motion as some strange object burst from Rensa’s back. It was a giant metallic red flower accompanied by countless silver metal rods that looked like the flower’s stamen and pistil.
Was she equipped with some next generation weapon based in strange cutting edge technology?
Had she built it into her body like Kuroyoru’s former colleague Silver Cross Alpha?
Kuroyoru Umidori, who had remade a portion of her body to artificially transfer the meaning of her existence, felt an unclassified, unscientific, vivid, and primitive “bad feeling”.
(This can’t be…no…it can’t be…!!)
With another metallic noise, the giant flower that expanded from Rensa’s back folded back up into her nurse uniform. The cloth had not been torn because the back had been made with a special hole.
The entire process had only taken 0.7 seconds.
Kuroyoru was unable to take action based on her “bad feeling”. She could not even cancel the action she had already started to take. Bomber Lances burst from the palms pointed toward Rensa’s upper body.
And she already knew that this was a fatal mistake.
The instant the nitrogen spears touched Rensa’s body, they burst to pieces and caused a large explosion.
Kuroyoru Umidori stopped breathing.
When she lost control of her power, it became a small bomb. The torrent of nitrogen expanding with tremendous force had struck Kuroyoru like someone had tossed a grenade at her chest in the same way one passed a basketball.
Rensa had used some method to defend.
However, Bomber Lance could not accomplish what she had done.
She had ignored the “palm” restriction and reflected the offensive ability when it had touched any part of her body.
(Reflection…? But then…!!)
The power that could accomplish that was…
(Vector…control…? It can’t be… It can’t be!! Is she using the powers of the #1 who my offensive thought patterns are based on…!?)
There was a project known as Five Over.
It had attempted to reproduce the phenomena caused by the seven Level 5s registered within Academy City by using macro engineering technology instead of micro quantum mechanics. Her former colleague Silver Cross had used a powered suit with Gatling gun ability which had borne the name of the #3’s Five Over.
(No. If I’m right, this goes well beyond having the #1’s Five Over installed in her! This bitch has-…!!)
With the same unpleasant metallic noise, that giant scientific flower opened and closed once more from the back of Rensa’s nurse uniform and cardigan.
It was as if she was loading the next round in a pump-action shotgun.
After being knocked back by her own spear exploding, Kuroyoru could only watch as Rensa gracefully turned on one leg. She rotated 180 degrees to point her cardigan-covered back toward the other girl.
Pure white wings burst out of her back. Instead of a simple strike, it was more like hundreds of sharp stakes had been shot at her. Kuroyoru produced spears from both hands and desperately tried to defend, but she did not make it in time. Kuroyoru’s powers had been modified to be offensive, so they were ill-suited to defend. The white stakes wove between the spears and unhesitatingly struck Kuroyoru’s upper body.
This time, Rensa had produced a white material.
This was Academy City’s #2.
This was Dark Matter.
(I get it… Does that giant flower rearrange her interior!?)
That was all it took to make her start coughing up blood.
This was not a mere machine.
However, it was also not the same as the psychic powers using quantum mechanics that Academy City had developed.
Kuroyoru’s ability to control nitrogen was upwards compatible with the #1’s ability to control all vectors. In other words, his power could reproduce her power.
However, the #1 and the #2 were obviously completely different. No matter how much either one tried to reproduce the other’s power, they would never be able to fully do so.
That meant this girl could at least use two powers of two completely different types.
And that was only at the very least.
This created a contradiction with the Dual Skill barrier. A single human brain should not have been able to possess more than one power.
(You monster… You monster!! At this rate, I doubt this will end at just two. And yet each individual power is too great a factor for me to handle head on!!)
She did not have time to lie around on the ground. She upped the output of her spears further. She swung her arms around like they were boosters to keep her balance and then jumped straight up into the air. She kicked off the walls a few times and made her way up to the roof.
She heard the same metallic noise from below.
Rensa was changing her attack method.
And then Rensa’s orderly voice said, “Hypothesized Catastrophe 034… ‘Countermeasure in Case All Seven Level 5s in Academy City Opposed the Board of Directors Simultaneously.’ That is why I was created. In other words, I have been given the power needed to defeat all seven Level 5s on my own. Please do not think you can escape with such a foolish plan.”
Kuroyoru then heard a much quieter metallic noise.
It sounded like someone flicking a coin with their thumb.
The Level 5 this brought to mind was…
“Railgun!?” shouted Kuroyoru.
In the same instant, the darkness of the night was ripped apart by an orange beam of light.
They heard an explosion.
District 13 was much more silent than an entertainment district, so they could almost feel the commotion forming. It felt like they could tell exactly where in the district the explosion had occurred.
Hamazura Shiage and Kinuhata Saiai had entered Fremea’s student dorm to gather information. However, they had not snuck in, broken a window to get in, or anything like that. The emergency door alarm had gone off, so they had simply knocked on the front door asking if they needed help or needed someone to call Anti-Skill.
According to the dorm supervisor, there was no fear of a fire or robber and the resident Anti-Skill member was in the process of checking to make sure all of the students were present. In other words, they had learned nothing.
They had heard the explosion while in the middle of that.
The blast was so loud they thought the windows might have shattered had the explosion been just a bit closer.
“You’ve gotta be kidding me. That has nothing to do with Fremea, right!?”
“It may have super nothing to do with her, but we mustn’t underestimate her ability to get wrapped up in trouble.”
Hamazura and Kinuhata told the flustered dorm supervisor to finish checking on the students as quickly as possible and to seal the exits so no one could leave. They then ran toward the site of the blast.
“Will she really listen to what some super suspicious people told her?”
“Whether she does or not, the kids aren’t allowed out past lights out. And if Fremea really has disappeared, the teachers are going to be nervous too.”
Due to the great commotion, even a monkey would have known where the site of the blast was.
There was no flood of curious onlookers because District 13 was filled with elementary school students who were strictly prohibited from going out at night.
“But what’s with this timing? Sure, we were being cautious, but there wasn’t any sign of the Freshmen trying to reform, was there!?”
“Let’s see, the Freshmen are super definitely the top suspect, but we need to super assume they are not the only ones lurking in Academy City.”
They heard an odd sizzling sound.
It was similar to an insect being fried by a bug zapper, but they could not see one anywhere.
“Hey, wait, wait!” shouted a sugary female voice.
They saw a woman in her thirties wearing the white coat of a researcher. She must not have been used to exerting herself because she was out of breath just from jogging a bit.
As she gasped for breath, she said, “It would be a biiit of a problem if you continued on up ahead. Hm, I suppose you would be the easiest hero to draw in using Fremea Seivelun.”
Hamazura frowned at that nonsensical statement, but Kinuhata was more focused on their surroundings. She was looking around cautiously.
Meanwhile, the woman continued, “Hmm, this is a problem. By their nature, a hero won’t listen if you tell them not to go help. Aaand that’s why I won’t try that. …I’ll give you a more convincing reason to give up.”
A sound like zapping electricity rang out.
Orange sparks flew from the gap of the hood on a car parked in a nearby parking lot. And it did not stop there. Sounds of electricity continued from all over.
The woman gave a crescent moon-shaped smile while standing in that nighttime street.
“You know that bugs in computers and the like are called that because of real bugs, right?”
“Real bugs would crawl into the circuits and cause the machine to malfunction. Nowww, a question: Why would I be explaining this in such an ominous setting? Heh heh heh hah hah!!”
Sparks flew from the traffic lights, the vending machines, the outdoor speakers used to announce the time during the day, the emergency public phones, and every other electronic device along the street.
“…They’re here. Hamazura, they’re super here! We’re super surrounded!!”
When Kinuhata said that, Hamazura finally turned his gaze away from the creepy woman.
A manhole lid was being lifted up. He thought he saw a dark liquid pouring out, but that was not what it was. It was not actually anything that unusual. The problem was the overwhelming numbers.
“What the hell…!? Roaches!?”
“Don’t worry. Unlike the German or American cockroaches, this kind doesn’t eat garbage. These are the giant cockroaches found in forests and jungles that chew through wood. By the way, roaches have the same evolutionary roots as termites. And. That. Means. They already have the teeth they need to tear through flesh and bones.”
Hearing that did nothing to eliminate the physiological sense of disgust.
One roach was bad enough, but the mere sight of hundreds or even thousands of them was enough to violently assault Hamazura’s vision like a weapon.
“And did you know that an insect’s brain structure is simple enough for a bit of psychosurgery to make them to want to eat anything and everything? These days, we don’t even have to open up their heads. We can just destroy the cells we want with a neutron beam. Oh, but we did put some forethought into this. No actual genetic alterations have been made, so if they escape and reproduce, their children will not be able to eat people.”
In other words, they were man-eating roaches.
The food chain had been reversed. This seemed less like a cutting-edge weapon that carried out optimized destruction and more like harassment meant to lower the enemy’s morale for the smallest cost.
“Oh, and they can eat a lot more than just human flesh. They can eat wood. They can eat stone. They can eat rubber, metal, glass, and plastic. If you try to run off and hide, they’ll just eat through the building, so be careful.”
Night had already fallen. The curfew had passed, so the trains and busses had stopped. Kamijou Touma was running from District 3 to District 13. Those behind the Agitate Halation project had set Fremea Seivelun at the center of the project. It was possible they were going to attack her at any moment.
(Where is this Fremea girl’s dorm?)
Kamijou was running toward District 13, but he did not know specifically where to go.
(It’ll be in District 13. That much I know. That time I let Birdway into my dorm, this girl was there too. I remember greeting her, but was there more than that? Did she ever give any specifics about her school or her dorm?)
She may have and she may not have. He did not remember. At that point, Kamijou recalled the cell phone in his pocket. Index had a perfect memory, so she would remember any trivial comment Fremea might have made. If Fremea had said something in a conversation or even muttered to herself, Index would not have overlooked it.
However, Kamijou did not pull out his cell phone.
Something else happened before he could.
A nearby roadside tree was suddenly sliced apart diagonally.
The attack had come from behind. Kamijou frantically ducked down, but after the fact. If the “blade” that had been swung sideways had been just a few centimeters lower, Kamijou’s skull would have been sliced through.
Something like raindrops dripped onto his head.
(What? Was that a water jet!?)
He quickly turned around.
He saw a large empty pedestrian scramble. Empty, that is, except for a single person standing in the center of it. She wore the outfit of a bunny girl which showed off her sensual feminine body lines, but that sex appeal was countered by a paper bag worn over the head. That was strange enough, but she was also using both hands to hold something at her hips.
It resembled a naginata.
It appeared to be made of a combination of carbon and plastic.
However, a hose-like object was connected to the bottom of the grip.
She wore a tank filled with water on her back like a backpack.
(Wait, is that enough to explain this? The water jets used to cut steel sheets in factories need a gigantic machine to cut the steel just a few centimeters away. She used that from easily over 10 meters away!!)
Was it a pure machine tool?
Or was some sort of esper ability involved?
The answer to that could make a world of difference in how useful Kamijou Touma’s right hand would be.
“Nyan nyaka nyan, nyan nyaka nyan, nyan nyan nyan nyan nyaaan☆”
She sang mockingly.
And the song had nothing at all to do with rabbits.
Kamijou had been so preoccupied by her strange outfit and weapon, that he had forgotten something important.
“…What? Who are you!? Why are you targeting me!?”
The head under the paper bag tilted slightly.
She replied while shaking her hips so seductively it became creepy.
“Well, you. You there. Can’t you hear it?”
“The voiceless voice.” Something inside her head seemed to switch over as the paper bag spoke. “There are idiots out there who will call you self-righteous for choosing to fight if the person never asked for help. Those people really are stupid. They can’t relax until they’ve gotten in other people’s way just to give an excuse for not helping. They’re hopeless. Just so, so hopeless. When I see people like that, it makes me want to slice them in two like a samurai.”
This made no sense.
She seemed to have a fairly developed set of principles, so what was she doing here? An intense feeling of something being out of place came over Kamijou. It was like someone had brought in a piece from a different jigsaw puzzle because one was missing from the proper puzzle.
It was like a weapon that had no one to protect yet would still destroy any enemy that fit the proper parameters.
“They don’t want my help? I don’t care. No one wants me to do this? I don’t care! Saving them like this won’t make anyone happy? I! Don’t! Care!! …I just need to listen to the voiceless voice. I just need to save those I want to save! That’s what it means to be a hero!!”
Kamijou felt an unpleasant sensation run down his spine. Why would she use that term here?
“It’s pounding in my head. The voiceless voice is telling me she’s afraid! That she’s in pain! And so I will save Fremea Seivelun. I already know she is being targeted. I have no way of knowing who is an enemy and who is an ally, so hmm…I guess the only way to find the assassin is to crush every single other person☆!!”
As she shouted out psychedelically, she sprayed a blade of ultra-high pressure water from the tip of the naginata. She lazily lowered the tip and the water blade tore into the asphalt.
“What…?” said Kamijou without thinking.
No one should have known what route he was taking from District 3 to District 13. In fact, no one should have known that he was heading toward Fremea. However, that was not the issue he had with this.
Why had an attacker who knew about Fremea appeared with this timing?
It was as if she had some card he had to take from her by defeating her.
“I don’t know how far Agitate Halation has progressed, but is this Fremea’s influence? But that doesn’t make any-…!!”
“I don’t care about your complaints. Fnyah hah hah!! Let’s settle this with our fists! Let’s go for a fistfight! Heh…If I die, make sure to protect Fremea. Just kidding!!”
Kamijou could not allow himself to be held up here, but that water jet naginata could be turned toward him at any moment.
He held his right fist up at the ready.
And then the bunny girl wearing a paper bag was sent flying through the air due to a blow from the side.
Kamijou had not done a thing.
A new intruder announced their presence with a deep sound that Kamijou felt in his gut like in a live music club.
(Was that an explosive blast? No, or just an explosive noise? Was it some kind of shockwave!?)
Four large trucks slowly came to a stop, filling one entire corner of the pedestrian scramble. They were the advertisement trucks that drove around announcing an artist’s new song. The four trucks lined up with two on either side and someone walked up along the center line between them.
With the bright headlights behind the person, all Kamijou could see was a dark shadow.
As his eyes adjusted to the light, he managed to make out that the shadow had the silhouette of a girl.
Gradually, he realized she was the person who had put together the group of trucks.
She wore a bikini top and baggy pants. She was so lightly dressed one almost forgot this was a November night. Her clothes looked more like a stage outfit than personal clothes. The girl was holding what looked like a megaphone but was actually a wireless microphone connected to the giant speakers loaded on the advertisement trucks.
That sweet candy-like voice burst through the night at such loud volume that it felt like an explosive blast.
“Ladiiiiiies aaand gentlemeeeeeeeeeeen!! Thank you for coming to today's Fusou Ayame punishment conceeeerrrrrrrrtttttt!!”
“What the hell are you doing!?”
Kamijou yelled with his hands over his ears, but he was not sure his voice had reached her. The great noise seemed to shake his skull more than his eardrums and Fusou Ayame, the girl who had sent the paper bag bunny flying, made various exaggerated gestures as she spoke.
“Here are today’s guest performers!! They are the uncertain elements trying to get near Fremea Seivelun! Tah dah! It’s time for the bloody sudden death concert you’ve all come to expect! Let’s keep going all night looooooonnnnnnnnngggggggggg!!!!!!”
At that point, high-pitched static as if from feedback mixed in with the already violently-loud flood of noise.
However, Fusou Ayame had not made some sort of mistake.
One of the four large trucks had been sliced in two by an ultra-high pressure water jet.
Kamijou looked over and saw the bunny girl unsteadily standing up from where she had been knocked by the shockwave that had likely been created by an esper ability to amplify noise and give it directionality. She must have coughed up some blood because the paper bag was tinged red around the mouth. Nevertheless, it still looked like she was smiling eerily.
“Don’t! Make! Me! Laugh!! The voiceless voice is the guide to salvation. If you claim to be a hero, why are you trying to crush iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiittttttttttttttttttttttttttttt!?”
Fusou Ayame gave an impressed whistle followed by, “Thank you very much for getting so into your performaaaaaaannnnnnce!! Now that everyone’s warmed up, let’s get the first song started. It’s time to dance until your heart buuuuuurrrrrrssssssssts!!”
It almost seemed the person behind the Agitate Halation project had sent assassins to stop Kamijou who was on his way to Fremea. Just like they had placed the ball named Kamijou on the table to knock the inconvenient ball named Tsuchimikado into the pocket.
But that was not what was happening.
The balls that had collided here were the paper bag bunny girl and Fusou Ayame.
(Agitate Halation gives Fremea the “attribute” of a protection target so those controlling the project can freely send any heroes in the city to defeat each other.)
“Tonight’s guest performer is putting up quite the fight☆ But I have the overwhelming advantage when it comes to reach! Can she put on an even more exciting show just by swinging around that machine tooooooooooooooooooollllllllllll!?”
“Hah! If you know it’s a machine tool, then maybe you should be more cautious!!”
The water jet sliced through the road, the signs, and cars parked on the side of the road.
No, it did more than slice through them.
The systematically sliced-off pieces fit together perfectly like the parts of a plastic model and formed a giant crossbow that was three meters long.
“This is the siege weapon known as a ballista!! I just have to make whatever I don’t have! This easily fills in my range weakness!!”
With another impressed whistle, the other girl said, “Preparing a machine on the fly like that is quite the ad liiiiiiiiibbbbbbbb!!”
Kamijou thought while blankly watching the two heroes clash.
(That would mean all the balls involved here are trying to work to Fremea’s advantage. But is that really what’s happening? Is a third party using Fremea as the cue to control everyone on the billiards table?)
Was that the person behind Agitate Halation?
Was that Yakumi Hisako of the board of directors?
(In that case, it’s odd that the heroes aren’t focusing on me. In fact, it’s odd that I’m here at all. I was originally sent to eliminate Tsuchimikado Motoharu for them. According to that old man, I was supposed to be eliminated by some bacteria. So where did things go wrong? In fact, who is truly controlling Agitate Halation!?)
Kamijou Touma was still there.
And the heroes were not ganging up on him.
A great roar exploded out. Something had happened between the paper bag bunny girl and Fusou Ayame. With a whooshing sound, something fell down toward Kamijou’s head.
He caught it and found it was a cell phone.
He opened it and checked on its contents. The owner may have done some independent research because it listed the location of Fremea Seivelun’s student dorm.
(This is too convenient.)
The two girls were so focused on fighting that they paid no heed to Kamijou’s actions.
He thought while quietly leaving.
(But convenient for who? I doubt it’s for Fremea Seivelun or the person controlling her behind the scenes. Where is this project being controlled? Who is leading me around!?)
Kuroyoru Umidori lay on her back on top of a five-story building. Her right eye kept blinking. Her right arm had been ripped off at the upper arm. Instead of flesh and blood, glittering silver pieces of framework and cables were strewn about.
She could not calculate the level of damage.
She could not grasp how much power remained within her.
She felt like wires had been stabbed into the center of her body and were stirring up everything inside. Only her right arm had actually been attacked, and yet her entire body cried out in pain.
(God fucking dammit… The #1, the #2, and even the #3… That monster is called Rensa, right? This goes beyond Dual Skill. Each individual ability is so powerful it hardly matters she can use more than one!!)
While she still felt the pain, her fear had numbed over. That showed just how little she understood the situation and how confused she was. She tried to move, but her three remaining limbs only trembled.
She heard a soft sound.
She turned her unnaturally trembling head just in time to see the nurse named Rensa stepping up onto the edge of the rooftop.
Kuroyoru had not come up with any sort of plan.
She was not even sure if there was any plan she could possibly come up with.
Kuroyoru’s missing right arm was held in Rensa’s mouth. She had caught it there after shooting it off. That was all that meant.
It was nothing more than a victory prize.
Once she was done with that psychological harassment she had carried out on a whim, Rensa did not hesitate to spit the severed arm to the side.
“The situation is progressing well. I am glad to see you are not dead. Your death would be a problem.”
“I will not kill you,” said Rensa with no change of expression.
With a metallic noise, the giant flower-like object shot from her back and then shot back in.
“I can produce this Bomber Lance from my hand. If I decapitate Fremea Seivelun with this, who will all the heroes think did it?”
“Heh…” Kuroyoru laughed despite the sweat covering her body. “So you needed a convenient villain you’re fine with them ganging up on? Then why bother with all this? You could have just given me the job. You could have told me to go kill that Fremea brat in exchange for bringing back the Freshmen.”
“The end result is the same either way.”
She had pursued Kuroyoru rather than Fremea in order to prevent any possible alibis. It would be a problem if Kuroyoru was with someone else while Rensa killed Fremea. That was the only reason.
“But why do you want to kill Fremea? I thought she was so important you used the Freshmen as a stepping stone to reach her.”
“Agitate Halation is not Fremea Seivelun’s ability. External factors may have placed it within her, but the final stage lies beyond that.”
“In other words, now that this ability has been put in Fremea, something else will be completed when you kill her? It’s like you’re tearing her gut open to take out a baby.”
“I am glad you understand. This is an endurance test for mass production. After seeing how far we must go for the artificial protection target to die, we will create a birdcage to control the target. …Is that a problem?”
Kuroyoru Umidori had no reason to actively protect Fremea Seivelun.
Nor did she have any reason to get along with those around Fremea.
If they wanted to hate her, they were free to do so. It did not matter if it was based in revenge for something she had actually done or if it was a grudge they had artificially been led to hold. The darkness held enough benefit, pleasure, and freedom for her to endure it.
“If that’s what you’re gonna do, then do it.”
“Then I shall.”
“But.” Kuroyoru paused for a second. “You made a mistake when you took my severed arm with you.”
“You gave me exactly what I needed to break the Tengu’s long nose. I’m not gonna pass up a chance like this even if I have no real reason!!”
The explosive sound of a nitrogen spear appearing could be heard.
However, it did not come from Kuroyoru’s left palm.
It came from the severed mechanical arm Rensa had spat at her feet not long before.
“I can control it remotely! As long as the palm remains, I can still use it as an output point for my powers! Did you forget that, you lowly thug!?”
With no body to hold it in place, the right arm began rotating on the spot like a pinwheel firework. And Rensa was standing right next to it.
Kuroyoru created another Bomber Lance from her left hand.
Due to the tremendous damage she had taken, she could not even stand. For that reason, she used the nitrogen spear like a booster to blast herself toward Rensa. She balled up her body in midair and swung the spear around as she rotated.
She attacked with both her right and her left hand.
Even with one of those hands no longer attached to her body, she succeeded in the simultaneous attack.
(You may have multiple methods of attack, but there’s a slight lag when you switch between them. That means you’re vulnerable to surprise attacks!!)
Rensa immediately produced identical nitrogen spears to Kuroyoru’s from both her palms. This may have been based in the thought patterns created to kill the seven Level 5s. Her strategy may have been to respond with the same power as her opponent when unsure what to do.
The four spears clashed.
Rensa must not have wanted to give Kuroyoru any time to recover because she quickly detonated her own nitrogen spears. That was usually not a very effective attack, but Kuroyoru was in midair and her severed right arm was out of control. In other words, she could not brace herself. The explosion blasted Kuroyoru’s body and right arm in different directions.
“Gh…!!” gasped Kuroyoru as her back slammed into hard concrete.
Her attacks had not reached Rensa.
(But she detonated the spears at close range without using the #1’s reflection. That blast must have hit her too!!)
While collapsed on the ground, Kuroyoru adjusted her position slightly to look over at Rensa.
It was a villainous, hideous, twisted, mocking, and thin, thin smile.
She heard a flapping noise.
It was the sound of the ripped fabric of the nurse uniform and cardigan being blown about in the night wind.
The hair Rensa had worn up in a plain style for hygienic reasons had spread out. It seemed to follow the smooth ups and downs of her skin.
The true meaning hidden in this enemy lay there.
“That…that right there is what makes you…what makes people call you a monster. That’s it. But once I know what it is, I can find a way to use it against you. I’m not to feeling my way blindly through a pitch-black minefield. No matter how many mines have been laid, I can walk safely through the minefield barefoot as long as I’ve marked them all with phosphorescent paint ahead of-…!!”
Kuroyoru trailed off.
She heard the metallic sound of Rensa switching out attack methods and then a tremendous attack sent her body flying through the air…and right off the edge of the building.
The man-eating cockroaches slowly approached.
It was not just the one manhole lid being pushed up. Every manhole as far as they could see had countless shiny black insects pouring out of them.
Hamazura backed up without thinking, but that would not help in this situation.
Kinuhata faced forward and clicked her tongue while glaring at the woman in the lab coat.
“Hamazura, let’s super split up here.”
“What do you mean?”
“I super have Offense Armor. I can super create a wall of compressed nitrogen around my body. Even if those things super have the ability to chew through and digest flesh and bone, they super cannot reach my flesh.”
Was Kinuhata saying she would handle the man-eating roaches?
“That’s a dangerous gamble,” cut in the woman in the lab coat. “These maaay not have the ability to eat through a wall of nitrogen, but are you sure that is the only way for them to get through? What if you were no longer able to create that wall? That would only leave your soft flesh.”
“You are only super enjoying trying to scare us. We don’t need to worry about that.”
“Are you sure?”
“The conditions are super identical for you,” said Kinuhata mockingly. “You are using all these man-eating roaches and yet there is no sign of them super attacking you. You must have something that super protects you and super sends orders to them. If I super get my hands on that, you will be in trouble. Being super eaten by your own swarm of roaches would be one super hell of a way to die.”
Hamazura tried to stop Kinuhata as she advanced the conversation on her own.
She silenced him with a quick glare.
“She super has some way of controlling all these man-eating roaches. She may be able to super attack in multiple places at once and she may have other pawns. …We super can’t leave Fremea-san unprotected. Hamazura, super go help her.”
The woman in the lab coat gave empty, mocking applause.
“Nee hee. Do you really think I’ll let you go?”
“We will super manage somehow. Now that I know their fangs can’t reach me, I can handle as super many of them as I need to.”
“Nee hee hee hee hee hee! Didn’t I say roaches and termites have the same evolutionary roots? So why do you think I chose roaches? Why not termites instead?”
Her cruelty began to erupt out.
“It was because roaches cause much more mental exhaustion. They affect your mind when you see them moving around and when you squish them! And whether they are performed consciously or subconsciously, Academy City’s esper powers require mental calculations. Will you make it to 100? Or 1000? Or maybe even an unthinkable 10,000? As you are squishing and squishing and squishing, what do you think will happen to your Personal Reality!?”
That explanation alone was almost enough to overwhelm Hamazura.
Kinuhata shouted out as if to free him from the curse.
“Hamazura! Super hurry to Fremea-san!!”
“Are you going to let that super small girl see the grotesque things created for espers of the dark side? And you are the one she has become attached to the super most! You have an obligation to super live up to her trust in you!! And if you do, she will not have to super see the things we have seen!!”
Hamazura slowly shook his head.
He took a step backwards.
However, Kinuhata was sure he had already made up his mind. Hamazura knew just how weak Level 0s were. That knowledge could be transformed into the strength to struggle and become stronger. And he understood just how dangerous it would be for Fremea to be thrown back into the darkness.
“I’m sorry, Kinuhata…”
“I was super never even thinking you would be any help.”
“Sorry!!” shouted Hamazura with all his strength as he turned his back on it all.
He ran. He ran as quickly as he could. In the instant Kinuhata had disappeared from his vision, he had thought he saw a grin on her face. He heard a vibration reverberating through the air as if from electric hair clippers held next to his ear. A chill ran down his spine. They were chasing him. He imagined hundreds or even thousands of man-eating roaches flying toward him, but he could not bear to turn around to look. However, those shiny black insects never reached him. He heard a disgustingly graphic squishing sound and the vibrating noise came to an end. Kinuhata was fighting to protect him, but he could not suppress a feeling of disgust. This went beyond logic or emotions. A system had been created to semi automatically wear down Kinuhata Saiai’s mind.
He ran toward the site of the blast.
He ran toward the site of an incident that was likely related to Fremea’s disappearance from her dorm.
Hamazura put his entire being into running. He ran and ran until he could not tell if the urge to vomit rising in his stomach and the tears occasionally welling up in his eyes were due to the informational violence of all those roaches or to the guilt of running away and leaving it all to his comrade Kinuhata.
He shouted out even though it would change nothing.
The pressure inside him had surpassed a certain limit.
If he did not release that pressure in some way or another, he felt his mind would burst like a balloon.
His balance was thrown off, so he staggered again and again as he ran toward the site of the explosion.
And just when he was almost there…
Something came crashing down from a building rooftop.
He looked over at what had slammed into the concrete sidewalk and found the girl named Kuroyoru Umidori.
She said nothing.
That bloody girl who had a Level 4 ability to control nitrogen was a cyborg who had replaced a portion of her body with machines. However, everything but that portion that was centered on her arms was still the flesh and blood of a normal girl. She must have failed to slow her descent with her nitrogen spears, and her body was not sturdy enough to escape a fall from five floors up unscathed.
Without turning her head, Kuroyoru moved her twitching and blood-shot eyes to look up at Hamazura who had stopped in his tracks.
Hamazura approached and crouched down to hear what she had to say, but he only heard a slight gasp. He could not tell what she was trying to say.
It did seem she was trying to say something, but her lungs must not have been able to suck in enough air. She could not turn the movements of her tongue and lips into a “voice”.
Something else happened before Kuroyoru could get across what she was trying to say.
A new figure fell down as if a stake had been driven into the ground. However, this person had not fallen helplessly to the ground. They had clearly jumped down and landed.
Hamazura could feel his eyelids twitching as he looked at this newcomer from his crouched position.
“Low level problem detected. Hamazura Shiage, one of the individuals under observation, has captured Kuroyoru Umidori while Fremea Seivelun is still alive. It will be more difficult to convince him Kuroyoru is his enemy.”
She had originally been dressed as a nurse.
But Hamazura would never have guessed it.
“The estimated number of confirmed heroes brought up onto the table via Agitate Halation is 7500. The absence of Hamazura Shiage will likely have less than a 1% effect on the project as a whole. The experiment can continue.”
The girl must have been hit by some sort of attack because she wore nothing but scraps of cloth that were being blown about in the wind. A broken name tag fell from the scraps. It said Rensa.
But there was no soft, flesh-colored skin below those clothes.
There was only metallic purplish-red and pink.
At first, Hamazura thought she was wearing something like a perfectly skintight wet suit, but she was not. With the exception of her head, neck, wrists, hands, and thighs, her skin and flesh had those colors.
Occasionally, areas across Rensa would transform to the look and feel of light flesh as if static was running through her. She would normally cover her entire body in the colors of soft flesh as camouflage to blend into human society.
“…Uuh…” groaned Kuroyoru once more.
Hamazura heard a dry scraping noise from nearby. Kuroyoru Umidori had lost her right arm, but she was using her left index finger to write on the ground with her own blood. Due to her mechanical arm, she was able to write with frightening speed and accuracy.
The words she wrote were oddly blunt.
“She has a much higher percentage than me. Everything but her brain is likely mechanical. So….”
“Is that even possible?”
Hamazura heard a strange metallic noise.
A giant “flower” opened up along the musculature of Rensa’s back with the speed of a sewing machine and a large number of metal rods shot out from where they were folded up within her.
The countless metal rods moved in and out at high speed based on some form of calculation and then folded back up within her back.
The entire process took less than a second.
And immediately afterwards, a nitrogen spear shot from Rensa’s palm with the explosive noise of the air being sliced.
The spear was identical to the ones Kuroyoru Umidori used.
Hamazura’s eyes opened wide.
“She can copy esper powers? No, wait. Is she just constructing an output point similar to how Kuroyoru uses her mechanical arms!?”
“Correct. But in my case, I expand the ‘knitting needles’ in my back to precisely control the values. By altering the wiring of my body similar to pulling the strings of a puppet, I am able to reproduce the characteristics of multiple people and therefore switch between multiple abilities.”
That murderous weapon smoothly explained her features like a model at a motor show.
She explained what this fearsome crystallization of mankind’s cutting edge technology could do.
“Specifically, I can freely switch between the powers of the #1 through #6 Level 5s as well as any esper within 200 meters of me. …I cannot reproduce the currently unexplainable power of the #7, but I can likely defeat him with brute force using the powers of the other six.”
Theoretically, it was possible.
If Bomber Lance could be produced from a mechanical arm identical to Kuroyoru Umidori’s arm, then a mechanical arm created based on an analysis of Accelerator or Kakine Teitoku’s bodies should be able to function as an output point for their powers. If one then rearranged the makeup of the mechanical body like a train switching rails or a car switching gears, one could create output points for all sorts of espers. Rensa was doing that with her entire body.
It was not so easy to accept when faced with the result.
It was a frightening truth.
A foe that could freely switch between the powers of the #1 to the #6 was bad enough. However, the worst part was that Rensa’s strategy did not require any talent at all. It was nothing more than industrial technology. If cyborgs like her were mass produced, the entire hierarchy of Academy City would be overturned in an instant.
This horrifying technology could even destroy the very desire to improve oneself.
Hamazura’s focus gathered on his right ear.
A small chip was hidden inside his ear using a rubber adhesive.
The chip contained a report called the Parameter List. That report revealed a secret at the base of the powers development program that Academy City could not allow to get out no matter what. That data should have held immense value, but this made it seem no more valuable than a scrap of paper.
With a nitrogen spear in one hand, the reddish-purple and pink puppet walked slowly forward.
“I shall now kill Hamazura Shiage to correct this low level problem. Afterwards, Kuroyoru Umidori will temporarily go missing before Fremea Seivelun is killed by the same power as hers. That will set her as the villain for all the heroes as planned. The plan will be back on track.”
When Fremea Seivelun had disappeared from her dorm, Hamazura had guessed that she was involved in some sort of trouble.
(All I know is that Fremea’s still alive and apparently fleeing through the city of her own free will, that some organization made up of multiple people is using cutting-edge technology to try to kill her, and that they plan to frame Kuroyoru for that crime.)
That was all he could come up with.
Hamazura frantically tried to keep his mind calm.
(But why? Why!? What reason do they have to target Fremea now? Why would they use a monster with the powers of the #1 to the #6 and tons of man-eating roaches to kill an eight year old girl!? …The scale is just too big. The level of firepower doesn’t add up. Fremea is only a Level 0 like me!!)
Hamazura was just a Level 0 and Kuroyoru was in no state to fight. With as much firepower as Rensa had, she did not need to worry about some ace up the sleeve.
So why had she not finished them off right away?
“(She only wants us to think she’s going to kill us. Then when we run away in confusion to meet up with Fremea, she can follow us. That’s why she isn’t killing us.)”
Rensa could use the power of the #1 to the #6 as well as any esper within 200 meters. However, she likely could only select from a list of powers within range. She could not track the location of an esper.
If she could, she would simply need to constantly scan Fremea’s location to catch up to her.
She would not have needed to pursue Hamazura and Kuroyoru like a hound.
“(And the firepower of a Level 5 is too much for just dealing with us. Kuroyoru, your spear is the same. She has to hold back. She can’t use any powers that might accidentally kill us like the #1’s or the #2’s. …If only we could use that to our advantage and defeat her in a single surprise attack carried out too fast for her to switch powers.)”
If she had just been a hunk of steel, Hamazura’s fist might have been of no use.
However, Rensa was a cyborg. And she had been designed to function as an output point to remotely draw out the abilities of powerful espers. That meant her body’s structure would likely be extremely similar to that of a human. If she was decapitated or stabbed through the heart, she would die. If she had the same structure only made with different materials, her joints could be dislocated just like with a normal human.
“(I’ll charge at her. That will make this Rensa falter for an instant and block some of her field of vision. You stab a spear in from behind me. I’ll swing my right arm up as I charge, so send it through under my arm. If you need to, you can even stab it through my body as long as the injury won’t kill me. …If she really does want me to escape alive, she won’t use the #1’s power. As long as she isn’t using his reflection, your spear will reach her.)”
After whispering that to Kuroyoru, Hamazura stopped moving for a moment.
He glared at Rensa as she approached.
“(Right now, we can defeat her.)”
At that time, Kuroyoru Umidori was looking up at Hamazura Shiage from where she lay collapsed on the sidewalk.
(…He’s brave. I’ll give him that.)
But she did not think he was clever. After all, he had no actual proof his strategy would work. But Kuroyoru still thought highly of Hamazura for leaving everything up to his instincts in a situation so dangerous anyone would want to test out the bridge before crossing.
A normal person would only end up crushed by a giant metal ball approaching from behind while they tested the bridge.
She silently checked on the condition of her left arm.
With her heavy damage, Kuroyoru could not make a quick escape. She could make short jumps by emitting a spear from her palm, but she could never manage maneuvers complex enough to lose a pursuer. Defeating Rensa with Bomber Lance was the only way to survive.
Doing so would be difficult on her own.
Whether due to the machinery built into her or the alterations to her brain in the Dark May Project, Kuroyoru Umidori could feel the difference in power between herself and Rensa in the form of precise numbers.
(In that case, the best strategy would be going along with what that bastard says.)
Hamazura slowly stood up.
He glared at Rensa who held a spear identical to Kuroyoru’s.
Kuroyoru waited on the ground for the clash to begin.
On the other hand…
Wouldn’t Rensa have seen through their impromptu strategy meeting?
That thought slipped into Kuroyoru Umidori’s mind like an unexpected blast of cold wind.
And it spread.
Like a piece of trick art, her entire thought process suddenly switched over without her realizing.
(Shit… Goddamit!! It’s so obvious. A strategy meeting right in front of the enemy? Discussing a secret plan here? Rensa definitely saw through that! Even if Hamazura was using my hand to cover his mouth and speaking too quietly for a normal person to hear, Rensa is more of a cyborg than I am and she can use all sorts of esper powers. She has to have incredible ability at gathering information!!)
She felt like someone had punched her head.
But the great pressure that had taken hold of Kuroyoru was not the fear that Rensa had overheard their strategy.
The malice she saw was nothing as simple as that.
(Hamazura did it on purpose! He let Rensa overhear the plan! Heh heh. That’s right. It makes perfect sense!! Hamazura Shiage’s top priority is protecting Fremea Seivelun! He doesn’t care about me!!)
Rensa was intentionally hurting Hamazura so he would try to meet up with Fremea.
That much was true. If Hamazura simply left Kuroyoru behind and fled, Rensa would follow him and kill him and Fremea.
What if Kuroyoru attacked Rensa just as Hamazura ran off?
Rensa would first crush Kuroyoru to eliminate the threat. If Hamazura managed to run far enough away in that time, Rensa would be unable to follow him. He could safely meet up with Fremea, hide somewhere, and wait for a chance to counterattack.
And so he had urged Kuroyoru to attack while also letting Rensa know.
He wanted the two to attack each other.
She should have realized it sooner.
Hamazura Shiage was much too naïve despite his connections to the darkness. …But at the same time, he could be frighteningly clever when it came to protecting himself and those he cared for. He would drag everything into the fight like some sort of demon. That was how he had once defeated the #4 when she was pursuing him, and how he had crushed the entire dark side organization known as the Freshmen.
He would protect Fremea Seivelun.
And he had only one way of doing so.
Once he realized that, he would not hesitate to dirty his hands. It did not matter if he would be left naively overrun with guilt after it was all over.
(To hell with that…)
She had lost a lot of blood, but Kuroyoru could still feel the blood rising to her head.
However, her anger was not pointed at Hamazura Shiage.
(To hell with that!! Why the fuck did I think he was on my side!? I’ve already started slipping so easily! Is this like growing weak when you come down with a cold!? I already know from experience that this kind of error will lead to my defeat! I was trying to keep my dark side thought processes going more strongly and perfectly, so why have I grown so goddamn pathetic!?)
The fingers of her left arm scratched at the hard sidewalk.
She felt an unavoidable feeling of disgrace burning across her entire body.
(Don’t make me fucking laugh. You can do that if you want. I’ll handle this on my own. Either way, I can’t run far like this. I don’t need Hamazura Shiage’s help. I’ll defeat Rensa in my own way!!)
Rensa had approached within three meters of them. Both Kuroyoru and Rensa’s spears could reach now. Hamazura lowered his hips slightly. He was telling her he was about to charge forward. And of course, this was a bluff to fool Kuroyoru.
(I’ll kill her. I’ll slice her to pieces. Hurry up and get over here!! But I won’t be doing this for anyone’s sake. I’ve had enough of being controlled by others! I’ll fuck her up! I’ll fuck everyone up!!)
Hamazura Shiage made his move.
In that instant, Kuroyoru Umidori precisely controlled her single remaining usable arm. She predicted Hamazura would move to the right or left to make a run for it. She was planning to swing her spear diagonally upwards so it would slice through Hamazura and then take off Rensa’s head.
The blood gathered in her throat prevented her from actually speaking, but a slight voice leaked out like wind through a crack.
She was seeing something she could not believe.
Hamazura Shiage kicked off the ground.
He moved forward. He moved toward Rensa. He charged at her such that he acted as a shield for Kuroyoru. He was trying to produce even a slight hesitation or opening in Rensa who wanted to let Hamazura live to help her find Fremea.
(It…!? It wasn’t a bluff!? He was really asking for my help!?)
By the time she realized the truth, it was too late.
Kuroyoru had been heading down a different path and she could not correct her course now.
Rensa moved her cold, surveillance camera-like eyes to observe the situation and then she chose her “weapon”. With a metallic noise, the giant “flower” burst from her back and quickly rearranged the wiring of her body.
She had been given the time to do so.
If Kuroyoru had immediately attacked with Bomber Lance, she may not have.
An explosive noise burst out.
After the selection had been made, Rensa attacked her target with wings made of Dark Matter.
There was nothing he could do.
The hundreds of white wings stabbed at Hamazura like sharp stakes. It seemed she truly did want to only wound him so she could follow him. Instead of skewering his entire body, Hamazura mostly only had his clothes torn.
That was enough.
His clothes were ripped through at such frightening speed that Hamazura’s body spun around like a tornado. Unpleasant sounds came from his body, indicating the great burden being put on it. He had been charging forward, but he flew backwards and landed right next to Kuroyoru.
Kuroyoru heard an unpleasant sound as a dark red liquid spilled from Hamazura’s nose and mouth while his limbs twitched.
How had this happened?
Why had this been the result?
Kuroyoru Umidori’s frozen thoughts gradually thawed after watching that unbelievable scene. The obvious answer floated up in her mind. Her vision grew dark. Even as soaked in the darkness as she was, and even with the all her gruesome experiences that she had grown to view as normal, she had never felt a pressure like this.
That naïve boy…
Hamazura Shiage had trusted her to the very, very end.
He had left his life in the hands of someone he had no reason whatsoever to trust.
The unknown feeling rampaging within Kuroyoru’s body caused her to use all her strength to force out her breath. A large hole opened in the blood clogging her throat and the flow of air transformed into the roar of a wild beast. Something was wrong with her tear glands. Her throat convulsed oddly and sobs entered into her scream. She had crushed something that had emitted a much too pale light. She could feel that painfully well.
“Low level problem detected,” mechanically announced Rensa with a slight tilt of the head. “Hamazura Shiage will have difficulty moving on his own with his injuries. He cannot be used to lead me to Fremea. I will kill him here and use another acquaintance of Fremea Seivelun instead.”
Kuroyoru tried to shout “Shut up!”, but her throat was convulsing too much to form words.
While lying on the ground nearby, Hamazura moved his bloodstained lips to say, “…Sorry.”
Kuroyoru could not move or even speak.
And so she could not stop him from speaking.
(Why are you apologizing!? I was the one trapped by my own meaningless suspicions. If I had done what you said, this would have ended differently!! I betrayed you… So why are you apologizing!?)
“I…” Hamazura trailed off to cough up some blood before continuing. “I didn’t put enough effort into gaining your trust. So I’m sorry… This was my fault…”
They heard the sound of multiple pieces of metal scraping together.
Rensa took a step forward with a nitrogen spear at the ready. Once she arrived next to Kuroyoru, she cast her emotionless eyes downwards. She held the spear coming from her palm straight up.
A single swing of that blade would slice a human and the ground below in half.
Hamazura moved his trembling lips to speak a word that was difficult to distinguish from a simple gasp of breath.
He did not utter a single complaint.
He was naïve and a complete amateur, but he did not lose his convictions like Kuroyoru had.
“She needs to let you escape to frame you. You need to use this chance. Ask for help from Mugino, Takitsubo, or anyone. Now that she can’t use me, she’ll try to use another member of Item. Get their help before that happens.”
(Dammit!! I can’t do anything. I can’t change anything at all! And why does someone else have to pay for it!? Why!?)
The worst possible conclusion arrived.
Rensa did not hesitate to swing down the nitrogen spear.
An instant before she did.
They heard a voice.
It was a boy’s voice. When she heard it, Rensa stopped before swinging down the spear. No, someone had grabbed her wrist. At some point, this person had made his way directly behind her.
This spiky-haired boy spoke while holding Rensa’s right wrist in place.
“I’ve got a question: was this part of the plan?”
Rensa did not even turn around.
She only twisted her body slightly.
Numerous “knitting needles” shot out of her back and next to Kamijou. The giant “flower” that switched out the characteristics of the esper power output point immediately closed back up once more.
She used Academy City’s #2 power.
White wings made of Dark Matter grew from her back and attacked everything behind her. The wings changed into hundreds of stakes. If they struck a human body, they would tear it to pieces and transform it into a formless sticky liquid.
With the sound of breaking glass, those white wings that supposedly held absolute destructive power shattered.
Rensa finally decided to turn around to check behind her, but Kamijou unhesitatingly kicked the center of her small back before she could.
“Don’t…touch her!!” shouted Hamazura when Kamijou was about to go in for another attack. “She can…use multiple…abilities. She can use…several of the…Level 5 powers. If you…touch her…carelessly…the #1’s power…will kill you!!”
Kamijou’s eyes opened wide in shock as Rensa quickly turned around.
The sound of grinding metal rang out.
A brilliant beam of light appeared in front of her palm.
He heard a roar as if space itself was being fried.
Kamijou crouched down while swinging his upper body out of the way just as a beam of light shot by above him and sliced apart a wind turbine behind him.
Kamijou realized this was a different power than the wings from before.
He had no way of knowing it, but this was the #4’s Meltdowner.
“Mid level problem detected. The situation has grown concerning.”
“Are you the one who drove Tsuchimikado to such lengths? Are you the one that was targeting Maika!?”
Rensa’s back opened up and the “knitting needles” once more shot out.
While swapping out her power, she said, “My records show he was the first one to attack. I believe the standard is to repay the victim 100-fold. Tsuchimikado’s possessions were insufficient, so we had to find a way to resolve the problem.”
“That doesn’t…add up!!”
Rensa emitted a high voltage current from her bangs at close range, but Kamijou destroyed it with his right fist.
Rensa’s pupils widened like a camera lens.
“What is Agitate Halation? What do you gain from a method of influencing people using Fremea Seivelun!? Is that really worth crushing people’s lives underfoot? What good is a project that a Level 0 can throw off track so easily!?”
“The situation has indeed grown concerning. I will now kill Kamijou Touma to correct the course of the plan.”
Rensa’s back opened, the giant “flower” spread out, and then it closed once more.
A blast of wind burst out.
This was Academy City’s #1 power. She had created that wind via vector control.
“If you think you can…”
Before the mass of 120 m/s wind could reach him, Kamijou stepped right up next to Rensa.
“…then prove it!!”
He threw a powerful punch toward her face.
Rensa immediately moved her arm to block the punch, losing control of the wind in the process. She stepped back slightly and the “knitting needles” spread out once more. She was changing the characteristics of the output point. She quickly manipulated magnetism to catch a coin that was lying on the road.
It was obvious what this meant.
Kamijou slammed his fist into Rensa’s wrist to throw off her aim.
An orange beam shot out a moment later, but it flew in a harmless direction.
“You can’t use multiple Level 5 powers at once.”
Despite the fact that she could use the #1’s power, she had not attacked repeatedly at greater than the speed of sound. Perhaps due to her cyborg body, she did not use extremely powerful magnetism to create an iron sand sword and she did not take control of cars, security robots, or other electronics.
Unless her defenses fell below a certain point, she tried to attack as much as possible with nothing but projectiles.
“The lag from switching powers is always the same, so I can read your timing when you switch.”
He slammed his forehead into hers at close range and Rensa staggered backwards. Her back struck a metal dumpster and she bent forward to provide enough space for the giant “flower” to burst from her back. She stuck her hand into the dumpster and pulled out what looked like a television remote.
But just as Rensa pointed it toward Kamijou, he forcefully kicked the remote upwards. It shot from her hand and flew through the air.
“You can only do the same things as the Level 5s!! You aren’t a Level 5 yourself! Compared to those monsters that can do almost anything on their own, you’re nothing!!”
The “knitting needles” spread out and contracted once more. Kamijou evaded a beam of light and sent a fist flying back in response.
Rensa’s eyes moved irregularly.
She may have been calculating the optimal method of defense or course of evasion.
Kamijou’s fist slammed into the center of Rensa’s face as if he was trying to crush it.
Something felt wrong.
It had been one of the cleanest hits he had ever gotten, but Kamijou felt as if Rensa had decided taking that clean hit to the face was the optimal choice out of all her different options.
(Don’t tell me…!!)
It happened immediately afterwards.
Rensa’s metallic reddish-purple and pink arm shot out as if crossing paths with Kamijou’s fist. She unhesitatingly grabbed Kamijou’s throat and lifted him up like a crane.
He could not breathe. She may have been cutting off the flow of blood too because he felt a pain like his head was swelling up. As Rensa watched Kamijou kick his feet around, she spoke.
“I have decided I have a disadvantage in an esper battle, so I will instead engage you in a physical battle using my mechanical body. My physical body may not be any tougher than a normal human’s, but I can control my pain sensors.”
“You were meant to defeat Tsuchimikado Motoharu. I do not have the slightest idea how or why you are still on the table after completing that goal, but it ends here.”
“Heh,” laughed Kamijou as he dangled from her arm. “You really don’t get it?”
“You say you’re controlling us…controlling humans like a game of billiards, but you don’t understand something so simple?”
Rensa tilted her head while lifting Kamijou up by the neck.
Her eyes contained no hint of emotion.
“You don’t need some giant project. All it takes is a single word and we’ll act. Someone just has to say ‘help’.”
“Your words are meaningless. I will put no more effort into analyzing them,” said Rensa immediately.
A cyborg was a human who had a portion of them, or even most of them, supplemented with machines, but Rensa’s voice was so flat it seemed doubtful she had any human aspect to her.
Rensa’s back opened up like a large flower, the folded up “knitting needles” shot out, and the wiring within her human form were swiftly rearranged.
She was choosing one of the top powers in Academy City.
She was choosing one of the Level 5 powers.
“I will activate the #1’s reflection like this. All the blood and electrical signals in your body will be reversed, causing explosive and fatal blood loss.”
Kuroyoru Umidori could see Kamijou Touma being held up in the air.
However, it was not over yet.
There had to be something she could do.
Kuroyoru gritted her teeth while lying collapsed on the ground. Dark red blood flowed from between her teeth. Nevertheless, she focused her entire mind on her single remaining arm. That was her final weapon. She could only use one Bomber Lance.
(To hell…with this.)
Hamazura Shiage lay next to her.
Once Kamijou Touma was dead, Rensa would move on to Hamazura.
(I won’t…fucking let that... happen again!!)
A slight noise came from Rensa’s eyeballs.
She was using a wireless signal to illegally access Academy City’s giant database known as the Bank. She used face recognition to instantaneously search for information on the esper power of her enemy. She wanted to know what ability she would gain if she created an output point for that power.
Kamijou Touma’s power was Imagine Breaker.
According to the System Scan results recorded in the Bank, he was a true Level 0. But unlike normal Level 0s, the precision equipment had truly not been able to detect anything.
However, a comment had been added saying there were reports of him being able to negate other powers. The odds were high that the information given in the comments field was based on false rumors he himself had spread to make himself sound more intimidating. Normally, she would have simply ignored it.
(But he did just cause a few phenomena similar to that. I would be lying if I said I was not interested.)
Rensa could theoretically use any esper power, but she was really only using her ability as a cyborg to create an output point for the power. As she was only borrowing the power, a power would forever disappear from her stock if the original owner died.
As such, she sometimes felt it was a waste when she had to kill the owner of a rare power.
(I must keep my priorities straight. I must kill Kamijou Touma to eliminate this mid level problem.)
Her desire never left the realm of a personal opinion. She prepared to use the #1 power in Academy City which was one of her presets. She would use the point of contact at his throat to reverse the flow of blood and electrical signals in his body.
She heard a yell from the side.
It seemed Kuroyoru Umidori was trying to do something. She was about to use the #1’s reflection, so any attack Kuroyoru might use would have no effect.
Rensa had a slight thought. An ever so slight thought. Kamijou Touma would die here. He would die before she could try out his rare power even once. Kuroyoru Umidori was interfering before she would even have the chance. The desire to try out that exceedingly rare power rose back up within her.
While Kamijou dangled down from her hand, Rensa held her other hand out toward Kuroyoru.
The giant “flower” opened from Rensa’s back and the countless “knitting needles” shot out, pulling the many “threads” within her as they did. This action could easily have killed any human with a proper sense of pain, but Rensa’s body only swiftly altered its characteristics.
She was creating the characteristics needed to call in Kamijou Touma’s power.
She met all of the necessary conditions.
Imagine Breaker flowed in.
She could feel something passing through the arm she held out toward Kuroyoru. She could feel it gathering beyond her wrist.
This was the power to negate other powers.
It was the perfect defensive power.
The arm Rensa held out toward Kuroyoru suddenly swelled up like a balloon.
She grew confused.
It resembled a lithium battery used in cell phones or laptops when it was destroyed due to over-charging. Tremendous static ran up her arm and spread across her body. Her very thoughts were thrown into disarray.
(Dh…gh…What!? High level problem detec-… I-I-Imagine Breaker should be nothing more than the power to negate other powers. Why is it causing such great destruction…just from being drawn into me!?)
Her mind raced around in search of an answer.
Then she finally realized this was no time to be leisurely seeking an answer.
(E-e-emergency release…of body wiring…!! Dz…Command not…received… Fatal…problem…detected… Th-this is…!!)
She tried to open the giant “flower” from her back, but it only opened halfway and convulsed violently. Swapping out the wiring based on precise values would be impossible.
An unpleasant noise burst from deep inside her head.
Rensa lost all sense of up and down and she collapsed to the side like a piece of wood.
“Cough!! Cough cough…! D-dammit!!”
After finally being released from Rensa’s grip, Kamijou kneeled down on all fours and coughed with a hand on his throat. He almost felt like the oxygen suddenly rushing into him was destroying his body from the inside.
Rensa had not moved ever since she collapsed.
The unnaturally swollen arm had completely blown off. Various cables and metallic parts were strewn across the road.
(What…was that? Did she have some kind of machine trouble?)
He was glad he was still alive, but there was too much he did not understand.
He approached and tried placing a hand on her neck, but he did not even know if blood circulated through her body. She may have overheated because he smelled smoke filled with a chemical smell similar to burning plastic. He tried to check her temperature, but it felt like he was pressing his hand against a hot metal plate. He almost thought his hand would burn onto her forehead. Her back was still opened and several metal rods were sticking out.
It was obvious she was not moving anymore, but he did not know whether he should bring her to a normal hospital or not.
“Are you two okay?”
Kamijou left Rensa and approached Hamazura and Kuroyoru.
Kuroyoru was much more badly injured. It seemed Hamazura had coughed up blood, but he was able to slowly sit up.
His breathing was weak, but Hamazura managed to say, “I’m not going to die right away or anything, but I’d definitely just trip you up like this. Kuroyoru and I will go hide and I’m sure Kinuhata can handle things on her own where she’s fighting. The real problem is Fremea.”
Hamazura took something out of his pants pocket and tossed it to Kamijou.
It was a cell phone.
“That Rensa girl may have collapsed, but someone else could be pursuing Fremea too. Please. We can’t move. That cell phone is connected to Fremea’s security buzzer. You can follow her by GPS. Use that to approach Fremea. Got it?”
“Understood.” Kamijou hit a switch with his thumb to check on the app that could follow the GPS signal of the security buzzer. “But it isn’t me that girl is waiting for. I’m just the replacement. Don’t die while leaving her with me.”
Hamazura lightly shook his hand at Kamijou in response.
He seemed to be saying, “That goes without saying.”
With that hint to Fremea Seivelun’s location in hand, Kamijou Touma ran off into the nighttime streets once more.
“This is super over,” announced Kinuhata Saiai while waving her arms to the side.
With a wet splattering sound, the thick liquid created from countless squished insects scattered across the road. Technically, the liquid had coated the surface of the Offense Armor protecting Kinuhata’s body rather than coating her arms themselves, but the sense of disgust did not change.
There had been hundreds, thousands, even tens of thousands.
There had been such an overwhelming number of man-eating roaches that it had seemed hopeless to try to count them all.
Even with all of them attacking from every direction, Kinuhata’s will to fight had not been completely worn down.
“Was it a scent…no, a chemical? If I recall, roaches have a substance that super attracts all of their comrades to the same place. You super analyzed that and used it to tell them what was a target and what wasn’t.”
“Hee hee hee ha ha. Don’t make it sound so simple. I used the plasmagene they use to gain a resistance to insecticides to familiarize them with the chemical and then prepared microscopic scent capsules that used artificial pollen. With just two varieties, one to have them gather and one to have them disperse, I managed to create a monitoring device to control the entire swarm. …It all took quite a bit of effort.”
The woman in the lab coat was still smiling.
She continued to smile as the shiny black insects devoured her. Due to an error in the target setting, they had swarmed over their own creator until none of her skin could be seen. In just a few dozen seconds, everything but her face had been eaten through.
Kinuhata Saiai’s power had made her a good match for this fight.
She could control nitrogen to semi-automatically create a wall to defend against attacks. In other words, the odds had been high she would be able to cut off the trail leading the roaches to her if they used a “scent” to find their target.
Also, Kinuhata did not create nitrogen out of nothing when she used it. She could only call in the nitrogen around her and compress it. The woman in the lab coat controlled the swarm of roaches by creating zones for them to gather in and zones for them to disperse in similar to the high and low pressure zones on a weather map.
Kinuhata could not control the roaches in the same way. However, she could control the air around her by calling in the nitrogen, so the possibility had remained that she could destroy the optimal layout of “scent” that the woman had prepared.
And so the confrontation came to an end.
The swarm of insects repeated their simple actions and, with no sense of good or evil or of master and servant, they simply ate through the food they saw before them.
The woman in the lab coat showed no pain, fear, or any other sort of despair on her face. She simply smiled. Falling victim to her own creation could be seen as the worst way to die, and it was occasionally the fate met by historical makers of torture devices, but this woman smiled.
“What has you so happy?”
“Heh heh. Well, y’see… Heh heh heh hee hee hee!!” Even as the roaches finally reached her face and began eating through her soft cheeks, the woman’s smile only grew wider. “Getting killed like this was part of the plan all along!”
“Did you think it ended with killing Fremea Seivelun? Did you think I just wanted to turn the heroes’ anger toward Kuroyoru Umidori? Wellll, today’s villain is not one to end things there.”
The woman in the lab coat began talking about some things Kinuhata was not aware of.
The sudden mention of that other survivor of the Dark May Project left Kinuhata confused, but the woman only continued speaking.
“Ahh! I’m so glad you didn’t figure it out ahead of time. After all, a suicide, a murder-suicide, or an accident would be too weak a symbol. If I didn’t create a situation where ‘the villain targeting Fremea Seivelun was defeated at the hands of the heroes’, it would create an error in the parameters for the final setting!!”
“This was your plan? You were planning to be a super disposable pawn from the beginning? What are you trying to do that’s super worth going this far…!?”
“If you don’t know, then go asking around. There are approximately 7500 heroes overflowing into the streets, but probably only one or two are approaching the truth. Do your best to search them out.”
The countless roaches swallowed up the head of the woman who Kinuhata had never learned the name of. She must have either collapsed or lost even her human skeletal structure because she had been transformed into a black mass. And even after only something like a black puddle spreading out on the road could be seen, she continued to speak.
“Final phase complete. The Agitate Halation project comes to an end with its completion. And! So!”
“Now begins an even greater project! A truly wonderful future begins now! This will make everything leading up to it look like a joke!!”
Kinuhata could not grasp when that woman had died.
The roaches scattered in every direction. Not even bones remained. The roaches left behind only the sidewalk.
Fremea Seivelun ran through the streets at night.
She did not know where she was. She was not even sure she was still in District 13. But she had to run away. That much she knew. She was of course afraid of the various strange things that had suddenly attacked her, but something more important filled her mind.
She had gotten Hamazura Shiage involved.
When the situation was already so dangerous, she could not trip him up too.
Fremea knew there was a world known as “combat” that was far removed from a normal life. And she knew just how powerless she was when she ended up in that world. And it was always Hamazura who got hurt when that happened. As if he was making up for Fremea’s shortcomings, he would act as her shield and lose a lot of blood.
She felt something heavy deep in her gut.
Chaos whirled around and around in her head.
The faces of those who had disappeared from her life, her older sister and Komaba Ritoku, appeared in the back of her mind.
The white rhinoceros beetle in her hand was not moving.
She did not know what had happened to Hamazura as he made up for her shortcomings this time.
She had no proof of it, but Fremea felt like everything about the current situation was condemning her.
“…No,” she said without thinking. “No more…”
The white rhinoceros beetle twitched slightly.
He was trying to tell Fremea it was not her fault and that she did not need to feel so cornered, but his wings only vibrated irregularly and were unable to produce an artificial voice.
Tears filled the corner of Fremea’s eyes as she shouted out despite no one being there to hear her.
She could not help but shout out.
“Nyah!! Someone…someone help meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!”
That shout may have not have reached anyone’s ears. It was just one of the screams buried in the darkness. The people of the city may have ignored it and went on their way as they pursued their personal problems.
Someone raised their head somewhere in the city.
Someone frowned in a different part of the city.
Even in different districts where Fremea’s voice could never have reached, many people stood up.
A certain term may have fit that type of person perfectly:
While dealing with the aftermath of the incident at the airport, Yomikawa Aiho of Anti-Skill was sitting in a hospital waiting room to see if Dr. Matsusada would wake up after his attempt to illegally leave Academy City.
In an attempt to grasp some of how he thought, she was reading the type of technical book she was not used to.
It was titled “The Future of Next-Generation Processors using Viscosity and Density”.
That was Dr. Matsusada’s best seller.
To sum it up, the book was a proposal for a new type of next-generation processer to go alongside quantum computers and DNA computers. If his theory was realized, the book’s introduction claimed it would provide specs that surpassed even Tree Diagram’s, but Yomikawa could not say whether his method was realistic or not.
(He’s an authority in fluid mechanics, right?)
That field specialized in how gases and liquids “flowed”. The obvious applications were designs for ships and airplanes, water purification filters, and air purifiers that ensured cigarette smoke did not leave its designated areas. The field was also used in health methods to keep the blood flowing smoothly and the development of new baseball pitches.
“This shading computer (tentative name) would be a water tank filled with a special electrolyte solution. Each individual colloid making up the liquid would be moved with the power of electricity to perform any kind of calculation and…”
Yomikawa could not help but feel the doctor intentionally used overly difficult wordings to make himself sound smarter. This was completely outside of her field of expertise, so the lack of explanation made her feel stupid.
“In the end, the crucial aspect of DNA computers and quantum computers is the destruction of the Von Neumann architecture which performs calculations using the smallest units of 0 and 1. The shading computer (tentative name) constructs its smallest units using the viscosity and density of fluids, so it meets this requirement as well. Naturally, this explosively increases the number of calculations that can be made in a second and…”
There was no sign of any obvious activity in the ICU.
Would Yomikawa finish reading the book first or would she be bored to sleep first?
“…I have given the colloid liquid as a realistic example, but the architecture should work with any liquid, gas, or other medium that can be controlled according to the principles of fluid mechanics. However, if it is to be used for the shading computer (tentative name), the medium used must be one that can be constantly controlled and influenced. This is an important point to keep in mind.”
After reading through that far, Yomikawa frowned.
The slight sleepiness brought on by boredom suddenly left her.
“For example, if the AIM diffusion fields spreading across the city were used as the medium for a shading computer (tentative name), one would need to give thought to the danger of the changes in ‘pressure’ flowing back and affecting the students. For that reason, the shading computer (tentative name) should be built using a fluid that is contained within an isolated box…”
(So we’ve finally gotten to the crazy theories.)
(But if you made a super computer using the flow of the AIM diffusion fields, would any of the people whose AIM diffusion field was built into it possibly be able to manipulate it? Even a Level 0 whose powers can only be measured with a microscope? …Well, doing that would probably end up sacrificing all of the other students. I don’t know what it means for the “pressure” to flow back…but could it alter the state of the mind producing the esper power or input information they should not have known? In other words, could it give them a seemingly divine revelation?)
She closed the technical book.
It was obvious now nothing was going to happen in the ICU, so sticking around would be meaningless. After deciding she would be forced to submit her report with a lot of unknowns remaining, Yomikawa headed for the hospital’s exit.
In that instant…
In a way…
She may have been the closest to the truth.
Between the Lines 3
In the end, the project came down to who to leave the billiards cue with.
One need only recall the incidents related to Fremea Seivelun.
First, there was the incident in which the Freshmen targeted Fremea Seivelun’s life to bring Hamazura Shiage and Accelerator together into a single group.
Then there was the incident where Fremea conveniently made many different forces her ally during the commotion surrounding Fräulein Kreutune.
This was a giant game of billiards that used Fremea Seivelun as the cue, the countless heroes as the balls, and Academy City as the table. That world was ruled by the ideas of who was Fremea’s enemy, who was Fremea’s ally, what needed to be done to save her, and what needed to be destroyed to protect her.
A sense of justice and a desire to protect were used to hit the hero balls in the desired direction so they would collide with other balls.
The proposed objective was having those heroes kill each other.
This plan would defeat those nigh-undefeatable heroes without having to dirty anyone else’s hands.
That summed up Agitate Halation.
While under the influence of Agitate Halation, every single hero’s values would be based on Fremea Seivelun. It did not matter if they personally knew her. What would they think when seeing her in the corner of a photo taken when she happened to be passing by? What did her friends casually say about her? What path did she use to and from school and what stores did she visit?
Just as religions from around the world viewed the possessions used by holy people and the inns they stayed at as being holy as well, the objects and people with a connection to Fremea Seivelun were given powerful meaning and value. A choice approached those people. They could either desperately pursue those things or they could try to deny them.
If Fremea was captured by a third party, had her brain partially destroyed, and was made to continually solve simple problems like a pigeon asking for food, that billiards cue would fall into the hands of some completely different player. The balls could be freely sent to collide and the heroes would defeat and kill each other, wearing down their numbers.
“Hey,” said someone.
It happened within a shopping district of Academy City’s District 15. The trains and busses stopped running at the curfew, but this area still provided a decent night life. The sight was a strong reminder that humans would thoroughly enjoy anything no matter how much of effort it took once they learned how enjoyable it could be. In the same way, people had eaten fugu just because it was delicious long before anyone had begun to dissect living creatures for scientific purposes.
At first, it seemed this was just one of the many bits of trouble that always popped up when people gathered at night.
A small girl knocked over a line of large motorcycles stopped along the sidewalk in a no parking zone. As she watched them all come crashing down like dominoes, several angry guys ran out of a nearby darts bar.
“Wait! What the hell are you doing!?”
“Ahh, ahh! Shit! The mirror broke. And the paint scraped off the tank!”
“Who’s gonna pay for this? Should we give you a light beating and have your parents pay us the hospital bill? They’re outside the city, so they won’t know the details.”
Meanwhile, the girl remained silent. Or rather, she hung her head down while muttering something under her breath that they could not hear.
One of the angry guys forcefully grabbed the girl’s shoulders.
“Do you understand what’s going on here, you little shit!? We’re gonna need to break one of your legs a bit, so we need to go find a staircase in a building some-…”
He trailed off.
A wet sound followed.
She held a small plastic bottle in her hand.
The transparent bottom had broken and the transparent liquid inside had transformed into a sharp blade. And she stabbed that blade surprisingly deeply into the man’s gut.
“B-bhh!? Cough cough!! Gheh…!?”
“Are you shitting me…? She was aiming for us from the beginning!?”
“You’re picking a fight? There are rules for this kind of thing, you know!”
Even as the guys surrounding her grew even angrier, the girl showed no change. With no real difference in her expression, she pulled the water blade from the guy’s gut.
“Don’t get in my way.” Finally, she smoothly moved her lips. “If you stand in my way, I can’t go rescue that girl. If you get in the way, I can only assume you’re her enemy.”
Metal shutters were used much more often simply to deter crime than as a physical wall.
They could not stop someone who was truly trying to destroy them.
In District 7, the owner of a sporting goods store noticed an odd sound coming from the shutter. However, his cell phone slipped from his hand just when he was about to call Anti-Skill.
It was a piece of construction equipment.
A device similar to a thick pair of scissors that was used to destroy buildings had broken through the metal shutter. It moved like the beak of a giant bird as it chewed through the shutter. As the machine’s arm pulled back, the entire shutter was pulled away with a great din of destruction.
When the store owner saw someone climb down from the machine, he grabbed a nearby product without thinking.
He clicked his tongue when he realized it was a bat signed by a professional player that he had bought on an online auction to draw in customers. In the next instant, someone grabbed the side of his head.
Unable to resist, his head was suddenly slammed into a showcase.
The sound of glass shattering was joined by a high-pitched alarm.
The attacker spoke in an eerily lighthearted voice.
“Yes, yes. Sorry, sorry. I just need to borrow something is all. Once I’m done, I’ll leave, so don’t worry.”
“Wha-…bh? What…this is…robbery…”
“Watch what you say, old man,” said the boy offhandedly as he headed further into the store. He looked through the various bats of different materials and lengths. “I guess the standard would be the metal bat. I have no real reason to insist on a wooden one. Ha ha. And it’s not like I have time to hammer a bunch of nails into it.”
When he heard that, the store owner pulled his face from the broken showcase.
He gripped the signed bat tighter in his hands.
“Oh? What is it, old man? Why do you look like you want to pick a fight?”
“…Stop joking around. I don’t know who you are, but I will not let you use my products for violence.”
“What are you talking about?” The boy grabbed a metal bat with a truly puzzled look. “I’m using this for justice. A hero is allowed to borrow the things he needs. He can steal a car to pursue a fleeing criminal and he can grab a sword off the wall.”
“If you think that permits you to do anything, you are nothing but a villain.”
The boy lightly spun the metal bat around in one hand.
He continued to spin it around faster and faster.
“Then you leave me no choice. You’re getting in the way when I’m trying to go save that girl. This entire situation can be summed up with ‘you leave me no choice’.”
“What I’m trying to say, you asshole, is ‘go to hell, villain’.”
Despite it being a November night, a girl was lightly dressed in a bikini top and baggy pants. She stood alongside several trucks in a plaza in front of a theatre in District 18.
She was Fusou Ayame.
This guerrilla band girl possessed a sound-type power and she was spinning a special microphone shaped like a megaphone in one hand.
“The world would continue to turn even if I disappeared.”
She muttered in such a quiet and smooth voice that her normal high-volume shouting seemed like it had all been a lie.
“Humanity would feel no sense of loss if my songs disappeared.”
She spoke calmly.
It was as if she was trying as hard as possible not to make any waves.
This was the lead-in. She was creating this silence to provide an even greater impression when she reached her top voltage.
“If just a single person will fall in love with my voice… If someone somewhere says they need me…”
In the end, Fusou Ayame was a girl who could only live amid great noise and sound.
And to prove it, she held her megaphone-style microphone once more.
“It would be insincere of me not to answer with everything I have!!”
She flipped on the switch.
The headlights of the trucks around her all sent out bright light at once. Fusou Ayame heard the commotion in the night and charged full speed ahead. She locked on to a hero who seemed to be thinking that it was only natural to rob an ATM if he needed it to save Fremea Seivelun. The violent level of noise was already like a punch to the gut, but Fusou Ayame amplified it even further. She shouted out with everything she had and it tore through the bank’s shutters.
“Yeehaw!! I was worried about the lack of guests, but music is the ultimate worldwide entertainment!! It’s only natural to help each other out in a time of need! And so it’s time for a surprise gueeeeeeeesssssssssssssssttttttttttttttttttt!!!!!!”
There was a scream.
Someone shouted in anger.
The normal people and Anti-Skill members who tried to stop it were knocked back and “they” marched through Academy City’s night. They filled the entire road and sidewalk.
Someone said, “Honestly, why is everyone getting in the way? What do they have against that girl?”
Someone else said, “It’s because of people like this that people like me are needed. Well, everyone who gets in the way must be an enemy, so I just have to crush every last one of them.”
The heroes who appeared in Academy City that night numbered at about 7500.
Every one of them was someone who held the possibility to individually destroy the sturdy system of an organization.
“I will rescue Fremea Seivelun.”
“I will crush everyone who gets in my way.”
“That’s what it means to be a hero!!”
The unnatural “divine revelation” sent through the AIM diffusion fields led them through the nighttime streets.
These were the people who would normally miraculously save a person, a city, or a country.
But with an artificial sense of justice and desire to protect “inputted” into them, they were heading in a completely different direction.
While holding no questions about that truth, the balls were hit by the cue, collided with each other, and all headed for a single pocket.
Yakumi Hisako’s ultimate goal with the project had been to destroy Agitate Halation herself once it had been completed.
The “counterbalance” Kuroyoru Umidori would act as the villain and kill the “leverage point” Fremea Seivelun who was twisting everything…or so it would seem.
In a way, she was breaking the egg that was Fremea to allow the chick to hatch.
As long as Fremea was killed, it did not particularly matter how, but she wanted to divert the focus of the 7500 heroes on the table elsewhere. That was why Yakumi had let Kuroyoru live after she had been used in the Freshmen incident to input the parameter of “the one the heroes must protect” into Fremea. No better scapegoat existed.
Did Yakumi Hisako truly have control of everything surrounding Fremea Seivelun?
The judgment on that point would soon be given.