Let us go over a certain fact one more time.
Kamijou Touma was surrounded by misfortune.
When he properly finished his homework printout, the mischievous wind would blow it away. When he got on an elevator, it would trap him at one of the highest floors for no reason. When his stomach started hurting, no nearby convenience store would have a bathroom. When he walked five minutes down the road, he would run smack into a girl needing help. And of course, he would be chased around by magicians surrounded by a deadly aura and espers deeply dyed in the colors of bizarre science.
There was a baseless urban legend saying a human’s luck evened out over their lifetime. Those who met with misfortune were simply “building up” their luck and they would have so much good fortune later that it would weigh them down. However, Kamijou did not believe in that. For those with true misfortune, not even that evening out process would work properly. There was a place that god would tilt his head and wonder “Ahh, ahh. Free will is great and all, but why did you have to get yourself stuck down there?” Those with true misfortune were stuck in that place from the moment they were born and they would not leave until the day they died. That was what Kamijou believed.
And thanks to this, Kamijou Touma was absurdly good at adlibbing.
He was used to having absolutely nothing go according to plan, so the only way to reach the success before his eyes was to make his way there by adlibbing. Several times in the past…no, about a dozen times in the past…no, no, several dozen times in the past, he had made his way through unthinkable deadly battles like that. No battle had ever followed his expectations from beginning to end. Whenever he was perfectly surrounded, he would destroy it all at the root by using an unexpected method that would only work in that specific instance.
Keep all of that in mind.
It was possible a survivor of so many battles would find the current issue to be no big deal. It was possible he could clench his right fist as usual, maintain his warm humanity in an extreme situation that would make any normal person fall to their knees in tears, face an ultimate difficult problem head on with his shoulder cutting through the air, fight until his body was bruised and beaten to protect the kind of smile found anywhere, and protect everything as if it had been nothing.
The stopped second hand of the clock began to move once more.
Kamijou Touma awoke in the bathroom’s bathtub he used in place of a bed.
For some reason, two girls had climbed into the blanket on either side of him and fallen asleep.
“……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………Okay. Stay calm.”
As an unpleasant sweat flowed from his entire body and he trembled from the top of his head to the tips of his toes, Kamijou, that veteran of countless deadly battles(?), did not let out a shout.
He understood all too well.
If he gave a common reaction like that, these mystery girls with their sleeping faces looking like the symbols of peace would immediately jump up and “Kyahh! What are you doing!?” Crash!! Wham!! And then his roommate, the white nun named Index, would come running when she heard the commotion. She would charge in and “What are you doing, Touma!?” Chomp, chomp, crunch!!
It might be a bit hard to understand with all the sound effects, but a more detailed description would sound like something from a depressing snuff film. There was a good reason to keep it mild. It was possible the mincemeat-like remains would be eaten by the calico cat named Sphinx.
(No. Please no!! If you represent my remaining life with a thick candle, this kind of terribly pathetic mission is sure to wear down over half of the candle!! And I get the feeling the accumulated damage from this sort of thing is more than I’ve taken while seriously fighting magicians!!)
Kamijou’s mind was in such chaos that his speech grew oddly effeminate.
However, looking away from a harsh truth would not end the danger.
There was something he had to do if he wished to survive.
He decided to begin by determining who these girls were.
He could not decide if it was a small piece of fortune or if it only made the situation worse, but he recognized the girls curled up and sleeping on either side of him.
The first was Leivinia Birdway.
She had slightly fluffy blonde hair and white skin. She looked as if every pore and drop of blood was special made. It was as if she had been designed according to the golden ratio. If she had been introduced as some legitimate noble girl, he would have believed it. However, she was actually the boss of the Dawn-Colored Sunlight, the largest magic cabal in the great magic nation of England. She could grab a magician’s hair as if pulling a large radish from the ground and swing them around, and she could make her wand sparkle and cause a highway junction to come crashing down.
The second was Lessar.
She was an imp-like girl whose waist-length black hair was braided at the end. She was an official member of a group called New Light which had even fewer ties of obligation than a magic cabal. She had grinned while taking part in a great commotion concerning the usurpation of the British crown, and she had enough skill to make her way unassisted throughout Russia while it was the main battlefield of World War Three.
To put it simply, if these girls who were cutely breathing in their sleep woke up, their “Kyah! Pervert!” could easily lead to someone no longer being recognizable as human.
(For one thing, it isn’t normal for Birdway and Lessar to be together. Are the outlaw members of the already secret magic side joining forces!? I can think of them as special versions of the mafia or gangs. I don’t know why they’re in Japan, in Academy City, and in my bathroom, but it can’t be good news! I bet they’ll grab the nape of my neck and drag me overseas!)
These questions would never be answered if he was smashed to a pulp. Kamijou Touma’s top priority was finding a way to ensure his own safety. Everything else had to come later.
(I need to tread carefully here.)
War involved more than just firing missiles and shells at each other. Accurately detecting the threat, learning what enemy had to be defeated, and determining the conditions for victory were all part of the intelligence gathering stage of war.
Kamijou Touma gently grabbed the thin blanket covering him (and the two girls). He lifted the blanket bit by bit while paying very close attention to make sure his actions did not wake up the girls.
Make no mistake. Kamijou Touma was not a complete pervert who wanted to check on the pajamas of these defenseless sleeping girls or wanted to experience the aroma of the pearl-like drops of sweat that had appeared on their skin.
What mattered was whether those two girls held anything in their hands.
In other words, were they armed?
In general, it could seem like magicians could do anything, but the scale of their destructive power changed greatly between being empty handed and carrying plenty of spiritual items. To properly understand the threat and properly put together a means of escape, Kamijou wanted to know whether they held any deadly weapons.
Fortunately, he could not see any unrefined swords or any wands that looked like they would curse anyone who picked them up.
Incidentally, Birdway was wearing a chic blouse, a miniskirt, and thick black stockings (meaning her panties were very nearly visible) and Lessar was wearing an outfit similar to a blue and white lacrosse uniform with bike shorts (meaning he could likely see her panties if he stood up). It was possible they were hiding a weapon behind their back or in their skirt, but Kamijou did not even consider carelessly checking on that.
The instant he stuck his hand around their neck and down their back, he was sure it would end with “Kyah! Pervert!” Crack, crack, crunch!
To repeat, Kamijou Touma was surrounded by misfortune.
He had to act based on the assumption that anything and everything would happen at the worst possible time to invite misunderstandings.
(Okay, okay! They either don’t have any fearsome spiritual items or they have to take some time to pull them out. I won’t search any further than this. Anyway, anyway. I don’t have a perfect grasp of the situation, but I need to get out of this blanket and leave the bathtub before they wake up. That’s the only way to escape this threat!!)
The skill needed for a battlefield sniper was not the swift movements of a roach. It was the slow but certain movements of a slug.
Kamijou desperately suppressed his urge to shout at the top of his lungs and tackle his way through the bathroom door. With the delicacy of someone working with the colorful cords of a time bomb, he kept the blanket lifted up and slowly folded his extended legs like springs. By bending his knees, he could pull himself out of the warm tunnel created between the bottom of the bathtub and the blanket. Partway through, his big toe caught on a cloth thinner than the blanket. He prayed it was not Birdway or Lessar’s miniskirt. That would ruin everything with a “Kyah! Pervert!”
Kamijou spent over 45 seconds moving from his lying position to a sitting position with his knees in front of his chest.
“P-pant… Pant, pant…”
Sweat dripped from his cheeks and down to his chin and he was breathing so heavily he could never explain it away if someone heard him. But this was what the situation demanded. Given how destructive these girls’ magic was, it was no exaggeration to say this was similar to having stepped on a landmine that had yet to detonate because he had not lifted his foot up. It would have been more unusual had he remained calm in this situation.
(I need to place the bottom of my feet on the bottom of the bathtub. If I picture myself standing straight up and try to move accordingly, I’m sure to fail. What I need to do is lean my back up against the wall and lift myself up ever so slowly.)
He could do this.
Unless a large amount of pepper blew in from the ventilation fan and made him sneeze repeatedly, he could stand up without Birdway or Lessar noticing. Once he managed that, there was nothing left to be afraid of. He could step out of the bathtub, open the bathroom door, and say good morning to Index and the calico cat. It would all be over. He could safely overcome this!
“Garbage collection! Do you have any unwanted bicycles, unicycles, skateboards, or anything else!!!!!?”
Suddenly, a middle-aged male voice played through a speaker at high volume blasted in from outside.
Kamijou Touma distinctly felt a thin string in his mind snap.
And for a while after that, the boy saw nothing but a pure white expanse stretching to the horizon in all 360 degrees. This calm and gentle mental scenery severed the link between time and space. It may have been what would be seen in the very, very end by a hermit who spent all 100 years of his life training and meditating.
It was a perfect trance.
Reality gradually returned as if it were eating into the edges of his vision.
Kamijou’s tear glands burst.
“What is it? Keep it down…”
Kamijou clearly saw Birdway and Lessar’s lips moving while they rubbed their eyes.
The gates of hell had opened!!
The boy’s rational mind finally crumbled.
“No!! It’s over. I’m done for!! This just isn’t fair. What did I do to deserve thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiisssssssssssssss!?”
Kamijou’s intense fear brought his voice into a falsetto as he returned to the panicked effeminate speech from before.
But the situation veered in a direction he had not expected.
With a look of annoyance, Birdway and Lessar pulled the blanket back over themselves. The reaction that could break through a concrete anti-explosive bunker never came.
In fact, they only gave the following casual comments.
“Mh… Quiet down. Do you have any idea what time it is? Mumble mumble…”
“I’m really jetlagged right now… Ugh, I’m tired. So very tired…”
Kamijou still could not believe it.
The sensitive heart of an injured boy would not recover so easily. Then again, if he used the secret technique of rubbing their heads or letting them use his lap as a pillow, their affection values would have exceeded the max value all at once.
Kamijou managed to escape that effeminate mode, but he was still trembling like a fawn.
“N-no, I get. I get it now!! You want me to say ‘Oh, is that all? You scared me. Eh heh heh.’ Then, when my guard is down and I turn my back, you send some amazing attack at the back of my head! That has to be it!! You shouldn’t target the medulla oblongata!!”
“…I don’t care what you think. Just let me sleep. I’ll kill you if you don’t.”
“U-uuhh…. You can touch my breasts as long as it’s over the clothes, so just let me sleep…”
Their reaction seemed more like that of someone with a hangover than sleep deprivation.
Feeling like a criminal when the guillotine blade continually refused to drop, Kamijou nervously checked on his situation.
(Am I safe? Am I in the clear?)
“No!! I can’t relax yet. I can’t!! For one thing, I don’t know how or why you two are here in my bathroom!! I won’t let my guard down until everything is clear!!”
As Lessar tried to steal the blanket from Birdway, she somehow answered Kamijou’s question in a low and truly annoyed voice.
“There’s another concerning statement!! What does ‘the wall’ have to do with sneaking into here!? Are you saying you opened a giant hole in the wall and sealed it up afterwards!?”
Lessar seemed to have completely given up. She rolled herself up in the blanket like a cigar. Having lost the blanket, Birdway began jabbing her small knee into the cigar to reclaim the blanket.
(What in the world is going on?)
With the risk of instant death growing more distant, Kamijou was finally calm enough to arrive at the obvious question.
He had forgotten something.
Namely, the risk of instant death due to a commotion in the bathroom did not only come from those two. Kamijou Touma had left a much closer and much greater danger unattended.
He heard it coming from outside the bathroom door.
“Touma? Are you up? I’m really hungry!”
Kamijou’s entire body began twitching oddly.
This was bad. Very, very bad. Two girls were sleeping in the bathtub he used as a bed. There was only one blanket. How great a misunderstanding would this cause and how much destruction would it lead to? He did the calculations and it was obvious it would become a horrifically gory scene that would need to be censored.
(No!! The bathroom door is locked. I don’t need to panic!! …But wait. Birdway and Lessar snuck in here, right? Did these sleepy girls really lock the door before climbing into the blanket? Hypothetically speaking, what if they got in bed with the door unlocked?)
Like a scene from a Hollywood movie, Kamijou leaped over the edge of the bathtub, rolled along the bathroom floor, and slammed his foot into the center of the door as if trying to kick it with the bottom of his foot. This all-out defense came just as the doorknob began to turn.
Surprised by the loud noise of Kamijou’s foot slamming into the door, Index spoke up.
“Hyah!? Wh-what is it, Touma!?”
“Oh, sorry, sorry! Kamijou-san is in the middle of washing off his sweat from the night, so don’t come in right now.”
Just as he made up that excuse on the spot, Kamijou heard a creaking sound.
Kamijou felt an odd sensation in the bottom of his foot that was pressed against the door. Specifically, all resistance disappeared. A perfect rectangle in the wall one size bigger than the door collapsed outward.
Kamijou recalled Lessar’s sleepy words: the wall.
Index frantically escaped to the side while holding the calico cat. She just barely avoided the falling wall at the last second. While trembling on the floor in his rolling kick position, Kamijou exchanged a silent glance with Index who was curled up like a pill bug.
And finally, something happened.
Index’s beautiful green eyes gained a beast-like ferocity.
“Touma, how did you leave two girls so exhausted this early in the morning? And you tried to take me out of the picture and use the confusion to make it look like an accident…”
“What…? Why is this misunderstanding so much more like something from an extreme soap opera!? But Kamijou Touma has overcome the battlefields of World War Three, clashed with Gremlin, and survived fighting with the Freshmen and the rest of Academy City’s dark side. I am not going to be taken out as easily as before. Today, I will get in at least one attack of my-…”
Kamijou Touma would later describe the rest of the scene as being dyed in bright colors.
New York, United States of America.
For better or for worse and wanted or not, a large part of the world was constantly influenced in some way by this leading city. It was both the symbol of and the center of the financial world. It was not as technologically advanced as Japan’s Academy City, but Wall Street was still the heart of financial activity.
Of the five boroughs making up New York, Manhattan had the strongest image of money. But despite being the center of the financial world, it was a fairly special location. Because it was an island located between two large rivers, the buildings were tall and the population was dense. Transportation was almost completely dependent on countless bridges and underground tunnels. If all of the bridges and tunnels collapsed for some reason, the population density would mean the residents had a great risk of drying up. (Ironically, Hollywood had made several films involving Manhattan being isolated by a natural disaster, accident, or attack.)
Finances, theatre, music, fashion… Manhattan was the prominent place for many different fields. However, there was one other building there with important meaning:
The UN Headquarters.
“What? Wouldn’t it have been safer to hold it at the White House?”
It was the middle of the night.
While it was not at the level of Las Vegas, the streets were filled with an unnatural level of artificial lights. On one of those streets was a muscular man in his forties who looked like he could flex his muscles and rip apart the expensive suit he had been given by a group backing him. He was Roberto Katze. A plaza exited in front of the UN Headquarters building and Roberto was sitting on a shallow stone staircase there, eating a hot dog he had bought at a nearby stand. This did not seem like something the president of the United States would do, but the one responsible for security was not this unprecedented president. That responsibility lay with the skilled secret service members filling the area.
Standing tall next to Roberto while flipping through a memo pad was Roseline Krackhart. With her blonde-hair, blue-eyes, and tight skirt suit, she looked like the perfect skilled secretary. However, the unfairness of the world could be seen in the fact that she was the one people thought looked out of place when she stood next to the president.
Incidentally, she worked as the president’s aide, so it would have been stranger if she was not with him.
“The residence of the president has too much political pressure. Those that do not want America leading the solution to this issue would refuse to gather there. And more importantly, DC has too many journalists wishing to get rich quick. It will be easier to resolve this in secret if it is done in New York. How many times have I explained this to you now?”
“Isn’t this place overflowing with journalists, too? Y’know, like the paparazzi who spend all year chasing after Hollywood actresses’ asses nonstop.”
“I get it, so stop pointing that disgusting pin-up magazine this way. I will sue you for sexual harassment. Anyway, it is an issue of quality. There is so much information here, that the truth is easily buried. The third-rate paparazzi of the entertainment world and the political reporters of the journalism world will grab different types of information from the same scene. And even if this does get out, much fewer people would believe the paparazzi.”
“An emergency financial meeting of the G14, hm?”
“To prevent this gathering of heads of state from looking unnatural, we secretly intervened in the stock market.”
“Did the folks on Wall Street scream when the stock prices fluctuated so wildly?”
“Everyone would be better off if they are taken down a peg or two. And we kept the losses at a low enough level to keep anyone from hanging themselves or jumping in front of a train at the end of the week.”
In an incarnation of capitalism like the United States, those comments would have been enough to destroy their administration, but Roberto and Roseline showed no sign of caring. They knew that the value of information was always judged by the price tag of credibility. The president and his aide would never talk about state secrets in a place like this. Anyone with that common knowledge would ignore those comments as a joke.
The human brain would selectively accept the information before one’s eyes according to one’s own tastes.
Having a secret strategy meeting in a hidden place and constantly looking over your shoulder with a serious expression would add a lot more credibility to what you said.
“Oh? Speak of the devil. The London market has arrived.”
“If you noticed, then wipe that ketchup off your face, you bandit.”
The president meaninglessly tried to make himself look good by licking it off of his thumb but ended up almost writhing around when he put a large amount of mustard in his mouth. The beautiful aide seriously contemplated stomping on him with her high heels. A black luxury car with a small flag on it silently came to a stop in front of them. The bodyguard that stepped out of the car first was not a well-built man in black. It was an Asian woman with long black hair tied in a ponytail and an extremely long Japanese sword at her waist.
When the bodyguard opened the door to the backseat, an elderly woman wearing a gorgeous dress stepped out with motions so smooth she did not seem to have a center of gravity.
This woman was Queen Regnant Elizard.
With the Curtana Second, sword of succession, she stood at the center of an entire nation.
She looked down at the bearded man sitting on the stairs while eating a hot dog and reading a pin-up magazine.
“What’s this? An American welcome certainly has become casual. Even an old man hosting a weekend party at least stands up to welcome his guests.”
“Do you happen to transform into an intensely beautiful girl during the full moon? If so, I’ll think about it.”
“Also, that looks good. Where was the stand you bought it at?”
“I’ll tell you if you tell me where you hired that bodyguard girl. I want some beauty to add to my security team.”
“Despite her appearance, Kanzaki Kaori is one of the world’s fewer than twenty Saints. At the very least, that is not something you can buy at a street-side stand.”
“I know. That’s why I don’t have one already. I could see her on the cover of this thing. My secret service is all so muscular.”
When she finally remembered England’s leader was fairly ridiculous too, Roseline Krackhart felt faint. The look of pity from the British bodyguard woman was the worst part.
However, the suffering for Roseline and her common sense was far from over.
Another group arrived, weaving through the crowded sidewalk in another direction. The short child who visually could have been a boy or a girl was the Russian Orthodox Church’s Patriarch. And on either side of him was…Roseline was not sure what. On one side was a woman in a red nun’s habit carrying a bucket-sized soft drink container. On the other side was a blonde girl wearing chains and binding clothing and armed with saws, pliers, and other torture tools.
They spoke as they walked.
“When you come to America, you’ve gotta search around for some grotesque zombie games that haven’t been released overseas, right, Sasha-chan? My faith normally lies solely in Japanimation, but you can’t forget that their modern works are based in American culture! We can use our diplomatic rights to bring back the ones too gory to get past customs. Gahah gahah!!”
“A question: What if I pointed out that you should not be declaring faith in things such as that when you are a member of the Russian Orthodox Church? A supplementary comment: Aren’t you afraid of falling victim to the inquisition for saying such things in front of the Patriarch who rules the church?”
“I-I wouldn’t do that.”
Anyone would have said the Patriarch was the most powerful one of the three, but the bodyguards on either side had such strong characters that he was completely buried.
(Ahh, does having common sense put you at a disadvantage and mean your entire life will be spent cleaning up after others?)
A distant look entered Roseline Krackhart’s eyes.
Despite being in front of the representatives of several nations, Roberto Katze was openly reading a pin-up magazine with a special feature entitled “Top 100 Bunny Girls in Las Vegas”. He spoke to his beautiful aide who was trying and failing to suppress her headache.
“Where are the others?”
“The French are already inside. The Roman Catholic Church’s new pope should arrive soon along with the Italian Foreign Minister. The meeting should begin on time.”
“A general offensive against Gremlin, hm?” muttered Roberto as he held the pin-up magazine in one hand as if waiting for a shaky washing machine to finish in a coin laundry. He then added, “Why does it have to be a time like this that we can’t reach that bastard Aleister at the top of Academy City.”
America claimed to be the world police, but they had been left out of the loop during World War Three.
After receiving direct damage during the disturbance in Hawaii, they would take severe political damage if leadership of the attack on Gremlin was taken by Academy City.
But on the other hand…
Receiving no cooperation at all was disturbing in its own way.
Just because they could not contact the chairman of Academy City’s board of directors did not mean the city would not take action. Academy City could always do something on their own. If that happened, not only could America have the prize snatched from them, a failure in teamwork could lead to Academy City and America’s forces clashing instead of targeting Gremlin.
While Academy City was a single city rather than an entire nation, their advanced technology and massive amounts of next generation weapons and unmanned weapons allowed them to compete in a worldwide war. When making such careful planning, having such a major factor as a complete black box was not good for the heart.
(Well, this isn’t the first time they’ve insisted on secrecy. Suspecting every unknown factor just leads to restraining yourself for no good reason.)
“Okay. Let’s all go sit in those luxurious chairs and get this strategy meeting started.”
“In that case, close your vulgar magazine and do something about that protrusion in your pants. Even if this is unofficial, you can’t enter the conference room like that.”
“You could always take care of it for me. Heh heh.”
The instant after the president got carried away, Roseline mercilessly and unsympathetically stabbed her high heel into the center of his back. A sound like a giant drum being beat rang out. It had been such a fascinatingly sharp strike that the surrounding secret service carelessly watched it happen before coming to their senses.
“Did that wake you up?”
“Ofhh!? Cough cough!! …Th-that’s what you call a swordfish…”
“Enough about ocean romance.”
The sound of Roseline’s high heels tapping against the ground sounded like a beast threateningly gnashing its teeth. That eerie noise urged Roberto into the UN Headquarters along with the representatives of England and Russia.
“S-some illegals are taking part in the meeting, right?”
“They of course cannot enter this building, but they will be connected by a line that will leave no records. Our top priority is Gremlin and we will use whatever means are available to us. They will be taking part in real time from the other side of the globe.”
“I don’t know the details about magic or whatever, but what kind of people are they if they can stand on the same level as representatives of entire nations?”
And in a certain student dorm in Japan’s Academy City, the boss of a magic cabal elegantly crossed her legs and fidgeted with a cell phone.
“People like me,” she muttered.
In that early morning dorm room, Birdway ended a call on her cell phone and stuck it into her skirt pocket. She spoke with the expression of someone plotting a worldwide conspiracy.
“The preparations are complete.”
“Hm? Did you order a pizza?”
“I travelled to the other side of the globe. If I was hungry, I would order sushi or soba.”
A battered Kamijou gathered his hazy consciousness and listened to Birdway and Index’s heartwarming conversation.
If he was honest, he really did not care about the direction in which the world was headed.
He was more concerned about doing something about the hole cut out of the bathroom wall, but Kamijou was much too afraid of losing his deposit to go crying to the dorm supervisor. He began trying to escape from reality by wondering if there was some mysterious masked carpentry group that could repair the wall to as good as new.
The secret battles in the dark side of Academy City had all evidence and traces of destruction covered up, so he was convinced someone like that had to exist. The problem was he had not the slightest clue how to contact them.
To preserve usage of the bathroom in the meantime, he had covered the hole with a blue tarp. Having the bath and toilet exposed would have been too extreme a living environment.
At any rate, the distant look in Kamijou Touma’s eyes may have been because of blood loss. After all, his head had been given a slight pomegranate-style decoration from the ferocious white nun’s fangs.
With an energy-drained look on his face, he muttered something with his mouth opening and closing like a ventriloquist doll during a safety lecture.
“Ugh, just look at me. I let my guard down. I wonder if the day is coming when I will be forced into a serious fistfight with 120% beast mode Index or enter a drawn-out battle to the death with a dark shadowy gathering of misfortune given physical form…”
“Seeing you relatively fine after just wrapping a few bandages around your head makes me realize how many mysteries humans contain. And I thought I had seen everything there was to see about the human body, inner universe and all.”
With that quick comment, Birdway, who was sitting at the kotatsu, turned a dissatisfied look toward the toast and salad in front of her. It seemed she wanted a breakfast of white rice and miso soup since she was in Japan.
Meanwhile, the white wild beast nun named Index split her toast in two, forced her salad (which had no dressing) in between the two pieces, and devoured the entire thing.
“Touma! I finished this in 15 seconds, so it doesn’t count as a meal! I want bread, ham, and eggs too! More, more, more!!”
“Your method of eating it was too over the top!! Kamijou-san will not let you say this is the same as a hot sandwich! Index, that is nothing more than the ‘it all mixes together in your stomach’ strategy!!”
Lessar, who still looked sleepy, tore off a piece of her bread, dunked it in her hot milk, and ate it. It looked like she was trying to bring back the temptation of falling sleep by going with a night cap rather than a meal. Kamijou was a bit worried she would get cavities.
The TV that just so happened to be on was saying something about the G14 in New York. At this time in the morning, most channels only showed the news or variety shows for elementary school kids. Kamijou wished at least one station would show a gaudy comedian performance.
He also wished they could just get through with the headlines and the weather forecast in 30 seconds. In that way, he was no different from the average high schooler. He was the type who never checked the newspaper or TV schedule. Index on the other hand would always drool at “Today’s Bento Corner” and copy it into her mind with her perfect memory. The truly annoying part was her complete inability to cook despite that perfect memory.
“I won’t do it. Ham and eggs are banned!! Giving your meal a healthy balance is what matters most! The reason you don’t feel full is because you didn’t take your time eating it, Index!!”
“What!? In that case, I’ll try to eat Sphinx’s food! If you don’t want Sphinx to be starving, make me ham and eggs!!”
“What kind of inhumane terrorist attack is this!?”
When Index picked the plate up from the floor, the calico cat stood up on its hind legs. Sharp claws silently appeared from its front paws. Grudges over food could be scary.
Birdway sipped on a milk shake made from putting eggs and sugar in milk (although she insisted it was a nonalcoholic eggnog cocktail) and jabbed her legs into other people’s legs under the kotatsu. While quite relaxed, she spoke.
“For some reason, coming here makes me really start to not care about worldwide disturbances and an allied attack plan.”
“Stop acting like this is your second home!! The trouble you bring with you is on a completely different level from other girls! …And did I hear some really dangerous terms mixed in there?”
After giving up on her food, Lessar rolled over on the floor and let out a yawn. If the kotatsu had not been there to guard her, her panties would have been on full display within her miniskirt.
She took the jerky she had given up on and held it out toward the cat which had had its food taken by a tyrant.
“We’re here…to make sure the...um…trump card can be used at any time… We need to make the preparations…mumble…and keep Imagine Breaker ready to be used…”
“Hey!! Don’t fall asleep in the kotatsu! You’ll catch a cold!! And explain this to Kamijou-san! This sounds like you’re going to get me involved, so at least explain it to me!!”
“Yawn… We played rock-paper-scissors in New Light… I won, so I got to go sightseeing in Asia… I won the plane ticket after beating down Floris who almost cried during the final match…”
“I wasn’t asking about the details of how you got here!! I want you to explain the general dangerous atmosphere hanging over all of this!!” shouted Kamijou.
However, Lessar seemed to have decided it was too much effort. She listlessly gave the cat bread crumbs and jerky. This effectively threw firewood onto the flames of Index’s jealousy.
“Here’s the thing,” cut in Birdway simply as she put butter and powdered sugar on her toast. “The groups that are finding Gremlin’s methods to be an eyesore are gathering together. There’s the Anglican Church, the Roman Catholic Church, the Russian Orthodox Church, normal militaries like the American one and the Russian one, and…well, there’s a lot.”
“……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………That has nothing to do with me, right?”
“Why would I come to this cramped room for no reason? You fool. Don’t tell me you’re thinking of this as no different from your neighborhood childhood friend coming to wake you up.”
“What does any of this have to do with me!?”
“You’re the one that complained about this before!! Who do you think it was that said he would sulk if he wasn’t thrown into the most dangerous place in the world!? Do I need to retighten the screw in your head!?”
“Hold up. I think your mental translation of what I said is a bit-… Wait, wait! Birdway, that wand isn’t supposed to go in there!! I’ll listen, so calm down!!”
Like a scene from a Hollywood movie, Kamijou Touma leaped forward and somersaulted away as he desperately tried to put some distance between himself and Birdway. After escaping to the wall, he finally gained the calm needed to sort through the information.
“So…um…Hasn’t this escalated pretty quickly?”
“The alliance is still doing everything it can to search for Gremlin’s headquarters. Once it’s found, they will mount a unified attack against it. Gremlin is extremely powerful on the individual level, but it most likely does not have the organizational foundation needed to be called a world power. The fact that they are keeping their headquarters hidden is an admission that a large scale attack on it would be bad news for them.”
“This really has escalated quickly! …But if you plan to attack them head on, does that mean you can properly fight that magic god?”
Kamijou had once met Othinus in Eastern Europe’s Baggage City.
He had not stood a chance.
She had torn off his right wrist as easily as plucking a fruit from a tree and he had all too easily passed out from the blood loss and pain. If Ollerus and Fiamma of the Right had not arrived, Kamijou could not guess what would have happened.
If powers from around the world gathered, they might be able to defeat her.
Or could they?
Kamijou was not very confident. He could not imagine her kneeling down before anyone. And even if it was possible, that would mean a power rivaling Magic God Othinus would be clashing with her. How great a disaster would that cause?
Birdway, a magic specialist, did not seem particularly concerned.
“Well, we’re up against Gremlin which still holds plenty of secrets and Othinus who has taken a step into the territory of a magic god. And they are also in the process of putting together an extremely annoying spiritual item called Gungnir. Defeating them with any normal method would require a lot of work. That is why we want to keep an ace up our sleeve that will help us resolve this much more quickly.”
“Don’t worry. We aren’t going to throw you out in front of Othinus. You’d die instantly if we did. But there are crucial points in any plan. For example, when that spear is on the verge of being completed. We will send you in then and have you break Gremlin’s joint in a single blow. Your role isn’t to fight a lengthy battle from beginning to end. We’re just going to use Imagine Breaker as a wedge we hammer in at a single opportune moment. You can survive that kind of fight, right?”
“Why does it sound like everyone’s already decided I’m going to fight!?”
“Oh, so you won’t fight?”
“Huh? Is this the legendary ‘go right ahead, go right ahead’ argument?”
After seeing the disasters in Hawaii and Baggage City, Kamijou was not about to leave Gremlin and Magic God Othinus to do as they wished. This felt much closer to home than a war in a distant country. Gremlin would go anywhere and invade anywhere that was necessary to accomplish their goal. Academy City may have been surrounded by tall walls, but it was no exception.
The next time he turned on the television, he might find that history had greatly changed and a new trauma had been carved into the world.
It was possible that news would be about Academy City being wiped off the map. They had such overwhelming power that Kamijou assumed they could do that and they had taken such aberrant actions that he doubted they would hesitate to do so.
Gremlin had an objective and it seemed all of their actions had been taken in order to construct Gungnir, but Kamijou did not know enough about magic to know the exact conditions for that. For him, it looked like they had been throwing darts at the world map and attacking the spot they hit.
“I guess…we have to do something…”
“If we had any other method, we would not use an amateur as the cornerstone of such a large scale attack plan.”
“I try to keep in mind how powerless I really am. Just to be clear, I could never defeat the likes of Othinus. We’re worlds apart. I solidly lost to the Lightning God Thor. And if Marian Slingeneyer had seriously drawn Dáinsleif, who knows how that would have turned out. …To be blunt, I’ve never had an honest win against them. Are you sure you’re prepared to leave your life in the hands of someone like that?”
“But you can turn that around and point out that you survived against all of those monstrous opponents. Placing your objectives too high is never a good idea. All that matters is understanding that we still have a chance.”
They were not expecting him to fight properly.
They were expecting nothing of Kamijou Touma. Their hopes were placed in Imagine Breaker.
In other words, this boy was being treated like the warhead of a precision guided bomb that would be dropped from an airplane. Professionals would guide him to the precise target and he would only need to swing his right hand at the optimal time and in the optimal place. Nothing more than that was expected of him and trying for anything more would be leaving the “optimal course”.
Even if he could not defeat this powerful enemy head on, he had another way of doing serious damage.
Kamijou let out a deliberate breath.
“So where will you be taking me?”
“The alliance is searching all over the world for the exact location. It could be as far north as the North Pole or as far south as the South Pole. Assume anything is possible,” replied Birdway as if making a decisive announcement. “We don’t know if Gremlin even has an official name for the place. In fact, we’re not even sure if there is any meaning in giving it a name. But for convenience’s sake, I and the rest of the alliance are calling it this.”
She paused for a moment.
It was as if speaking this name would decisively change the flow of events.
And Birdway spoke the name as if the word held some special meaning.
“Sargasso, the ship graveyard.”
“Let’s go back over the events,” began United States President Roberto Katze in New York’s UN Headquarters.
He was in a conference room, but it was not the large scale room for over 100 representatives that was often seen on the news. That would have been too large for 14 heads of state to argue with each other.
This was a rectangular room given perfect soundproofing with a double glass partition. A long table cut down the center of the room and the heads of state of the anti-Gremlin alliance sat around it.
The room had no outside windows, so day and night meant nothing. The building did not have extreme differences in the number of people coming and going based on the time of day; it was always busy.
Kanzaki Kaori and Vasilisa, two of the bodyguards, were not inside the small conference room. While armed guards were effective for defensive firepower, they constantly held the risk of harming the other VIPs. Under the naïve assumption that the representatives would not attack each other because they all had the same objective, all bodyguards had been removed from the room with the exception of America’s secret service as America was the country responsible for security within the conference room.
However, Kanzaki and Vasilisa possessed exceptional power even among those known as magicians.
The glass met all soundproofing, bulletproofing, and explosives-proofing standards, but they could break through it with their bare hands and instantly move to act as a shield for their protection target. They could also send a curse at a hypothetical enemy inside the room without having to break the glass.
As Vasilisa watched the president through the glass, she muttered something in sync with his mouth movements.
“Okay, let’s see… Gremlin’s objective is the construction of a special spear. To accomplish this, they caused the incident in Hawaii, performed some kind of experiment in Baggage City, and infiltrated Academy City.”
“…Are you bored?” asked Kanzaki in annoyance.
“I can’t have fun with Sasha-chan here because too many people would start glaring at me.”
“A question: Do you mind if I split your skull open?” immediately added the Russian bodyguard wearing a binding outfit.
Vasilisa ignored the girl and knocked on the tempered glass. Naturally, not even a slight vibration reached the conference room on the other side.
“What do you think, Miss England?”
“I find it hard to believe this Magic God Othinus even exists, but this is no longer a situation I can judge with my common sense.”
Kanzaki gave an exhausted sigh.
She had fought an official member of Gremlin on a mobile fortress moving to Academy City. Her opponent had apparently been a girl, but her appearance had been that of a thick, black, drum-like cylinder. Gremlin was willing to rearrange the human body that far in pursuit of efficiency. Kanzaki did not know what future they hoped for, but if they gained control and that became normal, she doubted it would be a good future.
“Gremlin’s objective is bringing Magic God Othinus to her perfect state. To do that, they must construct Gungnir. In Hawaii they used the massive energy of a volcano as a reactor core, in Baggage City they proved their theory about the development of holistic espers to reach an area impossible to reach with simple magical theory, and in Academy City they were searching for the actual person to use. Some portions of their theory seem impossible to verify to me, but perhaps I should assume their techniques have exceeded my understanding.”
Kanzaki Kaori could not ignore an issue concerning the Norse spear of Gungnir.
When the Saint Brunhild Eiktobel had completed a prototype of that spear, Kanzaki had fought and defeated her.
“Well, I agree with you there, but the problem is that all of this information comes from the illegals,” said Vasilisa disinterestedly.
“You mean the Dawn-Colored Sunlight?”
“Not just them. The Saint Silvia and the half magic god Ollerus as well. Powerful people we had recently doubted even existed are showing up one after another. I hear one of them has successfully snuck into Gremlin, but how much can we trust them?”
Magic cabals were like the mafia and gangs of the magic world. The possibility of them joining forces with Gremlin to destroy Christianity’s control of the magic world was just about the worst possibility imaginable.
“If the common knowledge of our world is enough here, I do not see why the Dawn-Colored Sunlight would betray us.”
“A world with Gremlin in control would be riskier than one with Christianity in power.”
“Yes, modern Western magic is based on secret tricks of Christianity.”
“Gremlin specializes in Norse mythology. If they filled the world with that and eliminated the Christian materials as if overwriting the culture, that would be a fatal blow to the Dawn-Colored Sunlight. Based on what benefits them, we should be able to trust them for now. And even if we cannot trust them, we should be able to determine when they will betray us and take the initiative.”
“Perhaps,” agreed Vasilisa casually.
She was not simply agreeing with an opinion that put her at ease so she could gain a peace of mind she depended on. Nor was she simply being optimistic without giving it much thought. No matter what happened, she would ultimately bite into her target’s windpipe and finish them off. Kanzaki could sense that icy will in the core of Vasilisa’s relaxed body.
And Vasilisa herself was carefree.
Most likely, even if she stood on the brink of mankind’s utter destruction, she would enter that final battle while perfectly carefree.
“After travelling around the world gathering the materials they needed, Gremlin has holed up in their hidden headquarters. The time limit until the spear’s completion is unknown. And if that allows Othinus to wield the legendary power of a magic god, the world has no chance of winning. I want to finish this before the spear is completed.”
“The spy in Gremlin has to check the arrangement of the stars to determine the location of Sargasso, right?”
“I just hope everything comes together in time.”
No matter what resided in his right hand and no matter how many times he had almost died, Kamijou Touma was essentially a high school student. After eating breakfast, he had to prepare for school.
“Hey, after breakfast, we’re heading to District 23. I’ve spoken with one of the twelve board members I was able to access. A supersonic passenger plane has been prepared for us, so we should arrive at Sargasso a few hours after it’s located no matter where in the world it might be. …You’re basically being treated like a ballistic missile.”
“I don’t think so!! Kamijou-san is a student, you know? My attendance is already in serious trouble! At least let me go to class until you need to call me in. I want to at least be there for the roll call this morning!!”
“I see.” Birdway folded her arms in a meaninglessly pompous manner. “You can do that if you like, but I need to make sure you can leave at any moment. I won’t be leaving your side. If you insist on going to class, you have to do so while I sit on your lap. Is that okay?”
“The class would never calm down! And I just know Aogami Pierce would get especially worked up!!”
Lessar had completely ignored her breakfast and slept for twenty minutes or so, but she finally woke up and blinked her eyes blearily.
She spoke to Index who was still complaining about being hungry (despite Kamijou having ultimately made her the ham and eggs).
“Huh? You’re a strict Anglican, so I thought for sure you’d be insisting an amateur high school student can’t be sent into a magic battle like this. An illegal like me has no problem with getting him involved in all sorts of things, though.”
“I already know that complaining about that won’t stop Touma,” immediately replied Index while giving a snort. “And in that case, I have an idea.”
Lessar tilted her head in puzzlement, but Index gave no further explanation as she held the calico cat.
After a much too uneven vote between those who wanted to go to school and those who did not, Kamijou’s actions were restricted considerably. After stubbornly changing into his school uniform in the bathroom covered by the blue tarp, the boy was half-dragged outside by Birdway.
It was early morning.
They were walking down the same path students used on their way to school.
As those other uniform-wearing boys and girls made their way to school as usual, Kamijou Touma alone walked in a completely different direction along with three girls (who were all rather small). In both appearance and direction, he moved against the flow of the others who were moving out of his way because they were true Japanese who preferred to passively avoid conflict.
“This is painful… This may be fairly subdued, but it’s still really painful!! Due to the powers development, this city is relatively respectful of individual freedom, but I can tell I’m really, really standing out right now! Can girls born and raised in England not sense this tremendous awkwardness!?”
For some reason this caused Lessar to put her hands on her hips and puff out her chest.
“Hah hah hah! We are from the country that makes travelers eyes open wide in surprise when we treat them to homemade cooking! We are from the country where guidebook recommendations are for some reason filled with Chinese restaurants! Did you really think we would falter when faced with alienation on this level!?”
“Kh. I wish I had the confidence to tell 6 billion people it’s their sense of taste that’s wrong… And Lessar, you know how to cook? I didn’t know that!”
It seemed they had to take a direct bus to District 23 rather than a train.
But unlike the buses that travelled around the city areas, not many people used this bus. And that meant there were large gaps between buses.
Despite already gathering such unpleasant attention, they were forced to wait at the bus stop for a while.
“I never knew simply sitting on a bench waiting for a bus could squeeze at my chest so much!!”
Kamijou complained, but then Leivinia Birdway vigorously sat down on top of his lap.
“What are you doing!? Aren’t you going a bit far for a one-off gag!? Sit next to me! Next to me!!”
“Don’t joke. I am wearing a skirt. I would never sit on a bench chilled by this early morning November air. Try to respect my basic human rights, you fool.”
“I’m pretty sure nothing I said was wrong, so why am I being scolded so harshly!?”
“I would also like to ask why Lessar is sitting next to and snuggling up against me. What is going on, lovely lady from the support center!?”
“…My drowsiness is back. Jetlag is terrible…”
Birdway held Kamijou down from above and Lessar completely restricted the movements of his right arm. He felt soft sensations all over and a sweet smell filled the air, but a sudden electric current-like shock ran through Kamijou’s head from the right temple to the left.
“…Please wait a moment, Index-san.”
“I never thought I would have to bare my fangs again before my anger had fully faded.”
“I didn’t expect this either! Please just wait! I request a compromise concerning your standard tsukkomi punishment of biting the back of my head! Let’s limit it to once a day. Let’s not go any further than tha-…gyaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh!?”
On the way to school, Misaka Mikoto stood silently with one of her cheeks twitching.
That spiky-haired idiot was once more pulling off repeated miracles that could never happen in a normal life. Who was that imp-like girl snuggling up against him on that bench? Who was the dangerous blonde girl sitting on his lap who he had been seriously fighting just the other day? And was having that silver-haired nun biting into the back of his head supposed to be a normal occurrence? So much information came pouring in at once that she could not settle any single issue in her heart. To put it a bit more colloquially, she was having difficulty deciding what she should get mad about first.
Normally, Mikoto might have used her control over massive amounts of magnetism to rip the entire bench up into the air and shout “Ventura, Ventura!!” while launching it high into the sky. However, she was different today.
She spoke in a low, quiet voice that was almost a groan.
“…I’m sick of this position.”
“Oh? Is that Misaka-san standing here all alone and trembling☆?”
Mikoto’s shoulders jumped at that sudden sugary voice.
She frantically turned around and found an unfamiliar woman in a showy suit. However, Mikoto put her guard up even further when she saw the star-like object twinkling in the woman’s eyes.
She was being controlled by the #5, Mental Out.
“What are you doing here, Shokuhou?”
“Nothing really. And does it really matter? But what are you doing here, Misaka-san? Does it have to do with the gentleman sitting on that bench? Sniff sniff. Sniff sniff sniff sniff…”
“Don’t smell me! Don’t smell me! What do you hope to learn from that!?”
“If you want to know what’s going on, why don’t you just go over and ask him?” said the woman in a whisper.
Mikoto’s entire face explosively turned red. The woman in the showy suit who looked either like a career woman or a sexy teacher lightly clenched her fists and rubbed them together up near her mouth.
“Aren’t you curious? Aren’t you curious?”
“N-no, I’m not!! Not at all and not one bit!!”
Mikoto could not afford to show the slightest opening to this expert in controlling minds, so she denied it as much as she could.
However, the #5 Level 5 outdid her.
“Well, I am curious.”
“And so I think I’ll go check on this issue that Misaka-san is not at all and not one bit curious about. After all, if I smile at him with ‘her’ appearance ability, I should be able to win over most any guy.”
The woman in the showy suit struck a pose and pressed a sideways peace sign against her eye.
“And even if an adult woman isn’t in his strike zone…”
“If I bring in this much variation…”
“He’s sure to like at least one of them☆”
Another nine girls lined up next to the woman and struck the same pose. There was everything from a literary girl with braided hair to a sports girl with brown skin.
Mikoto was reminded of the skits put on by connecting puppets to one’s arms and legs with long horizontal rods so they would dance along with you.
The girls spoke with star-like objects glittering in their eyes.
“Fwa ha ha ha ha! If I use the same barrage ability as a fighting game with only girl characters, not even his denseness can save him!! I will be able to control everything, Misaka-saaaan!!”
“Stop that! If you destroy the male-female ratio any further, this will fall into complete chaos!! And don’t tell me you have some strange connection with him from the past!”
Mikoto would gain nothing by letting her cause any more trouble.
In fact, she had a distinct feeling that if she let those ten girls and women continue on, that idiot would miraculously win over all ten of them and somehow manage to drag Shokuhou Misaki herself out onto the stage as well.
In order to prevent unnecessary interference from the #5, Academy City’s #3 Level 5, Misaka Mikoto, thrust her hands forward, controlled a massive amount of magnetic power, and targeted the metallic portions of the bus stop bench.
She let out a shout from the bottom of her gut.
The nun named Agnese Sanctis was in the giant library connected to the UN Headquarters building.
During the night, the number of people inside fell drastically.
However, that silence seemed appropriate for a nun.
She was officially a member of the Anglican Church, but ever since World War Three, she had been working to return to the Roman Catholic Church.
She had transferred from the Roman Catholic Church to the Anglican Church under special circumstances and her current work was one step in the process to return now that the friction between the two churches had lessened.
The work she had been left with was very simple.
“Nothing here. There’s no danger of any magic power or anything else having been hidden inside.”
“Ugh. They’ve gathered over 300 pages from newspapers alone today, haven’t they?”
“Yes, and that is why there is a risk of malicious magical symbols or circles slipping through.”
Working with Agnese was Lucia and Angelene. They were also nuns who had moved from the Roman Catholic Church to the Anglican Church and were now working to return.
The tall one with long blonde hair was Lucia.
The stooped one with braided blonde hair was Angelene.
“Honestly, if they’re really afraid of an attack from Gremlin, they should stop anyone from bringing published items in during the meeting.”
“Doing that on ‘our’ authority would cause other problems. UN headquarters is fundamentally neutral. If a single religion began selecting what published materials could be brought inside, it could lead to an international issue.”
“I-in other words, the normal people don’t understand the danger of the problem we’re dealing with.”
World War Three had been a large-scale conflict in which science and magic had directly clashed.
Towards the end, cover-up efforts had not made it in time and a lot of people had seen magic. However, it seemed no one had incorporated magic into their proper studies, technology, or everyday lives. As far as the churches could tell, no one had even tried. All that had cropped up were small spiritual and eschatological groups.
“What do you think about this united attack on Gremlin?”
“I think it all hinges on whether they can locate Sargasso. It seems they are using a large-scale ceremonial ground to search out all the suspicious points around the world, but the real deciding factor is probably that spy who has slipped into Gremlin.”
“Th-that spy will send a signal from Sargasso and our search team will detect it, right?”
The conversation trailed off there and Agnese let out a sigh.
She spoke with the sharpness of driving in a wedge.
“How far we can trust this spy is an unknown factor.”
“True. I think you almost have to be suspicious when you hear that this person has a way of sneaking into Gremlin’s headquarters and has in fact already done so.”
“B-but it is true that it would be hard to find anyone else who can deceive a group as elusive as Gremlin, right? More importantly, this spy has no reason to betray us…”
“I’d say it’s more accurate to say that Gremlin has no reason to make a bluff like this right now.”
“So we have no choice but to trust this person because they want the same thing we do. Is that it?”
Up to this point, Gremlin had perfectly hidden themselves despite having a large-scale force including a magic god. Searching for them with normal means was unlikely to turn up any results.
They had no idea how this spy had infiltrated Gremlin, but sending the signal would have to be a great risk for him.
If Gremlin grew suspicious of him partway through, it would all be for naught.
And if Gremlin detected the signal after it had been sent, they would begin to search for the traitor. If he could not ensure his safety on his own until the attack began, there was no guarantee he would survive.
Just checking the records concerning Hawaii and Baggage City was enough to know Gremlin was a merciless organization.
Lucia stood tall and spoke.
“And even if we locate Sargasso without issue, that leaves the unified attack. That will mean both sides must wear each other down until this is resolved. Our opponents are thoroughly trained magicians and a true magic god. …I doubt this is an enemy we can defeat without sacrifices.”
“But keep in mind that Gremlin is currently hiding,” said Agnese. “In other words, they think it is to their benefit to remain hidden. They aren’t descending grandly into the middle of the battlefield like Fiamma did. At the very least, locating Sargasso will crush one of the advantages Gremlin assumes they will have.”
“I-I just hope this isn’t a case of poking at a bush and having a snake come out.”
Everyone there thought the same thing.
It was also true that being afraid of a snake was no reason to leave the bush alone and allow the snakes to breed inside. If that would happen, someone needed to take the risk of sticking their hand into the bush, grabbing the snake, and exterminating it.
The problem was that someone had to push the branches aside, knowing they would be bitten.
In that moment as Kamijou Touma stared into the distance, the image of a boy flying through the night sky with an alien friend in his bicycle basket appeared clearly in the back of his mind.
Here is why:
Before he knew what was happening, the bench shot to the side like a shell. Kamijou was still sitting politely on the bench, Birdway was still sitting right on top of his lap, Lessar was still nestling up against him, Index was biting onto him from behind, and the calico cat was digging into her white hood with his front claws. They all crashed into a nearby river.
But there was no great splash and they did not sink into the river.
With a few smaller splashes, the bench flew in low arcs and jumped back up whenever it touched the water’s surface. It was similar to a skipping stone. Not a single drop of water reached Kamijou Touma as he sat on the bench. The bench crossed to the opposite bank of the river, decelerated as its legs scraped across the asphalt and sent orange sparks trailing after it, and ultimately came to a stop.
Kamijou then shouted out at the unfairness of it all.
“What the hell was that!? Has Kamijou-san’s misfortune finally become completely indiscriminate!? And Index! Don’t support your entire body by biting into the back of my head! Are you trying to finally rip off my scalp today!?”
Birdway’s expression remained relatively unchanged as she let her crossed legs dangle down from Kamijou’s lap.
“Hey. Academy City’s technology is twenty or thirty years ahead of the rest of the world, right?”
“Is it normal for benches to fly through the air and skip across rivers in the future?”
It seemed the two girls had made a fundamental misunderstanding, but Kamijou did not have it in him to join the discussion.
A new enemy had appeared.
This new enemy descended from the heavens.
Two legs landed on the back of the bench as if driving stakes down into the ground. Misaka Mikoto bent over and peered upside down through the tunnel she had created by spreading her legs apart. And she glared at Kamijou Touma.
She asked a blunt question.
“That’s my line!!”
Musicians had a difficult life.
Those who played instruments, conductors, lyric writers, and composers were all referred to as musicians and they all possessed a common dilemma.
All musicians loved music.
They could identify sounds more accurately than anyone else, they researched sound more than anyone else, and they could produce more wonderful sounds than anyone else.
As a result, they would use their ears more than a normal person, so it was not uncommon for them to go deaf.
Due to pursuing beautiful sounds more than anyone else in the world, they would wear out their ability to detect sounds.
However, this irony was not limited to musicians.
Artists would wear out their eyes and cooks would taste their food so much they would lose any balance to their nutrients and health. Baseball players would ruin their shoulders and soccer players their knees.
Anyone who continued down a single path far enough was destined to have their body worn down by that path.
Understanding that yet still being prepared to continue down that path may have been the very first condition for one who wished to master a certain path.
And in that case…
A man known as Kihara Kagun in Academy City and as Bersi in Gremlin was silently working on Sargasso, a pile of many ruined ships on the ocean.
It was November and a white haze was rising from the ocean surface as if visually representing the chill of the air. Sargasso was wrapped in that thin mist, but no white breaths could be seen leaving that man’s mouth.
He was not breathing.
He did not show any signs of feeling this biting cold air or any sign of the normal reflexes and reactions of a living creature.
He was an Einherjar.
He was an emotionless object that carried out precise movements based on the magic power externally poured into him instead of the life force at the core of a living being.
He had joined Gremlin for a single purpose.
And in exchange for (in a way) perfectly achieving that purpose, Kihara Kagun had worn down all of his sensory organs and lost the spirit needed to receive those stimuli. Even though his heart was beating and his brain continued producing thoughts, he was essentially “something that was already dead”.
Kihara Kagun worked with the uniform speed of a clock’s hand and the precision of a loom.
His job was to find the computers from the radios, fishfinders, navigation control systems, and other devices installed on the dozens or even hundreds of ruined ships that had drifted to Sargasso. Once he found them, he would connect them with cables and make some programming adjustments so they could function as a parallel processor. This high-speed and large-scale processor was necessary to use the empty husk of the #2 which had been retrieved from Academy City.
This was the other side of Gremlin.
This man was the cornerstone of their science side technology.
He was completing the final preparations needed to construct the lance. Kihara Kagun had lost the mind he needed to think about what his actions meant, so he merely silently connected the cables to create the giant processor.
This would most likely swallow up something he had once wanted to protect, and yet he continued.
He spoke into the small radio in his hand.
“I’m done here. The refrigerated organs can be used at any time to remake the empty husk of the #2 into the machine to create the lance.”