Toaru Majutsu no Index:Endymion Chapter3
After being taken the hospital, the magician girl was given first aid.
Naturally, they hid the fact that she was a magician. The doctors would not have understood if they had tried to explain and it would have caused problems if they did understand, so there was no point in mentioning it.
Kamijou and Index rode along in the ambulance while Stiyl pursued the main force of the magic cabal. That girl had merely been a decoy meant to buy time, so they did not have any time to spare if the main force was working to gain control of the center of Agni’s Festival Fire.
Kamijou spoke to Index in the waiting room.
“They say her condition is not as bad as it looked at first glance. She suffered light blood loss and a concussion. If she rests, she should be back to normal in a few hours.”
“Touma, what do we do now?”
“We don’t have time,” he said quickly. “When a patient with injuries that appear to be from some sort of incident comes in, the hospital will contact Anti-Skill. They should be here before long. We need to speak with her before that happens.”
They headed for the girl’s hospital room.
The magician girl had been provided with a private room. She lay on the single bed in the room and she was not wearing a hospital gown. It may have been that her treatment had not required her clothes to be cut away or it may have been that Stiyl’s restraining runes had prevented the clothes from being removed.
When Kamijou and Index entered, the girl glanced over and spoke with an emotionless voice.
“What do you want?”
“We’re going to get you out of here.” Kamijou cut to the chase. “The hospital will have called Anti-Skill, so they should be here soon. But Stiyl does not want you to be captured by them. He said the odds are good your magic cabal would notice. I don’t want to think about the possibility, but is there a chance you will be attacked again if we hand you over to them?”
“What if there is?” The girl tried to sit up but then sank back into the bed. “That is what I hope happens. They failed to kill me before, but they will succeed next time. That is all there is to it. At the very least, it is 100 times better than handing more information than necessary over to Academy City or the Anglican Church.”
Suddenly, they heard multiple sets of footsteps in the hallway.
“Tch, so Anti-Skill’s already here. We can talk later. We can’t use the hallway, so we’ll use the window.”
“Hey, wait a second. What are you doing!?”
“We’re getting you out of here!”
The magician girl frowned.
“I never said I would go.”
“Sorry, but you have no say in the matter. I’ll carry you if need be.”
Kamijou approached the window and opened it. He looked down to find a height of about three stories. The eaves stuck out and the drain pipes for gutters continued vertically down, so there were plenty of points for handholds and footholds.
“Let’s go. They said you had no broken bones, so you can use your arms and legs, right?”
“You can shelter me if you like, but don’t your city’s rules put you at a disadvantage here?”
“Even if they do, it’s no reason to abandon you.”
“Even if I am refusing your help? You gain nothing from this.”
“That’s no reason either,” replied Kamijou as he checked to make sure there was no one on the ground directly below. “It was the same when you tried to save your sister, right? No one forced it onto you.”
The girl clicked her tongue.
With her head hanging down, she said, “You said the cabal might attack me if you leave me with this city’s Anti-Skill.”
“Y-yeah. What about it?”
“In that case, you could have threatened to hand me over to them if I did not cooperate. You could have said I had to tell you everything I knew about the cabal or you would not let me escape. Why didn’t you?”
Kamijou’s response was simple.
“The thought never occurred to me.”
“…You idiot.” As soon as she muttered that, the girl brought her feet out of the bed and to the ground. “It’s Sozty.”
“My name is Sozty Exica. What’s yours?”
Kamijou smiled slightly.
“Kamijou Touma. And she’s Index.”
By the time Anti-Skill entered the room, no one was left inside.
They immediately began a search, but never found anyone.
Cities had plenty of blind spots.
But people unfamiliar with the science side and Academy City were often unable to make full use of such spots. Such people tended to gather at the types of facilities that also existed outside of Academy City.
In this case, it was a car scrapyard.
That modern blind spot was completely surrounded by thick metal walls. It was the kind of place that could be found anywhere yet the people who walked by it had no idea what went on within. Even if humans were being chopped to pieces within, no one would know.
A large number of rusted vehicle chassis were piled up. A pile had been created out of nothing but tires. Bumpers and batteries were sectioned off in their own areas. The area gave a strong cluttered impression, but the people that used it kept it fairly organized.
The Gate of the Gods Come from the Heavens.
A Hindu magic cabal.
About 20 members of that cabal were gathered in the scrapyard. The only member missing was Sozty Exica.
“Sozty did it. The time she bought us was very valuable. If we take control of the center to Agni’s Festival Fire that we transferred here, we can turn this city into a sea of flames with our Anglican pursuer inside.”
“But Sozty interfered with Agni’s Festival Fire to buy this time. It is possible the network has been damaged.”
“If we take a passive stance here, this valuable time will go to waste.”
“But making any major moves without any guarantee of success could lead to a fatal failure.”
They were aware this unproductive discussion was accomplishing nothing more than strangling their own throats. And yet they could not help but do it. No matter how much one knew prayer would not change the result, no one would be able to easily pull the trigger in a game of Russian roulette.
A woman within the group sighed.
She had long silver hair and brown skin. The fact that everyone turned their focus to her showed that she had the composure left to intentionally gather their attention.
Someone in the group spoke to her.
“Should we continue on or fall back? What do you say?”
“Good question.” A thin smile appeared on her lips before she continued. “How about this?”
“Hey…um, Kamijou did you say your name was? How far are you planning to have us walk?”
“As far as it takes to ensure your safety. Sozty, tell me if this is too much after your injuries.”
After escaping the hospital, Kamijou and the others headed to a nearby shopping district. Academy City had security cameras everywhere and security robots patrolled several routes, so it had few blind spots. Trying to sneak along a route no one would see them on would get them caught faster than mixing in with a crowd.
As Kamijou continued on in the lead, he felt like groaning when he looked back and saw Sozty’s outfit.
“Why do magicians always wear clothes that stand out as much as a Christmas tree?”
“Is this that odd? Well, I guess this is a special city surrounded by walls in an island nation surrounded by ocean. I suppose you would be harsh on outsiders.”
“That isn’t what I meant.”
Sozty was wearing a white short-sleeve sailor uniform with a blue pleated skirt. That alone would not have been too strange an outfit, but both the top and bottom were very short. Her healthy brown belly was visible even when she was not stretching out her back and Kamijou felt like her ass would be visible below the skirt if he circled around behind her.
“What is that? A cheerleader outfit? What is it supposed to be???”
“This is a strange city where 80% of the residents are students, right? And I had heard that Japanese schoolgirls dressed like sailors. I thought this would make good camouflage.”
“…And why are your panties more or less visible at all times?”
“That’s just how it is with Japanese schoolgirls, right?”
That answer left Kamijou very curious as to what she had used as a reference for Japanese culture. He decided he should probably be thankful she had not showed up dressed as some kind of strange Fujiyama Geisha lady.
Meanwhile, another member of their group also stood out quite a bit.
The pure white nun named Index said, “Touma, what are we going to do now?”
“If we could, I would like to head to my dorm, but I’m not sure we can. It might be safer to hide out in a manga café.”
“What’s a manga café?”
“To sum it up as much as possible, it’s something like a for-pay library.”
“What!? That’s crazy! Those are supposed to be public!!”
“But you can order things like coffee and curry. Some of them even have a salad bar and buffet. In other words, it’s all you can eat.”
“Yahoo!! This is a new golden age of business, isn’t it, Touma!?”
Index’s opinions changed a lot as her primary information source was talk shows. Sozty brought a hand to her head when she saw the nun celebrating.
“Have you forgotten we’re supposed to be on the run? Why are you needlessly gathering attention?”
“It’s probably fine. A group with gloomy expressions remaining silent the entire time will stand out a lot more in the crowds of a shopping district.”
“…Is that so?” muttered Sozty.
Kamijou looked around at the signs, searching for a restaurant that would let them pay up front. That way they would not be treated as dine-and-ditchers if Anti-Skill or someone showed up and they had to run out the back entrance.
“Hmm… A main road near the station is probably the best spot. That way, taxis, a bus stop, and the subway are all nearby. Hey, Inde-…hm?”
Kamijou trailed off because Sozty’s small hand had tugged on his clothes.
“What is it, Sozty? Did you see a magician you know or something?” he asked, but the brown girl did not let go of his clothes.
“No…There is no deep meaning to this.”
“You said we could not look gloomy and remain silent the entire time, right? Then this will work as camouflage.”
“Hey, wait a second. This isn’t to blend into the area, is it? You’re just getting drawn in by the glittering atmosphere of the shopping district, aren’t-…gwep!?”
As Kamijou the gentleman tried to calmly point out what was happening, he felt a sharp pain in his back. It was similar to the damage done when a carnivorous jaguar used its claws to climb a tree. He could not turn around to see what was doing this because it was clinging to his back, but Kamijou could make a good guess based on what he heard.
Despite being shorter than him, he heard Index’s voice coming from overhead.
She was clearly climbing up his back.
“Touma, what is this you’re taking advantage of this situation to do?”
“Wait a second, Index! Let’s start by working out what the focus of this conversation is!! And I think someone getting bitten on the back of the head would stand out anywhere on the planet!!”
Just before Kamijou underwent severe damage, a simple electronic tone sounded from his pants pocket. It was the prepaid cell phone Stiyl had given him. Index was terrible with machines, so she faltered slightly at the noise. Kamijou did not overlook that opening. He shook her from his back and answered the phone.
“Stiyl!? Honestly, you only call when it benefits you. Don’t leave your number unlisted! I can’t save it to call you back!!”
“I would say you are the one acting out of line.”
The voice coming from the phone sounded angry.
For him, relying on Kamijou’s opinions and information was likely a last resort.
“You took the girl from the cabal out of the hospital, didn’t you? I need some information from her. It relates to the opinions and motives of the Gate of the Gods Come from the Heavens.”
“What? I thought you were chasing them down.” Kamijou looked confused. “And do you not need to know about their escape routes or hideouts?”
“I am not an idiot. I have already found and entered the car scrapyard the cabal was using.”
Kamijou heard some static.
Stiyl may have been sighing or blowing out some cigarette smoke.
“They were already destroyed when I got there. From the number of footprints, it appears a few of them disappeared, but the ones still here are unrecoverable. All of the information within their bodies has been magically destroyed, so I cannot extract any from their brains or spirits. Any analysis work would likely be a waste.”
“Un…recoverable…?” muttered Kamijou.
Sozty gave a start next to him.
Stiyl’s merciless words continued.
“From the traces of the destruction, I doubt this was an attack from outside. In other words, this was infighting within the organization. That is why I want information from another magician in the cabal. I need to know what exactly is happening in their cabal.”
Kipsila Endinia gasped for breath as he ran through an area lined with student dorms. A slight bit of blood oozed from his temple and his right arm was hanging unnaturally limply from the shoulder. Night had already fallen, but an area with restaurants targeted at students must have been nearby because quite a few people were out on the road. He naturally drew a lot of attention. But he was in no situation to worry about that.
His feet stumbled as if he was on a ship in a storm. Time after time, he ran into a concrete wall or wind turbine. Even so, he continued to run. He continued to flee. He had no idea how far we would need to run to be safe.
It had happened in an instant.
Even taking into account it had been a surprise attack by an ally, the amount of damage had been too great. Control of the Gate of the Gods Come from the Heavens was completely held by Kipsila and a few others. Even if someone on the “outer edges” had gone on a rampage, the damage would never have reached Kipsila. The others would have acted as shields to lessen the damage. And during that time, Kipsila and the others would have carried out a certain counterattack. That was the power of an organization. That was what should have happened.
“What…? What kind of output was that!?”
It had pierced straight through those acting as shields. The attack had directly reached Kipsila and the other. That had stopped any preparations for a counterattack and then subsequent strikes had wiped them out. Once it started to crumble, an organization was nothing but a hindrance. The members of the magic cabal unit had started to fall one after another, yet the enemy continued to attack without mercy.
The level of power was unthinkable for an individual.
The output completely ignored the intentionally limited values that had been put in place to prevent both rebellion and friendly fire.
Plus, the woman who had become their enemy had supposedly been a failure. The project behind the power that had made her special had long since been frozen.
He ran into another wind turbine pillar. He had lost track of how many times that had happened now. But this time it stopped him. He could not continue his flight. As he leaned up against the pillar that was sticky with his blood, Kipsila breathed a sigh.
It was not due to strength leaving his legs that he could not continue on.
Someone stood ahead on the road dimly lit by the sparsely placed streetlights.
It was a woman.
She had long silver hair and brown skin.
She wore a tube top and a long skirt that were primarily yellow and orange but had black accents here and there. The combination was reminiscent of the silhouette of a strapless dress.
She was dragging something with both hands.
They looked like stuffed toys at first, but they were not.
She had two in her right hand and three in her left. Kipsila recognized the faces of the people she was dragging along the road by the collar. They were the ones who had controlled the cabal along with him.
How had this horrible situation happened?
They had been faced with a bit of trouble, but the Gate of the Gods Come from the Heavens had maintained control of the situation. They should have been able to use the time Sozty Exica had bought as a decoy to make a recovery.
“What…?” groaned Kipsila.
Whether she intended to answer or not, the silver-haired, brown-skinned woman relaxed her right and left hands. With a thudding sound similar to a sandbag being dropped, she dropped her hunter’s prize to the road surface.
Something other than his injuries caused Kipsila to feel dizzy.
“You lost everything in that failure! The project was frozen!! So how can you wield such great power!?”
“…Oh? All I did was answer your question.”
“Question 1: what is the most effective means of damaging Academy City with the strength we currently have?” said the brown woman with a thin smile. “The answer is simple: we give up on Agni’s Festival Fire.”
“After all, we’ve given away way too many hints about this ill-prepared plan. Both the Anglican Church and Academy City are already pursuing us. It is like a boat made of mud. If we try to force it along any further, we will all sink.” The brown woman continued while grinning. She announced that she would destroy the dying Kipsila. “But that boat of mud is the only thing our pursuers have managed to grasp. If I cast aside both Agni’s Festival Fire and the Gate of the Gods Come from the Heavens and start with a new plan, I can polish my plan while the pursuers chew on the half-eaten leftovers. And it will be too late by the time they learn the truth.”
“You…fool. What could you possibly use…to produce more destruction than…Agni’s Festival-…!?”
Kipsila trailed off.
This was because the brown woman was slowly opening and closing her bloody fingers.
“Don’t tell me you…”
“If I had said I was going to use this from the beginning, you would not have given me permission. In fact, you would probably have tried to gang up and attack me all at once.”
“You should know better than anyone why that project was frozen. It was not because the needed output could not be achieved! It was the exact opposite!! That pure Astra is-…!!”
“I can tell it scares you.” The woman tilted her head slightly. “But surely you don’t think the Astra I hold is still the same as it was back then.”
That meant Agni’s Festival Fire had been a decoy meant to draw the attention of the Anglicans and Academy City.
That meant Kipsila and the others who had ridiculed Sozty Exica for being a decoy had been decoys themselves.
That meant the plan Kipsila had been aware of was merely a decoy to get the Gate of the Gods Come from the Heavens to take action.
That meant the Gate of the Gods Come from the Heavens had been nothing more than a decoy to ensure her freedom.
That meant, that meant, that meant!!
The brown woman took a step closer.
Kipsila instinctually tried to take a step back, but then he realized something. He had been drawing so much attention not long before, but he could no longer feel anyone’s eyes on him. In fact, there was not a single person around.
Magic ensuring that had been set up without him even noticing.
And that meant the woman was going to do something she did not want to be witnessed.
The magic circle for Agni’s Festival Fire was set up on the bloody wind turbine pillar. But Kipsila did not even think about using it.
Those bloody fingers.
Overwhelming fear slowly closed in on him.
“Could you be a good decoy and leave now that your role is complete?”
Kamijou and the others ended up entering a manga café. They paid for three private rooms (using Kamijou’s pocket money), but they all met up in one of them.
Stiyl had sent a large amount of image data to the prepaid phone.
They were all photographs of the faces of the magic cabal members who had been defeated and left behind by the mystery attacker.
As Sozty Exica checked through them all, she asked, “Is this all of them?”
“Looks like it. Have you figured anything out?”
“…There aren’t enough people,” she said after looking through the photos multiple times to be sure. “Aurodasa Ginzhana, Kereelty Tanabrook, Sumtalak Shandeva, Kipsila Endinia, Pancavani Uddasala, and Slasoma Anruda. …Well, I can understand why those six are missing. They were the decision-makers of the cabal. If someone attacked, the rest of the cabal would position themselves to let them escape first.”
“Is that it?”
“Seven people are missing in total,” muttered Sozty Exica. She spoke a new name through gritted teeth. “Ureapaddy Exica. My older sister. There is no real reason she would be protected above anyone else. If the other magicians were wiped out to let those six escape, my sister should have been wiped out as well.”
Kamijou looked at Sozty’s face from the side.
She stared at the small screen rather than looking at him as she continued to speak.
“And…these wounds. They are very similar to those caused by the Astras our cabal uses.”
“Astras?” repeated Kamijou in confusion.
Index replied, “Those are the weapons of the gods in Hindu mythology.”
“It differs a bit from the original meaning, but our cabal uses the term Astra to refer to all powers and weapons that use symbols of the gods’ characteristics,” said Sozty in a low voice “We refer to what I used against you as the Agni Astra. However, they have to be downsized quite a bit for humans to wield them. The Astras we use are nothing but the effects. Take a spear Astra for example. We can create stab wounds with it, but we cannot produce the form of the spear itself.”
That meant the term Astra could refer to many different things. It would not be mistaken to assume there were different Astras for each element that had been prepared by the gods: fire, water, wind, and earth
In that case…
What was the element of the Astra that Ureapaddy had secretly brought in and used to drive the Gate of the Gods Come from the Heavens to destruction?
“My sister is supposed to be using a Shiva Astra, but she originally specialized in a different line of Astra.”
“The project was supposedly frozen. It was not a downsized version that a magician could safely use with no recoil. This was a pure Astra that was built up into the proper form of a weapon rather than simply creating the stab wound. The project was meant to draw out the full power of an Astra despite the great burden that would produce.” Sozty clenched her teeth and seemed to be forcing out the words. “In the end, the Astra itself was a success, but it still failed because the reinforcement of the magicians using it did not go well. Most of the participants were blown to pieces by the recoil and my sister was badly wounded. It had supposedly messed with her physical body too much to have any proper defenses left!!”
“What…? What kind of Astra does your sister have?”
“The Astra held by my sister Ureapaddy Exica is…”
The silver-haired and brown-skinned woman named Ureapaddy smiled.
She wiped dark red blood off on the road surface as her former superior, Kipsila Endinia, lay collapsed face down not far away.
Kipsila’s eyes were no longer turned toward her.
His head was tilted at an odd angle and unmoving.
And yet his lips twitched.
“Is this revenge for reorganizing your Astra…? Is this for the 14 who were destroyed…?”
“Of course not, of course not. Their deaths were officially said to be an accident, but we all agreed to it. We gathered the people with the greatest affinity to the Astra, those 15 had their spirits unified, and then that ‘average’ was redistributed back into the bodies of the 15. Right?”
A calm smile appeared on Ureapaddy’s face.
Her expression changed peacefully, gently, politely, and accurately.
“But the reinjection of the unified spirit had little success. Just like with the heart and the liver, the physical structure of the brain differs from person to person. The spirit attaches to not just the brain but the entire body. If a spirit injected from without does not meet the requirements, it will fall apart. And there is no way one can control that Astra in that unstable state. But those failures were our failures. It would be wrong to hate the cabal for that.”
“It is quite simple.”
Ureapaddy’s smile did not disappear.
The smile was too perfect, so anyone who saw it would likely find it artificial and unnatural.
“Even if only incompletely, I can use that Astra. But only if I ignore any damage done to myself and others. If I have a tool I can use, why not use it? I have a weapon with greater effects than Agni’s Festival Fire, so it only makes sense to attack Academy City with it. Even if that means I must use Agni’s Festival Fire as a stepping stone.”
“…Are you really going to use that?”
“I already have. That is why you have been defeated. Just like all the others. Isn’t it a bit late to be surprised?”
“I am not talking about on a level where you can carry it around with you! I am asking if you are going to use that Astra at the output levels from when the project was frozen!! If…if you do that…!!”
“The effects will spread beyond Academy City?”
Ureapaddy guessed what he was going to say and denied it.
But not by saying his ultimate conclusion was wrong.
It was an earlier assumption that had been wrong.
“It is because you say that kind of thing that your cabal remains so insignificant. You think I would simply continue with a plan that was crushed 5 years ago? Have you forgotten that my skills have advanced along with time? At the moment…” She uttered a concrete numerical value without showing any real sign of making any calculations. “I can probably draw out an output 509,000 times that of the attack you were desperate to accomplish back then.”
Kipsila’s breathing completely stopped for a moment.
In all seriousness, he underwent such a great shock that he seemed to lack even the level of thought required to continue breathing.
“You will destroy us all.”
“If that value is accurate, there will be no safe area left on this planet! Whether one flees to highest heights of the atmosphere or the deepest depths of the ocean, that will evaporate it all!! Who knows if the planet itself would be able to continue properly in its orbit!!”
“But isn’t that just the kind of Astra I have? After all…”
Ureapaddy paused for a beat.
Somewhere, the younger sister spoke.
“It is the ultimate weapon within the Gate of the Gods Come from the Heavens.”
Somewhere, the older sister spoke.
“A weapon that symbolizes the god who rules the universe needs to at least be able to destroy the universe.”
Miraculously, their mouths seemed to move as one as they spoke its name.
“The Brahma Astra.”
Stiyl called Kamijou’s prepaid cell phone. As usual, he kept his number hidden, but he must have been expecting some kind of information to call back so quickly.
Kamijou stepped outside, leaving Index and Sozty Exica in the manga café.
He reported that it had most likely been a magician named Ureapaddy Exica that had destroyed the cabal. He also reported that the magician had a large-scale spiritual item called Brahma Astra.
“I see,” replied Stiyl. “I had thought it was odd for the Agni’s Festival Fire magic circles around Academy City to suddenly stop functioning. This Ureapaddy must have cut it off like a lizard’s tail. And she has something powerful enough for casting aside Agni’s Festival Fire to be worthwhile.”
“That’s this Brahma Astra that Sozty mentioned, right?”
“You said Ureapaddy currently uses a Shiva-related Astra, correct? Shiva is the god of wind, dance, war, and destruction. He has many different faces. And all of those could be said to be attributes of Shiva. A god with many different attributes could easily have many different Astras.”
“And Brahma Astra is one of those?”
“That is not a Shiva-related Astra. It is related to the god Brahma. Having the one Brahma-related Astra that does not fit in with the Shiva ones must mean it has some special meaning.” Stiyl spoke languidly over the phone. “In their mythology, I think it is supposed to be a special bow and arrow. The magic arrow has feathers of wind and an arrowhead of the sun. Once it is fired, it will be automatically guided to its target. It will pierce through any obstacles in the way and surely kill the target. Once the target is dead, it will return to its owner like a boomerang so that the enemy cannot capture it. It’s full of the type of abilities that feel like cheating that we’ve gotten so used to.”
Was it a person or a location?
It was unclear who or what Ureapaddy was trying to target, but if it actually existed, it would have no means of opposing the attack.
“It seems the project was treated as highly secret even within the cabal, so Sozty does not know the details. However, she does know the usage conditions for Brahma Astra are heavily related to shooting stars. It can only be used when three shooting stars are glittering in the sky at once.”
“It likely needs them to correct its aim. The god Brahma has a deep connection to outer space. It must act like a GPS and accurately calculate out the target’s coordinates from the shooting stars’ positions high in the atmosphere. …Wait a second.” Stiyl paused for a moment. “I just received a report from the Anglican unit working in India. It isn’t the Gate of the Gods Come from the Heavens’ headquarters, but they did find the remains of a large scale magical experimental grounds.”
“Did they find anything related to Brahma Astra?”
“Possibly. They have found a crater with a radius of about 50 meters. But the composition of the crater’s surface is simply crazy. For exactly 3 mm down, the ground has been crystallized.”
“This was no normal explosion. It is unclear what effects it had, but it seems absolutely everything within range was torn away to form the crater.”
If that was true, this was no joking matter.
Compared to Agni’s Festival Fire which could roast an entire city, the level of destructive power did not seem that great. However, it depended on what the target was. If that destruction with an exactly 50 meter radius was used on the solid outer walls of an Academy City research facility, the magician could get inside.
“There appear to be a few different explosion sites, including one over 500 meters underground. The ground has been scooped out in a perfect sphere down there.”
“…What do you mean?”
“It appears to be able to pass through any obstacle and cause tremendous destruction only upon reaching its target. In other words, hiding in a shelter is useless.”
Of course, the magician did not even need to bother attacking Academy City’s research facilities. If she directly tried to kill the highest ranking officials of the city, no amount of security would help. As soon as she fired Brahma Astra, it would all be over.
Stiyl seemed to be making an effort to keep his voice calm.
“But the one bottleneck is its requirement of three simultaneous shooting stars. Brahma Astra’s range and accuracy may be unknown, but thankfully its usage conditions are quite restrictive. Shooting stars do not appear very frequently. Seeing three in the night sky at once must almost never happen. As long as some crazy coincidence doesn’t trip us up, we should be able to resolve this without much-…”
Kamijou cut Stiyl off because something caught in the back of his mind.
There was something they could not stand to overlook.
“Whatever Ureapaddy’s ultimate objective is, it probably has to do with Brahma Astra. But no matter how much she could predict, would she really leave it all up to something coincidental like shooting stars?”
“It is possible she is simply overly confident in her own predictions. …But if Ureapaddy was planning to betray her comrades from the beginning, it does seem odd she would rely on a natural phenomenon that would ruin her plans if it was even slightly off.”
“She might have created an environment where such coincidences would occur more easily.”
“I’m not sure I understand.”
“What exactly is a shooting star? In the days before humanity had reached beyond the earth, the only option may have been chunks of ore about the size of your palm that came flying from a distant part of space. But things are different today. There is so much orbital debris cluttering things up that most shooting stars are the glow of broken satellites or rocket parts entering the atmosphere! What if those qualify for Brahma Astra’s usage requirements!?”
And the ideal international event for that was currently underway.
A contest for unmanned probes being sent to Venus.
Around 400 organizations and institutions both large and small were taking part in the event, so rockets were being launched from all over the world.
The odds of shooting stars would naturally go up just from the many unneeded parts that separate after launch. For these few days, the frequency of shooting stars would rise dramatically.
While Brahma Astra would normally only be usable once every few decades or once every few hundred years, it might be usable in relatively quick succession now.
“But that is still a bit uncertain,” said Stiyl after Kamijou explained the situation to him. “That is only a beginning. Ureapaddy would not rely on a coincidence when aiming for her true target. She likely has some trick prepared in case the coincidence does not play out.”
“She could have set something up on a rocket that has yet to be launched. If she detonates the rocket in space, she can create shooting stars according to whatever schedule she likes.”
Kamijou did not know what the enemy was trying to accomplish.
For that reason, he could not head there ahead of time and wait with Imagine Breaker at the ready.
And once Brahma Astra was fired, the target would be destroyed with incredibly high odds.
“Once it has been fired, it is too late,” said Stiyl.
“But Ureapaddy will need to stop by the rocket launch facility before beginning her attack. She needs to prepare her insurance.”
“This is our final chance. If we cannot stop Ureapaddy here, destructive power worthy of the name of the god of destruction will sweep across Academy City.”
Academy City had only one rocket launch facility.
“District 23. That is where Ureapaddy will be headed!!”
Kamijou, Index, Sozty, and Stiyl gathered in District 18. That district was adjacent to District 23.
Out of necessity, Kamijou was acting as their guide to the city.
“District 23 is filled with top secret information, so you cannot freely go in and out like the rest of the city. Plus, the gates will simply be impassable at this time of night.”
“In other words, we should assume we will be mowed down the instant we cross that fence?” asked Sozty in annoyance.
Index frowned and said, “But if what Touma said is accurate, Ureapaddy is heading for District 23, right?”
“It would be best to intercept her before she gets inside,” said Kamijou confidently, but Stiyl dashed his hopes.
“She has no reason to wait around. Up until now, she had to feign cooperation with the rest of the Gate of the Gods Come from the Heavens, so she put it off until later. But with that restriction gone, she would have headed directly for District 23. We should assume she is already inside.”
“…I’m not so sure,” muttered Sozty.
The others turned toward her.
As her sister, Sozty would have the most accurate information on Ureapaddy.
“District 23 was a high priority target even in the Gate of the Gods Come from the Heavens’ initial plan. And yet Agni’s Festival Fire was never set up there. The reason for that was simple: our cabal had no way of getting inside unnoticed.”
Sozty stared at the fellow magician.
“We could get in, but only for about 10 minutes. Any longer than that would mean a direct conflict with Academy City’s defensive forces. That was simply not enough time to fine-tune and set up such a delicate spiritual item. Our plan was to destroy a few prominent districts with Agni’s Festival Fire, use the confusion to directly attack District 23, and escape Academy City after destroying the facilities there.”
Even if the plan had failed, hearing it still sent a chill down Kamijou’s spine.
But another point stood out to him.
However, it seemed like it would digress too much from the topic at hand, so he decided to put it off until later.
Instead he asked, “So does that mean Ureapaddy has not entered District 23?”
“If she had headed there immediately after destroying our cabal, the alarms would have long since started ringing. Assuming she has no other tricks up her sleeve, of course.”
After hearing that last ominous statement by Sozty, Stiyl lightly tapped his shoes on the ground.
“If our assumptions are correct, Ureapaddy plans to sabotage a rocket to be launched at a specific time so that she can detonate it outside of the atmosphere and artificially create the shooting stars she needs for Brahma Astra. I doubt that is something she can accomplish in only 10 minutes. It is harder to sabotage than it is to simply destroy.”
They were overlooking something.
If Ureapaddy had foreseen this situation from the beginning, she would have known it was impossible to infiltrate District 23 for long using the magic she had on hand. In that case, she would have prepared some sort of countermeasure.
They were missing some factor involved.
Did she have a means of sabotaging the rocket in a short period of time?
Did she have a spell that allowed her to slip past the defenses of District 23 for a long period of time?
“…Wait,” muttered Kamijou. “That’s it. That’s it! It’s simple. She just needs a way of sabotaging a rocket without entering District 23!!”
“Touma, what do you mean? Are you saying she has something similar to a curse that can be used across national borders? Something that can alter this ‘rocket’ thing remotely?”
“No. If she had something that convenient, she wouldn’t have needed to enter Academy City at all.”
“Then what is it?” asked Sozty in confusion.
Kamijou’s response was simple.
“We were thinking about this backwards.”
“Sozty isn’t doing something to District 23 from outside. If the target rocket itself leaves District 23, the district’s security no longer matters.”
“And how does she manage that?” said Stiyl mockingly. “I may not be too knowledgeable about aerospace matters, but I do know how large the rockets on the other side of this fence are. If a rocket the size of a radio tower moves even slightly, anyone would notice it.”
“Not necessarily,” said Kamijou lightly. “The rockets are mostly constructed in District 23. The fuel is even loaded there. But one portion is not. The container portion. In this case, it’s a capsule for the probe rather than a satellite. The fuel for the auxiliary boosters used for attitude control is loaded in District 10.”
“The liquid fuel used is called hydrazine. Not only is it highly explosive, but it’s toxic. The districts it can be handled in are limited. The biggest of those districts is District 10. They were making a big deal about it on a talk show recently. They were asking what would happen if an accident occurred as the container was being transported and complaining that there would be no risk if it was all handled in District 23.”
“In that case, we need to search out every transport route from District 10 to District 23. Ureapaddy should be in wait along one of them.”
“Wait,” said Kamijou just as Stiyl was about to begin moving. “Even if this is just the container at the top of the rocket, it is still on a very large scale. The truck will be hauling an object 20 meters long. It can’t make the turns of a normal street. The rocket will head along the shortest, widest, and straightest path.”
“Touma, if we head back along that path…”
“We should run right into Ureapaddy along the way.”
A giant satellite guidance vehicle was parked on the side of the road on an overpass in District 7. It was as large as a pylon for high voltage lines laid on its side. Given its size and the toxic hydrazine it was loaded with, the surrounding drivers would want to be careful around it. However, none of the other vehicles showed any sign of doing so.
It was almost as if…
As if none of them could tell the satellite guidance vehicle was even there.
A boy suddenly shouted out and opened the driver’s side door of the vehicle to peer inside. A silver-haired, brown-skinned woman frowned. And then she realized what was going on.
Her willingness to actually respond with words demonstrated her confidence.
“Oh? So you have already discovered my name. But that isn’t too surprising given the familiar face I see there.”
Despite the teasing reference to her, Sozty took a step forward.
She tried to say something emotional, but the words caught in her throat. Kamijou found it difficult to watch how her expression visibly stiffened as she forced it to remain as it was.
The girl finally managed to speak to her sister.
“…Is it true you destroyed our cabal?”
“If you mean your cabal, then yes I did.”
Ureapaddy’s lips moved as she made that clear distinction.
She spoke so easily.
She was a stark contrast to Sozty who had needed to force down her emotions so they were only simmering below the surface before she was able to speak. In Ureapaddy’s case, her expression remained unchanged because she did not particularly feel anything about the situation. She was so indifferent it seemed her organs had to be completely frozen over.
The older sister and the younger sister.
An obvious discrepancy existed between the two.
“They were nothing but a burden and I had no further use for them. Their plans were always poorly thought out and the scale of their ideas was too small. And yet they would look down on me if I tried to do something with that frozen project. …What use did they have left other than as a disposable decoy?”
“Would I be correct in assuming the same applies to me?”
“Think what you wish. It is true that the incident with you forced my hand a bit, though.”
Was she referring to the cabal’s attack on Sozty to silence her when she had been captured?
In that case, it was possible some sisterly love still existed between Sozty and Ureapaddy.
“After all, that completely destroyed the already pathetic decoy plan. It wasn’t easy reworking my plan for betrayal on the spot.”
Sozty had risked her life as a diversion.
She had been prepared to let her sister and comrades escape even if it cost her her life. And yet she received only that coldhearted answer.
In that instant…
Kamijou learned the meaning of true silence.
The smiles from the photo he had seen on Sozty’s cell phone appeared in the back of his mind.
Stiyl was an expert in making such severe decisions, yet even he had his breath taken away.
“Damn you…!!” shouted Kamijou as he clenched his fist, but Sozty held a hand out to block his path.
“I have to ask. This may be only a portion of the rocket, but it is still a collection of top secret technology. And it is also filled with toxic fuel. This vehicle had to have some escort vehicles. What happened to them?”
“I eliminated them.”
“What happened to the driver of this vehicle?”
“I eliminated him.”
The fact that she did not specify what exactly she had done gave them a very bad feeling about what had happened. Both the escort vehicles and the driver were not present. That was all Kamijou and the others knew. They could only pray that they were safe.
Meanwhile, Ureapaddy grinned and said, “Yes, yes. Asking questions is the best course of action for you as you did not even realize how poor that plan was. And let me be blunt about one thing: truly optimized actions lack all beauty and elegance.”
“Are you really one to talk about elegance?” said Sozty with a tone as hard as rock. “You shot your comrades in the back for your own goal and plan to destroy Academy City with no just cause. And all to show off your Brahma Astra that should have been frozen long ago. It seems to me you are the one that looks unsightly due to pursuing optimization too far.”
“If you are going to ask any questions, could you keep them short?”
“What are you after?” Sozty’s brief question stabbed out. And then she continued, “The overall plans of the cabal were nothing more than a decoy for you. In that case, you have no reason to continue on with the goal of destroying Academy City. I see no reason for you to use Brahma Astra here. Surely using Brahma Astra in and of itself is not your only goal, right?”
“I have no obligation to answer that. But what would you do if I said that was my only goal?”
Ureapaddy tilted her head ever so slightly.
Older sister and younger sister.
And yet Sozty answered without hesitation.
“I would kill you. You are a disgrace.”
Kamijou felt dizzy hearing her say that so plainly. It may have simply been that she had lost her cool at having her sister speak so coldheartedly about her, but Kamijou still felt their conversation had gone too far. Or perhaps this was the standard for the creatures known as magicians.
He glanced over at Stiyl, but the priest’s expression was hidden by his long hair.
“We… The cabal was targeting Academy City because it was necessary. No matter how our actions would later be recorded in history, we decided we had no choice but to carry out the attack.” Sozty spoke her next words as if spitting them out. “And now you’re saying the target doesn’t matter? You just want to use your spell that had been frozen? You’re going to destroy a city of one million just for that? Now I see why the cabal was keeping a careful eye on you. Your ideas need to be thrown into a dark hole and sealed away with a stone.”
“Sozty. Do you really, truly understand what you are talking about?”
“I do,” said Sozty with disinterest. “Seeing someone like you has made me realize the truth. I finally know what it is like to see what I was trying to do from the outside. I am growing angry at the justifications I was making.”
“Sozty…?” said Kamijou in a whisper, but she did not turn in his direction.
She kept her gaze on her enemy and made an announcement in a shout.
“I was wrong!! What we were trying to do is wrong no matter what reason you have. Forcing this onto them does nothing to save the people who would be sacrificed. The existence of a reason makes no difference!! And if it’s wrong with a reason, there is no way I can let you do it without a reason!!”
“Oh.” Ureapaddy gave a thin smile that displayed disinterest from the very bottom of her heart. “So you’ve already made it that far. In that case, I suppose telling you this won’t have that much of an impact on you, will it, Sozty?”
“Didn’t you find it bizarre?” continued Ureapaddy in a calm, flowing voice. “The original plan the pathetic leaders of the cabal came up with was to use Agni’s Festival Fire to destroy a few districts, use the confusion to head into the strictly guarded District 23, and then destroy the facilities within. Correct?”
“Looking at it now, that plan makes me want to puke. What about it?”
“Oh? And wasn’t this plan implemented because the cabal works to obtain bodies that surpass the limits using training methods that surpass the limits and so it took issue with Academy City’s optimal training methods using the optimal values?”
“Ah…” muttered Kamijou rather than Sozty.
Ureapaddy smiled in delight.
“It seems that student has figured it out. Don’t you find it odd, Sozty? We were opposed to their methods of training the mind and body, and yet our ultimate objective was to destroy District 23. Their aerospace technology should have been of no consequence to us.”
Sozty seemed completely dumbfounded as she muttered, “Did the cabal have information it was keeping from us?”
“Their true reason for attacking Academy City lay elsewhere. I had hoped to completely shock you by revealing that the justification you held so dear was completely meaningless, but it seems you freed yourself from that curse on your own. I was trying to say I was disappointed my revelation had lost most of its meaning. Do you understand now?”
“If you learn what it is and what it has brought about, you will finally reach my darkness,” said Ureapaddy. “But that is all for today. I do not have time to spare. My preparations are already complete, so I will be leaving now.”
A loud sound like several simultaneous metallic noises could be heard.
At some point, a giant golden bow had appeared in Ureapaddy’s hand.
Or perhaps it should be called an Astra said to be held by the god Brahma.
Once it was fired, it would cleanly tear out a hole with a 50 meter radius in even the sturdiest structure.
“Is that Brahma Astra!?”
“Do not worry, student. The timing has not yet come. Plus, what use is a bow and arrow that always hits the target if I fire it from head on? From your fight against Sozty, it appears you have some powerful means of destroying magic.”
Then what was she targeting?
What was she trying to do?
As soon as those questions came to Kamijou’s mind, Ureapaddy answered them by means of the direction she aimed the bow and arrow.
She aimed at the satellite guidance vehicle.
Specifically, she targeted the rocket container that contained the toxic hydrazine.
“Escape is my top priority today.”
She held a completely normal metal arrow in the bow.
But that was enough.
“So I will give up on this.”
With a dull noise, the arrow pierced into the side of the container.
A hissing sound like carbonation being released could be heard. A clear liquid that was obviously different from water began flowing onto the road surface.
“Not good! That’s hydrazine!!” shouted Kamijou.
Ureapaddy smiled and stepped back. She then prepared to run. She would not allow them to follow her. It was blatantly obvious that was her intention.
Index then spoke to Stiyl.
“You can use Anglican-style spells, right? Blow that away with your flames!!”
Her statement sounded insane.
But it was not.
She added, “If I am correct, the base is fire and the meaning is punishment, but add purification to the 3rd and 5th words and loop it. In English, the initials are P, A, and R. That will cancel out the target’s toxicity!!”
How had Stiyl felt about that “advice”?
How had that magician felt when he was briefly put back in the position he had once viewed as normal?
Without speaking much, Stiyl Magnus quickly took action.
The roar of flames consuming oxygen burst out.
A sword of flame appeared in the priest’s right hand.
For the first time, a bit of nervousness appeared on Ureapaddy’s face.
She was likely worried she would be caught in the explosion.
“What a wonderful expression.”
With his lips twisted into a smile, Stiyl swung his flame sword without hesitation.
Its form collapsed and it shot directly for the leaking hydrazine.
In the next instant, a great explosion wiped away the darkness of Academy City’s night.
Ureapaddy may have removed the spell she had set up when the explosion occurred. Or perhaps the explosive power had destroyed the spell. Either way, the people in the surrounding areas finally became aware of the disturbance on the overpass.
Kamijou and the others rushed down the emergency staircase and to the ground as they heard the approaching sirens of fire trucks.
“I think Ureapaddy escaped. I felt no resistance,” said Stiyl.
Sozty then let out a confused voice.
“But wait. Wait a second. My sister was trying to sabotage the rocket container being transported so she could use Brahma Astra, right? In that case, why did she so readily abandon the container?”
“Once we had determined which rocket it was, we would never let it actually be launched. She had to have known that, so she had no reason to hold on to it.”
“Touma, does that mean Ureapaddy will target another ‘rocket’ and wait for her chance to attack?”
If so, the issue was simple.
They knew their enemy’s target, so they could lay a trap. Or they could temporarily halt the work with the rockets to put a stop to Ureapaddy’s plan. If they could locate her while she was stalled, they would have a chance to attack.
“I don’t think Ureapaddy would so readily abandon that rocket container if she understood that we knew what she was trying to do. She would have known we would guard all other rockets afterwards, so it at least would not have been an easy decision,” said Stiyl. “She would have either tried to have that rocket container launched no matter what or she would have tried to kill us. That situation could easily have been the deciding factor over whether her plan succeeds or not, so she should have been desperate. And yet…”
“So if she readily abandoned it, does it mean she has some other way of accomplishing her plan…?”
Just as Kamijou said that, he saw something unpleasant in the corner of his vision.
It was a completely normal site in any district of Academy City. It could easily be called a part of the standard background scenery. It was an airship. The giant monitor on its side that acted like a billboard was displaying world news.
“The Venus Probe Contest is progressing quite well. The EU Space Industry Committee has commented that their overall level of technology may be lower, but that they have tempered traditions and expert skills from their work in clock craftsmanship and the like. They say the results of those craftsmen will be the pride of the world. The private projects in the rocket industry have…”
“Wait…it can’t be…”
“Let me guess what you are thinking,” said Stiyl with an exceedingly displeased look. “Ureapaddy had already sabotaged a few rockets outside before arriving at Academy City. The rockets within the city were nothing more than insurance. The sabotaged rockets will follow a strict time schedule and be launched at a time that is convenient to Ureapaddy’s plan.”
It was not rare for the timing of rocket launches to be off a bit due to delays in preparation or weather conditions.
If one wanted to ensure that a rocket would be launched at a certain time, one would want to prepare a few layers of safety by preparing several rockets to launch at the same time in several different places.
“Is that why she was able to abandon this rocket?” muttered Kamijou before turning to Sozty. “H-hey, the Gate of the Gods Come from the Heavens is based in India, right? What path did you take to reach Academy City!?”
“The worst possible one. I was just thinking about it.”
“Can you be more specific!?”
“We split into several groups and met up in Tokyo. I was with my sister. We travelled from India to Russia, flew to a German airport, travelled by land to France, passed through England, flew from there to America, and finally headed to Japan via Australia. Dammit. All of those countries are involved in the Venus Probe Contest!!”
Sozty’s face was pale as she spoke.
France and England had no surface launching facilities, but they could use islands in the Pacific and also had projects to send satellites into the atmosphere using two-stage rockets fired from civilian aircrafts flying at ultra high altitude. Kamijou had heard about those projects on the world news on TV because the countries had made sure to make thorough announcements to ensure no one mistook them for bombers loaded with cruise missiles.
Naturally, they could not deny the possibility that she had sabotaged the rockets when they were in transit on the ground just as she had attempted here.
“No one knows how many rockets my sister has sabotaged. And with it involving so many different groups, no single authority can halt all the launches! The Venus Probe Contest is underway. No one is going to listen to someone who tells them to stop. Those who do not understand the situation will simply see it as an attempt at interference!!”
“The real problem is the destructive power of Brahma Astra,” said Index as she thought. “It is a spiritual item named after the weapon of the god Brahma. And according to Ureapaddy, it has extremely high accuracy. I do not know how accurately the legend has been recreated, but if they were attempting to match the original, they must have been trying to amplify its power to the very limit.”
“It is highly likely Ureapaddy’s Brahma Astra has been forcibly given the destructive power worthy of being called the most powerful weapon within the Gate of the Gods Come from the Heavens. Not only does it have perfect accuracy, but it creates a ridiculously huge explosion when it hits. According to the past data, it destroyed everything for 50 meters around it, but who knows how far its power has been amplified. And if something like that is fired at Academy City…”
An unpleasant feeling welled up in Kamijou’s chest.
Ureapaddy’s objective was unknown, but from her past actions, it seemed unlikely she would let her chance slip by her after making all those preparations.
She would most definitely fire the weapon.
Kamijou could not imagine how much damage would be caused by an arrow of the god of destruction.
“What are we supposed to do?” asked Sozty. “My sister already has Brahma Astra. She can remotely detonate rockets to create the three shooting stars she needs to fire it. No one knows where those rockets are. For all we know, they have already been launched!!”
“Thinking about the sabotaged rockets will get us nowhere,” replied Kamijou. He tightly clenched his right fist that could negate any magic. “So our only option is to destroy Ureapaddy’s Brahma Astra. There is no other way to protect Academy City.”