“It seems Gremlin’s next target is the United States,” Birdway said once Kamijou and the others had returned to his dorm. “I don’t know what they intend to do, but I have gotten ahold of information that a few magicians have already arrived on the Hawaiian Islands. Given how much of a commotion Gremlin’s ‘greeting’ caused, they will likely cause chaos on a global scale once they seriously begin to act. If we are to crush them, it has to be now.”
To Gremlin, that large scale incident that could have easily caused catastrophic damage to the human race was nothing more than a means of confirming if Kamijou Touma was still alive and a greeting meant to let their existence be known by those who needed to know.
If Gremlin got serious, no one would be able to say it was not their problem.
A calamity of that level awaited them.
Having been able to sense that the impending crisis may have been fortunate for those who happened to be there in that dorm. …But it was up to each one of them whether they would take advantage of that knowledge.
“Wait a second,” said Accelerator. “Fuck that. I only listened to what you had to say because there were some things I wanted to hear about, thanks to what I’ve gone through, I have no intention of acting as your pawn from here on out.”
“You seem to be mistaken,” said Birdway as she lightly waved her index finger. “We don’t really want your help.”
“Oh? You said getting dragged into this was an annoyance, but now you’re not looking too pleased about not being considered part of the fighting force. You certainly are a selfish bastard,” Birdway said with one side of her mouth raised mockingly. “I only answered your questions because it looked like you were dying to know the answers, but you talk like you’re standing at the center of the stage and act like that’s the natural state of things… I’m guessing you’ve been rather spoiled by those around you up until now. Are you the type that always gets the piece of the Christmas cake that has the Santa doll on it?”
“Tch,” Accelerator clicked his tongue. “Fine then. I have my own life. I’ll disappear now.”
“…That’s fine. If you can manage it.”
A dangerous light resided in his red eyes because he thought of the possibility of having someone close to him used as a hostage in order to negotiate with him.
But Birdway shook her head.
“Don’t worry. I am not Academy City. I’m not going to force you to do anything and I see no need to search for anything to use in a negotiation with you.”
“But my cabal analyzes the leaders and charismatic people of various organizations in order to search out the best course with which to seize the core of the world. As an expert in that, I know.”
“That there is a definitive difference between those who just give in to peace and those who lost peace and regained it with their own strength. There are many different kinds of heroes, but your direction was decided the instant you reached out your hand to save Fremea Seivelun. …So unfortunately for you, you will come even if I explicitly tell you not to. And you will lean further and further in that direction, the longer you live in that peace you wished for so greatly. That may have sounded like some kind of riddle, but later you will understand what I mean more than you would like.”
Accelerator did not respond.
He merely violently opened the front door and left.
“…What do you mean?” said Hamazura blankly.
He had a feeling that that exchange had not been completely unrelated to him.
The difference between those who just give in to peace and those who lost peace and regained it with their own strength.
Leaning farther in the direction of fighting the longer one spent in peace.
It didn’t really click with him, but he still felt a chill run down his spine. That sounded to him like someone who actually desired a battle and would drown in blood within the darkness.
Birdway approached behind Hamazura and spoke.
“…Do you want me to give you a spoiler?”
“If you leave this room, you will find out eventually on your own, but there are some people who feel pain when everything is not spoiled for them. The age of internet searches can be a troublesome thing sometimes.” Birdway sighed. “I don’t want you to get the wrong idea, but I’m not underestimating you all and I do not hold any ill will for you. There are many different kinds of heroes, but there are some who are charismatic because of their great selfishness and have some messed up set of values that makes them find mercilessly killing women and children to be ‘cool’. Compared to people like that, people who would save Fremea Seivelun and expect nothing in return are a much better level of heroes.”
“But that image of the hero is a problem. You saved Fremea Seivelun without thinking about the danger to yourself. I’m sure you had your reasons, but you would likely have saved someone else in the same way even if those reasons did not apply for that person. You are the type of person who saves an individual or the world without thinking of whether it will be to your advantage or not,” Birdway said. “That is why you cannot flee from the fighting. Even if you live a blessed life within the peace you desperately regained, you will realize it. …You will be happy, but are the people around you happy? You have the power needed to save an individual or the world, so is it really right to just sit there and abandon them?”
“You can deny it in words, but when it comes down to it, you will act. Just like you did when you saved Fremea Seivelun. You are not a weak person who merely gives in to peace. You are a strong person who regained that peace yourself after you lost it. People like that bear the fate of constantly suffering over whether to choose to fight as they once did. …Even if doing so has the risk of causing cracks in the peace that person has regained.”
Weaknesses brought on by excellence.
Dangers hidden within goodness.
Birdway mercilessly dug into Hamazura because she had seen many of those.
“As I said before, there are many different kinds of heroes. Some of them have built up a wonderful aesthetic of protecting those important to themselves even if it means abandoning others. But you cannot choose that path. After all, you took action for the sake of Fremea Seivelun. …And you knew the risks that would bring.”
And if he ignored the world’s problem brought on by Gremlin, damages and sacrifices greater than just Fremea would likely come.
As Hamazura lived his peaceful days that held no danger with Takitsubo, Mugino, Kinuhata, Fremea, Hanzou, and Kuruwa, he would begin to have certain thoughts crop up in his heart.
If he had the strength to build up and protect something like that, was it okay to only make himself happy?
“…My conclusion is that it is okay to be happy. There is no reason to feel guilty about it. But even though I’ve told you that, you will not live accordingly. Even if you agree with me now, you will unhesitatingly charge forward when the time comes. That way of thinking is noble, but I feel it is a sad life to live. That may be why some people are strongly attracted to people like that and feel the need to pass down the stories of those heroes.”
Hamazura himself did not understand what he truly thought, but Birdway spoke as if it had all already been settled. Was it based on her statistical data from observing so many people?
(You’ve gotta be kidding me.)
He had risked his life and protected Takitsubo. He did not want anything to happen that would certainly harm Mugino or Kinuhata. He had no reason to go out of his way to head to some dangerous place. There were organizations and specialists who dealt with the dangerous aspects of the world and they had managed to keep the history of mankind continuing to this day. So Hamazura had no reason to bear that burden. He had no reason to take any actions that would bring risks to those he cared about.
What if another innocent person like Fremea Seivelun was crying out in front of Hamazura’s eyes? What if someone was holding a gun to that person’s head?
Could he just stay quiet and overlook that?
Could he let that person die just because it could damage what he already had?
In Skill-Out, being weak had been the norm and everyone had believed that they could not truly change anything. But he was no longer the same as he had been back then.
Hamazura had actually won absurd battles and successfully protected those he cared about from a global war.
Could he still use the excuse of “I have no power, so I can’t save you”?
Would he accept that excuse from himself anymore?
“I’m not telling you to think deeply on this,” said Birdway dropping the tone of her voice down to a pitying one.
There was a rare sincerity to her voice.
“…It would actually be easier for me if you were able to deny it. I pray that you can do so…even though I know it’s hopeless.”
Following Accelerator’s lead, Hamazura Shiage walked heavily out of the dorm.
Birdway folded her arms over her small chest and looked at Kamijou.
“As expected, you are the last one left.”
“It is my room, you know?”
“Well, I saved you from the Arctic Ocean on the assumption that you would get dragged into this, but you hold something so strange that it makes those two look like nothing,” Birdway said as she opened Kamijou’s refrigerator without asking and started devouring a fish sausage. “After all, I was able to give a proper warning to those two due to my continued research of various types of leaders and charismatic people, but you have a nature that has made even me start unintentionally thinking about getting you involved in this.”
“I’m not doing it because I want to.”
“But you do not give up on it partway through.”
“The ones causing the disturbance are coming to me. I have no choice.”
“That is why it is not necessary to bring you in. You stand at the center without putting any work into gathering information or creating points of contact.” Birdway smiled thinly. “..In truth, about half of the people in the world have a portion of that nature. But most of them either ignore those points of contact and continue with their lives, or do a bad job of getting involved and end up falling by the wayside before reaching the end. In that regard, it may be that you shine not at the starting point or the end point, but during the process in between.”
“Having misfortune is not your defining characteristic. You excel when it comes to converting that misfortune into your own strength.”
Birdway grabbed a few more fish sausages as souvenirs and headed for the dorm’s entrance accompanied by the men wearing all black.
She spoke without turning around.
“Well, I’ll be relying on that nature of yours for a bit longer. Next is Hawaii. Now that Gremlin has confirmed that you are alive, they will be acting with a countermeasure for your right hand planned out. This will likely turn into a deadly battle even greater than what you have experienced before…and I need you to get wrapped up in it just like you always do.”
Kamijou heard the door open and then close.
Kamijou and Index were the only ones left.
“Touma,” said Index quietly calling his name. “Touma, you’re going somewhere again.”
Index asked Kamijou the following question because she knew him well, and because she was anxious about what would become of him.
“I was really worried. I was really anxious. Touma, you don’t have a trump card that will ensure your victory. There is no rule saying that you will come back. If you continue these battles where you don’t know if you will win, the odds of you coming back will be lower. Are you still going to go despite that?”
“Well…” Kamijou said as he looked down at his right hand and lightly opened and closed its fingers. “If possible, I don’t want to continue doing this kind of thing. But this time, I have to be a part of this. I think the way I am related to this incident is probably different from all the ones before.”
“At the end of World War III, Fiamma of the Right said one of his objectives in that war was to obtain my right hand.” Kamijou clenched his fist. “And this time, ‘they’…Gremlin is aware of my right hand. They even sent out that ridiculously huge fortress just to find where I was. I don’t know if they want my right hand or if they’re just wary of it, but I am probably standing at another crossroads. Just like I was during World War III.”
“I want to know the truth behind my right hand’s power.”
At the end of World War III, Kamijou’s right arm had been severed. That severed arm had not been reattached.
It had grown back from nothing.
He had no idea what materials it was made of, what power had been used, or what method had been used.
But he did know that it had led to him regaining Imagine Breaker.
“I have to know. If Gremlin’s movements could spread to a global scale, I have to figure out how I am related to the base of it all and I have to work out what I can do to have an effect on Gremlin’s plan.”
“But Imagine Breaker has exceeded the category of a mere power of the science side. I most likely need information from both the science side and the magic side in order to learn of its true nature. I need information from a much deeper place than what is recorded in the 103,000 grimoires in your head. …For that reason too, I can’t let myself be left behind in the flow of these events. If I don’t take the ticket Birdway has presented to me, I will never be able to grasp that information about myself.”
Kamijou then fell silent for a bit.
He clenched his right fist so hard it started to hurt.
“…In the end, I am joining this deadly fight for my own sake. Ha ha. I’m no different from a berserker.”
Kamijou laughed in self derision, but it did not seem that he was able to stand still any longer.
However, Index felt that Kamijou Touma would likely have headed to the center of that disturbance even if all that had not happened.
A large scale magic incident was going to occur on the Hawaiian Islands.
Many people lived there, and those people would surely suffer when that incident occurred. From the way things were going, it was possible that many people would die.
He would have taken action even if he had only known that much.
Kamijou Touma had never needed some great reason to take action. Without doing anything, he would get wrapped up in a situation, he would not abandon the dangerous situation partway through, and he held the strength needed to resolve it. He had saved many people in that way and Index herself was one of them.
There may have been people who asked why.
He may not have realized just how dangerous the actions he was taking were, but his answer was simple.
Accelerator walked through the city at night with his modern cane.
Last Order and Misaka Worst were walking with him.
“Ohhh! Walking through the glittering city at night has an adult feeling to it, says Misaka as Misaka looks around restlessly.”
“You say that, but it looks to Misaka like you are only looking at the restaurants.”
“It’s absurd for the little sister to look down on her big sister like that!! says Misaka as Misaka checks on the pyramid structure!!”
“What value does a big sister have if she loses to her little sister when it comes to chest size?”
Last Order tried to attack Misaka Worst, but Misaka Worst easily avoided the smaller girl. Accelerator thought as he watched them.
He had cast aside the path of evil in order to regain that.
He was determined to do whatever it took even if it was unlike him.
As a result, he was satisfied and had at the very least succeeded in protecting those he wished to protect.
But there was something he had not realized before because he had been so focused on obtaining the goal before his eyes.
There was still a path beyond that point.
Accelerator silently thought about what that path meant and where it led.
Hamazura Shiage was also walking through the city at night.
The way home for them all was the same up to a certain point, so Takitsubo, Mugino, and Kinuhata were with him. Fremea was fast asleep on his back and there was a hint of a dangerous light in Takitsubo’s expressionless eyes.
“But Academy City’s darkness seems like it’s super sticking around. It feels like a lot more returning groups are going to super appear like those Freshmen.”
“Well, it was a gathering of people who had turned their backs on and shut out any kind of normal life. There are going to be some who couldn’t adapt. And that was the quickest way of supporting the speed at which Academy City’s strange technology advances. As long as no one comes up with a better idea, similar things are going to happen.”
“But this did have a super result because it made a division between the people who entered the darkness because they super wanted to and the people who were thrown into the darkness despite super not wanting to.”
“…That division may be based on the scale of how much the people just want to be left alone.”
The darkness still remained in that city. There was a danger of something new appearing. But it seemed one of the reasons the darkness was picking up speed lay outside Academy City.
In that case, what did it mean to fight that outside cause?
He could not stop the people who plunged into the darkness of their own free will, but what about stopping Gremlin who were working secretly outside and creating the need that led to those people plunging into the darkness?
Was that really a situation where it was just someone else’s problem?
Weren’t they a related party just by being in Academy City?
Hamazura Shiage silently thought while surrounded by the comrades he had regained with his own hands.
The nighttime city was cloaked in a silent darkness.
The three of them had the same thought.
Where does this path lead?
Kamijou Touma was awoken in the middle of the night by his cell phone ringing. He headed to the spot designated in the email.
It was an iron bridge in District 7.
When Kamijou arrived, he found the sender of the email waiting.
“You lost this,” she said and tossed something toward him.
Kamijou grabbed it in one hand and then realized that it was a frog strap. It was the one Kamijou had lost when he had sunk into the Arctic Ocean. The string that attached to his cell phone had torn, but it now had a new string of a different color on it.
“Since ours match, don’t go losing it so easily.”
After apologizing, Kamijou attached the strap to his cell phone once more.
When Mikoto saw that, she smiled slightly.
Her expression seemed to say that something had finally been returned to normal.
“With you, I know it’s hopeless to expect you to just stay in one place…but are you going somewhere by any chance?”
“Seems that way.” Kamijou sighed. “To be honest, even though I may look like I know what’s going on, I really don’t have much of an idea what’s going to happen this time. All I know about the group causing it is their name. But the effects have reached Academy City. This time I am not getting dragged into it in the process of Academy City being targeted. Academy City is getting dragged into this in the process of me being targeted. …So I can’t just ignore this.”
“Well, I know you aren’t the kind of person that would listen to me if I tried, so I won’t stop you.”
It seemed Mikoto’s only business with him had been the strap.
Kamijou put his cell phone back in his pocket.
The action seemed to be saying that he was cutting their connection now that they had nothing more to talk about.
“Well, see you around,” Kamijou said.
He turned his back on Mikoto.
He started away from the iron bridge.
He started away from the scientific knowledge arranged by Academy City and into the other side of that territory.
Mikoto grabbed that boy’s hand.
She made certain of that boy who was about to leave her.
Mikoto’s words reached Kamijou’s ears as his movement was stopped.
“But this time, you aren’t alone.”
As those boys were preparing themselves to head forward, Birdway was also silently heading out.
She followed the path back to a high class hotel in District 3 of Academy City.
She was walking rather than using a vehicle and she was checking with her subordinate men wearing black on the many matters they had been contacted about. The topic was mainly about the giant golden arms that had appeared around the world at the end of World War III and the disposal of the objects made of the same material that had appeared when the golden arms had exploded. Also under discussion was the progress of the recovery and return of the parts of churches and cathedrals from across the world that had been used to construct the Star of Bethlehem, the giant fortress that could be said to be the true symbol of World War III.
However, Birdway and her men were not carrying out those things. They were mainly intercepting information on the work being carried out by religious organizations larger than themselves such as the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Church.
After their discussion was more or less over, Birdway suddenly spoke.
“…It must be difficult for you, Aleister.”
She was not speaking to the men surrounding her. She was only speaking to herself. However, Birdway knew. She did not understand the detailed principles behind it, but she knew that a certain man could hear what she said there.
“I had guessed it from that disturbance with the Freshmen, but the incident with Radiosonde Castle clinches it. And I’m sure Gremlin has come to the same conclusion. …You cannot move freely. I do not think the actions of those Freshmen are in line with your objectives and I haven’t overlooked the fact that you did not stop them. And there was no reason to allow Radiosonde Castle to pass over Academy City.”
Leivinia Birdway investigated leaders and charismatic people both ancient and recent, both East and West and she would use that information to efficiently grasp the core of society.
She had pursued a certain person as a sample for that research.
That person was a magician called Aleister Crowley.
“So the errors in your plan have exceeded the acceptable range, have they?” she said. “I do not know the details of what you are currently trying to do…but I have thoroughly studied what you were trying to do back in the 1900s before you were considered dead. From that viewpoint, this situation must be well removed from your objective. Am I wrong?”
Of course, she received no response as she spoke to herself.
Regardless, Birdway continued.
“During World War III and in your contact with Fiamma of the Right, a major deviation occurred in your plan centered on Kamijou Touma. You are trying to correct that, but you do not know in what direction to apply power in order to bring things back to normal. Unless you can unravel all the conditions that are so complexly intertwined, you cannot take any real action. That is why you did not drag Kamijou out of the Arctic Ocean despite knowing he was sinking into it, and that is why you took no action to secure him despite knowing that he had returned to Academy City.”
Kamijou Touma, Accelerator, and Hamazura Shiage.
They all had their social lives and their separate relationships with others, so it would not have been hard to find someone who could easily be used as a hostage for any one of them. And of those three, Kamijou had the widest group of people he knew and his personality made him very easy to manipulate through the use of a hostage.
And yet Aleister had not done so.
He had not been able to do so.
Technically, he could have done it had he tried, but the magician himself could no longer calculate how much of an effect such a simple action would have on his plan.
“Osiris and Horus. Abandoning the old world bound by the rule of Christianity and the awakening of a new world filled with new laws and freedom. That was your theory, was it not? …Well, I have a feeling there is more to that than simple logic. I have a feeling your history that let you see the ugly side of the believers of a certain strict Christian denomination and of the modern magical society that claims to have abandoned worldly desires had something to do with it.” While she stared at the night scenery that shined even more brightly than the stars in the sky, a malicious smile appeared on Birdway’s face.
“…That’s right, Aleister. During World War III, the ‘old’ rules were removed from this world. And that includes the ones you controlled. The second death. Kamijou Touma’s error. Uncontrollable expectations of what will occur in the future. Doesn’t the world just seem like so much fun today? You should take satisfaction in this, too. Take satisfaction in this confusion where people move around freely and you therefore cannot be sure where things are headed.”
A dry sound rang out.
Right next to Birdway’s cheek, two or three blonde hairs were unnaturally severed.
Seeing those pieces of gold floating in the wind, the men surrounding her finally started to go on the alert, but Birdway stopped them with a movement of one hand.
That had been a greeting from Aleister.
Because he used cutting edge science to such a great extent, Birdway did not understand what exactly had happened, but even so, her smile did not disappear.
It was not an issue of the detailed principles used.
She had been given an answer at a much more fundamental level.
“…There was no real reason that strike had to be only a warning,” said Birdway without changing her manner of speaking and while still smiling. “I can see your panic in the fact that you did not simply take off my head, Aleister.”