Toaru Majutsu no Index:Volume1 Chapter4
Chapter 4: The Exorcist Chooses the End. (N)Ever_Say_Good_bye.
With moonlight at their backs, the two magicians stepped through the door, still wearing their outdoor shoes.
Stiyl and Kanzaki had returned but Index did not stand in their way this time. She did not shout at them to leave. She was covered in sweat like she was suffering from a fever and her breathing was so shallow it sounded like one could blow it out like a candle flame.
A headache so great it felt like even the slight sound of accumulating snow would split her head open.
Kamijou and the magicians exchanged no words.
Still in his outdoor shoes, Stiyl pushed Kamijou aside as the boy stood there dumbfounded. The shove had held little force but Kamijou was could not hold his ground. He fell on his backside atop the old tatami mats as if all strength had left his body.
Stiyl neglected to even look in Kamijou’s direction. He knelt down next to Index, whose limbs were sprawled out limply. The magician then muttered something under his breath.
His shoulders were trembling. He was a perfect representation of human angers felt when a person’s precious was hurt before them.
“Based on Crowley’s Moonchild, we will use the method of capturing an angel to create a chain of events that will summon, capture, and have a fairy work for our ends.”
Having gathered his resolve, Stiyl stood up. When he turned, his expression was void of the slightest hint of humanity. His face was the face of a magician who abandoned his humanity to save a certain girl.
“Kanzaki, give me your help. We need to destroy her memories.”
Kamijou felt like those words stabbed into the most fragile part of his heart.
He knew that robbing Index of her memories was only meant to save her.
And, Kamijou had once told Kanzaki that they should not hesitate to destroy her memories if they were truly acting solely for Index’s sake. No matter how many times she lost her memories, they just had to give her even better memories the next time. That way she could look forward to the coming year even if she must lose her memories.
Wasn’t that just a compromise to be made after exhausting every other option? Kamijou thought.
Without realizing it, Kamijou had begun clenching his fist hard enough to crack his nails.
Could he do it? Could he just give up? Any number of research facilities dealing with a human’s memories and mind existed in Academy City. Could he really give up here when there might be a happier way to save Index in one of those facilities? Using old fashioned magic would destroy the memories that she cared about the most. Was it really okay to continue to rely on the world’s easiest, and the world’s cruelest, method.
No, that was irrelevant. All the boring reasoning and rationalization no longer mattered.
Could he… Could Kamijou Touma bear to have the week he spent with Index reverted to a blank slate like someone deleted the save data for a video game?
“…Wait.” Kamijou Touma raised his head.
He directly and honestly raised his head with the intention of opposing the magicians who were acting to save Index.
“Wait, please wait! Just a bit longer! Just a bit! There are 2.3 million espers in Academy City and there are over 1000 research institutions running it all. There’s Psychometry, Marionette, Telekinesis, and Materialize! We have tons of espers who can manipulate minds and labs that develop the mind! If we get their help, we might not have to rely on this horrible method!”
Stiyl Magnus said nothing. Even so, Kamijou continued to shout at the flame magician.
“You don’t want to us this method either, right!? Deep down in your heart, you’re praying that there is some other way, right!? Then just wait a bit longer. I will make sure to find an ending where everyone is smiling and everyone is happy! So…!!”
Stiyl Magnus said nothing.
Kamijou had no idea why he was going so far. He had only met Index a week before. He had lived for 16 years before then without knowing her and there was no reason why he would be unable to live a normal life without her from then on.
There was no reason why, yet he knew he could not.
He did not know why. He was uneven sure if he even needed a reason why.
He just knew it hurt.
It hurt to think that her words, her smile, and her mannerisms would never be directed towards him again.
It hurt to think that the memories of that week would be easily wiped clean by someone else as if a reset button were being pressed.
Just considering the possibility caused great pain in the most precious and kindest part of his heart.
Silence filled the room like that of an elevator’s. Rather than a silence where was capable of making noise, the odd silence there was filled with only the faint sound of breathing, the people there merely remaining silent.
Kamijou raised his head.
With great caution, he looked at the magician.
“Is that all you want to say, you self-righteous failure?”
And… That was all the rune magician Stiyl Magnus said.
It was not that he had not listened to what Kamijou said.
His ears had heard every single one of Kamijou’s words, had processed them, and had comprehended their meaning as well as the feelings hidden below the surface.
And yet, Stiyl Magnus did not move so much as an eyebrow.
Kamijou’s words had not hit home with him in the slightest.
“Out of the way,” said Stiyl. Kamijou had no idea how the muscles on his face were moving. Without so much as a sigh, Stiyl said to Kamijou, “Look.”
He pointed. Before Kamijou could look over in the direction Stiyl was pointing, he grabbed Kamijou’s hair.
“Ah…” Kamijou's voice froze over.
Before his eyes, he saw Index who looked like her breathing could stop at any moment.
“Can you say the same thing in front of her?” Stiyl’s voice trembled. “Can you say the same thing while she is mere seconds away from death!? Can you say the same thing while she is in too much pain to even open her eyes!? Can you tell her to wait because you have some things you’d like to try out!!?”
Index’s fingers stirred. It was unclear if she were barely conscious or if she were moving subconsciously, but she desperately moved her hand that seemed as heavy as lead and tried to touch Kamijou’s face.
It was as if she were desperately trying to protect Kamijou as the magician grabbed his hair.
It was as if she thought her own intense pain was meaningless.
“If you can, then you are not human! Anyone who could see her like this and still inject her with some untested drug, let some strange doctor mess with her body, and fill her body with drugs can’t possibly be human!” Stiyl’s shout stabbed through Kamijou’s eardrums and into his brain. “Answer me, esper. Are you still human or are you a monster who has abandoned his humanity!?”
“…” Kamijou could not answer.
Stiyl went in for one last blow like stabbing a sword into the heart of a deceased.
He pulled a necklace with a small cross on it from his pocket.
“This tool is needed to destroy her memories.” Stiyl waved the cross in front of Kamijou’s face. “As you might guess, it’s a magical item. If you touch it with your right hand, it should lose all power just like my Innocentius.”
The cross swayed back and forth in front of Kamijou like a five yen coin being used for a cheap bit of hypnotism.
“But can you negate it, esper?”
As if he had frozen in place, Kamijou stared up at Stiyl.
“When that girl is suffering before your very eyes, can you take this from her!? If you believe so much in your own power, then negate it, oh mutant who thinks he’s a hero!”
He looked at the cross swaying before his eyes. He looked at the abominable cross that could rob people of their memories.
As Stiyl had said, he could stop the deletion of Index’s memories if he took that from him. It was nothing difficult. He just had to reach out his hand and lightly touch it with the tips of his fingers.
That was all. It should have been so easy. Kamijou clenched his trembling right hand until it was as hard as rock.
But he could not do it.
For the moment, magic was the one safe and surefire way to save Index. How could he take that from the girl who was suffering and putting up with it all?
He simply could not.
“Our preparations will be complete at 0:15 at the earliest. We will destroy her memories using the power of Leo,” Stiyl said to Kamijou in disinterest.
0:15… He likely had less than 10 minutes left.
He wanted to shout out and tell them to stop. He wanted to yell out and tell them to wait. However, Kamijou would not be the one who would suffer as a result. The cost of Kamijou’s selfishness would all come back to Index.
Just accept it.
—My name is Index.
Just accept it already.
—Anyway, it would be great if you could feed me enough food to fill me up.
Just accept that you, Kamijou Touma, have neither the power nor the right to save Index!
Kamijou could not shout and could not cry out.
He could only stare up at the ceiling, grit his back teeth, and let tears he could not hold back fall from his eyes.
“…Hey, magician,” Kamijou muttered blankly as he continued to stare up at the ceiling and lean against the bookshelf. “How do you think I should say farewell to her in the end?”
“We don’t have time for this nonsense.”
“I see,” replied Kamijou blankly.
Kamijou would have remained frozen in place there, but Stiyl did not let up.
“Leave this place, monster.” The magician looked at Kamijou. “Your right hand negated my flames. I still don’t understand how it works and we can’t have it interfering with the spell we are going to use.”
“I see,” replied Kamijou emptily. Kamijou gave a small, corpse-like smile. “It was the same with that wound on her back. Why is there never anything I can do?” How should I know? Stiyl’s eyes seemed to say.
“I can destroy even the systems of God with this right hand.” Kamijou seemed to crumble. “So why can’t I save just one suffering girl?”
He smiled. He did not curse fate and he did not blame it on misfortune. He simply reflected on his own powerlessness.
Kanzaki looked at him with a pained expression and said, “We still have 10 minutes until we perform the ceremony at 0:15.”
Stiyl looked at Kanzaki as if he could not believe what he was seeing. But, Kanzaki only smiled when she looked at Stiyl.
“On the night we first swore to erase her memories, we spent the whole night crying by her side. Isn’t that right, Stiyl?”
“…” Stiyl fell silent for a moment as if his breath had caught in his throat. “B-But we have no idea what he’ll do. What if he attempts a double suicide while we aren’t looking?”
“If he were willing to do that, don’t you think he would have touched the cross right away? You only used the real cross rather than a fake because you were already sure he was human, right?”
“Whatever we do, we cannot perform the ceremony until the time is right. If he has any regrets left, he might try to stop us mid-ceremony, Stiyl.”
Stiyl gritted his teeth. He held himself back like he was on the verge of lunging and ripping out Kamijou’s throat like a beast.
“You have 10 minutes. Okay!?”
He then spun around and left the apartment.
Kanzaki silently followed Stiyl from the room, but a heartbreaking smile could be seen in her eyes.
The door closed. Only Kamijou and Index remained in the room. The 10 minutes had been gained at the risk of not Kamijou’s life, but Index’s. And yet, Kamijou knew not what he was supposed to do.
“Ah… Kh. Fh…” A few odd noises escaped Index’s lips as she lay limply sprawled out. Kamijou jumped in shock.
Index opened her eyes slightly. She seemed to wonder why she was in the futon, worrying about where Kamijou was when he should have been in the futon.
She had completely forgotten about herself.
Kamijou gritted his teeth. At that moment, standing before her was more frightening than fighting those magicians.
But, running away was not an option.
Kamijou approached the futon and Index breathed a sigh of relief. The look on her sweat-covered face was one of relief, from the bottom of her heart.
“…I’m sorry,” said Kamijou as he hung his head down to meet Index’s gaze.
“…? Touma, there’s some kind of magic circle in this room.”
Index had been unconscious, so she did not know that it was drawn by the two magicians. She tilted her head to the side in a girlish sign of puzzlement as she looked at the symbols drawn on the wall near the futon.
For an instant, Kamijou clenched his back teeth.
It was for just an instant. Before anyone could have noticed, his expression returned to normal.
“…It’s for recovery magic. We can’t leave your headaches this bad, now can we?”
“? Magic… Who’s casting it?” At that instant, a certain possibility entered Index’s mind.
Index forced her unmoving body to move and attempted to spring up. When her face twisted in pain, Kamijou grabbed her shoulders and pushed her back into the futon.
“Touma! Have the magicians come back!? Touma, you need to get out of here!!”
Index looked at Kamijou with an expression of disbelief. She knew just how dangerous magicians were and was wholeheartedly worried for Kamijou.
“…It’s okay, Index.”
“It’s over. …It’s already over.”
“Touma,” said Index quietly and then, all strength left her body.
Kamijou had no idea what kind of expression was on his face.
“…I’m sorry,” said Kamijou. “I will get stronger. I will never lose again. I will get strong enough to kick the asses of every last person who would treat you like this…”
Even crying would have been cowardly. Inviting her sympathy was unthinkable.
“…Just wait. Next time, I will make sure to truly save you.”
How did he appear in Index’s eyes?
How did he sound in Index’s ears?”
“I understand. I’ll wait.”
Because she knew not the situation, to Index, it had to seem like Kamijou had lost to the enemy and sold Index out for his own safety.
Yet, she smiled.
Her smile was battered. Her smile was perfect. Her smile looked like it would crumble at any moment. Even so, she smiled.
Kamijou could not understand. He could no longer understand how she could be that trusting of people. That was when he made up his mind.
“Once your headaches get better, let’s take out these magicians and win your freedom,” he said. “I’d like to go to the beach after that, but we’ll have to wait until my supplementary lessons are over,”
“Would you like to transfer to my school once summer break is over?” he asked.
“I’d like to make all sorts of memories,” Index said.
“You will,” promised Kamijou.
He continued forward with the lie.
It mattered not what was true or false. He no longer needed that kind of cold, cruel, and proper justice that could not comfort even a single girl.
The boy by the name of Kamijou Touma needed neither justice nor evil.
False words were more than enough for him, which why Kamijou Touma shed not a single tear.
Not even one.
With a light noise, Index’s hand lost all strength and fell atop the futon. Having passed out once more, Index looked like a corpse.
“But…” Kamijou softly bit his lip as he looked at Index’s feverish face. “What kind of horrible ending is this?”
He tasted blood where he was biting his lip.
He knew that what was happening was wrong and hated how powerless he was to stop it. Yes. Kamijou could do nothing. He could neither deal with the 103,000 grimoires taking up 85 percent of Index’s brain nor protect the memories filling up the 15 percent left over.
As hopeless thoughts raced through his mind, Kamijou suddenly felt that something was off.
Kamijou looked back at Index’s feverish face.
85 percent. Yes, that was what Kanzaki had said. 85 percent of Index’s brain was filled with the 103,000 grimoires she had memorized. The pressure that was put on her brain meant she that could fit only a year’s worth of memories in the remaining 15 percent. If she added any more memories than that, her brain would burst.
But wait a second. How could 15 percent only hold a year’s worth of memories? He analyzed.
Kamijou had no idea how rare a condition a perfect memory was. However, he was rather sure it was not so rare that Index was the only person in the world with it.
And, the others with perfect memories did not use some ridiculous method like magic to erase their memories.
If it were true that 15 percent of the brain could only hold a year’s worth of memories…
“…That means they’d die at about 6 or seven years old.”
If the condition were some kind of incurable disease like that, wouldn’t it be more prolific?
Where had Kanzaki gotten those figures, 85 percent and 15 percent?
Who had told her that?
Was the information about 85 percent of the brain even accurate?
“…They were tricked.”
What if Kanzaki truthfully knew nothing about neuroscience? What if she had simply accepted what her superiors in the church had told her?
Kamijou had a bad premonition.
He rushed over to the black phone in the corner of the room. Komoe-sensei was out somewhere. He had searched all over the room and found her cell phone number not too long before, so that was not an issue.
The mechanical ringing sound, which had a way of truly aggravating people, continued for briefly.
Kamijou had a feeling that something was mistaken in Kanzaki’s description of a perfect memory. What if that mistake were intentionally planted by the church? They might have had hid some secret.
With a staticky noise, the phone connected.
“Sensei!!” Kamijou shouted almost entirely by reflex.
“Ohh, is that you, Kamijou-chan~? You shouldn’t be using my phone~”
“…You sound happy.”
“Yes~… I am at a public bath right now~. I’ve got a coffee milk in one hand and I’m testing out a new massage chair~. Yes~.”
Kamijou thought he would to crush the receiver in his grip but Index’s situation was direr at the moment.
“Sensei, please just listen quietly to what I have to say. The truth is…”
Kamijou asked about perfect memories.
What were they? Did a year’s worth of memories really use up 15 percent of the brain? In other words, was it a condition that set one’s lifespan at only 6 or seven years?
“Of course not~.” Komoe-sensei cut it all down in one short sentence. “It is true that a perfect memory makes you unable to forget garbage memories like the flyer for a sale from last year at a supermarket~. But it isn’t like the brain can burst from that~. They’ll just take their 100 years’ worth of memories to their grave~. The human brain can hold up to 140 years’ worth of memories, after all~.”
Kamijou’s heart skipped a beat.
“B-But what if they were learning things at a tremendous rate? Like what if they used their memory to memorize all the books in a library? Would their brain burst then?”
“Sigh… Kamijou-chan, I can see why you fail all your development lessons~,” said Komoe-sensei happily. “Listen up, Kamijou-chan~. People don’t have just one type of memory. Things like language and knowledge fall under semantic memories, things like habits falls under procedural memories, and what we most often think of as memories fall under episodic memories~. There are all sorts of types~. All sorts~.”
“Um, sensei… I don’t really understand what you mean.”
“Basically~.” Komoe-sensei loved to explain things so she was delighted. “Each type of memory goes into different containers~. Think of it like burnable trash and unburnable trash~. If you get hit on the head and get amnesia, you don’t just start talking gibberish and crawling around on the ground, right~?”
“Yes~. No matter how many library books the person memorized, that would only increase the amount of semantic memory~. According to neuroscience, it is absolutely impossible for that to overwhelm the person’s episodic memory~.”
Kamijou felt like he had received that supposed hit on the head.
The receiver slipped from his hand. The fallen receiver struck the hook, ending the call, but Kamijou no longer had the time to care.
The church had lied to Kanzaki. Index’s perfect memory was not a danger to her life.
“But… why?” Kamijou muttered in stunned shock.
Yes, why? Why would the church lie and falsely state that Index would die in a year?
Also, Index’s suffering before Kamijou’s eyes certainly did not seem like a lie. If it were not being caused by her perfect memory, then why was she suffering?
After thinking that far, Kamijou suddenly laughed out loud.
Yes. The church had put a collar on Index.
…A collar that force her to require maintenance from the church every year to survive. A collar that insured that Index would not use the 103,000 grimoires she controlled to betray them.
What if Index did not need the techniques and spells of the church to survive?
What if she could perfectly well live on her own without the help of the church?
In that case, the church would never be able to leave Index be. If she could just run off and disappear with 103,000 grimoires, they would feel the need to put a collar on her.
To repeat, the church had placed a collar on Index.
That made things simple.
There had originally been nothing wrong with Index’s head, but the church had done something to it.
For example, what if they had done something similar to filling the bottom of a 10 liter bucket with cement so that only a liter of water could fit?
They had done something to Index’s mind so that her brain would burst after only a year’s worth of memories.
That way, Index had to rely on the techniques and spells of the church.
That way, Index’s comrades would have to choke back their tears and obey the church.
They wove a devilish program that took even human kindness and sympathy into account.
“…But that doesn’t matter.”
Yes, it really did not matter.
What mattered and what he had to worry about was just one thing: the identity of the church’s security was causing Index’s suffering. Academy City, which monopolized espers like Kamijou, was the cutting edge of science. What was it that Necessarius controlled for magicians that was the cutting edge in its own way?
Yes, the supernatural power known as magic. And, Kamijou Touma’s right hand could negate it with a touch even if it were the systems of God.
In that clockless room, Kamijou wondered what the time was.
He likely had little time left until the ceremony began. He looked over to the apartment door. If he told the truth to the magicians on the other side of that door, would they believe him? The answer was no. Kamijou was just a high school student. He had no medical license in neuroscience and his relationship with the magicians might as well have been called “enemies”. He doubted they would believe him.
Kamijou lowered his gaze.
He looked at Index, sprawled out on the futon. She was completely soaked in an unpleasant sweat and her silver hair looked like a bucket of water had been dumped on her. Her face was feverishly red and her eyebrows occasionally moved in pain.
–When that girl is suffering before your very eyes, can you take this from her!? If you believe so much in your own power, then negate it, oh mutant who thinks he’s a hero! Kamijou gave a slight smile at the words that Stiyl had beaten him back with before.
The world had changed enough that he could smile at it.
“I don’t just think I’m a hero.”
Still smiling, he removed the white bandages thoroughly wrapped around his right hand.
It was as if he removed a seal from the hand.
“I will be the hero.”
He spoke, he smiled, and he pressed his battered right hand against Index’s forehead.
While he said it could negate even the systems of God, he had thought that it was a useless right hand that would not let him defeat even a single delinquent, would not raise his scores on tests, and would not make him popular with girls.
But, there was one thing it could do.
If it could save the girl who suffered before his very eyes, it held a most wonderful power.
Nothing happened. Nothing at all happened.
There were no lights or noises, but had the magic the church implemented been negated? No, Index still grimaced as if in pain. It certainly seemed like nothing had happened.
Kamijou looked puzzled and touched her on the cheek and the back of the head, but nothing happened. Nothing changed. Nothing changed, but he did remember something.
Kamijou had already touched Index a few times.
For instance, he had touched her all over when he carried her from the dorm building after he punched out Stiyl. When Index had revealed her identity from within the futon, Kamijou had lightly struck her on the forehead. But of course nothing had happened.
Kamijou looked puzzled. He did not think he was wrong. Also, he doubted there was some supernatural power that his right hand could not negate. In that case…
In that case, was there some part of Index he had not touched?
“… … … … …Ah.”
His mind immediately reached a very inappropriate place, but he forced it back on track.
However, he could think of nowhere besides there. If it were magic that was afflicting Index and there was no magic Kamijou’s right hand could not negate, then he could only think that his right hand had yet to touch it.
But then, where was it?
Kamijou looked down at Index’s feverish face. Since the magic had to do with memories, would the magic be located on her head or somewhere near her head? If there were a magic circle carved into the inside of her skull, even Kamijou would have to simply give up. If it were inside her body, he could not arbitrarily touch it with his finger that was covered in germs, but…
Kamijou looked at Index’s face once more.
Her eyebrows were moving in pain, her eyes were held tightly shut, and her nose was covered in mud-like sweat. Ignoring it all, Kamijou lowered his gaze to her cute lips taking shallow breaths.
Kamijou slipped his right thumb and forefinger between those lips and forced her mouth open.
…The back of her throat.
Due to the protection of the skull, the back of the throat was closer to her brain than the back of her head. Also, people would almost never see it and it was unlikely someone would touch it. At the back of her dark red throat was a single eerie mark like something from TV horoscopes. The mark was carved in pure black.
Kamijou narrowed his eyes once, gathered his resolve, and proceeded to shove his hand into the girl’s mouth.
Her mouth wriggled like it was a different creature altogether as his fingers slipped inside. The oddly warm saliva wrapped around his fingers. The unsettling feeling of her tongue made Kamijou hesitate for an instant but he then pressed his fingers in the rest of the way to jab at the back of Index’s throat.
It appeared to Kamijou that Index shuddered violently with a powerful urge to vomit.
Then, he felt a slight shock in his right index finger as if from static electricity. In the same instant, his right hand was forcefully blown backwards.
A great number of blood droplets dripped onto the futon and tatami mats.
It had felt like his wrist had been shot at by a handgun and he instinctively looked down at his right hand. The wounds Kanzaki had given him had reopened and fresh blood was audibly dripping down onto the tatami mats.
As he held his hand up before his face, he noticed something beyond it.
As Index lay limply in the futon, her eyes silently opened and they glowed red.
The color was different from her irises.
Glowing blood red magic circles floated in her eyes.
Not good…!! He panicked.
An instinctual chill ran down Kamijou’s spine; he lacked the time to even hold his destroyed right hand up.
Her eyes glowed a frightening red and something exploded.
With a tremendous shock, Kamijou’s body struck the bookcase. The wooden planks making up the bookcase were smashed apart and the books thundered down to the floor. An intense pain rushed through Kamijou’s body as if all of his joints had been smashed to pieces along with the bookcase.
Trembling, Kamijou just barely managed to stand back up, his legs threatening to collapse beneath him. The metallic taste of blood mixed in with the saliva in his mouth.
“Warning: Chapter 3, Verse 2. All barriers for Index Librorum Prohibitorum’s collar from first to third have been breached. Preparing to regenerate… failed. The collar cannot self-regenerate. Switching priorities to the elimination of the intruder in order to protect the 103,000 archived grimoires.”
Kamijou looked at what lay before him.
Index slowly stood up in such an unsettling manner that she seemed like a boneless, joint-less sack filled with jelly. The crimson magic circles in her eyes pierced Kamijou.
While they were technically eyes, Kamijou found it difficult to think of them as such.
They held no human light and no feminine warmth.
Kamijou had seen those eyes before. When the girl’s back had been sliced open by Kanzaki, collapsing her in front of the student dorm, she had spoken about runes like a machine. These were the eyes she had at that time.
I have no magic power, so I can’t use it.
“…Come to think of it, there was one thing I forgot to ask you,” Kamijou muttered under his breath as he clenched his battered right fist. “If you’re not an esper, why is it you have no magic power?”
The answer to that question was likely right before him. The church had prepared multiple layers of security. If someone found out about the secret of her perfect memory and tried to remove the collar, Index would automatically use her 103,000 grimoires to use the powerful magic held within in order to literally keep the person who knew the truth from saying anything ever again. All of Index’s magic power was put into running that auto defense system.
“Using the 103,000 archived grimoires to determine the magic spell used to damage the barrier… failed. The specified magic cannot be determined. Putting together an anti-intruder local weapon to expose the composition of the spell.” Index tilted her head like a corpse puppet. “The magic expected to be most effective on the specific intruder has been formulated. Proceeding to activate the special magic: St. George’s Sanctuary to destroy the intruder.”
With a tremendous noise, the two magic circles in Index’s eyes grew simultaneously. Two magic circles over two meters across were now positioned in front of Index’s face. Each one was fixed in place with its center over one of her eyes and the magic circles would move through the air when she slightly moved her head.
“ . .”
Index sang something that was beyond human comprehension.
For an instant, the two magic circles centered on her eyes glowed before exploding. More specifically, it seemed like an explosion of high voltage electricity occurred in a point in space between Index’s eyes and lightning scattered in every direction.
However, rather than bluish-white electricity, the lightning was pitch black.
Though an unscientific description, space itself had seemingly cracked open. Centered at the point where the two magic circles crossed, pitch black special cracks spread out in every directions to the edges of the room.
It was like a window that was shot by a bullet. It almost seemed like a type of barrier preventing anyone from approaching Index.
Something seemingly pulsating swelled up from within the cracks. A beast-like scent wafted in from the slight opening created by the pitch black cracks.
“Ah.” Kamijou suddenly knew.
This was based on neither theory nor logic. Nor was it based on reason or sense. Perhaps his basic instincts were shouting it at him; he knew not what exactly the thing within the cracks was. However, he knew that seeing —viewing it directly and honestly— would be enough to destroy the being that was Kamijou Touma.
“Ah.” Kamijou trembled.
The cracks spread and spread and spread and spread. Even though he knew that whatever within approached, he could not move. He trembled, he trembled some more, and he truly did tremble. After all…
He just had to defeat whatever that was. He and he alone had the hand that could save Index.
“Ah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!”
And, that was why he trembled with delight.
Was he afraid? Of course not. After all, he had been waiting for this moment for so long.
While he said it could negate even the systems of God, his hand was so useless it would not let him defeat even a single delinquent, would not raise his scores on tests, and would not make him popular with girls.
When a girl’s back had been sliced open due to him, when he had been forced to leave the apartment so as not to interfere with the recovery magic, and when the wire-wielding samurai girl had beaten him within an inch of his life, he had cursed his own powerlessness while wishing all the while that he could save that girl!
It was not that he particularly wanted to become the hero of this story. It was just that he held the power in his right hand to negate and tear this too cruel a story to pieces!
He was only four meters away. If he touched that girl just once more, he could bring it all to an end! That was why Kamijou ran toward the cracks and toward Index who stood beyond them.
He clenched his right fist.
He clenched it so he that could negate the never-ending and horribly, horribly boring ending to that cruel story.
At the same time, the cracks spread all at once and “opened”. It looked as painful as a virgin’s hymen being forcibly ripped open. The giant cracks opened wide enough to reach the edges of the room and the “thing” inside peered out.
A pillar of light shot out from within the cracks.
It looked something like a laser beam about a meter across. The light was so pure a white it looked like it had been melted by the sun. The instant it shot out at him, Kamijou thrust his battered right hand out in front of his face.
The sound of the impact was like a piece of meat being pressed against a hot metal sheet.
However, there was no pain… and no heat. As if it were a pillar of water coming from a fire hose being repelled by a clear wall, the pillar of light scattered in every direction when it struck Kamijou’s right hand.
Even so, the pillar of light itself was not completely negated.
Just like with Stiyl’s Innocentius, it seemed to have no end no matter how often he negated it. His feet planted on the tatami mats were slowly pushed backwards and his right hand felt like it would be blown away by the great pressure.
No… That isn’t… what this is…!! Kamijou thought with desperation.
Kamijou grabbed his right wrist with his empty left hand. He felt a stinging pain in the palm of his right hand. The magic was eating into it. His right was not negating it quickly enough and the pillar of light was approaching millimeter by millimeter.
This isn’t just a large mass! Each individual piece of light is something different!! He frantically realized.
It was possible Index was using her 103,000 grimoires to use 103,000 different types of magic at the same time. Each individual grimoire held instant death and she was using them all at once.
Suddenly, Kamijou heard some noise from the other side of the apartment.
Did they only now notice something’s wrong? Rebuked Kamijou.
The door swung open and the two magicians charged in.
“Dammit, what are you doing!? You're still struggling in—…!?” Stiyl began to shout but his breath caught in his throat, as if punched in the back. The sight of the pillar of light and of Index who had fired it had him look like his heart had stopped.
Kanzaki, who had seemed so superior and powerful before, looked utterly taken aback by the scene displayed before her.
“D-Dragon Breath? It can’t be. Just how is she using magic!?”
Kamijou did not turn around.
While it was true he was hardly in a situation where he could turn around, it had more to do with him not wanting to take his eyes off of Index.
“Hey, do you know what this pillar of light is!?” He shouted at them without turning around. “What’s it called?
What is it!? What’s its weakness!? What should I do? Explain each and every step from start to finish!!”
“…But… but… what is…?”
“God, you piss me off! Isn’t it obvious!? If Index is using magic, it means the church was lying when they told you Index couldn’t use magic!” Kamijou shouted while blowing away the pillar of light. “Oh, and that whole thing about Index having to have her memories erased every year? That was another lie! The church was the one limiting her, so if I negate this thing, you won’t have to erase her memories anymore!!”
Kamijou’s feet slowly but surely slid backwards.
The power behind the pillar of light nightmarishly doubled as if to rip up his toes that were digging into the tatami mat.
“Calm down! Calm down and think about this rationally! Do you really think the people who created the cruel system behind Index would kindly tell their subordinates the whole truth of the situation!? Look at the reality in front of you! Ask Index herself if you like!!”
The two magicians stared blankly at Index who stood beyond the cracks.
“St. George’s Sanctuary is showing no effect against the intruder. Switching to another spell and continuing destruction of the intruder in order to protect the collar.”
It was clearly not the Index the two magicians knew but clearly an Index the church had not told them about.
For an instant —just an instant— Stiyl gritted his teeth so hard it seemed they would crack.
Tens of thousands of cards flew from within his pitch black clothes. Cards carved with flame runes spiraled around like a typhoon and in no time at all had covered the walls, ceiling, and floor without gap. It was just like Hoichi the Earless.
However, he did not act in order to save Kamijou. In an effort to save the girl named Index, Stiyl pressed his hand against Kamijou’s back.
“I do not need any vague possibilities. As long as I can erase her memories, I can save her life for now. I will kill anyone to accomplish that. I will destroy anything! That is what I decided long ago.” Kamijou’s feet that had been sliding further and further back suddenly stopped.
An unbelievable power caused the tatami mats his toes were digging into to creak horribly.
“For now?” Kamijou did not turn around. “To hell with that. I don’t care about anything like that! I don’t need reasons or logic! Just answer me one thing, magicians!!”
Kamijou sucked in a breath before continuing.
“Do you want to save Index or not?”
The magicians stopped breathing.
“You’ve been waiting for this the whole time, haven’t you? You’ve been waiting for a solution where Index doesn’t have to lose her memories and you don’t have to make an enemy of her, right!? This is that kind of wonderful, wonderful happy ending that everyone wants where everyone is happy!”
An unpleasant noise came from his right wrist as he continued to force it against the pillar of light.
Even so, Kamijou did not give up.
“You’ve always longed for this turn of events, haven’t you!? You aren’t filling in until the hero shows up! You aren’t buying time until the main character can appear! There’s no one else! There’s nothing else! Didn’t you swear to save that girl with your own two hands!?”
A crack ran down the fingernail of his right index finger and red blood flowed out.
Even so, Kamijou did not give up.
“You’ve always, always wanted to be the heroes, right!? You wanted to become the kind of magicians you find in picture books and movies that risk their lives to save the girl, right!? Then this isn’t anywhere near over!! It hasn’t even begun!! Don’t fall into despair just because the prologue dragged on a bit too long!!”
The magicians’ voices were silenced.
Kamijou would not give up. What did he look like in the magicians’ eyes?
“If you stretch out your hand, you can reach it! Just do it already, magicians!”
An odd cracking noise was heard from Kamijou’s right pinky.
When he realized the finger was bent —broken— at an unnatural angle, the pillar of light attacked with tremendous force and finally knocked Kamijou’s right hand away.
His hand was knocked a good ways backwards.
Kamijou’s face was completely defenseless and the pillar of light rushed towards it at a dreadful speed.
The instant before the pillar of light struck his face, he heard Kanzaki yell.
It was not Japanese. He had never heard the word before. However, he had heard a similar word… no, a similar name once before. It had been during his confrontation with Stiyl at the dorm. He had said it was the name he must give when he used magic. His magic name.
Kanzaki’s approximately two meter long Japanese sword sliced through the air. Her Nanasen attack utilizing seven wires flew towards Index at a speed that seemed to slice through sound itself.
But, she did not aim for Index.
The wires tore through the fragile tatami mat at Index’s feet. Having lost her footing, Index fell backwards. The magic circles linked to her eyes moved and the pillar of light that was supposed to be aimed at Kamijou missed its target considerably.
As if it were a giant sword being swung around, the pillar of light sliced through the wall and ceiling of the apartment. It even sliced through the pitch black clouds floating in the night sky. In fact, it could have even sliced through a satellite outside the atmosphere.
Not even a splinter remained where the walls and ceiling had been sliced.
Instead, the portions that had been destroyed had become feathers of light that were as pure a white as the pillar of light. They floated down. Kamijou had no idea what effects they might have had, but a few dozen of those feathers of light came floating down like winter snow on that summer night.
“Those are the same as Dragon Breath, the strike of the legendary dragon of St. George! Whatever power they may have, I highly doubt the human body will react well to them!”
Having heard Kanzaki’s warning and having been freed from the bonds of the pillar of light, Kamijou ran towards Index as she lay collapsed on the ground.
But before he could, Index turned her head.
Like a giant sword being swung, the pillar of light was swung back down, slicing back through the night sky.
Kamijou was going to be caught by it again!
As Kamijou prepared himself, a spiral of flame appeared in front of him.
The giant flame took on the form of a person and then spread out its arms to act as a shield against the pillar of light.
It was truly like a cross protecting man from sin.
“Go, esper!” shouted Stiyl. “Her time limit has already passed! If you want to do this, don’t even waste a second!!”
Kamijou did not respond with words or even turn around.
Before he could, he ran around the colliding flame and light towards Index. He did it because Stiyl wanted him to. He did it because he had heard Stiyl’s words and understood the meaning held in them and the feelings hidden behind them.
“Warning: Chapter 6, Verse 13. New enemy confirmed. Changing combat considerations. Beginning scan of the battlefield… done. Focusing on the destruction of the most difficult enemy, Kamijou Touma.”
Index swung her head around, pillar of light and all.
However, Innocentius moved to protect Kamijou at the same time. The light and flames continued to eat into each other in an extended conflict of destruction and regeneration.
Kamijou ran straight for the now defenseless Index.
Four more meters.
Three more meters.
Two more meters!
One more meter!!
“Nooo!! Above you!!” Kanzaki yelled with a voice that seemed to tear through everything.
Kamijou had just reached the point where he could reach the magic circles in front of Index’s face if he stretched out his hand. Without stopping his feet, he looked up at the ceiling.
The feathers of light...
The few dozen shining feathers that had been created when Index’s pillar of light had destroyed the wall and ceiling were slowly floating down like snowflakes. They had just floated down far enough to be about to reach Kamijou’s head.
Despite knowing nothing about magic, Kamijou could still tell that having even one of those feathers touch him would have had extremely undesirable results.
He also knew that he could easily negate them by using his right hand.
“Warning: Chapter 22, Verse 1. Analysis of the flame magic spell has succeeded. It is confirmed to be a distorted Christian motif described with runes. Adding in anti-Christian spells… Spell 1, Spell 2, Spell 3. Twelve seconds until the complete activation of the spell named Eli Eli Lama Sabachthani.”
The pillar of light’s color turned from pure white to crimson.
Innocentius’s regeneration speed visibly slowed and the pillar of light pushed forward.
Using his right hand to take out each and every one of the dozens of feathers of light would most likely take too much time. There was also a danger of Index managing to stand back up and, most importantly, Innocentius clearly wouldn’t last that long.
The dozens of feathers of light floated above the single controlled girl at his feet whose every feeling was being used.
It was a simple question of who to save and who to let fall.
The answer was obvious.
Kamijou Touma had not been swinging his right hand around for his own sake.
He had been fighting the magicians in order to save a certain girl.
God, if this world, this story, is moving ahead according to the system you created…
Kamijou spread open the five fingers of his clenched fist almost as if he were going to wash his palm.
…then I first need to destroy that illusion!!
Kamijou swung his right hand down.
He swung it down on the black cracks and the magic circles that had produced those cracks. Kamijou’s right hand easily tore them apart. It was so simple that it made him want to laugh at how much suffering they had caused. He broke through them as easily as the paper of a goldfish scoop once wet.
“…Warning: Final… Chapter, Verse Zero…. The collar has received fatal… damage… Regeneration… impossible… gone.”
The voice coming from Index’s mouth ended altogether.
The pillar of light and magic circles disappeared, and it was almost as if the cracks that had been running all across the room had been erased with an eraser.
At that moment, one of the feathers of light fell down on Kamijou Touma’s head.
He thought he heard someone shout.
He knew not whether it was Stiyl, Kanzaki, himself, or even Index who might have woken up.
As if he had been hit in the head by a hammer, all strength left his entire body, down to the very last finger.
Kamijou fell down and covered Index who was still collapsed on the floor.
It was like he protected her body from the falling feather of light. The dozens of feathers of light floated down like snowflakes towards every part of Kamijou’s body.
Even so, Kamijou Touma smiled. He smiled and he never moved those fingertips again.
On that night, Kamijou Touma “died”.