Toaru Majutsu no Index:NT Volume10 Chapter 14
Chapter 14: V.S. “The Police of the Front Stage” Round_06.
Everyone may have forgotten, but Kamijou and Othinus had been walking through the snow to buy a replacement battery from the gas station because the truck they were hitchhiking with had died in the cold.
“This is scary! First there’s that meteorite, then a UFO crashes, and now there was that giant shadow in the distance! Was that some kind of ancient superweapon? Have the mysteries of the world decided to gather in Denmark today!?”
The driver had been on the verge of wetting himself, but he had been unable to escape without a running truck. For better or for worse, that had meant he continued waiting without abandoning the hitchhikers.
At some point, the jam bread from the gas station had ended up in the agitated driver’s stomach. He may have wanted sugar to keep his brain running.
This had angered Othinus enough to grow violent, but Kamijou had successfully restrained her. She was apparently unaware that hitchhikers were at a lower position than the people who picked them up.
Eventually, they arrived in the city of Billund at the center of the peninsula.
The plan had been to find another vehicle there, but that was looking unlikely.
“This isn’t good,” muttered Kamijou. “Everyone around here looks really dangerous. It feels like the special forces in a Hollywood movie. Is this the American military?”
“I’d say it’s the Danish military acting on America’s behalf. They have checkpoints set up on all the major roads, so hitchhiking isn’t gonna be easy.”
“By the way, how much further to the spring your eye is in?”
“We’re a full hundred kilometers to Egeskov Castle. Unless you can run a full marathon, that’s too far for human legs to travel all at once.”
The Japanese were sometimes said to live in rabbit hutches, so travelling 100 kilometers through the snow was much too far removed from Kamijou’s normal experience. Not to mention that he lived in Academy City where everything was crammed together and it was praiseworthy to skip the train and walk when travelling even two or three kilometers from home.
“Staying here won’t do us any good,” said Othinus. “We need to start toward Fredericia. It’s a large city about fifty kilometers east of here. Egeskov Castle is on the island of Funen, and we need to cross the bridge in that city if we’re taking the land route.”
“But that means…”
“I don’t know if they’ve figured out our objective, but this route also leads to the island of Zealand which contains the capital city of Copenhagen. We’ve been sighted on the peninsula, so we should assume they’re blocking off that bridge.”
Kamijou held his head in his hands, but Othinus seemed cheerful.
“The more enemies around, the more we can steal from them. If we swipe a military vehicle, we won’t have to test our luck with hitchhiking anymore.”
“And who’s going to drive that rough thing along the slippery, snowy roads!? Try that like it’s a go-kart and you’ll spin out and crash into a tree not ten minutes into the drive.”
He began seriously considering getting a motorcycle license once he returned to Academy City as he and Othinus left Billund.
For the moment, they were on foot.
They walked through the white world with the extremely vague plan of sneaking aboard the back of a truck if they saw one favoring safety and thus driving slowly along the snowy road.
Needless to say, plans growing vaguer as time went on was a good sign of a coming loss.
Kamijou checked his cell phone and found it was currently twelve below zero.
(Why are we trying to walk this distance in such light clothing!? I’m going to lose a finger or an ear!)
Even though he began complaining to himself, that was actually a sign of him calming down a little.
He had smashed a large rock on his right fist, dislocated his shoulder, been hit on the side of the head, fallen from a great height, had a tree branch stab into his thigh, and been caught in a gas station explosion. He was injured all over and travelling by foot, but he had travelled nearly two hundred kilometers from the city of Hjørring on the northern end of the peninsula. He had been complaining about wearing his school uniform in below freezing weather, but he was getting by somehow or other. One hundred kilometers remained which was only half of the distance already travelled. They had already made it through the worst of it. If they only continued on as before, they would reach the goal.
Or so he naively assumed.
They were sighted more often as time went on and thus the accuracy and frequency of interference from the coalition force and Gremlin would increase. A simple 100-meter dash and the 100-meter hurdles required completely different levels of strength. And when the number of hurdles shot up like a quadratic curve, the rest of the path would be nothing like the path so far.
The scene that appeared before their eyes proved that quite well.
They saw tanks.
These perfectly normal weapons were not the cutting edge weapons of the science side or the magic side, but more than fifty of them blocked their path.
Othinus caught on first. She stopped walking when she saw snow being thrown up into the air as something dug into the ground four or five kilometers ahead.
“This is bad. Get down. The snowscape is filled with American generation 3.5s. They have giant antennae, so they must share a certain level of targeting information via C4I. They don’t seem to have noticed us yet, but if they continue forward while scanning, they’ll pick up on our body heat.”
The sound of the treads digging into the ground was audible even at a distance. It was not that each and every one was loud; there were simply that many of them.
Kamijou nervously crouched down and spoke uneasily.
“American? Is that who our next opponent is?”
“Not necessarily. Denmark imports plenty of American weapons and Academy City took the leadership role during World War Three, so there’s a glut of ‘made in USA’ weapons that were brought to Europe. This could easily be the Danish military pulling out some rentals they have yet to return.”
“That really isn’t the main issue.” Kamijou exhaled a white breath and looked at his right hand. “This enemy is made up of pure bullets that don’t use magic or esper powers. In a way, this is the worst enemy to come across!!”
At that time, Sergeant Ingrid Martin had already accurately located the two targets. She lay on the snowy plain while wearing a white ghillie suit made by adding powdered paint over conifer tree camouflage, so even the UAVs flying overhead would have a hard time locating her. People viewing the area from a distance with the naked eye would have almost no chance of detecting her.
The large tank unit was a diversion.
A large unit could not be brought in on such short notice, so all the American tanks sitting around after World War Three had been lent to the Danish military to stir up the area. Meanwhile, Sergeant Ingrid and the other elites would slowly move alongside the tanks, locate anyone trying to escape them “from a different angle”, and eliminate them.
In truth, it would have been enough to add a papier mache turret on top of construction equipment and paint them up to look military. They only had to frighten the target into movement.
Voices from the others on the same commando unit reached her over the radio.
“This is Lynx. Target located. Securing line of fire.”
“This is Jaguar. Same here. Together with White Lion and Lynx, we have them surrounded from three points.”
“Roger that.” Sergeant Ingrid spoke quietly. “Just out of curiosity, why am I White Lion? There are a lot of better cats you could choose. Y’know, the kinds people make stuffed animals out of.”
“Didn’t you agree to it because lion cubs are fluffy and cute?”
“And even their cubs can bite off a human finger. It’s perfect for you.”
She kept her eyes on the targets, but spotted her comrades from the corners of her eyes and sent deadly thoughts their way. However, not even she could have spotted them without already knowing they were there. The same likely went for them.
Their targets, Kamijou Touma and Othinus, were not even looking in the right direction because they were focused on the tanks. A single pull of the trigger would kill them.
But knowing that produced an annoyed comment from Sergeant Ingrid.
“The leader of the bad guys is one thing, but isn’t the other one the hero who saved Hawaii?”
“This is Lynx. He cancelled that out with what he’s done now.”
“My sister’s husband is from there,” she said. “If we end it like this, I can’t avoid a fight with her. Damn, and I was just starting to get along with my shy niece.”
“This is Jaguar. Everything about us is classified while working across borders. Start talking about your weekend house party and the Company isn’t going to be happy.”
“I’m way more afraid of my sister than those necktie wearing bastards with their thin smiles. As I’m sure you know, she’s the world’s strongest housewife with a grip of 200 kilos and she’s the type to break a safe barehanded if she can’t remember the combination.”
“White Lion, please stop giving out personal information. It defeats the purpose of the codenames.”
“Her family yells at her for her loose tongue, too. She even told the rest of the family who her niece’s first love was, so you can’t expect her to-…”
“Jaguar, you’re not doing much better.”
However, this was not a Hollywood movie, so the soldiers could not let their personal feelings affect the mission.
As they continued their observation, the two targets crouched down to hide themselves. It was far too thoughtless when faced with the sensors of modern weapons, but hiding was hiding. Even if it would accomplish nothing, it indicated their intent to fight. Given the situation, Sergeant Ingrid could only assume the worst.
If they had stood with their hands up, the soldiers would not have had to shoot.
“This is White Lion. Lynx, Jaguar, get set. This job is as depressing as a Monday on your period. Let’s get this over with and go home.”
“This is Lynx. Roger that.”
“This is Jaguar. Roger that. And you actually have girly things like periods?”
After a count of three, Sergeant Ingrid slowly and silently stood up.
She was only two meters behind Kamijou Touma and Othinus.
Kamijou did not understand what had happened to him.
He found himself unable to breathe and his vision filled with white like an overexposed photograph. Heat quickly gathered above his neck and he could not move his head well, so he reached for his neck and finally found a dry sensation.
An arm was strangling him from behind.
By the time he determined that, he had already lost feeling in his limbs. Rather than crushing his windpipe and preventing him from breathing, the attacker was placing pressure on his carotid arteries to keep blood from his brain. Before he could even resist, his consciousness slipped into a world of darkness.
Othinus shouted toward the person who wore a white ghillie suit that looked a bit like a yeti costume. The attacker did not hesitate to use the unconscious boy’s body as a shield while keeping their arm around his neck.
The attacker was plenty cautious of Othinus’s power.
Even with no detailed knowledge of magic, the memory of the United States’ army and administration being brought down in Hawaii was still fresh. That was why the attacker had started by attacking Kamijou instead of Othinus.
Her power was unknown, but she was travelling with Kamijou Touma and would thus want to keep the boy with her. That was why he would function as a shield.
With her attention forced onto that fact, Othinus froze in place, but then the snow unnaturally burst up at her feet.
It was a gunshot.
The fact that they were surrounded further dulled Othinus’s thoughts.
The attacker decided this was the optimal moment and slipped a hand inside the ghillie suit. That hand came out holding a knife with a blade longer than thirty centimeters.
While using Kamijou Touma’s unconscious form as a shield, the attacker did not hesitate to throw that knife toward the center of Othinus’s head.
The entire process took only twenty seconds and it ended with a dull noise.
Kamijou Touma let out a quiet groan.
He could tell he was collapsed somewhere, but he could not tell whether he was on his back or stomach. His mind was so muddled he doubted he could even tell if he had won in a game of rock-paper-scissors.
He heard someone speaking in the distance.
It was fluent English and it was filled with slang not found in textbooks. It might as well have been a completely unknown language to Kamijou.
“You should’ve just killed her with the knife back there.”
“Did you forget the mission objective, chicken head? This Othinus girl might get up again even if we stab her or shoot her.”
“We still don’t know the details of that ‘magic’ she used at Hawaii, but she at least needs to think to pull it off. That’s why we defeated her while she was too confused to think, but now it seems like it was too easy.”
He felt no heat.
His consciousness was drawn inwards like he had severe anemia and everything in front of him seemed a long way away.
“And that’s why you knocked her out with the knife’s grip?”
“We have to wait until the video line to the UN headquarters building is up. She was connected all the way up to the media queen in Hawaii.”
“Having this intercepted could lead to her soldiers interfering, so it isn’t surprising a secure line is taking a while to set up.”
A pair of feet wearing military boots was travelling back and forth in front of him at short intervals.
“Once the line is up, we can move on to mission objective beta. Let’s go back over the process.”
He tried to look up and only then did he realize he was lying face down.
“The reports from Baggage City are hard to believe, but given the possibility of a fake or body double, we will kill Othinus in front of a camera sending the footage to the president in real time. A .45 caliber handgun will be used to reliably destroy her brain and heart. Once her death has been confirmed, three different poisons will be injected into her at twice the lethal dose. Also, her major tendons and nerves will be severed with a knife, the surfaces will be sealed with instant glue, and her body will be flown to Alaska.”
“Don’t forget to take a DNA sample. …And are they seriously going to preserve the corpse? Won’t the remnants of her group view it as a symbol of revival and try to steal it?”
“This is what the higher ups decided, so it isn’t our place to argue. If the body was incinerated, we would have no proof if the remnants began to claim she was still alive. The higher ups are probably afraid of that.”
His hazy mind gradually came into focus.
At the same time, he had a question about this situation he had been accepting as normal.
He finally understood the situation.
He frantically tried to get up, but a great force pressed down on his back and he heard a metallic noise. He could not see above from his position, but he assumed someone was stepping on his back and aiming a gun at his head.
The pair of military boots in front of him was contacting someone over a radio and that rectangular device was tossed in front of him.
The boots produced a female voice that spoke in Japanese.
“The president has something to tell you.”
The pressure on his back remained, so he reached out and grabbed the radio while still on all fours.
A familiar voice came from the device.
“I don’t know why you started this, but didn’t you know this would happen eventually?”
But this cold voice sounded like a completely different person from the man he had worked with in Hawaii.
An individual’s feelings would not get through to this man. Speaking of debts would be meaningless. Growing violent because the man was not listening would accomplish nothing. After all, Roberto Katze was making his decisions with every United States citizen – if not something even greater – weighing on his back. That was a great burden, but it also supported him with a great power.
This was not a one to one conversation.
This clash of wills was at least one to two hundred million and possibly even one to six billion.
Despite that, Kamijou had to win.
He had to invent a reason for that great number of people to hold off on killing Othinus.
“Since you’re even bothering to talk with me, can I assume you’re at least a little hesitant?”
“I’m just killing time while the video line is confirmed secure. We should have about ten minutes left.”
“I won’t let you kill Othinus.”
“You have ten minutes to explain why I shouldn’t, if you can at all. Incidentally, I have enough reasons for killing her that I could make a three-day, three-night speech on it.”
Hearing that coldhearted voice, Kamijou licked his lips.
His opponent was not refusing to talk. Even if that was only to give time for the execution to be prepared, his words could still reach the man.
He could not afford any mistakes here and he felt an unpleasant pain in his heart.
“You still don’t know everything about Othinus. You know she’s fled to Denmark, but you don’t know why. Listen. Wouldn’t it be a bad idea if America eliminated the big boss without knowing her objective or motive?”
“You mean it would damage our reputation as the world police? That doesn’t matter. The definite stability of the world is more important than some formless reputation. You’re out there on the scene, so for better or worse, you probably have a better grasp of what Gremlin is. But the vast majority of the world doesn’t know any of that. Do you have any idea how much damage is being done from rumors, primarily on the internet? If we don’t do anything, it’ll develop into a witch hunt. Rumors that a certain country is supporting Gremlin will gain false credibility and a new war will break out.”
That was the situation in the eyes of America…no, the eyes of the six billion residents of the earth.
They knew nothing of Othinus.
They did not even know if she was male or female.
They were more worried about the threat to their own lifestyles than some unknown person’s life.
“You aren’t wrong,” said Kamijou. “But that’s all the more reason why you can’t kill Othinus.”
“Killing Othinus won’t make Gremlin peacefully disband. Just because they lose their overall objective of completing the lance, they aren’t going to commit mass suicide. With no one to bring them together, the members will scatter randomly. The loss of their objective will leave them with great anger and their first target will be the peaceful world and America, the country that leads it.”
“We are prepared for the fight to continue. Do we look like a country that will forgive a villain in fear of a distant future?”
“If you think that fight will be hunting down the remnants of the group, you’re dead wrong, Mr. President.” Kamijou’s words stabbed out. “Gremlin has already proven even a superpower like America can be brought to its knees. The world learned that perfectly well at Hawaii. In fact, I’m amazed no one has tried copying them yet. Now, a copycat wouldn’t be that big a problem, but what if the other members of Gremlin gather together? I don’t know a thing about politics, but would I be right in assuming there are a surprising number of people who would like to defeat America?”
“Keeping Othinus around would lead to an age of war just the same.”
“Would it really? If you want to predict where the other members are hiding based on their behavior patterns, you’ll need to learn the secrets of Gremlin from her. And as long as their leader lives, none of the other members can name themselves the new representative. Her survival would at least somewhat hold off their reorganization and regrouping. The slower the enemy is to act, the less chaos will spread through the world and the fewer people will die.”
“But Othinus’s power is unknown. I don’t know what happened with the supposed lance in Tokyo Bay, but she can do something similar or even worse in the future. There’s no good reason to let her go. Even if we close her in a nuclear shelter somewhere, we can’t guarantee Gremlin won’t be able to attack and break her out.”
“Then we just have to take her power from her.”
He finally arrived at their objective.
The question was whether the president would believe him or not.
“We’re trying to permanently remove Othinus’s power and then surrender to you. That unknown power will become a simple zero. That way she can help the world in the future and she won’t be a threat even if she is taken away. That removes any reason to kill her, doesn’t it?”
“Is there really a convenient way of doing that?”
“You all probably don’t understand because it happened so suddenly, but we didn’t come all the way here without an objective in mind. It would have been safer to hide out in some quiet mountain.”
Lying on his stomach put pressure on his lungs, so he had difficulty breathing.
“Listen. We’re not asking you to write off Othinus’s crimes. Once this is over, you can lock her up for decades if you have to. As long as you go through the proper procedure, we won’t stop you. So do you still feel the need to kill her!? All we’re doing is preparing her to be sent to an American prison!”
“I don’t know much about that side of things, but isn’t this kind of person usually sent to England or somewhere like that?”
“We’ve already run across the Roman Catholic Church, Russian Orthodox Church, and Anglican Church, but it was no good. They’re all determined to kill. That may be normal to them since they have direct connections to the crusades and witch hunts, but I just can’t get used to methods from 500 or 1000 years ago.”
“Do you really have to execute her? I’m just a high school student and I don’t know much about law, so I have to ask. In your country and under the rules that act as the global standard, is there really no path left for her except death?”
If the answer was yes, the future would grow pitch black for Kamijou.
Even then, he would not overlook Othinus’s crimes. It would simply make their goal that much more difficult to reach.
There was a pause.
Rather than mocking the boy, the president thought and gave an accurate answer.
“Crimes against humanity are severe. As war crimes, she would be charged with attacking a country without declaring war and indiscriminately attacking civilians. She would certainly be executed. As you know, she attacked Hawaii, Baggage City, and Tokyo…and I’m sure more problems would come to light later. It would be a hard case to win even after paying mountains of money for an army of lawyers.”
Kamijou’s breathing grew erratic, but the president was right. He suppressed his desire to deny it and did his best to accept it.
“On the other hand, Gremlin is not accepted as a nation under international law, nor are they registered as a legitimate military force. Funnily enough, that means some of those war crimes might not apply. It’d be quite a trick to pull it off, though. …But even then, she wouldn’t be innocent. After directly attacking America, the jury would have a terrible impression of her. She’d at least be imprisoned for 100 years. If we successfully sent a manned flight to Mars, found a gene that completely eliminates cancer, formed a peace treaty with the little greys, or otherwise had a national victory, it’s possible she could get a pardon to lessen her sentence, but it would be best to think there’s almost no chance of her ever again coming from behind bars.”
Hearing that, Kamijou could not help but laugh.
“That’s fine. As long as there’s even the slightest bit of hope, I can accept it. I’ll jump at the chance. We – Othinus and I – will be satisfied with that.”
“Are you sure you understand?”
“It’s a whole lot better than some ridiculous ending where she’s killed in a frenzy, no one feels any guilt over it, and no one questions holding a holiday in the name of her killer. …And I have to apologize. Until now, I’d always thought about the major players being Academy City on the science side and England on the magic side. I’d never thought of America as being all that important. But you were the most rational ones when it came down to it. You did what the science side and magic side couldn’t.”
“Is that so?”
That was all Roberto Katze said.
After a pause, he spoke to someone other than Kamijou.
“For our national interests and the stability of the world, Operation Norse Wind is suspended as of now. The commando unit shall release Kamijou Touma and Othinus’s bonds and continue their infiltration with the channel open for further orders. Repeat it back to me.”
The female soldier who had tossed the radio to Kamijou responded.
“Yes, sir. Operation Norse Wind is suspended as of now. The two targets’ bonds shall be released and we shall wait on standby until we receive further orders.”
With that, the pressure left Kamijou’s back.
He coughed, rolled over on the snow, and looked around. He saw three soldiers in white uniforms and a blonde eyepatch-wearing girl lying a short distance away where the soldiers could keep an eye on her at all times.
He tried to get up, but pain ran through his hips and he could not manage it. He half-crawled along the snow and approached the unconscious girl.
He did not carelessly grab her shoulders and shake her. He shouted in her ear until he finally heard a groan from her lips. She seemed to have come to.
“We won’t attach an obvious collar with a bomb inside or anything,” said the voice from the radio. “The United States will be watching over you in hiding and maintaining a position to kill you. That should be enough to replace an actual collar.”
A heavy silence hung over the conference room in the UN headquarters building.
Time had passed since the president had ended the transmission while showing off.
As the leaders of England, France, Russia, and the Roman Catholic Church stared at him, the large Hispanic man shrank back uncomfortably.
“Sorry,” he said. “It looks like I’m your enemy now.”
After confirming that Othinus had come to and that she was not bleeding from the head, Kamijou finally grabbed her shoulders and pulled her from the snow. Her body was surprisingly cold. It was hard to judge from her expression and attitude since she had lost her senses, but her legs and waist were not supporting her properly. He lent her his shoulder and she was finally able to stand up.
Kamijou looked the soldiers in the eye just once.
They paid him no heed and put the yeti-like ghillie suits over their uniforms. That alone messed with Kamijou’s sense of distance and they seemed to blend into the background despite standing right in front of him. It was not simply an issue of camouflage. They cut off their breathing and other things that indicated their presence, so it did not feel like a living creature stood there.
In the blink of an eye, he lost sight of them.
He could tell they had left due to the footprints in the snow, but even that trail would vanish in the blizzard.
“Let’s go, Othinus.”
Their next destination was Fredericia. To get there, they would have to pass the unit of tanks in front of them. Roberto had said the tanks were a diversion and they were not meant to actually fire. With the entire operation called off, they would have no problem walking right past the tanks.
Or so they thought.
As soon as they took the first step, the group of tanks in front of them was enveloped in a white explosion.
A deluge of sound rushed at Kamijou and Othinus, and they were knocked to the ground.
Something had swept across in a horizontal line.
Kamijou belatedly realized the white explosion had been a great mass of snow being tossed into the air. Of course, it did not end there. The tanks’ hatches opened beyond that veil which reached ten meters or higher and the soldiers began to frantically leave the tanks.
The second wave arrived shortly thereafter.
One after another, the sturdy tanks burst from within like balloons. Crimson flames and black smoke scattered everywhere and sometimes the turrets were launched straight up. If all those soldiers had been a little slower to escape, they would have been roasted in giant ovens.
But what had happened?
Lying on the ground, Kamijou moved only his eyes and spotted it.
He was looking high in the white sky.
Another group of weapons seemed to be looking down on the tanks from there.
Their unique silhouettes resembled a praying mantis. In place of the arms, they possessed overly-powerful weapons that gathered railgun barrels like a Gatling gun. As the weapons flew through the air by vibrating their thin wings at high speed, some writing was visible on their bellies.
“Dammit. They’re finally here,” groaned Kamijou in fear. “Our next enemy is Academy City!!”