It was past midnight. Nakajima was in the CAI room of Jusho High, facing the Host Computer. The machine was connected via a modem to the outside and he was trying to talk to Loki.
"So what's the story? Did the movement experiment work?"
"I suppose it would be best to say that it showed some results--at least to an extent."
The low, rumbling voice that came out of the speakers shook Nakajima's very bowels. Nakajima supposed "results to an extent" meant that Loki could exist inside another computer as an AI construct.
"So I guess you have no choice but to recognize how good my technology is?"
"If that's what you want to think, go ahead. Let me just say that we're a long way from perfection."
"Well, that's to be expected. When trying to send that much information in a single burst, there's bound to be some data loss."
Sweat glistened on Nakajima's forehead; his microphone headset gripped his temples. Nakajima continued to talk with a calm, disinterested air, but his entire body, stiff with tension, revealed a hint of uneasiness in a corner of his mind.
What will happen if Loki gains the ability to take form? Nakajima asked himself.
No, that's impossible. Just look, Loki is dutifully obeying me in these demon transfer theory tests.
Demon Transfer Theory.
Gaining the ability to move freely about the earth had been a dream of demons for aeons. Since ancient times, the areas in which a demon could appear on the earth had been extremely limited. Furthermore, once a demon had actually been summoned, it could only hold form within a radius of a few kilometers from the point it was called. It could easily be said that this was the reason why Earth had gone for so long without seeing a demon invasion.
Nakajima had created a technology that turned what was once common knowledge in the demon world upside-down. This technology digitized a demon and transferred it to other computers over communication lines. Once perfected, it would completely remove the physical restrictions on demon movement on Earth.
Nakajima thought that his experiment had finally succeeded. It was a naive line of thought. He was just an ordinary high school student who had never made contract with a demon before, yet here he was immediately jumping to deal with an incredibly powerful demon lord like Loki, which could very well lead to tragedy. At least he was being prudent and showing forethought by realizing the danger that Loki could pose should he gain the ability to physically manifest.
I may end up having to summon another powerful demon from the Atziluth World that can counteract Loki.
Unable to suppress his growing uneasiness, Nakajima started pondering walking down an even more dangerous road when a voice suddenly surged out of the speakers.
"Give me Shirasagi Yumiko."
"Give me Shirasagi Yumiko."
"No! I can't do that!" The instant he heard Yumiko's name, Nakajima cried out. Even he was surprised by his own reaction.
"Child, who do you think you are commanding?"
Loki's voice displayed an anger he had never shown before. The machine let out a strange whine, and sparks flew from where the cables connected to it.
"All right, all right, calm down..."
Nakajima folded to Loki's threat. Angry at himself, Nakajima bit down on his lip almost hard enough to draw blood; an image of Yumiko's face hovered in his mind. Once again, he was pulled into an illusion.
The towering mountains and azure skies were invisible to the youth. His narrow eyes were grimly fixated on the track ahead of him. His parched, earthen-colored lips were encrusted with red-and black dried blood. His feet were swollen and purple; sharp shards of rock were embedded in them. However, the sound of gasps drawing close behind him made his injured feet hasten his pace.
"Izanagi, why won't you wait? Is it because I've become so hideous? You promised me when I entered Yomi that you would bring me back, no matter what happened to me! Was that a lie? I would never run from you, no matter what happened to you!"
As if trying to flee from his fear and guilt, the youth clenched his teeth and took off. But the woman's tenacity was slowly bridging the gap between them. The woman's tears, falling from eyes whose lids had rotted off, dropped to the ground alongside her hair.
As she cried out, the hole in her cheek became larger and larger, until her white molars were fully exposed. Soon the path ended, and the youth could see a wide expanse of shadowy wetlands in front of him.
"I made it back to Toyoashihara..."
His lips trembled with relief. Opening his arms wide, the youth took a deep breath of the humid air, pursed his lips forcefully, turned around, and sat down.
For a while, he stared at the form of the grotesque woman chasing him, then shook his head sadly and closed his eyes.
The youth started to meditate. When the woman had gotten within reach of a stone's throw, his body seemed to float slightly in midair for a moment, and then there was a huge undulation in the atmosphere. As if a huge invisible power had been released, the earth shook. The fissure that appeared directly beneath the youth spread to the surrounding mountains as countless rocks started to fall on the path. As the woman stopped, a giant boulder rolled in front of the path before her eyes, sealing it off.
"Izanagi! I will come to you! Even if it takes hundreds or thousands of years!"
The sound of the woman's bitter cries rose from beyond the towering pile of earth.
"Forgive me, Izanami..."
Covering his ears with his hands, the youth staggered into the wetlands, the tall reeds rising over him.
Nakajima snapped out of his trance and left the CAI room in low spirits. A few minutes later, a dark shadow slipped through the hallway and into the room. Two hands reached out of the inky blackness, searching for the power switch to a terminal. Soon, the light of a display illuminated fingers on the keyboard.
They were smooth, white fingers. They stopped moving at the sound of a coercing low voice.
That was what the voice said.
"I'm showing you the list for the transport program Nakajima wrote. Can you operate it?"
"I think I can operate it, but not much more than that."
"That's fine. There's no more need for any changes to the technology. If I can move and take form on my own, I can conquer the Assiah world singlehandedly."
The microphone picked up the excited whisper.
"Your will be done."