IndexVSDRRR Crossover Academy City Chapter
Academy City Chapter
Heiwajima Shizuo – half his body was submerged in the middle of the river, motionless.
…What on earth was he talking about? The fierce blond man wearing a bartender’s suit and sunglasses was thinking along such lines. What, why, and how did it become like this? No matter how much he thought about it, he couldn’t give a reasonable answer. Heiwajima Shizuo knew that he wasn’t good at thinking about things, and besides, his surroundings did not look like Ikebukuro in any way, and to say that this was a regular developed city would be underselling its neatness.
There was an airship with a large screen on it slowly moving over his head, broadcasting some strange news.
“…Flying overhead at 10,000 to 25,000 kilometers in the sky, the high altitude flying SSTO platform “Sky by Fire” has beaten the world record of 152 consecutive days in the air. Before this, it had already claimed the record of being the world’s largest aircraft, having the world’s largest loading capacity, as well as being the mobile platform with the world’s largest launch capacity. This time…”
Even Shizuo, who doesn’t regularly watch the news, could tell that there was something off with this content. Not to mention the obvious flying machine which wasn’t making any noise. This was no longer in the realm of common sense.
Still half submerged in the river, Heiwajima Shizuo said this in a frighteningly low voice.
Sometimes, he talked to himself like this.
“This sort of weird and troublesome situation is most likely related to that bastard. Speaking of which, “yesterday” was the same – annoying as fuck. I should first find that damn flea and kill him. Ah fuck, my smokes are all wet! I’m definitely killing Izaya, that bastard!!”
Although that might sound insane, he has somehow always managed to find out the truth through such methods. He was a man whose very existence ran opposite of the saying “let sleeping dogs lie.”
An incomprehensible situation, thinking of Orihara Izaya, and his supply of nicotine running out – Shizuo had ticked off three of those checkboxes…
“Though, to be fair, no matter how much that flea looks like a flea, since he came from his mother’s belly, in the end, he’s still a human. Deciding to kill him on a whim isn’t that good…Argh, why did that bastard have to be born from someone!? If he were a toy or a doll, I would have killed him without saying anything – that guy pisses me off!”
Let’s take a step back.
That’s right, giving way to anger would be the easy way out. Movie heroes always turn that anger into strength and try to beautify such behavior. But that’s something that can be done by any dog you can find on the curb…. Well, he had never had the patience to endure through something so slow paced as a movie. Anyway, one must suppress that anger – the ability to do so was unique to humans. Hadn’t he caused so much trouble for his brother before because of this very issue of patience?
Slowly, like steam escaping from a highly pressurized steam engine, Shizuo suppressed his rage.
Essentially, thanks to that, situations such as the Earth being karate chopped in half or half of the Moon being vaporized by a beam of Shizuo’s rage were avoided.
“Hi~, Shizu-chan…. How are you not dead yet?”
He heard something, an auditory hallucination.
This auditory hallucination was accompanied by a visual one.
More than 50 meters away, a grand steel bridge stood, and the illusion of a slender, elegant man with a large smile on his face was leaning against the railing of the bridge, waving his hand.
In addition, there came a loud popping noise from inside Heiwajima Shizuo’s head.
It was the sound of the angry steam engine, one that had been releasing steam slowly, blowing it all away at once.
He could not even wait for his shout to fully form.
Shizuo brought the upper half of his body down into the river.
There was a vending machine in the bottom of the river, possibly a nasty joke from a certain someone, and Shizuo silently pulled it up with both hands.
There was an explosive sound.
The extra large artillery shell flew through the sky, just like it would have in the streets of Ikebukuro.
“Ah, I don’t like this, don’t like this at all.”
The young man named Orihara Izaya was talking in a perfunctory manner while running from alley to alley. However, this wasn’t the commonly seen “distancing oneself from the other” method of running away. Attempting to escape Heiwajima Shizuo, who was so packed with muscle that he could take bullets straight on, by foot, was undoubtedly suicidal. Therefore, Izaya constantly turned from alley to alley to execute maneuvers such as “disappearing from view” or “eliminating clues.”
The fact that he was facing the Shizuo, who could maybe even outrun a cheetah or a leopard, and was still alive today was undeniable proof for the effectiveness of such countermeasures.
“I at least thought “getting caught up in the distortion of space” would have caused you to die; I mean, with this, I don’t even know why I made this deal with “them.”
This method should have only worked in the streets of Ikebukuro. The reason was very simple: if you were not familiar with the area, you couldn’t make use of the intricate system of alleys. He had originally wanted to shake his opponent off, but if he ran into a dead end, or if that sort of thing happened, it would be a real problem. Facing an opponent like Shizuo, there was no doubt he would be made into mincemeat – live.
In spite of this, Orihara Izaya managed to navigate the alleyways easily.
You could maybe say that this was going even smoother than it would have back in the streets of Ikebukuro.
(Well, this city also seems to have some sort of thing going on for itself, but anyway, it’s a lot more convenient since there aren’t any “adults” lurking in the darkness of this city. It’s like arriving on an island that uses shells as currency and has no concept of forgery… Well in any case, I just wish Shizu-chan would die already.)
His strides were like that of this city’s… Academy City’s citizens.
Or would it be better to say it was as if he had already obtained a detailed map of this place beforehand, thus being able to understand every nook and cranny of this city.
He casually leaped over the parked SUV on the roadside, slid beneath a hot dog cart, and finally ran straight up a building in just a few seconds. Overall, such actions were similar to a tiger or a lion crossing obstacles to chase its prey.
Despite all this, Heiwajima Shizuo had lost Orihara Izaya.
This place was like an intricate maze of concrete in all directions.
The bartender with sunglasses put his hand on a wall with red letters scrawled everywhere, which were not in English at all, and slowly breathed out.
He was trying to keep himself from “accidentally” destroying the building.
(…No matter how flea-like that flea is, this is too much of a coincidence. No, since a flea is always just a flea, it’s impossible for it to win without any preparation.)
If you stepped on the opponent’s layed-out track without the certainty of being able to destroy it completely, it would be meaningless to chase it heedlessly. He had already learned his lesson about this kind of “smell” countless times in high school. It was the smell of imminent failure.
However, it was at that very moment.
Suddenly, there was an ear-splitting sound. It was like the sound made from scraping a rough piece of rock against metal.
“…That goddamn flea.”
Shizuo didn’t think it was Izaya himself.
Actually, in the case of that Orihara Izaya, it was usually more troublesome if he himself did not appear. In other words, this was the situation he was best in. If he used himself as a decoy and baited his opponent into following him, that opponent, chasing after him without thinking, would be led into a deserted alley in no time. And then an assassin would appear. Wasn’t this “exactly” what that guy did best? It felt like getting in 10 consecutive combos in a trapping game – a trap so obvious, it was oddly satisfying.
But Shizuo wasn’t one to be cowed by something on this level.
Rather, his emotion meter was maxed out by rage right now.
“In other words, I can find out where that flea is just by beating that guy up, right…?”
The monster who could be considered the apex of the human race walked towards the source of the sound without any hint of hesitation.
The only question left was whether Shizuo would be able to beat “that guy” up while making sure his tongue and cheeks were left intact.
Then, in a dirty alleyway with red graffiti everywhere, stood a girl who clearly did not belong there.
She had short, black hair and large glasses. She seemed timid, and that shone through not only from her looks but also from all of her small actions, ranging from slightly twitching and shrinking her body to hugging her body as if she were trying to protect herself. The girl, who had a blazer that looked like it was from some school uniform, would’ve seemed attractive to people who were into that sort of thing, yet annoying to people who found such things distasteful. From the air around her, one could tell she did not actively look for a long and eventful life, but however, the needle in her meter spasmed from left to right, always straining further from the “average.”
Although she seemed the type to be reading obscure poetry anthologies in the school library, she was holding the very thing that would completely shatter such an image. Though from her posture, which looked like she was hugging herself, it could have been said that she was in fact embracing “that thing.”
So, what could be “that thing”?
The answer was a katana.
“Hey, you over there, you know that it’s actually the truth!?”
In front of Anri, who was retreating two, three steps backwards, was a pointy-haired high school boy who furrowed his brows as if he were in a conundrum.
His expression was desperate, and his voice carried a sense of unease.
“I have no idea where you came from, but it’s obvious that you’re not familiar with this place, and that you don’t belong here!”
His words weren’t making much sense in the first place, but even without that, Sonohara Anri felt an acute dizziness in her head. She realized that she was losing the ability to recognize the sounds coming from in front of her as words.
This was not simply a matter of speaking to a boy she had never met before.
The real reason lay within the katana she was holding.
Correctly speaking, it should be called a demonic blade.
It was shouting loudly in the sweet voice of a woman directly into the mind of Anri, the owner of the blade.
The tone was completely different from her usual whisperings proclaiming her love of humanity.
“What is that; what is that; what is that; what is that; what is that? Wuhuhuhu! Ahh, ahhhh! That’s not good; that can’t be good; no matter how much I think about it, that’s definitely not good! I have no problems with being shattered, dulled, melted, or changed, and I would still be myself, but I have no doubt something terrible will happen if I were to glance off even so much as a fingertip!”
Kirikirikiri!! Anri’s vision was forcibly drawn to a certain place.
It was drawn to the pointy-haired boy, and especially to the part below his right wrist.
(What is… this person?)
Anri was, in a word, terrified.
This was not because of the unusual reaction of Saika nor the “something” hidden within the pointy-haired boy.
She didn’t know what, but something was definitely off.
She sensed danger that raced along her spine, mercilessly fanning the fear in her heart.
It was as if an invisible fishing hook was pulling her soul out to the other side of the “frame” Anri had predefined.
(I know Saika always whispers her love for humanity. Sure, there will be some exceptions whom she hates, but she’s never simply given up to fear like this…)
“It’s not too late yet.”
The pointy-haired boy spoke.
Even if a knife was pressed into her neck, even if a gun was pointed straight at her forehead, as long as she was still within her “frame,” Anri would have never been shaken. But even she stepped back from a totally normal step, like a totally normal girl.
This was not good.
The only reason she had been able to stay sane against the whisperings, or the “curse,” of Saika was the existence of her “frame.” Anri could not imagine what would become of herself if she were to forget its existence.
“Anyway, I’m running out of time. Please tell me how many people are with you. And then all of you involved need to go back. There’s no other choice anymore!”
In an instant.
Sonohara Anri drew her katana with a large motion. As if she couldn’t even feel its weight, she swung it around with one hand, creating orange sparks as the blade screeched against the wall, until its end was pointed directly at her opponent.
The action was in no way like one that would have been made by someone who has knowledge of kendo or swordsmanship.
It would be more accurate to say that Anri had merely acted out of self defense, much akin to a person instinctively protecting their face with both of their hands.
However, the pointy-haired boy merely clicked his tongue.
As if in response, he clenched his fist again and took a posture of his own.
“Damn it! Why did it have to come to this!?”
The moment the fist was clenched.
Through Saika, an absurd amount of tension and sense of danger ravaged Anri’s consciousness..
Numerous fishing hooks from the other side of her “frame” grabbed onto her exposed soul and tried to forcibly pull her out. An unknown reality was threatening her very personality.
Starting from the edges, her vision began to lose focus.
She reflexively covered her lips with her hands as she could feel her stomach heaving uncomfortably.
(This is… bad)
Saika’s blade started glowing an ominous red.
No, that wasn’t it.
That was just the light reflecting off the blade. It was Anri’s own eyes that were really glowing.
Her vision became nauseous.
Her consciousness began to fade.
Saika’s “whisperings”, which used to merely be continuous soft mutterings, began to pressure her heart little by little while accompanied by an unfamiliar, sweet smell.
In fact, Anri never turned into a “slasher demon.”
The reason was simple yet difficult to explain.
It was because out of nowhere, a flying vending machine launched the pointy-haired boy into the wall.
It wasn’t as if the vending machine was made of sponge, nor was the wall an old and crumbling, earth wall. It was beyond any doubt that the vending machine was made of metal and the wall was a solid concrete wall.
Nevertheless, what in the world just happened?
There wasn’t even a one millimeter gap between the wall and the vending machine, and no matter how you put it, it would have been most accurate to say that the pointy-haired boy was “buried.”
A dry sound followed.
Nobody knew what had happened to the boy.
“Fu fu fu! Ha ha ha!! Ah, that was amazing that was so good that’s what all human beings should be like if there’s a human with the highest specs right in front of me then I shouldn’t be afraid but instead love them love them love them love them!!”
When she came to, Saika was back to normal.
Accordingly, Anri also came up with an appropriate response. She pulled her “self” that was halfway out of her “frame” and began lightening the effects of the “cursed” whisperings.”
The red in her eyes slowly faded.
By the way.
The person who caused such damage spoke aloud.
“Yo, do you know anything about fleas?”
The girl who secretly hid the demonic blade behind her back shook her head gently.
I don’t know.
Accompanied by a cracking sound.
Kamijou Touma kicked the mangled vending machine out of the crumbling concrete wall. Then he wobbled outside.
Patter patter, the blood spilled from his forehead and dripped onto the ground.
“…That hurts, dammit! Are you from Ikebukuro as well, you bastard!?”
“Huh? What a surprise. I would get it if you had just dodged or blocked my attack, but you’re somehow still standing after taking a direct hit. You must be as solid as Simon, right?”
“…Another name I don’t recognize. Exactly how many people came here..?.”
“Well, anyway, I have just one question for you… Do you know about the flea?”
“Ahhhhhhhh, seriously!! How many people are from Ikebukuro!?”
Shouting, Kamijou suddenly charged towards Heiwajima Shizuo and tried to grab his shirt.
Sadly for him, even though it had been plunged into a river and had gotten wet, that did not change the fact that the shirt was a gift filled with memories from Shizuo’s brother.
And the most deadly thing was that when Kamijou grabbed the shirt, one of the buttons flew off.
The pointy-haired boy heard a strange sound.
It sounded like a bundle of steel wires being forcibly stretched on both ends like a rubber band.
However, he would never be able to guess what the sound actually had been.
No one could have thought that the sounds made by the straining of a mere human’s muscles could ring out like that.
Blankly, he realized he had messed up.
I guess I’m on the highway to hell now. (TL Note: Or literally, I’ve stepped on the death line – could be translated as “stepped on a landmine,” but that’s technically a different expression)
At that moment.
All sound disappeared with a flick of his wrist.
At the same time, strangely enough, Heiwajima Shizuo made a similar sound.
With just one hand, he had grabbed his collar and then threw.
He himself was probably the only one who could grasp what had happened.
The person who had been right in front of him, whose name he did not know, had been blasted away from the alley and made a spectacular sound of something splattering everywhere.
He couldn’t even imagine what happened to the boy – not even where he landed.
The man in a bartender’s suit, who was left all alone, muttered to himself with a face like he had accidentally ripped the paper while scooping goldfish because he had put too much strength into it.
“Shoot, I should’ve asked about the flea before smashing the fly…”
Satin dress: [Huhh!? I’ve never heard the name Tanaka Tarou. Are you someone who hasn't used this social media? Well, anyway, nice to meet you.]
Tanaka Tarou: [Nice to meet you too. Anyway, I was really taken aback. It looks basically the same as any other social media, but it turns out to be something completely different on the inside, and it’s filled with technology I’ve never seen before.]
Satin dress: [Ahaha! Everything about the technology is adjusted by the server management side, so it has nothing to do with us!]
Tanaka Tarou: [I see. I was just thinking it would be hard when you host it yourself. So, I’ve heard this is a forum that collects rumors.]
Satin dress: [Yes indeed. If it has anything to do with urban legends, leave it to me! Ask me about anything from the best location for a bravery test to the most nerve-racking workplaces!
Tanaka Tarou: [Um, are there rumors about the demonic blade or the headless rider?]
Satin dress: [Hmm. You’re looking for some really retro stuff, huh.]
Tanaka Tarou: [I’m sorry.”]
Satin dress: [No need to be sorry. But, uhh, oh yes… There was one derived from some other rumor. Have you heard of the subway tunnels story?]
Tanaka Tarou: [I’m sorry.”]
Satin dress: [If you apologize to me one more time, I’ll force you to play FPS games with me for free until tomorrow morning both as punishment and to bring us closer as friends, alright? Anyway, some experiment on neutrinos or the Higgs boson or whatever led to rumors that a strange door opened in an unused subway station. And if you go through that door, you would be teleported to a fantasy world where swords and magic are intertwined. It’s recently become somewhat viral.]
Tanaka Tarou: [So how is that connected to the headless rider?]
Satin dress: [Ahh, yes. Well, if we can go to the other side, it’s logical to think that someone could come to us from the other side. There have also been numerous rumors of strange sightings around the station’s entrances and exits. Should I send you the video URLs?]
Tanaka Tarou: [That would be great. …Wait, numerous rumors?]
Satin dress: [Yeah. You’ll see it in the video, but it seems that there’s more than one of them who came through. Vampiric aristocrats, retro gangs from the Prohibition era, and all sorts of other things. I mean, compared to UFOs and Little Greys, it seemed there were more types of them.]
Tanaka Tarou: [Then, you’re saying one of them was–]
Satin dress: [Exactly. There was a headless rider in a jet black riding suit. Well, I suppose it could just be something a college film student is doing to ease their boredom.]
A headless rider in a black leotard pulled up to the side of the road on a motorcycle. She elegantly typed an ellipsis onto her PDA.
As if there was always some bored, perpetually online guy in the anime forum, a reply soon popped up, saying, "Don't just write meaningless BS."
Once again, without even realizing it, she had become a celebrity.
If there happened to be an "original" in this city whose head had been cut right off by a wire trap, she wouldn't even be able to lift her face to meet theirs. At that point, it would probably be better for her just to serve up some cookies or whatever.
"But like, I can't lift my face because I don't have one. Fufufu."
Right after those words were uttered, the motorcycle that "she" was riding let out a sound similar to that of an upset horse.
The headless rider came back to her senses and hurriedly deleted the text she had typed. If her lover Shinra had seen it, it would have been disastrous. In all seriousness, he might have even made an "I can't lift my face" t-shirt.
Incidentally, this city, which was apparently called Academy City, seemed to be a treasure trove of urban legends, just like Ikebukuro, and there were all sorts of rumors running around, including the headless rider.
For example, the rumor that nobody knows who's writing the "bloody German letters" all over the city or even when they’re written, but a tragedy will occur just as foretold... and so on.
"...The 'Sky by Fire' is the world's largest high-altitude flying SSTO and the pride of Academy City. Unlike a rocket or a space shuttle, a single-stage spaceship separates from an airplane mid-flight to break through the atmosphere. This was a major Academy City project that combined the scattered research and developmental achievements of various private spacecraft companies..."
An airship slowly passed over the headless rider's head, its large screen broadcasting a mass of information to the entire city.
"A spaceship, huh. There are rockets outside of Tanegashima too...? I...I just hope that kind of thing doesn't attract real aliens, shudder shudder."
The headless rider typed furiously on her PDA to turn her mind elsewhere.
Suddenly, she turned her gaze to the side.
As if deliberately spoiling the squeaky clean walls of the building, huge red letters had been scrawled on one side.
Although the letters were from the English alphabet, they were arranged completely differently.
But for the international headless rider, German was not a problem.
Then, after skimming the letters, she entered something onto her PDA.
For some reason, she then turned the screen towards the direction of the graffiti.
This was what had been written on the screen:
"Well, what the hell are you doing there, vampire?"
"So that's why 3D printers are like pyramids."
Said a young man who was holding a plastic bag with anime designs on it.
He was Yumasaki Walker. Next to him, a woman named Karisawa, who was also holding a plastic bag, laughed.
"Yumacchi, I'm a cosplayer, so I only know so much about 3-D objects. How do you expect me to understand something as philosophical as that?"
"How should I say this... Whether you're making a battleship or a girl, or a girl in the form of a battleship… It's like building something up with loads of tiny dots to make a smooth outline. Basically, you can only add to it and can never subtract from it. After all, you can't make the tunnel after building the mountain. So in the end, it's like a pyramid–you can only create the internal rooms and pathways by changing the way you stack the dots when you make it at first."
"But this place, Academy City, is just filled with tools that allow one to use the taking away method to dig right through all three dimensions! And it's as easy as using a photocopier in a convenience store! Man, I can't even put into words how awesome this is! It's indescribable! The possibilities, the range of what can be done, are on a totally different level! POGGERS!!!"
"So, Yumacchi, you're a 3-D kinda guy?"
"Up to a purity of about 2.99 dimensions, I'm your guy! An idol made of polygons is not three dimensional! It's just pretending to be so!"
Next to them, there was also one man who actually had some common sense. He made a face like he had eaten a bitter insect after listening to the others' conversation. The man named Kyohei Kadota always had something weighing down his mind.
"...You know what, it's your life, so I won't say anything more about it. But what the hell happened to that Togusa guy?"
"Ah, well, Togusa-san is totally obsessed with 3-D idols. After seeing Meigo Arisa-chan just now, he disappeared into the crowd like a slippery eel."
"That was pretty cool, right!? It's definitely not just a normal cosplay–could it be some kind of promo for a theatrical release!?"
"Hey, what about Hijiribe Ruri...?"
"Tsk, tsk, tsk! That ain't right, Dotachin; this isn't cheating! While idol fans know they'll never be able to touch the real deal, they're free to construct harems and dream teams in their brains!! Of course, this is all confined by the limits of their wallet!!"
They hadn't changed at all. It's as if that group of people had concentrated all of their points in professional baseball into a single parameter.
At that moment, Kadota noticed that Karisawa was looking elsewhere.
In her line of sight, next to the window of a shop of some sort, stood a girl in a pure-white nun's habit and a bespectacled, ample-chested high school girl in an indigo jacket.
Kadota warned them just in case.
"... Don't get involved in that. If that's a religious person, you might accidentally create an international incident!"
"What are you talking about, Dotachin? They're our comrades! Can't you see!?"
"That's Index and Kazakiri Hyouka from the show A Certain Magical Index! ...You know, that's a lot more difficult than it looks. It always gets heated whenever we discuss how one would portray the safety pins!!!"
"So they're cosplayers, huh...?"
"But really, that's a scarily accurate reproduction. Let's go ask how they did it! Wheee!!"
Saying that, Karisawa stretched her arms out horizontally while holding on to her plastic bag and charged off like a plane taking off.
The cosplay(?) girls were saying some things as they looked through the window.
It looks like they weren't browsing the shop's merchandise.
"Well, it's based in German, but there's a lot of phrases in some sort of dialect, so it's hard to decipher..."
"...I-I don't speak German, so I can't say much."
On one side of the transparent glass window, crimson letters were haphazardly scrawled over it.
It wasn't lipstick or anything like that: it was written in some kind of paint that looked suspiciously like blood and gave an ominous feeling.
Karisawa, who was looking at the window over the shoulders of the girls she had just met, suddenly said,
"Hm? Doesn't that say, 'The Sky by Fire will fall from up high. Three more people, and it'll fall for sure'?"
"Uh, umm, and you are…?"
The two girls, shocked, turned around, shoulders shaking, but Kirasawa only gave them a non-sequitur answer.
"Heh, for the users of the Evil Eye, German is a compulsory subject! Rather than one, two, and three, it should be, eins, zwei, and drei! Schwarz Kreuz, Black Crucifix! But everyone wants to use German, so it's common sense to memorize all sorts of niche words in order to stand out from the rest!!"
The conversation died. Maybe it had never been alive in the first place.
The gaze of the girls wandered around, and then fixed on a single point, resting on the face of someone who looked like he could actually communicate properly with them.
As always, Kyohei Kadota had a face like he had eaten a bitter insect.
"... I'll do my best to translate, but even I have my limits."
In front of the headless rider, the characters written in blood on the wall squirmed.
The characters no longer needed the wall as a canvas. The crimson liquid, as if in a micro-g environment, floated in midair, and then began to form a particular German phrase.
"Either way, I look like this, so even if I wanted to convey an accurate warning to the residents, when they see me like this, they're so scared that I don't even have a chance to communicate. So I had no choice but to use methods that their common sense could accept, like the fact that bloody graffiti has been scribbled everywhere in the streets."
"Wouldn't the fact that this much blood––way more than what one could get by draining an entire human body––was sprayed everywhere go past their threshold of common sense? It wouldn't be surprising if rumors of some unknown murderer were to start circulating."
"Hmm, the human world sure is difficult to understand. While being holed up in your own castle is comfortable, if you surround yourself only with such comfortable things, you’ll be spoiled, and such considerations will only be crude at best."
"As in the castle of a vampire. Although the lordship has been transferred to my son, I would still be called viscount if I were to return to my country in such a form."
Although she was just a headless rider with no clear memories of her own, as expected, she had a firmer grasp on the occult than most ordinary people. Still, a vampire in the form of a mass of blood could only be described as "exotic."
"I was hoping you would look a bit more... aesthetically pleasing..."
"It's basically the same as assigning parameters in baseball games. Sure, some vampires go all-in for looks, like the immortal queen of internet fairy tales who sings and dances while pretending to be a 3-D model or the diva vampire who, instead of cash, collects blood donations from millions. I wanted to do things a little differently, so I decided to forgo my outward appearance completely and instead further my evolution."
"You know, it would be great if you could come back stronger and stronger every time you were defeated for like three times or something."
"Oh, you'll have to ask the mayor for that kind of thing. He's the expert in powering up after being defeated."
There was an endless amount of questions raised about the vampire made of bodily fluids, but there were more pressing concerns at the moment.
The vampire who called himself(?) viscount had expressed so in bloody letters.
"What do you mean ‘you were trying to convey an accurate warning?’ "
"Well––though I'm sure you're aware of it as well––by nature, we are not supposed to be in this world. While it's thrilling to think of establishing diplomatic relations using such an occurrence, things will most certainly go wrong."
"And more specifically?"
"It's like the butterfly effect. Regardless of whether we have malicious intentions or not, because of the emergence of such outside forces, the great causality in the world here will be gradually skewed, leading to something that should never be allowed to happen… but that's beyond our control. After all, even if a butterfly's flapping wings can cause a storm, that butterfly cannot hope to control said storm."
The bloody text continued to shift.
Having finally met a person(?) who could properly understand German, it seemed the viscount was extremely upbeat.
"Nevertheless, we can't just say that it has nothing to do with us and that the fact that this world will be destroyed is not something we should care about. That would be too irresponsible, right?"
"What do you mean by something that should never be allowed to happen?"
"Well, you're already seeing it."
The viscount began making something other than just words.
A pointer icon, like that of a computer cursor, pointed straight up.
To the sky.
The airship floating slowly in the blue sky was broadcasting such news.
"The ‘Sky by Fire’ is currently sailing over Japan and is preparing numerous SSTO vehicles for gravity-free medical research, high-speed cargo transportation, orbital solar power generation, and personalized space travel."
The headless rider raised her full-face helmet and looked to the sky, typing some text onto the PDA under her shadow.
It seemed that the vampire gave only an incomprehensible, cryptic answer.
But that was not the case at all.
“It appears that the ‘Sky by Fire’ isn’t actually something that exists in this world.”
Only the immense scale of the situation prevented the headless rider from properly understanding what was on hand.
“We don’t know how many foreign entities have broken into this world, but all of the distortions caused by such movements were concentrated into a single point in the sky. And so, the world's largest supergiant aircraft that should never have existed was born. And it will continue to exist until we leave this world. On the other hand, if we foreign entities continue to increase and be active here, then its details will become more and more fine-tuned.”
"And here's the worst part: it seems to have a self-preservation function inside, so, to put it simply, it's actively working towards the destruction of the factor that we need in order to leave this place."
The bloody text laid out the terrible facts so concisely.
“An SSTO can be transformed into a ballistic missile just by changing its contents. If over 100 shots of them were fired on this city at the same time... To be precise, it would try to shatter the “rumored tunnels” we need in order to return to our original world. If that fails, the ‘Sky by Fire’ itself might fall like a meteorite to shut the door and make us stay here forever."
A total length of three hundred and eighty meters.
And a total width of five hundred.
It was an aircraft that looked like a flying wing aircraft shaped like a "<" with another, sharper, V-shaped pair of wings stuck on top. A four-winged flying machine, it looked like a kimono floating on a river. In fact, more than 80% of its giant fuselage was filled with SSTO launch and control devices, and the upper part of the fuselage was covered with countless hatches, which looked like a honeycomb or the vertical launch tubes on a nuclear submarine from which cruise missiles were shot.
The manufacturing technology used could be seen everywhere in Academy City, which, admittedly, could even be mistaken as a Martian base by outsiders.
"This is fourth control; some unidentified cooling system is proliferating around the computing equipment! It is presumed that the object has acquired CIC-class processing power. Currently in the process of self-segmentation!!"
"You can't even remove the parts. Cut cables are rewired in about 30 seconds on average!"
"Warhead formation capability is rising. Unlike until now, when only conventional rocket fuel was injected, it seems that special explosives are being mass-produced in on-board chemical synthesis plants!!!!"
The lamenting cries of young girls could be heard from all over.
Even as they cried out, the ground beneath them writhed, the wires and the pipes in the walls constantly shifted, and rooms and equipment that had never been seen before were constantly created as if it was a matter of course.
It was as if they were inside a living creature, or as if they were watching a timelapse of a plant's growth.
This wasn't the time to talk about modern technology. Rather, the technology itself was becoming more and more complex by the second, right in front of their eyes.
"We're less than a hundred kilometres away from Academy City. Thanks to the altitude, we're already at a point where something can reach the city by simply free-falling without any propulsion!!"
"I still can't get my commands to be received. Maintain an altitude of 25,000 meters!"
"Analyzing the target's position through a radar survey, terrain relief scanning, and concave/convex patterns.... The target is represented as the center of Academy City!! The launch tube hatches on the first and second wings are opening in sequence!"
The girls who were giving those various reports seemed to be middle schoolers.
If one were a native of Academy City, one would have recognized them to be the elite students of the famous Tokiwadai Middle School.
"Sigh, what's going on here…?"
Misaka Mikoto muttered impatiently.
There was no explanation of any kind, and even those girls couldn't explain what had happened.
They had been at school, as usual. Shortly after the bell that signalled the end of the first period had rung, they had all appeared inside this machine, which they had never seen before.
Rather than to say that they had been transported somehow, it was more appropriate to say that the entire landscape around them had been replaced.
"How exactly was the list of names leaked?"
Said the queen of the largest clique at Tokiwadai Middle School, Shokuhou Misaki, as she leaned back against the wall.
One of the monitors that were lined up everywhere was displaying a student register for Tokiwadai Middle School. Each name was assigned to each part of the giant aircraft called the "Sky By Fire."
"Or could there be another reason why the names are known even though they haven't been released…?"
Presumably, they were to be the crew of the ship.
A unified group of people, possessing enough skill to be able to manipulate such an aircraft.
That may have been the reason why the aircraft twisting like an organism had "selected" them.
In order to assume the proper form of an aircraft.
Everything it did was to enrich the details even though it had the ability to grow to completion by itself already.
At some distance from Shokuhou, Misaka Mikoto and Shirai Kuroko were in the middle of a conversation.
"Onee-sama, how is the situation on your side?"
"Wait a minute, here, it's this wire, right…? Should be fine, there's just a bit left... there!!"
Misaka said, hunched over at the console.
Having peeled off the equipment's power distribution panel, she was cutting into the mass of cables inside.
According to previous reports from the girls, even if the power distribution cables were cut, they would automatically be reconnected, but...
"Okay, that's good... Although the severed cables will automatically connect back together, if we add other wires to the mix, they should mix together and be restored as well! Alright, it's starting soon!!"
Misaka Mikoto snapped her fingers.
The terminal held in her other hand showed a red debug screen that she had never seen before.
Although it was based in English, it was totally different from what one would see in everyday conversation. Kuroko, who was watching from the side, could not understand it at all, but that was not the case for Misaka.
Tatatatatatat!! As her fingers quickly moved around, the "Sky by Fire," which had been so stable that you could almost forget it was actually flying, began to shake slightly.
"Local data link, CIC, first through fourth full wing surface, waiting for the command list to be displayed... there it is!! The emergency stop command for all SSTOs about to be launched! Disengage target coordinates!! And now… !!"
There was a noticeable change in the screens piled up everywhere.
One of the underclassmen turned her back.
"Launch preparation successfully lifted!! With this, Academy City is saved!!"
"That was just the first step. If we don't land this thing safely, then..."
Shortly thereafter, Misaka smiled.
Bzzzzt!! The cabin lights immediately turned bright red.
Immediately afterwards, the entire "Sky by Fire" shook tremendously.
In the blink of an eye, all of the girls were thrown up to the ceiling, as if gravity had disappeared. Some turned in the air and landed with their feet on the ceiling, while others held the hands of other girls while floating in the air. If they had not all been high-level Tokiwadai espers, a few head-on collisions and a couple broken bones would not have been surprising at all.
So why did such a gravitational anomaly occur?
The reason was revealed before they even got their feet back on the ground.
"The 'Sky by Fire' is rapidly losing altitude!!"
"Its speed is rising––now it's practically shooting itself straight down to Earth!!"
"The surface analysis on the radar is working again. The target is still the middle of Academy City, but this...this isn't using the SSTOs! It's going to crash the whole aircraft into the city!!"
"Considering that we have 10 minutes before impact and that we reach the target at top speed, we predict a blast diameter of over 8 kilometers!!"
Listening to the depressing report, Misaka gritted her teeth.
Although the gravitational anomaly hadn't been resolved yet, she magnetically forced herself back on the ground and grabbed the still-attached support terminal that was swinging in the air.
"Argh, why is this thing so persistent!! It's almost like a living creature in its tenacity!!"
At the moment, Kamijou Touma was buried inside a passenger car parked on the side of the road.
This was not some exaggerated metaphor. Half of his body was literally sunken within the rolled metal of the car door.
The car itself had skidded all the way to the other side of the road. The dark marks left on the road by the friction from the tires were testimony to the intensity of the impact.
It was that much.
Shizuo Heiwajima's "accident" had caused that much destruction.
Index had told him about the German words written in blood.
At first, he had been dubious. That was until he witnessed certain things like a bronze statue in front of a station toppling over and all of the windows on a building shattering.
Like a snowball rolling down a slope, the significance of the incidents had grown larger until when he looked back, it had grown to the point where it covered the sky itself.
And then he had heard about the disappearance of Misaka Mikoto.
Through his phone, he had heard that the students of Tokiwadai Middle School were locked up in the "Sky by Fire." In addition, he heard that the giant structure was acting all on its own, so the girls didn't know how to land it.
Death. As if he sensed that one word inching closer toward someone he knew, Kamijou couldn't help but tremble.
He also knew that the existence of the "Ikebukuro group,” who had come from the tunnel over to this side, was at the center of all these distorted events.
There was no way of knowing who had written the bloody German text and what their intentions were. However, now that the situation had reached a critical point, there was no longer room for any doubt.
The "Sky by Fire" planned to obliterate Academy City in order to destroy the tunnel.
If that happened, everything would be lost: the students living in the city, the students of Tokiwadai, and the people from Ikebukuro. They would lose everything. There was no time to explain to each and every one of them. Even if he was being stubborn, it was still the only way.
If he gave up here, everything would be lost.
He might never see the smiles that should've been around him.
With a tremendous sound, Kamijou Touma dug himself out of the metal.
It wasn't over yet.
Even if his opponent wasn't a particularly evil person.
Even if his opponent had a power that didn't make sense in "this world."
That was not a reason for not saving the people in the city or the girls on the "Sky by Fire."
Nor was it a reason to nonchalantly admit that the "Ikebukuro group" should be trapped in this world forever.
"Have to save...."
Kamijou said, with a mouth filled with the taste of iron.
Forcing his wobbly vision to look firmly ahead, he steadied himself.
"I have to save everyone."
Just that was enough.
The young man, once again, firmly stepped toward the future.
Sending the entire "Ikebukuro group" back to their original world before any critical damage is done.
There was no other way to smash through the current situation.
[This is bad.]
The headless rider was driving a large, black motorcycle while entering some words on her PDA.
[Isn't this a super dangerous situation!?]
She was not human, nor did she didn't feel any special attachment to cities outside of Ikebukuro.
However, perhaps because her life in Ikebukuro had influenced the meaning of her existence, she could not put on a leisurely attitude while bringing useless chaos to human society, at least for now.
[I need to do something… It'd be better to start with something simple and easy to understand and then gradually make everything come together. If Shizuo were here, he would've been found out right away, and Anri might also surface due to her "heterogeneity". I guess it's very possible to find information about them through what's trending on SNS and bulletin boards… So then the problem is with Mikado and Aoba, the "ordinary" people. It would be pretty difficult to find them if they're here.]
Although she wanted to "take action" right away, the headless rider suddenly turned her train of thought around.
She was known as a "transporter" underground, and this time, she had once again been involved in some trouble while working but had somehow come to Academy City.
In other words, she still had "the goods."
Inside the stainless steel case and shock-absorbing resin was a bottle of aged liquor. It probably could be stored at room temperature as there was no special coolant.
“Well..... this isn't the best time to talk about this, but this is this, and that’s that, so… Since I don't know what's happening at Ikebukuro, there's no telling what would affect someone's life. Even though it's kept in a case, the bottle is still scary.”
After reconsidering, the headless rider headed to a nearby station.
She placed "the goods" in a station locker and got back on her large motorcycle.
[Alright, now it's time to deal with this super dangerous situation!!]
The headless rider tried her best to eliminate "a certain possibility" from her mind.
But it was impossible to ignore.
Even though she knew that it was the worst case scenario, she couldn't help but think about it.
[Orihaya Izaya... If that guy has something to do with this current situation, then only God knows how this will end.]
The viscount, after watching the headless rider leave, moved the clump of blood floating in the air and wrote some particular German words.
[Well, she's gone.]
"Yes, she's gone."
Someone answered back.
You couldn't really describe how a blood clot that didn't even have eyes, ears, a mouth, or a nose would "look back," but the viscount deliberately made a red silhouette to turn around, purely out of courtesy.
Standing there was a beautiful woman surrounded by frigid air and covered in white from head to toe.
She had gone down a different evolutionary path from the viscount, but in a sense, she was a vampire that was closer to the viscount than anyone else.
[If you had explained it to the humans, things might not have come to this.]
"Don't be ridiculous. Do you think I could've talked to a ‘human being’ I've never met before?"
[If I had known this, I would've brought the "children" with me. Since they're all part of a new generation, they weren't poisoned by the witch hunts, the exorcisms.... as well as the "eaters."]
"Are you serious? Do you really think that having those siblings lingering here will make the current situation even a tiny bit better?"
[...Ah, yes, well, never mind that. Even though they don't mean any harm, they certainly have the power and the temperament to mess everything up. In that respect, "the children" are probably the top of the top.]
"You spoil your children too much."
Dorothy said with a soft, icy sigh.
"So what do we do now?"
[Hmmm. Since the warning has been accurately delivered, we'll rely on that headless rider to spread it now. There's no need for us to continue sending messages in blood. It's about time we started on something else.]
"Are you going to confront the group from Ikebukuro?"
[I'd like to if I could, but I've got other things to do.]
The viscount said with floating red text.
[Something bad is about to crawl out of the tunnel over there. Now, the fact that it's bad isn't a matter of that thing's consciousness, but rather about its very nature. Anyway, this is far from good. The moment it comes out, it'll probably exceed the capacity for "the world on this side."]
[From us vampires, the very ends of the galaxy; from the madness of the liquor of immortality, the deepest secret of alchemy.]
The viscount didn't name the thing openly, probably because of how terrible the situation was.
As if by just uttering a name, one called upon its owner.
"And if that's true, what can you do?"
[I've never been a vampire who seeks power. However, I'm better than the others at not dying, and above all, I'm confident in my ability to lead a humorous conversation. Even just stalling for time would be enough from me.]
Dorothy's eyes narrowed.
And then, she said.
"I'll go with you."
[There's no need for that, you know?]
"I'm your fiancée."
[Well, in that case, I might just leave it to you.]
Her gaze, which always gave a cold impression, suddenly turned even sharper.
"Did you know that the headless rider just now was actually a woman?"
[Huh? I didn't notice that... Hey, wait, Dorothy. Why is everything starting to freeze up?]
"What do you think? Hint: female jealousy."
"Your ability to say such things so nonchalantly is part of your charm, you k-k-k-k-kno–?"
The viscount's crimson clot froze over before he could finish.
After freezing everything, the pure white vampire exhaled softly.
"Really, how could I just let you go?"
As if it were absurd.
But there was also a glint of warmth in her eyes.
"The fact that we have Hawking, a black hole vampire, on one hand, and that on the other we have Ronny is the worst XXXX."
That said, if "they" had already come when he woke up, and everything was destroyed before his eyes, the viscount would surely be in a sorrowful state...
Probably not angry, but sad.
That was why.
"Sigh, how could I have fallen in love with such a troublesome man?"
There was nobody listening, so she could rest assured in speaking her true feelings.
Dorothy Nifas, who spoke thus, departed, alone, from the frozen viscount.
After all, that was what he had said.
That even if your strength was not on par with your opponent, you might find a way to stall for time.
A mass of screeching, ear-piercing sounds gathered together.
From deep within the darkness of a railroad tunnel, a large number of rats scrambled to escape. It was not unlike the unusual behaviour exhibited by animals just before a storm or a great disaster.
No one dared to peek inside. Surely nobody could go in there and come back in one piece.
Nobody knew if whatever was inside carried obvious malice or evil intentions. Maybe it was thinking about completely destroying the Euclidean world as we know it, or it was just dissatisfied with the seasonal chips at the convenience store.
While there was no way to peer through the darkness, there was definitely something peering out from the dark.
It was clear.
“It” was interested in this place.
The moment “it” came out, everything would be thrown into disaster.
As long as there was even a single opportunity to grow, the situation would advance like an avalanche.
After all, the headless rider, Heiwajima Shizuo, and Kyohei Kadota—all part of the "Ikebukuro Group"— had suddenly been thrown into this city that they had never seen before. No matter how calm they seemed on the surface, there was a certain unease, and the best way to get rid of it would have been to find someone they knew.
They were all trying to find each other.
So when the headless rider, Heiwajima Shizuo, and Sonohara Anri met each other, the "Ikebukuro Group" just naturally formed up.
After all, the existence of the headless rider and the violent bartender was a "living landmark" in itself. Although they could never be used as true rendezvous points, they were probably more conspicuous than the owl at Ikebukuro Station. They just walked down the street together, and people who knew them just gathered around them.
[Ugh, I can't do things like that...]
The headless horseman, who was a professional courier and the lover of an underground doctor, muttered.
She knew the "truth."
The "truth" shown on the PDA screen was probably beyond the common sense of the ordinary people of Ikebukuro. Even so, spreading this information would bring about changes. Even if it turned out to be so small that you couldn't observe it with the naked eye, it would still be "a change."
A new set of footsteps could be heard scratching on the ground.
It was probably an inhabitant of Academy City—in fact, it was a spiky-haired high school student in a school uniform.
So far, he had only received two attacks from Heiwajima Shizuo.
But if anyone who knew Shizuo knew about that, they would have thought this:
How are you still alive?
"...Need... your... help."
There was no time left.
No time left until the "Sky by Fire" crashes, and no time left until he could no longer maintain his own consciousness.
And so, the teenager left all the unnecessary things out and said this.
"I need your help... to save my friend on that thing..."
A low sound rattled out.
It was the sound of Heiwajima Shizuo cracking his neck ever so slightly.
"When you want to involve someone in some annoying scheme of yours, it means that you don't care if they get hurt because of you. Even if there's a monster that breathes fire or a full-body suit flying at Mach 10, it doesn't change the fact that you're the primary reason they're in danger. You understand what you're getting yourself into, right??"
He was on the verge of collapse.
Supporting a body that could fall at any moment, the teenager replied.
"I'm not a hero—I don't hope to somehow save everyone purely out of the kindness of my heart..."
"Oh yeah?" Shizuo looked back.
Then, he took a step forward.
The bartender clenched his "fist" with something that sounded like a sheet of hard plastic being torn apart.
He wasn't grabbing a vending machine, nor was he trying to throw anyone. Truly, it was only his own "fist."
"In that case, show me your determination. If you can do that, I'll help you."
He got a response.
An immediate one.
The boy, clenching his right hand, stared at the "enemy" before him, and proclaimed,
"You said it. If I win, you'll help me save them."
Was there any way? Kamijou Touma thought.
There was no way he would normally be able to take out an abomination who could easily toss a human body so hard that the impact could cause a car to skid to the other side of the road with just his hands.
But at the same time, that monster was still human.
His anatomy must be the same. There was absolutely no way he was so overpowered that he had four hearts or literally could not bleed.
So, there must be a weakness somewhere.
How about his eyes? His carotid artery? Or maybe his Achilles' tendons?
That was Kamijou's thought process.
But it was too naive.
The moment a fist came flying at his face, Kamijou Touma's senses utterly collapsed.
The world was falling apart—no, it was his own eyeballs that had gone awry.
He had only managed to realize he was still standing through the trembling of his legs.
There was no time to think things through.
Above all else, his every instinct as a living creature screamed against fighting that man in a bartender suit.
If he couldn't release those bonds, he wouldn't even be able to throw his first punch.
As he thought to himself like that, the second punch came.
"Ah, guhahhhh.....!? Aagaaaghhhhhh!!!!!"
Forget about talking—even his breathing was abnormal.
It was only when he realized that those disgusting sounds were coming out of his mouth that he remembered to breathe. If he kept forgetting like this, he would probably be suffocated by sheer panic.
Kamijou Touma clenched his fist.
It was impossible to determine the distance between him and his opponent with his blurred vision, but he still advanced toward his opponent.
He gave up counting after the third punch.
The very concept of pain disappeared.
Everything, every sensation, was lost to the extreme depths of the burning heat.
The back of his neck rang with an ominous sound. The beating of his heart fell into disarray. He could not taste anything save for the taste of iron filling his mouth. His vision kept tilting, unable to recover. Was it really air that he was inhaling and exhaling? It was no longer distinguishable from that crimson liquid that was flying everywhere.
He knew he wanted to save them.
Although it may have just been his pride, he still wanted to do that.
The girls who had been forced onto the "Sky by Fire," the people living in Academy City, and the "Ikebukuro group" who had been forcibly dragged here.
Index. Misaka Mikoto.
Already, as he clicked his jaws together, he realized he couldn't say any intelligible words.
Even before that, his brain had lost its ability to construct sentences.
It was like slamming a laptop into the ground to destroy the internal components physically.
A primal roar.
Words were no longer needed.
That monster had proclaimed, "Show me your determination."
So Kamijou Touma took his horribly disfigured hand and clenched it tightly once more.
He clenched it into a fist.
And stepped out, toward the enemy in front of him.
At some point, Togusa, who was holding a glow stick in one hand, absentmindedly uttered a sentence.
"That kid... punched Shizuo in the face. He actually just passed out while standing up like that..."
Time itself stopped.
The punch had really been nothing more than a light bump, but Shizuo stopped as well.
"Ahhh, Shizuo lost, didn't he?"
Kadota said in a low voice.
"Above all else, he himself agreed to it. After all, when Shizuo said, 'I'm going to beat you to a pulp,' the guy immediately replied with 'Oh, really?' That had already decided the answer. That's why he was holding back."
"Huh? Dotachin, how do you know all this? Has your third eye, your mind's eye, finally opened?
"You idiot! Just look at Shizuo's face. That sheer anger—he's never made a face like that, even when that Izaya guy duped him."
"Ha, haha!! Dotachin and Shizuo are having a heart to heart! I thought the one true ship was the Shizuo x Izaya ship, but now there's a Shizuo x Dotachin ship too!?"
"Hey, if that kind of ship actually exists, I will literally be traumatized, so don't say such things!"
On the other hand, the headless rider, who was standing a bit off from the rest of the group, was thinking to herself without typing anything on her PDA.
(Anyway, that's 15 of Shizuo's punches. Even if I let my shadow go berserk, I might not be able to handle that kind of thing. Is that boy some kind of monster? At this point, he's stronger than most other vampires or immortals already, isn't he?)
Instead, the headless rider entered something completely different into her PDA.
[What are you going to do?]
"Well, it can't be helped."
After picking up the boy by the scruff of his neck and tossing him aside, Heiwajima Shizuo said,
"A promise is a promise. Now we'll have to take care of that huge thing."
Belatedly, Kamijou Touma woke up.
For some bizarre reason, he was lying on the road and was receiving a lap pillow service from someone.
That person was none other than Kyohei Kadota.
He could only stand up in a panic.
As if he had just drunk his morning coffee, his mind was clear, but there was still a bitter taste lingering in his mouth.
"Huhahahah!! You thought Anri-chan was giving you that lap pillow, didn't you? Sorry, but that seat is already filled—you just need to treat this like a game of musical chairs! By now, engrave into your mind that the level of Dotachin's nosiness pierces the very heavens!
Next to them was an unusually upbeat woman walking around.
All in all, there was no way to grasp what they were talking about.
"Wait, what, wait, where's the 'Sky by Fire'? And where's the 'Ikebukuro group?' They're all gone now...!? And what happened with the fight earlier...!?
"Ah, don't worry about that. Your wish has come true."
Kamijou took a fresh look at his surroundings.
The people who were just here were all part of the "Ikebukuro group", right? The bartender, the rider, and the high school girl wearing glasses were all gone, even though he had wanted to make them go through the "tunnel" as soon as possible.
A young man holding a bunch of plastic bags with drawings of anime figures on them answered his questions.
"What, I, mean, is, everyone went off to do something about the 'Sky by Fire,' as promised."
"Do something about...?"
"Well, it looks like they're trying to physically stop the 'Sky by Fire' from falling out of the sky."
As expected, there was a limit to what a single mobile terminal could do.
Even though Misaka Mikoto used her power to try to seize control of the "Sky by Fire," she could barely make the nose of the aircraft tilt a little.
There was no way to stop this giant thing from flying toward Academy City.
In the first place, the collision couldn't be stopped.
"Fifty seconds to impact! It's impossible to move it out of the Academy City area!!"
"I'll stop this from happening by any means necessary...Target School District 21's reservoir!!! At the very least, avoid crash landing into a building. The only thing we can do is attempt an emergency landing as if we're over an ocean! Everyone, brace for impact!!"
They suppressed their primal fear and gave up on trying to stop the aircraft from falling.
Instead, they could only concentrate on reducing the angle of their fall like the curve of a quadratic graph.
The green slopes of the hillside approached them.
They were close enough to differentiate the individual trees on the rolling hills.
Between those trees, there was a reservoir that stored a huge volume of water.
The only open plain.
A reservoir supported by an arch-shaped structure.
This was both their first and last chance.
The belly of the airship, far larger than a whale's, was approaching the surface.
Misaka Mikoto shouted with all her might.
Boooom!!! A tremendous, violent rumbling came from underneath.
The massive aircraft slid on the liquid surface of the lake. The girls tried to force the ship, which was trying to bounce back up like a stone being skipped across the water, to point down.
Then came an ominous ripping sound as if parts were flying off.
However, it was no longer possible to worry about such trivial matters.
They were completely preoccupied with how they could stop the aircraft.
"Maintain a speed of 180 kilometres per hour... It's not stopping!! We're going to crash into the arch at this rate!!"
It was the moment after Misaka subconsciously spat out a curse.
Bang!! A dull noise rang out from overhead. It sounded like someone had fallen onto the roof. Then, the camera outside the fuselage showed a figure in dark tights who had landed on the roof.
Just as Misaka frowned at the sight, "that" happened.
From the back of the bodysuit, a myriad of masses, like hooked ropes, stretched out all around the aircraft. Dozens, no, hundreds of them. One by one, the front ends stabbed into the surface of the lake, using the water resistance to forcefully reduce the speed of the "Sky by Fire."
"The speed has gone down to ninety, but the ship is still moving!!"
Dong!! A huge wave splashed in front of the "Sky by Fire." It was the huge volume of water that had been displaced by the sheer volume of the aircraft, similar to how water spills out of a bathtub when one gets into it. But the amount of water was the real problem. If they didn't deal with it, it might get over the arched dam and onto the streets.
But that worry was unfounded.
Somehow, a large, black motorcycle was floating in the middle of the lake. Seemingly refusing to obey the laws of physics and buoyancy, a young girl with glasses was standing on the bike with one foot on the seat and another on the handlebars.
In her hand, the girl held a Japanese sword.
She swung it horizontally.
That was it.
Kabloowie!!!!!!! Just like that, the huge wave that looked like a solid wall was split in half and dissipated.
Normally, even that demon blade couldn't have had this kind of power.
The heart of the issue lay with the "thing" that had performed the cutting.
Next to the sword-wielding girl, another bespectacled young girl, albeit with longer hair, emerged.
What exactly did the fact that the demon blade had "acknowledged" her mean?
Maintaining a fierce speed, the "Sky by Fire" still continued to glide across the lake. Moving past the large, black motorcycle and the two girls(?), the giant mass headed straight towards the arched dam.
If it didn't stop, it would be the end.
A titanic volume of water would pour onto the streets like a tsunami.
"35... we can't stop it—it's staying constant at 30!!! Considering both the distance and the volume, it'll hit the arched dam for sure!!"
Misaka Mikoto saw it through the external camera.
On top of the arched dam that supported the weight of the water with its curved, bow-like shape, someone was standing in the middle of the road. It was as if he was straddling the Great Wall of China itself. He was a man with a long and slender figure, with his hair dyed blonde, wearing sunglasses and a bartender suit.
He was aware of what was happening on this side.
One could see that his lips were muttering something.
From the movement of his lips, one could realize that he was saying, "I don't have any more cigs."
An instant later.
Heiwajima Shizuo, with his hands out in front of him, gritting his teeth, came face to face with the "Sky by Fire."
It was simply unbelievable.
It was as if the entire aircraft had been caught by a giant rubber net.
A bone-chilling creak pierced the air.
Had it come from the arch dam, the "Sky by Fire," or Heiwajima Shizuo?
[The "Sky by Fire" made an emergency landing at the water reservoir in Academy City's 21st District. All of its passengers were safe, and no problems have been reported in the dam. Furthermore, the world record that it had been attempting has already been recognized, so really, it was a miracle, as it could have been much worse...]
The headless rider looked up while leaning on her motorcycle and watched the news displayed on the large screen on the belly of the flying ship.
While she was relieved that there had been no casualties, as long as they stayed in Academy City, the "Sky by Fire" would always come back. The only way to eliminate the threat was to go back to their original world through the "Tunnel."
Most of the humans, such as Ryuugamine Mikado and Kyohei Kadota, had already returned through the tunnel, but the headless rider still had unfinished business to attend to.
The existence of "a certain man" that had been deduced from multiple sightings.
Using her PDA's text to speech software, she contacted him, and he immediately responded.
[Hey, Celty, don't you think it's ironic that you, a monster, are contacting me, who loves humans so much?]
[I'll give you a word of advice. It took me a while to fix this situation, so if you're going to stay in this city and ruin everything, we're going to have to do something about it.]
[What are you talking about? You're the ones who ruined it all, right? It's not easy to get a beautiful stage that's only filled with humans, but in the very end, you lot—the headless horseman, the demon sword, and Shizu-chan—messed it all up!!]
To this person, it didn't matter if it was a comedy or a tragedy as long as it was beautiful.
Compared to a comedy intertwined with the supernatural, a tragedy with only humans would be infinitely more beautiful.
That was probably why he always looked to sow more chaos: he wanted to make Earth a living hell for its human inhabitants.
The headless rider knew that there was absolutely no need to empathize with him and immediately gave her verdict.
[A final piece of advice: go back to Ikebukuro right now. If you don't, I don't know what will happen."
[Haha, I bet you want to say, 'I'm actually behind you right now,' just like the monsters in urban legends, eh? Anyway, you can't beat me in a battle of information, you know? Do you really think you'll be able to find me? I can become practically invisible if I try!]
[Well, by now, Shizuo should almost be right behind you.]
[...Ugh!! Why didn't you say so earlier? It's because normal human logic doesn't apply to Shizu-chan that I hate him so much!!]
[If you want to escape, you better go back to Ikebukuro. Even if you have a map, you can't know all the strategic advantages of each individual nook and cranny. And there aren't many people who can use that as a shield.]
[I know that already; thanks, little Miss Know-it-all!!]
He rudely hung up.
Although Heiwajima Shizuo seemed to be seriously preparing to kill Izaya, let's just say that it was more important to get Izaya to retreat first.
So that's it.
The headless horseman was about to head into the dark subway tunnel on her motorcycle when she suddenly tilted her head(?). The full-face helmet teetered.
She couldn't shake the feeling that there was something missing.
(Hmm...... I'm not forgetting something, am I?)
A few days later, a new male station employee was tidying up the contents of the station lockers according to the railway company's regulations.
Since the past, there have been some problematic customers who hid "things that were too bothersome to throw away" in their lockers and left. There were all sorts of things, ranging from possibly shady items like pistols or marijuana to things that made one question the other's sanity, like dead pets, the personal belongings of an ex, gastroliths, and even babies. It was one of the most distasteful jobs for someone who had joined the railroad industry simply because they loved trains.
As expected, there was something strange once again.
"What is this…?"
The station worker held a bottle of aged liquor in his hand. It had been left in the locker, preserved in a stainless steel protective case and some sort of cushioning material.
The label had been scratched off, so the name couldn't be read.
No, even if this had been brand new, it would have been unreadable to a station worker who possessed no knowledge of the occult.
It was actually the greatest achievement of alchemy: a wine of immortality that was said to give the person who drank it an everlasting body.
If used correctly, he might even become the hero of another tale—