Toaru Majutsu no Index:Volume12 Chapter2
Chapter 2: What kind of penalty game? Pair_Contract.
Misaka Mikoto stood in the plaza in front of a concert hall.
That was where they had agreed to meet.
“…Where is he?”
She was getting tired of standing alone a bit away from the plaza while watching friends and lovers meeting up.
Mikoto was still wearing Tokiwadai Middle School’s uniform. She was also still carrying her thin school bag and violin case. They would get in the way while having fun, but dropping them off at her dorm would be a pain in its own way. She could normally enter and leave as she pleased, but she was sometimes thoroughly questioned about where she was headed when she had the bad luck to be caught by someone like the dorm supervisor.
And so instead of heading back to her dorm, she had headed straight to the spot they had agreed to meet at. That way she knew she would not be late. It seemed Shirai Kuroko was nearby, so she had called the other girl to take her things back to their dorm room, but…
“Why are neither of them coming?” muttered Mikoto blankly.
She had hoped to quickly force her baggage onto Shirai and then kill the rest of the time in a café, but she ended up just standing there the entire time because not even Shirai arrived.
She sighed and wondered why she had gone to such a great effort to ensure she was not late when Kamijou did not seem to have a problem with running late himself.
But even if she wished she could take her baggage back to the dorm, the appointed time had already passed. If she left now, they might just miss each other.
Mikoto sighed again and her shoulders drooped exhaustedly.
“Come to think of it, I don’t even know that idiot’s number. …But asking him myself would piss me off too much.”
She was tired of standing, so she placed her thin school bag and violin case on the ground and crouched down. The bag was fine, but the case looked like it had antique value. Nevertheless, Mikoto did not seem to care. It merely functioned as a case in her mind.
And as weariness wrapped around that rich girl…
“There you are! You are Misaka Mikoto-san, right!?”
A bright girl’s voice came her way. Hearing her name, Mikoto looked up with a look that seemed to say “What’s this?”
A middle school girl smaller than Mikoto stood there. She wore a sailor uniform and had lots of artificial flowers on top of her short, black hair. Mikoto thought she was a member of Judgment just like Shirai Kuroko. She had a tendency to hang around Shirai more than speak to Mikoto directly.
“It’s…Uiharu Kazari-san, right?”
“Wow, you remembered!”
Uiharu’s eyes sparkled.
The look in her eyes was one of pure envy. However, she longed for the world of rich girls she saw in this “upperclassman from Tokiwadai Middle School” rather than for Mikoto herself, so those sparkling eyes were of a different sort from Shirai’s. This was nothing more than healthy admiration.
Uiharu timidly asked, “Um…Shirai-san was supposed to come get your things, right?”
“Hm?” Mikoto frowned.
Uiharu was looking at the school bag and violin case lying on the ground.
“Well…You see… Shirai-san had some Judgment work forced onto her…no, I mean she is working very hard, so she will probably be a bit late. She really wants to come here herself, but I came instead because it did not look like that was going to happen anytime soon.”
Mikoto was about to accept that explanation, but she stopped.
Shirai was a close (strictly in a completely normal sense) friend of hers, so she did not hesitate to ask something like that of her, but she could not leave that job to this innocent girl. Also, Uiharu was not a student of Tokiwadai Middle School. She could not enter the dorm, so she would have to hand it off to someone at the dorm to bring it to Mikoto’s room.
In the worst case scenario, that could even be the dorm supervisor.
The dorm supervisor was mature enough to cheerfully accept the items from Uiharu with a smile, but she would become a demon king of rage once Mikoto returned to the dorm.
And so Mikoto casually waved her hand.
“If Kuroko isn’t coming, that’s fine. I can leave it with a cloakroom at a nearby hotel. They’ll let me as long as I rent out a room.”
“Yes… I guess you can’t just leave those in a coin locker.”
Uiharu looked at the violin case with nervous eyes. Her entire body made it clear she assumed that decision was made because a normal person like her could not be allowed to touch something of such value.
Mikoto waved her hand even more.
“No, no, no! I’m not doubting your ability to carry it, so don’t get so down!!”
Uiharu trailed off.
And when she spoke again, she had changed the subject.
“Tokiwadai Middle School really is amazing. It isn’t normal to use a violin in school lessons.”
“Really? If you tried it, I think you’d find it isn’t that hard.” Mikoto noticed a hint of envy in Uiharu’s eyes as she looked at the violin. “Um…By any chance, do you wish you could go to our school?”
“N-no, no! Don’t be ridiculous!!” She was so flustered it was obvious what she actually thought. “A completely normal person like me could never even set foot in a rich girl place like that!!”
“Actually, if you have the ability, they’ll cover as much of the finances as you need. The school focuses more on what’s inside than on appearances. I’ve actually heard that some royal daughter was rejected right away.”
“I-if they do not even let royalty in, there is definitely no way I could get in… I have never even touched a violin. I think I would look pretty cool if I could play one though.”
“I don’t think you would find it as amazing as you think if you tried it.” Mikoto grabbed the violin case from the ground. “Here, I’ll prove it.”
“Eh!? You’ll play for me?”
“No, you’ll play it.”
Uiharu looked at Mikoto with her eyes opened wide in shock, but that young lady of Tokiwadai Middle School had already undone the case’s latch and pulled out a violin that had the old shine of an antique as well as the bow to play it with.
“Here you go.”
“Bh!? D-don’t just throw it at me!!”
Uiharu nervously took that item that’s value she could not even imagine. She stiffened up because she thought its value would go down even if she got her sweat on it, not to mention if she broke it.
Mikoto stood next to Uiharu and casually pointed at the various parts of the violin.
“Okay, just do what I tell you. Hold the violin in your left hand and use your right hand to play it with that stick-like thing. Hold the bottom of the instrument between your chin and collarbone. It’s a pretty cheap violin, so don’t worry about holding it too tightly.”
But even if it was cheap, it was cheap according to the values of a rich girl. Uiharu was about ready to shove that bomb back into Mikoto’s arms and run away, but she could not bear to take any bold actions because she felt it would affect the rest of her life if she broke the instrument in the process.
Mikoto was puzzled as to why Uiharu was standing there not moving a muscle.
“Sorry, sorry. I guess it isn’t enough to just tell you.”
“Then I’ll show you directly. Go like this.”
Uiharu cried out because Mikoto gently wrapped her arms around her from behind and grabbed the violin. It looked like a mother kindly teaching her young child.
Uiharu froze up even further at this unexpected intimacy, but Mikoto did not seem to notice. It was a complete coincidence, but when Mikoto began her lecture, she did so with her breath blowing right into Uiharu’s ear.
“Holding the strings with your left hand is important, but let’s start with how to use the bow with your right hand. It might look hard at first, but all you really have to do is hold it at the correct angle to the strings while you play.”
Mikoto gently moved her hands that were placed over Uiharu’s hands. A single quiet tone came from the violin like when it was being tuned.
Uiharu’s face had gone beet red and her eyes were spinning, so she was not listening to a thing Mikoto said, but Mikoto was completely unaware of this. With the exception of people like Shirai, Mikoto was generally kind to girls.
“The sound changes depending on how you use your left hand. Pizzicato, glissando, flageolet. Well, there are a lot of different methods, but none of them are particularly hard. How about we try them all one at a time? Oh, you’ll get used to it in no time. Don’t worry.”
Uiharu could feel Mikoto’s body heat on her back, her sweet breath on her ear, and her soft fingers around Uiharu’s own hands.
(S-so this is the hierarchy of rich girls that Shirai-san has fallen for!!)
At that point, Mikoto finally noticed how stiff Uiharu was.
In an attempt to help the other girl relax, she said, “Don’t worry. This is a large plaza so it has no regulations regarding performances. No one’s going to get after you for using an instrument.”
“N-no, that is not what I-…Wait, performance!? Hyah! When did all these people gather around? Why am I the center of atten-…”
Uiharu’s shocked cry cut off partway through.
This was because she spotted Shirai Kuroko in the crowd and she had quite a magnificent expression on her face.
Uiharu’s shoulder’s jumped in shock.
Unnatural strength entered her arm and a horrible screeching noise came from the instrument.
As Shirai watched on, she projected her thoughts toward her colleague who was standing in the center of the crowed.
“(Oh, so that’s it. You acted like you were being admirable by helping me out, but you actually had this ulterior motive. I can’t take my eyes of you for even a second, can I? And I have never had such a wonderful experience myself. Why, onee-sama?)”
Were it being shown on television, her expression would likely have violated the broadcasting rules and been blurred out.
A cold sweat started to drip down Uiharu Kazari’s body, but Misaka Mikoto was clueless once again.
“Is someone suspicious staring at you or something?”
“Don’t say it like that!!”
Uiharu was almost in tears, but Mikoto never even thought of the possibility of Shirai being there.
They had agreed to meet at 1 PM.
“Why is it already 1:30!?” shouted Misaka Mikoto while she stood alone in the plaza in front of the concert hall that made a decent landmark.
Kamijou ran over to her as quickly as he could while bowing his head and holding his hands together.
“Yeah, sorry about that!!”
In truth, he was running late because the issues surrounding Tsuchimikado Motoharu’s food supply had turned into a slight fistfight, but he decided it would be better to simply apologize than to make excuses.
Mikoto folded her arms, tapped the ground with her right foot, and sent bluish-white sparks flying from her bangs.
“I was the winner of the punishment game, so why am I the one forced to put up with your issues? Do you have any idea what it feels to be stuck standing here for everyone to see for an entire hour? Some weird guys called out to me, and I had to go to the effort of driving each of them away with a lightning spear.”
“Yeah! Yeah! And like I said, I’m really sorry!”
Kamijou tried to get by with completely meaningless small talk, but then he suddenly realized something Mikoto had said didn’t make sense.
“Wait. We agreed to meet at one, right?”
“…Don’t tell me you’re trying to say you forgot.”
“No, I’m not. You said you were waiting for an hour, so did you get hear a full half hour ahead of time? Wow, I am sorry then.”
Mikoto’s shoulders jumped in shock and her eyes opened wide.
She unfolded her arms and started shaking her hands in front of her.
“No…D-don’t be stupid. I was just giving a general amount. I haven’t literally been here for 60 minutes. I-I won, so why should I have to wait around for you? I’d rather you didn’t imagine strange scenarios and grin like that.”
“You…” said Kamijou without thinking. He looked the flustered middle school girl straight in the face. “You wanted to see me suffer in this punishment that badly? I’ve had my suspicions before, but you really are a cruel person deep dow-…”
Before he could finish speaking, a lightning spear shot from Mikoto’s bangs.
Kamijou repelled the blast with the right hand he had immediately held up. From the tremendous zapping sound it made, the voltage had to have been in the hundreds of millions.
His right hand held a power known as Imagine Breaker and it could negate any supernatural power whether it was magical or psychic in nature.
But that did not mean nothing scared him.
While trembling, Kamijou said, “…So I hit the nail on the head?”
Another lightning spear flew at him.
The great noise caused the couples gathered in the concert hall plaza to scream and run away. Kamijou had managed to stop it at the last second, but he had tears in his eyes.
“Just tell me, Misaka-san! What do you want me to say!?”
“Let’s just get going,” muttered Mikoto as the corner of her lips twitched and she turned her head to the side slightly. “Don’t you dare try to oppose me after losing back then, you piece of shit.”
“There’s something wrong with this high-class lady from Tokiwadai!!” shouted Kamijou, but Mikoto gave no real reaction and merely continued to look extremely displeased. Realizing he was not going to have an easy time dealing with her, he scratched at his head and said, “So, Misaka. What kind of punishment is this going to be? You said to get going, but where are we headed?”
As soon as he said that…
“Uh?” said Mikoto with a blank look on her face.
She looked over at Kamijou.
In complete shock, he said, “Don’t tell me you don’t even have anything planned.”
“I-I have something planned!! Um…uh…well…Oh, right! I’m going to have you make up for the effort I expended to win in the Daihaseisai!!”
“So essentially you have nothing concrete planned.”
“Listen to what I’m saying!!”
“You’re the one that brought it up, so you come up with the plan. Surely you know I’m not going to think up punishments I have to undergo myself. You sure are stupid.”
Mikoto fell silent, but then looked Kamijou in the eye again.
When she continued her silence, Kamijou started to speak to her, but then he stopped and took a step back without thinking.
The reason for this was simple.
That young lady’s eyes were filled with anger.
Kamijou had a very bad feeling about what was to come.
“You will do whatever I tell you for this punishment, right?”
“Oh, well… Yes, but only if you keep things reasonable!!”
“You’ll do whatever I say, right?”
“Come with me.”
“To where!?” shouted Kamijou, but Mikoto grabbed his hand and refused to let go.
She dragged him away from the concert hall plaza like that.
She then said, “Just shut up and come with me! That’s your first punishment!!”
“First!? There’s more than one punishment!?”
Kamijou Touma’s face paled while Misaka Mikoto’s grew red with anger.
They were currently walking around town hand in hand, but for better or worse, neither one was aware of that fact.
Accelerator was looking up at an apartment building meant for teachers.
Residences in Academy City were primarily nothing but student dormitories, so students did not often set foot in this kind of apartment.
From the outside, the apartment building did not look that different from a student dorm building, but the small differences in the service side of things gave it an overall distinctive feel. The student dorms were essentially buildings meant to control children. In the name of security, the dorms were known to go a bit overboard with the positioning of the security cameras, but this apartment building gave more thought to the wishes of the residents in their placement.
“Which floor?” asked Accelerator to Yomikawa Aiho who had led them there.
With a smile, she replied, “The 13th. It’s a pain when the power goes out and I have to take the stairs.”
“Ohh,” said Last Order as she looked up at the tall building.
It seemed she was trying to look at the 13th floor, but the sun got in her eyes and she shook her head dizzily.
Yoshikawa Kikyou supported her small shoulders from behind.
“Well, I suppose there is much less opportunity for attack than the 1st or 2nd floor,” said the woman.
“The upper floors take a lot more damage when the entire building is blown away.”
No one had ever gone that far while Accelerator had stayed in the dorms, but he had no guarantee that would remain true in the future.
Yomikawa pulled out a laminated card that was likely used to open the self-locking door and said, “Now then, now then. It’s a bit late, but we still need to eat some lunch. Let’s hurry up and get to the room.”
The entrance to the apartment building was an automatic glass door that looked defenseless at first, but it appeared to be made to resist explosions. The lock appeared to only require a swipe of the card, but it actually scanned the fingerprints, the pattern of bioelectric signals, and other data from the fingertips holding the card.
Realizing this was quite a high-class apartment building, Accelerator looked at Yomikawa with suspicion in his eyes.
“I thought they were reducing the salaries of public servants.”
“Even with the fairly low pay, I manage somehow. This place doubles as a practical experiment in construction, so the university pays some of the rent. But in exchange, the security measures will sometimes suddenly change,” explained Yomikawa. “Also, Anti-Skill may not pay anything since it’s a volunteer force, but enough people appreciate what you do that it comes with some nice perks. I can get meat at the supermarket really cheap.”
“…You treat help on your apartment’s rent the same as getting a good sale at the supermarket?”
As they spoke, Accelerator, Last Order, Yomikawa, and Yoshikawa entered the apartment building. Komoe-sensei was not with them because she had other business to take care of.
They rode a low-vibration elevator that was probably one of the prototypes being tested. It allowed them to reach the 13th floor without the odd floating feeling usually felt in an elevator. The door right next to the elevator led to Yomikawa’s room.
“Come in,” said Yomikawa as she opened the front door.
Inside, they found a 4LDK. The room was clearly meant for a family and was large enough that one would normally have to spend their whole life paying back a loan for it. No matter how much the university paid for cooperation with the experiments, Accelerator seriously wondered how anyone could afford it on a public servant’s salary.
The living room’s flooring was polished to a shine and it was overall much tidier than one expected of someone living alone. The bottles of alcohol and glasses were arranged decoratively on shelves and the magazines and newspapers were stored on special racks. The remote controls for the TV, air conditioner, stereo, video recorder, and other devices were neatly lined up at one corner of the table. Each individual cushion on the sofa was carefully placed in the proper spot.
Last Order’s eyes opened wide.
“Wow, wow! There’s almost no dust, praises Misaka as Misaka leaps onto the sofa,” said Last Order in a cheerful voice.
As the girl sank into the soft sofa, Yoshikawa sighed and said, “You’ve gotten into trouble at work again, haven’t you?”
Yomikawa’s track-suit-wearing form shook in shock.
“Ah…Ah ha ha. What are you talking about?”
“What do you mean? says Misaka as Misaka rolls around and looks confused.”
“She has always had a habit of cleaning up her room whenever she gets into some kind of trouble. And she just cleans like crazy without thinking of the consequences, so sometimes she can’t find the room key afterwards. You need to be careful.”
“Is that anything to say about the person who is helping you find a new job?”
Accelerator noticed Yomikawa and Yoshikawa spoke in a slightly childish manner when speaking to each other. It was possible they had simply been around each other for that long. If Yoshikawa played the role of the helpful class president, then Yomikawa played the role of the problem student who was always late.
Yoshikawa looked over towards the kitchen that connected to the living room.
“Since that habit is still there, I assume your habit in the kitchen hasn’t changed either.”
“Hey, hey! I’ll admit I have a bad habit about cleaning, but don’t bring that up, Kikyou! Not to mention that you seem to like my cooking well enough when you have some.”
“As long as I don’t know how you made it.”
Accelerator and Last Order exchanged a confused glance. Yomikawa said, “My skills are improving every day. See for yourself!” and dragged Yoshikawa into the kitchen, so they followed the two women.
Yomikawa’s kitchen had many different types of cooking equipment lined up in it that she had as part of the experiment. With a steam microwave oven, an AI-equipped high frequency automatic dishwasher, and other such devices, it all seemed very mechanical.
But it seemed Yomikawa did not use those things much.
Those cooking devices were overflowing with a sense that they just sat there without being used. The only items that really appeared to get used were the four or five electric rice cookers. From the steam coming from them, they all appeared to be functional.
With an annoyed look, Accelerator said, “One for each of us, hm? Are you fucking with us, you white rice obsessed freak?”
“No, no. That’s not it at all.” Yomikawa pointed at each of the rice cookers in turn. “These rice cookers can do anything you want: boil, simmer, steam, or bake. This one is baking bread, a stew is cooking in that one, and that one is steaming fish.”
Accelerator felt he understood what Yoshikawa had meant.
Yoshikawa had been aware of the situation ahead of time, so she could only sigh when she saw nothing had changed.
“You’re such a sloth.”
“Don’t treat me like some weird animal. And what’s so wrong with this? If everything is prepared right, they’ll do all the cooking for you at the push of a button. And it doesn’t use any fire, so you don’t have to worry if you take a nap.”
“I remember when you bought a large hotplate saying you could make okonomiyaki out of any leftovers as long as you had flour. And let’s not forget that nonsense about never needing anything but a pressure cooker because you can cook anything you need for the rest of your life with it. You just take everything to too much of an extreme. It’s so bad that if you would probably get an antimatter reaction if you tried to average your two extremes together.”
“It tastes fine, it’s nutritious, and it fills you up, so what’s the problem? Preparing a stock pot and a frying pan and everything else is such a pain. I just want one thing that can do everything.”
“Sigh. You just need to learn the joy of putting all your effort into making something.”
But Yoshikawa’s comment was not as innocent as it might sound since she specialized in genetics and what she had “made” was just over 20,000 human clones.
Mikoto dropped her violin off at a cloakroom and dragged Kamijou into an underground mall.
The location had taken quite a bit of damage on September 1st when the magician Sherry Cromwell had come from England with her golem Ellis, but none of the scars caused by the destruction could be seen anymore. The shattered floors and pillars had been repaired and the café windows and the like had been replaced with new ones. Unless you looked very closely, you would never notice anything had changed.
The construction had been completed at such a quick pace because of the Daihaseisai coming up so soon afterwards. Around half of the reason Academy City was opened up to the public was to act as propaganda to improve the city’s image, so they could hardly allow parts of it to be destroyed at the time. (It still ended up getting destroyed a fair bit on the first day of the festival, though.)
The area did not have the dark image one expected of being underground. The floors and walls were polished to a shine and it was lit up as bright as midday with fluorescent lights and LED light bulbs. The cafes, clothing stores, and the like lining the passageway used a lot of glass to give an open feeling despite the low surface area.
Kamijou looked around and said, “Oh, they’re keeping the air conditioning a lot lower than they used to.”
“In another 2 weeks, they’ll probably switch over to heating.” Mikoto walked along step by step. “Oh, there it is. Over here.”
She pointed at one store with a slender finger.
Due to the advantages of being underground, the area gathered a lot of recreational facilities that made a lot of noise like arcades, karaoke boxes, and live music clubs. That was why Kamijou had assumed he was going to be ordered to complete an extremely difficult game with a single coin and have to bow down to her if he failed. But it turned out his guess was way off.
She was pointing at a cell phone service store.
It was only about half as big as a convenience store. All that he could see inside through the large glass window was a counter and chairs lined up horizontally and a magazine rack filled with thin catalogues of cell phone models. The vertical advertisement banner hanging in front of the entrance divided the models up between the major companies and Academy City’s originals.
Academy City’s technology was said to be 20 to 30 years more advanced than that outside the city. The outside models and inside models each had their own advantages and disadvantages, but you never knew which service would recover first in an emergency, so some students struggled for over a week to decide which one to go with.
Mikoto walked toward the service store.
“Have you heard of the Handy Antenna service?”
“Hm? Oh, that. You mean the service that allows each individual cell phone to act in the place of a cell phone tower to let you call even when there isn’t a tower nearby?”
Basically, the cell phones of everyone walking around the city would act as relay antennae. Even if there was no cell phone tower near Kamijou, he could connect via Person 1, Person 2, Person 3, etc. and eventually connect to Person X who was near a cell phone tower. And it connected using a route that went through several people in something like a net, so the connection would not be easily dropped. The technology had apparently developed to create an emergency air communications network through a few antennae installed on blimps that could be sent out if the normal towers were brought down in a disaster. For that reason, not much had been done to ensure sound quality when the method was used.
On the plus side, a university was helping pay to have it tested, so the service fees were supposed to be incredibly cheap.
“I was thinking of signing up for that.”
“Eh? But that extremely minor system only works if its users all walk around with their cell phones constantly on to act as relay antennae. I heard it drains your battery like crazy. And I heard so few people are signed up for it that it really doesn’t help much.”
“That’s why they’re working to get more people to join the service. If you sign up for a pair contract, even the fees unrelated to the Handy Antenna are mostly covered for you.”
“A pair contract…? You mean that thing where you take two people who already have contracts and make it so calls and packets between the two phones don’t cost anything?”
“Yes, that. And right now, if you sign up for a package deal for both the Handy Antenna service and a pair contract, they give you a Lovely Mitten Gekota strap. It’s a frog mascot.”
“They give it to you right away, so sign up for it with me.”
“So you’re just after the strap!? I’m not changing my phone no matter what you say! I’m going to use this beat-up cell phone for at least another 6 months!!”
And then Kamijou pointed at Mikoto’s school bag. He was glaring at the green frog mascot hanging from it.
“And you already have a frog!”
“Gekota and this one are not the same thing!!” shouted Mikoto. “Gekota is the old man who lives next to this one and he is called Gekota because he goes ‘geko geko’ when he gets carsick! Are you really so old that you don’t know even a basic difference like that!?”
“…What about that old man Gekota character is ‘lovely’?” muttered Kamijou in a disheartened tone, but Mikoto only gave him the scornful look children gave the elderly when they could not keep up with the current trends. She seemed to have been a bit disillusioned.
“Hmph. You don’t need to worry about having to change your phone. The Handy Antenna just needs to add a chip to your phone and the pair contract will work with any of this company’s services, so you should be able to use your current phone without changing much of anything.”
“Oh, so you really just need to put my number and address on the paperwork?”
“Well, yes.” Mikoto squeezed the small frog on her school bag between her fingertips. “It isn’t easy finding someone who is willing to come down to the store with me, fill out a ton of paperwork, and wait for who knows how many hours. But it shouldn’t take more than half a day, so just bear with it.”
“Hmm,” muttered Kamijou as he thought while looking at the store’s banner.
(I guess she called me out here because it has to be a guy and girl pair.)
“? What is it?” asked Mikoto.
“Well, just going with you to register for this is fine, but a pair contract is usually only made between a boyfriend and girlfriend, right? It says it has to be a guy and a girl.”
Mikoto’s shoulders gave a large jump.
Her fingers squeezed tightly around the frog mascot on her bag.
“N-n-n-n-no, you idiot! What are you saying!? J-just because it says it has to be a guy and a girl doesn’t mean it has to be a boyfriend and girlfriend! It could easily be a married couple!!”
“Um, hello? That’s taking things a step further from boyfriend and girlfriend, Misaka-san.”
He had only meant to give a calm rebuttal, but he ended up having a lightning spear fly his way. Kamijou frantically held up his right hand to repel the strike that flew from Mikoto’s bangs.
“What is with you today!?”
“Y-you’re the one that isn’t making any sense! C’mon, let’s just get this over with!!”
“Eh? We’re actually going to do it!?”
“This is your punishment, so quit complaining and come with me!!”
Mikoto grabbed Kamijou’s arm and dragged him into the service store.
The air conditioning was more comfortable in the store than in the underground mall’s passageway. Kamijou was not sure if it really made sense, but it felt like the ventilation route was calculated out to provide the perfect temperature where you did not feel cold or get sweaty.
The young female worker sitting behind the counter had her smile crumble a bit when she saw Mikoto dragging Kamijou into the store, but she did not forget her training.
After a few comments from Mikoto including “I want to register a pair contract with this idiot” and “Do you have any of the Gekota straps left?”, the worker gathered a ton of paperwork on the counter.
“The paperwork requires a photograph. Do you have one?”
“Hm?” said Mikoto with her eyes opened wide. She then asked, “Will a photo from an ID photo booth be enough? How many do you need and what size do you need?”
“No, no. It does not have to be anything that formal,” said the worker with a smile. “This is a pair contract, so we just need something that proves that the two of you are a ‘pair’. As long as it is a two shot of the two of you, it can just be with a cell phone camera. We also provide you with a pair picture frame charger cradle, so you can use it for that as well. It fits the standards for the four major companies, so you should be able to use it regardless of model.”
“Bh!?” Mikoto very nearly did a spit take. “…A-a two shot?”
“Oh, do you not normally do those? Then this is a perfect opportunity. We just need the photo in the 20 minutes it takes to complete the registration, so please take the photo while you wait.”
After quickly filling out the huge amount of paperwork with ballpoint pens, Kamijou and Mikoto left the service store. They were going to take the photo in question.
Kamijou pulled out his fairly durable cell phone that had survived being damaged in battles with magicians and falling into the Adriatic Sea.
“I don’t feel like hunting down an ID photo booth, so let’s just snap a photo with my cell phone. Unless you have another digital camera, Misaka.”
“Eh? No…I left my phone at the counter.”
Mikoto’s mind seemed to be somewhere else, but Kamijou did not notice. While looking at the screen, he pressed a few buttons with his thumb to switch over to camera mode. Then he stretched his arm out as far as he could.
Still looking at the screen, he said, “Okay, here goes…wait.”
When Mikoto let out that flustered voice, a displeased expression appeared on Kamijou’s face.
At some point, Mikoto had moved away from him. It was as if she was saying, “How about you just take it in panorama mode? I really don’t care.”
Mikoto’s desire to flee from him made Kamijou's shoulders droop.
“…You were the one that wanted to do this, right?”
“Y-yes, I was!!”
Mikoto’s face was a bit red and her hands holding her school bag were fidgeting nervously, but Kamijou did not interpret any of it in a favorable light.
After hesitating over whether to move closer to or farther away from Kamijou, Mikoto shouted out in desperation.
“~ ~ ~! Wait for me, Gekota!!”
She approached in one go so that her shoulder bumped into Kamijou’s. Their shoulders brushed together and Mikoto tilted her head slightly so it rested on Kamijou’s shoulder. That allowed both their faces to fit cleanly inside the cell phone’s screen.
Meanwhile, Kamijou started to wonder why she had gotten closer than necessary and his body tensed up slightly at the scent of her hair.
“Okay, I’m ready when you are!!”
With an electronic tone, the phone took the picture.
Kamijou brought the cell phone back towards himself and displayed the picture he had just taken.
“Your face is a bit stiff, Misaka.”
“Why are you averting your gaze away from me?
Kamijou and Mikoto exchanged a glance.
“This doesn’t look like a pair to me.”
“L-let’s take another one.”
The electronic tone sounded once more.
Kamijou and Mikoto looked at the screen.
“Again, why is your expression so stiff, Misaka!?”
“Why are you shifting your weight away from me!?”
Kamijou and Mikoto glared at each other at such close range that it almost looked like they were about to headbutt each other, but nothing would get done at that rate. In the worst case, their registration would be cancelled without a photo and all their time and effort would end up being for nothing. That would be a problem for Kamijou and Mikoto, but it would also be trouble for the worker.
And so in a bit of desperation, Kamijou said, “Anyway, we just have to take a two shot that makes us look like boyfriend and girlfriend, right!? C’mere, Misaka! Let’s get this done!!”
“Eh? What? Kyahh!!”
When Mikoto had an arm suddenly wrapped around her slender shoulders, her face rapidly grew red.
In his high of desperation, Kamijou did not notice at all.
“Smile, Misaka! I don’t want to retake this again! We just need something that we can use for the paperwork! There’s no real issue here if we don’t get fixated over it!!”
“Eh? Y-yeah, that’s right. Ah ha ha! We’re just faking a photo that looks like that. Yes, it’s just a photo! Okay, let’s do this!!”
Mikoto wanted to know what he meant by “get fixated over it”, but she forced herself into a high regardless. For her, it was less out of desperation and more an attempt to keep him from noticing how red her face was. To match the arm Kamijou had wrapped around her shoulders, Mikoto wrapped an arm around Kamijou’s back and moved closer. Passersby looked at the two of them (or rather, at Mikoto) with jealous eyes, but they were in such a high that neither of them noticed.
Kamijou held his cell phone away from them again.
“Here I go!”
But before the clear electronic tone could sound…
Shirai Kuroko rapidly approached via teleportation and drop kicked Kamijou Touma in the back of the head.
With a cracking noise, the cell phone left Kamijou’s hand, his body flew forward, and the cell phone took a photo an instant too late.
As it lay on the floor, the cell phone displayed an extreme three shot of Kamijou’s horribly blurred head, Mikoto shocked face, and Shirai’s panties.
Kamijou rolled along the floor and came to a stop.
“Wh-what the hell was that!?”
“Wh-what do you think you are doing behind my back?” asked the pigtailed girl named Shirai Kuroko in a flat voice.
She landed from her drop kick and took up a position right next to Mikoto. Her body language was saying that was her spot.
“After the half day of school, I had odd jobs for Judgment forced onto me by Uiharu. After I finished all that, I headed out to find you, onee-sama, but what I found was Uiharu’s violin attack. After that I worked hard to finish the additional work she forced onto me, but then I find this. …Honestly, it was a mistake to take you as nothing but a newcomer slave. It looks like you and onee-sama have been going around having a wonderful time…”
“Wait, make no mistake, Kuroko!” Mikoto waved her hands in front of her. “I’m not doing this because I want to! I only asked him to sign up for a pair contract because I wanted the Gekota strap and we were only taking that photo because we need it for the contract!!”
Her explanation sounded more like it was meant to convince herself than it was to convince Shirai. Either way, Kamijou had still been kicked and forced to go through with the contract.
Then again, he had lost a punishment game.
Meanwhile, Shirai was clearly unable to hide her shock at what Mikoto had said.
“Th-then you did not need to bow your head to this gentleman! You could have just made a pair with me, onee-sama! Now, let us take a photo nice and quick! We can make a lifelong memory right now!!”
Shirai fell into such a high that it looked like she was about to boil over and Mikoto’s face twitched, but Kamijou suddenly raised his head from the ground and spoke.
“Eh? In that case, can I go home now?”
“It has to be a pair between a guy and a girl!!”
That honest question caused Mikoto to fire a lightning spear with all her might.
Accelerator opened his eyes slightly as he lay on top of the sofa.
He clicked his tongue.
“…I fell asleep.”
He checked the clock, but he had only been out for about 15 minutes.
Since the TV was still on, it had likely been what woke him. He had a feeling he had been sleeping lightly lately so that any sudden stimulus would wake him.
Accelerator shook his head a bit in the otherwise deserted living room.
(You’re getting too relaxed, you damn idiot.)
His own annoyed voice entered his mind.
Accelerator had originally been the type to get sleep at his own pace. Whether an alarm clock went off right next to his ear, a brat was screaming at him, or a bomb exploded on top of his stomach, he would just continue sleeping soundly.
This was because he had the power to alter all types of vectors, so he normally reflected all vectors except for the bare minimum he needed such as oxygen and gravity.
While in that state, Accelerator would remain unscathed even if he was directly hit by a nuclear bomb.
That was why Accelerator did not hesitate to enter that horribly defenseless state of sleep even with the huge number of enemies he had.
But that was when his power had been fully functioning.
Accelerator reached up to his neck.
An electrode that looked like a black choker was located there. The device linked to the brains of the almost 10,000 Sisters who were scattered around the world. It allowed him to borrow their massive parallel processing ability.
Accelerator’s brain had been injured on August 31st.
He required that calculation assistance device to live an ordinary life as an esper. The normal mode that allowed him to walk, talk, count, etc. could last for 48 hours. However, the esper mode that allowed him full use of his vector control power would drain the battery in only about 15 minutes due to the massive amount of calculations that needed to be carried out every instant. It was quite a restrictive item.
That meant he effectively had only 15 minutes of safe time.
Other than during those 15 minutes, he was a weakling who could not even walk without recharging that battery once every 48 hours.
That condition robbed him of the luxury of obtaining his sleep in that shelter provided by his powers.
Accelerator looked over at the giant flat-screen TV with suspicious eyes.
The most popular afternoon talk show was playing on a cable channel that required a ridiculously expensive contract. The deck placed below the TV was in recording mode, so Yomikawa may have been a fan of the entertainer who was on the show as a guest.
“Hitotsui Hajime-san, you played the leading role in the movie. What was it like? It seems to me having a Japanese actor play the lead role in a foreign film is fairly rare. Did it feel especially different to you?”
The moderator and guest faced each other on either side of a small table.
While watching the screen, Accelerator reached up to the switch on the side of his choker-style electrode.
And he turned it off.
“Well, the most characteristic instruction next to the plot was to appropriately function as Japanese. He did not have Even, and did the other people appropriately understand as Japanese today?”
The words were all jumbled up.
The guest had actually said “Let’s see, the most peculiar instruction from the director was to behave like a Japanese person. But do we even know what it means to be Japanese nowadays?”, but Accelerator’s head was unable to properly process the meaning of the words that entered his ears.
He wavered as he lost his balance.
Before he even realized it, he had collapsed down into the sofa. He could see the digital numbers on the video recording deck, but he could not discern what they meant. His head seemed to be missing a gear. He felt like he was looking at a question from a state examination after going 100 hours straight without any sleep.
Accelerator brought his hand to his neck.
His entire body was unsteady and it took him several seconds just to flip the small switch. He fumbled with it several times before finally touching the protrusion of the switch with his thumb.
It made a small click.
With the electrode switched back to normal mode, Accelerator finally returned to the normal world.
“I had to speak in the native American English, but I was told to keep my gestures, manners, and overall behavior noticeably ‘Japanese’, so I had to think over what that meant.”
The entertainer’s obvious bragging continued in Accelerator’s field of vision as he lay on his side.
He had once been known as Academy City’s strongest esper, but now he was stuck in this condition.
Without Last Order and the rest of Sisters performing calculations for him, he could not use his powers or even speak, walk, or count normally. He needed that choker-style electrode around his neck for those proxy calculations, and its battery only lasted 48 hours at the absolute most.
If the battery died, if he went deep underground, or if a jamming signal was used, he could no longer use those proxy calculations.
And that was just for normal mode.
When he used esper mode, such a massive number of calculations had to be made that the time limit suddenly dropped to just under 15 minutes. The electrode was meant to be a medical device, so it was not made to withstand a military environment like an esper battle. And the battery was a special model created by the frog-faced doctor, so he could not swap it out for a commercial battery. That meant he could not stock up on batteries to extend that time limit.
In other words, his time limit truly was 15 minutes.
But when in that mode, he did not need to use his cane.
(Learning all these damn rules is a pain in the ass. Honestly, I’m not Cinderella. Having a time limit for being the strongest is no laughing matter.)
Having decided to take a shower, Accelerator got up from the couch.
He hoped it would help improve his mood.
He already knew Last Order eternally had no defenses, but Accelerator was annoyed at how casually Yomikawa and Yoshikawa were taking everything. They were all being too trusting of Academy City’s strongest esper. He had never said he would lift a finger to live up to their expectations. Yomikawa and Yoshikawa did not properly understand how frightening a being he was. Accelerator was used to destroying, but he was not at all used to protecting. There was a very real risk of him causing a great disaster for everything and everyone around him when he was only intending to strike in defense.
(Come to think of it, there’s no one else here. Are those idiots out shopping?)
With that offhand thought, Accelerator opened the door to the changing room.
And there he found a naked Last Order having her brown hair dried with a bath towel.
Yomikawa and Yoshikawa were also naked and doing the drying from either side of the girl.
Last Order was the first one to react.
“Wh-why did you suddenly appear with no warning whatsoever!? says Misaka as Misaka reaches out for a bath towel but cannot reach it!!”
Accelerator ignored Last Order’s shouting and looked toward Yomikawa and Yoshikawa with a blank look.
“…Why didn’t you lock the door?”
“Oh, sorry, sorry. I’ve lived alone for so long I forget you could do that. My bad, my bad.”
“Aiho, at least cover yourself with a towel.”
Having already covered her own body with a towel, Yoshikawa sighed and handed Yomikawa a towel. Looking annoyed, Yomikawa wrapped the towel around herself. While this did cover her, it left as much of her thighs exposed as a miniskirt. And she must not have finished drying herself yet because the towel stuck to her and made the lines of her body perfectly visible.
(…What the hell is this?)
This was not a normal part of Accelerator’s everyday life. In fact, if anyone had a problem with finding a girl changing every time he opened a door, he would probably split his sides with laughter.
Last Order realized there were not enough towels for her, so she frantically hid behind Yoshikawa.
With tears in her eyes, she said, “Why are you two able to just look annoyed and grab a towel rather than panic? says Misaka as Misaka asks a simple question.”
“What?” said Yomikawa as she gave Last Order a puzzled look. “There’s no real reason. It’s just that he’s a kid and we’re adults.”
“Misaka thinks not caring about this is more of an old lady thing than an adult thing, says Misaka as Misa-…ow ow ow ow ow!! Don’t start working together to scrape Misaka’s head like that! says Misaka as Misaka protests resolutely!!”
While attacking the top of Last Order’s head, Yoshikawa said, “We are adults, not old ladies, right?”
“What kind of an adult gets so mad at a child like this, says Misaka as-…Owww!! You over there, help me and give me a towel! says Misaka as Misaka looks up at you with puppy dog eyes to stimulate your desire to protect me!!”
The tiny brat was shouting about something or other, but Accelerator ignored her and closed the door to the changing room.
He sighed once.
“…I thought I told you to stay on your guard.”
“And that’s what happened, says Misaka as Misaka provides an after-the-fact report.”
Last Order was on the street right next to Yomikawa’s apartment building. She was wearing a light blue camisole with an unbuttoned men’s dress shirt worn over it.
The small girl was speaking to another girl who looked like a larger version of Last Order. She was Serial Number 10032 aka Misaka Imouto.
Misaka Imouto was wearing the winter uniform of Tokiwadai Middle School, a beige blazer and a pleated skirt with a dark-blue check pattern. For the purposes of the experiment, they had originally worn the same outfit as Misaka Mikoto who was their Original, and that custom had continued on even after the experiment had ended.
The one difference from the Original was the large pair of electronic goggles on Misaka Imouto’s forehead. They looked like night-vision goggles, but they also visualized data on magnetic and electric field lines that could not be seen with the naked eye.
Misaka Imouto stared at Last Order with eyes that held no discernible emotion.
“That report has already been transmitted to every Misaka via the network. Why go to the effort of restating it orally? says Misaka as she asks the obvious question.”
“Sometimes we need to undergo communication using our normal 5 senses to correct errors like when a clock starts to run fast or slow! says Misaka as Misaka gives a plausible explanation!”
“If a higher model like you says so, I will accept that explanation, says Misaka as she ignores her superior’s complaints with an annoyed expression. It may prove useful to Misaka’s rehabilitation, says Misaka as she finds something she can use to force herself to accept this.”
She had said she had an annoyed expression, but her expression did not actually change in the slightest. Last Order flailed her arms and legs around, but Misaka Imouto was not swept away by the smaller girl’s pace.
Instead, she looked up at the apartment building at her own pace.
“But it certainly is foolish to be stuck standing here blankly after getting yourself locked out by the self-locking door while wandering around, says Misaka as she restates your situation. If Misaka had not happened to be walking by, you would have been left all alone, says Misaka as she secretly smiles while thinking of the individual specs of the higher model.”
“It wasn’t Misaka’s fault! It was that unaccommodating self-locking door’s fault! says Misaka as Misaka roars in indignation! It’s an electric lock, but it would only beep annoyingly when Misaka tried to open it with her powers! says Misaka as Misaka swings her arms around to relieve some stress!!”
“A lock that does not budge even with an Electromaster trying to open it should be praised, says Misaka in an objective evaluation.”
“Uuh…” groaned Last Order like a dog that refused to give up.
But that tiny higher model had little experience with the world, so her focus changed easily.
“By the way, Misaka was wondering something, says Misaka as Misaka points toward your forehead.”
“Hm? Misaka’s forehead is a normal size. Misaka is not a forehead character, says Misaka as she brings a hand to her forehead to check.”
“No, not that. Those goggles, says Misaka as Misaka points again.”
Last Order was focused on the electronic goggles Misaka Imouto was wearing.
With a puzzled look, the little girl asked, “Um, why does Misaka not have a pair of those goggles when every other Misaka has one? asks Misaka as Misaka gives you a jealous look.”
“Oh?” Misaka Imouto brought her fingertips to the goggles on her forehead, looked down at Last Order’s face, and then checked the goggles on her forehead again. “You and Misaka are just two different Misakas, says Misaka as she implicitly tells you to give up.”
“That kind of ‘our family has different circumstances from other families’ line isn’t enough! says Misaka as Misaka immediately begins protesting! And that reasoning means Misaka is the only one that belongs to a different family, says Misaka as Misaka brings up an even bigger problem!!”
While uttering her Misaka-filled lines and crying “Boo! Boo!”, Last Order grabbed Misaka Imouto’s skirt and started violently fanning it.
“Misaka wants one! Misaka wants one, too! says Misaka as Misaka uses her small appearance to its fullest by negotiating by throwing a tantrum!!”
“You may be trying to be cute, but that will only piss off someone of the same sex, so it has the opposite effect, says Misaka as she gives a thorough explanation.”
What might have seemed a bigger issue was the fact that Last Order was pulling up Misaka Imouto’s skirt making the panties she had worn on a whim that were tied together on either side with ribbons visible for all to see, but she did not seem to care about that.
“Mmhh…” groaned Last Order at the other girl’s unchanging expression. “Hey, #10032, could you give a quick bow? says Misaka as Misaka asks a favor.”
Misaka Imouto looked puzzled, but she carried out the higher model’s instructions nonetheless.
“Ha ha ha! You’re wide open! says Misaka as Misaka succeeds in her thieving plan!!”
She vigorously swiped the goggles from the other girl’s lowered head.
Before Misaka Imouto could say anything, Last Order turned her back with a delighted grin.
“If you fall for such a basic trick, Misaka might need to recheck all of the models’ routines, says Misaka as Misaka shouts out her parting line! Hah hah! If you don’t like it, come and get it back, says Misaka as Misaka dashes away while basking in the glory of victory!!”
Despite her small appearance, she disappeared somewhere with powerful strides.
For a while, Misaka Imouto stared blankly off in the direction Last Order had disappeared into.
“I cannot ignore a direct order from the higher model, says Misaka as she extremely reluctantly pulls a submachine gun and rubber bullets from her school bag.”
An ominous metallic noise reverberated throughout the peaceful street.
“Even if this is only practice, Misaka’s opponent is the higher unit, so this lower unit cannot be called immature for going all out, says Misaka as she gives the obvious interpretation. This is not at all because Misaka is pissed off. This is nothing more than a reasonable conclusion based in logic, says Misaka as she praises her own calm thought process while running at full speed with a real gun in one hand.”
She appeared expressionless at first glance, but a closer inspection showed that the corner of Misaka Imouto’s eye was twitching as she began her pursuit.
Last Order was completely aware of that emotional state while she ran down a back alley and tried to provoke her further using the Misaka Network made up of the Sister’s brainwaves and weak electromagnetic waves they produced.
“Hah hah! A normal Misaka can never defeat this Misaka, says Misaka as Misaka laughs loudly about her victory over the commoners!”
“The time for revolution has come, announces Misaka #10032.”
Between the lines 2
A building that functioned as Necessarius’s women’s dorm existed in the London Borough of Lambeth.
From looks alone, it did not differ much from a common stone apartment building. Unlike wooden buildings, it was harder to judge a stone building’s age from how it looked. This building had a history that was measured in centuries, but no one would imagine it from looking at it. The facility was polished nicely and maintained carefully.
It had not been turned into a fortress like Lambeth Palace where the Archbishop lived. It had instead been prepared as a building that could be easily replaced if it was ever destroyed. However, it had never once been completely destroyed. It was a prime target for any enemy magic cabals that knew what it was, but every plan to do so had been crushed before it could be carried out. For that reason, the building implicitly declared Necessarius’s records of victories. You could call it obvious bait.
While it was early afternoon in Japan, it was late night in London.
Despite being in England’s capital, the building was still wrapped in the cradle of nighttime due to being away from any of the main streets. However, a single window had light shining through it as if someone was staying up late.
It was the changing room.
It was located next to the large bath, so it was quite large itself. In one corner lay an empty cardboard box as large as a classroom desk. A user’s manual, warranty information, and other papers were scattered along the floor.
It all belonged to a washing machine.
The user’s manual said it was made in Academy City.
The electronic device did not suit the otherwise old appearance of the dorm.
“Why does the Archbishop accept these annoyingly complicated devices?” said Kanzaki Kaori with a displeased look as she connected the ground wire.
She was a woman with black hair in a ponytail long enough to reach her waist. She normally wore an active outfit made up of a T-shirt with the side tied off so that her midriff was exposed and a pair of jeans with one leg cut off at the thigh. However, she currently wore a simple yukata. Her ridiculously long Japanese sword was leaning against the wall nearby.
They had previously used a washing machine that vibrated so hard it looked like it would start spewing smoke any second, but it had finally broken not long before. It seemed even that Archbishop was willing to listen to the appeals of her subordinates.
The new washing machine had arrived that evening, but it was a cutting edge AI-equipped fully-automatic model. Kanzaki and the others had little contact with machinery, so it was similar to coming into contact with some strange advanced culture to them. While reading through the user’s manual with a puzzled look and trying this and that, night had fallen.
Kanzaki was so immersed in the work because earlier that day she had discovered a cardboard box sent from Tsuchimikado in Japan. It had contained a maid uniform + α (It was a fallen angel set containing an angel’s halo and wings) and she wanted to focus on something else to forget all about it.
“But Lady Laura said the cutting edge A-something drum would make all our difficult washing jobs a breeze,” said Orsola Aquinas with a smile.
She was a nun who had been part of the Roman Catholic Church until not too long ago and she wore a black nun’s habit that covered everything from her hair to her feet. Her body was as nice as Kanzaki’s, but Orsola had a rounder overall feel to her while Kanzaki had a tenser feel.
She was not the only former member of the Roman Catholic Church there. The impudent Agnese Sanctis, the strongly dutiful Lucia, and Angelene who had a sweet tooth and had difficulty waking up in the morning were there as well.
They seemed to have no intention of converting to the Anglican Church. Instead, they said they were creating a new sect of the Roman Catholic Church in London since there were 250 of them. That would likely cause trouble if Lidvia Lorenzetti who was imprisoned in the Tower of London heard about it, but Laura Stuart seemed fairly relaxed about it all. Apparently the Amakusa Church fell under the category of a small sect as well.
In addition to those 5 was Sherry Cromwell, a genuine member of the Anglican Church. She had horribly damaged blonde hair and light brown skin. She was normally quite fond of wearing gothic lolita outfits, but she was currently wearing a thin negligee. The sleepwear had two layers, so the lines of her body could be seen through the thin material but the details could not be seen. It was similar to having her body hidden behind a layer of steam.
Sherry managed the Royal Academy of Arts, so she was using a chisel to carve a chess piece out of the small piece of marble in her hand while mostly ignoring the conversation. The small shavings gathered around her shoulder and created a small ball. It seemed to be an application of her golem Ellis.
With her gaze lowered on the chess piece she was making, Sherry said, “Can’t you just wash your clothes in a river?”
“I could manage just fine with a washboard, but washing in the river causes problems for the environment,” replied Kanzaki as she pushed the washing machine to the wall after successfully connecting the ground.
Sherry could just leave the work to her golem Ellis and Kanzaki had the tremendous strength of one of the world’s fewer than 20 Saints, so they did not mind. However, the thought made the others’ faces stiffen a bit.
“Okay, setting up the earthquake resistance reinforcements and lightning resistance equipment took some time, but it should be fine to power up now.”
Kanzaki pressed a large button, but all this achieved was causing countless numbers and symbols to display on the small water resistant LCD screen.
Kanzaki remained completely expressionless for a moment and then said, “How about we just wash everything by hand?”
“N-no! Try for just a bit longer!!” objected Angelene while half in tears. She was the weakest of the group. “We’re almost there! Th-the fully automatic washing machine is just a step away! My arms already feel like they’re about to fall off just from carrying the clothes to the other building’s washing machine while we waited for this to arrive!! Th-there’s no way I could wash clothes by hand!!”
From the look of Angelene’s small hands, the day she was in charge of the laundry under a hand washing system would be the day she died.
Orsola looked down at the user’s manual and said, “Kanzaki, Kanzaki. According the manual, the machine should take care of everything after you press the wash button.”
“It says if you put detergent in the small box there, the machine will analyze its components and automatically regulate the amount of water and detergent based on the weight of the laundry. It fills, rinses, drains, and dries all on its own.”
“What an annoying setup. It would be a lot simpler if you could just measure out the detergent yourself.”
Agnese, Lucia, and Angelene all had the thought “But you only have to press one button” at almost the exact same time, but they remained silent as they were newcomers to the dorm.
Orsola banged her hand on the new washing machine.
“If this machine is really so convenient, I want to see it run.”
“…Orsola, it’s the middle of the night. Is this really any time to be running a washing machine?” asked Kanzaki in annoyance, but Orsola merely pointed at the user’s manual.
“It says here it is made to run silently so it can be used at night.”
“It says something about phons and decibels, but do you really understand what it means? Also, the laundry for today has already been put into storage.”
They were in the women’s dorm for members of Necessarius. A single pattern or stitch of their clothes could have magical symbolism included. Those clothes could function as either weapons or armor, so they could not simply be tossed into a laundry basket. A “fight” could break out between the defensive functions of the clothes. The spells used could have compatibility issues between denomination and sect, so it was standard practice to take that into consideration while washing them.
While continuing to carve the chess piece, Sherry spoke up with an annoyed tone of voice.
“The storage has three layers of magical locks protecting it, right? Undoing all that would be bad enough, but relocking it afterwards would be even worse.”
Upon hearing that, Kanzaki’s face lit up and she straightened her back.
“Okay, if we don’t have any laundry, we can’t use the washing machine. We have to be up early tomorrow, so let’s turn out the lights and get to sleep.”
“Oh, but we do have some laundry here,” said Orsola as she immediately started to strip off her habit.
With a shocked look, Kanzaki said, “W-we do not need to make more laundry for no reason! This is setting a bad example for the newcomers. You three, please do not start following Orsola’s example as if that is the custom here!!”
“Now, now. Japan’s yukata is made to be very easily removed. The coloring on the obi is very beautiful.”
“Stop grabbing at my obi and listen to what I’m saying!!”
By the time Kanzaki tried to stop Orsola, the indigo obi wrapped around her waist had already been undone. It then fell to the floor. The front of the yukata opened like a coat with all the buttons undone.
“Oh, dear.” Orsola’s eyes opened wide. “Kanzaki, do you not wear underwear?”
“You don’t wear underwear with a yukata!!”
She hid her body behind hands that held the explosive physical strength of a Saint, so not even Orsola was able to steal the actual yukata from her.
Orsola gave up on that and started gathering other clothes.
“But what am I supposed to wear while I sleep?”
“Sister Agnese, you will just strip down to your underwear when you get sleepy anyway.”
After some discussion of that type, Orsola managed to gather her own clothes, Agnese, Lucia, and Angelene’s habits, and Kanzaki’s obi. She tossed them all into the washing machine, closed the clear lid, and pressed the large “wash” button.
As advertised, water filled the washing machine’s tub, and the laundry began spinning around with movements that created no noticeable vibrations. Instead of the normal drum shape, the tub was a sphere so it could rotate in all 360 degrees. It was an amazing washing machine just to look at.
“Ohh! It really is quiet!”
Orsola let out a cry like a child in front of a roller coaster. Agnese, Angelene, and Lucia watched the washing machine run from over her shoulder. They were treating it the way color televisions were when they were first developed. It was a very strange sight as they were all in their underwear.
“…Did you steal my obi just because you wanted to see this?”
Kanzaki alone was disheartened, but then Sherry suddenly spoke up.
“Hey, you from the far east sect.”
“I’m currently something like a runaway ninja, but what do you want?”
“Did you actually read the user’s manual?”
Kanzaki looked over at Sherry. With an annoyed look, the brown woman wearing a double-layer negligee moved the chisel to point at the user’s manual lying on the floor.
“It says to take anything with colors that will run and separate them from the normal clothes. Will your dyed obi be okay in with everything else?”
“Gyaaahhh!!” screamed Kanzaki as she ran over to the washing machine.
That Saint looked like she was about to strike the washing machine head on. The four former Roman Catholic nuns in their underwear tried to stop her with all their might, but Kanzaki Kaori used her tremendous physical ability to slip past them and cling to the washing machine’s control panel.
“St-stop! Where’s the stop button!?”
Kanzaki frantically searched for it, but she knew next to nothing about machines and was panicked on top of that. The button had to be right there, but she could not find it.
Meanwhile, the laundry continued spinning around in the washing machine.
“My!” exclaimed Orsola as she watched the laundry through the clear lid. “I can see the stains coming right off of Kanzaki’s obi!!”
“That’s just the color washing out! Curse you, you vanguard of scientific culture!!”
Kanzaki could stand it no longer, so she half-forced the clear lid open while the washing machine was running.
But it was a cutting edge cubic washing machine tub that rotated in all 360 degrees.
In the blink of an eye, Kanzaki Kaori was covered in a huge amount of water flung due to centrifugal force. She was left dripping wet with see-through clothes.
“W-wow. You really aren’t wearing any underwear…”
As soon as Angelene made that careless comment, the Priestess let out a wail and broke down crying.