Toaru Majutsu no Index:Volume15 Chapter3
Chapter 3: In the Land of Sealed Powers. Reformatory.
A cold sweat had appeared all over Baba Yoshio’s body.
He was part of Member just like the Professor. He provided support for the Professor by remotely controlling the four-legged robot.
“You bastard…Don’t go off and die like that!!”
He cursed the man, but the dead weren’t going to come save him.
Baba clicked his tongue and began preparations for evacuation. He was a few hundred meters below the ground in the underground city developed in District 22. Specifically, he was in a nuclear shelter for VIPs known as the “Summer Resort”. It was the private property of a member of the board of directors, but, since it wasn’t used very often, he had deactivated the security and was using it for himself. The inside was made to be like a luxurious villa and it even had special lines for net conferences, so it was a wonderful place for a hacker like Baba. He had had his eye on the place for a while, but, now that he was trying it out, he found it to be truly exceptional.
However, it was not an area of complete safety.
He didn’t know what power his enemy had, but the thick walls would be of no use against a teleportation-type esper. The Professor had been easily killed by one of Academy City’s seven Level 5s. Someone like that would easily be able to force open the shelter’s door. Not to mention that it was even possible that the enemy could come with the latest equipment like an anti-barrier shotgun.
(It won’t take him long to suspect I’m here. I need to get out of here!!)
He stuffed the various pieces of machinery centered around his notebook computer in his bag, grabbed the piles of cash that had been stored in the “Summer Resort”, and headed for the exit elevator.
But there was no response when he pressed the button.
He headed for the door to the stairs that were located elsewhere, but the door wouldn’t unlock.
That was when the lights in the shelter turned bright red. Startled, Baba looked over to the shelter’s maintenance control monitor. It read, “For security reasons, all locks have been closed.”
Baba’s eyes bulged and he heard an odd noise.
It almost sounded like a waterfall.
It was quite a noise. It had to be in order to be audible through the thick shelter walls.
Some very bad possibilities ran through the back of Baba Yoshio’s mind.
If someone was pouring tons upon tons of water down the elevator shaft or the stairwell using a fire hose…
The automatic motors – to say nothing of a human’s arms – would be unable to open the doors with that much water pressure. And even if the doors could be opened, an overwhelming deluge of a tremendous amount of water was all that waited on the other side.
Member had a teleportation-type esper named Saraku (Accelerator had called him Kill Point), but he had been defeated in District 23. There was no one to save him in this situation.
Baba hurriedly pulled his notebook computer from his bag and turned it on. He then connected to the communication line for net conferences and contacted someone else from Member. The Professor and Kill Point were gone, so there was only one person left to contact. It was a girl who the Professor had called a magician.
However, the answer to the email explaining his situation came quickly and was quite brief.
“If I remember correctly, the information you collected on the organizations is stored on different servers for each organization. With that, I don’t need you. I will pursue my enemy. I don’t have time to clean up your mess.”
“That bitch!!” yelled Baba.
He thought about abandoning all ideas of shame and honor and asking either the subordinate organization or the “person on the phone” for help, but then his computer screen froze. He had a very bad feeling about what that meant and tried to fix it. However, it seemed the communications cable had been physically severed. Now he could not get new information.
Baba unplugged his computer and groaned. He tried to force himself to think positively, but he could only come to one conclusion.
He was trapped.
When he accepted that fact, he could feel a dark pressure bearing down on him from the thick walls that had seemed so reliable up until then. How much food did he have? Would the oxygen last? When would rescue come? Would it come at all?
Baba’s impatience accelerated as those thoughts circled through his head and he finally threw his bag to the ground, tore hair from his head with both hands, and gave a beast-like scream.
He was in the safest place in the world. He had enough oxygen and food surrounding him to live comfortably for an entire year. And yet Baba Yoshio’s mind was devoured by the monster known as imagination.
Academy City did not border the ocean, so materials could only be brought in and taken out via either land or air. District 11 shared a border with the outer wall and functioned as the entrance for the land route.
The members of Block and Unabara Mitsuki were there.
Rectangular buildings were lined up in the area. Unlike normal buildings, these buildings lacked walls and looked like parking garages. Academy City-made electric cars were parked in them in preparation to be shipped out.
District 11’s warehouse district was large and over 7000 tons of materials were brought in and out of it each day.
The area around the gate that directly managed what came in and went out was quite strictly controlled, but the warehouse district couldn’t be guarded from end to end. The district resembled a typical harbor wharf. It was the kind of place where shady deals often went down night after night in old mafia movies.
(That’s the outer wall…)
Unabara moved his gaze in that direction.
Even though he was easily more than 500 meters away, the wall looked almost majestic in its great size. There was a pathway on top of the Great Wall of China-like wall and using binoculars they could tell that drum-shaped security robots were going to and fro on top of it.
Some magicians had made it across the outer wall, but that was because the wall was protected by “scientific” sensors making it susceptible to “magical” tactics.
(That’s what I hope anyway. I’d rather not think about the possibility that Aleister calculated out that far and was just letting us in.)
However, due to the surveillance from the satellite being out, the strength of the security had fallen greatly. Now normal people who couldn’t use magical methods had a chance as well.
On the other side of the wall, the 5000 mercenaries Saku had called for should be waiting.
They must have been waiting for Academy City’s security satellite to go out while scattered around hiding in nearby buildings and vehicles.
Unabara knew all that, but he hadn’t been given a chance to pass that information along.
The rest of Group did not know about all this. He didn’t know whether the upper classes of Academy City knew or not. It was highly likely that they were breathing a sigh of relief for stopping the attack on the satellite.
(So Block called these mercenaries in to obtain their goal… But what could that be? Where are they going to attack…?)
“Are you worried, Yamate?” said Teshio Megumi suddenly as she stood nearby.
Yamate was the name of the man who Unabara was disguised as.
“Not really…” was Unabara’s short reply.
Normally, he would follow the person he wanted to disguise as for at least a week examining them. If he didn’t have a good grasp of the person, it was best not to speak carelessly.
Teshio didn’t seem too worried about how Unabara was acting.
She probably thought he was nervous about their big plan.
“We took out the satellite, but those damn security robots are still moving around,” said Saku Tatsuhiko.
Teshio turned her head towards the large bear-like man.
“Is that a problem?”
“No. Robots like that aren’t equipped with guns, so they can’t harm us. They can get over the wall if they time it right.”
“Why aren’t they armed?” said Unabara deciding to join in the conversation.
Saku glanced over at him.
“There are various reasons. Those robots are usually used to guard the outer perimeter. If they malfunctioned and shot someone walking outside of the wall, it’d be a huge problem. There’s also a problem with reloading. That model of robot can’t change out a magazine, so once they’re out, they’re out.”
“So if we’re spotted, they’ll sound the alarm, and that’s it?” said Teshio Megumi in a disappointed sounding voice. “In that case, couldn’t we have just broken our way through without going to all this trouble?”
“No. The security robots on the outer wall have a special communications line. When they sound the alarm, it’s sent directly to the control area in District 23 and the unmanned attack helicopters are sent in. It would mostly be ‘Six Wings’, the latest model that was shown off at the Interceptor Weapon Show. Things won’t be easy if we’re spotted.”
Saku looked down at the watch wrapped around his thick arm.
“In 10 minutes, the security robots will change rotation.”
“They’re powered by electricity, so they can’t continue moving for 24 hours. They have to recharge somewhere. That’s why they’re split up between the active group and the recharging group.”
Apparently, due to this switching out, there was a 20 to 30 minute gap in the security.
Normally, that wouldn’t be a problem because Academy City’s satellite would still be watching over the city and the area around it.
But that currently wasn’t so.
Those 20 minutes would be a true blank space.
“Prepare as many vehicles as possible. Don’t forget to change out the license plates.” Saku Tatsuhiko instructed one of the men from Block’s subordinate organization. “Use the electric cars scheduled to be shipped out that are parked in the parking garages. We need to use them to transport 5000 people.”
The 20 minute gap in security began.
While surrounded by rectangular parking garages in District 11’s warehouse district, Unabara Mitsuki focused on the obsidian knife in his pocket.
He wasn’t going to have a chance to contact Accelerator and the others in Group.
Even if he did contact them now, there was no guarantee that they would be able to rush over right away.
From what he could hear Saku Tatsuhiko saying into his radio, the mercenaries were apparently throwing ropes up to secure the pathway. He looked through a pair of binoculars one of his supposed “comrades” passed him and saw several human figures climbing up onto the outer wall.
(…I have no choice,) thought Unabara.
The Spear of Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli was a projectile-like spell that reflected the light of Venus and disassembled whatever the reflected light hit. Whatever the light hit would be disassembled, but it could not attack multiple targets at once.
(The main problem is what to use my one attack on.)
There were 5000 mercenaries.
Turning the spear on them was meaningless. That would do nothing but leave him 4999 enemies.
He could aim for one of the main members of Block.
He thought that taking out Saku who was acting as commander would have some effect, but the plan seemed too far along to be completely stopped by taking out the leader.
(I need to aim for something that will have more of an effect…)
Unabara removed the binoculars from his face.
(What can I attack that will cut them off in one blow…?)
He moved his gaze completely away from the mercenaries scaling the outer wall.
He was assaulted by an intense feeling of tension, but he didn’t have time to hesitate.
He pulled out the obsidian knife.
He was aiming the light of Venus towards…
The nearby parking garage.
Saku Tatsuhiko and Teshio Megumi merely stared at Unabara when he pulled out the obsidian knife. They had no knowledge of magic, so they had no idea what he was doing.
However, their imaginations filled in the blanks when they saw him start running towards the building followed by the parking garage suddenly beginning to collapse.
There was a loud dull noise.
The parking garage made of reinforced concrete Unabara was running towards began to disassemble as if the pillars holding it up were being removed one by one. As the building materials struck the ground, they smashed the asphalt sending dust into the air.
Unabara heard Saku yell at him from behind.
Shortly thereafter, he heard the metallic noise of multiple guns being aimed.
Unabara ignored them and ran.
With a clattering noise, the giant pieces of concrete rained down like in a cave-in. Those pieces protected Unabara’s back from the rain of bullets. The electric cars were crushed in midair and sharp edges struck the ground. The one bit of good fortune was that the cars didn’t use gasoline and therefore did not explode.
Unabara aimed the obsidian knife down lower.
He destroyed the ground using the light of Venus and jumped into the sewer in order to protect himself from the falling concrete.
However, the amount of building materials coming down was simply too great and they started flattening the sewer itself down towards Unabara.
He started running, tripped and fell to the ground, and then started crawling forward.
Finally, the collapse of the parking garage was over.
The shock must have damaged the sewer all over, because it had caved-in making it impassable both behind him and in front of him.
The roof above him had been destroyed letting some bright rays of light in.
Unabara put his hands to the wall and started climbing up while looking up at the blue sky above.
And there he saw…
District 23’s Air Superiority Preservation Control Center received an emergency signal from the area around the outer wall in District 11.
However, it did not immediately send out unmanned helicopters. It was possible the signal had been an error. The final decision was left to an operator. When a human connected the plug into the circuit, the command was sent out and the unmanned helicopters went out for their first defense mission.
Normally, the operator would have been using a complicated manual that was dozens of pages long.
But with control of the satellite temporarily out, special defense conditions were applied. The operator disregarded the manual and inserted the plug right away sending out the order.
Three unmanned attack helicopters were on standby on a large asphalt area of the ground.
They were state-of-the-art HsAFH-11’s, aka “Six Wings”.
Receiving their orders, the rotors began spinning and they slowly left the ground.
The Six Wings unmanned attack helicopters floated in the air above District 11.
They were similar to the AH-64 Apache and had one “wing” on either side that had guns and missiles equipped on them.
Helicopters were aircrafts that created lift with the rotor on its vertical axis and moved using the angle of that rotor.
Using that definition, the Six Wings did indeed qualify as helicopters.
But with its 2 rocket engines for auxiliary power and its top speed of Mach 2.5, it was a bit of a mystery whether the Six Wings should be called a helicopter or not.
The unmanned attack helicopters used their AI to check the parking garage that had collapsed first and then checked the suspicious figures climbing over Academy City’s outer wall a few hundred meters away.
There were about 5000 of them.
After confirming the presence of enemies, their AI brought them to automatic attack mode.
“Damn it, Yamate…!!”
The Six Wings began their attack at about the same time that Saku Tatsuhiko yelled in anger.
With a metallic noise, the wings on either side of the crafts spilt into three. They now truly had “six wings”. The thin wings even had joints and moved almost like human arms as they aimed their various weapons.
“Here it comes!!” yelled Teshio Megumi as the roar of the attack helicopters’ machine guns began.
It was less like strafing and more like an explosion.
Teshio Megumi leaped behind the station wagon they had used to get there, but it began expanding after receiving fire. It then was devoured by orange light as it exploded. Teshio was blown a few meters by the blast before she landed on the ground and ran to find some more cover.
“!? They’re using Flame Crash bullets!?”
The bullets were made of extremely heat resistant metal and had special grooves carved in them so that air friction heated them up to 2500 degrees. When those bullets pierced armor, they would burn away the electrical circuits and the fuel tank inside.
The attack on the mercenaries scaling the outer wall a few hundred meters away had begun.
The group of mercenaries exploded like a giant balloon. Even from a distance, a red spray could be seen. The attack must have had quite a bit of force behind it because even some of the unharmed mercenaries fell down from the outer wall. The helicopters started mowing down the rest starting with the ones that were firing back.
At this rate, they would all be killed.
Teshio Megumi yelled towards Saku Tatsuhiko who was a bit away from her.
“We need to give up on the mercenaries!! Traveling in large numbers while being watched from above is nothing more than being a giant target!!”
“That’s 5000 people! Do you know how hard I’ve worked for this moment!? Do you really think I can let it all go to waste!?”
“They’re mistaking this for us having betrayed them. The ones still outside the wall aren’t coming anymore. We need to retrieve the ones that fell inside and fall back!!”
“Fucking Yamate…I’m going to kill him!!” said Saku deep in his thick throat.
“Ha ha. I suppose those things had better be this good since they cost 24 billion yen each…” muttered Unabara as he hid in the rubble after having crawled out of the sewer.
It was the result of his own actions, but the scene still sent a chill down his spine.
He could see a few groups shooting anti-aircraft missiles that they were holding up on their shoulders.
However, the Six Wings merely fired something like a softball at the missiles. Iron sand sprayed out from the balls followed by a high-voltage electric current. A “surface” 20 meters in every direction became an area of electric current and the missiles exploded there.
The Six Wings returned fire with a large number of surface attack missiles which enveloped the area in crimson flames.
(Well, it looks like I kept as many mercenaries from getting in as possible…)
Unabara pressed his back against a large piece of concrete and covered his face with his hands. He tore off the talisman of skin made from Yamate, the man whose face he was borrowing, and put Unabara Mitsuki’s face back on. In doing so, his physique and voice changed to that of another person’s along with his face.
He no longer needed the face of someone from Block.
(The problem now is how to survive this. I’m sure those Six Wings will see me as an enemy, too.)
The Six Wings’ objective was to eliminate the mercenaries climbing over the wall.
If he hid until they fell back, the helicopters should leave on their own.
However, the sound of the air being repeatedly sliced brought a pressure to Unabara’s heart.
Looking up from behind the rubble, he saw one of the Six Wings moving its sights toward him.
“Looks like it won’t be that easy!!”
While yelling, Unabara pulled out his obsidian knife and swung it.
He reflected the light of Venus activating the Spear of Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli and disassembled the Six Wings with his surprise attack.
When they received the report of what happened, the other two Six Wings turned the gun on one of their wings towards Unabara.
They had no problem aiming directly to the side. The wings had joints and could therefore aim at Unabara like a human arm could.
The Spear of Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli could disassemble all kinds of things.
But it could not target multiple objects at once.
He tried to hurriedly jump behind cover, but the helicopters were much, much faster.
The attack helicopters he had called in were going to blow him to pieces.
(Is this the end…!?)
Unabara held up the obsidian knife knowing it was hopeless, but something happened before he could do anything else.
He heard a clunk.
It was the sound of a white-haired Level 5 landing on one of the unmanned attack helicopters. He forcibly grabbed the rotor with his hands as it rotated at high speed and stopped its movements. The Six Wings had no way of dealing with this ridiculous action and it fell to the ground and exploded.
“He” casually walked out of the flames.
Unabara Mitsuki finally relaxed.
“I heard about something happening near the outer wall and found this going on when I got here,” said Accelerator in a bored voice as he switched his electrode back to normal mode and leaned on his modern cane. “The others had finished up at the External Connection Terminal and I had destroyed the antenna for the satellite, so I thought it was all over. But then control starts crying about intruders at the perimeter or some shit.”
“Ha ha. I assume you figured out on your own that they used you.”
“I know you didn’t call in the Six Wings for no reason. Where’s Block?”
“They got away,” said Unabara as he wiped sweat from his brow. “I think they managed to gather about 100 of the mercenaries that were coming in from outside.”
“From outside… Tch. So that’s what the satellite was for. Block, Member, and now mercenaries. What’s with all the pieces of shit I’m having to deal with today?”
Accelerator clicked his tongue over all the work he was having to do and continued speaking.
“So you let the intruders in? You really are fucking useless.”
“Well, there was originally going to be 5000 of them.”
“You still failed either way.”
A Six Wings flew through the air as if to cut off his words.
But this time its sights did not turn Unabara’s way.
After traversing the area once, the last remaining unmanned helicopter headed back for District 23.
“It looks like the ‘clean up’ is over.”
“They probably didn’t like being destroyed by someone on their side,” said Unabara while shrugging. “They do cost 25 billion yen each after all.”
Tsuchimikado Motoharu, Accelerator, Musujime Awaki, and Unabara Mitsuki gathered in the warehouse district of District 11. Unabara had been out of the loop for a bit, so he asked Tsuchimikado a question.
“What is the External Connection Terminal?”
“It’s just a little facility. All of the formalities got to be a pain in the ass, so Musujime and I blew up the center of the facility. But there are 3 other terminals, so there won’t be any connection problems.”
This time, Musujime who had taken action along with Tsuchimikado asked Unabara a question.
“Can we really say this Block organization was behind everything? Didn’t we conclude that School was behind the sniper attack on Oyafune Monaka?”
“It doesn’t seem Block and School were directly working together. The two have their own plans and they caused separate incidents. They just happened to have a point of contact with Management.”
“Tch. And with those Member bastards sneaking around, this turned into a real pain in the ass.”
Tsuchimikado moved his gaze elsewhere while listening to Unabara and Accelerator speak.
The area near the outer wall had blood and flesh scattered all over it, but there were still some survivors. These mercenaries hadn’t been killed, couldn’t get away, and had been left there by Block.
“Okay, question time,” said Tsuchimikado bluntly. “Where exactly were you people going to attack with 5000 mercenaries?”
“Wh-what are you talking about?”
“5000 sounds like a lot, but it isn’t enough to defeat Academy City. I’m asking you what you were hired for, mercenary. What plan did you have that used that many people?”
The mercenary looked at the faces of the 4 members of Group one at a time.
He seemed to be conflicted.
Whatever he was hesitating over, the disastrous scene around him must have led him to believe that Block had failed or that they had been intending to betray the mercenaries from the beginning. Finally, he slowly opened his mouth.
Land prices in that district were the cheapest and it didn’t have any major facilities. It was filled with things like disposal areas for experimental animals and labs related to nuclear power.
The mercenary continued speaking.
“We were supposed to attack a juvenile hall in District 10.”
Musujime Awaki was the one that reacted to his words.
She grabbed the mercenary’s collar.
“Why were you attacking that place…? Is there some VIP criminal you’re trying to rescue!?”
Accelerator thought while watching Musujime as she was overrun with impatience.
Academy City’s juvenile halls were used to house criminals who used psychic powers. He didn’t know the details, but he had heard that they had some kind of esper counter-measure there. If that was true, having a force made up of normal people would raise their odds of success.
The mercenary, who Musujime was holding by the collar, finally said one more thing.
“Our target was…Move Point.”
Musujime Awaki’s eyebrows twitched.
The mercenary must not have known who the woman in front of him was.
“We got some information that Move Point’s companions are being held there. If we capture her comrades, we can negotiate with her.”
(What reason do they have to single me out?) thought Musujime.
But then she realized the answer.
“The guide to Aleister’s ‘windowless building’…”
“Right. The identity of that guide is confidential because she’s a direct line to Aleister. But Block got their hands on the information that the guide is Move Point. So they had her thoroughly investigated in order to find some materials to use in a negotiation.”
“What were you going to negotiate with the guide about?” asked Tsuchimikado.
“We wanted information on the route through which materials are brought into the windowless building. Not even a nuclear weapon can destroy it from the outside, but from the inside it’s an entirely different story. It’s said to not have an entrance or an exit, but materials have to be taken in and out. That can be used to blow up the windowless building from the inside.”
“Blow it up?”
“Block said they have a synchronous multilayer bomb prepared. It’s some kind of tactical weapon that you’ve created here in Academy City.”
A synchronous multilayer bomb was a large bomb that had high power explosives arranged in a regulated manner. A normal tactical weapon spread an enormous blast over a large area while the synchronous multilayer bomb was made to focus a highly destructive blast on one small target so as to utterly destroy it. It was created in order to bomb an enemy stronghold in an urban environment with no civilian sacrifices.
“The chaos in the world needs to be stopped. I’m a mercenary, so I know what I’m talking about. The world is at its limit. Infighting is going to begin before long. War needs to be stopped before it begins.” The mercenary spoke while matching his gaze with each of the members of Group one at a time. “Bringing Move Point herself on our side would be difficult. Someone you can’t trust will always be someone you can’t trust. That’s why we didn’t go after her too much. If our information on Move Point’s power is accurate, this would all go much faster with her help, but there’s no helping that. We went ahead on the assumption that she wouldn’t-…”
“That’s right,” said Musujime interrupting him. “By the way, do you know who you’re talking to right now?”
The mercenary momentarily frowned in confusion and his face turned pale shortly thereafter.
“N-no way. You’re kiddi-…!!”
Before the mercenary could finish speaking, almost 10 of what looked like metal stakes pierced him all over his body.
He passed out from the shock of the pain, but it seemed he was still alive. Musujime removed her hand from the tattered mercenary and looked down while gritting her teeth.
What she wanted to protect more than anything, what she wanted to protect no matter what she lost in exchange was being taken from her. The other 3 remained silent. As they each had something they felt the same way about, they couldn’t say anything.
Most likely, Aleister was using some kind of strange technology to watch all of this from above. However, he wasn’t about to lend a hand. He had to be watching these people struggling in his garden and smiling.
Finally, Tsuchimikado urged the others on.
From here on out, this was about Musujime Awaki instead of Group as a whole. But none of them made a single complaint about that. Just like when Unabara had mixed in with Block, the members of Group saw this as a different situation than having to get out of predicament that was part of a job someone else had imposed on them.
“We need to go to District 10. Block still has around 100 mercenaries at their disposal. We don’t know what kind of equipment they have, but it clearly isn’t a good situation.”
Accelerator and the other 3 in Group, travelled from District 11 in an ambulance they were using for transportation purposes. They were headed for the juvenile hall in District 10.
“This is the only juvenile hall in Academy City. Apparently, the grounds are split in half between the boys side and the girls side.” Tsuchimikado said while operating a notebook computer. “Academy City does not currently have a criminal charge for treason. Because of this, Musujime’s companions are in a situation where they can’t be charged legally. They couldn’t have been put in the facility normally.”
“So there’s a secret room?”
Unabara looked over towards Musujime, but it seemed she didn’t know anything.
“What a fucking pain. Do we not have a map of the layout? If you can’t hack in and get information on a secret passageway, can’t you just get it from the construction company’s computer?”
“This isn’t a normal building. I doubt the company would still have this kind of information.”
Tsuchimikado looked at the screen.
It was displaying quite a bit of data on the juvenile hall, but the layout was kept as a secret so there was nothing he could do from there.
Accelerator realized something while looking at the screen as well.
“This facility doesn’t have a firefighting group.”
Accelerator looked over the displayed data again.
“Fires don’t happen there often, so they got rid of it to save on the budget. But that means the fire department has to come in if there is a fire. They must have been given a map of the layout so they can move through that maze-like facility properly.”
Hearing that, Tsuchimikado changed the target of his cracking.
He had the answer quickly.
“Here it is. Classified areas are covered up, but, if there is a secret staircase, it has to be here. The basement area for traitors has to be beyond here.”
Since there was only one area the hidden staircase would be, the area for traitors must not be separated by sex. They were all in solitary confinement, so there wouldn’t be any shared areas.
“This was hidden, so do you think Block has this information, too?”
“Ha. Group and Block have the same level of authority. Anything we can find, they can find, too. And the information on Musujime is at the same level of classification in the databank.”
Musujime glared at Accelerator, but he didn’t flinch and continued speaking.
“Tsuchimikado. What kind of defenses does the facility have?”
“The jailers use the old MPS-79 powered suits. They have anti-esper equipment, but I wouldn’t expect too much from them. The jailers only have tools to defend themselves against rampaging espers and Block is using real weapons. The mercenaries left in District 11 had blades, handguns, rifles, bombs, and other kinds of weapons from ‘outside’, but I’m sure Block reequipped them with the latest weaponry. According to Unabara, over 100 of those mercenaries alone are still active. We don’t know how many people Block has or what their powers are. What’s important is whether they can kill or not. Powered suits are large, sturdy targets.”
“Not that,” interrupted Accelerator. “The juvenile hall is filled with dangerous espers. What kind of anti-esper equipment do they have?”
“They have about 25 different kinds starting with an AIM jammer.”
“So we can’t use our powers inside?”
“You can. Basically, it dissolves your concentration and intentionally leaves you with thoughts that make you more easily tracked by a Psychometer. It’ll weaken you a bit, but not enough to eliminate your power altogether. Working as a guard there is apparently in the worst 3 occupations from an insurance company’s point of view. In a facility that large, it’s impossible to eliminate psychic powers completely.”
“But,” Tsuchimikado continued, “it’s possible to have your powers go out of control in those conditions. Powers that use complex calculations are especially prone to this. A normal esper would end up just being injured, but it would be much too dangerous for you or Musujime. You need to watch out if you don’t want to end up killing yourself in an incredibly stupid way.”
When the ambulance stopped at the juvenile hall in District 10, Accelerator, Tsuchimikado Motoharu, Unabara Mitsuki, and Musujime Awaki got out of the back door.
They couldn’t see the inside of the facility from there because it was surrounded by a wall almost 15 meters high. However, they could smell an unhealthy smelling smoke from where they stood.
Musujime was grinding her teeth and started to head in through the already-destroyed gate, but Accelerator frowned while leaning on his modern cane.
“Something isn’t right.”
“So you noticed it too,” said Tsuchimikado slowly as he pulled a military handgun from his pocket. “There’s no noise. If Block and the guards are fighting, we should be hearing some gunshots.”
The four of them passed through the gate that doubled as an inspection point and came to a traffic circle for the vehicles that shuttled prisoners around. When he stepped onto the 20 meter across area of flat asphalt, Accelerator felt a slight pain in his temple.
“...So that’s the AIM jammer.”
He looked up and saw a number of thin wires stretched out between the almost 15 meter walls covering the entire facility. They must have been emitting a special electromagnetic wave.
It was most likely set up so it would diffusely reflect an esper’s AIM diffusion field causing the esper to interfere with his own power. Accelerator had never heard of Anti-Skill being equipped with it, so it must need a large amount of electricity and processing power and thus could only be used in a limited area.
(It doesn’t seem to be hindering my ability to walk, but I should avoid switching over to esper mode.)
Even so, Accelerator thought he would still be able to use his power in the facility. He just didn’t want to use it if he didn’t have to in order to avoid having it go out of control. It was possible he would end up getting wrapped up in his own power.
(They’re using a lot of other devices, too. Are they purposefully trying to make this difficult?)
If he knew what kind of equipment they were using, he might have been able to find a way to overcome it, but he interrupted his thoughts there. He had realized where his uncomfortable feeling about the juvenile hall was coming from.
They most likely belonged to the mercenaries Block had invited in from outside. Close to 50 large men were collapsed with blood spreading out from them. Some had been shot in the temple with a handgun, some were missing their heads from being shot at point-blank range with a shotgun, and some had had their throats slit by a knife. They had been killed in all sorts of different ways, but there was one common factor.
“They all lost their lives to their own weapons…” commented Tsuchimikado.
“Was it suicide…? No, this was-…” muttered Unabara.
“Found you,” said a voice behind them.
Accelerator spun around and saw a girl blocking the destroyed gate. The short girl was wearing a red sailor uniform that must have been some school’s uniform. But there was an odd light in her eyes. It wasn’t just the look of a killer.
“I assume you’re one of the fuckers from Block.”
“No, I’m from Member. I just used them; I had no interest in joining them.” Responded the girl carelessly.
She had most likely attacked the mercenaries who were collapsed around the area. That would mean she had defeated almost 50 mercenaries without receiving a single scratch, but she made no attempt to claim the act as her own. She seemed to truly have no interest in the mercenaries or in Block.
Accelerator had run into someone from Member back at District 23, but they didn’t seem to be moving as allies of Block. In fact, he had no idea what they were after or which organizations they saw as their enemies. But it didn’t really matter because he would deal with anyone who made themselves his enemy the same way.
However, there was one person who reacted upon seeing her.
“…It couldn’t be. Are you…?”
It was Unabara Mitsuki, an agent whose real name and face were unknown.
“So you’re finally going to ask who I am, are you, Etzali?”
She looked at Unabara Mitsuki and called him a completely different name.
Or maybe that was his real name.
Unabara was so shocked he couldn’t move and the girl wiped her face with a hand. Her face disappeared. Her Asian looks were gone and she now stood there with dark skin and finely chiseled features.
“I need to thank Block. Esper powers are halved here, so I don’t have to worry so much about your companions getting in the way.”
After seeing that face and hearing that voice, Unabara’s expression distorted.
“Xochitl, why are you here? I thought you didn’t have a spell that could do this. And you were supposed to be in a position in the ‘organization’ that kept you away from any dirty work!!”
“There is only one reason,” said the brown girl called Xochitl as her expression remained unchanged. “I abandoned everything to come take you out because you went over to Academy City’s side, you damn traitor!”
“So that’s it,” muttered Tsuchimikado as he turned his gaze towards Unabara.
Unabara spoke quietly.
“…I’ll hold her back here. You three go on ahead.”
He sounded like he was squeezing his words out of his throat.
“Her name is Xochitl. She’s an Aztec magician who belonged to the same ‘organization’ as I did before coming here.”
The girl called Xochitl’s expression remained unchanged after hearing Unabara’s words.
“I’m only here for Etzali. I don’t care if you go off, but I wonder if they’ll let you.”
Gunshots rang out.
Accelerator and Tsuchimikado hid behind a vehicle for shuttling prisoners that was parked in the traffic circle. As they did, they heard a large number of footsteps coming out from one of the buildings.
“So Block’s mercenaries were waiting to see what would happen… Do we really have to deal with them?”
Tsuchimikado asked Xochitl that, but she ignored him. Xochitl truly did only want to get rid of anyone who was in her way, so she really had no interest in Block or the mercenaries.
However, as they were held up by the mercenaries, Block would be getting further and further into the facility. And they were here in order to take Musujime Awaki’s comrades hostage.
“Tch,” Accelerator clicked his tongue.
“God damn it. You go on ahead.”
“I can’t walk without my cane. I can’t use my powers carelessly and we can’t count on your Move Point. It makes sense for the slowest person to stay back to hold them off,” Accelerator said quickly. “Tsuchimikado, you provide support for Musujime. We have no idea how many people from Block are in there. We need to plan on there being a large group in there you have to fight.”
He didn’t bother to give instructions to Unabara.
Accelerator would intercept the mercenaries coming out of the building, Unabara would take care of Xochitl from Member, and Tsuchimikado and Musujime would rescue the people in the special cells.
The four members of Group kept their separate objectives in mind, met each other’s gaze, and nodded.
The four of them started their various tasks.
Tsuchimikado and Musujime headed down the hidden stairway they had found exactly where they had predicted they would and headed for the special cells for the undocumented traitors.
They came across 2 or 3 mercenaries on the way, but Tsuchimikado silenced them with his handgun. Since the girl called Xochitl had taken most of them out and Accelerator was holding more of them off, there weren’t many mercenaries left to get in their way.
Then Musujime felt a slight pain in her head.
“…The AIM jammer is even stronger.”
“There are devices for outdoors, buildings, and individual rooms. The different pieces of equipment add their effects on top of each other. This is Academy City’s only juvenile hall and is therefore the only anti-esper equipped facility in the world. Normal defenses wouldn’t be enough.”
Tsuchimikado must have been feeling a similar sensation.
It felt more like it was messing up her aim than it was holding her power in check or restraining it. It felt like she would get caught up in her own power if she carelessly tried to use it.
“Musujime. Your power is strong, but that also means one accidental discharge of it could take your life. It would be best if you didn’t use it here.”
“You make it sound like I have no value beyond my power.”
Tsuchimikado held his index finger up to quiet Musujime.
The stairway and the hallway connected in an L-shape and he had heard a loud noise from around the corner. It was the sound of someone forcing open a bolted-on metal panel by sticking a metal stake in the gap. Tsuchimikado silently raised his handgun. Musujime normally relied on her power and therefore didn’t have any kind of projectile weapon, so she pulled out her flashlight that could also be used as a baton.
Tsuchimikado and Musujime jumped out into the hallway.
It was a narrow passageway. Metal solitary confinement doors lined both sides and a large bear-like man was sticking something that looked like clay on one of them. A muscular woman was watching his progress from the side.
They looked up at the two who had entered.
“You have to be from Group to be here now,” said the large bear-like man.
Musujime didn’t immediately act because of the facility’s various anti-esper devices including the AIM jammer. Tsuchimikado aimed his gun between the large man’s eyes. But before he could fire, the man stuck a wire in the clay stuck to the door.
“This is a plastic explosive and this is an electric fuse.”
A stern expression appeared on the muscular woman’s face.
“It’s no use, Teshio. We have to use a hostage here.”
The large man named Saku slowly removed his hand from the bomb with the fuse stuck in it.
He was holding a device in his hand. It was the switch to detonate the bomb.
“…If you use that here, you’ll be the first one to be blown to bits.”
“The amount of explosive is set and I’ve adjusted the directionality some. The blast will all go into the door.” Saku pointed towards the bomb stuck to the door. “But the shockwave will wreak havoc inside that cell. And the pieces of the destroyed door won’t help matters. Destroying the door is easy, but ensuring the safety of the person inside is quite difficult. And since you two showed up to get in my way, I can’t finish.”
A loud explosion suddenly rang out.
It was due to Musujime’s power exploding as she bared her teeth. A few of the fluorescent lights on the ceiling disappeared and pierced into the walls and floor.
And yet Saku and Teshio showed no concern on their faces.
“…Musujime Awaki, the Move Point.” Saku smiled while gripping the switch to detonate the bomb. “Good, this saves us some time. We have both a hostage and the person to negotiate with. Let’s get this started, former guide to the windowless building.”
“And if I refuse?”
“You won’t. Do you really want your powers to go out of control?”
Musujime went silent at that. If it weren’t for the anti-esper devices, she could have just skewered Saku.
“Group, huh? Did you learn anything from the 0930 Incident?”
“We did. We had thought that this fucked-up world was controlled by Aleister from end to end, but that isn’t so. There are ways to escape his control and places to hide from him. Wonderful, isn’t it? It’s so wonderful it makes it seem absolutely ridiculous that we were bound by Academy City for so long. With the 0930 Incident and now the riots in Avignon, we have a chance. There’s no way we can overlook this opportunity.”
“So you’re headed to a new world trampling others in the process. That isn’t something to sound so self-important about. It just reminds me of the massacres during the Age of Exploration.”
“I see. Wishing for a heaven or a paradise you don’t currently have is something all humans do.”
Listening to their conversation, Tsuchimikado looked at the switch Saku was holding.
With his skill, he could shoot it from Saku’s hand. However, he couldn’t guarantee he would succeed and it was possible it would just happen to land on the button and blow the door up anyway. If that happened, Musujime’s comrade would be killed no matter where he hid in the cell.
Musujime put so much force into her jaw it looked like she was going to break all of her teeth.
Seeing that, the muscular woman, Teshio, spoke to Saku.
“..Using a hostage here isn’t going to help.”
“What are you talking about, Teshio? It all starts here. The hostage’s value just went way up.”
“The hostages were supposed to be used to get Move Point into the negotiation because we didn’t know where she was. Musujime is right in front of us. The hostages’ role is over. Using the bomb here will just make her more stubborn.”
Teshio stared at the bomb on the door.
“Thinking back, I was against this from the beginning. I only agreed to the hostage part of the plan because it was absolutely necessary. Now that it isn’t needed, we can leave the hostages alone.”
“We can’t do that, Teshio. Right now, we have 38 hostages! Do you understand what that means!? This is a vast fortune. We have so much, wasting a bit of it doesn’t matter!! …Did you start feeling empathy for these kids from working with Anti-Skill for too long!?”
“Don’t get in my way!! I’m going to kill that bastard Aleister!! This is the first step. It can’t all end here!! I can’t waste all my time here. If you get in way, I’ll kill you too, Teshio!! I’d rather not, but…”
Saku’s didn’t finish his sentence.
This was due to the fact that Teshio punched his huge body as hard as she could.
From the sound alone, the punch clearly had a lot of force behind it. Most likely, the man from Block had no idea what had happened to him. He was knocked back into the wall and slid to the ground. It was the first time Musujime Awaki had actually seen foam come from a person’s mouth. That was how mercilessly she had hit him.
“…Don’t waste time on pointless shit.”
The woman named Teshio reached her hand out towards the metal door. She took the fuse out of the plastic explosive stuck to the door, removed the bomb itself, and tossed them to the ground.
“Is this enough?” she asked slowly.
“…What are you doing?” asked Musujime with a grim look on her face.
“I apologize for our rudeness. You may beat me to as much as you like.”
Teshio’s eyes did not waver even as Tsuchimikado aimed his gun at her.
“But I won’t give in until we win. I also have a reason to kill Aleister. I won’t use any hostages, but I will directly cause you pain until you give me the information.”
Unabara Mitsuki and Xochitl stood in the juvenile hall’s exercise area.
The brown girl pulled a feathered decoration from her pocket and put it next to her ear.
“Are you so impolite as to face me with a false face, Etzali?”
“Sorry, but I like this face. And I have no right to use that face since I left the ‘organization’.”
“You’re wrong about that,” said Xochitl quietly as if to cut him off. “Right now, you don’t even have the right to live.”
Unabara felt an odd deadly aura and pulled the obsidian knife from his pocket without thinking. He hadn’t intended to use the Spear of Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli on his former comrade right away.
“What were you looking at as you came here?” said Xochitl in a shocked sounding voice.
As she did, Unabara’s right arm from the wrist to the elbow locked up. Before he could react in surprise, the obsidian knife he was holding turned towards his face against his will.
He quickly grabbed his right wrist with his left hand.
The point of the knife slowly moved towards his eye. It may have been because he was right handed, but he couldn’t stop it completely.
Xochitl’s expression remained unchanged.
She didn’t even show any joy at the situation being in her advantage. It looked more like she was watching a boring play.
(Kh…! If I…don’t do something…!!)
“Oooohhhhh!!” yelled Unabara as he forcefully moved his left hand and dislocated his right wrist.
He felt the intense pain of bone scraping bone and then the feeling in his right hand disappeared. The hand lost its grip and the obsidian knife fell to the ground.
Holding his wrist, he moved backwards.
Xochitl pointed towards the ground and spoke with no real change in expression.
“You dropped something. Aren’t you going to pick it up?”
Her spell must have been one that interfered with people’s weapons. It took over the weapon, borrowed its destructive power, and had the enemy commit suicide so she didn’t have to sully her own hands. To escape that attack, he had to abandon all weapons and spiritual items and fight using only spells that could be activated with his bare hands or his body. Meanwhile, Xochitl could use all of her special weapons and skills to attack him.
This gave him an overwhelming handicap that essentially denied him all of human civilization.
The Xochitl he knew didn’t use this kind of spell. She was known as the “Corpse Worker”. It may sound macabre, but Xochitl’s job was to obtain residual information from corpses and confirm whether that person’s will was accurate. She only performed after care for the dead by making sure everything was settled at the funeral.
She had studied every kind of magic dealing with the dead, but it was only to be used for peace. The brown girl known as Xochitl had been someone who was not used to hurting people.
“…What happened? No, what is happening in the ‘organization’ right now!?”
Xochitl did not respond to Unabara’s question.
She swung one hand and a huge sword that couldn’t possibly have been hidden in her hand appeared. Unlike Unabara’s knife, the sword’s blade was made of white chalcedony. It was a double-edged sword, but both edges had sharp notches like the ones on the back of a survival knife.
It was the kind of weapon Aztec warriors used. The Aztec culture did not use metal for weapons, so, instead of chopping like a Japanese katana, the wooden sword had small stone blades lined up on either side so it could cut more like a saw.
“I’ll listen to what you have to say later. Of course, that’s only if you’re lucky enough that your brain doesn’t take too much damage.”
Holding up her macuahuitl, Xochitl started towards him.
Unabara had to fight bare handed, so he had quite a disadvantage.
He couldn’t let himself lose.
Unabara back stepped to put some distance between them. Xochitl lost her timing and had to come in even further and Unabara dug some dirt up with his shoe kicking it forwards. When Xochitl stopped due to the dirt getting in her eyes, Unabara tried to kick her in the side.
However, she swung her macuahuitl horizontally.
As Unabara hurriedly drew his foot back in, a thin scratch as if from a razor appeared on his leather shoe.
“That kind of makeshift attack suits you well, traitor,” said Xochitl in a calm voice.
The way she was speaking didn’t sound right to Unabara. Before, she had hesitated to use deadly weapons. Because her job was to read the residual information from the dead, she understood the terror of weapons more than the average person.
“But no matter how much you struggle, you have no choice but to fight unarmed. I’ll at least give you the right to defend yourself, but your body will be closer and closer to being torn to shreds each time you do so.”
“…That kind of weapon does not suit you.”
“Are you saying that form suits you? You left the ‘organization’, hid your face, and indulged in the peace of Academy City.”
“If so, then you really are a traitor. If not, then you’re deceiving yourself and have no right to say anything here. Either way, you need to die here!!”
Holding the Aztec sword in both hands, Xochitl came straight toward him. Her eyes, her face, her hands, and her movements all showed no sign of mercy.
She was truly trying to kill him.
He might be able to avoid an attack or two, but he couldn’t keep it up forever. And if she got even one clean hit in, the great loss of blood would take his life. At the moment, it was also difficult to fall back. He needed some room to get away. If turning his back and running would let him avoid being cut down, he would have done so.
On the other hand, Xochitl’s magic was still active, so he couldn’t use any kind of tool to block the attack. If he did that, his own weapon would attack him.
It was a hopeless situation.
Unabara clicked his tongue and tried to fall back. The point of the macuahuitl ripped at Unabara’s jacket and cut off a few hairs from his head.
Xochitl forcefully stepped forward and brought the macuahuitl down at a distance from which she was sure to hit. And she did it with timing that kept Unabara from avoiding it.
There was no sentimentality in her due to him being her former comrade or having belonged to the same organization.
She swung the sword down with great force.
Unabara lifted the arm with the dislocated wrist above his head. Xochitl saw it and smiled. She must have been thinking about how it would be useless as a shield. She put her entire weight behind the macuahuitl with its saw-like blades and it struck down with enormous speed.
The blade tore through Unabara’s jacket and then into the flesh of his arm. A scraping noise could be heard as it reached the bone. Unabara’s face twisted in pain.
That was all.
It did not sever Unabara’s arm.
Instead, he gathered strength in his arm while the macuahuitl was still stuck in it and he pushed back.
Xochitl stood in shock at what had happened and Unabara slammed his foot into her gut. Her small body lost to the momentum and she fell to the ground.
“…The Aztecs did not have the ability to manufacture weapons with metal, so their swords are not all that sharp. Instead of a blade made of a single piece of metal, the blade is made from small stone razors lined up on the side of a wooden staff. Even an expert can’t cut bone with it, so he’ll go for a grazing strike on an artery with the entire blade. Basically, your sword can be stopped with bone.”
Unabara still had the Aztec sword buried in his right arm and he was breathing erratically.
“Why do you think I gave up on avoiding it and brought my arm up to block it? You thought it would sever my arm and go right into my body, so you would never have thought it was an effective means of defense. If I continued to partially dodge it, I would have eventually lost due to lost blood.”
It was because Xochitl was a short girl and was unfamiliar with sword fighting, that his strategy worked. A true warrior could have cut him down without having to cut through the bone.
“That’s why I told you that kind of weapon doesn’t suit you.”
Unabara looked down on Xochitl who was having trouble breathing and couldn’t move.
He still couldn’t use a weapon, but he had gotten Xochitl’s macuahuitl away from her. He could now win by strangling her or breaking her neck. From the difference between their sizes, he could easily jump on top of her and prevent her from moving before she could get another weapon.
But Unabara couldn’t do it.
He simply couldn’t.
“I won’t take your life. Just go off somewhere,” said Unabara bitterly as he relocated his dislocated wrist and shook his arm until the sword dislodged itself and fell to the ground.
Hearing him, a slight smile appeared on Xochitl’s lips.
That was when the brown girl’s body began to collapse.
The underground passageway was narrow and straight.
And with the facility’s various anti-esper measures including the AIM jammer, Musujime’s power couldn’t be counted on. If she used it carelessly, there was a danger of it going out of control and killing all of them instantly.
That was why Tsuchimikado didn’t rely on Musujime and didn’t try to approach Teshio as he didn’t know how she would attack. He merely held up his handgun and shot an even scattering of bullets to prevent her from escaping.
In response, Teshio kicked up something at her feet.
It was the cloth bag full of the explosive Saku had been using. If he hit that, countless ricocheting bullets would bounce around the narrow passageway like a game of pinball. When Tsuchimikado stopped moving his trigger finger, Teshio ran down the passageway. Her fists were tightly clenched.
Tsuchimikado just barely managed to pull the trigger before she got within punching range.
However, Teshio entered a boxing stance and bent over far enough to kiss Tsuchimikado on the knee causing the bullet to pass her by.
Before Tsuchimikado could adjust his aim, she straightened out and tackled him square in the gut. Receiving a blow that felt like it would have been able to destroy a door or even a thin wall, Tsuchimikado’s body flew a few meters back.
A tremendous sound rang out and he had trouble breathing.
“Those movements…Is that Anti-Skill’s arresting technique…?”
“This is my own arrangement. If Anti-Skill used this, the children would die.”
Tsuchimikado fired his gun as they spoke, but Teshio easily dodged his shots just by moving her upper body. She kicked towards him aiming for the moment his clip emptied and the gun was torn from his grip.
Another tackle followed.
With a dull crushing noise, Tsuchimikado became pinned between Teshio’s shoulders and the wall. She quietly moved away from him and his limp body slid to the ground.
That was when Musujime Awaki swung down her flashlight behind Teshio.
Teshio lifted her hand above her head to receive the blow from the blunt weapon.
“A professional does not need strange powers or one-liners.”
Teshio responded by connecting a backhand blow to Musujime’s face with her other hand. With a dull impact, Musujime’s body flew to the side and struck one of the doors lining the wall.
“A professional needs only to use her accumulated knowledge of basic strategy to rationally defeat the enemy.”
Then Teshio threw a kick.
With a great noise, the sturdily built door and Musujime’s body were knocked into the cell. Musujime thought her insides had been knocked out of whack by the great shock. She felt an odd urge to vomit, but nothing came out as if her throat was clogged up.
One of her companions must have been in the cell, because she heard someone nearby call her name. From that alone, a bit of energy returned to her limp body.
Teshio stood blocking the broken entrance to the cell.
Musujime held up her flashlight and unsteadily stood up using a hand on the wall to balance. Her companion was urging her to get behind him.
“…You want me to tell you the route through which materials are brought into the windowless building that can’t be destroyed even by nuclear weapons so that you can try to destroy it from the inside with a synchronous multilayer bomb, right?”
“Are you willing to speak now?”
“You can’t defeat Aleister like that. If that was enough, anyone with a teleportation-type power could take him out. Do you really think Aleister of all people doesn’t have some kind of counter-measure for that?”
“It’s true that we may not be able to kill Aleister. He truly is a monster. But,” Teshio said, “the life-support system he relies on is different.”
“It’s just a machine. The reason a monster like Aleister is holed up in a stronghold even tougher than a nuclear shelter is clear. I’m saying that he has no replacement for that system. It would be a problem for him if it was blown up.”
Musujime worked to regulate her breathing even if just a little bit.
“First of all, that isn’t a ‘windowless building’. If you don’t even know that much, you don’t have any real information. A plan you came up with while only knowing that much has no chance of succeeding.”
“You didn’t realize it? A building with no doors or windows would normally be impossible. There are plenty of hints that lead to the truth. For instance, everything needed to live including oxygen is produced inside. And it can stand up to a nuclear attack because it can block radiation. It can also block all the different kinds of cosmic rays emitted by stars.”
“Cosmic rays? …You don’t mean…?”
“No,” Musujime cut her off. “It isn’t that.”
Becoming aware of her own powerlessness, she laughed slightly.
It seemed that response had caught Teshio off guard.
“With those hints, you can guess to a certain extent. I have a few ideas myself. But none of them are the answer behind which Aleister lies. The ideas I have are merely composed of the information that has been presented to me. And I highly doubt Aleister has presented all of the information to me.”
“The one thing I can tell you is that the plan he is carrying out is well beyond our wildest imaginations. Most likely, this planet itself is nothing more than a disposable tool for him. Do you really think this grand plan can be overcome by the clichéd methods you’re using?”
Musujime was trying to stall for time.
She was trying to recover from the damage she had taken.
“That may be, but it doesn’t change what I intend to do.”
“…Why are you going so far to take out Aleister?”
“I have experienced a tragedy in this city. I do not know whether Aleister was involved or not. I want to ask him for the truth. That is all.”
Teshio’s words were blunt. She didn’t have a boiling desire for revenge, but that was why there was truth remaining in her words. There was no superfluous spin to the story based on passionate emotions.
“That’s a clichéd reason.”
“I was once obsessed with ‘truth’. But I didn’t obtain inner peace by chasing after it.” Musujime’s voice was calm. “If Aleister admits that he was involved in the tragedy, will you accept it? If he denies involvement in it, will you accept that? Whichever answer you get, you will think it’s a lie. You will suspect that there is still something he’s hiding from you. If the answer to a question brings no meaning, it’s useless to ask it.”
Teshio did not say anything more than that.
She had already made up her mind, so she would not waver.
“So what will you do?”
Musujime did not respond to the question.
They were in an area treated as top secret within the juvenile hall for criminal espers. It was secured with esper counter-measures including the AIM jammer. Because of this, she could not use her Move Point to attack.
Deprived of it, Musujime Awaki was nothing more than a normal girl. She didn’t have the sharpshooting skills of Accelerator and she didn’t excel at hand-to-hand combat like Tsuchimikado.
Thinking about that, a small smile appeared on her lips.
She spoke as she smiled.
“…It’s because I think like that that I will never be able to protect anyone.”
As she moved her lips, Musujime brought her hand behind her. She grabbed the bundle of cords there and forcibly pulled on them. They belonged to the low frequency vibration treatment device. The electrode device measured the irregularities in her brain waves and emitted a matching stimulus to lower her stress. She pulled the whole thing off. Next, she tossed her flashlight aside.
Musujime now had nothing, but her smile did not collapse.
Seeing that, Teshio of Block spoke with a curious look in her eyes.
“You’re going to use it?”
“Yes,” decisively responded Musujime immediately. “Sorry, but I’m going to go all out.”
A metal stake suddenly appeared in her hand that had previously held nothing. It was one of the parts used in the sturdy lock of the cell door. But Move Point’s precision was a bit off. Musujime could feel some of the skin on her palm being scraped off.
The trauma that had eaten at her heart showed its face all at once.
She forced it down and used Move Point again.
This time, she herself disappeared.
Using theoretical 11th dimensional vectors, she overcame the three dimensional boundaries and appeared right in front of the muscular woman. As she teleported, she felt a violent pressure in her stomach, but she ignored it and tried to stab the metal stake into Teshio’s gut.
In response, Teshio stepped back.
Musujime instinctively knew that she could not win if she let this chance slip away.
But when she tried to step forward, she realized she couldn’t move her right leg. It felt like a bunch of powerful instant glue had stuck it to the ground, but Musujime remembered that feeling well.
The repulsive feeling was caused by her leg being stuck into the ground from about halfway down the calf and below. She had transported to the wrong spot.
Those emotions she had once experienced exploded in the bottom of her stomach.
(I can overcome this…)
Musujime gripped the metal stake tightly, bit her lip, and suppressed it all. There was a companion she had to protect behind her. In order to protect that life, Musujime Awaki would crush the past that was creeping out!!
(I will overcome this!! I’ll overcome everything related to this annoying scar!!)
She stuck with it and moved her leg as if she was pulling it out of mud.
As she did, she heard a tearing sound.
Musujime Awaki did not avert her gaze.
She moved forward.
Like a bullet, Musujime moved towards the Block assassin who was threatening her companion’s life while gripping the metal stake and ignoring her torn up leg.
A noticeably thick noise rang out within the cell.
All strength left Teshio’s body. She looked like she was leaning up against Musujime and barely moved her lips as she spoke in Musujime’s ear.
“…You went easy on me.”
The metal stake was in Musujime’s hand. However, just before impact, she had spun the stake around so the flat back end hit Teshio instead of the sharp tip.
“Unfortunately,” Musujime responded in an uninterested manner, “this is the kind of leadership I wanted.”
Unabara Mitsuki couldn’t believe his eyes.
In the juvenile hall’s exercise area, Xochitl’s right arm crumbled. This wasn’t biological decay.
It was similar to seeing an invisible man having the bandages covering him removed.
The outside skin seemed extremely human-like, but the removal of the bandages left nothing but a hollow cavity. The change had started at her fingertips and had already eroded up to her elbow.
“Xochitl…? What is this!?”
“My body has reached the limit.”
The ends of the brown girl’s arms and legs were “coming apart”, but she smiled thinly as she spoke.
“Here’s a lesson for you. If you make up for your lack of power with a grimoire, this is the fate that awaits you.”
“You don’t mean…you read one!”
“No, I did more than that. You’re an Aztec magician, so you should understand. In our rituals, human flesh is eaten in order to deliver it to heaven. In other words, there is a magical line connecting me and the severed flesh.”
Those words shocked Unabara. He had realized the “meaning” behind the spell that let her control others’ weapons causing them to commit suicide. She had dried her own flesh into a powdered form and spread it around. That powder magically qualified as “a part of her body”, so she could control it like her own arms and legs just by thinking. The same went for objects it was closely packed around.
Xochitl made other people’s weapons a part of her physical body. That was the true form of her spell.
“A spell that removes a part of your body like that will always fail before long! That goes well past the level where you can use a spiritual item to aid you! You should have known that much, Xochitl!!”
“I don’t mind. I wished to punish the one who betrayed the organization and that was my answer. As long as I managed to kill you before it had fully consumed me, I could accomplish the organization’s goal.”
“Damn it!! The organization I knew did horrible things, but not this horrible! What the hell happened while I was gone!?”
Unabara yelled his question, but oddly enough Xochitl’s only response was a small smile.
The brown girl’s body was going to have come completely apart before long. To Unabara, it looked like only a third of her body remained. Even if it stopped now, there was obviously no way of saving her life. He could only let that mass of flesh and guts disappear into the air.
(…I don’t think just a spell or a spiritual item could cause something this out of the ordinary.)
As the destruction progressed from her arms and legs into her abdomen, Unabara frantically observed the situation.
(The only secret that could be behind this other than those things that I can think of is an “original”!!)
An original of a grimoire was completely autonomously activated and could not be destroyed by anyone. Xochitl had acquired her power by uniting with one of those originals – or more accurately, becoming a part of it. If that was so, it all made sense. Causing everyone with a weapon to commit suicide sounded exactly like the kind of defensive feature a grimoire original would have. And the Aztecs had books known as “codices” that were written on animal skins.
(Animal skins…It couldn’t be!!)
Unabara stared blankly at the skin of the brown girl who had now come almost entirely apart.
And written on the inside was…
Unabara Mitsuki looked in carelessly and screamed.
It had only been a few characters. He hadn’t looked directly at them; they had only barely entered his field of vision. And yet his brain felt like it was going to split in two. This wasn’t like a watered-down copy altered and interpreted for general use. It was a true original.
Unabara held his pounding temples and continued his thoughts while staggering.
(Kh…That was a derivative of the calendar stone written there.)
The calendar stone was an Aztec calendar arranged in a circle. However, the Aztecs used two different forms of calendars at once and believed in the death and rebirth of the sun, so it was an incredibly complex thing to make. What was described on the inside of Xochitl’s skin took only the times that dealt with life and death from that calendar and then expanded on it with a religious dissertation.
He couldn’t deal with that. It was wrong to even think of opposing it. It was said that not even the Index Librorum Prohibitorum could destroy that book of evil, so there was no way a mere magician could do anything.
(I won’t let her die…)
Why had a non-combatant like Xochitl infiltrated this far? What was going on in the organization? There were tons of things he wanted to ask. So he couldn’t let her die here.
He couldn’t destroy the grimoire original.
And even if he could, Xochitl wouldn’t last because she depended on the original.
It was impossible for Unabara Mitsuki to win in this situation with his power alone.
(If it’s impossible to accomplish with human power, I’ll borrow the power of this original!!)
The original could defend against any type of attack and no one could even scratch it, but there was one exception. An original would disclose its information to one who desired that information. If it truly prevented “all kinds of interference”, no one would be able to open its pages and the grimoire would lose all reason to exist. He didn’t know how it worked, but originals could identify whether someone was a “reader” or “not a reader” and they had a tendency to cooperate with those who would propagate their information.
That was why Unabara decided to…
(I will take this grimoire for myself.)
If he could obtain ownership of the original, its automatic interception spell would stop. Once he “took it for himself”, he would naturally be able to tear the original from Xochitl’s body. The reason the original was cooperating with her was not because of who she was. It just had to be someone who would act as an evangelist for its knowledge.
(I’ll trick its decision-making ability. I’ll make it think that it can’t pass itself on if Xochitl dies! Then the original itself will save her life!!)
Unabara Mitsuki could not save Xochitl. That meant he just had to make the original with all its power do it for him. Of course, there was no precedent of this happening. If he failed to deceive the ridiculously powerful original his reward would be death.
But Unabara Mitsuki did not hesitate.
He accepted it all in order to save that brown girl.
Dragging her bloody leg along, Musujime Awaki slowly left the solitary-confinement cell.
The other cells were locked. She couldn’t get her companions out of them. And even if she did try to forcibly break them out, the upper classes of Academy City might just make them disappear.
Even if she had gotten Block out of the way, the fundamental problem remained. She hadn’t been able to change the fact that someone held her companions’ lives in their grasp.
But Musujime heard a voice from behind say, “I always trusted you.” It came from the small window installed in the cell door used to pass meals through. She had heard one of her companions speaking from that mail slot-like opening. He said he trusted her. He said he had been right to trust her. There was relief in his voice. Relief because she had saved his life and because she had come running for his sake.
Musujime Awaki remained motionless for a bit.
Finally, she slowly opened her mouth. But no words came. Her lips were quavering even more than she thought. Even so, she slowly put together her words.
It took a long time, but she finally got a couple of words out.
But that was all they needed.
“Are you done?” asked Tsuchimikado.
Musujime pushed him aside with one hand and headed for the staircase out.
They exited the building and found Accelerator and Unabara Mitsuki. Because they had all fought in their own battlefields, not one of them was unscathed. Even so, the four members of Group joined together once more.
Musujime said nothing.
Looking at her, Tsuchimikado spoke in a bored-sounding voice.
“Well, let’s return to the darkness.”
Between the lines 3
She slowly walked down the street.
Given her position, it was a place you would never think she would be. Anyone was free to go by on that road, she had no guards, and she merely mixed in with the general crowd. She had five helium-filled balloons in one hand and small children passing by looked at them with greedy eyes.
She held a cell phone in her other hand.
“Y’know, I’m supposed to be in charge of Item. It’s always like this with you… Why are you always calling me for these things that don’t even pay overtime?”
“What are you talking about? I’ll admit I jumped the gun a bit on the whole Block thing. But my power can come back any number of times, so quit keeping the location of and information on Block from me! If I can get a hold of them again, there will be no damage done to Academy City.”
“There’s no problem damage-wise. Apparently, Group just took out Block in the juvenile hall a bit ago. They can’t cause any more trouble.”
“I-I see.” The person on the phone seemed relieved. “Then I’ll…”
“Yes,” she said peacefully. “The threat presented by Block is gone, so you’re no longer needed as their controller.”
She could hear a gulp from over the phone.
He started hurriedly going on about something, but she wasn’t listening anymore. Their discussion was over. She hung up and started walking through the crowd again.
She let go of one of the five balloons she was holding and it flew into the sky.
She didn’t even bother to watch the disappearing balloon and toyed with the strings of the remaining balloons.
“I wonder what School’s controller will say.”
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