Kamijou had just opened his eyes, waking up from an emotional faint. No, he was not in the hospital room his nose had memorized through smell. Instead, he was in his neglected home and in front of the door.
"Oh good! Touma, you're awake again."
He looked to his left and saw a young girl in a white nun's habit with gold highlights, complimenting the girl's own silver hair.
"Index? What happened? Why did I pass out?"
He didn't remember having any encounters with magicians today nor had he run into certain espers with hostile feelings directed specifically to him. In fact, the day had gone relatively smoothly for him. He still had to go through some unwanted predicaments throughout the day, but as long there was no one trying to kill him after lecturing on the workings of their powers, he had no qualms.
"Don't you remember? You cried that overused expression of yours and fainted while your eyes swirled."
He didn't like the sound of that. His scalp wasn't throbbing from a cruel bite yet he had yelled an eardrum beating "Fukou da." The feeling fell lower once he noticed the door was open. He got up and saw a man in his thirties in a brown suit with a red tie. He had less than 300 strands of hair on his head, vertically combed frontward to his eyes. He wore lightly tinted spectacles with a red pen attached to the left of it and sticking out.
(He doesn't look like he's a magician,) he thought to himself.
"Um, can I help you?" he asked nervously.
The man took a step back. "What? You forgot already?" The man noticed his overzealous stance and reformed his professional composure. "Ah, well, we only spoke for less than a minute anyway. Wouldn't kill me to start over. Ahem. Hello Kamijou-san. My name is Tanaka. I've come representing the entirety of Academy City to inform you that you are in our debt."
"Debt?" His face became blotched with mixes of different horrors.
"That is correct. Your presence has been growing in these path months and in combination of our video cameras and eye witness account, we have tied your increased presence with many of the city's conflicts. Many of the illicit conflicts taking place within the city have resulted in major damage. I'm sure you can see where this is going."
He gulped. "How much is the debt?" He was afraid to hear what the answer would be. If the debt was great enough to shock him into unconsciousness, he would at least have to ask Index to stand behind him.
"Em, not to offend, but I'd rather you wait until I leave to hear about. You friend was with you when the door was answered."
He nodded and continued listening to Tanaka.
"While you may be thinking of escaping the city in hopes of leaving a debt behind, I am glad to announce that we will be lenient on you. As a student here, surely the fact that Academy City has more than enough money to fund all communities within, is present in your mind. We are not asking full reparation of the money we had to spend on repairs and renovations. We simply ask for a small fraction of the money needed from you to affirm your loyalty to the city remains."
He nodded and quietly thought to himself. After a small pause, he says, "Only a small fraction. Although I'm confident it will still be a lot for me to pay, I can say I find it fair in hindsight." His mind briefly went over times like when he stopped the Level 6 project (the scientist involved grudge thinking about it to this day), the multiple magicians he's attracted over here (not his fault entirely), and the multiple hospital bills left unpaid (his parents can only pay so much). Still, he made no regrets in his actions that might have resulted this debt. Knowing full well the technology of the city, it is certain that they know how involved he has been in these struggles. They could have been austere and lay a dire and unpleasant punishment onto him to really consider running from the city. The mere fact that they are willing to put on a blind eye on if he pays this debt is already enough.
"Is that so? You're really okay? Well then, I don't think I need to stay here any longer. I had a file of our records around the incidents and payments to convince you in the chance you rejected paying, but if you're wholeheartedly agreeing, I see no point in delaying your time."
Tanaka bowed and was just about to leave before remembering one last thing.
"Time? That's right, I almost forgot the deadline for the debt. You have exactly one week to get the money, Sunday at noon. Now, do you have any last questions before I go?"
" A couple," Kamijou said. Hearing the little time he was given to pay off a debt worried him and with his luck, he'd like to know a very possible outcome. "First: What happens if I don't pay the debt in time?"
Tanaka frowned. "Well, in the unfortunate case you cannot complete payment, we will give you two choices. You must either choose between allowing us to detain you or you may give everything you have to us and then work for the city permanently."
"Y-yes. The main focus of you paying the debt is to ascertain your alliance to Academy City. Now as for your second question?"
Kamijou already last the will to talk, but he absolutely needed to ask his second question if all of this was legitamate. "My second question is how can I trust you?"
"How can I trust you? After all, you're asking me to give you a lot of money, right? How do I know if I'm not in any sort of scam?"
"Ah, I see. Unfortunately, I am quite unable to do so right here. Do not doubt me, though. I simply don't have the equipment to prove it. Had you asked me to prove the Earth is round, I would have responded in the same way. However, I understand where you're coming from. If it would make you feel better you're free to drop by my office anytime so I may prove it to you there."
"Where is your office?"
"I promptly handed you a business card when you answered the door. If memory serves me right, you should have slipped it into your right pocket.
He checked and indeed there was a card with the name Naoki Tanaka and an address and phone number.
"It works out better this way," Tanaka said. "We can remove the banks from this problem and do the transactions in person. Perhaps if I observe enough loyalty out of you, I may contribute a small amount of money to the debt you owe."
A honking noise could be heard in the distance.
"Oh, there's my ride. As of right now you have 168 hours and a debt your friend will disclose to you. If you need to ask anymore questions or even need some help along the way, give me a call or pay me a visit. Have a good day, Kamijou-san."
He left his sight and as seconds passed, the tonks of the stairs faded away.
The spike-haired boy stood there staring blankly at nothing. This entire talk about debt and proof of loyalty had given him a mixed bag of emotions, including shock, confusion, and doubt.
(Did I really calmly accept a large debt without any screaming? Ah well. Perhaps the constant shock from magicians have heightened my threshold for anxiety. Or maybe I'm only calm because I still don't know how much I owe. They're giving me a week so it must not be much.)
He closed the door and turned to Index who had been quietly watching him.
"Mm? What's wrong Index?"
"Touma," she slowly said. "If you don't pay this debt then that means you have to go to jail or give away everything, correct?"
"Including the apartment?"
It seems that the problem had escalated once more. While her being evicted from the apartment wouldn't be the worst thing to happen to her, he didn't want to risk her safety and have her live in the streets, or worse, with Tsuchimikado
"It's okay," Index reassuringly said. "I know you'll be able to do this. Look how calm you are after all!"
"Eheh! About that, I think the shock and fear of it all hasn't settled at all in me because I don't know how much this debt is."
"Oh! That's right. According to that man, you are sharing less than one percent of the total damage done in Academy City that you were involved with. People settled on a price that seemed achievable by you yet needed hard work to achieve. With that said, you owe Academy City exactly one million yen."
"Touma! Not again!"
Debt remaining: 1,000,000 yen
Time remaining: 168 hours
Something I'm trying out. This should be more regularly updated than the other story I'm working on. I don't find myself excessively criticizing myself before I write every sentence. I'll probably update again Tuesday, unless it snows over here and school gets cancelled Monday.