Toaru Majutsu no Index:Volume13 Chapter6
Chapter 6: Streets Beaten by the Cold Rain. Battle_Preparation.
September 30th, 6:33 PM.
Vento of the Front, a member of God’s Right Seat physically breached Academy City’s third gate.
At the same time, an unknown attack was activated which caused great damage to the keepers of the peace, Anti-Skill and Judgment.
As a result of the weakened security, Vento killed three members of the board of directors.
7:02 of the same day.
Aleister, the chairman of Academy City’s board of directors, determined the incomplete Imaginary Number District – Five Elements Institution would be used to stop Vento.
As rain fell on the streets in the night, the Hound Dog unit led by Kihara Amata began to move.
Their objective was the retrieval of Serial Number 20001 aka Last Order.
Kihara Amata personally attacked Accelerator as he was deemed an impediment to the plan, and the attack was a success.
That boy who was known as Academy City’s strongest Level 5 was completely neutralized.
But Hound Dog made a single small mistake.
They had allowed a certain girl to escape.
“Please, help him! says Misaka as Misaka begs you!!”
That voice reached the ears of a certain boy.
“What are you doing there?”
The rain grew in intensity.
As raindrops poured down on the dark streets, a girl’s voice filled the ears of Hound Dog and Kihara Amata who crept along the ground and Accelerator who lay collapsed on the wet road.
A white nun’s habit stood out within the black night.
She was Index.
She was a slender girl. Even with the habit filling out her silhouette, her small frame could not be hidden. She had waist-length silver hair, large eyes that glowed green, and each individual part of her looked like a delicate work of craftsmanship that would break from even a slight touch. She also held a small calico cat in her arms.
(This is horrible…)
As Accelerator lay on the ground, that thought faintly entered his mind.
She could not be more out of place. This was not an opportunity, it only made things worse. He doubted she could stand up to any of the delinquents crawling through the back alleys, much less that armed Hound Dog unit.
Even Kihara frowned.
He gave none of the thought or analysis one would of a new threat. His expression was that of someone noticing a chick suddenly walking up onto the pitcher’s mound during a baseball game.
If that lab-coat-wearing man gave just a few instructions, that nun would be turned to mincemeat in a matter of seconds.
Anyone could tell what would happen to the soft skin and flesh of a human when shot by those submachine guns that were powerful enough to fill an automobile door full of holes.
(What should I do? Should I leave her to die? Should I save her? Or should I use her?)
Accelerator turned his attention to the choker-style electrode around his neck.
He should still be able to use his power.
But the injuries carved all across his body refused to let his body move.
“What should we do?” whispered one of the surrounding men wearing all black.
Kihara Amata gave a disinterested sigh.
“You’re seriously asking what we should do?” His answer was brief. “We eliminate her.”
Accelerator clicked his tongue.
Index had seen Hound Dog at work. They were an unofficial organization that’s very existence was a secret. That obviously meant they would have to silence her. Even if she fled, they would work to track her down. It was doubtful she would last even three days.
(Either way, I’ll get killed if I do nothing. So I’ll do something here!!)
Accelerator’s goal was more to get back at Kihara Amata than to save Index, but he gained an explosion of motivation nonetheless.
(I don’t really care about this nun, but I won’t let him have the last laugh. It’s your turn to clench your teeth, Kiiiharaaa!!)
The switch for the choker-style electrode around his neck was still on.
He only had to give the command and his powers would activate.
He checked on everything and everyone’s location first.
Three black vans were parked surrounding Accelerator within a 10 meter radius. The Hound Dog members wearing black numbered around 20. Kihara Amata was the biggest problem and he was standing right next to Accelerator, but it was very nearly impossible for him to attack the man. Accelerator’s defensive reflection could not block Kihara’s attacks, and if Accelerator tried to control the vectors of the air to create a raging wind, Kihara would use special sound waves to throw the vectors into disarray and neutralize the attack.
Index stood about 15 meters away outside the ring of vans.
(I can exterminate them later.)
While lying face down on the ground, Accelerator’s fingertips touched the wet asphalt.
He focused on the feeling on the bottom of his fingers.
(There is only one thing I need to do now. I need to escape to somewhere safe. And I’ll bring that nun with me!!)
His red pupils dilated.
His power activated.
“Oooaaahhhh!!” shouted Accelerator as he pressed the toes of one foot against the ground and kicked as hard as he could while still collapsed. At the same moment, he controlled the vectors. With a rocket-like burst of power, his entire body floated up from the asphalt and shot towards the back sliding door of one of the black vans with frightening speed.
The metal door broke free from its rails and was pushed inside the van as if it had been struck by a wrecking ball.
Accelerator’s body filled the back seat of the van.
Before the man in black waiting on standby in the driver’s seat could react, Accelerator reached out for the crushed door and tore off a metal fixture from the slide portion. He now held a sharp rod-shaped fragment of metal about 5 cm thick and 10 cm long. He stabbed it forcefully into the center of the back of the driver’s seat.
He felt it sink in more than he heard it.
Accelerator spoke to the man who had been physically attached to the driver’s seat but was unable even to give a proper scream.
He showed no mercy.
He merely told the truth calmly.
“You will die in 30 minutes. If you do not get to the hospital right away, it’ll be too late.”
From the amount of pain he was feeling, the man had to have known that this injury was beyond what a first-aid kit could heal. Not to mention that he had to know very well how that Kihara Amata would treat an injured subordinate who was now only a hindrance.
He made up his mind quickly.
With the high-pitched sound of the engine, the black van Accelerator sat inside took off with hysterical movements.
The men in black standing on the road scattered to the left and right to avoid it.
Kihara shouted something with an annoyed expression.
Meanwhile, they escaped the surrounding men.
Accelerator could tell the men were aiming their guns at the back of the van.
As he stared past the driver’s seat and out the windshield, Accelerator noted Index’s position.
“Move left to get closer!!” shouted Accelerator as he tossed the unneeded sliding door out the opening it had once covered. He then leaned out.
That white nun stood in the middle of the lane as the van approached.
Accelerator reached an arm out of the van.
Index was holding a calico cat in both arms. His only option was to grab her by the upper arm, but he had no guarantee he could reach that far.
But he reached out nonetheless.
A gunshot rang out.
A bullet shot by just past his face, but Accelerator ignored it and grabbed Index’s arm. He then manipulated the vectors to forcibly pull her up and into the van.
Index let out a scream that sounded out of place.
Accelerator shifted his position to hide the back of the driver’s seat with his body. He also lightly touched the sharp and deadly piece of metal stabbing into the seat.
The man in the driver’s seat gave a large jump.
Accelerator whispered quietly enough so that Index would not hear.
“…Don’t make a scene. Just keep driving. Neither of us has much time, right?”
“Wh-where would you like to go, s-sir…?”
“I know a good doctor,” replied Accelerator with a tone of relative disinterest. “A normal doctor probably can’t handle this. If you want me to lead you to him, do what I say, driver.”
“Ahh, ahh, ahh, ahh.”
Kihara Amata let out a discouraged voice while staring at the retreating black van.
He held out his right hand.
“Ahh, ahh, ahh, ahh! Bring it out! You know what I mean! Just give it to me!!”
It was a confusing command, but one of his men carried it out. With quick movements, the man pulled a shoulder-fired anti-tank missile launcher from one of the remaining vans and handed it to Kihara.
Even so, Kihara shouted “Hurry it up, you idiot!” and knocked the man to the ground. Kihara then assembled the launcher and turned off the safety with the speed and accuracy of a professional operator typing on a keyboard.
No hint of hesitation could be seen in his movements.
It was one of his men in Hound Dog that seemed flustered.
“Wh-what about the driver!?”
“Who cares!? Yahahh! Deserters need to be immediately executed! Goodbye, puppy! I won’t forget you for at least a second or two!!”
Kihara rested the 1 meter long and 30 cm wide launcher on his shoulder and peered through the scope.
He lined up the sight.
He placed his finger on the trigger for the homing missile.
The van had travelled a few dozen meters and was just about to turn around a corner. Kihara smiled. He would make it in time. Even if the automobile made it completely around the corner, the missile would follow them diagonally and strike the corner of the building. That would create a storm of concrete fragments that would flip the van over.
That would not be enough to kill Accelerator but it would definitely deprive him of his transportation. Kihara could then take his time as he dealt with Accelerator and the other two who would be injured.
(You’re too naïve, Accelerator! By using that van, you might as well be announcing that you can no longer perform the delicate control needed for the wind!!)
“Farewell, you fucker! I’ll roast that white body of yours black!!”
With an elated smile on his face, Kihara Amata began to pull the trigger.
His view through the scope was suddenly filled with the color yellow.
Kihara assumed something of the wrong scale was blocking his view, so he removed the scope from his eye. He found a strange woman standing a mere 10 meters away.
Cold raindrops fell on the roadway. No other vehicles or pedestrians were on the large road. That woman stood alone on the wet road that reflected the traffic lights and the bright white lights coming from building windows.
Kihara had not noticed her at all up until that moment.
The countless piercings on her face ruined its symmetry. She wore heavy emphasizing makeup around her eyes. To anyone else, it seemed a completely unthinkable look. She wore something like a dress that was primarily yellow, but it seemed somehow outdated or of a bygone era. She looked like someone from Medieval Europe.
But Kihara did not care about any of that.
What mattered to him was that the van had turned around the corner and disappeared thanks to that stupid woman distracting him.
All expression left Kihara’s face.
With that blank look on his face that could also be seen as dumbfounded, he casually pulled the trigger.
This fired the anti-tank missile.
A straight trail of smoke shot out and the missile stabbed at the center of the woman’s chest. Before anyone could see if her expression changed, the missile exploded and shockwaves and explosive flames were scattered throughout the area.
A roar that shook the asphalt rang out.
The rainwater that had covered the wide roadway like a film was completely blown away and the signs on the surrounding buildings rattled. A large number of leaves were blown from the branches of the trees lining the road.
Perhaps due to the close proximity of the explosion, the men in black surrounding Kihara were all knocked away by the blast.
Red flames and black smoke blocked Kihara’s view like cotton candy.
After only about 5 seconds, a violent wind blew it all away.
The flames and smoke completely disappeared in this new storm that had come from the center of the blast.
In the center of the scorched, smashed, and scattered asphalt stood the woman as if nothing had happened.
Both her clothes and her hair showed no sign of having been damaged or burned.
“What an excellent city,” said the yellow woman suddenly.
She was not looking at Kihara Amata or the others.
“I thought my erosion would progress faster than this, but I guess it won’t. It really isn’t fair for most of your people to be teachers and students. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that my erosion is slower against those kinds of people.” The woman with the piercings in her face turned toward Kihara. “But you seem to be exceptionally dark.”
Kihara finally opened his mouth to speak.
“Who are you?”
“A rival killer.” The woman turned to face the corner the van had disappeared around. “I had a target in there as well. It doesn’t really matter who kills her, but I don’t like having a kill stolen from me.”
“That’s enough,” said Kihara with a sigh. “Kill her.”
As soon as he gave the order, a group of the men in black around him held up their guns.
“You should stop that.”
Not even one of them managed to pull the trigger.
Before they could, the men let out groans and collapsed to the ground. They had met no resistance. The attack was carried out so easily, that seemed the strangest thing about it.
Most fell onto the wet roadway, but some fell directly on top of wreckage from the van Accelerator had destroyed. And yet they did not stir. They had been completely incapacitated.
What exactly had happened to them?
Kihara tapped a finger on the missile launcher barrel.
No one else there could understand it, but that woman at least seemed to trust that power. In that situation, a single misstep could get her filled with holes, but her expression showed no change.
Looking disinterested, she said, “So you tell them to kill me without showing any change of expression. You may have killer intent, but no hostility. You do not even think of your enemy as an enemy, so you feel no guilt. Do you view it the same as pulling up some weeds? First that missile and now this. You really are rotten to the core. At least as much as I am.”
Kihara did not respond.
He waved his hand in annoyance at one of the men in black still standing around him.
“Split into two teams,” he tossed the empty anti-tank missile launcher casually to the ground. “Gather the 10 most useless of you to hold her back. Meanwhile, the other team and I will head to the villa headquarters. Understand?”
It was a horribly rough order, but the men knew they would be filled with bullets if they did not obey. And it was true they could not crush Accelerator without Kihara.
The suspicious woman before their eyes, Kihara Amata, or Accelerator.
If they had to choose which one seemed least frightening, they would choose the woman. She may have been creepy, but she seemed the least difficult opponent.
Having given his orders, Kihara climbed into one of the vans.
The woman called out to his back.
“You really hold no hostility, do you?”
“If you want me to point some in your direction, you’ll need to show more ability than that.”
With that parting comment, Kihara smacked the back of the driver’s head and the van drove off.
The woman and the decoy men were all that were left.
“Well, I would like to know who that was, but he would probably die before I could ask. Honestly, I’m really not suited for gathering information. Doing too much damage can be a problem.”
The woman audibly cracked her neck and stuck out her tongue.
A chain fell from her mouth, making a jangling noise.
“Now then. You seem to be taking me much too lightly, but let’s see if you can be of any use.”
Kamijou Touma and Last Order stood completely still.
Neither of them had an umbrella. Kamijou wore a black collared jacket with a red shirt below it and Last Order wore a blue dress with a men’s dress shirt over it. They were both soaking wet. The electronic goggles on her forehead were soaked too, but that may not have been a problem since they were made for the military.
The small girl had led him to a large road not far from the entrance to the underground mall. The trains and busses stopped after the curfew, so no one could be seen along the dark roadway.
Or at least, no one who was standing on their two feet like normal.
Several people were collapsed on the ground.
As the rain falling from the night sky strengthened, men wearing all black lay collapsed on the ground and sinking into puddles. Their armored outfits made of composite materials reflected the light of the streetlights and their sinister looking submachine guns were sinking into the thin film of water covering the road. The helmets and highly elastic masks covering their faces gave off the scent of someone outside the realm of normal people.
Kamijou heard a crackling sound.
It was the sound of a fire.
Just a few meters away from the collapsed men was a horribly smashed van. The van was the fuel for the fire. The automobile had smashed through the guardrail and was stopped in the middle of the sidewalk…or perhaps that was not the best way of describing it. The van’s basic shape had been so distorted that it seemed better to say it was “scattered across” the sidewalk. No other vehicles could be seen. Kamijou decided that van must have belonged to those men.
Last Order pointed at one of the collapsed men.
With her face completely pale, she said, “He was attacked by these people, says Misaka as Misaka tells you the truth. That really is what happened.”
Kamijou looked down at the collapsed men.
(They aren’t Anti-Skill?)
The all-black battle equipment was deceptive, but a closer examination showed that their equipment was different from Anti-Skill’s standard…or at least Kamijou thought it was. He had no connection to the military, so he did not have the knowledge needed to know what model the equipment at a glance.
(But if they aren’t Anti-Skill, who are they? Were they attacking as a group with equipment that might be even better than Anti-Skill’s…?)
And those attackers were now collapsed on the ground.
He could not grasp what had happened.
Kamijou looked over at Last Order and said, “Is this person you’re saying was attacked someone you know?”
“Yes, says Misaka as Misaka answers you.”
“So did he turn the tables on them?”
“Unlikely, replies Misaka as Misaka shakes her head. He has a short fuse and gets in fights easily, so Misaka doubts he would stop at this after what they did to him, says Misaka as Misaka makes a simple conjecture.”
(What kind of person is this guy?)
Kamijou left that comment unsaid.
Espers were not invincible.
Kamijou had no idea what kind of ability this person Last Order knew had, but unless he had an irregular power like the Level 5 Railgun, he would be unable to turn the tables when attacked by a trained group armed with guns. Kamijou, a Level 0, had no room to talk, but all espers were still students. Their powers were nothing more than what could be used at school.
If you tossed them out onto a battlefield, there would be nothing they could do. If they were clever…no, they would not even have the presence of mind in that situation to make use of any cleverness they might have. A mere student would not have the resolution needed to fight like that.
They would most likely die.
(At any rate, I need to report this.)
Kamijou had no way of knowing if Last Order’s acquaintance had been captured or was on the run, but the situation was urgent either way. He decided it would be best to get help from Anti-Skill, so Kamijou pulled his cell phone from his pants pocket.
Kamijou looked up from his phone just before he pressed the button.
(Why hasn’t anyone reported this already?)
He could see it right before his eyes. A horribly crushed van. It looked like some time had passed since it had ignited, but the flames continued to give off light with no sign of waning. With everything that had happened, someone had to have heard it. The fire would be visible even from a distance. There should have been no need for Kamijou to use his phone because someone else should have reported it already. Normally, a crowd of onlookers would have gathered.
Kamijou looked around the area.
The lights had gone out within the city. The scenery was wrapped in thorough silence with no hint of a commotion.
What if there was no commotion because no one was able to cause a commotion?
What if everyone in the surrounding buildings had collapsed like those Anti-Skill members?
Was it an intentional attack or an aimless phenomenon?
The situation was so perfectly lacking in any kind of self-assertion that even that was unclear.
By the time Kamijou had noticed the problem, Academy City’s functions had been driven to a stop like a wooden pillar that had been thoroughly eaten away by termites.
The situation felt a lot like falling asleep in the middle of a final exam and waking up to hear the teacher announcing you have 10 minutes left.
With the silent city in the place of that blank answer sheet, a cold sweat began pouring from that boy’s body.
(What is going on in this city?)
As Kamijou stood still and unable to move, he saw some movement.
Last Order had crouched down next to one of the collapsed men and was digging through his equipment. She suddenly looked up as if she had realized something and frantically ran back to Kamijou.
She grabbed his hand with her hand that was cold and wet with rainwater and began tugging. She looked like a child dragging her father to a store’s toy department.
“Hurry, says Misaka as Misaka urges you to be cautious.” Her voice held an odd sense of urgency. “They’re coming, warns Misaka as Misaka heads over to hide in the back alley!”
As Last Order pulled him along, Kamijou hid behind a car parked on the side of the road nearby. He frowned at the word “they”.
The nearby drain must have been clogged with leaves because a puddle as large as a pond had formed around the car. Just one step in and his foot was already soaked down to the sock.
But he had no time to complain.
The low rumble of an engine reverberated throughout the area.
A strange black van without its headlights on arrived.
While producing a low sound of exhaust as if trying to move as silently as possible, it came to a stop next to the collapsed men in black. The back sliding door opened and a group of people dressed exactly the same got out. At a glance, there appeared to be around 10 of them. Even if they were unarmed, Kamijou would have no hope of defeating them.
But they were not unarmed.
“Shit. Where did they get all those guns?” groaned Kamijou.
The men in black all had submachine guns hanging from shoulder straps. They were probably also armed with things like handguns and grenades.
They did not look like Anti-Skill, the protectors of Academy City’s peace.
They did not look friendly.
In fact, Kamijou could feel a tension that made it clear he and Last Order would be filled with bullets the instant they were spotted.
He looked down at his right hand.
The Imagine Breaker power that resided within it could easily stop even the Level 5 Railgun. But it was of no use against a bullet that had no relation to any supernatural power.
The men in black picked up the men who (apparently) were their colleagues and roughly tossed them into the van. Meanwhile, one of the men took a different action. On the man’s back was a clear cylindrical container about the size of three family size plastic drink bottles stood vertically end on end. The bottom of the container had a nozzle attached that the man held like a flamethrower.
“That’s acid, says Misaka as Misaka gives its common name.”
“It’s called the Acid Spray… By spreading a special weak acid, they can destroy anything like fingerprints or the DNA information in bloodstains, says Misaka as Misaka draws information out of the destruction of evidence manual.”
(This is bad.)
If that group had prepared such large-scale equipment, they must have had a good reason to destroy that evidence. If Kamijou or Last Order were spotted as witnesses, it was easy to imagine what those men would do.
And Kamijou’s conclusion was…
(If that happens, I’m not sure we could get away.)
He gulped audibly.
He felt like the men in black would hear even that tiny sound. Kamijou’s body was soaking wet and his shirt was sticking to his skin, but he could not tell whether it was due to the rain or his own sweat.
He merely remained silent and waited for a chance to escape.
He mentally prayed that they would not be noticed.
He heard a slight splashing noise.
Kamijou looked down at his feet.
The drain must have been clogged because a pond-like puddle had formed. And his foot was trembling slightly while submerged in that water. That trembling was creating a small ripple on the water’s surface. And it passed under the car they were using as a shield and continued on the other side.
But those men would not notice something that small.
The pouring rain was striking the puddle too. It was dark enough that the details of the puddle could not be seen without looking closely. And so they would be okay…or so Kamijou thought silently almost as a prayer.
The men in black standing a slight distance away all turned in his direction at once.
They continued on for about 10 minutes.
Accelerator figured 10 minutes by vehicle would be a decent distance. However, that also meant it was only a “decent” distance. The odds were low, but their enemy might have free use of a satellite or some other method of tracking their escape route. If so, the enemy would catch up to them in no time at all.
The man Accelerator had stabbed through the back of the driver’s seat trembled as he spoke in a quiet, scratchy voice.
“(Y-you want me to drive further? Ha ha. Don’t joke. I’m really going to die at this-…)”
“(Quiet. Don’t stop until I say to.)
After whispering his reply, Accelerator lightly moved the makeshift steel weapon that was stabbed through the driver’s seat. The man’s body gave a large twitch and a groan reverberated through the vehicle.
Index looked up when she heard it.
“What is it?”
“Nothing. Isn’t that right?”
Accelerator leaned in towards the driver’s seat in front of him to hide the weapon from Index.
The man in the driver’s seat sweated profusely and nodded repeatedly. Index frowned, but she did not catch on to what was happening.
“But…” said Accelerator without thinking.
With its backdoor missing, the van was practically shouting “This van is stolen. Sorry.” Accelerator had assumed they would run into Anti-Skill if they drove that suspicious vehicle around, but there was no sign of them. He had hoped that would save him the bother of contacting Yomikawa, so he was a bit disappointed.
(Don’t tell me this stillness is that bastard Kihara’s doing, too…)
Accelerator had returned his choker-style electrode to normal mode.
This was simply to preserve power. The battery would not last past 15 minutes in powers mode. He had used up a good bit in his fight with Kihara, and it was worn down bit by bit during everyday life.
Given the amount of power left, he could not last even 7 minutes in an all-out fight.
Naturally, he was not even using the bare minimum of reflection right now. He needed to preserve his power to fight Kihara and the others. But that meant if a missile was fired at the van before Accelerator noticed it, he was done for.
For that reason, Accelerator was keeping his eye on the nighttime cityscape flowing by outside the entrance missing its door.
“Ah! I found The Ugly Duckling!”
The pure white nun whose view of the world did not quite match that of the other two in the vehicle was rummaging through the things in the back seat of the stolen van.
The original owner of the van must have had a child because Index pulled out a young child’s picture book made of stiff cardboard. The duck drawn on the cover with a deformed art style must have stimulated the hunting instincts of the calico cat in her lap because it began calculating the distance between them.
(What is with this bookworm? Her eyes are sparkling like crazy…)
“You sure are carefree. Come to think of it, what the hell were you even doing back there?”
“Hm? I was trying to return what I borrowed.” Index stuck a hand in the sleeve of her nun’s habit and rummaged around. “Here is your cutting edge daily item! You can’t leave something so important with a stranger! You must have been in trouble without it, but you’ll be fine now!!”
“Are you some kind of idiot!? Having someone return some disposable tissues that’ve been wadded up in their pocket is nothing but a goddamn bother!!”
Index extended the small hand that held the pocket tissues inside their plastic package.
Accelerator decided it would never end if he did not take them, so he took the pocket tissues from Index’s hand with an annoyed look on his face. He casually shoved them in his pants pocket.
“Come to think of it, are your wounds okay?”
“I mean, you were collapsed bef-…”
“That was nothing. And if you bring it up again, I might have to get violent again.”
The driver began trembling, but Index did not notice.
Accelerator’s impudent comments seemed to have relieved Index because she looked down to the picture book in her hands.
“Hm, hm. So this is how it’s translated into Japanese.”
Index must have already known the fairy tale because she flipped through the pages very quickly and read only the last page aloud.
“ ‘The ugly duckling who had been teased as hopeless was actually a super sexy badass of a swan. The end.’ …What is a sexy badass?”
“Pretty much the exact opposite of you.”
“Hmm.” Index loudly shut the picture book. “So in the end, it’s a story saying the swan’s victory was decided from the moment it was born a swan.”
“That isn’t the point of The Ugly Duckling.”
“Then what is the point? There are so many divergent means of interpreting fairy tales that deciphering it would be difficult.”
“Hah? Let’s see, what was it again? I think that brat said the point was that the swan wanted to get along with the ducklings but found true happiness when it learned it could never join their group.”
Accelerator clicked his tongue.
There was no dealing with brats because they would sometimes come up with those interpretations that lacked any hint of cuteness.
He heard a depressed groan coming from the driver, so he arbitrarily moved the impromptu steel weapon back and forth in the seat to silence him.
Index still did not appear to have noticed.
She looked up from the picture book and asked, “Is this ‘brat’ you mentioned the person you were searching for?”
“Yes. But technically I’m still looking for her.”
“You got separated again?”
“…Yes, I did,” confirmed Accelerator after a short pause. “I need to search out that brat now. The real problem is that she won’t be able to get home on her own. That’s why I need to part ways with you here.”
“I can help you search,” replied Index immediately. She did not look away from Accelerator’s red eyes for even a second. “After all, I can tell you’re in some kind of trouble. If Touma was here, I know he would say the same thing.”
“Hmph.” Accelerator looked away in disinterest and spoke to the driver. “Stop around here.”
The man parked the van on the shoulder of the road as per the instructions of the boy who literally held his life in his hands.
Accelerator looked back at Index.
“Then help me.”
“Okay. What should I do?”
“There is a large hospital near here. It should take 5 to 10 minutes to get there on foot. Head there and find a doctor whose face looks a hell of a lot like a frog. Once you do…” Accelerator paused there to tap at his neck. “Ask him to prepare a battery for the electrode I use to connect to the Misaka Network. That will get across what I need. This battery is important. I can’t continue the search without it. So once you get the battery, rush back here. Understand?”
“Got it. It’s ‘the battery for the electrode you use to connect to the Misaka Network’, right?”
She recited it perfectly.
Of course, she likely had no idea what the Misaka Network was or what it meant to connect to it with an electrode, but Accelerator decided she might have been a quicker thinker than he had thought. And before he had finished thinking that, Index unhesitatingly headed out onto the rainy road while holding the calico cat.
“Wait here for me.”
“You have to wait until I get back.”
“…Fine. Just get going,” replied Accelerator.
Index turned back two or three times in the process, but she eventually ran off while splashing through the puddles. Her small back disappeared into the darkness.
“Fucking hell,” he swore before leaning back into his seat.
There was no replacement battery in the hospital. The electrode itself was only a prototype. The battery needed was a specialized for it, so it had not been mass produced. And if it was, Accelerator would have kept tons of spares in his pockets in the first place.
It had been a simple lie.
Everything other than wanting her to go to the frog-faced doctor had been a lie.
The danger would be the same no matter where she went, but the worst option was for that nun to be alone. The best means of upping her odds of survival even if slightly was to send her to an area filled with people. Accelerator doubted how much the frog-faced doctor’s hospital would help, but it was better than nothing.
Simply put, a fight for Last Order was beginning between Accelerator and Kihara Amata’s Hound Dog. He already lacked strength due to only having battery power for less than 7 minutes of all-out combat, so the idea of fighting an enemy like that while also protecting Index was laughable. And so he had gotten rid of her here. She would have been in the way, so he had sent her elsewhere.
That was all there was to it.
And that was all there needed to be.
Accelerator gave a light sigh and switched his train of thought.
“Y-you’re still not releasing me…gah!?’
“Do you want to live or die? It’s your choice.”
He lightly nudged the steel blade stabbing through the back of the driver’s seat and the van quietly began moving once more.
Accelerator had him drive for about 5 more minutes before telling him to stop in front of a small park.
They seemed to be near the edge of District 7.
The street sign for the neighboring District 5 could be seen not far ahead.
Accelerator grabbed a large bag lying in front of the backseat and placed it on the seat next to him. It likely held spares of Hound Dog’s equipment. The bag was over a meter long and resembled a body bag made of synthetic leather.
He opened the zipper and found tons of deadly weapons inside.
He found a handgun small enough to fit in his palm, a submachine gun that could probably be hidden in an encyclopedia case, and something as long as a mop that might have been a shotgun meant for indoor use. Other items he found stuffed inside were clay-like explosives, fuses, radios, and masks that covered the face.
What he wanted first and foremost was…
(A replacement for my cane.)
He had left his usual cane behind during his fight with Kihara. At all times except while in powers mode, he needed a cane to support his body. No matter what he planned to do, he needed that first.
Accelerator glanced through the contents of the bag and…
“I guess it has to be this shotgun.”
He arbitrarily pulled a shotgun from within.
It was a semi-auto shotgun made of a glossy black metal. Everything from the underside of the barrel to 10 centimeters in front of the trigger seemed to be sideways magazine. It probably held about 30 shots. Accelerator was fairly certain some sort of submachine gun used the same structure for loading.
The main body of the shotgun was about a meter in length and the stock on the back could be extended to the desired length. It had something like a scope on top, but it provided no magnification and a red dot appeared in the center when a switch was flipped. It appeared to be a dot sight. It depended on personal preferences, but it had probably been added for increased accuracy over a normal sight.
(Is there any point in a precise targeting device like this on a shotgun that sprays bullets everywhere?)
Accelerator tapped the dot sight in surprise, but it was not actually a problem.
If he grabbed the shotgun’s grip and held the stock under his arm, it almost looked like a crutch.
(My weight might bend the barrel, but I’m not planning to actually fire it. All it has to do is help me walk.)
As Accelerator thought that, he heard the driver’s voice.
“It’s no use,” said the scratchy voice.
The man’s strength had dried up so much one would have thought it had been days since he had any water.
“You met him directly, so you should know. Kihara-san is absolute. He is not someone who a boy with a brain injury who has been dulled by peace can hope to defeat with methods he thinks up on the fly.”
“Do you want me to flick you?”
“Th-that might be for the best.” That was not the response Accelerator had expected. “I do not want to die. B-but I know how frightening Kihara-san is. I wish I didn’t know. I…will not see the next morning. He shows no mercy. And I mean absolutely none. There is no saving me. And if I’m unlucky, h-he might not even kill me. K-Kihara-san is the type of person who can easily break Guinness World Records or make the world’s three great scandals into the four great scandals…”
“Do you ever shut up?” spat out Accelerator to silence the man.
He grabbed the piece of steel stabbing into the driver’s seat.
“What a pain in the ass. Just asking me to kill you is too vague. I’ll move this thing around to tear your insides to pieces! I’ll have you spewing up your lunch along with a bunch of blood, you piece of shit!!”
Simply shouting in the man’s ear was enough to easily break through his bluff.
When people had never actually felt “death”, their words were worth no more than that.
The driver’s eyeballs rolled around in his head as he shouted, “Dammit! Goddammit!! Give it a rest! I don’t want to die here!! Both of you are monsters! I don’t want to have anything to do with either of you!! I want to go home, take a shower, drink some alcohol, and watch all the shows I’ve recorded!”
All that remained was ugly hopes.
It turned out he had stuck his head into a conflict between big-shots without knowing his place
Accelerator spoke quietly from behind the driver’s seat to the trembling Hound Dog man.
“You don’t want to die?”
“You want to live?”
“Yes!! What’s wrong with that!? I want to live! And I don’t want to live in some way that makes death look nice! I want to live a proper life!! I’m such an idiot! I’m the biggest idiot here! What am I talking about!? I know that’s impossible!!”
The man must have felt truly cornered.
Otherwise he would not be speaking so rapidly.
“So you do understand.”
A smile appeared on Accelerator’s face as if his mouth had been sliced wider.
When the driver saw it in the rearview mirror, his breath caught in his throat.
“Do you really think there is any path left that will save you? After living in this world, trampling on so many people, and making enemies of me and that bastard Kihara, do you really think you can still live a happy life? That’s bullshit and you know it.”
“You’re utter trash. How many people have you killed?”
It sounded like he had to squeeze out the voice.
But Accelerator felt a bit let down when he heard it.
Was that all?
If that was all, he was a much more peaceful person than Accelerator.
And Accelerator was quite a monster indeed to view someone like that as a “peaceful person”.
“Choose. Will you die of blood loss here or will Kihara Amata turn you into a truly hilarious corpse.”
“N-no. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die.”
“Oh? Then you need a hospital,” continued the Level 5 with a grin. “You won’t die. Not easily anyway. I won’t let it happen. You’re the kind of bastard I could kill a 100 times and it would never get old. Do you really think I would let you get off that easily? I’ll make sure your suffering lasts. Keep living on that hopeless path of life so I can relieve some stress.”
“Dammit…” muttered the man through clenched teeth when he was told to receive medical care. “He’ll kill me. Kihara-san will hunt me down to the other side of the globe. There’s no saving me…”
“A shitty doctor I know seems to be the type of person who won’t abandon a patient even when faced with the likes of him. Brings tears to your eyes, doesn’t it? You should be able to live for a day at least.”
“Th-that’s no guarantee of anything.”
“Is that so? I might tear out Kihara’s heart during that day, you know?”
The man remained silent for a while. He was likely thinking about the fact that he might survive if Accelerator actually defeated Kihara.
He then said, “You are no match for Kihara-san.”
“Maybe not. But I have a better chance than you.”
Accelerator began rummaging through the synthetic leather bag once more in search of anything besides the shotgun he could use. He found a certain device.
It resembled a handgun with a silencer attached, but the end had a sponge-like sensor similar to a microphone. Also, the area just above the grip, where a handgun’s hammer would be, had a small LCD monitor of about three inches.
“That’s an olfactory sensor,” replied the Hound Dog after checking via the rearview mirror. “It’s a military version of the ones used by perfume and deodorant companies…”
“So it’s basically a mechanical version of a police dog.”
It was likely more effective than a dog. After the sensory information was converted into data, only the needed smells of all the complexly mixed smells detected would be recorded in memory.
Smells were divided into a few different classifications and each genre had a similar molecular structure. The device likely started from there.
“We always used that to track our target. It’s quick and reliable. I’ve never seen someone escape once Kihara-san wants them found…”
A disinterested look appeared on Accelerator’s face.
He had no objection to crushing Hound Dog, but he did not want to constantly worry about surprise attacks. It would be better if he set up a way of taking them by surprise.
“Just because we used a vehicle doesn’t mean anything. They’ll follow the scent of the tires to find the van. Then they just have to follow your scent. We keep tracking the target until we have stabbed them in the back. They will find this location right away.”
As Accelerator listened to the man speak, he fiddled with the olfactory sensor.
“How do you use this? It might come in handy for finding that brat.”
“…Give it up.” The man gave a slight smile. It was a pale, dry smile. “Hound Dog has a cleaning agent for erasing scents. It messes with the very molecular structure of the scent. If they used that at the attack site, you won’t find anything…”
According to the man, there were two types of cleaning agent: one for putting on the Hound Dog members’ clothes and one for scattering across the site after the fact.
“Do you have that cleaning agent?”
“If I did, I would have already used it. I was part of the wrong group. One group tracks, the other covers our own tracks…”
Accelerator clicked his tongue.
But simply knowing a material existed to fool the olfactory sensor was still a plus.
Accelerator tossed the olfactory sensor aside and said, “I have nothing left to ask you. Don’t you dare move.”
The man cried out as he felt a writhing atmosphere from the backseat.
He was going to be killed after all.
Or so he thought. Instead, Accelerator moved towards the doorless opening. The boy was exiting the van.
“Wh-where are you going?”
“Ahn? To crush Kihara and rescue that brat.”
The man was dumbfounded by that annoyed reply.
“Why aren’t you giving up? No matter where you run, Kihara-san will come to crush you with a smile on his face. You don’t have time to prepare for a fight. He has the upper hand in every way. Are you still going to do this?”
“Of course I am.”
“How can you reply so readily? Surely someone as knowledgeable in the world as you knows just how bad your situation is here.”
“No, I don’t know,” spat out Accelerator.
He brought a hand to the doorless exit from the backseat in order to contact the frog-faced doctor.
“Maybe I’ve been too dulled by peace. Or maybe it’s the brain injury.”
It took him an instant to make up his mind.
Kamijou realized hiding was useless, so he wrapped his arms around Last Order’s small body to pick her up and dashed out from behind the vehicle while leaning his upper body forward.
The vehicle had been illegally parked on the edge of the sidewalk.
The entrance to the closest alleyway was only about 5 meters away.
He heard a sound of destruction like a thin piece of silk being torn with a metal pipe.
Several submachine guns had immediately started firing.
Kamijou had no idea how many bullets they were firing every second. The glass of the vehicle he had been using as a shield shattered, the hood bent in as if it had been crushed, and the steel panels of the door were filled with holes before falling off. The seats burst and cotton stuffing filled the inside of the vehicle.
The destruction all happened in an instant and it all merged into a single great noise.
Even so, Kamijou continued toward the entrance of the alleyway.
A trail of bullets followed Kamijou’s escape route.
A bullet struck the concrete wall at eyelevel right in front of him. They had fired once ahead of him so they could fill him with holes when he faltered. He reflexively lowered his head, but he just barely managed to keep his body moving. The small concrete fragments scraped at his hair.
He half fell and half leaped to the wet ground in the back alley.
“Are you alive, Last Order!?” asked Kamijou and the small girl in his arms silently nodded a few times.
Kamijou could hear the sound of metal scraping on metal. It was the sound of those men in black’s equipment. Kamijou clicked his tongue, adjusted his grip on Last Order, and ran further into the back alley.
He wanted some place to hide.
The Imagine Breaker residing in his right hand was not suited at all to this situation. It was useful against tricky and irregular opponents who used magic or psychic powers, but there was nothing he could do against their guns. If he did try running at them to punch them, he would just be torn to pieces like an old rag.
“Last Order, since you control the Sisters, does that mean you can use electric powers too?”
“Yes, but only at Level 3, says Misaka as Misaka gives her reply.”
“Then can you open an electronic lock? I want to get inside a building through the back entrance. This alley probably isn’t very long and it’s possible they’ll be waiting at the other end.”
“Understood,” she replied.
Kamijou stopped in front of a nearby door in the back alley and lowered Last Order next to him.
Last Order pulled a cell phone out of the chest pocket of her dress shirt and turned it off. Apparently, it would distract her while using her electric powers. She brought her small palm up to the card slot next to the door and closed her eyes.
Kamijou could hear the metallic noise of the men in black approaching.
He could not tell how far away they were. The alley had a few turns rather than heading straight, so the men could not shoot them from the alleyway entrance. However, staying still waiting for something put a huge pressure on Kamijou when they could catch up at any time.
Kamijou waited while focusing his ears on the many footsteps he could hear in the darkness.
(Dammit. Is it still not open?)
Last Order showed no change.
Just as Kamijou began worrying his Imagine Breaker was causing some sort of interference…
“There! says Misaka as Misaka opens her eyes!”
A high-pitched electronic tone sounded.
Kamijou grabbed the knob of the steel door and turned.
It was unlocked. He grabbed Last Order and entered the building.
No lights were on inside.
It appeared to be the kitchen of a family restaurant. They used fire there, so the door had likely been prepared as an emergency exit. The restaurant should not have been closed for the night yet, so the absence of light was a bit eerie. The green light indicating the emergency exit provided just enough illumination to vaguely see the silhouettes of the cooking equipment.
“What do we do now? says Misaka as Misaka asks your opinion.”
Kamijou lowered Last Order to the floor and walked towards the door in front of him. He wanted to head towards somewhere with light…somewhere with people.
“They have a vehicle. We would likely be caught if we tried to flee on foot. The trains and buses do not run this late and I doubt we could escape even if we found an amateur taxi driver to take us.”
Last Order looked up at him with worry in her eyes.
Kamijou wanted to just give up, but he could not show her anything so disgraceful.
“For now, let’s go somewhere with a lot of people. They do not want to cause a commotion. That is why they are pursuing us. Slaughtering a large group of people would be getting their priorities mixed up.”
“Will we really be able to save him like this? says Misaka as Misaka laments her own lack of power.”
“I don’t know. But if we don’t survive here, there’s no way we can save him. If you want to save this person, then make sure you don’t die. I’m sure he wouldn’t be happy if you died.”
“…You’re right, says Misaka as Misaka nods her head.”
“Okay, then let’s survive this.”
While smiling bitterly at how ridiculous that line sounded, Kamijou opened the door in front of him.
It led to what appeared to be the main floor where the guests dined. It was filled with the white brightness of fluorescent lights and cheerful music that seemed horribly out of place could be heard from the speaker system. A large television installed in the wall was displaying a commercial. The greasy smell of ready-made meals hung in the air.
“…Not here too,” groaned Kamijou Touma.
Several customers were within the restaurant. Some were couples and some appeared to be teachers enjoying a meal after work. A waitress wearing a cute uniform was in the narrow aisle between tables. A slightly elderly man was at the register.
And they had all collapsed.
They were lying limply despite showing no sign of injury.
The restaurant showed no sign of any kind of panic. A few forks and spoons had fallen to floor, but they had likely fallen when the guests collapsed onto the tables in front of them. It looked as if they had all just suddenly collapsed.
Some simply appeared to be sleeping like the Anti-Skills Kamijou had seen near the entrance to the underground mall. Others looked as if they fallen to the floor after freezing in place like a statue. Overall, it appeared they could be divided into a few different groups.
The kitchen had seemed odd too, so something may have happened there as well.
However, this would no longer function as a place with plenty of people.
If they were all unconscious, there was effectively no one around to witness anything.
(What is going on?)
Kamijou fell into a daze.
(A few of those men in black collapsed in the same way. So it must not be them that are doing it. Dammit. Are there multiple problems here!?)
“Last Order, we should get out-…”
Kamijou trailed off as Last order pulled him down to the floor.
The windows lined up along the wall facing the main street all shattered at once. It took Kamijou a few seconds to realize someone had fired bullets into the restaurant from the road. A bullet must have struck the speaker system’s tuner because all the speakers fell silent. The television broke and began spewing sparks.
Kamijou lost his cool when he saw fragments of glass raining down on the guests collapsed on the floor and tables. Luckily, no bullets had actually struck them, but that was not the problem.
(Shit! Do they not care at all about the surrounding people!?)
Someone stepped on the glass fragments as they slowly entered the main floor.
Kamijou grabbed a fork that had fallen on the floor nearby.
It was such a pathetic weapon he wanted to laugh out loud.
And on top of that, the main floor suddenly lost power. Kamijou heard a quiet creak come from the door he and Last Order had entered through. Someone was opening it. Three more men in black entered through it as they snuck along with roach like movements.
The only thing protecting Kamijou and Last Order was the large square pillar in the center of the floor.
The men in black were slowly approaching from two directions, so there was almost nowhere to hide from them.
With the dully glowing fork in hand, Kamijou pressed his back against the pillar.
And then he looked up.
One of the bullets fired through the windows must have struck it because a hole had been opened just above his head.
(It went straight through? This won’t work as a shield at all!!)
The shock caused Kamijou’s muscles to tense up more than necessary.
The slow footsteps that did their best to remain silent slowly but surely surrounded them.
Accelerator thought about using his cell phone, but ended up walking a bit away to use a pay phone. It was possible Kihara and Hound Dog were using a device to detect a specific number on the phone lines.
He entered the phone booth which seemed a bit dirty as if no one had used it in a long time and pressed the red emergency button to call an ambulance. The jurisdiction of that area would likely automatically send the ambulance to the frog-faced doctor’s hospital.
Accelerator then inserted one of his last few coins and grabbed the receiver again. While double-checking the cell phone number, he dialed one number at a time.
The number belonged to Last Order’s cell phone.
But no one answered. As Accelerator silently held the receiver, he received the message stating the cell phone might be turned off or in a location without a signal.
He put down the receiver.
(…Well, that’s about what I expected.)
If she had fled to some confined place, she might not receive a signal. Also, the ringtone or sound of vibration could put her in danger.
The worst possibility entered his mind, but Accelerator continued doing what must be done.
He inserted another coin and dialed a different number.
It continued ringing for a while.
Eventually, an elderly female nurse answered. Accelerator ordered her to connect him to the frog-faced doctor.
The call was quickly transferred.
“What might you need at this late hour?”
“I’ve run into some trouble. Some major trouble.”
“I have heard the general situation from the so-called Misaka Imouto. It seems they have been exchanging information over their electric network.”
(I see. So she can use that instead of her phone,) thought Accelerator in admiration.
However, he only borrowed use of the network for help with his calculations, so he could not actually communicate over it.
“That speeds things up. Tell me what you know. Where is that brat?”
“It seems she is currently being pursued by a Hound Dog unit. She is fleeing along with an unrelated person who she happened to run across. She has not been captured yet…but to be honest, it seems it is only a matter of time.”
Apparently, Last Order had asked someone for help after getting away from Kihara. The only problem was whether this helper had the strength to actually help.
Accelerator clicked his tongue.
“Where is she?”
“She does not know herself. It seems to be some sort of family restaurant.”
He thought for a bit, but that was not enough information to determine the location.
The frog-faced doctor said that was why the Sisters were unable to head out to search for Last Order. Of course, the ten or so Sisters in Academy City were undergoing adjustments to their bodies, so they could not be allowed to walk around in the rain for an extended period of time.
It annoyed him, but he would have to carry out his original job for the moment.
“Has a brat in a white nun’s habit arrived at your place?”
“I’m not entirely sure what to do about her actually. Why does she know about your calculation assistance?”
“That’s none of your business.”
“…Do you really need a new battery?”
“No such thing exists, does it?” spat out Accelerator. “Just look after that brat going on about the battery. Her life will likely be targeted for the next 24 hours or so. Don’t take your eyes off of her.”
“What a pain. Can we not leave this problem to Anti-Skill?”
“What can those pacifist teachers do? This enemy is on a completely different level. If you don’t want to increase the body count, then get that into your head.”
“…I suppose so. But I never thought I would have to protect someone who is not a patient of mine.”
“Well, you’ll be getting a new patient too. A man who was stabbed in the back should be arriving soon. Once you give him emergency care, prepare for an attack. How much firepower do you have there?”
“Firepower? This is sounding quite dangerous.”
Even the frog-faced doctor was taken aback by that, but Accelerator was not about to explain every little thing.
He did not have the time.
“You said you have a grasp of the situation via the clones’ network, right? Then you should know this is no time to be acting soft. Just tell me already. The longer you sit around flustered, the odds of death rise for everyone there.”
“Honestly… You like injuries and getting hospitalized just as much as that boy, don’t you?”
Accelerator heard a sigh from the other side of the connection.
After a short silence, the frog-faced doctor gave his answer.
“I have about 10 of the mass produced military Sisters who are in for their adjustments. I believe they have the Metal Eater MX anti-tank rifles and F2000R Toy Soldiers they used in the experiments.”
Accelerator thought for a bit.
But then he shook his head.
“That isn’t enough. The clones are little help in their current state and I doubt they could handle this even in top form. Can you evacuate all of the staff and patients in the hospital?”
“Are you asking me to leave my post? Do you have any idea how many beds are in this hospital?”
“About three hundred?”
“Seven hundred,” immediately replied the frog-faced doctor. “And I have 52 patients who it would be dangerous to move such as newborns and the seriously ill. Fortunately, no patients are currently in surgery, but do you know how reckless it would be to move everyone?”
“If I leave here, what happens if a new patient arrives? There is that problem as well.”
Accelerator did not complain about the frog-faced doctor’s words or thank him for them.
He did not have time for that.
“Can you do it?”
“I will do it,” was the immediate reply. The frog-faced doctor’s tone had changed to something completely different from his usual lighthearted one. “I can use a smoke bomb or something and say a fire has broken out. If it can be connected to some form of terrorist attack, that will be reason enough to justify a full evacuation. Moving some of the patients will be dangerous, but it is my job to protect their lives. I will manage somehow.”
“I may have been the one to ask it of you, but can you really do this?”
“I said I would. Did you not think this would go so well? I have a few alternative options when it comes to the patients. I can assign them to other hospitals and such. If I had no alternative option, I would never have agreed.”
“…Sorry about this.”
“To be honest, I do not enjoy being used in your conflicts, but I will treat any patient equally. If you ask me to protect a patient brought to me, I will do everything I can to do so.”
The siren of an ambulance passed by.
The Hound Dog man would soon be brought aboard the ambulance and brought to the hospital.
As Accelerator turned his ear toward the siren, the frog-faced doctor suddenly asked, “So how far are you going to take this?”
“I will kill Kihara, I will crush Hound Dog, and I will rescue that brat unharmed.”
“That is impossible,” was the frog-faced doctor’s immediate reply.
Accelerator frowned at the frank and coolheaded tone that did not suit the man at all.
“You are taking on too many objectives in your restricted situation. You will never succeed that way. Is the world you live in one where you can somehow manage to reach your goal if you continually turn off your main path?”
“When did you decide a doctor needs to provide that kind of bullshit lip service? Someone from your world shouldn’t pretend to understand the darkness.”
“You seem to be mistaken about something, so allow me to correct you.” The frog-faced doctor did not hesitate. He simply spoke the truth to Accelerator. “I have seen more of hell than you have. Do not look down on the profession of doctor. I believe I have seen much more blood and tears than you. But for me, it did not end in tragedy. I am known as Heaven Canceller. I am the one who brings people back from the underworld. The difference between us is simple. Do we stay there or do we make sure to come back? That’s all there is to it.”
The doctor paused for a moment.
But then he began speaking once more.
“Let me give you some advice as one who has known this darkness you speak of for longer than you have. Restrict yourself to a single goal. Killing Kihara? Crushing Hound Dog? You can deal with that nonsense later. There is only one thing you truly need to do here. Do you really not understand that?”
“Leave it to a doctor to put human life first. But rescuing that brat unharmed and crushing Kihara and the others are one and the same. Even if I get rid of either objective-…”
“That is not what I meant.”
“You want to rescue Last Order unharmed? Why are you still insisting you can do the impossible?”
Accelerator’s blood froze over.
Who was this he was speaking to?
“As I said before, I have learned the situation directly from the Sisters who are exchanging information over the Misaka Network. And I believe I understand your situation fairly well, too. I know what I am talking about,” said the frog faced doctor in a slow yet powerful voice. It was as if he was giving a lecture. “Start looking at reality. Surely you understood you could not manage that from the moment you were crawling pathetically on the ground. Listen: you are losing. You are facing an opponent who will be difficult to defeat at all, so what good does it do to hold all those unrealistic hopes? Compromise, Accelerator. You can no longer save Last Order unharmed. No matter well this goes for you from here on, she will certainly meet some harm.”
Accelerator felt like he had been struck from a mental blind spot.
That doctor had drawn so close to him and he had not even noticed.
“…Fuck you. Can’t you tell that I was vowing to kill Kihara while crawling through the mud because I didn’t want to admit that?”
“I wouldn’t know anything about that. If everything would go well as long as you hoped for it, I would never have become a doctor. I would be holed up in a mountain meditating 365 days a year. It is because that will never physically save people that I became a doctor. Let me be blunt: you are giving nothing but the selfish assertions of a child who refuses to see reality.”
“Then what the hell am I supposed to do? Am I supposed to watch a bastard like Kihara abuse that brat and then just smile and view it all as a wonderful happy ending!?”
“Yes. That is what doctors are for.” The frog-faced doctor was not moved by Accelerator’s anger. His words continued smoothly. “Whether her arm is broken, her skin is peeled off, or her organs are crushed, I will make sure to save her life as long as you bring her to me alive. I will protect her life, ensure no scars remain, and provide mental care so that this person who is precious to you has been truly saved. That is what doctors are meant to do. So Accelerator, do not hold your hopes needlessly and hopelessly high. Focus on saving only Last Order’s life. That is what matters most. That is the sole thing a novice like me cannot bring back. Am I wrong? If I am, then tell me right now what is more important than that girl’s life.”
He had to think something about the situation.
He had to think something about the fact that a child’s life was being taken for the convenience of the adults.
He perfectly understood his own position. It was because he understood that no amount of panicking or shouting would resolve anything that he would do everything he could to “fight” as a doctor.
“Kihara? Hound Dog? End those dull preliminary matches as quickly as possible. Hurry up and bring Last Order to me so that I can begin the final match.”
After that, the frog-faced doctor told Accelerator where he would be hiding after temporarily abandoning his hospital. Accelerator was to head there after retrieving Last Order.
Accelerator put back the receiver.
He leaned his back against the glass door of the phone booth.
(I can no longer save Last Order unharmed. No matter well this goes for me from here on, she will certainly meet some harm. So that’s how it is, is it?)
Accelerator sucked in a deep breath and then released it.
Hound Dog was using olfactory sensors. They would be using them to track both him and last Order. She was already in a crisis situation, and that meant they would reach her even sooner.
He had no time to spare.
He had to prepare himself.
After he had accepted it all, all that remained was to smile.
The smile that split across his face was too frightening to be of this world.
“To save that brat, I’ll kill anyone from the most benevolent saint to the most evil villain.”
Hound Dog had olfactory sensors.
Kihara Amata and Hound Dog would soon find his location and attack.
His first task was to intercept them.
He needed a battlefield for that. He did not have time to stand around.
Between the lines 6
Tsuchimikado Motoharu ran towards a gate leading outside of Academy City.
The pouring rain showed no sign of letting up, covered up the moonlight, made it difficult to listen for other sounds, and even erased the scents of the surrounding area. The soaking landscape was enough to drastically raise the odds of death in a nighttime battle.
(Most of the city’s functions have been knocked out. We’re lucky there has been no rioting or looting.)
As Tsuchimikado muttered that silently in his heart, he carefully monitored his surroundings without slowing down.
Anti-Skill and Judgment who handled the law and order of the city had been almost entirely wiped out. It seemed some of the members were still active, but it was not enough to cover the entire city. If someone noticed the city was paralyzed, store registers and shelves would be attacked and stolen from in no time.
The only reason that had yet to happen was that Academy City’s last trains and buses were set at the same time as the citywide curfew. This meant most of the people in the city had not noticed the abnormal situation and most of the students would be knocked unconscious by the unidentified attack before they did notice.
More specifically, an attack from the magic side.
That word made Tsuchimikado Motoharu clench his teeth.
However, he kept his thoughts as uniform as possible in a combat situation, so it did not show itself as an obvious wave of emotion.
(God’s Right Seat, hm? I’ve heard of them, but I never thought they would go this far.)
As Tsuchimikado ran through the silent city, he was actually impressed.
He was a skilled magician.
And yet he was unable to analyze what sort of spell was being used despite the magical attack being on such a large scale. He was completely baffled.
(But there has to be more than the one Aleister mentioned. There has to be a group somewhere. If they enter the city while it’s paralyzed like this, the city is done for.)
It was truly bizarre that a combat unit had not entered along with the member of God’s Right Seat. However, that might simply have been an issue of numbers. If a group of 10,000 was waiting outside, they would be forced to engage the 2.3 million residents of the city in battle if they had entered right away. But if God’s Right Seat entered first and wore down Academy City’s ability to fight, the invasion unit would lose much fewer members.
The number of the enemy force was unknown.
How they were positioned outside of Academy City was unknown.
(But there aren’t enough of them to head in straight away.)
Academy City had 2.3 million people. If the Roman Catholic Church had sent in 10 million people, they would not need to wait outside. The initial attack by Vento would have been unnecessary. They would have tried to conquer the city with brute strength. (Of course, Academy City’s psychic powers and advanced weaponry meant their strength could not be calculated out simply from the number of people, but Tsuchimikado doubted the Roman Catholic Church truly understood that.)
It was possible the number of enemies in wait was relatively small.
Their numbers would only be enough to “clean up” within the silenced city after Vento’s attack.
(Even so, I doubt it’s a group I can handle alone.)
Tsuchimikado Motoharu did not seek to annihilate the enemy.
He would not allow the invasion unit to enter Academy City until the city had begun to function once more. That was his condition for victory. Not Aleister’s, but Tsuchimikado Motoharu’s own. His only option was to leave Vento to someone else.
But holding back an unknown number of enemies when he had no idea when the city would recover was more or less a suicide mission.
(I can’t get any help from the normal forces. And the others like me have other business to deal with.)
He had no comrades who could help him.
He had no special weapon or magic that could resolve the situation.
(Maika is in the city.)
He thought of his younger sister who had no connection to the world of magic and simply wished to be a maid.
That was all it took to give him the resolution to fight.
(I can betray anyone and everything else, but I will never betray her.)
Tsuchimikado Motoharu slipped through the Third Gate which had lost all defensive ability and left Academy City.
He was a magician who had mastered Onmyoudou.
He was an esper with a useless power.
And he had a single goal.
He would protect the world of the one precious to him.