Toaru Majutsu no Index:Volume13 Epilogue
Epilogue: The Paths Which the Winners and the Losers Must Go Through. The_Branch_Road.
Carrying Vento under his arm, Acqua left Academy City.
As Vento’s spiritual item had been destroyed, the residents of the city would be waking up in order. That spell had no aftereffects; it merely incapacitated one’s enemies. In a way, it was an ideal large scale suppression spell, but its effects were now gone.
However, things would not be so kind in the future.
The next time they clashed, a large amount of blood would certainly be spilt.
“What a horrible world,” said Acqua in a truly gloomy voice as he adjusted his grip on his unconscious colleague.
His cell phone then rang.
As his hands were full with the umbrella and Vento, Acqua looked at his hands in annoyance before tossing the umbrella aside. Despite having the name of the water element, Acqua’s face clouded over the instant the pouring rain struck him.
A familiar number was displayed on the phone.
“Yes, yes. It’s me, Terra of the Left. Are things done on your end, Acqua?”
A voice like scraping metal painfully entered Acqua’s ear.
Acqua glanced down at Vento and said, “Vento was defeated. I have recovered her and am about to hand her over to the unit waiting outside Academy City. Our losses have exceeded 70%, so we will be temporarily suspending our pursuit of Kamijou Touma and invasion of Academy City. This is all in accordance with the situational response guide you came up with. …Of course, you were unable to predict an angel (incomplete though it was) appearing and doing this much damage.”
“What good would it do to hold any ill will towards you, or more importantly, towards Vento? Although if she was defeated, her spiritual item was likely destroyed.”
“You do not seem to care.”
“Well, Divine Punishment was aligned with Uriel like Vento. To be blunt I really don’t care about the loss of a single spiritual item. After all, we are far removed from normal magicians. We cannot use anything not specifically modified for our use. What value is there for me in a tool that someone Raphael-aligned like myself can’t use? As you are Gabriel-aligned, you should understand this.”
Acqua let out a sigh.
The members of God’s Right Seat were all so self-centered.
“I have recovered Vento, but what happened to the other unit? I cannot seem to contact them.”
“They were wiped out in the attack by that fallen angel.”
“While not as much as us, they did have a fair amount of power. And their numbers were fairly high. Were they really-…?”
“They were crushed all at once,” came the quick reply. “But it seems those spread out for local interception by Academy City have already been recovered by the science side.”
Acqua fell silent for a bit before saying, “So our pawns are dead?”
“Their physical wounds are of course great, but their mental wounds are quite something too. They are just barely alive, but it would be easier to replace them with fresh talent rather than tie it all back together again.”
That was the characteristic way of thinking for the Roman Catholic Church with its 2 billion believers.
Acqua adjusted his grip on Vento again and said, “Then shall I recover them?”
“You? A member of God’s Right Seat recovering corpses?”
“I already have Vento. I can take all of them while I am at it. Even if the number of defeated increases some, I can still manage. And if there is any hope of them surviving, nothing could be better.”
“How kind of you.”
“I will recover them whether they are alive or dead. It would just save me some effort if any of them can walk on their own. Hmph,” snorted Acqua in disinterest. As the rain continued pouring down, he continued. “What will we do next? I do not mind turning around right now and chopping off the target’s head.”
“Don’t. You saw that, right? Some interesting information has been going about on the streets. Now that I’ve heard the details, it looks like we need to rethink how we will defeat Academy City.”
“…Defeat Academy City, hm?”
“You don’t like it?”
“I withdrew as you wished, but it seems to me it would be faster if I headed back to Academy City alone and cut down Kamijou Touma and Aleister right away. I don’t like tricks. It would clearly be easier to face your enemy head on. If we do this now, there will be fewer civilian sacrifices.”
“Oh, I’m not so sure. It’s true that might be easier if we were simply crushing them, but don’t you think we can use them? Take that fallen angel for example. Doesn’t that seem perfect for us in God’s Right Seat?”
“I want to make a distinction between enemies to be defeated and those to be left behind. Doing it now would be like starting a fight in a museum.”
“I cannot condone looting on the battlefield.”
“Ha ha. The former knight in you is showing. You knights say such refined things. Your words are so different from ours.”
“I am not a knight. I am an ex-mercenary thug.”
“So you’re a thug that stresses morality on the battlefield? Well, just hurry out of there with Vento. That order actually comes from Fiamma of the Right.”
Acqua ended the call and turned back just once toward Academy City.
–It’s true that might be easier if we were simply crushing them.
–I want to make a distinction between enemies to be defeated and those to be left behind.
After reflecting on Terra’s words, he recalled the words of a different person.
“Let go of Vento.”
Those were the words of the boy he had met just before.
“Her hostility toward science is a mere misunderstanding. She herself has realized that. If she stays in God’s Right Seat, she can never escape those feelings!”
And that boy was the enemy he would surely have to turn his blade on in the future.
“But,” said Acqua as he picked up the umbrella he had tossed aside. He recalled the face of that target whose heart hurt even for his enemies. “Is Academy City really as weak an existence as you think it is, Terra of the Left?”
Kamijou Touma looked over at the archangel.
Index’s efforts must have been complete because the dozens of wings connected to Kazakiri’s back were disappearing into thin air, one by one. Whether they were 10 meters long or 100 meters long, they disappeared at the same speed. The wings disappeared at even intervals like it was some form of countdown…and then the final wing disappeared.
“Yes… Index really did it!!”
Kazakiri Hyouka limply collapsed to her knees and then to the ground. Her long hair trailed after her slow movements.
“Kazakiri!!” yelled out Kamijou without thinking, but it was too dangerous to grab hold of her due to Imagine Breaker.
As he was overcome with frustration at that, Kazakiri placed her hands on the wet ground and slowly raised her upper body.
“I’m so glad you’re okay…”
Kamijou was especially relieved due to his inability to help. He had no idea what he would have done if she could not have stood up.
“Are you hurt anywhere? You had it rough, but you should be okay now because Index took care of everything. But I still want to make sure. She must be worried, too. If you’re fine, we should go see Index after finishing everything that needs to be done here and checking that everyone else is okay.”
When Kamijou finally stopped to breathe, a curious look appeared on Kazakiri’s face.
She then said, “I can’t.”
“I can’t be glad about this...” Kazakiri’s lips moved while she trembled.
She was not looking at Kamijou. And Kamijou knew what it was she was looking at. Kazakiri Hyouka was staring blankly at the destroyed cityscape. She was setting aside the fact that her body had gone out of control and that she had been wrapped in some unexplainable event relating to an angel.
“Why did this happen…?”
Kazakiri had likely always longed for that cityscape.
And now it lay before her eyes, smashed to pieces.
“It is all my fault. If I had not been here, all this damage to the surroundings would not have occurred. Why am I the only one unhurt? That isn’t right.”
“What am I!? I cannot be with everyone else. And if I do approach them even slightly, I destroy them like this! So why was I born!? I’m only supported by the AIM diffusion fields! I’m just a monster that only exists due to the power of espers!!”
Most likely, she had lost control of what she was saying and what she was trying to say.
That was how much Kazakiri Hyouka’s heart was hurting at the disaster displayed before her.
She was hurting.
“I thought I had finally gained a bit of humanity by having that girl call me her friend. But then I grew those wings, scattered those horrible sparks, and tore down everything! I really am just a monster!! I can’t stand this anymore. Please just punch me and end it all!!” Kazakiri was well aware what would happen to an aggregation of AIM diffusion fields such as herself if she was touched by Kamijou’s right hand. She said that even with that knowledge.
(What do you mean, a monster?) thought Kamijou.
How could a girl trembling and worrying for everyone’s safety without begging for her life be a monster? As far as Kamijou was concerned, she was much more of a human than him, as he could only clench his fist and punch people.
With that thought, Kamijou’s expression finally softened.
“…H-how can you put on an expression like that at a time like this?”
“Because I’m relieved,” he muttered. “I will not do as you ask. I have no idea why this power resides in my body. But I do know that it is not to do something like that. If all it could do is negate my own friend, I would rather cut off this right hand than keep something so useless.”
Kazakiri’s eyes opened wide at that.
At being called a friend.
“I don’t really know either. You made that stuff that was like scales of light. You protected everyone. You had no idea what was happening to your body and you couldn’t tell what was going to happen, but you still worked to protect everyone. Is that any different from your idea of humanity? Is that still not enough to be your kind of human?”
Kazakiri gave no reply.
Kamijou continued speaking in the rain.
“You are definitely a much better human than a pathetic high school student like me. You should be proud of that. Hold your head up high. After fighting for people you didn’t even know and protecting them through to the end, you have no reason to hang your head down in shame.”
Even so, Kazakiri Hyouka did not raise her head.
Kamijou heard a slight sniffle.
He smiled slightly and looked away from Kazakiri and into the distance. If the issue was resolved, he wanted to hurry up and meet back up with Index, but she still had his cell phone, so he had no way of contacting her. He had used Last Order’s phone before, but calling for rescue and a private message were two different things.
“Now then, I think everything should be fine thanks to your scales, but let’s see if anyone needs medical care. From what I heard, the city should be up and running again soon, so we shouldn’t have to worry about whether anyone can come help,” said Kamijou optimistically. “Once we’re done, we can head home. Index should be back to the dorm by then. Who knows when you will disappear, but Index would probably be really mad if you don’t meet with her before then. …Oh, I guess this will be the first time for you to be in my room. Well, it’s pretty messy, so bear with it.”
Kazakiri tried to ask something, but her sobbing and hiccups prevented it from coming out.
But Kamijou smiled and gave an answer anyways.
“Don’t ask why. It’s obviously because we’re friends.”
Accelerator leaned against a desk in the abandoned office.
“A-are you okay!?”
Releasing the meditative state she had begun for the song, Index ran over. However, Accelerator was not in a state where he could understand what people were saying. He somehow managed to grasp that she was worried for him from her expression and raised voice.
While checking to see if he was injured, Index stared at Accelerator’s back and patted at it with her white hand.
“??? …Nothing’s there?”
Something like demonic wings had grown there, but they were gone without a trace. His clothes did not even look damaged.
“(The field resembled Telesma, but the substance was different. Demonology just uses normal Telesma in a different way. And that was so much power I’m not sure even a Saint could handle it all…)”
Index muttered under her breath, but then…
“Hey! So what happened!? Ever since you started singing, you haven’t responded no matter what I said! Those huge wings seem to have disappeared, but is everyone okay!? I took care of all those guys in black, so I can head over there if you need help with anything!”
Index raised her head suddenly upon hearing that voice coming from the cell phone. For the moment, Index seemed to be giving priority to Accelerator and Last Order.
“W-wait a second. I’m going to call a doctor!! That girl seems okay, so don’t you collapse too!!”
“W-wait, are you even listening!?” said the voice over the phone.
Index ran out of the abandoned office. Accelerator was still staring vaguely into the distance.
He had not understood anything that was said, but something else was bothering him more.
He moved his head.
Last Order’s small body was lying limply beneath the dirty desk. He had no idea whether she had actually been saved or not. The disturbance by the angel that had been visible outside the window seemed to have stopped, but his lack of calculation ability left him unable to link the disappearance of the angel and a change in Last Order’s condition.
Was she okay? What had happened with the virus? Had a doctor been called? Normally, he would have been thinking all those things, but with the electrode’s battery dead, he could not gather his thoughts. His body had been left battered in the previous fight, so he could not move properly either.
He then heard new footsteps.
They were not Index’s footsteps and they were made by many people.
“Accelerator, I would like to discuss something with you.”
Even in his state, Accelerator was able to understand that voice.
The voice was not reaching him through his ears. Some kind of esper power must have been used because his brain was being directly interfered with.
Accelerator looked over and saw several people entering the abandoned office. The silhouettes looked two sizes bigger than an average man. Some form of nonmetal material was used to cover them from the tops of their heads to the soles of their feet. The material had cracks to allow the joints to bend. The head, neck, and shoulders were smoothly connected together by a single line. On their backs were things that looked like thin backpacks that were likely batteries. Each time their arms and legs moved, the sound of small motors could be heard.
They were powered suits.
The short but wide armor had dome-shaped head portions which rotated to view Accelerator with countless cameras. He could hear a constant whirring sound that was likely from the autofocusing.
After thinking that far, Accelerator suddenly frowned.
(…My calculation ability…?)
It had returned to a certain extent. It was nowhere near enough to use his powers, but it was enough to think on a normal level without issue. Accelerator was finally able to process his questions as one of the people spoke to him.
This person was different from the powered suits around.
The person’s thin silhouette was dressed in smart black clothes.
The person’s face was hidden and Accelerator could not even tell if the person was male or female.
“We have prepared many different kinds of Telepath espers. Our words and calculation ability are being directly linked to you, so we can hold a conversation for an exceedingly short time. Your words should reach us. Oh, but your powers are out of the question. We cannot go as far as to supplement your Personal Reality.”
“…An esper,” said Accelerator with a gloomy expression.
“We also had some work outside the city. Even now, the recovery team is rescuing Tsuchimikado Motoharu and the like, but we returned to the city ahead of time.”
“Tch,” Accelerator clicked his tongue.
Other than the Sisters, he had never heard of a special unit that used both firearms and esper powers. Judgment only tried them out in training. A unit such as that would be even more dangerous than the Hound Dog unit Kihara had controlled. Also, those people had accurately followed the movements of Accelerator and Kihara Amata. Otherwise, they could not have timed their entrance to be so soon after the end of the fight like that.
Most likely, they were the darkest darkness of Academy City.
Accelerator had finally come into contact with them.
“What do you want?”
“Oh, something very important.”
“I’ll listen to what you have to say, but first answer my question.”
“What might that be?” replied the man lightly.
“What happened to the virus in Last Order?” said Accelerator.
“It has been stopped, but sloppily. You could say one of the gears has been removed so it is only spinning with no result. It seems that is their limit. The progression of the virus has been stopped, so a realignment should be possible with a Testament.”
“Don’t you fucking dare! I know the doctor and researcher who will be doing that!!”
“You do? Well, leaving it to them should be fine.”
They knew what all his strengths, pawns, and relationships were.
“…So what do you want?”
“I am glad you are being cooperative,” was the polite reply. “I believe we need to discuss the damage Academy City has undergone from the series of commotions you caused.”
“Allow me to continue. First is the monetary issue. With the physical damage to buildings and facilities, the medical expenses and compensation for the injured members of Hound Dog, and the expenses to manipulate the information given to civilians, it all comes out to about 8 trillion yen. Now, about the attack on Thomas Platinumburg of the Board of Directors…”
The man explained on and on, but his tone was light.
With a bored expression, Accelerator replied, “So what are you going to do, chop me to pieces for research materials to pay for all that?”
“That is one option, but we are suggesting a different option.” The man raised his index finger. “Would you like to work alongside us?”
“Your power can be used for military purposes, so it seems like quite a realistic option to me. The prices in the defense industry have inflated so much. Do you know how much a single fighter or ship costs? Well, if you do roughly the work of one fleet, you should be able to wipe that 8 trillion yen clear. It will take some time, though.”
“Tch,” Accelerator clicked his tongue. “What the hell is Academy City rushing for? Normally, they would never think of going this far to get the use of someone like me. Are they planning to start a war or something?”
“I cannot answer that.”
“I see. Well, whatever your answer is, I have only one thing to say.” Accelerator glared at the man and said, “Fuck that.”
“You want me to compensate for the damages? What damages to Academy City did I cause? It was all caused by having assholes like you gather here!!” roared Accelerator as he sat with his back leaning against the desk. “Why do we have to do what you say after everything you’ve done to us!? Do you want me to kill you!? This is when you should be bowing down to me!? I don’t know what you’ve been doing behind the scenes, but don’t get me or that brat wrapped up in it!!”
He gave a proper argument.
He was the last person who should be giving a proper argument, yet he was.
“This is a critical moment for Academy City.”
“…Are you even fucking listening to me?”
“If we make the wrong move, we could be destroyed. We want to fight this and we wish for your cooperation. We will not force you, but think about this carefully first. If Academy City was to completely disappear, would we espers have a place in this world? And the same goes for other techniques.”
A certain ten thousand mass-produced military clones were against international law and not officially allowed even in Academy City. They had no place outside the city. It was even possible they would be sent to military research centers even more horrible than were they had been before. After all, Last Order and the others were valuable enough to support some kind of great plan.
Academy City was necessary for the girl Accelerator must protect and the scenery she loved. He had no idea who the enemy was, but he could not let that city be destroyed. No matter how ugly it was, Academy City was a world for certain small, small children.
The “teachers” of the board of directors had sullied hands, but without them, the “school” of Academy City could not function. This was not something the “students” could resolve no matter how much they struggled.
In the end, there was only one path down which he could head.
He clicked his tongue and made up his mind.
“Tell me one thing,” he said to the man in front of him.
“What would that be?”
“What is the name of the person behind this incident? I have an idea, but I have no proof. So tell me. I will take off the head of the person who did this to that brat. You can make that the terms of my contract.”
“I do not mind giving you your answer, but it is likely nothing but a scapegoat.”
Accelerator fell silent for a moment before saying, “I see. So it is someone important enough to avoid answering.”
“So what will it be?”
“Do as you wish.”
“An excellent answer.”
The man pulled a handgun from his back.
He pressed the barrel up against Accelerator’s chest.
“Welcome aboard, newcomer.”
Two gunshots rang out.
The rubber riot suppression bullets struck Accelerator and he collapsed to the floor. The man returned the handgun to its holster and gave instructions to his colleagues.
“Withdraw. Erase all signs of the battle. Carry the injured out on Route B and Accelerator on Route G.”
Two men grabbed each of Accelerator’s arms as he lay unconscious on the floor.
That boy who had finally gotten a small taste of the light was dropped once more into the darkness.
This time, he sank so deeply he could never crawl back out.
The frog-faced doctor returned to the hospital.
The preparations for that had taken quite some doing. Some of the Sisters had been sent into the building ahead of time to make sure no parting gifts such as hidden troops or bombs were waiting for him. That alone had taken over an hour.
(I never thought I would be having my patients work for me.)
This seemed to truly displease him and the frog-faced doctor sighed. He decided it might be a good idea to hire some people to work as his arms and legs in the future.
The most important patients had finished with their treatments in a “hospital vehicle”, a large ambulance the size of a tour bus. After ensuring the beds were open, the patients were returned to the hospital and everything calmed down.
Sitting in a chair in an examination room, he stared blankly up at the ceiling for a bit.
He then reached over for the phone on the desk.
He pressed the button for an outside line and then pressed the # button a few times. It seemed random, but there was actually a set rhythm to it. Afterwards, special numbers, one after another.
When he brought the phone to his ear, he did not hear the usual ringing.
He was connected without it ringing even once.
“Good morning, Aleister. How do you feel after that unrestrained rampage?”
“Quite good. Things have finally shifted into the second stage. But it is still too early to call my actions ‘unrestrained’.”
The sound was so surprisingly clear it made one question whether a standard telephone line was being used. It would have sounded plausible to hear a completely different type of cable was connected to that phone.
But the frog-faced doctor was used to it.
As he had told Accelerator, he had known about the dark side of the world for quite some time.
“Too early, hm? How long do you plan on using Accelerator and Last Order?”
“Who knows. I am more worried about whether they will last to the end. The numerical settings for the AIM diffusion fields were just finished being inputted into the vector control device, but the level of completion in the other is a bit lacking. I could also make a trinity out of Accelerator, Last Order, and Fuse Kazakiri, but that would not be enough. I must go beyond that.”
“If I do not, going out of the way to call Imagine Breaker in from outside would have been meaningless.”
“Aleister, there is one thing I must tell you.”
“I would like for you to stop treating my patients like your toys.”
He received a laugh in response.
With the doctor silent, the chairman of the board of directors said, “What if do not do as you say? In fact, what can you even do?”
“I know,” said the frog-faced doctor quietly in that dark examination room where he had not turned on the lights. No one could see his expression. “I know very well the extent of what I can do to someone who has gathered as much power as you. But,” continued the doctor. “Even so, those children are my patients.”
“And I am a doctor. Aleister, no matter who you are, I will not give in on this. You understand how far my resolution goes, don’t you, Aleister?”
The frog-faced doctor’s grip on the phone tightened.
His low, quiet voice continued on.
“I saved your life once after all.”
Silence filled the dark examination room.
Neither the frog-faced doctor nor Aleister said anything for a bit.
Finally, Aleister spoke.
“I truly almost died back then.”
The doctor frowned.
It pained him to use the gratitude for an act like that in such a way.
“It was in the back country of the United Kingdom. The magician suppression organization of the national church was chasing me and I had collapsed like a burst bag. The one who sewed me back together, sheltered me from the United Kingdom, put me in a life support device, introduced me to Japan, and helped me create the plans for Academy City was you.”
“Do you regret it?”
“Are you seriously asking me that?”
“If you are going to shut off my life support device remotely, now is your last chance.”
“I would prefer it if you did not mock me.”
“I see,” said Aleister with a slight laugh. “It seems I must make an enemy of you as well.”
“The sect said to be the strictest of the Christian Church, the Golden magic cabal said to be the greatest in the world, and even my country and family. I have made enemies of many different things over the course of my life, so I never thought I would still have something to lose after coming so far.”
“I take it you have not changed your mind.”
“You know my reason.”
“I cannot stop. I am past that stage.”
It was a clear farewell.
It was a sad occasion because they had not started out as enemies.
Aleister said one final thing.
“Farewell, my kind, kind enemy.”
And with that, the call ended.
That thin line that had been his final connection disappeared and only a normal dial tone remained.
The frog-faced doctor remained frozen in place for a full 10 seconds.
Slowly, he placed the receiver down.
In that dark, unlit examination room, he gave a slight sigh.
(Have you forgotten, Aleister?)
The frog-faced doctor looked out the window. He could not see it from there, but a windowless building stood in that direction.
He was a short man.
That short man without even a hint of an imposing presence thought in silence.
(You are also one of my patients.)
On that day, Academy City officially affirmed the existence of a magic group.
Reports were gathered saying Academy City had been attacked by a non-Academy City scientific psychic powers development institution belonging to the Roman Catholic Church and using the codename “magic”. Within the day, it had been picked up by news stations across the globe.
Meanwhile, the Roman Catholic Church confirmed the existence of an angel within Academy City. The Roman Catholic Pope himself criticized Academy City for carrying out blasphemous research that was against the doctrines of the Christian Church.
They both called the other’s claims ridiculous and refused to confirm them while continuing to attack the other with their own claim. No sign of concession or compromise could be seen in their actions. In fact, their actions could almost be seen as trying to exacerbate the conflict between them.
A conflict was beginning.
Academy City and the Roman Catholic Church were in direct opposition.
It was possible a truly great war was beginning for the third time in the history of the world.