Toaru Majutsu no Index:Volume12 Chapter3
Chapter 3: Misaka and Misaka's younger sister. Sister_and_Sisters.
Kamijou Touma sat on a bench in a small plaza (no smoking) used as a meeting spot in the underground mall. He was drinking oolong tea from a small 200 milliliter plastic bottle he had bought at a shop.
He was currently alone.
Shirai Kuroko had been hanging around, but Misaka Mikoto had beat her down enough to get her to teleport off somewhere while shouting “I was only acting out of concern for you, onee-sama! I never thought my kindness would be a double-edged sword!!” Mikoto herself had headed back to the service store to finish the procedure to register their cell phones. Kamijou had actually gone back with her, but he had left partway through. The ace of Tokiwadai Middle School had shouted “This store gives you a Pyonko along with Gekota!?” and entered a strange mood with her eyes sparkling. Kamijou decided it was for the best not to deal with someone when they were in such an annoying mood.
“…I hope she calms down soon.”
Kamijou sighed and looked down at his cell phone. It was hard to tell while in the underground mall, but it was already past 4 PM. His honest thoughts were nothing more than, “Filling out that application and all that other paperwork sure took a long time.”
And as he relaxed on the bench, Misaka Mikoto returned to him.
“Oh, are you done now?”
Kamijou spoke to her, but Mikoto merely turned her head slightly away without speaking a word. It looked like she was hesitant to reply, but he was unsure what about his question would be difficult to answer.
“?” Kamijou tilted his head in puzzlement. “What? Did something happen? Come to think of it, you don’t have a bag for a new cell phone. Was there some kind of trouble?”
“N-no, Misaka is…” Mikoto waved her hands with smooth, silent motions and then brought a hand to her own forehead. “This Misaka is one of the Misakas that always wears goggles, says Misaka #10032 as she gives her Serial Number to help identify herself.”
“Are you Misaka Imouto?”
Misaka Imouto gave a quick nod in response.
This girl had an identical body to Misaka Mikoto down to every hair on her head, so Kamijou could hardly be blamed for confusing them. She usually had an unrefined pair of night-vision goggles on her forehead, but for some reason she did not today.
Misaka Imouto seemed to be experiencing some kind of special circumstances.
“Did you see a Misaka of about this size? asks Misaka as she holds her hand horizontally just under her chest.”
Misaka Imouto was indicating a height about the same or possibly slightly shorter than Komoe-sensei. Kamijou’s expression grew a bit confused as he watched her.
“You come in different sizes?”
“Misaka will take that as a no, says Misaka as she is disillusioned by your uselessness and continues calculating out that damn brat’s escape route.”
Misaka Imouto let out a slight sigh. She adjusted her grip on her school bag and Kamijou heard some kind of heavy metallic noise come from within.
(She’s in a bad mood again.)
As Kamijou had that thought, she continued speaking.
“To be blunt, Misaka’s goggles were stolen, says Misaka as she reports her situation with a grim expression. Without those goggles, Misaka is difficult to distinguish from the Original, so she must retrieve them as quickly as possible. However, the situation leaves Misaka at a disadvantage, says Misaka as she looks up at you so as to implicitly ask for help.”
Kamijou realized that both the older sister and the younger sister were very coercive in the same kind of way.
In amazement, he said, “It is true you will probably be mistaken for Mikoto looking like that.”
“Yes, agrees Misaka. When Misaka was running down an alley with a submachine gun in hand, she had some trouble when a pigtailed schoolgirl suddenly yelling out to her, says Misaka as she earnestly tells a tale of her hardship.”
“Um…pigtails you say?”
He had a guess who that might be. He just prayed it would have no negative impact on Mikoto’s everyday life. He also thought he had heard the dangerous term “submachine gun”, so he just hoped he had misheard.
“Y’know, it would be nice if you had something to distinguish you from Mikoto. At least until you get your goggles back.”
“Are you asking Mikoto to become a forehead character? asks Misaka with her head tilted in puzzlement.”
“Delete that term from your mind.” Kamijou seriously wondered who had taught it to her. “There are other options besides the forehead. You’re wearing the same winter uniform, but you could just take off the blazer, I guess.”
“So you enjoy forcing girls to strip in public places? asks Misaka as she obeys despite not understanding what is so great about it.”
“Bh!? Why are you reaching for your skirt all of a sudden!? Okay, okay! Don’t take anything off!! How about you add an accessory to distinguish yourself!?”
“Misaka has no such decorations on hand at the moment and she does not think she could afford to purchase one, says Misaka as she appeals to her family-oriented side by providing a realistic response.”
(I need to ask that frog-faced doctor about Misaka Imouto’s living environment.)
“No, there are tons of options for accessories. It just has to distinguish you from Mikoto, so I’m sure we can find something for only 1000 yen at a small stand around here. And with something that cheap, I’ll even buy it for you.”
“Buy it for Misaka…?”
“But what to get? Would a ring make a good accessory for a girl?”
Misaka Imouto fell silent for some reason.
But Kamijou was utterly oblivious.
“No, a ring wouldn’t stand out enough. You want something that is obvious at a glance, so maybe a skull mask or…Ow!?”
The instant he changed his mind, Misaka Imouto expressionlessly punched him.
“That damn brat disappeared?”
Accelerator’s voice echoed through the living room.
He had assumed Last Order was napping in the room she had been assigned, but Yomikawa said she was no longer inside the apartment.
Wearing a track suit as always, Yomikawa lightly shook her head and said, “The door to the apartment locks itself just like a hotel, so you don’t need a key to leave. It’s possible she went off somewhere to play.”
“This apartment building is pretty big. She could be playing in the elevator, the stairway, or a hallway,” said Yoshikawa, but Accelerator had a very bad feeling about what this meant.
He could not bring himself to optimistically trust the goodness of the world. He had seen too much evil for that.
(When did I last see that brat?)
Accelerator looked over at the clock on the wall.
It was currently 4:30 PM. When he had eaten lunch, taken a nap, and tried to take a shower, it had been either 1 or 2 PM.
(It’s at least been over 2 hours. With that much time, a pro could have killed her, buried the body, and disappeared without a trace.)
Accelerator and Last Order were both seen as incredibly valuable research material. The experiment they had been involved in had ended, but it would still come as no surprise if someone showed up hoping to make a fortune researching them.
In fact, nothing that calculated or greed-driven was even needed. The mere fact that she was an acquaintance of Accelerator’s could be enough to pinpoint her as a target for attack. Now that he had lost his title as Academy City’s strongest, he was nothing more than another target.
Accelerator clicked his tongue as if he was spitting the sound out and adjusted his grip on the modern cane that was supporting his weight.
“I’m heading out.”
“She’s probably just playing somewhere nearby,” said Yomikawa, sounding horribly carefree. Accelerator gave her an irritated look, but she continued, “After all, she left this on the answering machine.”
Accelerator fell silent before pressing the play button for the answering machine of the large appliance that was a combination of a phone, a fax machine, and a copier.
After a high pitched beep, he heard, “Um… Misaka is currently being chased by a lower model Misaka, says Misaka as Misaka reports on her situation. Misaka cannot go home right away, but she wants you to make some dinner for her, says Misaka as Misaka makes a request.”
Accelerator very nearly beat the phone with his cane, but Yomikawa and Yoshikawa stopped him. Without his powers, he could only struggle in vain.
Accelerator panted with his hair and clothes in disarray.
“…That brat pisses me off to the very bottom of my heart.”
“Ah ha ha. That’s just how relationships work.”
Yomikawa laughed with her arms still wrapped tightly around Accelerator’s body for fear he would destroy her phone. This meant she was pressing her large breasts against him, but she did not seem to care.
“There is no such thing as a relationship where everything always goes your way. True freedom where no one ever bothers you is the same as having no one around to notice the things you do.” Yomikawa removed her arms from around Accelerator’s waist. “That’s what happens when you take root. The two of you get so entangled together that it gets hard to move. But it makes you stronger for the rainy days.”
Listening to what the adults had to say was annoying, too.
Whether they were dead on or not, he would rather not be given lessons that he had no idea how to interpret.
At any rate, Accelerator wanted to find Last Order and keep her where he could see her. He was only free to act as he wished while sending and receiving weak electromagnetic waves via the electrode on his neck, and Last Order was at the center of the Sister’s activities. Accelerator still only had a vague idea of how the Misaka Network worked, but he had a feeling any harm to that model could have an effect on him. In his mind, he was acting solely for himself.
Meanwhile, Yomikawa must have been convinced she had said something profound because she had a triumphant look on her face.
“Okay, Kikyou and I will help out.”
“I have to help too?”
“If you don’t want to, you need to abandon the name Kikyou.”
Yoshikawa, who did not look very athletically inclined, was staring out the window while muttering, “If I walk around outside for more than an hour in one day, I’ll collapse.”
Accelerator frowned and said, “What are you doing?”
“We’re going to look for that girl too,” said Yomikawa as if it should be obvious.
Accelerator fell silent.
The track suit wearing woman pulled out the USB memory for the answering machine.
“It sounded like she was outside. I should be able to find the location by analyzing the background noises. At any rate, just leave this to Yomikawa of Anti-Skill.”
“Aiho, isn’t that a misuse of your authority?”
“Finding lost children is one of my duties. I see no problem with this.”
(Why does she look so delighted?)
Yomikawa grinned at him with the USB memory in one hand.
“Do you know what this kind of mutual relationship is called?”
“Tripping each other up?”
“Give and take.”
With Yoshikawa’s exasperated correction, the search for Last Order began.
Misaka Imouto was acting quite angry.
Kamijou Touma trembled in fear at one side of the underground mall.
He had ended up buying her a cheap necklace that came out to exactly 1000 yen after sales tax, but be had a feeling Misaka Imouto had been frowning ever since. She would occasionally mutter something about a ring for her left ring finger. Kamijou wondered what she could be so troubled about.
“Um, Misaka Imouto?”
“If you really don’t like the necklace, we can return it.”
“Please do not steal anything else from Misaka, says Misaka in a quiet but earnest voice.”
(So she actually does like the necklace?)
Kamijou was confused because he could not figure out what had Misaka Imouto so troubled. He was a bit worried about Mikoto who had yet to return from the store, so he really did not need Misaka Imouto being in a bad mood on top of it.
Kamijou decided to try to put her into a good mood and looked around.
“Hm? They’re selling sweets over there. How about we get some, Misaka Imouto?”
The fact that he immediately went with food was likely thanks to the influence of the pure white nun named Index. Kamijou hated himself for being so influenced by her.
Meanwhile, Misaka Imouto expressionlessly looked up at his face.
“Are you trying to tempt Misaka with food? asks Misaka bluntly.”
“But Misaka will respect the fact that you are doing so for Misaka’s sake, says Misaka as she does you a favor.”
Since she seemed to agree, Kamijou headed for the store.
Just like an ice cream shop, the small shop had its register directly facing the underground mall’s passageway. It was selling small sweets in the shapes of animals like chicks and puppies. They looked a bit like takoyaki, but they were likely made from a pancake-like batter and likely had custard cream and similar fillings. They were similar to taiyaki with cheese and custard inside like Western confectioneries.
The metal plate had molds built in for the animal shapes.
A young woman of about college age smiled at Kamijou from behind the counter.
“Are you ready to order?”
“Is the flavor different for the different animals? Do they have different fillings?”
“No, no. If they weren’t all the same, we could not get the data we need.”
“Um, people have designs they like unconditionally based on feeling rather than reason, right? If that is explored thoroughly enough, it can be used in the fields of clothing and makeup. This is something like a survey. We record statistics on what animals get chosen.”
Kamijou took a step back and looked at the store’s sign.
The sign for the obviously rented store had a university’s name clearly written on it.
“Well, there’s no harm in it, so whatever. …Now, which one should I get? The chick should be good.”
“Okay. That’s 54 for the chicks. Thank you.”
Kamijou left the store still looking puzzled over whether 54 meant the shape was selling well or not.
The chicks were lined up in a clear package in two rows and five columns for a total of 10. Melted caramel had been poured on top of the yellow pancake-like batter. Two small plastic forks were prepared in place of toothpicks.
“Here, Misaka Imouto. Eat up.”
Kamijou held the entire package out towards her, but Misaka Imouto froze in place while staring at the chicks.
In fact, it looked like she was looking the chicks in the eye.
“Um, Misaka Imouto…?”
Misaka Imouto gave no response to Kamijou’s words.
With no change of expression, she began giving small clicks of her tongue.
(Come to think of it, Misaka Imouto has less experience with the world than someone who lost his memories like me. Maybe she doesn’t know how to eat them.)
Misaka Imouto was poking at one of the chick’s beaks with a slender finger while saying “Mh, what a well-behaved chick you are to not bite Misaka, says Misaka as she sighs in admiration.”
Kamijou gently grabbed one of the plastic forks.
He then stabbed the fork into one of the chick’s backs in order to lecture Misaka Imouto in how to eat them.
Misaka Imouto’s shoulders gave a large jump.
“Th-the chick’s round body!? shouts Misaka as she trembles in fear… Why is it so obedient? asks Misaka because the chick is not even crying out.”
“Hm? What’s with you, Misaka Imouto? If you aren’t going to eat it, I will.”
While Misaka Imouto grew somehow uneasy, Kamijou popped the chick into his mouth with a puzzled look. As he chewed it, the sweetness of a Western confectionery filled his mouth.
“Oh, this thing’s pretty good for being part of an experiment.”
Meanwhile, Misaka Imouto felt a great shock over the fact that the chick’s cute round eyes (made of chocolate) stared her directly in the eye as it was tossed into the boy’s mouth.
“……………………………………You ate it.”
It was audibly chewed to pieces with a look on its face as if it was trying to say something.
Misaka Imouto began to tremble.
“Even if they are part of an experiment, Misaka cannot let you take these chicks’ lives!!!!!!!!!!!”
“Mgh!? Wh-why are you sparking like crazy all of a-…!?”
Before Kamijou could finish shouting, bluish-white sparks flew from Misaka Imouto’s entire body.
She was a part of Radio Noise.
Even with 20,000 of her, her power was no match for that of the Railgun.
But she could not be taken lightly.
1/20,000 of a billion volts was still 50,000 volts.
Kamijou had the misfortune of holding a fork in his left hand and the package of chicks in his right hand. The 50,000 volts struck him while he could not use either hand.
Even with Imagine Breaker, there was nothing he could do.
The unexpected attack sent Kamijou rolling across the floor of the underground mall.
The students coming and going through the passageway shouted out or cautiously whispered things like “Did you just see something spark!?”
“Ah!? says Misaka as she comes back to her senses at the sight of the scattered chicks!!”
Since it was the chicks and not Kamijou that brought her back to her senses, she must have really been stuck on them.
Misaka Imouto picked up the flipped over package and diligently put the chicks back to normal.
Her expression could not have been more serious.
Meanwhile, Kamijou unsteadily stood up from where he had fallen.
“U-ugh. Sorry, Misaka Imouto…”
Since he had apologized, Misaka Imouto turned an ear toward him while holding the package of chicks.
Kamijou Touma said, “I ruined the food. But thanks to the 3 second rule, I’m still willing to eat them.”
As soon as he finished speaking, Kamijou was sent flying by a kick from Misaka Imouto.
Misaka Imouto let out some rare heavy breathing and Kamijou was completely unable to grasp what she was thinking. He guessed she must have just been really, really hungry.
And as Kamijou’s head was filled with question marks, another familiar face approached him.
“Wait…What are you two doing!?”
It was seeing Misaka Imouto and not Kamijou that caused Misaka Mikoto to frantically dash over. In addition to her school bag, she also held a small paper bag with the phone company’s logo on it. She had not actually gotten a new phone, so it must have held paperwork, the case for the expansion chip, and the mascot strap. Convenience stores and supermarkets were moving in the direction of not wasting bags for small items, but that trend seemed to have not yet reached that service store.
Misaka Mikoto and Misaka Imouto.
The two of them truly could not be told apart. However, twins were not all that rare, so the Tokiwadai brand name may have been the reason they were drawing attention from passersby. Mikoto and Misaka Imouto were identical, but Kamijou could now tell them apart thanks to the necklace hanging from Misaka Imouto’s neck. He was glad the plan had worked.
Misaka Imouto replied to Mikoto’s question, “Misaka was forced to take a long detour through this underground mall in order to retrieve her stolen goggles, replies Misaka while her attention is stolen by the Original’s frog mascots. Misaka has estimated Serial Number 20001’s escape route and has compiled a list of firearms she can use in the counterattack, but none of it matters when compared to the frogs, says Misaka in an offhand matter.”
“Stop that and explain yourself properly!!”
When Mikoto angrily put Gekota and Pyonko away in her school bag, Misaka Imouto’s expression remained unchanged but a somehow sorrowful look appeared in her eyes. Her gaze then dropped to the package of chicks in her hands.
“…This Misaka will not be unfaithful, says Misaka as she double-checks on the chicks.”
“What do you mean ‘this Misaka’?” said Mikoto in annoyance, but it seemed she was a bit interested in the design of the chicks Misaka Imouto was holding.
However, Misaka Imouto used both hands to hold the chicks up against her chest.
“Original, you are already infatuated with those frogs, so you do not need these, says Misaka as she puts up iron defenses that she will keep up until she is in her grave.”
“Mh. C’mon, you can let me see those chicks a little, right?”
“Misaka said you could not and she means it, says Misaka as she sticks to her guns. If you want them so badly, you should have him buy you some like Misaka did, says Misaka as she indicates who she means with her chin.”
Mikoto turned toward Kamijou.
She remained silent for a while but finally took a deep breath and spoke.
“…Because you lost that punishment game, you have to do whatever I tell you, right?”
“You have to stick with me all day today as if you are my personal device. So you will work your ass off to carry out all of my requests, right?”
“Why!? Why is the air around you ominously growing electrified!?”
“Because you are acting no different from normal!! You’re in the middle of carrying out your punishment for me, and you’re just calling out to whoever you like. Do you really like the idea of a little sister that much, you idiotttttt!?”
A billion volts roared out of her bangs, but Kamijou deflected it with a swing of his right fist. The pattern repeated two or three times before…
“Dahhh! I can’t stand this!? Why do you have so much endurance!? Why can’t you just let yourself get hit and knocked to the ground!?”
“Why are you so mad!? And if I complied with that request, I would die!!”
After ten or twenty more shots, Mikoto seemed to finally decide it was pointless and stopped the rain of lightning spears while panting with her shoulders moving up and down. Kamijou was just about to collapse to the ground, the underground mall was filling with comments of “Should we call Anti-Skill?” and “No, I don’t want to get involved in this.”, and Misaka Imouto was using her index finger to poke at the beaks of the confectionery chicks.
Misaka Imouto suddenly looked up from the chicks and said, “By the way, what are you doing here, Original? asks Misaka as she begins to gather information.”
Mikoto’s shoulders gave a large jump.
She was not doing anything particularly wrong, but she still averted her gaze from Misaka Imouto.
“W-well, we challenged each other to a punishment game during the Daihaseisai and I won. I was just dragging this idiot around for his punishment. Um, I guess I would have to go back to what happened during the Daihaseisai for a more thorough explanation.”
“In other words, you are not being honest, says Misaka as she begins analyzing the information.”
“Bh!? What information and what method of analysis led to that conclusion!? I-I’m being perfectly honest about everything here. I don’t see what you could possibly think I’m being dishonest about! And what exactly are you saying would happen if I ‘was honest’ with this complete idiot!?”
Mikoto stabbed a finger in Kamijou’s direction, but Misaka Imouto remained expressionless.
“Mh. Misaka does not understand how you can treat him so rudely, rebuts Misaka. He saved Misaka’s life, so he deserves better than that, says Misaka as she smoothly asks for a correction.”
“Uuh… B-but that has nothing to do with this situation. What’s wrong with calling an idiot an idiot?”
“Oh, so you are stubbornly refusing to be honest? asks Misaka as a final check.” Misaka Imouto peered into Mikoto’s eyes. “Then this Misaka will be honest, says Misaka as she heads down a different path from the Original.”
As soon as she said that, Misaka Imouto moved next to Kamijou and suddenly embraced his right arm.
Her flat chest pressed up against his elbow.
Kamijou’s heart pounded in his chest.
The sudden shock gave that pure boy trouble breathing and his panic kept him from noticing Mikoto silently flapping her mouth open and closed in front of him. The male students in the area were glancing over toward them occasionally, but he did not notice that either.
As Mikoto watched on in astonishment, Misaka Imouto brought her body in closer as if to rub up against Kamijou’s body while still clinging to his right arm.
“Look, says Misaka as she casually shows off the accessory she had him buy her.”
An odd snapping sound came from Mikoto’s head.
Misaka Imouto was about to say more, but…
They heard the sound of small footsteps, and then…
“Misaka will embrace him from the opposite side, says Misaka as Misaka decides to join in because it looks fun!! Yay!!”
Now a girl of about 10 grabbed on and hung on to Kamijou’s left arm.
Kamijou looked over in shock and saw a girl who had the exact same face as Mikoto just with a younger body. She was wearing the same goggles Misaka Imouto normally wore, but the elastic band was too loose so it was hanging around her neck rather than on her forehead.
“Who are you!? The little sister’s little sister!?”
Kamijou asked about her identity while growing even more flustered at the feeling that went beyond flat and just felt hard.
But before the little girl could respond…
“Serial Number 20001, you have some guts to appear before Misaka so casually, says Misaka as she enters serious mode.”
“Heh heh heh. Misaka has grown tired of that game, says Misaka as Misaka heads off to discover some new entertainment.”
“Do you really think Misaka will let you escape!? exclaims Misaka as she pulls her submachine gun from her bag.”
A dull metallic noise rang out, Mikoto practically did a spit take, and the little girl disappeared into the crowd at high speed.
“If you treat them rudely, Misaka will kill you, warns Misaka.”
After whispering that into Kamijou’s ear, Misaka Imouto gently handed him the chicks. She then charged into the crowd while carrying a gun that in no way looked like a toy.
He heard voices coming from beyond the wall.
“How can you call that being serious!? says Misaka as Misaka mocks you.”
“Misaka has yet to even begin, says Misaka as she makes the final expansion to Misaka Full Boost!!”
Strange metallic noises continued to come from further into the crowd as if something was being assembled. Kamijou kind of wanted to take a peek at what was happening, but he was too afraid to approach.
At 5 PM, Accelerator left the air-conditioned apartment and placed his cane on the asphalt. He held a cell phone in his other hand.
He was heading out to find Last Order who had not returned home no matter how long they waited.
It seemed all of Academy City had only a half day of classes, but by this time of day it was indistinguishable from a normal weekday. The students walking around were wearing sailor uniforms or collared jackets in order to grow accustomed to their brand new winter uniforms. The only real difference from normal was the distinctive smell of new clothes floating in the air.
“What annoying weather…” muttered Accelerator as he glanced up into the sky.
He had not noticed from within the apartment, but the blue sky had at some point grown covered by gray…or rather, almost black clouds. The sky looked like it could begin raining at any moment. Since the Academy City supercomputer named Tree Diagram that had been used for managing the weather forecast had been destroyed, sudden changes in the weather such as evening showers could no longer be predicted accurately.
“Oh, dear. I hope we find her before it starts pouring,” said Yomikawa over the phone while she was probably looking up at the sky as well.
Yoshikawa had been left alone in the apartment. It was possible Last Order would return while they were out looking, but she would be stuck standing in front of the main entrance as she did not have a key or the passcode.
Accelerator clicked his tongue.
He did not care if she just stood there, but that child had a habit of running off somewhere when she was bored, so he highly doubted she would actually stay put. They were afraid of her getting fed up of waiting and leaving which would only make their search harder.
Accelerator adjusted his grip on the cell phone and said, “I thought you were in your car?”
“I’ll still get wet in the time it takes me to hold up the umbrella after opening the door.”
Accelerator almost called her pathetic, but he held his tongue. He was the one whose body had grown white from avoiding the ultraviolet rays of sunlight.
“So do you have a general idea where that brat is?” he asked instead.
“I picked up on what sounded like the background music played in the underground mall near here.”
“Ah? Did you use your analysis equipment just to look for a lost child?”
“Like I said before, finding a lost child is part of my job. Now then. I just had to analyze the music playing in the background of her phone call to determine her location.”
“Hmph. Are you talking about that sound no one hears that plays all over the city?”
“Oh? So someone actually noticed. Technically, it’s a wave with a frequency lower than the audible range for humans.”
“You idiots,” spat out Accelerator.
He was an esper with the power to observe, calculate, and control every type of vector. If he missed the vectors he could not see or hear, he would never be able to defend against things like radiation.
“You secretly mix that sound in with the store music and anything else coming from any speakers, don’t you?”
“That’s right,” affirmed Yomikawa. “But just adding in a low frequency wave would be meaningless. It only becomes a proper sound once a special frequency Anti-Skill has is used alongside it. Each individual speaker is made so we detect a different sound from it, so we can get a general idea where a phone call was made. These days, devices that prevent a phone trace are so easy to get a hold of that we have to go to all this extra effort. Of course, this is just one method of searching. We usually gather information from a variety of sources using a few different methods.”
“What a pain in the ass,” sighed Accelerator.
Only Academy City could easily pull off such a rough setup. They could solve countless problems from the alterations to the systems to the deployment of the equipment by saying it was “for an experiment”.
“So I just have to head to that underground mall, right?” asked Accelerator.
“For now. I doubt that quick little thing will stay in one place for long, so you might have to start asking around.”
“…Me? Looking like this?”
“Just smile! C’mon, start practicing your smile.”
“Idiot,” said Accelerator with a click of his tongue.
At any rate, he was too well known and not in a good way. If that Level 5 approached someone with a smile, they might die of shock. He would completely understand if the person pulled out a gun and shot him because they assumed he was coming to murder them. Simply put, there would be nothing they could do if he was. And so they would choose to fight back in any way they could.
But if he was to search for Last Order, he needed to gather information.
“This is going to get annoying,” muttered Accelerator.
And then Yomikawa suddenly spoke up.
“Are you that afraid of showing good will to others?”
“…You really like these cheerful topics, don’t you? It’s perfect for an afterschool walk.”
“Is it easy being a tyrant?”
Yomikawa was not listening.
Or rather, she was ignoring what he said.
“It may cause a lot of trouble with people, but I suppose it does have its perks,” she said. “A tyrant will never be betrayed. He never has to worry about a friendship dying. He never has to fear that his good will could be rejected. After all, he is nothing but a target of fear and hatred.”
Her words smoothly continued.
Accelerator merely listened.
“I am not saying that human relationships are made entirely out of good will and ill will. But it is true that you have pushed back everything that came before you with rejection and ill will. It was easier that way. But that will change. That is why I am asking. Are you that afraid to choose whether you will show good will or ill will?”
“What a load of shit. I-…”
“It’s the truth,” said Yomikawa, cutting off Accelerator’s words. “You are willing to accept good will from Last Order, but you are afraid to show good will to her. Your relationship looks good at first glance, but it is actually in a very precarious situation. If that good will from Last Order ever runs out, there will be nothing left to hold it together.”
Her tone was flat.
The fact that she saw no need to emphasis anything made it feel all the more true.
“Are you afraid, Accelerator? Afraid to do anything that would push her any further away from you because you do not know how to bring her closer. Afraid that your actions will backfire and push her so far away that you can never bring her back. But nothing will ever happen if you do nothing.”
“Are you lecturing me?”
“I am well aware I’m not the best person for this, but I am a teacher. Although I doubt a lowly Anti-Skill member like me would ever have a chance to learn of your true darkness.”
“True,” said Accelerator, now understanding what she we getting at.
She had probably already searched the Bank for information on him.
She was now asking him directly because that had gotten her nowhere.
“You sure do things in a roundabout way,” he commented.
“Just the name of the place you used to be was enough to tell me that.”
“The Special Esper Institute?”
Accelerator easily spoke the name Yomikawa hesitated to voice.
That institute’s name was recorded…or rather, sealed in an especially strict region of the Bank.
“Its official name is the Special Esper Dual Modification Technology Research Institute. I was forced to live in that school until I was 9. That hell was rumored to have a facility for disposing of corpses on the grounds.”
It was only in Academy City that two mismatched ideas like that of a school and the disposing of corpses would be brought together like that. In that city, schools also functioned as research and testing institutions for psychic powers development. When rumors branched off, the schools could become known as murderous institutions that performed inhuman research.
“But the place was even worse than the rumors suggested. They didn’t dispose of corpses there. It was the opposite. It was a garbage dump for the disposal of living human beings. I’m sure you’ve at least heard the stories.”
“…Yes, I have.”
The Special Esper Institute had focused on experiments and research into Dual Skills. Currently, it had been concluded that students could only use a single power each and that the appearance of two or more powers at once was impossible. Most of the data used to reach that conclusion had been gathered at that institute.
In other words, a long string of failures had led to the discovery of that law.
Psychic powers were developed by directly affecting the structure of the brain using suggestion and drugs. It was best not to imagine what sort of tragedies were created when that failed. Contemplating on that too much could lead you to realize the truth behind the seemingly ridiculous phrase of “a fate worse than death”.
Yomikawa said, “It was my unit that raided and broke up that institution.”
“Thanks, I guess.”
“Towards the end, the Special Esper Institute had to have realized that an esper could only have a single power. Yet they still desired a completed Dual Skill for their own fame, so they sacrificed more and more children. They especially liked to use Child Errors.”
A Child Error was one social phenomenon unique to Academy City.
As a general rule, every student in Academy City lived in a dormitory with a few exceptions that freeloaded in a bakery or something similar. However, in some rare cases, someone would use Academy City to abandon a child. They would pay the entry fee and then disappear once the child had entered the dorm. It was better than stuffing an infant in a coin locker, but it was the same basic idea.
Academy City had developed a system for caring for those children.
But some parasitic research teams would use that to their own advantage. Produce, the Dark May Project, and experiments in inducing runaway powers to analyze the laws behind them. Those types of experiments were not permitted by the leadership of Academy City, but they were carried out regardless using the Child Errors.
“…I saw it there. I saw what became of the children taken beyond those heavy doors,” said Yomikawa in a heavy voice.
When he heard that, Accelerator laughed.
He laughed at that naïve thinking of a normal person that led her to believe that was as deep as the hell went.
Her lack of imagination was proof that Yomikawa Aiho was a resident of a wholesome world.
Unlike Accelerator, who laughed because he knew how deep it all went.
“But unfortunately, I didn’t get to see your heroic actions. As I said before, I was only in the Special Esper Institute until I was 9. I was moved elsewhere then. Do you know why?” The corners of Accelerator’s mouth twisted up. “Because they couldn’t handle me. Even that hell found my power to be too much. Even those demons in lab coats were afraid of me. That’s just the kind of monster I am.” The white student spoke into his cell phone. “And it was no different afterwards. It was all such nonsense. Imaginary Number Institute, the Wisdom Institute, a Kirigaoka affiliate… Well, tragedies are surprisingly soft. That is how I managed to slip through. And when I slipped through, I just sank further. Deeper and deeper.”
Accelerator tapped his cane against the ground.
The bottom clacked against the asphalt as if he had spit on the ground.
“I never stayed in the same place for 2 months straight. And during the course of it all, I was reminded just how much of a monster I am. They were demons themselves, so what did that make me when they were all afraid of me?”
And as that monster bounced from place to place with no one able to handle him, he had eventually reached the Level 6 research institution Yoshikawa had belonged to. He had been received exceptionally well there and thus stayed for more than 2 months. But that had only been another face of their fear of Accelerator. The looks on their faces plainly said they were trying not to anger him. The only exception had been that naïve Yoshikawa.
And even after ultimately slaughtering over 10,000 people, the researchers had still treated him the same.
The sense of distance between them had seemed as if it would never melt away.
A whiteness that was rejected by the darkness.
In the end, that had been what Accelerator was.
“It’s impossible for me to show anyone good will. It’s futile. What good is it to pay back a single yen on a one hundred million yen debt? I have no intention of paying out any good will if it will just be crushed under nothing but the interest. It’s ridiculous to even think about a joyous day when I’ve finished paying back it all. It gives me chills.”
His words were pathetic.
Accelerator cursed to himself that he should not be boasting about how much debt he had.
Yomikawa remained silent for a while.
But then she spoke.
“This may be simplifying things a bit, but you hate that you have completely forgotten about paying it back, don’t you? If you had a way to pay back that hundred million debt, you would jump at it. Am I wrong?”
Accelerator did not give a proper reply.
Yomikawa’s tone of voice did not change. She remained serious.
“For example, I do not aim a weapon at children. Even if I am up against an esper, I will never aim a weapon at them. That is my own personal rule that I hold myself to.”
“Why do you think I hold myself to that rule?”
“Do you know why I would hesitate to aim a weapon at a child?”
“You…” muttered Accelerator under his breath.
The scent of dark feelings leaking from her voice brought the image of a back alley to his mind.
“That’s right. The amount of my debt may be trivial compared to yours, but it is still the same sort of debt. And that means we must do the same sort of thing even if you must do it on a larger scale, right?” Yomikawa’s voice stabbed into Accelerator. “No matter how pathetic it may seem, we can only pay it back one yen, or even less than a yen, at a time. As it accumulates, it will surely open the path before you. And you have powers I do not have. There may be plenty of ways for you to pay it all back at once.”
“What a laughable idea. It’s brings such a smile to my face, I think it’s going to distort it into something horrible.”
“The easiest method might be to join Judgment. Just having your name in their ranks could be enough to make Academy City 30% more peaceful than it is now. I could prepare the paperwork if you want.”
“That isn’t happening,” said Accelerator in rejection.
His was not that sort of power. His power was the type that would gain him nothing more than the splattered blood of his enemies. His power was worse than nuclear power. It was a wholly negative power that had no possible way to be used peacefully. He could try all he wanted, but it would never lead to success. His actions would produce nothing but destruction.
He may have wondered “what if” at times.
What if he had used his power to stop that experiment?
What if he had used his power to stop those Sisters from heading down the path of death?
What if it was still not too late?
How many of the deaths scattered before him and that would be scattered before him in the future could be prevented?
But that was all nothing more than empty theories that could not be realized.
There was no way he could do it.
He knew there was no way he could do it.
No one had needed to tell him that. As the one who had been using his powers for so long, he knew it better than anyone.
“That’s all bullshit.”
“But if you gather enough of that ‘bullshit’, you can pay back your debt,” said Yomikawa Aiho.
She spoke with the voice of one who stood in the sunlight.
Between the lines 3
Kazakiri Hyouka walked through Academy City.
She was a plain girl. Her long hair that reached her waist was its natural color. That was the nice way of putting it, but it basically meant she had done nothing to treat it. She only had a tuft split off to the side of her head with a rubber band. Her well-featured face was hidden by large unfashionable glasses and she wore no makeup. And on top of all that, her skirt extended past her knees. All told, this was no way to look in the shopping district.
But she still drew people’s attention.
Instead of drawing attention due to being a beauty with an excellent body, it was due to an unnatural phenomenon.
This girl had the atmosphere of a small flower blooming unnoticed, but her outline would occasionally distort. With the horrible screeching of static, her silhouette would collapse like mist being blown in the wind or like a television with poor reception and then it would revert to normal. One second it looked like her summer dress shirt was wavering and in the next it was covered by a blue blazer.
She walked through the streets like this.
The sight would normally have caused a large commotion, but it did nothing but “draw the attention” of those around her.
That was because she was within a city of psychic powers and advanced technology.
Most unnatural situations would be accepted rather than rejected.
“Hey, who is that?” said an Anti-Skill man who ran over to Kazakiri.
Anti-Skill members were experts that would use even guns to resolve any criminal incidents, but they were teachers first and foremost. As such, that man did not have the sharp senses of an agent.
That Anti-Skill man accepted her as a normal part of the cityscape.
And so he was not trying to eliminate her.
“Honestly, who’s projecting a 3D image here? There must be an esper doing this from somewhere nearby. This is quite an elaborate prank.”
He was not looking at Kazakiri.
She was accepted as a normal part of the cityscape, but only as a phenomenon.
Psychic powers and advanced technology.
Most unnatural phenomena in that city were explained away using those terms. In Academy City, people could accept anything by assuming it was created by some experimental technology.
And so Kazakiri Hyouka was able to walk through the city.
That self-proclaimed “monster” that no one would think was human was accepted without issue.
Was this fortune?
Or was it misfortune?
Kazakiri was accepted as a staticky 3D image created by an esper and not as a human being with a mind of her own.
She gave a slight smile.
It was a smile mixed with a bit of bitterness and loneliness.
It was a horribly fleeting expression that could only be described as “human”.
“…This is quite a detailed image. Are you trying to make your teacher blush?”
That expression was also accepted.
Except for the most important part.