I wish I could write like I used to all the time. Updates would happen much more frequently. As an adult, you get stuck with things you have to do in real life. They keep interrupting and it's hard to get in the mood. Plus the internet is very distracting. New stuff gets added every day. First half was kind of slow because of that, then I reached the zone later on and the rest of this chapter flowed out. SilverFang is still gone and I'm using backups, but his situation is improving and he will hopefully be back soon. Now, let's skip all the boring talk, finish off the comments, and get back to the story. People seemed to enjoy Eve's big dramatic appearance.
D. : The downside to a lot of harem stories is they just happen out of nowhere. There's no build up. I decided to go a different way than that. As for Eve, that's something to be explored later.
Herox100: Aadam Judaison is going to be very upset and hurt someone.
Goodguywithanevilmind: God decided Pierce needed a girlfriend but only one person could fit the position?
general ironox: Everyone dies than Estelle shows up for necromantic fun.
The crack shipping guy: Nah, SV is too easy to write and people hassle me if I don't update it.
Tsun: Ever since NT19 been a little disappointed in the novels. Eve just wanted to have fun though.
akd48: His luck is just different and damn, it has been a long time since I've updated.
reality deviant: Someone had to and she's the best person for the job.
DivineDemonDragon: Yeah, even though Jason did nothing wrong, he's going to be labeled the bad guy. I plan to do more with Shizuri and FERRET. They got together for a reason. I want to expand Ruiko's divine presence a bit to magicians, but I don't know if it's ever going to be a big plot point. Too much other stuff going on and I do want to end the story at some point.
: I want to add so much and yet I need to keep the story going without being cluttered. There is a happy balance that can be difficult to maintain.
Anti-Mage 29: People who are dead are supposed to stay dead. There's a reason Pierce and Eve met. It's explained this chapter.
Mr. X: 1) Such is life. The answers are not always the ones you wish for. 2) Name was never really important. 3) There's a good reason they were swapped. 4) Why? They aren't that important to the story.
Aminadab Brulle: Well, she's going to disappear into the background soon enough. William isn't a Saint anymore, but sure, Touma forgot. Though, he never really fought him in this universe.
Ibreaker: He can't slick his hair back. Too much electricity made it constantly stand on end.
Chris: Things aren't allowed to go well for them.
Jujudude: Lessar may complicate things a bit.
xaxiel1572: Everything is explained this chapter.
The Wolf Paladin: Everything you mentioned is being foreshadowed in this chapter. You will understand how all of it is getting pulled together and all it takes is one small spark to set everything off. It's getting close to the ending and then all the slice of life stuff will fade away.
DanganMachin: Pretty much.
Inacio: Probably not.
BlueJack22: Nah. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday? That's going to be a long three day weekend.
Sergioqsc: Dark Touma would conquer the universe. Girls would fall for him and men would fall before him.
Faker83: … No comment.
Rajarshi Sarkar: There's no need for step 2. Everything else sounds pretty accurate.
Acpeters: Easy? There were 100+ chapters of buildup. There were small talks between all the events about this. They still haven't run across issues while doing the polygamous relationship. This is anything but easy.
SoulReaver267: If that happened to Kaori Kanzaki, Accelerator would add her to his harem because reasons. Bring it on. I'm like the US army, I can stop you all.
Generation Zero: Well, if Aogami is the level 6, then he can handle Eve to a degree, right? Maybe he can help her travel the path of righteousness. Pervert path, sure, but of righteousness. Next chapter I plan to write a bit about what Shizuri is using FERRET for. I don't think I'm going to go the Vision route because that could be a story all on its own. Maybe another time. Just wait when Shizuri and Carissa find out about it. That's when the war truly begins and it's up to Touma to prevent the bloodbath. Jason did nothing wrong. Noukan killed Snuggle-chan and God judged Kaori. Jason was just nearby.
Savaris: They should have realized that having Lessar in the same city as them means she will drop in from time to time. Usually at the worst possible moment. Yeah, FERRET shouldn't mention it sent out the list because that would make her upset. It would be interesting to write the moment Touma forgave Jason for everything, even with Kaori and Smuggle-chan gone. Not sure how I would word that. He would have to make atones for his sins, but Touma wouldn't do anything coming close to killing him. Well, everyone likes him so much, they would be sad if he died.
Goat Goebbels: Accelerator's not soft. His default expression is indifference. Plus he's okay with pulling someone's arm out if they are a threat.
Anonymous7: Getting the harem to work out naturally was hard work for sure, but rewarding. It's something most people have commented on. Most of the stories I read just have the harem happen way too fast without any trouble or just tease it and it never pans out. I finally did it in a more believable setting. As for Pierce's date, that will be explained in this chapter. Jason… I can't spoil everything here, but things are going to happen soon that will reveal why he acts like he does. Funny enough, I think most of the readers who hate him will be rather happy with the outcome.
Your list of favorite characters, most of them I really enjoy writing. Except for Shiage Hamazura. I can't really grasp a way to write him without him being kind of static. He hasn't appeared nearly as much because of that, though the fight with Oda was really fun to write. Kakine vs Ricane wasn't really a fight, but I get what you mean. A fight doesn't have to be long to be good. There's a lot of fun stuff to write and being creative just makes the fights more interesting. One thing I like about Eve is how much variety she has in her ability, yet all comes down to one or two main powers. It prevents her from having a bad matchup. One of the plot points you mentioned will be explained this chapter.
AnderAl: The date has a few minor points along with some slice of life before things go to hell. Heh, hell, because Lucifer.
FrodoFighter: Hmm, how much do I write here since we talk about most of this over discord? The harem date is a big point of the chapter, as everything was leading up to it. Shizuri needed SIRI because she's the only group that doesn't have magical radar. "Mikoto causing the 4th world war by jinxing that America will invade Japan." I can't recall mentioning this as being foreshadowing. Did I tell you something when I was drunk? "Everyone in this room has a dirty mind." Yes, they are all dirty minded students. Misaki only has like a dozen lined up for a harem interview, the rest have to take a number. Unlimited cuddling, unlimited cuddling indeed. Shizuri discovering FERRET was unnecessary? Are you kidding? It was completely necessary for plot.
"We need a small fuzzy robot for FERRET to move into." No, not going the Vision route. Magicians entering the city to see Ruiko may be important later. I can still see your love for Jason growing. "Don't worry Touma, Accel won't kill his love interest." You ship them huh? Heh, test the waters.
Disclaimer: Random people do not own Toaru Majutsu no Index or any of the characters. Reading this story may cause you to burst out in laughter or start yelling at fictional characters. This may cause nearby people to assume you have gone crazy. Please read responsibly.
Her words were met with mostly silence. Touma and his friends, the ones who knew who Eve really was, could only gape or stare at how openly Eve was approaching them. There was not a trace of fear in her eyes. She only looked amused. The fact she strutted out in broad daylight and then befriended one of his friends was not lost on them. Eve's smile contained more than amusement; there was a hint of darkness.
Her presence here was more than a warning.
She demonstrated her ability to reach any of their friends at her leisure.
"Hello!" Maika greeted her, breaking into everyone's thoughts. "I'm Maika Tsuchimikado, and this is my brother, Motoharu Tsuchimikado."
"I think I've met you before," Eve stated and placed a hand on her cheek. "Ah! I've bought a bento from you once. You were riding one of the cleaning robots."
"That sounds like me," Maika replied, smiling cheerfully. "You have to train hard to be a real maid, not like those fake ones you always see in shops."
"Hey!" Pierce exclaimed. "They are real maids, just a different kind of maid."
"Nuh-uh." Maika replied.
"What's the difference?" Eve asked. Suddenly, she was swarmed from both sides by Maika and Pierce each explaining their respective sides to the argument. This distraction gave the others time to discuss her in whispered details.
"This can't be happening," Mikoto whispered behind Touma and Misaki. "She's strutting around like she doesn't have a care in the world."
"Probably because she doesn't," Misaki added. "She's been around for how long again? She can waste as much time if she wants."
"No." Touma shook his head. "We've seen what she's like. If she's here, there's a purpose for this."
"Yeah, that she wants to fucking mock us!" Accelerator spat out, stepping forward. "Let's take her out while we have the chance."
"Wait!" Bayloupe warned him, grabbing his arm. "You can't just go charging through a populated location to fight her."
"She's super right," Saiai added. "You have to deal with people like her alone. Drawing attention just causes more problems, and she's going to use other people as shields."
"Plus she faced us all in England that one time on her own," Kuroko reminded them. "We need a plan."
"Yeah, I've got one. The plan's to walk up to her and tear her arm off." Accelerator growled.
"That's hot and all," Saiai added. "But do you think that would matter to her? Couldn't she just recreate her body out of paper?"
Everyone turned and looked at Bayloupe.
"…She probably could." she admitted
"Think we should tell Mugino?" Shiage whispered to Rikou. "I think she would be mad if we didn't."
"…We probably should."
"Would she come here guns blazing?"
"…We should add that she's out in public." Shiage nodded and pulled out his phone.
"Do you think Eve is controlling Aogami-san?" Ruiko asked Kazari.
"I hope not." Kazari peered around Mikoto to watch Eve still talking to Pierce and Maika. "Toying with his feelings would be really low. I'm just not sure what we should do. Evacuating everyone would usually be the first step."
"I could do that easily," Misaki stated, opening up the circle and letting Kazari and Ruiko in. "The thing is, will she do something about it? She could let us, try to stop us from doing it, or just leave with the others. There would be ample opportunity to escape."
"Plus she can jump in and out using some kind of wormhole," Kuroko added.
"Could you set up something to stop her escaping?" Accelerator asked suddenly, glancing over at Bayloupe.
"If I knew more about how she did it, I probably could."
"Get Kagere to help you then, or Index."
"Speaking of Jason, he's been quiet." Touma realized.
"If you're looking for him, he's on the phone," Motoharu volunteered, jabbing a finger to Jason, standing a few feet away from the others. They were about to ask him what he thought when they finally heard his conversation.
"…What do you mean I can't order an orbital bombardment...? Yes, I know it's a privately owned business… Yes… Yes… No, I could get the civilians out… Then who can let me order one...? Why is she in charge...? Since Australia…? Put her on then! She's out? Well, screw you. Guess the person at the top of our wanted list is going to go free." He hung up and shoved it into his pocket and saw everyone staring at him.
"So the city isn't going to help?" Kazari asked.
"More than that," Jason explained. "I've been given specific orders not to engage her unless she's actively attacking someone."
"What!?" The same thought ran through everyone's mind.
"Worse yet," Jason continued. "I've been told to tell you the same thing. They know we are all at the same place. Do not engage her unless she's attacking someone."
"Fuck that!" Accelerator snapped. "This shitty city can go screw itself."
"Did they say why at least?" Mikoto asked, trying to find logic in the entire situation.
"Something about the city already having too many construction projects going on and the last thing they need is a bunch of students running around trying to capture her." Jason rubbed his face with his hand, earning a pat on his back from Kazari.
"Don't they understand how dangerous she is?" Kuroko asked in disbelief. Jason nodded.
"…Oh," Bayloupe said suddenly. "That's why."
"What's why?" Touma asked.
"Politics," Misaki answered instead, and Bayloupe nodded.
"Right," Saiai said with a nod. "That makes sense."
"Politics?" Touma asked. "Wouldn't the city want to do something about her?"
"It's more along the lines that if they let her cause more problems," Misaki explained. "Some of the higher-ups might be able to use her threat to their advantage. Maybe cause their projects to be priority funded or blame someone else."
"So they are risking people's lives over petty squabbles?" Touma asked, stunned.
"Welcome to the real world." Accelerator growled.
"People are always trying to super consolidate power." Saiai added.
"How did Aogami-san even meet Eve?" Ruiko asked the group. "Do you think she's been meeting with him secretly? Because he doesn't know who she is."
"No." Touma, Jason, Motoharu, Shiage, and Accelerator answered at once.
"Why not?" Ruiko asked, surprised at their instant response.
"He would never have been able to keep it a secret," Touma explained. "He would have been bragging about a secret girlfriend every day."
"He would never shut up about it." Accelerator agreed.
"Then she just decided to meet up with him before today?" Mikoto asked, and no one could answer.
"An excellent question," Motoharu told her though. "One we need to find out." Before anyone could ask him about how they would go about that, he strode forward and slipped next to Maika. "So, Eve. How did you and Aogami meet? We were under the impression he had asked someone else."
"Ah, about that…" Eve's smile flickered away for a moment, and in that instance, she seemed… normal. "That is kind of the reason we met."
"I can't believe it!" Pierce fell on all fours, and the air around him grew dark. Everyone else just stared at him, shocked at his reaction. "There I was, at the meeting spot early, when I received a message from her. I thought she might have been running late, but…" Motoharu reached down and took the phone from his hand. He then read the message out loud.
"Some of the most beautiful memories are also the most painful. Now you can look back at this time and enjoy this moment."
"Breaking up by text." Kuroko flinched. "That's cold."
"And rude," Kazari added. "She should have done it in person."
"Sounds like she only agreed to go with him to be a no show and embarrass him," Misaki commented darkly. "That's even worse."
"It's girls like her that give us a bad name." Mikoto muttered.
"I found him lying on the side of the road at that point," Eve explained to everyone, in a tone that suggested she was just a normal everyday girl and not an all-powerful magician plotting to kill God. "Wondering what the problem was, I walked over and asked. He only mumbled something incoherent, and I got a little frustrated. See, I was going out of my way to help him." She shrugged. "So I kicked him in the side to flip him over."
"You did what?!" Mikoto and Kuroko cried out.
"She was good," Pierce admitted, standing up again. "She used the exact about of power to flip me over on my back before I knew what happened."
"I made him tell me what happened," Eve continued. "After I heard that, I asked if he wanted to hang out with me for a bit. It turns out he really is interesting to talk to and I agreed to meet you all." She pretended to look over each of them. "He didn't say he had such a wide assortment of friends. I look forward to getting to know each of you."
There were scoffs from several of them, mostly Accelerator's group.
"Well, Eve." Pierce threw his arm around her shoulder. "You came all this way with me to the aquarium, so how about we get this show on the road."
"You know just how to charm a girl," Eve replied, putting her arm around his waist. "Later tonight, if you behave yourself, I'll boss you around a little bit more." Eve added sultrily, to Pierce's delight.
"…What was that last part?" Mikoto whispered.
"I heard nothing," Touma lied. "Now someone, please… tell me you spiked my drink or something and this is a hallucination. Jason, it was you, wasn't it."
"Not this time."
"Damn it… what do you mean this time?"
"So what do we do now?" Shiage asked as he and Rikou joined the conversation. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Motoharu signal to him that he was taking Maika away from them so they could talk. "We told Mugino that Eve was here…"
"You did what?" Mikoto demanded. "She's going to barge here and start wrecking everything."
"She's not," Shiage told her quickly. "She only said to keep an eye on her and let her know if anything happens."
"…She sounded distracted," Rikou added. "I didn't think something else would be as important as Eve."
"She may have a short fuse, but she's not stupid." Misaki interjected. "Without a plan, there is little chance of catching her. All we are going to do is cause a scene and get into trouble." She turned to Jason. "Do you think they would be lenient if three level 5s and a few other high levels destroyed a building or two?"
"After the last warning you got?" Jason swept his hair back with a free hand and looked certain. "Probably a month at least in isolation."
"Like they could do that," Accelerator scoffed. "They would just get their asses handed to them."
"Why would she show up on a free day, though?" Ruiko asked. "Wouldn't disturbing us when we are in the middle of something important be more effective?"
"…No." Everyone turned to Bayloupe. "People need to rest. If you work too hard, you can overexert yourself. People have died doing that and the more tired you are, the bigger the chance that you make mistakes. It… feels like she knew about this trip ahead of time and just wants to keep up paranoid to prevent us from unwinding."
"So, what are you saying?" Saiai demanded. "You want us to super ignore her?"
"That might not be a terrible idea," Misaki said, placing a finger on her cheek.
"You can't be serious." Mikoto and Touma said immediately.
"I don't propose we ignore her," Misaki explained. "That would be foolish. We know who she is and what she is capable of. What I propose is we don't completely fall for her game. We all came here in groups, right?" First, she gestured to Accelerator, Bayloupe, and Saiai. Second, she moved her hand toward Shiage and Rikou, and then to Jason, Kazari, and Kuroko. Lastly, she gestured to herself, Mikoto, Touma, and Ruiko. No one disagreed with her yet. "Not counting Tsuchimikado and his sister, we can't bring her into it. With four groups, we could alternate watching over Eve. If she does anything, that group can notify the others."
"Won't that just bring us back to the main issue?" Mikoto asked.
"The city said we can't do anything if she doesn't," Jason realized. "So if we are watching her, we can act if she does something…."
"…then if this is just her idea of messing with us," Touma finished. "Everyone could still have some fun and relaxation."
"Cowards, the lot of you." Accelerator muttered and glared daggers at Eve. It was hard to believe she couldn't feel the fury radiating from him. A sudden pressure on his shoulder caused him to turn toward Bayloupe. "What?"
"If you decide to do it yourself," Bayloupe whispered. "Give me one minute to clear out the civilians."
"Shit." Accelerator rubbed his temples. "Why don't you just make decisions rather than just following me?"
"Then I would have to listen to you complain about me doing it without consulting you." Bayloupe pointed out.
He glared at her, but couldn't deny it.
Even if he wanted to.
"I super want to punch her in the face," Saiai added. "It's just that everyone has a point. Eve super isn't normal and underestimating her is just going to end with us dying. We need to super set up a trap, catch the bitch, and kick her ass."
Many times, Saiai was annoying to Accelerator. She kept going out of her way to talk to him and wouldn't leave him alone. Her persistence was irritating. Then there were times like this. The words out of her mouth echoed his own thoughts. It was like she knew him for years. Still, he wasn't going to acknowledge her with anything more than a curt nod. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Bayloupe shift her attention to Saiai and frown.
I swear if this turns into something like the damn hero's group, someone's going to pay.
"Tell you what," Motoharu said. "I'll take first watch over Eve. The rest of you can decide the order after. Cool?"
"Wouldn't that put your sister at risk?" Mikoto asked him.
"No more than if Eve decided to go on a rampage here," Motoharu explained. "Besides, she and Maika hit it off for some reason, and I can't just rip her away from her. It gives me a good cover story to spy."
No one could refute his logic, and they all agreed. Some of them more grudgingly than others.
"So…" Touma glanced over at Mikoto and Misaki. Mikoto looked a little hesitant, but Misaki gave him a reassuring nod and a wink. "Then I guess we can go our separate ways?"
"Look at Kami-yan," Motoharu stated instantly. "He's trying to get his girls off alone. Better be careful you three. He's a wolf in sheep's clothing."
"Y-you…!" Touma spluttered, unable to form a good insult because of anger and embarrassment from what his friend said in front of the girls. Mikoto spewed something as well while Ruiko's face grew crimson.
Misaki, on the other hand, came to his defense.
"Oh, my." She held a hand up to her lips to hide her smile. "I was sure I gave him plenty of opportunities to be a wolf before. That seems more along the lines of Accelerator-san and Kagere-san."
"Sure everyone, tell them my plan." Jason threw his hands up in the air.
"Huh?!" Kazari gasped and turned to him. Kuroko caught on first and grinned mischievously.
"About time. I thought you might have gotten cold feet."
"They really are alike," Ruiko offhandedly mentioned, grinning while looking at Kazari. "Poor, Uiharu. She's got to rein them both in now."
"It was a mistake to put them together." Mikoto moaned into her hands.
"Accelerator can be rather forceful when he wants to be." Bayloupe added, holding back a laugh. Her face grew passive when he spun on the spot and glared at her. He wasn't the only one. No one would have been surprised if lightning shot out of Saiai's eyes.
"Er, guys?" Everyone turned to look at Shiage. "Eve and Aogami just went in. If we don't hurry, we might lose them."
That got everyone moving, and the plan was quickly finalized.
"This place is amazing!" Ruiko exclaimed, walking in front of Touma, Mikoto, and Misaki. "I didn't realize there was this much hidden here."
The four of them were walking down a glass tunnel where the aquarium tank was on both sides and connected above them. They were in the section that simulated the coral reef. On either side of them were all sorts of colorful plants growing on the coral. Countless types of fish swam around them, oblivious to the humans watching them. Schools of hundreds of smaller fish swam above them, occasionally casting the walkway in shadows. Touma stopped and saw a rather large fish sliding along a sandy patch before stopping and blending in.
"No matter how long I live in this city, I never stop discovering new things about it." Mikoto added, sliding next to Touma and staring into the fish tank. "I'm just glad this is one of the more pleasant secrets."
"I'm surprised they have something like this," Touma said to her. "I know they like having recreational activities for students, but this seems a little…"
"Over the top?" Misaki supplied. "No, not really." The other three turned to face her before she joined them. "These habitats mimic the real reefs down to the letter. They even simulate the currents in here. All of this is for educational purposes. Not just us, but for scientists exploring the ocean. They study sea life from the safety and privacy of Academy City. Imagine all the logistics involved if they had to send out teams to the coast."
"Would give all the other organizations trying to steal secrets more opportunities to do so." Mikoto admitted.
"How often does that happen?" Touma asked curiously.
"Kuroko and Uiharu-san have told us all about companies who are allowed in during the sports festival who tried all sorts of stuff," Mikoto answered. "There were some that were taking napkins from trash for saliva samples." She shrugged. "People want to know how ability users are created, and that's a very closely guarded secret. It's why we are monitored when we leave the city."
"And to prevent us from abusing our powers." Misaki added.
Mikoto gave her an incredulous look, which she responded with a wink.
"Is that a shark!?" Ruiko explained, pointing.
They turned to see a dark shape swimming through the water before it grew close enough. It was indeed a shark. Not a large one, but it was a couple of feet long at least. The schools of fish parted as it swam by before grouping back up again. It kept swimming as if it had a purpose before disappearing into the distance.
"You think they would worry about it eating the fish." Touma pointed out.
"Simulating a habitat means they need predators too," Misaki reminded him. "You can't understand how an ecosystem works without them."
Touma and the girls continued their journey through the aquarium. They left the simulated reef and followed their route to the next habitat. The next one had a much more open environment with only rocks and sand at the bottom. This one must have been focused around more open water because a lot of larger fish were in this one. There were signs that pointed out what kind of fish were swimming around and they spent a good amount of time trying to find them all. Once they succeeded, the four of them headed out to see some of the smaller exhibits.
"You know," Touma remarked, trying to sound casual. "I think I never want to step past the underwater cliffs."
They were standing at an exhibit that simulated the sudden drop from the coastline into the deep sea. You would see a decent distance down, but the water slowly grew murkier as the light was diffracted. Eventually, you only saw darkness.
It was kind of disconcerting.
"It's not like you would fall," Mikoto reminded him. "You can float there."
"I'm more worried about what lives down there." Touma defended himself.
"This is why swimming is dangerous, and we should keep our feet firmly on dry land." Misaki stated firmly.
"Said the person who can't swim." Mikoto whispered, but in a deliberately loud way, so Misaki heard it.
"I-I can s-swim!" She protested. "I just choose not to."
"Like back in England?" Touma asked, smirking. Finally, the shoe was on the other foot. Misaki gasped at him in disbelief, never expecting him to turn the tables on her. Mikoto and Ruiko held their hands over their mouths to stifle their laughter. "Ah, you were just pretending?"
"You two are so mean, ganging up on me." Misaki pouted and crossed her arms.
"Want me to count the times he joined with you against me?" Mikoto asked.
"How about the two of you against me?" Touma added.
"I can't recall any of those times," Misaki lied, and ducked behind Ruiko. "Help me, Saten-san."
"Umm… stop it?" Ruiko said in a weak tone indicating she really wasn't trying. "Don't make me be the parent of this group."
"Yes, mom." Mikoto, Misaki, and Touma replied instantly before staring incredulously at each other.
This had not been planned. It was a spur of the moment kind of thing. There was a moment of silence following this statement.
Then all four of them burst out laughing.
"I deserved that," Ruiko gasped, wiping a tear from her eye. "That was good."
"Props to you for setting it up." Mikoto told her, calming down herself.
"See?" Misaki put her arm over Ruiko's shoulder. "You fit right in."
"I thought this might be a little awkward." She admitted and glanced over at Touma. "Like I would be the third wheel… or fourth? But this entire time, it seemed like we were just continuing like usual. Maybe even a little less… stressful?"
"Probably because Misaka and I weren't trying to one-up each other." Misaki suggested, and Mikoto went red.
"I really wish I hadn't been so thick-headed and noticed the signs earlier," Touma admitted with a slight groan. "I just refused to believe you all could be attracted to me that I convinced myself it was impossible."
"And Misaka didn't help much either," Misaki pointed out. "Being all tsundere and all."
"I'm not a tsundere!"
"I was surprised Saten-san actually was the first person to ask you out," Misaki continued unabashed. "I had been under the impression you fell for him later."
"Now that I think about it," Touma said slowly. "Mikoto and Misaki told me… er… about when they started liking me. Did you have feelings for me when you invited me to the museum? I thought that was you trying to set up Jason and Uiharu-san."
"Ah…" Ruiko looked away, shook her head, and took a deep breath. "That was a big part of it, yeah. I also knew Misaka had feelings for you." Touma made note that Ruiko used Mikoto's name without honorifics. "And the only time I've seen you before that was around the sports festival. I was hoping to see why she liked you."
"How did you know I liked him?" Mikoto asked.
"Pleeeaaasseee." Misaki rolled her eyes. "Everyone in the world could tell that. Why do you think Shirai-san hated him so much until you pushed her onto Kagere-san?"
"W-when did ever I push her onto him?!" Mikoto demanded.
"After you saved me," Ruiko continued, ignoring Misaki's playful teasing of Mikoto. "I think that was when I was first interested in you. At least a little." Her face flushed slightly. "I didn't like you like that yet… it was more of an interest."
"I understand that," Touma assured her. "Falling in love isn't that easy."
"The more we hung out, the more I liked you," Ruiko explained. "I was debating how to bring that up to Misaka, but then we found out Shokuhou-san liked you. Things got complicated quickly and… here we are."
"I think you skipped over a few details." Touma pointed out.
"Maybe a couple." They laughed. "It worked out though. I enjoy being here with you. Keeping my friendship with everyone. It's probably the best outcome we could have hoped for."
"There's going to be people talking about us," Touma reminded her. "Thinking this is wrong."
"Let them." Ruiko surprised him by grabbing his hand with hers. "As long as I can have a little bit of fun each day with people I care about, I don't care about what strangers think. They don't know us."
"Well said!" Misaki agreed and grabbed Touma's other hand. "If someone doesn't like it, we don't have to give them the time of day."
Touma glanced over at Mikoto, who was staring down at his hands, a little disappointed. When she looked up, he met her eyes. She smiled and patted his back before leading the way. He and the attractive girls on his arm followed her. A mental note crossed his mind to make sure he held her hand today. It was one of the things he would have to consider being in a polygamous relationship. There was no way he was going to treat them differently. He would do his best to make all of them happy.
The problem with Eve could wait, as they enjoyed their outing.
"Look at that," Kazari said, pointing to an interactive exhibit. "You can actually touch the animals."
"What do they have?" Jason asked as he and Kuroko followed her.
"All sorts of larger fish, rays, and a few other things it looks like." Kazari replied, leading the way.
"Come on," Kuroko said, rolling her eyes. "Those things are more for little kids."
"I'll be fun." Kazari insisted, grabbing Kuroko's hand and pulling her after her.
Jason grinned and followed without any prodding. There was a large water basin about two to three feet deep with large fish moving around slowly. An adult was supervising but was mostly just there to reprimand kids from splashing, and to stop people from coming in. Kuroko had a point. There were primarily kids around the attraction but there were some older students too. Mostly girls, but there were some guys who were accompanying them. Kazari found a free spot and gently reached her hand into the water.
"They aren't nearly as slimy as I thought they would be," Kazari told them, as Kuroko and Jason flanked her. "Living in water and all."
"It's the scales," Kuroko said, sticking her own hand into the water. "If we were touching the skin directly, it would be a lot slimier. Scales are harder and rigid."
"Have you two never been fishing?" Jason asked, imitating their actions.
"It's not like there's a lot of opportunities in Academy City to do that," Kuroko reminded him. "There's also limited access to the outside world." She shrugged. "Plus my family owns a chain of stores and is usually busy. I think my father used to go fishing."
"I was never interested in fish when I was younger," Kazari answered. The fish she was touching moved away, and another one took its place. "Being stuck in a city, I guess I never really thought about it. Might be fun to try it out sometime."
"Something not involving computers?" Jason faked gasp and Kazari poked him in the side.
"I like other things besides computers." She huffed.
"Sweets." Kuroko answered with a grin.
"Don't be mean! You're as bad as Saten-san."
"So how's work been?" Kuroko asked Kazari. "The office feels empty since you left. Even Konori-senpai said so."
"It's been busy since that leak," Kazari answered. "People were up in arms trying to figure out how someone managed to bypass Academy City's defenses without a single warning. It took a while to find out how they managed it."
"I bet you're a better hacker." Jason commented.
"I don't think so, at least not the way this person did it." Kuroko and Jason focused on her immediately. "The way they hacked the system. It was weird."
"Weird?" Jason asked. "How?" Kazari looked around and lowered her voice.
"Normally you try to find a weakness to exploit," Kazari explained in simple terms for them. "Using force is the last resort and easiest for the city to detect. This person used force, but kept changing their data signature every second, which made it impossible for our security to lock onto them. Because it kept changing so fast, we never registered an attack."
"So someone created a program to do that to bypass security." Kuroko said simply. "Should be easy to plug up then."
"It's not that simple," Kazari explained. "They were manually updating their coding." She shook her head.
"And?" Kuroko asked, confused.
"Manually updating every second." Kazari stated. 'It wasn't a simple computer algorithm. They were updating based on what our security would do to detect the attack."
"So a normal person typing out code is out of the question," Jason mused. "Ability user then? Maybe an Electromaster?"
"That was the general consensus," Kazari admitted. "There were some who even thought Misaka-san was the cause of it."
"Why?" Kuroko demanded instantly. Even if she wasn't in love with Mikoto anymore, they were still best friends, and Kuroko was protective of her.
"Their reasoning was it had to be a powerful Electromaster," Kazari replied, counting off on her fingers. "The person had to be intelligent. Being able to make refined adjustments to their attack would not be easy for lower levels. Lastly, they figured it had to be someone who was familiar with the security system. Misaka-san… she might have…"
"Hacked security before." Kuroko and Jason said in unison, causing Kazari to nod.
"So they thought of her." Kazari finished lamely. "We know she wouldn't do that, of course." She added that last bit under Kuroko's glare.
"They just want a scapegoat." Jason sighed and rubbed his head. "Unless they act on it, you can ignore them for the most part."
"They didn't seem keen on pushing the subject." Kazari muttered, reaching down and touching a large catfish nearby.
"They never like blaming a level 5 unless they absolutely have to," Jason said quietly. "It's usually just a warning. Soon, someone will announce they fixed the flaw in security and are investigating leads on the culprit. Things will die down and people will forget about it soon enough." He yawned. "Stuff like this happens all the time."
"Still, sending private information about all the students is dangerous." Kazari frowned. "The person who did that must have not liked the city." Her face brightened when she saw some manta rays. "I'll be right back," she assured the other two and made her way around the basin.
"Speaking of the hacking," Kuroko muttered quietly, now that Kazari was out of earshot. "Do people know what that list is?"
"No… at least not yet." Jason kept his voice equally low. "There have been a few rumors online about what the list is, and a couple of them are people suggesting the information is on people's levels. The thing is, they're just rumors. Probably. A lot of people are grasping at that, especially Skill-Out. If the city decides not to act, we could have a riot."
"Think they will?"
"No idea. I think they are more worried about who got access to the data. Kazari's unit has been working overtime to fix everything. I've been pulled off my duties to go through documents about what was found and give my opinion. The person who did this had to be skilled and the more I learn, the more I think it's an Electromaster. At least level 4."
"I'm worried about what Onee-sama will think if that information gets out," Kuroko muttered darkly. "I know more than anyone how hard she worked. If she thinks her level was predetermined…"
"Then it's up to her friends to assure her she did it." Jason put his arm around her shoulder. "Listen. Your and Touma's opinions are worth a lot more to her than random people."
"I know." She looked a little more cheerful, but not much. "It's just going to hurt her until she realizes how stupid that list is. Dealing with other people thinking she got everything handed to her."
"Yeah." Jason nodded. "Though, if something happens, you probably have to keep Misaka-san and… maybe… Shokuhou-san out of sight." Kuroko tilted her head at him. "If things do go south, staying in the dorms will probably be the best option for a couple days."
There really wasn't any way to disagree with that. Kuroko was smart and had dealt with a lot during her time in Judgment. She knew what would happen if people discovered what that list truly was. A lot of lower levels would start rioting against the city. They would claim discrimination from the knowledge that the city was lying to them. Everyone was told if they worked hard, anyone could be a level 5. The list was a direct contradiction to that. Violence was a certainty. If any of the level 5s were out in the streets, they would be targets.
Things could get ugly.
Kuroko and Jason jumped in the air as a scream erupted from Kazari. They turned to see why she had cried out and saw an octopus wrapping its tentacles around her arm. The adult on duty rushed over and began to help her. Kazari looked over at them for help, and those two did what any close friend would do.
They took out their cellphones and started taking pictures.
"That wasn't funny," Kazari grumbled, as the three of them finally left. Her arm was still a little red. "That really surprised me."
"Who knew you were into tentacles?" Jason asked grinning, earning a sharp poke in his side.
"Shame you weren't serious about the three of us sneaking off on our own," Kuroko sighed. "That would have been fun."
"What would we have done instead?" Kazari asked.
"Something with tentacles." Jason said immediately, earning him another poke. They all knew they couldn't go off on their own. Not with Eve out in the open.
"That might be fun." Kuroko admitted and there was a slight bit of drool on the corner of her mouth. "Wonder who could simulate that?"
"Perverts," Kazari muttered, shaking her head. "Both of you."
"But we're your perverts." Jason reminded her, pulling her into a hug. Kuroko laughed and hugged them both too.
"Yes," Kazari admitted with a sigh, though she was smiling. "My perverts."
"Do you think they're bored?"
Accelerator glanced over at the surprising question. For the most part, the two girls accompanying him weren't annoying. Bayloupe knew enough about him that she didn't try to chat him up constantly. Most of the time she was talking was reading some of the informational signs out loud. Saiai wasn't too bad either. Besides tending to be unusually close to him, she wasn't blabbing on and on about stupid stuff he would have ignored anyway. So the sudden question about the sharks swimming in the tank in front of them was a little out of the blue.
"Do you think they get bored?" Bayloupe asked again, staring into the water. "Being stuck in here."
"Please tell me you aren't suddenly going all tree hugger on me and want to break them out." He replied, avoiding the question.
That caused her to give him an exasperated expression followed by an eye roll.
"Probably," Saiai answered. "They super get fed enough to not attack each other, and it's not like they go out and play around. These guys are probably just swimming around in a circle, forgetting there's nothing here, and waiting for their next meal." She shook her head. "I would super go crazy if I was stuck like that."
"I would too." Bayloupe nodded. It was one of the few moments those two agreed on something. "Being trapped, knowing others had control of your life, I couldn't take it. A hard life would be preferable."
Is she referring to her own life? Accelerator thought. He really didn't know much about her except for a few conversations in dangerous situations. Bayloupe knew about the world, that much was obvious. She wasn't oblivious to the dark side. The thing was, she was able to act normally around others. Laugh, chat idly, and pretty much be one of them. Somehow she resisted retreating within herself. Maybe it's because of the rest of her group. I can't deny the brat has had an impact on me.
Saiai, on the other hand, was a little more talkative. The thing was she seemed to be on the same wavelength as him. If he wanted to see something, she also had wanted to see it without him having to say anything. If something were stupid, she would say it was stupid before he could utter a single word. All in all, she had very similar tastes and only was more vocal about it.
Ever since he rescued Last Order, Accelerator felt himself changing. There was no way he would have rejoined a normal school before that. In fact, Aiho, Kikyou, and even Worst had something to do with that. Why else would he put up with his idiotic classmates? Sure, they annoyed him, but he didn't hate it to the point of leaving. Out of everything, that was probably one of the things that confused him the most. The second thing?
It was the fact his eyes kept darting to the two girls he was with.
Bayloupe was attractive by even the loosest standards. She was tall, curvy, and with an impressive chest. Plus her hair was silver, which many would consider exotic. Saiai was also attractive, to a lesser degree. Some people would be turned off by lack of a chest, but she did have some nice legs, which her long sweaters made sure to show off. Several guys were looking at the girls, but they either didn't notice or just outright ignored the losers. Probably the latter.
As much as people would say he was androgynous and wasn't attracted to the opposite sex, that wasn't true at all. Accelerator's body did react to girls. He was a high school student. It was the degree of the hormones which affected him. It wasn't like he popped a boner over every girl above a five that passed him. Bayloupe did affect him, especially when she walked around the apartment in tight clothes. A couple of times she was even braless when doing laundry, something Worst was all too happy to point out loudly to everyone.
He would never admit he had looked.
Saiai really didn't attract him romantically as much as Bayloupe. If she touched him or something, he would get some urges sure, but there was something more. He felt like she was a part of him. Not like family or a close friend, just someone who could understand him if he needed it. Bayloupe was like that too, but not at first. It took time and them talking a bit to learn about each other's personalities. Saiai just sort of pushed her way in before he knew it.
"Isn't the city a cage?" Accelerator finally responded. "We spend our whole lives here."
"But we can leave," Saiai pointed out. "Plus, there's a lot to do."
"If you force the definition of cage enough, even the world can be a cage," Bayloupe added. "Some magicians turned to magic because of that very reason."
"Then why did you become a magician?" Saiai asked suddenly. She needed to learn more about her rival. Besides, there wasn't anyone nearby, and if they kept their voices down, no one would hear.
"It was more of a necessity," Bayloupe answered, and it was obvious she was being vague on purpose. Accelerator noticed her eyes grew slightly dull. "I had to take care of my sisters and magicians were paid quite well in England."
"Is anyone born a magician?" Accelerator asked, deflecting the topic slightly. It would seem being a vector manipulator affected his social skills too.
"No." Bayloupe shook her head. "It's a profession, like a blacksmith or a tailor. It takes time to learn. Why? Do you have ability users who are born that way?"
"We call them Gemstones," Saiai answered. "Pretty rare, but it does happen. We super thought Kamijou was a Gemstone before we learned more about his hand."
"Pretty sure he really doesn't fall into either category, ability user or magician." Bayloupe replied.
"Tsk." Accelerator clicked his tongue. "You can say that again."
"What's so special about him, anyways?" Saiai asked, putting her hands behind her desk. "Sure, he has a weird power, but it's not like he's super good looking or anything. He's pretty average. I don't understand why Mugino pays him so much attention. Once you know about his power, just avoid his hand, and you could easily beat him."
"What?" Saiai demanded.
"I feel she does have a point," Bayloupe added, eyeing Accelerator. "Negation would throw off any skilled magician who didn't know about it." She shrugged. "But what happened in England? There's something more. Lessar talked about it a bit."
Accelerator huffed and continued walking.
Neither of those two ever fought that guy seriously. It wasn't so much his power. It wasn't even his determination. Accelerator had fought plenty of people with something they desired more than their life. That mentality usually led them to their deaths. However, no one would understand what fighting the boy known as Touma Kamijou really meant. In theory, they were right. Having a hand that negated magic and abilities was nice and all, but it could easily be avoided. It's just that guy defied all common sense. In some weird way, he was more of a monster than Accelerator had ever been.
He just hoped those two girls never got into a serious fight with the hero.
They wouldn't win.
His footsteps faulted for a moment, and he frowned.
I'm actually worried about them?
"It really doesn't look like she's doing anything." Ruiko pointed out to Touma, Misaki, and Mikoto.
It was their turn to monitor Eve. They were making sure to stay far enough back that Pierce wouldn't notice them watching. If he happened to spot them, they could lie and say they were passing by. The aquarium was only so big. Jason's group and Accelerator's group had both passed them at least once. From the reports on a shared messaging site they were using, Eve hadn't really done anything. If they didn't know her, she would have been a normal girl dating Pierce.
Normal being relative, of course.
"Pssh." Pierce shook his head. "You could totally pull off a zombie girl look."
"Yeah," Eve agreed. "I told them a scar would only enhance my look, but they were like nooooo, you should dress up as a catgirl."
"In their defense, you would make a great catgirl too," Pierce added. "Add a maid outfit, and you would have all the guys eating out of your hand." He grinned. "I have that outfit. Lent it to a friend of mine for his girlfriend, but it would go better on you though."
"Think so?" Eve put her hands on her chest. "Aren't maids supposed to have large chests to show off to their masters?"
"Usually." Pierce nodded and then waved his hand dismissively. "But small breasts are good too. What's not there won't grow. You should be proud of how developed you are. They're only going to get bigger."
"Such a charmer." Eve laughed lightly.
"Besides, you're already bigger than Misaka-san, Shirai-san, and Uiharu-san," Pierce continued. "I'm sure you will be at least a solid C."
"I hope so."
"Can I beat him up?" Mikoto asked Touma, making a fist. A vain was throbbing in her forehead while Misaki was trying very hard not to laugh. "Please?"
"Later," Touma promised, though he made sure to grab her arm with his right hand. The last thing they needed was a power outage.
"We are eavesdropping on a private conversation too," Misaki pointed out. "People say all sorts of things if they believe no one else will hear."
"So, you like big breasts, huh?" Eve questioned.
"It's not just 'I like big breasts.' It's I also like big breasts!" Pierce declared. "Big small, firm or soft, it doesn't matter. Each has its good points. I couldn't be a man if I disliked any kind of breasts."
"See?" Ruiko said. "He wasn't insulting you…" She looked a little weirded out by his declaration.
"Has he no sense of shame?" Mikoto asked warily. "He shouted that out for everyone to hear."
Several people had glanced at Pierce during his declaration.
"No. No, he does not." Touma shook his head. "Just… don't ever debate him. He will just drag you down to his level."
"Speaking from experience?" Misaki asked, eyes twinkling.
"More times than I care to admit."
"Guys?" They turned to Ruiko. "You might want to listen to this…" Her voice had a trace of panic, and they quickly focused on Eve.
"…all the time?" Eve asked, growing serious.
"I'll agree to anything," Pierce assured her. "You name it."
"If you serve me for the rest of your life," Eve said. "I'll be sure to bully you every day."
"When you say bully…" Pierce asked hesitantly, looking hopefully at her. This caused Eve to smile.
"Get down on all fours." Eve ordered.
"What?" Pierce was confused, but it didn't last long.
"You heard me. On all fours!"
Under the eyes of several onlookers, Pierce dropped to his hands and knees. Eve grinned at his quick compliance and then sat down on his back. Several of the people watching stared at her in disbelief, but she merely smirked at them and gestured for them to leave.
"Oh, my." Misaki muttered.
"In public too." Ruiko added.
"I'm worried about the deal she's trying to make with him," Touma said darkly. "At this rate, he will agree to whatever she wants."
"Should we step in?" Mikoto asked.
"No." Misaki stated firmly, drawing their attention. "It's too early. Let's wait."
"How's this?" Eve asked, shifting around so her butt was rubbing all over Pierce's back.
"I thought you were going to bully me?" Pierce asked. "I don't mind this at all."
"Oh, I am." Eve laughed in amusement. "This is the kind of rewards you can expect. If you agree to be my slave. Sounds good, right?"
"You have one of those sexy black leather suits, right?" Pierce was looking hopeful.
"I… don't really know what's happening here, but it's making me uncomfortable." Ruiko said to Touma.
"This… yeah. It's probably best you don't." Touma assured her.
"I can't tell if she's serious." Misaki muttered.
"That's bad." Mikoto stated darkly.
"Why?" Ruiko asked.
"Shokuhou is really good at reading people," Mikoto explained. "Even without her powers, she could always tell what I was thinking and used it against me."
"To be fair, you're really obvious about what you're thinking." Misaki pointed out. "It's really amusing."
"Please," Touma huffed sarcastically. "Keep reminding me how dense I was." Misaki laughed, and Touma turned his attention back toward Eve.
"So do you accept my undying loyalty?" Pierce asked and Eve put a finger up to her cheek.
"I don't know," Eve answered. "People don't always understand the true ramifications of declaring loyalty. Would you be able to ignore your friends if I need help? Would you do whatever I ask, even if it goes against your morals and ethics?"
"Pretty sure from what we talked about, you won't ask anything from me that would go against my ideals." Pierce answered.
"If I asked you to beat up your friends for a chance to massage my foot, would you? Like Kamijou-san."
"I would punch him for less."
Touma felt a vein in his throb and questioned why they were even friends. Mikoto raised an eyebrow at him, and he shook his head to indicate he wasn't going to dignify Pierce's remark with a response. Misaki and Ruiko were trying not to laugh at how absurd this was.
Eve smiled and patted his head.
"Okay, how about… tonight… we consummate our new relationship."
Touma, Mikoto, Misaki, and Ruiko all froze as the entire world did a one-eighty. If they had been drinking anything, there would have been simultaneous spit takes. The girls couldn't believe Eve was propositioning a high school student. If she wasn't lying about reincarnation, she would have lived countless lifetimes.
Touma knew Pierce wasn't going to say no, they had to stop this.
"Wait here," Touma told the girls. "I'm going to see what I can do." He tried to ignore the cry of happiness coming from his friend that no doubt echoed across the entire building. Probably the whole city in all honesty.
"You can't see her alone," Mikoto whispered hastily. "She's unstable, and her powers are a completely different level than what you're used to."
"No." Misaki shook her head. "Eve has gone and talked to him and Saten-san before. If he goes along, she might be willing to spill more information than if someone like Misaka or me were there." She reached into her purse and handed Touma a hidden microphone. "Use this, though. We can at least listen in."
"Thanks." Touma hid the mic under his collar and then turned around. The girls remained out of sight while Touma headed over to his target. "Oh, I thought I heard you." He blinked and tried to act surprised. If Pierce wasn't overflowing with happiness, he would have easily noticed. "Am I interrupting something?"
"Not much," Eve replied with a smug smile of satisfaction. Obviously, she knew what he had been doing. "I just agreed on a second date with Aogami-kun. We have so much in common."
"About time I caught up to you, Kami-yan!" Pierce roared, his arms struggling as fatigue from his position was finally catching up to him. It didn't help that his excitement was threatening to make him collapse in relief. "I'm finally going to-…!" He collapsed as Eve kicked him in the ribs. Barely moving, she almost floated to her feet as Pierce slammed against the floor.
"Now, now," Eve told him. "You have to earn the right to tell others. As an apology, I want you to get me one of those slushies. There's such a long line, but you wouldn't mind, right? I want a green apple one."
The irony of her order was not lost on Touma.
"Right away!" Pierce sprung to his feet and dashed off, but not before yelling back over his shoulder. "Don't you dare try anything, you bastard!" Eve waited until he was gone before speaking to Touma.
"He's quite interesting. I see why you keep him around."
"You're just playing with his feelings," Touma accused. "Just to strike back at us."
"Hahaha." Eve laughed loudly at his accusation. "The fact you think this had anything to do with you lot is adorable."
"It… doesn't?" Touma didn't trust her one bit. "So you started dating one of my friends just on a whim?"
"Pretty much," Eve confirmed. "I was bored, waiting for the right moment to strike and complete my true objective, and he was right there. I even asked what happened."
"Do you honestly expect me to believe you?" Touma asked. "After all the shit you put us through?!"
"I don't care that much either way," Eve replied and flipped her hair back. "Most of you have absolutely nothing to do with me. If messing with you all wasn't part of a deal I made for assistance, your interference wouldn't be worth the time I spent with you. It's not like you can be everywhere at once."
"So who hates us that badly they made a deal with you to attack us?" Touma demanded.
"Seeeecret." Eve replied devilishly. "Let's say you all were a problem. I could deal with each one of you one at a time without any trouble." Her eyes narrowed, and her expression grew serious. "I could kill your friends and family in an instant to send a message. Every day I would kill someone close to you to make you understand what you are facing."
Touma shivered at her words.
"That was Adam's suggestion," Eve continued, suddenly becoming cheerful again. "I only deal with someone personally if they are indeed a threat to our plan. Or I'm bored. Either one."
"Is that way you killed Julunggul?" Touma asked quietly.
That got a response from Eve. Her expression grew curiously and she tilted her head.
"Ah… you know about that?" She asked back, the answer implied.
"Who else could it have been?" Touma continued. "We heard God's Judgment was used in the middle of the city. One of the most powerful spells a magician could use. The only person capable of that would be you. The only target that you would possibly waste something that powerful on would be her. It was pretty easy to piece everything together."
Eve stared at him.
Touma stared right back.
What happened next he didn't expect.
Eve nearly doubled over laughing. Touma took a step back in surprise before she stood up straight again. A finger wiped a tear away from her eye before she regained her composure.
"You think you got it all figured out," Eve stated. "So, who told you? The princess?"
"That's none of your business." Touma shot back.
"What if I told you she lied?" Eve asked quietly, and Touma flinched.
While it was Leivinia who told him about God's Judgment, he was the only one who knew about Julunggul's disappearance. That's why he decided to inform the others. Carissa had taken particular interest in it. For the first time, he had actually managed to lie to Eve about where he got his information. It would probably be for the best for her to think Carissa had given him that information. Leivinia wouldn't have told her. Probably. Those two did not get along.
"What if I told you I wasn't the one who used God's Judgment?" Eve continued her game of asking questions.
That comment took Touma by surprise. There was no one else who would have that kind of knowledge. The magicians he knew even admitted that.
"…What? Bullshit. Who else could it be?!"
"Think about it," Eve ordered, tapping her foot impatiently. "How would I, who have rebelled against God and definitely not in his good graces, possibly use his divine power?"
"Er…" That was actually a good point, but even with not understanding the specifics of magic, he had enough experience to debate a little. "You could use idol theory or something. Maybe create someone who could use it with your powers."
"Huh, not a bad idea." Eve nodded in thought and then grinned at him. "I'll do that. Maybe a test run on one of your friends?" Touma stiffened as he realized he had just given Eve an idea. The fear didn't last long, as Eve laughed. "I've lived long enough to think of that. Using God's Judgment isn't as easy as you think. My soul is too far away from God's to attempt it." Her grin widened and grew dark. "But that doesn't mean I don't have a loyal servant who can use it."
"Didn't we get rid of them when you attacked the city and after Adam's defeat?" Touma asked, feeling the blood flow from his face.
"You assume we only have a couple servants," Eve pointed out, making a circular motion with her hand. "Do you understand how many people get betrayed throughout mankind's existence? There's no end to them, and I chose the best of the best. How would you like someone from Greek Mythology next? I have some good ones under my command."
"Are you serious about anything?" Touma found his voice rising. "All of this, threatening us, attacking people, destroying things on a whim, is this all a game to you?!"
There was silence for a moment before Eve replied.
"No?" Touma repeated, and Eve grabbed his collar. With inhuman strength, she pulled him down.
"What I've gone through, what Adam has gone through, we are not playing," Eve whispered. "While you may be a source of entertainment, never forget our goal remains unchanged. Very soon, we will take the last wing and leave Academy City. You won't see us again unless you purposely go looking for us." She let him go and straightened one of her sleeves. "We told you before. The reason we got involved with you was because you pushed yourself into our plans. If any of your friends get hurt, it's entirely your fault."
"That's bullshit, and you know it!" Touma snapped back. "You and Adam are the ones who hurt people, not us."
"I wonder how many people the princess hurt in her coup?" Eve mused playfully.
"That was because you manipulated her to steal the wing in England." Touma countered.
"I just helped push her along," Eve corrected him and raised up a finger. "Remember, she was going to do it anyway, just a little later. If she had more time to prepare, who knows what the outcome would be? She might have won, and you wouldn't have been there to save her sisters and mother. Maybe you should thank me for the timing?" She smiled.
"Y-you…" Touma spluttered, unable to come up with any comeback.
"Thank you, Eve." Eve spoke, mimicking his voice. "For allowing us the opportunity to save the royal family. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help you in return."
"You know that's not going to happen," Touma told her, trying to keep his cool. "After toying around with Aogami's heart, I can't forgive you."
Eve sighed and rubbed her head.
"I never played with his heart. I told you I ran into him. It gets boring being cooped up all the time. So I went out and got fresh air."
"And why should I believe you?" Touma asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Hmm, good point." She shrugged. "Here I thought I was being honest with you and your friends. Unlike the other people you have been working for."
"Your honesty is more of misdirection." Touma pointed out.
"True. You don't get to where I am telling people everything." Eve tapped her lips with a finger. "Hey. Want to know a secret?"
"What?" Touma was thrown off balance from the sudden change in topic.
"Julunggul and I are… were actually good friends," Eve said. "I never wanted her to die."
"Then why did you have her taken out?" Touma demanded.
"I didn't, my target was the Saint."
The world stopped.
"…Kanzaki? What does she…?" Touma realized he hadn't heard from her for a while, yet Itsuwa had mentioned she was in the city. "No… you couldn't have."
"Don't you just love the irony?" Eve wrapped her arms around herself. "A person who resembled the Son of God, someone blessed from birth, was destroyed by the power of their creator? I can't think of any better way than to destroy one's faith."
"…You're lying." Touma choked out.
"You can believe what you want," Eve continued. "But if you truly are interested in learning the details, ask your beloved princess. She knows the truth."
"If you are telling the truth…" He took a deep breath to keep himself calm until he could determine if she was lying or not. "What reason could you have to kill her?"
"I could tell you it's because she's strong," Eve replied. "That chipping away at the forces standing between us and our goal is needed." She sighed and held out a hand. Before Touma could react, she clenched it into a fist. "That would be a lie. This was much more personal." Her voice grew cold. "Saints, people born with power, I hate them. I hate those that get handed everything from birth. I much rather see the weak struggle and become stronger, than the strong complain about not understanding what others go through."
Touma stared at her.
"The magic Adam and I possessed? We earned it. We weren't born powerful. Suffering and kindness, love and hatred, truth and lies, everything humans have experienced, we have too. It kept us sane. Cain… he wasn't so lucky. There was no one to keep him grounded. Adam had me and I had Adam. Even when we didn't love each other, the two of us were connected." Eve unclenched her fist. "We had to survive in a world we knew nothing about. People prospered, and some were more powerful than others. It was then when we discovered it. After all, magic was invented for those without talent to compete against those with talent."
Eve leaned forward and stared into Touma's eyes.
"Who do you think the untalented people competed against years ago?"
Touma's eyes widened.
There were people who were born with power. Kaori Kanzaki was born a Saint. Someone whose body resembled that of the Son of God. They were stronger, faster, and could handle more powerful spells than normal people. Gemstones were another type of people born with power. Shizuri told him about them. They were people who had abilities that were not unlocked by Academy City. A single Gemstone was priceless for scientists.
"They-…" Before he could say anymore, Eve had pressed a finger up to his lips.
"It was a rhetorical question." She removed her hand. "Those who were born powerful realized they could use that power to rule over others. Many people during that time prayed for powers of their own or to protect their families." A smile without any warmth and didn't reach her eyes formed on Eve's face. "Their prayers went unanswered, wishes were unfulfilled, and people were forced to be trampled underfoot. It was then the best and the worst thing happened to humanity."
She took a deep breath and turned to stare into a fish tank.
"They discovered magic."
Touma remained silent, aware Mikoto, Misaki, and Ruiko were listening. Eve was telling them about the past, maybe not her past precisely, but they were learning about her. This information could be valuable and, added with what the magic side knew, they might discover a weakness.
"You would think that mankind, who had just started to find their place in the world would use magic to make their lives easier," Eve continued. "But that wasn't the case. It was used to conquer. The weak fought back against those who were blessed with talents. Countless innocents died." Her eyes narrowed. "And what did God do? The one who set us on this path? Nothing. He sat back and watched. It got to the point where there were some who mastered magic to the point where the world was getting warped beyond recognition because of their powers. They were the ones called magic gods." She spread her arm out gesturing to everything around her. "Do you think this is the original world? Layer after layer of magic affects this world to this day."
She took a deep breath, and Touma took the opportunity to talk.
"You use magic, though." He said. "Weren't you part of the problem then?"
Eve smiled, and this time, there was only sadness.
"Adam and I… we were as clueless as the other humans about magic and the repercussions." Her head sunk down for a moment and Touma truly believed she regretted something that had happened back then. "We were two people who were abandoned by God. So we turned to magic too. When the magic gods fought each other for control, the battle warped the world, and it was the first time humanity understood the true terror of magic." She pointed to his hand. "I was there. The Imagine Breaker was created for a purpose. A save point if you will. When things go so wrong, there's a spot for us to return too. Something that both the talented and the talentless agreed on."
Eve flicked him on the nose as Touma stood still, taking in all of this.
"Magic should have never been required though." Eve added fiercely. Her mood could change in an instant. "The questions we ask are; why did God give some people more power than others? Why give them powers in the first place? Why were the powers not distributed equally? Why did he not help those being downtrodden by his chosen? Was it on purpose or accidental? The more questions we asked, the more we needed to learn. There had to be something Adam and I could do to break our curse."
"So you decided to kill God." Touma shook his head. "Your plight… I understand it's hard, and I would help you if I could. However, it doesn't justify the pain and anguish you caused so many others."
"I actually helped as many people as I could throughout the years," Eve corrected him. "Those that joined me. They were the ones who sympathized with our plight. I like humanity and watching them change and grow throughout the years was interesting. I tried out so many different things, but man was not designed to live forever. We want to move on. We have lived enough. Yet this can't be changed until God is removed."
"Couldn't… you ask him somehow?" Touma asked lamely.
A shadow of a smile flickered to life on her face.
"We did. Multiple times." Eve sighed. "There were times when we went mad. Adam… killed a lot of people and history remembers them as disasters. The Black Plague was one such incident. Cain…" She had a long pause. "In all fairness, he had a chance to be redeemed. God sent angels to him and he refused to repent, even attacking one in the end. Adam and I, we never got that chance."
"I can't agree with your methods," Touma said slowly. "But I understand-…"
"Do you?" Eve stared at him and he felt like she was examining his very soul. "Do you truly comprehend the idea of living forever? To die and be reborn in a world that was a shadow of what it once was? Knowing paradise and being forced to live in pain and suffering? It would drive anyone insane if you don't have someone to hold on too." She scratched her cheek. "Maybe your friends, the powerful Level 5s, was it? Maybe they might understand. A person you can rely on, that you can understand without words, makes life better."
"Then stop hurting those that disagree with you," Touma pleaded. "I know what your forces did. You nearly killed my friends. You manipulated them. Misaki told me about her battle with Arthur. He was a noble king who you convinced to kill kids."
"I didn't desire it, but it was part of the deal that was made."
"Who made the deal with you?" Touma asked. "Was it Ricane?"
Touma froze. Everyone had been under the impression Ricane had been the one who was feeding Eve information in Academy City. As a scientist, he would have wanted the level 5s to push their limits for studying. Since Jason learned he had been captured, they thought Eve's information source would have dried up.
"…Then who?" Touma croaked.
"That I will not tell you." Eve flicked his nose again. "Maybe it's someone who wants your friends to reach their true potential? However, anonymity is important when making a deal. They did provide services to me. I learned a lot about the abilities in this city and they were kind enough to take out the Saint."
"They were the one who used God's Judgment?" Touma asked, wide-eyed.
"I told you I knew a lot of heroes," Eve reminded him. "Greek ones are some of my favorite."
"There's still a chance you could be lying." Touma pointed out.
"I could be." Eve nodded in agreement. "Think of verifying my words as your homework. I'm sure if you question the princess, she will tell you what they found."
"Why did you single her out specifically?" Touma felt anger rising within him. "Was it just because she was a Saint? Being related to God?"
That one word was full of venom and Touma froze. Eve's playful charade fell to be replaced by a dark voice that caused goosebumps to erupt around him.
It was like he was facing Adam all over again.
"I will get rid of everything related to him," Eve told him. "No one else will suffer under his watch. If humans want to do horrible things to each other, that will now be completely their choice. If they want to do good, the same thing. They won't do good just because a higher power threatens them with damnation if they don't." She smiled, and the dark aura faded. "No one in my group wishes to continue past that point. We will not rule over humans. They will be the guardians of their own faith."
If that weren't true, Touma wouldn't find this so difficult to swallow. A tyrant would just want power and would kill those who stood in his way. Eve and Adam were doing wrong, but with warped good intentions. Touma needed to find a way to make them see the truth of their actions. They had to know it was wrong. In fact, he was sure they knew, but they had no other choice. Any idea he thought of, they had already tried. His hand couldn't save them or he would have gladly offered to help.
Then there was what happened to Kaori.
"If you did anything do Kanzaki, I'll…" He trailed off.
"Kill me?" Eve asked softly, smiling sadly.
He wouldn't, even if they could. Touma did not kill people, but if they really killed her… He wasn't sure what he would do. Thinking you would do something in a stressful situation is not the same as actually acting in that situation. For now, to prevent himself from doing anything rash, he needed to talk to Carissa. It was going to be tough to get her to share anything.
"I'm back?" Pierce declared, holding up the green slushy. He looked between Touma and Eve, who had been staring at each other. "What's going on?"
"Nothing." Touma muttered, diverting his eyes away.
"He asked me if I wanted to join his harem." Eve said, without missing a beat.
Touma spun around on the spot and gaped at her. If he had been paying attention, he might have seen the true threat coming at him.
He felt a fist crash into the side of his face.
Shiage's phone started going crazy.
At first, he ignored it and set it to vibrate, but it kept ringing constantly. He would have turned it off, but if Shizuri had been the one to call, he would need to answer it or risk her displeasure. Rikou was next to him looking at the sea turtles and he really just wanted to spend time with her. Eventually, after receiving call after call from the same number, he finally answered it.
"Hamazura. I need you to listen to me."
"Who are you?" Shiage demanded.
"An old friend from Skill-Out."
That got his attention. He had left Skill-Out and really hadn't been involved with them much since joining ITEM.
"We are contacting all the old leaders and any member, past or present, we can reach."
"What for?" Shiage asked. "Listen, I left for a reason and-…"
"You know the email that was sent to everyone? The Parameter List?"
"We know what it is now and the city lied to us. This is evidence."
Shiage was about to retort. It was a common occurrence for Skill-Out to use propaganda to recruit level 0s to their cause. Saying the city was lying about them being able to reach high levels was a popular way of gaining attention.
Until what came next.
"We are bringing in other low levels too. Level 1s and 2s need to hear this too."
Shiage's mouth slammed shut.
Skill-Out was for level 0s. Even low-level ability users weren't a part of them. For them to allow those groups to join now, something happened. He decided to listen to the guy's explanation. It only took a couple of minutes and Shiage nearly fell backwards from shock. The Parameter list was how the city could tell what the max level a person could reach and how much it would cost to raise them. That meant the level they could reach was predetermined.
The city had actually lied to all of them.
"…What is it?" Rikou asked. concerned, tilting her head. She had noticed him acting strangely while on the phone.
"We…we need to contact Mugino." Shiage stated and Rikou tilted her head more.
"The city's about to become a warzone."
Feel free to leave a review, comment, suggestions, or ideas, I love reading them. If you have a question you wish I ask and would like a quick answer, feel free to message me directly. I try to respond to those within a day or two. Comments, I tend to respond to in the next chapter. Remember, all mistakes are SilverFang's fault, even if he isn't here.
BB: I didn't get recognition for betaing last chapter :(
SB: It's okay botboy, you're a secret weapon. For now, let everyone imagine the Index X Skyrim crossover in the works.
HC: That you stole from me, goddammit.
DB: Snooze you lose, Healthcare.