Chapter 8:

Interlude One

Toaru Kagaku no Magician

And without knowing it, Judgment was meddling in something unknown.

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"Shirai-san, why do you look so angry?", asked the short-haired girl. The headdress she wore on her head gave her a curious appearance as if it represented that her mind was normally a field of flowers. Or, put simply, it was as if it represented how empty-headed Kazari Uiharu could be at times. However, the strangest thing wasn't that she always wore it, but why she wore it. Uiharu rarely answered anything when asked about it, so those who knew her merely theorized that it was some personal fashion choice.Bookmark here

However, what the others thought about her wasn't really important, not at that moment at least. Another girl, around the same age as her, had walked through the office door.Bookmark here

"He escaped...", muttered the girl who had just arrived. She had light brown hair, tied in two twin-tails on either side of her head with red bows. Despite her childish appearance she was, like Uiharu, a middle school freshman.Bookmark here

On that July 10th, less than an hour ago, Kuroko Shirai had come close to cornering and arresting the main suspect of attacking several Level 0s in the past week.Bookmark here

"He escaped? But how?! You went to investigate immediately after the first call", exclaimed the girl with the flower headdress, quickly getting up from her chair.Bookmark here

As members of Judgment, they had the responsibility of maintaining order among the students of Academy City and making sure that the students didn't use their powers to commit illegal acts. That afternoon they should have finished as soon as the sunset, but after receiving instructions from one of their superiors, a high school girl named Mī Konori, she and Uiharu would have to stay at Judgment's 177th Branch Office. Shirai, who belonged to the 3rd Branch Office, was finishing her patrol when she received a call from the girl.Bookmark here

As Konori explained, there had been reports of a violent fight between a Level 3 or 4 Ability User and a Level 0. Such reports had been plentiful lately, so Judgment was already investigating the case. Shirai had been sent to the scene to arrest the suspect.Bookmark here

"I didn't think he could have such an ability. The reports only said 'control over geo-vibration, three-meter range'. But apparently, it can also control the cold, or at the very least the general state of the water."Bookmark here

"Eeeeh?! Y-You're insinuating it's a Dual Skill?"Bookmark here

"I don't think it's possible. Using two skills at the same time? Ha!", Shirai said, grabbing a folder from the desk and looking over the case reports.Bookmark here

As I thought. None of the reports talk about cryonization abilities, the girl thought, before turning to her companion.Bookmark here

"Uiharu, do you know if Anti-Skill was able to collect information about the AIM Diffusion Field in the area of today's incident?"Bookmark here

"Ah, Konori-senpai received it ten minutes ago. She went out to study the area further, though she didn't say anything about the suspect having escaped...", replied Uiharu, feeling slightly left out as she was the only one investigating from the office, reviewing the documents they received from the Anti-Skill soldiers still at the crime scene.Bookmark here

Shirai picked up another document, printed on a single sheet of paper, and began to read it. Someone had carelessly left it on a tea table in the center of a small room on the other side of the bookcase. It was probably left there by Konori due to her rush to leave.Bookmark here

"Did you notice anything in particular about this report, Uiharu?", Shirai asked, looking away from the document.Bookmark here

"I didn't have time to read it. After Konori-senpai reviewed it, she asked me to check the cameras in the vicinity of the incident, and to let you know if I saw anyone suspicious."Bookmark here

"It seems we were a bit wrong about his ability", Shirai replied, laying the report on the desk. "According to the investigation of the last two sites where the suspect attacked the Level 0s, the AIM Diffusion Field was composed of abnormal and irregular vibrations, especially in the air and on the ground."Bookmark here

"Does that mean...?"Bookmark here

"Exactly! The suspect must be at least a Level 3. Leaving such a Diffusion Field would be impossible for anyone Level 2 or lower. Also, he can apparently cause vibrations in the air, which would explain his ice manipulation powers", Shirai explained. "With this information, we can track down students with related abilities!"Bookmark here

"I'm on it", Uiharu exclaimed, typing rapidly on the office computer. Shirai waited in silence as she watched her partner work.Bookmark here

After several seconds of strenuous silence, Uiharu finally spoke:Bookmark here

"Here it is! According to the Ability Data Bank, there are few students with powers involving vibration, and of those, only these are Level 3 or higher."Bookmark here

Uiharu pointed to a list of names on the screen, accompanied by pictures of the students who qualified with the search parameters made. Underneath the names was the educational background of each of them, along with their skills and skill levels. Shirai read the list carefully.Bookmark here

"Four different schools. Uiharu, contact the Judgment offices of those schools. If possible, we'll question each of them tomorrow."Bookmark here

"Got it!", Uiharu replied, sending a mail to the other Judgment branches.Bookmark here

"Wait a minute", Shirai stopped her. "Don't ask the 88th Branch Office to intervene directly."Bookmark here

"Huh? The one at Kurumizawa Academy? But it's the one with the higher levels."Bookmark here

"That's exactly why Branch Offices 3 and 177 will be in charge of that", Shirai replied. In her eyes was the resolve to finally catch the one who had been causing so much trouble.Bookmark here

Uiharu was slightly dismayed. Looking at the three students from that school that they would have to interrogate, none of them looked particularly suspicious to her. Perhaps the long-haired one, with a photo that didn't look particularly flattering, was the one who looked like at least a minor delinquent.Bookmark here

But what if they were wrong? What if they ended up arresting someone innocent? Or worse, what if one of them was actually the criminal? They were taking quite a risk since this was someone who was able to escape from Shirai, who could teleport, and Uiharu, who was inspecting every camera in the vicinity.Bookmark here

"Don't worry", Shirai said, as if she had seen through her partner's worried face. "There are a couple of characteristics that will probably give him away."Bookmark here

"What's more, I don't even think we'll end up interrogating those three", the girl added, proudly clasping her hands around her waist. "Our suspect should be the one with the two bruise marks on his face. We just need to pay special attention to the behavior of the one with the marks."Bookmark here

"Ah, you really think of everything, Shirai-san! Uiharu exclaimed, surprised."Bookmark here

"If we can solve this soon, maybe we'll get some clues to pick up that dead-end case."Bookmark here

"The one with the Ability User murderer?"Bookmark here

"Exactly. All we know is that it probably belongs to Skill-Out, as the marks on the bodies indicate that they were attacked by a bladed weapon, not a power. Of all the crime syndicates in Academy City, the only organization capable of using such violent methods against Ability Users is Skill-Out."Bookmark here

"It's a pity that this self-proclaimed "vigilante" didn't join Judgment... I have a feeling we could have very well advanced the investigation with someone so powerful on our side."Bookmark here

"Well, not everyone has the same concept of justice as we do", Shirai sighed. "Even without having joined Judgment, he might as well have lent us a hand with the investigation. Like my beloved Onee-sama."Bookmark here

"Misaka-san's power is enormous", Uiharu pointed out, remembering a certain incident from the previous year, when she and Shirai were still training to be part of Judgment.Bookmark here

They were cornered during a robbery, perpetrated by Ability Users. Konori had been injured, and only Uiharu had been able to escape the scene, thanks to Shirai's power. The girl had not yet learned to teleport herself, so she was at a disadvantage against the criminals.Bookmark here

Uiharu was frightened, screaming for help outside the sealed building, until a girl, dressed in the uniform of Tokiwadai Middle School, came to her aid. With light brown hair, the girl needed only a token coin to destroy the gate, catch the thieves off guard, and allow Judgment and Anti-Skill to do their job.Bookmark here

That was the power of the Third of the Level 5s. A single coin, weighing no more than 4.80 grams and with a diameter of 22.6 millimeters, powered by electric energy, was enough to destroy a reinforced metal door.Bookmark here

However, the girl had not stayed to see how things turned out. After making use of her signature move, Tokiwadai's Railgun had left the scene.Bookmark here

And yet, several months later, Shirai became her roommate, by what she kept calling "chance" and "fate". Uiharu, on the other hand, hadn't been able to meet her in person yet, though she had received several letters from Shirai, describing practically every move Misaka made. It was, in Uiharu's opinion, rather terrifying.Bookmark here

"Don't you think Misaka-san would cause problems for Judgment? I-I don't mean that in a bad way! I mean, the power of a Level 5 could cause various structural damage in the event of a fight...", she hastened to add, seeing her companion glaring at her.Bookmark here

"Hmm... I actually agree with you on that. Though I must admit, Onee-sama looks so majestic when she fights. Heh heh heh heh heh heh", Shirai remarked, blushing so much that she seemed to have suddenly become intoxicated.Bookmark here

"S-Shirai-san, you're drooling..."Bookmark here

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