Toaru Majutsu no Index:RailgunSS3 Chapter2
The boom of bursting gunpowder and the shriek of shattering glass pounded on their ears.
The large, electric motorcycle had its engine sound effect deactivated, so it drove off while hiding within the din its riders had caused.
Misaka Mikoto was one of Academy City’s seven Level 5s and the strongest of the Electromasters. If she had abandoned all else and focused on hijacking the engine, she might have been able to stop the motorcycle before it could escape.
She could still hear the sound of glass shards hitting the floor.
A shotgun had been fired in from outside and it had fired more than once. If Mikoto had not used magnetism to gather the restaurant’s equipment and form a large shield, who knows how many people would have died.
The atmosphere inside the restaurant had entirely changed.
The world Sakibasu Yuri had been gently creating had been erased by a vortex of crude violence. The screams and cries of the other customers and the staff were like someone mercilessly scratching at the invisible scab with their nails. The noise was so brutal it brought to mind the idea of an acoustic weapon. You realized that sound could create something like this when brought in the negative direction.
Shirai Kuroko spoke while carefully brushing the glass shards off of her head.
She attached a distinctive armband while she did so.
“Uiharu, start by checking for any injuries.”
“Preserve the scene at the same time. This is too much for Judgment. Keep your eyes open to make sure no one disturbs the scene before the adults from Anti-Skill can arrive.”
Shirai often took action beyond her authority, but Judgment members like her were technically only meant to mediate trouble between students at their own schools. They were not meant to investigate serious criminal activity occurring in the city.
Another girl in a Tokiwadai Middle School winter uniform was dazed.
That girl was Sakibasu Yuri.
Since she belonged to that prestigious powers development program, she had to be at least Level 3, but despite the common misconception, having a higher level did not necessarily make you stronger in a fight. Her power was Carbon Search, which let her precisely measure carbon isotopes. It would be cruel to ask her to battle a shotgun with that.
Trembling in fear was the correct response.
Uiharu and Saten, on the other hand, did not seem afraid at all, but that was because it was all so sudden that their fear had yet to catch up with them. That was dangerous too. In that sense, Sakibasu Yuri’s neutral and normal emotional response may have put her a step ahead.
Mikoto briefly called her underclassman’s name.
Uiharu and Saten were here, but so were plenty of onlookers both inside and outside the restaurant. She whispered in Shirai’s ear to make sure not to cause any unnecessary waves.
“(Based on what I felt hitting the shield, the shotgun blasts were not targeting everyone in here indiscriminately. They were clearly changing the angle of the shots as they drove past to target a single point. And that point was our table.)”
“(A modified silent bike and a specialist firearm. Did they not use an esper power because they do not have one, or because they were afraid we could work out their identity by doing a mechanical search of the Bank? Either way, they put a lot of effort into this. A shotgun scatters lots of small balls that do not match the gun’s caliber, so it is hard to identify the weapon using rifling marks like you can with a handgun or rifle… I doubt this was something they suddenly decided to do for kicks.)”
“(Let’s list off every reason we can think of why someone would be targeting us. Of course, I can think of countless reasons why someone would go after a Level 5.)”
“(If we’re going there, I’ve earned more than my fair share of grudges with my Judgment work. Although not many of them would have the temerity to pay me a visit with a shotgun in hand.)”
“(Then could it be about the Stativarius? But in that case, it’s odd that they made no attempt to steal the violin from Sakibasu-san. No matter how tough the case, a stray shot could easily break the instrument inside.)”
“(It is also worth noting that this was shortly after I destroyed the violin’s legend.)”
At any rate, it took a bit of time before the volunteer teachers of Anti-Skill arrived. First, some officers out on patrol arrived in a special vehicle made by modifying a sports car, then a group with specialized forensic tools arrived in a large minivan.
Men wearing tough-looking bulletproof jackets approached Shirai. They likely chose her because of the armband on her right upper arm.
“I’m Maeda and this is Inoue. We have taken control of the scene, but we would like your signature on the official records. Use this tablet.”
“Once that is complete, go get yourselves looked over at the hospital. Even if none of the bullets hit you, gunshots can harm your inner ear at close range.”
Did they seem so oppressive because they were adults and teachers? Those distinctions could be more powerful than the people wielding them realized. To Shirai Kuroko, the single-year differences between upperclassman and underclassmen were an impassable expanse, so she was not going to complain to these people who lived in another world altogether.
Something gave her pause just as she moved the stylus toward the thin LCD screen.
“Also, Sakibasu Yuri. We have already received authorization from Tokiwadai Middle School, so please board this car.”
“Again, we already have permission. We have also contacted your dorm. Do I have to spell it out for you? I will fulfill our requirement to provide an explanation to minors, but we believe you to be a material witness. We would like to ask you for some details about this incident.”
“Eh, eh!? Why!? A material witness!? You mean you think I am a criminal!?”
She snapped back at the man, but the helplessness in her body language was impossible to miss. Her black kneesocked legs were pressing together nervously.
Meanwhile, the Anti-Skill officer sounded exasperated.
“We just want to speak with you. If you ask me, refusing just makes you look more suspicious.”
“You’re lying!! You need to actually answer my question!!”
“All we can do is arrest and question suspects. It is the prosecutors who decide whether or not a suspect is indicted and it is the professional and lay judges who hand down a guilty verdict in open court. In other words, I cannot answer your question.”
“That isn’t what I meant!! You keep dodging the issue!! Why, um, would I be…!?”
“The Stativarius Ainsel.”
The black twintail girl’s shoulders jumped when she heard that name.
Her breathing grew erratic and her eyes widened, so the adults continued speaking while carefully observing her.
“We hear you possess a famous violin that goes for hundreds of millions at auction. We have also received several witness accounts saying you have been showing it off wherever you go. And just a few hours ago, you failed to get the result you wanted in an exam using that Stativarius.”
“Why would you be enjoying a meal with the very person who humiliated you like that? If you have enough money to purchase a Stativarius, then you could easily hire some thugs. So why are you here? Was it perhaps to provide accurate information on the target’s location?”
“No! Um, I wasn’t-…!!”
“This is no more than speculation. So how about we go discuss the details in a locked room?”
The Anti-Skill officer’s arm reached out to grab the very same slender arm that had been playing the violin just a moment before. And he moved with enough force that he very well might twist her arm around and handcuff her if she resisted. In fact, it almost looked like he was intentionally treating her roughly so she would fight back and give him the “justification” he wanted.
No, perhaps this was the natural result.
Someone slapped the back of the Anti-Skill officer’s hand.
But it was not Sakibasu Yuri.
It was Shirai Kuroko of Judgment who had been listening in from a step away.
The aura of an adult clearly sharpened in displeasure, but that girl was not cowed. She moved between the adult and the child as if to protect the suspect.
Sakibasu was even more surprised than the Anti-Skill officer.
“Angering her so she makes the first move and you can arrest her for interfering with an official’s duties? What a cheap move. That means you don’t actually have the kind of solid evidence you claim to. Of course you don’t. You rushed here after first hearing of the incident, so you did not have time to do any real questioning. The Stativarius? The exam and reports of her showing it off? I bet all you did was search for likely terms on the social media accounts and blogs for her and those around her. What kind of official investigative agency accuses people based on hearsay from the internet? To be honest, it makes me doubt your character.”
“In Anti-Skill, we gather all relevant information and use that to reach a highly objective conclusion.”
“My, such wonderfully meaningless words. Then do you know the exact price used to purchase the Stativarius Ainsel at the center of this discussion? Everyone keeps saying ‘hundreds of millions’, but if you have actually questioned the auction official, surely you must know the exact amount, including handling and intermediary fees, that would not have been reported in the online news. Oh? What’s the matter? You seem to be sweating an awful lot. Does this mean you do not know the answer?”
“Do you have any idea whose side you are taking here? Besides, Anti-Skill has far greater authority than Judgment. A mere child has no right to criticize our actions.”
“Do not make me laugh. I have not yet electronically signed this tablet. Whatever the custom might be, I have yet to hand over the right to investigate.”
“That will get you nowhere.”
“Judgment’s primary job is to mediate conflicts between students at our own schools. If this really was the result of the Stativarius Ainsel or the elective exam, then Tokiwadai Middle School is at the root of it all. That makes this my jurisdiction! I apologize, but which school do you teach at? I certainly do not recall seeing you around Tokiwadai.”
“You’re seriously going to cover for the suspect in a serious incident involving a shotgun!? When you yourself were nearly shot and killed!?”
“This is my jurisdiction, so I refuse to give it up. Back off, outsider. If you insist on illegally arresting and confining a Tokiwadai student without gathering sufficient evidence first, then the criminal I must fight is standing right before my eyes!!”
A quiet sigh followed.
There had been two Anti-Skill officers. The other one, Inoue, lightly struck the head of Maeda, the one glaring at Shirai Kuroko.
“If that’s how you want to do this, then try solving this without leaving Judgment’s jurisdiction. But no matter how inconvenient the truth you discover, you are obligated to report it to us.”
“And outside of that – by which I mean, outside your school – we will perform our own investigation. The instant we have more solid evidence against Sakibasu Yuri, we will be back to speak with her, so keep that in mind. We will do this Tokiwadai’s way this time, but you can’t reject our request once we discover an inconvenient truth in our outside investigation.”
“There’s nothing you can do.”
Someone cut in with a voice like a starving dog.
This voice was the polar opposite of violin music and it inspired a rough feeling in the ears of those who heard it.
“You’ve already made up your mind about this. You aren’t covering for her because there isn’t proper evidence. You just want to believe your friend is innocent, don’t you? Hah! There’s no way you can perform a fair investigation with that magnet tugging your thoughts in the wrong direction!!”
That was the end of it.
The Anti-Skill pair had said their part, so they left.
…Although Inoue gave them a secret nod while calming Maeda down.
For one thing, the School Garden was protected by its own unique system, so not even Anti-Skill could so easily force an investigation where they pulled out all the desk drawers and tore up all the carpet. There was too much powers development tech that had to be protected.
They had never really expected that to work.
If they were lucky, their accusations would have been enough to get Sakibasu Yuri to go with them. But even if they were not lucky, they could still find a way to arrest and indict her if they found a link to her while investigating the crime scene, the route used to acquire the weapon, or whatever else.
Anti-Skill would trample on people’s hearts and tear them to shreds for nothing more than that. That girl had finally escaped the curse of the Stativarius and was starting to acquire her own sound, but they had rejected all of that.
Shirai Kuroko let out a soft sigh.
“Don’t worry, Sakibasu-san. The adults aren’t actually targeting you as much as it might seem. That was what they call the good cop, bad cop routine. By assigning themselves those roles, they hope to manipulate us into trusting the ‘good cop’ and shake the connection between us. Remember that it is an act and don’t let it get to you.”
The girl with curly-tipped black twintails had no idea what was going on, so Mikoto waved at her too.
“To put it another way, they get nothing as long as you don’t react. They have nothing solid against you. Tokiwadai is impregnable, so Anti-Skill can’t charge in and stuff everything they want into cardboard boxes.”
That said, this still affected Sakibasu Yuri’s situation. Sooner or later, it would get out that she was Anti-Skill’s top suspect. It was even possible the adults would intentionally leak that information online to set things in motion. A suspect was not the same thing as a criminal, but the normal people on the streets and the bored people online tended to overlook that fact. If nothing was done, people would begin digging up every last piece of personal information on her and it would all be listed on message boards and aggregation sites that anyone in the world could read.
And even if the authorities later came out and said “Whoopsie-daisy! We were wrong! Sorry about that!”, the online harassment from all around the world would not go away. Never, ever.
She was in a state of limbo and hanging on by a thread.
…But this also meant she was not protected by the official system meant to protect suspects. If there were any unusual openings or loopholes, there was a chance she would be targeted by the professional media and by amateurs hoping to show off on social media.
The snowball had been placed at the top of the hill.
They had to reveal the truth and remove all suspicion from her before it wobbled and started rolling.
They had to work even faster than the adults.
“We’re going to be busy…” said Mikoto.
“Yes,” agreed Kuroko. “Uiharu, we will need your support from the information end of things.”
“Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh!!” Saten eagerly raised her hand. “You can rely on me for information too!”
It all came together smoothly, like this was the natural outcome.
No one protested.
A real shotgun had appeared without warning. The difficulty of acquiring specialized tools like the gun and the motorcycle suggested they might be up against more than an individual. It was also possible this was a rational enough criminal to intentionally avoid using their esper power. The risk was quite high. Even now, the slightest opening could get the girls killed with their first move.
Sakibasu Yuri was at the center of it all, but she felt like she was in the eye of the storm. She could not touch the powerful winds blowing around her and she only felt left behind and bewildered.
“Um, uh, why?”
Because Shirai was a Judgment member?
Because Sakibasu was a fellow Tokiwadai student?
No. Shirai Kuroko put her hands on her hips, breathed from her nose, and gave her answer.
“Not one of us needs a reason to do this. Aren’t you the same?”
Now, it was time for the counterattack.
They would accept this challenge. And they would not allow the adults to go back on their agreement after the fact.
They needed to review what information they had.
Shirai and the others wanted to continue discussing the case, but Tokiwadai’s dorms had a strict curfew and they had no desire to remain at the family restaurant where so many Anti-Skill officers were investigating the crime scene. Their first order of business was to secure a location where they could set up camp and exchange information.
Saten raised her hand while walking down the road just before sunset.
“Ooh, ooh, ooh!! If we want a secret base, I vote we do it online! That way we can swap ideas anytime and anywhere and we can even talk during class!!”
Sakibasu must have still been shaken after what happened.
She seemed to shrink down as she held her violin case in both hands, rubbed her black kneesocked legs together, and made a hesitant rebuttal.
“I do not know exactly how it works, but aren’t the adults monitoring everything that happens on the internet? I have heard the systems meant to protect personal information have a few exceptions, such as criminal investigations and court cases.”
“Anti-Skill isn’t going to actually destroy evidence, so it should not be much of an issue even if they do spy on our conversations.”
“Fine, fine. Uiharu, you do something about it.”
“Sigh. I just have to build a server that Anti-Skill can’t track us on, right? I’ll have that in no time.”
Rather than creating something new from the ground up, it felt more like she reached into a secret drawer and pulled out something she had made before. Shirai gave her a skeptical look that asked why she had this, but Uiharu was unfazed.
“There’s a bit of a trick to using it, but once you’re used to it, you’ll see it’s more convenient than a normal social media site. For now, I’ll register all our phones on each other’s friends lists.”
Electronic tones played from their pockets. When they checked the screens, they found a new icon, the addition of which none of them had authorized. Uiharu should not have even known Sakibasu’s phone number or email address. Mikoto should have known more about this stuff thanks to her ability to directly manipulate electricity, but not even she was immune.
“It seems wrong to criticize me when all I did was flawlessly carry out the task you gave me, Shirai-san. Oh, and it has an obvious icon now, but you can set that to be hidden. People often spy on your phone’s screen from the side or behind, so I recommend erasing the icon from the menu just in case.”
Sakibasu Yuri was trembling while holding her phone in both hands.
She stared intently at the screen and her cheeks started to grow flushed.
Her heart was racing to the point it looked like she might start hopping around.
“(Wah, wah. Friends… I’m finally internet friends with someone! And…and is this what they call a secret site!? What do I do, mother!? I’m turning into a bad girl! Tremble, tremble, tremble!!)”
“Sigh. So what should we do about this app? If you don’t like it, I can smack Uiharu and have her erase it without a trace. Um, Sakibasu-san?”
“No, leave it!! This is a sweet nectar I can never let my mother know about!!”
Shirai looked puzzled, but that was not the issue.
Mikoto clapped her hands lightly.
“Okay, let’s head home for today. We don’t know who they are, but don’t forget that there is an actual criminal out there. Get back to your dorms before it gets dark to make sure you’re safe. That might sound obvious, but we can’t afford to stumble right out of the gate. Let’s deal with this a step at a time.”
“Got it. Okay, we can meet in the app once we’re back!”
“Hee hee hee. Once I get a taste for this sweet flavor, there is no going back. Hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee.”
After seeing Uiharu and Saten back to their dorm, it was time for Mikoto and the others to head to their own dorm. But sticking with Sakibasu 24/7 to protect her was not realistic with their school activities. Instead of protecting her by fighting and defeating the threat, they had to set up a situation where the attacker would have a hard time trying anything again.
Shirai turned back toward Sakibasu.
“Now, how about we get home?”
“Don’t look so surprised. We all live in the same Tokiwadai dorm, so there is no point in splitting up now.”
“(Gulp. You…you mean we will be walking home together? Hanging out with friends after school and wandering around the city? Is the path of the bad girl? Kyah, I can’t believe it, kyah, kyah!!)”
The girl’s strange shaking would not stop. It was so intense you would have thought her back was going to split open and giant wings would burst out.
They chose the most populated route back and discussed things along the way.
“Let’s get to the most fundamental question.”
“Who do you honestly think the target was? The four of us, or Sakibasu-san?”
When Mikoto had blocked the shotgun blasts, it had felt like all of the shots were clearly targeting their table. She was more or less certain of that.
And with that question in mind, Shirai considered a few pieces of information.
Sakibasu Yuri had enough wealth from the trading card game she had created at a young age to win a world-famous violin at auction, but that motive did not explain the timing of the attack. If the girl had been attacked several times already, she would not be living such a carefree life where she walked around alone with the Stativarius in its unlocked case. She seemed ignorant of human malice and hostility.
In that case…
“Does it all come down to the timing?”
Shirai arrived at that conclusion.
Mikoto real question was whether the attack was against the person who had defeated the Stativarius Ainsel or the person who had been protected by its legend. The foundation of that reasoning was the same as Anti-Skill’s, but Shirai could not help but consider the presence of that violin.
“Um.” Sakibasu nervously joined the conversation. “I do think it is incredible that you managed to break the Stativarius legend, but, well, what does that really matter?”
“…That is the question, isn’t it?”
Word of Shirai Kuroko defeating that world-famous instrument would be spreading beyond Tokiwadai and the School Garden via the internet. And in fact, Anti-Skill had learned about it almost immediately. This was about a localized elective exam, but that did not matter if the students posted about it on social media, blogs, or message boards.
And with that in mind…
“I could understand why someone would hold a grudge if those expensive violins had lost all their value from this, but the Stativarius legend has been broken a few times before. Like when research showed the wavelength was not all that different from a normal violin’s. But that was not enough to shake their market value. No matter what is revealed, they still manage to fetch hundreds of millions at auction. So what would it matter that Kuroko defeated this one?”
Or maybe this was not about immediate profit.
For example, maybe there was a group that viewed the Stativarius legend as their faith and they refused to let anything hurt its reputation.
Mikoto continued while walking past the makeshift wall around a construction site.
“Whether or not this comes down to some kind of faith, do the Stativari have some kind of special value beyond money?”
She heard a quiet metallic thud.
She looked back, but there was no one there.
Only the sidewalk alongside the construction site’s thick metal wall and the simple metal door leading inside.
Something must have bothered Mikoto because she walked back the way she had come. The door used a simple number lock like you could buy at a home improvement store, but she was not focused on that.
She was interested in the corner bordering the intersection.
“This really is weird.”
“This should normally be made from a clear material.”
Black-twintailed Sakibasu Yuri and chestnut twintailed Shirai Kuroko tilted their heads in synchronized confusion, so Mikoto pointed and explained.
“It’s worrying when you can’t see what they’re doing inside, right? That’s why they intentionally make a part of the wall transparent so you can see inside. I think they normally do it at the corner. It prevents complaints and unnecessary frustration.”
“But…this is just a normal metal wall, isn’t it?”
Mikoto nodded at Sakibasu’s question.
“And was the person who walked through the door just now really a construction worker? This place has been off limits for quite a while, but the construction never seems to end. And you can’t hear any construction going on right now, can you?”
“Hmm? But why would someone bother sneaking into there?”
“Hold on. There is a subway station here,” cut in Shirai while opening her phone’s map app. Hers was an unlocked Judgment version instead of the normal version. “The line has been shut down, but if the facility is still here, you would have free use of a large underground tunnel connecting stations. It would give you a shortcut around all the lights and buildings and you could avoid getting wet on rainy days.”
That might not sound like much on its own.
It was not like a chauffeured luxury car would come pick you up and you could not send out a GPS signal with an app to have a private helicopter or jet flown to you within five minutes. It was only a small luxury that required walking on your own two feet. For ease of use, buying a beat-up used scooter would be better.
That was not what made it so sweet. Even a linear motor train or sub-orbital spacecraft would be meaningless if everyone had equal access to them.
Monopolizing a service no one else had access to provided a small feeling of superiority.
And the more such things you accumulated, the more you would feel like a special person.
Maybe it was like a local celebrity showing up at a fully-booked restaurant and getting a seat at any time.
Maybe it was like using a private elevator that skipped straight past all the congestion on the other floors.
The excitement might be best compared to the feeling of being accepted into an invite-only social media group for entertainers. And this feeling had existed long before the internet in the form of salons and secret clubs.
Even in Tokiwadai, there were plenty of debates, meetings, and recreational activities you could only attend if you belonged to Shokuhou Misaki’s clique. Students ignorant of that trickster girl’s true nature apparently longed to join. In that case, you had to receive an invitation from an existing member, swear your loyalty to their Queen, pass a background check, and pass a few tests before you were finally given the “key” to attend those exclusive events.
It had nothing to do with how useful the items really were.
It could be a bag, a wristwatch, a ring, a fur coat, a cosmetic product, high heels, an odd-colored credit card, or an old musical instrument. The truly wealthy and luxurious people would show off by secretly possessing certain “keys” that set them apart from other people and allowed them take part in a secret community.
If that idea was common enough…
“Did the Stativarius function as a ‘key’ for this city?”
“But, Onee-sama, that doesn’t explain why someone would attack. No matter the result of the elective exam, a Stativarius is still a Stativarius. The Ainsel belongs to Sakibasu-san and this wouldn’t affect someone who owns a different Stativarius.”
“That depends on how we’re defining these ‘keys’.” Mikoto brought a hand to her slender chin. “If anyone with a Stativarius is given access to special services, then I think you would be right, Kuroko. But what if it’s owning a violin with the world’s greatest music that gives you access?”
Sakibasu Yuri uttered a silly sound in the middle of it all.
Mikoto took that to mean she was right.
“Sakibasu-san. That attack might have killed your appetite, but beforehand, you wanted to see the secret menu so you could eat away your frustrations, right?”
“Y-yes. I often go to that family restaurant on the weekends and the manager always has a special menu to show me. That is what I was asking for, so I wonder why they pretended not to know what I meant. That was not my first time ordering pancakes there.”
She seemed legitimately confused, so she herself may not have understood how the restaurant worked.
There were services only available to those who owned “a violin with the world’s greatest music”. But since Sakibasu Yuri had carried her Stativarius Ainsel around with her everywhere, she had not even noticed she was being given access to something special.
That secret menu had now been taken from her. Mikoto was a little curious about what these special pancakes were, but this girl could no longer order the dishes listed on that menu.
In that case…
“Once the Stativari have been thrown down from their position at the top, the ‘key’ takes on a different form. Even if it was only taken to the #2 spot. That means you can no longer use the ‘key’ you spent hundreds of millions on at auction. So what’s next? An Almati? A Guarnari? Do you have to desperately throw down another mountain of cash at the auction to make your bid???”
Whoever it was would have been shut out.
Like their account had been banned.
The “key” they had gone to such effort to obtain had been made useless by someone else’s actions and they had been shut out of the special stores, famous social media groups, and other secret connections that made them feel special. That was sure to inspire fear and frustration.
It was unclear who this was, but they would never be able to allow the Stativarius’s defeat.
Was it about secret services, the right to buy new products early at a famous store, or an invitation-only social media group? Whatever had been taken from them by the shaking of the Stativarius’s value, they would do whatever it took to recover their position. Especially if they were someone with no other connections who felt they needed that in order to stand out.
So they would want to erase the result of that elective exam.
They would do whatever it took to eliminate anyone even slightly involved in that upset.
Mikoto brushed up her bangs as she stated her conclusion.
“Looks like we need to investigate that violin some more. That might tell us how many people would hold a grudge and how many enemies we might have.”
“Sa10> Then how about you check out the Chandelier Auction House?”
Once they were back in the Tokiwadai dorm, that speech bubble appeared on their phones.
Instead of typing the message into your phone, you spoke into it and a voice recognition program wrote the message for you. Punctuation and even emoji and emoticons were automatically added where appropriate, so Uiharu Kazari’s technical skill was quite something.
This honestly seemed like something she could use for a start-up, but some geniuses only used their skills for fun and stopped before it ever became a job or obligation.
(The Chandelier Auction House?)
Mikoto frowned because she had heard that name from Shokuhou Misaki before.
“Sa10> They’re an office that auctions off a wide range of products in Academy City, although they specialize in artwork and antiques. I believe they offer things like rare old manga manuscripts and the world’s first sewing machine, but also instruments like the Stativari. Yeah, there are a lot of rumors about that place, but I couldn’t possibly step into that fancy world.”
“Sa10> As you’ve probably guessed, they apparently specialize in those fancy ‘keys’ that give you access to that world…although I couldn’t tell you if that’s actually true. Basically, everything sold at Chandelier – be it wine or a famous painting – functions as one of those ‘keys’. If the Stativarius Ainsel has that additional value, then maybe the rumors are true.”
Shirai Kuroko was using the same app, but it was faster to talk to her directly since they were in the same room.
The chestnut twintail girl shrugged.
“They do a lot of advertisement online, but you can never pin them down since the location of the physical auction house changes each time. The corporate registration only leads to a cheap apartment room. That is probably a safety measure to prevent theft and attacks, but Anti-Skill is apparently concerned they might be abusing the system to launder money.”
The giant organization was as intangible as shimmering heat.
The key shop for those secret ‘keys’ was itself a secret club that only a chosen few could reach. It was like a nested doll. How many treasure chests would they have to unlock before they arrived at the truth?
But Mikoto’s group did not need to start at the very beginning.
Just like those feeling so smugly superior from their hidden world within Academy City, they held the ticket to a shortcut.
“Let’s contact Sakibasu-san.”
Mikoto gave the answer right away.
“She already won the Stativarius Ainsel from Chandelier, so she should have a connection to that secret auction house.”
“My, my. If it isn’t Sakibasu-sama. It is wonderful to see you again. How have you enjoyed the violin we helped bring into your life?”
The next day after school, they were greeted by a gray-haired old man in a black suit. His smile and polite behavior gave him the air of a butler.
But his exaggerated speech made Mikoto put a hand on her hip and sigh.
They were in Academy City’s District 6.
The entire district had been made into a giant amusement park.
They sat around a circular table designed to look like a tea party, but that table was located at the center of a large intersection on Main Street, the route for a largescale parade. That area was so constantly crowded that it was said it would only be deserted once the world came to an end.
They were meeting a giant organization which was as intangible as shimmering heat.
It seemed to be true that the organization had no obvious headquarters.
Sakibasu Yuri must have recognized the old man because her shoulders were less tense than Mikoto’s and Shirai’s. The girl scratched her cheek as she responded.
“Yes, well, I lost pretty badly with it. I assume you already know about that.”
“Ha ha. So the rumors were true. I am glad to hear it.”
The old man smiled gently toward the violin case the black twintail girl always carried around with her.
Shirai, however, looked suspicious.
She was the one who had destroyed that legend, but…
“What do you mean? Isn’t it a problem for you if the Stativarius legend collapses? You must have received a significant amount in handling fees while acting as the middleman for the violin’s sale. Was it perhaps 20% on a price in the hundreds of millions? The greater the purchase price, the better for you.”
Saten trembled at the thought of 20% out of hundreds of millions of yen.
Shirai had summed it up as “acting the middleman”, but Mikoto, Sakibasu, and Shirai herself knew that procuring, storing, securing, and transporting such a famous instrument would come with plenty of risk. What if they ended up with a counterfeit? What if it was stolen before the auction? What if it was ruined by humidity or a leaky roof? What if it did not sell for as much as initially thought? Whether it was a jewel or a painting, possessing a pricey item would wear at the nerves. Since this issue had already proven it could place people’s lives at risk, this business could not be an easy way to make money.
But the old man in a suit did not tough on any of those internal issues and only added a hint of bitterness to his smile.
“I cannot deny we have our financial interests to consider.”
This was not enough to shake him.
He was very different from the Anti-Skill officers from the day before.
“However, you must not forget that the products we handle are tools. Whatever they might be and whatever price they might sell for, we appreciate it when they reach the hands of someone who will use them to their fullest. I believe the Stativarius Ainsel itself would want to be used in a serious competition with a chance of losing instead of easily-won competitions where your opponent never stood a chance. You and the violin you hold have accepted each other and become comrades-in-arms bound by genuine trust. I cannot reveal the identity of the former owner as our sellers are guaranteed their anonymity, but I can say that I am proud to have sold it to a benevolent owner such as you.”
“Um…” Saten hesitantly raised a hand. “Excuse me, but we had heard that all the products sold by Chandelier double as secret ‘keys’. Is that part of what you mean by using them as tools?”
If the Stativari were a sort of “key” and another owner refused to accept Shirai Kuroko’s victory since it threatened the value of their “key”, then the Chandelier Auction House might have a list of suspects. Especially if this was the only place someone could obtain a Stativarius. Although it was unlikely Chandelier would reveal any personal information about their wealthy clients since that would bring those clients trouble similar to the people who won big at the lottery.
However, the old man shook his head.
“We have nothing to do with the ‘keys’ you refer to.”
Mikoto asked for clarification, but he did not seem insulted.
In fact, he closed his eyes sadly.
“It is similar to how the game company plays no direct part in the real money trade that has become so prevalent in online games. Those transactions are carried out on message boards and social media communities separate from the game servers. And even if it intrudes on the game servers, it is difficult for a single company to forcibly put a stop to it.”
“You mean Chandelier doesn’t deal in those ‘keys’; someone else has turned your products into them?”
The old man nodded at Uiharu’s carefully worded question.
“In the past year, our sales prices have rapidly grown by more than 50%. We had found it odd since it did not seem the sellers were hiring plants to inflate the prices… You might find this viewpoint odd for someone who makes a living by running an auction, but a tool is no more than a tool. Any value not attached to its functionality will always lead to a distortion. An unnecessary added value acts like a curse and will occasionally harm people. I do not know what unseen person is possessing us, but it saddens me very much.”
Mikoto sighed quietly.
She decided to tentatively view what the old man said as evidence.
If the source of the infection really was elsewhere and Chandelier itself had done nothing wrong, there was nothing they could accomplish poking around here. No amount of prodding or coaxing would get him to do anything beyond his duty. That meant he would never hand over personal information on his clients.
“So we’re back to square one, huh? This is another dead end.”
However, Sakibasu did not seem to have given up.
“You said it was best if your products ended up with people who would use them, correct? Then you would not want a Stativarius to end up with someone who will not use it. Anyone who bought one of the violins as a ‘key’ is using it in a way that violates Chandelier’s values. Don’t you want to flush out that corruption!?”
The old man did not respond.
Their client list might contain some suspicious people who were not worth protecting.
But if they sold off the entire list for that, they could not continue running their auctions. Mikoto, Sakibasu, and the others did not have any material evidence to back up their claims and the clients would all back out if their personal information was divulged based on mere speculation. It was the same as a big winner at the lottery. No one would leave their personal information with someone who did not follow any strict rules and gave out names and addresses on a whim.
“This is your chance. You need not take any risk yourself! We will take care of everything for you!! So please!!”
This had nothing to do with what the old man wanted to do.
He could not agree to this.
“Give it up, Sakibasu-san. Continuing this won’t help anyone.”
“I was so happy when I got the Stativarius Ainsel. I will not let history and tradition bind me any longer, but when I first held this instrument in my hands, my life definitely did change. I felt like I was ascending into heaven. You said you helped bring it into my life, didn’t you? You said you were proud of that. Then you must understand. I cannot be the only person who truly needs a famous Stativarius! I don’t mean as a bizarre ‘key’ and I am not referring to the people who would pull out a shotgun because their cheap pride was threatened! There must be plenty of people whose lives would really and truly change if they could only pick up a Stativarius and play a song on it!! Don’t you want to send those violins to people like that!? Isn’t that the entire reason Chandelier exists!?”
It was all wasted effort.
The old man maintained his perfect smile and remained entirely motionless. Sakibasu bit her lip, but there were some things he could not compromise on. So even if he completely agreed with them, he could not allow these girls to trample on everything Chandelier had built.
Or so they thought.
“I cannot hand over the client list that Chandelier holds in the strictest confidence. That is nonnegotiable. For one thing, Sakibasu-sama, your name is on that list as well.”
Wasn’t that exactly what they had expected him to say?
Then why had he bothered to say it at all?
“However, there might be a seam in that anonymity where another company plays a role. Yes, just as an online game’s real money trade is difficult for the game company to stop because it occurs on a message board hosted by another company.”
“Hm? What do you mean???”
“Pay me no heed. I am merely speaking to myself.” The old man smiled. “Leannán Sí, Titania, Tam Lin, Pixy, Siren… Whichever Stativarius we are talking about, they sell for hundreds of millions. Especially in the last six months when the prices have grown by more than 50% what we predicted. Do you think they are simply thrown in a closet after won at auction? In most cases, wouldn’t the buyer hire various forms of security, hire more private guards, and take out a high-value insurance plan to prepare for the unforeseen?”
Sakibasu placed a hand over her mouth.
The old man looked at her like she was his beloved granddaughter.
“This is truly no more than a senile old man speaking to himself, so please do not take it seriously. That said, there are likely only a few specialist divisions even among the largest national insurance companies that will provide a policy for a violin worth hundreds of millions. Only one or two in Academy City I would imagine.”
“Th-then if we pursue that…!!”
“They are doing their job as well. From what I have heard, they provide such superb service that they will preserve their obligation of secrecy even if it is a blatantly stolen item. They will keep its storage location secret and reject any requests for the return of the stolen item. It is possible that you could find something by searching the division that specializes in antiques and artwork of that nature.”
Night had fallen.
The curfew had long since passed, yet Misaka Mikoto had changed into casual clothes and was retying her shoes in obvious preparation to sneak out of her dorm room.
“Hey, you’re getting dressed too, so don’t treat me like the only bad guy here.”
They wanted to investigate an insurance company’s building.
They were not going through the proper channels for this, so it was illegal even if it was the right thing to do.
Shirai Kuroko of Judgment would normally be the person to put a stop to something like this, but…
“Our lives were targeted, but the company still isn’t responding to my requests. If anything, it seemed like they leaked information to Anti-Skill to keep us from acting… If they remain silent or even get in our way while aware this will lead to harm, they could be charged with willful negligence. Simply put, this is a special case and we need not hold back.”
The old man from the Chandelier Auction House had only provided them with words. He had not taken any real action such as handing over a list of suspects.
But what little he had said must have come with considerable risk. He had set up the pretext of “talking to himself”, but if people decided he had provided a hint to a client’s personal information, he could easily lose all of the trust he had built up over the years. Nevertheless, he had still wanted to help them. He had wanted to give Sakibasu Yuri the push she needed to flush out the corruption that had worked its way into his business.
They had no intention of wasting that.
Mikoto walked to their room’s window instead of the door.
“Okay, it’s time to pay the city’s night a visit.”
“What about Sakibasu-san?”
“You have to ask? We don’t have to worry about her being attacked by a large motorcycle or a shotgun as long as she’s inside this dorm.”
They were used to doing this by now.
The two of them jumped out the window and landed in the liberating night.
A message arrived on their phones.
“GK> Your destination is National General Life’s Academy City HQ building.”
“Who is GK?” asked Mikoto. “Whose initials are those?”
“It stands for Goalkeeper,” explained Shirai. “That is Uiharu.”
They decided to ignore the heated message from Uiharu insisting they were going to make her cry.
“GK> That appears to be the only place in the city that specializes in high-value insurance policies for string instruments. Violins are made of wood, so they are easily damaged by humidity and finger oils if not properly maintained. That can easily distort the sound, so they are difficult for companies to handle.”
That would be more difficult than a pure gold statue that would remain nice and shiny even after 100 years.
There was a lot of variety in the insurance industry, but high-value policies on items generally made their money when nothing happened. In other words, it was best for them if the customer paid for a policy, the end of the policy period ended without incident, and the company did not have to pay out anything. If an instrument like a Stativarius was lost, the company would have to pay out its full value. And if they ended up having to cough up that kind of dough, whoever was in charge of the policy would never move up in the company. Banks, insurance companies, and securities companies tended to judge people with a demerit system.
“Can’t you get in from outside with your hacking skills?”
“GK> If they were that easy to hack into, they could never survive in the insurance industry. The fact that they are still in business essentially proves the strength of their servers.”
So they had to do it the old-fashioned way.
It would be best to physically enter the building, find the server, and attach a small device with a wireless antenna.
“They already refused to reveal their information when you went through the proper Judgment channels, right? I hope they haven’t beefed up their security because of that.”
But she was the Railgun, so the thought of being unable to get in did not cross her mind.
The building in question was in District 3, which contained primarily administrative offices and corporate headquarters.
Academy City’s trains shut down early, so Shirai Kuroko’s teleportation was extremely useful at times like this.
In this case, that meant holding onto her from the front.
“Eh heh heh. Geh heh heh heh heh.”
“(Hmm, maybe I should build my own flying device.)”
“Wait, um, Onee-sama? Isn’t it polite to react more strongly when I cling to you and rub up against you? At the very least, please avoid coming up with ideas that render me entirely useless!!”
The fact that responding would only cause things to escalate was a well-known piece of child psychology.
For better or for worse, District 7 felt like a mixture of so many things, but District 3 was unified in its sense of being an adult city. And not in the sense of being a cluttered shopping district. There was no desire in the scene before them. The scenery seemed to demonstrate the ideal vision of a city that wanted to protect the dignity of adulthood.
This office district was a collection of glass-covered skyscrapers that had been designed with help from famous architects and may not have been entirely logical. That distinctive but somehow cold impression may have represented the image of adulthood they wanted to show off to the children. Simply put, the cityscape had no sense of raw desire.
They understood that there was nothing as distressing as seeing your parent’s sexual desire, but by middle school, they understood that no human was truly cut off from all such desires.
There were no real lights on in the area.
Top-level corporations focused only on completing their projects in the allotted time, so they apparently did not need to work overtime. That seemed like it would cause problems elsewhere, but at the very least, the people working here were probably happy in both their work and family lives.
“GK> National General Life is Block 4 Building 3. It is a very orderly district, so you shouldn’t get lost as long as you keep an eye on the sign numbers.”
Mikoto looked up at the skyscraper in question.
It looked about 40-stories tall. Its shape…was difficult to explain. Overall, it looked like a glass-covered smart building, but the issue was the number of walls. At ground level, it was a square, but if you looked a little higher, it had five walls. As you continued to raise your head, the number of walls grew to six, seven, eight, and more. At the top floor, it had so many walls it looked more like a circle than anything.
More than a thousand employees could work inside there, but middle schoolers like Mikoto and Shirai were not really sure if an insurance company needed that many operators.
“Okay, I can teleport us inside. …Although I would prefer you did not get a taste for this kind of irregular activity.”
“Kuroko, we don’t want to make it look like only someone who could teleport could have gotten inside. Use your head. That would be like leaving your calling card behind. You’re in Judgment, so you need to be more careful.”
“Onee-sama, why do you sound so familiar with this subject!?”
Instead of answering her protesting underclassman, Mikoto pointed at a floor not far from the ground.
Specifically, the fourth floor.
National General Life’s HQ building looked like a famous architect’s nightmarish ideas made real and all of its surfaces were made of glass. However, there was one spot on that floor with an upside-down red triangle sticker on it.
“No matter how crazy the design, it still has to obey the laws and regulations,” said Mikoto. “With large harbor warehouses or factories alongside the highway, you sometimes see a metal door high up on the wall. There’s no stairway or balcony there, so it looks like someone could carelessly open it and fall. What do you think those strange doors are for?”
“They’re emergency entrances. They’re specifically designed for firefighters to climb in using their truck’s ladder. It’s not always that obvious, though. Look at the average department store and electronics store and you should see an upside-down triangle window above the third floor. Those windows are made to open for the firefighters to get inside.”
“Oh. Can’t they just break their way in with an axe or a hammer?”
“From that high up? Land is limited and buildings tend to be overcrowded in Academy City. A crowd is going to gather when there is a fire, so you can’t send a shower of glass shards onto their heads.”
Mikoto looked up at the high-rise structure and breathed an exasperated sigh.
It looked like a continuous surface of glass, but it was actually an orderly arrangement of panes. And the ones designed for emergency personnel were made to open like a door.
“The locks for those things are surprisingly simple since they’re not meant for people to directly access from the ground or emergency staircase. And if they had them locked up tight, then the firefighters wouldn’t be able to get in during and emergency.”
Whether or not they could get in through there was not what mattered.
If they opened that emergency entrance on the fourth floor, it would prevent anyone from concluding that only someone who could teleport could have gotten inside. They only had to create the great taboo of mystery stories: a crime with multiple plausible methods.
“Let’s split up our efforts. I’ll use magnetism to cling to the wall and open the fourth floor emergency entrance, so you teleport in and-…”
Mikoto trailed off.
There was no obvious light or sound.
But what other gadget had the attackers used when firing that shotgun into the family restaurant?
Two people were riding an electric motorcycle made all the more dangerous by having its engine sound effect deactivated.
Mikoto let out a short breath when she sensed its approach.
She did not even need to frantically jump back.
In this case, moving without thinking would be the more dangerous option.
She sent out an invisible force across the 180 degrees in front of her. That was enough for the 200kg or more mass of metal to lose control, miss her and Kuroko, and slide violently across the asphalt. Orange sparks trailed after it like a shooting star.
A direct hit might have killed them.
And this was not over yet. With a straining sound, a black figure stood up from the toppled motorcycle. They wore a full-face helmet and a riding suit. Thick gloves covered even their fingertips. Not a bit of bare skin was left exposed, so it was impossible to judge their general build or even sex.
Mikoto only knew one thing: This was one of the riders and the person in the back seat had clearly been holding a shotgun.
“Oh, no you don’t!!”
Just before the deafening blast, Mikoto and Shirai jumped to the left and right respectively. They did not cower down or go weak in the knees. In fact, Mikoto gave an instruction through their phones just as the gunshot drowned out her voice.
“Kuroko, you continue on into the building! Get Uiharu-san’s help to extract the data while I keep them busy!!”
She did not have time for an argument, so she closed the app.
They were only after National General Life’s server room. They wanted to know what clients had a high-value insurance policy on a Stativarius. In other words, they wanted a list of suspects. They could not achieve that goal if they only fought back against the attackers in riding suits. That loud gunshot would lead to a much bigger commotion and it might be much more difficult to get inside the skyscraper after that.
A short distance away, the shotgun casually aimed Mikoto’s way.
But she held up her open hand before it could fire.
There was a quiet metallic sound, but nothing left the barrel. When she knew the gunshot was coming, messing with the gun’s internal structure was not difficult.
And she went further than that.
Just as bluish-white light burst from her bangs, a billion-volt current was released all at once.
This was one of her lightning spears.
The boom was like a large tree being split down the middle.
The shotgun held by the riding suit figure burst from within and the flash of light stabbed straight through the center of the person. It did not matter that they were wearing thick leather. That level of insulation could not cut off an attack that rivalled a real lightning strike.
The clothing gave off a stench similar to burnt animal flesh, but the riding suit figure did not collapse. Their shoulders were lopsided, but they still took a step toward her.
Her eyes widened in surprise, but she still unleashed another high-voltage current.
Could her opponent not dodge it, or did they not even bother trying?
Even after a second and third direct hit, they still did not collapse. The shotgun had fallen apart and its pieces littered the ground, but they still had some extra shotgun shells. The shells alone should have been useless, but they held them in their hand regardless.
There was a loud boom.
They had used Mikoto’s high-voltage current to activate the shell’s detonator and countless tiny lead beads scattered in her direction.
She knew what had happened.
She really did…but what was that?
If a shotgun shell went off while you were holding it, shouldn’t it blow off your entire hand!?
And this was not the time to focus on that oddity.
Two people had been riding the motorcycle.
The gunner with the shotgun had been in the back seat, so what about the one driving?
Where had the other person gone!?”
“Argh, it’s always something, isn’t it!?”
Mikoto felt the pressure of someone ducking low and rushing toward her from the side. She did not have time to hold back. Her surroundings seemed to distort and then a bunch of iron sand rose up from the ground. This was her iron sand sword that could freely change shape and gained a cutting edge by rapidly vibrating. That weapon could slice through a metal pillar as thick as her torso in a single slash and she immediately jabbed it into the second person’s right shoulder as they attempted to tackle her.
But it did not manage to stab them.
With a dry sound, the iron sand sword was deflected to the side.
(Telekinesis!? And high level at that!!)
She gasped, but then her breathing stopped altogether.
She had failed to stop the fierce tackle, so the riding suit figure jammed their shoulder into her side and wrapped their arms solidly around her torso. Their momentum continued, so Mikoto’s feet left the ground.
Primitive fear lifted her stomach.
She was not in a martial arts ring or on judo mats.
She did not even need to form it into a spear. She sent the billion-volt current out from her in all 360 degrees, but it changed nothing. She even stabbed the tip of her iron sand sword into the riding suit figure’s back several times.
It accomplished nothing.
After a brief floating sensation, Mikoto slammed back-first into the hard ground.
The shock that ran through her entire body was not much different from a judo slam.
Her vision flashed in and out. She had trouble breathing and her mind started blanking out, but what thoughts she did have were only filled with confusion.
And to reiterate yet again, there were two riding suit figures.
While the one put themselves in danger to pin Mikoto down, the other slowly approached. The full-face helmet silently peered down at the girl’s face. They did not seem to be confirming their victory or cruelly mocking her. They simply held out their right hand contained in black leather.
The fingers held an unused shotgun shell.
If the detonator activated at this close range, it might blow Mikoto’s head clean off.
While she was still pinned to the ground, a metallic sound came from near her stomach.
She held an arcade coin in her right hand.
Academy City’s #3 was known as the Railgun. Should she fire that signature attack through the second figure pinning her down to hit the first figure aiming the shotgun shell her way?
But just as she began to consider that…
“Take this!! If you don’t mind!!!”
While the riding suit figure stood there, a heavy blow struck their helmet from the side.
The swinging of the newcomer’s body caused their long black twintails to sway.
Was that a concrete block she was swinging in both hands?
There was a dull thud, but it was not the sound of the impact. The full-force swing of the blunt object hit the full-face helmet from the side, knocking it right off the riding suit’s neck. The thud was the helmet hitting the asphalt.
There was nothing inside.
The helmet’s removal did not reveal a male face, a female face, or any other kind of face. There was only empty space there. Sakibasu looked taken aback by the result of her own attack.
Everything seemed to click into place for Mikoto.
She now understood the failure of her lightning spear and iron sand sword and why the enemy would fire those shotgun shells in what seemed like self-destruction. This explained why the riding suit duo had been so unconcerned with any damage they took.
Plus, Mikoto’s iron sand sword had been deflected by high-level Telekinesis.
“They were no more than leather manipulated by Telekinesis!?”
If they were not even alive, she had no reason at all to hold back.
She pressed her right fist against the second figure’s stomach and focused on her thumb. She unleashed the Lorentz force like she was flicking the arcade coin sitting on her thumbnail.
This was her Railgun.
With a deafening boom, a fearsome beam of light punched through the second figure’s gut, stabbed into the first figure, who lacked a helmet thanks to Sakibasu’s attack, and caused them to burst from within. The orange beam shot up into the night sky before being eliminated by the friction of the air.
All that remained were the scorched remains of the leather and some embers.
Mikoto heard a heavy noise and realized Sakibasu had let go of the concrete block. No, she had released all the tension in her body. She slumped down onto the asphalt and clung to the violin case next to her like a child who could not sleep without their favorite stuffed animal. Even now, she kept her legs below her in an elegant and alluring way, which may have been a testament to Tokiwadai’s education. However, she must have been worried about her skirt because she kept her butt a bit up off the ground. Then again, that made the hem flutter dangerously.
Sakibasu Yuri wiped the sweat from her brow and spoke up in a trembling voice.
“I would like an explanation. I was wondering why you were sneaking out of the dorm and then this happens…”
“You really saved me there.”
Mikoto meant that.
Misaka Mikoto was worried and refused to let her guard down, but nothing more happened.
The riding suits were only a decoration.
The real attack had been made by Telekinesis powerful enough to deflect her iron sand sword head-on. And since the esper was not here, she could guess their power had precise control even from a remote location. After all, they had indirectly driven the motorcycle and fired the shotgun by controlling the riding suits with their power.
Mikoto could gather scrap metal and create a humanoid figure from it if she tried. She could probably move its arms and legs too. But could she use that figure to accurately play a guitar or violin? This esper’s precision had reached that level.
They could have chosen to continue fighting.
After all, it did not harm them to have the riding suit duo(?) destroyed.
The exact conditions for their power were unknown, but it was possible they could pick a car off the ground and fling it at her or grab Sakibasu’s limbs and forcibly control her like the riding suits.
In fact, it was harder to come up with reasons why they would withdraw here.
Mikoto was left with a few questions:
- It had seemed like they were waiting in front of National General Life’s HQ building, but how had they detected Mikoto and Shirai’s actions?
- Their goal appeared to be preventing Mikoto and Shirai from acquiring the list of suspects – that is, who owned a Stativarius. So why had they given up and withdrawn?
- Who was this Telekinesis user?
Shirai Kuroko would have made it inside the National General Life building to access the list of suspects, but would that really be enough to arrive at the truth? Mikoto was starting to have her doubts since such a powerful esper had been so willing to withdraw.
And just then, Sakibasu Yuri swung her right hand and nimbly snatched something between her index and middle fingers. It was a scrap of black leather fluttering through the air with some embers.
“Well, whatever the case, we just have to keep working. And I am glad my own power will finally come in handy.”
“My power is Carbon Search. It allows me to precisely measure carbon isotopes.”
In the moonlight, the girl softly pressed her lips to this new hint and gave a bewitching smile.
“Misaka-san, did you know that can also be used to appraise leather products?”