Toaru Majutsu no Index:SSVolume2 Chapter6
 Chapter 6: Getting to the Heart of the Discussion at the Beauty Salon. The Fourth Friday of April.
The chime linked to the automatic door sounded.
“Hm? Oh, a customer.”
“…Just put down that handheld game if you don’t want me to give you some trauma to associate with the term ‘customer service’,” said the young lady with two brown pigtails, Shirai Kuroko, as she stared at the hairdresser and shop owner who showed no sign of wanting customers in his shop. A few young male staff members immediately came from the back of the shop and started bowing in apology to Shirai.
She couldn’t believe that it was only the workers who had only been there 3 months that were worried about the store, but she had to admit that the owner was skilled. Shirai entered one of the spaces that was partitioned off by hanging sheets much like in a school infirmary and sat down in what looked like the chair in a dentist’s office.
The unmotivated shop owner circled behind Shirai and removed the ribbons from her hair with his fingers that were much smoother than one would expect for a man.
The owner, Sakashima Michibata, stroked at his goatee with one hand and spoke.
“I’ve gotten pretty hooked on using the irons lately and I want to try out the Ultra 14 Drill one, so how about it? Wanna try out a croissant? You can be pretty domineering, Shirai-chan, so I think high-class ringlet curls would look good on you.”
“My hair is naturally curly, so cut the crap and give me a straight perm in order to get it under control.”
“Umm…so an afro?”
“I said a straight perm!!” Shirai yelled eyes bulging when Sakashima started putting a hemispherical bowl-shaped device over her head.
“Fine, fine. You’re no fun at all… Now then, to get your ends under control.”
He pulled out a thin pair of scissors.
“You really must have it tough, Shirai-chan.”
“At a prestigious psychic power development school like Tokiwadai, you have to get a teacher’s permission for the shop you choose to get your hair cut at, right? Although, since the school chose me as a designated shop, I get a lot of easy money out of it. It must feel pretty constrained having all those rules.”
“Well, complaining about it won’t get you anywhere. You can get a basic genetic sample from hair and blood, and they don’t want someone secretly collecting it and mapping someone’s DNA.”
In his left hand, the owner held a number of different combs each with different sizes of gaps between the teeth. He looked up above his head at a large collection of cameras both large and small. The excessive number of cameras had been installed by Tokiwadai Middle School, not a security company.
Sakashima Michibata grabbed a tuft of Shirai’s hair between his fingers.
“Come to think of it, I heard that there’s a new subsidy for research on developing Teleportation powers. Apparently, dealing with 11th dimensional coordinates is hard enough that it’s pretty unpopular even with the scientists.”
“It isn’t that. The 11th dimension mostly comes up in the quantum theories related to Schrödinger. The higher ups just feel like there’s a crisis because there aren’t very many Teleportation espers. People use the term ‘psychic powers’ to refer to every kind of power, but there are some abilities that show up easily and some that don’t.”
“That’s one of the mysteries, isn’t it? I’m pretty sure that all 1st graders go through the same Curriculum with no elective classes and yet it ends up splitting into different powers where some can produce fire, some can produce wind, and on and on.”
As he chatted, Sakashima cut off about 5 millimeters from the tips of Shirai’s hair. The blade was set at the optimum angle so that it did not destroy the cells and left a clean cut.
“Of course, I also wonder why they’re developing these powers.”
“…Please don’t deny Academy City the very root of its reason to exist.”
“Oh, I understand that it’s an attractive prospect, but it makes me think there’s some influential person behind it all who’s dreaming of eternal life or world domination or something.” Michibata cracked his neck as he moved the scissors. “I wonder if the text books on psychic powers for students like you talk about the uproar over developing psychic powers back during the cold war. The Americans and the Soviets invested ridiculous amounts of money in it as part of their childish antagonism with each other and…well, it all ended in a failure.”
“That was the Stargate Project, right?”
“Oh, so you know about it!” Sakashima responded in an idiotic voice and Shirai sighed.
“We learned about it in history class. They had no idea what they were doing and repeated their large-scale experiments again and again even though they didn’t even know whether the readings they were getting qualified as a success or a failure. In the end, it was just a bunch of scientists fumbling around and wasting federal funding.”
“Hmm. Officially, the project was developing psychic powers for military use, but I wonder if that was really true. I think there was a more personal motive full of selfish feelings behind it. You know, someone with an extremely cheap wish to be ‘special’ or ‘chosen’.”
Sakashima combed Shirai’s hair and grabbed the next tuft of hair.
(It pains me to admit it, but that doesn’t feel bad.)
“…But what was all that about?”
“What was what all about?”
“The psychic power development during the cold war. I mean, it was Japan’s Academy City that finally succeeded in actually developing them, right? So where did the Americans and the Soviets get their ‘esper samples’?”
“Well, they wouldn’t get any funding if they had a 0% success rate, so maybe they were bluffing,” responded Shirai.
“But even now you see this kind of thing on TV. You know, like with former elite investigators taking on unresolved cases. I somehow doubt they’re all fakes. At the very least, I don’t think anyone would wish to create something like an esper in the first place if no one had ever witnessed one.”
“…Do you know about the alchemy fraud during the Middle Ages? The royalty and nobility all believed in alchemy because they thought they had witnessed it with their own eyes.”
“Bah. Sorry, but I’m the kind of person that believes in alchemy, UFOs, or the New Jersey Devil.”
Shirai’s expression turned to one of shocked disbelief. It was the kind of expression she would have had if she had been told that a chain restaurant’s hamburgers were made of earthworm meat.
“Then what are you saying? That some information on Academy City technology was leaked to the Americans and the Soviets during the cold war?”
“At the time, it would’ve been the Soviets. Ah, but that’s impossible. The scientific technology inside and outside Academy City is off by 20 or 30 years. Even if all of the information got out, it wouldn’t have helped them much because they wouldn’t have had the technology to break the advanced encryption. That would have been a difficult path to take.
“An ‘outside’ super computer from back then wouldn’t have been powerful enough to run that handheld game I was playing.” Sakashima laughed. “They wouldn’t have been able to read anything off of an Academy City disk, much less crack the encryption.”
“Then what are you saying?”
“Oh, Shirai-chan, have you never heard of gemstones?”
“Oh, dear. Have I upset you?”
“Well, yes. Day in and day out, my power is studied by having stimuli applied to my brain through electrodes, drugs, and even hypnotic suggestion, so I’d rather you didn’t bring that up.”
“I just see it as the difference between an artificial diamond and a natural one,” said Sakashima as he moved the scissors to her bangs. “If a certain phenomenon has been caused artificially, then, as long as the same circumstances as in the experiment are recreated in the natural world due to some factor or another, the same phenomenon will occur with no help from humans. If you don’t like the diamond example, how about a stun gun versus a bolt of lightning?”
“It’s just a hypothesis,” responded Shirai in a bored-sounding voice. “I’ve never seen anything like that, and, if it actually exists, the sample size would be extremely small. It would be regarded as an error in the data and wouldn’t even show up in the total results.”
Sakashima narrowed his eyes in a pleasant smile.
He suddenly stopped moving the scissors and spoke to Shirai as if he was challenging her.
“Do you think that lightning strikes rather frequently?”
“Yes, although it is extremely rare for it to strike a specific person.”
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