Apocalypse Witch:Volume3 Prologue
Unidentified readings have contacted the Second Grimnoah academy ship in the Port of Kobe. Total number unknown, but estimated to be more than 50,000 and the measurements only continue to grow.
Features similar to the Threat training decoys seen at Iceland’s Crystal Beach have been detected.
America’s Smart Arms, the primary manufacturer of said decoys, has denied all involvement. Their statements are not to be trusted, but our long-range observations suggest the materials and technology on display here differ from the units seen in the supplied intelligence on the Crystal Beach battle (including videos taken by Grimnoah students). They do have a metallic sheen, but there are aspects that make it difficult to confidently classify them as biological or mechanical. That alone is a major discrepancy from the weapons produced by Smart Arms.
These are almost certainly the real Threat.
Second Grimnoah was busy with a largescale field trip, so there were close to zero Crystal Magicians on the ship at the time. The surrounding guard ships were quickly ordered to withdraw to prevent needless casualties. (This order was approved by Student Council President Omotesandou Kyouka.)
We must assume the deserted Second Grimnoah has been occupied by them.
Sinking the ship does not appear to be the Threat’s objective, but conditions inside are unknown. The Threat has gathered with too great a density to allow x-rays or terahertz radiation to see inside.
All our intelligence comes from estimates based on long-distance observations, but they appear to move more quickly than the decoys in the reports on the Crystal Beach battle. These seem more biological.
We will soon seek volunteers to secure higher-quality intelligence from a greater variety of angles.
We know that we are incapable of defeating the humanity-destroying Threat, but that does not mean there is nothing we can do. Second Grimnoah is the mobile base needed to fight back against the Threat. We cannot allow it to be lost here.
My only hope is that the intelligence we gather can be of some use to those next-generation magicians.
That is all.
-Report from Central Region 3rd Division 36th Infantry Regiment to Army Central Intelligence Team.
Once this report is complete, we will abandon our base and voluntarily go into hiding. We will focus on unofficial defenses against the Threat, so assume all lines of communication will be cut off.
“What in the world are you doing? Why are all sticky?”
Utagai Karuta’s exasperated comment was understandable.
Black-haired Student Council President Omotesandou Kyouka was lying face down on a special table. She had stripped off her purple blazer uniform and only wore a bikini bottom over her very noticeable butt. She could not be said to be “wearing” the top since the straps were untied. Her excessively large breasts were squished between the rest of her body and the table.
The floor was covered in red carpet and the walls were made of wood.
But that classic and antique interior design was at odds with the various exercise machines and massage tables.
The space was like a fusion of a café lounge and a gym for the rich, so what would you even call it?
A luxury hotel suite was probably the closest thing.
The President’s long black hair was pulled up and small hands touched her exposed back. As those hands moved up along the line of her spine, a translucent gel spread out across her. Alluring breaths left her lips and irregular jerks of movement ran through her body every time the hands moved.
The hands belonged to Crystal Girl Aine.
She looked like a small girl of about 13 with long silver hair, two horns(?) growing from the top of her head, and a white dress, but she was actually a piece of Crystal Magic that belonged to Utagai Karuta.
Her hands were covered in gel, but her expression remained unchanged. That made her look cold, inhuman, and mechanical, but that was not too surprising since she was in fact not human.
“Is this good enough?”
“Yes, yes. Don’t try to scrub hard. Start by letting the gel soak into my skin. Once it takes effect, the filth will rise to the surface on its own.”
“Why is Aine doing this?”
“It’s a beauty salon☆ We’ve got the place to ourselves, so we can use all the first-class amenities we like. This doesn’t cost us anything extra, so why would you go stuff yourself into an economy seat packed in as tight as a pack of drink bottles?”
Soft music was playing and gentle heat filled the room.
There were no rows of seats to be seen in here, so it felt more like the bar lounge in a large hotel. Drink bottles sitting on ice and an assortment of fruit had been prepared on the glass table. They had to wonder why the airline had made this selection, but they were all carbonated drinks with an alcohol content of more than 14% and none of the students had dared touch them. Nature footage was playing on the home theater that covered the entire interior wall separating this room from the next and there were also a few VR goggles lying around. The VR areas were divided off with ropes for safety and you could play simulated golf, jogging, hunting, and other games there.
This was a passenger plane.
It was hard to believe this was really all happening at an altitude of ten thousand meters. Not to mention that Japan was still in a crisis situation. Karuta had just been left speechless after reading through the sorrowful report. He wanted to make sure those soldiers did not get carried away and get themselves wiped out. Yet when he walked in here, he found that demonic body. No, demonic did not cut it. She had the body of a demon queen.
“It wouldn’t be fair to criticize just me for this. Marika-san was using this place earlier.”
“Eh? Marika was using a beauty salon???”
“No, the VR boxing game. She says exercise is the best way to improve your body. Although she decided it was too boring when you couldn’t feel the punches land, so she stormed off in a huff.”
Yeah, that sounds like her, sighed Karuta.
Amaashi Marika, his twintailed childhood friend, was the kind of girl who would innocently pull you against her curvy body to test out some new wrestling move she had thought up. She would end up pressing her glorious chest or thighs against him, which he certainly enjoyed, but the wrestling part was more on the painful end of things, making it hard to know what to think about it.
Karuta and the others had boarded a boomerang-shaped passenger plane that was taking them from Iceland to Japan via Germany. Flight was one of a Crystal Magician’s presets, but it did not let them fly halfway around the globe nonstop.
Before the technological revolution, passenger planes were designed to carry 800 people at once, but that number had reached the quadruple digits thanks to the civilian uses of the secondary technologies developed from Crystal Magic.
“There’s no use getting impatient.”
Still lying face down, Kyouka used her arms as a pillow and kicked her legs like a small child. But instead of a light motion, the kicking produced a solid metallic sound. Around her ankles, on the back of her knees, on the outside of her thighs, and around her hips, she wore a medical powered suit made from a stainless steel frame thinner than a ruler. She was testing it out as a replacement for her wheelchair.
She was smiling thinly, but not out of enjoyment.
She could smile from more than just her own emotions. He had seen hints of this before too.
“If we get impatient, fear will quickly spread through the others. And if Grimnoah panics, what happens to the people watching us? All 5.5 billion of them watching on their various screens? The fight for humanity has begun before we even reach the Threat.”
“So I’m supposed to remain calm?”
“There are only four of us Living Gods, so we need to maintain our unprecedented and legendary appearances.”
Kyouka laughed and Utagai Karuta hung his head a little.
If people knew a famine was coming, they would buy up and steal food, but they could be put at ease by eating a large feast in front of the cameras. He got that. He really did, but it still felt wrong to him. What if there was not enough water, not enough money, not enough petroleum…or not enough lives? As the ideal shown on the screen to put people at ease grew further and further removed from the reality of the people’s lives, wouldn’t the Four Living Gods end up looking just like the Problem Solvers who had always smiled so creepily on TV?
The events at the Crystal Beach had been awful.
Being the world’s strongest did not make you all-powerful. That title granted them by other people was only an illusion. At that Icelandic resort, they had had so much trouble with only the decoy Threat created by a weapons manufacturer.
And this time it was the real deal.
Worse, their home ground of Second Grimnoah was the target.
But that was exactly why he could not let it overwhelm him.
Could they really throw out their morals just because it was an emergency and they needed to survive? The Plank of Carneades was bullshit. How could you trust the morals of the ancient Greeks or Romans or whoever that had laughed as they watched slaves fight to the death? He had to remind himself that an emergency was not an indulgence that unconditionally forgave any and all misdeeds.
If the strongest forgot how to regulate themselves, the world was doomed.
“What do you think the Threat – the real Threat – is trying to accomplish?” he asked.
“Who knows,” replied Kyouka. “And worrying about a question you can’t answer is bad for your health. Hee hee. Yes, that’s the spot, Aine-chan. Get that detox process working☆”
A soft electronic tone sounded.
Then a female announcer spoke over the speaker installed in the wall.
“We will soon enter Japanese airspace from the south. The local weather is stormy, so please be ready for turbulence from sudden pressure changes.”
It happened just as the announcement was finishing up.
Something passed right by the thick two-layer window.
They were ten thousand meters up, putting them higher than Everest’s peak, but something like a long white cloud or pillar of smoke tore through the subzero, low-oxygen air from behind the plane. Based on the direction of the setting sun, it was traveling south to north. If it had the same destination as them, it would be headed toward Kansai.
“A cruise missile? Who fired that!?”
“Someone must have jumped the gun.”
Omotesandou Kyouka casually sat up with her top’s straps still undone. If not for her hair falling down, her chest would have been fully visible, but she did not seem to care.
She let Aine wipe the gel from her back with a towel while she stretched her arms up like she had just woken up.
“That was a CM-05C Francisca. The C designation means it’s a small ship-loaded model, not a surface-to surface model. It’s based on an American missile, but the fins have been improved upon. I think Japan has a license to produce them. Hee hee. And you know the only complaint that got? It violates noise pollution regulations when flying at low altitude. Perhaps that’s why it’s up at this altitude.”
“Are you saying the soldiers meant to protect our country fired a missile into our borders from out at sea?”
“Yawwwn. At this scale, I doubt they can pass it off as an experiment. Those things are officially designated for ‘disaster prevention’. Such as sinking tankers that are burning out at sea.”
She must have been a little sleepy because she held a hand to her mouth and yawned while seated on the massage table.
That first spear of smoke was not alone.
Karuta managed to count more than 50 of them and he could guess there were more than three times that many he could not see from that window. The same model of missile continued to fly out ahead of their plane, like the smoke was threads being woven up in the sky. They were all headed toward a ship floating in the inland sea surrounded by Shikoku and Kansai.
“And I doubt this will accomplish anything either way.”
At the same time, several beams of light brighter than lightning flashed out, producing just as many explosive booms. The disturbance of the air violently shook the boomerang-shaped passenger plane that could carry more than a thousand passengers.
But not because the many missiles had fallen on a well-populated area.
He could tell just by pressing against the window.
Every single one was shot down long before it reached the surface. The evening sky was scorched by the afterimages of beams colored the unnatural green of a neon sign. That solid defense had proven it would not allow drones or stealth fighters through and it had just proven that a saturation attack of cruise missiles did not work either.
“That’s what it looks like, at least. We don’t actually know what those are, so they might not actually be beams of light created through optical pumping.”
They could shoot down everything regardless of quantity or quality.
“Sparkle, the optical Threat. The name is extremely tentative of course.”
And whether that Threat was a machine or a creature, it was not alone. Second Grimnoah was crawling with them to the point that they did not have an accurate count.
Kyouka childishly puffed out her cheeks (with only her bikini bottom and hair to cover her soft skin).
“God, what are those grownups thinking? Why make it so the Threat’s presence saved the city? I get that they lost their temper after their attempts with drones failed, but still.”
“At least they were using normal warheads.”
“It doesn’t really matter.”
Fuel-air explosive bombs, thermobaric bombs, and nuclear bombs.
There were a few different weapons that could blow away a wide area, but none of it mattered if they could not reach their target. If an ordinary warhead could not reach, then neither could a nuclear one. Those overeager elites in camouflage had just implicitly proven that it was impossible for traditional military technology to eliminate the Threat.
That meant it was time for the Crystal Magicians who surpassed such ordinary things.
The next battlefield would be at the source of those lasers.
A Threat that could fire beams of light was attached to the roof of the Second Grimnoah academy ship.
“Be honest with me: you were glad that failed, weren’t you?”
“I mean, even an ordinary warhead creates a blast and shockwave across dozens or even hundreds of meters. And while they were targeting a ship out at sea, one of the missiles could still end up falling on a city.”
“That isn’t what I meant and you know it.”
He heard a metallic sound and sensed someone approaching from behind.
With the mechanical joints supporting her weight in place of a wheelchair, Omotesandou Kyouka pressed up against his back in nothing but a bikini bottom.
These were the actions of a girl who knew how to play the game.
The sweet demon whispered to him as if blowing a heated breath in his ear.
“I’m saying it would be a problem for you if those had hit and damaged Second Grimnoah. They called it deserted, but the students of the first ship remain crystallized on the lowest level.”
“Don’t worry. I feel the same. I am even willing to thank the Threat this one time. Hee hee. There are times when your honest thoughts must remain hidden because they would receive a flood of criticism if you ever spoke them aloud.”
Aine tilted her head while wiping her hands off with the towel a short distance away.
The first ship had been obliterated by the former world’s strongest known as the Problem Solvers. Karuta and Kyouka’s classmates and upperclassmen had been slaughtered and those fatal injuries had caused them to fully crystallize. All because of other humans, not the unidentified Threat.
It would take them long enough to recover as it was, but if their crystallized forms were shattered, that penalty would grow dizzyingly long.
Karuta recalled the face of the friend he had once laughed with and clenched his teeth without turning toward the President whose body heat he could feel on his back. He wanted to save them, no matter what it took. He would not let the Threat do anything to them and those Japanese soldiers were a problem too. Then there was the coalition force champing at the bit in the distant ocean. He did not want to let them begin a general attack or allow any “noble sacrifices” if this developed into an all-out war.
Those were his classmates, his friends, and living human beings.
He was not going to give up on them and have their names carved into some pretty memorial.
A cute cry reached his ears.
All strength left Omotesandou Kyouka’s knees and she wrapped her arms around his neck to support herself. Just like a small child jumping onto her father’s back while throwing a tantrum.
She laughed bitterly.
“Ah ha ha. I guess untested prototypes only work like a charm in fiction. Was this the battery, or does it have a loose connection? I suppose I will be stuck on logistical support again this time. I thought I might be able to join the fight if I could run freely around the battlefield, but one malfunction like this on the front line would mean death.”
This time, it was not calculated out or a performative action similar to a speech made up on a large stage. Her large chest pressed against his back even more solely due to this unexpected trouble.
The sensation of her flesh was too powerful a stimulus for the teenage boy, but he did not bat an eye at her sighs, that sensation, or the unusual glimpse at her honest thoughts.
He only looked bitter as he stared out the window.
And he spoke like a lost child at an amusement park.
“This has nothing to do with Yamanen or Natlena who only arrived for the second ship. No one is going to agree to risking their lives to take back Second Grimnoah just because it would save some people who most people think of as already dead.”
“True, but I can give you an official reason for it. You can leave all the tricks and conspiracies to your black-hearted President.”
The strongest could only reveal their weakness to another strongest.
That was why Omotesandou Kyouka’s childlike behavior was quickly replaced by an all-accepting, motherly smile.
“I will give them an emotional and idealistic but also beneficial and logical justification. I will set up the conditions just right so they have no escape and could not back out even if they wanted to.”
The ordinary people could only guess at how the great heroes and warriors felt.
There were battles from which you could not run.
And after coming this far, there was a clear division within Grimnoah.
Only the survivors of the first ship had any attachment to that first ship, so only the Four Living Gods shared that attachment. This was not like the Crystal Beach where everyone had banded together to survive. Those four would be getting the rest of the students involved for their own personal reasons.
This would be a guilty battle built on secrets.
A giggling breath reached his ear.
She may have been afraid too. That may have been why she made sure to maintain her confident demeanor. She had several different faces, but which one was she using to laugh here? Utagai Karuta was having a harder and harder time of reading her. Even though they had relied on each other to survive so many deadly battles.
“At this point, the two of us are nothing but villains,” whispered the alluring demon.
|Back to Illustrations||Return to Main Page||Forward to Chapter 1|