Toaru Majutsu no Index:Volume8 Chapter4
Chapter 4: The Judger. Break_or_Crash?
Musujime Awaki looks down at Misaka Mikoto, who was still looking for her.
She was standing at the window, with a white luggage bag beside her.
Right now, she was located in a building, on the fourth level, a pizza shop. However, it wasn’t an express pizza shop that did deliveries, but well-made ones. The cheapest one was worth more than 3,000 yen, so most Middle Schoolers and High Schoolers wouldn’t be able to afford it, and the main customers were, of course, university students and teaching staff members. Maybe because of this, even though it was past 9 PM, the restaurant continued to be operational.
Clean tablecloths were placed on the tables of the high class restaurant. Inside the shop, there was an audio playing light French music that so nicely broke the silence, but didn’t prevent the customers from having their own conversations. Half of the tables inside the restaurant were empty, but the signboard indicating that they were full was hung on the door. Keeping a suitable number of empty seats was also an important part in creating a restaurant atmosphere.
The customers inside the shop had seen the Move Point teleporter Musujime appear out of nowhere, but they weren’t really panicking. Maybe in this city, everyone was used to this sort of thing.
There was no commotion caused inside the shop, and to Musujime, that was what she wanted. She continued to stare outside the window at Mikoto, who looked around and then dashed into an alley.
At that moment, Musujime finally heaved a sigh of relief.
When facing off against the Ace of Tokiwadai, it was meaningless to pull back in a straight line. Though the Railgun would dissipate after a certain distance due to air resistance, a lightning strike could hit any corner instantly.
―It was alright no matter how far it was, the main thing was to enter Mikoto’s blind spot.
―And in that blind spot, she had to confirm that Mikoto had lost her.
Based on this most important rule, Musujime chose a ‘higher’ location. After she hid there and waited for Mikoto to leave, she could slowly make her escape.
Once her heart relaxed, the strong sense of wanting to puke suddenly arose.
The large amount of acid made Musujime’s throat feel like it was burning. She barely managed to keep the contents of her stomach back, making it look like everything was normal. The palm holding the military torchlight, was covered with disgusting sweat.
Musujime Awaki had been involved in an accident because she lost control of her ‘Move Point’ ability. Ever since then, she would feel a strong sense of nervousness and fear, creating a huge burden on her body.
Thus, Musujime was trying her best not to move her own body.
(Damn it, why must I always get in this sort of situation, this is truly unfortunate.)
Actually, following the orders of ‘that man’ to send people inside the windowless building was also a rather irritating thing to do. In order to prevent failure, she had to teleport herself with the guest through Move Point instead of teleporting the guest alone. This was the most troublesome part about this job. Not only that, the list of VIPs included low-class people like a blonde high school student that wore sunglasses and a red-haired priest. Musujime would rather endure this discomfort because of the benefits that this job brought.
Musujime placed the luggage bag horizontally and sat on it. Then, she pulled out a handkerchief to wipe the sweat off her forehead. She would always feel nervous when she teleported into an unknown area inside a building. She would be roasted if she teleports into an oven, and she would fall heavily if she teleports over to mid air. Though the possibility was low, even if it was one in ten thousand, it was terrifying to her.
Musujime thought, it was lucky that Mikoto had completely lost her now. Any ordinary person would run down the alley to search, so she just had to remain inside the buildings and move around to avoid being seen by Misaka Mikoto. Her maximum teleportation distance was 800 metres, but she didn’t have enough confidence to continue teleporting. Once she teleported more than 4 times, the contents of her stomach would very likely be vomited out, and she would go crazy, to such an extent that she wouldn’t be able to use her powers.
As for maintaining her mental state, it was best if she could use the Move Point once or twice to avoid the enemy’s attack, and then use her two feet to move away on the ground. Just as Musujime was thinking of her escape plan…
A high class corkscrew opener pierced Musujime Awaki’s right shoulder.
A familiar opener. Wasn’t it the thing that she had teleported into that Judgement member?
Before Musujime even understood what it meant, a familiar voice came from behind her.
“I’ll return this thing back to you, using such a classless thing, you’ll only be looked down upon. Oh yeah, and these things.”
After she said that, the sounds of collisions could be heard. It sounded like needles had pierced bags full of mud.
The needles pierced her flank, thigh, and shin, these familiar areas.
The burning sensation of pain emitted from the entire body to the brain, exploding there.
Musujime Awaki turned away from outside the window to inside the shop. The customers in the shop were all stunned, revealing a look showing that they didn’t know what to do.
All except for one.
A girl sitting elegantly on a table, her face looking extremely proud.
The high class atmosphere inside the shop had become her biggest reason for defeat.
Because just as when Musujime had appeared, there was no commotion when Shirai had appeared.
“No need to panic, I avoided your vitals…this isn’t hard, I just aimed at where I was hurt. Ah, yes.”
Shirai pretended to search her skirt pockets. Musujime started to feel nervous, but Shirai didn’t pull out a weapon. Instead she drew out a blood clotting paste from Judgement’s own first-aid box.
With a flick off Shirai’s finger, the tube of paste landed beside Musujime.
After that, the girl with twin pigtails revealed an evil smile.
“Go ahead, take it and rub it on your wounds. Take off your clothes, your underwear, and prone on the floor pitifully as you rub it on your wounds. It wouldn’t be fair if you haven’t done that!”
Maybe they suddenly sensed the hostility, or maybe they didn’t want to listen to such ugly words, the customers and the staff members finally took action and ran towards the door frantically. The high-class atmosphere was gone in an instant, tables and chairs knocked around all over the place. After the sounds of hurried footsteps and chaos became silent, the shop was empty.
There were just two people, both glaring at each other.
The distance between them was about 10 metres. No matter whether it was ‘instant teleportation’ or ‘Move Point’, the range was more than enough. In other words, the distance was no longer significant.
The soft air-conditioning and the graceful light French music was now abnormally clear to the human ear.
Shirai had been sitting on the table all this time.
But it wasn’t because she knew that she had won, but rather because her body was unable to stand her injuries. However, Musujime was now the same. Both of them had been hit with the same weapons in the same regions. So she could imagine how severe the enemy’s injuries were by looking at her own injuries.
“…You’re good…however…I don’t hate the way you’re taking revenge.”
Musujime sat on the luggage bag that was beside the window. Even if she was covered with wounds, she wanted to show that nothing was wrong. Maybe she was trying to bluff, or maybe it was her pride.
For both sides, it was hard for them to even move.
However, they had another way to move.
“This is really bad.”
Shirai said mockingly.
“With this commotion, Onee-sama, who’s so smart, cool and active, will immediately run over here.”
“Based on your personality, if there’s a winnable opponent, you won’t run away shamefully with your tail behind your back, huh? To cause so many meaningless wounds on your enemy, and leave with a sense of superiority, isn’t that your favorite trick? Like the time when you faced off against me.”
Thinking back, during the battle at the construction yard, Musujime hadn’t fired a single attack at Mikoto, only defending herself without even trying to counterattack. This was the biggest proof that Musujime felt that she couldn’t beat Mikoto.
In other words, once Mikoto arrived, Musujime would definitely be defeated.
To Shirai, who was severely injured, there was no need for her to try and beat Musujime. She just needed to delay and wait for Mikoto to arrive for this second ‘victory’.
“Humph, I guess that you overestimated the Ace of Tokiwadai. Even the Railgun isn’t invincible. If she’s to face say, the strongest Level 5 esper in Academy City, she’ll be dead.”
“However, with our powers, can we even reach Level 5?”
Shirai Kuroko mocked.
It was a sentence that lowered her pride, yet she was saying it so proudly.
She was not hiding her reverence for Misaka Mikoto.
Musujime turned pale, her jaw dropped.
(Don’t tell me she created this commotion for this purpose…? Not only did she launch a sneak attack on me, she wants to bring the Railgun over to increase her chances of winning…?)
Musujime’s brain was moving quickly. If so, the condition for her to win wasn’t to beat the Judgement member in front of her, but whether the Railgun arrived. In other words, she didn’t need to care about wasting time with Shirai Kuroko, and should hurry up and leave using Move Point.
“Forget about it.”
Shirai’s words interrupted Musujime’s thoughts.
“You can’t escape. Haven’t you noticed? Our conditions are similar. In this condition, being injured, in this sort of place, with this kind of power, and to be chased by Onee-sama…as one with a similar power, can’t I guess where you’re going to run?”
Musujime Awaki was surprised, unable to say another word. Shirai just stared at her, revealing a thin smile.
“If you think I’m only bluffing, I advise you to get rid of that naïve thinking. The knowledge I got from the library, and the experience I got when I fought you, and as an esper with similar powers, our thinking would be similar…all this evidence can back my instincts.”
At that moment, Musujime finally realised it.
The meaning behind all the actions that Shirai had done.
(She made those similar wounds with the corkscrew and the needles to allow herself to be on equal footing with me, and decrease the difference between us in order to predict my movements even more accurately!)
Similar abilities, similar wounds, similar thinking…Shirai had done this to try and guess what Musujime Awaki would do next.
She couldn’t look down on this girl, Musujime grit her teeth as she thought.
Even if she was to run away using Move Point, she would catch up. If so, even if she ran to the other end of the Earth, she wouldn’t feel safe.
Every time Musujime teleported, it felt like her stomach was flipped around, it felt unbearable.
If the Move Point that she desperately used every time was to be solved by this girl, it would be a painful thing. Besides, she could only teleport herself consecutively for three to four times, so she couldn’t waste it.
“That’s right, you have only one winning condition, and that is to beat me before Onee-sama arrives.”
Shirai Kuroko casually remarked,
“However, there are two conditions for me to win. The first is for me to beat you, the second is when Onee-sama arrives…whoever has the advantage, I guess there’s no need for me to spell it out, is there?”
Shirai clearly announced that she was in an advantageous situation, shocking Musujime. The number of options she had was becoming even more limited now.
Musujime trembled in fear…however, she slowly shook her head.
Musujime realised it.
The Judgement member in front of her didn’t want to get the Railgun involved at all.
If she had wanted to get the Railgun involved, why hadn’t she brought her along in the first place?
Musujime smiled slightly.
After figuring out one thing, the ideas started to flow in.
Maybe this was a flaw of Shirai’s intention for both of them to be in similar conditions, as Musujime saw through Shirai’s thoughts.
Her consciousness was becoming clearer.
Musujime regained her cool.
“…Such a wonderful coincidence. For you to give up on winning twice. The first time is when you didn’t bring the Railgun here, and secondly, the sneak attack. You didn’t care about winning or losing, since you could have killed me if you pierced my brain or heart. If you did this only to compliment that Railgun’s naïve fantasy, then it’s really pitiful.”
Before she could even rebut, Shirai’s body was already trembling slightly.
Musujime understood what was going on. It was because she had the same wounds.
Both of them were too injured, especially Shirai, who had searched for Musujime for several hours. Though the wounds had stopped bleeding, her lost strength was hard to recover, so Shirai’s condition was worse off than Musujime. Comparing Musujime, who was just injured, to Shirai, who had been injured and yet ran around all over the place, the amount of strength each had was completely different.
So Musujime laughed. She was laughing at the advantage that she had, and the stupidity of the enemy.
“So pitiful. You could have used the second-best way to settle this problem, yet you still insist on using the best way. Is your life worth risking to protect that world?”
Musujime Awaki sat on the luggage bag and said,
“That naïve fantasy world that the Railgun is thinking about?”
On hearing that, Shirai Kuroko glared at Musujime Awaki.
Shirai’s eyes were filled with strong determination. She could only sit on the table, her body was unable to move, and the trembling in her weak wrists that were failing, these would convinced Musujime even more that Shirai was in a disadvantageous situation, but Shirai didn’t care. She didn’t even bother bluffing, instead glaring straight at the enemy in front.
In this ridiculous and laughable confrontation, Shirai replied without hesitation,
“…It’s worth it.”
Shirai felt that it was worth using her limited amount of strength to answer this question.
“Of course it’s worth it, isn’t that nonsense? Even though Onee-sama is naïve and stubborn, and she doesn’t consider our difficulties, Onee-sama really wishes to create a world where you and I don’t have to do this sort of thing. She’s really naïve, isn’t she? Onee-sama really intends to catch us and lecture us in the name of justice and let this case close. Even in this situation, she really intends to help us. Not just me, but also you.”
Shirai Kuroko laughed.
A laugh that was pure, without a hint of irony.
“Even when facing this situation, Onee-sama really wishes that everyone won’t argue and will give up on killing each other. She doesn’t approve of what I did; she could have killed you in 5 seconds…but she chose not to. She’s still looking for that perfect ending. She could have settled everything with the flip of a coin…but she chose not to kill, which is why she got herself tired.”
“DO YOU THINK THAT I, SHIRAI KUROKO, HAVE THE HEART TO DESTROY THIS NAÏVE AND CHILDISH WISH? TO SNEAK UP AND STICK A METAL NEEDLE IN YOUR BRAIN, AND SETTLE THIS WITH DEATH AND BLOOD? TO TRAMPLE ON OTHER PEOPLE’S EFFORTS IN ORDER TO PROTECT MY OWN LIFE!?”
Shirai roared and slowly got off the table. Her legs were trembling, yet they were filled with strength. It was like they were forecasting that the main event was up next.
“In order to fulfill her wish and show that I agree with her, I WILL BRING YOU BACK TO THIS NORMAL WORLD!”
“If so, I suppose I win if I reject your goodwill, right?”
Musujime Awaki said as she sat on the luggage bag.
An attitude that showed that she was not going to fool around.
Shirai thought, basically, the condition now is extremely simple.
Both Shirai and Musujime were injured rather badly. Even if they stopped the bleeding, they couldn’t possibly recover their strength so quickly. Should she attack the enemy first? Even if it was just a gentle push, it could potentially end the battle.
(If we seriously battle…I think I can only last for 10 seconds.)
Even if she didn’t get hit, she would reopen her wounds if she moved her limbs with all her might. Especially now that Shirai didn't have much strength left. Once she lost any more blood, she would immediately lose consciousness.
Musujime’s power was terrifying. If it wasn’t for the limitation that ‘a teleporter couldn’t move someone else with a similar power’, she could have slammed Shirai into a wall or the floor.
Shirai and Musujime glared at each other.
There was a 10 metres distance between them.
A loud noise could be heard outside.
A part of the steel tower that Mikoto had attacked collapsed, making a large impact sounding like a bell ringing.
The sound signaled the start of the battle.
Shirai raised her fist and quickly slammed it onto the table that she was sitting on. The skin on her palm cracked, and the surface of the table broke into pieces. Shirai grabbed a sharp fragment and prepared to teleport it. A teleport attack could tear anything apart from within, so it could be considered a sure kill technique. Also, as it was a point-to-point attack, anything that was in a direct line couldn’t block it.
At that moment, Musujime used her Move Point.
She swung her military torchlight, wanting to stuff a silver tray inside Shirai’s body. Though it was an ordinary tray, the Move Point could easily pass through a human body. Once it hit, death was inevitable.
However, Shirai was faster by a bit.
She sidestepped. The silver tray appeared in mid air like a guillotine, falling onto the ground.
Though Musujime’s power was great, maybe she needed a sense of rhythm, as she had a habit of swinging the military torchlight first.
It was hard to grab a chance to counterattack and not cause a lose-lose situation, but it was not so hard if it was just dodging.
Musujime inadvertently frowned. She swung the military torchlight around in a circle, and 5–6 tables beside her vanished into thin air before appearing before Musujime. These tables were packed together, forming a huge shield which blocked Musujime’s body.
(A mistake in sending…? No! it’s a shield to block my sight…!)
Shirai had already experienced this before. As teleportation was also a point-to-point attack, as long as one slightly deviated from the original position, the person could dodge it. In order to make Shirai think that she had already teleported away, Musujime purposely created a wall.
Shirai used her teleport.
She grabbed a fragment of the plate, and teleported it together with her own body.
After appearing on the other side of the restaurant table shields, Shirai raised the fragment again.
(…Then I’ll use myself to guess the location!)
Since her vision was blocked by the obstacles in front, she just needed to get to the other side of the obstacles. She wouldn’t miss if she could clearly sees where Musujime was standing before she teleported the fragment.
This was because Musujime Awaki was unable to teleport her own body instantly.
Shirai hoped to use the sharp fragment to aim at the enemy and get the victory.
Shirai Kuroko heard the sound of air being ripped.
Musujime was standing one step in front of Shirai, but she was holding the heavy luggage bag with both hands, using all the strength in her hips to smack the luggage bag at Shirai’s face. As she was holding the luggage bag with both hands, she had the military torchlight between her teeth.
From Musujime’s expression, it seemed that she hadn’t really predicted Shirai’s method of attack.
(From that comfortable expression, she seems to be relieved that she was prepared for that attack. It’s really working, huh…!)
The hard side of the luggage bag came swinging at Shirai’s face, so Shirai quickly teleported the sharp fragment and cut the ‘n’ shaped handle of the luggage bag.
The luggage bag went flying in a completely wrong direction.
Musujime, who was only holding onto the handle, revealed a surprised look.
(Now…here’s the chance…!!)
Shirai infused all her strength into her injured right hand and clenched her tiny fist.
The distance was so close. Instead of doing the calculations and using her ability, she might as well send a punch.
Musujime, who was biting on her military torchlight, moved backwards slightly.
Shirai panicked. Musujime's unexpected movement of made Shirai unable to counter with her ability.
She moved back by one step. At that moment, everything in front turned white. That was the colour of the luggage bag. After her brain processed what was going on, Shirai couldn’t help but feel that her back had gone numb. What had happened was that the luggage bag that flew out of Musujime hands had been teleported by Musujime using the Move Point in front of Shirai’s eyes. The bag hadn’t decreased in speed as it flew, but the path got adjusted, which caused it to fly towards Shirai’s face.
If Shirai hadn’t taken a step back just now, her head would have been blown off by the luggage bag that had appeared out of nowhere.
However, even though she dodged the fatal blow, she was going to be hit by the heavy luggage bag.
It was too late for her even if she wanted to react.
The luggage bag slammed hard into Shirai’s face, and the huge impact sent Shirai flying backward. Shirai was unable to maintain her balance. Her skin retracted during the process.
It seemed that some hot liquid gushed out from the wounds on her shoulder and her flank, and her fist that had been clenched tightly was released. Shirai tried her best to stand upright, but her feet still left the ground.
Just as she was about to be knocked down, Shirai teleported again.
Shirai’s body vanished. She maintained this falling position and appeared behind Musujime, facing her back with her own back.
The momentum of the fall hadn’t decreased. Shirai extended her elbow backwards and landed directly on Musujime’s back. Being hit like this, Musujime fell forward into the tables that were stacked up. Before Shirai could confirm that Musujime had fallen, she landed on the ground. The impact from the fall caused her wounds to reopen.
In order to give the final blow, Shirai squeezed out all her remaining strength and grabbed an item beside her. It was the handle that had been cut off the luggage bag. Shirai’s teleport attack could be used on any item, not just a sharp one.
Shirai cried out in her heart as she aimed at the enemy. She calculated and tried to move the handle in her hand over.
However, her ability couldn’t activate.
The handle in her hand didn’t move at all.
The sharp pain and strong anxiety robbed her of her concentration, causing her to be unable to use her ability.
This predicament made Shirai even more anxious. She carried her last ounce of hope and looked at Musujime Awaki, hoping that she would be in similar pain and unable to use her ability.
Shirai heard a light ‘shua!’ sound.
The stack of tables around Musujime had disappeared.
After that, in a manner similar to that of eating a kebab, she pulled out the military torchlight that she was biting.
Shirai sensed a chill.
She quickly rolled on floor, wanting to get away.
But the tables were above her, and they then fell due to gravity.
Shirai got onto the floor, covering the back of her head with both hands. The heavy attack landed on her like a blunt weapon, increasing the depth of her wounds. She was hurting so badly that she wanted to roll on the floor, but the large number of tables left her unable to move away.
In this narrow vision, she could only see Musujime, who was on the floor, kick the floor and move her body to prevent being hit by the falling table. The needles in her limbs tore Musujime’s wounds wide open, hurting her so badly that she cried out in pain. However, she immediately used Move Point to teleport the luggage bag that didn’t have a handle beside her, and leaned on it, looking at Shirai.
Musujime pointed at the chairs nearby with the military torchlight.
The movement was extremely slow.
“Shirai-san, you’ll lose your life if you don’t dodge this.”
Musujime gave a mocking smile as she slid the front tip of the military torchlight from the back of the chair to Shirai. The circular front side of the military torchlight stopped in front of Shirai.
Shirai inadvertently turned pale, but she still couldn’t use her instant teleportation.
Shirai couldn’t help but tremble, however, the chairs teleported by Move Point landed beside her. The large number of tables stacked on Shirai were pushed by the chairs, causing them to collapse, like a pyramid of poker cards. However, only the shape had changed, the fact that Shirai was being pinned down hadn’t changed.
“Oh, you still can’t escape even in this condition? Seems like you can’t do your teleportation calculations.”
Musujime’s face had no more sign of nervousness.
The fresh blood seeped through from the wounds, dying Musujime Awaki’s face red, but she still laughed.
“Shirai-san, oh Shirai-san. Do you know? You can hear a lot of things if you’re beside ‘that person’. One of them, hm…I wonder if you’ve heard of it before?”
Musujime said as if she was humming to a tune.
After confirming the locations of the needles and the corkscrew, she breathed heavily and swung the military torchlight around. All the strange items disappeared and then appeared before her. Under the influence of gravity, the metal needles and the corkscrew dropped to the floor, making a sharp sound.
“In the beginning, there was a group full of powerful espers.”
To Musujime, treating these wounds that were causing her pain seemed to be more important than maintaining her distance from Shirai. She looked around for tools to treat her wounds. The tube of blood-clotting paste that Shirai had thrown was beside her feet, but maybe to maintain her pride, she kicked it far away.
(She wants to…treat her wounds here? To do this without any worry in front of me? What’s she planning? Onee-sama could be here any minute…)
Shirai’s heart was filled with suspicion, but Musujime still maintained a leisurely look.
The wounds, with the needles removed, were oozing blood.
But the smile on Musujime’s face didn’t disappear, the look made it terrifying.
“But there were very few people with great powers, so in order to increase their capability, they decided to use a method to increase the number of espers. That method was to clone them. Do you know what the result was?”
Shirai couldn’t move.
The hand that was extended out from the gap between the tables could only swing about in midair. She could neither move the tables away, nor could she even hit the enemy in front of her.
From the looks of it, Musujime seemed rather satisfied. She tore her own skirt and tied it on her thigh to stop the bleeding.
Misaka Mikoto still hadn’t arrived.
Because such fierce fighting took place, the customers and staff members should have escaped, and the ruckus should have spread outside. Maybe the noise hadn’t reached Mikoto’s ears? Or did Mikoto think that this incident had nothing to with the ‘remnant’?
Shirai didn’t wish for Mikoto to be there, but she didn’t feel safe when she was not there. Maybe Mikoto was bothered by Musujime’s other companions?
And what was more unbelievable was…
(Musujime’s expression…why is she so confident…? Does she think that she can win against Onee-sama even in that condition…?)
Shirai felt very puzzled, while Musujime said rather unhurriedly,
“I can only describe it as appalling. Those scapegoats that were created didn’t even have 1% of the power. Even though this less than 1% was rather impressive for this world’s standard, if they were to battle against a powerful esper, not even 10,000 or 20,000 of them would be a match.”
Musujime Awaki, who was drenched in blood, continued to tear her skirt and wrap it around the wound on her shin.
Shirai guessed, maybe she had hurt Musujime’s pride too much, and Musujime was pursuing this ‘decisive victorious situation’, thus she was rattling on and on.
Musujime’s skirt was already very short, and not only was her underwear almost exposed, but she didn’t seem to mind. Instead, she just smiled slightly.
“Shirai-san, the children that were created from the cloning technique had the exact same genes as the original, and even the structure of their brain was the same. Yet their ability was so different, why do you think this is so?”
The overconfidence that was flowing from Musujime’s words made Shirai want to puke, but if she didn’t care about her, Musujime would lose interest and leave the scene with the luggage bag.
“Such…such a stupid question. Don’t you know how the schools in Academy City are ranked…?”
Even if both were of the same quality, as long as the method of nurturing was different, the results would be different. Thus, there were many ways to develop the espers’ powers, thus the difference in school standards.
However, Musujime was still calm.
“Nope, those clones were trained in an environment where they should have ended up with the same power. However, the results were very disappointing. They had the same brain, yet they could not achieve the same results. Don’t you think that there are other factors other than the brain that affect the quality? Then, if we could find this condition, could we use powers without a calculating source like the human brain?”
Musujime Awaki was unconcerned with the blood that was splattering on her face. She stopped doing her emergency first aid and said,
“In other words, is the human brain required in the development of powers in the first place?”
Shirai couldn’t help but breathe out some cold air.
The powers developed by Academy City were a major breakthrough in quantum mechanics. Using ‘their own realities’, which was a reality that was observed by deliberately distorting the mental calculations and decision making ability to cause an unnatural change in a radical microscopic world to create some sort of phenomena.
“What…are you saying?”
Shirai couldn’t help but retort.
“Academy City’s lessons…involve the most advanced neuro-science.”
“That’s right. However, the dealing with phenomenon…which is to observe and analyse a target, can only humans do that?”
Musujime said happily,
“For example, plants can detect sunlight. Some plants will close their flowers and leaves up at night. Don’t tell me that these plants aren’t observing the world?”
Musujime wanted to stop the bleeding of the wound on her shoulder, but she couldn’t tear her skirt any more. She could only tear down the shoulder line of her winter Western-style jacket and use it as a bandage.
Shirai felt that this wasn’t good.
Once Musujime completed her first-aid, she would head on to the next thing. As the current situation stood, the only thing that could stop Musujime was her own mouth.
“Too…this is too stupid. Such a ridiculous idea. If you can count reacting to sunlight as an observation, then would the posters and photographs that react to ultraviolet rays have some form of observation ability? The main thing about creating powers should be about how they view it, right? So, the lessons that Academy City provides is to help each student find ‘a personal reality’ that no one else has. What powers need aren’t special senses, but special processing capabilities.”
But Shirai’s words didn’t cause any emotional response from Musujime.
Right now, Musujime had only the wound on the side of her abdomen to treat. She originally intended to use the belt that was holding the military torchlight to stop the bleeding, but that belt made of metallic plates didn’t seem able to do the job.
Thus, she could only use the pink cloth that was wrapped around her chest to wrap her waist. To her, it seemed like as long as they were of the same gender, it was alright for her to be naked in front of outsiders. She pulled the winter jacket that had only one sleeve left and covered her exposed breasts, but this action was rather muddled up.
“You mean that without a high level of mental activity, there’s no way to develop powers?”
Shirai replied, but deep inside, she was rather insecure, as it seemed like Musujime was luring her to argue back. The best evidence was that Musujime didn’t seem to be bothered by her own arguments.
“Then what about ants? Ants know how to work in teams, to circle around and build their hive, and even look for food. Also, ants know how to do some form of contracts. They can help weird insects like aphids to chase away ladybugs and get the ‘forest honey’ from them. In other words, they have the most original rationale…if you deny their mental makeup, it’s the same as denying thought processes that are different from humans, yet similar.”
Musujime adjusted the tightness of her bandage replacement.
“You’re basically unreasonable.”
“Why is this unreasonable? Ants are classified according to their physical characteristics, there are male ants, queen ants and worker ants, which means they know how to have a social division of labor. They can use their antennas to communicate through signals, and some of them even have light emitting organs. On what basis do you think that their mental activity is of a low level? What is the high level of human mental activity to you? Even insects have their logic and morals too. Even ants know that they have to protect their larvae.”
Musujime Awaki gave a slight smile.
“Even ants can observe the surroundings.”
She paused for a while, then continued,
“On what basis do you have to decide that between ants and us, which side has the correct view on the surroundings? On what basis can you say that ants will never be able to use powers?”
Shirai Kuroko shuddered.
The fact that the basic idea of superpowers was denied made her tremble.
She stared at the ‘thing’ beside Musujime Awaki.
“There are many lives of equal footing—no, maybe of a higher class than human life. If you can’t agree with that, it’s just your arrogance as a human.”
Musujime smiled calmly, feeling up the surface of the luggage bag with her fingertips.
“By switching the thinking in another direction, you’ll see that the ‘answer’ is very close to us. That’s right, it’s right beside us.”
The surface of the luggage bag was glowing under the lights.
A higher class, huge, complicated…an artificial brain that just lacked a little bit of flexibility compared to humans.
“Shirai Kuroko-san, this term called the ‘brain’, can’t it be used on certain terms other than humans? If you are a human supremacist that can’t even accept such a simple truth, I might be a little disappointed.”
Even ants could observe their surroundings.
As long as there was a brain, powers could be created.
It need not be humans.
If so…if so…if so…Shirai Kuroko stared at the luggage bag beside Musujime Awaki.
“Don’t tell me…you think that the core of that thing…can create powers just like us? Are you serious? This thought is as ridiculous as a robot having a soul!”
Going deeper, was a high level system like the ‘human soul’ required for ‘observing reality and analyzing it’? Shirai started to lose confidence.
In contrast, Musujime looked rather poised.
“That’s right, that level of progress can’t be achieved. A machine is a machine after all. Once the anti-shake and auto-adjust AI of a digital camera is facing a phenomenon, what the calculating chip does is to arrange the pixels on the image according to the information. In terms of dealing with information, this is completely different from observing a phenomenon.”
She looked rather confident.
“Also, we have confirmed that we can’t find any plants and animals other than humans that can use superpowers. Whether my point is valid is a big question.”
She stroked the surface of the luggage bag, and continued,
“But with this thing, we can proceed on with the predictions. As long as we have this super simulator that can simulate anything faithfully, it’s not a problem to find what the entire world hasn’t discovered now, or even any changes in biological evolution 10,000 years later. Thus, I must have the ‘remnant’ to repair the ‘Tree Diagram’. I want it to decide, with all the possibilities, whether there are organisms other than humans that can develop superpowers.”
A strange glint appeared in Musujime’s eyes.
Shirai thought, this glint was called paranoia.
“For this purpose…you’re willing to work secretly with outside organisations…?”
“That’s right. Even if I get the precious ‘remnant’, I can’t repair it by myself. Thus, I need to work with an organisation that has the technology, knowledge and motivation.”
Musujime Awaki laughed.
That organisation was most probably uninterested in Musujime’s thoughts. They probably had other motives. The capability of the ‘Tree Diagram’ was too strong, the number of organisations that wanted it was probably more than the hairs on a cow.
“Shirai-san, how did you feel when you had powers for the first time?”
Shirai couldn’t move her body at all, so she could only move her mouth.
She lay prone underneath the table, saying nonchalantly,
“Not…nothing much. The adults around me were shocked, but I wasn’t too surprised myself. To me, it’s no big deal.”
“Really…? To be honest, I was really scared.”
Musujime reminisced her childhood and said,
“Once I thought of what this ability can do, I was really scared. I was even more scared when I actually did it. Shirai-san, in this world, the thing I’m most fearful of is this sort of ability. This ability that can kill people with little imagination.”
Right now, the girl was no longer trembling in fear,
“However, I have always accepted that this is my fate. Only humans have this power. Humans have researched in some specific area and discovered this power, and use it for specific uses. In other words, I have to have this power. Since I can’t avoid it, I can only endure it. However, a doubt crept inside me.”
Her mouth was becoming a thin and long crack like a melting ice-cream.
“If I’m not the only one with this sort of power, why must I have it? If it’s not just a power that only humans have, why must humans have it? If it need not be me, why must it be me? Shirai-san, oh so gullible, and yet never thought a thing about it. Shirai-san, let me tell you, those esper children that were with me just now have similar thoughts. Of course, that’s not including the adults. In that building, I did indeed use them as shields, but I did that on their suggestion. Before they were unconscious, they even smiled, saying…“We’ll leave it to you.””
There were many cases of Level 0s who couldn’t get powers and began to turn bad.
However, there were two sides to every event.
Occasionally, there were people with powers so strong that they couldn’t adjust to it.
The thing called powers was like a monster in a monster movie.
If they wanted to live peacefully with normal humans, they had to be wary whenever they walked on the streets. Once they exerted too much strength, they could destroy the constructs around them. In actuality, espers with powers on the Railgun’s level normally wouldn’t be able to get a chance to go all out, instead, they had to suppress their powers. In a certain sense, it was like living a life with shackles on their limbs.
“Do we really need to have this sort of power? Don’t you want to know the answer? No matter whether there is a need, at least we should confirm it, shouldn’t we?”
Musujime Awaki slowly opened her arms wide.
As if she was inviting Shirai Kuroko.
“I believe you have hurt others with that ability of yours, right? You must have thought before: why do you have such a power?”
As if she wanted to hug Shirai Kuroko, bringing her over.
The reason why Musujime hadn’t given Shirai the final blow was because she wanted Shirai to listen to these words.
“I’m clear of this, because you’re like me. I can close my eyes and imagine how you have hurt others. So…”
As if she was singing to her lover,
Musujime Awaki was giving the signal ‘I never intended to kill you from the beginning’.
“I understand this pain of yours more than anyone else. Because I understand your pain, I know how to get rid of it. So, how about it, Shirai-san? If you’re interested in finding out about the truth, I can let you join our ranks.”
From Musujime Awaki’s expression, one could tell that she would rather risk Misaka Mikoto arriving and say so many words just to elaborate on this conclusion.
No esper would be able to ignore these words.
Any esper in this city, and those who had fought before would have faced a similar problem.
That was ‘how to use one’s own powers to cause more damage to the opponent?’
And ‘how big was the damage?’
How painful was it? How unbearable was it? Could it destroy everything? Would it be interrupted? Could it defeat or even destroy the enemy?
And once everything was over, they would be trembling in fear.
Why do I have this power?
Do I need to have this power in the first place?
The basic values that she had were being shaken.
Being pinned underneath the tables, Shirai glared at Musujime with a sharp expression and said in a deep, scary voice,
“I thought that it was some ideal that made you want to do this that made you create this huge trouble, but it’s just this petty idea, huh? Onee-sama was correct, a villain really has small noses and eyes.”
“My reaction should be normal, right? Why are you so shocked? Can that stupid, narcissistic nonsense of yours move me, Shirai Kuroko? Seeing that confident look of yours, were you thinking that after convincing me, I’ll help to convince Onee-sama? Or were you abused enough and love to listen to my sarcastic remarks?”
Shirai paused for a while, and continued,
“Besides, what animals? What evolution? What possibility? Ha! What’s the point of saying these things now? Even if we are to give different varieties of ants improvements and superpowers, how can we benefit?”
“What benefit…? Don’t you understand yet? If things other than humans can use powers, we don’t have to be monsters like ‘teleporters’. We don’t need such dangerous powers in the first place…”
“Such stupidity. What I’m trying to say is, even if we find any possibility, what changes can it bring to us when we’re already espers?”
“If you’re doing this for the future generations, I might be touched and even cry. However, to us who are already espers, what’s the point of raising such a possibility?”
The arm that was stretched in mid-air between the gaps of the table was now resting firmly on the floor.
“Besides, the idea of ‘superpowers hurting others’, really, there’s not much ambition to it. Before a collapsed bridge is repaired, I can use my powers to help others to cross the river. If there are people trapped in the underground streets, I can help them escape to the surface. If the use is correct, what’s so bad about using powers?”
The tables that were stacked up were shaking slightly, creating a rattling sound.
Shirai Kuroko grit her teeth, exerting all her strength from her tired and battered body.
“To me, those dreamy words of yours are way beyond lame. Scared of your power? You don’t want to hurt others so you don’t want the power? It’s nice when you say it, but who was the one who hurt me to such an extent? If you want to know whether your actions are correct, just look at my wounds! THIS IS THE ANSWER!”
The large number of tables pressing on the girl continued to shake.
The girl pressed her hands and feet onto the ground. She exerted all her strength into the muscles, not caring even when blood was gushing out of her wounds.
“With that dangerous power, we’ll become dangerous people? With that power, we become important people? You’re thinking too simple, IDIOT! Onee-sama and my lives aren’t so smooth sailing either! We worked hard to think of ways to help everyone so that we can get everyone’s recognition and establish our footing in society!”
The hill of tables was starting to shake violently.
In order to escape from this heavy pressure, Shirai Kuroko exerted even more force.
“You just look at Onee-sama, who’s running around! As long as she seriously releases her Railgun, she could have settled all her problems in a minute! But she doesn’t wish for everything to end in a bloody mess, so she gave up on the easiest way to settle it and is even willing to put herself in danger! Not just me, even you, as an enemy, she wants to save you! BECAUSE OF THIS, SHE HAS THE RIGHT TO BE CALLED MY ‘ONEE-SAMA’!!”
The shaking sound was now a crashing sound.
The hill of tables was starting to collapse.
The terrifying weight pressing on the girl was starting to collapse.
“BASICALLY, YOUR REASONING ONLY SHOWED YOUR ARROGANCE AND CONTEMPT OF OTHER MORTALS! I’M GOING TO TWIST THAT ROTTEN PERSONALITY OF YOURS AROUND! ONCE YOU’RE DEFEATED BY AN ORDINARY PERSON LIKE ME, YOU’LL KNOW THAT YOU’RE AN ORDINARY PERSON YOURSELF! THEN I’M GOING TO BRING YOU, AS AN ORDINARY PERSON, BACK INTO THE ORDINARY WORLD!!”
Shirai Kuroko stood up.
Blood continued to gush from her wounds, staining her clothes and body. She grabbed a floor lamp and lowered her hands. She didn’t have any more strength to teleport.
Shirai’s expression was saying: even without powers, I can beat you.
Shirai wanted to prove through her actions that there was no need for any special ability to beat the enemy.
As long as there was a firm belief.
Shirai Kuroko moved forward fearlessly.
1 step, 2 steps, 3 steps.
She faltered, unable to maintain her balance. She couldn’t even lift the lamp, and could only drag it
However, that terrifying momentum of hers made Musujime back away.
Musujime let out a cry of shock.
Shirai was a terrifying person.
It didn’t matter whether she had powers or not. Regardless, Shirai was a terrifying person.
Musujime Awaki shielded her chest with the jacket that had only one sleeve left, sitting on the floor and backing away. She could have escaped quickly with Move Point, but she forgot about it. The fear and anxiety made her unable to calculate the coordinates. Her eyes could no longer see anything other than the slowly advancing Shirai Kuroko.
―I will lose.
Musujime Awaki made a baseless conclusion.
―I will lose. There is no reason, but I will definitely lose…
Shirai Kuroko was already right in front of her. Musujime, who was sitting on the ground, looked up, exchanging looks with Shirai, who was looking down.
Shirai slowly lifted her hand.
The lamp was slowly lifted past the head with twin-pigtailed hair like a baseball bat.
A terrifying weapon.
Though Musujime had the Move Point ability, she was still an ordinary high school student.
Clank. A light collision sound was heard. The military torchlight in Musujime’s hand dropped onto the floor.
I will lose, Musujime concluded.
This Move Point user, Musujime Awaki, would definitely be unable to beat the instant teleporter, Shirai Kuroko.
Strictly speaking, Shirai Kuroko was wary of it right from the beginning.
Espers didn’t really need to use their powers as weapons.
Since Musujime had been working with outside organisations, Shirai should have thought of it.
That was, had Musujime gotten any weapons from her allies?
BAM! An explosion could be heard.
At this moment, Shirai Kuroko had already raised both hands up in the air—completely unguarded against the enemy’s attack—she slowly turned to look at her abdomen.
At her abdomen, a deep red hole appeared in her uniform, and the magical-coloured fluid was flowing out from the hole. Half a second later, one could see the glass window behind shattering into pieces.
The effect of the air-conditioning was weakening. The calm wind of the night was flowing in.
Shirai’s body wobbled backwards.
Under the influence of the heavy weight of the lamp, she fell back onto the floor.
Musujime Awaki laughed, but her right hand was trembling.
A trail of white smoke was floating upwards from the muzzle of her pistol.
Musujime Awaki had beaten the slowly approaching Shirai Kuroko.
But at the same time, she admitted something.
That having powers wasn’t the main problem.
She had always blamed the act of hurting others on superpowers, but now, she hadn’t used the power of her Move Point. Even without powers, she still ended up hurting others. In the end, the one who had to take responsibility wasn’t her powers, but herself, who controlled the powers.
(In the end…it’s all…)
Musujime felt that her lips, tongue and throat were incomparably dry, so dry that she couldn’t hear anything.
Thus, she could only conclude silently.
The one responsible for all these.
Up till now, the reason why the people around her got hurt was…
The reason why there was red fluid in front of her was…
That weakness of hers to use powers as an excuse.
Musujime Awaki recalled,
Those espers with similar ideals. Those that were afraid of their own powers, suspecting the necessity of them, those who jumped into battle in search for the answer. Those people who had willingly became shields in order to protect Musujime from getting hit by Misaka Mikoto’s electricity strikes in the building that was under construction.
Musujime always thought that she was one of them as well.
But the truth was so different.
She was just…
A liar who stood beside them. She lied to them.
Even if they used the ‘remnant’ to repair the ‘Tree Diagram’, getting the possibility of powers that no one had thought about before, and developing according to her plan.
Musujime Awaki’s nature would not change.
Musujime Awaki—a girl who would always hurt others.
Musujime cupped her hands on her head, looked up and shouted.
She tossed the jacket in her hands away. Musujime did not care whether her torso was naked anymore.
Her index finger was still on the trigger of the pistol, and it could fire off anytime accidentally, but she didn’t care as she pulled her hair, seemingly not aware about this simple fact. She screamed and roared, the muscles on her face being completely distorted, as if all the things inside her body are about to erupt.
BAM! An explosion could be heard.
Musujime, who was sitting on the floor and pulling her hair, accidentally squeezed the trigger. The muzzle that just so happened to be pointing upwards shoot out sparks. The bullet flew towards the ceiling, but it didn’t stick into the ceiling. Instead, it ricocheted down, coincidentally hitting the centre of the military torchlight on the ground. The military torchlight bent into a ‘<’ shape and flew far away. However, Musujime didn’t care about such a trivial matter.
“GYA…AAAAHH! AH! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!”
Like a rampant beast, Musujime pointed the pistol at Shirai.
She squeezed the trigger. However, she couldn’t feel the special vibration of the spring hitting inside the pistol.
An empty, laughable feeling was left on the finger.
Musujime became suspicious.
Lowering her head, though her right hand still maintained the posture of holding a pistol, the pistol had already disappeared.
POW! A light colliding sound could be heard from afar.
The pistol suddenly landed on the floor, 15 metres away.
Of course, Musujime Awaki hadn’t intended to teleport the pistol. But what she hadn’t intended had happened. Musujime pondered on what this meant, but at that moment…
She completely lost control of her powers…
With Musujime as the centre, everything in a 5 metre radius—chairs, tables, knives, forks, spoons, ornamental plants, plates, luggage bags—vanished. As if a perfect circle was drawn around Musujime, everything inside the circle vanished. Those tables and chairs on the circumference were squashed and ripped apart by the objects that suddenly appeared, creating a huge sound. If it was not for the fact that a teleporter couldn’t teleport another teleporter, even Shirai would have been sent to the circumference.
Musujime looked extremely cold. She raised her index finger and gently hooked it.
In an instant, the pistol returned to her hand. However, a spoon was stuck in the middle of it. Seemed like after she teleported the pistol, she teleported the spoon back to where the pistol was. Any amateur could see that this pistol couldn’t be used anymore.
Looking closely, the items on the circumference around her continued to move about, creating a phenomenon similar to that of a tornado. A tornado caused by different items squeezing each other, ripping and destroying each other and forming debris.
It was useless to take something she couldn’t use. Musujime impatiently tossed the pistol away. The safety of the pistol wasn’t closed, thus, it exploded, the debris landing all over the place, but Musujime didn’t mind.
The circular tornado surrounding Musujime suddenly stopped.
The items and debris that had continued to appear and vanish suddenly stopped and drop onto the ground.
“I’m going to kill you…”
Sweat continued to roll down her chest like fat forced out of barbequed meat by intense heat.
“I MUST KILL YOU!! I WILL DEFINITELY NOT FORGIVE YOU!! YOU DARE TO DESTROY MY EVERYTHING!! WITHOUT YOU, MY LIFE WOULDN’T BE SO PITIFUL!!!”
These outrageous and angry words made Shirai, who was lying on the floor, laugh weakly.
Musujime gave a sinister look at Shirai, like she wanted to suffocate Shirai with her own two hands. However, she suddenly looked up.
“Ha…hahaha! Isn’t this too coincidental, Shirai-san?”
The sound of a police car could be heard. It seemed like Anti-Skill had been alerted by the commotion.
“But I’m not going to let this little obstacle obstruct me! I’M GOING TO KILL YOU! EVEN IF YOU’RE FAR AWAY, I CAN END YOUR LIFE. I’M DIFFERENT FROM YOU; I’M SPECIAL!!”
Musujime slackened her jaw, staggering as she stood up,
“…The trainers told me that I’ll damage my body if I move anything more than 1,000kg, but I don’t care anymore. The maximum limit of my Move Point is 4,520kg. I can escape and attack this place. I can destroy this place with you in it.”
Musujime said in a low voice,
“Hohoho, I’m going to destroy you. Since you destroyed me, I definitely want revenge. I wonder how your body will end up after the building collapses on you, eh, Shirai-san?”
On hearing Musujime’s words, Shirai didn’t say anything. She could only look at the ceiling like a corpse.
Musujime spit onto the floor and looked around, picking up the one-sleeve jacket. She put it on and looked for the luggage bag with the broken handle.
“Ah…you still need such a thing?”
On hearing these words, Musujime turned around and saw Shirai Kuroko smiling at her.
Even when her body was devastated, Shirai’s will didn’t allow her to give up. Her lips curled up, revealing a sarcastic smile.
Musujime gave a hard kick to Shirai’s abdomen. Shirai rolled back onto the ground, blood spurting out. However, Musujime’s eyes were bloodshot as she ignored Shirai, turning and grabbing the luggage bag. Right now, Musujime’s aims and methods were no longer in sync. The outcome of the situation and the plans for the future were no longer important to her.
With a distorted look, Musujime carried the luggage bag and disappeared into thin air.
In contrast, Shirai Kuroko was unable to use her instant teleportation now.
If she stayed, she would be attacked by Musujime.
A maximum limit of 4,520kg.
If she exerted full power, Musujime’s body would be damaged as well. But she didn’t care. She would rather endure some pain and destroy the entire level together with Shirai’s body. No, not just the level. If the level collapses, the domino effect would cause the entire building to collapse completely.
She had to run away.
Even a stupid person could understand this. However, Shirai couldn’t even move a finger.
This soft voice escaped the girl’s lips.
But this heartfelt thought was ruthlessly blocked by the long distance.
The entire restaurant was a mess. The glass windows were shattered, and all the neatly arranged tables were flipped about. The menus had been stepped on by the escaping customers, and broken plates were all over the place. Blood was scattered all over the floor, and there was even an injured girl lying there. All the customers and staff members had disappeared, and only bright lights and unsuitable light French music echoed throughout the room. Because the windows were broken, the air-conditioning had already lost its effect.
Shirai Kuroko, who was covered in blood and lying on the floor, tried to move her fingers. Her fingers twitched slightly, but this was her limit. She couldn’t move her wrists nor her legs. She couldn’t stand up and leave this place through the use of her two legs; even crawling out was impossible for her. Her mind was in a whirl; she couldn’t use her instant teleportation.
Shirai thought that all she could do was wait here and die.
Musujime Awaki had already left. However, she was probably not too far away. While escaping by teleporting using Move Point, the displacement and time wasn’t important, because Move Point could ignore any obstacles like roads and walls, thus the main point was how to hide her whereabouts.
Also, Musujime had a huge fear about teleporting herself.
In order to decrease the number of times she needed to teleport herself, she would carefully calculate every single spot that she was going to teleport to. Thus, right now, she might have been hiding somewhere and thinking, planning the safest escape route.
Before she left, Musujime had announced,
She would definitely kill Shirai Kuroko. She would definitely use all her strength and move a 4,520kg mass to squash a dying Shirai to death.
Shirai didn’t know when she would take action.
It may be 5 seconds later, or may be 5 minutes later. It couldn’t be 5 hours later or 5 days later though.
Anyway, if she didn’t run away, she would definitely be dead.
Blood-stained hair was stuck to her face, and some of it even got into her mouth.
(This is too ugly…I got let off the hook by an enemy who didn’t kill me…and ended up provoking her, forcing her to lose control of her powers…looks like Shirai Kuroko will have to bow down and apologize to a lot of people now…)
The first person that she wanted to bow down and apologize to was a certain girl.
Shirai wasn’t a childhood friend of Misaka Mikoto, and their parents didn’t really have some sort of intimate relationship. Shirai had only met Mikoto after she entered Tokiwadai Middle School…which was after April of this year. Also, both of them hadn’t meet deliberately, they had just so happened to meet each other in the same school, in the same building.
However, Shirai had learnt a lot of things from Mikoto.
Though they would only meet each other occasionally in school, it had been enough to change Shirai.
What Shirai had learnt from Mikoto was just some basic stuff.
Mannerism wasn’t about decorating yourself, but to make the other person comfortable.
Courtesy shouldn’t be forced on others, but to be used as a guide.
Helping others wasn’t a form of pride, but was to listen to the other person’s problems.
Dignity couldn’t be used to protect alone, it could only be obtained after protecting others.
Mikoto didn’t nag at Shirai regarding all these.
But she acted as a role model.
This made Shirai feel very tiny. Though Mikoto’s actions looked rather crude, they were still based on some basic concepts, though they weren’t very formal. Even in street fighting, Mikoto would not break any fighting rules, a so-called ‘battle etiquette’. Up till now, Shirai still felt that her Onee-sama was of a completely different level from her, who only knew how to act it out without understanding the meaning behind it.
If it was her…
If it was Misaka Mikoto, she would definitely not make this mistake.
Shirai was rather confident of this. Though this was the thought of an arrogant, wishful and self-righteous outsider, Shirai still believed it. If it was the Railgun, she wouldn’t mind the danger level. She would smile and rush into the battlefield, not give the enemy any time to take a breather, suppress the enemy immediately and leave without a scratch.
To her, Shirai’s condition now wasn’t much.
No matter how bad the situation was, she would not back away.
She would run to Shirai, carry the extremely tired Shirai, say some encouraging words and rush out of the building at the last minute.
She would probably save that stupid kouhai of hers who was lying here.
Shirai Kuroko was thinking of Misaka Mikoto’s name and face.
After that, she smiled.
(Though Onee-sama is perfect, this expectation may be a bit too much.)
Just as Shirai was mocking herself, the area started to make a cracking sound, like glass being pressed together. It's coming…Shirai weakly thought. Though there was no such phenomenon with instant teleportation and Move Point, Shirai knew.
It seemed that in 10 seconds time, a mass of 4,520kg would pass through space and hit her.
From outside the broken windows, the noises of car engines echoed throughout like never before, but the room was engulfed in terrifying silence. The difference in the two sides was huge, and made Shirai want to laugh. Though she couldn’t hear the unsuitable light French music echoing in the background, that created a chilly feeling even more.
I don’t want to die, Shirai thought.
At the same time, she knew that Misaka Mikoto couldn’t hear her, yet Shirai couldn’t help but continue to plead inside her heart.
Being extremely expectant that the Railgun might hear this commotion and run over.
(I beg of you…)
Shirai was unable to move her body on her own.
But if someone was supporting her, she might be able to walk.
If at this moment, there was a savior.
If someone could appear at the last minute like an old-school hero…
(I beg of you…)
The twin-pigtailed girl continued to pray.
At this final moment that would end.
(Please run away…don’t get involved in this…Onee-sama…)
Shirai Kuroko earnestly prayed.
Musujime Awaki’s attack would immediately come, and she wouldn’t be able to escape. At this moment, even if someone did come up, it was unlikely that she would be saved. If Mikoto arrived at the scene and saw her lying on the floor, she would rush over without any hesitation. Mikoto didn’t even know that the attack that would pass through space would arrive soon, and even if she sensed the attack through extremely sharp alertness, she probably wouldn’t be able to make it if she wanted to carry Shirai out of the building. The worst case scenario was that both of them would be crushed to death by the collapsing building, and the possibility of it was rather high.
Shirai heard something…
Dong dong dong…footsteps could be heard from the entrance of the level where there was no one. Maybe they felt that the lift was too slow, so they dashed up the stairs.
No, not just footsteps.
There was also sparks of electricity.
Shirai’s face instantly turned pale.
Though she wanted to stop the owner of these footsteps, she couldn’t move.
Thus, Shirai could only shout,
“NO, DON’T COME HERE!!”
Right now, the savior who was coming over to save her at this perfect moment touched Shirai so much that she was about to cry. She desperately worked her throat, inducing every last ounce of strength to squeeze out her voice.
“THERE’S GOING TO BE A SPATIAL ATTACK HERE! DON’T COME HERE! HURRY UP AND LEAVE! THE WHOLE BUILDING WILL COLLAPSE!!”
Shirai Kuroko continued to scream while she was on the floor, covered in blood.
The area around her started to give out a cackling sound. Maybe the full attack was about to arrive, or maybe it was just a deliberate way of hinting.
Shirai felt extremely anxious. Since she had teleported into the shop in the first place, she didn’t know the layout and passageways of the building. However, from the sound, it seemed that the owner of the footsteps would require more than ten more seconds to get there. Though the displacement was short, it would take a long time to get around the lifts and passages, so the person most likely wouldn’t make it in time.
Shirai didn’t know what Musujime would teleport over.
But a 4,520kg object—once it pressed onto the ground, it would cause the floor and the entire building to collapse. The people inside the building would definitely meet their end.
She couldn’t let this happen.
She definitely couldn’t let this happen.
Shirai was about to break down in tears. Even until the last moment, she wanted to cry out, but it was too late. At that moment, the space inside the room started to distort, like she was seeing it through convex lenses. Maybe the space was forced apart, changing the air pressure on the level, causing a refraction of light and creating this phenomenon.
The attack was starting.
Shirai grit her teeth and exerted all her strength.
However, she still couldn’t move her limbs. Not even a finger could move. Shirai Kuroko was really upset. If she had even more power, she would have used her instant teleport easily and teleported the person who was coming in to save her at the same time. Besides, if she could have beaten Musujime Awaki, she wouldn’t have be stuck in this crisis.
But no matter how upset she may have been, her power wasn’t going to increase.
The reality was cruel.
Though Shirai Kuroko was just barely hanging on, she still tried to squeeze out a last ounce of strength. She knew that it would aggravate her injuries, and that it wouldn’t help to change the situation one bit, she still wouldn’t allow herself to relax and give up. At the same time, she was making a final prayer.
She wished that there was a miracle where that powerful yet ordinary girl would be saved.
The prayer seemed to have worked. An orange light passed through the floor and the ceiling.
A shot of metal at three times the speed of sound.
The slanted heated beam passed through the level like a needle, with a speed so fast that a human couldn’t sense it. Like a laser, neither the start nor the end could be seen, only a straight line could be seen. The terrifying speed even left a residual image behind.
Shirai was stunned as she saw this.
After that, there was a rumbling sound as the entire building shook. The orange line was like a fuse, creating an extraordinary destructive storm. A large blowhole two metres in diameter opened up as everything in the line was blown apart, away or completely destroyed. The floor seemed to be tilted downwards as the sound of rubble falling could be heard.
Shirai, who was on the ground, remembered this power and the name of the person who had this power.
“We’ll make it now that we have a hole to access through.”
Shirai heard the familiar voice of the girl.
Without anxiety, without fear, without hesitation, the words were filled with confidence, as if the person didn't care about the danger.
“Though I’m unhappy about this, I can only work up till here. After this, we can only rely on your fist to bring her back!”
On hearing this, Shirai was shocked.
She inadvertently turned around.
The blowhole created by the Railgun was like a tunnel through the concrete floor. The debris of the ceiling and the tables, chairs and umbrellas were attracted by magnetism, sticking together through the slanted blowhole to form a ladder. A boy was running up this flight of stairs.
They wouldn’t have been able to make it if they had ran up the original staircase.
If so, they should just ignore those stairs.
The boy who was running up this most ridiculous shortcut ever conceived wasn’t holding any weapons. He didn’t look like he had any amazing ability. However, he continued to dash up without any fear. He clenched his right fist as hard as rock as he headed towards the obviously abnormal space.
The distortion of the space reached its maximum less than a second later, cracking from inside.
At that moment, the boy swung his fist without any hesitation.
The abnormality seemed to be some sort of illusion. Though Musujime’s attack was powerful, it didn’t bring the sense of reality.
A mass of 4,520kg.
The boy’s fist formed a terrifying hammer as it slammed at the huge mass.
BAM!! The boy’s fist hit the middle.
The boy grit his teeth. His fist ignored the change in space as it moved forward.
An amazing thing happened.
Suddenly, a sound of steel being hit could be heard. The originally distorted space seemed to be flattened by the boy’s fist. The invisible thing that refracted the light seemed like it had been punched far away.
For a three-dimensional object to do a forced intervention on the eleventh-dimension spatial axis; Shirai, who had mastered these calculations, understood very well that this was like driving up the wrong way on a one-way road.
The ridiculous scene stunned Shirai. The boy said,
“Ah…we’re a bit late. Sorry. I’m really clueless this time, running around like a headless chicken. Luckily, I met Mikoto on the way…WAH, OI OI, aren’t you in a terrible shape!?”
The boy only seemed to realise that Shirai was severely injured now and immediately ran over.
“Why would you…risk your life for me…?”
Shirai murmured. The one who repaired the distortion with an amazing ability, it shouldn’t be the person in front of her.
Thus, Shirai asked,
“Don’t we have no relation? No matter how powerful you are, you shouldn’t have sold your life for me. Why would you run over without any hesitation?”
On hearing this, the boy just remained stunned for a while.
After that, he said,
“You’re asking me why? I don’t know how to reply to that. Basically, it’s easier to settle the problem head on than to run away. To be honest, if you could have been saved even if I ran away, I would have run away.”
“It isn’t…so simple, right…? Don’t tell me you…aren’t afraid at all?”
Shirai’s words didn’t change the boy’s thoughts by a bit.
The boy replied without hesitation.
“About this, I would be afraid. But this is a promise.”
Shirai asked. The boy looked around, seemingly trying to confirm that no one was around. After that, he lowered his voice and whispered,
“…That’s right, it’s a promise. This promise is to protect Misaka Mikoto and the world around her. This is my agreement with a certain nameless person who fell in love with her so quickly.”
The boy bitterly laughed,
“Maybe it’s a bit too late, but I want to ask you something. Have I fulfilled the promise with that guy?”
Shirai didn’t understand what the boy meant. After thinking for a while, she looked around.
Shirai’s eyes focused on one point.
Misaka Mikoto. The Railgun, that Ace of Tokiwadai who was running over here through the huge blowhole that she had made to the thoroughly injured kouhai of hers with a teary look on her face.
Right now, the person that Shirai Kuroko wanted to protect the most was right in front of her.
“…That’s right, you protected it. Halfway.”
The other half was now carrying a luggage bag and escaping through Move Point.
The boy seemed to realise something from Shirai’s words, and didn’t question it. He just nodded his head firmly.
After that, he said,
“Then, I’ll go and finish off the other half.”
Between the lines 4
Musujime Awaki had already arrived at the boundary of Academy City by moving through the safe escape route.
She was covered in wounds, and she was wearing a one-sleeved winter jacket over her naked upper body. Her jacket was buttoned wrongly, but she didn’t know it. Overuse of her ability caused the blood vessels to appear all over her skin, hot and heavy breathing coming out of her mouth. She continued to look around, seemingly not knowing what to do next. She continued to murmur to herself as sweat flowed down her face due to nervousness. Ever since she had lost her military torchlight, her powers had become hard to control. The fingers that were used to holding the military torchlight were now stained in blood as they stroked the luggage bag with a missing handle.
A terrifying memory appeared in her mind.
This was the after-effect of teleporting herself using her own power. She remembered that incident during class two years ago. At that time, the test had been simple— to teleport herself to a room in town. But Musujime had miscalculated the co-ordinates, and got a leg stuck inside a wall.
At first, there was no pain.
Thus, Musujime didn’t really mind it. She tugged her leg out, trying to get away from the wall. However, this was the greatest error.
At that moment, she heard a cracking sound.
The rough texture on the broken part of the wall was rubbing against the skin on her leg.
After that, there was a sharp pain.
The leg pulled out of the wall had no skin at all.
Like a peeled orange. The tender flesh and the net-like blood vessels covering it were completely exposed.
Musujime Awaki bent her body in a ‘<’ shape. A sense of puking was rising up her abdomen as she tried to suppress it. Her back trembled irregularly, and after she felt the sense of vomiting, her stumbling feet completely stopped.
The urge to puke gradually disappeared.
But once her feet stopped, she couldn’t step out any further.
Musujime Awaki was already unclear about how many times she had asked that question.
Her broken heart had completely lost its goal, and was now sunk in messy thoughts. In order to stick the pieces of her heart together again, she could only find a goal randomly. The first thing that entered her eyes was still the luggage bag. Though she couldn’t remember why she needed the thing in the first place, she just had to hand it over to the external organisation. The goal wasn’t there, but she was still idling about in her means.
(Got to contact…)
Musujime pulled out a radio receiver.
(Got to contact them…contact…contact…this is necessary…hahaha…I haven’t ruined this plan that everyone thought is important…)
On the other end of the receiver, the partner’s familiar voice could be heard. Musujime revealed a childish-like smile and proceeded with the call.
“This is A001 calling M000. I’ll report the current situation after confirming the code…”
Musujime followed the call protocol that she had memorised and gave the message. However, a sharp sound came from the other side of the receiver. Musujime couldn’t help but pull the radio to her ear and listen carefully. Gunfire, roars and screams came from the other end of the receiver. Such a reply was completely against what the protocol dictated and irritated Musujime.
“This is A001 calling M000. This is A001 calling M000. This is…YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO HEAR IT, RIGHT? WHY AREN’T YOU ANSWERING!?”
With Musujime’s roar, a cracking sound came from the receiver. Musujime was overexcited and nearly crushed the radio receiver. A man’s terrible wail came from the other end of the receiver; it sounded like the leader of the external organisation.
After that, the gunfire immediately ceased.
Besides the man’s painful cries, a woman’s low voice could be heard,
“To trick those children into selling their own lives for your own benefit, and yet you’re hiding in a safe place to watch the show, such a wonderful job, huh? Though my policy is not to use my weapon on any children, I won’t hesitate if it’s for them.”
The screams and gunfire rang at the same time.
After that, the other end of the radio receiver became silent.
“YOU THINK I’LL KILL YOU SO EASILY!!?? IDIOT! HOW DID YOU TRICK THOSE CHILDREN, AND HOW MANY OF THEM!? SPILL IT OUT!! HOW AM I GOING TO SAVE THOSE CHILDREN!?”
After that, only a shrill sound could be heard from the radio receiver. No matter how Musujime pressed the buttons, no matter how she adjusted the signal, she couldn’t hear a decent reply. Right now, nobody needed to contact Musujime anymore.
(Ah…ah…contact…got to contact…I got to get contact! How could this happen? If…if I lose my goal…what should I do…!?)
No matter how she shook and slammed on the radio receiver, she couldn’t get any reply. Musujime was unable to endure the silence and roared, smashing the radio on the ground. The tiny parts scattered all over the place and the noise completely vanished. With this, the actual noise was no more. Musujime Awaki looked like she was about to cry.
Right now, Musujime Awaki couldn’t return to Academy City. To the General Director of Academy City, the ‘Tree Diagram’ wasn’t very important. On the contrary, if the ‘experiment’ was restarted, it would obstruct the ‘plan’ to use the SISTERs. If so, not only Academy City, not only the science side, the balance of the entire ‘world’ would be affected. Of course, Musujime wasn’t clear on what the ‘world’ was.
(What to do…what to do…shouldn’t I contact that external organisation…? Or should I try and contact other organisations? There should be a lot of those organisations that want this thing…yeah, that’s right. I still have…I still have many things to do! A goal…as long as I have a goal, I’m not finished yet!)
Musujime carried a distorted smile as she wore a shirt that looked like a torn rag, pushing the luggage bag as she moved on.
However, someone was blocking her.
Musujime heard footsteps in front of her.
There was a wide road in front of Musujime, with buildings on both sides. As it was near the edge of Academy City, there were usually very few vehicles on the road, and right now, there was not even a single car around. The entire road was like a plane’s runway. At this moment, a person walked over from the side of the road.
Musujime didn’t care who the person was.
She just felt irritated, not even caring enough to guard herself as she moved forward. She made up her mind, no matter who the person was, she would let any person who dared to obstruct her die extremely painfully and ugly.
That person walked up to the middle of the two-way six-lane wide road and stopped, blocking Musujime.
“WHAT THE HELL!!”
Had a crazy, psychotic and dirty pale look.
“I heard that brat say that she got lots of information through the clone network, and found that there was something troubling that heavily involves them. On hearing that, I can only reluctantly help her settle this. I struggled so hard to use the crutch as support, and got the electricity into my brain, and finally made it here with so much difficulty. How did it end up like this? Also, what the hell is this one-of-its-kind collar-type electrode connector? That damn doctor, to think that he made me use this prototype that was made at the last second!”
Weird electrodes were stuck on his forehead, temples and neck, while his right hand was holding a crutch. The crutch had a rather modernistic design, a long stick with a handle attached to it. Didn’t it look like an ‘iron-crutch’ in those old martial arts shows?
“Anyway, I worked so hard to get here, only to see the idiot who made me work so hard. I was so expectant…only to see that it’s third-rate stuff like you!? You looked down on me, didn’t ya? If I had known that my opponent would be a third-rate thing like you, I would have be too lazy to get out! You’re really making it troublesome for me!!”
The person standing in the darkness was the strongest Level 5 esper in Academy City.
Skin that was so pale it was terrifying, that it could be seen clearly even in the darkness. Real name unknown, code-named ‘Accelerator’.
With a glance at him,
Musujime’s breathing and heartbeat stopped for an instant.
Musujime Awaki’s lungs wriggled about in a weird manner. Her mind was in chaos, not even sure whether she should inhale or exhale.
(—This guy is…! This…this is bad! Not…not even the Railgun can beat him…how can I take him on…!?)
Musujime, who had worked hard to pursue her goal, had now found a goal that was more important than handing the luggage bag over, a clear goal that was enough to change her own fate.
(…Got…got to find a way…find a way to escape…!)
The person standing in the middle of the road that was as wide as a plane runway forced Musujime to make a decision. She had to run away.
However, there was another huge problem? How?
Accelerator was just complaining about how in this situation, he met Musujime Awaki. But now, Musujime Awaki was thinking that she should be the one saying that.
The difference in level was too great. Such a trivial matter, this esper with insignificant power, why must such a terrifying person be called in to settle this? The extent of this fussiness was like mobilising an air strike and destroying a country to stop children from fighting each other.
Musujime’s thoughts were rather messy.
It was not enough to even use ‘an ordinary person versus a judo wrestler’ to describe the difference in power. If there was a need to drive the point home, it was like ‘a tug-of-war match between a human and a jet’. It was not a question of who would win or lose. The jet could just not do anything and the human couldn't even move it by half a millimetre.
It was over.
Everything was over.
Musujime’s expression was distorted due to despair.
At that moment…
“…I got it.”
Like a crumpled piece of paper being unraveled, Musujime’s face regained its original look.
“I GOT IT! THAT’S RIGHT, YOU LOST YOUR CALCULATION ABILITY! YOU LOST YOUR POWER! COMPLETELY! RIGHT NOW, YOU’RE NOT THE STRONGEST ESPER ANYMORE!!”
Musujime cheered like a victor.
Accelerator, who was standing in the darkness, was slightly shocked, and calmly said,
“What a pity.”
He paused, waiting for a breeze to pass through.
“If you really think so, that’s too bad, I really want to hug you.”
“HAHA! STOP FAKING IT! I’M ALWAYS WITH ‘THAT PERSON’! I’M WELL INFORMED ABOUT INSIDE NEWS IN ACADEMY CITY. ACCELERATOR, YOU LOST YOUR ABILITY ON THE 31st OF AUGUST, SO YOU’RE NOT ‘ACCELERATOR’ ANYMORE, RIGHT!? IF SO, WHY ARE YOU JUST STANDING THERE? WHY AREN’T YOU ATTACKING ME? IT’S NOT THAT YOU DON’T WANT TO ATTACK, YOU CAN’T ATTACK, RIGHT? YOU’RE JUST TRYING TO SCARE ME WITH THAT PAST REPUTATION OF YOURS, RIGHT?”
Musujime loudly proclaimed in a mocking tone, but the white figure just narrowed his eyes.
Musujime felt that she was being looked down on, some muscles below her eye inadvertently shudder.
“…! WHY AREN’T YOU SAYING ANYTHING! THIS REALLY MAKES ME UNCOMFORTABLE!!”
Musujime roared, but at the same time, she felt that something was not right.
It didn’t seem right. This person seemed different from the characteristics given in the data of that Level 5 esper.
“You’re really pitiful. Listen, I’ll tell you one thing.”
The figure in the darkness slowly opened his arms wide.
“That day, my brain was damaged alright. Looking at me now, you should know, right? That I can only use the electrodes and let the calculation work be done by others, right? If I enter a place where I can’t receive the clones’ electrowaves, I can’t let the clones do the calculation work for me. And even after therapy, I don't know if my recovered power is half of what I originally had. The battery of this thing can only allow me to fight for 15 minutes—”
Talking up to this point, Accelerator paused for a while.
“—But then again, just because I’ve gotten weaker, it doesn’t mean that you got stronger, RIGHT?”
Accelerator revealed a distorted smile.
DON! Using the feet that were supporting him on the ground, he stamped hard on it.
A shockwave from below to above happened on the hard surface. Accelerator bent his body, and with his feet at the centre, a radial crack appeared in the asphalt ground, and noise was created from all the buildings around. The skeletal frames of the buildings were bent, a large number of glass windows were shattered, and pieces of broken glass came down like a torrential rain.
Musujime looked up at the sky. The ‘rain’ formed by the broken pieces of glass came from all the buildings, scattering on every corner of the road. As the area was too big, she couldn’t escape using Move Point. Escaping into the buildings wasn’t a wise option as it was the distortion of the building structures that had caused all the glass to be shattered, so the interior wouldn’t be the same. If the target of Move Point overlapped with the collapsed wall, she would be buried.
(If so…the only way out…is up!)
Musujime grabbed the luggage bag and quickly used Move Point, passing through the rain of glass pieces, arriving in the night sky several metres above the ground. Move Point caused a sense of vomiting in Musujime as she tried to suppress this feeling. She tried to force herself to activate Move Point again before she landed; the target was onto the roof of a certain building. Moving her own body consecutively was an extremely tough challenge for her.
But at that moment, Musujime’s mind turned blank. All the values that she had worked so hard to calculate vanish without a trace.
“Ha ha! Thank you for letting me enjoy the scenery underneath your skirt!!”
Accelerator crushed the cracked asphalt road even further, shooting up into the night sky like a rocket. Besides changing the vector forces on his feet, 4 high-powered tornadoes were attached to his back.
In Musujime’s eyes, Accelerator was an angel rushing towards the sky.
One that had fallen into this mundane world, a thoroughly tainted angel, launching a counterattack at the wonderland in the sky.
Accelerator rushed into the layers of glass rain, deflecting them all and passing through them easily. He was completely unscathed, rushing over at Musujime Awaki at the speed of a cannon.
He clenched his fist.
Actually, the ‘卜’ shaped crutch was broken into several pieces, flying in the sky. The fist that was like a devil carried the entire speed and force of his body, slamming towards Musujime’s face.
In this situation, calmness was a luxury.
Musujime, who had given up on the calculations, immediately used the luggage bag as a shield. However, this negligible defense was broken to pieces instantly once Accelerator’s iron fist slammed it. The exterior of the luggage bag was smashed to pieces, the middle layer that was meant to endure impact was flying all over the place, and the ‘content’ that was tightly sealed became numerous parts and pieces, flying all around from Musujime’s hands like sakura petals.
“I'M SORRY, FROM HERE ON NOW, THE PATH IS ONLY A "ONE-WAY ROAD"(Note: In Kanji, Accelerator is written as Ippō Tsūkō, ‘One-Way Road’)!!”
The esper curled his lips and smiled,
“YOU CAN'T ADVANCE, JUST HIDE BEHIND YOUR TAIL AND CRY YOUR WAY HOME!”
Musujime’s throat released a weird sound.
The hard fist pierced through the luggage bag at a terrifying speed and smashed her face.
Musujime Awaki’s body was sent flying away diagonally to an even higher place, landing on a safety metal net on the edge of the roof of a building. The numerous pillars supporting the metal net were uprooted, as Musujime’s body was like a soccer ball that hit the back of the net, unable to move forward anymore.
Accelerator, who had released all the force from his body, didn’t do anything. Due to the effect of gravity, he started to fall down to the ground covered in darkness.
But his eyes weren’t looking at the ground.
As he descended, he slowly looked up at Musujime, who had slammed into the roof, muttering,
“With this pitiful state of mine, maybe I might not have the right to be called the strongest in Academy City.”
He silently narrowed his eyes.
“However, I’ve already made up my mind. I’ll always be the strongest in front of that brat, damn it!!”
These words echoed throughout the night wind as nobody listened to it. Accelerator continued to descend toward the ground.