Apocalypse Witch:Volume1 Chapter1

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Chapter 1[edit]

Part X[edit]

Elicia Luxverg is known as one of the Problem Solvers.

That lady is always busy battling the Threat that has shaken so many of our lives, but today she has kindly offered to spare some of that time for us!

“You exaggerate how busy I am, so please relax and enjoy the interview.”

Miss Elicia, you are known to have protected dozens of cities, regions, and countries from the Threat and your many legends include the salvation of New York, the defense of Hong Kong, and the protection of Sydney. You are also well known for not discriminating based on politics, ideology, religion, military level, race, or any other basis when it comes to reaching out a helping hand to a region in need. Of course, the same applies to the rest of the Problem Solvers as well.

“I just so happened to be dispatched to heavy populated areas, that’s all. When we receive information on the Threat, it does not matter if it will happen in a metropolis of a million or at a log cabin deep in the mountains. We must do everything we can and there is nothing more to it.”

All information on the Threat and your battles is kept hidden, but it seems you have earned the nickname of Saurus. Can you tell us why that is?

“Heh. I am unable to answer due to those very information restrictions. Sorry about that.”

Can you tell us anything about your future plans?

“Again, the information restrictions do not let me.”

In addition to the aforementioned battles, you are also heavily involved with the infrastructure for garbage disposal. I do apologize, but I have trouble seeing what a lovely woman such as you has to do with waste disposal.

“Nothing in this world is beautiful or filthy. There is only the cycle of resources and products, so if one side grows stagnant, the other will collapse as well. Everything on this planet is finite. Efficient recycling and the new resources acquired through it are the only way to extend humanity’s lifespan. In a way, that is even more crucial than combating the Threat. …Oh, am I starting to give you a headache?”

How about we end the discussion of your work here.

Now, according to some exclusive information we have received, you are currently single. That seems like such a waste for a woman of your caliber! What kind of guy would be in luck if he hoped to marry up with you?

“I really wish the information restrictions could have covered this as well, but you can’t have everything in life. Also, I do not like the entire concept of ‘marrying up’. If that is why you are interested in me, then don’t bother and save us both some time.”

So are you the type who wants to be supported by a man?

“Surely even I have the right to dream of a Prince Charming.”

Oh, what’s this!?

“Why the surprise? But if you must know, step one for winning my heart is to be stronger than me. Are you listening, all you princes out there? I await your challenge.”

Part 1[edit]

The smiling face on the TV vanished as the screen went black.

No one had hit the remote’s power button. They had instead thrown the remote and broken the LCD screen.

The crystal girl in a clear white dress slowly tilted her head in the cramped room.

“Sacri-sama?”

“I can’t stand it.”

“But the TV did nothing wrong.”

“I’m sorry.”

Karuta obediently bowed toward the silent TV, but it was too little too late.

Ocean Crystal Magic Academy Grimnoah had been annihilated in a single day. The students and teachers were gone. How could that woman even talk about the Threat when she was destroying the world too?

Karuta had escaped the disaster with relatively minor injuries and Marika had injured both her legs during the escape but did not have to worry about any lasting effects. That was all thanks to the healing provided by Crystal Magic.

This was a tropical island nation relatively close to that equatorial region of sea.

The people on that island of junk spoke a mixture of languages including English, Chinese, Korean, Tagalog, and Japanese. A cheap used RV was hidden in a small cave on its coast.

Their academy had possessed a 500m ship of a new era, all the latest Crystal Magic equipment, 700 specialists counting both the students and teachers, and even escort ships, but nothing remained of that former glory.

Karuta heard a squeaking similar to a rusty faucet being turned.

It came from the sexy girl with long black hair inside the same RV as him.

Her name was Omotesandou Kyouka.

She had been a Regulation 3 and the Student Council President, but no matter how many commands she sent from her printed circuit board, her Crystal Blossom would no longer produce armor for her. Nor could she pull out her Flamberge, a flame sword said to be more than twice her height. The bare minimum of communication was the most she could manage. She had been talented enough that it was rumored she could travel not just across the ocean and through the sky but between dimensions as well, but due to a serious wound to her back, she could no longer even get out of that wheelchair on her own.

What had happened during that hell?

As long as the wound was not fatal, if a Crystal Magician’s limbs were chopped off, the damaged portion would crystallize and a rapid healing process would begin. After about 30 seconds, the crystal shell would be destroyed and they would be as good as new. But Karuta had heard the process would not function properly if a piece of shrapnel or something was lodged in the body such that it obstructed the healing.

Marika had been lucky and he had been even luckier.

But the Student Council President did not bemoan her fate.

In fact, she was wise enough to understand she was lucky simply to have escaped that hell alive.

“We were shown just how powerless we are, but we still chose a vehicle as our base. Is that a sign of just how much that school has influenced us?”

She spoke thoughtfully while slowly stroking her fingers along the edge of the fold-up table. A few handmade experimental Crystal Magic tools and printed circuit boards smaller than stamps were lined up on the table, but they were really little more than a child’s summer project. Keeping a Crystal Blossom fresh was no easy task.

The salvaged textbooks and reference books had soaked up so much seawater that the pages stuck together even after being dried, but using the information there, they had manually input the commands necessary to recover a digital user’s manual for the Crystal Blossoms.

(Gekiha.)

One of the books they had found had that friend’s name written on the back in permanent ink.

The textbook was the one the boy used to share with Karuta when he forgot his own book back in his dorm room despite the dorm being on the same ship as the school. The book had a flipbook crudely scrawled along the corner of the pages. It was obvious the boy had put far more effort into drawing mustaches and glasses on the pictures of the scientists who made historic discoveries than he had on highlighting the sections that would be on the test.

It contained such private and even defenseless things inside it.

No one had expected this to happen.

“…”

They had also found some possible weapons: an extendable baton, a stun gun, pepper spray, and a military flashlight. But they had clearly hit rock bottom when Crystal Magicians were trying to gather weapons instead of using their Crystal Blossoms. If all was well, they would have been honing their occult skills instead.

Nevertheless, he had to say it.

Utagai Karuta did so while toying with the longish military flashlight.

“It’s too soon to look back on it all yet. We have to get back at them first.”

He quietly spoke Aine’s name.

The girl had been seated on the sofa bed’s armrest, so she tilted her head in response, causing her silver hair to sway and reflect a rainbow of light. That was her standard “awaiting orders” pose.

That mysterious crystal girl did not appear in any known mythology or religion.

She was the greatest weapon the boy had available to him.

He opened the RV’s door, Aine supported the wheelchair from behind, and they used the barrier-free electric ramp so all three of them could head outside.

The blue cave reflected the sunlight in odd ways and it looked something like the crash site of a passenger plane.

There were so many of them.

Hundreds of clear crystal statues were lined up in the cave. The broken arms and legs had been gathered up, they had been assembled like a puzzle as much as was possible, and their human silhouettes had been reclaimed.

But it was still not enough.

The braided girl he had seen in the infirmary had been whole, but it was still thought the cracks above her navel would take 550 years to heal.

He heard the splash of something parting the water’s surface.

Marika emerged from the warm ocean of that tropical cave while wearing a racing swimsuit and a leisure oxygen tank.

“Don’t bother with the next shift. The rest of the pieces are too small for human hands.”

“…”

Karuta glanced over at one of the crystal statues among those lining the cave.

That was Kazamuki Gekiha, his former classmate.

They had gathered as many of the broken parts as they could, but they estimated it would take 7000 years before the boy came back to life.

They could never speak to the boy again in their lifetime.

But it could have been worse. The people working on the escort ships had been normal people. For them, that ocean really had been a watery grave. They had no second chance.

Marika tossed aside the oxygen tank and Student Council President Kyouka spoke to her.

“Even with the nonhuman girl, there’s only four of us. …Do you really think we can win against those world-class Problem Solvers?”

“More than that, whatever our reasons might be, I get the feeling we’ll be seen as terrorists.”

The girls seemed to be testing the waters with their words.

It was obvious they were not serious about backing out.

“We have to do it.”

“Why?” “Because it wasn’t anything great about us that let us survive that,” honestly admitted Karuta. “If we had actually tried to face them, we would have died. If we had run away like normal, we also would have been killed. The only reason we’re still here is because someone else was killed in our place. We hid in the forest of students and took shelter behind the shields of teachers to escape with our lives. We shut out the voices begging for help or wishing for a quick death and focused only on our own survival!!”

That was a very ugly way of putting it.

In a peaceful country where war was but a distant memory, they might have been criticized for that.

But no one laughed. They had all gone through that hellish rite of passage.

The only glimmer of hope was that those people had been Crystal Magicians.

They were stuck in cold sleep for what felt like an eternity, but they did have a chance at reawakening one day.

But therein lay the problem.

“Once those Problem Solvers notice this, they’ll resume the search. They’ll act like agents of justice to gain allies around the world who will rat us out almost immediately and then this cave will be discovered in what amounts to a witch hunt. Once that happens, there’s no stopping them. If Gekiha and the others are shattered into dust, baked into tiles, and used to pave roads all over the world, it’s over. They’ll never regenerate after that.”

“…”

If they could not be killed, there were other options.

There were ways of leaving someone unable to die but also unable to ever recover.

Just like something was obstructing the Student Council President’s healing.

“So we can’t let that happen. We have until they find this cave. We need to hunt all five of them down to cut off pursuit. The world has gone insane, so we need to fix it. I’m willing to do whatever it takes because this is our duty after surviving that hell!!”

He could feel a flame burning in his heart.

This was no different from self-harm. He was only burning himself with his own fury.

But he could not let those five get away with this.

Gekiha had apologized in his final moments and said he had been stupid.

But that was wrong. What was foolish about getting angry when the adult who supported your worth was killed and when your entire world was ridiculed and destroyed before your eyes? But that decision had led to such a disastrous result. The correct choice had been twisted to the point that it looked stupid. Someone had to make them pay for that. And that someone had to be Karuta’s group here since they had managed to survive.

The Problem Solvers were in the wrong.

They would make sure those five admitted it themselves.

“It’s true that might not be the most popular choice in the world. For the other 5.5 billion people out there, your classmates and the rest of the school’s students are irrelevant. What you are considering might only spread chaos through the world. But you don’t need to face that shame alone.” The Student Council President spoke softly. “Because we too refuse to let those pieces of shit take anything more from us.”

“…”

Karuta wiped away the tears that had welled up from his anger.

It was time to briefly forget about Kazamuki Gekiha and his pleasant days in the Ocean Crystal Magic Academy.

He coldly looked to the future.

“Now, what information do we have on Elicia Luxverg?”

A blatantly artificial light joined the mysterious blue light covering the cave wall.

Crystal Girl Aine had pulled a projector out from the RV.

Once she had regathered her wet hair into curly twintails, Marika leaned against the side of the RV while the Student Council President operated a remote control. Instead of the broken TV, it belonged to the projector Aine had dragged out.

“That was a live broadcast, so we know she is in this city’s broadcast station.”

A general map of the city was the first thing displayed.

The red dot in the center would be the broadcast station.

A large circle was drawn around that dot and it extended well outside the city.

“There is a heliport at the broadcast station and there are plenty of ports and airports within a helicopter’s flight range. If the control towers leave her flights off of the maps like they do with a president’s personal plane, then we will have no way of tracing her. Well, civilian apps have apparently revealed the routes of such planes, but there is another problem.”

Marika guessed at what the Student Council President meant.

“Elicia plays a role in the global infrastructure, right?”

“Yes. The Problem Solvers have a great influence on the world as a whole, but Elicia’s influence is especially strong in Oceania and the surrounding ocean. In other words, this tropical region is her home turf.”

“Her share of the global infrastructure is the garbage disposal and recycling. That monster needs less than half an hour to completely break down a large passenger plane or tanker that would normally take years, right?”

“Yes. She seems to have more than 20 megafloat ‘resource bases’ on the seven seas so she can let that dinosaur of hers run wild. And each of them is larger than Manhattan.”

Elicia’s dinosaur had been small enough to fit inside the gym, so why did she need such large structures for it? The answer was obvious.

Without the buoyancy and stability provided by that size, the dinosaur could easily flip over the entire megafloat once it was unleashed.

“Those resource bases can travel the world’s oceans by letting several boats pull them along and they also function as airports, naval ports, and submarine bases. They will retrieve passenger planes, tankers, submarines, or anything else when it reaches its lifespan. If she arrives by plane and takes a sub to another airport on a nearby continent, tracking her will be nearly impossible.”

“So we have to do it here before she disappears,” said Utagai Karuta.

They were all staring at the red dot on the map: the broadcast station.

When the Student Council President hit a button on the remote, the cave wall was covered by all the data she had been able to gather on the location in question. She had likely gotten most of it from the internet. It included exterior images, the number and locations of entrances and exits, a list of the companies that had designed and constructed it, estimated locations of the cameras and sensors installed around the building, and even photos of the trucks used to ship in materials or cater lunches.

“How did you get all this?” asked Marika while drying off her racing swimsuit with a bath towel.

“Well, it is a TV station. A lot of information had already been gathered by people straddling the line between fan and stalker who want to lie in wait for someone outside or even make their way to a dressing room.”

Omotesandou Kyouka gave a bewitching smile.

She had not managed to acquire the official plans for the building, but she had acquired a set of estimated layouts assembled by “volunteers”. Not only was the layout estimated based on the exterior appearance and the number of columns, but it even included actual studio numbers, so some of the parties involved may have snuck in as part-timers or cleaners.

“Broadcast stations are one of the critical pieces of infrastructure mentioned as possible terrorist targets, right? Should all this info really be out there?”

“Yes, you never know when it could fall into the wrong hands. Like ours.”

Also, the broadcast station in question was an ultra-tall building that stood 200-stories above the ground.

It was surrounded by a jumbled assortment of prefab buildings and barracks, giving that wealthy district the look of a sundial with the broadcast station in the center.

This was the same as the giant ship that had been the Ocean Crystal Magic Academy.

The new materials and technologies created as side effects of Crystal Magic had created a tendency for buildings and vehicles to grow extremely bloated and large.

“The building doubles as the actual broadcast tower, doesn’t it?” Marika softly sighed. “Y’know, Southeast Asia isn’t where I would expect to find the world’s largest entertainment broadcast station.”

“The TV industry is all about fighting over a piece of the pie,” said Karuta. “When a major content creator establishes themselves, they apply pressure on everyone around them. The domination of Hollywood has forced the European film industry out of densely-populated China and India, so they have been wandering the world in search of their El Dorado where they can find hundreds of millions of people. That’s why everyone seems to want fancy broadcast equipment and stations just because ‘that’s what they do in the West’.”

“So just like tea plantations, it’s all about making money,” added the Student Council President. “In that case, the security must be pretty strict. I wouldn’t recommend charging straight in using Crystal Magic.”

“Agreed, Omotesandou-san. Besides, we can’t hope to defeat Elicia that way,” he spat out hatefully.

“Sacri-sama,” cut in Crystal Girl Aine. “If you wish to avoid a direct battle with Elicia Luxverg, couldn’t you wait until she boards a helicopter on the rooftop? They do not possess Crystal Blossoms and thus cannot fly, so shooting down their aircraft seems like the most effective method.”

The answer to that was simple enough.

“That would mean attacking the helicopter pilot as well. And unlike with a car driver, they would never survive.”

“?”

“Basically, we don’t want to get other people involved in this,” said Marika with a bitter smile. “Was that too complicated for you, Aine-chan?”

But just because they had to reject that idea did not mean it was worthless.

Student Council President Omotesandou Kyouka smiled a little.

“But attacking her when she’s off the ground seems like a decent idea, don’t you think?”

“If we do attack her in the broadcast station, how do we avoid harming the other people around?”

“I want to avoid that, of course, but if you recall, that station is a crucial piece of infrastructure,” said Marika. “We can’t allow Elicia to escape, but if we intentionally trip an alarm after capturing her, I would hope everyone else would be evacuated.”

“Then leave that to me while the rest of you focus on the battle,” said Omotesandou Kyouka. “I might be in a wheelchair, but I can still be useful. I want to help protect everyone…and help get back at those five.”

“Um, what exactly will you be doing?” cautiously asked Marika.

“People will let their guard around someone who looks like this, don’t you think?” The Student Council President shrugged. “I can mess with the gas pipes around the station’s grounds to trigger an explosion. I will omit the details, but that is sure to put them on high alert. And if it gets the nearby tourists to escape, that’s all the better, right?”

It was far from a bad idea.

Karuta and Marika exchanged a glance and a nod.

“Trying to break into the main entrance while they’re on high alert would be ill advised.”

“But we are Crystal Magicians. We can sneak in through places normal people would never even consider.”

“Then let’s go with that.”

They had long worked together while training for the Catastrophe and that paid off here. They were thinking more or less the same thing.

“Then it’s time to really get down to business.”

“Elicia ‘Saurus’ Luxverg. How do we send that dinosaur woman to her grave?”

Several reports were displayed on the cave wall.

They had not taken any photos or recorded any data during that horrific tragedy. They had used those loathsome memories to draw out a diagram of the ships and written out what had happened back then in as much details as they could manage.

(Gekiha.)

They would not let any of those deaths go to waste.

They would find a solution here and complete their revenge.

“That monster was made from weapons, shields, and other junk and it was shaped like a 15m carnivorous dinosaur.”

The Problem Solvers were valuable to and influential within international society in a number of ways beyond combatting the Threat.

They used their great power as a foundation of global infrastructure.

“That might not be all she can do. For example, its size may have been scaled down to match the ceiling of the gym.”

Elicia helped with garbage disposal.

She was especially useful when it came to breaking down giant structures such as passenger planes and tankers.

“But even then, I doubt it’s more than 50m.”

That would be easy enough for her. No longer did hundreds of people need to spend six months or a year using blowtorches to dismantle an old rusty tanker. That dinosaur could do it in less than an hour…no, less than half an hour.

“How can you be so sure about its size?” asked Marika.

Karuta shrugged.

“From how deep the ocean is where that huge ship sank. If that dinosaur could grow to 100 or even 1000 meters, she wouldn’t have needed to summon it inside the ship at all. She could have had it stand on the bottom of the ocean and use its great maw to tear through the entire ship.”

In such a one-sided fight, it seemed unlikely she had been holding back or bluffing in case it came in handy later. Assuming she was not extremely cautious, Karuta’s reasoning was sound.

The Student Council President nodded in agreement.

“I wonder if it would count as being an entirely separate power like Aine-san,” said Omotesandou Kyouka.

Being compared to that woman in any way made his skin crawl, but he suppressed the personal feelings.

“But sending my Aine at her would not be enough. Her mass and power are simply too great.”

“Sacri-sama, if you wish to expand my functionality-”

“No relying on uncertain factors. That’s no different from hoping you can draw on some ‘hidden talent’.”

“But that’s the real problem.” Strawberry blonde Marika rubbed her chin. “That dinosaur isn’t stopping time or teleporting through space. Nor is it shooting beams from its eyes or breathing fire. It’s just overwhelming mass. It converts its weight into power and forces its way through. …There’s nothing clever there, yet no one can stop it. If we don’t find a solution to that, we don’t even have a starting point.”

White-haired Elicia must have been quite confident in her power.

Otherwise, she would not have killed the headmaster in front of everyone, stepped up onto the stage where she had almost no cover, and stood in front of nearly 700 people. She had practically been asking them to concentrate fire on her.

Crystal Magicians had the preset abilities of flight, barriers, and regeneration.

God-Worshiping Magic provided none of that, yet that strongest of the strong had instantly sent Karuta and the others to pandemonium despite their cutting-edge presets and skills.

“…”

“Omotesandou-san?”

“No, please continue. Something is bothering me about this. It’s right there on the tip of my tongue, but I can’t quite lay my finger on it.”

He was curious about the way Kyouka held a hand to her cheek, but he decided to focus on brainstorming ideas…or rather, listing off the problems and discussing them.

“Marika, not even your Crystal Blossom would work, right? Even your lasers and masers would have difficulty against a mass that large. It’s like the difference between a vehicle covered in bulletproof armor and a solid hunk of steel.”

“More than that, would destroying it even accomplish anything? It’s like a bunch of nails gathered together by a magnet, so wouldn’t it regenerate each time we damaged it? I mean, that dinosaur seems even less biological than Aine-chan.”

“Which leaves an endless hell as the only option.”

“Can’t we just blow away that old woman herself before the dinosaur even shows up?”

If a surprise attack were to succeed, that would indeed be best.

But there was a problem.

“We can’t plan for that,” said Karuta. “Not when we don’t know how the dinosaur is summoned or how long the summoning takes after the command is sent.”

“Yeah,” said Marika. “Let’s hope it isn’t inside her body and can be summoned in an instant like with Aine-chan.”

“We still need to have a plan for if the dinosaur is there in case the surprise attack fails.”

Pale-skinned Crystal Girl Aine tilted her head.

Her silver hair swayed as she spoke.

“So are you saying the dinosaur is big, it can freely change forms, it can be stored anywhere, it can be summoned in an instant, and it’s impossible to destroy?”

“Whoops!” said Marika. “This sounds pretty bad when you spell it all out like that!!”

“Then why did Elicia Luxverg step up onto the stage back then?”

Everyone turned to look at Aine.

She kept her head tilted as she continued.

“Sacri-sama and I have some similarities with Elicia and the dinosaur. I am a fully separate power made of the strongest armor, while Sacri-sama remains unguarded.”

“What’s your point?”

“In that case, stepping up onto the stage was meaningless.” Aine answered his question bluntly and directly. “The safest and most effective arrangement would have been for Elicia to never even board the ship. She could have released the dinosaur and watched the havoc from a safe distance. But that is not what she did.”

“Then Karuta must be right about the dinosaur’s max size being no greater than 50m. If she summoned it outside the ship, it would sink to the bottom of the ocean.”

“Even that does not explain why Elicia made a direct appearance. It would have been better to send the dinosaur into the gym alone while she sent instructions from some hidden location. And remaining on some separate ship throughout would have been the best option.”

“Um…then was it a matter of pride? Did she feel the need to actually stand on the stage and declare war on us?”

“Wait. Dinosaur woman wasn’t the only Problem Solver there. The ones behind that light spear and that giant sword were there too. Did they really all board the ship?” Utagai Karuta dug down to the crux of the issue. “If not and attacking from outside the ship was an option, then why did Elicia bother boarding? It wasn’t a matter of pride and she wouldn’t bother putting on a show for mere ‘bugs’. I mean, we know the other members weren’t on that stage.”

“So was there some logical reason like an issue of distance?” The Student Council President was muttering under her breath. “Can she not control the dinosaur if she is too far away? But…”

How far Karuta’s instructions could reach Aine was a crucial issue, so it may not have been wrong to assume distance was a restriction.

But besides that…

“Why did she step up onto the stage?”

If distance was the only issue, she could have hidden backstage or in a duct. They thought back to what Elicia had said so confidently back then. More than that, they reviewed every last movement she had made.

Yes.

Why had she stood in the most noticeable and thus must dangerous location?

“Or are we looking at this wrong? …Oh!”

Omotesandou Kyouka seemed to have realized something, but Marika and Aine still looked puzzled.

They could not let the impact of the scene distract them. They had to think back to the original position that woman had so wanted to stand in. Where had that dinosaur come from? What had it broken through? What did it mean for her to stand with her back to that? What position had been important enough to warrant facing 700 students and teachers?

Utagai Karuta directed his thoughts outward once more.

He looked the others in the eye and gave the answer.

Why did she want to stand with her back to the wall?

Part 2[edit]

What they needed to gather was simple.

They might be hard to come by in Japan, but they were not exactly rare in this country.

Karuta and Marika were walking in the gap between the slums and the wealthy. It was a unique scene where a driver was waiting in a black limo right next to where a man in a worn-out coat was gathering empty cans.

“That should be enough shotgun shells,” said Karuta. “I’d love to buy as much as we can carry, but they might get suspicious if we buy too many in one place. Maybe we should visit a few different stores.”

“What about the traps?” asked Marika.

“Igniting them won’t be very difficult. A single spark will do the trick, so we can create fuses out of a battery and aluminum foil. Of course, we’ll need a different device to switch them on.”

“We’re going to detonate them by radio? But there are bound to be signals on all sorts of frequencies flying around all the way up to the heliport!”

“Not to mention from the bugs set up by obsessive fans. Yeah, it might be best to pretend to be tourists while we walk around the building and check what frequencies are in use. There must be a bandwidth no one is using. More importantly, Marika, you’re our only hope here since you’re the only one who can use a standard Crystal Blossom. Do you really think you can do this?”

“Yesss, III caaaan. I’d really prefer to use lasers or masers, but I guess a non-nuclear photon rocket would be best here.”

“Whatever the case, you should test fire it first. We don’t want to find out too late that the force of impact knocks a connection out of place.”

“Obviously. In that case, I’ll want some rubber adhesive that works on building walls and some cushioning material if we have the budget.”

The two of them were out shopping.

Aine had stayed back in the RV to support the Student Council President just in case. That would not make much difference if one of the Problem Solvers tracked them down, but Aine would be able to fight off any thugs who tried to rob the place.

“I can’t believe former Crystal Magicians like us are buying parts for weapons at a hardware store,” said Marika.

“I’m down with anything if it gives us a chance.”

“Also, Aine-chan really was a lot of help, so how about you buy her a reward?”

“You mean a snack covered in gold leaf or powder? Do you think that would really construct semiconductor circuits in her body?”

“The whole thing is too unprecedented to say. I’ve never even heard of another Crystal Blossom that eats.”

“And she’s stored inside my body, so what happens to me if she builds pure gold circuitry inside her?”

“Wait, I thought gold leaf desserts weren’t digestible.”

They discussed that while pushing a shopping cart through a large store.

The cart’s handle was labelled “Stainless Steel – Fifth Generation Material”.

(You even see it here.)

This was a sign of Elicia Luxverg’s influence. She used her dinosaur to tear apart the passenger planes and tankers gathered from around the world because that efficiently dismantled them into usable resources that could be recycled. That was why first generation resources, the iron or aluminum directly dug up in a mine, were almost never seen anymore.

The news was playing on the phone of a customer who passed by.

“Steel dropped in value by 2 dollars and 50 cents today while aluminum remains stable at 40 dollars and 27 cents. Speculators are saying the influence on first generation resource deals will be…”

Marika whispered while reaching for a product.

“There’s something wrong with human society when the unrefined rocks are more valuable.”

They had a list of what they needed, but like they said before, buying it all at once place would raise suspicions. They did not have much time, but they still walked around town visiting different stores to purchase bits and pieces of their list while also visiting unnecessary shops along the way.

“Ohh, I just remembered alllll my new swimsuits are at the bottom of the ocean with the ship.”

“Really, Marika?”

“Let me buy one. Just one! It’ll help camouflage what we’re doing!!”

“You already bought that racing swimsuit for diving, remember? And you got away with buying a leisure model because the ocean is so warm around here!”

“Listen, Karuta-san. Just like a school bag and a brand-name bag are entirely different things, that swimsuit and this swimsuit are entirely different!!”

And so he was dragged into a sporting goods store.

The look in his childhood friend’s eyes was already scaring him.

“Ohh, I love this dizzying feeling of being surrounded by so many price tags. Heh heh, I can just buy them all, can’t I? I can buy as many as I want, right?”

“Are you insane, you greedy girl!? You’re just using the price on the tags to feel like you’re rich! Plus, we don’t have any real income!!”

“We gathered a bunch of valuable stuff from the sunken ship.”

“But it isn’t unlimited. Besides, we decided to leave 95% of it in the cave for when Gekiha and the others eventually wake up. We only have the bare minimum to work with.”

“Bikinis are nice, but the design is so perfected there isn’t much room to have fun with it.”

“You’re not even listening, are you!?”

“This is a necessary part of the bare minimum. Now, let’s check out the one pieces…ohhh! They’ve got a real tricky one here, boss! This doesn’t cover the navel or back at all! Ah ha ha ha ha ha ha!!”

He had no idea why that was so funny to her. At the very least, he knew it had nothing to do with good fashion sense. She was the stereotypical shopaholic in that she was bound to cool down half a day after buying it and badly regret her decision.

That meant there was nothing he could do now.

She charged straight into the fitting room with a risqué swimsuit.

ApocalypseWitch v01 07.png

“Hm, hmmm. Hm, hm, hm, hmm.”

“Come to think of it, there’s no real reason for me to wait for you here, is there?”

“Are you trying to kill me with loneliness by having me try on clothes all on my lonesome? And check out this stupid swimsuit! It’s hilarious!”

Curly twintailed Marika threw open the partition curtain, but that was when it happened.

She was indeed wearing a swimsuit, but that forceful action caused the shoulder straps to come undone, leaving her very much topless.

“Ah.”

Karuta had to cover his face with his hands.

He was fairly certain he had seen a pair of indescribably bright mounds(?), but it would be best not to pursue the matter.

However…

“See, what did I tell you!? These are really cheap!! They’re poorly made, so you can’t trust them!!”

“~ ~ ~ ~!! W-wait just a second!!”

Marika blushed bright red and quickly ducked back into the fitting room. In the RV, she would sleep naked with only a single sheet covering her, but she was apparently still reluctant to directly show everything off by complete accident. And she seemed well aware that this was in no way Karuta’s fault. Being a clever girl could be difficult sometimes.

Meanwhile, the young woman at the register grinned over at him. He had a bad feeling she was the type of salesperson who left the sample on the verge of breaking and then claimed whoever broke it had to pay for it.

“This was all a setup!?”

“But, sir, you enjoyed the show, didn’t you?”

“…”

It saddened him he could not deny it, so he paid for it to silence the woman. He could only laugh.

“Bwa ha ha ha!”

“Ah ha ha ha!”

This was a world of only love and peace. Utagai Karuta’s laughter was even uglier than when he had felt so cornered by the Problem Solvers.

Once the fitting room curtain opened again, the two of them were complete strangers once more.

“Ugh…what do we do with this broken swimsuit?”

“Even if we do defeat Saurus with it, do not let this part get in the history books.”

He drove the point home with a more decisive look than was strictly necessary.

At any rate, the preparations were complete.

It was time to face one of the world’s strongest.

It was time to attack one of the Problem Solvers.

It was time to exact revenge on Elicia “Saurus” Luxverg.

Part 3[edit]

That absurdly large broadcast station had a range that crossed national borders to cover the entire Southeast Asia region.

After growing to a bloated 200 stories tall, there was one thing it was bound to have: elevators.

They needed quite a few of those to quickly and comfortably transport a large number of personnel and materials such as props.

There were general elevators for tourists and audience members, shipping entrance ones that could carry an entire loaded midsized truck, special ones that let entertainers sneak out the back way, and business ones for the other personnel.

The white-haired woman named Elicia Luxverg was riding a VIP elevator. It was made of glass to give a view of the evening cityscape, so it may have been similar to those at a resort hotel.

Its riders would normally be accompanied by station staff acting as a guide, their secretary, or a bodyguard, but Elicia was different.

She had a simple reason for refusing any of that:

“They would get in the way.”

The giant building had an unusually complicated layout to make sure the entertainers could avoid running into obsessive fans, but Elicia had learned her own way around. She also kept track of her own schedule down to the minute or second and she could intercept any unexpected attacker.

She was the world’s strongest all on her own.

With power on her level, not harming the people around her was the most difficult part of resolving any trouble that occurred. After all, her dinosaur did not allow for finetuned control. She went to the trouble of smiling for the cameras and performing some lip service for the masses, so she wanted to avoid making mincemeat out of an ally. That would waste all the effort put into that hours-long facial workout.

(Although the best form of defense is to keep your location a secret.)

In that sense, being at an obvious landmark and leaving by helicopter was not the best choice. If she was being honest, driving a half-rusted used car through a small road lined with plywood and prefab buildings was more her style.

Currently, she caught scent of something inside that empty elevator.

She pulled out her phone and made a video call to the station chief on the top floor.

“I am scheduled for four interviews, a one-on-one talk, and then dinner with some ‘influential people’, correct?”

“Y-yes. I do apologize for the busy schedule when you must be exhausted, but just think about how much good will come from-”

“Cancel them all.”

“Huh?”

She did not bother responding to his peace-dulled confusion.

She summed it all up as much as possible.

“You need to prepare yourself. You have an intruder.”

Her prediction proved accurate.

A moment later, the elevator’s lights cut out, informing her of a power outage.

She heard an ear-splitting screech similar to sparks scattering as a train’s wheels were caught by the emergency brakes. The elevator came to a rapid stop on its way to the top floor.

“…”

It was evening. The building was so tall these higher levels would somewhat extend the time until sunset, but it was still horrifyingly dark. Did the loss of the artificial lights really make this much of a difference?

Her phone’s screen cast some light into that darkness, but the call had ended.

It said “no signal”, so it must have been using this very broadcast station and tower to make the call. But there was no chaos in the city she could see through the glass, even though a largescale blackout would likely cause accidents at the traffic lights and train crossings. That meant the power was out only for the broadcast station.

(National broadcasts are key to restoring order in emergencies. Counterterrorism measures in place for this crucial infrastructure should have it back up in less than five minutes, but surely they don’t hope to attack during that short time.)

The digital floor display had vanished with the power out, but this was probably near the 190th floor.

The next noise she heard came from the center of the metal elevator door. A katana-like blade made of crystal jabbed out at her chest height. It slid down along the gap between the double doors and sliced through some kind of latch like a hot knife through butter.

The automatic doors were forced open by human hands to reveal who awaited her.

“I recognize that blazer.” The world’s strongest kept her voice low but she smiled despite being trapped in a dangling birdcage. “A survivor of Grimnoah, I take it?”

“No.”

It was a slender boy.

He was accompanied by a pale crystal girl wielding a bladed weapon.

A stagnant light filled his eyes as he introduced himself.

“I am the one who will kill and surpass you.”

Part 4[edit]

How did they reach that point?

That bloated broadcast station was 200 stories tall.

It was bound to have a solid security network of guards, cameras, and sensors, but security was surprisingly lax at one point: the orange-dyed rooftop.

“No one would ever expect someone to enter a 200-story building from the very top,” laughed strawberry blonde Marika with translucent armor covering her body.

There was of course a heliport on the station rooftop, so they would have the bare minimum of control equipment. The entire station could function as a largescale broadcast tower so they did not have to use an external one and they could use the distortion in that signal to detect any approaching aircraft.

But.

What if?

“If you fly straight up along the building’s wall, the radar can’t detect you,” said Karuta after being carried up to the top. “Although a normal plane or helicopter would definitely crash into the building if they tried it.”

At 200 stories, they were more than 1000m up. The oppressive equatorial heat was swept away and replaced by a light chill. The nearby planter even had lovely alpine plants growing in it.

“If you ask me, we won’t be accepting interviews at TV stations.”

He suddenly recalled what his old friend had said.

“Won’t Crystal Magicians like us be more like special forces? Y’know, we’ll be wrapped in a veil of mystery that gathers the public’s attention without having to show off to the media. But we’ll be able to go see the movies based on Crystal Magicians and laugh at how inaccurate they are. Heh heh heh.”

“…”

Come to think of it, hadn’t that flipbook in the corner of his stuck-together textbook been an imagined scene from those movies he dreamed of?

Karuta narrowed his eyes, let out a white breath, and whispered under his breath.

“Power up.”

The back of his purple blazer swelled out unnaturally and pale Crystal Girl Aine appeared from within.

“Aine, prepare your weapon. We’re up against one of the Problem Solvers, so we can’t hold back in the slightest. When I give the signal, you give this your all from the very first move.”

“Understood.”

Aine swung her right hand and what looked like a crystal katana appeared there. The base had a jitte-like fork with a laser gun on the short end.

“You too, Marika.”

“Leave it to me.”

There were sensors on the rooftop exit, but they would mean nothing before long.

They did not even need to cut the sensor when the entire station would be flooded with alerts.

Karuta and Aine pressed against either side of the door while Marika headed to the boxes lined up where they would not get in the way of the heliport. Those were the large exterior air conditioning unit, the water tank, and the gear boxes for the many elevators.

“Now we have to wait for that Student Council President.”

They took their positions and waited for things to begin.

And begin they did.

The bright guide lights for helicopters all went out.

As soon as the TV station building blacked out, Aine’s sword sliced through the door’s hinges like a hot knife through butter and Karuta kicked the door in. Marika jumped into an elevator shaft through a different entrance.

The Student Council President’s voices reached them through the vibration of their Crystal Blossoms.

Omotesandou Kyouka’s job was to use gas line explosions to destroy the normal cables and the transformers outside the broadcast station and then to observe the TV station using binoculars.

“Elicia is using the third VIP elevator from the left. Um, it should be stopped at the 190th floor.”

“Got it.”

“The power should be back up in about five minutes, so make contact before then!”

Karuta and Aine ran down the dark emergency stairs to reach the elevator in question. He would have to use the crystal girl to neutralize anyone they ran into along the way, but fortunately, that was not necessary. That was probably thanks to the highest area being used for the executives, so it was nowhere near the actual production area. There were very few people this high up.

“It’s about to begin.”

Utagai Karuta clenched his teeth as he left the emergency stairway and ran down a hallway.

The fear in his mind was joined by an odd heat.

“It all starts here!! Aine, we’re about to challenge Elicia ‘Saurus’ Luxverg, one of the world’s strongest with the Problem Solvers! You need to be ready too!!”

“Yes, Sacri-sama.”

They arrived at the 190th floor’s elevator hall.

Aine’s sword sliced through the metal door and Karuta helped pry it open.

And on the other side…

Part 5[edit]

At long last.

It really did feel like so very long.

Utagai Karuta encountered his sworn enemy.

The woman had long white hair and wore a pantsuit.

The stopped elevator was like a dangling birdcage trapping her.

But there was no fear on Elicia’s face.

She returned her phone to her pocket and did not even pull her hand back out.

“How stupid are you? You could have just played dead, you know? Or are you here to receive the honor of being trampled below the great Elicia Luxverg’s feet?”

“Just you try it.”

Aine kept her sword at the ready and the boy took a step back from the dangling elevator. The avenger boy stepped into the safe zone of the solid elevator hall and he smiled with sweat soaking his body.

“You are standing on very thin ice right now. Safety devices? Emergency brakes? There’s no way those things can support the weight of that huge-ass dinosaur. Summon it here and all that will snap, sending you tumbling nearly 200 stories down to the ground. But if you’re fine with that, then summon your strongest.”

This was their first move.

It was all logically sound. If Elicia summoned her prized dinosaur, the elevator’s wires and emergency brake shoes would snap and she would fall. And if she hesitated, he would send Crystal Girl Aine toward her. Summoning the dinosaur meant falling and not summoning it meant getting sliced and diced. By normal standards, this was checkmate.

Yes.

Assuming the monster known as Elicia “Saurus” Luxverg fell into the categories of “normal” and “standard”.

“Heh.”

She laughed. Her undaunted ferocity sent a chill down Karuta’s spine.

“Aine!!” he immediately shouted. “Cut her down!!”

But the crystal girl did not follow his command.

There was a simple reason for this.

“I beseech thee, Vishnu, Indian God of Change.”

That reason was directly behind him.

It came from the sturdy elevator hall floor, but still within five meters of Elicia.

Tens or even hundreds of thousands of rusty metal pieces gathered together to produce a dinosaur as if it were rising up from a body of water.

“Sacri-sama!!”

Aine’s pure white clothing whipped around as she immediately changed the course of her blade. Instead of attacking the target directly in front of her, she used it as a shield against the dinosaur approaching from behind the boy.

That must have been the correct choice.

But the dinosaur made from a jumble of swords, spears, axes, and bows had much more force behind its charge. It sent Karuta flying horizontally with the crystal girl trapped in the middle. They were thrown through the pried-open door and into the elevator.

“Gah!?”

He did not feel the solid floor.

He was instead surrounded by something oddly warm, soft, and feminine-smelling.

Elicia had spread her arms to catch him and then buried his face in her chest.

“……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………”

Sweat poured from his body.

When he looked up from her chest, he saw a grin on the white-haired woman’s lips.

He did not have a second – or even an instant – to spare.

“Aineeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!”

His shout was answered by the crystal girl swinging her clear blade upwards.

The laser beam fired along the curving course of that blade tore through the elevator’s ceiling.

The thick wires, safety devices, and emergency brake latches were all destroyed and the boxy birdcage began to fall.

It happened in the moment just before the charging dinosaur broke through the doorframe.

The dinosaur just missed the dropping elevator, so it seemed to have crashed through the glass wall beyond that and flown out into the evening sky, but Karuta and Aine were too busy to check.

They had entered freefall along with the rectangular box.

Their weight seemed to vanish. Just like a weightlessness experiment using a rapidly descending aircraft or an astronaut training facility using the extra-large freefall inside a broadcast tower, they were able to forget about the concept of weight while still on earth.

This must have been a bit of a surprise for Elicia as well because he was released from her slender arms.

Once freed from her chest, Karuta glared at his sworn enemy.

“Your dinosaur is a gravity attack using its great mass, so can you really make use of it in a weightless world!?”

“A meaningless question. You have failed to trap the crucial dinosaur – my Avatar – in this weightless cage.”

“Don’t be so sure. This prevents you from abandoning the old one and summoning a new one inside the elevator. That makes you powerless. I can have Aine cut you down now or I can wait for you to die from the fall!”

“Again.” Elicia floated in the weightless box while pointing her thumb toward the orange world beyond the glass. “I said it was a meaningless question, didn’t I?”

A reddish-black cascade could be seen out there.

It was a rusty collection of weapons like swords, spears, axes, and bows, of junk like refrigerators and cars, and of components like screws and springs. They had abandoned their dinosaur form to enter freefall along with the elevator. In fact, they were maintaining the exact same speed to remain alongside it.

Then they formed the carnivorous dinosaur’s maw once more.

Within the resultant deluge of horrific sounds, Elicia Luxverg kept her back to the destruction and bathed in the light of sunset so her body’s outlines seemed to be burning.

“Now, ghost, I will be leaving. Incidentally, do you have an effective means of escaping this?”

“Aine.”

“If not, then it is you who will be splattered on the ground.”

“Kill her now, Aineeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!”

The crystal girl responded with the short laser gun on the jitte-like branch of her transparent sword, but something else was faster.

The dinosaur had fully regained its form and the claws of its feet dug into the small concrete wall built along the steel beams running between the glass panels. It used this to slow down while crashing its great maw through the glass.

The tremendous vibration threw off Aine’s aim.

The beam of light scorched the empty air right next to Elicia’s face, but she did not bat an eye.

It was all over if the dinosaur took the entire elevator into its jaws. Elicia could escape by climbing onto the dinosaur, but the other two would be stuck inside as the elevator was tossed out into the evening sky like used gum.

But that was not what happened.

Just before it could, an orange beam of light pierced vertically through the elevator from top to bottom. A twintail girl with sharp crystal armor growing from her body flew into the large hole this created in the ceiling.

“Mari…ka!?”

The girl must have been too focused to respond.

She took Karuta and Aine’s hands while they floated in the artificial weightlessness and she flew down through the hole in the floor.

Sounds of destruction continued from up above.

Most likely, the dinosaur had dug its claws into the TV station’s wall to gradually slow its descent with the elevator in its mouth.

“Marika, this isn’t over! We haven’t rid Elicia of her ‘strongest’ yet!!”

“I know…that!”

Marika turned ninety degrees away from the elevator shaft to break through the thick glass wall and fly outside.

They faced Elicia, who was riding the dinosaur’s shoulder, from a distance of 20 meters.

However, they were standing on the vertical glass wall.

Karuta’s group was supported by Crystal Magic flight and Elicia was using the dinosaur’s claws digging into the wall, but they were both freed from the concepts of gravity and the ground.

They stood on that glass battlefield.

“So you are finally facing me head on, ghost.”

The white-haired woman was delighted.

They had dropped a lot, but their surroundings still looked like a sunset ocean. Their glass footing glittered as it reflected the orange light.

Some artificial light was mixed in with that.

The lights inside were turning back on. The broadcast station was coming back to life as it switched over to emergency power.

They had expected the blackout to last about five minutes, so all this could not have taken any longer than that.

What a dreadfully intense battle this had been. It felt like they had been fighting for days.

“Are you all out of tricks? Then let’s end this with me sending you back to your graves. Your experience on that sunken ship should have taught you that you cannot defeat my Avatar in an exchange of pure violence.”

Marika and Aine.

The boy could not even stand on this wall without those two girls’ support, but he still spat back a response.

“Don’t screw with us.”

“My obvious superiority is not enough to deter you? If this is what you’re like, I can’t imagine how you managed to survive back then. …Do it.”

Crystal Magic and God-Worshiping Magic.

The wielders of those different powers took action simultaneously.

They charged straight ahead on that glass ground to take the shortest route toward a clash.

A single hit from that dinosaur meant death.

The spatial vibration field and auto-regeneration were useless. Not even the 700 people in the Ocean Crystal Magic Academy had been able to defeat this world’s strongest. Just because Karuta’s group had gained a few personal reasons for fighting now did not mean they could overturn everything that happened and defeat this dinosaur.

So.

That had never been their intent.

“Marika! Our footing!!”

“Got it!!”

The guard of her rapier-like weapon moved. It had covered the back of her hand before, but now it turned inside out like a broken umbrella in a gust of wind to form a firing unit. A blinding beam of light surged from there.

Their footing was nothing more than glass.

It shattered and the flat battlefield suddenly vanished, as if the three of them were diving underwater.

“…?”

Elicia briefly looked puzzled while left behind.

“–––––!!”

But then she clenched her teeth.

Something else had begun.

Part 6[edit]

Before making their move on the 200-story broadcast station, Karuta and Marika had gathered materials and made preparations in the jumbled city.

“That should be enough shotgun shells. I’d love to buy as much as we can carry, but they might get suspicious if we buy too many in one place. Maybe we should visit a few different stores.”

Those shells that scattered small metal balls were used for hunting and riot suppression, but they were not hoping to load them in a gun and fire them.

Elicia was known as the world’s strongest, so nothing like that was going to affect her.

“What about the traps?”

So they were using them differently.

They had chosen a method of detonating those shotgun shells without using a gun.

“Igniting them won’t be very difficult. A single spark will do the trick, so we can create fuses out of a battery and aluminum foil. Of course, we’ll need a different device to switch them on.”

They would function as tiny little bombs.

Aiming them at her would almost certainly fail. Even if one of the metal balls grazed her skin by pure luck, the explosive energy would not have been aimed in a single direction by a gun barrel, so it would not have much destructive force.

“We’re going to detonate them by radio? But there are bound to be signals on all sorts of frequencies flying around all the way up to the heliport!”

So it was a bluff.

They only had to make the target think she was being targeted by bullets or explosives.

“Not to mention from the bugs set up by obsessive fans. Yeah, it might be best to pretend to be tourists while we walk around the building and check what frequencies are in use. There must be a bandwidth no one is using. More importantly, Marika, you’re our only hope here since you’re the only one who can use a standard Crystal Blossom. Do you really think you can do this?”

What they had done was simple.

They attached a wireless detonator to the shotgun shells and then coated them with adhesive.

Then they only had to throw them against the TV station wall from a distance.

That would turn that wall into a minefield.

“Yesss, III caaaan. I’d really prefer to use lasers or masers, but I guess a non-nuclear photon rocket would be best here.”

Was that all it took to defeat Elicia “Saurus” Luxverg?

She had stood in front of 700 Crystal Magicians and used her massive dinosaur to block all the attacks sent her way and then crushed them all underfoot, so was this really enough to harm her?

“Whatever the case, you should test fire it first.”

The answer was yes.

“Obviously. In that case, I’ll want some rubber adhesive that works on building walls and some cushioning material if we have the budget.”

Because…

Part 7[edit]

Pop pop! Pop!! Pop pop pop!!

Elicia heard small explosions bursting all around her.

She also heard something whizzing through the evening air, so had they included nails or fishing hooks to make this more lethal? Or were they using shotgun shells?

“!!”

It was the same either way.

Elicia “Saurus” Luxverg was one of the Problem Solvers, but she was only human herself. If she was shot with a bullet, she would die. If she was caught in an explosive blast, she would be torn apart.

(Did they lure me here? No, I should assume they placed explosives all around the station’s walls so they would have traps everywhere!!)

She did not know which it was.

She was the strongest when it came to physical attacks, but she was not clairvoyant or prophetic, so she had no way of knowing the quantity and location of the explosives.

And to reiterate, a single hit would kill her.

One of the world’s strongest would be killed in a trap set by some ghosts she failed to kill.

Part 8[edit]

After they broke through the orange-shining glass wall and entered the broadcast station again, Karuta finally felt a solid floor beneath his feet. He used that to run through the building along with Marika and Aine.

“She doesn’t have a body of steel and she can’t use Crystal Magic, but she always shows up on the front line and leaves herself open to attack. Why?”

They could hear the small explosions – no, gunshots – even from here.

If they did not reach their destination before those ended, they really would have no tricks left up their sleeves.

“The answer is simple: because nowhere is safer than by her dinosaur. That’s why she stood on that stage in front of 700 people in the ship’s gym. That dinosaur is tough enough to deflect any attack, but it can only shield one direction at a time. So her biggest fear was for the 700 people to spread out and attack separately. If she was surrounded, there would be a chance of an attack slipping through the gaps in her dinosaur shield and reaching her. That’s why she took a position where all those gazes were fixed on her from a single direction.”

So…

“She can only summon one of those dinosaurs. She can’t summon a second or third with the same mass and she can’t split the one into two smaller ones. If she could, she could stay in hiding with a bodyguard dinosaur while she sent in an attack dinosaur!”

What was Elicia doing now that she was surrounded by explosions on that building wall?

Was she unsure which direction to use her dinosaur shield?

Or…

“Karuta-kun, be careful. Elicia is acting oddly.” Student Council President Kyouka contacted him via Crystal Blossom vibration while she observed the exterior of the station with binoculars. “It isn’t shaped like a dinosaur anymore. It looks more like a crumbling donut as she forces it to shield her in all directions!”

“That’s fine.” Karuta’s group ran up the emergency stairs. “We were hoping she would panic and not know what to do, but this still keeps her from using the dinosaur.”

They ran down the hallway.

“I just hope she hasn’t considered this possibility!!”

They arrived at the glass wall decorating the floor.

Yes.

From Elicia “Saurus” Luxverg’s perspective, they were approaching from below her feet.

She had broken down the dinosaur and spread the rusty junk out in a donut shape to protect herself in all directions while it still maintained a single form, but those “all directions” were only in two dimensions.

Had Elicia forgotten she was using a glass wall like the floor?

“Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!”

Karuta’s fist broke through the thick reinforced glass wall.

“Wha-!?”

This was a first.

His sworn enemy cried out in surprise for the first time while he grabbed her ankles and dragged her inside.

He threw her to the floor.

“Khah!”

The blow to her back left her collapsed there.

From there, she must have seen what looked like a demon pulling an extendable baton from his purple blazer’s pocket.

“Aine, Marika.”

The two girls faced the broken window from either side of him. The junk donut was rapidly retaking its shape, but before it could, they used the beams fired from their katana or rapier weapons to blast the half-formed donut and forcibly tear it away from the wall.

Once gravity took hold, the dinosaur fell toward the orange surface.

Elicia reached out a hand from the floor, but there was nothing she could do.

“Ah.”

“Can you instantly eliminate that one and summon a new dinosaur? Of course you can’t. If you could effectively warp it around like that, you wouldn’t need to stick by its side to stay in the one safe zone on the front line. Once it takes form, you’re stuck using that one.”

“Ahhh.”

“This is the 104th floor, so how long do you think it’ll take for it to climb back up the wall?”

“Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh.”

“As long as we kill you before then, we win.”

“Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh- bgwahhh!?”

He swung the first horizontal blow toward Miss Strongest lying screaming on the floor.

When he felt the raw sensation reaching his wrist through the weapon, he knew for certain that Elicia really did use God-Worshipping Magic.

She did not have the barrier or regeneration of a Crystal Magician’s presets.

He could do this now.

If he attacked her exposed human body, he could defeat this strongest!!

After delivering a second and third blow with the baton as if slapping her back and forth, it was the baton that broke and bent in a shallow V-shape. It was hollow inside to make it collapsible, but it was also quite cheap.

“This thing’s useless.”

“Pant, pant.”

He tossed it aside and pulled another weapon from his pocket.

These were knuckledusters, aka brass knuckles. He passed the four fingers of his right hand through the holes, clenched it, and prepared to throw a punch toward Elicia Luxverg with those brutal rings on his fingers.

“No, wait.”

He answered her with a solid thud.

But this did not last long either. After sitting on top of her and throwing several punches to her face, he heard an odd sound from the base of his index finger. A portion of the finger crystalized and began the 30-second healing process. He must have damaged the bone. Even though he had the barrier-like spatial vibration field, weakened though his might be.

“Dammit, are you kidding me?”

He tossed aside the useless hunk of metal and pulled out a modified military flashlight.

Elicia guarded her face with her hands. She looked just like some confused girl trying desperately to protect herself from the violence raining down her way without warning.

“How long have you been doing this!? We still haven’t killed a single person! You think this is enough? You expect me to believe you’ve learned your lesson!? You think you’re some helpless victim and it would be wrong to kill you? To hell with that!! You have to take responsibility for what you did! And that means you have to die, you piece of shit!!!!!!”

The flashlight was meant to blind an enemy, not beat them. It had a laser pointer in place of bright LEDs and its special laser pointer lens could spread that light out like a flashlight to fry someone’s eyes. This method was well known for being used by ill-mannered sports spectators and people trying to obstruct aircraft. But with a reinforced stainless steel exterior that lived up to the “military” descriptor, with the weight of the large battery, and with the amplifier attached to the back, it worked well as a baton.

He remained sitting on her and beat her some more.

He must have been screaming something as he did so, but not even he heard what it was.

White-haired Elicia Luxverg had been using her hands to guard her face, but eventually something must have snapped inside her. She went limp and stopped resisting.

Only his heavy breathing continued.

This was the person who had torn Kazamuki Gekiha in two, sunk the entire Ocean Crystal Magic Academy ship, and slaughtered the other 700 people in that school who he had smiled alongside as fellow Crystal Magicians. No, the number of deaths had to be several times that when the escort ships were included.

If the Problem Solvers learned that the crystalized victims were in that coastal cave and that those people would eventually reawaken, they were sure to desperately search the world until they found them. They would smash up those crystals as many times as it took, mix the pieces in with tiles or bricks, spread those around the world, and make absolutely sure those people could never be resurrected.

He knew that.

He knew every bit of that.

And yet.

Despite the heat blazing in his mind, he also felt something terribly bitter building up in the pit of his stomach. As he continued to punch Elicia, he grew irrationally angry at her for not just dying already and for clinging so stubbornly to life.

Killing people was hard.

That should have been obvious, but it really was hard.

So how could they do it so easily?

“…”

The hand holding the bloody modified military flashlight dropped.

There were tears in the eyes of Elicia Luxverg’s misshapen face.

He may have been crying too as he sat atop her.

No matter how unfair those tears were to each other.

“Sacri-sama,” said Crystal Girl Aine with a composed expression. She was not warning him that the woman really would die if he kept this up. “If you are having trouble achieving your goal, wouldn’t it be fastest to use me? I can end it with a single strike of my blade.”

“Pant, pant!!”

His shoulders rose and fell as his mind finally focused on reality once more. The heat of rage did not go away, but he managed to question himself again. Would he kill her or not? Would he kill to give her a tiny taste of her own medicine? Would he stoop to her level here?

A tremor ran through his body.

For a moment – only a moment – Gekiha’s supposedly shattered face appeared in his mind’s eye.

“Dammit!!”

He threw the flashlight weapon to the floor and loudly clicked his tongue. While still sitting on her, he grabbed the collar of that Problem Solver who looked like a squashed red sack.

“I have questions.”

“P-pant, g-gasp.”

“Tell me about the other Problem Solvers! What can they do and what are their weaknesses!! Give me every last piece of even remotely useful information you have! Keep anything to yourself and I’ll kill you. I should really be doing that regardless. Got that!?”

Her face was too swollen to tell her eyes from her nose, but she still nodded repeatedly.

He wanted info on the other Problem Solvers: their hideouts, where they generally lived their lives, the kind of magic they used, and their weaknesses. Elicia’s dinosaur was magic, so it was a technique. It was nothing more than information that anyone could learn. That dinosaur was a fearsome enemy now, but it would help immensely to be able to use it themselves.

He had dealt with this now.

Or so he though. Right up until a beam of light stabbed into one of Elicia Luxverg’s temples and out the other.

A blinding light similar to welding exploded a moment later.

He blinked his eyes for a bit to deal with the burning pain in his eyes and then he realized the person he was holding by the collar had died. Her entire head was gone. There was not much blood because the top of the neck had been burned entirely black.

(Laser…sniping?)

“Marika!?”

“What, we were trying to kill her, weren’t we?”

He raised his head, but he could not turn toward the voice.

He had never heard such an icy voice.

“Let’s say we tied her up and dragged her back with us. Then what? We don’t know what she needs to summon that dinosaur, so we have no guarantee even if we take all her weapons and armor and even strip her naked. That surprise attack wouldn’t have worked again and we’d be helpless if she was ready for us. Killing her makes the most sense.”

“…”

Utagai Karuta shut his eyes just once and then relaxed his hands. The corpse plopped lifelessly to the floor. Nothing remained of her dignity as the strongest. She was meat. Nothing more than a hunk of meat.

“Are you upset?” asked Crystal Girl Aine while slowly tilting her head. Her long silver hair swayed as she gave him a curious look. “If you had just used me, she would not have stolen your kill.”

Part 9[edit]

They returned to the RV they were using as a mobile base.

“Was I useful? I used the gas explosion to make sure everyone was evacuated, I cut standard power to the broadcast station, and I kept watch with my binoculars. That was a lot of work, but I’m pretty sure I kept anyone from being hit by the falling glass.”

Student Council President Omotesandou Kyouka was waiting for them in her wheelchair.

She had blended into the background to provide logistical support, but she must have returned to the RV ahead of them. Also, the RV’s driver’s seat had been customized for her, so the gas and brake pedals could be operated with buttons on the steering wheel.

“Oh? You actually killed her, didn’t you?” was the first thing Kyouka said when they returned.

“…Yes.”

“But you don’t look very happy. Why aren’t you delighted we defeated one of the world’s strongest and took revenge for everyone?”

The boy looked up with his childhood friend and the crystal girl on either side of him.

Was he smiling or crying?

That avenger could no longer say for sure.

“I’m not sure myself.”

And he said more in his heart:

Sorry, Gekiha.

I don’t think we’re the kind of people who could appear in those action movies you dreamed of.

Between the Lines 1[edit]

“Crystal Magic?”

Elicia Luxverg had been perplexed when she first heard that term.

Magic was the term for divine miracles performed by human hands, but this new version apparently did not require going to the gods themselves. A printed circuit board was hooked up to a unit known as a Crystal Blossom, a god’s name was sealed inside, and it was installed with a program based on that god’s legends and myths to “ride the supernatural currents” similar to someone reading the weather map before tilling their field or raising their ship’s sails.

Was that really possible?

And if it was, wasn’t it irreverent?

“It doesn’t bother me,” replied Elicia Luxverg’s shadow.

That was no metaphor. The outline of her shadow on the floor changed to create a shape very different from her own.

That was Vishnu, God of Change.

He was one of the primary Hindu gods alongside Brahma the Creator and Shiva the Destroyer. He was the preserver and one of his jobs was to take the form of ten different Avatars to resolve any problems that would disturb the public order.

Elicia’s dinosaur could be seen as a version of those Avatars created using Vishnu’s power to freely change forms.

“How can it not bother you? They are basically creating papier mache gods and drawing on your power without permission. It isn’t even an issue of good or evil. Can a real god like you really allow that to happen?”

“This isn’t about that.” Her shadow’s shoulders shook in amusement. “You cannot preserve the status quo simply by letting the flow of time take over. Standstills lead to the change known as stagnation. As a preserver god, I believe I understand just how difficult it is to preserve things. To be honest, I suspect the world has grown stagnant by the title of world’s strongest staying with you for so long.”

“…”

“So isn’t this a good opportunity to stir things up? This feels weird since I’m more or less praising the acts of that god of destruction and dance, but this should be a pretty good deal for you. Finding someone who will help you improve yourself is always a good thing.”

“There are already four other people with the title of world’s strongest.”

“You mean that group of five who have their hands tied because of a stalemate akin to nuclear strategy? When was the last time any of you fought each other?”

“What are you getting at here?”

“I am saying you cannot stop the world from changing, so you should position yourself to use that change as a tailwind. You five are so evenly matched you cannot hope for any more experience points there. Not as enemies or as allies.”

“I didn’t think you were the kind of god who gleefully sought out enemies.”

“Who says this new group has to be an enemy?” Her shadow laughed in amusement. “A formidable opponent can also be the kind of friend you can really open up to. That is what it means to find pleasant preservation.”

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

“A friend, huh?”


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