Toaru Majutsu no Index:NT Volume9 Chapter 6b
Chapter 6: Shifting and Fluctuating World. Version_Beta.
He was in Academy City. Specifically, he was in the usual classroom of his school.
His classmates were away from their desks and freely enjoying themselves. Their teacher was not present. The smell of lunches reached his nose.
It seemed he had fallen asleep while lying on his desk at lunchtime.
“Kamijou” slowly tilted his head.
“What was that just now?”
His palms were covered in sweat, but he found no stab wound when he reached for the side of his uniform. His left arm was not broken either.
It made sense.
That horrible hell of flames, smoke, rubble, and blood would never happen in real life.
But even so, “Kamijou” found it hard to breathe for a while.
Once he patted himself down and found he was not even scratched, he finally breathed a sigh of relief.
“What are you doing, ‘Kamijou Touma’?”
He heard an exasperated voice from a nearby desk.
It was Fukiyose Seiri.
Her long black hair, forehead, and bountiful breasts were her primary features.
“Are your burns okay!? You don’t seem to be bleeding. Are you sure you don’t need a doctor!?”
“W-w-wait! Why are you groping me all over the- Where the hell do you think you’re touching me!!”
After a wonderfully healthy sound of impact, “Kamijou” rolled across the classroom, knocking away several chairs and desks in the process.
“I do not know what kind of dream you were having, but how about you wake up!?”
“Eh? Ah? …A dream?”
“Kamijou” stared blankly at her.
That was when Aogami Pierce and Tsuchimikado Motoharu leaned in to join the conversation.
“Meh heh heh. We all have those dreams, but only Kami-yan would go right ahead and start groping her.”
“Yeah, what was with that? Grabbing at Fukiyose’s melons while half asleep is quite the technique, Kami-yan! I certainly don’t have the courage to do it with such a straight face!! So this is how a true master does it!!”
“Okay, you two. Thank you for volunteering to participate in a scientific experiment to see if heaven exists.”
With that deadpan comment, “Kamijou” climbed up onto his desk and jumped down to attack his horrible friends.
Aogami Pierce and Tsuchimikado Motoharu caught the attack and then lifted him extremely unsteadily up into the air. At the same moment, the classroom door slid open.
“Kamijou” assumed their homeroom teacher Tsukuyomi Komoe had rushed in upon hearing the commotion.
“ ‘Touma’! I’m not satisfied with the lunch you left for me! I’ve suggested it countless times, but now I have to make an official request to introduce a second lunch!!”
“You ‘have to’!? And how is that a reason for someone as suspicious-looking as you to barge into our school!? …Wah! Stop it, you idiots! Don’t silently toss me up into the air like that! I’m going to hit the ceiling! And how can you two lift me up so easi-…egch!?”
“Okay, it’s time for our first afternoon lesson.”
Meanwhile, Komoe-sensei arrived despite the chime not having rung yet.
“Today, we will be referencing the records and testimony related to Mifune Chizuko, an esper who existed before the establishment of the quantum theory system. We will-… Eeeee!? Wh-wh-why is ‘Kamijou’-chan hanging down with his head stuck in the classroom ceiling!?”
“Who would’ve thought there was a duct opening there?” commented Aogami Pierce. “Hm? Wait a sec. I-is this the beginning of a long, long afterschool labyrinth leading to the captivating girl’s locker room?”
“I’m more interested in how Komoe-sensei immediately knew it was Kami-yan despite everyone wearing the same uniform from the neck down, nyah.”
Once “Kamijou” realized no one was going to save him, he took action himself.
He pressed his palms against the ceiling and pushed to force his body downwards.
He let out what sounded like the cry of a pervert who had awoken to a strange new path and his head popped out of the ceiling. Freed from his restraints, “Kamijou” fell upside-down, struck his back on his own desk, and ended up writhing in pain on the floor.
A group of girls in one corner of the class began shouting.
“Quiet down, ‘Kamijou’! Your loud voice is scaring the kitty.”
“Uryah! You can have the salmon flakes left in the corner of my bento box☆”
Index refused to stay silent when she saw this.
“Sphinx has already gained his next meal without me!? ‘Touma’, th-that is exactly what I mean by a second lunch!!”
“D-do you not know how to feel worried about your landlord or feel happy for the satisfaction of your cat?”
“Kamijou” was literally having trouble breathing, but the white nun did not seem to care.
She showed no sign of leaving until she was given a new world of bread and rice, but the cafeteria and school store would be sold out with the lunch break almost at its end. This would primarily be a problem for Komoe-sensei. His classmates would love skipping their first afternoon class, but “Kamijou” had no intention of being the bad Santa who provided that kind of outlaw’s dream.
And so he made a suggestion.
“What is it, ‘Touma’-san!?”
“You can have a scraped-together meal here or you can be patient and have a luxurious dinner tonight. Which will you choose?”
Almost every event linked directly to food with the girl named Index, so her concept of love did not seem very developed. And her idea of a school likely had all the windows broken, all the partitions and stall walls broken in the bathrooms, and modified motorcycles running through the halls. Her worldview was in a post-apocalyptic state.
“Oden! I’ve heard that Japan’s oden is one of the world’s leading healthy hot pot dishes. You can eat as much as you want without getting sick!!”
“I-Is this a miracle I’m witnessing? That gluttonous monster actually has the sense to worry about her health and cholesterol!?”
“Fine. Today we can have a merciless oden fever! My finances may be just barely scraping by, but this is no time to worry about that! If this isn’t a time to celebrate, what the hell is!?”
“ ‘Touma’! Wait, ‘Touma’! I didn’t like the sound of some of that, so don’t continue on before I can get angry! Let’s take care of it all one by one!”
“For a week starting tomorrow, every meal will be nothing but bread crust and a clear soup of broth watered down five times, but that’s okay, right!? It’s all for the sake of today’s oden fever, so we have no choice!!”
“ ‘Touma’, you just said something really important! I’m disturbingly on board with this idea, but let’s calm down and think it through!!”
Index was actually applying the brakes for once, but “Kamijou” refused to give in once he had decided on something.
As he dragged the white nun along, he did not head for the usual ultra-cheap supermarket. Index’s fear grew as she saw them approach the department store district in front of the train station. At this rate, she might really have to live off of bread crust while reminiscing on the oden from tonight.
The calico cat on her head gave a carefree mew. His food was already divided up by day in a paper carton back in the apartment.
Two sisters walked along the path home from school.
They were Kumokawa Seria and Kumokawa Maria.
One was the brains behind one of Academy City’s board members and she controlled people’s hearts purely with her words rather than with an esper power. The other had an ability named Violence Donut that allowed her to manipulate centrifugal force and she was training at Ryouran Maid School to be a top-rate maid. (Her power had nothing to do with being a maid.)
They were both nice to look at, but the younger sister snapped at the older sister as they walked alongside each other.
“You changed where you’re living again, didn’t you!? I won’t ask about the details, but at least contact me if you’re going to move!”
“Yawn… I do have my reasons, you know? Also, does it really matter if I don’t tell my family about it right away? It’s not like I have a serious chronic disease and we’ll still live in the same city no matter where I move.”
“It would be fine if the few days it takes me to find your new place wasn’t enough for the area around the kitchen sink to reach such a disastrous state that it almost destroys my ideas of femininity. Living in an apartment instead of a student dorm is great, but you have to be more careful when leasing.”
“Don’t the dishes from that delivery service turn to oil if you leave them out? Decomposition is a part of the food chain.”
“That’s how you attract flies and roaches! Do I need to explain this to you from the parts that give me goose bumps just to think about!?”
Based on independent research conducted by Ryouran Maid School, its students’ families tended to have people who were terrible with all housework, so all the work was usually left to the maids-in-training. However, it seemed pampering them too much could be a problem.
“On the other hand, I’m relieved.”
“That your obsession with working only applies to your sister. I was worried you would go live in some guy’s house.”
“Specifically, I thought you would end up living with my school’s spiky-haired boy.”
“It wasn’t me you were worried about at all!! And he may have saved me in Baggage City, but my feelings never went beyond normal gratitude. I don’t plan to steal your favorite boy, so you don’t have to spy on me like that.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about. I am still perfectly calm.”
“Then why do I see tears in your eyes and why are your legs trembling?”
She was an expert at manipulating people’s hearts, but it seemed her own heart was the exception. And the “heroic tales” of Academy City’s #5, which Maria had heard via her classmate Tsuchimikado Maika, suggested that Level 5 was the same.
Just as Maria let out a sigh, she heard a boy and girl shouting behind her.
“ ‘Touma’! I want to ask you something before we get to the oden! Why were you so surprised to hear I’m worried about my weight and my health!?”
“That doesn’t matter!! What matters is that we go with this miraculous flow and buy the ingredients for some oden! After all, there’s always the risk of you waking up from this delusion and demanding a fried chicken festival instead!!!!!!”
“How can you say it doesn’t matter!? I-I won’t let you go any further!!”
“Stop that, you idiot. Don’t grab my hand and slam on the brakes like a spoiled child. …Wah!? Don’t just let go all of a sudden either!!”
Hearing a strange comical sound effect, the Kumokawa sisters both frowned.
“Hm?” they said in unison.
“Kamijou Touma” had suddenly shot forward and landed face up with his head between the legs of Kumokawa Maria’s bee-like maid outfit.
Time seemed to freeze.
The theory of relativity seemed to break down around “Kamijou Touma” as he entered the tunnel created by the girl’s legs and waist. Somewhere, Einstein had to be crying. In a way, this was a perfectly normal occurrence. It was so normal that Kumokawa Seria began to tremble.
“So you do have a connection!! That gratitude of yours was just the first step toward ensnaring him!!”
“What!? You’re mad at me instead of the one who did it!? Are you sure you aren’t turning into Hera from Greek mythology!?”
“Then let me ask you this: how do you feel about giving him a panoramic view of your underwear? I would think a normal person would reflexively jump back and try to end the situation as quickly as possible.”
“Because of my Violence Donut, I purposefully wear panties I’m fine with people seeing, so there’s nothing to worry about.”
“See!? If you have to choose yes or no, you’re leaning towards yes!!”
“By the way, is anyone going to do anything about this boy? He must have a lot of freedom.”
“I think she’s going to handle it.”
Kumokawa Seria used her thumb to point at a nun in a white habit who was approaching with a bewitching glitter in her eye.
Kumokawa Maria began to contemplate the unfairness of her sister glaring at her but showing no concern about the other girl.
“ ‘Touma’!! Get out of there right this instant! You look like someone hiding under a table during an earthquake!!”
“O-only because you grabbed my hand and suddenly let go.”
Hearing that high-pitched shout, “Kamijou Touma” frantically sat up as if his alarm clock had just gone off.
But that was a mistake.
He forgot to check above him.
The top of his head mercilessly struck the ceiling of the tunnel formed by Maria’s legs.
Even if she commonly imitated capoeira while wearing a miniskirt maid outfit, this was far enough out of the ordinary that her entire face and even her ears turned red.
“Wait! No! Stop! Bgh!?”
While confused as to what had happened, “Kamijou” felt a fist strike the back of his head through the skirt. He seriously thought it was going to leave a dent in his skull. As Kumokawa Seria watched on, a distant look entered her eyes.
“Ahh, I don’t know why I’m so surprised. This may be a horrible situation, but I knew this would happen if I didn’t do anything!!”
Meanwhile, Index gnashed her canine teeth and gave off enough of a predatory aura to remind the calico cat she held of its animal instincts.
“ ‘Touma’. I’m not going to explain anything more, but you understand what’s going to happen, right?”
The tiny people within “Kamijou Touma” (who were in charge of defense) spread their arms to block the way and warned him of the coming danger.
His instincts were boiling over as they told him to do whatever it took to avoid having the back of his head bitten open. And he found an extreme solution with incredible speed.
“Wah!! Wait! What are you doing!?”
“It’s called a piggyback ride!!” shouted “Kamijou” in desperation.
He changed his position within Kumokawa Maria’s miniskirt, stuck his head between her legs, gathered strength in his own legs, and groaned as he straightened his back.
Index was on standby to bite at the back of his head, but she gained a look of surprise when she finally realized how serious the situation was.
“Wh-what!? I want to bite at the back of your head, but I can’t attack because a girl’s butt and thighs are in the way!!”
“Mwa ha ha ha!! How much damage do you think my scalp has taken, Index!? …Actually, I’d like to know that myself. Anyway!! I have already analyzed your attack pattern!! Now, how about we bring this entire series of events to an end, little girl!?”
“Wah! This is scary! Stop it! I feel like I’m about to fall!!”
Kumokawa Maria cried out as she was more or less taken hostage to act as the human helmet to protect “Kamijou Touma’s” head. She was only at shoulder height, but the way she wobbled back and forth above the hard road was bad for her heart.
She instinctually gathered strength in her thighs to keep her balance, but the instant her soft flesh squeezed, an aura of malice flowed out from her older sister.
Meanwhile, “Kamijou” did not have time to worry about that.
A jinx had captured his heart. If he ended up bitten after taking such drastic measures, he feared nothing would ever work.
“Calm down, Index-san! Put away those fangs and give this a peaceful resolution. If you don’t, I’ll have to go buy the ingredients for oden like this! You don’t want to that, do you!?”
“I don’t want that either!! Are you going to carry me around on your shoulders as you shop!?”
“You’re right, ‘Touma’. If you’re willing to cause such a commotion, I guess I have to make a compromise. Specifically, I’ll master some techniques using my arms and legs!!”
“Please no! If you head down the course of a martial arts master, I won’t be any match for you!! Was I right and Index really is the final boss!?”
“W-wait. Don’t tell me you really do plan to walk through the city like this. St-stop. Don’t move your head like that. It’s rubbing against me.”
“By the way, why is that person on top of you grinning a little bit!?”
That was when something snapped within Kumokawa Seria.
Specifically, it was the “bag of patience” spoken of in the old days of Japan.
She cast aside her usual cool and intellectual aura of an upperclassman.
She leaped into the air while wearing her sailor uniform, gathered her feet, and performed a merciless dropkick on the center of “Kamijou Touma’s” back.
With a cry like a crushed frog, the boy flew forward. Left in the air above him, Maria fell down and was caught by Seria who had landed face up on the ground.
Meanwhile, “Kamijou Touma” could tell he was rolling along the ground, but his vision suddenly blacked out.
He panicked as he wondered what had happened, but he quickly caught on. He had once more ended up deep within someone’s skirt.
And the only person in front of him had been the white nun.
As he trembled in fear, the voice of the judge arrived from the heavens above.
“I hope you’re ready for some pain, ‘Touma’.”
She was true to her word.
After the “Kumokawa Maria is a Human Helmet!!” plan failed spectacularly, “Kamijou” fell prey to Index. The bee-colored maid-in-training then used her Violence Donut to damage all of his joints. Lastly, Kumokawa Seria inexplicably began stomping on him here and there with the heel of her loafer.
But “Kamijou Touma” refused to give up.
He had already decided they were eating oden that night.
Not to mention that Index’s anger showed no sign of dying down and the oden was necessary to extinguish those flames.
After parting ways with the angry Kumokawa sisters, “Kamijou” and Index entered the underground zone filled with high-class department stores they normally never allowed themselves inside.
It was once he saw the price tags that “Kamijou Touma” came back to his senses.
“Um…Index? I don’t think this is going to work.”
“But we came this far!”
“I’m not rejecting the idea of oden altogether. We’ll still have oden tonight. …Buuuut how about we go with an economical oden pack at the supermarket? Or we can get two or three different kinds at the convenience store and have a more extravagant version of our usual stir-fried vegetables, grilled fish, rice, and miso soup dinner.”
“I already saw the best one!! If we turn back now, this desire will never disappear. If we lower the grade now, my oden craving will remain within me no matter how much I eat! That won’t save anyone!!”
“Can you please explain why you assume that will be a bad thing for not just you but me as-… Never mind.”
When he saw Index snap her teeth together like some kind of trap, “Kamijou” realized he could not back out now. He began thinking silently with a distant look in his eyes.
(Hello, bread crust. I will be seeing you a lot for a while.)
“Huh? What are you doing here?”
His thoughts were interrupted by a familiar voice.
It was Misaka Mikoto.
He guessed that a true rich girl had a habit of always heading to the places with “high-class” in the name. But he soon realized something was off about her behavior.
And then it hit him.
She was in the grocery section of a high-class department store, but she did not have a cart or basket.
“Wh-what? Don’t tell me you’ve gone beyond vending machines and started full-blown shoplifting!”
“I really will blast you into the sky. How far would you like to go? The moon? Mars?”
When the girl known as the Railgun made a threat like that, it was no laughing matter. It would not have surprised him if she could gather various objects to construct a peaceful human mass driver in the middle of Academy City.
“I’m not here to shop.”
“So you are here to shopli-…”
“You don’t get a third chance.”
The genuine rich girl raised her middle finger as she gently warned him.
Irritation filled her tone.
“It seems my school’s dorm has been getting tons of junk mail telling people to come by and try samples of their new foods. The mail has been so full that some of the girls are too afraid to check it. They seem to be taking the name Tokiwadai too lightly, so I’m here to have a word or two with whoever’s responsible.”
It seemed having the approval of a rich girls’ school was enough to greatly increase the sales of a high-class department store. It was a bigger deal than having a popular entertainer in their commercials. Those girls simply lived in a different world from “Kamijou”.
“If I don’t do something, I get the feeling they’ll start standing in front of the dorm with a cooler in hand. I want to put an end to it before that happens. …Anyway, I hear Floor 12 and above is their headquarters. This kind of dispute would normally be Kuroko’s territory, but she seemed busy.”
“Hm?” Index tilted her head next to “Kamijou”. “Short Hair, does this bad guy have food?”
“I suppose. If I grab him by the collar and shake him, I bet a pile of sweets will fall out.”
“That settles it!! ‘Touma’, I will head deeper into the dungeon for the sake of the world!!”
“Wait, Index! You can’t put shortcakes or Mont Blanc in oden!!”
In order to avoid having a truly chaotic hot pot that night, “Kamijou” did his best to stop Index. Mikoto seemed to want to talk more, but she sighed after checking the time on her cell phone. She cracked her neck and started toward the industrial elevator.
The topic then returned to dinner.
“If it’s going to be hell afterward regardless, why don’t we go all out and have high-class sukiyaki instead of oden!? I think we’ll have fewer regrets then!!”
“But that won’t get rid of the oden craving filling my chest! And now you’ve given me a sukiyaki craving!!”
“Don’t be stupid! There’s no way both is happening!! We only get to choose one and then our hellish bread crust life begins!”
“We could divide the pot in two…like this…and fill half with oden and half with sukiyaki.”
“The number of pots isn’t the issue! The ingredients are super expensive!! Do you understand?”
His terribly pronounced attempt at English at the end seemed to enrage the legitimate British girl. A carnivorous beast attacked the back of his head.
His scream shook the entire multistory department building.
“Heh… I get the feeling I’ll lose my life to fill your stomach one day. Just like this insane situation on my head right now!!”
It was unlikely even the calico cat on the girl’s head had given those fears as much thought as the herbivorous boy named “Kamijou Touma”.
Meanwhile, the carnivorous (or rather, omnivorous) girl named Index brought her hands to her hips while skillfully keeping the cat on her head.
“So what will we do?” she asked. “After coming this far, I refuse to back down from the oden.”
“…Let’s do it,” muttered “Kamijou” while rubbing his bitten head. His voice quickly grew to a shout. “We came this far, so let’s do it! I’ll throw this really expensive one labelled ‘Kyoto style’ into the basket! I’ll show you that I can come through when it counts, Index!!”
“Kamijou Touma” was enjoying himself.
Every day was undeniably enjoyable. He would likely end up involved in all sorts of trouble and he would end up clenching his fist while covered in mud, but he could keep going because of this everyday life. It was this place to return to that allowed him to step deep into unexplored darkness.
Today would come to an end.
But he would have tomorrow.
And the next day.
And the day after that.
“Kamijou Touma” knew from the bottom of his heart that these enjoyable days would continue on and on.
And as evening fell, a boy sat at a desk in the classroom.
He sat at the very edge of the very back.
No one had so much as looked his way and no one had found it odd for him to be sitting all alone.
Kamijou Touma trembled while all alone.
“What…what was that?”
Everyone had surrounded someone else.
Kamijou Touma did not recognize the person known as “Kamijou Touma”.
None of the people around that other boy had noticed anything wrong.
And yet that “Kamijou Touma” had been a completely different person. His height and weight were different. His facial features and hair color were not even similar. There was no way anyone could have mistaken the two of them.
“You have to ask?”
A girl’s voice came from the teacher’s desk in the twilit classroom. The eyepatch-wearing Magic God sat on the desk while elegantly crossing her legs like the sort of female teacher teenage boys only saw in their dreams.
“That was ‘Kamijou Touma’s’ everyday life. Surely you recognize it.”
“That isn’t what I meant!!”
“For them, it did not matter who it was.”
Othinus spoke as if slowly explaining something to a student who refused to listen.
The chalk began to move on its own and wrote on the blackboard behind her.
A and B.
It wrote those two letters.
“You met various people in the past, resolved their problems, and expanded your circle of friends. From a god’s perspective, it was all a ridiculous farce, but those may have been praiseworthy acts for a mere human.”
“But their trust was established because you saved them, right? As long as they were saved, it could have been anyone, right? If someone other than you had been the one to save them, their trust and good will would have turned in that other person’s direction. Anyone could have become ‘Kamijou Touma’. It could have been a greasy middle-aged man or a dried-up old man. …What’s wrong? Had you deluded yourself into thinking you were the sole original in the world and no one but you could have walked down the path you travelled?”
Othinus spun her index finger around.
“No one was truly looking at you.”
The chalk danced about in sync with her finger.
“No one would be particularly troubled if you weren’t there.”
The chalk drew a large X over the A on the blackboard.
And it drew a circle around the B.
“As long as they had someone who could resolve their problems, their lives would continue on just fine. You decided to give up your life for such a shallow relationship. …How pathetic. You are worth nothing more than that. You are no different from a battery that is swapped out once it runs out of power. No one cares about the appearance or personality of a battery. And a battery cannot accomplish anything as only a battery. Nothing at all.”
Kamijou was unable to even feel a chill.
The world felt distant. Nothing felt real.
He was sitting in a chair, yet even his footing felt unsteady.
“Remember what I said last time?” said the female teacher giving a lecture on the end of the world. “Is there any need to so persistently risk your life for this? As long as it saves them, they would worship a piece of gum someone spat on the road.”
Kamijou Touma remained silent for a while.
He silently looked around the lines of chairs and desks with no one in them.
It felt horribly empty.
It felt bleaker than a planet that had turned to desert after excessive development destroyed the environment.
He felt no salvation or warmth in that scene.
One might be able to live in that world, but living there held no appeal whatsoever.
“Can you still continue on?” asked Othinus with her legs crossed atop the teacher’s desk. “Changing one simple point of view is enough to bring hell to the surface. If you insist on remaining idealistic, that’s fine, but that will only lead to even more horribly intense darkness. You will break at some point. The very path you chose will break you.”
“What good is denying it?” muttered Kamijou Touma. “No matter what anyone says, this is my world. I protected this. To someone known as a Magic God, it may only look like a tiny miniature garden, but it’s valuable enough for me.”
Like a magic trick, a lance appeared in Othinus’s hand.
“As long as I have this, something can be done.”
“The world is a simple thing. You have seen what I can do. I can rearrange everything with the ease of pulling a dove from a hat on a count of three. After all, I am a god.”
“What are you suggesting?”
“I am waiting for you to despair.”
“Why? You can create as many new ‘Kamijou Toumas’ as you want.”
“There is no meaning in tormenting a brand new doll. A new doll has no sins. Anything created by me, is not allowed to oppose me.” The blonde girl whispered with a delighted light in her one eye. “Despair over what once happened. Think back on it. If you do, I will return them to their proper form. I will give them back enough of their reason to feel sorrow when you are buried in your grave.”
Othinus might have been able to do anything to the world.
If she announced she would give him half the world, Kamijou might have truly been given his own country. One light wave of her lance might have granted the ridiculous wish of having every guy in the world as a friend and every girl as a lover.
“That would be meaningless, Othinus.”
“You already said it yourself. Creating new dolls is meaningless. No matter how comfortable it might be, it would be empty. If you filled the world with those dolls and granted your every desire, you would find it all to be hollow. There would be nothing left.”
“Well said. But are you saying the scene before you is not mistaken? Are you saying nothing needs to be corrected and you should be abandoned to this loneliness?”
“Yes,” he immediately replied.
Othinus wrinkled her brow at the speed of his response.
That human boy did not hesitate to oppose the girl who had become a god.
“I was abandoned and someone I don’t even know has taken everything from me. …But I have no right to insist on having things my way. They are free to do what they want and their decisions are valuable and should be honored. This is what it means for something to be beyond your reach. Having everything go exactly as you want would be all too hollow.”
“So, Othinus, if you said you were going to ‘correct’ everything that has left me, I would stand in your way. Everything here gives me nothing but pain, but that doesn’t mean I can force it all away for my own convenience!!”
Her eyebrows moved slightly.
This was the look of someone seeing a harmful insect moving after it had supposedly been crushed under their slipper.
“Let me ask you one thing before I crush you.”
Othinus spoke quietly with the expression of someone whose plan had gone awry.
“What will you gain from that?”
“Nothing,” he immediately replied once more. “I was never fighting to gain something from it.”
“And I may have been separated from them, but I can always rebuild those connections. Several of those relationships started out with mutual hatred and a lack of understanding, but we made it to a point where we could smile at each other. Those bonds are much, much stronger than you think they are. Just because ‘Kamijou Touma’ has stolen those bonds from me doesn’t mean I will never have a chance to create new bonds with them.”
Othinus brought that line of conversation to an end.
Her shoulders were trembling.
Kamijou thought she was suppressing anger, but it turned out she was suppressing laughter.
“Heh heh. That is quite a wonderful opinion you have there, but I have played a rather cruel trick on you. To be honest, I never thought you would come to this conclusion, so this is kind of awkward. It is not often that a god admits a mistake to a human. It is so rare that such instances are spoken of for the rest of that human’s life.”
“What?” Kamijou frowned while sitting at the desk. “What are you talking about?”
“Something quite simple.”
Othinus pointed toward the exit.
She pointed toward the hole of nothingness through which everyone had left.
“The boy who disappeared through there was referred to as ‘Kamijou Touma’ by everyone. He himself truly believed that he was ‘Kamijou Touma’. Only the two of us remain now. Your own assertions are meaningless here and all of my statements have been filled with ill will. …Doesn’t that bring a certain obvious question to mind?”
This was not good.
He could not let her continue speaking.
An unbelievably unpleasant feeling raced across every inch of his skin like some kind of disturbing insects.
And when Othinus spoke, her voice was filled with scorn.
“Who is this lying pathetically at your desk? Who are you?”
She seemed to be enjoying herself as she used the trick she had held in reserve.
“Is someone who merely sits around complaining really the Kamijou Touma everyone knows?”
He no longer knew who he was.
“Kamijou Touma” sat in shock in the very corner desk of the classroom lit by orange light. His arms and legs hung limply down and his eyes blankly viewed Othinus’s slightly altered world.
His breathing was erratic.
He grew negligent even in the bare minimum of actions he needed to live.
She was right.
In this twisted world where how people viewed themselves and others had completely collapsed, could he truly rely on a name?
His own concept of “Kamijou Touma” was no different from other people’s concepts of “Kamijou Touma”.
They could both be easily manipulated. He had just seen that very concept altered to a laughable extent, so why had he thought it did not apply to him as well?
Who was “he”?
He had truly believed himself to be “Kamijou Touma”, but who was he really?
The blonde-haired, eyepatch-wearing girl’s voice seemed to come from outside the solar system.
He heard a light noise.
Othinus had hopped from the teacher’s desk to one of the empty student desks.
“Tell me your name.”
The Magic God hopped from desk to desk as if she were crossing a clear stream using the rocks sticking above the surface. She was approaching the boy.
It was a simple task.
And she finally arrived at the boy’s desk.
With her feet planted on the desk, she looked down on the puny boy from the heavens above.
“ ‘Kamijou Touma’, what kind of person were you originally?”
“As you filled with righteous anger and challenged a god for the sake of your friends, what kind of people surrounded you? Who did you abandon in order to protect someone?”
Unpleasant sweat poured from the boy’s face, back, and entire body.
“There had to be someone. It may not have been on the level of that ridiculous harem boy, but the ‘real you’ had to have had someone. Someone you wanted to protect with your life even if it meant fighting someone you knew you could not defeat. Where is that person now? Where are they and what are they doing while you are denying the ‘real you’ and insisting you are ‘Kamijou Touma’?”
All heat seemed to have left his body.
He was cold. A chill enveloped his body and threatened to freeze its core.
“Tell me,” said the Magic God. She toyed with the initiative. “As thanks for letting me kill some time, I will return you to your former position as long as you tell me your proper name. …You can return to your friends, lover, and family. If you can find your ‘true self’, I will return you to the people who hold a connection to that ‘true self’.”
The boy slowly raised his head, but Othinus was still standing triumphantly above him.
At some point a photograph had appeared between her index and middle finger.
“But having you choose from all six billion people on earth would be a bit much. To match your position as a mere human, I will give you a hint. Human entertainment is no fun if there is no chance of winning.”
The photograph fluttered down.
It slowly fell as if tracing the lines of her body and landed perfectly at her feet on Kamijou’s desk.
It was a class photo.
Needless to say, it showed “Kamijou Touma’s” class. The dozens of classmates were lined up on different stairs of a staircase and their homeroom teacher, Tsukuyomi Komoe, stood a short distance away.
“You are one of the people in that picture,” whispered Othinus. “You need only choose one of them. This is a much easier choice than having to spin a globe around, isn’t it?”
She was unlikely to hesitate.
This Magic God had given him this chance on a whim and she would likely mercilessly abandon him once she lost interest.
“You are one of them,” said Othinus once more. “If you choose correctly, I will return the correct answer to you. I will return your world, your life, and your existence.”
She said nothing about what would happen if he chose incorrectly.
The boy slowly looked at the class photo.
They all had flat smiles that looked like someone had stamped an identical seal on their faces.
None of them stood out any more than the others.
It simply looked like a large painting that was only complete with all of them present.
Even so, the boy focused on the half of the class where the boys were gathered.
“You cannot rely on sex,” cut in Othinus as if she had read “someone’s” mind. “Your appearance can be changed with the lance. Sex and age mean nothing in relation to who you originally were.”
She had mentioned age as well as sex.
In that case, Komoe-sensei standing a short distance from the group may have been a candidate as well.
“Do not worry about the time. This is your final decision. You can worry over it until you starve to death if you like.”
Both boy and girl were options.
Both student and teacher were options.
He had no information with which to find the right answer. There was no common scar or unique way of standing that he could look for. His only option seemed to be choosing at random. In Russian roulette, the odds of death were 1 in 6, but this was worse than that. Guessing right would be a rare occurrence.
His eyes hurt.
He was unsure if that was due to tears or sweat pouring from his forehead.
Yet his lips felt oddly dry.
He could almost feel the blonde girl watching him.
“Someone” slowly spoke a name.
“I am Kamijou Touma. I am no one but Kamijou Touma!!”
As soon as he spoke, Othinus grimaced in utter displeasure.
This expression clearly held more danger than any other she had given.
She had lost interest. With a girl who had risen to the position of a god, that fact had to be accompanied by great fury.
Finally, she clicked her tongue loudly and sighed.
“When did you catch on?”
“Don’t tell me this is more baseless confidence or optimism not far removed from not thinking at all.”
“I had a hint,” he answered quietly. “You gave me a hint.”
“If your goal was nothing more than making me suffer, you would never have given me that class photo. That meant you had a reason to show it to me. Isn’t that right?”
“You said the real me was in there, but you never warned me that it was someone other than Kamijou Touma. You were hoping to see me choose wrong when I could have easily chosen correctly.”
Also, she had said there was no point in creating a new “Kamijou Touma” and tormenting him.
If she saw no meaning in setting up someone else as “Kamijou”, the one she was torturing had to be the real one.
“So you saw through my malice. And here I thought it would be an interesting experiment in destroying your identity.”
“I don’t know how, but you wrote on the blackboard, pulled out that photo, and set up other tricks without using your hands. If I had given another name, you could have simply applauded and praised me. You could create as much false evidence as you needed to prove I had chosen correctly.”
As if interrupting or as if standing up from a theatre seat while watching a boring comedy, Othinus snapped her fingers.
The world vanished.
Kamijou Touma stood in a world where the ground, the sky, and beyond the horizon were all black.
He could not see the Magic God anywhere, but her voice slipped into his ear.
“It seems this was on too high a level for an idiot like you. I suppose having no worries could be called a talent when it reaches this extreme. I am honestly impressed you feel so little unease about yourself.”
Her voice resembled the almost exasperated surprise of someone watching a simple life form moving around energetically after slicing off a portion of its body.
“But how many cards do you think I have in my deck?”
“Do you think it stops in the mere tens of thousands?”
The next threat would soon arrive.
Between the Connected Points
He saw countless worlds and experienced countless forms of despair.
Some clearly cornered Kamijou Touma and attempted to crush him. Strange false accusations were forced onto him and a noose was put around his neck. He was stranded on a mountain with some acquaintances and he was forced to distribute his flesh to the others so they could survive until rescue arrived. He was lying unable to move on a hospital bed and was simply stuck like that all the way to his funeral. He was buried in humus and began to decompose while still alive, starting with the ends of the arms and legs. Earth was rendered unlivable and he was thrown into outer space to wander aimlessly in a capsule-like spaceship. As a puny human, he was destroyed by a giant robot or an asteroid.
The heart had no actual form, but Kamijou clearly felt his breaking. It was not being destroyed as if struck by a hammer or sliced in two by a sword. It was a quiet destruction as if termites had eaten into it and it was too late by the time the symptoms began to show.
Amid it all, he somehow managed to gather his thoughts bit by bit.
But he did not suddenly come up with a means of reversing or resolving the situation.
He was instead using his bloody hands to build a path there, piece by piece.
He spoke quietly in his hazy mind.
“You aren’t actually destroying anything.”
Othinus seemed surprised that he was only now realizing this.
The blonde-haired, eyepatch-wearing girl stood directly in front of the boy.
She was so close that he thought he detected a sweet aroma.
The world had become a vague marble pattern.
“There aren’t thousands or millions of worlds. This is still our world. This whole time, we haven’t moved anywhere.”
“Why are you acting like you know what you are talking about? Also, I do not recall saying anything about parallel worlds.”
He did not know how it worked.
But the world’s point of view was changing. Othinus was changing it. Kamijou was merely experiencing what was around him, so it appeared to him he was travelling to completely different worlds.
Othinus spoke in a disinterested tone.
“Have you ever heard of phases?”
“This world was not pure and untouched to begin with. Christian, Buddhist, Celtic, Indian, Shinto, Incan, Aztec, Greek, Roman…and Norse. The various religions have placed layer after layer of various phases over the world like thin veils or filters. There is heaven, hell, the underworld, the Pure Land, Yomi, the abyss, Mount Olympus, the fairy island, Nirai Kanai, Asgard, and many others. At any rate, the world you have seen so far has been viewed through various colors of cellophane.”
“You haven’t destroyed any of those colored glasses.”
As his vision wavered and he was unsure who he was speaking to, Kamijou managed to keep his mouth moving.
“When it comes down to it, you are a person who creates. It may be filled with malice and it may be similar to representing ‘crushing a house’ as ‘creating a pile of rubble’, but it does not change what you are. You are a person who creates.”
“Call me a god. And what I have done is simple. I have created new filters and placed them over the world so the world appears to have changed. That is why the world appeared changed to you. This is a lot easier than destroying everything and building it back up every time. And your right hand contains the power to level out any foreign elements in the world, so it has difficulty functioning when I change the world itself. …Still, results are everything in the world. In the end, history will record it like this: the Magic God repeatedly destroyed the world and created new ones to make a single boy suffer as much as possible.”
“The man who names himself the Silver Star seems to have been attempting to directly tamper with the ‘pure world’ beyond all the filters…that is, the world of science that is unaffected by religion. …Honestly, you are quite fortunate to see this. Not even the Golden cabal of Europe that dreamed in Tibet was able to reach this point.”
Kamijou could not guess how much value this had.
If Index saw it, she might have felt differently.
(She is the extreme form of one who creates. She forces unnecessary or mistaken gears into the world and that completely changes the scene before me.)
Kamijou Touma tightly clenched his right fist.
(That must mean Imagine Breaker is special to her. It destroys. It does the opposite of what a god does. This hand holds the possibility of erasing what is unnecessary. In that case, it should be possible to fix the gears that have been thrown out of order.)
Ollerus had said Imagine Breaker was the selfish dreams of all magicians.
If their twisting of the world produced a disadvantageous result, that reference point or restoration point could return it to normal or erase what was done.
And wasn’t this exactly such a case?
It seemed the filters Othinus spoke of were existences or concepts identical to heaven or hell. He was unsure if he could destroy something so massive. In fact, he could not even imagine what kind of phenomenon would be produced if he touched heaven or hell.
But there was a possibility there.
He still had a chance.
The thin, thin thread connecting back to the world containing Index, Misaka Mikoto, and the others had not broken yet.
Othinus cut in with an expression that said she knew exactly what he was thinking.
She spoke slowly and gently.
And yet a truly dangerous smile covered her face.
“Are you sure you want to reach for that last thread of hope?”
“I am saying that hope and a chance of victory can lead to a fatal blow.”
He did not understand what she meant.
On the other hand, she seemed to understand everything just by looking at his face.
And she continued speaking.
“You will understand soon. You will understand all too well.”