Happy New Year, everyone! I hope 2018 will be filled with a lot of happiness, joy and Index III for all of you.
WOOO! Over three hundred follows! Thank you very much! You guys rock!
Now then. Let's get to the thick of things.
Dragon Rider 66: I can do nothing about the monokini scene, since Kanzaki's probably too shy. It would all come down to Tsuchimikado and his bullying, but we all know she's not that gullible and that something like that would never happen... right?
Kuroppy: Congratulations! For choosing the correct answer, you have won a sense of futility as no matter how many efforts you summon forth, the number of things you want to read and play are never ending... C'mon. Let's go cry together at a corner, my comrade.
Guest: Welcome! Welcome all, new readers. About the introductions in chapter 17, I don't know who exactly you're referring to, but both characters introduced are simply called "Tour Guide" and "Jeans Shop Owner" in the LN, so I can't really introduce them more than this.
Markoz89: Binevenido de vuelta, lector hispanohablante. En lo que se refiere a los personajes que mencionas, el tiempo dirá lo que tiene que pasar (manera bonita de decir que no te puedo adelantar spoilers, lo siento). Si miras la fecha del dia de actualización de este capítulo verás que, excepto en el caso que todos los relojes, móbiles y ordenadores de mi casa estén fallando al mismo tiempo, a día de hoy estamos, efectivamente, en 2018. No se que clase de 6o sentido tenéis tu y mis otros lectores, que repetidamente colgáis un comentario justo el mismo día que voy a actualizar.
Some (okay, a great part) of the comments were along the lines or made reference to something like: "Yeah, the chapter's nice n'all, but get it out faster". I'll try. I'll try. No promises though. It'd be worse if I gave my word and failed to deliver. I'll just do what I can and hope for the best.
In an update of the after-comment shrine that I've been mentioning for a couple chapters now, Christmas happened, so I'm not sure if the money I asked for counts. What should I ask for next? Good grades for my exams?
Last comment before we get to the chapter. Both the characters introduced in the previous chapter and the one that'll come out next in this one are from the official spin-off Kanzaki SS, which consists in a series of short stories following our favorite Saint. I recommend reading it, especially chapter 3, if you're interested in the background of the character that will appear. The chapters are quite short, so it doesn't take much time. That said, I tried my best to include all the important and relevant information for those of you who can't or don't want to do so, either because of lack of time (in which case I'm grateful you take the time to read this story) or lack of motivation (in which case get to work, you lazy bums).
That's all. Hope you enjoy.
Disclaimer: I do not own Toaru Majutsu no Index nor any of its characters.
Chapter 17 - Discovery
That same day, after Kanzaki's maiden heart had healed somewhat, Kamijou logged off the game to find that both of his freeloaders had yet to do the same. He then received a call from Hamazura informing him of how the afternoon had gone for his newfound childhood acquaintances. He belatedly realized that maybe he hadn't chosen the best person for the job, since it appeared that all the hang-out spots the blonde knew were either Skill-Out gathering places, dumping points for thief groups, and other such locations of dubious utility, so it seemed the route had degenerated into a gourmet tour of less-known back-alleys shops. "Still, they seemed pretty happy with it.", was what the delinquent told him. He also explained that the quintet had decided to follow the traditional program and visit the recommended schools like all the other visitors would, so they wouldn't be meeting him at class next day.
That left as the only important events tomorrow morning to endure the stares caused by the rumors that a certain blonde spy had taken to spread among his class and, when he came to gloat, give him a "I-know-you're-trying-to-mess-with-me-but-since-your-fate-is-going-to-be-much-worse-than-mine-I-won't-bother-to-rise-up" smirk, and observe with interest how he appeared confused until realization dawned on him and he started to sweat bullets and pale. The remaining school hours proved to be quite peaceful for the spiky-haired boy.
And so, he arrived smoothly to the promised time when he was supposed to meet with Kanzaki & Friends.
Except he didn't.
"WHAT DO YOU MEAN, SHE WILL BE LATEEEEEEE?!"
"Err, something about being so ashamed she couldn't look you in the eye, so she needed time to prepare her mind?"
"I DON'T CARE ABOUT THAT! SHE WAS THE ONLY REASON MONSTERS DIDN'T COME LAST TIME! AND EVEN THEN IT WAS A FLUKE THAT WE LASTED SO LONG! NO, MAYBE IT WAS A PRELUDE LEADING TO THIS?! TO GIVE US A FALSE SENSE OF SECURITY! I KNEW MY LUCK COULDN'T BE THAT GOOD!"
"Hey, calm down for now. We've been here for a while before you connected, you know? And we haven't been attacked yet. According to our info, not that many monsters live in this area."
"DO YOU HAVE EYES ON YOUR FACE?! DO THE TWISTED TREES, OMINOUS MIST, SWAMPY LAND AND STRANGE HOWLS NOT CLUE YOU IN?! AT THIS RATE IT'S ONLY A MATTER OF TIME UNTIL- oh."
Seeing the boy who was freaking out a second ago calm down mid-rant and sit properly as if his outburst never happened, both the Jeans Shop Owner and the Tour Guide became curious. They were answered with an incredulous stare.
"Really? You don't hear it?"
And, upon being mentioned, both mages became aware of a regular, dangerously close sound that resembled jagged breaths, or maybe incredibly low wheezes.
"Is it coming from the right?"
"No, this way."
The Tour Girl turned to peer through the curtains of her window to try and locate the anomaly, but was dismissed by the Jeans Shop Owner, who was doing the exact same thing from the opposite seat. Kamijou, who was sitting in front of them, provided the answer.
The magic side representatives didn't have time to ask what he meant before the roof of the carriage was violently ripped off, sending the horses in a frantic frenzy forward. As the driver desperately worked to try and regain control, the passengers were barely able to see through the hole how a bulky shadow disappeared back again into the mist, left behind by their newfound speed.
"W-what was that?!"
"A monster, I presume."
"I can see that! Why didn't we notice it until so late?!"
"The obvious answer would be that it has stealth capabilities, but we must also consider the sense impairment associated to the environment. The fog bars what poor vision we'd have through the curtains, and the topography and trees probably block a great chunk of the sound. And for something as big as that, we'd normally notice because of the tremors its weight would cause each time it moves, but even those would be absorbed by the suspension. I guess being comfortable has its downsides."
"Right… but that doesn't explain why the horses didn't react until we had it breathing down our necks."
"That's a good point… Maybe it can conceal its presence after all?"
"Why are you two so calm?!"
The Tour Guide finally was incapable of bearing any more with the leisurely attitude of the two males in the now open-air ride. The spiky-haired young man didn't bother to answer, and seemed to still be thinking on his previous analysis and trying to hypothesize why their horses, who in addition to being animals and therefore more sensitive than humans were vastly more experienced in traveling lands infested by monsters, hadn't started panicking until the first attack struck. The Jeans Shop Owner, in contrast, regarded her with a neutral look.
"Panicking won't do us any good. It's more productive to determine how exactly we were caught off guard so it doesn't happen again. Take deep breaths and think back. Every piece of information is important."
"…Alright." The younger girl heeded her senior's advice, closed her eyes and tried sucking in a mouthful of air. After some seconds, when she felt her heartrate start to calm down and some of the agitation leave her mind, she opened them again.
"Good." Complimented the older man. "Now, let's go over the facts. We can discard any kind of magical creature. No matter how good its stealth is, I'd have detected a bit of mana during the moment of the strike. There was none, which means the attack was fueled by purely physical force. That eliminates the possibility of a normal magician, since causing that much force with self-reinforcement is outside the scope of almost everyone barring a very small handful of elites like, say, Saints."
"But any magician with that much ability would choose a more efficient method." Followed the Tour Guide. "Not to mention, the first strike was wasted, and with it the element of surprise. It doesn't add up."
"Which is why we can safely discard the possibility of a human enemy. That leaves us with monsters, which fit most of the facts that we have. They can be big, fast and strong enough to pull of that blitzkrieg assault, and they don't have enough rationality to look for weak points. If there was something in the way between it and its prey, they'd tear it apart."
"Wait a second, supposing that is true, the obstacle to its prey was the ceiling. Are we dealing with a flying monster?"
"Could be. Or maybe it's just that big. What do you think?"
Arriving at an impasse, the senior member of the trio turned to the one who hadn't been participating in the conversation. The boy's answer was succinct.
"It's a dog."
"A dog? That doesn't make any sense." Rebuked the Tour Guide. "It has none of the characteristics we were talking about. They are not suited to stealth like cats, owls or chameleons, and they don't run fast enough to keep up with horses nor can they fly, so it wouldn't have had any way to attack the ceiling."
"It would, if it was big enough that the carriage could pass perfectly between its legs."
"Keep in mind," the Jeans Shop Owner reminded the young girl, "that it's a monster we're talking about, and not a pure animal. There could be a dog big and silent enough to do what we're saying. There's probably a reason he suggested what he did, so let's work with that hypothesis for now. Dogs are gregarious, social animals. Feral dogs usually hunt alone, but do you think that we could be facing a pack? It would explain the sounds we heard before the attack coming from different directions."
It was a sound reasoning. Discarding the fear of potentially having to confront a pack of giant, super-strong, silent assassin pups for a second, the Tour Guide looked expectantly at the boy, but he was shaking his spiky head.
"No, there's only one." Seeing his interlocutor begin to frown, he raised a hand to indicate he wasn't done yet. "The reason his breathing and attack came from different directions is that the dog has three heads."
"Hmm. Kerberos, huh?"
"Kerberos is the three-headed dog of the underworld in Greek mythology." Jumped the blond girl at the chance, eager to prove her knowledge. "It guarded the door to the afterlife, and it made sure that no living entered and no dead escaped."
"Perhaps you know of its most common variant Cerberus." Added the Jeans Shop Owner.
"Ooh, right. That name rings a bell. Yeah, that's what I was talking about. Luckily it seems this one can't breathe fire or any other fancy tricks."
The Tour Guide stopped the urge to retort and ask from where had the image of a dog with such a dragon-like ability come from when the older man raised a hand.
"From videogames." He answered the unasked question, and she had to roll her eyes at that. Everything seemed to revolve around the stupid machines these days.
"Anyway," the older man continued, unperturbed, "we have been entertaining your theory until now, but the most crucial thing is lacking. There's no proof."
"Hmm? Oh, that." The boy lowered his eyes a bit. The girl noticed his vision had been wandering up and down during the whole conversation. "It's nothing much, y'see. I can see it up right there."
"What are you talking abou… no way."
Slowly, with a sinking feeling in their stomach, both passengers became suddenly aware of the heavy breathing noises coming from right behind their heads. Becoming too engrossed in theorizing seemed to have the unfortunate side effect of missing obvious cues, but it wasn't that difficult a task to put two and two together in their present situation.
So they almost managed not to scream when they turned around and found three pair of eyes staring straight at them, each on top of a mouth big enough to swallow them whole and so full of teeth they got dizzy at the mere prospect of counting them.
"WAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH?! SINCE WHEN HAS THIS THING BEEN HERE?!"
"It's been following us for a while. I'm not sure exactly why he hasn't pounded yet. Think it's that blessing thing? To protect the driver and the horses and all that?"
"HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO KNOW?! IT'S FLEXING ITS LEGS! IT'S GOING TO JUMP! IT'S COMING! I CAN SEE IT IN ITS EYES!"
"NOOOOOOOOO! STOPSTOPSTOPSTOP! I DON'T TASTE GOOD! JEANS DON'T TASTE GOOD! I TRIED!"
"You tried?! Just how far has your dedication to jeans gone…"
The young girl continued to make a ruckus, but upon hearing the somewhat amazed voice of the boy, the Jeans Shop Owner managed to regain a bit of his sanity.
"Ohhh… I see! Boy! You have a plan, don't you? Hey, girlie, come back! We don't have to be eaten yet!"
"WAH! WAH! WAAAA- eh? Really?! Ooooh!"
"As would be expected of a world-renowned heavy-weight influential fighter! Now, boy, share with us! What's our course of action?"
"Ah…" Mildly embarrassed, the teenager rubbed the back of his neck and chuckled ruefully. "I don't have anything fancy like that, really. You're overestimating me."
"Now, now, don't play hardball with us, boy. I could recognize the signs anywhere. That composure, that calm, that aplomb! Those are the eyes of someone who knows exactly what to do!"
"Are you familiar with the concept of sniping?"
This non-sequitur managed to startle the Jean Shop Owner enough to stop his ramblings, and the spiky-haired boy took the chance to explain his point.
"Obviously, there's the meaning of a one-hit kill from a long distance, but in games it can also refer to a surgical, precise strike. For example, it can be done against a boss who is many levels above you to shave at his health little by little. You get one hit in and retreat immediately. That tactic is usually done by different teams who coordinate between themselves to manage the aggro so no one holds it for too long, since usually a boss that much stronger tends to kill you rather easily."
The Tour Guide, who had no idea what was going on, scratched her head.
"What does that have to do with the extra-headed doggie…?"
"I'm getting to that. What I talked about is more or less common on normal games, but now that we're in a VR there's another way. A person could, theoretically, connect, take a shot at a monster, and immediately disconnect to avoid retaliation. If repeated enough times, this should be a relatively risk-free way to dispatch anything. The rule that says that one cannot connect for an hour after disconnecting is a good way to avoid players from abusing the system mechanics in the short term by banning the disappearance for a few seconds as a dodge, but it isn't so effective when it comes to long-term planning."
"So," concluded Kamijou, with a peaceful smile, "the developers introduced a second ban. Specifically, when a player connects, he is barred from leaving the game for the next ten minutes."
A chill traveled though the Jeans Shop Owner as his mind naturally reached the conclusion the out of left field explanation was moving towards. The Tour Guide didn't connect the dots as fast, but she felt an ominous sense of foreboding all the same.
With the smile of someone who had made peace with the world, Buddha Kamijou gave the punchline.
"It has been about six minutes since I arrived. You two can still disconnect now, but it won't work for me. Ha ha ha. Misfortune will reach me no matter how fast I run, so sometimes it's better to be calm like a lake's surface and accept everything without a fight. It will be less painful this way."
"CRAP! THIS DAMN GUY IS WORSE THAN US! HE'S ALREADY GIVEN UP! HEY! PULL YOURSELF TOGETHER, MR. WORLD FIGHTER!"
"WAH! WAH! WAH!"
Maybe it was because the loud noises intensified all of a sudden, maybe it was because he was creeped by the boy who maintained exactly the same smile even when he was being intensely shaken back and forth by the older man, or maybe it was because he was annoyed that the girl had regressed to how she was a minute ago by complaining to the world via imitating a two-year-old's cries for food, but the beast that had been until that point happily trailing after them as any friendly dog would chose that moment to throw itself at the trio.
"WAH! WA- IT'S COMIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIING!"
In the wake of the collision, the Tour Guide, with a teary face and a runny nose worthy of the kids she was trying her hardest to imitate, suddenly vanished, leaving behind a simmering white silhouette in the air that disappeared after a few seconds.
Bathed in the aura of acceptance, enlightened Kamijou watched over the departing girl who had stayed true to the fight-or-flight reaction with a warm gaze.
"This isn't the time for that, boy! HOLD TIGHT!"
With a peaceful smile on his face, the spiky-haired boy turned just in time to see the Jeans Shop Owner clinging to his seat as hard as he could.
He still wore that same smile when the collision of the monster with the carriage catapulted him through the air and into the nearest marsh. Unfortunately, his tickets for Nirvana were lost during his flight, so the feeling of cold and murky water became an excellent awakener to the reality of his situation.
"THIS IS COLD! AND DIRTY! AND THE MUD'S -bleaaargh- GETTING IN MY MOUTH! SUCH MISFORTUNE!"
Off in the distance, the horses persisted in their mad dash, dragging the remains of the broken coach where the Jean Shop Owner was still clinging for dear life.
Touma frowned. That made the brown water that was dripping from his miraculously still spiky hair down onto his face follow strange patterns that made him seem a little bit on the gone side, but he didn't realize that. He was too busy trying to get out of the water and back onto dry land, and figure out what the sense of incongruence he had was.
Right. That was it. Where had the three-for-one wonder gone?
The calculations didn't even took a second. Missing potentially deadly monster + misfortune = very bad prospects. Kamijou didn't waste the time to search for it.
He bolted away.
In retrospect, running around in an unknown forest wasn't the brightest of decisions.
(Have I been going in circles for the last 10 minutes?)
The young man went over his options. What to do when lost in a forest?
Tip 1: Before you go, plan your trip.
(Ha ha. That's a good one. My life's story may be synonym with "unexpected" by this point.)
Tip 2: Before you go, let others know where you are going.
(Problem 2, they already know, but can't do anything about it.)
Tip 3: Retrace your steps.
(Except that traveling inside a comfortable coach makes it impossible to see where you are passing through.)
Tip 4: Showcase your location.
(I'm going to take a wild guess and say that whoever wrote the tips didn't take into account monsters when he formulated those.)
Tip 5: Find a source of water.
He looked around, to the muddy puddles that littered the floor all around. Then he looked down, to his still drenched robes.
(Plenty of water around. None of it drinkable.)
Tip 6: Start a fire.
(With what, huh? There's so much humidity and fog that any wood or lumber will be too moist to burn. Besides, it would give away my position all the same.)
Tip 7: Build a shelter.
(Again, with what? There's absolutely nothing around!)
Tip 8: Don't stop thinking, moron.
(What do you think I'm doing right now, huh? And what's with that overbearing tone?!)
Tip 9: Whatever happens, keep a positive attitude!
Luckily(!), there was no one around to witness the high school boy getting mad at his own imagination. However, getting riled up worked to the boy's detriment. The most important tip, before the pre-trip preparations, the need for water, food and shelter and the methods to get in contact with other people (codenamed Tip 0), was to keep a calm head at all times. He seemed to have forgotten that.
That's why he didn't notice that in the direction his feet were taking him to, the fog was becoming increasingly denser, and the trees more twisted.
He didn't realise until he heard the voice speak.
Halting his steps, Lone Wanderer Kamijou looked around, but the mist had reduced his field of vision to about 5 meters, so he couldn't see much.
"Must be my imagination."
He resumed his strides. He still didn't know where he was going, but he figured that to keep moving would be better than staying in one place, lest the monsters found him.
"Really though, why does my inner voice sound like a young girl? It even has a nice ring. Good job, me."
"But wait. If it is my imagination, it must be based on someone I know. Who inspired this? Kanzaki? Nah, her way of speaking is way too formal. Index? Too true to her desires. Othinus? Too condescending, I guess?"
"Intruder, leave now."
"Mhmm… Biribiri sounds too aggressive, Lessar too forward, Birdway too haughty, Imouto too emotionless, Orianna-san too sexy, Orsola-san too forgetful, Cromwell-san too wild, Fremea too childish, Fukyiose too straight-laced, Himegami too quiet, Itsuwa too timid, Marian too passionate, Arisa too sweet, Shutaura too stern, Carissa too dignified, Agnese too prideful, Nephthys too detached, Cendrilion too foreigner, Sasha too quirky, Gabriel too otherworldly… Wait, that last one didn't even speak human."
"How many girls do you… Ah, that's not it. Intruder. Leave at once."
"Otohime sounds too attached, Saflee-san too playful, Ureapaddy too focused, Sotzy too concerned, Yomikawa-sensei too carefree, Komoe-sensei too adult-ish(?), Maika too maid-ish, the Tour Guide too inexperienced(?!)… By the way, your next words are going to be something like "Leave or face the consequences"."
"Leave now or be ready to face the… huh?"
"Really. How cliché can I get?"
The mist had gotten thicker, so his field of vision was getting narrower, but Kamijou figured that since he couldn't see, monsters couldn't either, so he continued to stroll without a care in the world. His own smell had been camouflaged earlier when he fell into the water, and sound didn't travel well in that environment, so he felt relatively safe.
"Ummm… Where was I… The ojou-sama's from Tokiwadai… the nuns of Agnese's unit… It doesn't really fit, right? Who else could it be?"
"There's still more…?"
"Ah, whatever. Now that I think about it, you could have simply been made as a combination of any of the above. It sounds pretty legit. Maybe I do have a creative talent after all."
"I am NOT a product of your imagination!"
Finally (finally!) the voice gave the retort Kamijou was waiting for all this time, and the boy smirked. Just as he had been expecting. One more proof that he was imagining everything.
"C'mon, me. You're better than this. It's pointless to go against the obvious. As if one could have an encounter with a girl with a cute voice in a place like this."
"Intruder! Leave now, or a great misfortune shall befall you!"
If that was supposed to be intimidating, the voice wasn't doing a very good job at it. Kamijou snorted.
"So? Might as well tell me that if I take another step, the sun will rise up at dawn from the East, an apple will fall down if you let it go, or that any food you leave in sight of Index in a 5-meter radius will disappear in the following 5 seconds. They have the same degree of inevitability to them, or rather, it's like the natural state of things."
"This is your last warning, intruder! Leave!"
"Right, right. I would if I knew how, you know. Why do you think I am walking aimlessly like this, huh? I shouldn't have to explain this sort of obviousness to myself. Is this one of those cases where describing aloud the situation is going to make it easier to see the obvious solution you have been ignoring all this while? Wait, I think I see something."
A faint outline had begun to be visible through the fog. Kamijou moved in its general direction, avoiding puddles whenever possible. As he got nearer, he began to distinguish more of the structure.
Tall walls made of stone, with obscured windows at regular intervals that didn't let any glimpse of the interior pass. A square keep that towered over it all.
Moving closer, he began to see more. A wall rounded the complex, with watchtowers at the corners and smaller tower-like structures erected at either side of a drawbridge, that presided over a moat filled with water.
The mist hadn't stopped becoming denser, and by now it was so thick Kamijou could physically feel it washing over him, but he had drawn so close that he could see everything in detail.
The impact of seeing a castle in this out-of-place corner of a cursed forest didn't cause as much of an impact as it probably should have, in part because it had been revealed gradually and the boy already had formed an idea of what was in store for him much earlier, and in part because an abandoned fortress fitted the scenery so much.
None of it, though, attracted his attention as much as the small figure in front of him.
Standing in front of the lowered bridge, as if guarding the door, was a girl of young age, with a very slim body line, long blonde hair, green eyes, white skin and, most important of all, long, narrow ears that marked her as a non-human. Light Novel Reader Kamijou's mind went blank when he realized what that meant. His thoughts shot straight to the fantasy race that possessed that feature.
"I am an Alfar, intruder. Elf is the word your race gave the imagined beings that were inspired from us."
"No… It can't be!"
Kamijou fell to his knees. Unable to endure his weight, his body fell forward, prostrating him.
"Intruder. Leave at once… What's wrong?"
"Elves… Elves are not supposed to be like you!"
"You're blonde, fine. You're fair-skinned, all good. You live in a forest, everything's correct. But elves are supposed to be century-old voluptuous maidens! Elusive girls who are too shy to come into contact with humans because they live in seclusion! You're not supposed to be the ominous voice that warns intruders! I could accept a guardian of the forest role, but get yourself a bow and arrows at least!"
"I have no idea what you're talking about, and how many stupid clichés are you going to mix at random? Anyway…"
Her next sentence was lost amidst the abrupt rumbling that suddenly pervaded everything around them. At first glance, it seemed even the castle was trembling, but a calmer inspection revealed that it was the fog what was moving strangely.
"What's that, miss fake-elf?"
"Again, I'm an Alfar. And… That's probably coming from that monster."
"That monster? With italics and all?"
"Yes. The one that lives in the moat."
"A monster that lives in the moat?"
"Exactly. Could you stop repeating everything I say? It normally sleeps, but it seems your unfamiliar presence awakened him."
"Oh, man. Is it because that guardian of the forest thing I said? Did I jinx it?"
"Anyway, we're done for." The elf suddenly sighed. "Usually I'm inside the castle, but that thing wouldn't hesitate to attack me, and there's no way we can outrun it. That doesn't change that you need to leave, as soon as possible." She gave him a pointed look. "Great misfortune awaits you if you persist in exploring this place any further."
"You said that already. Are you stupid? What's the point of the sapling trying to brag in front of the master?"
The conversation couldn't proceed any further, because from below the water of the moat, from behind the mist, that thing came.
It was a scorpion. And a very big one at that, even when compared to the ones the boy had seen in the desert. It was at least four meters tall, with a tail almost as long as its body. Instead of the sand brown of its desert kind, its color was more reddish, though it conserved the wicked purple glint in the sting.
Or at least that was what Kamijou thought, until he noticed how the origin of the fog's strange patterns originated from its body.
"Holy shit… Don't tell me it's radiating heat?! Is the entire forest covered in mist because of that thing?!"
"Didn't you find it strange? How there was so much fog around despite being completely at odds with the natural climate?"
Kamijou was, at the moment, quite drenched from head to toe. He had assumed that it was the normal consequence of walking inside the fog for so long, but maybe that was masking the sweating? If he thought about it, then it seemed the temperature really had been going up the closer he got to the castle.
"Now that you mention it… Wait, now's not the time to explain!"
Meanwhile, the scorpion had gotten out of the water and onto the ground, and was starting to walk towards them.
"Leave, intruder. Maybe you will be able to escape while it's focused on me."
Moving her sights from the monster for an instant, the elf was surprised to find the completely normal teenager smiling against the danger.
"To think I would be forced to unleash this move twice… Not bad, virtual world. I shall commend you."
(Has he gone crazy from fear?)
"Here we go!" The loud sound made the monster pause for a second, which the confident warrior used to take a step closer to his opponent. "Kamijou-style, secret move: RUN AWAY!"
And just like that, his right hand grabbed the arm of the elf to whom he had drawn closer with his earlier step and started to rush back from whence he came.
"C'mon, c'mon, c'mon! Run, you destroyer of dreams! Run!"
"Are you crazy?! There's no way we can outrun that thing! Every step of his covers more ground than several of ours!"
"And that's why we won't simply run. We just need to get far enough that it doesn't detect us for a little while."
After two minutes of frantic tripping with roots and sinking ankle deep in a bunch of poodles, the boy finally relented and slowed his mad dash.
"We don't have much time. I can still feel the heat behind, so whatever its reason is, it's still following us."
"It doesn't need a reason."
"Although I am curious, I will keep my questions in line until we've dodged that thing."
The blond girl studied the boy, who seemed to be searching for something. A distant noise that sounded suspiciously close to "boom" made her nervously turn her head back.
"I think this one will do. Come here."
Hesitatingly, she approached the location where the boy had crouched and was checking something. At first glance, all she saw was an ordinary puddle, and a relatively small one at that. Nothing in particular seemed to distinguish it from the multiple others that littered the landscape as far as the mist allowed them to see.
"How is this going to help…"
"In you go."
The poor elf didn't have time to react when Kamijou grabbed her once more and stepped forward right into the pond, sinking waist deep with the first stride. Another two quick movements, and all that remained at the surface was their heads.
"Umm, why are we doing this…?"
Moving a finger to his lips to indicate that she shouldn't speak so loud, the boy explained in a low voice.
"First off, that thing is a desert scorpion, right? Though I have no idea how he got here or why it's got such an insane stove vocation."
"Yes, I think it should be." Replied in an equally low tone the Alfar. "As for the second question… It's my fault."
"Desert scorpions don't rely on sight or smell to hunt, but vibrations. Each of its eight legs can detect even a grain of sand moving in its search radius. And since our moving heater is that big, its radius is probably bigger than a usual one as well."
"Oh." She started to understand. "That's why we…"
"Right. They're supposed to be desert scorpions, so how that works outside a sand environment is unknown to me, so we have no choice but take a leap of faith and work with the assumption that it works on land the same as in sand. If that's how it goes, then being submerged in water and staying as still as possible should make him unable to detect us. The only problem was getting far enough of its radius so it doesn't notice how we suddenly vanish from its radar."
"And that's why we ran?"
"You seem to know a lot about them."
"Well… I looked up a bit of trivia over the Internet after my first meeting with the species. Though that was in the desert."
He wrapped his arms around himself and tried to contain his trembling. The water was not cold, but it wasn't warm, either. And he preferred not to risk if the thing's sensitivity was enough to pick unusual waves crashing in the shore of a puddle, so remaining as still as possible was a good thing to do. The Alfar seemed to notice and tried to stop moving as much too.
Another one of those booms sounded in the distance, though it appeared to be closer than before. If that meant the scorpion was inching closer, it wasn't good news, but there was nothing they could do.
"Alright. Your turn."
"You said it didn't need a reason to search for us?"
"Well, no. Since it's a monster. Attacking people is what monsters do."
Kamijou felt the urge to facepalm at the obnoxiously obvious answer, but the booming sounds were growing ever closer and he couldn't raise his arms from under the water because it might create ripples in the surface. Instead, his mind traveled to another comment the girl had made a few minutes before.
"Hey, didn't you say before that how it got here was your fault? What was that about?"
"That…" The Alfar sighed, and fell in silence for a while, seemingly debating with herself how to best approach the question. Finally, with a certain hesitation, she opened her mouth.
"It's not that unusual for a monster from the hot region to wander by chance into the forest. The transition between both environments is quite fast, after all. They normally walk around for a bit, but end up coming back to where they're used to live. The problem…" She chewed her lip, still pondering, but finally went ahead. "The problem lies with myself." She confessed.
She was expecting a raised eyebrow along with some incredulity, maybe some blame if the boy trusted what she said at face fault, and in any case, demands for more information, seeing as it'd be her fault that they were in this situation to begin with if what she claimed was true. Instead, he merely sank more into the water, eyes wide, until only his nose was still above the surface. He moved his eyes to urge her to do the same, and she acquiesced.
Since her mouth was now under the water level, she used her eyes instead to ask him what happened, and in response he stared meaningfully behind her. Slowly, so as not to agitate the water too much, she rotated her body gradually, only to let out a startled gasp when she came face to leg with the scorpion. Thankfully, the water prevented any real sound to come out, but she still wanted to kick herself for not noticing how the fog had become a bit denser.
Still, they were very near the monster since the beginning, so it wasn't that strange not to notice it. In stark contrast, the warming of the water she was submerged in couldn't have been more obvious.
She looked back at the boy, who gave her a grim nod, having come to the same conclusion as she had. There was nothing they could do. The monster didn't know exactly where they were, or they would have already become mincemeat by now. However, its mere presence would raise the surrounding temperature forcefully, eventually boiling them alive.
Everything depended on how much the scorpion wanted to kill them. Even if it didn't know exactly were they were hiding, it was still aware of the general area, so if it persisted in its search, they were dead, regardless of whether it actually found them or not.
On the other hand, if it gave up and went back, they'd be able to leave without any other major hassle. Unfortunately, it seemed the beast was feeling tenacious today, so they wouldn't have such luck.
Another one of those booms went off. It came from farther off in the mist, but it was significantly louder than all the others. Come to think of it, if the scorpion wasn't the reason for them, what was its cause? Sneaking a glance without letting the monster out of her view, she found that her spiky-haired companion had raised his head a bit, freeing both his ears from the dampening effect of the water, and had closed his eyes in concentration.
Another sound went off. This one was actually a bit farther than the others. Then another, and another, whatever was producing them seemingly moving away from their position.
The young girl didn't know if that was good or bad, since the giant furnace monster was still nearby and the water's temperature was starting to reach dangerous levels of hot, but didn't have the time to consider, because right at that moment, the boy raised his head and shouted "Here!" at the top of his lungs.
After that display of utter idiocy, several things happened in quick succession. The scorpion rushed in their direction, appearing from god-knows-where amidst the fog. The booming sounds started to sound closer and closer. And the boy took impulse, lunged at her, and dragged her under the water before she had a chance to take a breath.
The next few seconds were a bit blurry, but by the time she had fought her way back to the surface and taken a gulp of air, everything was over.
The monster lay in front of their little marsh, completely bisected in two from its tail to the head. Its close proximity to the water meant the place was rapidly raising in temperature, so she hurried out of it. Just behind her, she heard the boy surface.
"That was dangerous." He remarked, as he climbed and tried in vain to wring out some water from his clothes. "We should probably move away for a bit from the corpse. It's going to take a while to cool off."
The shock of witnessing the terror so easily cut in two seemed not two had worn off yet, as she assented but her feet refused to move. The boy simply took her hand and tugged her in a random direction away from the two halves.
Or maybe not that random, as someone was waiting for them a bit away. The tall woman was holding an incredibly long Japanese sword that was most probably the cause of the scorpion's demise, but the elf still didn't recognize her until the woman's eyes moved away from the boy who was saluting her with a raised hand and spotted her.
A short while later, they had moved away from the still fuming remains of the scorpion and were going to the castle. The fog had cleared up a bit, and they hadn't run that far when they were escaping before, so the building it was already visible from their position.
"So, you two know each other?" Asked Kamijou.
"…You could say that." Responded Kanzaki Kaori, the person who had come to their rescue.
"I see now. You were the cause of those noises. The booms were produced when you broke the sound barrier to move around."
"How did you get here so fast, anyway?" The spiky-haired boy inquired. "I mean, not how in the sense you ran, but why did you come? Not that I'm not grateful."
"I entered the game not that long after you were attacked. The carriage had managed to get away and was on its way back to town, and the Jeans Shop Owner explained the situation to me, so I decided to come back as fast as I could to see if I was in time to be of help. When I arrived, I just ran around until I heard your shout."
"Oh, thanks for that. You saved us."
"No, but…" The Saint of unparalleled strength appeared dubious. "I wasn't expecting to find you. I mainly wanted to do some recon on the place for the mission. Couldn't you have just disconnected when you were in danger?"
For a second, both man and elf paused in their steps. Then, the Alfar looked to the side, ashamed, while the boy merely hanged his head and muttered "Such misfortune" under his breath.
"I forgot we had that option thanks to miss fake elf's shock."
"You are still going on with that?!"
While bickering, the trio reached the bridge. The Alfar took the initiative to cross, gesturing for the other two to follow her. Kamijou, who was still discussing with her went next, with the Saint right after.
They made their way through a deserted courtyard, which the young elf, asking as guide, informed them it was called bailey. After that, they entered a square tower, went up some narrow stairs and finally reached a wide room. Both the walls and ceiling were made of stone, but the lingering heat made it so it wasn't chilly. In the middle sat a round table with some chairs. The elf sat and motioned for the two visitors to do the same.
"…We just kinda followed the mood and came here, but what do we do now?"
"Right." The oldest woman present coughed twice to hide her embarrassment at failing to realize that, before continuing to talk. "The mission was to identify what was causing the fauna and flora of the zone to mutate, but…"
She trailed off and looked to the other female in the room, who avoided her eyes. Touma looked at the both of them alternatively, until he realized.
"Right! She said before that she was the reason that freak of an outdoors oven came here, so was your mission to look for her?" The Saint nodded slowly, and the boy turned to the elf again. "Can you explain how that works now?"
Both black-haired people were looking at her now, but the blonde remained silent. Kanzaki sighed, shaking a bit her head in understanding.
Even if Kamijou was a bit of an idiot, he wouldn't miss such obvious cues.
"So you know too? Is it some kind of Magic Side secret I'm not allowed to know of?"
"You're not a mage?"
Mildly stunned, the Alfar stared intensely at Kamijou, who huffed and crossed his arms.
"Do you think if I could do any fancy tricks I wouldn't have used them before the situation got literally too hot to handle?"
"There's a million reasons you wouldn't be able to. Attribute compatibility, lack of mana, range of the spell, or maybe the legend it's based on had some specific circumstance that could… Never mind."
The utterly lost look on the face of her logical explanations finally convinced the blonde girl that the other boy was, indeed, not connected to magic. She lowered her head to the table, placed her face between her arms, and groaned.
"Great. This only makes things more difficult…"
The teenager tilted his spiky head.
"Is something the matter?"
"Her circumstances are… complicated." Explained Kanzaki as she glanced at the other girl in sympathy. "Her existence is… unnatural, you could say. I cannot tell you more than that, as it is not my secret to tell."
"No, it's fine."
The girl raised her head and looked forward with some apprehension. Kanzaki judged her expression, before inquiring:
"Are you sure?"
"It's okay. He went out of his way to save me, putting himself in danger in doing so. He deserves at least that much sincerity."
"Even though we could have just disconnected."
The remark was so on point that even Kamijou himself, who had said it, took some mental damage.
And then, perhaps because of the stimulation (why his mind worked better under pressure was because it was a necessary skill he had acquired in order to survive or because he was a bit of an M was anyone's guess at that point) the direct implications of what he just said hit him.
"You could have just disconnected… That's what Kanzaki said before. And you didn't deny it. You… Are you not from this world?"
The lack of an answer was enough of a confirmation. Mechanically, the boy turned slowly, and he looked to the Saint that would confirm the suspicions that were growing in his hearts.
"Do… Do elves exist in the real world?"
For a moment, both women could almost see the interrogation signs psychically manifest on top of the boy's head.
"What? But you said…"
"There are no Alfar in our world. As far as we know, at least."
"And that's the crux of the question. The truth is, I…"
The blond girl started to say something but was unable to continue. She took a deep breath, gathered her resolve anew, and laid bare the truth.
"The truth is, I am a man-made lifeform."
The one who broke the tense silence that ensued was the boy.
"Are… Are you fine with that?"
"Well, yeah. Why do you ask?"
"You probably don't understand, but… artificial life forms are not different from tools for most people in our line of work. Homunculi, golems, chimeras, they are usually created by convenience as a battle potential or to fill very specific roles."
"That should have been the case for me as well, but…"
Kanzaki explained with a serious air. The Alfar agreed, still half bewildered with the lack of reaction from the teenager, but her words blurred at the end. However, Kamijou didn't really seem to get what they were talking about, so she was forced to continue when he remained silent.
"I can't say I have the same experience as those beings. After all, I was too useful to be disposed of."
"? I still don't quite get why that's important here?"
"…You're right. My history really doesn't matter all that much. It's just, I haven't really made contact with anyone who's not a magician, so I assumed your reaction would be different."
"Really? How so?"
"Well… I wasn't really expecting outright hostility, or even contempt, but some sort of indifference. However you didn't change."
"Is that so. Mmm…" Kamijou looked up, thinking. "I don't know. In my case there may be some bias. I already knew some other people who were also man-made."
"Huh?! I didn't know about that!"
"You haven't been to Academy City that much, so that's kind of obvious. Plus, they're from the Science Side, so I don't know if it's something I should be talking about or not."
""Other people", you say? As in plural? How many?"
Kanzaki got a minor freak out, and the young elf felt a strange sense of companionship that drove her to ask for more information.
"It's a standard 9969 package + one loli version + a busty onee-chan type, so they add app to 9971 in total. As far as I know."
"That many?! And as far as you know?! Could there be more?! Is the Science Side raising an army or something?!"
"Oh, I wonder if Kazakiri counts? She wasn't created directly, but she was born from an artificial environment, so it's indirect influence, maybe?"
Kanzaki got a major freak out, and the strange sense of companionship in the elf became a strange feeling of loneliness.
Thankfully, by that point Kanzaki-san's resistance to unexpected situations had gone up by at least 5% since the day before, all thanks to Kamijou (who by the way was already close to capping at a 96% resistance, the last 4% before immunity being reserved for whatever came after the Magic Gods in the scale of freakiness), so she ended regaining her bearings in record time.
"Let's leave that aside for now. What we should do is ascertain our next course of action. The first objective, "find the reason for the changes in the forest", has been fulfilled, but as for the second one, "stop the changes", we should-"
Since Kanzaki became her serious self once again an took the reins of the conversation, Good-mannered Kamijou made sure to properly raise his hand before he interrupted.
"Nobody has explained to me what exactly is going on with the forest yet. I mean, you" He pointed to the Alfar, "said that it was your fault, and you" back to the Saint, "obviously agree with her, and since you knew her from before probably already knew what her circumstances are, but I'm still in the dark."
"Oh, that's right. We never really got to explain it to you, right. It's simple. Things have come to this point because of my nature."
The blonde girl took the initiative to explain.
"Your nature? As in being created and not born?"
"Exactly. Living beings evolve according to their environment. However, because of the way I was created, I am an unknown that doesn't exist anywhere in the universe. So logically, the rest of beings in the world perceive me as a threat and develop to protect themselves from me. That's why most of the changes they undergo aren't related to efficiency, but to survival. Bigger teeth, more powerful jaws, stronger legs to run faster, more poisonous toxins, better camouflage mechanisms... Everything that could help in fight or flight situations. In case of the plants, it'd be thorns, venoms, or ways to make it more difficult to access to the seeds. That's what happened in the real world."
"Wait, wait a second. Evolution isn't something that happens in the course of a lifetime. It's something that takes course over generations. Even if all you say happened, wouldn't that only affect short-lived species like insects?"
"That's why I was created. That's… my ability."
"The one who made me was a magician with a genetic defect that made him unable to use complex magic. It was impossible to treat or to cure, so he created me as a means to advance."
The high school boy started to understand.
"That's right. I forcefully accelerate the rate at which living beings mutate and change. The first signs usually appear in no more than four hours. Also," She looked him in the eyes, "humans are not exempt from my influence."
Kamijou involuntarily was taken aback, but Kanzaki immediately intervened.
"Fortunately, this isn't the real world, so any changes that happen to you will disappear once you disconnect and connect back."
"For real!? Ah, I guess that makes sense. Otherwise if a monster broke a bone it'd be very boring to have to wait four months in-game to hunt again."
"However, the fact this is another world presents two different problems that we need to resolve." Continued the Saint. "The first is the monsters themselves. It is unknown how your influence affects them."
"That's easy to understand." Surprisingly, the elf had a readied answer. "It isn't much different from how animals are affected. However, there's a fundamental difference between the two." She raised a finger. "Animals are weak. Their systems do not support the changes I force them to endure. They easily die, because adapting to me makes them unable to respond to the rest of the normal environment."
"So it's like taking a monkey or a dog from the wilds, raise them in captivity and then freeing them again, so they're not used to it and can't survive?"
"More or less." She nodded to Kamijou's analogy. "But monsters are different. They're very beings are unnaturally aggressive and dangerous. From a logical standpoint they shouldn't fit anywhere in the normal environments we know of, but they manage to somehow do so anyway. The plainly don't make any sense. In their case, my presence is only a great advantage for them, since it makes them deadlier at no cost. Their systems adapt automatically to all the new upgrades, because that's what they were designed to do in the first place."
"So that's what you meant the scorpion was your fault." The high school boy laid back in his seat.
"Indeed. It was originally a normal monster that came from the desert. However, it stayed for long enough near the castle that my presence affected him enough that he couldn't leave."
Both of his listeners' expressions were expressing "Sensei, I don't understand", so she crossed her fingers on the table and organized her ideas to make it easier to make sense of.
"There are not that many mutations that an animal can acquire. It can change its size, develop a new organ, repurpose an existent one so it can gain another function, or improve on something they already had. The reason they die is because either the new or the improved organ takes too many resources to maintain, or it impairs the usage of other, more vital ones. For example, a bigger brain would make them more intelligent, but would require more food to be consumed. If the environment doesn't have enough resources to sustain the necessary intake, the animal dies. If it develops glands to segregate a toxin that needs too much energy that it doesn't have, it dies. If it develops scales so heavy they can shrug off knifes but makes the body too heavy to move, it dies. That's the kind of death I bring.
The difference between monsters and animals is that monsters specs are greater, and naturally suited to fight, so there's a less minor chance that the changes can't be sustained. If a strong monster happens to develop armored scales, it'll still have no problem moving around."
"To summarize, for a change to be something good and not bad, the animal or monster needs to be able to sustain it, which is much easier for monsters, and the environment needs to be adequate to the circumstances?"
"That's more or less it." The Alfar confirmed to Honor Student Kanzaki, who had transferred her serious mode to the academic ambit.
"So when you said it mutated and couldn't leave, you mean the scorpion changed in a way that it could leave in the forest and not the desert?"
"Exactly, very good." Receiving the approval of the teacher, rival Kamijou who didn't want to be left behind sent a smug look at the Saint, who merely blinked. "To be precise, it couldn't leave the moat."
"Oh, I see. It became that hot, so it needed to cool itself constantly or it'd melt from the inside. It's the contrary of what the cold-blooded reptiles do, when they warm themselves to the sun, right?"
"That's the conclusion I arrived at." The Alfar nodded her head at the boy's deduction. "Since I came, I haven't seen it leave for more than some hours at a time. The desert doesn't have enough water, and in the other direction there's the lake, but the air isn't as cool as in here, in the forest, so this made the best environment."
"Whatever. It's dead now, doesn't matter."
"Now that you're informed," Kanzaki took the lead once more, "I believe we should face the situation we're in. As I said, the cause is identified, but stopping the changes is another matter entirely. If the one who did it was a magician it was my duty to stop him or her, but there's no way you can do that since it happens outside of your control."
"In that case, how do you usually do it in the real world?"
"I don't." The question was innocent, and Kamijou had asked with the best intentions, but the elf's face couldn't help but darken nonetheless. "I am currently residing in a research facility in the Lake District, in complete isolation. While some items have been developed that can temporarily seal my powers, nothing conclusive has been obtained." She heaved a sigh. "It's why I requested to play the game. I was hoping this avatar wouldn't have the same problems as my real body. It turns out there was a project to allow non-humans to travel to the game, so I was allowed to participate as long as they get feedback. They were a little too successful. Being here isn't that different from there."
"But it's a game, right? You said it yourself. The effects are temporary. If the minimum time for effects to manifest is about four hours, that means you still have three or more where it doesn't matter!"
"That's not the real problem."
"Then what is?"
Instead of answering, the Alfar looked at the Saint.
"Kamijou Touma, think about it. She is a creature who doesn't exist anywhere in this world. The creatures she comes in contact with, then, carry with them the fact they have been in contact with something alien, and are consequently foreigners themselves. Evolution happens in accordance with the conditions of the environment, so if you were to come in contact with someone or something that carries that which does not belong…"
"Then, you start to evolve yourself to adapt to that other being?" Completed Kamijou with his eyes wide. "Even if it's not the original source?"
"The first time I accessed this other world, I arrived near here. After confirming that my powers were indeed still in effect, I haven't moved past a kilometer radius away from this very castle. However, you have already seen the state of the forest."
"Hold on… Then the fact every single tree is that creepy is because of you?"
"Technically speaking, they are the product of the closest beings to them, who were in turn twisted by their neighbors, but if you were to follow that trail to the source of the distortion, it would indeed lead to me."
"Do you understand now? The sort of predicament we are in? If we do nothing, the mutation wave will continue to advance until it envelops the whole world. And players might be safe, but the rest of the original inhabitants won't." The maiden sighed like a 40-year-old worker who had been dumped extra work when it was almost time to check out. "For the time being, I used a charm on the way here to inform the Jean Shop Owner of the circumstances. He's coming as we speak. He's the one who helped transport her from where we met to the facility without affecting everyone in the path, so maybe he'll have some ideas."
"If the problem would stop by simply ceasing to play, I would, but there's no point, since the moment my powers were confirmed to work my presence was unnecessary. So I have been coming to enjoy the feeling in being in the forest once more."
"Come to think of it, what happened to the people who were living in this castle before you came?"
Saint Kanzaki decided to honor her moniker by worrying about other people when it didn't matter what she did. The blonde girl smiled.
"Fortunately, I believe all are alive and well. They fled to the nearest city some time ago. I would believe they were probably the reason you heard about this place. It's very plausible they made a request to however governs this region to have the castle retaken."
"Yes. They lost it to that monster you defeated in a single blow."
"Somehow, that seems dubious. This place wasn't built in a day. They should have the means to defend against monsters, or they wouldn't even entertain the idea of building in this location."
"Oh, they were plenty capable of repelling a lone scorpion. What they defeated them was the fact the scorpion suddenly started to heat up and threatened to kill them all by heatstroke and other indirect causes. By that point, not that many trees hadn't changed, so they thought it was merely a matter of subjugating the it. They sent a strong party, but the rest of the monsters that had evolved were too much and they fled too." She brought a finger to her lips. "Come to think of it, I seem to remember they brought a monster dog to scout, but it was left behind. I wonder what happened to it." She shook her head. "Anyway, by chance, the combination of the scorpion's fog and the twisted trees created the impression that the forest was cursed so it was mostly left alone, until you came today."
"Okay, I got it."
Kamijou hadn't been attention to the discussion of the two girls, seemingly deep in thought. It was a shame, as he'd have been able to instantly point just what exactly happened with that random monster dog –namely, it grew two more heads and changed its class to ninja. As he had not, he simply informed the others of what he had thought of.
"The first thing that comes to mind is obviously my right hand, but it's not a foolproof method. I mean, it's not like I can go around the forest touching every single insect and blade of grass. And even if I somehow could, we don't even know if it could work. If it's really a natural evolution that has zero reliance on magic, it'd be useless. As for the source, I can't exactly hold her hand for four hours and checking if a flower changes or not, right?"
"Is your right hand special in some way?"
It was the Alfar's turn to raise her hand and ask a question, but Kamijou waved it away with a "That's not important right now."
"And so, we'll go with the other one. It solves both the question of what to do to the already mutated beings as well as dealing with the source with one fell swoop at the same time! I bet you could even go outside."
He smiled at her.
"You said you logged in to enjoy the forest, but you haven't moved around much since you discovered what you could cause to the other people here in order not to accelerate the spread of the wave, right? I'm saying you'll be free to go anywhere!"
The young girl who had been denied other human contact fidgeted, but Kamijou was able to see the hopeful glint in her eyes, so he laughed in affirmation. Obviously, Kanzaki was also curious.
"So what is that solution of yours?"
"Not what, but who. An... I guess you could say she's an acquaintance? Anyway, she's most suited to this."
"Is it a magician you're talking about? During the days after meeting for the first time, I checked the records of the majority of known and Church-affiliated magicians that could be of help, but there were none. Is that person a rogue magician or something similar?"
"Technically, yes. Why do you ask?"
"Well… While the bracelets were distributed to the general public, among magicians it was mostly restricted to the followers of the Churches involved in its creation, so even if she really is capable of helping, in case she isn't affiliated with us, it'd be useless were she unable to obtain a bracelet and come to this other world…"
Kanzaki's concerns were certainly valid. However, she didn't know the person he was talking about, so he could refute her with confidence.
"Nah, if it's her she'd have gotten one for sure. The problem will be finding her. But don't worry."
"Do you have a method of contacting that person?"
"Not really, but I know someone who probably does. And if that fails, at worst I can always call in a favor. I mean, I won that competition, so God kinda owes me one."
And done! As I mentioned before, chapter 3 of Kanzaki SS: Norse Mythology is the place where the Alfar comes from. I personally like this character, even though that's the only appareance it has. Next chapter, we'll also see how that quintet of OCs from two chapters ago are doing, and we'll also find out who is the one Kamijou wants to ask help from.
Can you figure out who, my dear readers? Just in case you skimmed, the clues provided are: the person is a she, a magician, and unaffiliated with the Churches. Also, Kamijou considers her resourceful. Finally, my freebie for you is that there's even a bit of modern culture irony involved regarding her identity and who our hero wants to her to help.
If you leave a name in your reviews, explaining why you think her powers or abilities would be useful to resolve the situation, and happen to guess correctly, I'll think of a prize for you. I'll only take in consideration the reviews and not the PM, since that makes it easier to check the order in which you guys posted. Also, I'm sorry, but I'll only consider registered accounts. I'm sorry for all the Guests, but if someone guesses correctly first with the name "Guest" and then three different people with the same username post asking for the prize, there'd be no way to determine who is in the right.
That's all for today.
Cerberus - Actually, every time Fluffy (yes, that's what I call the doggy) (no, it's not a dragon) (it's my story, dammit! leave me alone!) was barking, he was actually trying to communicate! This is what he said (one for each head):
"We're at war. No one wants to admit it, but monsterkind is under attack."
"You're making a habit of costing me more than time and money."
"Strength for me is strength for monsterkind. I am monsterkind!"
Lone Wanderer Kamijou - Tour Guide disconnected, Jeans Shop Owner escaped, and Kanzaki didn't even appear, leaving him lost in the forest.
"Who needs friends, anyway?"
And many more...