Sorcery Hacker:Volume1 Phase1
Phase 01: Fire Castle Town Flared
Sky City Celedileka was divided into four exterior blocks with Light Castle Brightio in the center. No one was allowed in the center without authorization, so tourists could ignore it. When Ayato Criminaltrophy and Teleria Nereid Aquamarine first arrived in the city, they were only really aware of the castle towns.
Each of those towns had a unique form taken from one of the four elements.
Fire Castle Town Flared.
Water Castle Town Aquaria.
Wind Castle Town Silphine.
Earth Castle Town Grouviv.
Those two had arrived in the fire block.
“Phew… It’s so hot.”
After taking just one step – and no more than 5 steps even if you were being generous – outside of the temperature-controlled balloon bungalow, Teleria was already complaining. She wiped the sweat from her brow and looked around with a pool of sweat forming in the cleavage showing through her blazer and blouse which were still missing a button.
The scene she found was only possible thanks to the ubiquity of magic.
The town was red.
The buildings all had white stone walls and orange roofs. Were those Ninjas and Thieves jumping between the rooftops over there? As large a space as this was, land was still in short supply and all the buildings were packed in close together. Everything was illuminated by the colors of scorching heat. It was the middle of the day, yet the town was colored a burning red. Celedileka was positioned so high in the sky it was nearly in outer space and had no concept of evening, but this seemed to make up for that lack.
Something like giant vacuum tubes stood vertically up from the city in places. Those were probably the osmosis blast furnaces made of artificial crystal which concentrated the thick manaflows found at this high altitude and sealed the mana in tanks.
“What a shame,” said Ayato. “I thought this city was famous for the sun in the starry sky.”
“I don’t think there was anything they could do with this town of molten metal.”
“Now I wish I had taken a better look at the aurora. I bet that red thing is hovering above us right now.”
“It’s apparently seen as a symbol of disaster around here. They call it, um, the Demon Lord’s Bite.”
“The Demon Lord, huh? Nirvelphany was it?”
“I-I’m sure that’s just a story.”
That was from long, long ago. No one even knew what the Demon Lord had looked like anymore. No humans or even demons remembered the details of the story, so no one knew what had ultimately become of them either.
And these two had more pressing issues than some incident from the distant past.
Humans and six-legged sorcery taxis traveled along the roads, but there were also rivers of red and boiling metal. They were all filled with the melted mana-conducting silver that Fire Castle Town Flared was known for. This town specialized in industry, so the government supplied all the materials for free and the craftsmen had to produce high-quality products (everything from weapons to daily necessities) in exchange. The production of most all forms of sorcery device was concentrated here. That allowed small workshops with a craftsman’s spirit to thrive without having to worry about taking loans or going into debt.
A Traveling Salesman carrying a box larger than he was on his back was walking around near one burning river. The box was a refrigerator made of clear artificial crystal and filled with coolant. It contained ice-cold fruit juice and giant custards made from monster eggs. Teleria paled and held her mouth at the sight of the unusual dessert. There was also a salesman carrying around a bunch of metal pots and frying pans. The products looked fairly crudely made, but since a bearded Chef and an Alchemist girl were stroking their chins and appraising them, they must have had the precise construction needed for a professional kitchen or a lab.
Ayato took all their luggage and hailed a sorcery taxi that resembled a beetle.
“Search out an inn under the name Ayato Criminaltrophy. Carry our luggage and check in for us too.”
He tossed their luggage into the empty vehicle that did not even have a driver and shut the door. The six-legged sorcery taxi was immediately on its way to its destination.
Teleria spent the time finally managing to pin the chest of her blouse shut. The boy watched the sorcery taxi leave while stroking the crystal tarot cards in his blue blazer’s breast pocket and then the sword at his hip.
“Okay, let’s get started. It’s time to get some work done.”
“Ugh, I’m pretty sure we’ll be cooked to a boil before we arrive.”
Fire Castle Town Flared had boiling metal rivers running every which way, so the sorcery taxis were not the only way to get around.
A cheerful voice called out to them from one of those hellish rivers.
“Excuse me! I couldn’t help but notice how inappropriately you two are dressed to be spending time here in Flared. Either you want heat stroke, or you’re tourists, so how about a gondola ride to make a nice memory for your trip?”
“Do people normally wear swimsuits year-round here?”
“Did you not do a search on the tourism site? If you want to enjoy this town to its fullest, you at least need a water bottle with a spoonful of salt and fruit juice mixed in. As you can see, I’ve got a full cooler with me here.”
Ayato and Teleria exchanged a troubled look. They had heard it was hot here, but they had underestimated the extent. They boarded the small boat floating in the orange river, but it was partially so they could gather information.
The gondola itself appeared to be wood with layer after layer of varnish applied. So was the rudder. It looked like it should burn away the instant it touched the surface of this river, but there must have been some kind of magic at work. There did seem to be an enormous magic circle floating below the entire boat.
“Industrial Materials Harbor Street in Flared 49.”
“That’s the weapons development street, right? You’re quite the geek.”
The Gondolier laughed, raised the revolver in his hand, and pressed the top of the barrel against his forehead.
With a “blam!!”, he fired the sorcery gun into the boat and the floating oar began moving like a witch’s broom. The oar read the current of the boiling metal river and guided the boat to their destination.
His gun was very different from Teleria’s which was full-auto yet restrained its gunshot with the suppressor built into the barrel so she could use high-speed but very precise magic. Sorcery guns came in a wide variety of types and calibers. The two biggest factors were the caliber, which determined how many letters and numbers could fit on the disintegrating lead bullet and how much pressurized mist mana could be released at once, and the firing mechanism, which determined whether you wanted to increase the precision of each and every shot of magic or if you wanted to produce a barrage of magic through rapid-fire. However, those decisions were mainly an issue for the people who used them in combat, so it was mostly ignored by the people who used sorcery guns as a household tool. The fact that the Gondolier did not need to tilt his head and stare at some notes while firing was enough to demonstrate his professionalism.
In fact, while a revolver might seem less convenient, it was useful when it came to avoiding accidental discharges. The number of bullets determined how much magic you could use and the reach of the gunshot noise determined the range of the magic, but that did not matter in a normal life.
“Have you heard about the Temple Moving Ceremony? Their headquarters were recently given approval by Sky City Celedileka as a whole. They always got along, but they weren’t considered an official state church before. Well, whatever they do, it’s bound to bring in a ton of tourists and that means more money for me. The Forturiana Church has my support!”
“Oh, is it some kind of festival or parade?” asked Teleria. “We chose a good time to visit then.”
Teleria looked around nervously in that small boat floating on the river of molten mana-conducting silver and she spoke up with the look of someone who had received a breath of fresh air, but Ayato frowned and muttered to himself while holding her shoulders to support her.
“That’s just disgusting.”
“Don’t say that. It’s all a show for tourists like you two. Normally, Light Castle Brightio is surrounded that thick, aurora-like barrier called the…oh, I forget the actual name, but during events open to the public, they let all the people inside. You really did choose a good time to visit.”
While the guys were talking, they were interrupted by something odd.
She could not possibly have been seasick so soon after setting off, but Teleria looked quite dizzy. Ayato lightly held her to him so she would not lose her balance and a sweet aroma reached him from her sweat-soaked blonde hair. She was excessively afraid of the red metal found outside the gondola, so she clung to him and drank from a leather water bottle she took from the cooler.
The young male Gondolier laughed and spoke up.
“We aren’t going to flip over, so there’s nothing to be afraid of, miss.”
“She has trouble with fire, so try to be understanding.”
“Anyone that likes fire would have to be a freak of nature,” she complained.
She was not exactly wrong, but you could not forget that it was conquering fire and transforming it into their own power that allowed humanity to surpass the other animals.
“That’s fine and all, but will she be okay visiting that weapons development street? Did the guy choose the destination for the date this time? That place is full of fire and mana-conducting silver, so if she’s not into that kind of hobby, she might just scream.”
“Unfortunately, neither of us got to choose our destination today. It’s always the case we’re working on that designates the time and the place.”
“Oh? So you’re Forwards, are you? You must’ve struck it rich to come all the way here.”
“If we were rich, we would’ve found a better form of transportation.”
“You’ve got me there,” laughed the Gondolier.
Just then, a loud rumble and shockwave violently shook Flared.
All the glass rattled in the white-walled and orange-roofed buildings. The six- or seven-legged sorcery taxis moving through the streets came to a temporary stop when they sensed the danger. The traveling salesmen carrying fridges or metal products looked up into the sky to see what it was. Ripples ran through the scorching river, the gondola shook, and Teleria shrieked.
Thanks to that, Ayato’s face was truly buried in those two mounds and the Gondolier sounded exasperated.
“I know I shouldn’t be jealous of my customers, but I do wish that was me.”
“Hgh, mgh, mgh.”
Ayato said something with a perfectly serious expression, but no one could understand him.
After extracting his face from that happy valley, the boy tried again.
“So it’s begun.”
“You’re trying to use that serious mood to get away with that one, aren’t you!? Well, I’m never forgetting you did that!!”
“Wait, are you trying to break a record here!? Did you come to this sky city in pursuit of that monster!?”
The Gondolier was so shocked because of the obvious “cause” visible even from here.
It was a giant flying dragon with crimson armor-like scales covering its entire body.
Had it broken through the Guardian Umbrella atmospheric shield that surrounded the city and gotten trapped inside once the shield self-regenerated?
Even from here, it could be seen attacking the harbor block on the outer edge of Flared. The hopeless ceiling was covered by a starry sky both day and night. If this was a normal village with no sorcery protection, a single blast of its dragon breath would have been enough to wipe it off the map.
The only reason that did not happen was because this was the Selected Kingdoms’ one and only sky city.
An armored train raced along steel rails using the many legs that made it look like a centipede. That would be the reinforcements meant to drive back the crimson dragon. Attack magic taking the form of cannons was already being fired up from a short distance away from the scene, so the dragon was being pushed into the sky as it tried to grab at the city with its sharp claws.
They had stationary cannons and mobile cannons.
Also, instead of using simple shells, these could set up an extra-large barrier in midair as an “umbrella” to repel an enemy and the enemy’s attacks. Not even that giant dragon could crush the town so easily. In fact, it was the dragon that was being gradually worn down.
Ayato whistled and gave his impression.
“Man, they’re being wasteful.”
“Think of it like the fireworks shows that big hotels put on. And in fact, that does bring in a lot of people.”
“Even though a single stray shell could reduce them to mincemeat?”
“There are still a lot of people who want to watch. When you buy insurance with your tour package, the fine print apparently mentions that you can’t sue your guide even if you die due to an unfortunate accident.”
“That’s hardly funny with this going on.”
“People not understanding the danger around them just shows how peaceful our society is. A toast to Sky City Celedileka!”
At any rate.
The dragon was working hard to attack Fire Castle Town Flared, but the barrage was too intense and holding its location was the most it could manage. That meant it could not find an opening to attack. In that case, what was causing all the noise in the castle town?
The largest distortion was found here.
“Oh, hell. Really?” said the Gondolier. “It’s one of those airships again!”
“Oh? Does Forturiana like their dragon slaying stories?”
“That’s not what this is. They’ll find a more manageable evil for their ceremony. They can’t plan an event around it if they can’t control it.”
“Oh, would you look at that? They really are firing down from the sky.”
“Trapping a dragon between the shellfire coming from the sky city and the airship sounds cool enough, but just picture the line of fire there. The magic fired from the airship flies right into our city. That’s fine if every shot hits the dragon, but every time they miss, the stray shot rains down on us.”
“Of course, being killed by that is as unlikely as firing a warning shot straight up and having the magic fall right back onto your head. Also, if your house is destroyed, Brightio in the center there will pay you the full price your house is worth. And they are very generous with what they call full price, so it’s probably meant to keep you quiet about it. Rumor has it some people buy a cheap empty house like a lottery ticket and pray for some magic to fall right smack onto it.”
That would explain the lack of tension in the people on the streets despite the great spectacle in the starry yet sunny sky overhead. No one knew who had actually worked out the odds of being hit, but that announcement would make people assume it was nearly zero. Plus, they would get a nice payout if it did happen.
The Gondolier spoke cheerfully while watching the collapse of one of the giant osmosis blast furnaces made of clear artificial crystal.
“There have been a lot of monster attacks recently, but while driving that thing away can’t be easy, wouldn’t killing it be even harder?”
“Sorry, but our prey is not a monster. I’m not a fan of those gentlemanly fox hunts. Animal cruelty just isn’t my style.”
“Hm? Then what are you gonna do there???”
“That should be obvious. Human prey has always been other humans.”
They had arrived at their destination, so Ayato carried the dizzy blonde girl out of the gondola and flipped a middle silver toward the Gondolier.
“That’s a bit much even if you’re including a tip.”
“I’m including hazard pay too. And this area is only going to get more dangerous, so I’d leave if I were you. Thanks for the ride.”
Once the two of them had their feet back on the stone pavement, it was time to get to work.
They walked through a narrow alleyway instead of the larger road.
“Miss Teleria, I know you want to stay hydrated, but you will find yourself running for the bathroom soon if you chug down bottle after bottle of water.”
“Don’t speak that way to a pure maiden. Ugh, it’s just soooo hot.”
In this large city, the mist mana known as Intangible Mist was arranged into something like a long and narrow spider web using the tug of the magnets in the countless relay devices dotting the streets. That mist mana would pass right through people as long as they were not using a magical device, so even the light would pass right through them, making it invisible.
Also, connecting a household sorcery device to that mist mana gave you access to a variety of information services.
It was essentially wireless, but the midway infrastructure used stationary devices that were connected by lines of mana much like wires.
That was something a Sorcery Hacker had to always be aware of.
It was time to observe the visible world around him once again.
Instead of a tourist area, this was an industrial airport used to ship out various industrial products manufactured using mana-conducting silver. The street itself looked nice enough, but all the buildings here would be occupied by sorcery craftsmen. There were no barkers calling out to potential customers, gawdy posters, or other ways of gathering tourists here. Nor were there any Traveling Salesmen with clear refrigerators or metal products.
Ayato heard a howl and looked up to see a Wolf Girl in a dress crouched on a rooftop and releasing a call of rebellion into the heavens.
Past the evenly-arranged white walls and orange roofs was a large tower and something like a collection of fishing poles. That was apparently the crane that symbolized the industrial materials harbor. He was not interested in factory sightseeing, but a large landmark like that meant he would not lose his bearings.
Also, they were on the front line of the cannon fire here. The armored train equipped with as many legs as a centipede came to a stop on the rails and aimed its cannons toward the starry sky while the crimson dragon spread its gigantic wings to cover them all like a canopy.
There was of course more cannon fire coming from beyond the crimson dragon.
Like the Gondolier had said, the humans were firing on the dragon from an airship in addition to the sky city. The crimson dragon was sandwiched between the two directions of fire, but that meant any shots the airship missed would send high-level attack magic raining down on the city.
“This block has been designated a Type Three Danger Zone. Please shelter inside. I repeat…”
That voice came from the large street.
It was an unpleasantly mechanical female voice that repeated itself over and over. The source seemed to be moving. The people would be buried alive if the building they were sheltering inside was hit, but the warning must not have wanted to let people imagine that possibility.
Teleria was still somewhat dizzy, but she managed to recall their tense situation.
“Is that an independent sorcery device?”
Ayato dragged his partner girl behind a wooden box. He had seen something larger than the taxi he had left with their luggage. He quietly observed a scorpion-like mass of mana-conducting silver. If the information he had been given in advance was accurate, that was one of Celedileka’s official Zootoxin Mk. IIIs. It appeared to be following a set patrol route while repeating its warning announcement, but the movement of its tail was odd. The official model was known to have a blind spot behind it, but this one was occasionally slamming the end of its tail into the ground behind it to eliminate that blind spot.
Just like the taxi, this kind of independent device created a small tornado inside itself like a powerful vacuum cleaner to trap the mist mana in that small space and continually receive the informational benefits of that mana. The Intangible Mist was laid out like a spider web along the lines connecting the relay devices, but by taking the mist mana inside, these devices could make decisions for themselves for a while without plugging into one of the terminals known as stations.
But that was useless if that was corrupted.
“It’s already been hacked.”
Ayato Criminaltrophy’s voice grew deeper.
If your defense weapons had been turned into a plaything for a sorcery criminal, you were out of luck.
“That means this really is their collection spot.”
“Ugh, which means…”
“That thing is acting like it’s on an official patrol, but if it detects us in this area, it’ll shoot us with instakill poison magic. That thing’s tail concentrates the power of its magic on a single point to break through any defenses, which is incredibly useful for status effects like poison or oxidation that spread throughout the body once they get into the enemy’s body tissue or body structure. If you don’t want to be stuffed or soaked in formaldehyde and sold off to some freak, then be very careful.”
They needed to pay careful attention to what route they took.
After waiting for the Zootoxin Mk. III to pass by, Ayato climbed up a white wall using the downspout to reach the building’s roof. Either way, he could not start fighting right away. If he was to use his weapon as a Sorcery Hacker, he had to make the proper preparations first.
(A chimney exhaust management system, a rain guidance pump, a bird-repelling weather vane, and a lightning rod… Yeah, that should work as the starting snowball.)
He worked his mind like he was recalling the day’s menu and drew the sword he used as a Linkage Plug.
Magic was found everywhere these days and devices that used it were just as ubiquitous. The rooftops of ordinary buildings were no exception. He took his 0.5 esoule sword and stabbed it into the chimney rising straight up from the building.
When he pulled the trigger at the grip and pulled back, the blade detached and remained in the chimney.
A new blade compressed within the hilt popped out and he moved on to the boxy pump managing the gutters. Then the base of the lightning rod and the bird-repelling weather vane. He stabbed a blade into each of the sorcery devices that used magic in any way.
Once he was done, he pulled the crystal tarot cards from his blue blazer’s breast pocket and tossed them into the air. Those Linkage Monitors floated on their own, drew out various arcana images, and visualized the manaflow – in other words, the structure of the magic.
(I’ve hacked each of those household items. Starting from my Level 1 sword at the base, I hacked the Level 1 chimney, pump, lightning rod, and weather vane. I can combine them and have their processing space resonate. Then it’s a simple matter of addition and repeating the process until I reach the level I want. At Level 5, I can hijack anything up to Level 5. And at Level 10, up to Level 10.)
Modern magic was performed by extracting the mana found thinly in the air, pressure sealing it in containers, sending it along thin metal lines, and guiding it to a board made from the gems crystalized in the gemflows hidden underground. The work was almost entirely automated, but there was one fundamental rule: all magic had to be activated by someone. Sorcery guns were the most common form of ignition. While a home management system or that scorpion appeared to be moving on their own, they were actually being subconsciously controlled by someone. For a home device, it was linked to a resident who was controlling the lights and air-conditioning. For public devices like the scorpion, hundreds or thousands of government workers in a theatre-like space would combine their mindpower to control them all. The magic for that balloon bungalow they had taken here had technically been activated and controlled by the blonde girl. It was just that people were barely aware of it and it caused almost no exhaustion.
A Sorcery Hacker had to fool more than just the gemboard that was connected to the thin threads of mana mist gathered together by magnets.
The linking sensation was no longer even verbalized, but odd sensations would sometimes rise to the surface like waves and a hacker did not want someone to notice their presence based on having “a bad feeling”.
“Okay, I’m at Level 10. Now I can reach that damn scorpion walking around here.”
“Pant, gasp… P-please wait.”
He heard some oddly alluring breaths as Teleria finally managed to climb up onto the roof using the downspout.
“What are you doing up here? I was just about to jump down.”
“You mean I climbed up here for nothing!? You need to tell me these things! …Wait, huh? What the hell did you just say?”
“That I’m about to jump down.”
“Wait, no, this is a three-story building! Wait! Don’t drag me along with you!!”
He ignored her complaints, grabbed the slow blonde girl around the hips, and jumped down. And he landed right on top of the (already hacked) Zootoxin Mk. III making its patrol on the surface.
“Ha ha ha. Miss Teleria, I appreciate the usual happy sensation. Scaring you is always worth it.”
“Don’t you dare pick up the juvenile habits of an elementary schooler picking on the girl he likes!!”
The scorpion must have detected the impact from above, but the toxic needle tail rising up and glaring at them was not actually a problem. That mana-conducting silver scorpion could only pursue its prey using the eyes on its face. Even with that armor-piercing toxic needle right in front of them, it could not attack them without seeing them with its crystal eyes.
And he had a logical reason for getting this close.
His Linkage Cable sword worked by stabbing into a device and interfering with the mist mana that was arranged in a long and thin string to transfer so much information. Hijacking control with that interference was known as Sorcery Hacking. You can think of it like having a long and thin string of mist or a ring of smoke and placing a net in its path. The Intangible Mist would pass through anything, so by having it pass through his device, he could create an external antenna for himself. Then he could extract the information dissolved into the mist and send in his own false information.
This underground technique was known as The Ring because it was similar to the relationship between a loop of gold and a jewel, but you could not actually stab your device just anywhere.
If his sword did not get into the wiring, it was meaningless, but a weapon would be entirely covered in thick armor, leaving him with no good access points.
He needed an exposed sorcery component not covered by the armor.
And the best option was…
(The eyeball lens. And I have to attack from a blind spot so the enemy Sorcery Hacker doesn’t catch on!)
He stabbed the blade into the scorpion’s head, pulled the trigger, and pulled the hilt away.
The mass of mana-conducting silver immediately started behaving differently.
The violent shaking of its unmanned movement came to a stop and it began walking with the smoothness of its shock-absorbing legs. The comfortable ride was quite a change from their previous tension.
“Miss Teleria, let us review the situation.”
“Recently, Sky City Celedileka has fallen victim to frequent attacks from large monsters like dragons and griffins. Now, an advanced metropolis like this is probably a more likely target than some small village hidden in a remote area, so that is not that unusual on its own. Celedileka has been placing defense of the city as their top priority by firing with reckless abandon, but their thoughtless pincer attack means the airship shots damage the city below.”
“Um, and the problem isn’t the stray shots themselves, but the people using that as cover for their misdeeds, right?”
“Since warfighting shells are flying around instead of just gunfire, I supposed the crime would technically be looting during a military action.” Ayato readily made that dangerous comment. “And since one of the government’s Zootoxin Mk. IIIs was hacked, the culprit is a Sorcery Hacker like me. They use the damage from the shellfire as cover to achieve their goals. After all, even if they break open someone’s safe, that person will be repaid and then some by the government’s stray shot policy. The government is not going to examine the scene all that closely because anything they did find would only be showing off their own mistakes.”
They could of course see more Zootoxin Mk. IIIs walking around, but checking the internal memory of the one he had hacked showed him their cooperation pattern. That meant he knew the patrol routes for them all. If he used that while heading deeper in, he could avoid any unnecessary combat.
The Sorcery Hacker group running rampant in this damaged area of the city had prepared a toy like that in order to keep any witnesses out, so if anyone set foot in here without knowing the patrol routes and was caught by that mechanically-calculated net, they would probably be silenced by instakill poison magic.
“This is really the perfect situation for them. Destroyed buildings can be paid for, but lives aren’t so easy. That means the government will stubbornly refuse to admit to anyone dying or going missing after a hit from a stray shot. If there is any fear of that happening, the official documents will be rewritten to cover it up. It will say the person was mildly injured, received the proper treatment at a medical facility, and decided to leave the city with their juicy payment in hand.”
“So they’ve created a social security system where no one will notice if someone disappears.”
“Yes. Maybe the air of this castle town full of fire and blacksmithing has gotten to their heads. This is honestly more frightening than that dragon that can only use obvious violence.”
Ayato nodded quietly atop the doubly-hacked scorpion.
“Just as our client feared, this is a criminal paradise for human traffickers.”
Option 02: [Information Search] Basic Sorcery Hacking Knowledge
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- Approximately 5000 yen.
- Approximately 60 centimeters.