Toaru Majutsu no Index:RailgunSS2 Chapter3
When Mikoto thought about it, the girl named Lessar had been suspicious from the beginning.
She had told Mikoto to watch out for oranges and she had left Mikoto the information on the existence of Project Code EIC that allowed rumors to be intentionally spread through the city in order to freely raise or lower how well entire stores sold as well as the information that Setali S. Skinikia had been involved in its research.
Simply put, Lessar was unlikely to be the person behind it all, but she still knew quite a bit about it.
Mikoto couldn’t have the girl holding back any information. She was not just playing some riddle solving game for fun. It would be faster to get Lessar to just tell her everything. Since Mikoto still did not know where the remaining living bombs were, she clearly did not have any time to spare.
She first needed to find where Lessar was and get her to explain everything in detail.
After that, her only option was to pursue whoever was behind it all by tracing back from the tricks done to the security camera records and the means of letting Setali know about the very valuable orange without her even noticing.
“…Dammit, jetlag is really kicking in.”
Mikoto slowly shook her head, but she did not think that would be enough to throw off her heavy sleepiness.
Dawn had already come.
She was in the outer area of the city with lines of tall buildings. It was still dim, but the trains would probably start running before long. Mikoto had wanted to finish things before things got packed full of people like in a theme park, but it had taken more time than she had expected to get Setali to talk.
It seemed Setali had been angered by the fact that someone had cut in and misused the research she was involved in for something like those living bombs. However, Mikoto had refused when the woman had asked to help. Setali’s movements were being checked by the other security guards. The plan had been to quickly hide her from a possible attack by Mikoto. If she suddenly changed that plan, the security guards would be suspicious. If it would only get in Mikoto’s way, there was no point in her helping.
“At any rate…”
She hid behind a pillar and checked to make sure no security guards were patrolling in the area.
“For now, I need to head back to that occult convenience store.”
Just as Mikoto had made up her mind what to do, she froze in place.
Whether they were just all-out ready to have some fun or they wanted to finish breakfast quickly to have more time for fun, there was already a fair amount of people walking around the area. And there were some people who were clearly different mixed in with the varied group of people.
They were security guards.
A gender-mixed group of three was walking through.
They were wearing outfits that stressed functionality and had protectors over their elbows and knees. The outfits looked something like the uniform to some new sport that was starting to spread among the youth but was still much too minor to be discussed at the dinner table. However, the batons, handguns, radios, etc. that they had at their waists and chests were much more serious looking. Unlike Japan, there was no law against guns, so you wouldn’t get arrested for carrying one, but no other people displayed the fact that they had a weapon quite to that extent.
With all the people moving around creating a flow of people, Mikoto would stand out if she remained frozen in place. Mikoto smoothly looked at the pillar while using a finger to mess with her bangs. She surreptitiously observed her surroundings as she did so.
(It doesn’t seem like they were rushed out here because they knew I was here.)
The three security guards may have been on a regular patrol or they may have been headed to their post because they had listless expressions on their faces. Their shoulders were slightly drooped. They slowly approached in Mikoto’s direction while chatting in Russian.
They had not noticed her yet.
But that was why she had to be very careful. She had to hide even the fact that she was being careful.
(Even if I can fool the sensors and cameras, I can’t do anything about the naked eye. It might be difficult to make it to the occult convenience store by the shortest route.)
Making sure not to enter the security guards’ field of vision, Mikoto circled around behind the pillar. She envisioned a simple map of the area in her head and thought about how to get to the store in a more circuitous way.
“Hm…? What are you doing there?” said a female voice from behind her.
“…Oh, now that’s a face a girl shouldn’t show anyone.”
Mikoto immediately spun around and then froze up.
She wouldn’t go so far as to say she knew the girl, but she did recognize her.
It was the girl who had been at the occult convenience store who she was pretty sure was named Lancis.
Her short brown hair was held up in a headband accentuating her forehead. Her clothes were a lacrosse uniform-like set of a shirt, a miniskirt, and spats. Since she was wearing that outfit outside the store, it must not have been the uniform of the store.
Lancis tilted her head to the side in a way only teenage girls could.
“So what are you doing…?”
Mikoto pressed her back up against the pillar and spoke while keeping a cautious ear on the approaching footsteps of the security guards.
“Oh, I just have some business at your occult convenience store.”
“…? You mean Nihon Daruma?”
“I’m reluctant to speak the store’s name.”
Mikoto mumbled as she spoke, but Lancis did not seem to mind despite not being Japanese.
“What does having business with us have to do with sneaking around out here? Hm, are you the maiden type that does not want those around to know she’s buying good luck charms?”
“Honestly, I would think that would be the sensible thing to do if you were buying that kind of thing,” Mikoto said mildly denying the other girl’s reason to exist. “Technically, I have business with the girl named Lessar, not with the store itself. …And don’t you know about my situation? Lessar at least seemed to understand.”
“You mean that you’re being chased by the security guards?”
“…If you understand, then why did you call out to me like that? Well, I was at a dead end, so I guess I’m actually thankful.” Mikoto tapped on the pillar behind her with the back of her hand. “I was having a bit of trouble because of those security guards walking through over there. It was looking like it would be difficult to head straight for the occult convenience store, so I was thinking it would be faster to find a detour.”
Mikoto was able to remain calm during that situation because she could defeat them with force if it came down to it. However, once she used that easy-out card, everything would get a lot more difficult from then on.
“Hmm,” Lancis sighed leisurely…or rather, sleepily. “Well, whatever your reason, I have a feeling Bayloupe would furiously explode if I left a customer stranded.”
Mikoto frowned as Lancis suddenly grabbed her arm.
She started pulling on it.
“Hah? Eh? Wait, where are you taking me!?”
“Into the crowd,” was Lancis’s brief answer. “Just taking a detour isn’t enough. To fool the naked eye, it is best to camouflage yourself among people.”
Now then, who exactly was this girl named Lancis with the headband?
Since she was an acquaintance of Lessar’s, it was possible that she was not some harmless teenager and that idea grew within Mikoto as they moved on.
She was like a spy.
That said, she was not the showy and gaudy type of individual who pulled various secret gadgets from a tuxedo and won magnificent firefights against 100 agents.
She was quite the opposite.
She was natural. Even though Mikoto was being chased by the security guards, the two girls did not speed up their pace pushed on by the desire to just run and flee. Instead, they merely naturally walked along following the flow of people.
At the same time, Lancis did not forget to keep in mind what to do in an emergency. She paid close attention to various entrances and exits like side streets or buildings they could quickly rush into. She also kept a proper distance so they would not run into any security guards when turning a corner or something. It was possible that she was also constantly calculating out how to cause a panic among the passersby and what direction the people would flow in were a panic to occur.
Mikoto still had some slight doubts, but she did admit that the girl was useful in that situation.
“Why?” Mikoto sighed as if she were truly suspicious of something. “Why are we heading for a leisure pool of all places this early in the morning?”
“The water temperature is regulated by a boiler and last night was a hot night, so I’m betting the pool was crowded the instant it opened. The leisure pool has five entrances, so if we slip in with the crowd and cut through, we can exit almost right next to Nihon Daruma.” Lancis used a small hand to make a slight adjustment to her headband. “And heading through the pool is advantageous for us on the security front.”
“The security guards cannot enter the pool facility that heavily armed. The inside of the pool facility and the outside are under different jurisdictions for the security guards. And in the women only corner, the jurisdiction is even further broken down. By passing through different areas of jurisdiction, they cannot continually patrol the entire area we’re passing through.”
It was something like heading into a women only train or a women’s changing room while being chased by a man.
“And it’ll be even easier to hide within the crowd by completely changing our visual appearance in the changing room. Yeah, it’s a little stupid sounding, but it makes sense. …But I don’t have a swimsuit.”
“Why were you walking around with swimsuits for two people?”
“They’re supposed to be products for the store. They’re cheap and simple bathing sets. Choose a master and an apprentice and you too can attempt a pretend baptism. By incorporating the symbol of the nude body to its fullest, they have a bare minimum of holiness so that they cannot be mocked as merely indecent scraps of cloth.”
As Lancis spoke on about things Mikoto did not understand at all, she pushed one of the clear plastic bags containing a swimsuit in Mikoto’s direction.
From what Mikoto could see of the triangular cloth, it was…
(Why a bikini…?)
Mikoto stubbornly looked over at the other swimsuit in Lancis’s hand, but the cloth folded up in that plastic bag looked like it had parts made of strings, too. There was likely not much difference between them. Mikoto guessed that the other girl’s choice had been based on nothing more than something along the lines of liking one color better than the other.
Mikoto gave up in various ways and looked at the warning label at the top of the package.
From what it said about the size…
“Kh. I don’t fall under the recommended cup sizes…!!”
Of course, she could likely manage by adjusting the length of the strings, but she would not be able to get rid of the feeling that it was a little too big for her.
Now, between a girl forcing a too big cup size onto herself and a young lady forcing herself into a too small cup size, which one was better?
As Mikoto thought about that, she noticed a slight look of pity in Lancis’s eyes.
The girl in the headband then spoke.
“When I spoke with Bayloupe and Lessar and they decided that my cup size would work as a standard for the lowest it was quite humiliating, but I never expected my heart to be saved by negativity like this…”
“Shut up!! Let’s just get to the leisure pool’s changing room!!”
“…Why did that make you look confused?”
A chill ran down Mikoto’s spine and she had a very bad feeling about what Lancis was going to say next.
“We aren’t going to the changing room.”
“Security guards are constantly stationed around the changing rooms as a counter measure against perverts. It’s more a way of gaining trust than something that’s actually necessary, but we still have to avoid going through there if we’re going to avoid getting caught.”
“Th-then, what are we going to do?”
“We’ll sneak in through an employee entrance, cut across the side of the leisure pool, and then leave through a different employee entrance. But it would be unnatural to cut across the poolside in our normal clothes, so we need to change into the swimsuits.”
“Umm? Wait a second. If we’re going to head in through a back entrance like that, we won’t be going through the normal changing rooms, right? But isn’t the employee changing room just a small locker room? We’ll have no idea when someone could come in or take a break or something. Can we really safely change there?”
“Like I said, we aren’t going to the changing room.” Lancis’s expression did not change at all as she concluded her thought. “Any of the changing rooms.”
Railgun, the #3 and the Ace of Tokiwadai, felt like her mouth turned into an X-mark for an instant.
“Um, then…where will we change…?”
Lancis was pointing into the shadows of a narrow, narrow alley between buildings.
“I don’t understand. I just don’t understand!! There are tons of people going by out front. We’re just 10 meters away from being in broad daylight!! Why do we have to change here!?” yelled Misaka.
She had changed into and out of a dress the day before, but the hurdle between indoors and outdoors was just too great.
On the other hand, Lancis spoke completely calmly.
“If we just head down the alley and around the corner, we’ll be right at one of the staff entrance’s to the leisure pool. There are too many people going by within the facility and stripping down in the passageway would stand out too much.”
“Well, that may be true if you think about it logically, but for a maiden of 14 going on 15 who’s about ready to head back to the first half of her teens, an area in the open where all sorts of footsteps can be heard is not the place where she is going to reach for the hook of her skir-dgbh!?”
Mikoto had been quietly complaining all by herself, but she had started coughing upon looking down at Lancis’s waist.
Lancis was already completely devoid of clothing to the point that Mikoto half expected to hear a “supo~n” sound effect.
This led Mikoto to go back to yelling.
“How!? How can a teenage girl do that!? How can you put your hands on your hips and strike a daunting pose with a sleepy look in your eyes!!!???”
“Tilting your head again!?”
It seemed things would truly not continue until Mikoto headed down that path herself. Mikoto reached for the hook of her skirt half in desperation. After a small click, she then undid the zipper.
Her mentality crossed a certain line.
After the skirt dropped to the ground, she still had shorts on, so she was still technically safe. However, her tension still somehow snapped at that point. She energetically continued while giving slight cries of encouragement to herself that had not a hint of sexiness to them.
With the lower half of her body oddly breezy, Mikoto grabbed the swimsuit package. However, there was no sign of the clear plastic bag tearing no matter how she pulled on it.
(Ohhh!! I’m having a fierce struggle with something ridiculous while in a ridiculous state of dress!!)
While watching that furious battle, Lancis spoke up.
“…Yours is a bikini, so couldn’t you have at least put the bottom on before removing your skirt?”
Being given that suggestion once it was too late, Mikoto’s blushing reached its maximum. However, this must have made her put extra strength into her struggle because the swimsuit package made a tearing noise and ripped apart like a rice cracker.
(I need to get this on and cover myself up as quickly as possible!!)
Mikoto quickly grabbed up the triangular piece of cloth. However, a bikini and a two-piece were similarly shaped but different in the details. In other words, both sides were as narrow as strings and the one Mikoto was trying to put on was held on by tying the strings together.
The fierce struggle reached its second stage.
She just had to tie two bowknots, so it should not have been too difficult, but having to cover things up as she caught glimpses of things on the road seemed to be sending Mikoto’s head to the boiling point. Her trembling fingertips would not complete the simple task no matter how many times she tried.
Meanwhile, the nude girl named Lancis continued changing at her own slow pace.
“Chiralism is reaching a new age…”
“I don’t want to hear that from a girl who is so open that there’s nothing to just ‘catch a glimpse’ of!!”
“Tah dah. My swimsuit is a V slingshot, the gold standard of the sexy swimsuit.”
“Since you were just completely nude, there’s no surprise to that!!”
Mikoto yelled abuse at the other girl, pole vaulted over the wall of embarrassment, and headed into the third stage of the fierce struggle which was changing into the top. Finally, Mikoto managed to finish changing.
“…Done. No, I can’t relax. Being out on the streets in a bikini is embarrassing enough on its own. I can’t let my reference point be destroyed by this.”
“Mh. If I don’t adjust some angles, some unwanted hair will be visible…” said Lancis as she stared at her crotch and started tugging on the cloth. As a fellow girl, Mikoto did not want to look directly at that pose or that action.
After having her mentality worn down terribly, Mikoto followed Lancis to the leisure pool’s staff entrance. They had stuffed their clothes into the clear packages the swimsuits had come in. The school uniform would retain its characteristic look even when folded up, so Mikoto was a little worried about the fact that the packages were clear, but it was still less noticeable than carrying the uniform out in the open.
The staff entrance was not locked.
They passed by men and women in racing swimsuits who seemed to be workers a few times, but they just waved and did not try to stop the girls.
“Their swimsuits are quite different from ours, but they don’t seem to mind.”
“Workers with different duties have different types of swimsuits. Those were most likely the lifeguards. The waitresses and such would probably be closer to what we’re wearing.”
“(What kind of duty is there that makes that V slingshot not seem suspicious?)”
“Heh heh heh. In a facility where all sorts of fun and pleasures gather, some services will have a bit of sexiness added in. When that happens, swimsuits can transform into all sorts of psychedelic things.”
“Hm, is that so?” Mikoto said with a feeling that felt like incomplete combustion.
Along with Lancis, she headed to the poolside outside of the passageway.
Now that she actually saw the facility, she thought it was actually quite something.
The area was two or three sizes bigger than the entire area taken up by a school building, the schoolyard, and the gym.
Heading around the outer edge was a waterway-like pool that made complex curves. A number of waterslides twisted and turned above their heads and the inner area surrounded by the waterway-like pool was filled with many smaller pools. Each pool must have had some special feature to it.
Mikoto looked around the entire area to see if any pool security guards were patrolling around.
“It doesn’t look like there are any shops. I guess there won’t be any appearances by a questionable waitress.”
“It’s set up so you order through the Semipublic AR and a waitress comes out to the location the order was made from. By paying extra, you can get them to come out wearing various outfits.”
“Hmm. So, how are we going to get through? Are we going to circle around the outside edge?”
“30 meters away at 10 o’clock. …Don’t turn your head. The one wearing the lifejacket is a security guard. He hasn’t noticed us because he’s helping a lost child, but he’ll probably notice us eventually if we just walk along the poolside.”
“What do we do?”
“Splash.” Expressionless as ever, Lancis pointed toward the curving pool that headed around the outer edge of the area. “Getting in the water won’t look suspicious and we’ll be harder to find if we hide everything but our heads underwater.”
Mikoto and Lancis headed for the water’s edge without any warming up exercises. Mikoto thought it would be least suspicious to elegantly put her legs in first, but from the boys and girls of a similar age she could see, the proper thing to do at the leisure pool was to just dive in making a large splash.
Mikoto and Lancis had the plastic bags with their clothes in them, but the people around them were playing in the pool with their things in clear bags.
When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
Mikoto and Lancis unhesitatingly jumped from the poolside.
Mikoto felt herself pierce the wall of water. She could hear the water rushing past her and the muffled noise of the splash. A chill wrapped about her body seeming like it would rob her of all her body temperature. For an instant, Mikoto mistakenly forgot the situation and just enjoyed how good it felt.
Immediately afterwards, she returned to her senses.
The reason for this was simple. Mikoto was wearing a bikini that was made of strings and cloth.
In other words, the force of the water had started to slide the top of her bikini up as she had plunged into the water. If it continued in that direction…
“Cough cough cough!!”
With her head still underwater, Mikoto frantically covered her chest with both hands and used all her strength to stop the cloth from continuing on its independent course. She then slid the cup portion back to its original position.
Paying no heed to her choking in the bubble-filled water, Mikoto reached her hands back behind herself to check on the knots in the bikini’s strings. It seemed the knots themselves had not suffered any damage.
(Ahh, no!! I don’t want to narrowly avoid death in a situation like this!!)
That was when her gaze met with another’s under the water.
Mikoto had fumbled around at super high speed to check on her own swimsuit, but she now saw Lancis who had jumped in at the same time.
The V slingshot had been shifted in an unthinkable way by the water and Mikoto could clearly see a certain spot she would much rather not.
Mikoto used all her strength to hold down Lancis who was fully enjoying the water paradise with her arms spread wide into the air. Letting a girl stay in a situation like that was unforgivable for a fellow girl.
Once the two of them had their appearance back to a bare minimum level of acceptable, Mikoto finally lifted her head out from the water.
Lancis’s head was floating there next to her.
“…For now, let’s just float along with the current of the pool.”
“How far are we going to float?”
“To the third staff entrance. It’s on the complete opposite side. We’ll pass by a security guard station on the way, so make sure to look completely natural while we do.”
And so the two of them began travelling through the water like ninja.
Mikoto and Lancis headed on like crocodiles traveling through the Amazon River looking for prey.
It had nothing to do with their situation, but Mikoto realized that it did not matter if they were wearing a bikini and a slingshot if they were in the water like that.
The two girls slowly continued through the pool heading around the outer edge of the facility and then snuck out the staff entrance.
Once they made it to the back alley, Mikoto had to face temporary embarrassment once more as she and Lancis changed. Once Mikoto was back in her school uniform and Lancis was back in her lacrosse uniform-like outfit, the latter girl spoke.
“Just to be safe, we should split up here.”
“Head north along that street and enter the building through the door on your left. Nihon Daruma will be right there. Since you’ve been there twice before, you should be able to recognize it.”
“What will you do?”
“Unlike you, the security guards aren’t searching for me, so I don’t need to hide. Heading there normally without hiding will be the least suspicious course of action for me. I’ll head right through the middle of the security guards and gather some information as I do. I should be able to tell whether they have realized you’re here or not by how they’re acting.”
“Sorry for the trouble.”
“I am in the service business after all.”
After splitting up with Lancis, Mikoto headed to the occult convenience store by the shortest route. On the way, she was worried about her unnaturally wet hair drawing attention, but it seemed she was just being overanxious.
She reached the occult convenience store in the tenant area without any troubles.
She was naturally nervous.
As the sliding door opened, she heard bustling voices from within.
“Nyaah!! Ow! That really hurts!! Bayloupe, didn’t they teach you in school that a girl’s ass needs to be treated in a more seductive manner!? No matter how much you criticize me, my eyes aren’t going to be ‘opened to the truth’!!”
Mikoto peered inside the store and saw the person she was trying to find being held and spanked.
The person spanking Lessar was a tall girl with short silver hair.
“I’ve told you!! So many times!! Not to give normal people!! Unnecessary information!! Lessar!! From what I’ve heard while listening in on the security guards, that middle school girl fell right into the trap and is now forced to stay on the run!! That means part of the responsibility lies with us!! What part of that was ‘for the sake of England’!?”
They were speaking in English.
And it was British English instead of American English.
“Um…” Mikoto cut in apologetically and the two convenience store workers looked her way.
Lessar was still being held by the girl with the silver hair and her teary face lit up.
“Nyaah! Nyaah! Help! Nyaah! Help!! Was my information helpful!? Please tell Bayloupe how helpful that postcard was!! She’s the girl here who hopes to become a sadistic instructor!! If you do, she’ll end this unfair torture!!”
“Hm? Are you the middle school girl our Lessar was causing trouble for?”
The silver haired girl had a nametag reading “Bayloupe” on her abundant chest.
Mikoto waved around the postcard she had gotten from Lessar.
“I followed this postcard you gave me and attacked Setali, but she turned out to be a surprisingly good person, so I came to get a refund.”
“No!! I only gave her a hint regarding the incident. I never said anything about who was behind it! Gyahh gyahh gyahh! That really hurts!!”
After the repeated strikes seemed about to make smoke come from her butt due to friction, Lessar was finally released. After being released from Bayloupe’s arms, she fell limply down to the ground.
Paying no heed to her miniskirt and panties, she lay face down in an odd way with only her butt sticking up into the air and looked up at Mikoto.
“…S-so, what are you here for?”
“To ask you some fundamental questions. I need something more than the half-assed hint from this postcard. It would be fastest if you just told me everything you know.”
Still collapsed on the ground, Lessar moved her head over and timidly looked at Bayloupe. The silver-haired girl sighed.
“This is past the stage where we can keep you away by saying it would be safer if normal people didn’t get involved, isn’t it? Lessar, this all got so complicated because of you, so you explain it.”
“U-Understood. To be honest, I’d really rather not do this, but my desire to not have Bayloupe hit me anymore is greater, so ask me whatever you want.”
“Okay. Then let’s start with…”
Mikoto folded her arms and thought for a bit before asking her question.
“…Is it true you started wearing a bra in fourth grade?”
“Yes, it is. At the time, I could freely draw the attention of all the boys in my class with the slightest movement which was pretty fun, but it was more embarrassing than anything. After all, being the one person to stand out in a group is pretty tough. Although when I think back on it, my development was pretty normal.”
Once Mikoto brought up that topic, she all of a sudden was being looked down on.
It seemed Lessar had instantly scanned Mikoto’s body type and gotten a general idea of how things had been for her. She was clearly speaking in a way that used breast size to determine someone’s status as a human being.
“But really I was less worried about how big they were getting or anything like that and more afraid of the strange pain that comes with the growth. After all, when I asked my female friends, they all said they didn’t have any pain like that, so I got all worried thinking I had some kind of strange disease. I ended up asking Bayloupe about it and she just laughed at me.”
“Um, okay, can we get to the real subject at hand…?”
“Ha ha ha. I don’t know the trick to making them big. Mine just grew this way on their own. Oh, and the myth about them growing if you drink milk doesn’t seem to have any basis to it, so don’t take it seriously.”
“Shut up or I’ll kill you, you giant breasted midget!!” yelled Mikoto with bluish-white sparks flying from her bangs and Lessar finally lowered her raised nose and ended her solo performance.
“…So what is this real subject at hand you mentioned?”
“The oranges! The living bombs using crimson long-legged army ant eggs!! The series of incidents using the urban legend of the very valuable orange!!”
“Oh, that. Since you said you understood the postcard, I’m guessing you figured out about Project Code EIC.”
“That’s the plan in this city to purposefully manipulate rumors to freely raise or lower the values of selected products in order to freely change how well entire stores sell. When it is used, a third party can spread rumors either good or bad about a product regardless of its actual value in order to profit. If it is used properly, it is possible that a country could be pushed up to being a major power or that an enemy country could be destroyed without firing a single bullet.”
“It is known as Economic Intelligence Control or EIC for short. Honestly, it kind of seems like a giant ‘fuck you’ to capitalism. This goes beyond even a cartel. Although maybe this is actually more natural in a country like Russia…” Lessar sat down on the ground. “This incident involving the oranges and Code EIC must have some kind of connection. At the very least, there’s a definite connection in how the very valuable orange urban legend managed to spread so quickly. That story was originally only spreading through Academy City, but it ended up becoming popular here in the shopping mall, too.”
“Who’s doing it? And why?”
“You said you attacked Setali. What did she say?”
“She said there were no convenient ‘higher ups working behind the scenes’ in this city. She also said that Code EIC was being used by a third party unrelated to those who developed it.”
“…Hmm.” Lessar grinned. “In that case, the current enemy is some third party claiming to be the higher ups.”
“You’re saying there’s some other true criminal behind this? But that…”
“I don’t know for sure, but doesn’t that seem more natural than it just being the true higher ups of the shopping mall? It makes more sense for someone else to be interfering than for the people who created this city to be trying to destroy it.”
Mikoto had thought through it all that far in Setali’s apartment.
She could make as many guesses as she wanted, but what she truly wanted was something she could be sure of that would lead to what she should do next.
“You’ve been looking into Code EIC longer than me, right? How exactly do they control the rumors that manipulate the values of things? It’s simple enough to say someone is interfering, but is there an opening someone could get in through? If we knew how they do these things, we might be able to figure out where the person behind all this is.”
“Nnn, I have a fairly good guess,” Lessar said ambiguously.
She was acting triumphant, but Mikoto was not going to allow her to evade the questions anymore.
“Wait. This has to do with those living bombs. If we don’t do anything, those oranges will scatter tons of crimson long-legged army ants around wherever they have been placed. We can’t just sit around and not do anything.”
“…But I think there is a surprising limitation on where they can be placed.”
“You’ve probably realized it by now, but the time limit for the living bombs is regulated using temperature and humidity. By artificially regulating the environment to one suitable for the hatching and activation of the ants, an ‘explosion’ can be caused intentionally. …As such, where the first bomb was placed is rather important.”
“It was near the entrance at the east gate…” Mikoto trailed off because she had realized something. “I see.”
“Yes. This is a hot summer day. The automatic doors are constantly opening and closing causing the outside heat and the inside air conditioning to mix together. The temperature and humidity would be exceedingly irregular near the entrance. And yet the living bomb was placed there where it detonated despite the fact that we assumed the environment had to be regulated to cause them to hatch and activate. …In other words, we just need to think back from there.”
“So the eggs won’t hatch and grow to adulthood except in an extreme environment.”
“They are truly special ants. I wonder how they manage to hatch in the natural world. Maybe they live in the mountains where the weather changes a lot. Well, I suppose that characteristic is what allows them to remain stable while stored and used as living bombs.”
If that were true, it was a major development. Investigating every single part of an area larger than 650 domed stadiums was difficult, but that changed if they could predict where they would be set beforehand. If they focused their search on the areas where the temperature or humidity was constantly changing due to artificial means, they may be able to find the living bombs and it was even possible they could come across whoever was behind it all in the middle of setting up one of them.
“But that is not enough to relax,” said Mikoto clearly while looking Lessar in the eye. “That kind of environment could be purposefully created by alternating between using a cooler and a dryer, so this isn’t perfect. I really just want any information I can get to chase after whoever is behind this.”
“Let’s go back to what you were talking about before. Do you know how someone could interfere with Code EIC? If we know how whoever is behind this is doing it, we might be able to find where they are.”
“Hm. It’s not that I’m holding back any information, but…”
At that time, Bayloupe suddenly looked up while dusting off the magazine rack. Her eyes were wide with shock and she quickly moved away from the magazine rack.
“…It looks like I don’t have time to give a detailed explanation.”
Immediately afterwards, something large broke through the wall and crashed into the occult convenience store.
It was an overwhelmingly large mass of steel.
With that one strike, the building materials were smashed to pieces and the magazine rack on that wall was knocked over sending its contents flying. The damage did not end there. The other shelves of products were forcefully knocked over as the mass of steel mercilessly plowed right into the center of the store.
“Construction equipment!?” shouted Mikoto.
The construction equipment had thick treads like on a tank and a hydraulic arm on the front which had a giant bucket on the end. A snowplow had likely been switched out for the bucket. The bucket was about as wide as the vehicle itself and it was oddly large. The fact that Mikoto had not heard its approach meant it likely ran on electricity.
“Why is something like that here!?”
“This is the world’s largest shopping mall. They sell everything here, remember?”
It was an obvious attack.
The shopping mall was huge, but they were still within a single store of a giant indoor facility. Even though there were not too many people around just after dawn, it was still insane to drive a piece of construction equipment all the way there.
“What do you think?” asked Lessar with a fearless smile on her face. “Is this from whoever is behind all this? Or is this a new face of the security guards? I’d say the odds are about 70% that this is whoever is behind this, and the remaining 30% is taken up by the possibility that the security guards are disguising themselves as whoever is behind all this.”
“It doesn’t really matter which it is.” Sparks flew from Mikoto’s bangs. “Anyone who is going to get in our way and try to stop us despite knowing about the living bombs should be treated like an enemy, don’t you think?”
“Sigh. Whether you’re Railgun or whatever, you can still get killed. There’s no real need for you to charge right into the middle of the danger, is there?”
“…You realized who I am?”
“I’d think it would have been odd for someone not to after everything that’s happened.”
“Then I’m guessing you’ve figured out that it’s best to not get in my way.”
“Sorry for interrupting you while you’re getting all fired up,” Lessar pointed toward the driver’s seat, “but there’s no one aboard. Who exactly are you planning to fight with?”
When Mikoto looked over at the driver’s seat she saw that the seat was empty and that there were a few small devices and cameras set up there instead. The attack was being carried out by remote control using a radio.
And she also saw what seemed to be cylindrical explosive connected by several colorful cables.
She was not given time to deal with the problem rationally.
Immediately afterwards, the snowplow exploded in the middle of the occult convenience store.
Of course, that abnormal situation was immediately reported to the security guards that protected the peace of that shopping mall.
“There’s been an explosion!! It seems a piece of construction equipment broke into the facility and exploded inside a store!!”
“First ants and now car bombs?”
While asking that question to her fellow security guard, Enirya G. Algonskaya ran toward an opened area of the guard station.
The shopping mall was an exceedingly large commerce facility. It was also a flat building because it was much wider than it was tall. The shortest route to an area was to just cut straight through the facility, but they could not drive through the stores full of customers in a patrol car.
That was why the security guards used helicopters instead of patrol cars.
They used rather large models that could fit over 8 people in the back. That was both because it functioned as a space to take in people who were being arrested and because Russia had a long history of developing helicopters. …Simply put, it was a civilian-use model of the military helicopter known as the Hind.
The security guards would use those large helicopters to take a shortcut across the shortest path and then lower their personnel down to the vast rooftop of the facility. Then they would just have to head in through the doors leading inside. That way they could always take action quickly without having to worry about the flood of tourists.
Their main defining characteristic could be said to be the great number of communications antennae they were equipped with to ensure investigations ran smoothly. They had normal radio antennae as well as ones that could access communications satellites used for cell phones.
“Where did it occur!?”
“Once we get up there, you’ll be able to tell. You’ll see the dark smoke it created,” said Enirya’s colleague as she climbed into the pilot’s seat of the helicopter. “…Do you think this is connected to the ant case?”
“I can’t say anything at this stage,” Enirya said as she sat in the support seat directly behind the pilot’s seat. “But if there are any suspects at the scene, we’ll need to get the full story from them.”
A low vibration shook one section of the shopping mall. A great amount of dust filled the passageway like after a space shuttle launch. The explosive seemed to do more damage with its shockwave than its flames and all four walls of the occult convenience store were utterly blown away. There was no need to ask what happened to the things within.
But Mikoto ran as quickly as she could cutting through all the dust.
“Dammit!! They certainly are doing this in a showy way!!”
Sounds of clattering metal could continually be heard. It was the sound of Mikoto casting aside the different objects such as metal panels she had magnetically gathered from the store to act as a shield.
“That sure is convenient,” said Lessar seeming to arbitrarily praise Mikoto as she ran alongside her with a nonchalant expression. “Thanks to that, things were a little easier for me.”
“Wait, is that other girl okay? You know, the one named Bayloupe.”
“She’s fine, she’s fine. She just used a different route to escape. I can hear her yelling complaints in my ear this very instant.”
Lessar did not seem to have any kind of communications equipment in her ear and Mikoto could not detect any radio waves, but it seemed the girl was communicating in some way.
(…Are they using infrared or something?)
“That construction equipment was targeting us because we were investigating that incident.”
“Yeah. It’s possible it was trying to prevent me from giving my demonstration, but given the timing, it more likely has to do with the living bombs.”
Even in that situation, Lessar had a huge grin on her face.
“But we learned something else interesting from this.”
“Assuming that construction equipment was an attack from whoever is behind this, then it means the living bombs are not their only weapon. They can acquire normal explosives like that and yet they are still sticking with using the crimson long-legged army ants. An explosive that can be detonated at the press of a button would be easier to simply cause a disturbance with, but they’re sticking with the ants.”
“Are you saying that their objective is hidden in creating an incident following the urban legend being spread using Code EIC?”
Mikoto and Lessar stopped and supported themselves on a pillar while they caught their breath.
“Well, it would probably be faster to just capture whoever is behind this and have them tell us that kind of thing.”
“How?” Mikoto frowned. “They even had that pain-in-the-ass remote controlled construction equipment prepared to cover their tracks.”
“Given the circumstances around you, I’m betting whoever is behind this realized you have great power during the incident with the first orange and they are advancing their plan accordingly. They sent out a remote controlled attack because they know they would lose in a direct confrontation.”
“Can that great power of yours be of any use to us now?” Lessar pointed toward her own temple. “For example, can you track the source of the signal used for the remote control?”
“I see.” Mikoto realized what Lessar was getting at. “But the construction equipment already blew up. I doubt they are going to just continue sending out the signal.”
“You don’t need to worry about that,” said Lessar just as a painful noise became audible. “It seems they have sent a second one.”
The sound of the treads digging into the floor ominously rang out. A giant piece of construction equipment appeared from around a corner in the passageway. As before, they had not been able to hear it until it got very close. It seemed electric vehicles were well suited to be weapons.
“Get down!!” Mikoto yelled as she pushed down on Lessar’s head.
That very same instant, the pillar was blown away with consecutive explosive noises. A rain of 7.62 mm bullets had cut horizontally across.
Thankfully, there had been no customers in the area.
“Look at the driver’s seat. The glass has been removed and a light machine gun is fixed to the arm and motor. That’s what just said hi.”
“That drum-like object in the seat might be full of bullets. If so, that thing could have 30,000 shots.”
“I guess it’ll spread around all of its bullets and then blow up.”
“You can control electricity and electromagnetic waves, right? So could you destroy its battery and interfere with the radio waves controlling it?”
“I tried to do that back in the occult convenience store to stop that one from detonating, but it just switched modes and blew up.”
Suddenly, they heard some loud dry noises. They seemed to be gunshots, but they were not the same as the ones from before. These ones sounded somehow lighter.
A few sparks flew from the surface of the construction equipment.
Mikoto thought someone must have been attacking it, so she peeked out from behind the pillar. As soon as she did, her eyes widened in shock and her body stiffened.
She had spotted some of the people who protected the peace of that city wielding handguns while hiding behind a corner in the intersection with another passageway up ahead.
In other words…
“No way… The security guards noticed this and came rushing over!?”
“Oh, my. That certainly is not the kind of reinforcements a wanted person wants, is it?”
And it looked like those reinforcements could not necessarily be relied on.
The handguns they were armed with were meant to be used against humans, so they could not penetrate the steel sheets making up the construction equipment. Because of its undercarriage and treads, they could not blow out a tire either. The security guards fired some warning shots and demanded the driver to stop, but they soon realized that no one was sitting in the driver’s seat.
That was when the light machine gun in the driver’s seat started to move.
“Get back!! Hurry!!”
Mikoto did not know if her shout had reached them or not.
Immediately afterwards, the light machine gun began its attack on the commerce institution. The wall of the corner the security guards were hiding behind crumbled like a pile of sand being struck by a shovel. It seemed the security guards had immediately turned around, but Mikoto could not tell from her position whether they were fine or not.
“…Let’s take this chance to escape,” suggested Lessar.
“We’re up against someone who is persistent and attacking us from a safe area, but he also seems to be an idiot who loses his cool surprisingly easily. He’s leaving us, his true targets, alone in order to focus on the security guards.” Lessar waved her index finger lightly. “But I’m sure he’ll remember his objective before long. The smart thing to do would be to get out of here before that happens.”
Just as Mikoto started speaking, some people who seemed to be the security guards peeked out from behind the corner of the destroyed passageway in a temporary break in the light machine gun fire. She recognized one of the people holding a handgun. It was the female security guard named Enirya.
Mikoto thought she was still trying to continue her futile attack on the construction equipment, but…
“Oh, watch out.”
Immediately after Lessar let out a lighthearted warning and Mikoto hurriedly hid behind the broken pillar, Enirya opened fire on them instead of the construction equipment.
“Is that idiot still obsessing over me!?”
“I already told you. Whether it’s the construction equipment or the security guards, it will only get in our way if they are no longer focusing on the other. It would be best to have them take each other out.”
As they spoke, the light machine gun began firing on the security guards once more. The tremendous sound of gunfire reverberated through the air. On top of that, the construction equipment used its treads to move while it kept up the gunfire. It moved in the direction of the center of the intersection between the two passageways. It was making sure it could see past the corner the security guards were using for cover.
Those security guards no longer had anywhere to hide.
And at the same time, they could not stop the large piece of equipment with just handguns.
“Wait, why are you pulling a coin out of your skirt pocket?”
“Do I really need to spell out to you what I’m about to do?”
“Don’t do that…” Lessar interjected as if she were fed up with Mikoto. “It doesn’t get you anything. They aren’t going to stop seeing you as a suspect just because you saved them. And even if you are an esper, you’ll still die if you’re shot or caught in an explosion, right? That exceeds the level of risk you can take.”
“I haven’t done anything to feel guilty about.” While not knowing when bullets could come flying her way, Mikoto peered out from behind the pillar in order get her timing right. “So I have no reason to fear or hate the security guards.”
“Oh,” Lessar muttered while looking up toward heaven.
Mikoto spoke without looking in Lessar’s direction.
“You stay here. You have no reason to go with me and both of us getting taken out would not help anything. If I truly do get taken out, then you go find whoever is controlling this construction equipment. Do you understand?”
She did not wait for an answer.
The security guards did not have the time to spare.
Mikoto made sure that the light machine gun was making slight adjustments to aim at the security guards and therefore not at her. She then charged out from behind the pillar.
Immediately afterwards, the light machine gun started turning in her direction and bullets even flew her direction from the security guards, but Mikoto unhesitatingly ran toward the construction equipment.
She was a few dozen meters away.
It was only a narrow margin, but Mikoto managed to get underneath the construction equipment before the light machine gun managed to get her completely in its sights.
That’s right, underneath.
She had jumped to the ground and had slid head first between the treads on either side.
While still face down, she pressed her clenched fist against the ground like she was pressing a stamp.
Her thumb was on top.
She fired the arcade coin on top of the thumb straight up!!
With an explosive roar, the “bullet” was fired at three times the speed of sound and pulverized the construction equipment.
It went well beyond the level of blowing a hole in it.
The vehicle rose up a few meters from the ground and was then crushed in midair.
While still sprawled out on the ground, Mikoto rolled to the side.
After hanging in the air for a few seconds, the remains of the construction equipment fell down like a suspended ceiling. Mikoto had almost made it out of the way when she heard a slight electronic noise.
It was just a quiet beep.
At the same time, the glowing red point of light in the driver’s seat turned green.
(It knows it can no longer be controlled, so it’s switched to detonation mode!!)
Mikoto frantically stood up and leapt behind the corner of the intersection. Just as she jumped, she had a thought.
The security guards were behind that corner.
As Mikoto had expected, a gun was being aimed at her along with that warning.
With their backs pressed up against metal shutters on opposite walls of the passageway, Mikoto and the security guard named Enirya glared at each other.
Mikoto paid the gun barrel no heed and spoke.
“I don’t think this is any time to be doing that.”
“What are you…!?”
Enirya was not able to finish her sentence.
Immediately afterwards, the snowplow Mikoto had destroyed with her Railgun exploded. Even though she had escaped around a corner into the other passageway, a shockwave blew through the tunnel. Both Mikoto and Enirya were knocked to the side. Enirya had likely not intended to, but the impact had caused her finger on the trigger to move enough to fire a shot. It hit right next to Mikoto’s face.
Mikoto tried to get up, but then she stopped moving.
Enirya had been knocked over as well, but she was still pointing her handgun at Mikoto with a trembling hand.
“…You sure are stubborn. You had to have seen that snowplow attacking me if you came rushing over to stop it.”
“I can’t rule out the possibility that it is all an act. That thing is being remote controlled. You could be controlling it while running around.”
“I don’t really see what the point of that would be,” Mikoto said calmly despite her body still being frozen in place. “If I was truly putting on an act to draw suspicion away from me, don’t you think I would make it a little easier to understand? This doesn’t have the slightest thing to do with crimson long-legged army ants, so you might not even realize it was related.”
While Enirya glared at her, Mikoto slowly raised her hands and moved her body. She sat on the floor and pressed her back up against the metal shutter.
“The store workers certainly are staying cool despite this great disturbance. They must have some good counter measures against any damages.”
“…If you look at things internationally, your country’s service mentality is the odd one out. Once the customer buys something, the rest doesn’t matter. If a customer starts complaining and acting violently, they can just be kicked out, and once a customer takes a step outside the store, the workers have no need to deal with them. …The passageways are in the jurisdiction of us security guards, not the stores. Because of that, they have no need to deal with or resolve this. That’s the way they see it.”
“But we can’t just abandon the workers.”
Enirya frowned, but then noticed that Mikoto had unpleasant sweat appearing on her forehead.
Immediately afterwards, one of the metal shutters was torn apart from the inside and a new piece of construction equipment showed itself.
With the shutter and the shelves from the store pouring out ahead of it, construction equipment with a light machine gun and an explosive equipped appeared before Mikoto and Enirya.
And it appeared in the perfect spot to block the passageway.
“It just powered straight through the store. It has to be like a giant tunnel in there.”
Mikoto wiped the sweat from her face with the back of her hand and then heard an even more ominous sound.
With the sound of treads, another piece of construction equipment appeared from around the corner of the intersection between the two passageways. Now their escape was cut off by the two vehicles.
The enemy did not use any kind of roundabout way of killing them like shooting them with the light machine guns.
The enemy was instead making sure they died by setting both pieces of construction equipment to explode immediately.
The red lights in the driver’s seats turned green.
Mikoto immediately used magnetism to try to gather together the remains of the shutter.
A dull noise rang out.
Something stabbed from the side into the vacant driver’s seat of the construction equipment in the intersection. It looked like a spear. It had four different blades on the end making it look like a human arm made of machinery.
Someone had thrown it from the side.
Just after Mikoto had that thought, a short girl jumped up onto the construction equipment and forcefully grabbed the handle of the spear.
“Gwaahh! You idiot!! Don’t call out my name in front of the security guard!!” the girl practically snarled out as she adjusted her grip on the four-bladed spear and forcefully twisted her waist.
Something unthinkable happened.
The top half of the construction equipment made of thick steel panels was mercilessly torn off. The wreckage was like a carrot stuck on a fork. Lessar swung it around and it came free of the blades. It then flew away and rolled a few dozen meters.
Immediately afterwards, there was an explosion.
The explosive in the driver’s seat had been detonated.
“Did you come to save me?”
“One thing.” Lessar pointed behind Mikoto without responding to her question. “Isn’t that one about to explode, too?”
Mikoto manipulated magnetism to forcibly move the metal plate in Enirya’s bulletproof vest. She was forced back as if she had been punched by an invisible arm and then she moved of her own free will further away from the snowplow.
Lessar practically caught Mikoto as the two of them made a quick turn around the corner of the passageway intersection.
Immediately afterwards, the second explosion occurred.
Amid the smoke and dust, Mikoto heard the sound of treads.
It seemed the enemy had plenty of vehicles under their control.
That was why they were not hesitating to blow up their own weapons.
“Dammit! There’s no end to them. At this rate, we’ll never make it to whoever is behind all this!!”
“Just playing around with these bombs will do nothing but wear us down,” said Lessar while resting the four-bladed spear on her shoulder. “But if we look at this in a different way, it could be a good opportunity.”
“What do you mean?”
“Those are basically radio-controlled toys. If you head for where the controlling radio signals are being sent from like we discussed before, you should be led straight to whoever is behind this. It doesn’t look like our enemy is going to let up on the attacks any time soon… You can do that with those psychic powers you’re so proud of, right?”
Lessar pulled a few good luck charm products in clear packages from her jacket pocket.
“(…Plant Set A, a Boar’s Tooth Notebook, a Simple Rune Dyeing Kit, the separately sold Sticky Blood Color number three, and a Restorative Aroma—Magical Plant Effect Removal Sheet. Heh hehn. With these, I can probably combine a Seiðr with a battle-use auto-thinking assistance spell.)”
“Now then,” Lessar muttered. “I’ll have some fun here. You go head straight for where the signals are being sent from.”
“Oh, this has nothing to do with owing anyone anything. This is because they plowed straight into our store. We were investigating this too, so we were likely part of the target. This is just me getting back at them, so don’t worry about it.”
Mikoto then heard a slight click.
It was the noise of the hammer being brought up on the handgun held by the security guard named Enirya who had been tossed away magnetically.
“…Where do you think you’re going, Misaka-san?”
“Isn’t that obvious? I’m going to go find the bastard who started all this and kick his ass.”
“That is not your job.”
“It isn’t her job to play around with you either,” cut in Lessar. “Actually, I would very much like for you to protect the peace of this city. I won’t stop you, Miss Security Guard. …Of course, that’s only if you are able to get past the machine gun fire and find whoever is behind all this on your own.”
Immediately after finishing what she was saying, Lessar moved adroitly to the side and charged into the smoke and dust.
There was no time to stop her.
As if in response, the repeated gunfire coming from a light machine gun rang out from multiple directions.
They did not know how many pieces of construction equipment there were in total, but things had begun to move. It was no time to be complaining amongst themselves. If they wanted to stop that disturbance, they had to defeat whoever was controlling those vehicles remotely as quickly as possible.
Mikoto turned her back on the direction Lessar had gone and ran off in the opposite direction.
Enirya seemed conflicted, but the machine gun fire forced her back preventing her from moving forward. And in the time that happened, Mikoto had already made it a fair distance from the threat of Enirya’s handgun.
Mikoto followed the controlling radio signal and headed in the direction of whoever was behind it all.
She headed down some stairs as she pushed on toward her goal.
Once she knew what to do, it was simple.
Mikoto picked the locks of several doors and ran down long passageways.
The giant facility took up more space than 650 domed stadiums, but the construction equipment was attacking inside the building. The controlling radio signal had to be fairly strong in order to make its way through all the walls. For someone who could freely control electricity like Mikoto, it was like having the GPS function of a child’s cell phone on.
She knew what path she had to take, so all that was left was to follow it.
“…Over there, hm?”
She had come to a different area within the giant facility. She stood before a tenant-owned shop with its shutter closed. The powerful radio signal was being sent from within.
Mikoto ignored the usual theory of opening the door.
Instead, she manipulated magnetism to blow the metal shutter forward.
With an explosive noise, the entire giant wall was knocked into the store. Mikoto stepped inside through that entrance she had forcibly opened.
There were no lights on.
In the center of the dim store, a few LEDs blinked and light came from a small screen that seemed to be a PDA.
But that was it.
There was no sign of anyone inside.
And there was some kind of unpleasant smell.
Mikoto approached the wall and hit the light switch.
With a dry click, the store was filled with dazzling light from fluorescent lights.
The full picture became clear.
A lot of what looked like fish tanks were lined up along the wall. However, there was no water filling them and there were no tropical fish swimming within them. The fish tanks were filled about halfway up with black soil and a large number of small black insects were on top of that.
On the opposite wall, more fish tanks were lined up, but they had lots of mice instead of ants. They may have been food for the ants.
As expected, the PDA in the center of the room was connected to radio devices. There was also a small but high output antenna. That was likely where the snowplows had been controlled from.
It had all been thoroughly destroyed.
The glass of the fish tanks had been smashed and some of the black soil had spilled out. The store stank of insecticide. The black ants were not moving. Only the mice that had been raised to be food were still alive. They were huddled together and cautiously watching Mikoto.
The radio equipment was just barely in a usable condition, but the PDA’s screen was displaying an error. Most likely, the construction equipment was no longer moving.
The walls, the floor, and even the ceiling were covered in an unpleasant smelling liquid. It was not a normal amount. It was enough that it would not have been surprising if multiple people had been killed.
There was no one there.
But the lack of anyone there actually made Mikoto even more uneasy. The situation did not look like one where whoever it was had voluntarily run off.
(Who did this…?)
Mikoto headed further into the room.
There was a wooden box there that had 19 oranges inside.
Each one had been carefully smashed and the flesh of the fruit was sticking out. It looked as if someone had been checking to see if there were ants inside.
Mikoto had the same thought once more.
(Who did this…?)
At 9:00 AM, the shopping mall truly opened for the day and a great number of tourists were swallowed up by the large facility.
The locations of all 20 oranges had been discovered and the incident related to the very valuable orange seemed to have ended with no victims for the time being.
Mikoto entered a delivery passageway for employees without permission while preventing the security guards from seeing her like usual.
(…This has gone well beyond just a demonstration.)
The living bombs had been dealt with, but Mikoto still had not regained her freedom. Enirya and the other security guards were likely still searching for her. The criminal breeding the crimson long-legged army ants had disappeared, so Mikoto was still unable to resolve the misunderstanding the security guards had made.
Also, there were still aspects of the incident that bothered Mikoto.
Who had attacked whoever was behind the incident in the short time between the construction equipment attacking and Mikoto making it to the tenant-owned shop?
And who exactly was it that was behind the incident?
The problem was that the construction equipment had been unmanned.
That meant that they did not create an alibi for anyone.
It could have even been someone right next to Mikoto.
Yes, if she was going to go simply with possibilities, she could not deny that one.
For instance, Lessar and the others could have been the ones controlling that construction equipment.
Mikoto had charged into that store where the radio signal had come from. The construction equipment had definitely been controlled from there. However, she could not say with certainty who could have done it. It may have been difficult for Lessar to have done it, but it was possible that the other workers at her store, Lancis and Bayloupe, had been controlling the vehicles.
Mikoto had gotten too deeply involved with that occult convenience store and therefore with Lessar and the others. It was possible that they were putting together some kind of plan and their connection with Mikoto was in the way. In that case, it was possible they had rather forcibly covered their tracks by destroying the occult convenience store.
But at the same time, other people were just as suspicious. For example, the security guards. They could have been feigning their troubles with the construction equipment while one of their comrades controlled the vehicles in order to trick Mikoto.
On the other hand, Mikoto could not think of a reason that they would go to that much effort to manipulate her actions. If Mikoto was simply in the way, she felt they could have just prepared a bomb in that tenant-owned store. Who gained anything by making Mikoto alone believe that whoever was behind the incident had been in that store and that they had been disposed of and taken away by someone else? She could understand if someone was manipulating how the security guards saw the situation, but what did someone gain from making Mikoto alone think that?
Had whoever was behind the incident truly been there and had truly been taken away?
Or had it just been made to look like that and whoever was behind the incident had not been taken from there?
She had no way of knowing.
However, there was one thing she could say for sure.
Whether whoever was behind the incident had been taken away there or it had merely been made to look that way, she did not know the full story behind that incident.
There was something more sleeping deeper beneath the surface.
And if it was not over, it was possible that the incident would once more bare its fangs toward the people enjoying themselves shopping within the shopping mall.
If that were the case…
“Really…” muttered Mikoto while lightly shaking her sleep-deprived head. “It looks like it isn’t just Academy City that won’t leave me bored.”