Toaru Majutsu no Index:NT Volume7 Epilogue
Epilogue: Once It's Over. to_the_Main_Line.
It had to be a medium such as liquid, gas, or particles that could be calculated out using fluid mechanics.
To actually be usable, it had to be a medium that could be controlled and manipulated.
To make use of the viscosity and density, the medium had to be made up of a considerable amount of the substance.
“Bhah…!! Pant pant pant pant!!”
Yakumi Hisako was revived in a dark back alley in District 13.
(Th-that was close. I never imagined that right hand could destroy an AIM thought being in a single strike. If I had not prepared this insurance, that would have been the end for me.)
If she was to exist as an AIM thought being using the shading computer, she needed a processor to sustain her existence. And this also meant she could be revived any number of times as long as that processing power existed.
For example, she could use the “scent” being emitted by the swarm of man-eating cockroaches that continued their chaotic group motion.
“Abh…gh…cough cough!! Ghh… I-it really is hard to keep thinking with so few of them left…”
Yakumi Hisako was no longer using the AIM diffusion fields, so it was unclear if she could still be called an AIM thought being. However, she certainly could not be called human.
And she viewed that fact as a good thing.
It meant she still had a chance.
Even Rensa had not been told about this final backup. She had lied and told the girl Kinuhata Saiai had destroyed them all. Hiding information from her allies was a bad habit of hers, but it had helped her out here.
“Now that I am an information life form with no physical body, nothing can stop me. I can try no matter how many times it takes. I can eternally use up more and more resources until I succeed. I can continue on and on and on until they raise the white flag.”
By turning her thoughts into words, she gradually stabilized her existence.
This also gave order to the chaotic movements of the roaches.
“It is now time to restart the Agitate Halation project. Humans let their guard down the most when they think they have won. I will have no problem killing Fremea Seivelun now.”
Someone stepped into the alley. This person was all too defenseless.
“Found you,” said a plain young girl’s voice. “I found the bad guy.”
Yakumi Hisako did not view this girl as a threat. She sent out the swarm of man-eating roaches. The first few dozen roaches began mercilessly eating into that young body.
The girl ignored Yakumi’s surprise and continued forward.
The girl paid no heed to the swarm of roaches eating into the arms, legs, and cheeks not covered by her white dress. She did not bleed a single drop of blood as she approached Yakumi Hisako with smooth movements.
Finally, Yakumi began to grow worried.
She felt something that no human should have ever felt.
She felt the fear of being stared down by one’s natural predator.
(I-it’s okay. I don’t know what power she can use, but she’s just a human. I am a complete information life form with no physical body, so no physical attack can-…gbgh!!!???)
She was bitten into.
She was eaten.
With no physical body, Yakumi Hisako could not be described using the standard parts of the human body such as “limbs” or “head”. And yet she could tell. If her existence was described as a percentage, that white girl had taken away over 30% in a single bite.
As she saw that girl acting like her cheeks were stuffed full, Yakumi Hisako was overcome with fear. And what frightened her the most was just how “cute” the girl looked.
She tried to move back, but the girl took another step forward in response.
That was all it took to fill the gap.
And then the girl, that “human” named Fräulein Kreutune, opened her small mouth wide and spoke.
“Two stars. Not bad.”
In no time, she munched through the powerful and overwhelming existence that was Yakumi Hisako. The girl did it as easily as a child eating freshly baked bread.
Yakumi Hisako was disappearing.
She was dying.
Just before that moment, she felt an odd peace that exceeded the fear. She had tried to build her existence up with more and more information, but now it was disappearing. And as she simplified, she felt ecstasy.
(Is that what it is to die?)
But as soon as she had that thought, she learned of an even greater hell.
The frightening white girl suddenly stopped.
Only a tiny piece was left.
It was just a single bite. She left behind just one piece of that existence like leaving one last scrap on the plate.
“…Wait…What are you-…?”
“This is your punishment. Your punishment for hurting my friend.”
She had not managed to continue down the path of complexity, and now she was prevented from continuing down the path of simplicity.
Just as a fish sliced up to be eaten could never swim through the ocean again, Yakumi Hisako would have to writhe around like this forever.
That girl faced her with cold eyes and said, “After having a long, long time to think on it, you might truly manage to see yourself properly. If that happens, I will eat the final piece. You can look forward to that at the end of your long, long life.”
It all came to an end as if someone had flipped a switch.
The riot made up of 7500 people attacking Learning Core in District 13 had ended with an eerie silence. The fact that the commotion had ended with the defeat of Rensa and Yakumi Hisako hinted that the two of them had been influencing the rioters in some way. (Although there had been a bit of a delay after Yakumi’s apparent defeat.) However, there were still some unknown factors about that incident with close ties to Academy City’s dark side. And even if it became fully understood, would the students who took part as rioters be considered truly innocent of any wrongdoing? That was another unknown factor.
“Oh, no. Oh, no.”
Dawn had arrived.
A woman wearing a cheap suit and a lab coat muttered to herself while taking a walk on a District 13 jogging course along with a golden retriever. The November mornings had grown more cold than refreshing, so no one else was using the course. After an hour, when the temperature had risen some, it would probably be overflowing with health nuts.
“Well, I had a feeling it would fail, but I may have let her go free for a biiit too long. Yakumi-san was a member of the board of directors and a nice patron.”
And then she received a response.
“Are you sure it isn’t that you played around too much?”
The voice sounded like that of a man in the prime of his life. However, the woman in the cheap suit and lab coat was the only person there. The voice had come from the golden retriever on the end of the leash she held.
He(?) spoke with his long tongue sticking out.
“That was the same as the Dark May Project that Kinuhata Saiai and Kuroyoru Umidori went through. You implanted your intellectual curiosity into Yakumi Hisako and it fused with her original field of expertise. I do understand that you could not get her to understand how we Kiharas think otherwise, but still.”
That was why Yakumi Hisako had continued with such dark research.
It was possible that the bonds placed on her by the Dark May Project had been partially broken around the time she had lost control to Fremea Seivelun. She may have mistaken it for being buried by strange external information, but the truth was the opposite. What Yakumi Hisako had thought was the base of her being had been a lie.
“Heh heh heh heh. She had been wondering why she got along so well with me. She had my thoughts implanted into her, so of course we got along. She was excellent as a patron who let me do anything I wanted. It was like she was my knight in shining armor. I had all the funding I wanted and all the authority I wanted.”
“You went too far.”
“And I’ve seen the error of my ways,” honestly admitted the woman in the cheap suit and lab coat.
The conversation sounded like a teacher speaking with a student.
“You have already started playing around with a new candidate to hide behind, haven’t you?”
“With a member of the board of directors gone, they need to bring in a replacement. I’ve already identified the top 3 likely candidates, so-…”
“Yes, yes. I know it would be way too suspicious. I really do. But preparing insurance and having a plan B just isn’t very Kihara-like, you know?”
“What is your plan?”
“I was thinking of going with the Shadow Ruler plan.”
“…Is there really some convenient organization you can use?”
“No, but they’ll take action if we make them think there is. Even in this city of science, things like jinxes are all over the place. If I manipulate a bit of information to make certain facts seem true, they will bring the pieces together themselves to form the jigsaw puzzle that shows a giant monster. The method is used all the time. Think of the M-Fund or the UFO Investigation Committee. Now, let’s go deceive some important people.”
“I suppose the basics are the best way to get back on your feet. I can give you two or three people who seem unintelligent enough to use in your plan. They have plenty of money, but are frustrated at their inability to gain any real social standing. They should jump at any chance you present to them. Do your best to prod them in the right direction.”
“Thanks as always,” said the woman in the cheap suit and lab coat.
It was hard to imagine how a Kihara in the form of a dog could make connections with such prideful people, but he(?) was actually the most influential of the Kiharas in many different fields.
“Agitate Halation is as good as dead now. What should we do about it now?”
“I was never particularly interested in it, but can you really call that a failure?”
“Against Yakumi Hisako’s wishes, the Level 5s gathered in one place. And despite that Imagine Breaker presumably negating any influence from the AIM diffusion fields, that boy appeared on the stage of his own free will to end the incident. …Yakumi Hisako’s experiment may have ended in failure, but what if Agitate Halation was simply too much for her to handle? There may still be something hidden there that would make your eyes sparkle in excitement.”
“Ugh. Now that you mention it, you’re right.”
“You truly never show any motivation if I am not keeping score for you,” said the golden retriever in annoyance
However, the woman in the cheap suit and lab coat only scratched at her head in embarrassment.
“I’m getting that same feeling as always.”
“Yes. Once more, the world is simply filled with science.”
The incident came to an end.
And that meant there was one piece of business that had to be dealt with.
Tsuchimikado Motoharu was waiting for someone on a metal bridge in District 7. As he looked down at the river flowing below at the same rate as ever, he heard quiet footsteps approaching him. Despite hearing them, he did not turn around. While still leaning against the railing, he waited for the footsteps to walk up behind him.
Tsuchimikado opened his mouth to speak.
“Is your eye okay?”
“It’s been eight hours. That was enough time to transplant a new one in and get used to it. It doesn’t even feel like I have something in my eye anymore.”
“That’s good,” he muttered.
The strained atmosphere did not disappear.
The girl behind him asked, “Are you ready?”
“Do you really think I wouldn’t be?”
“I see,” was the only reply.
In the next moment, several gunshots rang out and Tsuchimikado felt a burning pain in his back.
Kumokawa Seria held a large military handgun in her right hand.
As Tsuchimikado was leaning on the railing, the impact sent him tumbling over it. While bleeding, he fell into the river. Kumokawa heard a loud splash. She moved forward and looked down into the river with unfeeling eyes.
She hid the gun below her clothes and instead pulled out a handheld device.
She was of course calling Kaizumi Tsugutoshi of the board of directors.
“Is it over?” he asked.
“I have finished the execution.”
The incident had ended and Tsuchimikado Maika had been protected from Yakumi Hisako’s organization that had been running the Agitate Halation project. However, that did not tie up all the loose ends. If something was not done, the battle would never end. If it was all left up into exchanges of emotion, Tsuchimikado Maika would end up involved again at some point.
Tsuchimikado Motoharu had realized that and had offered up his own life to avoid it.
“Will you be retrieving the body?” asked Kaizumi.
“No. Someone will pick it up for us. …We know each other fairly well, after all. If we took care of the body, it would create some strange conspiracy theories. People would claim the execution was an act and that he was secretly living somewhere after we announced he was dead.”
“I see. So it is best to let our enemies pick him up.”
“Exactly. Of course, a simple investigation here would show I wasn’t using some cheap trick like firing blanks.”
With that offhand comment, Kumokawa Seria ended the call.
She looked back down into the river, but Tsuchimikado’s body had already flowed downstream. She could only see the clear surface of the river.
Kumokawa Seria now thought silently so no one could overhear her.
(That should convince those that were watching the execution. Those paint rounds had his blood inside. That should help fool the forensics team Tsuchimikado’s enemies will send.)
What mattered was convincing them.
Even if it came out later that Tsuchimikado had survived, they would not pursue him any further after they had given the sign that they were convinced. That was the etiquette of underground society. And that was why those watching the execution would be so careful in their initial determination of his death. They would have sent specialists out.
However, Kumokawa Seria was not exactly a kind person.
After all, she had fired several paint rounds at his back from close range when he was not wearing a bulletproof vest.
It would not have killed him, but the impact would have been quite something. It could very easily have knocked him unconscious. And he had then been dropped right into the river. Even with that trick, his life was still in danger. Kumokawa felt it was a fair punishment for taking her eye.
She had no reason to save Tsuchimikado Motoharu for nothing in exchange.
If he was her enemy, she would kill him. If he needed to be executed, she would not hesitate to carry out the “ceremony”.
The reason she had not done that here was quite simple.
(I need to thank him for not telling that boy about me. …That really is all there is to it.)
Hamazura Shiage was in a District 7 hospital.
His injuries were the type that would raise questions yet Anti-Skill was not hanging around outside the hospital room. He felt like he had been placed atop a conveyer belt to prevent a commotion. Something about it all seemed strange.
It was just past noon when someone called out to him in the hospital hallway.
It was Kuroyoru Umidori who was sitting in a wheelchair in the rest space next to a line of vending machines.
When he saw who it was, Hamazura was not sure what to say.
“…Um, we both had a pretty rough time of it, didn’t we?”
“At least you’re still alive,” replied Kamijou Touma.
All three of them had white bandages wrapped all over their bodies. If they showed up in a school at night, they could likely start a new ghost story.
Kamijou must not have been at his best either because he was leaning up against one of the vending machines against the wall.
“From what the doctor told me, you two had it worse than me. How bad is it?”
“I’m just here for the time being to be safe. Kuroyoru will probably take a while, though.”
“It’s not a problem.” Kuroyoru took her hands off of the handles connected to the wheelchair’s wheels and playfully spread her arms. Her overall movements were awkward, but her arms moved oddly smoothly. “As long as I can move my arms, I’ll have no problem living in the hospital. And it isn’t like my injuries will have any lasting effects.”
Kamijou frowned slightly.
He could not quite place his finger on it, but he felt like there was something a bit different about how Kuroyoru was acting.
When she noticed him looking at her, Kuroyoru looked away slightly.
“…I’ll be fine. If you say anything unnecessary, I’ll kill you,” she said in an oddly low voice.
It seemed there was something she did not want them to bring up, so Kamijou and Hamazura did not say anything more.
Hamazura had been forced out of the fight partway through, so he had a few questions for Kamijou.
“So how much did you find out?”
“It’s hard to say.” Kamijou gave a heavy sigh. “That cyborg named Rensa was defeated. She was completely destroyed, so she won’t attack again in revenge or anything.”
“I guess we can relax for the moment then,” said Hamazura in disgust.
He may have been plagued with nightmares of some immortal monster continuing to walk toward him through the flames even after being hit by a tanker truck and blown up along with an entire building.
Kamijou’s image of her had been different.
“Her machine heart was destroyed.”
“That isn’t something my right hand can do. It may simply have been destroyed as she lost control, but…”
He did not think that was what had happened.
From what #029 had said while controlling Rensa at the very end and from what Fremea had told him afterwards that had sounded like a dream, he knew that the monster known as Yakumi Hisako had been brought inside the cyborg body and that had started to destroy the cyborg.
And Kamijou Touma’s right hand could negate any and all supernatural powers.
What if #029 had wanted to protect Yakumi Hisako at all costs?
Was it possible she had destroyed her own heart to throw off the balance of her body enough that it lost its functionality as an output point that could take in esper powers and supernatural beings? Was it possible she had done that to expel Yakumi Hisako to let her escape?
What they had done was by no means praiseworthy.
However, that decision #029 had made just before her defeat prevented Kamijou from feeling nothing but scorn for her.
In that moment, #029 had crushed her own heart to protect the person she cared about most.
In that instant, she may have surpassed Kamijou Touma.
“I know that someone named Yakumi Hisako was behind all this. I know that Fremea Seivelun was placed at the center of a project known as Agitate Halation. But beyond that, I know nothing. Although it seems all sorts of dangerous things were found in the university hospital Yakumi Hisako used as a base.”
“…And you’re satisfied with that?” whispered Kuroyoru. She sounded half in shock. “Then it’s over. The truth will never come to light. Once those ‘dangerous things’ are found, it’s over. No one will find the truly dangerous things hidden further in. The truly dangerous things are the ones that would make anyone who sees them go insane.”
“Are you saying there are still people out there who will try to use Agitate Halation?”
“It doesn’t have to be anyone directly related to the project. There are people who don’t want the light of day to reach the darkness in any form. Good and evil, likes and dislikes, gains and losses, strength and weakness… All sorts of things are wrapped around a single organization. This will be covered up for many different reasons.”
Hamazura fell silent for a moment.
Even after World War III, the city’s malice was as strong as ever.
In fact, being destroyed once may have caused it to mutate into something even worse.
“I know that,” replied Kamijou with a bit of bitterness mixed in. He pulled out two hard objects from his pocket. “That’s why I retrieved these.”
They were transparent cylindrical containers about as thick as a little finger. They contained something red.
Hamazura could not even guess what they were.
“Even after that huge incident, you were still running around doing things? You didn’t head straight to a hospital bed?”
While Hamazura asked questions, Kuroyoru stared at the containers with a grim look in her eyes. As a cyborg herself, she may have guessed what they were.
Kamijou sighed and said, “This one is #028 and this one is #029. Apparently they’re still alive even like this. …Up to #40 were stored in Yakumi Hisako’s lab. They were all forced to operate that cyborg and they were left on standby when not in use. When not placed inside the mechanical cerebrum and cerebellum prepared inside Rensa, they cannot even think.”
The possibility for a flawless victory had never been there.
That was what #029 had told him from within Rensa. If enough cyborg bodies identical to Rensa were created, they could be given a certain sort of freedom. But that could not happen. The meaning behind Rensa was so great that even an amateur high school boy like Kamijou understood it.
There was no way to save them.
At the very least, there was no way in the current social system of Academy City.
Kuroyoru Umidori stared at the finger-sized brains and asked Kamijou a question.
“What are you going to do with them?”
“I gathered all of them up to #40, so for now I’m going to have them put in cold storage. I don’t like it, but all I can do is buy them time until some real method of saving them is found. I can only hope that a method of allowing them to walk around like normal people will be completed with the next generation of technology.”
Kamijou returned the containers for #028 and #029 to his pocket.
He turned his back on Hamazura and Kuroyoru perhaps to go hand those containers over to a doctor.
Hamazura called out to his back without thinking.
“What are you going to do now?”
“The same thing as always,” replied Kamijou Touma without turning around. “No matter how many times I reach game over and no matter how many times I must pathetically hit continue, I will not stop moving forward.”
“Honestly, my shoulders are so stiff,” said a carefree voice along the path to the hospital.
A nun in a white habit walked along that path with a schoolgirl wearing the maid uniform of a certain maid school. The one in the maid uniform was sitting seiza-style on a drum-shaped cleaning robot.
The schoolgirl was lightly massaging her own shoulders.
“When I suddenly received a request to clean an external institution as an extracurricular activity, I was wondering where it was. I never thought it would be an automated factory in District 17! It was so dirty!! And oil stains in a car factory are not an opponent a maid should have to fight!”
“Touma didn’t come home for an entire day.”
“And then Ryouran Maid School tells me it must have been a misunderstanding because they know nothing about it! I spent all night making it squeaky clean and I don’t even get any credit points for it!!”
“Touma really is stupid!! There was nothing but bread, cereal, biscuits, canned food, ham, bacon, bananas, and apples in the room! Does he not know that people can starve to death!?”
“Honestly, what is wrong with this world?”
“I know! It’s so hard to get by!!”
The two girls were as indignant as ever.
And they had no way of knowing just how much had been fought to protect that.
A certain elementary school in District 13 was filled with chaos once more.
The dispute would likely continue all the way to December 25.
“Nyah! Santa really does exist!! Why can’t you understand something so simple!?”
“You liar! There’s no way Santa Claus exists!! I heard the trivia king on TV saying his clothes are only red due to a soda advertisement!!”
“Nyah, nyah! That’s a conspiracy. They’re lying so they can hog all the presents for themselves!!”
“Don’t be stupid!! The adults don’t get any presents!!”
“In the first place, you’re already being tricked. The adults actually-…!!”
Fremea and the others were almost grappling each other with no concern for boy or girl.
And then the intellectual girl (with glasses) nervously spoke up.
“Nyah! In the first place, what is it!?”
“Then is that black Santa Claus I saw before real, too?”
Previously, this may have temporarily wrapped Fremea’s class in terror just like when they discussed the mysterious people spotted after school. To make sure they did not forget the magic words that would save them, they might have begun reciting them.
But that is not what happened this time.
Fremea puffed out her chest and blew air from her nose proudly.
“Nyah! Don’t worry. In the first place, I’ll do something about that!!”
A frightening incident had occurred.
A lot of people had been hurt. Something even greater had been lost.
However, it did not end there. Something had been gained from it all.
If one continued forward, one could grab it.