Toaru Majutsu no Index:Necessarius Chapter1
“The Amakusa Christian Church, as its name suggests, is a Christian force that originated in Shimabara of Japan’s Kyushu region.
They looked to the mystical for concrete methods of escaping the oppression of the shogunate that governed the nation at the time. That desire colored what form of practical magical organization they became.
Due to the nature of their history, both creating strong bonds with a nation or government and large scale evangelism were not an option like they were in Europe. However, they found religious symbolism in the objects and wordings allowed of them in their state of oppression. Their method of spreading information was to do so in forms only those with the proper knowledge could understand. This method was created from a sort of Galapagos syndrome, but it was in violation of the methodology of the original Christian church. For that reason…”
As he read through the tiny letters printed on a bundle of paper, the number of wrinkles on Tatemiya Saiji’s brow grew. Once that number exceeded its limit, he threw the large bundle of paper into the air, stretched his arms toward the ceiling, and let out a high-pitched shout.
“S-substitute pontiff!! I know we have been over this countless times already, but please stop acting so oddly! There are other ways to handle the stress and pressure!!”
A girl named Itsuwa who belonged to the same organization frantically tried to calm him down as the manuscript rained down like white feathers after a large flock of doves took flight.
It was early September.
They were in a hotel on the outskirts of the British capital of London.
However, just because Tatemiya Saiji and Itsuwa were in the same room did not mean they were in the sort of “adult relationship” tabloids loved so much.
More than 10 men and women both young and old filled that space that was so small it would have received complaints even as a student apartment. They were sitting everywhere they could find a place: the chair, the bed, the side table, the windowsill, the small refrigerator, the bathtub, and even the shelves in the closet.
Just a few days earlier in their home country of Japan, the Amakusa Church had caused a great uproar over the nun Orsola Aquinas and the grimoire known as the Book of the Law. They had been forced to flee to England. They did not regret what they had done, but the world was not so kind that it would all go smoothly.
In this case…
“Honestly. If we cannot prove our usefulness and legitimacy at the information meeting, the Anglican Church might refuse to accept us, remember? If that happens, we will be back to a life on the run from the Roman Catholic Church and its two billion followers across the world. If you do not want to regret any failings in the details of our manuscript, we need to check over it one last time now!”
“Yeah, but…” Tatemiya looked up at the stain-covered ceiling as if he were leaning his entire life up against the creaking back of his chair. “I feel like giving all this formal explanation is making it harder to get the information across. It’s all being deflected by those annoying barriers.”
“What really matters is grabbing the audience’s attention! Making full use of the time we have to make a great appeal for our case is important, but we need to start by tearing down those barriers!!”
This was a situation where pulling out a slipper, slapping him on the head with it, and telling him to get to work would have sufficed, but Itsuwa’s softheartedness prevented her from doing so.
Itsuwa began thinking seriously on the topic. She had heard that, in international debates, the actual content of a speech was less important than the body language and acting very self-important. She also thought it was more Amakusa-like because they would add mystical meanings to ordinary walking methods and breathing rhythms.
“And that is why I think Itsuwa should immediately change into this female teacher set (780 pounds for top, bottom, and accessories).”
“Bfh!? Wh-what do you mean a female teacher set!? I highly doubt the PTA or the board of education endorses that!!”
“It’s Japanese style!!”
“What do an office jacket and a tight skirt have to do with Japanese culture!?”
Itsuwa protested in a high-pitched voice similar to a cat with its fur all standing on end, but she heard whispering voices spreading around her.
“But I don’t think a female teacher fits that stereotype in the West.”
“They have the guys play football, have the girls be cheerleaders, and hold dance parties in the school gym. It’s a completely different worldview.”
Tatemiya then shouted, “None of that matters! We’ll make it work!! Itsuwa, you just have to stay silent and use your arms to accentuate your breasts! If you don’t, you’ll be wasting valuable resources!!”
“What are you trying to do here, substitute pontiff!?”
“You can’t tell!? We don’t care what happens as long as it’s fun!!”
As Tatemiya blatantly deviated from the task at hand, a woman named Tsushima who had fluffy blonde hair took off one of her slippers and held it in one hand.
She swung it down toward Tatemiya’s head, intentionally missed completely, and slammed the heel of the slipper into his crotch like she was playing Menko.
“Vah!? Bhaaahh!! Agaogh…”
“We are prepared enough for the information meeting, but there is still the other way of showing our usefulness.”
Tsushima winked as she spoke and ignored Tatemiya Saiji’s completely serious reaction.
She then mentioned a major event about to begin.
“The special entrance exam for the Anglican Church’s 0th Parish of Necessarius. …If we do not pass that, they will not think they can use us.”
At 7 PM, the sky above the streets of London was filled with stars and the air had grown a bit chilly. Unlike in Japan, the souvenir shops locked their doors early as if to say, “If I’m closing, I’m closing. Who cares about the tourists?” The businessmen in suits were moving toward the bars fairly quickly.
This place contained one of the world’s leading stock exchanges that single-handedly carried the financial products of the EU, but it maintained an odd balance by also using its own currency, the pound, for the lifeblood of its economy rather than the euro. With their brick buildings and stone paving, the streets maintained the look of “the good old days”, but high-speed internet lines spread out like a spider web so stock sales could be carried out in units of a 10,000th of a second. It may have been a side effect of this that London had even more surveillance cameras than New York. Unlike the purely scientific Academy City or the entirely religious Rome and Vatican City, London had a unique scenery that contained electronic light as well as darkness lurking in holes that light did not reach.
But at the same time…
Something went unnoticed by the stylishly dressed “successful ones” who were headed to dispel their resentments with a bit of alcohol after an exhausting day of reading detailed numbers.
As they walked comfortably through those streets, so did a certain type of people known as magicians.
These magicians rode the same trains, ate at the next table over, and passed by on the crosswalks.
“Okay, okay. Good evening.”
In the great magical country of England, an organization named Necessarius existed to handle crimes caused by those magicians and to punish those magicians while being magicians themselves. Freadia Strikers, a member of that organization, spoke in a carefree voice.
“You will now be sent to the F2 entrance to the Underground at Lambeth Station. Yes, that is the testing ground we use.”
She was sitting in a building with dim, indirect lighting. It was closer to being a pub than a restaurant. The excessively large portions of the meat and potato dish seemed to suggest otherwise, but the primary draw was the alcohol.
“If you can clear this, we plan to give you the free pass. That is the key to the facilities we control. Oh, your speech at the information meeting? That is just a formality. Here at Necessarius, we will use anyone we know we can use in a fight.”
Freadia wore a showy red outfit that was halfway between a suit and a dress. However, she was still young enough to be called a girl, so she did seem to stand out a bit in that pub. But England was legendary in its tolerance for drinking and smoking. One only needed to be 16 to drink, so no one said a single word to try to stop her.
“Oh, don’t worry about that. London was the first in the world to dig subway tunnels everywhere. And that was before anyone even thought about earthquake standards. Tunnels are stacked on top of each other like mille-feuille. Yes, you would need more than your fingers to count all the unused tunnels and stations.”
Her voice was hidden by the din of everyone else in the area.
It may have been more accurate to say this was a type of chanting rather than a type of magic. People worked to pick up a specific voice out of all the noise. That meant any voice could be hidden in the background noise if people’s focus was turned from it.
She was receiving various questions and objections from a few different male and female voices.
These voices were coming from an antique rather than a communication device. It was the size of a handbag and was covered in amber wood and velvet. It was actually an old crystal radio. The workers at the British Museum would have been tempted to kill in order to get their hands on an antique like that.
However, the crystal at the heart of the device had been swapped out for something else.
“The Underground Labyrinth. …Modern dungeons are not made in strange caves. Instead, they are covered in metal shutters and the entrance is a concrete stairway.”
She received a few more questions.
Freadia removed a knife covered in a brown sauce from her fully-cooked beef. She then pointed the silver tip of the utensil toward several photographs lying on the table in turn.
(The slightly trembling tenor is Tatemiya Saiji. The polite soprano must be Itsuwa. And not only do they already sound like native Britons, but have they even picked up the detailed intonations of London?)
She lightly poked at the crystal radio with the end of her knife.
The crystal had been replaced with a modified version of a precious metal famous for killing each of its owners. If the curse that killed people according to fate was neutralized, it could be quickly made into a convenient communication method. Then again, it was made so the deadly aspect could be immediately brought back if the balance of the tuner was intentionally thrown off.
(Tch. Those damn Asian intellectuals. How about I give you a bit more noise?)
She was a stereotypical resident of that city who absolutely hated when it was referred to as a giant of a bygone era.
Of course, she was only meant to watch over them. The curse was a secret system meant to incapacitate the Amakusas if they disappeared in the middle of the test. She was not actually supposed to harm them for her own personal reasons.
As she poked at the large dial a second and third time, Freadia pouted her lips.
A job was a job.
She stabbed into one of the potatoes with her fork and continued speaking as the Anglican Church’s examiner.
“The code for the shutter is a simple numerical cipher. The entrance exam does not begin until you reach a specific point in the Underground, but you should just turn around and leave if you have difficulty here.”
Itsuwa and the rest of the Amakusas made their way inside the sealed off Underground station.
They had no communication devices, but they could hear a female voice in the center of their heads as if they were wearing headphones.
“The mission itself is simple.”
The station was no longer in use, but the passageway they walked through was filled with the bright illumination of fluorescent lights. Churches connected to an entire nation were quite a bit different from them. The Amakusas viewed complete secrecy as the norm, so blatantly falsifying electricity costs like this seemed like suicide.
“Several tunnels connect to that station. They are all abandoned and the rails have been partially removed, so there is no danger of a train passing through.”
The fluffy blonde-haired woman named Tsushima turned toward Itsuwa and brought her index finger up to her lips.
She was likely warning Itsuwa not to rely on the fluorescent lights.
They had to consider the possibility that the area would be wrapped in darkness as soon as the exam began.
“As Necessarius uses it, it has of course not been left unaltered. It is filled countless varieties of traps, both those that use magic and those that do not.”
It was a very unpleasant structure.
Simply having plenty of complicated, high-level, magical traps would be better. Magic could be dealt with using magic. However, when traps that did not use any magic power were mixed in, the risk of overlooking something rose.
If all the lights went out when the exam began or at some other time, that risk doubled.
“(She’s trying to scare us into losing time. I’m skeptical whether these non-magical traps are there at all.)”
The stage was an abandoned Underground station and a complex arrangement of tunnels.
That stage was filled with many traps.
Itsuwa could easily guess that the special entrance exam would test their ability to escape the labyrinth and reach a certain point within a specified amount of time.
But her guess was too naïve.
“You will now map out every path within two kilometers of that station. Yes, all of them. And not just the paths, but the locations of the traps, the danger zones, and the power supply routes too. Map out everything needed to walk safely through.”
In other words, they were not being told to evade all of the traps.
It was the opposite.
They were being told to trigger all of the traps yet survive.
“By the way, you will be scored by earning points. By that, I mean you will earn points for every item you draw on your map that is needed to ensure one’s safety. If you do not reach a certain number of points, we will unfortunately not be able to accept you.”
“That’s just cruel,” groaned Tsushima as she brushed up the bangs of her fluffy blonde hair.
“You have three hours from the moment the test begins. This is a group match, so the distribution of manpower is up to you. You can stay in large groups to ensure you can handle the traps or you can split into smaller groups to search a wider area more quickly. All of that is up to you.”
Tatemiya, who held the position of substitute pontiff, wordlessly raised his index and middle finger and lightly waved them.
The approximately 50 men and women behind him silently split into groups of two or three.
Itsuwa was paired with Tsushima.
Tatemiya asked a question to the voice in their heads.
“How will we draw our map?”
“Did you think we would hand you a convenient blank map? Figure something out yourselves. You can search for something to use as paper, you can spray paint it on the wall, or you can memorize it. You need to learn that battles do not always start after everything is prepared. Any other questions?”
“When does it begin?”
As soon as that answer came, all of the lights in the station went out and complete darkness fell over the area.
As Freadia Strikers of Necessarius listened to the male and female voices coming from her old crystal radio, she stabbed her spoon into a dish of seafood pilaf. She usually lived off of bread and pasta, but she would choose rice before and after work because she was fine with anything then. Her reasoning was that something filling was best when she had no guarantee when her next meal would be, but it was actually more of a superstition than anything.
(Now then. It comes down to the next three hours.)
This exam was carried out completely automatically.
Freadia’s job was not to support the Amakusas or to control the magical traps. She was mostly meant to observe the Amakusas as they took the exam.
That was why she had a communication line connected to them using the cursed precious metal.
(If the church is afraid of having them run off, why not hold the exam outside of England?)
Freadia brought a bit of pilaf containing a small shrimp into her mouth, grimaced, and pushed the remaining shrimps to the edge of her plate with her spoon.
She could hear voices coming from the crystal radio.
“Dammit. We’re trapped in the dark here…”
“Shh. She might still be listening. No matter what she said, we do not really know how we are being scored here.”
“And I don’t like that communication method. Who knows how far it was applied. She might be able to hear our thoughts as well.”
It did not actually have that strong an output, but Freadia saw no need to inform them of that.
She dug a piece of squid out of the pilaf and continued her work.
“C’mon, it may be called the Underground, but it isn’t like there is any danger of running out of oxygen. If you have time to sit around chatting, shouldn’t you get down to business?”
If they were crushed by self-produced unease and fear, it was all over for them.
The issues Necessarius handled did not merely require skill and reason. They often swallowed up the minds of those that saw them and filled them with a fanatic tenacity. If one was too easily influenced by the surrounding situation and environment, they would never clear the very first step. It was the same as a translator who did not speak a foreign language.
“I think this is a lot easier than what we had to do when I joined,” commented Freadia.
“May I ask what that was?”
“I was thrown into the North Sea onboard a broken submarine. After that, I had to make it to the ocean surface within the time limit. Once that time limit passed, the explosives attached to the outside of the sub would blow it all up. Quite simple, don’t you think?”
Year by year, the exam was simplified and made easier.
It was possible the organization had realized how pointless it was to kill off the useful people they had scouted from around the world.
Even so, it was still difficult enough that a slight mistake could be literally fatal.
As soon as the Underground station’s lights went out, the members of the Amakusa Christian Church all switched over their focus.
They had methods of acquiring light, methods of seeing in limited light, and methods of not relying on their vision at all.
Itsuwa and the others split into groups of two or three. They naturally considered the possibility of traps that would react to methods of seeing in the dark.
For example, countless dolls could be set that would gather around light like insects.
For example, a flash of light could be emitted to take advantage of any night vision ability.
For example, the area could be filled with a flammable gas that would explode if they lit a fire.
“Gather back here in two and a half hours! We can pool our information to make the map then!”
“U-um, how do we decide who takes what route?”
“By whoever gets there first!! If you good-for-nothing men go with a ladies first policy, you’ll be stuck with the worst ones!!”
The blonde fluffy haired Tsushima half-dragged Itsuwa down from the dust-covered and musty platform and onto the rails.
Itsuwa held a spear. Tsushima held a rapier.
Phosphorous lights different from a flame gathered at the tip of both weapons as the two ran into the semicircular tunnel. They arrived at a Y-shaped fork and continued down the right fork after marking as such on the wall.
“The standard strategy for a maze is to keep your hand on the wall and always turn in the same direction, right?”
“That’s the standard, yes. But it’s pointless if you end up looping around or being warped.”
It sounded like she was talking about a video game, but normal people were unaware that similar phenomena could be created in local environments.
Those normal businessmen were the ones walking home from work far above this abandoned tunnel.
“The annoying part is that we can’t just avoid that kind of thing. We have to fall for it to see what it is.”
“Do you honestly think we can complete the map and trap list within the time limit?”
Tsushima readily replied to Itsuwa’s question while illuminated by a pale light similar to an amplified version of a firefly’s light.
“Not a chance.”
“That’s what I thought…”
They were being scored by earning points. They had to walk through the entire labyrinth to make the map. And most importantly, not a word had been said about being disqualified if the map was not complete.
That meant the most important part was…
“The labyrinth and the traps are important, but the exit comes first. If we don’t have at least one safe route from the starting point to another exit, we can’t fulfill even the most basic requirement.”
“We have no guarantee they will wait around for us.”
They heard a clunk come from further down the gently curving tunnel.
Something was approaching.
However, it was not a human. A vibration shook the tunnel a bit, so it was clearly something larger.
Tsushima approached the tunnel wall and spoke.
“She said there wouldn’t be any trains, right?”
“Yes, but can we trust what she said?”
Tsushima was unsure what to say, but she shouted out in an attempt to contact that person who was not present.
“What is it?” replied the voice.
“Are we allowed to destroy the traps to ensure our safety?”
“Didn’t I say how you handle this is up to you?”
“Perfect,” muttered Tsushima as she held her rapier at the ready.
Itsuwa’s spear was taller than she was, but she skillfully pointed its tip forward and raised her guard further.
The approaching object appeared from around the gentle curve of the tunnel.
Unlike in Japan, eating out in Europe was meant to last a long time. From the aperitif to the dessert, it was not unusual for the meal to last two to three hours. And the cultural idea of remaining quiet during a meal did not exist here. They would enjoy their meal such that it became unclear whether the food or the chatting was the main purpose.
It was the perfect culture for taking up a position at a table and gracefully taking care of certain types of jobs.
“Geh!? That’s just cruel!! What is this!? Is it based on a torture device!?”
“Yeah, I can’t think of a proper use for a water wheel underground…”
Freadia Strikers used a spoon to stir the corn potage she had newly ordered and she listened to a female voice coming from her crystal radio. She had assumed the potage would come in a mug, but it had come in a soup bowl. She was in a bit of a pinch.
“Burp… Well, has anyone dropped out yet?” she asked.
“Does it matter in a group match like this? As long as one person finishes, we all clear.”
Someone like that would fall in a real battle.
One’s comrades would not always be around to save you. There were even times when one needed to temporarily doubt your comrades.
(They’re too soft. Can we really give the free pass to people like this?)
She would have been irritated if they were able to stand up to her, but it was also a problem if they were not reliable. Freadia fell into that stereotypically dangerous thought pattern.
As the corn soup covered with croutons made her feel a bit dizzy, she continued speaking.
“Having a closed environment is the foundation of magical combat. In fact, we construct temples by isolating a miniature world and twisting the laws within to a certain extent. The more special the location, the easier that is to do.”
“So you mean it’s like a game where the objective is dyeing as much of the field in your own colors as possible. I understand that reasoning, but…ksshh…”
Freadia Strikers frowned slightly.
She poked at the crystal radio with her spoon and thought about what could have caused the static.
The approaching object was blood red.
It slimily reflected the light in a way that neither wood nor metal would. It was reminiscent of something greasy.
It was a gear 50 centimeters thick and with a diameter of 3 meters.
Three or four of them were rolling forward on their own.
Itsuwa saw through it at once.
“The breaking wheel. Are they using an execution tool motif!?”
The gears did not speak.
Instead, one took action.
Its rotation speed increased. After it tore into the ground like a slipping tire, it shot toward Itsuwa and Tsushima like a bullet. It was charging forward with its great mass. It was an extremely simple method of attack, but the gear used its momentum to expand its mobile area as if sticking to the walls and ceiling. It rolled along a complex trajectory as it approached.
The sight brought the image of giant teeth to Itsuwa’s mind.
Not fangs, but teeth.
Instead of something sharp meant to stab into its enemy, this was a flat molar that crushed and chewed everything with great pressure before swallowing it all.
“Itsuwa!!” shouted Tsushima from directly next to Itsuwa.
This focused Itsuwa’s mind back on reality.
This was no time to be filled with fear.
Itsuwa pointed her spear forward, held the entire handle up diagonally, and finally removed her fingers from the spear’s handle so she was supporting from below with only her palms.
The giant gears reached Itsuwa an instant later.
It moved across the fixed handle of the spear as if it were a rail. The gear shot by over Itsuwa’s head and flew into the air as if it had gone off a ski jump.
Itsuwa felt pain as her backbone creaked.
However, the three-meter gear did not lose its balance.
It attached to the ceiling and slid back down to the ground by following the wall of the semicircular tunnel. It did not lose any momentum and in fact gained some as it charged toward Itsuwa once more.
(The breaking wheel. The most well-known is the French style. A giant metal object modeled after a wheel or gear would be used to execute someone by beating and bludgeoning. The wheel could be used as a restraint to strap the criminal’s broken limbs to or it could be used as the blunt weapon directly used for the bludgeoning, but this looks like the simple version used to break the criminal’s arms and legs.)
Repeating the same process again and again would be pointless.
Itsuwa held up her spear and glared at the approaching gear as she rapidly thought about what to do next.
(From a practical and logical point of view, a hammer or club would have been easier. The reason to keep it as a wheel is due to incorporating aspects from an ancient sacrificial ritual for the sun. In that case…!!)
Itsuwa spun her spear in her hand like a baton.
The circle this drew seemed to correspond to the giant approaching gear.
(The power of heaven is always represented by the sun. Even in the depths of the earth where no light reaches, there is nowhere the Lord’s power cannot reach. Purify our peril with light as bright as midday!!)
In the next instant, a pure white explosion occurred in two different places.
The first was along the circle drawn by Itsuwa’s spear. The second was the approaching gear. The two explosions matched each other perfectly and the dark tunnel was filled with brilliant light.
The giant gear that had been strengthened by the magical symbolism of the sun lost its shape like melted wax.
“It worked? In that case…!!”
It was not just similar to wax.
“Not yet, Itsuwa!! Its true nature is wax. Melting it isn’t enough to stop it!!”
Itsuwa frantically brought her spear back up at the ready as she saw something like splashing liquid.
Something was blooming like a much too large flower from a South American jungle. The several-meters-long petals of this flower approached as if to swallow up Itsuwa. Dozens if not hundreds of sharp stake-like objects protruded from its surface.
There were two cruel devices that not even a child would need an explanation for.
The first was the guillotine.
The second was the iron maiden.
Itsuwa trusted the bad feeling rushing down her spine and, ignoring all of her actions up to that point, leaped backwards with all her might.
At the same moment, eight man-eating flower pedals slammed shut as if taking a bite out of the air.
Sharp pain ran through the back of her right hand.
She had somehow avoided being bitten apart, but one of the stakes had torn Itsuwa’s skin as if she had caught her hand on a nail sticking out of a wall.
With a sound like sludge running through a drain, the blood-colored man-eating flower lost its shape and returned to being a sticky mass. It was as if it were trying to raise itself to even further levels of cruelty.
The sight of that fresh blood seemed to shock Tsushima more than Itsuwa herself.
“It’s really trying to kill us!?” she shouted.
The female voice that seemed to belong to their examiner replied directly into the back of her mind.
“Well, yes. They were special made by mixing a witch’s potion into corpse wax taken from prisoners. They aren’t happy unless they are allowed to go at least this far.”
“Corpse wax… All of this is made of that…?”
Under special circumstances, an enshrined human corpse would not decay and the fat in the body would transform into wax. In a way, it could be seen as a means of eternally preserving a corpse, but it was usually an incidental event as opposed to the intentional Buddhist Sokushinbutsu or Egyptian mummification.
The usage of corpse wax did not have a real religious foundation. Instead, it had countless legends in folklore. That folklore included the idea that creating a candlestick out of a prisoner’s arm once it turned to corpse wax would invite good fortune.
Itsuwa looked back toward the hunk of wax that was the color of blood.
It had originally been a giant three-meter gear. How many corpses’ worth of fat had been needed to create that? It was of course possible to safely and periodically gather fat from living humans by using liposuction, but the Anglican Church was known to have carried out their inquisition on a greater scale and more severely than anywhere else in the world. Itsuwa doubted they would have done that.
“This is no time to be overwhelmed,” warned Tsushima with rapier in hand. “It’s still moving. It’s trying to take our lives! It doesn’t matter if it was made of humans. Standing here blankly will only get us added to the wax!!”
The liquefied mass of wax took a large action.
It moved straight up as if it was standing.
(But wait a second. Wax? Folklore? Something doesn’t fit here…)
“They have no core,” said the female voice. “They have no weak point. No matter how much you destroy them, they will simply change form. Now, a question: what will you do about such an unreasonable trap?”
“We just have to analyze its symbolism,” spat back the blonde fluffy haired Tsushima as she held up her rapier. “What is the symbolic pillar of these corpse wax gears!? Maybe we have to remake the fat into soap. Maybe we have to forge criminal documents declaring them innocent. At any rate, if we find the strongest pillar giving this trap its form, it will cease to function!!”
“But will it actually go that well…ksshh…?”
Itsuwa frowned slightly.
The slight static appeared as a stabbing headache in her temple.
What was that static?
At that time, the girl charged with observing the Amakusa Christian Church as they took the special entrance exam, Freadia Strikers, had not yet noticed the oddity.
As she listened to the various voices coming from the crystal radio, she poked at her ice cream dessert with a small fork.
(If they keep this up, this should make for a good fight.)
It seemed to be a hard fight, but it was praiseworthy that not one of them had dropped out by the midpoint. What was needed first and foremost in a battle was not the ability to always spot the enemy or the firepower to always defeat the enemy. It was the ability to come back alive. Everything else could be gained through experience later. That crucial ability was the only one that required a natural sense to pull off.
(Well, even if it is a mock battle, they will still die if they are killed. Even if it is only on paper, the current link will send the damage back to them.)
She thought to herself while scraping off a piece of the ice cream that had a reddish-purple wine-based syrup on it.
(I still cannot get over the idea of a tabletop game with magical symbols incorporated in. It makes me shudder just to think about a battle where the roll of a dice is directly linked to your life or death.)
In truth, the special entrance exam the Anglican Church had given to the Amakusa Christian Church was a mental task similar to meditation. The target members were thrown into a small underground room where they perfectly simulated a nonexistent incident based on a prepared rulebook, parameters, dice, map, and the temporary character explanation they were meant to role play as.
The most basic act for a magician was the mental task of converting their body’s life force into magical power. Another basic act was dividing off a miniature world as a temple and temporarily twisting the laws within in order to call in the power of leylines, Telesma, or something else. Performing those different ceremonies could be called the miniature version of the modern Western magic style of summoning.
(Well, an organization needs more than just brute strength. Searching, healing, communicating, negotiating, concealing… You need many different kinds of pieces to play chess. But I do wonder if it’s okay to let in people like Orsola Aquinas who took the exam earlier.)
Several photographs were spread out on the table.
They pictured the members of the Amakusa Christian Church. And she had more data than that. She had a diagram detailing the gimmicks used in this exam and report on both the historical background and magical conditions of the area used as the stage.
Itsuwa or Tsushima would have cried out in protest had they seen what was in those documents.
However, this was not because they detailed even more cruel tricks they had not seen yet.
It was the wrong location.
Itsuwa and the others had entered an Underground station in Lambeth.
The diagram on that table started from a completely different Underground station in Soho.
Of course, what Itsuwa and the others had experienced was not an incredibly high quality illusion or a virtual battle taking place in an inner universe.
They had been forced into a physical battle in reality that the real Anglican Church was not aware of.
(Even if the exam gets simplified more and more each year, I feel left behind by the modern age. Well, more and more supernatural phenomena are being symbolized and simplified into magical circles, so it makes sense that you can create the ultimate magical combat stage on paper.)
Of course, Itsuwa and the others were not actually fighting on paper.
At that very moment, they were battling a giant trap made of corpse wax in an Underground tunnel.
There was an explanation for Freadia Strikers thinking otherwise.
There was only one possible explanation.
It started with a magical transmission from Tatemiya Saiji.
Just like Itsuwa and Tsushima, he would have been working hard as he purposefully activated the traps in the Subway tunnels. However, he was the man who held the position of substitute pontiff. To put it bluntly, his skill in magic had to be greater than Itsuwa’s.
And Tatemiya was speaking in the voice of someone who had been driven to the edge of a cliff.
“This is odd. This is really odd!!”
“That strange static made me curious, so I tried amplifying it. It turns out there are two communication lines in place on top of each other. There are two sets of communications meant for Freadia Strikers! And one of them is a fake!!”
If Freadia A and Freadia B were communicating with Itsuwa and the others at the same time, the real Freadia and the Amakusas would both have realized something was wrong.
However, there was a way of preventing that.
It was a very simple method.
“You mean there is someone fooling us as well?” asked Tsushima in a trembling voice.
“If the real Amakusas and the fake Freadia are connected and the fake Amakusas and the real Freadia are connected, both sides will not realize they are being deceived. Some unknown person is taking the official Necessarius entrance exam while avoiding an official inspection!!”
“W-wait a second! If the free pass given to those that pass the exam is given to this suspicious person, they will be able to freely enter the storage areas of Necessarius’s powerful spiritual items and grimoires, right!?”
And in response…
The voice of Freadia Strikers – or more accurately, of someone claiming to be her – sounded directly in Itsuwa and the others’ heads.
“Hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee!!!!!!”
“Dammit!!” shouted Tsushima.
Meanwhile, the mass of wax took its next action while standing up. Pieces melted off of its surface and detailed protrusions and indentations appeared on what looked like a giant pillar.
It gained two arms and two legs.
It produced smooth feminine lines that looked like…
“Me?” said Itsuwa in confusion. “Oh, I get it now! The most well-known folklore related to wax is the curse doll. If you put the hair or fingernail of your target inside, you can attack them remotely by damaging the doll with a pin. That wax doll sorcery is similar to the Ushi no Koku Mairi!!”
With a sticky noise, the red wax doll charged carelessly toward Itsuwa.
It held a red spear which it stabbed toward her.
The attack did not come at such great speed that it could not be followed visually. Nor did it employ sleight of hand to distract from the true attack.
If Tsushima had not stuck her rapier in between them, Itsuwa would have been skewered through the stomach.
For some reason, she had been unable to respond.
She saw it coming, but she had been unable to defend or evade.
The wax doll’s spear tip had cleanly passed through the gaps in Itsuwa’s defenses like someone playing their hand in rock-paper-scissors after seeing their opponent’s hand.
“It’s a curse!” shouted Tsushima as she parried the wax doll’s spear with her rapier. “By taking in its target’s blood, it can carry out attacks that are guaranteed to bring death to that target. That is the true form of this magic! Now that it has completed its wax doll form, all of its attacks will reach you. Even if the attack would be easily handled by anyone else, you can never escape if it is targeting you!!”
If Tsushima did not hold back every single one of the wax doll’s attacks, Itsuwa would be killed in a single blow.
But that was not the worst part of the situation.
The biggest problem was that it would all be over if Tsushima was so much as scratched while defending Itsuwa. If Tsushima’s blood was taken and another wax doll was added, Itsuwa and Tsushima would be instantly killed while unable to resist.
“Really, we just needed you trapped in there until we had the free pass,” said the female voice. “But we have no real reason to want you alive. In fact, having you dead would be safer. So, sorry, but please die for our sake.”
Tsushima handled the repeated attacks from the wax doll’s spear. Even though Itsuwa was able to follow each and every one of those attacks, she knew she would not be able to block even one of them. Like a goalie who misread a penalty kick in soccer, Itsuwa’s defense would be completely off sync with the actual attack.
There was more than just the one wax doll.
The remaining giant gears charged toward Tsushima from multiple directions.
If Tsushima evaded, Itsuwa would be left defenseless and would be immediately killed by the wax doll. However, Tsushima could not defend against all of the approaching attacks. Even if she could handle the wax doll, she would be crushed by the gears.
It was one or the other.
There was currently no way of saving both their lives.
The multiple giant gears unhesitatingly attacked from multiple directions in order to crush Itsuwa and Tsushima. The gears forcefully crashed into each other. A tremendous sound of destruction exploded within the Underground tunnel as if large trucks had run straight into each other.
And Itsuwa and Tsushima…
The two stood just a few centimeters from where the giant gears had collided.
“This is the story of paradise before it was corrupted by sin.”
By taking in Itsuwa’s blood, the wax doll had obtained the ability to produce attacks she could never avoid.
But this was not something that “just so happened” to occur. There had to be a reason behind it.
“God created man and arranged to give everything to him, but the perfectness left the man feeling uneasy. The man could not live in solitude and the animals living in paradise were not enough to fill his heart.”
To identify Tsushima as a target, a curse using a hair or fingernail would use a method known as “infection”. Even if a portion of the body was cut away, it was thought to maintain a close connection to its owner. That was why burning the fingernail of a hated enemy or putting the fingernail in a doll and destroying that doll would also harm the original owner.
“God, being generous, was willing to use his power to fill the man’s heart, but the man did not choose that method.”
In this case, the connection was that of one’s life force.
The power created within Itsuwa’s body was being bypassed through the wax doll as well. By detecting the changes in the flow of that power, it could read Itsuwa’s defense and evasion patterns and produce an attack that slipped through the gaps. That was why Itsuwa could not avoid the wax doll’s attacks no matter what she tried.
And in that case…
“That one man should have been enough of a beginning in paradise. Two starting points are not needed. Each subsequent man created from then one should have been a single point.”
They only needed to sever the flow of that power.
Or to move it elsewhere.
There were many different legends perfect for doing just that.
“God pitied the lonely man and created a partner from his rib. That partner’s name was Eve. That is the name of the starting point and model for all women!”
Because Eve was made from Adam’s rib, they returned to their whole form when they married. That was the concept behind the standard weddings performed in churches.
When performing large scale and systematic magical ceremonies, this method would be used to take the life force needed to refine magic power and concentrate it on a single point.
It was a standard method of creating a boost.
However, it could only be used by women.
“All women come from the missing rib and must join with their lifelong partner through marriage!!”
As soon as Itsuwa let out that cry, the giant gears and the wax doll that had collided lost to their momentum and were smashed to pieces.
They shattered like a piece of pottery, but the pieces turned into a sticky liquid as soon as they struck the floor and walls.
“Ugh…” groaned Itsuwa as the pieces struck her from nearby.
She was covered in red wax all across her face, her chest, and her lower stomach. The pieces of wax were still wriggling creepily, but they showed no sign of gathering together and reforming into a torture or execution device. It seemed this trembling was their death throes rather than a conscious action.
“I see,” said Tsushima with a sigh as she wiped away the sweat on her brow from all the effort she had gone through. She stared down at the wax that was not harming its target despite being stuck on that target’s skin. “So they were created to attack any life force they detected in their territory. The wax doll then increased its accuracy by identifying a specific target. …Come to think of it, these were made of corpse wax taken from the dead. It may have also incorporated a method of having the dead attack the living.”
“Just like with an anti-missile flare, this was no real threat once you can fool its sensor.” Itsuwa turned back the way they had come. “Sticking around to clean up here isn’t going to help. Let’s just leave this here and head back up through the station.”
“That was a horrible test,” sighed Tatemiya Saiji after the Amakusas had gathered at the Underground station and made their way safely aboveground.
The blonde fluffy haired Tsushima asked, “What will the Anglican Church do?”
“If they were planning to be friendly, they would have sent backup. But I see no sign of that. That means the situation is quite bad.”
“The free pass,” groaned Itsuwa.
That incantation allowed anyone to pass through the magical locks controlled by Necessarius. If the mystery attackers had tricked the real Freadia Strikers and obtained that free pass, this truly was a crisis.
Powerful weapons could be stolen from the storehouses that held various spiritual items and powerful grimoires.
The security protecting England’s VIPs could be neutralized for an assassination.
The means of attack with the free pass were so many that there was no way of guessing the enemy’s next move and lying in wait. And the more pressing issue for the Amakusas was…
“This happened during the entrance exam to test our ability,” said Tatemiya with a bitter expression. “The Anglican Church has not yet accepted us as allies. There are likely groups within the church that are suspicious of us. So if a major incident occurs using the free pass supposedly given to us, the odds are pretty good we’ll be the top suspects.”
The reason the Amakusas were in England in the first place was because fleeing there was their only hope after the previous incident they had caused.
There was only one method of ensuring they were accepted by the Anglicans.
“We need to do this on our own,” said Tatemiya who represented them all. “We will track down who is behind this and capture them before they can cause any damage. I can’t think of any other way of keeping the suspicion off of us.”
Freadia Strikers looked puzzled.
After confirming the completion of the special entrance exam, she had given the free pass to the participants. Immediately afterwards, the crystal radio had ceased to produce even a single voice.
(It can’t be… No, it can’t be!!)
She immediately grabbed the large dial on the crystal radio. She twisted it as hard as she could. The harmless curse immediately regained its lethality and it should have destroyed the minds of those on the other end using chaotic static.
However, Freadia heard an unpleasant bursting noise.
She grimaced and pulled her hand away from the crystal radio as a stench similar to melting cables wafted up from the device.
She clicked her tongue and opened the outer casing of the crystal radio.
In the incredibly simple structure, the “core” made of pyrite had broken to an amusing extent.
“A curse reversal, hm?”
Her method of communication had long since been analyzed and a countermeasure had been put together.
She had no way of knowing where these people had gone after taking the free pass. They had vanished into the shadows of London and could easily penetrate Necessarius’s most important facilities.
“Damn. Do you have any idea how much I’ve spent buying these on online auctions?” she muttered in annoyance.
Freadia pulled out a rectangular pill case made of plastic. The small box was divided into multiple compartments and several stones were held within.
She removed one and placed it into the core of the crystal radio.
She closed the casing and manipulated the dial again to contact her higher ups in Necessarius.
“Yes, yes. Sorry. It seems they are so skilled it isn’t even funny. Yes. They shook off my curse. I do not know how they will use the free pass, but I doubt they disappeared for no reason. Yes. And so I am requesting reinforcements. What? You want me to actually work for once because you pay me a salary? We are fed by the people’s tax money, so I thought we were pretty much the same thing as government workers.”
Even as she spoke in a serious tone, Freadia unconcernedly scooped up the last bite of ice cream and brought it to her mouth.
She wiped her mouth with a napkin and continued speaking as she grabbed her receipt.
“Yes. Please eliminate the Amakusas as soon as they are found. Yes, I mean that in the standard and literal way. Please kill them all.”
The pursuer and the pursued.
A battle in the complexly laid out city of London was about to begin.