Toaru Majutsu no Index:SSVolume1 Chapter4
Chapter 4: A Drunk Mother’s Circumstances. The_Two_Leading_Roles.
In Academy City, ten at night was relatively late.
This was because the city’s trains and busses stopped running after all of the students were supposed to have left school. In some places, stores would close at that time too, so it seemed that the only stores open were ones geared towards adults.
Because members of Anti-Skill who functioned as both teachers and the security forces were patrolling the city, students who weren’t prepared to get scolded would stay in their dorms.
For that same reason, Academy City was full of delinquents at night so a normal student could easily get caught up in some small bit of trouble if he went walking around then.
In one of those streets, the sound of a cane tapping against the ground could be heard.
It was Accelerator.
(Ahhh… Dealing with that leftover work kept me out pretty late…)
He was not returning to Yomikawa Aiho’s apartment.
He was registered as a first year at Nagatenjouki Academy, but he wasn’t going to one of that academy’s dorms either.
He was heading for a building that was referred to within GROUP as the “Nap Room”.
It wasn’t required for members of GROUP to sleep there. Apparently, Tsuchimikado Motoharu attended a normal high school and lived in a student dorm and Musujime Awaki was living as a freeloader with some nosy woman teacher. Unabara Mitsuki hadn’t said anything about his living arrangements, but it seemed he had his own place. As long as they didn’t do anything too noticeable in the open, they had some freedom as to their basic activities. At the very least, the higher ups hadn’t complained about where the GROUP members were living.
Accelerator didn’t care where the other members were or what they were doing, but he was sure they had to be thinking the same thing he was. Simply put, he would have no problem if the organization called GROUP was destroyed so long as it didn’t damage him any.
(That would make this all easier.)
It was past the point where they could conspire together and change things for the better.
“…Tch. I guess I’ll stop by a convenience store and buy some coffee…”
The can he was currently drinking was pretty much empty so he started walking in a different direction to go get a new one. He headed towards the convenience store on the first floor of a nearby building as if he was being attracted by the various fluorescent lights that made up the scenery of Academy City at night.
A voice that sounded like someone talking in their sleep came from next to him.
But there shouldn’t have been anyone there. After all, there was only a red mailbox there. And that metal mailbox that made one question its usefulness in that age of email was clearly not a bed.
“U-ugyahh…I don’t feel so gooood…”
A strange drunk woman was clinging to the mailbox’s support post like it was a dakimakura and rubbing her cheek against it.
She looked like she was a college student. She was wearing a simple shirt and slender black slacks, but they were probably some expensive brand. Also, a small handbag that couldn’t have held anything more than a wallet had fallen to the ground a little bit away from her. Everything about her was screaming “Attack me, dumbass!”. She seemed so “welcoming” in that way that it made you not want to try to help her.
Accelerator was about to ignore her and head into the convenience store, but..
(Hm? Her face looks familiar…?)
He suddenly stopped.
He looked closer at that drunk college student’s face. He looked at her shoulder-length light brown hair and the well-proportioned lines of her face. Her eyes were closed so he couldn’t tell, but he easily guessed that her eyes would be filled with excess energy. Her height and proportions were completely different, but oddly enough that girl still came to mind.
She obviously couldn’t be part of Last Order’s family.
Clone espers did not have families.
(…Who is she? Don’t tell me this is just a coincidence…)
Accelerator couldn’t help but be curious and he was staring at the woman’s face from close by.
“Yaaawwn… Yes, yes. I’m Misaka Misuzu-saaan…”
Just when he saw her eyes suddenly open, the drunk grabbed onto him. She moved slowly, but Accelerator used a cane.
They both fell down onto the dirty road.
The woman was grabbing him around the waist, but she didn’t seem to notice.
“My hobbies are number theory and studying. My special skill is swimming and my boobs are 91 cm… Oh, whoops. I’m married. C’mooon, don’t touch me so familiarly, it’s rude to papa.”
As she spoke, she pushed Accelerator to the side and sat on the ground a bit away. For a second, he felt the urge to shoot her in the head, but…
“Huh…? Where’s the Dangai University database center? Hey, white guuuy. Do you know?”
She was completely drunk.
She probably would have said the same thing to anyone, be it the Chairman of the Board of Directors or the President of the United States.
(Th-this is so fucking stupid that I’d be an idiot to pay her any heed. I just need to go and buy my coffee. Fuck dealing with that woman.)
Accelerator stood up while supporting his weight on his cane and wiped the dirt of off his pants with one hand. He then sighed and started to leave.
“Heeey, don’t be like that. Don’t ignore me, white guuuy…”
The drunk grabbed on to his ankles.
Accelerator fell again with a yell.
The strange drunk climbed on top of him and spoke.
“Hey, white guuuy. I’m the kinda person that’ll kiss anyone – boy or girl – if they’re younger than meee.”
“Quit blathering on about meaningless shit!!” Accelerator yelled back without thinking, but then realized what he had done.
Now that he had actually acknowledged that lonely drunk’s existence, he saw a most unpleasant smile appear on her face.
“Like I said… Do you know where the Dangai Universtiy database center is? Misuzu-san has to do some studying theeere. I’ve got reports piling up after allll. Bwaaah…”
The strong stench of alcohol slowly surrounded Accelerator.
“Why the fuck would I know that!? Go call a taxi or something!!”
“Ahhn. How do I do thaaat?”
Luckily, a taxi happened to be coming by. Accelerator had been pushed to the ground and had someone clinging to him, but he still managed to get his hand in the air and wave it vigorously.
The taxi slowly stopped and the driver, a middle-aged man, jumped out.
“A-are you okay!? Did something happen!?”
“…If anything else happens here to annoy me, I’m going to beat everyone here to death…” Accelerator muttered in a low voice.
He shoved the drunk off of him to the side. He ignored the strange woman saying something about the taxi and yelled at the taxi driver telling him to deal with her. He finally managed to walk off. He no longer cared about the convenience store or a can of coffee. He just wanted to get as far away from that drunk as possible.
Academy City’s strongest esper was human and it seemed there was at least one thing he had trouble dealing with.
“I’d say croquettes qualify as a type of nabe meal,” Kamijou Touma explained to Index who was walking next to him.
They had left the sukiyaki restaurant, split away from the rest of his classmates, and were headed back to the dorm. They had stopped by a convenience store, so they weren’t with the guys who lived in the same dorm building (And he didn’t want anyone to find out Index lived with him, so they had needed a time delay).
“See, it’s the most delicious when you put a cassette stove on the table, put an oil-filled pot on that, and put the ingredients in the oil with breadcrumbs already on them. It can take a while to cook, but you can fill that time by eating other food until the croquettes are finished frying.”
“But doesn’t any food taste better right when it’s made?”
“Well, yeah, but…”
“Ah!? Then food is the best if I eat it all while you’re making it right in front of me!? Wh-what a discovery!!”
“Screw that!! You would deprive me of getting even a single bite of that delicious food!?”
Kamijou gave the same excellent objection anyone would, but Index and the three-colored cat did nothing but sulk and mew.
Kamijou was casually counterattacking by saying he didn’t feel much like cooking so they would only have frozen food for breakfast the next day when he saw a taxi stopped on the road they were heading along. Its yellow blinker was flashing, the back door was open, and the upper body of a woman who looked college-aged was sticking out onto the ground.
A middle-aged man who appeared to be the driver was arguing with the woman who was partially sprawled on the ground.
“I told you not to open the door and get out like that!”
“What’d you saaay!? Are you challenging the All-Japan Half-Open Door Alliance!”
“Yeah, yeah. I’m sure you’re the only member of that whatever alliance, so quit talking about it and please get back in your seat.”
“That’s it… Now I’m not getting back in no matter what. Heh hehhh…”
This conversation where both sides seemed to be talking about completely different things reached Kamijou’s ears.
(Wow. What a horrible customer!!)
Kamijou seriously began thinking about going down a different street.
It wasn’t the conversation that woman was enjoying; she was the kind of person that enjoyed having people look after her. If he got wrapped up in dealing with her, he would definitely continue getting wrapped up in trouble until she sobered up in the morning.
Since Kamijou was indelibly stained by misfortune already, he was the last person who should deal with someone like that.
“Hm?” The drunk woman said as she turned her head towards him.
Her lower body was still inside the taxi and her upper body was still on the ground.
“Ahh ahh ahhhh! It’s Kamijou-kun! It’s Kamijou-kun!!”
Kamijou shoulders gave a large jump.
(Why does she know my name!?)
Kamijou looked at the drunk again and realized it was Misaka Misuzu who he had met during the Daihaseisai. She was the mother of Mikoto, that electrified middle school girl.
“…Well, I guess this is about right for someone in her family.”
That was a rude thing to say, but, when Misuzu heard it, a relaxed smile appeared on her face.
“The earth sure has a lot of gravity, doesn’t iiit?”
“Misuzu-san doesn’t need anything ellllse. I’ll just go to sleep here. Nighty niiiight.”
That was followed by what really sounded like the breathing of someone asleep, so Kamijou was unsure if he should wake her or not.
But then Misuzu’s eyes suddenly opened.
“Oh, no. I haven’t done my stretches or taken off my makeup! Dammit. All this work I have to do to keep my skin healthy. I am a mother of a child after all!! Ugh, I’m gonna vomit!”
Kamijou swore to himself that he would never let Mikoto drink any alcohol.
It was against the law for minors to drink anyway.
Meanwhile, the taxi driver was looking towards Kamijou with sparkling eyes as if to say “I-I’m saved! Someone who knows this drunk has shown up!!”.
Also, Misuzu seemed to have changed her target from the driver to Kamijou and tried to get up while having her lower body inside the back of the taxi and her upper body sticking out onto the road.
“Oof, oof. I-I can’t get uuup…”
It seemed she couldn’t get up, but she was adding in a lot of unnecessary motion so she looked like a seal in an aquarium.
Kamijou didn’t want to approach her, but he couldn’t just leave her, so he carelessly approached. That was when Misuzu grabbed onto him with all her might.
“Yaaaay!! I got a young guuuuy!!”
If it had just been a hug, his heart would have been throbbing, but it seemed Misuzu didn’t slack off on exercising because a creaking noise started coming from the area of his backbone.
“Why was Misuzu-chan wandering around so laaate? Bwaaah…”
“Gwaah! You reek!?”
“Huuhh? You don’t find a mother who stinks of alcohol and has drunk eyes sexyyy?”
“None of those were positive traits!! H-help me, Index!!”
Kamijou called for help, but Index was staring at him with cold eyes and showed no sign of trying to help him. The cat in her arms must not have liked the smell of alcohol because it was struggling trying to get away.
Misuzu stared vacantly at Index.
“Heeey, who’s she? Introduction pleeease.”
“H-hmph. I see no reason to tell someone like you my name.”
“What was thaaat!? If you don’t introduce yourself, I’m gonna stick my fingers up this guy’s noooose!!”
“Wah wah!! Index! I’m Index!!”
And like that, the Misuzu Typhoon blew in getting the upper hand of even Index.
“Hey, heeey. Do you know where the Dangai University database center is?’
“Oh, you know…The storage facility that has a whole buncha information on programs dealing with AI and operational software…”
“N-no, you don’t have to describe the database center to me. Um, Dangai University is…”
“Oh, right! Let’s exchange phone numbers and email addresses!”
“That was sudden!”
“You’ve exchanged them with Mikoto-chan, riiight? I want in, too. My address is…”
Misuzu carefully lined up some numbers and letters of the alphabet. Mikoto had worked hard and set up a large plan which involved getting a new phone to accomplish this and her mother had done it in all of 3 minutes.
“Okay, okaaay. I’ve put your number in the ‘Friends’ category.”
“Why does talking with you remind me of Orsola’s conversational pattern…?”
Kamijou suddenly felt exhausted and finally managed to tear off Misuzu who had been holding him like a vise.
“Actually, why are you here? You wouldn’t have been able to get into Academy City without permission.”
“Yes, yeees. Misuzu-san is a college student, so I have to turn in a report. But the data for it is only in Academy City, so I had to come aaaallll the way here.”
“So that’s why you need to get to the database center… It’s not surprising this is the only place with a database on AI.”
It seemed the taxi driver was making his escape, but Kamijou glared at him to get him to stop.
“And I thought I’d go see Mikoto-chan while I was heeere. But apparently Tokiwadai’s girl’s dorm is strict so I couldn’t. You can’t treat parents like that!”
“…Well, no one’s going to believe some drunk who comes saying she’s the mother of a student there. And you don’t look like a mother at all.”
“Oh, this guy just casually complimented meee. But it’s not like that. I work haaaard to stay like this. I swim around in an indoor pool each week and put on a moisturizing cream after taking a bath. And if I slack off even a bit, it all falls apart. Kwaah! I hate you teenagers with perfect skin even though you don’t do anything!!”
Misuzu started acting violently, but the alcohol must have been taking even more effect because her footing seemed unstable. This was good because Kamijou was able to grab the taxi driver who was trying to escape again and had him help get Misuzu into the back of the taxi.
“Heeey! I’m not done yeeeet!!”
“Yeah, yeah. We can finish this conversation some other time when that alcohol’s had a chance to leave your system.”
“Dammit! You’re treating me like a child!!”
Misuzu tried to continue, but Kamijou waved his hand and the taxi driver drove off with a look on his face that said, “Is she really going to be able to pay me?”. Kamijou heard the sound of the car’s exhaust in the distance and sighed.
Kamijou suddenly felt the presence of someone seething with anger behind him and shuddered.
The source of this presence was of course the nun holding a three-colored cat.
“How am I going to get out of this one?”
Kamijou ended up having his head bitten magnificently and he unlocked the door of his dorm room while rubbing the back of his head.
“Nn…It’s a bit chilly in here.”
He turned on the lights in the room, grabbed the remote to the air conditioner, and turned it on. Index ran over to the TV and sat down while Kamijou headed for the unit bath and used the panel next to the tub to turn on the automatic hot water mode. Today was the day to wash the cat, so he prepared a wash basin.
(It’s nice not having to make dinner or wash the dishes…)
Kamijou raised his arms to stretch and left the bathroom. He was full, so all that was left was to soak in the tub, brush his teeth, and go to bed. It was just too nice. It tempted his heart towards eating out more often, but, according to the account data on the finance app on his phone, he’d have nothing to eat but water and salt for the second half of the month if he did that.
He had started to wonder how much the nabe had set him back and had started to operate his phone with his thumb when the phone suddenly started ringing.
When he changed the mode, he saw Misaka Mikoto’s number on the screen.
Kamijou hit the talk button.
“??? Do you need something, Misaka?”
“When are you going to reply to that email!?”
(Email?) Kamijou tilted his head to the side in confusion.
“Hmm, I can’t quite remember what you’re talking about…”
“!? How careless can you-…”
Mikoto was yelling something, but it sounded like her voice was becoming more distant and then the call suddenly ended. Kamijou looked at his phone’s screen, but he still had a strong signal.
(…Misaka must have lost her signal.)
Kamijou dismissed it and went back to the finance app.
He plopped down in front of the glass table in the center of the room.
“Index, you shouldn’t sit so close to the TV.”
“B-but the ‘Thinking Power-Increasing SF Health Quiz’ is reaching its climax!!”
“…There have been a lot of that kind of science and brain related quizzes lately, haven’t there?”
(Well, some of the stuff comes up in Academy City classes.)
Kamijou didn’t really care about the quiz show, so he looked over at the cat on its back basking in the heat of the air conditioner.
“Hm. If you’re not doing anything, I guess I’ll wash you first.”
He took out a bottle of animal shampoo and a mini-sponge shaped like a cat’s head, but the cat must have sensed something because it ran to hide in the kitchen as if to say, “I hate water and bubbles!!”. It was probably trembling in fear while hiding between the fridge and cupboard.
Now it was covered in dust so Kamijou was going to have to wash it even harder.
His phone started vibrating.
It wasn’t from Mikoto this time.
The small screen showed the number that had been newly recorded just a little earlier.
That was what that drunk woman collapsed in the road had said.
(…Is it just a coincidence? No.)
Accelerator walked alone down the dark road with his cane and thought.
The provider of Last Order’s genes was Misaka Mikoto…but that wasn’t her. So that must have been her older sister. If she was in Academy City, she may have been some kind of esper, but he hadn’t heard anything about that. But since he didn’t really care about others, he didn’t know very many details about other espers.
However, there was one thing he found odd.
(Her clothes. Elmo, Az, Scale, Losib, and her perfume is a new Zero Plus product…Wait, aren’t those all for teens? Well, she was still covered in brand name clothes and all from companies outside of Academy City. The fact that not a single thing came from here is odd.)
It was conceivable that someone would order an entire outfit from a brand they really, really liked, but that drunk’s clothes were all from different brands. The shirt, the slacks, the belt, the shoes, and the handbag were all different as if she had thrown a bunch of things she liked together. It didn’t look like she was particularly picky about the brands she wore.
But then one would expect for there to be at least one thing from within Academy City.
Since there weren’t any…
(It’s possible she came from outside.)
While he thought, Accelerator was purposefully choosing paths people rarely went down even though not many people were out at night.
(Then why is she here? She said something about needing to go to the Dangai University database center, but would they really let someone in for that while preparing for a war? They’re not only thoroughly checking the background of any guests, but they’re doing it to the delivery workers too. So does that woman have some other reason to be here?)
A reason for someone in the Misaka family to be here at this time.
It could very well have to do with the original, Misaka Mikoto. Or…
(…It could have to do with that kid.)
“Tch,” Accelerator clicked his tongue and pulled his cell phone out of his pocket.
He opened the address book and moved the cursor to the entry only labeled as “Entry 3” and pressed the call button.
It was the number of his fellow GROUP member Tsuchimikado Motoharu.
He put the phone to his ear and it connected without even ringing.
“Accelerator. Do you need something?”
A polite male voice answered. But Accelerator’s eyes widened when he heard it. It wasn’t Tsuchimikado Motoharu’s voice and the speech pattern was completely different.
(So they cut in on the call.)
“You bastard. I’m assuming you’re the guy in charge of GROUP.”
“I can answer any questions you might have.”
“Tch. …I’ve got nothing to ask you. I can handle my own problems. So quit commanding us like you’re our fucking guardian. You’re gonna get your eyes gouged out.”
“Oh, I see. Well, that’s too bad. There was a matter I was hoping I could inform you of if you weren’t busy.”
“It’s about Misaka Misuzu-sama. Although, I suppose you would need more than just a name.”
Accelerator looked around.
Nothing about the night-time street seemed out of the ordinary.
(Did someone give them the information or are they watching from a satellite…?)
“And who is this Misaka Misuzu? Is she related to Railgun?”
“Yes, she is. And this is perfect timing, things are just starting.”
With a boom, a sudden explosion lit up a certain part of the city with a red light.
It was fairly distant. The sound came a few seconds after the light.
Accelerator turned in that direction with the phone still pressed against his ear.
An unnatural light was flickering near the building-covered horizon.
“That Misaka Misuzu-sama applied for permission to use the Dangai University database center, so we have attacked it. She is the only one using it and a few private guards have been confirmed to be there, but, well, it’s within what we’re allowed to do. All of the main data is backed up over the network, so there is no need to worry about any losses there.”
“…Who is this Misaka? She isn’t some professional agent, is she?”
“As you may have guessed, Misaka Misuzu-sama is Miss Misaka Mikoto’s mother. Her background check was clean. So you need not worry about that.”
Accelerator recalled Misuzu’s face and a dubious expression appeared on his face.
But what bothered him more was…
“Why are you attacking her mother? And her background check was clean? What the hell are you doing?”
“An ordinary person can be dangerous in her own way. Now I’m getting to the heart of the matter I mentioned before that I wanted to inform you of.” The voice on the phone spoke quietly. “Do you know what a recovery exercise is?”
“It’s that thing that’s been happening a lot lately. Academy City might be becoming a battlefield, so parents are coming to take their kids somewhere safe.”
“That reasoning itself is nothing more than foolishness brought about by a complete lack of understanding of the situation of this country’s defenses, but it is still a problem. Having a great number of students leave Academy City is a problem for a number of reasons.”
Why was that a problem?
Did they not want to let go of the students who could fight a war for them?
Did they not want their research samples to be leaked outside of the city?
(That isn’t it.)
He was speaking with the person “above” GROUP. Someone like that wouldn’t have a normal opinion. If it was a problem for them, it had to be a problem relating to some deeper plan.
There were the various pieces of things behind the scenes he had caught a glimpse of on September 30th. Things like Kihara Amata, Hound Dog, that giant winged monster, the virus injected in Last Order, and that silent attack on Academy City.
“Misaka Misuzu-sama is a parent attempting to carry out a recovery exercise. We know that she is not intentionally causing a problem for us, but an accidental problem is still a problem. It has to be stopped here.”
That drunk’s face came to the surface of Accelerator’s mind for an instant.
She was an irritating woman, but that was no reason to drag her down into the world of darkness.
But it was too late.
The explosion had already occurred. Misaka Misuzu had most likely been blown to pieces in the first blast.
However, the voice over the phone spoke.
“You will join in too, Accelerator.”
“I’m saying you can earn quite a bit here. Skill Out was hired to take care of this, but…their performance is lacking. It had been concluded that bringing a problem like this to GROUP was too dangerous from an exposure point of view, but that thinking appears to have backfired. If you assist us here, your points will go up quite a bit. It will be the first step towards making up for the losses on September 30th. You want to pay back the around 8 trillion yen you owe as soon as possible, right?”
Accelerator thought about it.
If the person on the other end of the phone wasn’t screwing with him, Misaka Misuzu was still alive.
“No, thanks.” He responded. “Skill Out? You really want me to do odd jobs along with those Level 0 fuckers? And I don’t need to bow down to accommodate someone like you. I’m not here because of that debt.”
As he spoke, he checked the choker-style electrode on his neck.
He had had a bit of fun earlier, but the battery still had plenty of time left.
It was more than enough to take care of one little Skill Out group.
He was going to save Misaka Misuzu.
That was his natural decision. It was the same feeling he had had during the incident with Kihara Amata. A tiny life was in danger from an unreasonably large power. It almost made him laugh how unpleasant a feeling it was. It made him want to beat the shit out of the people who brought about the situation. It reminded him of when he had fought for Last Order.
Even though he was of the darkness.
“Someone like you may not understand, but my life is my own. I don’t give a fuck what you expect me to do. I decide what I do. I’m not your tool. Got it?”
“Is that so? If you aren’t going to do the job, then just come on home.” The voice on the phone sounded a bit discouraged. “I’ll take care of your power until you make it back.”
The electrode on his neck gave a strange beep.
Accelerator hurriedly put his hand up to the switch, but there was no reaction. There was nothing more than a clicking noise. He couldn’t switch between normal mode and powered mode.
“You put something in my electrode!!”
“Oh, is there something you need your powers for?”
“Tch,” he clicked his tongue.
In order for GROUP’s technical team to improve the battery, his choker-style electrode had been confiscated temporarily, but they must have messed with its internal workings in that time. The person over the phone most likely had a safety device that he could freely operate remotely.
Don’t trust us.
Accelerator now had an idea what Tsuchimikado Motoharu’s words from earlier that day had meant.
“If you have no more questions, I’ll be going. Good night, Accelerator.”
The connection ended.
“Hmph,” Accelerator made an uninterested noise.
(Excellent. Now I feel like doing this even more.)
There was a villainous look in his eyes.
Accelerator put his phone back in his pocket and gritted his teeth.
(…All I can use is my handgun and I have about 50 shots left. I have no idea what Skill Out has in regards to numbers or equipment, but I bet I can get that drunk out of there with this.)
It was a tricky situation, but at least it wasn’t as bad as when he had taken on Kihara Amata’s Hound Dog. Skill Out could take on a normal esper with weapons, but they hadn’t had professional training.
The biggest problem was Misuzu.
The attack was already underway. A group of Level 0’s – or rather, a group of delinquents equipped with weapons and self-defense items – would be enough of a threat for a normal person. It was possible she could even be killed before he got there.
For an instant, Komaba Ritoku’s face appeared in the back of his mind, but he ignored it.
He had no reason to be remembering a villain taking out-of-place actions.
He had made up his mind and he was going to charge in there.
That was all.
(Tch. I just need to get this pain-in-the-ass problem over with as soon as I can.)
The attack was taking place at Dangai University’s database center.
It was a few kilometers away. As he used a cane, he had no choice but to find a vehicle somewhere. As he headed for a major road…
The back of a certain boy dashed by Accelerator.
He recognized the boy.
In fact, there was no way he could ever forget him.
He had a medium build and black spiky hair and was clenching his right fist. He was talking with someone on his cell phone while heading toward the blazing site of the attack. It was obvious what he was going there to do. It would have been harder to not figure it out.
Either Accelerator was in the shadows or that boy was completely focused on the database center, because he didn’t seem to notice Accelerator at all. If they had run into each other there, they probably would have gotten into a fight to the death. That was how strong an opponent he was.
Accelerator shook his head trying to refocus.
(Tch. This isn’t the time for that. I need to destroy Skill Out here. I don’t give a fuck what those people “above” want. I have no duty to do what they say. I just need to think about how I can solve this with only 50 bullets.)
He gritted his teeth and started walking with his cane.
Misaka Mikoto’s mother.
He had no reason to interfere with her life, but she still had a connection with that kid. A Radio Noise clone had no physical parents and Misuzu probably didn’t even know about that small life that had been created, but there was still a connection between her and that kid.
The two would most likely never meet (it would be a problem if they did), but that didn’t mean he should just let her die. That connection was probably something that mustn’t be lost here even if neither of them would ever know about the other.
Accelerator was a villain.
However, he did not put restrictions on himself because he was a villain. He threw away the preconceived notions that an evil person could not save a good person or those who were not good people couldn’t advance along the righteous path.
Academy City’s strongest esper came out to a major road, stared at the headlights of a taxi wandering around looking for drunk customers, and gave a thin smile.
(I’m not going to be doing out of character things with a serious look on my face. I’ll save her in the way that’s furthest from what one would call “saving”. There’s going to be blood everywhere.)
A bit earlier, Misaka Misuzu was in the database center.
The center had a 50 meter dome-shaped building at its center and a number of rectangular structures around that. At first, Misuzu was in the domed building looking something up on a computer, but she was currently in one of the adjoining buildings.
This was because something unusual had happened.
First, there was an explosion so loud she thought her eardrums were going to burst. Next, all of the lights in the facility went out. There was auxiliary power to preserve the data, but only the computers were still functioning.
(Wh-what? What’s going on?)
Misuzu was keeping her breathing quiet in a space about the size of 3 school classrooms in one of the buildings next to the domed facility. She was not happy.
It felt like her good mood from the alcohol had been blown away.
There had been a rather large fire along with the explosion, but it seemed to have been put out right away. On the other side of the wall – that is, inside the main domed structure – people were coming and going and the situation seemed to be quite irregular even for the ones who had caused the explosion.
“Shit, who forgot to cut off the security!? God damn it. We were supposed to get out of here after the first blast!!”
“What time is it!? If the automatic report was sent in, we’ve only got 5 minutes!”
“No, it’s just the independently deployed security to protect the computers that’s up. The normal security was taken out.”
“So it’s just the fire alarm, huh? Well, we still don’t have time. Okay, let’s find that woman.”
Voices like that were flying back and forth.
From the sound of the voices and the manner of speaking, they must have been boys in middle or high school. There were somewhere from 10 to 20 of them. She didn’t know any details about what they had, but the clattering of metal was enough to make her cringe in fear. Since they had caused an explosion, they probably had guns and bombs.
(Woman. They’re going to find a woman? W-was there anyone here but me?)
She had a feeling that she had been the only one using the facility at this time of day and that the guards had all been men. And from the way they were speaking, they weren’t here to rob the place or to destroy it; they were here for “that woman”.
(No. It has to be me. I’m the only woman here! What’s going on!?)
Misuzu leaned back against the wall and slid to the floor.
The room seemed to store the substitute processors; it was lined with metal shelves almost like a library. But instead of thick books, the shelves had a large number of motherboards in clear cases on them. The CPU’s were liquid-cooled instead of air-cooled, so there was no sound of fans. Instead, blood vessel-like tubes were running all over the room.
In the room darkened due to the fluorescent lights being out, the red and green access lights flickered.
(Th-the exit. Where’s the emergency exit…?)
She looked around, but couldn’t find a door that looked like an emergency exit.
She couldn’t run away. Misuzu accepted the fact that it was all over if she was found and felt a bit excited. Perhaps her drunkenness had come back in an odd way, because it was a strange feeling. It was like the uplifting feeling one felt just before a marathon. She had thought her drunkenness had been knocked out of her, but there was some left. In this situation, it would be best if she was fully sober, but it wasn’t so easy to switch over.
(What’s going on…?)
Misuzu pulled her cell phone from her pocket.
There was a 3 digit number in the most recent entry of her call history. It was the emergency number for the city’s keepers of the peace, Anti-Skill. She remembered having called even in her drunkenness. She had called just after the attack and a man with a polite manner of speaking had answered. The boys strutting about the main domed facility were afraid of an automatic report, but Misuzu had put in her own report. It had been a few minutes since then, so Anti-Skill should be showing up before long.
But for some reason there was no sign of them coming.
Misuzu stared down at the call history.
The number there was correct. She was sure she had properly contacted the Anti-Skill station. But no one was coming. Anxiety crept into her heart. Was that really Anti-Skill? Who had that oddly polite man been?
(Why? Why won’t they come!? I called. I did everything right! So why does this have to go badly for me!?)
The trembling in her fingertips increased.
Her fear had been diffused by her drunkenness, but it finally reached her core.
It was all over if she made the slightest noise and yet she wanted to forget it all and scream.
(I can’t do this alone. I can’t do this alone. I’m cornered all alone. A conversation. I don’t care what about. I don’t care who with. I just need to get this out before it explodes out on its own.)
She opened her phone’s address book.
For someone reason her husband’s face didn’t come to mind at a time like this. She could call some third party outside of Academy City and get them to report this to the police, but for the most part Academy City had extraterritoriality, so the police couldn’t intervene. (Technically, they had their own “regulations” not their own “laws”, but most people viewed that as really nothing more than a method Japan used to keep its pride as a nation.) Because of this, she had to contact someone inside the city.
But she hesitated to call her own daughter. That was most likely due to the last of her pride as a mother. If she showed weakness to her daughter here, she would probably never be able to name herself as the parent again.
She needed someone within Academy City she could contact right away.
And it had to be someone other than her daughter.
Only one person fit those criteria.
Misaka Misuzu operated her cell phone with her thumb.
In order to at least slightly relieve the great pressure in her heart that felt like it was crushing her, she called a certain boy.
When all students were supposed to be back from school, the trains and busses in Academy City stopped.
So Kamijou had no choice but to run down the dark streets. He started seriously thinking about getting a scooter license as he intently ran towards the Dangai University database center.
At the same time, he practically yelled into the cell phone pressed to his ear.
“Misaka-san. You said they have weapons, right? They’re probably a Skill Out group. If it was a group of normal espers, they would rely only on their powers!”
“I’ve never heard of this Skill Out.”
“Basically, they’re an armed gang. Think of them as a group of delinquents with dangerous weapons!”
He could finally see the silhouette of the facility.
As he ran, Kamijou realized that the flames he had originally seen were gone. Just as Misuzu had told him, the database center’s automatic firefighting system was functioning.
“Why are those delinquents targeting me?”
“I don’t know!”
Kamijou thought it might have something to do with Mikoto…but then he realized something.
“Misaka-san, have you called your daughter?”
“She’s one of the only seven Level 5’s in Academy City! She’d be a lot more help than Anti-Skill! If you haven’t called her yet, you-…”
“Wait!!” Misuzu interrupted him with more force than she’d spoken with up to that point. “I won’t call Mikoto-chan! I don’t care if she would be helpful here. If I got her wrapped up in my own problem, I could never look her in the eye again!!”
Normally, Kamijou would have felt that that was just an optimistic view.
It sounded like the kind of argument one would give while reading the newspaper.
But Misuzu’s life was actually being targeted.
And yet she still immediately refused to have Mikoto brought into the picture.
Kamijou clenched his phone as he ran.
“In that case, I’ll go. You’re hiding in the “Substitute Processor Storage Room”, right!?”
“Eh? Wait…I didn’t ask you to-…!!”
(That’s enough out of you,) Kamijou thought.
He was right in front of the database center.
The facility was adjacent to Dangai University, but the database center was about two sizes bigger than the university itself. He could hear sporadic gunshots and sounds of destruction coming from within the domed silhouette. Perhaps due to the initial explosion, there were a number of people gathered looking on. And yet there was almost no Anti-Skill presence. They may have feared a sniper, because they were calling for backup while hiding behind their vehicle. But there must have been some kind of trouble, because there was an argument going on between the Anti-Skill members.
Kamijou ran past them and towards the facility.
The Anti-Skill members called for him to stop, but he paid them no heed.
(I’ve fought members of Skill Out a few times in back alleys, but…)
One stroke of good luck in this bad situation was that the search inside the building left Skill Out’s focus on the outside lacking. This meant he wasn’t going to get shot at while heading through the plaza that had no cover.
(Basically, I’ve only ever run away or hidden around a corner and counterattacked. This may be the first time I’ve gone in on the attack like this!!)
He entered through the main entrance that had had all its glass broken out and complained to himself about how much the situation sucked.
Hamazura Shiage was pissed.
The original plan had been to approach the facility in a vehicle stolen under the cover of darkness, fire 8 of their handmade incendiary rockets, and run off. They had a rough sketch of the facility so they had known where to shoot their rockets in order to block off all the exits and have a good chance to fill the area with smoke.
The first failure had been that 3 of the 8 rockets had misfired.
And then the other 5 had been easily extinguished by the database center’s automatic firefighting system shortly after igniting. The explosion had screwed up the structure of the building, but not enough to utterly destroy the building as if the outer walls had been made of soap bubbles. Since they hadn’t been able to use their primary weapons of fire and smoke, the target was probably still alive.
Because of this, Hamazura and the others couldn’t leave. They had to kill the target themselves.
“Have you still not found that woman?”
Their client had only given them a photo of her face and the only real fact about her they knew was her name. If she managed to get out of the facility, hid the characteristic aspects of her face with sunglasses and a wool hat, and mixed in with the crowd, they would have no way of searching for her. They had to take her out here. But…
“I asked you if you’d found her yet! God damn!!” He yelled in a throaty voice, but his equals in Skill Out only glanced over at him and started searching again without opening their mouths.
That was right, his equals in Skill Out.
A few hours before, their leader had been a man named Komaba Ritoku. As Komaba had disappeared, Hamazura had ended up in that top seat, but the new balance of power hadn’t really sunk in yet. And he mostly had an atmosphere of dissatisfaction about the whole thing. After all, whenever the entire organization screwed up, the blame was shoved onto him.
The difference between Komaba Ritoku and Hamazura Shiage was clear. Komaba was the kind of person who naturally stood at the center, where all that Hamazura did was push jobs he didn’t want to do on others. So no matter how easy a job it was, he couldn’t shake an out-of-place feeling inside of him and he made the others feel uncomfortable.
Hamazura was pissed because he knew that.
It made him feel like not being able to find the target, not being able control this search properly, and everything else was due to the others betraying him and tripping him up.
He touched the piercing on his nose with a fingertip while looking pissed off. He had gotten it pierced just the month before, but it wasn’t doing well. The slightest touch screwed with his concentration and sweat collected there.
“…We’re fucked. We’re totally fucked. Damn it, Komaba. You come up with this grand plan and then go off and die. What are we supposed to do now…?”
A number of boys gathered in front of a door.
It seemed they had found a room they hadn’t searched yet. For the most part, there were no doors in the facility that locked. When the boys entered, a woman’s scream came from within.
It looked like they’d found her.
None of them were using radios, so Hamazura had to give his instructions to the others who were searching himself. He felt more like he was doing odd jobs than being the leader. He headed for the room a bit later than the initial group.
“This is the central dome. The target has been found in the Substitute Processor Storage Room. We’ll take care of her here, so you prepare to withdraw. Bring the vehicle around.”
He expected some half-hearted reply as opposed to something like “Yes, sir!”, but…
“Gah!? Hey, you! Wai-…Ksshhshshhshshhh!!”
He didn’t know what to make of the words and the horrible static hurt his ears.
And then he heard 2 gunshots from somewhere in the facility.
(Anti-Skill? Tch. We took too long!)
Hamazura watched the target being dragged from the room by the back of her neck and thought about what orders to give over the radio.
“Heeeellllloooo, you fuckers.”
Hamazura’s shoulders suddenly twitched.
Even with the horrible sound quality of the radio, he could tell. This clearly wasn’t one of his comrades. He could tell because a voice that sounded like metal being rubbed together wasn’t something you heard every day. And whoever it was wasn’t trying to disguise their voice in the slightest.
“Listen up all of you. I’m going to be giving you a nice day trip to heaven. Oh, and it’s quite a nice one, too. You’ll probably like it so much you’ll never want to come back. I suppose I’ll start by giving you a nice near-death experience.”
After speaking, the radio cut off.
A succession of gunshots pierced Hamazura’s ears.
Kamijou Touma had his back pressed up against a corner of the passageway.
He was holding the rectangular piece of bulletproof glass that had been taken out of a window frame in his hands. The heavy piece of glass weighed somewhere between 7 and 10 kg and was about a meter across.
He had found it inside the facility, so its bulletproof functionality probably wasn’t that great. After all, the glass in the main entrance would be the strongest and it had all been broken in the attack.
Nevertheless, it was better than nothing.
It wasn’t unusual for Skill Out to be armed with handguns.
He felt that was at least safer than going in after sticking manga magazines down his shirt.
A man holding a stun gun was collapsed unconscious at his feet. He had hidden until the man got near and swung the bulletproof glass so the stainless steel frame hit the man on the bridge of the nose. The man had fallen backwards like he had slipped on a banana peel and ceased moving.
Kamijou had already taken out four Skill Out members in that fashion.
If he was going to fight with enemies who had weapons, the rule he had to follow was to not even give them a chance to attack. If they both had time to prepare, he had already lost. But if he could keep them from using their weapons, he didn’t have to fear their weapons. Whether it was a knife or a handgun they were using, that remained the same.
(If they were moving in groups of 2 or 3 this tactic wouldn’t work. Thank god they’re idiots. Every single one of them is wandering around on his own. Someone needs to teach them how to use their numbers effectively.)
He picked up the stun gun.
He was making sure to take the weapons away from the Skill Out members he defeated, but that was more to make sure they couldn’t use them again than to arm himself.
Either way, he couldn’t exactly use other weapons while holding the bulletproof glass in both hands.
“Now then…Where’s the Substitute Processor Storage Room?” Kamijou mumbled while picking the giant piece of glass back up.
The center of the database center was the main domed facility and there were small 2 or 3 story adjoining buildings around that.
Skill Out was clearly gathering in the main facility, so Kamijou was using the passages linking the smaller outer buildings to circle around.
There were some buildings that only connected to the domed facility, but Kamijou hadn’t come to a dead end yet. He started heading for the next building thinking he would try to go all the way around using the linking passages.
He heard gunshots.
For an instant a chill ran down his spine and he thought he had been too late, but this sounded more like the kind of disturbance that came after poking at a bee hive. Misuzu didn’t have a gun of course. So it must have been someone else returning fire.
(Is it Anti-Skill? Or is there fighting between different Skill Out members? Well, whatever it is, this is my chance!!)
Every time Kamijou came to a corner, he would carefully check around it and only move to the next building when he had made sure no one was there.
But before long he came to a dead end.
More accurately, he came to a point where the only path led to the main domed facility.
(Agh. I had a feeling it was going to come to this! Well, I can’t just stop here!)
He ran along the passage and approached the door leading to the central dome.
He held his breath, stretched out his hand, hesitated, and then slowly touched the doorknob.
With the delicacy of someone defusing a bomb, he slowly turned the knob. He heard the small click as the latch moved. A thin line appeared between the door and the door frame.
He peeked inside.
A great number of business desks with computers on them were aligned in concentric circles like tree rings. The facility’s lights were out, but there was a dim light covering the room so the monitors must have been working.
Four or five boys were gathered on one side of the domed building.
And a woman who appeared to be Misaka Misuzu was being forced to sit in the middle of them.
They were about 10 meters away, but the boys must have been fairly high up in the Skill Out ranks because they were all armed with handguns. If he carelessly approached them, he would be turned to Swiss cheese.
(…This situation is almost laughably hopeless. How am I supposed to save her like this!?)
The boys appeared to be arguing. Apparently, there was a disagreement over how to deal with the firefight that had started. One side wanted to just kill Misuzu and get the hell out of there and the other side wanted to use her as a hostage.
The pro-killing side kept pushing their guns against Misuzu’s head and the pro-hostage side kept pushing them away from her. At this rate, they could end up accidentally pulling the trigger and killing her without meaning to.
“Damn it…” Kamijou muttered and stepped back from the door.
(There are 4 or 5 of them. All of them have guns. I can’t just yell and run in there.)
He checked the weapons he had taken from the Skill Out members he had defeated.
He had a stun gun, a baton, and a long-range pesticide sprayer that could be used similarly to pepper spray. None of them were going to be much help here.
(This bulletproof glass takes both hands to carry. I have to choose between a weapon or a shield here…)
Kamijou looked back over at the giant piece of bulletproof glass.
(No, I can’t get rid of the glass. I can’t take out someone armed with a gun in one blow using a stun gun or pesticide. And after the first shot, they’re sure to counterattack.)
This meant he had no choice but to go into that domed area with the bulletproof glass.
Kamijou used his palms that were damp with sweat to grab the glass again. He then approached the metal door and slightly opened it again.
The situation hadn’t changed.
The 4 or 5 boys were arguing while surrounding Misuzu.
They were about 10 meters away, but rows of computer-covered desks were blocking the way.
He couldn’t get to them in a straight line.
(That’s pretty far away.)
But Kamijou noticed a dirty bag set down near the entrance he was standing in. It had been carelessly left on the ground right next to one of the business desks. It most likely belonged to one of the Skill Out members. The zipper was open and spray can-like object and a handgun were sticking out.
Kamijou swallowed some saliva.
The bag was about 3 meters away, so he couldn’t just reach out to it. To grab the gun inside, he would have to open the door farther and slip into the domed area.
(Can I make it?)
The facility’s power was out.
The only light was the faint glow from the computers that were powered by the emergency power. He could barely see his own feet.
And the floor was covered in a thin carpet.
He couldn’t exactly approach Misuzu and get her away without being noticed.
But if he only had to make it 3 meters…
He didn’t know if he could actually shoot the thing, but he wanted to get that handgun.
He didn’t have to make it all the way to Misuzu who was the center of attention.
He just had to make it 3 meters without being noticed.
(…I have to do it.)
Kamijou adjusted his grip on the bulletproof glass.
(I have no idea how to use a gun, but I should be able to at least threaten them if I have the same type of weapon they do. And I have this bulletproof glass. If things get bad, I have the advantage.)
Kamijou forced himself to find any little thing to be optimistic about, brought strength into his shaking legs, and placed his palm on the slightly opened steel door.
He slowly pushed forward.
The Skill Out members showed no sign of noticing the slight movement of the door. Kamijou knelt down and headed into the domed area. He moved very slowly. The bag with the handgun in it was a mere 3 meters away, but it felt terribly far.
And then Kamijou’s eyes met with Misuzu’s 10 meters away.
The very second she let out that noise without thinking, the Skill Out members all looked his way.
Kamijou forcefully jumped under a nearby desk.
(That stupid woman!!)
He was trembling in fear and in real trouble. He may have hidden before they saw him, but they had clearly noticed the door standing open unnaturally.
He could tell someone was coming his way.
From under the desk, Kamijou couldn’t tell who was coming or how they were armed.
He could only hear the person’s footsteps approaching.
The space between footsteps wasn’t uniform. As the floor was a thin carpet, it was possible the person was stopping to check for footprints left on the carpet as he approached. Kamijou wasn’t sure if you could actually see the carpet clearly enough for that in the dark, but it was all over if this person could.
(Where’s that handgun!?)
Kamijou looked around the area while hiding, but the bag was on the other side of the narrow pathway made from the gaps between desks. He could probably reach it if he stretched out his arm, but he’d be found right away if he did.
Imagine Breaker would have no effect on their handguns.
He could feel a cold sweat covering his back.
If felt like his heartbeat was all he could hear.
He felt like his teeth were about ready to start chattering together from his trembling.
He was so tense that, the more he tried to silence his breathing, the more erratic it became.
He could hear the footsteps approaching from an area he couldn’t see.
(I have to do it. If I just stay curled up here, I’ll be found for sure. So I have to do it! I just need one blow. If I can get him to flinch back from that, I can pull this off. After that, I should be able to jump over to the bag with the handgun in it and counterattack before he can recover!!)
A large foot stepped down right next to Kamijou as he was kneeling down.
He couldn’t wait any longer.
If he did, his opponent would get the first attack.
Kamijou inhaled deeply and sprang up from his position under the business desk. Along with his sudden rise, he swung the bulletproof glass to the side.
A large man with a nose piercing looked at him in shock.
An instant later, the man’s face disappeared from Kamijou’s field of vision. With a dull noise, the Skill Out man’s body was knocked to the ground. The metal piercing must have ripped from his flesh, because it stayed oddly in the air just a bit longer.
But Kamijou was far from happy.
The bag with the handgun was right next to him, but he had forgotten to reach over to grab it.
And a boy with an oddly pale face was standing only a meter away from him.
(Two of them came looking for me!?)
Kamijou’s body stiffened, but it seemed his opponent’s did too. The student may have had a handgun, but he had no training or experience. He couldn’t hide his shock at seeing his colleague suddenly taken out.
Kamijou heard a small metallic noise.
It was the sound of the nose piercing finally hitting the ground.
Kamijou and the pale boy both started moving, but something else happened first.
One of the men standing next to Misuzu aimed his gun at Kamijou. He must have brought up the handgun’s hammer, because there was a sharp metallic noise. There were two of them next to Misuzu and one, a man with small chains wrapped around his arms and legs, held his gun with shaking hands. The other, a boy with numerous cuts in his shirt and pants, tried to stop the first, but the trigger had been pulled before he could.
“You’ve gotta be kidding meee!!”
Kamijou hadn’t yelled that; it was the pale boy next to him.
However, there were numerous gunshots.
The thunderous roar and shockwaves from the shots made a tremendous noise.
Pain shot up Kamijou’s wrists as he held the bulletproof glass. They hadn’t been hit by the bullets; that was just from the shock being applied to the glass being transferred to his bones.
Meanwhile, the pale boy near Kamijou was knocked to the floor as if he had been hit by a hammer. When he noticed a dark red liquid coming from the boy’s side, Kamijou gritted his teeth, but there was nothing he could do about it now.
He wasn’t sure if he should take cover behind something again, but…
(Shit! I have to put a stop to that…!!)
He kept the bulletproof glass in front of him and ran towards Misuzu…or rather, towards the two Skill Out members standing next to her.
They were about 10 meters away.
Kamijou ran between the lines of desks.
But the next round of shooting came.
The bullets hit the glass, but it was enough to almost knock Kamijou to the ground. He just barely managed to regain his balance, but more bullets hit the glass and his hands slipped from the frame around the glass.
The large window fell to the ground with a metallic noise.
He didn’t have time to pick it back up.
He moved his gaze up from his hands that were covered in sweat due to pain and tension and saw two gun barrels staring back at him. This time it wasn’t just the man covered in chains; the one with the sliced-up pants didn’t hesitate either.
They were only 5 meters away.
Even with the fluorescent lights out, Kamijou could see the expressions on the Skill Out members’ faces. He could tell one of them had sweat dripping from his nose to his lips. The trembling gun sight, the index finger moving like a rusted puppet, and everything else in that instant that seemed devoid of all sound was burned into Kamijou’s retinas.
Finally, Kamijou saw Misuzu’s face at the edge of his vision.
She was sitting on the floor while yelling something in shock.
Her lips were moving, but her words didn’t make it into Kamijou’s head.
He couldn’t move at all and it felt like time had stopped…
But then a high-pitched gunshot rang out.
Sound returned to normal.
In that instant, Kamijou seriously thought his heart had stopped.
But there was no 9mm hole in his body. He could tell that one of the two aiming at him, the one with the chains wrapped around his arms and legs, had been blown to the side. A dark red trail of blood followed him and he fell to the floor with no resistance.
Kamijou could hear Misuzu’s meaningless scream.
The boy with the sliced-up pants turned his gaze to the side.
He turned in the direction of a different entrance from the one Kamijou had come in from.
Someone had shot the Skill Out member from there.
“Y-you bastard!!” yelled the boy with the sliced-up pants as he held his handgun.
The feeling of paralysis finally left Kamijou.
Now that his freedom had come back to him like a rope hardened with glue being bent to regain its pliability, he immediately hid below one of the business desks.
Staying there, he yelled to Misuzu who was sitting in shock a few meters away.
“Get behind cover!!”
And yet Misuzu continued to sit in shock and showed no sign of moving.
“Misaka-san, get behind cover!!”
A number of gunshots drowned out Kamijou’s voice.
He didn’t know who had started this firefight, but a stray bullet could easily hit Misuzu like this.
While hiding behind the business desk, Kamijou inhaled slightly.
(Can I do this…? Damn it. I have no choice but to go out in that!!)
He jumped out while still kneeling down low.
He ran 5 meters, and ran into Misuzu so as to cover her up while pushing her to the ground.
The gunshots continued.
“We’re getting out of here…”
There was no point in helping to bring this battle to an end.
Kamijou grabbed Misuzu’s arm and ran towards an exit to the domed area as quickly as he could.
When Accelerator entered the main domed facility, he started by shooting everyone holding a gun. First, he aimed his gun at one of the two men standing near Misuzu, a man with chains wrapped around his arms and legs, and casually pulled the trigger.
A dry gunshot rang out.
Seeing the man being blown to the side with blood spewing from his body, Misuzu gave a short scream.
Humans were quite inconvenient.
No matter how big they got, a mere 9mm hole could take them out.
“Y-you bastard!!” the remaining Skill Out member yelled and aimed his gun towards Accelerator.
However, he hid behind the steel door, let a few bullets come, and then sprayed back some bullets of his own.
The man who had cuts in his shirt and pants hid behind a desk, but Accelerator silenced him by shooting straight through the desk.
(Now then…The only Skill Out member left is…)
Accelerator aimed and fired towards a dark figure that was dragging Misuzu by the arm towards one of the doors.
He heard a loud yell, but the bullets passed a bit to the side of the figure. Accelerator must have been worried about hitting Misuzu as she was next to the target. His aim had clearly been lacking.
In order to escape Accelerator’s aim, the figure continued running along with Misuzu. Apparently, raising his hands above his heads and stopping never even occurred to the guy.
“Tch,” Accelerator clicked his tongue. “Heh, now this is interesting… You’ve got guts to not give up on your job after all this.”
A smile sliced its way across Accelerator’s mouth and he aimed after adjusting his grip on his handgun.
“You’re just a fucking failure! I might as well scrap you here!!
“Shut up, you asshole! What did Misuzu-san do!? You Skill Out bastards just targeted an innocent woman and then started fighting amongst yourselves!! Just kill yourselves off and don’t bother us!!”
Accelerator heard a whining voice, but he concentrated on pulling the trigger instead of listening to it. But Misuzu’s back was in the way so he couldn’t fire.
And then the two had reached a different exit to the building.
Accelerator scratched his temple with the barrel of his gun.
(…Wait? You Skill Out bastards?)
He thought about the words he had just heard.
(Did he think I was one of them? So he wasn’t one of them? I thought Misaka Misuzu was the only person that was supposed to be using this facility… Was he part of Judgement?)
It also bothered him that the guy hadn’t returned fire with a gun. Also, his movements hadn’t seemed like those of someone who had gone through Anti-Skill or Judgement training.
(It’s also odd that he knew Misaka Misuzu’s name… Well, I guess it wasn’t necessarily someone that knew her. Skill Out may have been told the name of their target.)
For some reason, Accelerator fired his gun after them a few times and then headed further into the domed facility.
He decided to chase after Misuzu and the figure that had run off with her.
He didn’t know who that guy was, but, even if the guy was with Skill Out, he probably wasn’t going to kill her before he got to a safe place judging from the fact that he hadn’t just shot her and ran off. And since no counterattack came when Accelerator entered the domed facility, he really must not have had a gun.
(I just have to catch him and finish this before he gets off of the database center grounds.)
After deciding on that, he heard a number of footsteps approaching from a number of different directions.
They must have heard the firefight.
It looked like he wasn’t going to be able to continue on easily.
(I need to fall back and take them out from there. These business desks won’t block bullets.)
Looking for a place to fight, Accelerator looked around the area, but then his head suddenly stopped.
There were 3 pieces of trash collapsed in the domed area.
And yet there were 4 handguns on the floor.
Kamijou and Misuzu left the main domed facility and headed to one of the smaller rectangular buildings via one of the linking passageways. They managed to get outside through an emergency exit there.
There had been onlookers gathered at the main entrance, but no one was out by this back entrance.
Kamijou spoke while still pulling on Misuzu’s hand.
“We should find somewhere with a lot of people. There are onlookers and Anti-Skill out front, so we should be safe if we circle around to there.”
“Sigh. Why are boys always like this? I end up relying on you from the very beginning to the very end. As a parent, I’m supposed to be the guardian.”
Misuzu seemed a bit down, but it would have been hard not to be given what had happened. Kamijou certainly didn’t want to have to do all that again.
Because of this, he decided to urge her forward rather than criticizing her.
“Hurry. We managed to get outside, but there are still some of them left. If we get attacked again here, it’s back to square one.”
“I know, I know. Please just hold my hand and escort me.”
Hearing that, Kamijou suddenly became embarrassed. He started to let go of her hand, but Misuzu strengthened her grip.
It looked like she was teasing him, but she might have actually been afraid.
Kamijou continued to walk through the database center grounds.
The dome was about 50 meters in diameter and, even with the surrounding buildings, it wasn’t that big. It would only take a few minutes to walk around to the main entrance. The most dangerous part was getting out of the building, so he felt safer than his words had let on. Unless they were up against people who would kill the onlookers along with them, Skill Out would give up on their own once the two of them made it to the main entrance.
A figure was standing blocking the path to the main entrance.
It was the guy Kamijou had hit with the bulletproof glass back in the dome. He must have come to shortly afterwards. Because his nose piercing had been ripped out, he had some dark red blood on him. He hadn’t really had a chance, but Kamijou really should have tied him up after knocking him out.
“Don’t move… Who the hell are you? Why did you have to show up at a time like this? Was that job a fake? Were we set up?”
Kamijou frowned at those words.
“What the hell kind of question is that? You know full well what I’m talking about. Komaba was killed forcing me to take command in his place. I had to clean up for him. I had no choice but to make it up to ‘them’ to keep us from being wiped out in the operation to take back control of the back alleys. …Shit. You were planning on using us and taking us out afterwards this whole time, weren’t you!!”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Kamijou tried to sort out the fragments of ideas this man was saying and responded.
“I came here because she called me. I don’t know what you’re imagining, but this isn’t that complicated.”
After hearing that, the man’s mouth fell open.
Then he gave a small laugh.
The laugh held no amusement at all.
“So that’s what happened? We’re all done for here. We’re all going to get taken in by Anti-Skill and the guy at the center of it doesn’t even know what’s going on? My life, the life of Hamazura Shiage, is about to end. This is the finale... I thought I had at least gotten wrapped up in some conspiracy or been dealing with some genius tactician, but I wasn’t even being tricked? Ha ha ha. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!”
As he spoke, the man naming himself Hamazura brought his right hand behind his back.
He pulled out a retractable baton that must have been tucked into his belt and forcefully swung it out to full length.
“I can’t fucking stand it. I just need to beat someone to death.”
Hamazura headed straight towards them.
Kamijou pushed Misuzu to the side.
He was one beat slow because of that and heard something slicing through the air. It sounded like a tennis racket being swung and it was, of course, the sound of the baton.
He immediately lifted up his left arm to protect his face.
The blow was aimed for his temple and it hit the bottom of his wrist with a dull noise.
A disconcerting groaning vibration went through his bones.
As Kamijou’s face twisted in pain, Hamazura jabbed his knee into Kamijou’s gut.
A loud noise like a drum being hit could be heard.
Air escaped Kamijou’s mouth.
The shock caused the objects stuck into his belt to fall to the ground. These objects were the stun gun, the baton, etc. that he had taken from the Skill Out members he had defeated.
(Damn it. Imagine Breaker is no help against a Level 0!!)
Kamijou gritted his teeth and quickly leaned over to pick the stun gun up from the damp ground. But…
“Did you really think I’d let you do that?”
Hamazura stomped full force on Kamijou’s hand as he grabbed the weapon.
There wasn’t enough time to just sit there feeling the dull pain.
“I know better than anyone how to use this kind of thing!!”
An unpleasant noise rang out.
While standing on Kamijou’s hand, Hamazura had used his other leg to kick Kamijou in the jaw.
Kamijou’s consciousness wavered.
At the very least, he hadn’t bitten his tongue.
Kamijou’s body arced backwards and he fell to the ground on his back. Misuzu gave a small scream, but no one was paying any attention to her. Kamijou grabbed some dirt from the ground and threw it at Hamazura’s face.
Hamazura protected his face with one hand so he wasn’t blinded, but he still flinched and took a step back.
Kamijou quickly got up to a half-risen posture and tackled Hamazura square in the gut. A loud noise like a door being smashed in came from somewhere near Kamijou’s shoulder.
Hamazura’s legs slid along the ground.
Even so, he did not fall backwards.
“Sorry, but I’m a Level 0,” came a whispering voice next to Kamijou’s ear.
Hamazura spoke at point-blank range while Kamijou almost looked like he was embracing him.
“To deal with espers in the back alleys, you need to build up a strong body. It’s fucking stupid really. We do the same thing as athletes, but no one praises us for it!!”
As he spoke, he slammed the bottom of his baton into Kamijou’s neck.
A sharp pain unlike any in the fight so far ran along Kamijou’s back bone.
He groaned and Hamazura brought the baton down 2 or 3 more times. Kamijou was swaying and about to fall when Hamazura grabbed his collar with his free hand.
He laughed at point-blank range.
“I see, I see. If you aren’t with ‘them’, then the deal with them is still good. So if I take the target over there’s dead body to them, they might still shelter us. Ha ha ha!!”
However, those words might have been a mistake.
A definite power could be seen in the light in Kamijou’s eyes.
“Try saying that again, dammit!!” Kamijou yelled from his bottom of his gut and aimed for the area between Hamazura’s chin and lower lip with his forehead. With a sound like a flower pot that had been dropped from somewhere high up, Hamazura’s neck bent backwards.
Kamijou then slammed his clenched fist into the top of Hamazura’s nose.
Hamazura’s body arced backwards and fell to the ground.
Hamazura rolled on the ground holding his nose and Kamijou tried to kick him. But the damage he had taken must have affected him more than he had thought, because his footing faltered.
“Shit…You have a sloppy way of fighting.”
Hamazura had managed to stand back up.
The previous head butt must have knocked one of his front teeth crooked, because his lips were stained red.
“Enough with the pointless resistance. Just hand over that woman’s body already. That’s the deal. Since Komaba failed, we have nothing left. We have to finish this job…”
Despite all his aggression, his words were oddly frail.
Kamijou frowned, but then figured it out.
He was from a group of Level 0’s who gathered together out of fear of being unilaterally attacked by those stronger than them.
So no matter how strong he was, he wasn’t used to being punched by others.
Realizing that, Kamijou spat out his next words.
As he spoke he realized his words were rather sharp.
“Enough about your job. I’m not going to be killed by someone with no reason to kill who’s treating it like their homework or something. What the hell do you think a human life is? Do you really believe it’s something that has monetary value? How can you be so fucking stupid!?”
“I have no choice. Level 0’s like us can’t live without doing this kind of thing! We get mocked wherever we go and, when we make a place for ourselves, it gets destroyed in the name of making the area look nice. With things like that, what path other than preying on others is there for a Level 0!? Well!?”
A group of Level 0’s created in the name of self-defense.
To do that, their circumstances must have driven them to it.
It was a spiral of violence and absurdity that remained hidden from public view.
“…Don’t put me in the same category as you.”
“I’m telling you not to put all Level 0’s in the same category as pieces of shit like you.”
“You…Wait? What’s your power…? You haven’t used it at all…”
Hamazura wiped blood from his mouth and moved his eyes across Kamijou’s body as he spoke.
Kamijou ignored him and said what he wanted to say.
“Is there a place for Level 0’s? Of course there is! Is there a path for them other than preying on others? Of course there is!! There are Level 0’s all over Academy City. And they go to school like normal, make friends like normal, and just live normal lives! They don’t get mocked wherever they go. You’re the ones that are making a mockery of Level 0’s by thinking that way!!”
“I see… So you’re the same as us…!!”
“I’m not the same. At the very least, I don’t act like you do. I don’t think my lack of power is any reason to attack those who do have power! I may be Level 0, but I have no intention of becoming a ‘minus’ who enjoys tripping up others!!”
“A minus?” Hamazura frowned as he repeated back what Kamijou had said. “You’re saying we’re minuses? Ridiculous. If anyone’s a plus, we are! Just because someone doesn’t have any power, is no reason to reject them. People like us in Skill Out are 100 times better than those that have power but don’t help us at all!!”
“If that’s what you think, have you ever reached out your hand to someone who was asking for help?”
“If you can’t answer, then you’re the same. Fucking ridiculous. Who’s going to help someone who refuses to help people themselves? Who wants to be around someone who assumes they should be happy and never thinks about the happiness of others!? That’s where your problem lies!!
“You people are such idiots,” Kamijou yelled.
This Level 0 was just too weak.
Not only was he weak, he gave excuses for his weakness so he would never grow stronger.
“If you had only used the strength it took to form Skill Out and used it to help those weaker than you, things would have changed for you!! If you had only used that strength you used to fight back against powerful espers to help those in need, the people of Academy City would have accepted you!! I shouldn’t have to tell you this kind of thing!!”
“Shut the fuck up!!” Hamazura’s face distorted as he yelled. “Our Level 0 leader, Komaba Ritoku, lived like that and he died earlier today. He died while trying to protect the weak! In the end, it just isn’t that simple for us. When the dropouts in the back alleys try to do that kind of thing, we just get laughed at!!”
“I see. But that guy must have had something you don’t. I’ve never seen this Komaba guy, but he must have lived in a much wider world than you! Isn’t that why he stayed and fought to the end!? He wouldn’t have called the people he was protecting ‘the weak’; he would have called them his ‘comrades’! Was that Komaba really getting laughed at from all sides? He actually fought to the death for them. If he cared for his comrades enough to protect them like that, he, unlike you, must have been loved by his comrades!!”
Two words seeped from between Hamazura’s lips.
His words were like a pool of filth overflowing.
“You’re mocking us. You’re a Level 0…You don’t have a power…and yet you’re still mocking uuuuuuusssss!!”
Hamazura brought up his baton and ran forward on shaking legs.
Kamijou Touma clenched his fist.
He was no longer afraid of that guy.
Hamazura had been revealed to be not much of a man.
“The reason people mock you has nothing to do with your lack of a power. I’ll show you that now.”
Even though Misuzu tried to stop him, Kamijou stepped forward.
Ignoring the incoming baton, he merely clenched his fist tighter.
“This is the difference between you and me! You can do something about that boring illusion of yours on your own!!”
A thick noise rang out.
Baton and fist hit their targeted faces, blood flowed from split foreheads, and they both lost their balance.
But only one of them fell.
The other would surely not fall.
Kamijou wanted to go back to this dorm and sleep, but Misuzu said he was bleeding too much to ignore, so he ended up having to call an ambulance. It was a bit pathetic, but these medical fees and hospital expenses were a major reason his finances were in such a bad state.
At the moment, he was being taken to the ambulance on a stretcher. Misuzu was standing with a white-helmeted rescue worker when she suddenly looked over at Kamijou.
“It seems Academy City really isn’t safe. Although, I suppose it’s the same in any city. I wonder if there’s anywhere in this country where a parent can raise her child without having to worry.”
The noise of the stretcher’s wheels was so loud, Kamijou could barely hear her.
“…The truth is, I came here to take Mikoto-chan away.”
Even so, those words rang oddly clear in Kamijou’s ears.
Misuzu closed her eyes partially.
“Things are getting dangerous with that war starting after all. They said on the news that Academy City was safer than any other city in the country, but I could just take her overseas, right? Well, leaving my college studies would be a problem, but you could say it would just be an extended break from school. I don’t care if I have to repeat the same year again. I’m not ready to quit yet though, so I was serious about having a report I need to get done.”
After saying all that, she smiled.
It seemed to come out naturally as she looked at Kamijou’s face.
“But I’m not worried anymore.”
Before Kamijou could ask why, she continued.
“Basically, this problem is like the one that boy from before had. No matter how far you run, there’s no safe place. And the feelings of one person there can greatly change things. So instead of moving Mikoto-chan somewhere else, she may be safer having someone like you by her side.”
They had arrived at the ambulance. As the legs holding up the stretcher were folded up, Kamijou felt a slight vibration in his back.
The ambulance must have been about to leave.
Misuzu must have thought so too, because she finished speaking in a hurried voice.
“In other words, if you all and people like you protect Mikoto-chan, there’s no problem.”
The stretcher Kamijou was lying on was put on the ambulance.
At first, Kamijou just listened to Misuzu ramble on, but then he frowned.
Before he could bring that question to his lips, the ambulance’s back doors were slammed shut and the ambulance, along with its siren, started.
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