Chapter 6:

Chapter 6

Toaru Kagaku no Magician

"Please, have a seat", Shirai said, glaring at Ishiki. Was she trying to intimidate him? Or was he really the main suspect? Nerves were starting to take over his body. He felt sweat trickling down the back of his neck and his hands felt as if he had dipped them in a bucket of warm water. Swallowing saliva, he obeyed the girl's command.Bookmark here

Ishiki looked around, spotting two people he didn't know. One was a tall girl, wearing a uniform from an academy whose name he didn't know. Her hair was short, black, and she was watching him intently through her square-rimmed glasses. The boy couldn't help but feel like he was at an airport checkpoint like he was being thoroughly scanned. Could it be the girl's ability?Bookmark here

The other person, also a girl, wore a uniform unfamiliar to Ishiki. Long, straight-haired, she held a wooden clipboard and wrote down notes quickly.Bookmark here

"He's clean, Shirai-san", the bespectacled girl said, turning her gaze to her companion. "He has no weapons on him."Bookmark here

"Okay. Thank you, Konori-senpai", Shirai replied, taking a seat across from Ishiki.Bookmark here

"Let's leave formalities aside. Where were you last night?", asked the girl.Bookmark here

Taking a deep breath, Ishiki set out to lie as realistically as he could. He was lucky he had thought of everything since leaving his classroom.Bookmark here

"I was walking back to my apartment in District 7", Ishiki said, so matter-of-factly that he surprised himself. "I was just leaving Seventh Mist when a guy assaulted me. Naturally, I fought back and fled the scene. I was going to contact Judgment, but in the end, I wanted to save myself some trouble, in case the guy came back for me in retaliation. I just wanted to go home and sleep..."Bookmark here

Unexpectedly, part of what Ishiki had said was not entirely a lie. It was true that she had left the Seventh Mist mall, and was planning to head home. However, that was when he saw a gang of young men trying to extort money from two boys. He was lucky he'd had that cape with him all week. Stowing his purchases in his backpack and leaving it attached to a wall of the mall, he headed over to help.Bookmark here

He had no trouble defeating two of the three guys. In fact, wearing his cloak made him look intimidating in a way. He was about to knock out the third of the group when he mentioned something about Skill-Out finding out about it. These words gave him a few more minutes unharmed.Bookmark here

Ishiki didn't know at what point the boys he had gotten out of that predicament left, but he didn't care either. He was with a member of Skill-Out now, and he wasn't about to let him get away without getting some information out of him about those murders. Because who else but Skill-Out would go around Academy City taking the lives of several Ability Users? The resentment of that group against people with powers had been evident ever since they had been discarded solely for not possessing superhuman abilities.Bookmark here

His interrogation would have gone perfectly except that he accidentally wounded the Skill-Out member in the belly when, in an attempt to escape, Ishiki threw an ice blade at him, more out of impulsivity than a desire to cause him real harm.Bookmark here

What happened to him after last night? thought Ishiki. Did he run away? Did Judgment and Anti-Skill capture him? I doubt he's dead. If so there would be a lot of people talking about it.Bookmark here

"You say you only defended yourself, correct? Did you use any technique, like martial arts or a weapon, or were you forced to use your Alter Base?"Bookmark here

"Ah, I only used my hands", Ishiki replied, sweating. The sudden question had taken him by surprise. "Had I used my ability I might have ended up in trouble, and as I said before, I prefer to avoid getting into trouble at all costs."Bookmark here

Shirai looked at Ishiki a little more closely. Her light brown eyes were fixed on the marks on Ishiki's face. She crossed glances momentarily with the girl with the glasses, Konori, who nodded before speaking:Bookmark here

"Please, could you give us a demonstration of your skill? Your partner also gave us a brief demonstration before."Bookmark here

Ishiki was about to complain, but he knew right away that doing so might increase Judgment's suspicions about him. However, he decided to answer Konori's question with another:Bookmark here

"Doesn't Judgment have access to the Ability Data Bank?"Bookmark here

"It's true that we have access to the Data Bank, but we've never seen your ability in action. It's part of the investigation procedure", Shirai replied, standing up and moving to stand next to the girl with the glasses.Bookmark here

Immediately regretting having shown some wariness towards Judgment's request, Ishiki stood up from his chair. Following Konori's directions, he stood at one end of the gym.Bookmark here

Show assurance and confidence, Ishiki. You just need to hold back a bit to avoid attracting more suspicion.Bookmark here

Taking a deep breath, he placed both hands on the ground. Focusing his mind on the vibration of the oxygen and hydrogen particles floating in the air near the ground, the boy began to alter the speed of the molecular agitation in his mind, performing rapid and complex calculations related to atomic physics.Bookmark here

It was not a difficult thing to do, as all the experiments performed on him when he was just a child had altered the way his brain worked. This was the secret to the superhuman abilities being studied in Academy City. Each power required complex calculations that were mastered by their respective users. This boiled down to the fact that if the power was immense, so were the mathematical and intellectual capabilities of the one who possessed such an ability.Bookmark here

Then, almost immediately after his fingers touched the ground, the microscopic water molecules present in the air at ground level began to solidify, forming a white layer that stretched from Ishiki's hands to the wall on the other side of the gym. The ice crackled, expanding unevenly to the sides.Bookmark here

The girl with long straight hair began to take note of what had happened.Bookmark here

"That's it? I swore that Base Alter was a high-level skill. What you just did would barely qualify as Level 3."Bookmark here

"I'm not done yet", Ishiki cried. He felt the vein in his forehead pulsing as if it wanted to burst out and hit that annoying girl in the face.Bookmark here

I can't hide my skills from Judgment anyway. Thanks to the Data Bank they already have all the information they need.Bookmark here

... Wait a minute...Bookmark here

Ishiki froze in place, thinking. Judgment and Anti-Skill are both supposed to have access to Academy City's Ability Data Bank. Why would Judgment be testing students on their powers?Bookmark here

Something definitely didn't add up.Bookmark here

Glancing sideways at the long-haired girl, who was still making notes and muttering something to her glasses-wearing companion, he noticed that they were glaring at him as if they were directly accusing him.Bookmark here

The girl with the glasses, Konori, approached Shirai and murmured a few words in her ear. The girl with twintails replied, watching Ishiki's face with special attention.Bookmark here

"I didn't ask you about those injuries, Kōrihi-san. I have to assume that you got them fighting that delinquent last night, right?"Bookmark here

Ishiki looked back at him warily. Shrinking, without even removing the layer of ice from the ground, he replied:Bookmark here

"Indeed. Although I don't understand what these injuries have to do with what you are supposedly investigating."Bookmark here

"They have a lot to do with it, as I confronted the delinquent in person last night, and I well remember kicking him in the face twice", Shirai explained. "I don't think it would be a problem if I told you that this guy had a rather peculiar power. That's why we had to interrogate all the students who possessed similar abilities."Bookmark here

"It hurts me a little to be seen as a suspect. Can't you see that I'm just an ordinary student of Academy Ciー"Bookmark here

"If you're just an ordinary student, there's no problem showing us what else you're good at, is there? Or are you trying to hide something?"Bookmark here

Unable to dispel his suspicions about the unusual interrogation, Ishiki stood his ground. He knew that, if he continued to evade Judgment's requests, he wouldn't be able to throw them off as he had planned, but his bad feeling increased with every minute.Bookmark here

Paranoid, Ishiki tried to focus on the ground beneath his feet. He could clearly feel the vibrations caused by the slight movements of the three girls, as well as to detect two other people outside the gym, probably Kuromori and Uiharu.Bookmark here

His Base Alter ability had a small extra advantage: apart from being able to control the vibrations of matter, Ishiki could detect the variations in them with the presence and movement of people in a radius of approximately two kilometers, as well as objects resting on the ground. It was like a kind of sonar, only instead of detecting bouncing vibrations caused by himself, Ishiki was able to sense vibrations caused directly by external sources.Bookmark here

And it was just thanks to that sonar that he detected something unusual entering the detection radius, rapidly approaching.Bookmark here

Footsteps. About twelve... No, twenty people, probably carrying some heavy equipment, as the vibration he detected was unusually large per individual.Bookmark here

It was as if they were carrying armor and riot gear...Bookmark here

Then it dawned on him why Judgment was keeping him there longer than Hinosaki.Bookmark here

"Anti-Skill! We've got you surrounded! Come out with your hands up!", a female voice sounded from outside, amplified with a megaphone.Bookmark here

Stunned and angered, feeling tremendously stupid that he had fallen into Judgment's trap, Ishiki turned sharply towards Konori when he detected a movement from Shirai out of the corner of his eye. A silver object, about the size and thickness of a pencil, was flying towards his face rapidly.Bookmark here

Acting instinctively, he made a vertical upward motion with his right hand, creating a column of ice in front of him. With a soft "clack" he knew that the metallic dart had stuck in his icy creation.Bookmark here

However, Shirai's attacks didn't stop there. The girl had begun to move at breakneck speed, constantly appearing and disappearing and throwing more steel needles from all directions.Bookmark here

How could I be so stupid!, Ishiki thought, creating more ice columns to intercept some of the projectiles the girl was throwing at him, and moving quickly trying to dodge the remaining darts. However, an occasional metal needle managed to graze him, tearing his uniform and skin. The wounds, though not deep, hurt like hell.Bookmark here

"Damn you, Shirai!", Ishiki shouted, trying to fix his gaze on Shirai, who kept teleporting around the gym.Bookmark here

With more and more pressure on him, thinking properly was becoming more difficult. With each passing second, his anger increased, and with it his capacity to think rationally. Then, during a very brief moment when Shirai was still, Ishiki kicked the ground hard.Bookmark here

Immediately, the vibration wave expanded rapidly, cracking the layer and pillars of ice he had previously created. The steel darts fell to the ground, echoing through the gymnasium with a metallic clang, while the vibration shook the earth, like an earthquake whose epicenter was the point where Ishiki's foot touched the wood. Fragments of ice flew in all directions, like shards of broken glass, crashing into the floorboards or shattering against the walls. Somehow, the girls accompanying Shirai had taken cover behind the desk they had carried there, which had been knocked sideways by the earthquake, avoiding being hurt by the rain of icy blades.Bookmark here

With another kick from Ishiki to the ground, the ground rose straight up, breaking through the wooden planks, all the way to the entrance of the gymnasium, where a column of earth, compressed until it was as hard as concrete, stood, blocking it just as Anti-Skill's forces attempted to enter. He could hear the pounding and kicking at the metal door in their vain attempt to break it down.Bookmark here

For the first time since she had started attacking him, Ishiki and Shirai's eyes met. The girl was breathing heavily, and the sweat on her forehead indicated that, at the very least, Ishiki had put up a fight trying to dodge the darts.Bookmark here

The next thing that happened was as sudden as it was unexpected to Ishiki. For a split second in which he blinked, Shirai had disappeared from his field of vision.Bookmark here

Then, he felt the light touch of a hand on his back, just before the sensation of floating in the middle of nowhere overpowered his senses. It had been so fast that he barely noticed that, for a thousandth of a second, his feet didn't touch the ground, and his body felt extremely light, like a feather in the wind.Bookmark here

After that sensation of floating in the void, Ishiki was lying on the floor of the gym, staring at the ceiling. The resounding thump served to indicate to him that he had somehow been effortlessly launched by the girl. It was impossible for him to know exactly how, but he was sure that Shirai's teleportation ability had worked to knock him down like that.Bookmark here

Which, indeed, was true. Kuroko Shirai's ability, Teleport, allowed her to transport any object or person she touched instantly. The principle for her abilityーas well as for the other fifty-seven users with teleportation powersーwas based on the 11th Dimension calculations, so it is necessary for the user to wield a higher amount of concentration than most abilities.Bookmark here

Shirai appeared in the boy's field of vision again. Between her fingers she held four metallic darts that emitted a silvery flash before disappearing, thrusting sonorously into Ishiki's clothes, hooking him to the wooden floor.Bookmark here

"Ishiki Kōrihi, self-proclaimed Magician of Academy City, you are under arrest in the name of Judgment and Anti-Skill for repeated attacks on Level 0 students, for your constant disruption of the judicial process against various Skill-Out members, and for the use of an ability against Judgment members."Bookmark here

"Those damn Level 0s were from Skill-Out!", Ishiki shouted angrily. "And I wouldn't have attacked you if you weren't standing in my way!"Bookmark here

"Even if the Skill-Outs are criminals, it's not up to you to interfere with justice!"Bookmark here

"I was just doing what neither Judgment nor Anti-Skill seems to be able to doーAGH!"Bookmark here

Ishiki let out a cry of pain. One of Shirai's darts had gone straight into his right thigh. He felt his warm blood gushing from the wound, forming a dark stain on his uniform pants.Bookmark here

"Like I said last night, we are doing everything we can to catch this killer. Having you hanging around and attacking other students only increases our workload."Bookmark here

The girl looked strangely disappointed, like a teacher scolding a pupil who repeatedly committed the same fault.Bookmark here

"Shirai-san, I just got through to Yomikawa-sensei. They request that you teleport the suspect out of this building", said a female voice, probably belonging to Konori, since Ishiki couldn't see anything but the gym's roof and Shirai in front of him.Bookmark here

"Thank you for informing me, Konori-senpai. Did you hear that, 'Magician'? You'll spend a very hard time paying for every crime you've committed."Bookmark here

The smirk that had formed slightly on the girl's lips did not please Ishiki at all, who felt a chill as if his own power had been used against him.Bookmark here

Shirai's hand was approaching, and as soon as the girl's fingertips managed to reach him, he would be at Anti-Skill's mercy.Bookmark here

If he didn't do something soon, all his efforts up to that point would have been in vain.Bookmark here

Makinohara sensorika
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