Toaru Majutsu no Index:Volume7 Chapter1

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Chapter 1: Academy City. Science_Worship.

Part 1

"So— the second semester is rather hectic. There are so many activities during this time that we can’t count them all: Daihaseisai, Ichihanaransai, hiking, training, school excursions, Art Appreciation Day, Social Learning Day, Cleaning Day, end-of-term exams, tuition, and the dreaded after-class remedials! To prepare for all those festivals, everyone will be very busy."[1]

September 8th.

In the afternoon, Tsuchimikado Maika spoke casually while moving down the corridor. She was about as old as Index and maybe a bit smaller than her, but she always wore a maid uniform. What was more amazing was that she normally sat on a cylindrical cleaning machine. Whenever the cleaning machine tried to move according to its instructions, Maika would put a mop in front of it so that it could only shake about gently.

“But I’m bored now. What should I do? Touma doesn't even care about me or play with me!”

Shaking her body about and protesting at Maika, Index rattled on. Her silver hair swayed together with her white nun cap. The calico cat in her slender arms raised its front paws and swung them around, seemingly attracted to the shiny gold embroidery on her cap.

Index understood that Kamijou seemed busy recently. But in Academy City, Kamijou was the only one who talked to her.

Of course, Kamijou Touma had not confined Index to his room in the dormitory; Index had the spare key to the room, and when Kamijou was at school, Index would spend her time walking around. (But she was powerless when it came to the automatic ticket gates; any fingerprint, pulse, or human nervous flow identifiers; or anything related to electronics, and would run away from them).

Academy City was different from any other city.

Academy City had been built soon after the development of west Tokyo, and eighty percent of its population was composed of students. When Kamijou went to school, Himegami and Komoe were also at school. So, even if Index wanted to find someone to talk to, the streets would be empty; though, after spending a week exploring, Index had found that the young lady at the clothes shop would talk to her when she was not arranging the goods. Index felt, however, that her objective was not to talk to just her.

Only Tsuchimikado Maika could be considered an exception.

In Academy City, where everyone had to act according to schedule, only she was not constrained by it. No matter if it was morning or afternoon, Index would occasionally find her on the streets. She could be found everywhere: convenience stores, department stores, parks, bakeries, station buildings, student dormitories, streets, schools...

The robot continued to try and move forward, and as Maika smacked it with her hand, she said,

"Kamijou Touma has his own things to do...you can’t give him too much trouble. Anyway, it’s not like he's intentionally left you behind. Studying is a really tiring thing."

"Uhm...I understand...but why doesn't Maika need to go to school?"

"Hoho, because I’m an exception; a maid doing practical work is a very normal thing!"

The home economics school that Tsuchimikado Maika attended was not just any weird school that still produced maids in this age. The maids from that school were specially trained to assist their masters. From cleaning up chewing gum on the streets to having a meeting with the leaders of the world, nothing could stump them. So, Maika had to go everywhere to do all sorts of practical work. Not all the school's students could go out and do such work like Maika, however; that was a special privilege that was earned after the school had tested the student and had felt that "although she is an apprentice maid, she is capable enough to not disgrace the school’s name".

Index, who did not understand the toil and tears behind all that, tilted her cute little head and said,

"As long as I’m a maid, I can go wherever I want, anytime? Not confined by school? I would even able to go to Touma’s school?"

Index v07 035.jpg

"No, a maid isn’t really like that—"

"Then I want to be a maid! I can then go and play with Touma!"

"Although it sounds touching, the life of a maid is really tough, especially for someone like you, who can’t do housework and waits for a boy to prepare your lunch in the morning. Being a maid would be really tough for you."

"Then let Touma be the maid! Then I can call Touma to play with me!"

"That really sounds so touching that someone could cry, but for Kamijou Touma’s sake, I advise you not to tell him that."

"Uuu—uuuu..."

The bored girl beat her cheeks, rapidly swinging her body about.

"Hm, I’m sorry; whether it’s you or him, neither of you will have the time to be maids."

A voice suddenly came from behind the pure-white girl.

"Eh?"

Index’s mind instantly went blank. Maika, who was facing Index, saw the figure behind her. Besides panic, there was a look of fear on her face.

Who was it...?

Before the nun could turn and ask, a large hand covered her mouth like tape.

Part 2

An ordinary high school student, Kamijou Touma, walked slowly down the street in the evening.

Some cylindrical cleaning machines passed by him. The windmills, which had replaced transmission towers, spun their blades like they were chasing away the crows in the city. There were many hot-air balloons floating in the orange sky, but the things hanging below them were not ordinary billboards, but the latest ultra-thin screens. Like an electronic billboard with vertical marquees, the text read from bottom to top: "Be prepared! Let’s work hard for Daihaseisai! –Judgment"

Daihaseisai was basically a sports carnival. But, as Academy City had several million students and all the schools were participating, the scale of the event was extremely large. All the students were espers, and the management committee of Academy City used the excuse of "collecting data when there was mutual interference between different powers" to encourage the students to use their powers during Daihaseisai. Thus, intensive battles between different espers could be expected. For example, during soccer or dodgeball matches, it was common to see vanishing balls, fireballs, and iceballs.

Daihaseisai lasted one week, and during that time, Academy City was open to the public; even television cameras were allowed. It was said that the viewer ratings for the esper showdowns--which could not be seen during normal sports matches--were rather high. Because of that, Judgment was putting all its effort into preparing for Daihaseisai. Also, Academy City hoped to use the few days that it was open to the public to improve its image. Of course, Academy City did not forget about terrorists, as Anti-Skill would be deployed at several important power development facilities, preventing such people from entering these secret areas.

“This… this is so tiring…”

That was what Kamijou had learned this past week.

Due to certain circumstances, Kamijou had lost his memories, and had thus forgotten everything about Daihaseisai. According to what Touma had heard, though, this activity would be extremely dangerous for him. The design of Daihaseisai was not just "no restraint of powers", but rather "if you do not use your powers, you’re going to be friends with the medical squad". In other words, even in a war horse game, there may be fireballs, lightning strikes, and flying knives.

Kamijou looked at his hand. That hand had the Imagine Breaker ability. No matter if they were magical or psychic powers, once they touched that hand, they would disappear without a trace. But a power like that was not going to help Kamijou survive in a war zone between several espers.

…Why must I be exhausted in preparing for this event that will send me to hell…?

Today, Kamijou had set up a tent in the campus set aside for visitors. Just after finishing, a female PE teacher had come with a wry smile and had said, “Sorry, we won't be using this tent.” Touma had then taken it down. When he had finally finished, a female teacher who looked like a primary school student had angrily run over and had shouted, “Ah! What are you doing, Kamijou!? Haven’t you heard the news? We still need this tent!” In any case, "Such misfortune" was not enough to describe Kamijou's life today.

After meaninglessly toiling for a long time, Kamijou finally started dragging his tired body back to the student dormitory.

“Oh, yeah, there didn’t seem to be anything left in the fridge.”

The supermarket was just in front of him, but Touma was penniless and would have to go back to his dorm to get money first. The thought of having to go out again after returning home made Kamijou extremely frustrated.

The soles of his cheap basketball shoes were rather hard, making his legs extremely tired as he walked.

When he finally approached the student dormitory, Kamijou heard a girl’s shout from above.

“Ah...Ka…Ka-ka…Kamijou Touma, Kamijou Touma!”

“Hm?”

Kamijou looked up and saw Tsuchimikado Maika sticking her head out and waving her right arm from the seventh floor. She was still sitting on top of the cleaning robot, so what she was doing seemed rather dangerous. She had grabbed a mop and had laid it on the ground, however, to prevent the robot from advancing.

“It…it’s terrible! Why did you turn off your phone!?”

“?”

Kamijou heard that and pulled his cell phone--with a GPS function--out of his pocket. Sure enough, the power was off. After turning on the cell phone, he saw several messages from Tsuchimikado Maika. Though her expression was pale, Maika slowly continued to speak. Although suspicious, Kamijou still ran to the elevator.

Kamijou arrived at his room on the seventh floor. Maika removed the mop and the cleaning robot slowly moved towards the elevator. For some reason, the calico cat that would normally be with Index was now sitting alone in the corridor. The cleaning robot arrived in front of Kamijou, and Maika again prevented it from moving forward by putting the mop in front of it.

“It’s an emergency! The silver-haired nun has been taken away!”

“What?”

Kamijou could not help but shout. Maika’s face looked pale as she continued on.

“It’s a kidnapping, abduction! The culprit said that if I call the guards, he’d kill her, so I didn’t do anything... I’m sorry, Kamijou Touma!”

The silver-haired girl she was talking about should be Index. Maika did not look like she was joking. Moreover, there were too many possible reasons why Index would be kidnapped.

She was a magical library with 103,000 grimoires memorized in her head. All the magicians in the world wanted the knowledge in her brain, and on August 31st, she had already been kidnapped once because of that reason.

“Wait a minute, what's going on? Could you explain?”

Asked by Kamijou, Maika stuttered as she explained the details.

Two hours ago, Maika had come to the student dormitory for practical work. While sweeping the floor, she had caught sight of a bored Index in the corridor of the seventh floor, and had gone to talk to her. In the middle of their chat, someone had suddenly covered Index’s mouth from behind and abducted her.

“When the kidnapper left, he gave me an envelope. There's something written on the letter inside…”

Maika handed over a long, rectangular envelope normally used for sending advertisements. Her voice was trembling, likely not just due to fear, but probably because she was also blaming herself for her uselessness.

Kamijou lowered his head, looking at the letter, and said,

“You don’t have to blame yourself; it’s better than doing something and making the situation worse.”

Although it was intended to console Maika, that statement made her even more distressed. It could not be helped, since in an ordinary school life, there were very few chances to feel this kind of burning tension.

“Oh, yeah, what does that bastard look like?”

Maika looked up, thought for a while, and said,

“Uhm… His height was above 1.8 meters; he was white, but his Japanese was still very fluent; and I couldn't tell what country he was from just from his appearance…”

“Uh huh.”

“He was wearing priest’s robes.”

“Hm?”

“But he had a strong perfume smell. His hair was dyed red and reached his shoulders. There was a silver ring on each of his fingers, and a tattoo that looked like a bar code under his right eye. He had a cigarette in his mouth, and he wore earrings…”

“…Oi, I’m rather familiar with that bastardly British priest.”

Maika revealed a look of suspicion. Kamijou opened the envelope and found a letter inside. On the letter were neat rows of words, which seemed to have been written with a mechanical pencil. It looked like a ruler had been used to make them neat.

"Kamijou Touma: if you want her alive, go to the abandoned theater ‘Twilight Theatre’ outside Academy City at seven tonight. Alone."

“…there‘re still people nowadays who'd use a ruler to disguise their handwriting?”

In this age, it was naive to believe that using a ruler disguised someone's handwriting. Based on the technology of the laser that read the information on a CD’s surface, investigators have developed a way to identify the different characteristics of when a person’s fingers slightly trembled using the grooves in the text. Not to mention, many people in Academy City were mind-readers.

This guy might have done everything properly, but to Kamijou, it was just a lame joke.

What on earth is that idiot doing? Don’t tell me he came to play with us just because it’s summer holidays now?

According to Maika’s testimony, the culprit who had abducted Index was her colleague, Stiyl Magnus. But that guy would never do anything to endanger her; on the contrary, that guy would rush into enemy territory to protect her.

The tension vanished in an instant.

Kamijou could not help but feel sympathy for the distressed Maika.

“Erm… Maika, don’t worry. The culprit should be a friend of Index's and mine, so don’t worry…”

“The cul…culprit is a friend? Then isn’t the motive twisted love?”

“Ah, erm…it isn’t really that sort of thing…though it’s true that this twisted love may exist…”

Seeing Maika’s face become even paler, Kamijou sighed.

When he flipped the envelope upside down, a stack of papers fell out. Opening and looking at them, Kamijou realized that they were exit permits and other related documents. All the blanks had been filled in. Kamijou could not help but think, How did they do all these? It’s true that one can easily leave Academy City with these documents, but to request for all these would require a serious examination…

The strong contrast between the stupidity of the threatening letter and the well-preparedness of the required documents stunned Kamijou.

What on Earth is that priest thinking?

Part 3

The abandoned "Twilight Theatre" was located about three kilometers away from Academy City.

Business had stopped just three weeks ago, which was why the building still did not look damaged. Furthermore, all the interior equipment had been removed, so it seemed rather empty inside right now, and, as no one had swept the area since then, everything was covered in dust. It could not be considered a ruin, though. The place could be reopened if one cleaned it up and reinstalled the equipment.

It looked like a "hibernating" building. Maybe the owner was not planning to take down the building for now and was looking for a new buyer.

Index was waiting on the empty stage. The hall was large, about as big as a sports hall, and the auditorium and the stage were joined together. There were no windows, and the lighting had been removed, so the only source of light was the setting sun outside the five opened doors. Index knelt on the dim stage, frowning and showing her displeasure.

“Despicable man.”

“I can’t deny that, nor will I do so.”

Until he controlled his emotions, Stiyl Magnus looked a bit fearful facing the girl’s hostile glare. In the dim area, the flaming tip of his cigarette twitched up and down. The white smoke swayed in the air before it grazed the "No Smoking" sign and disappeared.

“You should be able to understand all this, right? I won’t ask you if I need to repeat myself, since with your memory, repeating the same thing over again is meaningless.”

“…an official order from the Anglican Church.”

Index remembered the explanation she had been given when she had first arrived here. There was finally someone who could decode The Book of the Law, which no one had been able to decode before. That person’s name was Orsola Aquinas. It was feared that once someone successfully decoded The Book of the Law, the Angelic Technique could then be used. When Orsola had come to Japan, the book had been stolen, and the culprit was believed to be the Amakusa Church. Thus, the Roman Catholic Church had begun a series of actions to get back The Book of the Law and Orsola.

Kanzaki Kaori, the former leader of the Amakusa Church, now a member of the Anglican Church, was missing, and she might possibly do something she should not.

On the surface, the Anglicans seemed to be on the side of the Roman Catholics, but in actuality, they wanted to defuse this situation before Kanzaki Kaori could do anything troublesome.

“Such a formal ‘job’, and you want to get Touma involved?”

“To be honest, I don’t see the need to get him involved, either; these are orders from the higher ups, however.”

Stiyl twitched his cigarette and said,

“Besides, our position is rather awkward, too. If we were to ask Kamijou Touma, who belongs to Academy City, directly, people may view it as the science side interfering with internal affairs on the magic side. If this affair had happened within Academy City, we could use the excuse of self-defence for Kamijou Touma, but such an excuse won’t work now. So, in order to get him to participate, we needed to give him a motive.”

That was why Stiyl had kidnapped Index.

In other words, the reason Kamijou left Academy City would be "to rescue Index", and that would not be related to Orsola or The Book of the Law. But while doing so, he would "just so happen" to meet the Amakusas, and in order to protect Index, he would have to fight them: that was the excuse that Stiyl had planned for Kamijou.

Although she was from the magic side, Index could stay in Academy City temporarily due to a certain deal made between Academy City and the Anglican Church. Thus, for Kamijou Touma, a resident of Academy City, to rescue Index, the guest, was not a strange thing.

“I understand everything up to now, but I can’t accept it.”

“Really?”

“That’s right; there’s no need to beat around the bush to do this. Just a little ‘Please help me!’ will be enough to get Touma to come to my rescue. No matter how dangerous the place is, he'll always come. That's why I don’t want his help.”

“…really.”

Stiyl smiled faintly.

Like a father listening to a girl talking about her favorite boyfriend, Stiyl revealed a slight smile.

“Okay, what will you do next? The Book of the Law and Orsola Aquinas are now in the Amakusa Church's hands, right? If so, are you going to rush into the enemy’s base?”

The girl asked rather seriously. Now that Kamijou was involved, she wanted to get accurate information to try to decrease the level of danger that Kamijou Touma would face.

“No, the situation has changed.”

Distressed, Stiyl blew out white smoke as he said,

“Eleven minutes ago, in order to rescue Orsola, the Roman Catholics began a fierce battle with the escaping Amakusas.”

Index squinted her eyes.

The method of communication was most likely the smoke from that cigarette. Several times, Index had found that the long trails of smoke had magic in them, and though there was no wind, the white smoke quivered unnaturally. No matter the age, smoke signals have always been used as a tool of long-distance communication. Stored in Index’s memory were many ways to utilize smoke signals.

“There is no need for me to be here if the battle was successful, right?”

“That’s right. It wasn’t a complete victory, however; it seems to have been an intense battle. Luckily, no one was killed. But The Book of the Law is still missing, and Orsola was reported to have escaped amidst the chaos.”

“When you say that she has escaped, does that mean that she hasn’t met up with the Roman Catholics?”

“That’s right. She’s still missing, so she might end up in the hands of the Amakusas again.”

“…that doesn’t sound good.”

If a hostage tried to escape, the kidnapper would naturally respond with violence. If a hostage who had escaped once were to be recaptured, the kidnapper would use whatever cruel means necessary to make the hostage not think of escaping again.

It seemed that, in this situation, time was of the essence. Right now, the Roman Catholics and the Amakusas must have been trying to find and recover the escaped Orsola.

“Too bad I can’t change the contents of the letter, or else I'd tell Kamijou Touma to get here faster. If possible, I'd like to meet him before my co-combatant from the Roman Catholic Church arrives…”

Right after Stiyl had finished speaking, a figure appeared in the wide-open entrance of the hall.

“…too bad; it seems like we can’t wait for him. We have to go.”

The figure belonged to the co-combatant.

Part 4

“It seems like I’ve been out quite often…if possible, I'd like to do some good sightseeing.”

Now outside Academy City, Kamijou muttered to himself as he proceeded through the perimeter wall. The height of the wall was more than five meters; the thickness, around three meters.

Come to think of it, during the preparation of Daihaseisai, the security's been rather lax.

Kamijou turned back and looked at the entrance of Academy City from a distance. For Daihaseisai, a festival with an attendance of 2.3 million people, the preparations needed were quite vast, not to mention that there would be many outsiders from different industries coming to Academy City. The security in Academy City was normally rather tight, but the situation now forced them to let down their guard. With the documents that Kamijou had, the guard inspection had become even more relaxed.

To cut a long story short, after Kamijou had handed the calico cat over to Tsuchimikado Maika, he had left Academy City.

Looking at his watch, he noticed that it was now just past 6 PM; there was still nearly one hour until the time indicated in the letter.

Kamijou had to put in a lot of effort to find the location of the Twilight Theatre, since the GPS map on the phone had not indicated any abandoned buildings. It was at that point that Kamijou had realized refreshing information too fast had its own downsides. Kamijou had then thought of an alternative plan, and had therefore gone to a convenience store to buy one of those faded, slower-updating Tokyo tourist handbooks. But upon searching his pockets, he had realized that he had not brought his wallet along. Thinking about it, he had immediately rushed out of Academy City after talking to Maika, and so had forgotten to get his wallet. Out of ideas, Kamijou could only endure the stare of the store clerk as he memorized the map into his head.

Erm…after walking through that lane, past that road…Ugh! I'm forgetting just about everything! How I really envy Index’s brain…

Kamijou let his thoughts run wild as he walked toward a bus stop.

There was still one kilometer left to the designated location. Tired after the day at school, Kamijou really wanted to just sit on a bus and enjoy the air conditioning while it took him to his destination. Too bad he did not even have a yen on him.

Damn it...*sigh*...I don’t care if I can ride a bus or not; all I want is a place where there’s an air conditioner.

The bus stop was rather small. There was only a large plastic umbrella over two long benches, both of which were so old that they were covered in cracks.

At that moment, Kamijou found someone standing at the bus stop.

She seemed like a foreigner, and was about as tall as Kamijou. Her eyes were fixed on the timetable. She stared at it for a long time, however, and it seemed like she was having trouble.

Her attire, a black nun’s habit that she still wore in such hot weather, was rather unique. Naturally, the sleeves and the dress were long. Looking closer, Kamijou noticed long silver zippers around the elbows and about 20 cm above the knees. It seemed like the sleeves and skirt of the nun’s habit were detachable, though she had not done that. Her hands were covered with thin white gloves, and her hair could not be seen, for it was not only covered by a nun’s cap, like what Index wore, but also a scarf. Since her hair could be covered just like that, it would seem she had short hair.

Kamijou looked at her out of the corner of his eye and thought:

Uh, it’s a nun...could she be a killer nun who's related to Index?

Index v07 059.jpg

That thought might have been considered a severe prejudice to all the nuns in the world, but Kamijou had suffered during the summer thanks to people like Stiyl and Tsuchimikado. Now, whenever Kamijou saw a girl in nuns' clothing, he would naturally be cautious.

“I’m sorry…”

The nun suddenly started talking to Kamijou, speaking in rather polite Japanese.

“Sorry to take your time, but may I ask: can I take this bus to get to Academy City?”

Not only was she courteous, but there was also a sense of awkwardness.

Kamijou stopped and looked at the nun. The attire that covered her entire body made her large breasts and slim waist stand out even more; some may even have suspected that she was emphasizing them on purpose. Anyway, she was a weird one.

“No way, there’s no bus that goes to Academy City.”

“Eh?”

“There’s no transport link between Academy City and the outside world, so one can’t take a bus or tram there. Only the taxis that are registered by Academy City can go in there, but walking is a lot less expensive.”

“I see, so that’s why you chose to walk out of Academy City.”

The nun spoke nonchalantly.

Kamijou looked up. It was not possible to see the entrance to Academy City from here. He looked back at the nun, who pulled out something from her sleeve. Looking closely, he saw it was actually a cheap-looking mini-telescope that was used in theaters.

“I used this to watch you leave Academy City,” she said as she smiled.

At that moment, a bus arrived. Like the bus stop, it looked rather dilapidated.

The automatic doors of the bus opened, releasing a sound like a soft drink bottle being opened.

Kamijou did not intend to take the bus, so he walked away from the bus stop. He turned to the nun and said,

“In any case, taking the bus is not going to bring you to Academy City. If you have an entry permit, you just need to walk to the entrance. It takes only about seven to eight minutes to get there.”

“Many thanks. I’m grateful that you would take some time off your busy schedule to guide me.”

The nun dressed in black gave a brilliant smile, bowed to Kamijou, and then—

-got on the bus.

“…Oi! Didn’t I tell you that you can’t take the bus just five seconds ago?!”

“Ah, ya. You did say that, alright.”

The nun grabbed the hem of her dress with both hands and hastily got off the bus now parked on the road. Kamijou then went on:

“I just told you. There's no transport link between Academy City and the outside world, so one can’t take a bus or a tram there. If you want to get there, you just have to walk there, do you understand?”

“You did say that. I’m sorry to bother you so many times.”

The nun smiled bitterly, nodding to show her appreciation. She then climbed the steps of the bus and got on.

“Hey! You aren’t smiling just to let my words fall on deaf ears, are you?”

“Eh? No, I never had that intention.”

The nun again rushed down from the bus. The bus driver showed a look of irritation, closed the doors, and rudely drove off.

Kamijou felt worried when he saw that the nun still looked confused. This lady would most likely get lost within ten minutes if no one was looking out for her. The nun did not seem to sense Kamijou’s worries, however, and said,

“Aiya. Why do you look so frustrated? Would you like some candy?”

“I’m not really frustrated...what flavor is this candy? Orange?”

Kamijou instinctively took the orange-red candy. He was too embarrassed to throw it away, so he put it into his mouth.

After sucking on it for a while…

“So bitter! What is this? It’s definitely not orange!”

“…erm, it seems to be astringent persimmon flavor. I’m not sure about the details, but I heard that it can quench thirst.”

“…oh, that’s because it can easily stimulate the secretion of saliva. But the weather is so hot now that all the water content in the body would evaporate, so it makes no sense to produce saliva.”

“Ara, you want to replenish your body fluids? Why didn’t you say so earlier? I have some tea here.”

“Although I really want to ask why you would put a thermoflask into the sleeve of your robe, never mind. I just so happen to be thirsty. What kind of tea is that?”

“Barley tea.”

“Oh, I want it; can I have some?”

Kamijou said happily. Drinking ice-cold barley tea in the summer is the best, Kamijou thought. He accepted the thermoflask's cap, which was now filled with barley tea.

“----so hot! Why is this barley tea scalding hot?”

“Eh? I heard that drinking hot drinks during hot weather is part of your country’s culture…”

“An old granny! You’re an old granny, right? No wonder I felt that your mannerisms were too weird; your thought process is like that of an old granny!”

Kamijou roared while the nun gave a friendly smile. At this point, he could not just pour away the barley tea in the cap. Kamijou trembled as he poured that barley tea, hot as lava, into his throat.

“…er…thanks. Oh, yeah, Miss Nun, may I ask you something? Are you going to Academy City? Erm, I just said this, but to enter Academy City, one must have an entry permit issued by the city. Do you have one?”

“Entry permit…?”

Of course, the nun revealed a surprised look. Needless to say, without an entry permit, one could not get through the entrance gate.

After Kamijou explained the entire situation to the nun, she gave a troubled look. She placed her hand on her head and said,

“May I know how can I get this permit?”

“…I’m sorry, it’s impossible for any ordinary person to get one. Only a close relative of a student or an industry worker who's delivering goods and materials can get one, and they have to be vetted first.”

“Oh…if so, then I’ll have to give up.”

The nun drooped her shoulders, looking rather sad. But her giving up so easily made it seem like it was not really important to her to get inside Academy City.

It’s not that I don’t want to help, but I can’t help her out now…

A sense of guilt crept into Kamijou’s mind. The nun said to Kamijou, “Then I shall say goodbye here,” before walking toward Academy City.

“Stop right there! Didn’t I tell you that you can’t go into Academy City without an entry permit…are you listening!?”

The nun revealed a look of realization, stopped, and then turned around. She had been smiling happily a while ago, but now she looked rather disappointed, as if a cloud of haze hovered over her.

Kamijou saw the troubled look on the nun’s face and did not know what to do. While the magicians without permits had been able to get past the wall easily and whenever they wanted to, the nun in front of him did not seem to have that sort of ability.

Thinking about it for a while, Kamijou could not come up with anything that would help the nun. No matter the situation, one had to have an entry permit to get into Academy City. He had no time to dilly-dally at a place like this since he has to deal with Index first. He had to get to the designated location at the designated time, no matter what.

“Oh, yeah, why do you want to get into Academy City?”

“Erm…”

The nun tilted her head slightly and said,

“Actually, I’m being hunted right now.”

Upon hearing that, Kamijou felt as if the surrounding temperature had dropped by several degrees.

“Being hunted…?”

“Yes. It’s a bit complicated, but right now, I’m trying my best to escape. I heard that even with the power of many churches, they can’t enter Academy City, so I wanted to escape to Academy City and hide there.”

“The church…hey, don’t tell me you have something to do with the magicians…?”

The nun was somewhat surprised on hearing that. She said, “Do you know about the existence of magicians?”

“Looking at your reaction, I guess I’m right.” Kamijou sighed and continued, “But if you’re really being hunted, even escaping into Academy City won't be completely safe. Academy City has been invaded by magicians constantly.”

After seeing what had happened to Index firsthand, Kamijou understood that the magicians would never give up just because the target had escaped into Academy City.

“Then what should I do…?”

The nun looked like she was going to cry. Kamijou obviously understood how scary the magicians were, so he did not want to abandon her.

“…can you read the bus route map?”

“Buses are such old news now--like several hundred years ago! Where did this ‘route map’ come out from!? Weren’t we talking about how to get to Academy City!?”

Kamijou exclaimed.

The nun again revealed a stunned look. Kamijou was really in a fix thanks to this nun.

If this nun was really being hunted by the magicians, then he could not just leave her alone, but Kamijou had something really urgent that he needed to take care of right now. Now that Index had been "kidnapped", he was worried. Even though this kidnapping sounded like a hoax, he could not just ignore it. Kamijou, who unwillingly had to make a choice between these two, pulled his hair roughly, not knowing what to do.

Suddenly, he thought of a good idea.

Wait, wait, wait… if I bring this nun along while I'm looking for Index, wouldn’t that solve the problem?

It really was a good idea--except that it had been clearly written in the letter that he had to "go there alone".

Part 5

Stiyl and Index walked out of the theater hall of the Twilight Theatre and arrived at the lobby, which seemed to be where the ticket booth had originally been.

A girl in a black nun's habit was walking in front of them.

She seemed to be a year or two younger than Index. Her hair was slightly reddish and was tied into many pencil-thin braids. The sleeves of her robe nearly covered her fingers, but her skirt was so short that her thighs were exposed. Looking closely, there seemed to be something that looked like a zipper on the lower edge of her skirt. It seemed like the skirt was part of a detachable dress, but only the lower half had been removed. She appeared extremely thin, as her slim waist was even slimmer than Index's, who was rather thin herself.

She was about as tall as Index, but she wore soft wooden sandals with soles about 30 cm thick; as she walked, they made a sound like horseshoes tapping on the ground. These sandals were called "chopines", and had been very fashionable in Italy during the 17th century.

She was a nun from the Roman Catholic Church.

Her name was Agnese Sanctis.

“The situation is extremely chaotic right now; there’s so much information that we can’t handle it all. We have no idea where Orsola is right now. Also, The Book of the Law is still missing. That's really bothering us.”

None of the people present were Japanese; Agnese, however, was speaking in fluent Japanese.

“Just now, we ambushed the Amakusas as they were deporting Orsola. Although some of us managed to save her, she got taken away by them again before the rest could meet up with her. Then we got her back, but then another group of Amakusas captured her again...and this went on and on and on. Because the area in which we trapped them was too big, it ended up that each group had too few people despite our large numbers, and the Amakusas got an opportunity. Just as both sides were fighting to get Orsola, she disappeared.”

Agnese’s Japanese was mixed with polite honorifics and rude words.

If she learned her Japanese while doing her mission in Japan, then it seems like the Japanese people that she talked to were mostly detectives or policemen, Stiyl thought.

He saw Agnese turn around to look at him. Her short skirt lifted slightly, revealing even more of her snow-white thighs.

“What, got a problem? Ah, I’m sorry, it’s not that I don’t speak English, but my English has a very heavy Italian accent. I don’t really mind if I’m talking to people of other countries, but I don’t dare show my inferior English to you British.”

Stiyl did not seem to mind, as he shook the cigarette in his mouth and said,

“You don’t have to worry about those trivial issues; we can even talk in Italian.”

“Please don’t speak Italian. If I were to hear anyone speak Italian with such a strong British accent, I'd probably laugh so much that I wouldn't be able to focus on my work. In this situation, it’s better to use another language that we can communicate with, like Japanese. No one will argue if we use a language that neither of us are comfortable with.”

Agnese’s thick sandals continued to make that horseshoe-tapping sound.

It sounds like she has a point, but if she were to follow this logic, how would she communicate if she were to meet a Japanese person? Stiyl unnecessarily thought for her. Also, if she isn’t going to use the native language to speak with the people of a country, what would be the point of learning their language?

Up until now, Index had remained silent.

Stiyl stole a glance at Index, who was still unhappy as she curled her lips, not saying a single word. He then turned back to Agnese and said,

“Then, does that mean that the Amakusa Church, who stole The Book of the Law and Orsola from you guys, is a threatening force?”

“You were trying to say, ‘The largest Christian sect in the world, the Roman Catholic Church, is useless despite looking so strong’, right? To be honest, we can’t argue against that. Just by looking at the numbers and armaments, we clearly have the upper hand, but they have the geographical advantage, especially since Japan is their territory. We’re really angry over being overwhelmed by a much smaller organization, but I have to admit, they're really strong.”

“…so it seems that they won’t just surrender quietly.”

Stiyl’s voice hinted at a sense of disappointment.

Forcing an opponent to surrender after showing them a disparity in power would be the fastest and most peaceful way to resolve this situation. But now that the enemy had enough ability to reject any negotiations, it seemed that a long fight would be inevitable.

The longer the battle against the Amakusa Church, the more likely the chance that Kanzaki would intervene. This meant that, in order to complete the mission, Stiyl would have to give up all forms of compassion and take the Amakusas out quickly before Kanzaki could realize what was going on.

The objective of the Roman Catholic Church was to retrieve The Book of the Law and Orsola Aquinas, not to destroy the Amakusa Church. Once they completed their objective, the Roman Catholics would pull out immediately.

Now, they just had to try and make the Amakusas lose their will to fight.

“I’m quite unfamiliar with Christian history in Japan. Do you know what kind of techniques they use? Maybe I can make use of how the enemy fights to prepare some searching or defensive types of magical arrays or talismans.”

Although Stiyl had often fought alongside Kanzaki, who had originally been a member of the Amakusa Church, he had no intention to analyze the techniques she had used; that was because Kanzaki was a Saint, one of less than twenty people in the world who possessed the Stigma. Even if he were to do the analysis correctly, an ordinary man like Stiyl would not be able to use the techniques anyway. It was like how no one would use a 50-cm ruler to measure the distance between the Earth and the Sun.

Agnese seemed to find it difficult to answer the question that the priest had raised.

“To be honest…we haven't yet gathered enough information regarding the techniques that the Amakusas use. Since they’re derived from Saint Francisco’s[2] Society of Jesus, they should be a branch of the Roman Catholic Church. But they've been so greatly influenced by Japan and China that they’re now completely different from the Roman Catholic Church.”

Hearing that, Stiyl did not blame Agnese. These people were able to sense that the Amakusa style was mixed with some aspects of Buddhism and Shintoism after fighting them for just two days, which showed that their analytical abilities were rather strong.

Stiyl turned to look at Index, wanting to seek her advice.

Now was the right time for Index, who had knowledge exceeding ten thousand times that of a normal person, to fulfill her role. The pure-white nun remained calm and composed as she said,

“The Amakusa’s speciality is ‘secrecy’, since they’re Christians whose nature is to deceive others; they hide the teachings of Christianity inside Shintoism and Buddhism completely, and use rituals and techniques as part of their greetings, diet, and behavior in their everyday lives. They cover all their tracks so that others won’t even notice their existence. Thus, they don’t use any spells or magical arrays. They use pots, pans, kitchen knives, bathrooms, quilts, showers, humming…any thing or action that looks rather ordinary to activate their magic. Because of that, no matter how skilled the magician is, they'd be fooled once they entered the ceremonial area of the Amakusa, since, to them, it just looks like an ordinary kitchen or bathroom.”

Stiyl shook the cigarette in his mouth and said,

“So, this is a group of experts highly skilled in the Idol Theory. Hm, seems like their specialty would be long-range sniping and not close-range combat. Hopefully, they don’t have a large technique like the Gregorian Chant.”

“No. They’ve been studying other countries’ cultures ever since the Edo period, and have fused sword techniques of all ages to create their own unique style. They’re able to use any weapon with ease, whether it be a Japanese sword or a Western broadsword.”

“...they’re well-versed in both literature and martial arts? That's really troublesome.”

Stiyl felt vexed. Agnese, who had unknowingly been left out of the conversation, angrily kicked the floor with her soles. With every kick, her extremely short miniskirt would flip up slightly, making a rather funny "pop" sound in the process.

Dangling the cigarette in his mouth, the priest turned to look at Agnese.

“Can you tell me where we’ll be looking for The Book of the Law and Orsola Aquinas? We can’t just idle around and do nothing. Tell me, where do we start?”

“Ah, we’ll do the searching.”

Suddenly involved in the conversation again, Agnese was obviously flustered. She quickly straightened herself.

“Human wave tactics are our specialty. We have about 250 of our members here, so it wouldn't even matter if we were to add one or two more; it wouldn't make much of a difference. Also, you use a different command system, so it would likely cause more confusion than good.”

“...then why bring me here?”

Stiyl frowned as he asked. Agnese smiled and said,

“Simple: there’s a place we can’t search, and we need your help.”

“Which place? Japan doesn’t have a church that’s directly governed by the Anglican Church. The only place we’re allowed to search is the British embassy.”

“No, I’m talking about Academy City.” Agnese raised her hand as she said, “Once Orsola escapes to Academy City, the Amakusa won’t be able to catch her. That isn’t impossible, is it? No, it might be harder to capture her. So, I had hoped to use you guys to get in touch with Academy City. The Roman Catholic Church has no connections within Academy City, so it’s a bit bothersome for us."

“I see… but since it’s for that sort of reason, you should have told me earlier; that way, it would've saved a lot of hassle.”

Index, who was temporarily staying in Academy City, understood that there was a certain level of relationship between Academy City and the Anglican Church. Of course, the significance of this diplomatic relationship was not large, but if the Roman Catholic Church, who did not have any diplomatic relations, were to contact Academy City through the Anglican Church, who did have some link with them, there would be less of a disturbance.

“...anyway, if Orsola were to escape to Academy City, the situation would get rather complicated.”

“That's just a possibility, though. Hopefully, Orsola will not panic so much that she loses her common sense. In any case, how long would it take for you guys to contact Academy City, and confirm whether Orsola is in there or not?”

“It’s impossible to settle all those things with just a phone call; I'd have to call St. George Cathedral first, and then communicate with Academy City through them...even if it’s an emergency situation, it’d take about seven to ten minutes. If we wanted permission to enter Academy City, it’d be even more troublesome. Technically, we could still sneak in, but being in official positions, we'd be better off not doing that.”

“Anyway, please try and confirm it as fast as possible-”

Halfway through her sentence, Agnese suddenly froze.

Following her line of sight, Stiyl realized that she was looking at the entrance on the other side of the lobby. Made of five glass doors that opened outward, the theater entrance was rather big.

“What? What’s going on-?”

Even Stiyl froze after halfway through his question.

“Hm?”

On the other side of the windowpanes, there was an open patch of ground covered with asphalt: the parking lot. Although the theater was extremely big, the open area was tiny. Tenacious weeds had grown and emerged from the cracks in the hard asphalt. There was nothing else in the empty area...except for two shadows on the empty, abandoned lot.

The two shadows belonged to two people.

“Ah, it’s Touma.”

Index said the name of the rather familiar-looking boy.

“Or… Orsola Aquinas?”

Agnese said the name of the black-robed nun beside the boy.

The two people, whose names had been called, did not see the magicians that were inside the Twilight Theatre.

Part 6

Let us rewind time a little bit.

Although it was now evening and the air was cool, the fatigue brought by walking three kilometers in the summer seemed to had far exceeded Kamijou’s imagination.

Come… come to think of it, today’s Physical Education lesson and several other things have tired me out…

Kamijou, who had left his wallet in the dormitory, could only walk on.

Notably, the slightly older nun, dressed in black and walking beside him, was also penniless. God knew how she was going to take the bus.

Anyway, Kamijou, who had already walked three kilometers in this hot September, arrived at the entrance of the Twilight Theatre, sweaty and tired.

“May I ask… Sister, the weather’s so hot, and you’re wearing a long-sleeved black robe. How can you smile so happily and not even sweat at all?”

“Ah, this? Compared to spiritual suffering, physical pain is almost nothing.”

“…You’re one heavily abused sister.”

“Excuse me, how long will it take us to reach the bus stop?”

“Could you stop asking about the bus already!? Didn’t I tell you that I’m bringing you to the Anglicans? Don’t tell me that the words I’ve just spoken went in one ear and came out the other again!”

“Ah, excuse me, you’re sweating a lot.”

“Damn it! Talking to you is so hard when you keep changing the topic!”

“Don’t move. I’ll wipe it off for you.”

“Eh? What? Wait a…”

The nun suddenly pulled a handkerchief from her sleeve and wiped Kamijou’s face. Although it was just a handkerchief, it was decorated with some high-quality lace on the edges. It felt warm and had a slight aroma of roses. Kamijou wanted to escape, but he was restrained by the nun, who was using her unimaginable strength to hold his head.

“Okay, I’m done.”

The nun revealed her vibrant smile as she looked at Kamijou.

“…Um, thanks.”

Kamijou dragged his tired body into the abandoned Twilight Theatre.

The Twilight Theatre looked very large from afar, but the parking lot in front was rather small; one might suspect that it was for the employees only. Maybe it was because a bus stop and a multi-story parking garage were already next to it. The entire place was surrounded by metal plates and iron bars about two meters tall, and the entrance used by employees seemed to have been forcefully opened; one could see a very thick chain and a large lock on the floor.

There were no large pieces of machinery in the tiny parking lot. None of the building's walls had been vandalized, and the glass was not broken. Perhaps there was already a buyer, and someone came over to maintain this building because of that.

Going closer, one could observe that the Twilight Theatre was larger than a stadium, and square-shaped. The designers might have wanted to imitate a certain famous theater, or maybe they had been too lazy to design anything fancy.

It’s so hot outside, so they should be inside, right?

Kamijou looked past the entrance of the Twilight Theatre. It was a rather large entrance, with five glass doors facing outwards. It had not been sealed with anything like planks, so it looked like a case of suspension of business rather than a dump. Just as Kamijou thought that, one of the doors opened.

“Eh?”

Kamijou could not help but shout.

Two of the three people walking out of the building were familiar to him. They were Index and Stiyl.

The last one was a girl who looked even younger than Index, one whom Kamijou had never met before. She was wearing a black nun's habit, similar to that of the nun he had met at the bus stop. This girl, however, had removed the part of her skirt below the zipper, so the skirt was now a tiny mini-skirt. Looking downward, he realized that she was wearing wooden sandals with 30-cm-thick soles.

The moment Index saw Kamijou, she asked,

“Hey, Touma, where did you meet that nun?”

“...you’re asking that the moment we meet? Honestly, I have some questions for that evil priest beside you. Why did you have to go to such great lengths to play this kidnapping game with me? I want to know: Why do I have to walk three kilometers on such a hot day!? I really want to know why!”

Kamijou bellowed. Stiyl showed an impatient look, saying, “So, you just realised that I tricked you? I called you here to help us find a certain person; Index was the bait to lure you out. Oh, yeah, this is the person in charge right now: Agnese Sanctis of the Roman Catholic Church.”

Stiyl nonchalantly pointed his cigarette at the girl wearing thick-soled sandals. The girl gave a deep bow and said, “He… hello.” She might have done her research and found out that the Japanese habitually bowed to others, but her bowing so low made her look like a hotel receptionist.

Kamijou felt panicky about talking to a stranger now. Although his heart was filled with rage, he could not just vent his frustrations on a person he had just met for the first time.

It seemed like Stiyl wanted to seize the opportunity, now that Kamijou was so panicky, as he said,

“So sorry. I have no time to listen to your stupid problems. I just said that the reason I called you here was to help me find a person. Even though there are 250 people looking for her right now, there's still no news as of yet. This mission's rather urgent, as it concerns a person’s life, so I hope that you can give us your fullest attention."

“'No time to listen to my stupid problems?' You called me all the way here, you bastard, and you give me that smug look!? Damn it, what's going on? How does it concern a person’s life? Tell me everything! And, to be honest, what kind of searching ability does an outsider of the magic world like me have?! Is it alright to leave such an important task to a high school student!?”

“Hm, well, you don’t have to worry so much. You just need to hand over the nun beside you.”

“What?”

Kamijou's eyes widened. Irritated, Stiyl blew the smoke from the cigarette out of his mouth and said, “The sister beside you is the person we’re looking for. Her name is Orsola Aquinas. Thanks for your help, Kamijou Touma; you can go back now.”

“…oi, oi. Using a kidnapping as an excuse to lure me out, forcing me to use these documents that came from who-knows-where to leave Academy City, then making me walk three kilometers under the big, hot sun when the temperature's around forty degrees Celsius... and now you’re telling me to go back?”

Kamijou muttered.

“Didn’t I thank you already? What, do you expect me to treat you to some shaved ice?”

Kamijou Touma lowered his head, gritting his teeth. Index stood near him, her face looking pale, not knowing what to do.

“Pow!” Something near Kamijou’s temple broke, creating this sound.

“Up until now, I thought that, even though our personalities don’t match, at least I could make a friend. Really! That's what I thought at first! But now I've changed my mind!”

“Stop saying all that nonsense and hand Orsola over to Agnese. Don’t tell me you want me to alleviate that loneliness? Such a pity; I can’t do it, and neither do I want to. That’s too gross.”

Even the words he had said in anger had been coldly dismissed. Kamijou Touma looked like he had used up all his energy as he collapsed onto the ground.

“Ahhh… huuuuu! I have no more energy to cook dinner today! Index, our dinner tonight will be a simple takeaway pork bento.”

“No way! Touma!”

The girl with a huge appetite shouted desperately.

Kamijou ignored her as he spoke to the nun dressed in black, Orsola Aquinas,

“…oh, yeah, didn’t you say that you were being hunted? Does that situation have to do with those people looking for you? Anyway, now that you’re reunited with your comrades, you should be fine, right?”

For some reason, after hearing Kamijou’s words, Orsola trembled. It seemed like she wanted to suppress her shock, but had failed to.

Upon seeing that, Kamijou felt suspicious. Orsola was not looking at Kamijou, but at Stiyl and the rest.

At that point, Stiyl closed one eye and said slowly,

“Mm, you don’t have to feel insecure. Once the mission is over, the Anglicans will pull back. Of course, for someone of a different sect, like you, to be wary of us is alright.”

To an outsider like Kamijou, these people were either "church members" or "residents of the magic world".

But in fact, these people were divided into different sects, like Roman and English. They could even turn on each other. Just as Kamijou thought about that, a loud yet deep voice rang out.

“No way. It won't be so easy to take Orsola back.”

The voice came from above Kamijou. Everyone looked upward and saw a softball-sized paper balloon floating about seven meters above them.

The thin paper surface of the balloon continued to vibrate as a man’s voice came out of it.

“Orsola Aquinas, I believe that you yourself know this well. Instead of returning to the Roman Catholic Church, how about you join us instead, and enjoy a much more meaningful life?”

The next instant.

Suddenly, an ear-piercing sound could be heard as the blade of a longsword sprung out of the ground between Kamijou and Orsola. Since everyone’s attention had been preoccupied with the object above them, the sudden change below their feet shocked them. Then, the same sound could be heard another two times, and two more blades came out from the ground. The three blades surrounded Orsola.

The swords were like the fins revealed by sharks swimming near the surface of the water. With Orsola at the center, the three blades cut an equilateral triangle about two meters on each side.

“AAAAHH—”

Orsola, who felt her feet losing support, cried out, 30% out of fear and 70% from confusion. Before her voice could properly convert to a scream, her body, together with the triangular piece of asphalt, fell down into a deep abyss.

“Amakusa!”

Agnese shouted as she stretched her hand out, but it was already too late; Orsola’s body had been swallowed by the darkness. Kamijou rushed to the side of the triangular hole and regretfully covered his mouth.

Index v07 076.jpg

“Sewers…?”

The paper balloon above them resounded with a slightly delighted, yet clear and powerful voice.

“I knew that if I were to follow the commander of the Roman Catholics, no matter where Orsola Aquinas would run to or who she'd be captured by, she'd eventually be brought here. After hiding underground for so long, my efforts have finally paid off!”

Kamijou did not understand the situation in the least.

He did not know who was in the sewers, or why Orsola had been taken away.

But he knew one thing.

This guy had suddenly appeared and used sharp swords to steal a person away. By listening to what that guy had said, this was not a sudden event, but rather a premeditated plan, so he must have been waiting for this chance all this time.

“Damn it!”

Kamijou looked down the triangular hole. It was too dark inside to estimate the depth, though it did not look so deep. Kamijou decided to jump into the hole.

“Wait! Don’t go! Touma!”

Just as Index frantically shouted,

Several swords suddenly flashed in the darkness.

The numerous swords flashing in the darkness reflected the weak sunlight, and the dim orange light faintly showed the figures of the people in the sewers. It was like a scene in which bandits wield rusted axes and knives, hide in the tall grass along the road, hold their breaths, and patiently wait for their prey.

The thick killing intent gathered to form a hot wind, which spewed out of the hole into Kamijou’s face. Kamijou’s body went numb instantly; he could not move. Stiyl stepped beside Kamijou, pulled out four talismans with runes on them, and threw them onto the ground around him.

“My hand, bring fire, shape it into a blade, and bring forth thy judgement!”

Stiyl shouted, and, with his fingers, pointed the cigarette upward.

The trail of cigarette smoke changed into orange lines, which converged into a flaming sword.

The newly created strong glow now lit the sewer clearly.

Stiyl grabbed the flaming sword and swung it downwards...but halfway through, he stopped.

Under the glow of the flames, there was no one in the sewer.

The black figures in the sewer seemed to have vanished like the darkness. Neither the figures that had wielded the sharp swords nor Orsola, who had fallen into the hole could be seen. Like ligiidae scattering from the banks of a sea cave, they had dispersed, leaving nothing behind.

The paper balloon floating above them descended slowly.

It floated into the triangular hole, and no one bothered to stop it.

“Damn it, what’s going on?”

Kamijou said bitterly.

“Hey, you'd better give me a proper explanation!”

“If I explain it to you, then who'd be the one to explain it to me?”

Stiyl Magnus said in disdain.

Between the Lines 1

Meanwhile...

On an artificial coast, the setting sun finally disappeared as night approached.

This shore was located several hundred meters away from a beach, and a cliff about ten meters tall was nearby. In order to protect the base of the cliff from erosion, the ground had been strewn with wavestones.

After the sun had completely set, the sea became a deep black color.

As if waiting for nighttime to arrive, a hand quickly stretched out from the black sea.

It was a hand covered by a gauntlet. The heavy gauntlet-covered hand grabbed onto a wavestone, and then, a figure in a full set of Western armor left the sea. From top to bottom, every inch of the figure's skin was covered by metal armor, making it look inhuman.

Once the first one landed, twenty other knights also followed suit, appearing in the sea and climbing up the wavestones. Each of the gauntlets the knights were wearing had the words "United Kingdom" engraved on it. That meant England.

These knights had swum all the way here; it was not an analogy or a figurative way of speech, but rather a fact. They had started from England and swum past the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa, across the Indian Ocean, and into Japan.

They had used a sea current manipulation spell handed down by St. Blaise; simply put, it was a high-speed swimming spell that allowed a human to swim around the world in only three days. The spell was not cast on the armor, however, but rather on the user's body; every knight had used his own body to activate the magic spell. Right now, the armor that the knights wore did not have any magical capabilities; that was because the power of the knights was too strong, and so any magical effects would make the armor cumbersome instead. All these knights were far stronger than what any artifact could possibly make them, so if any of them were to wear magical armor, their strong powers would very likely just destroy it.

The organization these knights belonged to did not have a special name; they were just called the "Knights of England".

In the past, the British had used names like "7th-Macer" and "5th-Axer", but those names had been abandoned seven years ago--not because the knights today had lost their original expertise, but because they had mastered every technique, thus allowing them to enter a whole new realm of power.

The knights wanted this power because of the internal worries in England, which were also the reason why the Knights of England had been formed originally.

The command system in England rested on three equal powers:

The British Royal Family, composed of the Queen Regnant and her committee.

The Knights of England, made up of the Knight Leader and his fellow knights.

The Anglican Church, formed of the Archbishop and her believers.

The relationship between these three was as follows:

The British Royal Family controlled the Knights of England through direct orders;

The Knights of England made use of the Anglican Church through political items;

And the Anglican Church manipulated the British Royal Family through holy advice.

The trinity formed by those three powers created a sense of unparalleled beauty. If one side were to act on its own, the other two would create a large commotion through several means, and prevent the first side from acting. The reason Britain had the most complicated Christian culture in the world was not just that, however.

Britain, also known as the United Kingdom, was made of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Up until today, some places still used their own currency.

On the one hand, even if two countries belonged to the same Anglican sect, there could still be quarrels amongst them, such as between England and Wales. On the other hand, even if two people each belonged to the Anglican Church and the Knights, if they were both Scottish, they may secretly smuggle some money or information out. The decoder Sherry Cromwell had betrayed the Anglican Church not just because she had had her own motives; her culture had also influenced her passively.

Three sects, four cultures.

The interconnected relations between each side were what made Britain so complicated, and the mission of the Knights of England was to maintain this status quo; however, the United Kingdom had turned this to rubble.

Because of that, the Knights and the Anglican Church held some grudges against each other.

The Knights could not accept that the Anglican Church, the Anglican sect, could have power equivalent to the Knights.

The original purpose of the Anglican Church had been to counter the Roman Catholic Church. Britain had not wanted other countries to meddle in its politics, but the influence of the Roman Catholic Church had been widespread throughout the world. Had Britain not listened to the Roman Catholic Church, they would have been be charged with disobeying the teachings of Christianity. So, Britain had created the Anglican Church, an independent Christian sect, within its country. With that, Britain had been able to declare to the world that "We’re following the orders of the Anglican Church," and so did not have to be ordered around by the Roman Catholic Church anymore.

In other words, the Anglican Church had originally been just a political tool.

If the British Royal Family and the Knights of England were described as large gears, then the Anglican Church could be described as a lubricant.

But today, the Anglican Church had gained enough power to be of equal standing with the Royal Family and the Knights.

The Knights did not want to be restricted by a tool.

So, the Knights would only listen to orders from their leader or the Queen. As for orders issued by the leader of the Anglican Church, the Knights were normally apathetic about them, and sometimes even disobeyed them.

The Knights had their own ideas regarding the order from the Archbishop, which had been to assist the recovery of The Book of the Law and Orsola Aquinas.

They just needed to kill off all the Amakusa.

The Knights had no reason to follow the orders of someone they did not recognize--the Archbishop--and sacrifice their lives for her. They also did not care about the relationship between the Anglican Church, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Amakusa Church.

Even if the Amakusa were to disappear from this world, there would not be any loss in terms of their country's welfare.

With the abilities the Knights possessed, killing off the Amakusa would be too easy. The techniques of the Knights, inherited from the crusaders who had attacked the Middle East in the tenth century, had buried who-knows-how-many believers of other religions since ancient times. Their power was great enough to even wipe an island off the map.

Destroying a weak sect in the far East, the Amakusa, would not even take a day.

Even if the Amakusa had a hostage like Orsola, they could not care less.

The Anglican Church was not even interested in The Book of the Law, since its contents had been ingrained in Index’s brain. Whether Orsola lived or died, the outcome would not affect Britain. The Roman Catholic Church may try to put pressure on Britain, but was it not the Archbishop’s job to pacify the Roman Catholic Church?

The Archbishop had already warned the Knights to be wary of Kanzaki Kaori, the former leader of the Amakusa Church, but they had not taken it to heart. If Kanzaki were to attack in a fit of rage because of the destruction of the Amakusa, the Knights would just send her into oblivion, too.

That had been the knights' original plan.

But such a plan was completely decimated within three seconds.

Just as the knights climbed out of the sea and onto the rocks,

An explosion shook their area.

The explosion blasted every wavestone, each weighing more than one ton, into the air, like a volcanic eruption. The knights, who had originally been standing on the wavestones, flipped in the air to regain their balance. They then searched the ground for a suitable landing spot.

A lady stood at the center of the explosion that had launched the twenty-one knights and numerous pieces of rock.

She had black hair, tied into a ponytail behind her head, and snow-white skin covering her thick muscles. She wore a short-sleeved T-shirt with a knot tied at the bottom, a pair of jeans with one leg cut off, and top-boots. A belt ran around her waist, and under that belt hung a Japanese sword more than two meters long--Shichiten Shichitou.

Kanzaki Kaori.

She did not utter a single word as she attacked the twenty-one knights in the sky.

Now that the knights were in the sky, they could not move their bodies freely. Kanzaki’s way of attack was rather simple: strike each of the Knights in turn with her Japanese sword. Kanzaki did not unsheathe the sword, and simply swung it together with its sheath.

But she was as fast as lightning.

In actuality, the knights were only in the air for one second, but they got the feeling that their bodies were stuck in the air. Since Kanzaki was truly too fast, it was as if time had stopped and only she was moving.

If one were to see it through the normal flow of time, they would see something like an invisible whirlwind in the midst of an explosion.

After being hit by the sword, a few crashed to the ground, some buried in the cliff and others beside it, the rest skipping across the water's surface like thrown rocks.

After attacking the twenty-one Knights, Kanzaki landed steadily on a wavestone.

The moist night wind began to gently stroke her hair as knights came falling from the sky, and bell-like percussive sounds reverberated along the entire coast as they landed in the sea.

“I didn’t use my full strength, so this sort of attack probably won't cause any deaths. It's a good thing you're all wearing sturdy equipment; it let me attack without any worry.”

“You…”

Kanzaki’s calm voice, however, became the biggest mockery to the knights. One of the knights tried to stand up, but his body could not move; even budging a finger was difficult for him.

So, the knight could only use his mouth, the single part of his body that he could still move.

“Do you know who we are? Such an action from you is the same as declaring war on the United Kingdom!”

“I’m also a citizen of the United Kingdom. This has nothing to do with the Roman Catholic Church or the Russian Orthodox Church. This is an internal conflict within the Anglican Church, so I believe that it won’t bring too much trouble for the people above… Huh?”

Before Kanzaki could finish speaking, she realized that the knight who had been speaking a while ago had now fainted.

“Some of them fell into the sea...but then, they haven’t removed their swimming spells, so they probably won’t die.”

Kanzaki muttered as she faced the dark, peaceful surface of the sea.

“You say all that with a worried expression, yet there’s not even a sense of spirit in it.”

“!?”

Kanzaki looked mystified by the familiar voice. She turned around and saw a teenager with messy blond hair, blue shades, an aloha shirt, and shorts.

Tsuchimikado Motoharu.

Once Kanzaki noticed where he was standing, she was shocked. Kanzaki’s senses were rather acute, and logically, no one should be able to get near her without being discovered. But right now, the distance between the two of them was merely ten meters, and yet Kanzaki could not sense any presence from Tsuchimikado.

“So, you came to stop me?”

Kanzaki grabbed the sword handle. But the eyes behind Tsuchimikado’s sunglasses were still smiling.

“Don’t bother, Kanzaki. You can’t beat me.”

Facing such a critical situation, Tsuchimikado remained calm and collected. He did not have any weapons on him, and he was not assuming a battle pose, either.

“You’re strong, but you don’t kill. I’m an esper now, and if I were to cast magic on you, I might die. In other words, no matter who wins, death is the only option for me. Let me ask you: do you have the resolve to kill Tsuchimikado, who doesn’t want his own life?”

Kanzaki gritted her teeth.

Her magic was supposed to save people, not kill them. A battle where lives would be lost no matter which side won was meaningless to her; one might say that she would avoid it at all costs.

Her fingers, now touching the sword’s handle, started to tremble slightly.

At that moment, Tsuchimikado suddenly revealed a smile like that of an innocent child and said,

“You don’t have to stare at me like that, nee-chin. My order isn’t to stop you, but to resolve the situation before you get into trouble. Also, I have another job to do.”

“Job…?”

“That’s right. My order is to steal the original Book of the Law while the Roman Catholics and the Amakusa are fighting each other furiously.”

Kanzaki squinted her eyes and asked,

“Is this an order from the Anglican Church or Academy City?”

“I can’t comment on that. But if you think, you'll find the answer. Think about it: between the magic side and the science side, which would want the grimoire more? And which side am I working for?”

Hearing Tsuchimikado’s words, Kanzaki remained silent.

A mysterious atmosphere surrounded those two; the warm air flowing between them had been frozen.

Several seconds later, Kanzaki looked away from him.

“…I’m leaving. If you want to give a report to the higher ups, go ahead. I don’t mind.”

“I understand. Ah, I’ll take some time to clean up this place; it'd be troublesome if we were to let these guys be captured by the police.”

“Thank you.”

Kanzaki bowed to Tsuchimikado. Tsuchimikado then went on.

“Oh, yeah, nee-chin; what do you want to do now after coming all the way back from England?”

Kanzaki, whose head was still lowered, froze.

After ten whole seconds, Kanzaki raised her head.

“Yeah...”

Kanzaki forced a stiff smile, showing her anger and sorrow, and said,

“...what did I come here for?”


Notes

  1. The curriculum in Japan for primary and secondary school education has three semesters. A school year starts in April, and the second semester starts in September, after summer vacation.
  2. Francisco de Jaso y Azpilicueta was the first Christian missionary to preach to the Japanese.
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