Kamijou Touma woke up on a bench in front of the station.
He frowned at the sound of a train he could hear through the clear November air, sat up, and looked around. A familiar Academy City station lay before him. The people walking by paid him no heed. He was just a part of the Academy City scenery and all he could see was more of the Academy City scenery.
Kamijou Touma had no idea how or why he had ended up in such a familiar place.
(…Huh? I remember heading to Baggage City in Eastern Europe after dealing with the incident on the Hawaiian Islands, but what happened after that???)
He remembered up to having his right hand crushed by the eyepatch girl who seemed to lead Gremlin, but what had happened after that? He tried to remember, but it was buried under the static of pain and terror. His mind was still feeling a bit hazy, so it was possible he would be able to remember more clearly later.
But the bizarreness of the situation gradually caught up to him.
That uneasy feeling stabbed into him along with the chilly wind and seemed to slip in under his skin.
Someone must have brought him here from Baggage City.
That was almost certainly true. But doing so could not have been easy. Baggage City in Eastern Europe and Japan in the Far East were almost on the complete opposite sides of the world. Getting something as suspicious as an unconscious boy across national borders would have been extremely difficult.
Kamijou was inside Academy City. That city was protected by security of a different sort from the country of Japan. A few groups of magicians had snuck into the city in the past, but could they have done so as easily if they were carrying an unconscious boy with them?
And yet someone had clearly done so.
Someone had carried Kamijou Touma halfway around the world and then disappeared without a trace.
He thought for a bit.
(Fiamma of the Right. And…Ollerus was it? Was it them!?)
He looked around frantically, but saw nothing but the familiar scenery of Academy City and the usual boys and girls walking past. He saw no sign of the magician who had once brought about World War III and shaken the planet earth and the human race, or the man who had apparently gone even further.
Suddenly, he heard a footstep.
In that crowded area, that sort of human noise should not have stood out. And yet that noise slipped directly into Kamijou’s ears and stabbed into his brain like it was a drop of water falling from the ceiling deep in a cave. Something cold ran down his spine. The noise had come from directly behind him. Someone was approaching from behind the bench he had been sleeping on.
Who was it?
Was it Fiamma of the Right?
Was it the man named Ollerus?
As previously stated, carrying Kamijou Touma to Academy City had to have been difficult. Since they had done so anyways, they must have had a reason that made it worth all that effort. And that reason would not necessarily be something carried out in secret.
Kamijou silently clenched his right fist.
Once his fist was clenched hard as a rock, he slowly, slowly turned around.
And he found…
It was Fukiyose Seiri, his (large-breasted) classmate who had long, black hair that showed off her forehead. The high school girl wore the long-sleeved sailor uniform that was their school’s winter uniform, and she held a large plastic bag in each hand. The bags were not filled with food from a supermarket or convenience store. Instead, they seemed to have supplies such as stationery and tools.
“Why are you here? And what are you doing?”
“…What am I doing?” said Fukiyose, starting in a low voice. “You’re the one that has completely skipped out on the preparations for the Ichihanaransai, Kamijou Toumaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!”
His vision grew tinged with white. Fukiyose had swung one of the plastic bags which had directly hit him, but it felt oddly hard and heavy. It turned out to contain a giant roll of duct tape.
“No, wait! Fukiyose, that thing’s like the improvised weapon of a convict!! Gbh!? My head’s gonna split open!!”
“Shut up!! This is what you get!!”
Fukiyose pulled the weaponized roll of duct tape out of the plastic bag and tore off a long piece of the wide tape. She used that to bind Kamijou’s hands behind his back.
“I’m taking you into school now!! We’re extremely shorthanded for making the stand for our class!!”
“Now? …Wait, now!? But, um…I’d kinda like to head back to my dorm first. I’m kinda wondering how Index is doing!!”
Ignoring Kamijou’s shouts of protest, the great policewoman Fukiyose Seiri carried her prisoner off to face his punishment.
The room was eerily clean and was enveloped in the smell of disinfecting alcohol. It contained a special chair that could electronically recline and various tools were laid out upon work tables to the left and right of the chair. The tools were about the size of ball point pens. However, those metal tools that gave off a silver gleam would never be found for sale in a convenience store. The tips had either sharp points, small mirrors, or something like a circular file that could shave away hard objects with motorized power.
They were all professional tools that would make anyone tremble if they knew what they were for.
They all gave extreme pain on a level it was doubtful a single person among a hundred you asked would claim they could withstand.
“Let me tell you something first,” whispered a man who wore a special outfit similar to a white coat but made of a water resistant material like a raincoat. His hair was completely hidden by a plastic cap and he wore a large mask over his face, so you could not tell what he looked like. And yet the way he had his body so thoroughly covered told what kind of person he was and what he intended to do more than any facial expression could have.
“There is no use in trying to endure. This is not something that can be overcome by effort or guts. It is your own fault that you have been brought here. You ignored our warnings. I’m sorry to say it, but we can no longer go easy on you,” said the man with eyes more inhuman than a security camera. “Please understand your situation here. Struggling will get you nowhere and resistance will only prolong the pain. The best option for you is to simply give in. If you do that, it will all be over much more quickly.”
A blonde girl of about 8 sat atop the special chair that could electronically recline. Two or three other men and women dressed just like the man surrounded the girl. As she “lay” on the completely reclined chair, they stared down at her expressionlessly.
She let out a bit of a moan, but their expressions did not change in the slightest.
They were professionals.
And therefore they would not hold back even though they knew just how much pain they were about to cause. They knew that holding back due to emotions would only lead to a more horrible fate.
“Do you understand, Fremea Seivelun? If so, we will begin. I hope you will regret the actions you have taken up to this point.”
The girl’s mouth was forced open and the sharp points of the tools were brought inside.
When Hamazura Shiage heard that soprano scream from within the dentist waiting room, he looked up from the supplied motor racing magazine that was worn out from having been read countless times. The front wall had a handmade poster saying “Healthy teeth for good little boys and girls. Don’t forget to brush your teeth before going to bed!!”
He casually spoke to Takitsubo Rikou, the girl in a pink track suit sitting next to him.
“I think dentistry is the only occupation in Japan where you get praised for making little girls cry.”
“...Aren’t there a few others? Like haunted houses and Namahage.”
“Do you get paid for those?”
Fremea was undergoing surgery in her mouth because she had stubbornly ignored Hamazura and Takitsubo’s warnings and continued to drink a glass of hot chocolate before going to bed each night. As she was only 8, these were probably still her baby teeth, but they were not yet at the stage where they would begin to come out.
Both the cavities themselves and the treatment seemed like unnecessary pain to Hamazura.
“U-um… As your teacher, I do find these repeated absences to be a real problem, Kamijou-chan. In fact, this has reached the point where homework and supplementary lessons can’t cover it all.”
“Now keeping in mind that high school attendance is not compulsory, we still need to think about how you are going to recover from this. And I also want to know what kind of problems you are facing, Kamijou-chan.”
“But first, I need to ask why you look so beat up, Kamijou-chan! Did you stick your face into a hornet’s nest!?”
The person shouting within a normal high school hallway was Tsukuyomi Komoe, a mini-sized female teacher who was only 135 cm tall. A bit earlier, Kamijou Touma had been paraded around the city by his classmate Fukiyose Seiri with his hands bound behind his back with duct tape. Due to his bound hands, he had been unable to catch himself when he tripped over a bump in the road. His face had fallen right into a very soft and protruding portion of her upper body and…well, you get the picture.
Fukiyose Seiri had opened the classroom’s sliding door, shoved Kamijou inside, and said, “Here, I caught a fugitive.”
After that announcement, she headed off to her own station.
The classroom looked nothing like it did during normal classes. All of the desks had been pushed to the back and a number of large sheets of plywood and tools were lined up in the empty space that left. Fukiyose had mentioned making a stand, but Kamijou did not see a constructed building block-like object. Instead, construction seemed to have stopped at the stage of creating the large panels.
Those panels would be brought out once the Ichihanaransai began and put together into the stand. This was simply because there was a chance an aggressive group would destroy the stand during the night if it was brought out the day before. The kind of person that broke windows for no real reason would love to destroy a stand like that. In a city of 2.3 million with an 80% student population, those types of small troubles were rather common.
Tsuchimikado Motoharu and Aogami Pierce approached Kamijou who looked something like an earthworm.
However, they showed no real desire to remove the duct tape.
“What do you think, Kami-yan? Isn’t a café or a haunted house the standard for a cultural festival? Y’know, something with a cosplay aspect to it!! There’s nothing fun about a takoyaki stand! It would just be too unbalanced to have the girls cook takoyaki while dressed like maids!! That would just be off the charts on the ridiculous meter!!”
“And apparently we aren’t having a schoolgirl beauty contest either. There’s no swimsuits, no embarrassed girls, no nothing. What happened? What happened to the culture of the cultural festival?”
Kamijou had a feeling the festival was not about the culture of maids and swimsuits, but he knew those two would never listen.
He twisted his bound wrists several times in an attempt to wear away the adhesive bit by bit.
“The Ichihanaransai is an internal event, right? It’s basically an open campus where people can try out schools they’re interested in. The teachers are keeping an eye on everything to make sure it functions as a large-scale commercial for the school. In other words, we’re being closely watched. We can’t go too nuts in what we do, right?”
“You fool!! They’re having a beauty contest at nearby Eiri High School!! With swimsuits and everything!! And they’re allowing outsiders to take part, so there’s a rumor going around that Kumokawa-senpai will be taking part!!”
“And we’re in high school now!! Our level of freedom during the Ichihanaransai is on a whole other level from middle school!! Don’t you want to take the next step on the sexy path that we are only allowed as high schoolers!?”
“Fine, fine!! I suppose that’s the only real driving force for teenage boys!!”
Prisoner Kamijou Touma finally confessed. What they needed was to draw in as many people from outside the school as possible. To do that, they needed something that would draw attention. But if they simply went with what the adults felt was appropriate for a cultural festival, the area would be completely deserted.
Aogami Pierce held up his index finger and said, “It’s still not too late. I think we should have the girls working at the stand wear swimsuits!!”
“Swimsuits are great, but that’s hardly the place for them. They would get burned from the oil. Komoe-sensei would be left with a mountain of written apologies to make.”
“Then how about we punish any girl who accidentally burns the takoyaki by having her stand in front with egg white and mayonnaise all over her face?”
“I doubt that would make as great a sight as you’re imagining. It would just be sticky and nasty. It would be more grotesque than anything. The idea that a bit of whipped cream on the cheek makes a girl look seductive is nothing but an illusion.”
“What is with your negative thinking!? And what’s wrong with illusions!? Are you at a rebellious age where you claim victory after shooting down everyone else’s ideas!?”
Aogami Pierce tried to heartlessly beat up his classmate whose hands were bound behind his back, but Kamijou Touma, the wild beast of the concrete jungle, charged at the other boy and bit into his side. Tsuchimikado Motoharu began performing calculations even more precise than those for atmospheric reentry in order to determine what angle of entry into that fray would get him thrown out onto some of the girls in the classroom.
That was when the usual Ichihanaransai committee member, Fukiyose Seiri, exploded.
“Stop thaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaatttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttt!! If you only get in the way, I will chop you into small pieces and use you for fortune cookie-style surprise fillings!!”
If that happened, their stand would be immediately shut down and it would make the headlines on the internet news.
The large-scale cultural festival held by Academy City as a whole was called the Ichihanaransai. The large event functioned as an open campus, so it had a direct effect on the number of people wanting to attend each individual school. This gave it a rather long preparation period and the adult teachers were traditionally very lenient when it came to the preparations.
As he had been in Hawaii and Baggage City, Kamijou had not been affected by it, but no classes had been held recently and the time to be back from school had been done away with. There was an implicit rule that students could not spend continuous nights at school, but that could be avoided by having the class form shifts that stayed on a rotation.
The primary difference from the large-scale sports festival of the Daihaseisai was that the Ichihanaransai was an internal event rather than an external one.
While the Daihaseisai called in normal visitors from around the world, the Ichihanaransai was mainly targeted at other students from the city.
The Daihaseisai was targeted at people who knew nothing of cutting edge science or psychic powers, so everyone had to be careful to prevent any careless mistakes. Meanwhile, people often felt they could relax a bit more when it came to the Ichihanaransai. But at the same time, when the target was other students from the city, neat little bits of technology were not enough to draw attention.
The students used cutting edge technology for everything in their lives and they accepted Academy City’s science and psychic powers as normal. Something was needed that would surprise even them.
For that reason, it could be seen as the world’s most difficult cultural festival to pull off.
It was up to each person’s individual personality whether that made things difficult or if it made it worth putting in a real effort.
At any rate…
“Anyway, Kamijou. You are definitely staying over tonight. After all the time you’ve skipped out on, it’s only natural,” announced the great detective Fukiyose-sama.
Kamijou let out a Munch-like scream.
“Ehh!? So when do I get to go back to my dorm!? If she finds out I’m back in Academy City but haven’t gone back to my room, Index will be really pissed!!”
Gamemaster Fukiyose paid him no heed and kept the situation progressing. Her first command after freeing Kamijou from his duct tape bonds was to acquire food. It was around noon. Normally, they would have used the school cafeteria, but it was apparently nearly impossible to acquire enough food for all of their classmates in that battlefield-like facility. Heading out and buying sale-priced supermarket bentos or cup noodles in bulk would be better, but information of that sort of “safe oasis” would quickly arrive at the other schools. Once that happened, those areas would not be as bad as the school cafeteria but they would still become the sites of small skirmishes.
“You need to keep each individual meal under 200 yen. And if possible include some vegetables such as a salad. Got it?”
“If you upped that to 300 yen, we could manage the mid-sized gyudon course. We live in an age where even a standard hamburger with nothing on it costs more than 100 yen when you add in the tax.”
“Calculate it out using the nutritional information. For example, the sale price for Kiritaya extra-large gyudon is 380 each. But that clearly has more than double the normal size. If we split each one between two people, it fits within the budget. Everyone is checking the local shopping sites with their phones, so you will end up in conflicts with other schools if you simply search for somewhere with cheap single-portion food.”
“If we’re going to buy a lot, can’t we just call ahead to the store? They should be more flexible if we’re buying in large portions.”
“If they allowed that, the restaurants here and there would be swamped simply with the amount they have to make ahead of time. Eighty percent of this city’s 2.3 million people are darting about looking for the exact same kinds of food at this exact same time.” Fukiyose narrowed her eyes as she explained. “I will give you the money, but don’t you dare come back telling me you had the misfortune to trip and it got washed down a drain.”
“…Unfortunately, I can make no guarantees about that.”
“The money is in a waterproof envelope. I will put my GPS-equipped phone in with it. Is that enough?”
Kamijou would have to carry food for a few dozen people, so merely hanging shopping bags over his arms was not going to cut it. He brought out a small cart meant for the work in the school and headed out.
Even if the festival was still in the preparation phase, everyone seemed restless no matter where he went. He saw a lot of students around because it was about time for lunch. Others like him who had been tasked with procuring food were running about.
(Less than 200 yen each with some vegetables included, hm? Some type of sandwich would be my best bet. But the individually packaged convenience store sandwiches are out. Maybe I should check out some of the horrible places that target gluttons. Just like with books, those places get a cheaper price on their ingredients by buying them in higher than normal quantities. The burden on the customer has an inverse relationship with the portions. By dividing up things from there, I should be able to satisfy everyone in the class.)
Kamijou preferred to cook for himself, so his very first idea was that it would be cheapest to just make the food himself. However, he had to feed a few dozen people. It would be difficult to make that much on his own.
Kamijou was not skilled enough to make food in a bathtub-like pot without burning it and making enough food for a few dozen people with normal cooking tools would take hours.
(I always thought of eating out as simply being too strongly flavored and too expensive, but I guess they have their own kind of professional spirit.)
After thinking everything over carefully, Kamijou headed toward a large sandwich shop.
But suddenly he got the feeling he had overlooked something he could not afford to overlook.
Kamijou came to a stop. The restless atmosphere characteristic of Ichihanaransai preparations surrounded him just as before. Even if it was a peculiar or even “strange” atmosphere, it was still a good one. However, there was something large enough to blow that atmosphere away. Kamijou was convinced of it.
The problem was…
That something did not radiate killing intent like a drawn Japanese sword. It was completely blended in and perfectly adapted. That was why everyone overlooked it. Even though this large something was incredibly dangerous and carelessly approaching it would lead to certain doom.
The Hawaiian Islands. Baggage City.
The darkness of the darkness that had spread to the very depths of the world.
There was something there that was just as, if not more, concentrated than that. Having sensed that threat, Kamijou remained still and slowly looked around in all 360 degrees. He carefully observed his surroundings. When he did, he finally realized the source of the feeling.
It was only 30 meters away.
This something that would have been enough to make him sweat uncomfortably from the other side of the planet was leaning on one of the trees lining the walking path and watching him.
However, this was not Gremlin.
But this person may have been even more bizarre than them in a certain way.
It was Ollerus.
It was the man who “should have become a Magic God” that Kamijou had met in Baggage City.
“Hey,” said the man in a slight greeting as he removed his back from the tree and walked toward Kamijou. “Fiamma of the Right and I were discussing when you would notice me. It looks like I might owe him dinner. …But at least you weren’t so dull you didn’t notice me until the very end.”
A Magic God.
That term did not refer to a god of demons. It referred to someone who had mastered magic to the extent that they had taken one step into the domain of god.
That was the great monument of magicians that could only be achieved by obtaining the knowledge of all 103,000 grimoires contained in Index’s head and being able to freely use it all. But another thought had entered Kamijou’s mind when he had heard about it.
Is that something like Level 6?
Is that something that everyone whispers of being theoretically possible and there are rumors of it having existed at some time in history somewhere in the world, but no one has ever actually accomplished it?
And yet Ollerus had reached into that territory.
The fact that he himself only called himself the man who should have become a Magic God, made it seem unlikely he was simply exaggerating.
That monster of unimaginable power said, “You have obtained some stability now, right? It is about time we spoke. Spoke about something we could not in Baggage City.”
“I’m sure you have tons of questions by this point. About the organization known as Gremlin. About the girl named Othinus that leads that organization. About their ultimate objective. About the term Magic God that she and I have in common. And most importantly…” Ollerus paused before continuing. When he did continue, he spoke very clearly. “About Imagine Breaker. About the secret of that power…or rather, its very identity.”
His statement broke directly into the core of the issue.
His statement seemed to smash through something that had just barely been keeping everything dammed up and now it would all come flowing out at an unstoppable pace.
Kamijou heard an audible gulp and it took him a few seconds to realize it had come from his own throat.
Why had this come at a time like this?
He was helping his class prepare for the Ichihanaransai and had only just begun to feel like he was back to his normal life.
Kamijou agonized over it for a bit, but finally let out a sigh.
He dashed at full speed past Ollerus who seemed intent on beginning a long, drawn-out, and annoying conversation.
Ollerus, the man who should have become a Magic God, was left dumbfounded.
“W-wait!! I thought this was a serious scene! Wouldn’t you normally jump at the chance to learn about Imagine Breaker’s identity? Why aren’t you? Are kids these days really this dry? Waaaiiitt!!”
“Shut up!! I’m afraid of what’ll happen if I don’t get this food! They already think I skipped out on the preparations up until now, so I can’t just disappear after heading out to buy them lunch!! I’d end up with more than just a few bruises then!!”
He knew a conversation with that sort of “specialist” would end up dragging on forever.
He was not yet mentally prepared for that.
Kamijou begged for 2 or 3 love comedy scenes and maybe a fanservice scene before he had to deal with that.
Those with a full schedule had to flee lest they got wrapped up in all that.
“And that is why I called you out behind the gym,” said Ollerus nonchalantly to Kamijou who had let his guard down after safely buying lunch.
Kamijou Touma was already passionately clenching his right fist.
“What do you want? To confess your love? To have a fight you don’t want anyone to see? Please, please tell me it’s the latter.”
“The Japanese school life certainly seems to go between two extremes. To be honest, I am having trouble understanding it.” Ollerus shrugged. “As I said before, I want to talk.”
“About what? And where do we start?”
“Now that is the real problem. Where to begin?”
He seemed to be troubled, but Kamijou was not sure if he truly was troubled. Did someone who very nearly became a Magic God really need to worry about anything at all?
As if to confirm Kamijou’s suspicions, Ollerus readily continued.
“Well, trying to arrange everything in some fancy way just to make myself look good isn’t going to help. I’ll start with the core of the issue and then we can work our way out from there if you have any questions. That should be fastest.”
“The core of the issue?”
“The Magic God Othinus.” Ollerus gave her that title despite referring to himself as only the man who “should have become” one. “Unlike me, you can say that she is a true Magic God. There is more or less nothing in this world that she cannot do. The organization of Gremlin is controlled by her power, so if we know what she wants, we should be able to tell what Gremlin’s overall actions will be. Also…” Ollerus paused and looked at Kamijou Touma’s right arm. “Fiamma of the Right once brought about a world war to acquire that right hand, but Gremlin and the Magic God Othinus are not after Imagine Breaker. Please take that to heart. …You are not necessary to their plan, so they have no need to worry about your survival. If you get in their way, they will kill you without hesitation. Keep in mind that you are up against a group like that.”
It was easy to forget, but Kamijou Touma was just a high school student.
He may have had some special experiences, but he was not a soldier or martial artist who had undergone proper training. Nor could he acquire professional tools or equipment. If he opposed an organization with worldwide operations, he would certainly be at a severe disadvantage. The very fact that he even thought about opposing them was a “miscalculation” of an amateur who could not properly compare his own power to that of Gremlin.
And on top of that, he had already gotten involved.
He had fought members of Gremlin and won, so he was past the point of no return. Even if Kamijou tried to retreat now, Gremlin would still want to finish things.
And after getting involved, Kamijou had no intention of retreating before he had finished things.
If he gave up, it would likely be more than just himself who suffered.
“Gremlin is a magic cabal that appeared due to World War III that Fiamma of the Right caused,” said Ollerus.
This was most likely information that even the experts on this topic at the Anglican Church did not know.
“Simply put, their ideology is something like ‘don’t just decide on your own that Academy City and the science side were the winners of the war’. The most prominent magician at the time was obviously Fiamma of the Right. …But there is more to magicians than just him. They do not like that he named himself the representative of Magic and then lost despite the fact that they had not yet shown themselves.”
That may have been why they were based in Norse Mythology rather than Christianity.
They did not like that the loss of the Christian alliance between Rome and Russia had been forced onto their culture as well.
“But then aren’t they just being selfish? They didn’t want to have anything to do with World War III and refused to help, but now they’re complaining that the magic side lost?”
“Well, they would not have gained anything by helping Fiamma. And those higher up than Fiamma had more or less realized that even if he had succeeded, that method of his would not have saved the world as he thought it would.”
They could not accept having someone else’s loss forced onto themselves.
And so they were taking things into their own hands this time.
If Gremlin had gathered power based on that…
“Unlike a magic cabal with hundreds or even thousands of years of history, Gremlin does not have a regulated ideology. Gremlin is a concentration of the individual dissatisfaction and discontent of the magicians who sensed things heading to a loss during World War III. Naturally, those magicians are preparing a symbol to represent the magic side that can stand up to the winner of the war, Academy City.”
“…And that is the Magic God named Othinus?”
“It is a simple case of balancing the scales of power. I do not know if Othinus gathered the magicians around her or if the magicians searched out Othinus, though. Either way, Gremlin is trying to thoroughly strengthen Othinus so she can match the giant weight that is Academy City. …To keep things simple, you can think of Gremlin as an organization to grant the selfish wishes of Othinus.”
“But a Magic God can do anything, right? Does she really need to rely on others?”
“Being able to do anything is the problem in and of itself.” Ollerus gave a cynical smile as if commiserating with a colleague. “You often hear talk of ‘infinite possibilities’, but that truly means you have as many negative possibilities as you do positive possibilities.”
“This may be a bit hard to understand for someone at the age where you still believe in infinite possibilities. Just think of flipping a coin. The odds of getting heads or tails are 50/50. That is the true identity of ‘infinite possibilities’. Whenever you take an action, you carry both the possibility for success and the possibility for failure. No matter how hard you train, you still have 50% odds of losing in a fight to a child. That is what a Magic God is.”
50% was quite large.
In terms of Russian roulette, that would be starting the game with 3 live bullets.
“Gremlin and Othinus want to do something major to Academy City, the victors of this age. And so they want to do something about those ridiculous odds. They want her to be able to perfectly wield the power she has. They want her to have 100% odds of victory. A few modifications are needed for that. The preparations for this showed themselves on the surface as the disturbances in the Hawaiian Islands and Baggage City.”
“…Those were nothing more than preparations?”
“Othinus is another way of saying Odin, the head god of Norse mythology. They are likely following that mythology. They are modifying the nature of that god by preparing a spiritual item that symbolizes that god’s nature. …Norse mythology is a mythology of weapons. The power of the gods is represented by the power of weapons. Keeping that in mind, it is not too hard to predict what Othinus is after.” Ollerus spoke casually even though he was speaking of information that was directly linked to the fate of the world. “The holy spear of Gungnir. A spiritual item that represents Odin’s power as the head god. Most likely, they have been heading around the world in order to put that spiritual item together into its ultimate form.”
A furnace using the energy of the volcanic eruption in the Hawaiian Islands.
A Dvergr that possessed the skills needed to create the legendary weapons of Norse mythology.
The theft of the design from the head of Brunhild Eiktobel, a Valkyrie who had once succeeded in forging Gungnir even if only in part.
“Even with all that, it should have been impossible to create Gungnir in its ultimate form using the current techniques that exist on this earth, but the incident in Baggage City changed that.”
“The development of holistic espers. A technique that does not exist on this earth. If they do succeed in that, they will be able to reach possibilities that would previously have been unreachable. It would provide them with the final piece to finishing Gungnir.”
And once that spear was complete, Gremlin and its leader Othinus would take some kind of clear action against the entire world.
All the large-scale disturbances up to that point had been nothing more than what could be called warm-up exercises.
That power that had previously been constantly bound by 50% odds could then be freely wielded without fear.
That would indeed be a huge problem.
Kamijou did not properly understand just how frightening a thing like a Magic God was. Othinus had crushed his right hand, but that was not enough to see the true depths of that Magic God. However, Kamijou did know one thing clearly. He simply had to think of it as the types of Gremlin members he had seen at Hawaii and Baggage City spreading out to the entire world. That was likely a hopeless turn of events that no one but Gremlin wanted.
At the same time…
Kamijou Touma looked down at his right hand.
Othinus was trying to modify her own possibilities to do away with the constant 50% odds, but was it possible she could do so without the Gungnir spiritual item?
By using Imagine Breaker.
That right hand could negate all forms of magic, so in terms of possibility, it could be said to be fixed at 0%. It would be heading in the opposite direction of Othinus who wanted greater power with 100% possibility, but surely there was a way of making use of the exact opposite.
For example, what if the path one chose was always wrong?
Then couldn’t you always head down the correct path by always choosing the opposite of that path?
If you knew you would always fail, there were plenty of ways to use that. The Magic God Othinus was bound by the completely balanced odds of 50%. Those results could not be consistently used in the same way. That was why she remained stagnant.
If the helm could be turned sharply in the direction of either success or failure, she could actually do something with it.
Wouldn’t that right hand be of value to Gremlin?
“You do not have to worry about that,” replied Ollerus when Kamijou asked that question. “Imagine Breaker is incompatible with Othinus’s ideas. Even if she knew it could be of use, I doubt she would ever even consider using it.”
“What do you mean?”
“I don’t like to answer a question with a question,” said Ollerus without changing his expression. “But it is about time we got down to a fundamental issue. Do you know the identity of the Imagine Breaker you wield?”
Once November came along, the cold kept much business from open-air cafés.
Academy City was filled with the hustle and bustle of preparations for some kind of festival, but something clearly “foreign” sat amid it all. A few people sat at a table in an otherwise empty open-air café. They gave off the atmosphere characteristic of those who did not understand the detailed rules of the situation, but they did not seem to care.
The first was Marian Slingeneyer.
She was a brown-skinned girl with long, braided silver hair and red-framed glasses. She wore a highly revealing outfit made up of nothing but overalls worn over her bare skin. That outfit seemed unsuited for November, but she had made her way through the Eastern European Baggage City dressed like that. She still showed no sign of shivering from the cold.
The second was Mjölnir.
This girl (?) had lost all semblance of a human form and now looked like a black drum can over a meter tall. She was clearly someone who could not blend into a normal cityscape, but for better or for worse, Academy City was filled with drum-shaped cleaning robots and security robots. She did not draw too much attention because people seemed to assume she was some type of robot.
And there was a third person.
This final person was a thin, white-skinned boy. His thin frame and his waist-length blond hair gave him a somehow feminine look. His clothes were primarily yellow and black. He wore a tight-fitting shirt and pants as well as a stole around his shoulders. He looked the most normal of the three, but the exact opposite was true.
He was Thor.
He was referred to as the god of thunder, he was especially skilled in direct combat even for a member of Gremlin, and he was their representative combat member.
He had the destructive power needed to wage a war all on his own.
“Unyah… Nope. I just can’t work up any motivation…” said Marian Slingeneyer as she laid her upper body limply on the table.
The drum-shaped Mjölnir clattered as it shook next to her as if to express worry and concern.
They were official members of Gremlin, the organization that was spreading chaos throughout the world, but Thor was a bit disappointed in what he had found once entering within that framework. Despite the large scale of their actions, they did not pay much heed to the hierarchy of the organization. The only real problem was getting into the framework in the first place.
(Well, Marian’s bad mood is probably due to Kihara Kagun’s death.)
That was Thor’s offhand guess. The Magic God Othinus was still using Kihara Kagun as a puppet, but a puppet was no more than a puppet. Only the vestiges of what he was in life remained and not much of his living self would remain for long.
But he could guess that Marian Slingeneyer’s desperation would have known no bounds had that lingering “scent” of Kihara Kagun not remained even as fleeting as that was.
To be honest, Thor did not like having someone as unstable as Marian around him in a situation like that. He had no idea when his surroundings would be transformed into something truly psychedelic.
Thor’s specialty was war.
Sending in a specialist in direct combat like him could develop into a full blown war.
But even so, he was not a pervert that got turned on by bloodshed. He did not like splatter horror movies and he would much prefer not to go into a haunted house.
And so he wished to give a warning before they began.
“Remember, no preemptive strikes this time.”
“And that includes making alterations to people to ‘stock up’ for the battle. Do you really understand that?”
They were right in the middle of enemy territory and all he got were horrible half-hearted replies.
The black, drum-shaped girl (?) started shaking and clattering once more.
The identity of Imagine Breaker.
That was what Ollerus had said. And that of course implied that he knew what it was.
And more importantly…
Did that mean what resided in Kamijou Touma’s right hand did not belong to the science side?
“Surely you have figured out that the power that resides in your hand was not created by Academy City’s esper development techniques,” said Ollerus simply. “Of course, there are unique natural espers that exist outside of Academy City known as Gemstones. …However, there is no real evidence that you are one of them. You have some sort of supernatural power that came about outside of Academy City. When you put it that way, don’t you think that puts your position in a bit of a gray area?”
“The group you used to interpret your existence just so happened to be Academy City of the science side. That is why you grew to believe that your power could be explained using a scientific interpretation. Now, what if you had been picked up by the Anglican Church of the magic side when you were a small child? You would likely then have explained your own existence to yourself from a magic worldview and grown to believe that you were a member of the magic side.”
“So…what exactly is it …?”
Kamijou clenched and opened his right hand.
He then rephrased his question.
“What exactly am I?”
“That is something that you must decide on your own, but I will give you the interpretation I have come to from my own perspective.”
Not just science and not just magic.
Someone who stands opposite of the Magic God Othinus who controls Gremlin.
An interpretation from Ollerus, the man who should have become a Magic God.
“You, or rather, the power that resides in your right hand can be said to be a collection of the hope and the fear of all magicians.”
“One who truly masters magic becomes a Magic God. But fear does not disappear for even a Magic God who can do anything. And that is not simply due to the 50% restriction I mentioned before. It is a fear that anyone with a proper mind will feel if they possess great enough power.”
Ollerus had to have experienced that more than anyone else, but his expression did not change.
It was possible the feelings of someone who had advanced as far as him were beyond what a normal human could imagine.
“There was once a man known as Terra of the Left. He was a special magician that belonged to God’s Right Seat just as Fiamma of the Right did. Systematically, he was probably the person who came the closest to knowing the identity of Imagine Breaker. …Perhaps even more so than Fiamma of the Right. After all, he researched the contradiction in power relations needed for the Son of God to be killed by human hands and managed to put together the spell Execution of Light all on his own.”
“Imagine Breaker can also have the effect of becoming a turning point of legends and of the very age itself.”
Kamijou was unsure what connection that had to do with what a Magic God feared.
Ollerus continued speaking.
“A Magic God can distort the world as she desires. She can distort it as she wishes, but it cannot always be brought back to how it was before. Any childishly selfish wish such as making all the water running from the water pipes turn into orange juice is perfectly doable. But the more the world is distorted, the greater the danger of some kind of harmful side effects presenting themselves. And even if she tries to turn the world back to how it was, there is a danger of her no longer being able to tell exactly how the original world was after distorting it. These changes we are talking about are like changing the length of a meter or changing the weight of a gram.”
“So if that’s the fear, what is the hope?”
“A world like that would be a frightening thing, wouldn’t it? Even if you can alter everything to your selfish whims, you would want some kind of insurance, wouldn’t you? The simplest way to put it would be a backup or a reference point you could use to return the world to normal. I suppose you could say your right hand is like the International Prototype Kilogram. Even if the world is utterly distorted and you can no longer recall how long a meter used to be or how heavy a gram used to be, your right hand can negate all magic, so a reference point still exists. By measuring the length, weight, and temperature of your right hand, someone who has distorted the world too greatly can recall what the original world was like. It acts as a lifeline that allows the world to be reverted to normal, no matter how far it has been distorted in any direction.”
That was the hope.
If there was some insurance, you could go nuts and not worry about holding back.
No restraint was needed, so you could simply act on all of your desires.
It was an extremely selfish hope that existed only from the point of view of the one making the changes.
“There was a time when powers similar to that showed themselves here and there throughout an era. Some took the form of weapons and made their way into the hands of great heroes, some took the form of frescos and were rumored to heal the diseases of any who touched them, and others took the form of caves and functioned as trials for those who entered them. …I do not know if the power in your hand is simply one more of those powers or if those hopes combined together into another form as they were lost and have naturally appeared here. I can make some guesses, but I have not tested any of them. However, I can say one thing for sure. Your right hand functions as a reference point for the world.”
At that point Ollerus paused.
But then he continued once more.
“Othinus wants to take this world where Academy City and the science side have won and distort it beyond recognition. For this reason, she not only sees no value in a backup, but it is actually the greatest hindrance to her plan. If something remains that can restore the previous age after it has been changed, a backup changes from being a hope to being a fear. That is why Othinus does not seek Imagine Breaker. …Gremlin wishes to cut that lifeline and do nothing but advance. The idea of insurance is nothing but an evil temptation to them. And Imagine Breaker’s ability to negate everything is the greatest example of such insurance.”
Evening came. Normally, it would have been past time to be back from school, but that restriction was gone thanks to the preparations for the Ichihanaransai. Kamijou Touma had been temporarily freed from the school so that he could take a short break to refresh.
“…What do I do?”
Index would still be in his dorm, but it did not seem he would be able to return anytime soon. Not only did he have the Ichihanaransai preparations to deal with, but he did not feel he could afford getting sidetracked until he had figured out what Ollerus’s objective was and ensured everyone’s safety.
Academy City was strictly guarded.
Magicians had snuck in a few times before, but it could not have been easy. It took a fair amount of cost and risk to enter the city. So what did Ollerus gain from doing so? Surely he was not there simply to answer Kamijou’s questions.
A chill that stabbed into Kamijou’s skin had already crept up on him.
It may have had something to do with distancing himself from the hustle and bustle of his class, but Kamijou felt some sort of emptiness in his chest. It made it all come back to him. Ollerus who should have become a Magic God and Othinus who had gone beyond that and become a Magic God. And Gremlin. How long would those casual and peaceful days last? Would Kamijou head out to face Gremlin or would Gremlin come to Academy City? Either way, the atmosphere surrounding the city would not last forever. And then another thought suddenly hit him.
The disturbance in Hawaii.
The hell in Baggage City.
Those were not simply events happening in some other part of the world. They were directly related to Academy City. If Gremlin’s objective really was to show their objection to Academy City being the victors of the era, it was entirely possible the city would become the center of the disturbances.
How much could Kamijou do to protect everyone from such a great mass of violence?
Kamijou was unable to give a clear answer to that question. But it was obvious that, even if he was only a Japanese high school student, he could not just ignore the question. Gremlin and Othinus viewed his right hand and Imagine Breaker that resided within it to be a threat.
He could not avoid a fierce battle.
The only question was when, where, and how it would begin.
Kamijou shuddered as he imagined the cityscape wrapped in the festive mood of Ichihanaransai preparations transforming into the type of thing he had seen in Baggage City.
A situation where he had arrived too late.
And even if he had made it in time and arrived before it was all over, he had difficulty imagining what he could have done when faced with that horrifying mayhem.
He could not let the same thing happen to Academy City.
Kamijou Touma was strongly and deeply convinced of that.
“Misaka…?” muttered Kamijou when he spotted a familiar face in the crowd.
It was a girl with short, brown hair who was wearing the uniform of the prestigious Tokiwadai Middle School. She wore an expensive-looking coat over the rest of the uniform. Kamijou guessed she was out buying something to help prepare for the Ichihanaransai.
She was Academy City’s #3.
She was the girl known as the Railgun who had the most powerful of the electrical generation-type powers.
Suddenly, their eyes met.
When Mikoto noticed Kamijou, she started in his direction.
Kamijou raised one hand and said, “Misaka, are you preparing for the Ichihanaran—”
He was not able to finish his sentence.
Misaka Mikoto suddenly slammed her fist down on top of Kamijou’s head without holding back in the slightest.
It was a completely serious blow.
For an instant, Kamijou’s vision completely blacked out and he crouched over with tears in his eyes.
In response, Mikoto gave a derisive snort and said, “How can you approach me with such a friendly demeanor after ditching me in Hawaii?”
“I have nooooooooooooo idea how you think you’ve made up for that debt, but I am very displeased with you. I’m about ready to beat you to a pulp and dump you in a trashcan.”
“That doesn’t cut it!! That doesn’t cut it at all!!”
“No, Kamijou-san really does think he was completely wrong this time, okay?”
“You say that, but deep down you’re still glad you kept me from seeing what happened after that, aren’t you? You’re using a heroic interpretation for it all, aren’t you?”
“At least try to deny it!! Do you never learn!? And you know what? I’m actually stronger than you when it comes to pure power! Rely on me!! I’m telling you I’m willing to help, so let me!!”
As he watched Mikoto complain, Kamijou began to think.
If Gremlin did invade Academy City, would he look to Misaka Mikoto for help then?
He had managed to get by in Hawaii.
But he had received a serious blow he could do nothing about in Baggage City.
Was that a reason to get her help? Or was that a reason to keep her uninvolved?
He decided he should probably decide on a clear stance on that issue ahead of time.
“Do you remember what happened in Hawaii?”
“…You mean when you suddenly tossed me aside like a piece of trash? And overseas no less.”
“I’m being serious here. Things got a little nuts there, but if some people who thought that was just the beginning were coming to Academy City, do you think it would be right to place your friends in a position where they are likely to bear the full brunt of the attack?”
“I’ll be honest. I’m conflicted on this issue. I want to get as much help as I can, but at the same time I feel it would be better to deal with it all myself rather than get the people I know involved with those monsters.”
“That’s quite the unfair question,” replied Mikoto. And then, “But it is much, much too late to be worrying about that now.”
The tone of voice of the girl standing before him suddenly changed.
And a pale light began to shine from the tips of the fingers on Mikoto’s right hand. Much too late, Kamijou realized something odd about what had happened before.
Specifically, that fist to the head.
Misaka Mikoto was the type of person who reflexively shot high voltage electricity from her bangs, so why had she used a physical attack rather than her power?
“You still haven’t caught up? You really are slow.”
Kamijou heard a great roar. It was the sound of air being pushed out of the way like when someone swung a bat with all their might. But that was not the true identity of the threat. It was a frighteningly bright flash of light coming from Mikoto’s (?) right hand.
(An electric arc? Is it a burner used for welding or fusing!?)
Kamijou’s vision greatly blurred.
He dropped his hips down to lower his upper body, and some kind of fusing blade passed by horizontally above his head. The wind turbine behind him was mercilessly sliced through with what looked like a camera flash.
“Oh, nice. When did you learn to do more than simply defend? If you had done nothing more than hold out your right hand, we would have been in a stalemate with you stuck standing in one place.”
There had been more than one slice.
The long pillar had been sliced into multiple pieces like a radish sliced by someone who did not know how to cook. This was because an arc fusion blade several meters long was extending from each of the five fingers on Mikoto’s right hand.
This was something she could likely accomplish with her power.
However, Kamijou had a feeling she would rely on her iron sand sword for close quarters combat. It was less of an issue of if she could do it and more of an issue of if she would do it with her principles and preferences.
As Kamijou raged, this person with Misaka Mikoto’s face tried to stab their left hand towards his head. Five arc fusion blades were extending from that hand as well. The emission of the blades and the thrust of the arm were carried out in one smooth action like the arm itself was a pile bunker.
Kamijou moved his head to the side to avoid the blades and swung his right fist at Misaka Mikoto’s left wrist.
His fist struck her wrist from below, causing her left arm to shoot straight up. Kamijou took a step forward into the empty space this left, grabbed Mikoto’s neck with his right hand, and slammed her back into a nearby bench.
While holding her in place, Kamijou shouted, “You aren’t Mikoto, are you!? Who are you!?”
He heard a cracking noise.
The skin of whoever was taking on Misaka Mikoto’s form began to split open around the neck where he was grabbing them. As Kamijou watched on in shock, the cracks spread farther and farther. And it did not only spread across her entire body. The cracks spread across the entirety of Misaka Mikoto’s form, including the coat and hair decorations she was wearing.
“I’m sure you have a pretty good idea,” said the person as the lips moved despite a portion of them being missing thanks to the countless cracks.
In the next moment, the destruction exceeded a sustainable level.
The image of Misaka Mikoto shattered and a boy with long, blond hair, white skin, and a feminine look appeared from within.
He smiled thinly and continued speaking despite still being held by the throat.
“I suppose I should introduce myself as the Lightning God Thor. I am in charge of direct combat for Gremlin. …As you can see, we are already here in the city.”
The kind priest said…
“Bring out a stone to burn this girl. If she is innocent, our Lord shall protect her so that she shall not burn. If he does not and she suffers burns, it shall mean she is a witch.”
The kind priest said…
“Dunk this girl underwater. If she is innocent, our Lord shall protect her so that she shall not suffer from lack of breath even underwater. If he does not and she does wish for air while beneath the water, it shall mean she is a witch.”
The kind priest said…
“Throw this girl into a large birdcage and hang her from the tower. If she is innocent, our Lord shall protect her so that she shall not hunger even after hanging for a month. If he does not and she is tormented by hunger, it shall mean she is a witch.”
The kind priest said…
The kind priest said…
The kind priest said…
The kind priest said. The kind priest said. The kind priest said. The kind priest said. The kind priest said. The kind priest said. The kind priest said. The kind priest said. The kind priest said. The kind priest said. The kind priest said. The kind priest said. The kind priest said. The kind priest said. The kind priest said.
When the kind priest saw me, he fell into a sitting position with his eyes opened wide. What could be the problem? Did I look strange in some way? I was fairly certain I was not doing anything inappropriate.
“Wh-what? How? How!?”
The sound of vague chatter rose from the stone-paved square in the center of the small town. How very strange. What did they all find to be so odd?
As I stood there looking confused, the kind priest pointed at me and began shouting.
However, he did not seem able to get an entire sentence out.
“Y-you…you… Fräulein Kreutune… you!?”
“Sigh. Is there something the matter with me?”
“You…you!! How…how are you still alive after everything we did to you!? Why is your skin still shining so brightly!? How…how…how…how!?”
What a strange thing to say.
Still looking confused, a smile slipped out on my face.
“But, kind priest. Have you forgotten what you yourself said?”
“If I am innocent, our Lord shall protect me.”
The kind priest grasped the cross hanging from his neck so tightly it must have hurt. Red liquid dripped down and the small piece of metal began to bend under the great pressure.
“How dare you…How dare a monster like you speak of our Lord!! We threw you into the lake with your arms and legs bound, we bound you atop of the tower where lightning struck you, and we burned your entire body with fire! And yet you are still able to smile like that! You are clearly a witch!!”
“Oh, kind, kind priest.”
I spread my arms as if to welcome in a friend with the intent of accepting everything that entailed.
“Have you run out of trials to put me through? Let’s see, there is one thing I would like to check on: now that I have weathered these trials by ordeal without suffering any harm, what are you supposed to do with me?”