Toaru Majutsu no Index:Volume15 Chapter1
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Chapter 1: An Unmistakable Gun, Unheard by All. Compass.
Today, Academy City's independence day, was a holiday within the city limits.
A carefree atmosphere had enveloped it since morning, even at the hospital in the Seventh School District. The frog-faced doctor had stepped out of the front entrance, and was basking in the gentle morning sunlight.
A tiny 10-year-old girl stood beside the doctor.
A girl named Last Order.
She had been taken away on September 30 by Hound Dogs led by Kihara Amata, and Testament had been used to inject special data into her brain. The removal of that data was being performed up until now; with the work over, she had been discharged from the hospital.
"Nobody's coming even with you finally discharged from the hospital?"
The doctor asked in a shocked tone, but Last Order did not seem to mind it very much and said,
"Misaka will board the taxi alone, says Misaka as Misaka tries to puff her chest out while announcing it."
"Well, the virus inside your head has been completely destroyed, so there's nothing to worry about. Yomikawa-san has paid the taxi fare in advance, so you're heading straight for her mansion, okay?"
Just at that moment, the taxi turned up onto the hospital circle.
The frog-faced doctor flagged the taxi down, and lifted a luggage-burdened Last Order into the back seat.
As the driver watched over them, he said,
"Passenger, where to?"
"The amusement part at the Sixth School District! Says Misaka as Misa—"
"Number two building of the Family Side apartment at the Seventh School District. Don't forget it, okay?"
With him blocking the nonsense Last Order was spouting, the frog-faced doctor was stuck with caring for them after all.
As the driver smiled wryly,
"Do I have to tell you the location in detail?"
"No sir. This town is full of student dormitories so apartments are far and few between. I can search for them with my car navigator if I get the apartment name."
As the frog-faced doctor pulled back from within the taxi, the rear door closed itself automatically. With Last Order—both hands on the window and looking outside—on board, the taxi carefully maneuvered itself out of the hospital grounds.
With the taxi gone, he went back to his hospital work. Walking through the clean walkway, he entered the visiting area where only simple sofas and tables were arranged, and bought coffee at a nearby vending machine.
The vending machine was the kind that used paper cups. Liquid coffee was not poured into the metallic box, but instead it automatically ground pre-roasted beans. It took some time, but the flavor and strength was reasonably good.
Phew, the doctor exhaled and,
(Well then, I'm finishing the Sisters' adjustments, so I have to be out of here as soon as possible—)
At that moment, the frog-faced doctor's thinking was suddenly interrupted.
Someone's handgun was pressing against his back.
The frog-faced doctor's movement stopped.
Audible shallow breathing from right behind him reached his ears; he paused for a bit, then said,
"You've already come back from Avignon?"
"Tch. So you've heard the news."
It was a familiar voice. Accelerator's.
Accelerator was leaning on a modernistic cane with his right hand, but they were in a hospital complex so he didn't particularly stand out. And he was using his own body to prevent others from seeing the gun in his left hand.
The doctor did not raise his hands.
For the sake of his patient behind him, he did not take such a visible action, and whispered,
"...What a fine greeting we have here, eh?"
"I want info. The electrode designs."
Accelerator was talking about the choker on his neck. It looked like an accessory, but in fact an electrode was inserted behind it, capable of transforming Accelerator's brain waves into a different signal and allowing limited connectivity to the special electronic communications network known as the Misaka Network.
The frog-faced doctor, the one who had prepared that electrode, answered without any change in emotions,
"Why do you need the schemes? Aren't you letting me fix the choker if it's not working?"
"Just give me the schemes."
"Last Order wanted to see you. It would have been better if you had come out a little earlier."
"Zip it. This has nothing to do with you."
"Wrong. And it's because the patient wanted to meet you. Arranging that is my job."
"Tch... Had I known that, I wouldn't have waited for this timing. Shitheads."
Accelerator said, sounding genuinely annoyed.
The frog-faced doctor put his hand into one of his lab coat's pockets and brought out something like a pencil-lead case. A USB stick. Holding it tight, he moved his hand backwards.
"You're prepared, eh."
"That's what I told you, right? Preparing for my patients' needs is my job."
The doctor said this while looking at the vending machine that was continuing its operations.
"Nonetheless, won't it be difficult to apply its contents? I did all of the creation of the important parts myself, you see? If you are to work on an identical electrode, you have to start from manufacturing using machine tools."
Accelerator took the USB stick and silently departed from the back of the frog-faced doctor.
The frog-faced doctor turned around.
No one was standing there. Accelerator had already used vector control to jump into the nearest stairway, leaving nothing, not even a shadow.
The doctor gazed for a while at the empty space.
A *beep* electronic sound was heard. The frog-faced doctor retrieved the coffee from the vending machine's pickup slot, and sipped on the bitter liquid.
Unabara Mitsuki was in a room in a certain apartment at the Seventh School District.
Building number two of the Family Side apartment building.
It was a spacious 4LDK room meant for residential use. But if one were to see the interior, it would be clear that only one person had been living here. One could guess just by looking at the uninhabited rooms. Even the neighbors would probably feel like that.
Unabara was checking it out while using the phone to talk with Tsuchimikado.
"...First off, I've arrived at Management's room. I'll start the investigation now. Possible places for storing information...PC, HD video recorder, and even game consoles are equipped with storage media, right?"
"If it's even a small possibility, then take them all. Even memory chips from rice cookers and washing machines, dismantle them to preserve every bit of information."
Looks like I'm in for some grunt work, Unabara grumbled.
"At any rate, what kind of business assistance is Management doing?"
"I'm checking on that now."
Tsuchimikado answered, seemingly bored.
"Ten hours or so back, some kind of criminal organization had been organized with Management's efforts. They are, from the start, the kind to cover up the shortcomings. And they're the kind that pay up to obtain ready firepower from the outside. Soon the incident will certainly occur. Investigating and stopping them beforehand is our job."
"Was it really necessary to bring GROUP in for this?"
"Just get moving. I know you want to complain, but it's all the same for the kind of work that gets sent to GROUP. Nothing but shit."
Acknowledged, Unabara replied.
Walking through the spacious room, he attached tiny tags onto gadgets like PCs and video recorders. He had no intention of carrying out stuff like refrigerators and washing machines. For now he'd attach marks onto stuff, and he'd have the grunt group carry them out afterward.
(Well, of all the places.)
Almost finished with the task, Unabara found something that bothered him.
It was paper money.
Several stacks of paper money had been left on top of a waist-high shelf.
That in itself was not unnatural, but he felt like it had been kept separate from the wallets. Unabara checked the room for a bit, looking for credit cards and passbooks.
The arrangement of stuff inside the room closely matched the resident's lifestyle. However, with Unabara's diagnosis, it was likely that the paper money left on the shelf was unnatural. Since it had been kept apart from any wallets, it was likely that the person was keeping others' paper money from mixing in.
Unabara looked at the paper money again, and then called Tsuchimikado back,
"Tsuchimikado-san, do you have devices to read information from IC chips?"
"I've found five stacks of paper money. Surely, IC chips are attached to Japanese money issued by the Academy City mint. I believe we'd better check these out, too."
"Understood, I'll have them prepare it...No valuable information found on my side. I'll finish up the department store's cleaning room, and head for your—"
Tsuchimikado's words weren't heard to the end.
A rocket suddenly flew in, breaking through the window, and exploding right in the middle of the room.
Several *pit-pat!pit-pat!* footsteps echoed from the entrance way.
Dark grey-armored men swiftly broke into the room, even as they scanned for traps. Heads uniformly covered with face masks, these five people laden with matching equipment had no personality.
Communicating silently through hand signals, they split into two groups and carried out the investigation of the charred remains inside the former 4LDK, which had been widened when the thin outer wall had crumbled down on top of the air conditioner that had fallen from the wall and onto the floor. Not only were the automatic fire extinguisher facilities not working, even the normal fire alarms were not working. They had cut off the security well in advance.
Since they did not exchange any words, only small *kacha kacha* metallic sounds strangely echoed out.
It was the sound of hard armor hitting metal because they had brought small arms and they were on the move.
Unabara Mitsuki sighed as he looked over the situation. He was against the kitchen wall, observing the status through a door that had been bent due to the destructive shockwave.
He had jumped into the room at the same time the rocket smashed through the window.
And as he brought out his obsidian knife from his side,
(With the entire room blown away, the information must have been destroyed. Looks like people worried about Management's information getting obtained have come out to greet us.)
He was on the third floor.
Moving soundlessly, he approached the side of a destroyed window. Even looking from there, there were about fifteen black-clad men. Probably more in unseen places; he was completely surrounded.
His disintegration magic Lance of Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli was an extremely strong magic that launched a dazzling light, absolutely disintegrating everything that was hit by its light.
But on the other hand, he could only set one target at a time.
In short, in exchange for "one strike, one kill, no matter how strong the prey", it becomes "one strike, one kill, no matter how weak the prey".
(My opponents have 9mm sub-machine guns and 9mm handguns. If they fire them in this narrow space, I'll be turned into a rag doll, no matter what magic I have.)
Most importantly, Unabara remarked,
(This is untimely. Lots of small fry coming out at this time is really untimely.)
Even breaking through the crowd of black-clads in one go by any means had no significance due to the apartment's passages and doorways serving as boundaries. He would be restricted by them, causing a human jam.
Even if an attacking party was few in number, the large number of people surrounding the apartment would crush any possibility of their target escaping. Also, even in cases where the first attacking party was annihilated by the target, the next attacking party could choose not to form up and rush in, since they would know at once that the enemy had not been killed by the rocket, so the next phase would be blowing up and destroying the entire apartment block.
(...They're well-practiced, eh? Even if they get stalled here, it doesn't mean they'll lift up their siege net. It's a definite stalemate...)
Unabara Mitsuki again grasped his obsidian knife.
Before he knew it, his palm was drenched in sweat.
(Well, what to do now?)
"Fire outbreak at the Seventh School District. Condition five report confirmed. Security and automatic fire-fighting systems of the target building are not working, immediate firefighting requested."
At the emergency communications center where information was dispatched to Anti-Skill and Judgement, a female operator was relaying the information displayed on her monitor to the relevant organizations.
"An additional Anti-Skill inspection sortie to serve as fire brigade on-site inspection witnesses has been requested. And also—"
The operator let her eyes off the monitor for a few seconds, trying to get the manual sheets for a fire incident that was pasted on the communications booth wall.
At that time, the response from the on-site team that had been waiting for concrete instructions came,
The voice said this, then the transmission ends.
The female operator was mystified.
Displayed on screen, all the important communications had already been carried out.
It had been fifteen minutes since the apartment room was blown away by a rocket.
Tsuchimikado Motoharu and Musujime Awaki were in an apartment room in the Family Side Building no. 2.
There were no fire brigades or Anti-Skill personnel. Here and there, bystanders could be seen surrounding the building, but no one entered. After all, there had been an explosion. And they wouldn't dare enter considering the danger included in fire and destruction.
The apartments had been constructed for residential use, but the rooms were used almost only for solitary living. On top of it, apartment tenants were overwhelmingly faculty, outweighing even the students in number. Because Academy City had rounded up Anti-Skill for war preparations, shifting the task of preparing the lesson materials to the other teachers, the rooms were empty even on a national holiday.
Originally a high-class 4LDK mansion, the middle of the room had been blown out by explosives, even the furniture and inner walls had crumbled down. Thanks to that, the apartment now only had about two rooms. One could see the bathroom just by passing through the main door.
"They've thoroughly destroyed the evidence. Even bringing in those skilled in telepathy might do us no good."
Musujime muttered as she looked at the blackened floor.
The one late in coming, Accelerator, finally turned up leaning on his cane.
"Tch. Just when I was thinking that it's a summon, it's yet another enjoyable garbage disposal job from the top."
Tsuchimikado, without looking at Accelerator, said,
"You finished with your errand?"
Accelerator halfheartedly rejected it and looked at the surroundings.
"Is this the spot where that idiot Unabara disappeared?"
"Yup. For now, Management is a live captive, and being transported on the paddy wagon of the grunt groups, but my level of confidence for his verbal-only information is low. And he's only strangely whining and saying stuff like "the info stays only in my head." I sent Unabara here for the support data we need, but then..."
Tsuchimikado, in a dull voice, said,
"During that time, he was probably attacked from the third floor. In this situation, I still don't know whether it's that Unabara himself is targeted or that Management's information is targeted, but from the looks of it, it's the latter. The report from Unabara beforehand is that there is stuff like personal computers and HD recorders, but they've disappeared like magic. Everything was taken away, even the AI-equipped appliances."
"At least it appears there's an appliance left behind here."
Musujime was lifting up a blackened microwave oven with her foot. It immediately rolled onto the floor.
"Perhaps it's one of those not loaded with AI. A type where one cannot input additional info into it: it would be thrown away just like that."
Investigating the room, there was, in addition, a broken-down TV and electric iron. But all the important stuff had probably been taken away.
Accelerator sat down on the disemboweled bed,
And exhaled, seemingly uninterested.
"Tch, what a bother. We know shit about that bastard Management's information. And we know shit about what happened to Unabara. Good grief, make sure that if it's your job, you bastards had better deal with it."
He lightly kicked at the destroyed microwave oven rolling nearby.
At that instant, the plastic-made door opened and the contents spilled out.
It was the paper money.
The five stacks of soot-stained paper money were somehow stuffed into the microwave oven.
"The report says that we're worried about Unabara."
Musujime, who had bent down to pickup the bills, chuckled as she said that.
"There should be the anti-counterfeiting IC chips within these bills. Something might be written in them. By putting them into the microwave oven, they can be sealed off from radio signals. Even if, for example, the attackers carry a sensor just for them, that would probably be tricked into not detecting them."
"...Did that shitty bastard hide them in advance?"
Just as Accelerator inquired, Tsuchimikado, standing apart from them, raised his voice as he said, 'hm?'.
Looking closely, a man's corpse was stuffed inside the closet Tsuchimikado had opened up. On closer examination, its skin by the right calf leg was completely torn off.
Tsuchimikado sighed and said,
"This is Unabara's work."
"That act done at the foot? Is it that bastard's hobby?"
Musujime grimaced on hearing these words. Her feet were once injured in an accident during class. The trauma of that time had not vanished yet. To make it worse, her trauma was so bad she had to use low-frequency vibration medical equipment to reduce the stress every time she used her ability.
Tsuchimikado shook his head.
"He uses human skin to create one kind of a talisman. You guys don't know magic so I'll make the explanation of theories brief...but the point is, **he has the skill to substitute as other people**."
While looking at the foot injury of the corpse, Tsuchimikado said,
"That Unabara bastard has totally changed places with this one. Now he's mixed with the guys who attacked here, waiting for an opportunity."
In short, Tsuchimikado acknowledged,
"That masquerading bastard is still alive. And I don't know where he is laughing now."
What are they doing?, Uiharu Kazari cocked her head in puzzlement.
In front of her was a taxi, stopped as if at a red light. Inside, a young girl about 10-years-old was quarreling with the driver... Or rather, the girl appeared to be having a one-sided quarrel.
Uiharu didn't have to be near just to hear the loud voice.
"'Misaka is saying to let me off here, let me off here — why you won't let Misaka go!?' says Misaka as Misaka tries to protest with hands on her hips and cheeks puffing!!"
"Well, you see, I've already received the fare to the destination. Stopovers are—"
"'Misaka will try to attempt an escape at that opportunity of an excuse!!' Misaka says as Misaka gets down from the car at high speed and rushes for the back alleys!!"
As the little girl screamed, she had already entered into the narrow alleyway that seemed too small for even a bicycle to go through.
Uiharu approached the driver as he was scratching his head and saying 'I give up.'
"Hm? Oh dear, are you Judgement?"
The driver said upon seeing Uiharu's armband.
Judgement was a student organization tasked with keeping order in Academy City. Though those tasks were mainly within schools, the distinctions did not seem to stick much to normal townspeople.
Uiharu, with a puzzled face,
"Errr, is there some sort of trouble? Like that child getting off and going somewhere without paying?"
"It's the other way around, the other way."
The driver, with an embarrassed face,
"I got the fare beforehand from someone that appears to be that child's guardian, and was supposed to send the child to the guardian's apartment. And so the child went off on the way, and I can't even give the change to her."
"Ah. The passenger can do like she pleases, so can you take the change as a tip?"
"The taxi fare is ¥1200. The deposit given to me beforehand is ¥5000. To take that as a tip would hurt my conscience."
What a kind person, Uiharu thought to herself.
The driver shifted his gaze onto the alley that was obviously too narrow for his car,
"...Even so, I need get out to go chase her, as expected."
"Shall I go look for her?"
"Yes please, I'd appreciate it if you could do that."
The driver used a machine inside his taxi to output a receipt, placed the change on top of it, and handed it to Uiharu. Uiharu was in no condition to look out for special monetary problems due to her Judgement armband attached to her.
"Please bring her back."
Uiharu stored the change in her skirt pocket and exchanged contact addresses just in case with the taxi driver, before turning to the narrow alley and setting off.
Facing the sunlight-less gloomy space, she called out,
"Errr, what's your name? Umm, Ahoge-chan!?"
"'Misaka's identifier is Last Order!!' says Misaka as Misaka—ha!?"
With a reply coming back at once, Uiharu walked to where it had come from and captured the little girl.
Black smoke was rising.
A block paddy wagon had stopped, having rammed into the guardrail. But that was only for the front half. The entire body had been ripped apart, so the rear half was rolling in the middle of the highway.
It was the same model used by the Anti-Skill, but its affiliation was different. It was a paddy wagon used by the lower echelons of GROUP. Through Tsuchimikado's instructions, they were secretly transporting a certain suspect.
Emerging from the newly bisected vehicle was a male college student. Management. Alighting on the asphalt while shaking both of his shackled hands, he grimaced at his own stomach. The spot where the bullet had gone through had opened and the blood was once again spreading out, staining over the dark-red stains which had started to dry.
Nevertheless, upon looking at the lad approaching him, he expressed a meek smile.
"Sorry 'bout it. I've blundered."
"Don't mind it, I'm the one who should say that."
The lad had metallic goggles on his face. And no, it was different. It was not just covering his eyes; it was surrounding his entire head just like Saturn's rings. Plugs were inserted into it all around, and countless cables connected them to a machine at his back.
Management held out both his hands at the strangely-dressed lad and,
"Sorry, but can you unlock this? I may not be able to compensate for it, but looking for the keys would be troublesome. And leaving here early might be good for us."
I understand, the lad said, swiftly moving his fingers as if swiping a card.
In that instant, both of Management's hands and head were crushed.
Management, writhing around, looked up at the lad with eyes full of pain and surprise. The lad, gazing at them, simply informed him with almost no change in tone while aiming for Management's vitals.
GROUP was one cold-hearted group.
The remaining three members had put their investigation of Unabara's mysterious disappearance on hold. However, even if there were a slight hint they wouldn't know whether to go save him or not. The standard idea in "GROUP" was that each member had to deal with their own problems.
"It's from the GROUP grunts. It seems the paddy wagon Management was on had been attacked."
"Nah. Kindly speaking, all apart from Management have been rendered unconscious. Either way, we lost our chance of hearing him out directly."
"Aren't there any clues of who did this?"
"That's why that guy left these cash notes behind."
For now, they had to start from the paper money.
The GROUP trio, having left from the Family Side apartment building number two, returned for the time being to one of their hideouts and decided to examine the electronic data stored on the IC chips from the paper money.
"Even so, this hideout is an empty store at the underground shopping complex. What if an expectant corporate dropout comes to peek in?"
"When that time comes we're out of here. We have hideouts are all over the place; these shops are set up for them anyway."
Tsuchimikado lightheartedly said, then set a paper money-reading device onto the floor.
And connecting to the laptop via cable was,
Musujime inquired inquisitively. Tsuchimikado chuckled at her.
It was a sensor for mobile phone wallets located at the side of cash registers in convenience stores.
"Well... It's a bother, so I asked a supplier to bring in a reader."
"Well whatever it is I don't particularly care."
Accelerator said, while sitting in a pipe chair and tending to his handgun.
Tsuchimikado simply replied, picking a pile from the five stacks of paper money and swiping it through the equipment.
Not even the name of the country was displayed on screen. It was merely a clutter of numbers. Tsuchimikado then worked in the terminal, finally changing them into words with some significance.
"We've got a sudden hit, eh."
Tsuchimikado squinted at the characters displayed on screen.
"...Looks like Management's shopping list. His dealings are with a single professional sniper. Oh yeah, it looks like trouble just by the sniper's weapon."
He swiped the second pile through the equipment.
"Sniper's name is Sunazara Chimitsu. ...Alias unknown. Recorded personal history and abilities are unreliable. But just from the ¥700,000 referral fee, he's one nice bargain item."
He then swiped the third pile through the equipment.
"This is about the sniper's weapon. What's prepared is...the MSR-001. Magnetic Sniping Rifle."
Tsuchimikado said with a pained voice.
"Magnetic, you say?"
"As its name says, it is a sniper rifle that uses electromagnets to fire steel bullets. Of course it's made in Academy City. Its construction is even simpler than that of a railgun. Muzzle velocity is 280m/s. Almost the speed of sound."
"...That might be something. Although I hear that normal sniper rifles do good on performance."
However, Tsuchimikado laughingly said,
"In sheer power, true. However, this one does not use gunpowder, so there's no recoil. Without the shock that most sniper rifles produce, sensitive aiming equipment can be attached very precisely. When using gunpowder, a certain amount of strength is required to withstand the recoil during firing. What's more..."
"If gunpowder isn't used, then there's no sound. It's most suited for killing stealthily."
As he said those, Tsuchimikado swiped the fourth pile through the equipment.
However, only errors displayed on screen.
They could not read the essential data.
"Dammit. The IC chips must have been busted by heat or shock. From just what we can see from the fragmentary header data, it looks like the definite business partner who hired the sniper is written here."
No matter how many time he tried to swipe the pile through, the contents of the paper bills still couldn't be displayed.
Tsuchimikado gave up for now, and swiped the last pile of bills.
Displayed on screen was a rough sketch of some location.
It was a simplified map, with everything but the important buildings eliminated. A red dot was marked in the middle and numbers were written beside the surrounding buildings, indicating things like how many buildings there were and total distance. Indecipherable information for only such an overhead map.
Tsuchimikado smiled upon seeing it.
"Looks like the sniping plans. Did Management handle it this far?"
"Heh. A great grocery store, that one."
"The location's the front plaza at the Seventh School District concert hall...."
Musujime looked up at the ceiling and,
"Just above this place eh."
"The concert hall front plaza is being chartered for an address by one of the general board of directors. I dare say that VIP is the sniping target. Name's Oyafune Monaka. I don't know what kind of plans the opposition is using to strike at the top, but it appears they are plotting an outrageous plan to assassinate Oyafune. By stopping this our work will be complete. ...For Unabara, well, forget him. The one with the lowest 'score' in this job will have to play punishment game and go save him."
"Sigh. From here on we run and chase after the sniper? Why don't we just ditch this bothersome job and stop the useless address?"
Accelerator said with a really irritating voice, but Tsuchimikado shook his head.
"That would be impossible."
"It's simple. The address has already started."
Both Accelerator and Tsuchimikado had left the underground shopping complex, and finally arrived at the front plaza of the concert hall that was right above them.
They did it not by decent means like stairs or elevators, but by using Musujime's ability [Move Point]. That ability was very convenient, but there was a weakness where she had difficulty in moving herself with it. And so only Musujime remained at the hideout, continuing the analysis of the paper bills' IC chips.
Since it was a holiday, there were many students in the plaza. Even though the open-air speech of the general board of directors was not interesting, just by looking around there were about two, three hundred students that had gathered.
From Accelerator's position to Oyafune Monaka, the distance was around 100m.
A simple stage used for cultural festivals had been built in the middle of the plaza; a middle-aged woman stood on the stage. About four black-suited bodyguards stood guard around her, but then,
"No way I'm doin' this."
Accelerator cut off with these words.
"Dammit, just shout out loud, 'please shoot through my precious organs'. That damned VIP, she completely doesn't understand that one can see she has no body armor just by looking at her getup."
"Shut it. That's where we come into play."
"Even among the same general board of directors, that bastard Shiokishi is always in his powered suit around the clock. He's not afraid of attack, but he's probably insecure when he's not in one."
"That's one hell of a habit."
On Tsuchimikado's words, Accelerator glanced at the person beside him.
He looked on, agape at the on-stage Oyafune Monaka and asked,
"You have the balls to be that person's shield?"
"What do you mean?"
"For me it's a collusion. This general board of directors. It's one gathering of shitty bastards. As if they're targets worth especially protecting by covering them with yourself."
Accelerator knew a person called Thomas Platinaburg. Just like Oyafune he was one of the general board of directors. Accelerator hadn't talked with him much, but just by looking at his tastes in furniture he knew right away that Platinaburg was a person who would naturally and without malice look down on others.
"There are two kinds in Academy City's top brass."
As Tsuchimikado slipped through the crowd at the concert hall front plaza, he said with a small voice,
"At the top are shitty bastards who must die and good people who were regarded as the same with the former even though they work seriously. In most cases, those ilk are bad in making a living and are made to draw only the short end of the stick."
Accelerator remained silent, glaring at Tsuchimikado.
Yeah! applause and cheers enveloped them.
"Oyafune Monaka is probably appealing to grant suffrage to Academy City's children. As majority of this town's inhabitants are children, suffrage is non-existent. And adults can't voice complaints on policies that the top has decided. Even if the top says starting tomorrow the consumption tax has increased to 30%, they can't put up a place to voice their objections. And so she's saying she wants that conferred. Hahah, an easy-to-understand [pain in the ass], right?"
Tsuchimikado's tone was light.
"If, for example, the children's suffrage is approved, even the [war] might be stopped."
"You're crazy, I doubt that kind of stuff would go through that easy. It may be for peace but it ain't practical. Even they don't understand the word 'violence' at all."
"That was at the start for even racial and gender barriers. It does not involve only especially influential persons taking them on by themselves. Of course it's a great achievement for one to lead many people, but history is definitely changed properly because above all, the awareness of people convinced on their own that [they themselves are powerless] was changed, and great numbers of people acted."
At Tsuchimikado's words, Accelerator again scanned the plaza.
At the plaza where many of the youth gather whether or not it was a holiday.
Tsuchimikado softly laughed and said,
"I don't know what you believe in, but I think Oyafune Monaka is worth protecting. And so I put my life on the line. She doesn't tell me to come follow her, but I don't recall being stopped by that."
Shit, Accelerator tut-tut'd.
As he leaned on his cane and stepped on ahead,
"What a pain. Let's quickly smash up this shitty bastard of a sniper!"
Accelerator and Tsuchimikado were standing about 100m from the onstage Oyafune Monaka. They should be approaching her closer as planned, but considering the possibility of mobility loss in the crowd of people, they couldn't say it was a viable plan.
Using a GPS map from mobile phone, they ascertained their locations.
"There are about thirty-two possible sniping positions. But because there's a stainless-steel board at the back of the stage, it's virtually a blind spot at the back for 180 degrees. In other words,"
"There are 15 places at the front covering 180 degrees. We smash them one by one and perhaps we'll stop the sniper!"
"...Sunazara Chimitsu, already into sniping condition, may not necessarily be into waiting leisurely,"
Tsuchimikado looked around the surroundings as he said that.
He was not looking at a gently smiling onstage Oyafune, and he was not listening to her voice or the children's applause. He confirmed a special vehicle stopping just off from the plaza. On top of the crane-like vehicle, a machine resembling a gigantic electric fan was installed.
"For now, it seems there's the anti-sniper [Jamming Air CurrentsWind Defense] in place."
"You probably know that sniping is easily affected by wind. That equipment deliberately creates gusts around the VIP, throwing off the trajectories. About four of them are used, creating wind swirls that surround the assembly area. Since they're third generation, they use random numbers to generate random air currents,"
Tsuchimikado was saying such, but Accelerator was preoccupied with something else.
He turned his head to the side, looking towards the vicinity of the confusion, when suddenly he *zip!* hid himself in the crowd.
Tsuchimikado shifted his gaze there, and in a spot not far from them, a young girl about 10-years-old and a middleschool girl with lots of flower decorations attached to her head were there, hands together and walking.
"'And so Misaka is looking for a lost child,' says Misaka as Misaka tries to present the action pointer!"
"Ha, uh, well, lost child?"
"'You may not understand it well, but Misaka believes he's around here,' says Misaka as Misaka tries to state the prediction. 'Somehow the area on the head is tingling,' says Misaka as Misaka tries to include intuitive supplementary info."
"Sigh... as I thought, that's one out-of-this-world ahoge, you know."
This is not an ahoge!! On hearing that scream, Accelerator reflexively did a facepalm.
"(...What's with that brat showing up in a situation like this!? That 'God' bastard sure is messing around!!)"
"(...Hahaha, that's life for you,)"
Tsuchimikado suitably said. But upon noticing a young girl in maid outfit mixing among the crowd, he too was troubled at the same time.
Let's look out for stray bullets flying onto strange places! As the pair strangely agreed on a single opinion,
"I didn't think that there's a [Wind Defense] to throw off the aim at the target. Things sure are complicated now."
"The side of the vehicle says that it's an air-purifier."
"That's right. It operates in the same way as the air cleaners used by the school staff smokers, but the sizes are quite a different story."
Tsuchimikado said, seemingly proud; however, Accelerator's eyes were cold.
"...That's one nice speech, but they ain't movin'!"
A shocked Tsuchimikado confirmed it in hot haste — sure enough, the gigantic electric fan blades aboard the large car had abruptly stopped.
"They should have been running since a while back..."
It couldn't be a blunder by the VIP bodyguards.
In hearing range of Tsuchimikado who was thinking of that, a strange *ping!* sound resounded, adding to the chaos of the surrounding noise.
The sound of a metallic pot being dented.
Accelerator and Tsuchimikado both focused on the source of the sound at the same time.
There was a special car [Wind Defense] parked in a different location. As they thought, those gigantic blades were not moving. And, on the surrounding cylindrical outer wall which surrounds the electric fan, thumb-sized holes had opened up.
"Dammit, it's his doing. — Sunazara Chimitsu,"
"That bastard... He's gonna aim and shoot for an undefended Oyafune after taking those interfering [Wind Defense] out of action!!"
Tsuchimikado tut-tut'd, then tried to get closer to Oyafune by plunging into the crowd. But with so many people, it seemed he couldn't move forward as much as he would like. And during that time, the pinging, metal-hitting sounds occurred in succession. Those may be invisible for Accelerator, but perhaps they were destroying absolutely every [Wind Defense] equipment located elsewhere.
(Dammit. Because the magnetic sniper rifle doesn't use raw gunpowder, nobody realized that the equipment had been shot!)
Already the artificial defensive gusts were gone.
Tsuchimikado was trying to relay the danger to Oyafune Monaka, but it was unlikely he had time.
Onstage, Oyafune Monaka continued her speech. The surrounding bodyguards were standing by, unaware of the danger.
At this rate it would be a checkmate.
"What a pain!!"
The sniper, Sunazara Chimitsu, had set up his magnetic sniping rifle.
He was in a certain hotel room. Which he intruded into without doing any check-in, releasing the electronic lock at will. After he defeated the window glass security, he cut out a square hole, then put out the magnetic sniping rifle's muzzle.
It was called a magnetic sniping rifle — but its form was quite different from existing rifles; it looked like steel boxes bolted onto a steel tube that was as fat as a human ankle. The barrel, supported by a tripod, was one strong solenoid coil.
Near Sunazara was a suitcase. First, it served as storage for the disassembled magnetic sniping rifle; second, it was a gigantic battery for the same rifle.
The range was about 700 meters.
All of the obstructing [Wind Defense] equipment had already been destroyed.
Oyafune Monaka, far-off and onstage, felt so close that he could hold her when he looked through the scope.
Right through her,
Sunazara Chimitsu naturally thought, and then relaxingly pulled the trigger.
At that instant.
Suddenly, a corner of the concert hall front plaza exploded, and flames with black smoke rose from there.
The target, having taken the blast wave, reflexively flinched her body. Thanks to her irregular action, Sunazara's bullet didn't strike Oyafune Monaka.
Sunazara frowned at the all-too-good timing. Even during that time, the gorilla-sized bodyguards surrounded Oyafune and took her downstage.
Sunazara had work to do.
He continued to pull the trigger, but the steel bullet struck one of the guards sticking to Oyafune. The guard's body was noisily knocked off, but upon looking at places where there was no bleeding, there was probably bulletproof equipment inserted to serve as a [shield].
The remaining guards' arrangement changed. Oyafune's body was completely hidden behind the brawny men.
"For now it's not the right time."
Long-range sniping was delicate. If, for example, he used bullets that could go at the speed of sound and fired from 700 meters, the bullets would take close to two seconds from leaving the barrel until they struck the target. It was not so bad for clueless and standstill targets; but accurately shooting target's vitals that was running away while being defended by multiple guards was difficult.
Sunazara Chimitsu thought for a moment, then decided this time to simply retreat.
"Even so, what blew up?"
Confirming with his scope, the black smoke was coming from the special car with its [Wind Defense]. Sunazara's expression changed into that of increasing suspicion. He had rained them with bullets to stop their functions, but he had no intention of hitting them to blow them up.
At that time, Sunazara's held his breath for a moment.
He was very near the ablaze special car. A white-haired person, on-site and merging casually into the scenery, stared right at him. He was supported by a cane, and flames and black smoke were behind him.
Sunazara took his eyes off the scope, and immediately got into disassembling his magnetic sniping rifle. As the pieces were stored one by one into the suitcase, he silently muttered,
"I'll remember that face."
By the time Tsuchimikado Motoharu raided the hotel room, there was no one there.
However, there was an unnatural square cut out from a window corner.
Tsuchimikado took out his mobile phone, and contacted Accelerator.
"Recovery failed. However, with Sunazara having got away from here, the probability of him continuing his sniping is low. For now, suspend Oyafune's address and have it transferred after security measures are set up again."
["I've got word from Musujime,"]
Accelerator said from the other side of the telephone.
["It looks like she's read out the IC chips from the fourth pile of paper money that failed to read out before. The contents are, as expected, the names of those who employed the sniper Sunazara Chimitsu."]
"And who are they?"
Tsuchimikado inquired, then Accelerator answered with a seemingly depressed voice,
["Just like our [GROUP]...it's an organization hidden in Academy City's underworld."]
Between the lines 1
A man was loitering at an open café at high noon.
Various meals were being lined up at the guest-packed tables, but there was none of that at that man's table. Not even a single cup of coffee was found; only large quantities of photocopy sheets were disorderly placed there.
The man, with both hands jammed into the pockets of the lab gown he was wearing, was poring over the photocopy sheets spread out onto the table. Printed onto several bundles of paper were the AIM diffusion energy field data of espers that were in the [ArchivesBank].
A young girl, clad in a crimson school uniform and sitting opposite him, watched him suspiciously.
"What did you find from seeing those?"
The man answered, not even looking up.
"**A magician like you** may not understand it, but various information is written in here. It's simply not only energy that emanates weakly from espers. It is the unconscious interference against our reality... through investigation of the variety and strength of that multifaceted energy, we are able to even find the heart of an esper."
The girl muttered, emotionless.
"If AIM diffusion field analysis pushes forward, it becomes data after highlighting the contours of the [Personal Reality] a man possesses and investigates his personality and behavioral tendencies. I believe it will be a quite practical and easy-to-understand data, more so than a psychological profile."
A silver-colored monster was waiting beside the seat where the man was seated.
It was a four-legged walking monster created from titanium alloy and synthetic resins. Its basic form was close to the carnivorous cat family, but its nose was unnaturally long like that of an elephant. Because the metallic monster had a guide robot dog walking program installed, it was surprisingly flexible in adapting itself to human society.
That monster opened its mouth.
It was a lad's accented voice, and it didn't seem to be synthesized.
["It seems [GROUP] and [SCHOOL] have made their moves."]
The man named Professor shifted his staring eyes, and looked at the man-made monster.
Its conversational function was not because of the robot's AI. It was only another person at a different location talking through wireless networks. In short, it was better to think of it as a phone made a bit complicated.
"Have they made contact?"
["No. It appears [GROUP] has failed at capturing them. Currently it's unknown whether or not they can catch on to [SCHOOL]'s shadow."]
Hm, the Professor exhaled only once and,
"In any case, **the others,** too, have probably started to move."
They were the unit under the direct control of Aleister, the chairman of the general board of directors.
Whether it was for good or bad, they moved as that [person's] hands and feet. They were a small organization expected to do only just that.
"From the start, **organizations just like us** have reasons for their complex behavior, but due to the various powers they were repressed by the top, and were subject to control. However, because of the riots that arose along with Incident , the majority of the Driven ArmorPowered Suits were sent out for the mop-up at Avignon. That force is, according to the man on the [Telephone], one convenient set of limbs. This was the big opportunity, according to him, since the suits cannot be used freely,"
The Professor said all of that with a drawling tone.
"Soon there will be an opportune time, right?"
A voice was suddenly heard right behind the crimson-uniformed girl.
Someone was standing there, where there had been no one up until now. A young lad entirely clad in a greatly inflated down jacket.
It totally felt like he had come out from thin air.
"It seems so,"
The Professor buoyantly said, while reaching out and lightly stroking the monster's head. He was not surprised at the lad showing up. The girl seating opposite looked at the exchange, seemingly uninterested.
She inquired with a doubtful expression,
"Why did you correctly predict [their] movements? Even though the information from above might be incorrect?"
"It's because the top brass holds the technology to make that possible."
And, the hand of the Professor that was stroking the monster stopped.
The Professor was gazing at the opposite sidewalk which was enclosing the roadway along with this open café. A young girl clad in what was commonly referred to as maid clothing was passing by. But the Professor was not looking at the girl. He was looking at the drum can-type cleaning robot that the girl clad in maid clothes was kneel-sitting on top of. He was looking at the robot that was very smoothly passing by.
The Professor nodded at once.
He was seriously impressed.
"That idea hadn't come up."
["Professor, please refrain from thinking of strange ideas."]
- An ahoge is a lock of hair protruding from the top of one's head.
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