And here we are with another chapter!
This is the chapter that finally deals with the motivations of the entire arc…and also with what is happening on the underside of Academy City as we speak during the story. Although this is going to be a dialogue heavy chapter, I hope you can look forward to what happens from this point on and the revelations made.
Whatever the case, let's start with the Q & A:
Kami: Hahahaha, thank you so much for your kind words! Also glad that you enjoyed EEAAO – I haven't seen it myself but from what I hear, it approaches the multiverse idea extremely well which I'm always glad to hear about. I hope that you have a good day as well – thanks so much for saying that!
whwsms: I hope that the 'grown up' issues being faced are ones that you're enjoying: I know you're moving away from blindly accepting shounen tropes so I hope the focus appeals to you! I hope you look forward to the upcoming chapters!
Cyber dragonarmy: It's weird that I've been doing this for almost 10 years…but it's always a pleasure to post and write even though I haven't been doing a lot of it recently. And thank you so much for your support – I hope that my fic can continue to be enjoyed by you, especially with how long the chapters are starting to get, haha! As for the parallels between Touma and Kamui, I'm glad that you're seeing them – in a way, they're not so different so seeing how they butt heads is always fun to see for me. I hope you can enjoy what is going to come of their upcoming interactions…
TheDarkPublisher: Thank you so much for your kind words – they really mean a lot to me! I hope that you can look forward to how Touma is going to be 'rewarded' for his actions: he's definitely going to get something out of it so stay tuned! You might also be surprised as to who learns of the things Touma has done…
ShadowBloodedge9396: Okaeri! I'm glad that the chapter was worth the wait! There is definitely an explanation for how everyone was saved, so I hope you can enjoy it when it is finally revealed! I'm also glad that you're enjoying Orion in the grey area: I hope you both enjoy and also don't enjoy him as his actions shift him across both spectrums.
craytherlay: I tend to spend a lot of time going into details of the pain and emotions of things so don't expect that to end any time soon, haha! Don't give me ideas for a hermit Touma: it's the only way that he's going to be able to live in peace! You're partially reading what Orion said right – Orion BELIEVES that Touma is partially responsible for their survival…but you'll have to wait until I reveal how they actually survived! Also, I would love for it to be Othinus, but it's not. I hope you look forward to the upcoming reveals!
LoneVirgo98: Oh no, don't tempt me with how brutal the next arc is going to be… I hope you can remember Phi-chan and also the reveals that are going to be made in future chapters!
Guest: Touma is probably always going to have a hero complex…
xellos540: I hope you hold onto the idea that Touma thinks he's the only one who cares about people because that will be important later on! I think with respect to the feelings that Shutaura feels for Touma, it mainly has to do with the fact that she's still struggling to identify what is HER feelings and what is ARISA'S – this confusion is what prevents her from acing on her feelings…that and people are weirdly awkward in real life about stuff like that I've found. I'll leave things with Orion and what he saw a secret…for now.
DNWorks: Accelerator and Hamazura aren't there for a reason, although that's just for now. They won't be excluded forever!
Komigakuo: You'll definitely get to see Uiharu and Hayashida interact soon…
5had0wHand: You're definitely not wrong with commenting on how Touma is naïve – he's putting his hopes and dreams of the goodness in others on other people and in turn, creates a massive risk for those people. Glad to see that you think I got the comedy on point – as for Shutaura, she'd be in her late teens or early 20s. Also, don't give me ideas for Senator Armstrong memes… I haven't forgot Phi-chan, so don't worry about that!
emnash08: Dude, Academy City is FULL of deranged and mentally unstable people!
WwEpsilonwW: I'm really happy that you like Orion – he is, by far, one of the hardest characters for me to write so I hope you continue to enjoy what he delivers. He'll continue to be super edgy…
And the thanks, to you, the reader. We've come pretty damn far, haven't we? I have plans for the future, as do you and yet here we both are once again. As I give you words and you read them, I want you to know that I thank you from the bottom of my heart that you have found yourself here once again.
I also want to give my thanks to Hlioskjalfin. They've managed to create some art on their Twitter page (ReadingThoth78) for Hayashida Mari. It's really weird having people make art of OCs and not already established characters so I really want to thank them from the bottom of my heart for their support and time in creating that small piece of art!
As usual though, with the new GT novel out, I've given my thoughts on it at the end. I have to say it was a real jet coaster once it reached the final chapter, but all things considered, I really enjoyed it and what Kamachi delivered. Here's to waiting for the next instalment with the same eagerness I always do…
But enough of this preamble. From me, I hope you do what you always do when it comes to these chapters:
Mr Question Mark.
The hospital courtyard smelled like the fresh air the hospital wanted to have but could not. It was a relaxing smell but if there was anything in the atmosphere, it was entirely at odds with that smell wafting through the air.
Clear tension was in the air from the people at the table in the courtyard, the round table feeling like a conference for some shady organisation was happening here. While the group at the table was by no means shady, the discussion they were having was far from pleasant. The topic itself, before they had even started, weighed down on the minds of the people there, the reluctance to get started obvious.
Shutaura Sequenzia stared at the other people at the table, remembering her exact purpose in coming here.
She was here to learn more about one Kihara Kamui, the man who had caused the incident which had made her lose 8 members of the Black Crows. Although that netted out in that she had gained 41 more members from the enemy who had decided to defect, it was by no means an end result she could look at and be satisfied with.
In that hell where she had lost and gained comrades nothing had been explained.
Kihara Kamui had almost captured her, had taken her right hand man, Crow 1, hostage, before kidnapping two other people (who were now safe) as a backup plan for whatever Shutaura had been intended for. Very little made sense to her and because of that, the desire to know more about the reason for the attacks on her and what was happening within Academy City was the very reason she was here.
She was not alone, however.
Sitting to her right at the circular table was the boy who had brought her here; Kamijou Touma. He sat calmly, although there was something climbing into his pocket Shutaura remembered seeing before but not having thought much about it.
The strange blonde haired doll with the eye patch covering her right eye stared out into space without a care in the world. Shutaura remembered seeing that doll within Kamijou's apartment but what exactly it was doing here and why it was so close to him in his jacket pocket was beyond her.
It was just a doll…right?
Whatever the case, Shutaura turned her gaze to the person sitting to Kamijou's right at the round table. Her heart beat a little bit faster upon seeing her, attributed to the emotions of Meigo Arisa within Shutaura, but there was another reason why Shutaura herself felt her heart beat a bit faster upon seeing that girl next to Kamijou.
She was different from how Shutaura remembered her.
Index, the nun who was a dear friend to Arisa, was wearing a strip of cloth over her left eye. Like the eyepatch on the doll's right eye, the nun's left eye was entirely covered. Shutaura remembered having seen something in that girl's left eye before when they had met up before challenging Kamui but why she was covering it was unknown to Shutaura. She was otherwise fine and was sure to be an integral part to the conversation happening here.
Next to Index was one Misaka Mikoto.
She constantly glanced between the parties at the table, switching between concern when looking at Kamijou or irritation as she stared at the girl next to her, someone Shutaura had brought down especially given she had a vested interest in the workings of Kamui and his mind.
Hayashida Mari, the former Lieutenant General of MINUS, looked like she was sweating bullets given the people next to her. Although she had managed to do the right thing and betrayed Kamui, that did not erase her past when it came to what she had done for MINUS. It was clear to anyone that Mikoto was having trouble accepting the girl next to her, but as she was under the protection of the Black Crows and their ticket to getting more respect from Anti-Skill, Shutaura was not going to allow any harm to come to her.
Hayashida nodded at Shutaura in what was thanks for allowing her to come here before turning and facing both Kamijou and Index, people whom Hayashida had demanded she see ad speak with. For what reason Shutaura did not know but she had resolved any issues she had of such. She was going to allow it only because Kamijou and Index could deal with their own problems but the nervous anticipation on Hayashida's face gave her cause for concern.
What did she want to discuss with them?
And what was she holding under her clothes around her chest when looking at Kamijou?
Next to Hayashida and adding more tension to the Level 0 with the ability Quotient Extreme was the girl who had broken into her mind and convinced her to change sides; Shokuhou Misaki. Sitting in between the suspicious #3 and #5 was more than enough to make anyone nervous and the way the atmosphere was going, that was only compounded.
The final person, who was sitting to the left of Shutaura and the right of Shokuhou was, quite literally, one of the most beautiful people Shutaura had ever seen.
Sitting next to her, that impression was only compounded as Shutaura had a good look at the young looking woman, Yume.
Her long black hair seemed to sparkle in the sunlight and the way her blue eyes held concern for everyone there made her seem like a proper adult and not someone older trying to play the part. Her long white lab coat inspired bad feelings given Kihara Kamui had worn it but the impression it had on her more reflected the purity of the colour white: it felt as though Yume was honestly sincere in maintaining that white image instead of staining it with black darkness and red blood.
Underneath that lab coat she wore a Western suit of black and white. Again, this reminded Shutaura of another distasteful person who wore such clothes, Orion Phoenix, but the way it fit her, again, made it clear the person wearing the clothes definitely changed the impression of them.
Not only that but the woman herself seemed to have a body other women would have died for.
Large breasts of which her black necktie sat between, a lithe body that seemed to embrace her young but also mature age as well as a caring expression; the way Yume held herself felt like her namesake, a dream, and an inspiration rose up within Shutaura to ensure nothing stained this image of an adult who was simply there to care for someone else and not there for any other motivation like the other scientists within Academy City or even Kihara Kamui.
She was just here as the 'anti-Kamui' element to whatever Kamijou had been involved in. She got nothing out of this apart from ridding the world of Kamui and the lack of reward and her caring nature just from the way she held herself made it clear to Shutaura she was not just a pretty face.
And for that alone, in this City where adults always had an ulterior motive, the presence of such an adult, helped pushed back the darkness, if only for a tiny bit. The kindness she was showing, especially after what everyone had seen was refreshing and added to the kindness Kamijou Touma had already shown Shutaura.
Shutaura felt herself straighten next to Yume as if she wanted to be ready to protect the woman from anything that came to attack her. She saw the action, smiling lightly although with the clear nervousness in her voice and the way she buttoned up her lab coat to hide her impressive proportions made it clear to Shutaura and everyone else there (who had had the same thoughts) that Yume felt uncomfortable underneath the gazes of everyone else and their shared thoughts.
She coughed slightly, moving her butt on her chair and placing a laptop she had underneath one arm onto the table, opening it. She stared around the table, eyeing each person in turn before turning to look at Kamijou.
"Was there anyone else you wanted to bring along, Kamijou-chan? Because the less I talk about Kamui, the better I feel." She spoke, her voice sounding like a bell that added to the impression that Yume was more of a dream woman than a proper person.
Kamijou looked around before nodding.
"I think so. This is everyone who wanted to hear about Kamui."
"From your track record, from the past few times I've met you here, the only thing you have talked about has been Kamui. Given past experience, can I assume something happened? I only saw you last night." Yume asked nervously, shifting and looking as if she was dreading the answer.
The words she was saying were not ignored by both Shokuhou and Mikoto who seemed to sit up a bit straighter at that, staring at the spiky haired boy. How he knew Yume and what his relation with her was when they were on speaking terms and she had clearly agreed to meet him so easily was on everyone's minds. However, focusing on Yume's question, Kamijou answered without missing a beat.
"It was on the news. The collapse in District 15? There was an underground facility there where Kamui was working." Kamijou did not even bother to hide the details of the incident, something that, had it been the other girls, they would have gone to great lengths to extract from him. The trust and the ease he spoke with the older woman with was enough to make the other girls who knew Kamijou, save Shutaura and Hayashida, frown but this was hardly the time for seeing how far the gap between them and Yume was.
In all areas, the woman defeated those other girls, leaving them in the dust. There was absolutely no contest and the small hope those girls would turn into an adult like that filled them, even if it was not the time for such thinking.
Yume, upon hearing Kamijou's response, went white in the face. Again, the desire to protect her filled everyone else given her beauty but she seemed to not care, placing a hand on her forehead and whispering underneath her breath, sweat running down her face.
"(Underground? No, I can't assume this is just a singular incident. Are there more facilities such as these throughout the entire City? How far is Kamui going to go now he's got what he wanted? And who provided him with that funding?)"
"D-Don't call me Yume-sensei! It makes me feel older than 26!" Yume snapped out of her thought processes from the voice of Mikoto who jumped at the sudden shout. Yume blinked once, catching herself and placing a hand to her forehead, shaking her head and holding up a hand.
"S-Sorry, my apologies for that outburst. Y-You can call me whatever you like but just…avoid the 'sensei' honorific. I realise I might have a couple of PhDs but when it comes to Kamui, that doesn't mean much." Yume started with a wave of her hand as she stared at Kamijou. "And hearing what you told me… An underground facility? The entire thing collapsed didn't it? Are you sure you're in a well enough state to be talking about this? And what happened to Kamui? He didn't escape, did he?"
Everyone else, as they listened to Yume, frowned at her choice of words. Although she was asking if they were fine, again reinforcing her caring personality and being one of the few adults who had even bothered to show such, there was something about the way she had asked Kamijou that felt off. As if there was some kind of injury only Kamijou had taken that the others did not know about.
Suspicious, they stared at him but he smiled, waving a hand and shaking whatever Yume had suggested off.
"We're all fine. …We'll be fine." Kamijou added the last bit with a bit of hesitation before sighing, leaning forward and breathing in slowly. "As for Kamui…he died."
The words Kamijou said felt like they were forced out. The atmosphere did not change whatsoever in the process and Yume stared in surprise at Kamijou, biting her lip. She glanced at everyone else around her before deciding that whatever she had to say was not something that could be said here, nodding once.
"And this Kamui was…?"
"Not the Original." Kamijou stated with a solemn voice, Yume's gaze darkening. She rubbed her eyes and leaning forward (such that her breasts were on top of the table) nodding and groaning.
"I have a question about that." Mikoto spoke, looking between both Kamijou and Yume. "Throughout this incident, that idiot has been talking non-stop about personalities and Originals." Mikoto flinched at that word but still kept on speaking all the same despite her dislike about it. "We don't want to be kept in the dark any longer when it comes to Kamui. We're here because you have information on him, the only one of us who does."
"We're starting from there? This is going to take a while…" Yume asked, frowning and rubbing the bridge of her nose. She seemed frustrated given the talking she would have to do but the way her blue eyes shone after a while blew away the frustration on her face almost instantly.
"A-Actually, there might be a way out of this!" Yume turned and faced the girl on her left. "Shokuhou-chan, you're the #5 Level 5, Mental Out, right? Instead of me explaining what I know about Kamui, wouldn't it be better if you read my mind and share my thoughts with everyone else?"
Shokuhou was about to answer at what was a perfectly good suggestion, however, before she could even do so, Kamijou interrupted forcefully and quickly. Everyone there jumped at that, turning to face Kamijou who suddenly felt as though their gazes on him were piercing and confronting. He felt a drip of sweat roll down his cheek but knew this was not a point he could back down on.
Yume's suggestion was valid and saved a lot of time. By having Shokuhou read her memories and thoughts of Kamui and sharing them, it would prevent her from saying what she knew and allow them to sort through the new information Index had.
But at the same time there was the risk of something else.
The risk that the memories Yume had of her counselling session with Kamijou yesterday and the knowledge she had of his PTSD and his desensitisation of his own death would get out. Even if it was a small risk, the chance of that knowledge getting out was not something Kamijou could afford or accept.
He could not let any of the girls here know of the condition assaulting his mind even now.
No matter the cost.
So even if it was inefficient, he could not let Shokuhou read Yume's memories. That was a burden for him and him alone and it was only by forcing his hand that he had told Yume in the first place. Telling anyone else would only result in unnecessary worry for him and, more than that, result in the one thing he knew he could not afford.
A loss of smiles as the people around him who learnt of his condition looked at him with pity and sympathy instead of how they usually did with those smiles.
Given what he had already lost with this incident and with the incidents with Kamui beforehand, he was not entirely sure he could stand having more of the smiles around him lost because of something that happened because of him.
So to whatever extent he could, he would make sure he would protect the smiles around him from himself and prevent the chance they would learn of the condition which would surely make them worry.
Even now, he would protect those smiles.
Even if it meant he had to cast himself to the flames of his PTSD and never have his silent screams for help be heard by anyone else.
That was merely how much those smiles meant to him.
"Why? It's a perfectly natural suggestion."
That was the natural question to come from Shokuhou. Othinus in his pocket stared at Kamijou with suspicion, probably the suspicion that hammered into him the most given her status as his Understander, but with Shokuhou being Mental Out and understanding people better than anyone because of her power, the chance he would give anything away made his heart beat faster and sweat to roll down his face.
He had to come up with an excuse for why he did not want a perfectly valid suggestion applied and the sweat from his body as he realised he was only doing this because he wanted to hide the fact he had PTSD from anyone else rolled down his body nervously.
"W-Well," Kamijou started, moving his brain as fast as he could to come up with a valid answer. "I-It's just that i-if we use that method, then there is the chance anything Yume-sensei knows that I don't won't be passed onto me. And since you guys would know it and I wouldn't, you'd have to explain to me anyway without knowing what I don't know. Y-You know?"
Kamijou ignored the souring Yume's face given what he had called her, everyone else just staring at him. It was a valid point, after all if there was something Yume communicated to everyone else Kamijou did not know, because no one knew what he did not know, they would have to explain things to him anyway until they covered everything. Given his right hand preventing Shokuhou's power from working, anything passed to the others would not be passed onto him.
While the girls who knew of his power and its negating effects understood that point, the others who did not; Yume and Hayashida, stared in confusion at the boy in question. They frowned, unsure of what to think, however, as Shokuhou stared at him, she sighed and leaned on her hand on the table.
"I understand. After all, since you would not be able to experience the transfer of memories and knowledge I acquire from Yume-sensei," Again, the older woman pouted at that but said nothing. "It means we would have to engage in explanation ability with you anyway, Kamijou-san. And since we'd have to do that, there's no point in reading Yume-sensei's knowledge on the matter since it is going to be communicated to you verbally in any case. And to think we could have saved a lot of time just transferring knowledge!"
Shokuhou sighed again, resting her head on the table given that everyone there was going to be in for the long haul with the explanations to come, Mikoto and Index sighing too as they realised the same thing as Shokuhou.
Only Hayashida and Yume looked confused, staring between everyone else and Kamijou, unsure what they were talking about.
"H-Hang on," asked Hayashida. "That's not a proper explanation! You're a Level 5! Why would you not be able to use your power and transfer the memories of Yume to a Level 0? That makes no sense!"
The words Hayashida said were clearly ones Yume wanted to have explained to her, however, Shokuhou merely waved a hand in the air lazily.
"The reason we are here is for Kihara Kamui, as distasteful as that is. It is not to question each other and why we have decided particular things in particular ways nor is it to gather understanding for decisions we have made. If Kamijou-san says it is the case, then it is the case. If we were to question others, I would have had you removed the instant you arrived. And I think I am not the only one." Shokuhou's words were icy, something that made Hayashida jump as she realised the pressure coming to her was not only coming from Mental Out but also Railgun to her left. She gulped from the pressure, nodding slightly to which Shokuhou smiled. "There we go. Remember that you are a guest, Hayashida-san. So sit quietly and listen. Yume-sensei? My apologies for putting down your suggestion ability but if you could please verbally explain to us what you know?"
Yume said nothing, blinking once as it was clear she did not know Kamijou's right hand contained Imagine Breaker, the power that could easily render a Level 5's attempts of transferring memories and information to him useless. Nor did she understand how Shokuhou could so easily suggest such a thing when it was ridiculous and undermined the power she herself had. Even still though, with the consensus reached without her understanding why, she nodded once.
However, the glance she had given to Kamijou in the corner of her eye stabbed into him.
There was concern there…as well as a fraction of pity and sympathy. They were the emotions of someone who knew he had PTSD and a desensitisation to his own death, only countered by him remembering and understanding what he could not afford to lose in his life if he were to die or have something else perish and leave him. Those eyes of hers contained no smiles and Kamijou knew in his heart that if anyone else learned of his condition, they would have the same look on their face.
A look devoid of the smiles he so desperately wanted to protect.
So he would tell no one but the woman across from him, hoping that he and Yume could find a solution to the problem afflicting him. But even as he did that, he would not expose anyone else to those fires of his mind and the trauma assaulting him, lingering within his mind like a cancer.
He didn't want to be the one to destroy those smiles around him when they were content in their ignorance. If that was what kept them happy, then he would do nothing to destroy that and harbor any burden he needed to.
That was merely how far he would go for the sake of those smiles.
Even if it meant he was burning up inside himself.
The look Yume was giving him was more than just those emotions he did not want anyone else to look at him with when they learned of his condition. There was a silent plea in them, a plea to have Kamijou tell someone else, anyone else of the condition such that she was not the only one bearing his burden with him.
By sharing the burden, the chances Kamijou would be healed would surely increase. By sharing his pain, it would be lessened.
But Kamijou Touma knew he could not do that.
Because it would threaten that which he wanted to protect above all else.
Was Yume's suggestion to Shokuhou also made because she wanted other people to know of his PTSD and help heal him? The kindness and goodwill within her words and actions made Kamijou smile slightly at Yume, the woman staring at him before sighing and running a hand through her hair.
"…All right. I get there is something you know that I don't. That's fine. In fact, it intrigues me…" Yume's blue eyes seemed to sparkle a bit as she stared at Kamijou but she shook her head before her tunnel vision took hold. "Before we begin, I have a question to you, Kamijou-chan. You said before you had information on Kamui? Before we get into me sharing, I think it would be better if you gave me what you know. After all, that way, I can build a foundation of what I can exclude without repeating things we already know."
"R-Right." Kamijou said, turning to the person who he knew had that knowledge. "Index?"
The nun with the strip of cloth covering her left eye and the magic circle within that had appeared to signify the growing control, even if it was small, the sentient grimoire in her mind had over her sat up straight at Kamijou's words. She shifted the cloth on her eye; she was still not used to it but even she, as the Index Librorum Prohibitorum, understood the danger such a magic circle was through simple analysis.
When she had spotted it in her reflection, analysing it had been easy.
It was Thelemic in nature; a religion corresponding to one Aleister Crowley, perhaps the greatest magician to ever walk the face of the earth but also the one who could be considered its greatest failure at the same time. Index remembered, at the eleventh hour when Kamijou was about to be taken by the Saint from Harmonia's Cradle, Batya Sitara, that she had foolishly given in to the voice saying it could save him.
The voice had not lied whatsoever, seen in how Kamijou was sitting right next to her, but at the same time, it had managed to grasp a foothold in the mind and body of Index. Such was clear in the red magic circle overlapped in her left eye, evidence of the control such a grimoire was having over her.
Covering her eye was nothing more than a stopgap measure and possibly did nothing. Was the grimoire watching the world through her left eye? Was seeing and being exposed to magical elements using her left eye going to increase the control the sentient grimoire trying to take over her mind had?
Index did not know; the unstable nature of the grimoire being like a person. Grimoires themselves could choose and reject their owners and while this grimoire was trying to take over her mind, Index could narrow the specific grimoire down to a few given she knew the principles behind the magic circle in her left eye.
Being the bearer of 103,001 grimoires was no easy feat and as a safety measure, Index had covered her left eye with that strip of cloth. She found it to be more irritating than anything else. Still, she was here not as a member of the Magic side but as an advisor for the Science side, acting as the aid for Kamijou Touma.
The trust Kamijou was showing Index, even if she had given up a part of herself by contracting with a grimoire to save him, made her want to ensure she fulfilled that trust.
"?" Yume was the one who was again confused. "What does this nun have to do with anything?"
"Oh, right. You didn't know." Kamijou said simply, pointing at Index. "When we were in that underground facility, before it collapsed, Hayashida managed to break into Kamui's computer and open up everything he was working on on sixteen different screens. While the computer and any data on it was destroyed, Index managed to memorise everything on them. Meaning that right now, the information in her mind is our biggest key against Kamui."
Hearing it again didn't make it any less shocking. Index's perfect memory was an asset in itself and simultaneously looking at 16 different screens, all of them showing different things and memorising all the data being shown to her was an ability in and of itself. Hearing it again made the other girls sitting with them stare at the nun in surprise, their eyes wide.
However, for the woman hearing this for the first time, she had a much different reaction.
She did a spit take, coughing as she stared at the nun. With a trembling finger, she rose it and pointed it at the nun.
"A-Are you serious?!"
"Yep!" Index grinned, patting herself on the chest in what was clearly self-pride. "I have perfect memory after all so nothing ever escapes my – "
Index never got another word out as Yume broke away from the table, moving around Shutaura and shoving Kamijou's head out of the way such that she could stand right in front of Index. Basically ignoring Kamijou, she sat on his right leg and moved the chair (with Kamijou on it) towards the nun, peering into the girl's eyes and placing her hands on the nun's shoulders. Index and Kamijou cried out, one in shock and the other because an attractive woman had placed her butt on his leg despite not paying attention to him at all.
"Y-You have perfect memory!?" Yume asked, her eyes sparkling as she stared at Index, moving her hands up to the nun's face and squeezing her cheeks like she was some child.
"Amazing. Y-You know, the field of neuroscience has always interested me but I've never managed to find the time to get involved in it. Sure I took a bunch of detours and am currently looking at psychology but the human brain is a mystery in itself! And to think that there is someone with perfect memory sitting right in front of me! Oh, what a time to be alive!" Yume smiled, opening Index's right eye and staring into it as if she were looking at a patient.
"The brain is a wonderful thing you know and when you look at the things it does for us can sometimes be unappreciated. But at the same time, the debilitating conditions that can affect it are some of the most tragic. To think that some great latent minds are affected by different conditions affecting their most vital organ. But among them, I cannot think of perfect memory as one of them! The ability to retain everything you sense! Everything you feel? Did you know that the brain can hold, well it's estimated, around 2.5 petabytes of data? And in this world of big data where around 2.5 quintillion and more bytes of data is generated every day, the brain is the one object containing it all. But amidst that, you have things like memories, experiences, everything else stacked into this little organ here!"
Yume grabbed Index's head and shook it, the girl crying out as the woman's eyes went wide, unable to see anything else but what she wanted to.
"*pant pant* While the normal human brain filters that out, the same is not said for perfect memory. You take everything and place it into this little organ. We can't calculate how much 'space' a memory takes in terms of data because of how complex some memories are and how short or long experiences are, but perfect memory ignores all that. It absorbs everything, missing nothing and forgetting nothing. While normal brains can filter out and clean up garbage data, your brain doesn't do that. …If that is the case and in this world of 2.5 quintillion bytes of data generated everyday with only 2.5 petabyte storage space, doesn't that suggest the brain can hold more than that? More than what we thought? How does it work, how much can it store and how much can go into here? *pant pant* Not to mention what is unused space and what parts of the brain are not utilised?! Or is that just for you and you have a larger storage space than all of us put together? You are sitting on the revolutionary breakthrough when it comes to the field of brain study. If the brain is filled with that much data and space, is it possible we might be able to remove tumours when they affect unimportant areas? Would we be able to capture the brain's essence and allow ourselves to live longer and without physical bodies? Oh, just thinking about it makes me want to start right away! *pant pant*!"
Yume moved her butt on Kamijou's leg as she went on her small rant, the sensation of it making Kamijou's face redder and redder. Index's eyes looked like swirls as she was forced to take in everything, the others staring at the scientist with fearful gazes given how she was drooling; her body moved like she was in heat and her eyes were wide.
She was oddly enthusiastic about the entire thing and while some good had come out of her initial analysis of Index's brain, the fact she was going on a tangent was not acceptable. Shutaura, even if she trembled from the science pervert's ramblings, stood up and placed a hand on the women's shoulder.
"How does memory loss work for you, if at all? Do you separate memories or is it like a giant junk pile? Or do you use various memory techniques to prevent it from overloading your brain?"
"Yume-sensei, pull yourself together!"
Shutaura grabbed Yume and pulled her away from Index, the woman pausing as she realised she had been torn away from her focus of interest. She blinked as if half awake, wiping the droll from her face with embarrassment before standing up, her face red.
"S-Sorry, Index-chan! W-Whenever I got into it, my brain sort of lacks a filter and I go on and on and on… S-So sorry!" Yume bowed in apology, got off from Kamijou after having shifted her butt so many times on him and returned to her seat. Everyone trembled as they remembered how the science pervert had acted before and the lack of a filter when it came to her mind, the woman coughing to clear her throat.
"Wh-Where were we?" Yume asked, trying her hardest to regain her composure. Mikoto, trembling, answered.
"Th-The Silver Sister managed to memorise everything Kamui was working on before everything was destroyed…"
"R-Right." Yume flicked her long black hair behind her to try and make sure her image was not tainted but the red on her cheeks made it clear she remembered well enough. "Y-You remembered everything Kamui was working on. A-As interesting as that is, do you think you could give me an overview?"
Yume moved to her laptop and placing her fingers on the keyboard, ready to type whatever Index was about to say into it. Seeing that, Index nodded, realising there was no time to waste anymore.
"Of the things I saw on the com-pyu-ta of Kamui were four main projects. Most of the thingies that came across the screen were related to those four with the focus being on the status of completion and other theories around them. I didn't entirely understand what I was seeing when I looking at it but I can tell you what the projects were, even if I don't understand them."
"That's fine. That's what I'm here for after all."
"Alright. Their names of the four projects Kihara Kamui is working on are Personality Swipe, FIVE_Object, Break Queen Package and something called the ZERO_Over." Index said as she rose a finger and listed them off. "From what I saw on the screen, Personality Swipe has already been implemented, the FIVE_Object and the Break Queen Package are being built and the ZERO_Over is currently in its beginning stages, having been implemented but is slowly progressing."
"I know about the first two but the second two…" Yume said as she typed away at her laptop, leaning in towards it (and pressing her large breasts against the table) to get a closer look at what she was typing. "Are new to me."
"We've heard about the first one, Personality Swipe." said Shutaura. "Touma-kun was constantly mentioning it over and over again during the incident last night, although the only word he actually used was 'personality'. I assume they are connected?"
"You'd be right. I'll get to that a bit later though."
"What are you doing anyway?" asked Hayashida with her arms crossed.
"Hmm?" Yume asked, rising her head but the way her blue eyes seemed to shift around and she lowered herself suggested there was something she was trying to hide. A sweat had seemed to break out on her as she looked around the hospital courtyard, seeing that no one was around before leaning in further on the table and lowering her voice.
"I think…you should know this, but those projects of Kamui's are not really publicly available. There are some that are because of their nature and how they assist in part with the regular workings of Academy City but more often than not, those reports are sealed away within particular databases that can only be accessed by particular people. The fact that I don't recognise the names is enough to tell me they are not among the reports I know and are of the ones I would care not to look at. The only reason I'm doing this is because the situation calls for it, but access to those files is…restricted."
"Then what are you doing about that?" asked Shokuhou. "I assume because Kamijou-san asked you here that you are an asset against Kamui?"
"I…" Yume shifted as she seemed uncomfortable. "Let's just say I managed to call in some favours with a friend in Anti-Skill. With her pass, she effectively gave me permission to view…files that would otherwise be sensitive to view."
The silence that came over everyone there was immediate. It was only long before Shutaura spoke up, her gaze rather piercing especially given her relationship and connection the Black Crows had with Anti-Skill after being assimilated into them, if only a part.
"Are you…breaking the law?"
"…Yes. It seems I am."
Yume, after a while of hesitation, did not even bother to hide what was essentially the start of breaking the foundation for an upstanding citizen.
"If that's what I need to do to make sure everyone else isn't threatened by the twisted science Kamui is creating, then that's what I need to do. If you want to report me for my crimes, then do so. But I won't let Kamui win. I won't." Yume stared at Shutaura who seemed to have provided the challenge given her association with Anti-Skill. She was silent for a moment before she nodded, turning her head away.
It seemed that even Shutaura, especially since Yume was illegally accessing Kamui's file for her as well as everyone else, was willing to overlook the crimes she was committing right now. Within his jacket pocket, Kamijou felt Othinus move. He looked down to see the small girl waving him over, the boy bending his head down to hear her soft words.
"I like her."
Kamijou silently flicked her head as she sat in his jacket pocket but felt a smile come onto his face all the same. Looking up and seeing how Mikoto's and Shokuhou's eyes seemed to stare at Yume with some admiration made it clear to him the feeling was mutual.
After all, Yume was going this far just to stop Kamui along with everyone else. Last night when Kamijou had seen her, she had mentioned her friend, Tsutsumi Yukiji, was allowing her access to the back doors to access those files and within the short space of time since they had last met, she had already gained that access.
It was clear she was not messing around when it came to the issue of dealing with Kamui and the seriousness she was showing with her actions when it came to dealing with Kamui was more than enough to let Kamijou know he had managed to acquire a strong ally with Yume and her dedication to stopping Kamui.
However, with the way Yume was sweating slightly, it was clear the upstanding citizen she was was finding it extremely hard to make that choice so easily even if she was doing it for the right reasons.
"Wh-What I'm doing now," said Yume as she typed away. "Is bringing up the relevant files for the projects Index-chan mentioned. I can already explain Personality Swipe but as for the others, it's going to require me to understand what they are before I can explain them."
"Before that," said Hayashida as she spoke up. "With this incident, Kamui said it was related to the Break Queen Package project. He mentioned something about the manifestation of a consciousness if that makes sense?"
"Ah, yes, there are terms such as those within the files I saw." said Index. "From memory, the specifics of them, while I don't understand them are – "
"Hold on there, Index-chan." Yume said as she held up a hand, looking over her laptop with her blue eyes. "Let's deal with things one at a time. Trying to explain the middle of the projects makes little sense. Let's start from the beginning with what I find out and then work forward, OK?"
"A-Alright." Index conceded, however, spoke up again with an obvious point. "But the problem with that is that I don't know anything about the other projects!"
"Again, isn't that why you called me here?" Yume let out with a smile, scanning the laptop while at the same time talking. "I think we'll start with the one I already know of; Personality Swipe. Kamijou-chan has already been exposed to such before so I think this serves as the best point to start."
"Yes, I think so too." Mikoto replied as she leaned on the table. After all, with the terms personality and Original flying around during that incident, she had truly felt lost. "What exactly is that project?"
Hayashida next to her seemed to shudder at the name of the project itself but with her desire to know more about these projects on top of what she already knew, she stayed silent while staring at Yume who was scrolling through a document.
"I'll be brief. Personality Swipe is exactly as the project name suggests; it's a project that allows Kamui to essentially replace the personality of someone else with his own. He effectively creates a pseudo-clone of himself, turning someone into someone with his own personality to the extent that you can say they essentially become himself."
"It does what?" Shokuhou, the one closely related to such terms, spat out the words, her eyes wide and shaking her head. "Yume-sensei, I mean no disrespect but trying to overwrite a personality isn't as easy as you say it is. Memories I could accept. But personality? Such a thing is made up of more than just memory ability. It relates to your childhood, experiences you have faced in your life. Trying to overwrite those with something else is…"
"Of course it's not easy. But that's exactly why Kamui is going to resort to everything he can for the sake of changing someone's personality. No matter what he has to do, whether it be psychological or physical torture, what he does is change the very base, the very essence of a person. Instead of something like changing someone's mind, what he does is takes their core and, like clay, moulds it into the shape he wants. A shape that looks exactly like him."
"…Wait." Mikoto asked as she held up a hand. "Th-The Kamui at the centre of this incident died. A-Are you telling me that – "
"He was nothing more than someone who had succumbed to whatever Kamui had put him through and 'became' Kamui? Yes, you'd be right. That man who died was nothing more than just another victim, another guinea pig to that twisted man." Yume spat out the words, seeing the faces of the girls go white now they understood the context of what had happened to that man.
Previously, they had felt the Kihara Kamui they knew was nothing more than a villain who had been rightfully killed.
The truth of the matter was unveiled.
The man they had faced was not an evil person.
But rather someone who had faced his own battle with Kihara Kamui and lost more than just that fight but his personality as well.
Most eyes turned up and faced Kamijou who they remembered had been desperate for the man overcome by Kamui's darkness to recover himself even if that had not been successful. The knowledge that the man, who had not been just anyone but was also a victim in this chaos didn't sit right with them and the image of the dead man sat in their heads like an image that would never fade.
He was an innocent, who had once had his own life which had been taken cruelly by Kihara Kamui.
And unlike everyone else who had managed to escape with something, that man had not.
It cast a sick atmosphere over the group. Yume seemed to want to say something but with the atmosphere, found it hard. However, as the adult of the group, she did not stop the words she knew she had the responsibility to say.
"The project Personality Swipe Kamui is very selective for. He'll only choose men to overwrite with his personality mainly because he himself is a man and he understands how men think and act. Women and the female mindset he has no interest in overtaking with his own personality."
"What, does he think women will taint it?"
"He might very well think that. After all, even in modern society, things are still very patriarchal. Men have it better than women in many countries, Japan being one of them, so it's no surprise to think Kamui would have jumped onto that wagon. Whatever the case, he only seeks to infect men with his personality."
Yume responded seriously to the spat out words of Shutaura, leaving the girl stunned. She blinked once, the horror of what Yume was suggesting clear on her face, but more words came through the air, but not from Yume.
Instead, they came from the girl she had brought here from the Black Crows.
Heads turned to face Hayashida Mari who had gone pale.
"When I first met him, during when Gakusha had hacked into all those machines, he was a middle-aged man. Perhaps in his mid-thirties? But when I met him again after Gakusha had been captured, he was still a man…although not the same one. The one who died yesterday was the one I knew but even then, I met many others while under him who called themselves 'Kihara Kamui'. However Kamui did it, I have no idea, but the fact of the matter is that Personality Swipe is real. Even if they were not originally, there are plenty of people in Academy City now who have become Kihara Kamui."
"Wait, you met him?"
The pale faces of everyone turned back to Yume who stared at Hayashida, surprised. The Level 0 blinked in confusion before Yume waved a hand in the air.
"The thirty-ish year old man. Was he tall? Did he have greyish hair despite how young he looked? With a long nose and a mole right here?" Yume pointed at a spot on her left cheek, Hayashida going wide eyed and nodding.
"That would have been the Original then. That is the true form of Kihara Kamui." Yume said, Kamijou staying silent. Never before had Yume given a description of the man apart from his apparent age but hearing what she said now allowed him to put a picture to the man who was at the heart of all this madness.
What type of man was he to have started all this in the first place? Kamijou was unsure he wanted to know but just thinking of the people who had died because of him and his 'copies' with the incident yesterday and the ones with Mugino Shizuri and Kongou Mitsuko made him clench his fist tight.
"…Touma said the Kamui we saw could be saved." Index said, staring at the scientist. "Does that mean – "
"Naturally," responded Yume. "Personality Swipe is a project that overwrites personality, not deletes it. As a result, there is the chance that within the minds of the men who are affected by it is a subconscious element trying to fight back against the foreign personality."
"A subconscious element?" asked Shokuhou.
"Well, with your personality comes your quirks, right? One of Kamui's is his inability to structure sentences well; his mind jumps ahead with the words he is saying on any particular topic and means his sentences come out fragmented. If any particular copy of Kamui shows no sign of that then there is the chance they are holding onto some form of their original personality. And if that is the case…"
"Then they can be saved." Mikoto finished the sentence but instead of having some form of hope come within her upon hearing it, it only filled her with dread.
After all, the Kihara Kamui they had just faced had not been saved. He had died, dying as Kamui instead of living as the man he had been born as. The knowledge that such a man had lived and died instead of fighting back filled the air with the same coldness Kamijou had expressed when he had stated 'Kamui' had died.
After all, it had not truly been him.
And as a result someone had died yesterday who had truly been an innocent unfairly dragged into a conflict that had nothing to do with him.
"Is that…what you saw on the screens Index-chan? Something along those lines?" asked Yume to the nun. With a small pause, she nodded, closing her eyes in silent prayer for the man who had perished but ultimately not as himself.
"Personality Swipe…was not a project that had a lot of information on it. The information shown was things such as average time to change someone and the twisted methods to do so. It meant nothing without context but now I have it…"
"I apologise. I did ask if you had the stomach for this though." Yume smiled slightly but there was no humour in it before she sighed. She gulped once before moving on.
"Now, that's one of the projects of Kamui explained. The next is the FIVE_Object. I've just had a quick read of it now…" Yume said as she took in deep breaths, trying to calm herself and wiping some sweat off her face. It seemed the sweat rolling down her was trapping the heat within her stuffy lab coat so she took it off, revealing the body beneath, but with the tension in the air, she barely even tried to cover herself. "And I can tell you that none of this is good."
"We came across that term a few days ago." said Shokuhou. "With the incident with Kongou-san if you remember, Misaka-san?"
"What did what happened with Kongou-san have to do with Kamui?" asked Mikoto with a frown, the mention of her friend sparking something within her voice. The clear need to protect someone close to her was obvious, however, someone else voiced the response.
"I can answer that." Kamijou said as he rose his hand. "But before I do, I want to at least have Yume-sensei explain what it is first so I can cross reference what I know with what Yume-sensei knows."
The woman nodded, clearing her throat and trying to find the words before speaking.
"The FIVE_Object, judging from this," said Yume as she tapped her laptop screen and at the illegally accessed file she had been reading. "Is a weapon built to accommodate as many of the Level 5 powers as possible into a single weapon. Not only that but looking at the design proposal, it seems to be a weapon armed to the teeth with next-generation weaponry: railguns, coilguns, missiles, lasers, bunker clusters, etc. What Kihara Kamui is trying to build is a weapon that can obliterate an entire country if need be. And with Academy City tech being built into it, it could probably do that with ease."
There were gags, mostly from the Level 0s and the people who did not have the power to match the power of the Level 5s. The Level 5s in questions just stared at Yume, unsure of what to say.
"What do you mean…as many as of the Level 5 powers as possible? Judging from the naming sense, it's just like a normal FIVE_Over, right?" asked Mikoto.
"I'm not too sure but think of this as more than a simple FIVE_Over. Those are built to specialise in one esper and one esper only. The FIVE_Object surpasses that; it is built for the prime reason to become a weapon of war. Nothing more and nothing less. It isn't just about having a singular Level 5 power equivalent on a technological scale: it's about taking that, applying it to as many of the Level 5 powers as physically possible and creating a weapon of mass destruction. Imagine a FIVE_Over that can not only shoot a railgun but can block whatever attacks are sent its way. And that is only the tip of what is suggested here."
No one said a word at that, if only because they understood from that mere statement the level of seriousness this had to be taken at. A simple railgun would have been fine: as seen with the incident yesterday, they could be taken out. But a railgun that no matter what you did to it always blocked your attacks? The powers of the #1 and the #3 were fearsome enough individually but combined into a single weapon was more than one could think to handle.
Kamijou instinctively thought back to the cyborg Rensa who had been able to use the Level 5 powers. However, her ultimate weakness had been her ability to only use them one at a time. She could not use the same powers simultaneously; she could not fire a Meltdowner beam and a Railgun at the same time.
However, if what Yume had just told everyone was true, then it was basically Rensa being able to use, in the worst case scenario, all Level 5 powers simultaneously.
What type of monster was that?
Add that onto the conventional weaponry supposedly attached to the FIVE_Object and you had something that would have made even the greatest army look like a joke.
It reminded Kamijou of something he would rather forget. Glancing up, he saw that Index and Mikoto were glancing at him with somewhat pale faces while Othinus was doing the same, even if it did not hold the same fear as the other two girls.
Those three had once managed to be roped into some insane adventure with him where numerous different people from numerous different worlds had been brought together. And from one of those worlds, the term Object referred to a weapon synonymous with war. It was a 50 metre tank filled to the brim with weaponry which had meant conventional armies had been rendered useless. Even if such a thing had been regulated to movies in this world, in that crazy inter-world adventure, Kamijou had seen for himself the insanity held by those weapons called Objects.
In the world where those came from, there were people who struggled to fight them with their bare hands and were called heroes because of it. The reason behind such was natural when you managed to take on a tank that killed anyone who got near it and here Academy City was trying to build, if the naming sense crossed over to what Academy City was building, a 50 metre tank that was not only covered with next gen weaponry but could also utilise the powers of the Level 5s.
In that world, Objects could be taken down. Quenser Barbotage and Heivia Winchell in that world had proven that, whether it be in real life for those two delinquent soldiers or on the big screen here in this world.
But against an Object, a 50 metre tank, which could use the Level 5 powers as easily as breathing, could anything fight against that and win? If it was trying to re-create the Level 5 powers using technology, using Kamijou's Imagine Breaker was useless: he would be blown away so fast he would feel nothing.
Academy City was building a monster of metal.
And with what its specs were now suggesting, given by Yume, it did not seem they had any hope in the world of countering it.
If the FIVE_Object were to be ever released…
It truly would be the end of an age where one could win a war based on the skill of an army.
"…You said it was being built didn't you, Index-chan?"
Yume broke everyone's thoughts with a horrible comment, all pale faces moving towards the nun. She nodded slowly, trying to form words and get them out. While she did not really know a lot about Level 5 abilities, just recalling the term 'Object' and what she had seen in that inter-world adventure was enough to make her stutter.
"Y-Yes. From the records I saw, the FIVE_Object is under construction. Apparently to the tune of $15 billion."
"F-Fifteen b – " Shutaura's breath caught in her throat. "Where the hell do you get that kind of money for a project you have to illegally access in the first place?!" Raising her voice brought the attention of everyone else passing the courtyard, Shutaura bringing her head down.
"Kongou Airlines." Kamijou, with his voice down as well, answered the question. "That's where. For the past few weeks, Kongou Airlines have been sending in materials which are being used for the construction for that weapon. A few days ago, they finally managed to finish all the transportation of those materials…materials which are now being used to their fullest to construct this FIVE_Object."
There was no need to hide it anymore. The people around Kamijou had already gotten involved and deserved an explanation for the things they had seen and been a part of and to that end, Kamijou was more than willing to give that explanation.
Mikoto's eyes went wide, staring between him and Shokuhou.
"Y-You knew this was happening?" Mikoto asked her fellow Level 5.
"I certainly knew Academy City was up to something involving Kongou Airlines. It's only now that I have managed to have a bigger picture that I fully understand. Kongou-san wasn't involved so you can be sure of her innocence." Shokuhou responded. Just yesterday, Shokuhou had asked that Level 4 for her assistance into looking into what Academy City was using her company's materials for and now she knew, she had the feeling Kongou's assistance in this matter was no longer needed.
But that was for another time.
"Index-chan, was there anything else you managed to pick up on when it came to the FVIE_Object? Things such as the development location? Calling the authorities and storming where Kamui is building his WMD would be the fastest solution." Yume asked, however, Index shook her head.
"No. Nothing. There were orders for some of the things you mentioned; railguns and the like, but nothing was mentioned as to where they were being sent. But from the records, it seems that the FIVE_Object is starting construction."
"It's star – " Hayashida spluttered out, unable to say anything else as the entire area filled with silence and tension. The common question filling them all was hitting them the hardest and made them all feel the chill in the air.
Where was it being built?
As long as they had that, destroying the FIVE_Object before it became indestructible was easy. But with no hints to go on, there was truly nothing anyone could do about it except sit on the threat looming on the horizon and feel the paranoia of the eyes of the FIVE_Object on them.
"…I'm sorry to say this, but it doesn't get any better from here." Yume sighed, running a hand through her hair and wiping some sweat from her brow. Hayashida stared at her, already overwhelmed and choking out a response.
"There are four projects. And what I've covered only deals with half. The third one, the Break Queen Package, is something you noted to me before, Kamijou-chan."
"It's a cyborg project. Although only partially." Yume said, Shutaura sitting up a bit straighter at that. It was this project which had brought her into this after all and it was with even greater attention that she wanted to listen to every detail to try and extract why she might have been brought into this crazy world. Hayashida, who had been closely involved too, sat up as well.
"Partially?" Shutaura asked.
"From what I remember," Hayashida said. "And this is from someone who only knows the basics of each project in that I knew what Personality Swipe was and knew the FIVE_Object was a weapon, the Break Queen Package was purely robotic."
"How is it a cyborg then?" asked Mikoto. "Cyborgs are a combination of human and robotics, right? Although I already know of a 'Queen' who seems as though there are parts to her that are not exactly real…"
Shokuhou threw one of her remotes at Mikoto's head. She missed, Mikoto grinning with satisfaction while Shokuhou merely stuck out her tongue and pulled down the skin of her eye in a childish gesture. It seemed even in this tension they could not get along.
"W-Well, that's the thing. The 'human' part of it seems to be its mind. Its consciousness." Yume said. Everybody frowned at that.
"Its…consciousness?" asked Index.
"Yes. Judging from this report I have on the topic, it seems the Break Queen Package is a cyborg which intends to have a human consciousness placed into it. Not only that but with the parts involved…it seems to be changeable. In that it can freely change its form into whatever it wants."
"Into?" Kamijou asked with a frown. "As in…someone's consciousness enters the robot and it becomes a cyborg because it has a human mind? And that cyborg can change form freely? Since when did Academy City suddenly decide they wanted a robot that could do a transformation scene?"
"And," asked Hayashida. "What happens when there is no human consciousness in it? Kamui was saying he needed Shutaura to understand how to implant the proper consciousness inside of it but if only a human mind is going to be put inside, is the cyborg useless outside of those times? Not to mention how does one upload a consciousness in the first place?"
"I can answer that."
All heads turned to Index who spoke, reciting the information within Kamui's computer perfectly.
"Again, although I can't say I understand…it seems the cy-borg has some A-eye within it?"
"AI?" Mikoto said with a deeper frown. "But that makes no sense either. If the machine is operated by AI, how does the human consciousness part come into play? Would the human mind then…assimilate and merge with the mind already in there, that of the AI? How would that work? It would become like two minds in one body."
"Kamui actually said something along those lines. He mentioned something about Dual Skill." noted Hayashida. "Do you think if we take what you are thinking that because there are two minds within the same body that they technically can have their own esper powers?"
"No, that makes no sense. An AI would have no esper powers. It cannot operate without direction and because of such would have no Personal Reality. Which means we have no idea how the human consciousness ability Kamui was thinking of putting into this cyborg is going to get there in the first place. As well as how it would co-operate with the AI inside of it let alone how to upload it into the machine. Come to think of it, is this project even as threatening as the others?" Shokuhou asked, turning to Yume. "The others were an obvious threat whereas this one is, as Kamijou-san put it, just a robot someone wanted to upload their consciousness ability in, even if we don't understand how to do that, for the sake of a transformation scene. Were they trying to become Astro Boy?"
"…And I thought I was old with the references I knew."
Shokuhou did not take that lightly coming from an older woman and threw her remote at her. Despite sitting to Yume who had made the jab, she missed spectacularly, the scientist not even bothering to comment but smiling awkwardly.
"A-At the very least that is what this report says. It's a cyborg project with, as Index-chan said, an AI mind that a human can also upload their consciousness into. At least that was the intention. But it seems it raises more questions than it answers. Given this comes from the mind of Kamui and it was never publicly released, I can't help but think there was more to it than that… But maybe I was wrong? Maybe all this project is is just someone wanting to upload their consciousness into a robot that already has an AI one so they can transform?"
Yume made the light joke to which small laughs came through the air, however, Kamijou remained silent the entire time. Othinus was the only staring at him, her eye narrowed but also spotting Shutaura sitting next to him with the same quizzical look on her face.
A human consciousness merging with an AI one. The thought itself seemed ridiculous but the words echoed within Kamijou's head, especially with reference to Dual Skill as Hayashida had said Kamui had said.
The theory that an esper could have more than one esper power operating within their Personal Reality. Nothing more than a theory proposed by some scientist or whatnot, the idea itself seemed ridiculous but, if two minds could occupy the same body, then it was possible.
Just like Shutaura Sequenzia and Meigo Arisa.
The Break Queen Package was a cyborg that intended to have a human mind uploaded to it. Or, to break that down, to have another consciousness on top of the one already in there to upload into it. Effectively, there would be two minds within one body, the original AI one and the human one which merged into the AI one when it was uploaded into the Break Queen Package.
While the meaning behind why it could freely change form was unknown, at its core, for the Break Queen Package to operate, the idea behind it was to have two minds operating at once. Two independent minds merged into the same body and brain space, which in turn gave way to the possibility of Dual Skill, even if AIs could not have esper powers.
There was a precedent for that.
And it was in the girl sitting right next to Kamijou.
Shutaura Sequenzia was the theory behind the Break Queen Package personified.
Kihara Kamui had already learned she had merged with Meigo Arisa. Such was confirmed by the words of Orion when they had talked with each other. Which meant, for that scientist who wanted to create a cyborg which could have a human mind uploaded into it and thus have two minds within one body, that girl was the starting point for understanding how two minds operating in one body worked.
It was not the same as multiple personality disorder. Such personalities originated from the same mind. Shutaura was another case altogether; while Arisa had been taken from her mind, the consciousness and the person Arisa had become had truly been independent and separate from Shutaura.
And when they had merged, she had become two minds within one body.
Just like what was wanted with the Break Queen Package.
That was probably the reason why she had been targeted and it was clear on Shutaura's face that she was figuring this out just the same. Kihara Kamui, to understand how two minds could operate within the same body, had probably wanted to study her, to learn how the interaction between two separate minds worked for application within the Break Queen Package; a combination of an AI mind and a human one.
How would it work? What were the drawbacks? What was the consequence of the fusion and would there be conflict when it came to the minds in control? Would one seek priority over another?
Those were questions unknown to Kamui at the time.
So he had sought out the answer in the form of the personification of that idea; Shutaura. Indeed, since Kamijou Touma did not know what the original esper power of Meigo Arisa had been, it was possible that Shutaura Sequenzia was the living embodiment of the theory of Dual Skill. After all, since Arisa was living within Shutaura's mind as an independent person, if Arisa's Level 0 esper power had been different to Shutaura's, then right now, Shutaura had two Personal Realities within that body of hers.
To a scientist of Academy City, who would not want to study that? Who would not want to study her and see how the two minds operated in sync with each other and think about possibly creating it themselves? Who would not want to understand how two minds operated within one body?
Kihara Kamui had not been able to withstand the temptation.
So, for the purposes of understanding how it worked so he could apply it to the Break Queen Package, a fusion of human and AI consciousness, he had sought to capture Shutaura and study her.
But then why capture Last Order and Takitsubo Rikou?
Kamijou did not know for sure, but just thinking of the possibilities of both of them made him frown.
Last Order, the terminal for the thoughts of the Misaka Network.
Takitsubo Rikou, Hamazura Shiage's girlfriend.
Kamijou could not be sure but if it was possible Takitsubo had a power that could allow Dual Skill, using it on Last Order would result in her having the capabilities of utilising Dual Skill as well. Expanding that, it was possible the entire Misaka Network would have the capability of doing so as well: after all, in a way, they were the fusion of their own individual minds and the influence of Misaka Mikoto's Personal Reality working on them as well.
If, using Takitsubo's power, if it was possible, they were given Dual Skill, then wouldn't it have similar results? They would not be the same as Dual Skill had been given to them instead of created within them naturally due to the fusion of two minds. However, if two minds fusing created Dual Skill then would not understanding Dual Skill give one an idea of how two minds with different Personal Realities fusing together worked?
The second case with Takitsubo and Last Order relied on a lot of assumptions and confused cause and effect with the acquisition of Dual Skill assuming two minds had fused. However, with Shutaura, it was not the case as two minds had fused which then created the possibility of Dual Skill.
It was not the same but the difference between the two was large. It was that difference which had probably meant Shutaura was hunted for first and Last Order and Takitsubo Rikou second.
That was the core of this incident this time as Kamijou Touma thought about it and broke it down in his mind.
The Break Queen Package, a project involving the fusion of two minds; one AI and one human.
Shutaura Sequenzia, someone who had already had two minds fused together within her.
And a man who desperately wanted to learn more about it so he could apply it into practice using that insane project of his.
For that alone he had tried to capture Shutaura as well as Last Order and Takitsubo as, given two minds could result in Dual Skill, Kamui felt giving Last Order Dual Skill using Takitsubo would act as a proxy for two minds fusing together, even if that confused cause and effect.
The Break Queen Package project, when looking at it as a whole was clearly not as threatening as the others.
But for it, Kamui had almost ripped apart the lives of three girls. Lives had been lost because of it as well.
That in itself showed Kamijou that that project, even if on the surface was not that bad, was just as serious as the others and held the same insanity behind it.
He glanced at Shutaura, seeing she understood as well why there had been an incident surrounding her. She looked livid, her fists clenched and such was understandable. After all, 8 of her men had died because of some madman's curiosity of the state she was in after having her mind fused with Arisa's. The confusion as to why someone would go so far for such a thing boggled his mind as well even though he understood the reasoning behind it and why this incident had formed in the first place.
But even if he could understand it, given what had been lost, that did not mean he could accept it.
Was that merely how twisted the mind of that madman was?
Now that he thought about it, Kamui had said something that had resounded within Kamijou.
"Do I need a reason to hurt someone?"
That thinking…was that at the core of the man known as Kihara Kamui? When you threw everything away, was that who he was at his core?
Someone you could only look at and see him as nothing more than a villain?
Kamijou Touma did not know and could not say.
But what he did know was that any arguments or thinking on the nature of that man and how even after everything was said and done Kamijou still wanted to save him, what Kamijou had to hear from Yume had still not finished.
"Well, whatever the case, this last project does not have much light on it either. Index-chan, what did you call it?"
"The ZERO_Over. While the Break Queen Package and the FIVE_Object are being built and Personality Swipe has already been implemented, the ZERO_Over has been implemented but had its progress on Kamui's computer was that it was slowly progressing and in its beginning stages. Why? On that thing you are using, isn't it there?"
"It is. It's just that it's status isn't recorded on the document on here. But looking at this document, the ZERO_Over is a collection of nanomachines. And from the title, you can probably guess what it is used for."
"Recreating a Level 0's power?" asked Mikoto with a bored tone. She leaned back in her chair, her frown on her face easing. "I realise that trying to recreate a power within Academy City might not be rare. But why select a Level 0's power? Not to mention that it's nanomachines as well. The FIVE_Overs I have seen have always been on a large scale. It's always been on the macro scale instead of the micro and using nanomachines is about as micro as you can get."
"For the reason why a Level 0's power has been selected I don't have the answer. Unless Index-chan does?" Yume looked at Index who shook her head.
"There were a number of graphs and information on the screen I saw showing the layout of these…nanochines?"
"Nanomachines." Kamijou said and lightly chopped the head of the nun. "Think of them as tiny robots that go inside a person. It's what fixed my left arm. Remember?"
"So you basically have some of those oil shaped robots living inside of you Touma?!"
"You're not even close but seeing how you're actually pretty close for your standard makes me unsure whether to be glad with your progress or disappointed that you still don't get technology!"
"Well, whatever the case, as for the question of why using nanomachines makes sense," said Yume as she stared at the two who had started bickering. "It seems from the data and the report here that recreating this Level 0 power on a macro scale makes no sense. And hence, that is why using nanomachines has been the chosen method for emulating this Level 0 power. And from what Index-chan has told me, which has helped a lot, it's already in play. Meaning that right now, the ZERO_Over is active and is probably being fine tuned for development, hence why its progress is slow."
"Well, I'm not entirely too sure what the problem is." said Shokuhou with a frown. "Level 0 powers are extremely weak. They can barely affect a macro level and even if they can, it has very limited effect ability. When it comes to Kamui, why bother going that far for a Level 0 power? There is only one I can think of that even justifies that but trying to recreate it seems impossible." Shokuhou stared at Kamijou who looked down at his right hand.
She was right.
If Imagine Breaker could have been replicated and recreated, then his worth in the conflicts between the Science and Magic sides would have been worthless. In fact, it also would have meant he would not have gotten into as much trouble as he did but that was beside the point.
Imagine Breaker had been created by the Magic Gods themselves. The idea that anyone would or even could replicate it seemed impossible to say the least otherwise, with this City and its technology, that would have happened much earlier and Kamijou would have seen the effects. Whether it be rampaging espers or used against the Magic side, there was no evidence of anyone trying to replicate the effects of Imagine Breaker unless you counted Index next to him with her collection of grimoires which had been given to her to serve as a countermeasure against various types of magic.
But even then, the scale difference was obvious. 103,001 grimoires against how many nanomachines? It seemed like the difference between the two was too much and Kamijou had a hard time believing any nanomachine could try and replicate the effect of his right hand.
Still, he could not help but feel interested.
"What is the power they are trying to replicate, Yume-sensei?" he asked.
"I've never heard of it myself." Yume said as she shrugged. "But the official name of the paper is…"
She scrolled up to the top of the page she was on and spoke.
Kamijou felt his heart stop as he heard the words.
Even though he had just disproved logically the reasons why Imagine Breaker could not be replicated, he realised there was a fundamental flaw in the very foundations of his thought processes.
What did it matter to Kihara Kamui that Imagine Breaker could not be reproduced using technological means? What did it matter it had been recreated by literal Gods and thus man could not hope to match it? What did it matter that the Magic side had to give a girl 103,000 grimoires to even closely match its effects but could not do so perfectly?
In the face of adversity, would that stop the man called Kihara Kamui?
Everyone, save for Hayashida and Yume went white in the face before staring at Kamijou. The boy felt the piercing gazes on him, closing his eyes and desperately trying to work through the information in his head.
Kihara Kamui was trying to recreate Imagine Breaker using pure technology. It was in the form of nanomachines whose progress was slow.
But even as he thought about it, it didn't make sense.
Imagine Breaker worked through contact. If you were trying to recreate it, why would you do so on a micro scale? Wouldn't you try and ensure Imagine Breaker was in a bigger form to cover more area or at least try and ensure it had projectile qualities or had the ability to cover larger groups? That way, you could cover all weaknesses within the ability.
And yet, Kamui was trying to recreate it through nanomachines.
Kamijou, the owner of the original, felt his eyes open as he stared at Yume, trying to ignore the stares looking directly at him.
"Yume-sensei. For the FIVE_Overs within Academy City, how long did it take for them to be fully developed?"
"The FIVE_Overs?" asked Yume before placing a finger underneath her chin. "A couple of months? The theories were always out there, it was just getting the tech together and sorting through that. Once the foundation was established, progress on them was fast but the initial construction? That took a while. For this project though, for this…Imagine Breaker thing? I think it would take the same time. Especially since it's using nanomachines. Wherever Kamui is with these machines, he's going to need to have constant watch over them if he wants to get anywhere with them and constantly keep making sure he updates them regularly. If anything, they would rarely leave his focus because of the constant fine tuning such machines need."
"So, what exactly would be your analysis of a time frame before the ZERO_Over becomes effective?"
"Effective? Haha!" Yume laughed a bit before shaking her head. However, when she saw how serious Kamijou was being with his question, as well as the stares of everyone else, she changed her tune, clearing her throat and staring right back at them.
"A time frame? Like I said, a few months. But even then, the recreation of a single Level 0 power? That's going to mean nothing in the face of something like Personality Swipe and the FIVE_Object. Since it's a Level 0 power which is fairly weak, what can it do against someone trying to overwrite your personality? Even if it could do something, that means nothing against a massive WMD that can blow you off the face of the planet and not even leave cinders. Kamijou-chan, I say this quite literally, but even if Kamui is making progress on this ZERO_Over, it would take months before the power can be recreated. And in that time, Personality Swipe and the FIVE_Object would be completed. I mean no disrespect to Level 0s, but in the face of those two, what exactly can a Level 0 power do?"
There was silence as Yume posed her question, leaving everyone else sitting there contemplating it.
"Not to mention the fact that Kamui would be focusing on other things at the time. Index-chan, you said the ZERO_Over was in its beginning stages, correct? Getting the recreation of a single power down pat, even if it is a Level 0, isn't something anyone can do in a day. It's going to take time. Time better spent on the development on projects that can really hurt somebody." Yume spoke smoothly, shaking her head. "My professional opinion? The ZERO_Over is something Kamui is working on. But, judging from the status of it, it won't be his priority. And hence, we shouldn't make it ours if we are going to fight him."
Yume closed her laptop. She turned to Kamijou with a serious gaze on her face and sighed.
"But I'm not going to leave that to the hands of children. This is a serious issue and while I thank you for having come this far in the information on Kamui, it is not your place to deal with him and his problems."
The gazes of everyone else shot up as soon as they heard the woman speak her harsh words. Although she was trying to be kind in the way it was said, she was essentially telling them that after everything they had done, they were no longer needed. Something like damaged pride fuelled all of them. Mikoto, given her own incidents she had faced as a Level 5, spoke up with a rising voice.
"Yume-sensei, you can't really think we're going to just let this issue with Kamui pass are you? I mean, look at what we've just learnt with your assistance. This…maniac has not only infected who knows how many men with his personality using Personality Swipe but is also making a massive weapon which can hold Level 5 powers in the FIVE_Object! While the other projects like the Break Queen Package and the ZERO_Over are of a lesser focus because they are not a big of a threat or need the passage of time before they can properly work, you can't expect us to just sit back and do nothing when we hear about this!"
"I realise that." Yume said, rising both hands. "And I mean nothing by it. You did well to get through what Kamui put you through. Right now, you are alive and breathing, ready to take on the bastard who decided to put you and everyone else in harm's way."
"Then – "
"But people died, Misaka-chan. This was not some conflict between espers or between people with guns and others who could take on. This was a fight between someone who will sleep well even if he tore you limb from limb in cold blood and you, who want, and deserve, the right to sleep well at night. I'm not going to tell you you are powerless. Right at this table are perhaps the bravest and most courageous people I've ever met. I'm honoured to be even sitting at this table with you."
Yume's words held no lies. But that was what made the words she knew she had to say sound even harsher.
"You dealt with the problem and you survived. But for you child heroes, there are some issues you haven't seen that the adults have to deal with. And when the going gets tough, yes, maybe us adults will do the stupid thing and rely on you children to solve our problems for us. But right now, this is not a fight I am willing to put you through. I would never be able to live it down if I got you involved in this and you were hurt while I made it out perfectly fine. It would be the darkest mark on my record."
"You realise that is just self-satisfaction ability, don't you?" Shokuhou said while eyeing the woman. "You've already failed in trying to prevent us from getting involved. You can't stop us going any further down the rabbit hole."
"…I realise that." Yume said with her head held down. "You have already been hurt and you have already experienced so much pain I can barely even comprehend how you managed to get through it all. Kamui did that to you and I won't let him do it anymore. Which means that I'm not going to allow, or accept, the idea of you going onto that front line again. Even if it is self-satisfaction…you deserve to be happy. You are children. You don't deserve to have to face this. You deserve better. All of you."
Yume rose her head and stared at everyone else, her hands on the table lightly trembling as she brought them into fists. No one said anything, listening to her words and finding them oddly resound through them.
They were tired.
After everything they had been through, were they not allowed a break now that everything was over?
They felt themselves wanting to let out their hearts and confirm what they wanted to.
Kamijou Touma spoke.
"I did not come into this because I was forced to. Maybe when things were pushed, I was made to go along with the flow, but the things I did yesterday, I did because I wanted to. We all have the right to our smiles and our peace. Everyone does. But can I simply sit back and leave it to the hands of everyone else placing their smiles and peace on the line while I ignorantly lay back and accept that mine alone is untouched while everyone else is suffering? Ignorance may be bliss, but it's not happiness. If Kamui rises up with these projects again, I will rise up in turn as well to stop him. Even if this is a fight for adults, that doesn't mean I'm going to just ignore it and turn a blind eye. Even if there is nothing I can do, I'm not going to let that stop me getting involved. If we choose to let the adults looking out for us plunge their hands into misfortune for us, then that isn't happiness. It's standing on their shoulders and climbing out while abandoning them to their fate. And I won't do that. Not to anyone."
Yume said nothing, staring at the boy with rather wide eyes.
"I won't abandon you to this fight alone, Yume-sensei. It's my fight as much as yours. And that isn't something I'm saying to be cool, because I'm prideful or because I have a desire to show I'm man enough to challenge Kamui with the adults. It's just because…the adults deserve happiness just as much as us. I'm not forcing myself to say this either. I want to help you fight this. I'm always complaining about my misfortune but…"
Kamijou paused for a moment before he smiled.
"Maybe instead of it looking for me, it's time I looked for it instead."
Yume said nothing still. She just stared at Kamijou, her eyes holding a mixture of confusion, pity and pain. All because she knew that despite the words he was saying, they went entirely against her desire to protect him. His desire to enter the fight because he wanted to help and wanted to stop Kamui was a desire she shared, with the only difference between them being an issue of age.
But did that make him any less capable to fight than Yume and the rest of the adults?
But at the same time, the fact he would place his happiness on the line because he wanted to help those adults come back alive when it came to facing Kamui only showed to what extent he truly wanted to save others and prevent them from falling to Kamui.
Even if it meant his own smile was forfeited in turn.
But it was not just him.
"I'm the same."
Index spoke up, staring at Yume.
"After seeing what Kamui is up to and hearing it here…how can I let this be? This goes beyond just being an issue of the Science side which I should not be involved in. This involves the whole of Academy City and more if the FIVE_Object is completed. I can't let this stand. Not when there is so much on the line."
"Tch. As much as it annoys me that the Silver Sister beat me to it, I have to agree with her. Even if I don't know you very well, or the adults that are going to be charging into this to deal with Kamui, they are a part of this City too. And I'm not going to just leave it to you guys to deal with. Not when there is something I want to protect here too."
Misaka Mikoto spoke with annoyance in her voice, flicking a hair out of her eye with a hand but clearly trying to hide how desperately she did not want to be left out of this.
Shokuhou Misaki sighed two seats down from her.
"Well then. As much as I would prefer not to be involved in whatever mess Kihara Kamui is involved in, I can't just let Misaka-san beat me on that front, can I?" She smiled and leaned back in her chair, trying to look at Yume but emphasising her large breasts as she did so. "With two Level 5s, you can tell your ability to win has increased, hasn't it?"
"…You will not be alone in this. Just hearing this, I cannot let Kamui do to others what he did to me. You will have the full support of the Black Crows should you need it."
Shutaura Sequenzia spoke, Yume turning her head to the girl clad in black. Her eyes were wide in surprise, but it was clear there was something she wanted to say, even if it would not come out.
She just sat there, looking at everyone else before turning her gaze to Hayashida, her eyes hopeful for the answer she hoped to hear for the question she asked but also holding her body with some resignation as if she already knew the answer.
"Me?" asked Hayashida before smiling slightly. "I imagine with everything I pulled with MINUS and Kamui already, I'm not going to be seeing the sunlight for a long time. But…if I ever get the chance to get out, then I'm not going to sit back either. Against the madness of Kamui, you don't even need to ask twice." She turned to Shutaura who was in charge of handing her to Anti-Skill although the girl merely shook her head.
"That's not up to me. I am not the one who is going to be handing down punishment for your crimes – "
"One of which was hurting my friends. I haven't forgotten or forgiven you for that."
" – So I will leave that in the hands of better people than me."
Shutaura ignored the spat out comment of Mikoto. The Level 0 girl, when hearing it, winced but Mikoto did not care that her words bit into her so much. Even if she showed remorse, that did not stop the wounds Saten Ruiko and Uiharu Kazari had incurred during that hell with MINUS to be reversed, nor did it reverse the pain she had caused to so many. Even if it was an accident, this girl had killed someone; one Endo Hanshiro.
But even without that, this girl had wounded and hurt the friends of Misaka Mikoto that she could only grit her teeth in how she had been unable to do anything about it.
Just as she had said, the bitterness Hayashida had made her feel was not going to make her feel any better about this Level 0 girl.
Just as Misaka Mikoto had said, she was not going to forgive Hayashida Mari for the things she had done, even if she had turned her ways around and decided to see the light when she had been so died in darkness.
In the end, Misaka Mikoto could not become Kamijou Touma.
But that was merely how the world worked and the difference between that Level 0 and Level 5.
Which in turn revealed the gap between them.
Whatever the case, Yume stared at the people around her, the children who deserved a better life in this City they called home. She opened her mouth to say something but closed it. She shook her head, running a hand through her hair and closing her eyes. She took a deep breath, her mind turning before sighing and opening her eyes.
"I'm not going to do something as pointless as fight on you with this. You all speak from positions of knowing and seeing for your own eyes what Kamui is capable of instead of from ignorance. All of you know the risks of your words. You've seen first hand the lengths Kamui is going to go to for the sake of protecting his investments. Even with that knowledge…do you still want to fight that? Even if I am begging you to not do it…are you still willing to charge into this fight all the same? Do you still want to fight Kihara Kamui?"
Kamijou Touma answered without hesitating.
"But not to defeat him. But to ensure everyone can go home smiling without thinking they have lost anything. Without that type of ending, we really, truly would have lost to Kihara Kamui."
To that boy, it was not about defeating the dragon.
It was ensuring they saved who they needed to and making sure they could go home for that happily ever after. Even after everything he had been through, he had not broken. Even after Kamui had tried to press down on his mind, it had stayed strong.
No, was it because it had been tested that it had stayed strong? Was it because it had been forged in the flames of what Kamui had done that instead of burning like paper, it had hardened like clay in a kiln?
He was not trying to apply wishful thinking. He knew how impossible such a task he was saying was after having seen the lengths Kamui would go to for the sake of his own objectives but he still wished for that ending with everything he had. He still wished for an ending where everyone could smile together.
His words held truth.
If they gave up on trying to make sure everyone could smile at the very end of the day, then they truly would have lost to the likes of Kihara Kamui.
Yume stared at the people around her, not saying anything but seeing how they all looked at Kamijou with silent agreement on their expressions. That look in their eyes as they stared at him was all that anyone needed to know as to know their response to what Kamijou had said.
Yume had said she would get the adults to fight the fight the children did not have to. But the children here had said it was not the role of the arrogant adults to protect them from everything when they chose to enter the fray of their own will. They said it was their own choice to fight Kamui and that they wanted to for the sake of the ending they longed for.
It was surely childish.
But then again, as children, that was allowed. Even if it was naïve on the battlefield, unacceptable, it was what had pushed them forward all this time and what they had sought for at the end of everything. It was what powered their hearts and allowed them to see a better tomorrow even in these times of darkness that threatened to rip them apart.
And within that darkness was a single boy, his smile and his dream to never let anything be taken from him or the smiles of anyone else.
Some many things had been said about him that they were endless.
But at the same time, there was one thing that had to be said about him that captured him perfectly.
Kamijou Touma was the type of normal high school boy you could find anywhere.
And for that alone, he would always stand up for the sake of normality no matter how many times he was pushed down.
"How many times do I have to tell you!? Don't call me that! All my teachers were always wrinkly old bags or men so that only makes me cringe in the idea that I'm going to become like them! I'm 26, damn it!"
Kamijou Touma called out to the woman in the hallway of the hospital who turned around frantically with an edge to her voice. There were slight tears in her eyes, but Kamijou barely noticed, catching up to her and panting heavily.
In the end, while the people sitting at that table had resolved to defeat Kihara Kamui and Yume knew to not exclude them in whatever was about to happen, whatever was about to happen had yet to be determined.
They were children after all and this was a battle for adults.
Even if they were involved in this because of the raw resolve they were showing and the desire to not let Kihara Kamui destroy any more smiles, there was still the issue of bringing Kamui into the eyes of the public as Public Enemy No. 1. Yume herself was only someone who had an acquaintance within Anti-Skill and had only been brought in during the MINUS chaos as a consultant so how exactly she was going to bring Kamui to the attention of everyone in Academy City was a question the children did not know the answer to.
Although they had said they would fight the fight against Kamui with the adults, the exact nature of that fight had yet to be determined.
What was going to happen and what were they going to strike first? How were they going to strike back against who knew how many Kamuis when an unknown amount of people had been infected with his personality? How were they going to isolate and stop the construction of the FIVE_Object, let alone find where it was being built? If they did not stop it, what then? What about the Break Queen Package; how were they going to stop that being constructed? And the ZERO_Over too? How many were going to be fighting with them? Was it going to be a co-ordinated attack against Kamui or splinter cells moving towards the different objectives?
Those types of questions the children did not have the answer to. They had rightfully left it to the adults to deal with.
After all, if any of those children said to the adults there was a mad scientist on the loose capturing people's minds, building cyborgs and weapons capable of blowing up a City and choosing to replicate a Level 0 power of all things (even if it was Kamijou's fabled right hand), it would not end well. Even if they used Mental Out to control everyone into believing it, they would only be puppets and not act independently to solve the problem.
So, to make sure they could have everyone believe them, it was the turn of the adults to deal with the red tape and organise the proper force to deal with Kihara Kamui.
The organisation of the forces against Kamui, the numbers and the proper investigations would be done by those adults with the children being brought in as needed and as required. It was the adults who would start everything off before complying with the wishes of the children even if it left a bad taste in their mouths.
But looking at it, that was the type of threat Kihara Kamui was.
If you left out a small piece, not matter how significant you thought it was, then everything could come crashing down around you.
Yume had promised to get back to everyone else on the issue of what was happening and to what extent she would be able to convince the people around her that the Kamui threat was real. She had insisted everyone wait until her call (she had given her card to everybody such that they knew her number) before doing anything such as going ahead with attacking Kamui and everybody respected that.
After all, who knew where Kamui had his eyes and ears? Even though they knew women were immune to his Personality Swipe merely because he singled out men, the idea that any one boy or man could be against them made them shiver.
So they would leave it in the hands of the woman most capable of doing things. Indeed, she had already shown her worth to Kamijou more than once by helping him with his PTSD, accessing illegal files to fight Kamui and helping him restore his left arm. As long as things were in Yume's hands, Kamijou knew the fight against Kihara Kamui was more than ready to begin.
But even so, there was something he could not shake off, a nervousness he could not ignore.
So to that end, he had taken off after Yume, leaving everyone at the table under the pretence there was something he wanted to ask her just to clarify what she had said previously.
"Kamijou-chan? What is it? I thought I asked you to wait like everybody else. I realise you might want to get right into attacking Kamui but patience and planning, especially in a time like this, is important."
"N-No, I understand that," said Kamijou between panted breaths. "It's just that I have something…something to ask you."
Yume tilted her head despite being an adult. It was still a cute action all the same as Kamijou stood up and held his right hand in front of his face.
"It's about the ZERO_Over. The thing you were talking about with the nanomachines?"
"I remember. Then again, when it comes to the mind of Kihara Kamui, it's hard to forget things." Yume spat out in disdain. "But I explained this to you, remember? Unlike the Break Queen Package that does not seem too bad, the ZERO_Over is barely a threat. Kamui has lots more dangerous things on his plate and the ZERO_Over could take months to properly develop, especially since it is nanomachines. The FIVE_Object and Personality Swipe are threats now. I understand you want to deal with all things but – "
"My power is Imagine Breaker. The Level 0 power Kamui is trying to re-create using the ZERO_Over is mine."
Yume's eyes went wide. Her face went pale extremely fast and a nervous sweat formed on her forehead. Her mouth trembled, as if she were trying to say something but it only come out as a mumble.
"Imagine Breaker? The power Kamui is trying to develop? It's mine."
"H-Hang on just a minute, Kamijou-chan!" Yume shouted out, holding up a hand in front of her and putting the other and wiping her forehead. Her hand trembled at the action but she managed to focus her mind and look at the spiky haired boy. "A-Are you telling me that you're holding this Level 0 power, Imagine Breaker, yourself? Surely there are others! Personal Realities can overlap; you can see that in the fact that Misaka Mikoto is seen as the most powerful Electromaster among so many!"
"No. I'm the only one within Academy City that has it. It resides within my right hand. Shouldn't you know this as my psychiatrist?"
"T-The entire point of the relationship between you and me, Kamijou-chan, is for you to open up to me. Unlike other counsellors out there, I don't do a strong background search into my patients; the farthest I usually go is Level, school or occupation and a criminal background analysis so my clients can open up to me and we can build a rapport along the way. But what do you mean you're the only one with it? What does it even do?"
"That's not important."
"I think it is!"
"No." Kamijou waved a hand in mid-air to try and get Yume's attention back on track, his gaze serious as he looked at her. She recoiled a bit in shock before Kamijou continued. "It isn't. Yume-sensei, you said that the ZERO_Over trying to replicate my power are nanomachines right?"
"Y-Yes. Index-chan said ZERO_Over so I did a basic search on the files I managed to illegally get access to…" Yume started to look nervous and gulped once.
"That's the thing." Kamijou said, lowering his right hand and bringing up his left. "Because isn't what fixed my left arm nanomachines as well?"
Yume opened her mouth but the nervousness on her face was clear.
The Tetris Nanomachines (Yume still disliked the name but it was tentative) were the nanomachines that had filled in the missing 'gaps' within Kamijou's left arm when it had been ripped from him by Aaron Gracestone, the boy who had been infected with Kamui's personality. They had assimilated into his body and become the missing parts of his left arm, allowing it to function like normal as if nothing had ever happened. However, that had not been sourced from District 7, but instead from elsewhere. Yume and Heaven Canceller themselves had ensured no male personnel were involved in the transfer to prevent Kamui from interfering with the transfer of the nanomachines that would allow Kamijou his left arm back after it had been torn from him.
The idea Kamijou was raising was one Yume caught on instantly. She shook her head but the nervousness in the action was clear.
"K-Kamijou-chan, let me tell you this right now. I made sure, I am certain, that the Tetris Nanomachines were not intercepted along the way to this hospital. Not only that but I made sure no men were involved in the process to prevent Kamui from interfering. I understand the paranoia you have but think about it logically."
Whether it was Yume trying to force her mind to think or to calm Kamijou, it seemed her suggestion was having a more calming effect on her than Kamijou.
"Hypothetically, let's say Kamui managed to get the ZERO_Over nanomachines into the Tetris Nanomachines that fixed your left arm. That would mean he is giving you the technology that is trying to replicate Imagine Breaker. You said it was within your right hand? Why give you something you already have but apply it to your left? There are questions I want to ask you about it, from a purely scientific point of view a power that isolates itself in a particular limb is extraordinary, but that can wait. Why would Kamui bother giving you the technology to replicate something you already have?"
Kamijou had no answer to that. No matter how much his mind wandered for an answer, the madness of Kamui just made no sense to him.
But that was not the issue troubling him so.
"Yume-sensei, I realise that might be an issue…" Kamijou found himself being oddly calm about the entire thing. Was it because Yume was panicking for him? Or was what he was thinking about something he was desensitised to? He did not know but he forced his mind to look past the terrifying thought he was having and focused on saying it out loud. "But I need you to make absolutely sure there is no possibility my left arm might contain the ZERO_Over nanomachines."
Kamijou rose his right hand.
And tapped his temple.
"Didn't you say the Tetris Nanomachines had to enter my brain to allow my left arm to even function? I can move and feel pain in my left arm, which has the assimilated Tetris Nanomachines in it, and that would not be possible without a connection to my brain. It was the cause of the headaches I mentioned to you yesterday morning and you said the headaches I was getting were because of the forced connection the Nanomachines had with my left arm and brain. If the ZERO_Over nanomachines were contained within the Tetris Nanomachines, then doesn't that mean that…"
Yume had gone past paling.
She had gone entirely white, just like the colour of her lab coat. Her eyes were like dinner plates and she stared at the left arm in front of her with an expression of strong fear. She opened her mouth to say something but the way she was trembling made it clear she was barely holding it together.
"Y-Yes. I-I'm sure… I'm absolutely sure…! I'm very, very, very, very, very absolutely, positively, undeniably, irrefutably, unquestionably, definitely sure! There were no foreign elements within the Tetris Nanomachines used to attach your left arm back to you! There were none!"
Yume basically screamed the words out but the fright on her face with each passing word was clear. More and more sweat ran down her face, sticking her black hair to her face and her blue eyes grew more and more frightened as they stared at Kamijou in front of her.
What was his expression looking like right now?
What was he feeling?
Even Kamijou Touma did not know. He stared at Yume's face, trying to figure out the truth of the answer and so he could properly determine whether she was scared because she was lying or just unsure.
Yume just looked at the boy and his left arm. She turned around, facing the hallway and spotting something on the wall, racing over to it and scanning it with her eyes. She seemed to find what she was looking for on it and tore her gaze away from it, Kamijou seeing it was a map.
Yume wasted no time, grabbing Kamijou's arm and dragging him through the hospital corridor with more force he thought her capable of. Her hand, usually warm and soft, was cold and sweaty.
There were no words in response.
No words to spell his doom and confirm the frightening thoughts within him.
But no words of relief to soothe them either.
A single drop of blood.
Kamijou Touma had spilt more than just that during the incidents he had been through. So much more.
But he had never thought so much could ride on such a small piece of him.
And he never thought his heart could break from a single scream like the one that ran through the hospital now.
He did not know where he was.
The only thing he knew in this practically empty space that was cordoned off from the rest of the hospital and called the 'Drug Testing Room' based on maps he had seen was that it was basically empty, missing a door and had empty shelves lining the room. However, the equipment inside seemed to have remained and it was one of those pieces of equipment that Yume tore from the desk and slammed onto the floor.
The specialised microscope that Yume had used to analyse the single drop of Kamijou's blood broke in two as soon as it hit the ground, the two glass plates that had held Kamijou's single drop of blood shattering on the floor.
He said nothing, feeling his heart pound in his chest. He just stared at the woman who tore at her hair in frustration, letting the words come from her mouth in an endless stream of despair.
"I checked. I checked and I promised. A-And yet, I… I…!"
Something like the sound a child would make when you told them they had lost their parents at a young age came from her throat; a pitiful whimper that made her not seem like the woman who was desperately fighting against Kamui along with everyone else but merely the human being who had realised she had let down the one person she had tried her hardest to meet the expectations of.
"When did he infect the Tetris Nanomachines with the ZERO_Over? When the fuck did it happen!? Who was it!? I swear the moment I get my hands on them I'll… I'll…!"
Yume started to turn around, her face contorted with rage but the moment she saw the spiky haired boy just staring at her and doing nothing else, her entire face went white. Instantly replacing the endless anger there was infinite sadness, the woman's lips trembling as she bit down on them. She forced herself to try and appear strong but with the way she was shaking like a leaf in the wind, it was clear the news of what was happening had hit her hard.
And yet Kamijou Touma…
He rose a hand to the bridge of his nose and sat down. He rubbed the bridge of his nose, unsure of the emotions coursing through his mind but if there was anything he knew he had to do it was not panic or despair.
He had to get information.
Hadn't he learned that during the hell with Othinus? If he had not forced his mind to focus on the things at hand, if he had not made himself look past the despair and focus on what he had to, then he would have been crushed long ago.
Kihara Kamui's speciality right now, ignoring the insane projects he was taking part in, was breaking people. Seeing how far their minds would have to be pushed before they finally snapped.
And if Kamijou let himself give in to his shaking heart right now, he would fall off the edge he was balancing on with nothing being able to save him.
He refused to let this defeat him.
He refused to break.
"Yume-sensei… From your reaction, I guess you found something else in the blood of my left arm? Something other than the Tetris Nanomachines that are supposed to be there?"
Yume said nothing, staring at the boy with wide eyes and looking at him as if the calm nature he was showing right now was the wrong thing in this situation. Kamijou stared back at her blue eyes, feeling himself waver ever so slightly at them but forced himself to continue. The despair of what was happening now was something he had to fight and if he used words to rationalise what was happening, then that was what prevented him from heading for the hills screaming in despair.
"I'll take that as my answer. Well, then again, you already said that before so…" Kamijou scratched the edge of his cheek sheepishly. "At any rate, does that mean what I think it does? You said my ability to move and feel pain in my left arm was because the nerves and the like have connected with my brain. And if Kamui's ZERO_Over was put inside me along with the Tetris Nanomachines, that means his ZERO_Over is currently within my brain. Have I…gotten that right so far?"
"What…are you saying?"
"Index said the ZERO_Over has been implemented and is progressing slowly. And you said Kamui needs to monitor it constantly as to properly observe any results it makes. Does he… I don't know, have some sort of connection with the ZERO_Over in my left arm and brain that he can monitor? Like brainwaves or something?"
"No, why would need to monitor my brainwaves? That's been done at the hospital so many times already they probably have been able to map out my entire neuron structure. O-Oh wow, saying it out loud don't make it any better…"
"What the hell are you saying?!"
Yume let that out into the air, striding over and grabbing Kamijou by the shoulders. She tightened her grip, staring into his eyes and basically spat out the words.
"Don't you get it!? Kamui has… Kamui has practically infected your brain! How can you stay so calm? After those hopefully words I spewed out that I would not let him win and yet it turned out like this? H-How can you look at this situation so rationally and calmly?! How can you not hate me!? T-This is my fault! If I hadn't suggested the Tetris Nanomachines in the first place, then this never would have happened! If I hadn't – "
"Yume-sensei, I'm going to have to stop you right there."
Kamijou spoke calmly, raising both hands in a gesture of surrender that made the woman blink once in surprise.
She was truly kind.
The fear she was feeling, evident in her wide eyes and the sweat on her face was not because she had failed. But because there was someone else who had been affected because of her failure. The scream of despair she had made when she had learned ZERO_Over had infected Kamijou's brain was not because of her failure but because of the things happening to that spiky haired boy.
That kindness in itself was one thing calming Kamijou down and preventing his heart from going out of control. And it was with that calm heart that he desperately tried to focus his mind on the situation.
"Firstly, the choice to take back by left arm was mine. No one else's. I have my arm back, the one I was born with, because of science. Because of you. Even if it came with an unintended side effect, that isn't something to despair about. I am healed because of you, Yume-sensei, so don't beat yourself up over that. Even if Kamui has gotten to me in some way, then that happened because he took control and advantage of kindness. You tried to sully that, but in my mind, I won't let him do that. I won't let you think suggesting the Tetris Nanomachines that I chose to take into my body was a mistake."
"T-That isn't the point! Right now, you have something in your brain! Do you not understand that?!"
"If you get it, then why aren't you…" She trailed off, something that made Kamijou smile all the same. That only made the eyes of Yume go even wider.
"Panicking? Writing my will and testament? Screaming in despair? I…"
Kamijou stopped for a moment, silent before rising his head and looking at the woman.
"I guess you could say I'm…thankful."
The response that came from the woman's mouth was barely a whisper. Kamijou himself seemed to realise what he himself had said, slowly lowering his head and nodding.
"Yeah. I'm thankful. Thankful that out of all the people Kamui decided to give this to, it was me. After all…if it's with me and someone suffers for it, the only person who will be hurt is me, right? And I'm used to that. So no matter what Kamui throws my way, I'm sure I'll be able to take it. But right now, I'm just thankful it was me instead of anyone else Kamui decided to target."
Kamijou smiled lightly at that, looking at the woman in front of him who just stared at him. Her eyes seemed to tremble as they looked at him, unsure of what to even think at what he was saying, but the fact Kamijou could not understand the twisted nature of his words was what was most heartbreaking.
He would cast himself to the flames so no one else would be burned? He would sacrifice his mind, heart and body for the sake of somebody else to ensure they were not hurt? He was thankful he was the one burning in the place of someone else and was smiling at the fact he was the one suffering?
He was acting as a shield for the misfortune of others.
That was nothing new for that spiky haired boy.
But never before was the tragedy behind those words revealed up until just now with what he said.
He had once feared, and he still did fear, that his desensitisation of his own death would mean he would not care one way or another if he died. If it would result in something good, the twisted nature of his mind would mean he would accept it. He would accept dying because he felt his life meant so little in the larger picture that it was worth sacrificing even if it was in exchange for another life.
But with his words, that was not merely a hypothetical.
It was reality.
The fact he could throw himself into this, feeling thankful for the fact he was hurting in the place of someone else, proved that more than anything else. The fear within Kamijou's heart that he would lose everything as he acted as a shield was not merely a whisper in the wind.
With his self-sacrificing nature, it was happening right here and now.
Someday, if he kept this up, Kamijou would truly lose something he could not afford to because of how worthless he felt his own life was when measured up against something he thought he could protect. He truly would give up something he could not get back.
Kamijou Touma had feared this. He had feared this would happen to him and he was actively trying to stop such.
But the biggest fear he had had about this was that he would not even realise he was losing something until it was too late.
His words, his nobility in wanting to save someone and to prevent someone else feeling pain…it was certainly heroic. It had a light to it that shone brighter than anything else and anyone could not help but feel awe in the face of what he said.
But maybe if you dug a little bit deeper, you would not find the soul of someone who always stood up strong to whatever he faced and whatever he challenged.
Instead it was entirely possible you would find a hopeless scrap of meat who had been beaten so many times he knew nothing else and would accept losing everything because he wanted to make sure everyone else had everything.
"But whatever the case, I need to understand, Yume-sensei. The ZERO_Over. What is it trying to do?"
The fact he could continue the conversation so easily showed part of that twisted mind. Yume trembled in front of Kamijou as she answered, her mind clearly turning fast as Kamijou watched her.
"What is it trying to do? It's inside my brain, right? And it's trying to replicate Imagine Breaker, right? So why is it inside my brain? It makes no sense."
"I-It makes no sense?" Yume, trying hard to get her mind back on track, sputtered out the words before shaking her head. "Kamijou-chan, it makes perfect sense. I'm surprised, disgusted at myself for even allowing this to happen, that the nanomachines are directly put into you instead of being monitored and tested by Kamui in a controlled environment to get the results he needs, but the way he is doing it makes sense."
"Your Personal Reality." Yume, whether it be because she had found something she found easy to discuss or because she had gotten her groove back, managed to form words that were strung together a bit more. However, even if that was the case, the distance she created between her and Kamijou was obvious as she backed away from him. She tapped her temple.
"The Personal Reality of an esper is a mental state. It's something you overlap with the world to give you the ability to access your power. But even if that is the case, such realities don't just happen. They need to be fine tuned and the application of anyone's power onto the world needs to have a fundamental understanding of the workings of the brain. Because you need the brain to even allow powers to work."
"Why?" asked Kamijou. Yume, managing to find her cool, narrowed her eyes.
"Aren't you supposed to learn this in school?"
"Yeah, but I'm an idiot so treat me like I'm dumb. Because I am."
"…There's something to be said about how you think so little of yourself, Kamijou-chan." Yume said but shook her head and tapped her temple once more.
"Calculations, Kamijou-chan. You need the brain to think, to perform the calculations that allow you to use your power. This isn't some American comic book. You don't just 'feel' the power, nor is it an issue of working 'around' some fuzzy feeling in your chest. There are no magic words, although some espers use words as the focus for their power. What allows you to use your powers isn't the heart, but the head. The calculations allow you to perform the things you can."
"So, ZERO_Over has infected my brain for the…calculations for Imagine Breaker?"
"Exactly. I don't know how Kamui might be doing it but if he knows the inherent calculations you are performing behind your power, then it is entirely possible he can recreate it using conventional science. By knowing how it works, he can replicate it is the thinking I reckon he has."
"M-Meaning he is going to studying the thoughts you are having inside of your mind. Kamijou-chan, don't you get it? Even right now, if you use your right hand, then those calculations you use are ones Kamui is going to be sourcing straight from – "
The Drug Testing Room suddenly erupted with the sound of laughter, Yume stepping back in surprise at the sound that suddenly came from Kamijou. The laughter from him was not fake, desperate or from the realisation of what exactly was happening to him but true laughter, as if there was something he truly found hilarious in this madness happening to him.
"Ahahahahahaha! I-I can't believe it! Can this even happen with my misfortune? Can I really be so lucky without realising it!? Hahahahaha!"
"H-Hey, what are you talking about? What about this is lucky in any way!?"
"H-Hahahaha! I-It's simple, Yume-sensei!" Kamijou said, wiping a tear from his eye as he rose his right hand. "Kamui is trying to read the calculations for Imagine Breaker performed in my brain so he can try and replicate it, right? But that won't work. Because never once in my life have I actively tried to perform the calculations behind Imagine Breaker! It just doesn't have an off switch; it's always active!"
Yume's mouth went agape as she stared at the boy in front of her, sputtering out the words.
"Y-You mean to say your power is passive? N-No, what do you mean you don't have to do calculations? Everyone does! Even Gemstones have some aspect of their power they can control. There's no such thing as an esper who can't control their own power! You have to do calculations to allow your Personal Reality to function in the world and – "
"Not for me." Kamijou Touma grinned as he stood, a vicious smile on his face. "Not for my right hand. It's always active, I'm never had it turned off a day in my life and I've never once had to perform calculations for it like everyone else does with their powers. For any other Level 0, the ZERO_Over would work. It would infect their brain, Kamui would take the needed calculations they perform from it and use it to recreate their power. But for me? It won't do anything. There's nothing Kamui can monitor because I don't do anything! Don't you see?! The ZERO_Over is useless! It will never progress any further than sitting in my mind, gathering dust because there's nothing it can monitor!"
Yume said nothing, just staring at Kamijou with a dumbfounded look on her face. Kamijou understood the basis of it: within mere moments, he had just overturned everything she knew about espers and completely changed what she had felt to be a preestablished fact. But the downside of common sense was that if there was an exception, you were never prepared for it.
Just seeing Yume's reaction to what Kamijou was saying, which was theoretically an impossibility because all espers had to do calculations under common sense, made it more than obvious how Kamui would have reacted. Kamui had created the ZERO_Over within the confines of common sense: his madness staying within the parameters of the laws of the world as he knew them.
But Imagine Breaker did not follow the laws of this world.
It was not an esper power, nor was it magic. It sat within the confines of something Science could not understand and because of it, it had entirely flown beneath the radar of whatever Kamui had been planning.
Right now, the ZERO_Over had infected Kamijou Touma's brain.
But that was it.
Nothing it monitored would allow for the recreation of Imagine Breaker. Nothing it recorded would be any use and anything Kamui noted down would only end up going in circles because of how useless it was. Even if it was a project created by Kihara Kamui, it was dead in the water the moment he had decided to make it Modelcase_"IMAGINE_BREAKER".
It was ironic in a way.
Of course someone would want to try and recreate Imagine Breaker. They would put all their resources into trying to find a way to negate magic and science entirely.
But there was no way any one would be able to do that. Kamui's attempts were futile and as calculating, thorough and horrible as he was, there was one thing he had never considered.
Imagine Breaker was more than he could understand.
And because of that, he would always fail trying to recreate it.
One of the four twisted projects of Kihara Kamui was always going to fail.
Something surged within Kamijou's chest, a feeling of endless relief. The challenge of defiance and the feeling of victory within him felt as though they were never-ending and he sighed, wiping the tears from his eyes. He flexed the fingers of his right hand, looking at the limb fondly and finding the grin on his face to be difficult to remove.
The incidents with Mugino Shizuri dealing with Personality Swipe, Kongou Mitsuko dealing with the FIVE_Object and Shutaura Sequenzia dealing with the Break Queen Package had all been horrible. Each time they had happened, something had been lost and very little had been won.
But with the project of the ZERO_Over, it was entirely different.
They finally had a victory.
They finally had the chance to get the one up on Kamui before he even had the chance to do anything twisted. They had finally beaten him before the fight had even begun. For that alone, Kamijou Touma stared down at his right hand, that surging feeling racing through him.
(Miracles do exist.)
He thought, clenching his fist even tighter.
(We've managed to deal with something of Kamui before it can hurt anyone. Even if it is only in my brain, it can't hurt me when the things it is looking for don't even exist. It's useless. We've managed to win. We've managed to bring a victory from the mud surrounding us and managed to finally get one up on Kihara Kamui!)
"K-Kamijou-chan?" Yume asked. Again, the lack of common sense in what Kamijou was saying as he suggested Imagine Breaker was unlike any other esper powers she had seen before made her reluctant to so easily accept his conclusion. The things she had seen him do had surprised her many times but the conclusions reached at the end of those things were merely taking events and doing something insane about them.
Sure, they had resulted in good things happening but those good things were as a result of the operation of common sense. If you saw something bad and did something about it, something good would happen.
But with Imagine Breaker, with how what Kamijou was saying so easily threw that common sense out the window, she could not so easily accept what he was saying. As a scientist who studied the laws of the world, something outside of them made no sense to her.
"Yume-sensei, is it possible to remove the ZERO_Over from my brain?" Kamijou asked suddenly, his own mind turning at a rate faster than Yume's. Such was clearly not normal for her, the woman rising a hand to her head and managing to form shaky words.
"I-I guess? I wouldn't suggest it though. After all, it was implanted inside your body along with the Tetris Nanomachines so if we were to remove it, it would involve systematically isolating the ZERO_Over nanomachines inside of you and individually – "
"No, that's fine. I was just asking. Keeping it inside of me is the better idea for now."
"What!? K-Kamijou-chan, have you been listening to anything I say?! The ZERO_Over is within your brain!"
"Yes. But it's useless!" Kamijou tapped his temple. "Without the calculations Kamui wants being performed, he can't recreate the power within my right hand. But right now, he doesn't know that. He'll think the slow progress is exactly what you said it would be and is normal for the type of project he is running instead of it being because it was dead in the water before it even started. We need to keep that thinking inside of him. Because if it does stick, then we'll be able to sneak more and more victories past him for certain."
Yume was unable to say anything as Kamijou stood up, grinning.
"We've managed to get something against him, Yume-sensei. We've finally managed to pull a victory from the bog of defeats. We can't throw that away by altering Kamui to what happened by removing the ZERO_Over from me. Now, Kamui will get cocky, think everything is going according to plan. And that is when we will strike."
He grinned, looking at the woman in front of him who was still dumbstruck.
"Thank you, Yume-sensei. Without you telling me this…we would never have had this victory. The mistakes you think you made, they are giving us a chance to fight against Kamui better than ever before. Without you, we never would have made it this far. Thank you."
Kamijou's words were honest to a fault. The woman in front of him, clearly unable to keep track of events despite everything she had researched, nodded dumbly. Her eyes seemed to be on the verge of spinning out of control. In place of Kamijou who had stood up, Yume sat down, rubbing the bridge of her nose.
"I have no idea what just happened… G-Give me time to think about this, OK? I need time to process everything you told me about the ZERO_Over and whatever victory you think you have against Kamui. Not only that but I have to convince Anti-Skill and Judgment that he is even real."
"Kamijou-chan, can you just give me some time to think this over? I'll need a few hours, so can we meet up later today? I don't care where or when but just so we can discuss various things while I sort my head out." Yume said with a wave of her hand.
Kamijou blinked a few times in confusion. Clearly the way his mind was working and operated had done so at too fast a pace for the woman, leaving her stunned for the moment and needing to collect her thoughts. He had felt the same so many times when he had had science or magic explained to him so there was only one response he had.
"Of course. For the things you are going to do against Kamui and for the things you've already done, I would be glad to meet up. But for now," Kamijou slowly backed away, heading for the door. "I think I'll give you time to process what I just said. When we meet up later today, ask me anything you want, OK?"
"G-Got it. I get the feeling the moment I process this, it's going to be earth shattering for me and what I know of the fundamentals of esper powers…"
At her exasperated remark Kamijou grinned and nodded.
"See you later then, Yume-sensei."
Kamijou was not sure why he did what he did next.
Was it because right now he was the junior, the most vulnerable person in the room and the person who desperately wanted everything to be alright? Facing Kamui had placed that all at risk so having someone else crush that in the form of providing a label to what he was fighting and also destroying one of the things Kamui was working towards might have been part of the reason for why he did what he did.
Was it because she was his psychiatrist and someone desperately working to make sure he was happy? There were burdens held by the woman scientist that Kamijou could not let known to anyone else and in the face of them, Kamijou knew he could afford to show weakness and vulnerability he did his best to hide from everyone else. That may have also been part of the reason he did what he did.
Was it because she was merely there to care? She did not operate on her own rules, moving with the flow of things and getting caught up with them. Yet, even though that was the case, she still did her best to pull her weight and more. She was the shoulder to lean on and the ear to hear his worries. For the gratitude he had for that, that may have also been part of the reason he did what he did.
Or was it because he saw her as a hero?
Her friend, Anti-Skill Officer Tsutsumi Yukiji had once told him Yume was someone who attracted the attention of many others in a romantic sense. Her caring personality and ability to want to make anyone suffering be healed had drawn people towards her and had made her the object of affection for many. It was ridiculous to think but the way she was and the way she cared for others had truly earned her a reverse harem, even if she was too caught up in helping people to notice.
Was it to give something back to that hero that Kamijou did what he did?
He did not know.
But he found himself doing it anyway.
Instead of backing away, he approached her, throwing his arms around her suddenly in a strong embrace.
She gave a startled jump at that, freezing on the spot as Kamijou felt the warmth from her body even through her lab coat and suit. He tightened his grip around her, leaning against her shoulder and whispering the words from the bottom of his heart.
He pulled away and saw the startled face of the woman. She blinked a few times, having not expected the hug from him before Kamijou turned and walked out of the Drug Testing Room.
Something had been lifted off his shoulders. The person to do that, to give him salvation in this hell, even if it was small, was the woman known as Yume. She had truly given him something pure in this darkness and with it, he felt a small smile come onto his face as he walked away from the Drug Testing Room.
Hell and the battlefield lay in wait in the future.
But maybe, with the knowledge that one of the projects of Kihara Kamui, ZERO_Over was never going to work, there was one less thing to worry about. There was something to feel relaxed about and something to smile about at the end of the day.
Maybe, just maybe, they had a fighting chance at this.
A chance to fight back against Kihara Kamui, against the underground war with the Magic side he was fighting and reclaim the smiles and peace of everyone who deserved it.
"…Hey, wait a minute! You keep on calling me Yume-sensei! How many times do I have to tell you to stop calling me that!? I'm 26! I'm not a fully fledged teacher!"
Yume called from the Drug Testing Room, having managed to compose herself and appearing around the edge of the doorway. Kamijou turned back with a grin on his face and replied.
"If you're 26, then you're already a Christmas Cake!" 
"A-Are you telling me I'm used goods and past my prime!?"
"Not at all. You're well within my strike zone!"
Whether it was to reassure her or just because he let his guard down, it was clear the spiky haired idiot put no thought into what he said. Yume's face went red at the boy's remark, trembling but Kamijou never got the chance to see her expression any further as he rounded the corner.
A smile was on his face.
A smile he did not think he would be able to have when deciding to talk about the ZERO_Over.
But now he thought about the miracle that had been the conversation where he had learned he had managed to get one up on Kihara Kamui, Kamijou Touma realised it was to be expected.
That was the power of miracles after all.
 A Christmas cake, in Japanese terms, comes to mean a woman equal to or above 26 who is considered past her prime when it comes to romance. While derogatory in a few ways, the way Touma refers to it here is in a positive sense given his later comments but he uses it to poke fun at Yume in a playful way.
And there we have it!
So, what did you think? This chapter has the dual purpose of lifting the veil on everything Kamui has going on but also acting as the explanation for the things that happened within this arc. During this arc, there was always the choice for me to have the explanation for what was happening done earlier, but I prevented myself from going down that path mainly because it was in this scene where I could provide context to what was happening and also prevent repeating myself as well.
As was the purpose of this chapter then, the veil lifts! Every project more or less has a purpose now so did you get it all? This chapter was a really big info dump but most of that info has been driving the previous arcs to a large degree and is going to drive the future arcs as well. As you went along with the dialogue, I hope you felt the 'image' of Kamui coming together and being formed into a proper idea.
This chapter, even if the focus was on Kamui, was more on the overarching plot than just Shutaura's arc. Although this had a large part to play in her arc, the explanations and the end result of having a fighting force against Kamui is a large part of this chapter while also discrediting one of the other projects he has underway; the ZERO_Over. With the cast now having a better idea of the things Kamui has going on, it is finally time for them to take hold of the reins in front of them and decide what to do with it. Given Index's nature as a battle series, there was really only one way that could go: the decision to fight.
However, given the cast here is still children, the adult there simply cannot accept that as being the only thing in front of them. Throughout this story has been the idea to protect even if Touma is the one doing the protecting and getting thrown in the way of doing things. But this time, it was the cast who we expect to do something in this time of chaos who is the one being protected by the adults. Yume here serves to stand as the voice of reason, the voice that tells those who are wanting to stand up and fight that they don't have to. We've sort of taken that for granted and I wanted to use Yume as the way to show that none of these characters have to do that, even though they ultimately decide to do so. For that choice though, I hope you can realise just the amount of resolve and the conviction you would need to do that.
Even if this is the story of someone rising up above challenge, at the same time, it is the story of children doing things that others should be doing. And Yume serves as the voice telling them they can rest and relax for the time being. However, because it is the story of rising up against a challenge, no one can sit still in the face of it when there is something they want to stop. I hope the small moment where everyone decides to stand up against Kamui was one you enjoyed if only because they all know and want to fight against the threat looming over their City.
There was also a twisted element to this as well. Although Touma being self-sacrificing isn't anything new, I wanted to really drill down on that idea from the perspective of someone who realises the problem Touma is having in that he is worried he is going to cast himself aside without thinking about it because of how he cares so little for his own life. That poked its head up a small amount so even if that scene where Touma is thankful for the ZERO_Over having infected him was very much like him, I hope you can come to look at it through a different lens when the 'contradiction' of it was pointed out.
The focus also came onto Yume and Hayashida in its own way. While the Christmas Cake and the Level 0 girl have been on and off in this story I think you can see how they are going to be playing a bigger part in the overall structure of what is to follow, especially with the former. I only hope each character and how they are fleshed out becomes something you can really enjoy and makes you come to love each chapter they are in. Personally myself, I love writing scenes with Yume. Is it because I've been infected with the love of Christmas cakes?! I'm not entirely sure why but I hope you can really come to like her character too, as well as any other OCs appearing.
This was a very explanation heavy chapter so I don't think re-explaining things would help in any way, but the one thing I hope you did this chapter was really enjoy but also realise the threat looming over the characters. There was a lot of characters here and even if there was a lot of dialogue, I really hope it was easy to follow in its own way.
And as always,
Review if you please.
And I'll see you when I see you and I won't if I don't.
And finally, my thoughts on GT 7. As you could expect, my thoughts below are full of SPOILERS so avoid them like the plague if you have yet to read the novel. But here we go:
OK – that was both a really calming and really intense novel.
The first three chapters were, by far, the most chill I've ever seen an Index novel. GT 7 feels like it should have been a two parter, but it was crammed all into the one novel which I think is both the good and the bad thing for the novel. It's good because we don't get any wasted space, but at the same time, it's bad because there was so much more that there was to offer. Having the New Year's focus is probably what caused that shift in story telling I feel but the first three quarters was super chill…and I didn't mind it so much. Personally speaking, I would have liked to see the aftermath of the Sisters done in a bit more detail, but I'm overall happy with what I was given for the first few parts.
To be honest, I had a feeling it would be bullying Aradia for the entirety of the novel, but while we got some Aradia bullying, the last thing I was really expecting was seeing Touma chuck her in the closet, feed her and hold her hand. I mean, how far has Touma come that he can do that without thinking!? Aradia has no idea how many girls would have loved to be in the position.
In the first part though, even though it was a throwaway line, I really liked the small Will cameo. That really touched my heart that she had a small bit of focus like that before it was basically going knee deep into the Transcendents.
Seeing all of them in the one place and comparing their 'methods' of salvation felt really interesting. Seeing how they all operate and how they all 'choose' who to save was another way that the topic of 'heroes' was covered and I felt like, if you could manipulate and twist the conditions around, you could really get the differing Transcendents to work for you dependently on how you played it. Aradia noting this and saying how Touma would be able to manipulate things was a really good callout but I really liked the differing themes: common sense, false accusations, spreading miracles to the lower class and witches persecuted. When thinking about it like that and thinking about Alice who 'does as she pleases', you can sort of see how terrifying she can be.
But that last chapter was just nuts. Like, completely different to the rest of the novel nuts. I don't know if it was me, but the sense of scale I got during GT 6 was nothing compared to GT 7. If you didn't think the Transcendents were monsters, then this novel should have entirely changed your mind. Like, straight up, Touma can do nothing and gets beheaded – having that scene really put into perspective how absolutely hopeless he is when he's properly fighting them. Aradia had the surprise attacks during GT 6 but Trismegistus destroying Touma when they are actually fighting head on really put things into perspective. And that's not to mention Alice either!
GT 5, for me, didn't give the biggest sese of how powerful Alice was. Although she literally remade the world for her own devices, it was hard to tell her combat ability…and then she comes absolutely ballistic. I found it really bittersweet: the entire reason she and Touma even fought was because she was doing something to protect Touma in the first place…which in turn backfired on her. Having that dynamic, where Touma is fighting someone who actually wanted to protect him gives me Othinus vibes from NT 10 so I really want to see where it goes. Even though Alice basically cast Touma away, I found it interesting she still has the sense of mind to call him 'teacher'…but maybe I'm reading too much into it.
But, as you could expect, I really enjoyed Touma this novel. Each volume, when Kamachi tries to challenge Touma and his ideals, I really find he adds a nice spin to things we already know. "I don't need a reason now, I'll find one later" is such a basic but amazing line that really captures who Touma is and how he operates and it really sat at the core of this novel. The Bridge Builders Cabal is built full of monsters, but the fact you can have Touma in the middle of all that and not lose himself is really amazing. It's nothing new but I really liked that line where Touma outright says that he can figure things out later: it's so simple but it's amazingly Touma.
But that ending! The last thing I was expecting to come out of this novel was Touma actually managing to save Anna! I thought it would end with Touma being sent to hospital as usual, but that ending surprised me in a really solid way. Touma seems to be picking up chicks left, right and centre, and it's nothing new to him to side with someone like Anna…but it still really surprised me. I always say this but I literally have no idea what's going to happen next, but part of me wants Touma vs. Alice to happen again. I'm really partial to innocent characters and seeing innocent Alice always had me smiling until she went absolutely nuts.
Overall, a really solid novel. I'm liking the direction GT has been taking thus far and I want it to continue the way it has been as I wait for the next novel. I was surprised by a lot of things in it, especially how fast it moved at the end, but I'm really glad I got what I got. Really, once again, good job Kamachi.
Mugino covered Personality Swipe, Kongou covered the FIVE_Object, Shutaura covered the Break Queen Package and Touma already 'destroyed' the ZERO_Over. But that only leaves the Science side done and with nothing said about the other half of the aftermath…