Toaru Majutsu no Index:NT Volume10 Chapter 17
Chapter 17: V.S. “The Master of the Library and the Magic Queen” Round_09.
Kamijou Touma and Othinus made their way to the city of Fredericia.
However, that was a fifty kilometer trek east from the battle with Mikoto and they could not walk that far in -12 degree weather after so many battles. They could not hope to hitchhike either, so what were they to do?
Continuous metallic noises gave the answer.
Othinus’s upper body was sticking up above the turret.
“I never thought we would end up driving an American tank.”
“This is seriously scaring me!! Is this thing really going straight? I’ve never driven anything more than a bicycle! You can’t make a high school boy who’d be nervous on a unicycle drive something like this!!”
To put it simply, they had borrowed one of the tanks used for the diversion.
“In this, it doesn’t matter if you slip on the snowy road or run into a tree,” said Othinus with a hand on her headset. “Unless we reach a populated area, it doesn’t matter how far off course you end up.”
“I get that, but still!!”
The latest tanks supposedly used a steering wheel, but this may have been a downgraded version because it used the old levers. Just like excavators, bulldozers, and other construction equipment, the right and left treads were operated with separate levers which handled forward, reverse, and turns. Stopping the right tread and moving the left would turn right, the reverse would turn left, and moving both would take them forward.
“You have to admit, it’s nice to have air conditioning,” commented Othinus. “My sense of heat is almost gone, but I can feel my skin softening up.”
“Eh? Are you sure this isn’t all exhaust?”
“And this canned meat is pretty good. It tastes like a mix between Salisbury steak and a meatball.”
“No matter what I eat, it all tastes like smoke!”
Kamijou had assumed taking a tank for a drive would quickly get a squad of police sent in, but other than photos taken by cars passing by, it went peacefully. All sorts of weapons were gathered around Denmark and tanks may have been a rare sight in modern times. This gave Kamijou and Othinus a chance, but it also frightened him.
And before long, he could no longer worry about those bigger issues.
A major problem presented itself much more close to home.
“Hey, this is probably a good place to stop,” said Othinus. “The ocean’s right over there. Keep going and we’ll fall in.”
“Huh? How much further? Here?”
The entire tank lurched, but the mass of metal did not stop moving.
Othinus grabbed her headset and shouted in annoyance.
“That was the shift lever!! Hurry up and bring the tread levers to neutral! Both of them!!”
“Which are those again!? Which levers!?”
“Fine, just put that shift lever in neutral! That’ll stop it too!!”
“Ahh, I think it’s too late. This thing's going into the ocean!!”
Othinus jumped from the cupola on top of the turret and Kamijou opened the round front hatch and rolled out into the snow.
A moment later, the 70 ton machine dropped into the cold ocean like someone getting too aggressive in a game of chicken.
Othinus strangled Kamijou with both hands and shook him back and forth.
“Why! Are! You! So! Useless!!?”
“I told you a tank was too much for someone who can’t even roller skate! And wait. How much does a tank cost? There was that blown up gas station and destroyed British mobile fortress too, so how much am I going to owe once this is all over?”
Incidentally, when sold to a foreign country, a generation 3.5 tank would cost about a billion yen.
The world’s most luxurious vehicle was not a black German car or a red Italian car.
“Anyway, the city’s over there,” said Othinus while pointing with her thumb. “Let’s get over to the bridge there and cross to Funen.”
The city of Fredericia was large.
They looked around cautiously while walking through the major streets, but they did not see any military vehicles setting up checkpoints.
“What’s going on?”
“I don’t know. Maybe they’re avoiding conflict in populated areas, maybe some of the soldiers have left since you settled things with America, and maybe they’ve predicted where we’re headed and have gathered all their forces there. Whatever the case, we need to get through while there are no interferences.”
Some warmer clothes would have been nice, but they could not risk having the bridge blocked off while they shopped. They wanted to avoid swimming through the icy ocean, so they resisted and made their way to the bridge.
The steel frame and concrete bridge looked out of place in that city of stone pavement and brick.
The giant bridge had both a road and a railway.
It was perfectly straight like a runway, it continued for more than a kilometer, and two people were standing in the middle.
As soon as Kamijou saw them, he felt his throat dry up.
One was a nun wearing a white habit with gold embroidery.
The other was a girl wearing a coat over monotone clothes with a chic piano look.
As allies, they were endlessly reliable.
So how much of a threat would they be as enemies?
“Index and Birdway.”
He immediately held one hand out horizontally as if protecting Othinus behind him.
He knew this combination was dangerous.
They were bad enough as individuals, but they were definitively dangerous when working together.
One was a grimoire library that had accurately stored 103,000 grimoires and the other was an extremely high-level magician who could wield that knowledge as real power.
They were greater than the sum of their parts. In fact, they were greater than the product of their parts. He could not even imagine how high their strength could grow.
“I’m not going to bother with questions,” said Birdway bluntly. “I can take my time doing that after defeating and restraining you. This situation needs to be dealt with as quickly as possible.”
The silver-haired, green-eyed nun who was always by his side now called his name.
But she did so from a distance and not from his side.
“I don’t think it’s right to apply our world’s reasoning to someone like you, but I can’t back down here. The person behind you is a threat under our rules.”
Index and Birdway’s stances were clear.
They would defeat Kamijou and Othinus and bring an end to the chaos. It did not matter how this had happened or where they were headed. Kamijou could talk or not. Whichever he chose, those girls would defeat them.
Realizing that, he tightly clenched his right fist and opened his mouth to speak.
“Ehh? I just settled all this with Misaka, so do I really have to go over the same stuff again?”
Index and Birdway came to a stop.
Othinus was well-known as the queen of ignoring the atmosphere, but even she began to fidget awkwardly behind him.
He then gave the finishing blow.
“Oh, I know! You can just call Misaka. It’d be faster to have her explain it. That way we don’t have to get into a fight here.”
“Heh…heh heh.” Birdway shook slightly while hanging her head. “We have 103,000 grimoires here. If used correctly, that crystallization of knowledge is said to provide the possibility of raising one to the level of magic god. In this short time, we’ve been able to make a good guess as to what happened between you two back then.”
“Eh? Ah! W-wait a sec. You mean you understand that there was an infinite hell in that short time!? Then there’s no reason for us to-…”
“There is now, you fool!!!!!!”
Birdway’s shout was accompanied by physical lightning dropping from the heavens.
“I-I was planning to go easy on you and taking over for you, but I can’t forgive you now. I really will make a crushed frog out of you!!”
Kamijou trembled in fear and turned to Index for help, but the silver-haired nun shook her head with a completely blank expression.
“Touma, I think you need two or three months in a hospital bed to recover.”
With that, those magical monsters created by thoroughly honing irregular skills took action.
Index and Birdway’s formation was obvious.
Birdway took a step forward and Index took a step back. One was the front-line fighter and the other was the support unit. That division of roles was simple and optimal.
(Are they cautious because of Othinus? Do they not know she’s falling apart inside due to the fairy spell?)
However, Index’s primary means of attack were Spell Intercept and Sheol Fear which were meant to be used exclusively against magicians and clergymen. Kamijou doubted those techniques could do much when he was relying on Imagine Breaker.
Birdway’s direct attack magic was a threat and it scared him more than anything that she was being supported by 103,000 grimoires, but if there was a communication lag between each attack, his chances were best if he moved to close range for some infighting. He would not remain unharmed, but he could still win if he forced Birdway down before he collapsed.
But his plans did not exactly pan out.
“Hey, Othinus,” said Birdway quietly. “You can fight too if you want.”
A moment later, a lance grew from the girl’s hand with a ridiculous sound.
Kamijou recognized it.
It was made of gold and it had a tree-like design. That weapon of the gods had toyed with the entire world and cornered him in that infinite hell.
“Gungnir!?” shouted Othinus.
“Weren’t you listening? If used right, the 103,000 grimoires in her head contain the possibility to reach the level of a magic god.”
She grabbed the lance that grew from her palm, rested it on her shoulder, and smiled.
“I hear you stole the plans from Brunhild Eiktobel’s head, but there were other ways. …Then again, this isn’t the god’s weapon itself. A god’s weapon can only be used by a god, after all. I fine-tuned it for human use and that twisted its properties a bit.”
“Wait a minute.” Kamijou glanced at Othinus over his shoulder. “I thought Gungnir was meant to properly control the power of a magic god. It shouldn’t do anything if a human uses it!!”
“Do you really think it ends at what you see before you?”
Birdway’s words sent a chill down his spine.
(It can’t be. It can’t be!!)
“What do you call someone who wields the lance of the gods?”
Magic God Othinus had not been born a magic god. She had used a special method to obtain the knowledge, performed a unique ritual based on that knowledge, and broke out of her human shell.
In that case…
“You mean…you’ve become a magic god!?”
“No,” denied Othinus. “If you truly possessed the lance and you had truly become the head Norse god, you would have needed to sacrifice an eye like I did. That is unavoidable if you want to become me. Even if you start from 100 different points, you can’t travel down the proper route without passing through there. That means you aren’t Odin, you aren’t Othinus, and you aren’t Woden.”
“It doesn’t really matter.”
Birdway slowly rotated her hand to move the lance from her shoulder.
She was not preparing to thrust the blade at her enemies.
She was preparing to throw it.
“All I need to do is produce the same phenomenon as the thrown lance, even if just once. It’s a bit presumptuous to call yourself a god just for wielding the power of destruction, but rude as it might be, it should still give me the right to kill a god.”
Kamijou felt as if the world were growing black before his eyes.
He knew the genuine destruction produced by that lance’s surefire strike. That spell would split apart the entire world, gather the whirl of fragments, and create a giant spear tip out of them. The world of man would be destroyed for the convenience of a god and the surging violence would create a nightmarish attack to wash away an individual.
And this time, there was no way to recreate the world.
If it was destroyed, it was all over.
“Wait, Birdway!! That isn’t the convenient tool you think it is!!”
“I see you think your understanding is greater than mine. When did you become so important, boy?”
That cannon of the gods could only be used once.
It would slaughter all one’s enemies, but it would destroy the entire world along with them.
Before it could be launched and before the world could be transformed into that pure black landscape, Kamijou Touma charged forward.
Leivinia Birdway had not actually become a magic god.
Even with the support of 103,000 grimoires, the lance was not actually real.
What she was doing was simple.
Index and Birdway knew two things:
1. Othinus had become a complete magic god.
2. Kamijou Touma and Othinus had fought somewhere without their knowledge.
Even with the knowledge of the Index Librorum Prohibitorum, they could not turn anyone into a magic god that quickly. A magic god was a monumental feat that could only be achieved after someone who met certain special conditions made astronomical amounts of preparations.
On the other hand, not reaching the level of a magic god was not the same as not being able to kill a magic god.
Birdway smiled while holding the lance.
She used her absolute poker face to suppress the headache eating into the inside of her skull.
She was making full use of 103,000 grimoires’ worth of knowledge, so the “poisonous knowledge” flowing from Index was continually contaminating her mind.
In her long life, she would only have one chance at this.
But magicians were the type who said it was a small price to pay if it allowed them to kill a magic god with human hands.
(Othinus and the boy both know how far a magic god can go, so I just have to draw it out of them. I can’t reproduce the gods or their weapons, but if I can draw the phenomenon of destruction from their heads, I’ll have the means to kill one.)
Spirit-reflecting incense, astral projection, ungaikyo, vengeful spirits of the living, doppelgangers, the temptations of Satan or Mara, the cat that defeated the Norse thunder god in a test of strength, etc. While not the same as the ghost seen by Macbeth, there were legends from all over the world where the traces of the deceased, the form of one’s false convictions, the target of one’s intense fear, and other things that only exist in one’s head were drawn out into reality.
Of course, how well humans could create actual techniques based on those legends was a different story.
Some created illusions in smoke and others created imitations using virtual matter such as ectoplasm, but the spell used to embody it was not what mattered.
The image source was most important.
(I get the feeling that she’s hiding some other trump card beyond the lance, but that’s too vague to get a good grip on. We can only rely on the lance that we can understand here in this world.)
Her lance could not control a magic god’s power.
Nor could it recreate the world.
It instead focused on the head god’s attack. It took that single fragment of the great power of the gods and allowed a human to make a high-quality recreation of that phenomenon which was included in the lance.
What was magic in the first place?
A fragile human could only contain so much. A small human hand could only scoop up a tiny amount. That meant they could not make the legends of the gods their own and they could not completely take the actions of the gods for themselves.
That was why they cut it down to size.
Rather going broad and shallow, they would go narrow and deep. They would extract a single point, repeatedly hone that one point, occasionally expand the interpretation, and ultimately reach an independent and individual technique.
(You could call this an imitation divine technique.)
This was the original form of spells.
It was a strange system that humans created to grant their own wishes, even if it meant desecrating the gods.
And thus it was detested by many religious people and clergymen.
(Man cannot kill a god, but a phenomenon extracted from a magic god should be able to reach that magic god!! She will be destroyed by the very system she created!!)
Not even Birdway knew what would happen once she released that lance.
Her only expectation was for it to be an attack that even Magic God Othinus would believe.
She prepared to launch it.
And a moment before she did, Kamijou dashed right past her.
She was taken aback for a moment but quickly recovered.
(He’s not after me!? Is he planning to eliminate my power by defeating the Index Librorum Prohibitorum supporting my spell!?)
She frantically turned around while still holding the lance and realized what he was truly after.
“You monster!! You’re trying to use the Index Librorum Prohibitorum as a shield, aren’t you!?”
“It doesn’t matter where I am! If you launch that lance, the whole world will be blown away!”
She ignored his nonsense and carefully corrected her aim.
The weight of the lance seemed to change in her hand.
This was a weapon to use against a magic god, so it was so very powerful that it was not suited for such a small scale.
Kamijou forgot to even breathe as he ran full speed across the bridge.
He was heading toward Index behind Birdway.
He felt a subtle vibration on his cheeks. Index appeared to be silent at first glance, but her mouth was opened ever so slightly and she was taking long breaths. That was the source of the vibration.
She was singing.
Just as ultrasonic waves produced ripples in a cup of water, her song was beyond the range of human hearing and yet she was providing information to Birdway in front of her. Given the situation, she was clearly providing the knowledge of her 103,000 grimoires.
(I need to stop that singing no matter what!!)
His fist was tightly clenched, but he opened the hand and spread the fingers.
He did not need to knock her unconscious. She was not much of a threat to him as he did not know magic. Birdway was enough of a threat on her own, but she was not a special existence that individually rivalled a magic god. If she did have that power, Othinus and Gremlin might have chosen a different path.
(I just have to cover her mouth and stop the singing!! As long as that lance is gone, I can find a way to handle Birdway!!)
He charged right up to Index.
That girl had always been by his side, he had sworn to protect her no matter what, and he now reached out his right hand as he confronted her head on.
The silver-haired, green-eyed nun silently moved back to escape his hand.
But she only seemed silent. In truth, she was likely still singing.
However, it was too late.
From a purely athletic standpoint, the grimoire library was not much of a threat. That small distance would throw off his aim a little, but his palm could still reach her.
A moment later, his right hand missed her mouth but reached a different point on her body.
Namely, her modest chest.
By the time he noticed, it was too late.
Her incantation ended with a shrill scream, the lance in Birdway’s hand grew unstable and exploded, and the nun’s full collection of 32 teeth spread out before his eyes.
“Touma! You have no delicacy at all!! It’s like you only think about winning or you think anything is acceptable as long as you win!! Winning isn’t the only thing that matters! I highly recommend you read Le Morte d'Arthur, The Song of Roland, and other things to further your education!! Are you even listening, Touma!?”
There was no way he could be listening.
He and Birdway were lying face down on the long, runway-like bridge and twitching. Othinus was crouched down next to him and poking at his spiky head with her index finger.
He was reminded of when she had spun around in front of a mirror and ridden around on an electric two-wheeled vehicle in that infinite hell.
As he and Birdway lay unmoving so close that their heads were almost touching, he asked her a question.
“How much do you know about what happened to us?”
“Nothing specific. But if the lance was completed and the magic god used her full power, she wouldn’t bother with mere physical attacks. Presumably, she would remake the entire world into one where none of those unnecessary things existed in the first place.”
Rather than just being destroyed once, the world had been remade into millions or even billions of forms to break Kamijou’s mind, but it seemed their imagination had not brought them that far.
Magicians prioritized the individual over the whole, but they had not thought of one thoroughly remaking the world for a one-on-one battle.
“What did you see in the changed world?” asked Birdway.
“I’m not sure… Now that I think about it, there may not have been anything new there,” he spat out. “But I was reminded of a really basic thing. That’s all. …And now that I know that, I can no longer innocently act in the name of justice. I can’t kill Othinus anymore. I’m going to try to stop this worldwide chaos with whatever other method I can. I can never again choose to kill Othinus. I can never again choose to kill a mere girl and smile about it.”
“Hah.” Birdway raised her head from the ground. “You just called her a girl, didn’t you? This is Magic God Othinus, leader of Gremlin. She’s already destroyed the world…maybe even more than once.”
Kamijou removed his head from the snow as well and looked her in the eye.
“Do you have a problem with that?”
“Now it all finally makes sense.”
She rolled onto her back and brought a hand to her forehead.
“I should have known. This is exactly the kind of person you are! Goddammit!! I was thinking about the fate of the world, the leader of Gremlin, when you had a chance to communicate with them, and what information you could have leaked to them! But now I feel like an idiot for taking it all so seriously!! Because she’s a ‘mere girl’, hm? You really are hopeless, dammit!!!!”
Hearing that, he slowly stood up and looked to the other side of the bridge.
It seemed to continue on forever.
“We’ll be going.”
“Touma!! I’m not done speaking with you!!”
Index tried to snap at him some more, but Birdway wrapped her arms around the nun’s legs from the ground.
“How are you going to settle this?” asked Birdway.
“Neutralize Othinus’s power and hand her over to America.”
“Do you have a way to do that?”
“If not, I would’ve broken long ago.”
That answer caused Birdway to hold Index’s legs even tighter and the silver-haired nun almost tripped.
“Then it would be a bad idea to bring this girl with you. If she perfectly memorized the trump card to use against a monstrous magic god, the threat around her as the Index Librorum Prohibitorum would rise to the next level. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t interested, but I like the idea of having you owe me one.”
“Then look after her.”
Birdway wrapped her arms around Index’s waist as she took on the role of restraining that girl who was almost guaranteed to get lost on her own.
Kamijou and Othinus travelled down the bridge and Birdway muttered to herself as she watched their departing backs.
“From the looks of it, he watched the destruction of the world. Yet even that wasn’t enough to change him.”