Trigger warning. This chapter has a rather disturbing description at the end. Dont think I did it justice, but still.
That evening found me at one of the parks that littered Academy City, working up the nerve to open up an Illusion Barrier once more.
It was now mid-August, a full two weeks since my last foray into the Illusion realm, and the negativity had built back up to normal levels. I had no real excuse to not create one. In fact, I really needed to since that was the only way I could grind skills, and create new ones. I was still stuck at halfway through level 11, with only a few completed quests making a tiny dent in what was needed for the next level.
I did grind a couple of points of INT at school though.
While I was constantly grinding things like Current, Current Sense and Spark (which were now sitting at levels 12, 8 and 7 respectively) when I had the time (and privacy), I needed to grind my more offensive skills, like EAPR and my Sword Proficiency.
Grinding up the weaker skills had helped though, I had unlocked another upgrade, and went up a level. I had decided to unlock a volume module, though I hadn't had the chance to check out what new things I could create using it.
I had tried using Physical Hacking on one of the archaic PCs at my school when no one was looking. The hacking failed, but it did go up a level, so I considered that to be a success.
Sighing, I opened up my skill tree.
[Current Level: 2
Number of elemental skills required for Level 2: 12
Number of elemental skills currently unlocked: 6]
[Upgrades Available: 0
Cumulative Level of elemental skills required to unlock next level: 75
Current Level: 42 (From 6 skills)]
Control 1 Volume 1
Control 2 Volume 3
Control 3 Volume 4
Control 4 Volume 5
Control 5 Volume 6
Control 9 Volume 7
Control 10 Volume 8
Control 11 Volume 13
Control 12 Volume 14
Special Skill 1
Special Skill 2
Special Skill 3]
I had a really long way to go.
"And I am stalling…" I thought. My last foray into the Illusion Barrier had been a disaster, and thus I found myself reluctant to actually enter one.
I took a deep, calming breath, an opened the barrier.
This time, I would get out as soon as it was cleared.
[EAPR has gone up by 1!]
[EAPR now fires 3 bullets per cast!]
After seventeen cleared Illusion Barriers, my level had gone up by one, and after spamming EAPR a few thousand times, it had gained about seven levels. My Sword Mastery also leveled slowly, which I assumed was because I wasn't doing anything more than bashing them over the head with the Katana.
The Ward Keeper hadn't made another appearance, which served to calm me down significantly.
It was becoming clear, however, that the diminishing gains were now stunting my growth, and that I needed to fight against higher level opponents.
However, creating higher level barriers just hunted out the areas quicker, with the total EXP gain being more or less equal.
I did create a new skill though.
[Magnetize(Lv 1)(Active): Magnetizes a conducting material by passing current through it in loops. The degree of magnetization is proportional to the volume of current passed]
The first thing I had tried to do was to magnetize my own body, and pull a piece of rebar towards me. It caused me damage over time, and the current wasn't high enough to pull the rebar towards me. When I tried with sand, all I got was a useless blob. Trying to shape the blob gave me a message that a higher level of control was needed.
"Ugh so I have to grind my skills to a high enough level that I unlock more of the skill tree before progressing to the next level huh." I thought, disgruntled. Thanks to time not passing within the barrier, all of this had taken me a little more than half an hour in real time.
I sighed, and went back home, disappointed with the results of my little excursion.
The next couple of weeks leading up to the summer vacation were a busy time, where I had to balance taking care of Index, studying for my term exams and completing the trainee quests with Frenda.
I also managed to hunt out a few more areas, with no real gain to my stats other than a point each of VIT, STR and DEX. My intensive study in preparation of exams whose portions were completely unknown to me gave another couple of points of INT.
In a flurry of activity, the term came to an end, with me having gained about ten thousand credits on the UTN after finishing my quest series with Frenda uneventfully. They all ended up being long walks with nothing much to do other than talk.
In one of those conversations, I found out that the UTN also gave out Money Cards for people who didn't have enough money in the network to justify laundering it all out. It was justified under a private charity who gave out extra help to the less skilled students in Academy City in the form of economic handouts to subsidize living costs and extra esper development programs.
To me, it sort of cemented the idea that the UTN was more or less unofficially sanctioned by the Academy City management.
Thus, to celebrate the end of the term, and me completing my trainee period with Frenda, I took Index out for dinner at one of the many family restaurants that littered Academy City.
"So Index. What do you know about the non-Christian magical cabals?" I asked, as we ate dinner.
Motoharu had been quite evasive when I asked him the same question. He gave me non-answers, basically saying that he would take care of it and not-so-subtly told me to shove off.
It wasn't information I needed to know after all.
Index gave me a look over her meal.
"Hey, I need to know more if I need to protect you, and I have basically been leaving you at home alone, depending on Academy City's border security and my anonymity to protect you from those who would seek you out" I said, hand raised.
She rolled her eyes in response. "I can't really tell you more, because I don't really know. I do know that Christian Mages form almost 95% of the mage population, either due to religious intolerance or invading mages destroying local mage populations. The Christians are the only ones to have a system to both spread and limit the knowledge of magic in the world. There shouldn't be any other cabals unknown to the church, which is why the attack on me is worrying." She said. "besides, I haven't been idle, I have set up a few magical protections at home."
My eyebrows went up at that. "What magical protections? And why didn't you tell me?" I asked.
"Because I don't want you to accidentally negate them with your Right Hand of Blatant Cheating" she replied. "They are in places out of your reach, and you would need years of study before you could even begin to understand them."
I shrugged. "I really doubt that. I can probably absorb the knowledge of the book like I did for my skills."
Index scowled at that. "Which doesn't make sense. Your hand should not allow you to have powers like that."
I just shrugged again. I was quite curious about that myself, and had spent quite a few nights with Index going through the newly unlocked knowledge in her head searching for answers.
Not that we found any.
I was distracted by the strong smell of stale alcohol coming from the booth in behind of us. I looked around to see a guy trying to chat up the lone girl sitting there.
A girl in a Tokiwadai Uniform.
"Oh God, the guy has a death wish" I thought with a snort as I watched the inebriated man try to make a pass at Mikoto.
I was so tired.
I had tried to tune out the drunk guy making a pass at me, a not too uncommon occurrence unfortunately. Usually, I would just let a few sparks play and let my reputation do the rest, but I just wasn't in the mood to scare him off.
"Can't have one bloody meal in peace…" I thought grumpily.
"Why hello there, Misaka!" A bright, cheery and familiar voice called.
I looked up to see Kamijou, Index behind him, walk into my booth, causing my mood to drop further.
I had been studiously avoiding the two, though that hadn't been particularly hard. Kamijou seemed atrociously busy, and Index hadn't fully mastered the use of the texting app on her phone. And I really didn't feel like faking a good mood for them.
"Hey, what's the big idea" the guy slurred, attempting to block Kamijou's entry.
He rolled his eyes, and said "If you know what's good for you, scram."
The guy started to puff up like a peacock, causing Kamijou to release an exasperated sigh, and grab the guy's arm.
He instantly started convulsing, and then fell down in slightly smoking heap.
He then casually sat down, ignoring the stares of the rest of the shop.
"Was that really necessary" I deadpanned.
He just shrugged, much to my irritation.
"'Twas satisfying though" he said, smirking slightly. He then gave a me a critical look. "What have you been up to? You look like….. well, lightly warmed up shit"
"Exam season" I grunted, wanting this conversation to be done as soon as possible. I had to get to the next lab.
"Aren't the exams over?" Index asked.
"That was today. I still haven't recovered" I replied.
"Go home and sleep" Kamijou said, a worried frown on his face. "Why would exams stress you enough to have visible dark circles under your eye, I know you are bloody prodigy!"
I cursed internally about forgetting to put make up before getting out.
Then again, I hadn't expected or wanted to run into anyone I knew.
I sighed, and said "The tests aren't standardized at Tokiwadai. They are tailor made to a student's level. I am doing Laplace transforms and their applications in system modelling in math right now." She replied.
Index looked confused, while Kamijou's eyebrows climbed higher.
"That's university level stuff." He said.
I nodded. "They like to push us" I replied. I didn't mention the fact that even high level math was usually a breeze for me.
I absently noted that the passed out, smoking man was being dragged out of the shop by a couple of the male waiters while finished the last of my meal.
"Do you have any plans tomorrow? I feel like I haven't spent time with you in forever. It doesn't help that you quit the party." he said, giving me a dirty look.
"Ahh… maybe not tomorrow. In a few days maybe?" I said. I still had quite a few more facilities to shut down. I had more time so I intended to have it done by the end of the week.
"I will hold you to that" giving me a mock scowl. "Besides, we have to update you with the new information we have uncovered about our mission" He said, eyebrows raised suggestively.
"Mission?" I asked, confused.
Both Index and Kamijou gave me incredulous looks.
"Are you sure you are alright?" Index asked this time.
It took me a few more seconds, but the tube light finally lit up.
"Oh. Ohhhhhh! Yeah. Heh." I coughed, embarrassed. It really wasn't like me to forget something as massive as Index's situation.
Both Index and Kamijou continued to stare at m.
"Will you quit doing that! I was distracted, that's all!" I said, feeling my face growing warm.
"Yeah…I can see that.." Index said.
"What we are wondering is what exactly could distract you so completely from something that's… well so big?" Kamijou said, the sentence curling into a question.
"If only you knew…" I thought.
"I take exams really seriously" I deadpanned.
Index and Kamijou exchanged a look and then continued to stare at me.
"What?" I barked, sparks starting to escape my control as I felt my face grow even hotter.
Kamijou-san's gaze suddenly lost focus upon me, while Index's stare seemed to intensify to compensate.
A few seconds of awkward silence later, Kamijou clapped his hands, startling both me and Index.
"Since Misaka here is so wound up by the 'exams', we are going to help her unwind!" Even though he didn't roll his eyes, I could feel exasperation he felt with me.
I pretended not to notice, and instead raised an eyebrow at him.
"We are going to this place!" he said, slapping a pamphlet down in front of me.
My eyes fell upon the pamphlet, which detailed the opening of a new gaming arcade somewhere in district 7, and a minor arcade tournament
What was special though, was the prize.
I snatched the pamphlet from the table, and scanned through it again.
I looked up to see him wagging his eyebrows exaggeratedly, gauging my reaction.
I couldn't help the grin that bubbled up to my face, nor the anticipation that shone through my eyes.
I pushed away the voice telling me I didn't deserve friends like this, and that I had so much more work to do.
I really did need to destress.
"Let's go!" I said, and then proceeded to demolish my meal at speeds that would do Index proud.
[As you have noticed, Misaka Mikoto is massively stressed for unknown reasons (exams? Feh!), and seems reluctant to share her reasons. Cheer her up successfully, and try to discern the reasons behind her unnatural stress levels.
Rewards: Quest continuation, 5000 EXP, Increase in relationship with Misaka Mikoto.]
I blinked at the sudden quest. While I had noticed that Mikoto was not being entirely truthful, I had not expected a quest to be generated off of it.
"Or it could be the Kami quest screwing with me" I thought darkly, before shrugging it off. I had the perfect thing for it anyway, something that had literally been pushed into my hands on the way here.
"And my LUK is supposed to be negative" I thought, mentally snorting, before slapping the pamphlet for the new gaming arcade with a Gekota plushy as a daily prize as a part of the opening event.
I was subsequently horrified at the speed at which Mikoto proceeded to demolish her meal.
Later that night found me prowling the streets in my generic mask, on the way to my first client unescorted by Frenda.
My runs with Frenda had given me a fair idea as to how much time it took to complete a delivery, and figured I could do three or four a night, if all the deliveries were clustered in a relatively small area. There seemed to be an abundance of these sorts of small time delivery jobs, which while good for me, made me wonder just why so many people needed anonymous delivery services.
Tonight though, I was doing only one. Given that it was my first solo run, I figured it would be prudent to be cautious, at least initially.
While I was cautiously making my way through the back alleys however, the rapid of approaching footsteps caught my attention.
"Someone is …..running?" I thought. It was well past curfew.
To be fair though, it was quite likely that the guy was running from Mikoto given her habit of staying out late when she felt too cooped up in the dorms.
I shook my head in exasperation, and then continued on my way.
When I took the next corner, and stepped in something wet.
I cursed. The shoes I was wearing were just my canvas shoes from school, something I had chosen because they were so generic.
Whatever I had stepped in wasn't water though, as I could see the color of my shoe changing, though in the poor light I couldn't make out what it was.
I looked down at the puddle, and froze in shock.
It wasn't a puddle of water.
It was a puddle of blood, leading up to the body of a person lying face down on the ground.
I stared at the body in shock for a few seconds, before snapping out of it and kneeling down next to the person, intent on administering at least a little bit of first aid before I called an ambulance.
I turned over the body and nearly puked at the sight.
The person's face had been horribly mutilated. It looked like every single blood vessel along the person's face had been ruptured, leaving bloody tracks. The eyeballs seemed to have burst under the pressure, leaving a horrific mess of blood leaking from the eye sockets.
Swallowing the bile that rose against my throat, I put my hand on the person's chest, dimly noting from the softness that I felt that she was a female, and felt for a heartbeat.
[A quest has been created!]
[Dead Men Tell No Tales!]
[Through a complete coincidence, you have found a horribly mutilated body of a girl in an alley of Academy City. Search for relevant clues on the person, and find the culprit behind this horrific crime.]
[Rewards: 25000 EXP, Quest continuation.]
I took another deep breath, and glanced once more at the body. I studiously avoided her face, and looked lower down. I noted that she was wearing a Tokiwadai uniform. I looked lower, and saw something purple jutting out from under her skirt….
I lost the battle with my nausea at that point and puked.
[Due to high levels of mental stress, Gamer's Mind is now in Active mode!]
I dry heaved a little more, and took a deep breath. I noted the metallic scent of blood heavy in the air, and looked at the body once more.
I was completely out of my depth here.
I opened up the phone menu and cursed.
I frowned, an pulled open the UTN. That too had no signal.
I looked at my shoes. While they weren't soaked through yet, they would definitely leave tracks.
I carefully removed my shoes, making sure I didn't step in the blood, and stepped out of the alley so that I could get a signal to make the call.
As soon as I got to the main street, I got a signal on my phone, causing me to sigh in relief. I then dialed the emergency services number
"What's your emergency?" came the voice across the line.
"I have a dead body" I said calmly.
There was a pause across the line.
"Could you repeat that for me?" came the shaky reply.
I took another deep breath.
"I have a dead and badly mutilated body in front of me. I came across it while on the way for my first delivery. It seems to be a female, and judging by the uniform, a middle schooler." I said.
There was a deep breath taken, and the voice then turned professional.
"Standby at your current location. Your number is being traced as we speak. First responders will be on the scene in….approximately three minutes. Do not cut this call."
"Understood" I said. "I was not able to get a stable signal at the location where I found the body, and had to move a little away from it to make the call."
There was a pause. "Stay where you are. Our first responders will be with you in a couple of minutes. Guide them to the location of the body."
Three minutes later, on the dot, an armored van, the signature vehicle used by the Anti-Skill, and group of four officers in Body Armor stepped out.
"Are you the kid that made the call?" One of the officers asked me.
"Yes. This way please" I said, immediately taking the lead to guide the officers to the body.
Three turns later and I froze.
The body had disappeared.
The body and every single trace of it, including the heavy smell of blood, was just….
Heh. Been wanting that scene for a while now.
Mikoto is being edgy! All that left to do is for Touma to punch the edge out of her!
This season of index...has been rather disappointing, to say the least. I read a few of the LNs...and the Battle Royale arc was so incredibly rushed. So sad.
Anyway! Leave reviews! Also, since it has been a while, here is his stat sheet!
[Name: Touma Kamijou]
[Class: The Gamer]
[Titles: The Taveller (Lv MAX)
The Strategist (Lv MAX)]
[CHA: 12 (28.6)+]10