Toaru Majutsu no Index:NT Volume9 Chapter 6a
Chapter 6: Shifting and Fluctuating World. Version_Alpha.
He did not know where he was or have any memories of what had just happened. He was lying on a cheap bed. He did not recognize anything. He did not know exactly where he was, but he thought it might be a ready-built house in a residential district. He was in a square space that resembled a small bedroom. A small penguin doll sat on a shelf on the wall.
There was a good reason he was not sure about what this place was.
The room had no roof.
The wall bordering the outside had completely crumbled.
A burning smell reached his nose within the rubble-strewn room.
The stars glittering in the sky above suggested it was night, but the scenery past the broken wall seemed oddly bright. A faint orange light seemed to shine from beyond the horizon.
(What was that world of nothing but black? Was it a dream?)
Nothing was clear.
He had no confidence one way or the other.
His situation lying in this destroyed house did not seem real. If he was asked whether his previous experience or this current one was a dream, he would not have an answer.
(Where is this anyway? Where is Gremlin? Or Sargasso? Academy City is filled with student dorms, so I’m not there. Is this somewhere in the 23 special wards of Tokyo?)
The only possibility he could think of was that he lost consciousness during his confrontation with Magic God Othinus at Sargasso in Tokyo Bay.
He had no memory of it, but given the situation, he doubted it had been successful.
Index, Misaka Mikoto, Lessar, and Birdway had headed to Sargasso with him, so one of them had likely taken him with them when they withdrew. If so, the person who had brought him here was likely nearby. Staying put until they returned would be better than wandering randomly.
………………………………………………………………………………Or would it be?
Unpleasant sweat poured from his face.
There was no way he had made it all the way here from Tokyo Bay on his own. As his enemy, no one from Gremlin would have considerately laid him on a bed after he fell unconscious. A stranger would have no reason to suddenly intervene. In that case, it was most natural to assume one of the people travelling with him had carried him. He had no reason to doubt that conclusion.
Nevertheless, an intense feeling of rejection came over him as he tried to take that easy way out.
It was like pitching a tent over where old and rusted unexploded ordnance was buried and being told to rest there because it was safe.
He felt as if he were ignoring a precondition that he could not afford to overlook.
He heard a staticky noise.
While surrounded by an odd burning smell as if someone had failed making dinner, a pale white light appeared to his side.
He looked over and saw a rectangular light.
It was an LCD TV.
It seemed to have turned itself on somehow.
The news came on.
A female Japanese announcer in a suit was reporting on what looked like a war in a distant country. The nighttime cityscape behind her was undergoing a complete blackout, so none of the usual city lights were visible. Even so, the silhouettes of the buildings were still vaguely visible because of the orange flames burning here and there.
“Wait...” muttered Kamijou.
Just like a piece of trick art that holds a different meaning when flipped upside down, he finally realized what was truly being shown on the TV screen.
“Wait! I know where that is!!”
A horrible feeling began at the tips of his fingers and rushed deep into the core of his body.
The female announcer’s voice finally entered his ears.
“The international coalition army is continuing its joint invasion of Japan’s capital city of Tokyo in order to eliminate Kamijou Touma who is hiding within the city. We have word that seventy percent of the 23 special wards in the heart of the city have already been reduced to rubble, but there are concerns that the large-scale destruction will leave doubt as to whether Kamijou Touma is actually dead.”
He had no idea what this meant.
From what Leivinia Birdway had told him, it seemed the Anglican Church, the Roman Catholic Church, the United States of America, France, and other powers had joined together to attack Gremlin’s headquarters. The true Sargasso had been in Tokyo Bay, so it was possible they had fought Magic God Othinus and the rest of Gremlin.
But how did that lead to this news report?
He stared blankly at the news which seemed even more cut off from reality than a war in a distant country.
It sounded like a bad joke, but then he remembered the burning smell.
And this strange house’s roof and wall had been destroyed.
He stiffly turned his head and once more looked out at the city through the bedroom’s destroyed wall.
Orange light flickered there, but they were not city lights.
The entire city was undergoing a blackout.
The lights he saw burning were massive flames which had been set to burn someone to death.
The broadcast cut to different footage.
It looked like a press conference and countless camera flashes lit up the man standing in the center.
United States President Roberto Katze puffed up his chest and spoke.
“I will skip all the unnecessary details. For one thing, we all know there was no room for argument. The Japanese government may have admitted Kamijou Touma is hiding in their country, but they have hidden this fact for a long time. That is an insult to the people of all nations who wish for a stable and peaceful international society.”
Kamijou spoke his question aloud despite no one being around to hear it.
That familiar face was speaking with an unfamiliar expression.
“We are forcing great hardship on the people of Japan, especially those who live in the city center. That is an undeniable fact, but we cannot end this onslaught until we have definite and undeniable proof of Kamijou Touma’s death. Even those of you who insist on pacifism must understand deep down. For true peace, we must slay that demon now!!”
The translated voice speaking over the president’s actual voice spoke oddly calmly when compared to his actual expression and tone. What he was doing was little different from reading off a list of those who were to be shot.
“Even if opinions are split in the present, historians a century from now will surely applaud our decision. If Kamijou Touma is allowed to escape and once more disappear into this wide world, nothing but rubble and corpses will remain in a century!! In accordance with the goodness of all mankind, we will make sure to bring his life to an end!!”
A deluge of applause followed.
Kamijou felt lost as he watched the world respond enthusiastically to the president’s speech. He began to wonder if they would shed tears at an announcement of 98 yen cartons of eggs (1 per person) as long as it was given the label of “presidential speech”.
He did not even know where to begin.
In a sinking boat, anyone would know to plug up the hole in the bottom of the boat. But the number of holes was simply too great. He was not even calm enough to think about plugging them each in order, so he could only watch the destructive scene play out.
And as a result, he averted his gaze from the “truth” and tried to gain peace of mind by overturning the original assumptions.
(Is this a type of information warfare? Are they trying to trick Gremlin to lead them somewhere? I can’t think of any other reason to give the world such mistaken information.)
But his thoughts were interrupted.
A new voice suddenly slipped into the destroyed bedroom.
His shoulders jumped and he turned around. He found a girl folding her arms and leaning against the wall.
She wore a witch-like hat and cape, leather clothes bound her body, and one eye was covered by an eyepatch. All of those things gave certain symbols to this person’s silhouette.
No. She may not have fallen within the category of “person”.
“Magic God Othinus!?”
“The world has heated up nicely.”
That girl who stood in the territory of a god was spinning the TV remote in her hand. She randomly flipped through the channels. She looked like someone killing time during their spare time after dinner, but every single channel showed shocking footage that threatened to squeeze Kamijou’s heart until it bursted.
One channel showed the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church speaking to a crowd in front of a solemn sanctuary.
“Please, everyone. Lift up your prayers for this day. God respects man’s free will, but we must not naively support people’s mistakes. Mistakes must be corrected. The one named Kamijou Touma is a stagnation created by misusing the freedom man has been given. Our ability to purify ourselves is being tested.”
Another channel showed the Queen Regnant sitting in a palace parlor and speaking with someone from the TV station.
“It is an extremely unique situation, but we should fight here because our honor is at stake. It is quite rare to see evil on this level these days. Recently, even mafias and gangs have been speaking of good. We are honored to carry out the role of a modern day dragon slayer.”
“It looks like their engine has finished warming up,” said Othinus. “The world is boiling over. They have realized this great commotion will never end unless they find the head of Kamijou Touma in the rubble. I am a little surprised that no one has attempted to use nukes despite the extreme situation. Perhaps that is because they want to confirm your death after the fact.”
“What did…you do?” Kamijou somehow managed to move his trembling lips and speak. His voice quickly grew to a shout. “What did you do to them!? I don’t see why they would ever stop targeting you!”
“Oh, come on. Do you think I threatened them and gave them a wanted poster? No one would go along with that. They would refuse and I would have to take their pitiful lives. Surely you understand that.”
“Also, the continuity of the world no longer matters. The world truly came to an end. Sigh… I went out of my way to show you, so please don’t tell me you have already forgotten. This is not a nightmare you will eventually wake up from and it is not a meaningless illusion. This is the current world. I am a god and I made it this way. You can delude yourself if you like, but only one fate awaits you if you refuse to deal with the reality before you.”
The Magic God shrugged while still leaning against the wall.
“You will die. At this rate, nothing will change that.”
Bright light shined in from outside.
It seemed to belong to a powerful flashlight.
Kamijou looked around the destroyed bedroom while half-blinded, but Othinus was nowhere to be found.
In her place, he heard multiple violent-sounding voices from outside.
“Hey, I heard a TV in there, but it can’t have been a 1seg TV for disasters. To preserve the battery, they don’t let you turn the volume up that loud.”
“But the power is out over the entire area. No one can run a giant TV.”
“They must be using some kind of trick. Someone might be living here in secret. Let’s check it out. It might be him.”
Unpleasant sweat poured from Kamijou’s entire body.
He was pretty sure the destroyed bedroom was on the second floor of the house, but he could still hear the loud noises of someone entering the house. And those sounds were not that of a clattering doorknob, the door being kicked down, or anything else he would have expected.
They immediately broke a window.
The high-pitched noise stabbed into his eardrums.
These people were not operating under the normal rules.
But did that only apply to this angry group that was breaking into someone else’s house?
It was odd enough that the city was burning.
Where had the owner of the house gone? Was the owner of the penguin doll in the bedroom safe?
But all of that had to come after he escaped safely.
Whether it was these people who were crazy or the entire era, he doubted he could have a proper conversation with people who did not hesitate to break someone’s window. And Othinus seemed to have done something because even the people on the TV had been acting strangely. He did not know who these people were, but he doubted anything good would come of meeting them.
He focused his thoughts on surviving.
(A small house like this will only have one staircase. If I try to leave normally, I will run across these people. Escaping along the quickest route would have the opposite effect. However I ultimately escape, I need to wait this out. It’s the only way.)
He instinctually turned toward the destroyed bedroom’s door. It had no lock. He could use the chair and other objects in the room to keep the door from opening, but that would have the opposite effect. The intruding group would certainly look through every room. If one of the doors refused to open, it was obvious what they would think.
(Where can I hide? Under the bed? In the closet? No. The safer a spot I choose, the more likely they are to check there. I need somewhere that barely counts as a hiding spot. I need to hide behind the opened door or something equally suicidal. Those spots will escape their expectations and act as a mental blind spot.)
He heard footsteps beyond the thin floor.
He let out a long breath and tried to control his nerves.
(The exits are the door and…the broken wall.)
While making sure not to make any noise, he walked from the bed to the wall. The wall did not simply have a large hole in it; the entire wall was gone. It looked like multiple rooms had originally been connected by a metal balcony, but the supports had vanished along with the outer wall. The scraps that remained of the metal balcony could be seen on the torn-up ground that had originally been a yard.
The ground below was dirt. He would likely survive jumping down from the second story, but the remains of the wall and balcony were in the way. Also, if he injured his ankle when he landed, the men in the house were more likely to catch up to him.
(Can I make a rope? The remains of the curtains could work. Once they check here and begin searching the rest of the second floor, I can climb down from where the balcony was. As long as they don’t have a bow gun or normal gun, I should be able to escape.)
After deciding on a general plan, Kamijou pressed against the wall so he could hide behind the opened door.
(I need to meet up with Index, Misaka, or someone else who knows what’s going on.)
But he had been too naïve.
He realized this once the footsteps on the first floor never came to the second floor.
He also began to detect a burning smell.
A burning smell had been filling the area for a while, but this one was much stronger.
When he heard a crackling noise, he finally caught on to just how urgent the situation was.
(Th-they weren’t trying to search through the house! They were setting fire to it to smoke out anyone inside!)
His expectations meant nothing.
The idea that this sort of thing was normal was spreading through the world.
If he remained, he would be burned to death. If he charged out while coughing, he would be captured. There was no proper means of resolving the situation.
If he was to survive and learn why the world had become the way it was, he had to use a method even more unreasonable than the unreasonable situation.
Kamijou Touma did not have time to think up a means of escaping safely.
This crazy group had set fire to a house just because they heard a TV, but even they would not want to die in the house they set on fire.
Kamijou used that timing.
What he did was quite simple: he jumped down from the large hole created by the crumbled wall.
But he did so such that he landed on top of the men leaving the burning house.
This was no time to worry about his opponents. He focused solely on neutralizing this threat, so he did not hesitate to fall forcefully on top of the group of three or four men.
He heard the dull sound of something being crushed.
A scream erupted nearby.
The men did not fully absorb the impact, so Kamijou rolled into the junk-filled yard. The remains of the balcony and the blocks of the wall jabbed into his back. Nevertheless, he frantically got up and leaned over the concrete fence until he fell onto the other side.
A dry explosive sound burst out.
As he lay on the road, Kamijou realized what that noise meant and began to sweat.
But he was not concerned only because this was a deadly weapon with a long range.
In the country of Japan, there was a single primary profession that was allowed to carry such weapons.
“Does that mean they’re police officers!?”
His shout was answered by more gunfire. Disconcerting sounds of breaking and chipping came from the concrete wall between them. Kamijou simply ran. He took every turn he could, so he ran in a zigzag along the city streets that were arranged like a Go board. All of the buildings were destroyed and only the occasional one was still mostly standing. Black smoke rose everywhere and great pillars of fire rose in some areas where the underground gas pipes had been damaged, but there was no sign of firefighters arriving.
He had assumed those people had been the strange eccentrics only seen on TV that were given as representatives of “young people these days”.
But they had been police officers.
That was the profession meant to protect law and order, but they had set fire to a stranger’s house because they had heard a TV inside. Judging from that basis, Kamijou did not want to think what normal people would do.
He heard a roar overhead that resembled the sound of cloth flapping in the wind amplified dozens of times.
He came to a stop and looked up into the blazing sky. A helicopter was shining a powerful floodlight onto the ground. He did not know the details, but it was likely a military helicopter.
As it traveled in a straight line, it shined the light on a pile of rubble and seemed to find something. With a continuous explosive roar, it fired a line of tracer bullets that looked like fireworks.
Kamijou gasped for breath while leaning up against a telephone pole which was something he did not often see while living in Academy City.
His throat stung.
This was more than exhaustion from running. He felt something ominous hanging in the air.
“So you overcame the first trial,” said a girl’s voice.
The Magic God sat on the top of the telephone pole with her legs elegantly crossed.
Kamijou moved from the pole and shouted up at her.
“What in the world did you do!?”
“I did nothing,” replied the blonde-haired, eyepatch-wearing girl with a slight smile. “I merely changed everyone’s point of view.”
Othinus vanished in the blink of an eye. He looked around but found no sign of the girl.
Instead, he found a few people in the rubble.
They were not moving in the slightest.
There was no obvious sign of violence like with the helicopter or police, but it did not take a specialized coroner to tell what had happened to those bodies which were dried up like mummies.
They had starved to death.
A disturbing voice came from the emergency radio in one of their branch-like arms.
“The UN resolution has cut off all diplomacy, trade, and food assistance for the country. Japan is less than 40% self-sufficient in its food supply, so more than one in two people are expected to die.”
“There is no real need to fight. After the war, Japan was set up such that it would dry up on its own without help. You could say we gave it a collar. But it seems that country will try to eat tree roots and human flesh if it needs to, so it is best to make absolutely sure.”
Kamijou was fed up with it all.
He left that area and walked through the residential streets. Something quite heavy must have driven along them because they were horribly cracked.
After walking for a while, he finally gained a hint as to where he was.
At a ninety degree turn, he found a metal road sign. It was scorched black due to exposure to flames or high heat, but he could still make out the place name.
A chill ran down his back.
This pile of rubble was Shibuya?
“This is the place I’ve seen on TV so many times?”
One might think of Shibuya as a place filled with the sources of new fashions, industrial facilities, and high-class brand-name stores, but it actually had a peaceful residential district and bars only a few hundred meters from the station. (Of course, the prices of the houses were laughably high.)
It seemed Kamijou had made his way from the residential district and into the industrial district.
None of it felt real.
This was partly due to living within the walls of Academy City, but the sight before him was also very different from what he had seen on TV.
There were no buildings taller than fifteen meters.
The ones that had been there had crumbled into rubble. The elevated roadways were in pieces. The cityscape had been smashed by an overwhelming force and only the bases of buildings remained after taking fatal damage.
(Did Gremlin do this? Or was it the coalition?)
“It wasn’t me,” said a voice.
Inside a shop with shattered windows and all its brand-name items stolen, an eyepatch-wearing girl rotated in front of a large mirror.
“And it does not seem to be over yet.”
She vanished as if she were made of smoke.
The city had supposedly lost all power, but a cheerful voice came from the store’s speakers.
It seemed to be a Japanese translation of some foreign news.
“Great effort has been put into evacuating the students from Academy City, but the coalition refuses to allow it. They say they will nip all negative possibilities in the bud by bombing every place that accepts the evacuees. How scary. A peaceful world truly is best.”
Kamijou saw some lights.
They looked like shooting stars, but there were too many of them.
“It seems precision bombings of Saitama, Yokosuka, Shizuoka, and Kofu have begun. It’s over. They aren’t going to let them out of Kantou. We have a warning to all you good boys and girls! If you don’t want your home blown to smithereens, don’t let them into your city! Inviting in the evacuees will end badly, baby!”
Twenty to thirty flashes of light passed over Kamijou’s head. They stabbed into the central structures like the subway station.
The cheerful voice provided commentary.
The voice implicitly indicated how this was viewed by those on the “outside”.
“Hey, I’ve got some more hot information. This time, it’s Shibuya! Let’s begin the countdown until the villains are slain. Ten, nine, eight, seven… It’s time for a happy new age!! Hoo!!”
The attack landed.
A flash of light burst out.
A great roar followed.
And everything burned.
Kamijou did not even have time to get down.
Shortly after the flash of light, a wall of dust spread out to visually represent the shockwave. The cruise missiles had targeted the subway station over one hundred meters away, but his body was still thrown into the air. He did not know what he hit, but a dull pain exploded in the back of his head.
“Gh…wah!! Cough cough!!”
He had hit his head, yet a powerful urge to vomit rose up from his stomach.
However, he did not have time to leisurely check on his injuries.
The store’s speaker seemed to have been damaged in the blast because it only produced static. But Kamijou remembered what that the voice had said.
The bombings were targeting the students who had fled Academy City.
In which case…
“It can’t be,” he muttered.
Familiar faces filled his aching head.
“This isn’t a joke, dammit!!”
He ignored his woozy head and ran toward the station. As he approached, he felt a stinging pain on his skin. He belatedly realized the air was extremely hot.
The building had completely lost its original form and it truly collapsed as he watched.
What if a large number of people had been hiding in there?
(No. No!! I’ve heard Shibuya Station is built like a giant vertical hole leading dozens of meters underground. If the people were trying to evacuate, they would head as far down as possible. Just because the building on the surface collapsed doesn’t mean they were wiped out!!)
“Don’t be so sure,” said a girl’s voice.
For some reason, she rode up alongside him on an electric two-wheeled vehicle that she had picked up somewhere.
“Things might not go as nicely as you think they will.”
He tried to punch her, but the Magic God and her vehicle disappeared like smoke.
By the time he reached the station building, the pain on his skin was the same as on a midsummer beach. Even with the thick soles of his shoes, the bottoms of his feet hurt worse than his exposed face. The ground may have been heated like a frying pan. He would not have done so regardless, but he was not about to sit down for a breather.
(Where’s the entrance?)
He looked around.
The building itself had been reduced to a pile of rubble, so it was difficult to decide what part had been where. Concrete blocks were piled up with no gap between them. There simply was not any space for someone to enter.
(Shit. How am I supposed to get in!? The people inside will suffocate like this!!)
Suddenly, he heard some heavy rocks crumbling.
And then he saw it.
But it was not the entrance he saw.
His voice was trembling.
He finally saw a familiar face. He wanted to rescue this classmate as soon as possible, but he also desperately wished she was not here.
She was a girl whose primary features were her large breasts and her long black hair which was parted to expose her forehead.
She was collapsed at the foot of a pile of rubble. She lay atop the ground which stabbed through Kamijou’s shoes as if it was a rock heated in the flames of hell.
He ran over and frantically picked her up.
Her black hair covered her face, so he could not see how much damage had been done.
However, she was still breathing shallowly.
Something could be done.
“Dammit!! Are you okay!? I’ll do something about this. I will save you!!”
It felt like he was lifting up a thick and heavy clump of rubber.
An amateur like him could not tell what had happened inside her body, but he knew he had to treat her burns. Finding ice in a powerless city would be difficult, but he thought he could find water.
Her cracked lips moved ever so slightly.
He stopped her with a hand.
“Don’t try to speak. You need medical treatment first, so let’s get you away from here.”
The announcement had said the bombings were targeting the students who had evacuated Academy City. If classes, school years, or entire schools were traveling in groups, others he knew might also be in Shibuya. There was so much he wanted to ask her, but her safety came first.
With that in mind, he stood up while still holding her.
He looked around.
(Is there anywhere where I can safely lay her down? Then I need water and a towel. I might not be able to find ice, but there might be some cold spray left in a can. It shouldn’t be hard to find a sporting goods store in Shibuya.)
As he thought, his classmate stirred weakly in his arms.
He paid it no heed.
But that turned out to be a mistake.
He heard a small noise.
It was the noise of her stabbing his side with a shard of glass she held in her hand.
For an instant, he did not understand what had happened.
He was so confused that he did not even feel the pain.
It only started feeling real the second time.
Fukiyose Seiri was undoubtedly supposed to be on his side, but she moved her trembling hand and twisted her wrist while holding the glass shard.
“Eh? Gbh!? Gah! Gbheh…!!”
Intense pain travelled along his spine and assaulted his entire upper body.
Strength left his extremities.
He could no longer support Fukiyose, so she fell to the scorching tile of the sidewalk.
He could not suppress the urge to vomit.
The most he could manage was turning his head to the side.
“Cough cough!! Gbgh!! Gbhah!?”
What spewed from his mouth was not vomit. It was a red liquid. He finally realized just how serious the situation was when he imagined how that blood had travelled through his body to overflow from his mouth.
He stumbled backwards.
He reached down for the glass shard which had been dyed red. Feeling the hard object in his side made him shudder, but he managed to pull it out. And he coughed up more blood. He could no longer even guess how much of his life this action had taken away.
He heard the sound of dragging cloth.
Fukiyose was slowly trying to stand up from where she had fallen to the ground.
He had never seen this expression on her face before.
He even forgot to hold his wound as he stared at her.
“How can you talk about saving me?”
That word gave his classmate’s words the fierceness they needed to wear at his very soul.
“Kamijou Touma. If you had not done what you did, no one would have had to die!!”
Her words felt like a physical blow.
With the sound of scraping metal, his classmate pulled a scorched piece of rebar from the rubble.
But Kamijou Touma did not understand.
What had he done?
What had happened during the confrontation with Othinus at Sargasso?
Even as she raised the blunt weapon before his eyes, he could not move.
That boy had fought many magicians and espers. He had even brought an end to World War Three, but he was going to be easily killed by a mere classmate.
But just before it happened, an LCD TV buried in the rubble came to life for some reason.
“A second and third wave of cruise missiles will soon be fired from the sea. Look at this footage. Those lines of light are thought to be the missiles. They will hit…now!!”
A deluge of light and sound swallowed up everything.
Fortunately (if that word even applied in this situation), the missiles which numbered in the double digits seemed to land on the other side of the pile of rubble which had been the subway station. The black silhouette of that giant hill was the only thing visible as the color white filled the world.
But that did not mean they were safe.
A whirl of tremendous heat swept over them. The leaves of the broken and fallen roadside trees changed color as they were audibly scorched. Kamijou frantically shut his eyes and held his breath, but he felt his shut lips stick together to an odd extent.
And more importantly, the solid ground below him suddenly crumbled downwards.
That was when he recalled that Shibuya Station had a large open area that extended deep underground.
He seemed to fall forever.
Even if a structure several meters deep had completely collapsed and become a single giant hole, he would not fall for this long.
Or perhaps the explosion had knocked him unconscious and this was a dream.
Amid his vague sense of reality and the passage of time, Kamijou heard a girl speak.
“Do you understand now?”
It was Magic God Othinus.
The blonde-haired, eyepatch-wearing girl spoke to him while falling upside down alongside him.
“This is a world with a different point of view.”
“What? What point of view did you change to make this world!?”
“Do you still not get it?” She laughed mockingly. “Their point of view concerning you.”
Kamijou Touma awoke to a dull impact.
The lack of electricity meant he was surrounded in almost complete darkness, but he seemed to be in the underground portion of the subway station. He had not fallen all that far. He could see the broken portion of the ceiling he had fallen through and the destroyed cityscape was visible beyond it. That allowed a bit of light in.
Fukiyose Seiri was not with him.
It seemed she had not been caught in the collapse.
When he tried to move, intense pain rushed from his side and into his entire body. He had been stabbed in the side by Fukiyose. Not only that, but she had twisted the blade to widen the wound and further damage his insides. It had been the action of someone intending to kill. He brought a hand to the wound and discovered the pool of red blood on the floor was larger than he had thought.
He doubted an amateur wrapping bandages around it would help at this point.
But hoping for something he would not receive would not help his situation. He doubted anyone would call an ambulance for him and he doubted an ambulance would come if someone did. He could not rely on the off chance of a doctor happening to pass by.
He had no idea how much strength he had left, but he gathered what he had and tried to stand.
He removed his coat, balled it up, and pressed it against his wound.
The LCD monitor meant to display railroad information turned on.
“~Topic: Confirmation of Academy City’s Destruction~ Academy City, the city which produced Kamijou Touma, has had all supply lines cut off with multiple nuclear landmines placed around their territory. The city is known for its unusually high level of self-sufficiency due to its multistory vegetable factories and other technologies, but it cannot sustain itself with no supplies whatsoever. –This has been WNP news.”
Kamijou’s wavering vision desperately raced across the text.
There was still a lot he did not understand, but he had at least come to understand that most of the people in the world hated him and that any people or organizations that were even remotely connected to him were being indiscriminately attacked.
The one thing he did not know was why.
And he belatedly realized this was not the time to worry about why.
What if Kamijou Touma were being treated as an absolute evil?
What if every last person with even a slight connection to him was being attacked?
“Where are my parents!?”
The monitor died again.
But darkness did not return. In place of the monitor’s light, a bright light appeared in front of him. It seemed to be a powerful flashlight.
Someone was approaching.
Whoever it was, he could not let his guard down. The deep wound in his side proved that.
He heard the familiar voice of a classmate.
This made him grimace.
When the violent policemen had set fire to that house, he had felt horribly uneasy due to being alone. At the time, he would never have thought it possible to feel such fear over meeting a friend.
He spoke this friend’s name.
“I never thought I’d run across you here. I’m impressed. I really am. I’m not sure how you managed to avoid being surrounded on your way here. Right now, everyone would applaud and cheer if you were crucified in the public square.”
The stabbing malice in the boy’s voice caused Kamijou to slowly shake his head.
He could not hold a proper conversation with him.
“Just to be clear, they haven’t been brainwashed,” said a girl’s voice. Othinus was leaning her back up against his back. “I haven’t added anything new. As I said, I merely changed their point of view. You had already done what it would take to be treated like this. It was just that no one – yourself included – had realized it before.”
He quickly turned around, but there was no one there.
Magic God Othinus was still behind him.
“You always charged headfirst into some kind of incident, used your fists to defeat your enemy, and protected someone and their small world as a result. By accumulating enough such incidents, you even managed to bring World War Three to an end. You were treated as a type of hero and only that positive aspect was emphasized. That is what happened in the world you know.”
She whispered the words.
Rather than beating him down with her words, she let them slip deep inside of him.
“But what if their point of view is changed? You bare your fangs toward anyone you don’t like, jump in and steal every girl you so much as set your eyes on, and relentlessly swing your fist toward anyone who resists. That is another side of the person known as Kamijou Touma. You chose your fists as your means of solving problems. It may seem cute compared to a sword or gun, but you managed to influence the outcome of World War Three with that method. It is strange for people to silently accept an incarnation of violence like that. The hatred people have toward national dictators is not enough for you.”
The scent and warmth of the girl leaning up against his back cleanly vanished.
His (supposed) classmate, Aogami Pierce, spoke as if he had not seen any of that.
“Kami-yan, I know you have your own issues, but why did you have to do it around us?”
He sounded disgusted.
The light of his flashlight spun around as he altered his grip on it. It was now a baton-like weapon that used the weight of the hard and thick casing and the batteries inside.
“If you were gonna do that, do it on the other side of the planet!! No, do it on the other side of the moon or the other side of Mars!! I don’t understand why we had to go through this. If you had only stayed put and did nothing, none of this would’ve happened!!”
Those words settled it.
Kamijou had not been naïve enough to think his words would get through to his classmate, but now he shook his head.
And he did so with clear intent.
“I can’t do that, Aogami Pierce.”
He had been indirectly struck by the blast of cruise missiles, a girl from his class had stabbed him in the side, and his body was otherwise battered, but he gained the energy for a counterattack.
That energy increased each time he spoke.
“All of this may have happened because of me and all of you may have nowhere left simply because you knew me.”
Deep down, he wished he did not have this strength at a time like this.
But even so, he continued speaking.
“But I will never agree that staying silent and overlooking what happened was the right thing to do.”
A creaking sound filled the darkness.
By the time Kamijou realized that, the metal flashlight had already been swung up into the air.
“I never intended to debate the issue!!”
Kamijou’s body was battered both inside and out, so he could not expect to move quickly enough to dodge the attack.
His only focus was on preserving his right hand.
The instant he held up his left arm to protect his head, the flashlight dropped mercilessly toward him. With an unpleasant smashing noise, incredible pain exploded not in the skin but in the core of his arm. The pain felt like a dentist’s drill amplified many times.
His bone had either cracked or broken.
He tried not to think about the fact that the blow had been with his classmate’s full strength. He used his remaining right hand to grab Aogami Pierce’s collar. He pulled him forward before the second blow arrived.
At the same time, he pulled his own head back and swung it down like a hammer.
His hard forehead smashed into the bridge of his classmate’s nose and directly rattled his brain.
“I’m sorry, Aogami Pierce.”
His left arm hung uselessly at his side. He ignored the swelling pain rising within it and spoke.
“There is something I have to see with my own eyes. I want to know what happened to my parents, so I can’t be taken out here!!”
“I promise I will do something about this. If all of this really did happen because of me, I swear I will do something about it. So get out of my way. I beg you…cough…move out of the way.”
He heard a clattering noise as Aogami Pierce dropped the flashlight he had used as a blunt weapon.
As it rolled along the floor, it cast its circle of light all over the place. Kamijou and Aogami Pierce’s expressions were hidden by the darkness.
And then Kamijou Touma heard his classmate whisper some words.
“Do you really still have hope?”
The two clashed.
To make sure he finished off Kamijou who could not use one arm, Aogami Pierce tried to tackle him at the ground and climb on top of him. If Kamijou could not use his legs, it was over.
But Kamijou understood his own weakness.
He took a softball-sized fragment of concrete from the ground and kicked it up to waist height.
It rose to the exact same height as Aogami Pierce’s face as he performed his tackle.
Fortunately, the area was dark.
Once he heard a dull noise, Kamijou grabbed Aogami Pierce’s hair, tripped his feet, and used his one working arm to throw him down onto his back. He heard the boy coughing and swung up his foot to aim a strike toward the solar plexus. If he put his weight into the blow, he would be able to knock him unconscious.
But then he stopped.
He stepped back from Aogami Pierce, turned around, and ran off.
He was surrounded by darkness.
He did not know where to find an exit.
“If you want to feel despair that badly, have at it.”
Aogami Pierce’s words stabbed into him from behind.
“There’s nowhere left for you in this world! We lost everything, so I won’t let the source of it all be the only one saved!!”
This was the worst feeling Kamijou had ever experienced.
The farther he went, the farther he seemed to fall.
The stab wound in his side was quite bad. His left arm hang limply down beside him. Pain seemed to stab into his entire body and it was mixed with a chill coming from his spine.
He felt as if a large hole had been opened in the vessel holding his life. He could feel the strength he needed to move draining away. He could not even guess how much longer he would be able to stand.
He placed a hand on the wall and tried to support his limp body as he gasped for breath. The flavor of iron filled his mouth.
(I need to see if my parents are okay. If I don’t…)
“How brave of you,” said a voice.
A blonde-haired, eyepatch-wearing girl hung upside-down from the ceiling like a bat.
“But if you want to see it for yourself, I won’t stop you.”
“Also.” Othinus smiled thinly while upside-down. “You should be more cautious of your surroundings.”
The question in his mind caused him to react an instant too slow.
He felt a sharp blade stab into his soft flesh.
This time, he realized that it was really and truly over.
The attack had come from behind.
He reached around with his usable right hand and found a much bigger and thicker handle than he had expected. If the handle was this large, it had to be a true kitchen knife that was larger than a fruit knife.
His determination and will crumbled away. After feeling himself tilt to the side, he leaned against the wall and slid down to the floor.
He gathered all the strength he had left and slowly looked up at the attacker.
He wanted to see who it was that had blood covering their hands.
His homeroom teacher was only 135 centimeters tall and looked like a child. She had not been the type of person to do this. This had to be the same as the police officers. If she was doing something like this, the very era and world had to have been on the road to destruction.
“I’m sorry, Kamijou-chan…”
Burning pain exploded in his back.
It seemed her small hands had pulled out the knife. Naturally, she was not doing so in order to treat his wound. The next strike was coming. He knew it was coming, but he had no strength left. As he sat while leaning against the wall, he finally completely collapsed to the floor.
“But I saw…all sorts of horrible things happening to the class. None of that…none of that should ever have happened. I have to take responsibility.”
He could no longer move his mouth.
He moved only his eyes as he tried to take in as much information as he could.
And then he saw bright light fill the dark underground area.
The light came from LCD monitors and TVs installed throughout the station.
“It is true that Touma is our son. There is no denying that.”
That familiar voice brought his sinking consciousness back to the surface.
The light reflecting off the bloody knife seemed to be showing the inside of a building. It resembled the courthouses he had seen in dramas, but Kamijou was unsure if it was a real courtroom. It may have been one from overseas.
And two people he could no longer reach were in the center of the screen.
They were being charged with the crime of giving birth to Kamijou Touma. And here he was collapsed and unable to save them. Both of those facts brought him shame and he apologized again and again in his heart.
This must have been what Aogami Pierce had meant.
And this was the future Othinus had spoken of with such delight.
Komoe-sensei slowly approached him while soaked in his blood. She held the deadly knife in her hand and had her back to the rectangular box of the LCD monitor installed near the ceiling. Tears poured from her eyes, but the resolution in her gait told Kamijou there was no hope of talking her out of it.
He did not know what exactly had happened.
He did not know what specific effects the change to people’s “point of view” had caused.
Even so, he caught a glimpse of what had happened. And that was enough to floor him.
(I’m so sorry.)
The footage of his parents seemed to create a halo behind the murderer’s head.
He continued apologizing in the direction of both them.
And then he heard more from his father.
“But we have realized something!! To destroy the absolute evil that is Kamijou Touma, the help of those who know him best is needed. You can judge us if you want, but please do so after it is all over! Please give us a chance to right the mistake we have made!!”
The world filled with cheers, applause, and comments of praise.
It reminded Kamijou of a giant gear beginning to move toward a bright future.
(Ahh… True despair never stays within your expectations, does it?)
He could no longer move anything but his eyes, but he saw Tsukuyomi Komoe slowly raise the large knife.
He had no way to defend himself.
“In the end, who actually saw you for who you are?” whispered Othinus happily.
She was staring down at him while crouching down next to where he lay. She looked like a child watching a strange bug crawl around.
“I used the lance to regulate my power as a Magic God and created this world with a different point of view. On one side you are a hero and on the other you are an incarnation of destruction. But what does that matter? If people had seen you for who you really were, at least one person might have come to save you.”
It seemed like time had stopped.
Or perhaps only this place where Othinus was had changed.
It may have been like a waking dream or when one’s life flashed before their eyes.
“No matter how many people surrounded you, none of them were actually looking at you. After seeing your name, your outer shell, and a list of your actions, they decided for themselves what kind of person you must be. That is why their impression of you was so easily manipulated by changing their point of view.”
Othinus continued to speak while ignoring Komoe-sensei raising the knife.
“Now, is all this really necessary?”
She knew the answer, but she asked again just to check.
“Is this really worth risking your life to protect? All of you are nothing more than different individuals.”
While collapsed on the ground, Kamijou Touma moved his eyes slightly in response.
For some reason, he regained the slight strength needed to form words.
“Despite all that, it is certainly worth protecting.”
No matter how much tragedy a person was thrashed by, they deserved a chance to stand back up. Some people had twisted their relationships, surrounded themselves with hatred, and gave no thought to living a happy life, but even they had the option of reversing each of those decisions.
That was how Kamijou Touma had overcome a few different incidents in the past.
He had seen people who returned to the light.
It was now Kamijou’s turn to struggle.
He may have been the source of this world, but he was prepared to accept it all, make up for all of it, and continue forward.
Everything would return to normal.
He would make sure of it.
Othinus smiled a bit.
It was a dark, dark, dark smile.
“It seems you are no different from the foolish frog that does not notice the heat of the water he is being boiled in. I had thought the immutability of your right hand was my greatest enemy, but it seems another obstacle has presented itself. But it is so pathetic that it would be foolish to face it seriously. In that case, I will make a slight change of plans and enjoy this.”
“What are you going to do?”
He received no response.
The girl known as a Magic God gave an exaggerated snap of her fingers.
In the next moment, time sped back up to normal and Tsukuyomi Komoe swung the knife forcefully down.