I'm back everyone! Man, how long has it been since I posted a chapter. Huh, early December of last year. Took me a third of a year to get this one out. Now before you all get mad, I have a perfectly good reason for why this one took so long. I was distracted playing Breath of the Wild and Kirby and the Forgotten Land for the first time. But can you really blame me? Breath of the Wild is massive and Kirby just oozes adorable. That alone should win Kirby and the Forgotten Land Game of the Year over Elden Ring.
Okay, wider justification was I was in a weird part of my life where I was struggling to find a good work/life balance. Still am, really. I'll try to get the next chapter out sooner than four months this time. On the bright side, a got a new beta for this story in Marisandini, so well will be having much higher quality editing going forward.
For now, let's get on to the reviews from last chapter.
IS6A6E: Sorry I made you wait so long for this one.
Isokage: Glad you liked the chapter. And you were right, Touma is having a guest with him during the Orsola Arc. Who will it be? Russian Roulette is definitely more dangerous. I've seen cases in movies where characters lost on the first shot.
Nemonobody001: Well, at least it didn't take a whole year for this one to come out.
counterbloxpro19: Sorry to keep you waiting. Hope the wait was worth it.
Enigmathenightmare: One of the few cases were Touma was lucky. Anyone else would have died in the crossfire. The Accel/Mugino ship is certainly a first. Touma/Itsuwa is probably in my top five, while Gunha/Junko is one I wouldn't be opposed to. No plans for the Orsela Arc to be too different, but there will be some stand-out new scenes here and there.
Mugetsu700: No way in hell I'm dropping this one. It means to much for me to just drop.
Vein Bloodborne: Glad you liked the chapter. Never going to touch Genshin Impact. I'm already playing 1 gacha game in FGO, don't need another. Plus, from what I've seen regarding gameplay footage, it's nowhere near as open as it advertises itself to be.
Yuuji Akira: The universe works in mysterious ways. I'm just happy to help in a difficult time. This story has always been about the new character interactions as a result of addition cast crossover. the rest of the Railgang do get a little bit of extra screen time this time around, although it won't be a lot given the setting of this arc. Hope you enjoy what I have in store.
DuckBoi: Glad you liked the chapter.
ahsoei: Thank you! There's not going to be another breather chapter for a while, but your review has sparked some new ideas in me for future events past the Battle Royale Arc.
GG Vegito: Happy to hear you enjoyed it.
Rekuta: Glad you liked the chapter. Well, the girls are definitely going to be involved in the Orsola Arc, just not to the scale you might be thinking. When working with a massive cast like this, I need to find some way to make it manageable. Nice to know I inspired a fellow writer.
Zatil Hidayah Spensa: Glad you liked the chapter. Character interactions are my bread and butter with this story, so you know I'm going to do everything in my power to make them good. Seeing as I have referenced the building of Endymion a handful of times within the story, I think it's pretty safe to say I will be covering the Endymion movie.
SolanaLeonhart: Glad you liked the chapter. I wanted to give Accelerator a sense of multi-layered personalities, with young Yuri being hard of socializing due to shyness, current Yuri being hard of socializing due being untrusting of others, and Accelerator being antisocial because he's just borderline psycho. Seeing as I have referenced the building of Endymion a handful of times within the story, I think it's pretty safe to say I will be covering the Endymion movie.
Ghost of Los Angeles: Glad you liked the chapter. So, you like AcceleratorXUiharu? Well, you'll be happy to know that there is a very real opportunity for the ship in the story later down the line considering certain events in the Battle Royale Arc and the current character dynamic web. The idea of having Uiharu lead an investigation to discover the Sisters would be interesting, but at the same time I feel that such a case would be more of Saten's expertise since the Sisters are an urban legend. Still, I'll have to keep that one in the vault for potential original events.
Anime Shipper-345: Happy to hear that. Character interactions are this story's main selling point, so I got to make sure those are always top-notch. Some members of the Railgang will be involved, but for reasons in and out of story, only a small select few will be actively participating. You'll understand when you read the chapter. You don't even need to ask for more Kamikoto stuff. I wouldn't have put it in the description if I wasn't going to load this story full of it. I have made it abundantly clear that I am Kamikoto Trash, so have a little faith, yeah?
MarauderPrime12: Glad you liked the chapter.
johnnygat016: Sorry to keep you waiting!
syafielone1359: Sorry to keep you waiting!
Sarcasm Sage 626: Happy to know you liked the chapter so much. I've always known that character interactions were this story's biggest strength, so it pleases me to know that they are as strong as ever. You may have noticed that the use of the names Yuri and Accelerator have always been deliberate and precise, with each name acting as a shorthand for whatever temperament the character is operation under. Glad to know that little detail is not going unnoticed.
SuddenBetrayal: Thank you for following my story thus far. It pleases me to know that all of the work I put in to create unique twists on old scenarios, no matter how small, are so beloved. A big part of the story is family, especially found family, so I pleases me to know that you love this enhanced Kamijou Faction I'm putting together.
5had0wHand: Sorry to make you wait like this. Well, the point of the chapter was that they are all being a bit more courteous for Touma's sake, the tamer reactions are just a product of that. Unfortunately, I can't really answer that question because I don't know which Donald you are referring to.
fencer29: Glad you liked the chapter.
united88: Glad you liked the chapter. It just felt right to give them a proper character interaction since they are sisters. I think you'll be in for a ride when I get to the Daihasei Arc.
brianhu1: Unfortunately, for reasons both in and out of story, not too much of the Railgang will be involved in the Orsola Arc. You'll see what I mean in the chapter.
GunsAndMagic: Happy to know you loved the chapter, especially the character interactions.
Freddy Oakster: Oh, you can be sure the Level 5 character interactions will be going everywhere when the rest of them are introduced. Just you wait.
TrainerRed164: Glad you liked the chapter. Not really a Bleach fan, but good for you guys.
Guest (1): Thanks for the tip for dealing with writers block. Usually, I just write whatever, so maybe I'll do that next time.
azlil7: Two out of three isn't bad. You were right about Index moving back in with Saten and Shizuri not being happy with not being able to help Touma deal with Magic, but she's not going to be directly involved just yet.
JoshPlater: Consider I made several explicate references to the construction of Endymion in the background, I'd say it's pretty safe to say that I will be covering the Endymion movie. It takes place between the Remnant and Daihasei Arcs as Kuroko is still wheelchair bound during the events of the movie.
Deathreaper355: Not necessarily true. Just because the Kamijou family as a whole is special does not make Touma not special; he can still be special even within the context of his family background, which some would argue makes him even more special. Besides which, the lore behind Imagine Breaker has always been nebulas and vague. You can't contradict something that's never been properly defined. This stuff has been planned out for a long time and while be revealed in full much later on. If you don't want to wait for it, you are free to drop the story.
Adam Harith: Happy you liked the chapter.
Blakleg (Guest): That was the whole reason I wrote in the whole premise.
Remnant123 (Guest): Thank you!
Justin Sewell1: Yuri will be joining Touma's high school class and become a part of the Delta Force, whether he wants to or not, in due time. I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to decline your request for me to read your story. I'm sure it's an excellently written story and I just as much a Fate fan as I am a Toaru fan, but I've never had that strong an affinity for Tamamo no Mae and I'm a bit to busy at the moment to devote time to reading a story involving a character I just don't care too much for. I wish you the best of luck with your writing endevour.
BlueLightning22: Sorry to keep you waiting!
Mister Phoenix - Deltora: Don't you worry, I have it all planned out. mostly, anyways. Honestly, figuring out which girls love Touma isn't too difficult, and I'll be taking creative liberties with that list anyways, so you don't have to worry about it.
And done. Special thanks to Marisandini for being the beta.
Disclaimer: All characters and plotlines of the "A Certain" franchise are credited to Kazuma Kamachi.
Chapter 72: Missing Persons
With the Fall semester in full swing, the students of Academy City have had more plates on their hands than any other time of year. Most prominent on the student body's to-do list was preparations for the Daihasei Fesitval, the biggest sporting event held in Academy City every year. The purpose of the event was to encourage the interaction of different Esper Abilities on a grand stage. Espers from across the city are encouraged to use their Abilities in full force when participating in the various sporting events.
"Sounds like a pretty massive event." Touma pondered, he and the rest of the Railgang walked down the street towards Saten's dorm, "Too bad I have no memories of it."
"You had your memories destroyed several months ago, and it still feel so surreal at times." Uiharu mused, "Imagine not having any memory of the biggest event in all of Academy City. People would think you live under a rock if you said you've never heard of the Daihasei."
"Well, I don't have to imagine it, and I don't live under a rock. Quite the opposite, actually." Touma grumbled, "Still, I'm glad my journal had at least a couple of entries of past Daihasei Festivals I participated in. I only wish I read those entries sooner. Trying to leave class only to be told I had to help prepare for a festival I had no memory of was not fun."
"Bet you looked like a real idiot." Mikoto snickered.
"Yeah, yeah, laugh it up, Zapper."
"I hope Index is doing okay." Saten expressed her worry, "With all of us so busy, she must be bored out of her mind all alone in my dorm."
"I'm sure she's fine." Kuroko said comfortingly with a pat on her shoulder, "She has Sphinx with her, and we had Maika watching her during the day while she tends to your dorm as extra credit. What could go wrong?"
"…You did not just say that." Touma dragged his face down to wipe the grimace off his face.
"What got into you?"
"The universe has ears, and saying stuff like that just tempts it." Touma explained and pointing accusingly at her for good measure, "Take it from me. My luck has proven that more times than I care to remember."
"Oh come on. Since when are you so superstitious? There's no way the universe would have things go wrong just because someone asks that question."
"Everyone, come quick!" a distressed call from Maika Tsuchimikado rang out from the front balcony of Saten's dorm, "It's an emergency situation!"
"… Not a word." Kuroko grumbled as she teleported ahead of everyone else.
Quickly catching up with Kuroko, the rest of the group met with Maika in front of Saten's dorm, spinning about on her Cleaning Robot in utter panic.
"Maika, what happened?" Touma asked as he approached her.
"The silver-haired sister has been stolen away by a creepy man!" Maika cried, still spinning, "Do you hear what I'm saying? She was abducted!"
"A man just showed up and took her away?" Mikoto asked in worry.
"Yeah! And before he left, the kidnapper told me he would kill her if I told the guards and to give Kamijou this as soon as possible!" Maika added, pulling out an envelope. Her voice trembled, possibly from the fear and for not being able to keep the silver-haired nun safe.
Seeing her morning companion like this, Mikoto patted the girl's head to calm her down and a reliable smile on her face. "Don't blame yourself, you did good from not trying to aggravate the situation."
Taking the envelope from the still spinning maid-in-training, Touma pulled out a note and read it aloud for all to hear.
"To Touma Kamijou. If you value her life, come to the site of the Twilight Theater Playhouse outside Academy City, tonight at eleven o'clock. You are allowed a single accomplice and no one else. Do not alert the authorities." Touma read aloud.
"It isn't signed?" Saten asked, baffled.
"What did the kidnapper look like?" Uiharu inquired, shifting to Judgement mode.
"Um, first of all, he was tall." Maika recalled, still spinning, "Like, at least 180 cm. His hair was deep red and, strangely enough, a barcode under his right eye. He had a cigarette in his mouth and wore lots of piercings in his ears."
"Oh. It's just him again." Mikoto sighed out of a combination of relief and annoyance, "Didn't expect to hear from him again so soon."
"Hang on, you actually know the kidnapper!?" Maika asked in shock, bringing her Cleaning Robot to a halt and her face super close to the Level Five's own face, "Is this a case of love gone wrong!?"
"N-no, it's not that." Mikoto replied, "O-or at least, we think it's not. It's a really complicated situation we'd rather not going into detail about."
"Looks like that bastard priest also got us two exit passes." Touma noted, pulling two additional sheets of paper out from the envelope, "That takes care of getting us out of Academy City. All that's left is to decide who comes with me."
"If you're only allowed one accomplice, I think Misaka should go." Saten suggested, a mischievous leer forming on her face, "You might need some Esper muscle, and you can't go wrong in that department with a Level 5."
The unfortunate boy shook his head, "I don't think that's such a good idea."
"What? Why?" Mikoto asked.
"First, I think we should take the conversation somewhere a bit more private." Touma suggested, nodding towards the confused Maika, whom had resumed spinning.
"Oh… right…" Mikoto agreed in embarrassment, "Sorry about this, Maika. This is kind of a sensitive topic, so we need you to leave. I hope you understand."
"Okay then, I'll leave you to it." Maika said reluctantly, "Just promise me that the silver-haired sister will be alright."
"Everything will be back to normal before you know it. You have my word." Touma promised, pounding his heart for emphasis.
Having been reassured of Index's safety, Maika took her leave so those in the know could continue their discussion in private. As an added precaution to avoid prying eyes and ears, the group that could be called the Kamijou Faction retreated to the privacy of Saten's dorm.
"Okay, explain yourself." Mikoto demanded, "Why don't you want me coming along?"
"It's not that I don't want your help. I just don't think having you tag along would be politically sound." Touma explained, "As a Level 5, you hold a certain importance to Academy City and the Science Side as a whole. Having you get involved in a Magic Side affair and coming into direct conflict with a Magician could very easily be treated as a violation of the treaty the two sides share."
"Then who do you suggests accompanies you?" Kuroko inquired.
"Actually, I was thinking you would, Pigtails." Touma replied.
"Me?" the teleporter asked in response, "Aren't I in the same position as Sissy?"
"Similar, but not the same." Touma clarified, "You're a Level 4. You're powerful, but not so much that you can be treated as a representative of Academy City as a whole. If worst comes to worst, we can always leverage the Kamijou Faction rumor."
"You actually want to claim legitimacy of that rumor?" Saten inquired.
"Only if I have to." Touma reiterated, "The Kamijou Faction is being treated as a third faction within the global power struggle, separate from both Science and Magic while containing people with backgrounds in both. If we say Pigtails is getting involved in the Magic Side affair under my supervision, that would absolve Academy City from any responsibility from her involvement."
"That could actually work." Uiharu agreed.
"I'm no expert in supernatural political law, but I can buy that rational." Saten gave her two cents, "You're really going to turn a rumor that caused you grief into a weapon for your own advantage, aren't you, Kamijou?"
"When your luck is as rotten as mine, you learn to roll with the punches and make do with the hand dealt to you." Touma shrugged, "What do you say, Shirai? You up for it?"
"Well, seeing as I'm your only real option, I'm all for it."
"Guess we'll be sitting out of this one, huh?" The Level Zero girl rested her face on the table, dejected, "Considering this meeting is happening outside of Academy City, Uiharu and I can't even provide what little help we normally do."
"I wouldn't say that." Touma replied, "I have a very important job for you three."
"Really?" Uiharu asked in surprise.
"Yup! You three get to tell my sister I won't be home for dinner!" Touma answered, an oddly jovial grin on his face given the task he was giving them.
"What!? Why!? Why us and not you!? And why are you so happy about that!?" Mikoto cried in outrage.
"Because if I tell her before leaving or text her after I've already left, my beautiful overbearing big sister is going to strong-armed her way to come along, defeating the purpose of me only bringing Shirai along. Just explain the situation in full and that should keep her in place long enough for Pigtails and I can get out of Academy City and potentially get this taken care of before anything happens."
Try as he might, Touma did his best to downplay the severity of the task with a saccharine smile. But all the girls know what he's assigning them is basically a suicide job.
"Don't play the idiot, Idiot!" Mikoto got into his face, sparks flying around her head from the impeding temper. "She barely tolerates me, and now you want us to lie to her face?! We may be both Level 5, but I'd rather not test my luck against her in a fight." She screamed in panic.
Noticing the sparks, Touma made the impulsive decision of holding her hand to negate her powers completely before she could accidentally ruined Saten's dorm room. Mikoto barely noticed her loss of powers, too distracted by the feel of his hands around hers. Her face that's already red from anger hid her embarrassment.
"O- of course, I'm not expecting you to lie to her." Touma corrected her, "I'm expecting you to tell her the absolute truth. She already knows about Magic because of an incident that happened while you girls were on your field trip, and I promised I would be truthful with her."
Hearing this, Mikoto pinched the bridge her nose to quell the pounding in her head from the fact her crush failed to mention how another excessively bloodthirsty Level Five manage to know what's supposed to be a world government's secret, but she's not getting into that right now.
"Please, Mikoto," he cajoled with his usual intense gaze that manage to pierce many girls' heart without his knowledge, and Touma was shooting it directly on her, "Can I count on you?"
Feeling flustered, the Electromaster looked anywhere else but him before sighing in defeat, "You do know that she is going to explode on us when she finds out?"
"Then at least she'll blow up in your face and not mine!" Touma cheered, letting go of her hand and heading out for the door, "Good look with that! Index's life could be on the line at any moment, so I'll be going now. Let's go, Pigtails!"
Blindsided by his charms, Mikoto couldn't get a chance to protest before Touma slammed the door closed behind him. Outside, the sound of air jets firing could be heard, indicating that Touma had taken off on his hoverboard and was not coming back.
"Rotten luck." Mikoto bemoaned, borrowing her crush's catchphrase.
"How can one boy be so heroic yet so evil at the same time?" Kuroko sighed as she stood up, "I'll see you when this is all taken care of, Sissy. Please try not to die on me."
"You're not helping!"
"We'll do what we can to make sure things don't get ugly." Saten intervened.
"Hopefully, no one ends up getting hurt after all of this is over." Uiharu added, but unhelpfully jinxing it.
"Let's be honest, we all know Kamijou is going to land himself in the hospital by the end of the night." Kuroko quipped as she teleported away, leaving the three remaining girls to ponder as to how they would break the news to the temperamental elder Kamijou.
With the exit passes gifted to them from the man Maika clearly described as Stiyl, Touma and Kuroko swiftly headed for the nearest border checkpoint to leave Academy City. As was standard policy for technology developed inside the city of science, nothing developed within city limits could be allowed out without express permission. As such, the two members of Judgement were forced to part with their Judgement issue ODDs and Touma's prototype hoverboard at the checkpoint. Thankfully, the pair was able to keep their cellphones and other devices they would need, considering neither of them were very familiar with the area immediately outside Academy City.
"At least we still have GPS." Kuroko mused as she looked for the Twilight Theater Playhouse, the location at which they were to meet with Stiyl and Index.
"Too bad we got out from the opposite side of where the rendezvous point is." Touma moaned, having just located the location on his phone, "Rotten luck."
"Wait, really?" Kuroko asked, taking a peek at Touma's phone.
Just as he said, Twilight Theater Playhouse was on the opposite side of Academy City from their current location. And since their exit passes were only good for a single round trip, they couldn't reenter the city and cut through to exit on the other side. Their only option was to go the long way around, circling the city to get back on the right path.
"Don't you dare think about teleporting your way there without me!" Touma snapped suddenly, "Without my hoverboard, I can't keep up with you like that, and I am not going to sprint half the circumference of Academy City just so you can take the easy route!"
"Okay! Relax!" Kuroko replied, taking a step back, hands raised in surrender, "Let just make it a steady jog. We wouldn't want to keep Stiyl waiting. No need to be all aggressive."
"Right. Sorry." Touma apologized, "I'm just a bit worried is all."
"How so?" Kuroko inquired.
"It's just so strange that Stiyl of all people would allow a Science Side representative to get involved in a Magic Side affair. Remember what happened during the incident at Misawa Prep School when we met Himegami?"
"Yeah, I remember." Kuroko nodded, "He enlisted your help since you're technically a neutral party, but he forbade Sissy or myself from confronting Aureolus directly because of the political situation. Which begs the question as to why he would allow you to bring one of us along this time."
"There's only one explanation I can think of, and it's that whatever Stiyl needs our help with is a threat to both sides." Touma deduced, "And if that's the case, I'm a bit scared to learn what exactly could justify an alliance like this."
Neither student wanted to even think about the potential threat they might be facing and elected to focus on the immediate issue, reaching the rendezvous point to meet with Stiyl and Index. Picking a direction, Touma and Kuroko started walking around the perimeter of Academy City's walls. However, barely a few blocks away from the pedestrian gate they exited from, the pair stumbled upon one of the strangest sights they've seen recently.
Standing under a local bus stop was a nun, but not the one the pair were familiar with. Rather than the young girl in white and gold, this nun was a grown woman, perhaps in her early twenties, and was dressed in traditional black and white. And given the close proximity to Academy City, the sight of a nun in the area was certainly unexpected. Despite having lost the original memory of meeting Index on his balcony railing one morning, Touma had the sneaking sense that his and Kuroko's current state of confusion was a close approximation of what he felt that fateful day.
Seeing as they were in a hurry, the pair of students decided it was best to pretend they didn't see the mysterious nun and just be on their way. Unfortunately, the nun had taken notice of their presence and taken the initiative to engage in conversation.
"Pardon me," the nun said, "May I ask for your assistance."
"What?" Touma replied with a strained smile, "But of course."
"I'm wondering if you could provide me with some directions." The nun requested courteously, "Is this the bus I should be taking if I am going to Academy City?"
"Academy City, huh?" Touma mused, "Sorry, but no bus is going to take you there."
"Really?" The nun gasped at the knowledge.
"All modes of transportation into Academy City, including buses, have been discontinued." Kuroko explained, "It's a security measure to make it harder to smuggle things in and out of the city. There is a pedestrian gate a few blocks that way that you can use to get it, though there will be a few security checks."
As Kuroko pointed in the direction of the gate she and Touma had recently exited through, a dilapidated bus pulled up next to the station.
"Thank you for taking the time to assist me. I do appreciate it." The nun said as she started to board the bus.
"We just said not to take the bus!" Touma yelled in an outburst of rage and confusion.
"Oh. Yes, you did, didn't you?" The nun corrected herself, stepping away from the bus.
"Like we said, you need to use the pedestrian gate over there!" Kuroko reiterated, "You understand?"
"Please forgive me." the nun said with a bow, "I'm very sorry to have bothered you."
Having apologized, the nun immediately turned around with a vibrant smile and prepared to board the bus again.
"Don't just smile while pretending to listen to what we tell you!" Touma screamed again, quickly getting frustrated with the nun.
Seeing that he was only going to continue to contribute to the problem and was starting to fall behind schedule, the bus driver elected to pull away from the bus stop and leave the arguing trio alone. As the bus drove away, the unknown nun waved the driver farewell while the pair of Academy City students let out exasperated sighs. Seeing the pair sigh, the unknown nun quickly rushed to face them, a concerned expression on her face.
"You two appear to be upset by something. Is there anything I can do to assist you?" The nun asked.
"No, it's nothing." Touma replied, quickly understanding that the nun never meant to trouble them like she did.
"Just out of curiosity, why do you want to go to Academy City?" Kuroko inquired, unsure of what reason a devout follower of some variant of Christian faith would have for going to somewhere completely devoid of that.
"Oh. It's a rather long story, you see." The nun replied with a hint of hesitation, "There are a number of people in pursuit of me and I wish to go to Academy City to seek refuge."
"What?" Touma and Kuroko asked in confusion.
Having been given the assuredly daunting task of breaking the unfortunate news to Shizuri, the trio of Mikoto, Uiharu, and Saten stood at the front door of the Kamijou residence. Understanding how ugly things could get if they didn't handle the situation properly, Mikoto hovered her finger over doorbell while standing in front of her friends as a defensive measure. Normally, being faced with such a dangerous task, the trio would have come up with a plan of action to make sure things went as smoothly as possible. However, since the task was sprung on rather suddenly, they had no way of knowing what to expect in regards to how Shizuri might start the conversation. With no other options, Mikoto decided to just wing it, steeling herself as she pressed the doorbell button.
After a moment of anxious waiting, the apartment's doorbell intercom rang.
"If you're looking for Touma, he's not home yet." Shizuri's voice resounded, wrongfully assuming they were not there for her.
"Actually, we came to speak with you." Mikoto explained wearily, "May we come in?"
After a tense, brief moment, the door to the apartment opened to reveal Shizuri, standing aside to let them in.
"Alright, come on in."
With very visible hesitation, the three middle school girls filed into the apartment, apologizing for their intrusion as they walked in. Once everyone was inside, the eldest of the Kamijou siblings directed them to sit on the main room's couch before excusing herself to get them all some tea. Although the girls have been in the Kamijou residence before, this is the first time they have been alone with Shizuri. Touma had shared stories of her unbridled temper, with Mikoto in particular having barely survived facing it. Combined with the unfortunate news they were tasked with delivering, the situation was noticeably tense.
"Alright, what did you girls want to talk to me about?" Shizuri asked as she placed a cup of in front of each of them.
"Actually, it's about Touma." Mikoto started, visibly starting to sweat under the pressure.
"What about Touma?" Shizuri raised an eyebrow, "If this is about me approving of the idea of you two starting to date, the jury is still out on that one, and I doubt you need your friends here to have this discussion with me."
"What? No! That's not it at all!" Mikoto jumped, her previous anxiety replaced with embarrassment, "Why is that always the answer you stampede on?!"
"It's what every girl Touma has ever known has always asked me."
"Didn't you get separated when you were in elementary school?" Uiharu asked, concerned with the implications of such a statement.
"A real lady killer that one, I tell you. Even as a kid." Shizuri shook her head in exasperation, bringing her palm to her forehead.
"Anyway, that's not why we came here." Mikoto interrupted, steering the conversation back on track, "We came here because Touma had a message he wanted us to relay to you."
"A message? Why didn't he just send an email or call me if he had something to say."
"That's the difficult part." Mikoto sighed.
Saten watched as her Level 5 friend kept beating around the bush and decided to cut to the chase, "You see, your brother had been called in to help deal with a Magic Side affair just outside Academy City limits. He suspects you would try to follow him and intervene if he told you himself, so he sent us so he could get the message delivered while running ahead so you couldn't follow him. That makes sense, right?"
There was a moment of silence in the room where the atmosphere was so tense you could cut it with a knife. For a while, the three middle school girls weren't sure that Shizuri heard them or not. However, that silence was broken when Shizuri suddenly slammed her hands on the table, spilling the still untouched cups of tea she had set out. The trio practically jumped on their seats from her outburst.
"What do you mean he's outside Academy City limits!? Where is he!?" It sounded more like a threat than a question.
"S- see, this is why your brother sent us instead of telling you himself!" Saten pointed out as she trembled.
"Please try to understand!" Uiharu cut in, drawing out her professionalism as Judgment to keep herself calm, "The relationship between the Magic and Science Sides are shaky enough as is! The fact that your brother was called in at all and, and was—"
By that point, Uiharu had the sole target of a Level five's bloodlust, "Haaaaaa- and was what?!"
'Eeeep!' The Level 1 cried internally, "And he was given permission to bring a single Science Side ally can only mean that the situation is extremely urgent and would require the need for cooperation between the two sides."
"Then why the hell didn't he bring Railgun or me to help?!" Shizuri demanded.
"Like, like we said, relationships between Science and Magic are really sensitive. Bringing a Level 5 along would have put a lot of strain on those relations."
"Please believe us when we say that Touma will be in good hands." Mikoto found the courage to keep speaking, "He brought Kuroko with him, and she is more than capable of keeping him safe. She is his senior in Judgement."
"I still don't like this." Shizuri grumbled, fists tightening on the tabletop.
"Look, I get it. You're worried about your little brother." Saten tried to empathize, "I have a little brother too, and there's nothing I wouldn't do to keep him safe."
"Really now?" the elder Kamijou narrowed her eyes, "Where is he now then? Your little brother."
"Oh, he's back home with our parents." Saten clarified, "I was the only one who came to Academy City for a chance to get an Esper power. Still no luck after a few years, but I'm still holding out hope. You must have been ecstatic when you got your Ability, right?"
"Actually, I couldn't have cared less at the time. I never came to Academy City for the powers, I came to look after my little brother after our parents enrolled him here to protect him from the superstitions in our home town. Because that's what a responsible older sister should do. Everything I've done, I did for him."
Shizuri had stood up so she could loom at the little girls as she snapped, "Of course, you probably didn't realize that considering you left your brother behind to chase a fantasy that never came true. So don't go lecturing me about being a good big sister if you've left your younger siblings behind like that."
The girls immediately fell silent at Shizuri's words. Uiharu was mostly just stunned, never expecting such tranquil fury from someone who was reportedly very explosive with her anger. Saten on the other hand felt personally attacked, and rightfully so. As much as she wanted to deny it, the Level 0 knew the elder Kamijou was right. She did leave her brother to fend for himself while she pursued a dream of becoming an Esper in Academy City. Several years later and she had nothing to show for it. Sure she kept in contact regularly, but it doesn't compare to being there in person and a part of his life. However, the girl most shaken up by Shizuri's verbal lashing was Mikoto. After all, she had probably been the most neglectful older sister in the room. She had well over 9000 little sisters now and she barely made time to talk to one of them. Sure they were all connected via a hivemind, but the lack of interaction with one meant the neglect of all.
The room was silent for a solid minute before anyone dared speak up again. Relaxing her stance, Shizuri lifted her fists from the coffee table and crossed her arms over her chest, sighing out a breath she did not realize she had been holding.
"I think it's best you all leave." Shizuri instructed, her tone firm and definitive, "Don't worry about me going after Touma. From the looks of it, you three are too stunned to give me answers even if I tried to get them out of you. I'll just have to trust that the Judgement girl will make sure Touma comes back in one piece."
Giving their elder a silent nod in response, the three middle girls got up from the couch and made their way to the door, letting Shizuri lead the way.
"Oh, and one more thing." Shizuri added as the trio stepped outside, "If Touma comes back needing to be hospitalized again, I'm holding the Judgement girl personally responsible."
As the sun set upon the Twilight Theater, Stiyl had finished explaining the situation to Index. While the List of Prohibited Books was plenty understanding of the gravity of the situation, she couldn't quite grasp why he was dragging Touma and the rest of her friends into it. After all, this was a Magic Side affair, and involving Academy City students, especially powerful Espers, would only complicate matters. They just had to deal with a rogue Magician manipulating Academy City resources and researchers, they didn't need to start doing the reverse themselves.
Styil didn't really have an answer regarding the topic, but there were more pressing matters to deal with, most immediate of which was the arrival of a certain nun in platform heels and a habit of sporting a dangerously short skirt.
"It's all a mess. All of it. We can't even be sure of our own intelligence right now. We cannot be certain that the Book of the Law is secure." the nun explained professionally before realizing her folly, "I'm sorry, I should introduce myself. I am Agnese Sanctis, a sister of the Roman Orthodox Church."
"A pleasure." Stiyl replied, "So, can you update us on the situation with the Amakusa?"
"Sorry, no, we cannot." Agnese apologized, "We have unfortunately hit another gap in our information."
"The Amakusa Church is known for their secrecy." Index cut in, "Their distinctive feature is that they don't use incantations or magical arrays. All of their magical practices are concealed within normal behavior. As a result, even the most decerning Magician would have a difficult time identifying them."
"Yup." Stiyl agreed, puffing his cigarette, "They're definitely an annoying group to-"
"Yay! It's Touma and Kuroko!" Index interrupted, overjoyed to see her friends finally arrive at the theater.
Directing her attention outside, Agnese turned to see who exactly had made the List of Prohibited Books so excited as to interrupt such a serious conversation. When she did, she was rather surprised to see an additional figure with the pair from Academy City.
"With Orsola Aquinus?" the Roman Catholic sister gasped in surprise.
With the help from Academy City finally present, the three Magic Side officials met with the duo and their guest outside the theater's front door. Unfortunately, pleasantries were the last thing that were exchanged between the two groups.
"What were you thinking!?" Touma demanded, "Was there any reason pretending to kidnap her!?"
"Oh my, have I upset you?" Stiyl remarked dismissively, "Here's the thing. We needed to find someone who was missing and we thought you may be able to help."
"Find someone?" Kuroko inquired.
"Don't worry about it now though." Stiyl insisted, "If you just hand over the sister you've got with you, we can call it a done deal."
"Excuse me?" Touma asked, utterly lost.
"Hand over the nun?" Stiyl repeated slowly, "As it just so happens, the woman accompanying you is our missing person, Orsola. So yeah, we're done here. You're free to go."
"That's it?" Kuroko asked flatly.
"So, uh, do we get some kind of reward or something for dragging ourselves down here in the hot sun?" Touma asked lamely, "I'll have you I threw some friends to the lion's den that is my sister to come here."
"I already told you, you did a good job." Stiyl scoffed, "What, you want me to buy you a snow cone for all your trouble?"
"Okay, that's it! What's with the attitude!?" Kuroko demanded, "Why do you keep treating Kamijou like this!? In case you forgot, all he's ever done is drag your ass out of the fire whenever it seemed you couldn't handle the issue by yourself! The least you can do is offer a little human decency! Or are just that sore over the fact that Kamijou was the one that saved Index from having her memories erased and not you!?"
"I'm sorry, but I don't think you really have a say in the matter, do you Esper?" Stiyl scoffed, puffing a cloud of smoke in Kuroko's face, "This is a Magic Side affair and you were only brought in as an affiliate of Imagine Breaker. Now that our business is done here, you no longer have any political immunity. So I suggest you hold your tongue and hand over custody of Orsola to us."
"Let it go, Pigtails. It's not worth it." Touma sighed, turning to Orsola, "What do you think, Orsola? You did say someone was chasing you, so this might not be a bad option."
However, Touma was quick to notice something was off with the nun's behavior. For reasons the Level 0 did not understand, Orsola was quivering, literally shaking in her boots.
"What's wrong!? You're shaking!" Touma cried in concern.
"Hate to interrupt, but I really can't allow you to hand the sister over to these people." An unfamiliar voice echoed from above.
Looking up, everyone present was rather shocked to see a colorful beachball randomly floating overhead. By all indications, the voice was coming from said beachball.
"That's right, Orsola Aquinus. You will not be returning to the bosom of the Roman Orthodox Church." The voice speaking through the beachball continued, "You're coming with me to live a more meaningful and productive life among the Amakusa."
"Amakusa's here!?" Agnese was shook.
Suddenly, three blades erupted from beneath the ground around Orsola. In a swift motion, the blades cut out an asphalt triangle under where Orsola stood, causing her to immediately fall into the resulting hole. Touma tried to give chase down the hole, but was held back by Index when she noticed the three men who initially cut open the hole were still down there with their swords drawn. Stiyl tried to attack the men with magic, but the men were long gone by the time his spell was ready.
"Looks like I'm too late for that to work." Stiyl grumbled as the beachball disappeared down the hole along with the swordsmen.
"Alright, out with it!" Touma demanded, "Explain to us what's going on here, all of it!"
"An explanation?" Stiyl scoffed, "That's something I wish I had right now."
On a nearby rooftop, a man watched inquisitively as the events in front of the theater transpired. He was a well-kept man with jet black hair and brown eyes, the former of which was hidden under a brown ten-gallon hat. In his right hand was a simple staff and around his neck was a golden medallion. He stood on the roof silently as he watched, never taking his eyes off of Touma.
"The balance is wavering." the man said to himself, "Will you awaken your power, Guardian?"
As night fell over the theater, the rest of Agnese's forces had arrived to help with the case, tapping off the hole Orsola fell through as part of the crime scene. Meanwhile, Stiyl and Index used the time to catch Touma and Kuroko up on the situation. As it turns out, there were reports of a very powerful grimoire, The Book of the Law, being stolen. The grimoire was especially dangerous, even for grimoire standards, and Orsola was reported to be the only known person capable of translating it. Thus, she was targeted by the Amakusa and promptly kidnapped.
According to rumor, the person who deciphers The Book of the Law will gain absolute power and there will be a total breakdown of the religious rules of the Church of the Cross. Despite how dangerous the grimoire is, destroying it was practically impossible, making sealing it away the only real option. Even then, it takes a massive amount of power to do so.
Now caught up on the situation, Touma was starting to understand why Stiyl found the situation dire enough to warrant calling on not only himself, but also an additional Esper like Kuroko. If The Book of the Law was deciphered, it would mean not only a total breakdown of the Church of the Cross, but a total breakdown of the balance of power between Science and Magic. A major pillar of the Magic Side would fall, and a single individual from the Magic Side would rise up and eclipse the entire Science Side on their own. It was a scenario that neither side would truly benefit from.
Before Touma could stew further on the situation, he was shaken from his thoughts by the sound of some very heavy heels. Turning towards the source of the steps, Touma saw a very anxious Agnese running towards them. When she came to a stop in front of the group, her stance was visibly shaky, most definitely because she had come running in a pair of comically large platform heels.
"I'm sorry. I wanted to explain our analysis of the situation," Agnese said.
Unfortunately, the sister failed to get the words out as she quickly lost her balance on her extremely tall platform heel sandals. Touma tried to help in keeping her balance by grabbing her hand, but instead got pulled along down with her.
When they hit the ground, Touma found his face centimeters away from Agnese's panties as a result of her extremely short skirt riding up. To make matters worse, Agnese ended up pulling Touma's face closer in her panic, resulting in an image that contrasted greatly with the protests she was making.
"Touma! I don't think she needs your help anymore! Maybe you should get up!" Index reprimanded.
"Oh dear." Kuroko sighed, shaking her head more in exasperation than anger.
"Quit screwing around. We have things to do." Stiyl barked, stomping on Touma's head for good measure.
Once everyone had settled down, Agnese got underway with the report. In short, they didn't really know anything concrete. The most they knew was that Orsola was in the hands of the Amakusa and that there were approximately fifty Amakusa members involved. The only other information they had to work with was magical traces in the area and an understanding of how the Amakusa operates.
"The Amakusa specialize in hiding and fleeing. It's what they do." Index recalled, "It won't be easy to catch them."
"That's true, but I think even they will have a difficult time breaking out of our net." Agnese argued.
"Do you know their transport technique?" Index inquired, "Miniature Pilgrimage."
"What's that?" Kuroko asked.
"It's a special process that the Amakusa can only use within this country." Index explained, "Essentially, there are forty-seven specialized points across Japan, and the Amakusa practitioners can freely come and go between them. Think of it like a longer-ranged yet more limited form of your teleportation."
"If they manage to send her through a vortex, it's all over!" Agnese deduced, "If that's the case, why are we sitting around here!?"
"Because as I said, it's limited." Index continued, "Miniature Pilgrimage can only be used at specific times as it is reliant on the movement of the stars. The transport they most likely have planned for Orsola won't be available until a little past midnight, so we still have four hours or so."
"Wow, you weren't kidding when you said this technique was more limited than my teleportation." Kuroko mused, "The way you put it, it sounds like the Amakusa can rarely use this technique at all.
"There's one more thing. Does anyone have a map I can use?" Index requested.
Having the more advanced phone, Kuroko pulled up a map and placed it on the ground for everyone to see.
"Here." Index said, pointing to a location on the map, "This is the location of the only vortex in the area they can use."
With a plan of action in place, the combined force consisting of Roman Orthodox followers, Necessarius representatives, and Academy City students prepared a camp in front of the theater. As the only two men in the group, Touma and Stiyl shared a tent while Index and Kuroko resided with the nuns. If they were going to go into battle in a couple of hours, they may as well get as much rest as they could beforehand.
"Hey, can we talk?" Touma asked Stiyl as he lay awake on his bedspread.
"Seriously? I'm sleeping here and you want to start bonding?" Stiyl replied with little interest.
"Are there any girls that you're interested in?" Touma asked abruptly.
The sudden question caught Styil completely off guard, eliciting a heavy cough from him.
"What? Hard question?" Touma inquired.
"I've always had respect for Queen Elizabeth the First, and of course my type is Saint Martha." Stiyl replied, collecting himself with an answer that obviously didn't match the context of Touma's question.
Now that he had Stiyl talking, Touma steered the conversation towards the real reason he wanted to talk.
"I've heard about the Amakusa before." the Level 0 admitted, "It's the church Kanzaki used to belong to."
"Yeah? Who told you that? Tsuchimikado?" Stiyl deduced.
"Some of the Amakusa we're up against are probably Kanzaki's friends, aren't that." Touma continued, "And despite that, you're still going to fight them?"
"I am." Stiyl replied resolutely, "Don't you get it? I made a promise to do anything to protect that girl. Anything. I'll kill anyone. I'll burn them alive if I have to. Whatever I need to do. That isn't the kind of promise you forget. It doesn't matter to me if she has forgotten everything. I can hold the memory for both of us. 'I will live and die for you.' That's what I said. Now, go to sleep."
Seeing as he was not going to get any more out of Stiyl for the time being, Touma closed his eyes and let himself drift into sleep.
Touma was never one to have the most vivid dreams. He could hardly say he remembered much of anything from the dreams he had at night. However, tonight his dream was so vivid it felt like he was actually there. Not only that, but the location where he stood was one he had been before, or so he believed to have been before.
Everything matched up. The same raised, jagged stone path. The same bottomless, black void on either side. The same massive, draconic door bound in chains at the end. And of course, the same deep echoing voice that resonated from the door and through the void.
"The balance wavers… the Guardian must rise…" the door boomed, "Should you dare… open this door… you will gain a great new power... But know that with such a reward comes a great burden… Have you the will and courage to bear this burden? Can you bare the balance of the world on your shoulders? Will you rise and become the next Guardian?"
Much like the last time he was faced with the door, Touma took a hesitant step back, causing the path to crumble under his feet and drop him into the endless void.
Touma woke up abruptly with a start. Despite the moderate climate of early autumn nights, he was sweating profusely and had chills running down his spine. Taking a minute to reevaluate his location, Touma quickly realized that he was in his tent with Stiyl, who was still fast asleep, completely undisturbed by the Level 0's sudden awakening. Checking the time on his phone, Touma was shocked to find that he had barely slept a full hour. But most pressing of all the fact that he had an extremely vivid memory of the dream he had just awoken from.
After wiping the sweat off his forehead, Touma pulled out his journal and turned to a section he had found himself updating a lot as of late. He pulled out a mechanical pencil, then began jotting down his latest experience.
Unclassified Super Natural Force Section 1
Abilities: Located in the right hand. Negates all other supernatural phenomenon on contact. Suspected origin of all misfortune.
Warnings: Do not touch magical clothing, especially those of women. Do not remove right hand; doing so will release an unknown entity. Further observation needed. Use with caution.
While trying to suppress and negate a massive magical explosion, I found myself experiencing a strange vision. I was on a raised path in an endless void that lead to a strange draconic door. I wasn't sure what to make of it, especially after the door started talking and started to bargain with me. It wanted me to take on a massive responsibility in exchange for more power. I wasn't sure what to make of it, and I blacked out before I could really consider it. What was that vision?
I saw the door again, this time in my dreams. The door was more specific with its terms this time. It wants me to be a "guardian" of some kind to protect the "balance of the world". What does "guardian" even mean? I hope this isn't going to become one of those reoccurring dreams, but knowing my luck, it's pretty likely. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst, as they say.
With his thoughts jotted down, Touma turned the page to reveal the latest addition to his journal, a sketch of the draconian door in chains. It wasn't the most detailed sketch, but having just seen the door again in his dream gave him the perfect opportunity to improve on it. Touma had no idea what the door was or why he was seeing it, but something about it drew him to it despite the anxiety he felt in its presence. He just didn't understand why he felt that way.
Once he was satisfied with the additions to his sketch and could no longer remember the door as clearly, Touma closed his journal and put it away, laying back down to catch up on his sleep. Unfortunately, the anxiety he felt at the prospect of seeing the door in his dreams again kept him from falling asleep.
Across town in the amusement park known as Parallel Sweets Park, a man in baggy clothes with wild, spikey black hair stood on the rooftops of the park and watched over the surrounding sleeping town. This man was Saiji Tatemiya, the Substitute Supreme Pontiff of the Amakusa. Laying on the ground next to him unconscious was Orsola Aquinus, the missing nun who supposedly knows how to decipher The Book of the Law.
"Your Holiness," a lone Amakusa girl announced as she and several other members approached their leader from behind, "All of the preparations for the Miniature Pilgrimage are complete."
"Very good. Now then." Tatemiya declared as he drew his sword, "Kaori Kanzaki, I hope you will see this and understand that we are what the Church of the Cross should be: multilateral and integrated. We are the United Amakusa Church, and we are doing what needs to be done."
Special End Card Segment: Animan Shrine
At the top of a hill surrounded by dense forest was a simple Shinto shrine. Within an additional living quarters, the master of the shrine, Animan von Elysium X, was engrossed on his Nintendo Switch, not paying mind to his surroundings. He didn't even notice Priestess Number 1, Aisa Himegami, approaching him from behind.
"Master, you have an End Card Segment to run." Himegami said, trying to get her employer to pay attention.
"Must. Save. Waddle Dees." Animan rambled, "Can't. Be. Hit. By. Double. Mr. Frosties."
"This may take a while." Himegami sighed, turning to face an unseen audience, "We'll see you in the next chapter. Hopefully Master will be more focused by then."
"Damnit! The true final boss was easier than not getting hit by these things!"