Before we begin, let's get the preamble out of the way.

Happy Holidays!

It's been a crazy year (at least for me) so having the year almost come to an end is a really weird feeling for me. As time passes and I pass along with it, it's always strange knowing that I know nothing of the future and what it holds. I guess that's just life, though?

At any rate, as is the usual for me, please enjoy the double update for my two works. I know it's a weird season for it, but I hope that all of you look forward to the end of the year, however you spend it, and look forward to the next one.

But enough of that!

Here we are once again!

I think now we've reached this stage, you'll look at the title and think to yourself "What!? A Between the Lines!?". Well, in a way, this is the nature of this chapter given everything that happened and the focus now on the overarching story. It isn't so much just about the singular character anymore but jumping from their particular incident into something a bit more. That has been present in other chapters a bit but I think it was time to do that fully here.

So, without further ado, I give you this new chapter!

Before we begin however, I'd like to do the Q & A:

Saint Lazarus: I'm so glad that I managed to please – I hope that this chapter scratches that itch of yours!

xellos540: Y-You read this chapter at work…and with how long it is?! Misaki does know how to bypass Imagine Breaker, but in the context of the scene, Touma was pretty desperate to make sure Yume's mind wasn't read. Mikoto would also be able to 'accept' the knowledge Misaki would put into her as long as she 'accepts' the connection. The Misaka Network would be considered as a normal esper though; it's just that Last Order can control them all so it's possible to turn them into something else provided you do something to Last Order. I'm not going to say anything about what is to happen with Heaven Canceller… And yes, Touma could technically be infected with Personality Swipe at some point in the series. I covered how the ZERO_Over got into the Tetris Nanomachines back in the end of the Kongou Mitsuko arc; it's a small scene but it definitely shows the moment the 'infection' happened. W-What; Yume x Touma…!? As far as I recall, Touma didn't get a 'new' power as a result of GT 7 – technically he was given the 'status' of 'Alice's controller' but it seems to me that he lost it at the end of the volume. As for the girls who have a crush on Touma, there's definitely a lot. In terms of where I sit in the 'is Index a harem series', I'm in the "No, it's not" camp because while it has harem ELEMENTS, the harem and the romance (for Touma at least) is never the focus of the series. While there are a bunch of girls who have a thing for Touma which is played both comedically and seriously at times, the focus of the series is more the story and the action, which I try and replicate in ACUL0. That's not to say that there are girls who don't love Touma romantically (the main heroines for example although Index and Othinus are strange cases), but I wouldn't call Index a harem series.

whwsms: Glad you enjoyed it!

Kai: ¡Espero que esperen con ansias lo que sucederá a continuación!

craytherlay: I'm glad that you enjoyed the conversation – there are always dialogue heavy parts here and there so it's sometimes necessary to have, so I'm glad you enjoyed it at least! Thank you so much for your kind words man! I'm not going to say anything about the ZERO_Over for now though… I have to say that you really like KnT, but then again, it's the closest thing to evil Touma you're going to get.

patiphat1998: How old is that song?!

5queso: Glad you enjoyed it and the talk about Touma's PTSD! I won't say anything more about it, but the PTSD isn't something that I'm playing for laughs so it's going to be front and centre in an upcoming arc which I hope you will enjoy (once I get to writing…).

ShadowBloodedge9396: Okaeri! For the Break Queen Package though, it's basis is about putting a human mind into a robot, effectively creating a human mind controlling a robot. What this means is that you technically could gave two personalities functioning within a single body, thus opening the possibility of Dual Skill. What Kamui wanted to do was to see how a Dual Skill worked to then see how the 'mind' of the Break Queen Package could work. To this end, he wanted to use Takitsubo's ability to force the Misaka Network (via Last Order) to gain an 'extra' skill and thus forcibly create a Dual Skill which he would study to try and work the Break Queen Package…is what Kamui was trying to do in a nutshell. Kongou got useless really fast! Index with an eye patch does things to me though… Aleister is more taking a backseat in all of this, mainly because his concern is making sure that the Magic side is dealt with first and foremost so he's less concerned about what is happening with Touma, although keeping an eye on things.

DNWorks: I sort of want to see how Kamui will react to the knowledge that his project has failed… Touma being a harem master worked out for him strangely…

Agent Nine: I want Touma to have a break as well so I'm glad you enjoyed the scene!

TheDarkPublisher: I think when that reveal comes out, the gang will have more important things to worry about.

elementalgaming30: Touma is finally embracing his true inner playboy!

onilink500: ¡Espero que todo este bien contigo! Espero que esperen con ansias el próximo arco, es un poco extraño. Sin embargo, debo decir que su teoría ciertamente suena interesante.

Ooga Booga: Yeah, I changed that part of my writing pretty quickly.

derrickfoo0: First, thanks so much for finding the time to read what I've written; with each new chapter, getting new readers is always hard so I really want to thank you. Also, I'm so glad that you like what you're reading! I do need to focus on that issue of repetition; I think it's solved as of late due to me having less time to write so I need to hurry things along. I'm glad that you're liking the way the story is going; early arcs had this sort of 'everything is going to be alright' image but that's getting harder and harder to maintain and will be the case going forward…it's not always going to be doom and gloom but it's going to get heavy and stay that way (with some reprieve) here and there. I'm also glad that you're enjoying the wider involvement of everyone else – if anything, I want to use as most of the Index cast as I can! And also; thank you for your words about my OCs; they are really hard to nail given how I don't want them overshadowing anybody and also feeling unique so your positive response to them is much appreciated. I'm really happy that you like Kamui as an antagonist as well; the most well written villains, in my opinion, are the ones that you can't just brush off with mere violence because they attack you in more ways than just physically. I hope you can look forward to how far Kamui is willing to take things with Touma just to get him to snap; even if Touma is built like a tank, there's a breaking point for everybody… I won't say much about what is planned for the ZERO_Over, but I can confirm that Kamui knows about Magic. I hope you can look forward to the future of this arc and everything that happens in it.

Dbswagking12: Thanks so much; I want to keep on delving into Touma's suffering a bit more so I hope you can stomach what is coming your way!

5had0wHand: Glad you managed to do it before the next chapter was released, haha!

Akunyoba: Holy crap, I can't believe that you tried (and managed) to catch up after dropping it for a bit! I'm not going to say anything further when it comes to what happens with Touma, but I hope you can look forward to the developments as they come, especially when it comes to the changing of the status quo going forward.

And the thanks, to you, the reader. I really want to thank you for being here and continuing to read all this time. From the bottom of my heart, if you find yourself reading this; thank you.

And from me, I hope you do what you always do:


Mr Question Mark.

Personality Swipe. A project to swap out the personality of any ordinary boy or man into that of Kihara Kamui.

The FIVE_Object. A project to build a weapon fitted with next generation Academy City technology and capable of using Level 5 powers.

Break Queen Package. A project to create a cyborg with a human consciousness uploaded into it which could freely change form.

The ZERO_OVER Modelcase_"IMAGINE_BREAKER". A project to replicate and recreate the Imagine Breaker by using nanomachines to read the calculations Kamijou Touma made in his mind when using his power.

All of them were underway, however, it was the last project which was dead in the water to start with. With Kamijou never using calculations like other espers when using his power, the ZERO_Over nanomachines inside his brain would never collect any data useful in recreating Imagine Breaker.

But even with one of the four projects Kihara Kamui had underway within Academy City right now being made useless, those three left over for use in the underground war against the Magic side were more than enough of a threat.

That alone was more than enough to process for the spiky haired boy walking down the halls of the usual District 7 hospital he frequented. However, even if he considered only the Science side of things, the larger picture at hand was enough to make him realise only isolating his thoughts to the Science side was naïve in that it ignored the bigger picture.

After all, those projects were to be used in the underground war happening between the Magic and the Science sides. Even if the incident with Shutaura had been primarily on the Science side of things, there had been people involved in it who were from the Magic side.

Batya Sitara, the Saint from Harmonia's Cradle, and Itsuwa of the Amakusa Church meant to monitor and keep an eye out for the movements of that magic cabal.

Those two had made an appearance in this incident even though they had no place in it and that was enough to make Kamijou realise this was no longer an issue where he could be involved and be satisfied with only dealing with one side in this. Dealing only with Kihara Kamui and his projects would leave Academy City for the taking for the Magic side whereas the opposite was also true.

He, along with everyone else who had been with Yume who had explained the projects of Kamui, being Index, Othinus, Shutaura Sequenzia, Misaka Mikoto, Hayashida Mari and Shokuhou Misaki, had all vowed to stand up against Kamui and the things he was planning for the sake of Academy City and everyone they loved within it.

But if dealing with that meant having to run the risk of the Magic side taking over, Kamijou knew he had to deal with that too.

A side that supported neither one but wanted to ensure peace and smiles could be restored to the people of Academy City. A side that was neither Science or Magic but a group of people who could not afford to let either side rule their lives and the smiles of others as they sought to tear it all down.

A third side different from the two warring sides, with the focus being the opposite of those two warring sides: the peace and smiles of everyone who was caught up in the chaos of that underground war.

Kamijou stared down at his right hand and slowly clenched it.

During this incident, he had come to realise that several of his allies were different people to what he thought he believed. They had done things Kamijou had not thought them capable of, with Accelerator, Hamazura Shiage and Mikoto voluntarily choosing to torture the mercenary Orion Phoenix to the brink of death. Even if Kamijou was still going to accept them because it did not change who they were, it had certainly fractured the amount of trust he had within them.

Did he trust them to have his back? Did he trust them with his life?

He did.

But did he trust them to unconditionally do the right thing when it counted? To manage to hold onto their emotions and do the right thing even if it did not feel like the 'right' thing to do at the time?

Kamijou was not so sure anymore.

Sure, he was in the same boat: when he was pushed far enough, he was sure he would go off the rails as well. But if that ever happened, he hoped someone would be by his side and show him the errors of giving into emotion and throwing away all morals because of the anger within him.

He had done that with those three but still, they had ignored him and gone off the rails all the same. They had ignored reason over emotion and given into their feelings, possibly taking a life because of it. Even if Orion had somehow survived, it was not the point. At the point in time when they had almost taken a life, they had done so of their own free will.

The failings on his part to reach them echoed in his mind, something Leivinia Birdway had once said to him being recalled. She had said he had something at his fingertips that, if he did not grasp it, would cause endless destruction and pain for him. At the time, it had meant nothing but now he was thrust into this underground war, Kamijou now understood the weight of those words.

(…It's because I didn't grasp that connection between them that they did not listen. I know they are all good people. I know it without a shadow of a doubt. But what I want to believe is that they can do the good thing even if it is hard. I understand that might be difficult, that they might not want to, but they can do that even if they are pushed beyond the point of no return…right?)

Kamijou did not know.

And it was that hesitation that made him realise just how the issue of the people around him was surely going to crush him.

(When this chaos surrounding us is threatening to tear apart the City we know and love, I can't afford to distrust people like that. I can trust them; I know that. Even if they have changed a bit, I can trust them to have my back. But I don't know if I can trust them to not let that dark voice within their head justify the bad thing, even if it is for a good reason. I know that in this chaos, they will all want in to protect what they love. Misaka showed me that with her words. But at what cost will they protect that which they love?)

It was valid as a question.

But at the same time, it was not the type of question a boy of Kamijou's age should have been dealing with. It was the type of question you asked when leading a group of people into war, having to balance the options in front of him and being critical of every single little thing.

Who could he trust? Who could he trust to have his back and follow through with what they said? The types of questions Kamijou was asking were reminiscent of something Shutaura might ask herself as the leader of the Black Crows and not something Kamijou should have been burdened with. He sighed lightly.

(I wanted to just have my normal life. I had amazing people around me but we all had our own lives to deal with. Besides, I'm not a leader. I know that much about myself. So how could I have been expected to take control of the people around me and form a group around me? I'm not Kamisato who draws people to him and makes them stick there. I don't need that. As long as other people have their own lives, that's enough for me.)

It was a very simple thought, but at the same time, very Kamijou.


(And now…now I'm expected to take that into my own hands? Even if Yume-sensei helps us deal with Kamui, that is only on the Science side of things. There is still the Magic side. We can't deal with this issue just by isolating the two sides; once one falls, the other will fill its place with tears and blood. Which means we need to create a third side that fights both sides at the same time. The amazing people by my side I know can help with that. But since I failed to grasp it earlier…can I afford to grasp it now with these trust issues I have with the others?)

Kamijou did not hate Accelerator, Hamazura or Mikoto for what they did to Orion. He did not think any lesser of them either. It was just… He wanted to make sure he could ensure they had the least amount of blood on their hands so they could maintain those smiles on their faces as long as possible without having to look back on the path they led and think that it had been filled with bodies.

He just wanted them to be able to live good and full lives where they could smile to the fullest.

So seeing them doing something where they justified the bad thing as something good stepped on that a little. It made him worry for those around him and when this third side to deal with both Magic and Science had to be as close together as they could be, that type of emotion was unwarranted.

But then again, even if there was that trust in that the people around him would do the good thing even when pushed, there was something else Kamijou had to consider.

(Who is going to form this third side anyway?)

They had something to deal with the Science side, Kihara Kamui and MINUS.

They had something to deal with the Magic side and Harmonia's Cradle.

But they needed something that dealt with such simultaneously and worked together to reach a solution where everyone could be happy.

(I'm just a normal high school boy you can find anywhere. Me asking people to risk their lives for me? I can't do that. Nor do I think anyone else would even want to waste their life on someone like me. Index choosing to save me from Batya was just her having no other options so I can't think of her actions as being the normal thing for her. Even if there are amazing people around me, I can't ask them to charge into a war with Magic and Science just like that.)

Kamijou had always been brought into things and used the people around him to reach the best conclusion. But that was always at the spur of the moment, with little room for compromise and thought.

Here, there was none of that. There was planning involved, the collection of forces and the need for a leader to bring everyone who was willing to fight against what was happening. People here could think and choose for themselves and because it was not the spur of the moment, Kamijou was unsure who would build this third side against the forces of both Magic and Science.

Kamisato Kakeru had once built the Kamisato Faction to suit his own needs in the revenge against the Magic Gods and Kihara Yuiitsu.

But Kamijou Touma was unlike that boy. He had not had the initiative to build a 'Kamijou Faction' around him and have them work for him and his own goals. It was because he had failed to do that that he was struggling with the issues he was right now.

(Shit. Kamui, the Magic side and now the construction of the third side against all of that. I really have a lot on my plate. Not to mention my PTSD and everything else. When was the last time I had a decent night's sleep?)

Kamijou desperately wanted to avoid answering that question at all costs, fearful for his life in case he learned the answer. He trembled slightly as he moved through the hospital, his thoughts being ripped from him as he spotted two people by the entrance. Instinctively, and also to ensure he did not look too much into his sleeping patterns or even his attendance, he called out to the person he knew better out of the duo.


The girl who had her name called turned around the moment she heard it. Standing in front of the exit to the hospital, ready to leave through the opened automatic doors, her eyes went wide in surprise at seeing Kamijou.

"You're done?"

Kamijou winced at that. He had left everyone who had been with him and Yume at the table when he had gone to check something about the ZERO_Over. The last thing he had expected was for it to be given to him and the nanomachines of that malicious device to be inside his brain, but the time it had taken to confirm that had clearly been too long for those waiting at the courtyard he had originally been. Seeing Shutaura and her companion here was more than enough to indicate that.

"…Something came up." Kamijou said without going too much into detail. "But what about you? Are you going somewhere?"

Even if she was about to go outside, Shutaura was still a patient at the hospital. However, even though that was the case, she had changed from her hospital gown into the tight fitting black bodysuit that emphasised her bodylines all the right ways. Kamijou had never really noticed it before given everything that had happened but having Shutaura walk outside like that was sure to draw some stares with the way it emphasised her curves.

Had she always been dressed like this when they had been fighting yesterday? It was only now there was a moment of peace that Kamijou realised how erotic her clothing was, even if it was for work. He tried desperately to force down the blush that came onto his face when thinking too much about the clothing she was wearing but didn't feel the warmth escape from his cheeks, choosing to avert his gaze slightly to prevent his eyes from moving to the non-flat parts of Shutaura's body.

Shutaura nodded but whether she noticed Kamijou's blush was unknown.

"Whether I am a patient in this hospital or not, I am a keeper of the peace first and foremost. The discussion on Kamui was enlightening, but that does not mean this one can get off scot-free. There is something Academy City wants to ask her after all."

Shutaura thrust a thumb towards the girl standing by her side, the girl stiffening at the way she was addressed. However, she did not deny it, complicated feelings crossing her face as it seemed she wanted desperately to do so but could not find it within herself to do it.

Hayashida Mari with her Magical Powered Kanamin shirt, yellow eyes and long brown hair put up into a ponytail, fidgeted under the gaze of Kamijou. To him, it felt as though she were desperately trying to avoid his gaze now it was just her, Shutaura and Kamijou.

"We're taking her to Anti-Skill. I'm sure everything inside her head when it comes to MINUS and Kamui is going to assist a lot, as well as help Yume-sensei's case when it comes to trying to convince the adults he even exists and is a threat to everyone within Academy City." Shutaura said, Kamijou recalling something he and Shutaura had discussed before they had met with Yume. He turned to Hayashida.

"Come to think of it, you said you wanted to talk to me and Index. Was that about MINUS at all?" Kamijou asked. Hayashida flinched at the way he addressed her so casually, the girl suddenly growing flustered. She turned to Shutaura, her eyes seeming to be asking something, something Shutaura sighed in response to.

"You can speak freely. One of the conditions you gave the Black Crows before we turned you in was for you to talk with this boy and with that nun. Although I assumed that because you did not say anything to her when Touma-kun left that you did not want to talk to either."

"N-No, that was not it." Hayashida said the first words upon meeting Kamijou, rubbing the back of her head. "The issues I wanted to talk to that nun about had to do with the things she saw on Kamui's computer before it was destroyed. Since that was covered in the discussion we had, I figured there was no need for it any longer and hence, did not say anything to her. As much as I would like to forget everything Kamui is up to, I got what I wanted from her."

"And? What exactly did you want with me? Because Shutaura said you wanted to speak to me about something." Kamijou was blunt, perhaps a bit more so than he usually was. However, there was a good reason for that.

After all, when all was said and done, this was one of the Lieutenant Generals of MINUS and also the girl who had given Academy City the slip more times than one could count. Even if she had been captured, the things residing within her mind when it came to MINUS and Kamui were sure to be assets to them in the future, even if she had attained that knowledge through working against Academy City in the first place.


The group who, when looking at A Certain Unknown Level 0, had been inspired because of the so called 'message' they felt he personified: the idea the weak could beat the strong. In their frustration against the social hierarchy of Academy City, they had banded together, espers joined by the hip through pain and shared suffering.

Every single esper had that at their core in some way. Some weakness they had within their heart that meant they had given in to their suffering and chose to lash out at the world as a result, using A Certain Unknown Level 0 as their idol given the message they thought he had proclaimed with his defeat of the #1.

Shin Wataru had been like that. So had Ogiwara Junko, Ogiwara Kingo, Kawabata Nobuhito, Nemoto Toshiko, Matsura Chisaki, Muro Narahiko, Iriye Kinnojo, Yanagimoto Tadahisa, Chojiro Wada and Gakusha 'Binary' Bakin. All the espers from MINUS Kamijou and others had faced had all had that small pain in their heart that had been relieved when looking at the rumour of A Certain Unknown Level 0 along with the hope they did not have to suffer as the weak anymore.

And Hayashida Mari was the same.

Why had she joined MINUS in the first place? There was something there, some illusion she had clung to all this time which had made her join that esper organisation of her own free will and made her stay there.

Did she want to speak to him because of that wavering of her heart when faced with that illusion? Kamijou did not know and was blunt in his question because of it. Hayashida stared at him for a moment, clenching something at her neck. Kamijou saw it was a lanyard which was tied around her neck but hidden under her clothes. Hayashida did not show him what was on it even though she saw him looking.

"I…I wanted to discuss something with you. You specifically."

"Why me?" It was the natural question and Kamijou felt his eyes narrowing. "If you want me to put in a good word for you at the prison where you're going, the answer is no."

"Why would I want you to do that? Not to mention why would a word from you even be good in the first place?!"

"…Fair enough. I was blacklisted from prison so I'm not even sure whether any word from me would be good per se…"

"W-Wait, you were blacklisted from prison?! I-Is that even possible!? Do you know how many members of MINUS would have killed for that?!"

"If they were to kill for it, they wouldn't be blacklisted would they? They would be in the prison they killed for."

"Don't try and use logic to explain the contradictions in what I said. You were blacklisted from prison! I can't even believe that sentence can be applied to anyone in the world so don't try and show me why what I said doesn't make sense when what you said completely shatters common sense!"

"Wait. So if you didn't want me to say anything to the prison you're going to, then why did you want to talk to me?"

"Did we just have an utterly pointless conversation!? I was so tense about it as well! Give me back those emotions! Give me back that anxiety I realise meant nothing! I'm from MINUS! Aren't you, I don't know, supposed to be all tense and judgmental about me since I'm the villain?" Hayashida shouted, leaving Kamijou somewhat surprised for a moment before he tilted his head and frowned.

"Well, I mean, you accepted you did wrong, right? Not only that but without you choosing to betray Kamui when you did, things would have ended up a lot worse. As far as I see it, you've recognised that going down the path of MINUS was wrong and you want to correct it yourself. Even if it took some time to get there, you eventually, especially when it was the riskiest for you, made the right choice. How can I be tense and judgmental around someone like that?"

Hayashida stared at the boy with surprise on her face. She clearly wanted to say something, and the words that did come out came shakily.

"But that doesn't change…the things I've done."

"I'm not saying it does. But you have accepted what you have done during your time with MINUS and Kamui is not something that can be so easily put to the side. You are willing to face the consequences of your actions, Hayashida, and you want to make some of the wrongs you did right. Just because you were a part of MINUS and did things for Kamui does not make you evil."

Hayashida paused and it was that one moment of hesitation in the way she held herself at what Kamijou had said that made him smile slightly.

"You were the bad guy. I vaguely remember the things you did during the chaos with Gakusha hacking into the weapons of Anti-Skill. And maybe I'm not the best person to say this since I wasn't directly affected by your actions, but you aren't the bad guy any longer, Hayashida. The things you did, they are things you are going to have to make right. The fact you can acknowledge them as being the wrong things though is the biggest step in the right direction. Given how you want to take on Kamui is more than enough to show me there is something within you wanting to come out and do something about Kamui. If you were a hopeless evil, if you were the bad guy forever, I don't think you'd make that decision. But you did. And because of that, I trust you."

Kamijou's words were ones he did not even bother to hesitate over. He said them truthfully and the honesty could be felt within them, Hayashida just staring at the boy as she heard those words echo inside her head over and over.

"My crimes…are not that simple. There is blood on my hands. Blood of someone whose life I have taken. No, in a way, because I did not stop Kamui sooner, the blood of those who have been overtaken with his personality is also on my hands as well. Your trust is me is – "

"Hayashida," Kamijou interrupted her before she could say anything else. "The people who Kamui infected, that is on Kamui himself. Not you. We can think of things such as 'what if I had done this' or 'what if I had done that' to try and make the situation better, but it won't. It's just a weight. An endless weight of 'maybes' pressing down on us which is only going to crush us underneath the weight we choose to create ourselves. I've been there myself. There are deaths that…if I had done something differently, I could have avoided. But I can't lose myself in those worlds of 'maybe'. Because if I do that, more people are going to suffer and that will create many more 'maybe' situations. The only thing we have is the present Hayashida. So, no matter what happens, we have to make the most of it. Isn't that what you did when you chose to betray Kamui?"

"That doesn't change the fact…" Hayashida turned her head down, her face unable to be seen by Kamijou. "That there are people who are dead because of me. My sister and Endo Hanshiro. I'm the one who killed them. With these hands." Hayashida slowly rose her hands, Kamijou seeing they were wavering slightly. She turned them into fists, clearly not wanting pity, but they still trembled all the same. "Even if I didn't mean to, I still took those lives. It doesn't erase my crimes."

"But that doesn't make you evil." Kamijou slowly rose his hands and wrapped them around Hayashida's. "They are your crimes. Nothing is going to change that and you are going to have to face the consequences for them. But you aren't evil because of them. You aren't suddenly incapable of living out your own life because of those crimes. Even you have the right to live out the life you deserve. Even Hayashida Mari has the right to be saved."

Hayashida fell silent, unable to say anything and letting the silence wrap over herself and Kamijou. The warmth of his hands transferred over to her blood stained ones, but even if they were blood stained, that did not mean she had to be cut off. That did not make her incapable of being saved. Even she, despite having done something wrong, had the chance to live out her life and deserve her peace.

Even if no one else believed that, even if no one else believed her smile had worth and deserved to be shown, Kamijou Touma believed that at the very core of his being. And if need be, to protect that smile even she was allowed despite no one else thinking so, he would fight whoever he had to as to ensure she had the chance to smile in the way she so deserved.

He wasn't going to abandon Hayashida Mari simply because her hands were plunged in the filth of the world.

Even if that was the 'right' answer, it was not the answer Kamijou was looking for. It was not the answer he was satisfied with as he clenched a bit tighter on the hands his were wrapped around. He could feel the trembling behind them, trying his best to soothe the feeling underneath his hands.

Was this the evil everyone was looking for? Hayashida Mari had taken a life. That was undeniable. But even if that was the case, was the trembling felt by Kamijou the action someone who was truly evil be making?

Othinus had once challenged him on that point and Kamijou had answered with his heart.

Was there anything known as true evil? Was there anyone who was an undeniable villain who deserve death for the things they had done?

Kamijou did not believe there was.

And even if he were to be proved wrong, Hayashida Mari was not the one to do so.

Which meant there truly was no reason to abandon this girl and forsake her to burn for her crimes.


The voice from Hayashida's mouth was soft. Kamijou tightened his grip on her hands and answered all the same.

"Even you. You're not the bad guy anymore, Hayashida Mari. What you do with your life is in your hands now. No one else's. You're on the path that has turned away from MINUS and Kamui so I can tell you; the path you're on right now is not a waste. Nor is the life you are leading right now. But if you ever stumble, or even need a hand, I'm not going to abandon you just because of those crimes. Because you deserve the chance to be happy, Hayashida. Without a shadow of a doubt."

For the heroes of Academy City, she had been the bad guy throughout the entirety of the attacks against MINUS. Hayashida Mari was a Lieutenant General, one of the top dogs of the organisation. She was being hunted and before she was captured, she had been someone who had lived her life cut off from the rest of the world because of the isolation the heroes had given her.

Yes, for the safety of Academy City, that was the right answer.

But in their witch hunt, they had failed to see past the label they had given her. They had failed to see past the labels of 'enemy', 'MINUS' and 'Lieutenant General'. They had lumped her in a convenient category because thinking of the alternative was too much work and too much of a pain in the ass to deal with.

But that inconvenient category was in front of Kamijou Touma right now.

Yes, for everyone else in Academy City, this was the enemy; a MINUS Lieutenant General.

But at the same time, she was also Hayashida Mari, the girl who was also crying out in her heart for someone to grab her and pull her out of the abyss.

So many people had caught a glimpse of that, but chosen to ignore it. After all, sympathy was not needed for heroes of justice. They were not needed to understand the feelings of the villains they defeated; they were only required to defeat them for the sake of everyone else they were serving.

Yet for that spiky haired boy, he could not just ignore that. He could not just ignore this girl in front of him trembling.

Because of that, he was not a hero. He refused to see the villain as a villain and thought that instead of defeating them that he could reach down and pull them out of whatever abyss they had fallen into. For that alone, his greatest strength was not the ability to defeat the enemies placed in front of him. It was not the greatest sword he held.

It was the greatest shield, seeking to protect rather than destroy. Seeking to save rather pierce the souls of the villains.

And Hayashida Mari was yet another person he could not bear to see stabbed by the convenient blade called justice. Saving her using 'justice', when looking through it in that lens, was surely the 'wrong' thing.

But for Kamijou Touma, he would turn away that idea of justice as many times as he needed to. If it meant abandoning someone who was crying and unable to do so out loud, then there was nothing good in that form of justice and it was something he did not need.

That was just the resolve of that normal high school boy you could find anywhere after all.

"(…It really was true. You really would reach out, even for someone like me. You really are…a hero. The hero those of us who have fallen so far long for.)"


Hayashida said something Kamijou did not catch. She slowly let her hands out of Kamijou's and let them rest by her sides. She turned her head up, Kamijou surprised to see the smile upon her face.

It seemed innocent. As if despite her crimes there was something lingering within that girl that truly had the chance for the normal life and peace she deserved. As if a weight had been lifted from her shoulders, the smile on her face looked as if she was a child again.

"I'm ready to face my crimes now. The Black Crows can do as they please with me." Hayashida said to Shutaura. The girl, who had been silent throughout the entire exchange, nodded once. Kamijou on the other hand frowned.

"Hang on. You said you wanted to speak with me. What was it about?"

"Hah!" Hayashida let out a laugh. "Well, you could say I managed to get what I've always wanted in a way. MINUS never gave me that, but I found it in the most unlikely of places. Just by your words, if I ever fall…I'll be waiting for you to pick me up again. But my path is my own right now. So it's my job to make it worth the things put into it. No one else can take that role away from me."

She turned back to Kamijou.

"I'm going to do my best to make sure I fight against Kamui in my own way. You can be certain of that."

Kamijou grinned a bit.

"Welcome to the team, I guess? I think all of us have a lot to think about when it comes to Kamui. When you are done with whatever sentence you have to serve, come and find me anytime. It might not be much, but I'll make sure you are happy, Hayashida. You deserve peace and a smile, just like anyone else!"

If there was anything Kamijou had expected from her as a reaction, it was not the fierce blush that came onto her face. Nor was it the expression of annoyance that came onto Shutaura's. Hayashida's entire face burned as she turned it away frantically, Kamijou turning from her to Shutaura with clear confusion on his face.

"Hmm? What? What is it?"

"Unbelievable. I don't even know if it's humanly possible to give a marriage proposal by 'making someone happy' to someone without even realising it. If Kamui tried to fill your head with his personality, there'd be so much empty space for him to use he could fit two of himself in that head of yours."

"I have no idea what the hell you're talking about, Shutaura, but those words sting! They sting more than I thought they would! What brought this on in the first place?!"

Clearly, the idiot did not understand the connection between 'making someone happy' and a proposal, but then again, with the sigh Shutaura made, it was clear she did not expect much from him.

"Come on, Hayashida. You've got somewhere to be. And get that blush off your face! I'm not bringing in someone to Anti-Skill who looks like she belongs in a schoolyard!"

Hayashida did not say anything back, the red on her face such that it prevented her from saying anything. She just looked at Kamijou who tilted his head, although with a slight smile on his face.

"I still don't know what exactly you wanted to talk to me about, but I hope we can do it again. There'll probably be a lot to speak about when we next meet."

"Yes. I…I would like that a lot."

Hayashida nodded slightly at Kamijou's words. Shutaura took Hayashida's arm and was about to lead her from the hospital but, Hayashida turned at the last minute and faced the spiky haired boy.

"Before I go, there is something I want to tell you. About the General."

Kamijou stiffened at that, the mention of the name of the top dog of MINUS filling the air. As far as he knew and had heard, there had been nothing said about the General after the chaos that had happened with Kamui. Kamijou knew he had been defeated after Orion had shot him, but afterwards, his fate had been undetermined.

Had he escaped?

Or had he been buried in the rubble along with so many other bodies?

Kamijou turned to Shutaura who seemed just as interested as he was, but Hayashida kept all her focus on Kamijou.

"He was the one who brought me into MINUS. He's the beginning of it all, which is ironic given his name. And like everyone else in MINUS, he holds onto something related to A Certain Unknown Level 0 that he cannot ignore. But unlike everyone else, it goes against what MINUS became to be."

Kamijou frowned. Even though he was the beginning, there was something he held that made him different from the rest of MINUS? As the last member of that group apart from the General and also the person who had been brought into it by him, Hayashida was a vital touch point to the head of MINUS. With that knowledge residing within her head, she spoke.

"Unlike the rest of MINUS, the General hates the esper known as A Certain Unknown Level 0. To his very core."

Both Shutaura and Kamijou stared at the girl in surprise at those words. They blinked before the soldier responded with confusion in her voice.

"That makes no sense. MINUS was a group that idolised the esper at the base of those rumours. The fact their leader hated the esper in question suggests the entire opposite of what MINUS turned into. In most cases, MINUS was trying to protect the identity of that esper from getting out."

"While that is the case," Hayashida replied. "The main reason that happened was because of the fragmented structure. MINUS wasn't a group per se, but rather a collection of different groups operating under the same name. It didn't discriminate who was a part of it and anyone could join in as long as they had the will and the resolve to fight. But because of that lack of control over each individual part, each splinter cell, the wish of the General became distorted. Passing each and every time through new people into others, like a game of telephone, his wish turned into something else entirely."

"…As a group of Level 0s who were struggling against the higher Level espers, the first thing they would feel when they heard about an esper who took out the #1, would not be anger." Kamijou spoke softly, the knowledge he had of the group he had indirectly created filling him. He had felt that bitterness in having a hand in creating MINUS before, but even if it had all been broken apart save for one boy, that bitterness remained. "As the wish of the General was passed along, more and more espers lost sight of his goal and turned it into their own which was unified. It turned from hating A Certain Unknown Level 0 as an individual to idolising him as a group."

"Yes. Because MINUS was not an organisation the General controlled, the ideals and the reason for it forming were lost amidst the frustrations of those who had fallen to those stronger than them. Through the natural course of things, as MINUS collected more and more bitter people who were lamenting their failures and wanting to strike out against the world, it changed from being formed from anger at A Certain Unknown Level 0 to being fuelled by respect for that same individual. But even if the core of the organisation changed, the General never forget the hate he had for that esper."

"But…why?" asked Shutaura. "Why hate an esper he didn't even know? As a Level 0, hearing about one of their own defeating a Level 5 would be an inspiration rather than something to despise."

"He never said anything about it directly," said Hayashida, turning slightly but still facing Kamijou. "But looking at what he indirectly said about it and what I know of him, I can sort of guess his motivations behind hating A Certain Unknown Level 0."

"And they are…?"

"They took something from him. They took something so precious from the General that he could not merely forgive them for doing so." Hayashida answered Kamijou's question, leaving him partially stunned.

He…had taken something from the General? Whatever it was, Kamijou had no idea but again, the bitterness he felt from MINUS came through the back of his throat and left him silent.

Even if what he had done to create MINUS was something he would never regret and something he would do a thousand times over if necessary to create the same result, there were people out there who had taken that one good thing he had done and twisted it for their own ends. Not only that but there were people out there who decided to apply cynicism and their own selfishness to distort Kamijou's actions to make them feel better.

He had not faced Accelerator and placed his life on the line so he could be judged. And yet, that was what had happened. Even if something good had come from it, people had suffered and Kamijou was hated in the background for the things he had done. Even if it was something Kamijou would never take back, the knowledge that other people had been transformed by his actions like MINUS and the General left a bitter taste in the back of his throat.

Still, what had he taken from that boy? No manner of searching would give Kamijou the answer and he was left standing there with confusion on his face.

"I don't know the details but from my own analysis of him, that is what I've determined. I'm sorry I don't have anything more."

"…It's fine." Said Kamijou after a while, waving his hand in front of his face. "The fact you even gave it to me is something I am extremely thankful for."

"Although, you seem to have missed out on the most important detail of all." Shutaura said with irritation in her tone. Hayashida stared at her, confused, before the older girl was forced to spell it out with clear annoyance on her face. "His name?"

Hayashida blinked once before tilting her head.

"I've been using it this entire time." She said with a frown, Kamijou frowning in turn and shaking his head.

"No, you haven't. All you've been calling him is 'the General'. Even in this day and age where children are called anything under the sun and light novel titles are long, no one is going to call their kind 'the anything'. It's just bad parenting."

Shutaura sighed at the last bit which was clearly not related to the issue at hand at all. Hayashida giggled slightly.

"No, his name. The General's name, his personal one, literally translates to that. It was supposed to be a name given to a child capable of leading, victory, even if his given name contradicts that entirely."

"Orion called him Owari…" Shutaura said thoughtfully, placing a hand underneath her chin.

"'The End'? Really?" Kamijou asked with a raised eyebrow, looking at Hayashida as he gave the translation for the General's given name. The girl, in response, nodded once.

"Yes. The General's name is Owari Taishou. The given name meaning 'end'. And the personal name meaning 'General'. Taken one at a time, you get names that suggest the same thing: a finality or someone leading towards it. A victor. Someone who brings about an 'end' to whatever conflict they get involved in and stands above it all. But take it all together and you get something entirely different."

Owari, to suggest an ending.

Taishou, to suggest a position of power.

Taken one at a time, they suggested strength and the power to produce endings.

However, taken together…

"The End of the General." Said Shutaura Sequenzia. "His very own name…rejects his own existence."

The final player on the Science side had been revealed. Everything had started from that one boy but even as he had started, the ending that was surely going to come followed him around like a curse, hidden in the depths of his very name. For that boy who lived with that name spelling his own demise, he had had something stolen by A Certain Unknown Level 0.

He had had something stolen from him by Kamijou Touma.

But what it could have been Kamijou did not know for the life of him.

The only thing he could do was whisper that name to himself, whisper the name of the boy who had formed the organisation Kamijou had indirectly caused. He whispered the name of the boy who had started all of this and had caused all this bitterness in his heart to rise.

But even if that was the case, he could not hide the reaction that came into his mind before anything else.

"You call your kid 'the General' and then have his name mean 'the End of the General'? See what I mean? There could have been so many psychological issues handled if this hadn't happened in the first place! It's just bad parenting!"

Hayashida Mari was led out of the District 7 hospital with something off her chest.

She was not evil.

Even after all she had done, she could be saved.

She knew it was just her licking her wounds, but the one who had healed her, the one who had given her faith within herself that she was not a hopeless case who could never be saved was the very person she had believed in in the first place.

Hayashida knew there were crimes she had to pay. But because of those crimes, she had felt she was a useless existence who was doomed to fall into the trap of never being able to shed her skin and become something more than a criminal and a murderer.

Yet there had been someone out there, a single person who had not given up on her just yet. Even when she had given up on herself, especially when she had fallen into Kamui's trap and become encircled in his twisted centre of gravity, there was still someone out there who had reached into the abyss of her own mind and heart and held onto her.

The grip that boy had was warm. It had been healing and it had given Hayashida an everlasting presence to hang onto and it pulled her to the surface of the water she was drowning in and given her space to breath.

There was someone out there who still wanted to make Hayashida smile no matter how much she did not deserve it and no matter how much she deserved to burn for her crimes. There was someone out there who still sought to save her after everything she had done.

That was enough.

It was enough for Hayashida Mari to have the strength to not give up on herself just yet and face tomorrow with the knowledge she could do something about herself to become a better person and give the person who still had faith in her pride in the knowledge that, while everyone else had given up on her, they had not.

Looking objectively, it was nothing more than a simple statement of saying he had not given up on that girl and that she had the right to be happy even if she had to pay for her crimes.

But the fact it had been said had been more than enough. It had given the girl known as Hayashida Mari the thought she could finally do something right despite the wrong in her life and could make some sort of amends for the things she had done.

There were some things that were never going to change no matter what she did.

But there were others she could make better or even help at the end of the day.

And now there was someone who had shown her that even someone as bad as Hayashida Mari could be saved, could have the right to be happy and smile. There was someone out there who had grabbed her by the hand and stood by her side even when the world had abandoned her.

There was someone who had truly saved her when she had thought there would be no one to stand by her side and that she was all alone.

Shutaura Sequenzia in front of her had met up with the other members of the Black Crows who were still able to move. A group of them, from what she had been told, were going to escort her to the nearest Anti-Skill station for her arrest, something that was sure to benefit the group which had been assimilated into that peace keeping organisation.

But even as peacekeepers, the hate directed Hayashida's way for the things she had done to their comrades stabbed into her heart. By no means, now that she had been saved, did she think she could hold her head up high for the things she had done. It was the opposite: now that she had been saved and someone had not given up on her, the things she had done which had made others give up on her had never seemed so poisonous.

Hayashida felt the hateful gazes on her and cast them into her. She deserved them for the things she had done and now there was someone willing to stand by her, she knew she could never return to that poisonous lifestyle no matter what. She made a small vow in her heart as one of the Black Crows came forward with a pair of handcuffs.

Hayashida did not resist, holding both hands out voluntarily as the handcuffs were placed on her. As her gaze was cast down, she naturally stared at her chest and thought of the lanyard hidden within. The lanyard which had contained the picture of that one boy who had stayed by her side even after everyone around her had abandoned her because of the things she had done.

From the rumours, Hayashida thought she would have been punched in the face and told of the errors of her ways. While she had not been punched, something she still thought she deserved, and the errors of her ways had been made clear to her from the beginning, she had gotten something else from the interaction with the person on the lanyard she had thought she never could.

A way to become better.

A way to change herself, a way to evolve and a way to become someone she could be proud of instead of watching over her shoulder for someone she had wronged to take revenge.

That had truly, truly saved her.

Kamijou Touma had said he wanted to talk with her again. And from the bottom of her heart, she wanted that too. There were things she had to say to him, things she wanted to ask and things she wanted to hear his opinion of, if only because they would give insight into her own heart and what she could do to make her life better.

The rumours had said that Kamijou Touma was someone who stood up against anyone and took them out with his right fist. That he was a saviour and a hero of sorts who defeated the enemies in front of him and sought to save those needing saving.

What the rumours did not address though was how he never cast aside anyone who needed that salvation. Even if it was an enemy in front of him or the world's greatest evil, he would extend his hand to that one person to allow even them the chance to be happy.

It was ridiculous and self-righteousness to say the least. It was naïve and stupid to think that those who committed crimes and were evil had the chance to be saved.

But for those who had been cut off from the world and abandoned, Kamijou Touma was perhaps the saviour they felt they needed. It was strange in a way: not only did he save those in trouble but also the people who were tormenting them as well.

Just as Hayashida Mari had thought; Kamijou Touma definitely had the power to save, evident in how he had.

It was a pointless thought but maybe if she had met him sooner, something would have changed. No, for the entirety of MINUS who had been cut off from the rest of the world and deemed as evil, maybe it was Kamijou who could give them the chance to live out their lives with a smile as well as the people he saved them from.

That was nothing more than a passing thought as Hayashida walked forward with the Black Crows standing protectively around her. She knew it was not because they cared for her, but if Kamui or anyone else wanted her dead, then it was their job to ensure she was safe, so they could achieve the respect they wanted from Anti-Skill.

Yet, not even Hayashida could think negatively of them for that. She deserved this and now that she, the villain, had been saved, with the knowledge that even she had the right to be happy and could start her life anew by fixing what she had broken and stopping anything else from being broken, this journey she had to take to be punished for her crimes she knew was necessary. Even if Kamijou was indiscriminate in his salvation, to victim and enemy alike as the rumours suggested she had been given this, so she had to make the most of it.

However, another passing thought came to her mind, as pointless as it was.

She was not evil.

Hayashida Mari had been saved with that thought.

However, was that type of thinking just applied to her?

Given the nature of Kamijou, Hayashida did not think so. He seemed to apply his salvation and reach out to anyone indiscriminately and Hayashida had seen that for herself in this incident.

When Kamijou Touma had tried to save Kihara Kamui.

Sure, it was nothing but a copy with the Original's personality, but the pointless thought echoed inside Hayashida's brain. It tugged at her mind and she turned her head slightly to try and view the hospital entrance she was leaving, the thought rising to the forefront of her mind.

Was it possible?

Was it possible that Kamijou Touma did not think the original Kihara Kamui was truly evil despite what he was planning and would try to save him anyway?

Hayashida Mari did not see the boy she was thinking of as she caught sight of the entrance to the hospital.

Almost as if he had known what her thought process would be and run away from it before she could think to question the salvation he had given her and how it could also apply to one Kihara Kamui.

Kamijou Touma breathed a heavy sigh as he stared down at his cell phone.

He had learned a lot and while he was not sure what exactly Hayashida Mari had wanted from him, what he did know he knew he had to communicate to the other parties which had been involved in this incident. While most of the other parties involved in the Science side had been at his discussion with Yume, there were others who had not been.

No matter what he might think of them and the trust he had in them about whether they would do the right thing at the right time even when pushed, Accelerator and Hamazura Shiage had every right to know the status of what was happening within Academy City right at this very moment. While Kamijou had avoided involving them so far, the introduction of Last Order and Takitsubo Rikou into things changed things entirely.

They could not be kept out of the loop any further. Not when there was the risk that those they loved would be placed in danger once more.

Besides, it wasn't all as bad as Kamijou thought it would be.

At the final moment when everyone had been underground in that hell, when the entire thing was more than ready to collapse underneath itself, while everyone was escaping, the Black Crows and made sure to check up on the people still alive and carried those that were to the safety above.

41 people had made it to the surface alive out of the numerous within that facility. 41 people out of that many dead had been saved. That was surely a good result, but thinking about it, the numbers at the time did not add up.

The Black Crows had numbered less than that when the underground facility had been ready to collapse. Even if one included the additional people on their side, the number of people to check whether someone was alive and then carry them up to the surface without going back down did not match up.

With the numbers they had, was it possible for less than 41 people to check the bodies within that facility for signs of life and then take the ones alive up to the surface?

Kamijou did not know, but if they had had the assistance of the #1 Level 5 esper within Academy City and Hamazura Shiage who had stolen one of the mobile weapons of the Black Crows, the chances of achieving what had happened went up considerably. Even though the two of them had been blinded by rage when they had tortured Orion, when they had saved who they wanted to, they had chosen to make sure they checked on the people still alive and brought them to the surface.

Within their rage, they had decided to save those they could as well as the people they had chosen from the very beginning. Even if they had been willing to torture Orion, at the very last moment, they had chosen to save the lives of their enemies on the brink of death.

They were not bad people and they had not fallen off the edge completely. The same was said for Misaka Mikoto who also helped everyone else carry the still alive bodies to the surface. Even though that was the case, it did not erase the issue of whether they would continue to do those good deeds if they were pushed.

Last night, Accelerator and Hamazura Shiage had chosen to save people they had fought when all was said and done. The 41 soldiers who had survived was the number of people brought to the surface with the assistance of both those boys.

For that alone, for that kindness, there was no way Kamijou was going to keep them in the dark about what he had learned about Kamui and what he and everyone else was going to be doing.

He hated keeping the others waiting, but this was just as important to him as meeting up with them again.

The call to Accelerator and Hamazura had been one with little words exchanged: mostly Kamijou talking and asking how the people they had saved were. The one word answers he got in response was enough of a relief to suggest to Kamijou the state of those who had been captured but, as those boys knew, Kamijou was not calling for the sake of being friendly.

The exchange of information had been quick and short. When Kamijou had finished, both the #1 and Hamazura had simply asked what was happening with the task force to deal with Kamui and his twisted projects, as well as the General of MINUS. When they got the answer that it was underway with updates to be made on both accounts, they had simply asked to be kept in the loop, as much as everyone else.

Then they had hung up.

Kamijou had expected it: after all, the call he had given them was hardly pleasant and there was certainly a lot to think about when it came to what was going to happen in the future. Last Order and Takitsubo had been stolen from right under their noses so it was likely they were thinking a lot about MINUS and the Science side of things.

What happened now, for all of them, was dependent on the world of adults and what was going to happen with Yume and how she was going to set up the counterattack for Kamui. Everyone was waiting with bated breath for the word from that scientist and with Kamijou being the only touch point between her and everyone else, it seemed he was acting as the middleman in this dynamic environment.

Was no one complaining about the fact that a mere Level 0 was their source of information because of their nervousness in this situation? Or because, in their hearts, they were fine with Kamijou directing and leading them with information as he pleased?

Was this the touch point that Kamijou could use to build up the third side to fight against Kamui?

Kamijou stared down at his phone and laughed at himself internally.

If he had wanted to create that side, then he would have told both Accelerator and Hamazura about the Magic side of things. He would have kept them entirely in the loop about what was happening in the underground ear in Academy City, creating that third side to fight against other sides, but he had not. He had chosen to stay silent and wanted to protect their peace, even if he was destroying that a bit by talking about the problems on the Science side.

But even so, he didn't want to have to crush that entirely. His own life had been turned upside down and inside out with what was happening within Academy City and as much as possible, he wanted to make sure he could keep that the same for the #1 and that other Level 0.

He was being naïve about it for sure.

But he just wanted to prevent himself from being the one to destroy their smiles even further as they plunged themselves into an underground war between the Magic and the Science sides. As long as they only knew about the Science side problems, then their peace was kept clued together in the most haphazard of ways.

Yet Kamijou could not help but wonder if that was nothing but an illusion on his part as he stared down at the phone.

There was a single message: a single meeting place designated in the text he had just received after calling Accelerator and Hamazura about the Science side problems.

Kamijou had known this was coming, but could still feel his heart racing within his chest all the same. The Science side problems and learning he had ZERO_Over nanomachines in his brain were nothing compared to the pressure he felt from this one text. And as much as he wanted to avoid it, he knew he could not.

The text on his phone was the other half of this war he had been thrown into: the Magic side of things.

With hesitation in his beating heart at the thought of what was going to happen on the other side of this war, Kamijou replied to the message, agreeing to the meeting and sighing. He ran a hand through his hair and breathed quietly into the air.

"When did it turn into this?"

"Into what?"

A voice from behind Kamijou made him turn and recoil when he saw the person behind him.

Shorter than him and wearing black, the person behind Kamijou in the hospital corridor did not elicit the same caution another boy wearing black did. The black coat that covered the small boy covered his entire body save for his face which was hidden behind a white porcelain looking mask.

Kamijou knew the boy, or at least what he called himself. Last he had seen of the boy was when he had been clinging onto the back of a van racing through Academy City although he only knew him by a pseudonym.


"Hey. Just because I'm younger than you and also less experienced as a hero doesn't mean you get to call me 'kun'."

"Would you prefer 'chan'?"

"I-I'm not having you call me Eiyuu-chan in public! I would die of embarrassment!"

"You're wearing that get up in public and you're worried about what I call you!? Don't tell me you're the type of person who is all open and tells dirty jokes in public but can't have a proper conversation about private parts, are you?!"

"What does that have to do with anything!? All heroes need a costume, don't they?"

"There is a lot to be said about grown men, women and children wearing tight fitting cloths. So much so that there's a fetish about it. I've heard all about this from a Fetish King, so take it from me, it's not pretty. America is definitely the land of the 'free' is many respects."

"I-I'm not wearing this so I can suit some fetish! I thought it was cool but now I'm second guessing myself! I can't change my look now unless I have some major character development!"

Kamijou stared at the small boy who had to be pretty young given how his high pitched voice suggested his voice hadn't broken yet. That in itself worried Kamijou about how impressionable he was given how he was using the term 'hero' and 'costume' so freely that so mirrored American comics. There was a lot to be said, but in the back of his mind, Kamijou turned to another person he knew who always wore black.

(Orion said the same thing; that his edgelord costume was his work uniform. Damn, trying to keep up appearances in the world sure is tough.)

Kamijou sighed, placing a hand on Eiyuu's shoulder and patted it lightly.

"Kid, take it from me. Unless you have a whole lot of black coats in your closet and white porcelain masks, you're going to have to change your costume at some stage. It's just common sense! With the amount of things you get into, do you really think your clothes will survive?"

"Nah," said Eiyuu as he slapped Kamijou's hand off his shoulder and pointed a thumb proudly at himself. "I've got lots of black coats at home for my personal use, so I have heaps of spares."

"You poor, poor child. I'm not even sure if you're young enough to hit the rebellious emo/goth stage. Don't tell me you're into heavy metal as well?"

"You're making fun of me, aren't you!? For being someone's idol in this hero business, you sure are a disappointment!"

"Don't put me into something so annoying without my permission."

Eiyuu said something entirely ridiculous as his hopes and dreams were shattered by Kamijou's remark as he lightly chopped the boy on the forehead. The sound of skin hitting the porcelain filled the air but the only thing that Kamijou felt was the honest annoyance of having been put into the character of 'hero' and 'idol' by this small boy.

The things he had done were by no means the actions a hero; they were just his own selfishness that he used to justify his own actions at the end of the day. There would be some who agreed or disagreed with him but the lack of desire to fight for something concrete such as world peace or because it was the 'right' or 'good' thing to do meant Kamijou could not think of himself as fitting into any of those categories.

So he was fine with being a disappointment. He wasn't doing what he was doing right now to earn fans or anyone's attention. As long as everyone was fine and smiling at the end of the day, then he was fine fading into the background with nothing to his name or any recognition. In fact, in a way, Kamijou preferred to not be noticed and not to have anyone realise what had happened.

After all, the less he was noticed, the less problems there were. Even though this was positive attention, this type of attention was exactly what had led to MINUS forming. So, to that end, he was fine ruining the illusion the small boy Eiyuu had of him.

Eiyuu held his hands above his head as he turned back up to face Kamijou, a challenge in his voice.

"You say it's annoying and that you're not a hero… But do you really think that, Master?"

The question was a deep and personal one that went right into the heart of the hero known as Kamijou Touma.

But, without hesitation and without even needing to think about it, the boy answered.

"I do. I don't need to have validation to do what I do. I just need to have the desire to do it, as annoying as it is at times. And what did I just say about being put into an annoying category without my permission?! Calling me Master doesn't make me happy, you know! It's just filled with misfortune for me. I'm not Tsuchimikado! And besides, I would rather be serviced by someone of the opposite gender, taller, clumsy with glasses and wearing a garter belt!"

Eiyuu stepped back, trembling a bit.

"…Have I unknowingly decided to follow a pervert?"

"I heard that! I'm right in front of you, you stupid brat, so get it into your thick skull that I don't want anything to do with being your idol or anything! I just know that I'll be accused of being a shotacon or something if a kid as young as you is following me around in that get up!" Kamijou said that rather bluntly, showing that while he was honest with his feelings in this case, the hopes and dreams of the boy who had been willing to follow him were not his primary concern. He waved his hands in the air to shoo Eiyuu away, however, the boy spoke up.

"I'm not leaving, Master. Not until I know what happened last night. What happened with that mercenary we were fighting? I was knocked back and then you disappeared. Then I turn on the news this morning to hear he has been declared dead because of all of his blood found in the Underground Mall. What…happened?"

The small boy asked and even though he used an annoying way of addressing Kamijou, the older boy flinched. While he was glad Eiyuu did not have to see what had happened to Orion at the hands of Accelerator, Mikoto and Hamazura, he had been kept out of the loop and knew nothing about what had happened. His innocence was fully bared and Kamijou felt some pity for the boy given the things he was doing when he was so young when he should have been doing something else entirely.

What was he to say?

That he was on the edge of treading into an underground war?

Kamijou knew it was wise to keep his mouth shut, but he knew within him that trying to tell this boy how to lead his life was not his place. As the older one, he had the role of being a role model, but in truth, for the high schooler, that truly meant nothing to him. He was too young to be thinking about life in those terms. He stared at the small boy, unable to see his eyes past the small slits in the mask, before responding.

"A lot. Just…a lot."

"Did anyone…get hurt?" The way Kamijou must have said it must have alerted Eiyuu to something as he responded in that small way. Kamijou nodded.

"A lot of people. A lot of people who are not coming back."


What was held within that small pause and response Kamijou did not know but he felt his heart constrict at the way it was said. Even though he knew himself to be far from someone to follow and not a role model in the slightest, he still felt as though that response had meant he had let this small boy down.

"Was that what you were talking about before? The fact that it had turned into 'this'?" asked the small boy curiously.

"…Something like that." Kamijou said in a soft voice before rising his head and staring out the window of the hallway he was on, at the world outside the pane of glass in front of him. Neither party said anything for a small while before it was the older of the two who spoke.

However, with his words, it was unclear which one of the two was the child and which one was the adult.

"Say, what does the world look like to you?"

"…I'm sorry?"

"Ah, no." Kamijou turned and waved a hand in front of him, grinning slightly. "It's nothing really complicated. It's just…you've seen a lot of things too, haven't you? I barely know anything about what you've done for Academy City but the fact you attacked that van full of soldiers when you did and their reaction suggests you've been fighting something other than me this entire time. From your perspective, what does the world look like to you that warrants you acting like that?"

Eiyuu looked stunned by the question, but it was hard to tell behind his mask. However, the way he took a small step back suggested he was unsure how to answer. There was a small silence before it was broken by the uncertain words from that small boy.

"The world looks like it needs saving. That's why I do what I do. I'm trying to be a hero, trying to save a world that is slowly corrupting itself in poison and violence. That mercenary we saw yesterday, he's just another part of that. Another person thriving in this world that is filled with darkness and trying to grab everyone and pull them in. It's the job of someone like me to stop them, to prevent anyone else from getting caught up in what they are trying to do. It's my job to try and make the world a better place."

Eiyuu's response was rather immediate despite his shock at being asked. Kamijou said nothing, turning his head back to the window and nodding slightly but saying nothing.


"…Trying to make the world a better place, huh?" Kamijou's words were thoughtful as he stared outside the window, before shaking his head. "I…don't think I can have the same type of thinking as you can on that."

"What…do you mean?"

Something rose in Eiyuu's voice at the challenge someone he looked up to made but the older boy turned his head back to the small hero and flicked the forehead of his mask. There was a 'clink' sound through the air, but the grin on Kamijou's face stood out to the small boy all the same.

"The world is fine as it is. It's just that, every now and then, there are people who take others into a darker place within that world. Which means that for the sake of returning people to the world they came from, it's the job of people like you to bring them back so they can have their smiles and peace back. The world isn't a bad place, Eiyuu. Nor is it filled with bad people. It's just…sometimes you can lose your path along the way and have no idea how to find your way back."

"The world is good enough?" Again, something within Eiyuu's voice rose. "If you have seen what I have, Master, then you would know that is not the case. With that mercenary last night, can you really think that if there are people like him in the world that it is a good place to live?"

"I didn't bring this world back so I could be ashamed of it."

Kamijou's response as he stared out the window was a small smile. Eiyuu, unable to say anything, felt something within those words, a small feeling of melancholy as if Kamijou himself were looking back on something only he knew of.

"Sure, I suffered for that, but this world was brought back. And I, even if it is my own thoughts, didn't do that so I could later regret my decision. You and I were born in this world, Eiyuu. If we say it can be a better place, then that means there is something in this world to be ashamed of. Sure, there are things that can be better, but that doesn't mean there is a dysfunctional world we live in. It's just that there is something within it now that is distorting the world we live in so it looks different from what it is supposed to."

"You can look at the things you've seen…and still have hope in the world? Despite seeing the worst the world has to offer, you still have hope and faith in its people?" Eiyuu's voice was shocked, but it was Kamijou who turned back and looked at Eiyuu with even more shock.

"How can you not? It's because of the things I've seen that I have that hope and faith. If the things you've seen place that hope and faith you have on the line, then I have to say that you are way too young for that type of thinking. Someone like you…shouldn't have to be burdened with those types of thoughts. Not when the world ahead of you is a good place filled with good people."

Kamijou placed his hand on top of Eiyuu's head which was covered by the hoodie of the black cloak. He patted the small boy's head comfortingly.

"I'm not saying the things you have done are wrong. But if you lose sight of the goodness in people because you've been fighting all this time, then what are you fighting for? You are too young to have to realise or be faced with the fact that if you turn fighting into fighting for the sake of it, then you'll have blood on your hands that has no reason to be there."


It was a small part of the human condition but the power of belief was more than anyone could ever ask for in times of need. And when it came to saving people, if you did not believe in the power you saved or you did not believe there was something good within them, what was the point of saving them?

If you saved them because you were a hero, then it was work. If you saved them because 'someone had to', then that was fine but there would come a point where you would be crushed underneath the weight of all those everyone else was ignoring. If you turned down that path for long enough, then there would reach a point where you were fighting to save merely because that was what you had done all the time.

And if that was the case, then you weren't fighting for yourself or for the people you wanted to save.

You were fighting merely because you had been getting people's blood on your hands for so long that you could not stop.

"At times this world might seem like a piece of shit. But that doesn't mean it was always that way and has not been kind to the people within it, even if it feels like it might be hurtful. You only have to look no further than your own birth to give an indication of that kindness. Because if someone like you can be born in this world, then it surely can't be that bad."

Kamijou grinned at the small hero in front of him. He patted him on the back before rising a bit straighter, wiping his nose a small bit with a look of pride on his face.

"Thanks for that though."


"There's been a lot going on for me as of late. So much so that I think I was starting to lose sight of the goodness this world has to offer. You managed to get me to reinforce something that was fading away, so for that, I thank you." Kamijou smiled and before poking at a place where Eiyuu's heart would have been. "Don't ever lose that, kid. Because as long as you can reach out with your heart to someone then you'll never lose no matter what happens. You're a good kid so keep that part of you and don't lose it."

"…Something's coming, isn't it?" asked Eiyuu. Whether it was the tone of Kamijou or merely the things he was saying, the small boy tensed up at those words. Kamijou was silent for a moment before he nodded.

"Yeah. Something's coming."

"Then I'm in."

Kamijou's face twisted at those words, especially given how young the boy was, however, looking at the small boy he knew he could not say anything to the contrary, as much as he wanted to. This was Eiyuu's choice and there was nothing he could say against it when he had made it himself. Not only that but in the coming chaos, Kamijou knew he needed as many allies as he could have for the sake of protecting Academy City and everyone in it.

For those reasons, he sighed and nodded.

"Then I'm glad to have you on board. As of right now, we're not entirely sure what's going to happen but if you can give me your number, then – "

"My mum always told me not to give my number to strangers."

"You can fly, take bullets in the chest without blinking and punch through a van yet what you're worried about is a phone number from a high schooler?! Again, I'm not too sure you understand what the word 'priority' means! How old are you anyway!?"

"W-Well, no matter what the case is, you don't need my number. I'll know where to find you, Master. I'll probably just follow the explosions if anything happens."

"N-No, I refuse to accept that is going to be an indicator of where I am! Not everything around me explodes! It was just this time where there was a van involved, large cannons and a 30 floor underground hell! A-As overwhelming as that sounds, this Kamijou-san is not followed by explosions wherever he goes! Misfortune, yes, but not explosions!"

Kamijou seemed rather frantic as he said those words, Eiyuu staring at the boy with a tilted head.

"If something is coming though Master, what exactly do they want? Because that is going to be the best way that we can tell what to protect when it comes down to it."

"W-Well," said Kamijou as he rapidly got his shaking thoughts back into where they needed to be. "Academy City as a whole is in danger. But for some part of what they want, we're going to give it to them."

"W-We are?!"

Eiyuu's apparent shock was obvious but Kamijou did not answer, instead turning and walking down the corridor with his thoughts more in line than ever before.


If he wanted to make sure he could bring back the world he had taken from Othinus, then out of the things he knew Kihara Kamui wanted, he was going to give him one in such a way that Kamui had wished he had never asked for it.

(If he wants it so bad, he can have it. I'll give it to Kamui and turn this underground war and both the Magic and Science sides on their head.)

Kamijou Touma felt the grin on his face all the same at the challenge in front of him.

(I'll show Kihara Kamui, the Magic side and whoever else just who Kamijou Touma is.)

"You're all still here?"

"How can you say that after keeping us waiting all this time, Touma!?"

Kamijou's surprise was responded to with the annoyed shout from Index. While he had expected that nun and Othinus to stay in the hospital courtyard where he had left her, the other two parties sitting at the table responded in much the same way as Index.

"You said you would be gone for a minute. …I guess I could expect this tardiness from you." Misaka Mikoto responded as best and as cool as she could while crossing her arms.

"You didn't get involved in some earth shaking incident again?" Shokuhou Misaki asked with a small smile on her face.

"I was gone, what, half an hour or so!? Do you really think I could get caught up in some incident with someone in that time?!"


"With another girl I bet."

"And with lots of misfortune ability to boot."

Index, Mikoto and Shokuhou all answered after one another, Kamijou sinking to his knees and trembling.

"It's not that bad… I refuse to believe it's that bad… Please don't tell me it's that bad…"

Othinus, the only one who had not spoken, wasted no time from jumping down where Index was holding her and making her way to Kamijou, crawling up his clothes as he had his hands and knees on the ground, making her way up his clothing and into his shirt pocket.

"There. Much better. Aaaaaaaand I don't smell any other foreign scents on you apart from the ones I already remember, so I can confirm you weren't up to the usual things you were up to."

"What are you, my mum?! And how can you tell who I was with just based on the scents that come from me!? That's the most surprising thing of all! Have I stumbled upon some hidden ability you have as a god?!"

Kamijou instantly came out with that remark, Othinus not even bothering to respond as she snuggled in Kamijou's pocket comfortably. There were clearly questions on Mikoto's and Shokuhou's faces, but they did not say anything, instead watching as Kamijou made his way to the table and sat back down.

"Well? I assume that since you both stayed, you have something you want to say to me." Kamijou asked bluntly, but the way he laid his head on the table showed just how exhausted he was. Shokuhou lightly smiled at that, turning to Mikoto who flinched underneath her gaze.

"Misaka-san? Do you want to go first? Or shall I?" Shokuhou asked with a casual gaze but the way Mikoto had flinched earlier made everyone there stare at her with small frowns. Mikoto did not immediately respond though but when she did, she turned her entire body to face Shokuhou with a small frown on her own face.

"I have something I want to discuss with that idiot. But it's not something I want to discuss in front of you. No…in fact, you could say it's something I must not discuss in front of you."

"Is that so?" Shokuhou asked, her eyebrow raised as she stared at the girl. If there was anyone else, Mikoto perhaps would have shied away underneath that gaze but when it came to the distasteful girl known as Shokuhou Misaki, there was no way Mikoto was going to show weakness and give Shokuhou something to hold over her. Such was clear in the gaze that Mikoto gave her fellow Level 5 as she leaned back in her chair, Shokuhou shrugging instead.

"Well, if that is how you honestly feel, then I can't stop you. Personally, I don't want to say this in front of you either, but if I need to, then I shall not hold back." Shokuhou turned to face Kamijou and winked. "Kamijou-san, you owe me dinner."

The first sound that came through the air was not the cry of surprise from anyone but rather the sound of Mikoto leaning too much back in her chair and falling. She landed on the hospital courtyard ground with a crash, but with frantic actions managed to climb back up, using her hands to grab the edge of the table and push herself up.

"WHAT?! You what!? W-With this honey blonde succubus?! Shokuhou, what exactly did you d - "

"On the contrary, Misaka-san, I did nothing. It was Kamijou-san who had the kindness ability to offer me a meal in the first place, even if last night went entirely unplanned."

"You did what?!" Mikoto turned to face Kamijou with an expression so fierce it would have made a large tiger shrink down in fear. The innocent idiot flinched at the gaze, eyes wide as he shook his head.

"H-Hang on just a minute! Shokuhou, when did I say I owed you d – "

Information flashed through his mind as he spoke those words. In the chaos that had happened yesterday, when Kamijou thought about it, how had he been brought into it in the first place?

The answer was that he had been held hostage within his own apartment by the Black Crows who had been searching for a safe place to stay. However, in that hostage situation, Index, Othinus, Tatsugami Otohime and Shokuhou Misaki had all been involved in that too. While the former three had a reason for being in his apartment, the extra guest of Shokuhou was a new element entirely.

Yet she had a reason for being there.

Recently, Kamijou Touma had finally managed to regain the ability to remember the girl he would always forget. But with that ability and the loss of his memories before July 28th, it meant both he and Shokuhou had a lot of lost time to make up for, getting to know each other better and building up their relationship from scratch.

While for Shokuhou it would have felt like redoing the same levels in a game she had already completed, for Kamijou it was not the case. Even if Shokuhou had memories of Kamijou beforehand, he had no memories of her. He knew nothing about the girl known as Shokuhou Misaki apart from the fact he had betrayed her by losing his memories of her. Unable to leave it like that, Kamijou wanted to do the best he could in trying to create time to learn more about and create more experiences with the girl he had forgotten.

And to that end, he had invited her over for dinner yesterday as to make sure he could learn as much as he could about her, so they could rebuild what they had once had and lost.

The chaos from yesterday had entirely thrown that out of whack so it was not unreasonable that Kamijou had forgotten about it. What Shokuhou had said was entirely true, but the pressure coming from Mikoto's gaze meant Kamijou's entire body broke out into a cold sweat.

He had done nothing wrong so why was the gaze Mikoto giving him so piercing!?

Kamijou looked to Index and Othinus for assistance in trying to understand a girl's heart but they turned their heads away. His girl troubles were clearly his to deal with and Kamijou vowed in his heart to make tonight's dinner extra spicy for the both of them.

Revenge was a dish best served hot, after all.

No, was that the expression? Kamijou did not know but the trembling of his heart did not fade even as he desperately tried to escape into a tangent to protect himself. Even so though, he knew he had to face the threat in front of him.

He gulped, turning his head and scratching his cheek lightly.

"O-Oh yeah. That was a thing, wasn't it?"

"I-It was a thing!? Isn't this the part where you say 'Such misfortune' and then try to explain things to me about how it's all a misunderstanding?!" Mikoto yelled into the air, eyes wide as she looked between Kamijou and Shokuhou.

"W-Well, various things happened and this led to that so…"

"No need to be embarrassed, Kamijou-san." Shokuhou said with another saucy wink. "After all, just because Misaka-san is lacking in various areas ability does not mean you have to bear the burden of her immaturity and explain yourself."

"W-Who is immature!? And are those pointlessly large bags of fat just for the sake of seducing whoever you want to?!"


Mikoto grabbed Shokuhou by the collar and shook her back and forth. Said pointlessly large bags of fat jiggled back and forth as a result, leaving Kamijou, Othinus and Index staring at the scene with some surprise that Mikoto had acted in the way she had. As the gentleman in this situation, Kamijou rose and tried his best to maintain a calm in the air.

"H-Hang on there, Misaka! Aren't you usually shaking me back and forth when it comes to things such as this?!"

"D-Did you actually just complain I'm not doing what you're always complaining about to you!?"

"…In hindsight, I realise it might seem that way. But for what happens between Shokuhou and me, it's just that I owe her a dinner. She and I…have some things we need to discuss. It's nothing more than that so for whatever you're freaking out over, I need you to calm down."

Mikoto stared at the boy and turned back to the #5.

"What did you do to him?"

"I-I think I have whiplash. Is my neck on straight? Do you know the effort ability it takes to get my hair looking like this every day Misaka-san?"

"What do you have on that idiot? I know you Shokuhou and there's no way you would just 'have a chat' with anyone you don't have some kind of connection to. With you, it's always about a cost-benefit analysis: you analyse any interaction and determine whether there is some worth to gaining it and having it within your hand. That's the type of mindset held by the #1 mental related power user in Academy City. What exactly do you want from that idiot? Do you two have some sort of past or something I don't know about?"

Shokuhou Misaki, being held up by Misaka Mikoto, paused for a moment. She let the words hang in the air and sink into her skin, before she turned and looked at Mikoto in such a way that even she had to pause.

She had never seen this expression on Shokuhou's face ever before.

She had seen Shokuhou properly annoyed, pissed and mostly everything in between on the negative side of emotions but never had Mikoto thought Shokuhou Misaki could make the type of expression she was now making. It felt so out of place and a chill went up Mikoto's spine as she realised the expression Shokuhou was making would have perfectly fit the #1.

"What do you know about me, Misaka-san? We aren't friends. We aren't even rivals. We're just two people who can't seem to get along, even if we are allies right in this moment. So the idea you know me? That you have any understanding ability of what moves my heart and what allows me to do the things I do? That's laughable. Maybe there is some truth ability to what you say about me. But when it comes to my Prince, there is none of that. I wouldn't dare sully that with motivations, planning and other machinations on my part. So don't assume you know me, Misaka Mikoto. Because you don't. And given how you interact, I doubt you ever will."

Shokuhou Misaki slapped the hands gripping her collar away from her. Mikoto was so stunned that she let go surprisingly easily and Shokuhou fell to the ground. Kamijou immediately moved to try and support her, but she held up a gloved hand and stood up herself, all the while glaring at Mikoto. She smoothed out her hair and clothes before turning back to Kamijou and bowing slightly.

"I'm sorry you had to see that, Kamijou-san. Whether it be about what is going to happen with Kamui or merely because you want to set up a time where we can finally spend time to know each other, I await your call with eagerness. Silver Sister." Shokuhou nodded at Index before turning to Mikoto. She did not even bother nodding at her as she turned and walked out of the hospital courtyard without another word.

Mikoto watched her go, staring at her. In the end, she knew nothing about the girl known as Shokuhou Misaki apart from what she allowed everyone else to see. The same was said for Mikoto; the mask she put up when it came to others she rarely let loose and there were very few people in the world who knew the 'true' her.

Shokuhou Misaki was not one of those people.

So why had she assumed she knew Shokuhou as well as she did?

As she had said, they were not friends. They were not rivals either.

They were oil and water who were constantly mixing with each other and constantly pitting against each other in various ways. It seemed friendly at times, but at its core was a subtle dislike the other party had for the other. Even this small spat between them neither would pay attention to; it was just another one of their fights that had little meaning and would be resumed at some other time and in some other form.

Yet there was one thing Mikoto could tell just from this one interaction. No, when it came to so many they had had before.

And that was when it came to Kamijou Touma, both Misaka Mikoto and Shokuhou Misaki were the same.

Everything fell away when it came to that one boy and they were as honest, as vulnerable and as unguarded as they could be. That was the truth Mikoto realised when she stared at that leaving back and feeling the presence of Kamijou next to her.

It was hopelessly stupid how the two of them were.

How, despite their power, they were mere girls in the face of one boy.

And perhaps it was because of that similarity that the two of them, given how different they were, could not stand the other.

What exactly did Mikoto know about Shokuhou? And vice versa? They did not know and could not go deep enough to create a psychoanalytical profile of the other, but they both shared that connection between that one boy.

And would do whatever they could to preserve it and make sure it was protected above all else.

That was their similarity if anything else and one that made Mikoto feel bad about the things she had said, however, her useless pride prevented from her apologising so easily.

No, that was not the only reason.

It was because despite she and Shokuhou wanting to make sure they protected that bond with Kamijou Touma Mikoto had voluntarily destroyed part of that bond.

Shokuhou Misaki was moving forward.

And yet, despite having a head start, Misaka Mikoto had fallen behind.

"Misaka?" His voice came through to her and she could feel him next to her as she stared where Shokuhou had just left. "What was that all about?"


"You can't expect me to believe that. I know you and Shokuhou aren't on the best of terms, but can't you make, I don't know, the tiniest bit of effort to get along?"


The response was instantaneous.

"No, I can't. Even if we might be fighting the same enemy now, Shokuhou Misaki is just a person I can't get along with."

Mikoto did not want to brood on the point any longer, turning and facing Kamijou. She stared at him and him back, the two of them practically ignoring Othinus in his pocket and Index sitting at the table near them. In this world, there were just the two of them. The silence between them was broken by the words of Mikoto.

"Have I…done wrong?"

"Misaka, where is this coming from?"

"I tortured Orion. And even though he turned out to be alive, I had the full intention to do it to death."

Both Kamijou and Mikoto flinched at her words. They recalled the incident that had driven a stake between them and had made Kamijou strike the girl in front of him. Even though Mikoto felt her cheek pulse in pain where Kamijou had hit her, the way Kamijou turned his head away from her suggested even he had regrets about what he had done.

"I did that because there was a life of a Sister hanging in the balance. You remember the things that happened to them, don't you? Who am I kidding, you were the key point that prevented anything from happening in the first place! I did what I had to do to make sure one of those girls could come home safely. I did what I had to do as to make sure the effort of you and me that time ago did not go to waste! I did what I had to do to make sure those lives were saved! I…I did nothing wrong there! Orion deserved what was coming to him!"

Kamijou stared at the girl in front of him, the topic she had been waiting for him to discuss filling the air. Her cries were desperate, as if she were trying to make a plea, but it felt more to Kamijou that she was doing that more for her sake, rather than his.


"I didn't know you were already tracking the Sister who had been taken. What if the people you trusted to get the job done didn't do it on time? What if we had come too late to Kamui's hideout? What would have happened to that Sister then? I was operating on the assumption it was only Orion who knew the location of the one Sister we spilled blood, sweat and tears to save! I did nothing wrong…so how can you look at me like that!?"

Kamijou did not know what his expression was like as Mikoto grabbed him by the collar. But he knew what Misaka Mikoto's expression was.

Her eyes were teary and her face contorted as if she were extremely lost. She was on an edge where she did not know what she had done was good or bad. Even looking at the results it was a mix of the two and the conflict in her heart where she knew she had done the right thing even if it had gone terribly wrong was evident.

Othinus and Index averted their gazes from the Level 5 as they heard her cries. This was not for them to hear or participate in; the expression on Mikoto's face being for one person and one person only. There was only one person who deserved to receive this weakness and see it.

The lost child seeking validation but unsure why she was being punished in the first place gripped her hands tighter onto Kamijou's collar. She turned her head down, resting it on the boy's chest and spilling out the words.

"I did nothing wrong but with the expression you're making… I have no idea anymore! What did I do!? How can I fix it?! I want…I want to be useful to you! I want you to be able to trust me!"

"I do trust you Misaka." Kamijou responded, cutting in for the first time. "With my life."

"Then – "

"But that's the problem Misaka. I can trust you with my life. But not with somebody else's."

Kamijou grit his teeth as he spoke.

"I can't trust you to make the right call when you are pushed over the edge. Orion defeated you, Misaka. He took that darkness within you and brought it to the very forefront when there was surely another way you could have gotten that information from him. I've seen that goodness within you, but Orion managed to smother it with the world he lived in, and you took a step into that darkness. I don't hate you for that. I don't think anything less of you for that. But you saw what happened with Kamui in this incident. Things are not going to get easier. And you are going to be pushed more and more. So if that's the case…"

There was a slight pause as Mikoto, with her head on Kamijou's chest dreaded the words to come.

"How much further could you possibly go if, in just this one incident, Orion managed to defeat you? I don't know…and because of that, I can't trust you to make the right call when you need to."


Mikoto trembled as she gripped onto the boy's shirt.

"You can't think of his life as being equal to the Sisters… You just can't."

"You're right. But neither can I think of his life as being lesser or higher than the Sisters either. I don't choose who lives or who dies, Misaka. But I have to recognise that if you consider one life worth sacrificing, then what? Another? And then another? And then another? For you, I know you are stronger than that. I knew it in my bones. And then you tortured Orion practically to death. I want to think you did the right thing. That it was for the Sisters. But…that's nothing more than a convenient excuse to excuse what you did. I…believed in you Misaka. I still do. But I can't condone what you did. I can accept it because it's what happened, but I can't condone it."


"I trust you in this upcoming fight, Misaka. That is without a shadow of a doubt. I trust that you will attempt to reach for the right ed. But it's the means to those ends that I worry about."

"You can't…expect me…to be…like you."

Mikoto gripped tighter, her words coming out in short bursts as she tried desperately to get her heavy breathing underway. Her mind and heart were a mess, a chaotic whirlpool of emotions she was having trouble putting in order.

She had betrayed Kamijou by her own hand. She had been weak and Orion had goaded her into reaching for the power within her she knew she had which could get the answer out of him and because of it, he had won. She had chosen to prioritise the Sisters over Kamijou and while she knew it was the right choice, the price of that choice was far too high.

Her heart knew it.

Her mind knew it too.

But no matter what it took, she wanted to crawl back to where she had once been, pride be damned.

"I wanted to save them! How could I place Orion above them!?"

This was nothing new for Mikoto as she yelled that out. After all, when all was said and done, the moment she had met Accelerator after he had killed one of the Sisters, she had literally blasted a Railgun right at him. If he had any other power other than the one he had, he would have been nothing more than a stain on the ground and the Sisters would have been safer because of it.

Orion was just what would have happened had Accelerator not had the power the #1 had.

Nothing more and nothing less.

"I'm not expecting you to have the same mindset as me Misaka. I realise this is just me placing something onto you but… I'm sorry. I trust you still. With my life. Without question. But just…a little bit less in other areas."

It was selfish.

It was heartbreaking.

But most of all, it was very much like Kamijou Touma.

It was so like him to place equal value on the lives before him and to not think of one higher than another. He did not think trading lives for the sake of the Sisters was the right thing to do nor did he think Orion was a suitable sacrifice for it, no matter how much of a bastard he was.

But that was what carved into Mikoto's heart so much.

Because she had taken action directly against what had saved Misaka Mikoto once before.

No life was worth another. She had been saved that way and so had Orion Phoenix. Yet, what she could not stand was that Orion was being protected in the same way she had once been.

It was her own selfishness saying that. It was her own selfishness fighting against Kamijou's in a battle to determine which one she could accept.

Even if she could accept neither.

Misaka Mikoto did not know what to do.

So, in her weakness that seemed so overpowering when it was in the face of this boy, she did what any scared creature would do in the face of a threat they did not want to deal with.

Misaka Mikoto fled.

She tore herself away from Kamijou, racing through the hospital and never looking back.

She was unsure if the lack of footsteps chasing her or the lack of her name being called out signalled whether Kamijou was giving them time to brood on this or merely because he didn't want to chase after her.

Kamijou Touma merely stood there, unable to chase after the girl. He stared down at the creases in his clothing, as if still feeling the pressure of the hands there and the weight of the words Misaka Mikoto had screamed at him.


Othinus asked on his shoulder, having moved. Kamijou paused a moment before answering.

"Sorry you had to see that."

"I sort of put together everything from what you were saying. …Were that #3's actions really that surprising to you?"

"Yes." Kamijou paused for a moment, staring into the distance where Mikoto had gone before speaking again. "I hit her, you know. I've never done that. But I saw her grabbing Orion by the collar and streaming so much electricity into him that he was surely going to die then and there. My mind…went blank. I don't know what came over me but seeing Misaka doing that triggered a reaction within me I know I can't take back. Whatever happens between the two of us now…is my fault. And I have to deal with that and what happens from now on. Even if it means losing someone I've never wanted to lose."

Othinus said nothing as she stared at the boy whose expression seemed vacant. To that girl, Kamijou was probably being himself; selfishly saying the things he was without a care in the world and passing judgment onto her in a self-righteous way. It was hard for Misaka Mikoto to experience the rejection Kamijou had given her in that she had lost some, but not all, of his trust.

But the look on Kamijou Touma's face right now made it clear that it was even harder for him.

He could have kept quiet about the feelings within him. He could have said nothing. He could have pretended everything was alright and that nothing was wrong.

But if that was the case, then he was never close to Misaka Mikoto to start with.

As his Understander, Othinus could tell. Seeing Mikoto doing what she had done and getting angry over it was not merely because it was against his own moral code. But also because he knew Mikoto well enough that he knew what she had been doing had been against her moral code as well.

But she had done it anyway.

She, just like Orion Phoenix, had betrayed her own feelings and made a choice she felt she had no choice to make.

Kamijou had been unable to hold back when seeing that. He had been unable to see Mikoto stabbing herself with her own actions any further. So, he had punched her and made it clear that she had lost part of his trust because of how she had been willing to betray herself.

Even if Kamijou Touma, more than anyone else, wanted to believe in Misaka Mikoto. He wanted to believe in that girl he knew so well because of their bonds being so powerful that he thought he could trust her to do the right thing.

But given her actions, he simply could not.

In a way, it was because they were so close that this had happened. It was because they were this close that Kamijou and Mikoto felt this pain within themselves when it came to Mikoto betraying herself and Kamijou seeing her do that. They were feeling this frustration and pain within themselves because neither party wanted to let go of the connection with the other and had been hurt by the other in their own way.

What happened now was something neither party could guess.

But it was a consequence of what had happened and nothing more.


Index asked timidly from the table. Kamijou stood still for a moment before sighing, turning towards her and nodding.

"Come on Index. We've got somewhere we need to be. You too Othinus."

"?" Othinus tilted her head.

"Where are we going?" asked Index.

Kamijou Touma just pointed to the sky.

"To deal with the other half of this underground war between Magic and Science."

The roof was empty, save for the four figures standing on it. The wind blowing up here was light, but the atmosphere was anything but.

"I've reported what happened to the Anglican Church. I just…couldn't keep it hidden any longer without running the risk of more fallout."

And neither were the words being spoken.

Itsuwa of the Amakusa Church hung her head in shame as she spoke. She dared not rise her head, for fear of what she would see, but of the things she knew she would see, it was one of them which was the source of the problem at hand.

Index, the nun who held 103,001 grimoires in her head stood stock still, staring at the girl in front of her. As a fellow member of Necessarius and with the things she had done, those words probably had more weight to them than Index could have thought. But the impact of them was clear in the trembling within her body as she stared at Itsuwa with her one right eye.

"The Index Librorum Prohibitorum giving in to the grimoire trying to take over her mind voluntarily is not something that can be ignored any longer. Last time this happened, it was because of something tragic. But when it happens as a result of active choice, it is another thing entirely. I had no choice in the matter and my hand was forced… I'm sorry."

Itsuwa still hung her head, bowing even further as she said those words. Kamijou Touma merely looked at her, knowing and realising this was going to happen but feeling the pain of those words all the same.

Index, if only for a moment, had lost her way. Before, when the threat of the grimoire taking over her mind was just a threat, she had been walking on thin ice. But now she had taken the choice to give in to the grimoire, the tightrope she was now walking was wobbling so badly underneath her feet that plunging into the darkness of the path she was now on was a serious possibility.

He knew that.

But the bitterness of that fact was that despite Kamijou saying he would guide Index onto the right path if it ever came to that, she had already walked onto that dangerous path before he could even grab her by the hand to drag her back to his side. He had seen her hand wandering through the air and reached for it, but by the time he had reached, she had already fallen.

And Kamijou Touma had failed to save her from falling.

It was because he had failed to do that this was happening right now. In a way, for all his conceitedness in thinking he could rule over Index's life and be the only one to save her, she had fallen.

He knew this was his fault.

If only he had been more careful.

If only he had played his cards right.

If only he had not been dragged into misfortune.

If only he had not taken Index with him to deal with the incident with MINUS.

If only, if only, if only.

It was an endless chain of that but no matter how much he considered hypotheticals and ways out of this, the reality did not change. No matter how much it stabbed into his raw heart, no matter how much he trembled in the face of this reality, it was not going to change and nothing was going to get better.

Index was speechless as she stared at Itsuwa. As a member of Necessarius, she likely knew what the words of Itsuwa meant more than Kamijou and to that end, her face had gone so white she looked more like a ghost than a person.

"When…did you make the report?" Kamijou, on the roof and extremely pale himself, forced out those words. Itsuwa, with her head down did not bother to rise it, bowing even deeper as she spoke.

"…Shortly after you made it out of the underground facility. I had a member of Harmonia's Cradle with me, and I immediately delivered him to the Anglican team waiting outside Academy City as well as giving them the report of what happened."

"Y-You managed to capture a member of Harmonia's Cradle?" exclaimed Kamijou. "W-Was it the Saint!? Because if it was, then the chances of Index giving in to the grimoire trying to take over her mind is – "

"It was not." Itsuwa replied instantly, still not rising her head. "It was a small boy, a vessel who goes by the name of Louis. Batya Sitara, the Saint, was not carried to the surface but given her constitution, even if she was caught in the collapse, I have a hard time believing she would die. She is still out there in Academy City, much like the rest of Harmonia's Cradle. However, the threat that I…no, the Church, is more concerned with relates to the Index, and also Otohime."


Kamijou felt his heart race in his chest as Itsuwa mentioned the name of the other person who he had said he would guide onto the right path if it ever came down to her leaving it. Even if he had failed with Index and she was already on that path with Index accepting the power of the grimoire to save him, he had felt there was a chance he could prevent his cousin, Tatsugami Otohime, from going down that same path as well.

But with the mention Itsuwa made of Otohime, was it already too late?

Were his failures going to continue to pile up until they crushed him altogether?

"Because the Index is in the state she is in, with the effects of the grimoire having a firmer fix on her mind manifesting itself in her left eye, the rest of the Church is of the opinion that since the Index has already fallen and risks the higher chance of giving in to the effects of the grimoire in her mind, we cannot let Otohime do so as well with her power. Even if nothing has been confirmed when it comes to her mental state, we cannot risk anything else. That…is the opinion of the Church."

It was happening much too fast.

But then again, it was always supposed to be this way.

Index was not Kamijou Touma's to own and keep. The relationship between Index and Kamijou was purely political and served many advantages for the higher ups: not only did it allow the Magic side to keep a firm grasp on the Imagine Breaker but it also allowed the Science side to have a massively powerful magical tool in their grasp as well. Index even being able to live in Academy City was a gesture of good faith between the Magic and Science sides.

But that was all it was.

A gesture.

And like anything, it could easily be taken away if it needed to.

Index was merely 'on loan' from the Church. If there was anything that would threaten her or the Church needed her, she could be called back at any time with or without Kamijou's knowledge. Although he had been taken with Index during the incident with British Halloween, there was nothing saying that if Index was to be taken away again that he would know about it.

Itsuwa telling him about this was likely the exception and her own independent action.

She was a girl far too kind and caring for someone like Kamijou who could barely even save the people closest to him. During the incident with Kongou Mitsuko, she had hidden Otohime taking a potentially self-destructive Magic Name and Index losing herself to the grimoire when she had been shot from the Church. In all seriousness, she had betrayed the Church by hiding that information and if it ever got out that Itsuwa had hid that this had happened earlier, the punishment she would get was both severe and unknown.

But as she had said, it could no longer be hidden.

A line had been crossed by Index.

And now it was time for them to reap the consequences of their actions.

Index for choosing to give in to a great power for the sake of saving Kamijou Touma.

And Kamijou for not being able to stop her in time before she started down the dangerous path she was now on. For not being able to grab her hand before she made that leap into the hell beyond and for not being able to drag her back into the light.

"…What happens now?"

Othinus was the one who asked that. With both Kamijou and Index standing so stock still and pale, she was the only one with the peace of mind to speak. Even she was shaken; the way Kamijou was acting so terrified was influencing her as well such that even she had trouble forming her words.

"What happens to the nun now she is on the verge of falling into a pit the human could not prevent her from falling into?"

Itsuwa froze for a minute, before she rose, preparing to speak. Kamijou watched her mouth, knowing exactly what she was going to say. It was obvious: Index was far too dangerous as she was right now in the eyes of the Church and it had been explained to him what would happen to both her and Otohime: they would have the corresponding brain cells relating to the poisonous grimoire and the knowledge of magic respectively taken from their minds.

But for the Church to do that, they could not do that here. They would need to go to London and perform whatever ritual was needed for the safety of the world.

Kamijou knew exactly what Itsuwa was going to say and he knew he would not be able to come with them: after all, this was his fault in the first place for failing to stop Index from giving into the power of the grimoire trying to take over her mind. He had failed in preventing her from shifting onto that dangerous path and now that she was on it, even if Kamijou could stop her from walking down it, the Church could not merely let this pass.

Even if Kamijou Touma could still save Index, it didn't matter. They were going to do what they had to for the safety of everyone else.

He knew that.

So he knew what was going to come.

He hardened his heart and prepared himself for it.




"I don't want to leave."

Those few words from the girl standing next to him pierced into his heart so viciously he felt that resolve shattering. His lip trembled as he turned his head slowly to face the girl next to him.

"I don't want to be separated from Touma…"

Index had her head down as she trembled. Something fell from her right eye onto the roof with a patter while the bandage covering her left eye clearly was absorbing some liquid. She clenched her hands tightly as she trembled but managed to force out the words that came from the depths of her heart. But with the way they came out so shaky, it was clear how badly her heart was shaking.

"I want… I want to stay here… With him. This… Academy City is my home. It's where I…love being. So please…"

Index rose her head, not even bothering to hide the heartbroken expression on her face. She trembled, as if trying to stay strong, but the tears fell from her right eye, down her cheek and off her chin. Her green eye wavered as it stared straight at Itsuwa, and the wish within the girl's heart as it was said seemed to fill the air with heartbreak.

"Please don't take me away. I want… I want to stay here. With Touma. Please don't take me away from that. At least let me have that. Even if I have to lose everything, at least let me have that. I did this to save him… I wasn't wrong in that. So please… Please don't take away the one thing I want to protect more than anything else…"

Something screamed within Kamijou as he stared at that girl. Pain echoed through his right temple that he did not know the source of but felt so powerfully within him that he could not ignore its voice.

Stop her from crying.

No matter how much you have to be hurt, you must not let her cry.

But this was his fault to begin with.

If he had stopped her in the first place, this would never have had to happen. If he had not failed in the first place, that girl would never had shed those tears and his heart would not be screaming at him in the way it was right now for his failure to stop that girl from crying.

Kamijou felt himself trembling in the very depths of his soul. Something wanted to come from his mouth. Something wanted to come to his eyes. Something wanted to happen with his body. But no matter how much he wanted and wished to comfort that girl, he could only hold his head down in shame and tremble himself.

How much was he going to lose before the battle had even begun?



Two people he cared for were already being separated from him in their own way.

Was this his misfortune? Was this merely what was to happen when he took on more than he could chew?

He had just wanted Index to smile by his side. He had never wanted this. And yet it had come to this and she, as well as Otohime, were being punished for it. That was his curse and for it, Kamijou felt his own heart scream.

But even among his misfortune…

"H-Huh? W-Who said anything about you leaving Academy City?"




Kamijou, Index and Othinus all came out with that remark, their facial expressions frozen where they were; Index's crumbling, Kamijou on the verge of breaking and Othinus trying to hold it all together while sitting on Kamijou's shoulder. Itsuwa on the other hand had broken into a deep sweat, trembling herself as she gulped and rubbed her arm uncomfortably.

"I-I think you and I might be on the wrong page here. Did you think you would be separated from Kamijou-san?"

"Wh-What is the phrasing there?!" yelled Kamijou. "Last time I was in London where you, Kanzaki, Birdway and Lessar explained this to me, you said you were going to have to remove the brain cells relating to the grimoire taking over Index's mind as well as the brain cells in Otohime's relating to magic! Are you telling me we were mistaken!?"

Something like hope filled Kamijou's voice and in the corner of his eye, he saw Index stiffen slightly. She held her hands in front of her chest like she was in prayer as Itsuwa stared at the trio before doing something Kamijou and the others never expected.

She smiled.

"Index-san is not going to be taken away. Not from you, Kamijou-san, and not from her home either. She is going to be staying here."

Those were the only words Index needed.

She collapsed on the spot, sinking to her knees, looking as if she had seen the hand of God itself. The sigh that came from her mouth felt as though it had the weight of a thousand years on it, and she trembled as she sat on the ground, her tears still flowing. She stared at Itsuwa, the tears running down her face having switched into something entirely different. Her words, having a different light now they were spoken, echoed through the air.

"Thank goodness… Thank goodness…"

Index wrapped her arms around herself, Kamijou feeling something rise within him. He wanted to hold the girl he had thought he had almost lost and he looked as though he was more than ready to lift Index up into the air and proclaim the two of them were not yet to be separated. But amongst all of that, he had nothing but questions.


"I'm thinking the same thing you are, human." said Othinus on Kamijou's shoulder. "I mean nothing by this. It prevents this human here from feeling any unnecessary pain, so I am perfectly OK with this solution you have devised. But is the Church really OK with just leaving the nun here when she is potentially a bomb about to explode?"

Itsuwa stood for a moment staring at Kamijou and the small smile that had come onto his face. There was something liberating in knowing that smile was there because of her, but as a member of the Amakusa Church and also the connecting point between the trio in front of her and the Anglicans, Itsuwa knew she could not afford to be distracted.

"They're not going to do nothing if that is what you are asking. They are going to be monitoring the Index…however, by killing two birds with one stone."

"How do you mean?" asked Kamijou with a frown. He knew the feeling of relief in his heart was not a lie and he struggled with the idea of Index leaving his side. But even so, the words of Itsuwa's he could not merely put to the side and ignore. As always, there was something else going on with the Church he was not seeing.

Itsuwa provided it easily.

"Well, Harmonia's Cradle is within Academy City as we speak. With the boy I fought yesterday from that magic cabal and with the Saint they have, dealing with things just by myself is no longer an option. The Anglican Church cannot just ignore this problem any longer, not when they are this big a threat. We need to take the fight to them. It's no longer good enough to just interfere and observe things anymore. Meaning we have to send people here to deal with them. People who can also be used to deal with the issue plaguing Index-san right now. Although I don't know what exactly they are going to do to fix this or how serious they are taking things. They might erase her memories…or they might merely observe her and keep a strong lease on her instead."

"There's more to it than that." Othinus said with a frown. "I know the Church. I know the scent of machinations on the underside of things and I know how the higher ups in an organisation think. I was one of them. So dealing with the nun by bringing the people to her but also having them act as the vanguard against Harmonia's Cradle isn't the only thing going on in the minds of the higher ups. What else are they planning?"

She said something rather arrogant in the middle but Kamijou ignored it, staring at Itsuwa who turned her head away slightly.


"…I can't speak for the Church on any other motivations they may have. But personally?" Itsuwa paused for a moment before taking a deep breath and sighing. "I think it's because they are scared. Scared of what will happen if they were to force Index-san away from her home here."


Index was the one to say that, turning her head and looking at Itsuwa. The girl flinched slightly at the way she was being looked at, something that even surprised Kamijou. Itsuwa, while usually being shy was also head strong and trusted her allies so seeing her flinch when Index looked at her was a shock to him.

There was nothing about Index to be scared of.

At least, there hadn't been.

But now with the grimoire in her mind having a stronger foothold to hold onto, and with her left eye holding that magic circle, for that professional magician, there was probably something fearsome about Index she did not want to set off, even if it was unintentional.

Index had given in to the power of the grimoire to save Kamijou.

So, what would happen if she were to be taken from him forcibly?

In her desperation, even if she did not mean it, she could give in entirely to the power of the grimoire and leave so many bodies around her in the resulting rampage she would become a true monster.

Hence, to prevent that from happening, they had decided to come to her instead of Index to them. To prevent her from leaving the side of Kamijou and preventing her from potentially breaking down from the mental pressure that would cause, they were coming to her to deal with the issue plaguing her.

Although Kamijou did not know how they were going to do that, whether it be by erasing the parts of her mind that dealt with the grimoire or just observing her and making sure she did not break; Kamijou realised exactly what he was acting as in this situation.

He was her leash. The anchor holding her in place and keeping her calm. To avoid angering Index and causing her to unconsciously give in to the grimoire trying to crawl its way into her mind, they were going to come to her, also having the effect of dealing with Harmonia's Cradle in the background.

Index was going to be staying home and by Kamijou's side.

For that alone, he should have been happy.

But the idea it was possible they were scared of what Index was capable of if they tried to pull her away from Kamijou and she snapped in the process?

Even he felt a chill as he considered what Index would be capable of.

But the terror he was feeling that his fear was coming from Index was more terrifying than anything else.

Even if he hadn't lost her, there was something in the back of his mind telling him to be careful about the girl by his side.

Just like with Misaka Mikoto.

"I-It's just my opinion!" said Itsuwa as a side note. "But that is the opinion of the Church. However they are going to deal with things, they are going to be coming here. They are going to be taking the battle to Harmonia's Cradle. …With Academy City as the battlefield."

Kamijou gulped at Itsuwa's solemn words. Even he knew the repercussions of them; there were going to be magicians battling it out over Academy City as well as the Science side issues to deal with. Currently, only he, Index and Othinus had an idea of that bigger picture with both Sides but the thought Academy City, his home, was to become a battlefield made Kamijou tremble slightly.

It wasn't just Magic vs. Science in this underground war.

It was Magic vs. Magic and Science vs. Science, all in the middle of a Magic vs. Science conflict. The boundaries between 'sides' were so vague it felt as though people were fighting pointlessly.

(Which is what makes the need for a third side that knows of both problems and tries to deal with them without leaving this power vacuum in the middle so important.)

Kamijou desperately tried to keep his thoughts in order.

"Are you…going to be meeting with these people?" asked Kamijou. "The representatives who are going to be keeping an eye on Index and…doing whatever they are going to do with her?"

"Yes. I don't know who is coming, but I am assured the Anglicans are bringing the best of the best for this issue. I will be assisting with the fighting against Harmonia's Cradle as I managed to bring in one of its members. But I assure you, Kamijou-san, that I will not allow any harm to come to Index-san in the future. No matter who is going to come and even if they are my ally in this fight, I am on your side. And I will protect, or try to protect, what you want to as well. You have my word."

The words were serious and Kamijou was left partially stunned as Itsuwa bowed slightly. He had no idea what had inspired this kind of trust within him Itsuwa had but it was because of that trust that he knew this girl and knew that he could count on her when everything was falling apart. Time and time again, when he thought the Magic side was screwing him over, there was Itsuwa standing in its way to protect him in her own way.

She had betrayed the Church for him.

She had even reassured him and made sure he knew Index was not going to be taken away.

And when he was faced with the fact someone potentially unknown was going to come and deal with Index and the issue plaguing her, Itsuwa had vowed to stay by his side, even against her allies.

Itsuwa was just too good for the boy known as Kamijou Touma and he knew he would never find a better ally no matter how much he looked.

Something blossomed within him and he felt the smile on his face widen a bit as he looked at her.

"Thank you."

Those words came from the depths of his heart as he once again laid it on full display for Itsuwa to see. She stiffened a bit, the faintest red coming onto her cheeks but she hid it with a brief cough and turned her head away such that Kamijou would not be able to see the expression on her face now she knew she had made Kamijou smile through her own actions.

Othinus frowned at the small action, rising her hand as she sat on Kamijou's shoulder and thrusting it towards Kamijou's ear.

"Stop doing what you always do, human. Don't think you can just move from a serious scene into one that is very much like you without a proper transition."

"Ow!? W-What are you doing, Othinus?! I realise you poking your arm in my ear is going to clean it, but that isn't the way I ever imagined my ears being cleared! And besides, you reach in way too far for my heart to beat wildly as a result!"

"W-Why you! How about you feel your heart beat wildly as I do this?!"

"Gy-Gyah?! Y-Yes! Othinus-sama! My heart is beating wildly as you bite my earlobe like that but for an entirely different reason! Are you going to carve small teeth marks on my ear that I know will invite misunderstanding?! Stop thaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat!"

Kamijou desperately tried to swat Othinus off but the way she had grabbed onto his ear with her teeth made it clear she was not going to be removed any time soon. Itsuwa stared at the former Magic God as she clung onto Kamijou who was trying harder and harder as Othinus bit down harder and harder before she rose her voice to speak to the boy from the Science side.


"You're going to rip it oooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffff!"

By now, Kamijou had fallen to the ground and was rolling on it to try and get Othinus off his ear. The fact he was still restraining himself when it came to the force he was using (something Othinus did not bother to do) suggested their relationship. However, with the way Kamijou turned his head Itsuwa's way, it was clear he was paying attention to what she was saying all the same.

"This time, just like last time, it seems as though there is something going on on the Science side of things as well as the Magic side. I know this is not my place when I am just here to deal with Harmonia's Cradle…but is something going on? Something underneath the surface of the peaceful Academy City?"

Itsuwa asked cautiously as a member of the Magic side looking in from an external perspective. The question she had asked was innocent enough, but the potential answer Kamijou would give was something he knew had the potential to involve a lot of different things and place a whole new aspect to the battle to happen in the future. No matter what Itsuwa said and even if Kamijou truly believed she was on his side, the point of contention here was merely that she was asking that question as an operative of the Magic side.

Meaning that whatever answer Kamijou gave was sure to flow through to the higher ups of the Magic side and potentially have a lot more impact than just him and Itsuwa having a conversation. The answer he gave here had the chance to transform Academy City into a battlefield more than it already was and further complicate the deep darkness boiling within Academy City right now.

There was the chance that depending on his answer, the third side dealing with both Magic and Science could be formed.

But as that had yet to properly form within that boy's mind, he knew he could not carelessly drag people who belonged to one side into it. He could not carelessly answer and involve someone who belonged on one side into the problems of the other until the third side to deal with both Magic and Science had been properly established.

Even Kamijou himself did not know who was going to lead this third side or what plans they would have when it came to dealing with this underground war and what was going to happen. Even at the current rate, there were only three people in the world who were not in this war who had the chance to build and be a part of this third side.

Kamijou Touma.



Only those three knew of the problems on both sides of the equation and could properly form that third side. But because of that, because of the uncertainties of how answering Itsuwa would cause a chain reaction that could bring the Magic side further into the Science side's problems, Kamijou knew the answer he had to give Itsuwa.

At least, for now.

Until he properly had the chance to create this third side that dealt with the problems of the two other sides.

"N-Not that I know of at this rate, Itsuwa. As far as I know, it's just the usual m – OW!? OK, that's it, you former Magic God! It's time you understood how fearsome a human being can truly be!"

There was a nonsensical scream as the tensions of Itsuwa was thrown away to the wind while Kamijou grabbed the small girl hanging off his ear and pulled with all his might. Tears came to his eye as he pulled Othinus and also tugged on his ear at the same time, managing to get her off after some effort. Othinus, in the puny human's hand, pouted as she turned her head away and crossed her arms while in Kamijou's grip.

"Hmph. It seems you win this round, human."

"What's up with you!? Weren't you just being overly aggressive?! I usually don't get that type of biting from you! It comes from the other new eyepatch girl!"

"(It's what you get for saying ridiculous things like me being unable to make your heart beat wildly. As my Understander, there are times when I really have to question whether you truly get me even if I know you do.)"

"And what are you mumbling now?!"

Itsuwa stared at the duo, one who was literally in the palm of the other before rubbing the back of her head.

"W-Well at this stage, the only thing I had to report was the fact there are others who are coming here who are going to be taking care of Index-san. Although…" Itsuwa said as she turned her head around on the roof. "I thought Otohime would be with you, Kamijou-san. She seems to stick to you like glue."

Kamijou opened his mouth to say something, however, paused. He stood up and turned around, as if looking for his cousin while Othinus squeezed from the boy's grip and climbed up his shoulder to sit in her favourite spot (even if she did so with a pout and crossed arms).

"Huh? Actually, where is Otohime? I saw her when I regained consciousness and everything was explained to me. Where did she go?"

"T-Touma, Otohime chose not to be with us when we were with Yume. No, you ran off to be with another girl before she could tell you. She said she had said something to do." Index, recovering slightly from the shock she had received to her system and the relief she was now feeling spoke up as she sat on her knees.

"Something to do?"

"Bird watching." The reply came from Othinus who seemed to have calmed down. "At least, that was what your cousin said."


Kamijou tilted his head, Index still having the same look on confusion on her face as before when Otohime had said she was going to do 'bird watching'. Itsuwa looked the same, however, it was Othinus, a girl who knew more about the darkness within the hearts of humans who had her own thoughts on the matter.

She was sure it was nothing, but this incident…something had felt off about Otohime. Only Index was the one who had fallen onto a dangerous path with accepting the power of the grimoire and Otohime had yet to fall onto that path, but there was something about her in the eye of Othinus she could not just pass up.

It was a feeling.

Othinus herself was unsure what it was; it was nothing more than an odd feeling and a nagging in the back of her mind.

But Otohime had slightly 'changed' as a result of this incident.

Othinus was not sure what made her think that and she was sure it was just her imagination, but the way she had said 'bird watching' had felt…different. As if there were something Otohime was meaning in those words she did not want anyone else to know.

But it was surely nothing.

Just a thought that she, the former Magic God who had yet to let go of seeing things to manipulate in others, had not let go of in herself.

"Why did you want to know, Itsuwa?" asked Kamijou. She shrugged in response.

"I felt as though since this relates to her and her mental state that she would want to hear this too. But whatever the case, if she is not here, then it cannot be helped. The facts do not change. People are coming here to deal with Harmonia's Cradle and also to help Index-san with the problem plaguing her, even though I don't know how that will happen. They will also be observing Otohime and watching for any changes within her mental state as well. Overall, there is a lot to consider."

"You said," noted Kamijou. "That you managed to capture a member of Harmonia's Cradle? What happens with him?"

"Louis?" Itsuwa asked but with the way the heads of the others tilted made her remember that it was only her and Mikoto who had fought him, even if she had not told Mikoto of what was happening with the Magic side on the underside of this war. "At this rate, he is just being held as a member of a highly volatile and dangerous magic cabal. But with the information he has with Harmonia's Cradle, I imagine he will be kept by the Anglicans as a high profile information source. There is a lot to get from him we have not gotten from the other members which will surely assist in this chaos."

"Harmonia's Cradle huh…"

The magic cabal that Kamijou Touma understood. At their core, they were wounded children who were lashing out against a world they wanted to destroy because of how it had hurt them.

And that was a core Kamijou himself had once held when he had been pressured by all sides with the worlds Othinus had given him. He had not met the child Itsuwa had mentioned but even that small boy had to have something he had which had made him join that cabal. Even that small boy needed healing in his own way and in his own fashion.

He had now been captured and defeated, but he was just another piece of the larger puzzle. The Magic side was no longer just a small threat; what with the people coming to help against Harmonia's Cradle, there was surely going to be a force arriving in Academy City that would greatly assist in the subjugation of that magic cabal.

Itsuwa did not know who was coming their way.

But whoever it was, they were either going to make Academy City a more hellish battlefield than ever before or result in something changing in this underground war ever so slightly.

There were people building up a resistance to this war.

The scales were tipping from those running things from the shadows to those who were coming out of the woodwork to fight against the decisions of those higher ups.

But even if that was the case, something had been restored right here and now.

Kamijou could think of those larger issues all he wanted.

But at his core, there was still one thing he could not ignore.


Index, still on her knees, looked up at Kamijou but never had the chance to say anything else as Kamijou suddenly bent down and embraced her. She jumped for a single moment at the sudden contact but that only made Kamijou bring her in closer.

"You're not going anywhere. I'm…I'm not going to let you go. No matter what."

Mistakes had been made. That was only natural given that Kamijou Touma was the type of normal high school boy you could find anywhere.

But in the midst of those mistakes, he had the chance to hold onto something he never wanted to let go. He had the chance to grip something he had thought he would lose and hold it tighter than ever before because of how far he had come to losing it.

Index froze for an instant before responding the only way her heart would let her. She wrapped her arms around Kamijou and held him tight as well, never letting go and whispering soft words underneath her breath she would never hide or never lie about.

"Neither am I. I'm…never letting go. And I won't allow anything to allow me to either."

Othinus and Itsuwa stared at the two of them before smiling slightly. Although they might have been fighting all the time, Index and Kamijou Touma held a bond that was not so easily broken and one that was not so easy to tear apart. Even if they might seem like they were not that close, the connection they shared right now would have thrown those thoughts into the wind.

Kamijou pressed his forehead against Index's and she returned it. Two people who had almost lost the other held each other tight as they refused to let the other go.

Even if there were a lot of things to consider in the future, right now, for them, there was hardly anything like that.

They were merely a boy and a girl with a special bond that held them together.

It might not have seemed like it.

But that was surely one of the most powerful things in the world.

The air of Academy City was fresh.

Looking from the outside, there was no one who would be able to tell that underneath the sprawling metropolis located in Tokyo, there was an underground war being fought between both sides of Magic and Science. For those people, it was surely a luxury to be ignorant of the chaos happening under the surface.

But for those that did know of that violence brewing underneath the surface, they knew they could not merely let that be.

Itsuwa of the Amakusa Church had said someone was coming to fight against Harmonia's Cradle and keep an eye on Index. However, thinking about it logically, Harmonia's Cradle had a Saint on their side and a boy who was born to be a vessel for demons. Not only that, but if Index gave in to the grimoire trying to take over her mind, she ran the risk of becoming a Magic God and literally having the power to destroy the world.

Merely sending in a magician or two to deal with that was the same as suicide.

Which meant that to counter and observe the forces they had to, the Anglican Church could spare no expense.

"We're here again."

Kanzaki Kaori said as she stared at the metropolis underneath her. The orders she had gotten to arrive here had come quickly and she had little time to prepare; having to leave England with nothing more than the clothes on her back and a small rucksack she had over her shoulder.

"Last time we were here, the both of us, the situation was very different, wasn't it? Last time we were here to take her somewhere. But now, here we are, making sure she stays here in this very place. I find that to be very…ironic."

"I don't."

Another voice spat that out with disdain. Kanzaki turned to the owner of said voice, seeing that smoke was floating from the cigarette with his mouth while he stared down at the City below with disgust.

"I never knew of this. The grimoire taking over her mind. The threat she poses to the world if she goes berserk. I am prepared to kill whoever I need to for the sake of her safety. But if she becomes a threat to herself…not even I am sure what I will do in that situation. The Imagine Breaker has a lot to answer for for letting things get to this stage."

"It's not his fault, Stiyl. He's just a boy. Maybe the fault lies with us…for having placed too many expectations of him."

"Only you did that Kanzaki."

Stiyl Magnus replied sharply as he stared down at the City below him.

"Me? I think he and I are going to have a long talk about the pressure he's placed on that girl. And for the fact that I might have to throw away everything I've lived for because of the threat that girl has become to herself."

Stiyl narrowed his eyes as the sounds of the city reached the two magicians on the roof. Again, given they had been given such short notice to fly to Academy City, the fact they were wearing the same things as always was a miracle.

But then again, mentioning the name of the girl at the heart of this would have made the two of them move anyway.

And yet…

"Huh? And here I thought there was something a lot more to you given how Patricia spoke of you. I barely saw you in London but now I get a better look at you, I have to wonder if Patricia has poor taste in men or not. Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa, being an older sister sure is a lot of work."

"Oh? Is that the type of thinking that makes you want a big brother all the more? Because you're always looking out for your younger sister, you want someone to look out for you?"

"…What did you say, you punk?"

"If I insult your big brother, are you going to tear up? I would love to see that."

Kanzaki and Stiyl twitched and turned around to see the two magicians behind them butting heads. They had no idea how they had managed to intercept what was strictly confidential information to be sent to Necessarius nor did they know how the two of them had managed to beat them to Academy City, but with their presence and how they spoke about confidential information so easily as if it were going out of style, to shut them up, those by -the-book magicians were forced to have these two by their side.

As much as Kanzaki personally wanted to arrest them both and make sure they never saw the light of day.

Leivinia Birdway of the Dawn-Coloured Sunlight and Lessar of New Light rubbed their foreheads against each other in clear challenge, both here for the same reason Kanzaki and Stiyl were.

The observation of the Index Librorum Prohibitorum and the future battles to come against Harmonia's Cradle.

And the potential screwing with Kamijou Touma if the occasion called for it.

There was only one thing to be said that rang true with what Itsuwa had said.

Someone had definitely come.

But whether the situation was going to get better or worse, no one could tell.

And there we have it!

So!? What did you think?!

This time we had a lot of different conversations that are driving the plot; so you can probably understand why this is considered as a 'Between the Lines' chapter but at the same time, I want you to feel rather overwhelmed with the things covered.

Not only did we have the consideration of a third side being created for the purposes of fighting against the Magic and Science sides, but we had Hayashida getting her 'redemption' (what is important here is that no illusions were broken with her as of yet), the consideration of whether Kamui is evil, Touma gaining an unwanted apprentice but also holding in his heart the fact he can't give up on the world just yet because of the good he has seen in it, the dealing with Shokuhou but also the challenge with Mikoto before finally covering the Magic side of things.

There are various things I want to talk about here but I guess I'll keep it to the things that hold my interest long enough to talk about them.

The General has FINALLY gotten a name! Even though his name was what it always was in the beginning! There's something very final about the name 'Owari' and I wanted to really show that here in its own way, so having the name 'The End of the General' as Owari Taishou really resounds within me. I've always felt the leader of MINUS had to have a large presence but I think having the name being 'The End' has a presence in its own, don't you think? But still, even if he has a name, the fact we still know so little about him is something I want to keep as a whole as we delve further into the darkness with this story. The fact I have such a meaningful name being used is a way to sort of represent this given where the story is slowly developing.

Hayashida! Ah, Hayashida. She did good, she did bad, but as a whole, I always felt as though despite that, I can't just let her go unsaved. She has been waiting all this time and even though she stuffed up numerous times, was a really big threat during the Uiharu arc, it is now she has decided to cast herself out of the Darkness and into the light that I think has its worth. For what she has decided to do now, even though she has managed to shed herself of who she used to be, I hope you can look forward to the developments in this area. I think everyone here felt she was chaotic as a villain, but now she has finally managed to change her life around with accepting she wants to be better and fight Kamui, I hope you can really enjoy her as an ally to what is going to happen in the future!

Not to mention Eiyuu! I hope the mystery of this small boy is still getting to you but as a whole, I wanted to introduce him as a character mainly as a way to balance heroes. For the small boy with a lot of power, choosing the save in a world he thinks has wronged so many and deserves to be better is the right thing to do. He has the power to change the world and desires to do so. But in its own way, that goes right against Touma who barely has the power to do anything, yet has managed to change the world entirely, even managing to save it. Although Eiyuu sees Touma as his idol, his twisted view on the world and how it 'needs saving' from the people within it went against Touma here a bit in its own way. I hope you can look forward to the small hero shaping himself in front of his Master as he moves forward but also evolves in his own way as well.

Mikoto. Ah, Mikoto. Which one of you, when you read that scene, really felt yourself scream?! Make no mistake, doing that to Mikoto was a really hard choice, but when I thought about it, I really had been playing in many 'safe zones'. When you go through the chapters, you can sort of see that as a bit of a check list: harem scenes, cute scenes, illusion breaking, saving everyone, little bit of challenge and little consequence. By creating the setting of 'war' in the past few chapters, I really felt as though hitting the characters and the readers hard would really reveal the type of darkness lingering on the horizon…and what better way than to do that with the Dengeki Princess herself!? In a different way, I wanted to create a sort of challenge to Mikoto when it comes to her stance on Touma so I felt that her losing his trust, even if it was for a small bit and not completely, was a really good way to show the sense of loss you can feel with these arcs.

There are light hearted bits in here too, but at the same time, if there were just enemies being fought, the story would have also become rather centred on not moving outside of that in its own way. Sometimes the best allies can have the greatest challenges to them, no? I hope that even if you felt as though I was too tough on Mikoto that you can realise she is still who she is…even if she has to claw her way back to where she had once been.

And finally, the Magic side of things! There was a lot to deal with this here as well, but I think with the new characters who are here to bring spice to the story, I hope you can realise it's not going to be all doom and gloom; there are going to be parts where there are going to be light hearted moments, even if it doesn't feel like it with the 'war' setting! This series is Index after all so I hope you can really enjoy where things are going to go from here on out!

There is a lot going on here, but as it all comes together in its own way…I hope you can really enjoy it for the story I am trying to tell.

And as always,
Review if you please.

And I'll see you when I see you and I won't if I don't.

With the next chapter, this arc shall come to a close… And with it, the next curtain shall rise.

And lastly, I hope you all have a great holiday season to close out 2022.