Toaru Majutsu no Index:NT Volume17 Chapter 4
Chapter 4: Or a Taboo Brings Peace – Salvage_XXX
A high school boy like Kamijou had no way of calculating the sum total of the potential and kinetic energy dropped on the earth or how far the damage and effects to the surface would spread. So he spoke the conclusion that even a high school mind could comprehend.
“You overdid it, you idiot!! Luca said she’d lend you her chest if you wanted to cry! Just because you’re in love is no reason to use the entire earth as a punching bag!!!!!”
“U-um, I was kind of imagining a calmer sort of crying. I wasn’t planning on lending my chest to anything that aggressive…”
The pirate girl also must have been frightened by the impact of that hard punch because she was acting oddly and her voice was trembling.
Love was a frightening thing.
Kamijou spotted a torn memo pad among the scattered rubble, so he crouched down.
“What are you doing?”
“What needs to be done.”
The area overhead was cracked so wide open that it was easy to forget they were underground. He held back unathletic Fran who kept trying to move out ahead and then he and Luca finally found the door out of the rubble-filled hangar. There must have been an electric lock, but the door had bent and fallen out of place from the previous impact.
“Wow. How powerful was that impact?”
“This isn’t going to trigger a volcanic eruption, is it?”
The stairway unit was made from steel, but it had just barely retained its shape. They set foot on the stainless steel steps and began the long, long journey.
Kamijou realized Fran was no longer asking to be carried.
Something really must have changed inside her.
When they opened the door out onto the surface, everything was dark.
“That isn’t going to bring on an ice age like a meteor strike, is it? The ice age prediction was supposed to be misinformation.”
“It’s already around 5. The sun would normally have set by now. It is midwinter after all.”
It was hard to tell whether the wreckage they saw belonged to the meteorological observatory or the space station. Kamijou almost suspected the world had ended. It was fortunate that the only people here had been the abnormal former Kamisato Faction and Useful Spider. Any normal people would have been killed instantly.
“This is no time to be glad everyone survived. That means they’re going to pursue us after this.”
As she explained that, Luca pulled one of the small motor sharing carts from the wreckage. They had come from Useful Spider, so it was not surprising some spares would be stored here.
The pirate girl was the driver again, so Kamijou and Fran clung to the roll bar from the side.
“Go, go. Let’s go,” said Fran. “Roar! Let’s wipe them all out!”
“I kind of feel bad for Kamisato since he got confessed to and rejected without getting a say in the matter…!”
The cart was situated so low to the ground that it could not drive over even a coffee can on its side, so it had trouble in the rubble. After weaving left and right to avoid the wreckage, they finally made it to the road down the mountain.
Unlike on the way up, their excess weight actually helped. They picked up more speed than expected, the small tires screeched at the sharp curves, and Kamijou felt the squeezing at his heart return.
A high-pitched sound like a distant roaring echoed through the mountains. It came from the peak of the mountain.
“They’re beginning their pursuit. Watch out behind us!”
“I’ll take the shot when it comes to it, but you’ll load the bullet with the ramrod, right?”
“I’m not even sure what a ramrod is, but if I screw it up, it won’t blow off your fingers, will it?”
And as they discussed that, a beautiful beast slid down the slope next to them and charged right toward the cart.
Kamijou saw gorgeous long blonde ringlet curls and a dress colored a toxic blood red. She was dressed like a princess, but she ran on all fours, bared her canine teeth, growled, and went right for the throat like a beast. This girl had perfectly combined the two conflicting aspects of human and wolf.
Kamijou heard a strange voice while time seemed to stop.
He saw Fran pull an antenna rod from the side of her overstuffed backpack and she used that to strike the wealthy wolf on the side of the face as she tried to tear out Kamijou’s Adam’s apple. There was little force behind the blow, but the element of surprise had been effective. Mary was thrown off target, so she rolled and bounced a few times along the road before getting up like nothing had happened. She then kicked off the ground with all four limbs and pursued them with ferocious intensity.
Fran swung the antenna rod in a circle and began provoking the wolf girl for some reason.
“Curse that evolutionary Turbo Granny. I’ll aim for a homerun right off the cliff next time!”
“Fran’s been awakening in a weird direction! Aren’t people supposed to turn into a calmer adult when that happens!? Like a school doctor!!”
“School doctors are only seen as sexy because there’s a bed in the infirmary,” argued Luca. “Don’t get distracted by the decorations and lose sight of their true essence.”
“No! It’s the warmth of nursing you back to health when you’re weakened by a sudden cold that makes them so attractive to boys!! And that same aspect applies to dorm managers!!”
Meanwhile, the next one arrived.
While they were forced to drive full speed down the dangerous mountain road, a giant form stepped over their heads.
A far-too-giant human foot shook the earth.
Maya, the girl in white burial clothing, had grown so large they had to look up to see her properly.
Kamijou nearly forgot this was real.
It felt like having the Statue of Liberty chasing them around.
“What the hell is going on!?”
“Maya’s Censers should have been crushed when my station crashed…”
“You didn’t know?”
They could not slow down, so Luca pressed down on the gas even harder.
“In addition to her Censers, she maintains her own scent just in case. That’s why she’s always munching on vegetable sticks and sipping at sweet drinks. You’ve heard what you eat can change how you smell, right!?”
“Damn her. I always thought she was showing off her femininity by eating nothing but fruits and vegetables, but it was for this!?”
“You didn’t notice how bitter she was watching you eat as much meat and fish as you liked? And how you view a ghost without a physical body completely changes depending on where you start from. The status of a ghost in a ghost story depends on how the story got started and where it came from, right? The Censers are like an artificial ‘haunted location’. Think of it like a prism that separates light. Depending on how you mix and distribute the parts, a harmless wandering ghost can turn into a spirit that shakes an entire nation!”
“Her body is supported by a sweet smell and her body produces that sweet smell… Hm? Hmm??? What? Isn’t that like a chicken and egg situation!?” complained Kamijou.
“That’s why Maya has no weaknesses and no one can stop her once she gets her perpetual motion machine up and running with that endless cycle. She can maintain an invincible status that would warrant building a shrine and worshiping her as a god.”
“And who ever said the smell coming from Maya’s body is sweet?” asked Fran. “You make too many assumptions about girls.”
“Even if she’s an enemy, I believe in that ephemeral ghost girl’s femininity!!”
Far from ephemeral, she was stomping around like a kaiju, so it would be all over if that monster stepped on them. Even a large tour bus would be squashed so flat it would be indistinguishable from the road. As they watched, her steel pylon of a leg swung like a pendulum. As soon as Kamijou realized she was kicking like a soccer player, it happened.
A large portion of the mountain’s slope was torn away.
It went beyond who or what she was attacking.
The bedrock shattered from the frightening force of the blow and pieces of stone larger than suitcases poured down like rain. The curving mountain road was hard enough to navigate already, so the small cart swerved wildly to the left and right.
Kamijou thought he was dead. An experience one only wished to go through once in a lifetime continued on and on without end. Even with time slowing to a crawl, Kamijou realized he could not sense each and every impending death. He grew accustomed to the feeling and they all shot right past him. His heart could not keep up with this deadly ride that came rushing at him at such high speed.
“Curse Maya. She’s not paying much attention to her feet after growing so big.”
“Yeah, she has pretty large breasts, so when she stops hunching forward and stands up straight, she can’t see her feet and ends up tripping.”
“Bff!! Cough, cough!!”
Kamijou briefly heard some unfortunate chatter, but he refocused on the battle soon thereafter.
“B-but Maya’s firepower is top class, so she’ll get someone else to target for her so she doesn’t waste her attacks.”
“My money is on that tracer Ellen. The two of them together would be like a ballistic missile and radar.”
The trip down the mountain path was much faster.
In no time, they left the mountain and entered the streets of Academy City on the cart.
Below the Windowless Building, Kihara Yuiitsu stretched and spoke.
“While pretending to fear me and making me the villain, are they starting to grow accustomed to the cruel stimuli?”
Kamijou’s group wished to retrieve the original A.A.A. from the District 11 container yard and use it to create the magical tunnel needed to rescue Kamisato. With their base in that state, Useful Spider would be unable to continue guarding the containers.
Kamijou and the girls raced through the powerless streets with no traffic lights.
There seemed to be quite a few people driving in makeshift races that had no bearing on the recovery, but this was entirely different. A girl in a red dress moving on all fours was easily keeping up with a four-wheel cart powered by a 50cc engine, a magical girl was flying overhead with a jet engine on her wand, a girl in a suit of armor and covered in weapons was riding a military horse, a young wife in a swimsuit and apron was sliding along the road in ice boots, 10 yen coins filled the sky like a flock of wild birds and poured down one after another, and a vengeful spirit the size of a high-rise building was pursuing them from behind. Anyone who did not get out of their way now had to be suicidal. Someone like that would clearly lack the fundamental human ability to learn.
“This looks like the Hyakki Yakou! We’re going to start a new legend!!”
The most dangerous one may have been Ellen the Tracer. She had no direct combat skill, so she had hitched a ride with the girl who was controlling a mechanical lizard the size of a semi-trailer truck. It was unclear how accurate she was during this car chase, but they could not assume they would lose their pursuit just by turning a corner. These girls would continue chasing them forever. And Ellen also increased the accuracy of the powerful but hard-to-aim people like Maya, so she was too large a risk to ignore.
“Luca, do you have a countermeasure!?”
“I’m already doing it!”
“Fran, I want your opinion as a magician this time. The keys are the original A.A.A. and a Caribbean magician. Do you think we can save Kamisato with Luca’s help?”
“Don’t underestimate a girl experiencing the high of announcing her broken heart.”
“I see,” said Kamijou with a smile.
He too made up his mind.
“Then leave the rest to me.”
It was a mystery where the functioning vehicle had come from, but a giant yellow school bus charged into the intersection from the side.
“Deborah… That trucker girl!!”
The pirate girl’s eyes widened. The cart took a sharp turn and slipped right under the bumper of the approaching bus.
Or it should have.
But while clinging to the same roll bar, Fran saw Kamijou Touma let go and use the momentum of the turn to leap toward the school bus.
If he had jumped toward the hard windshield, he would have been killed instantly.
The side windows were intentionally made more fragile so they could be broken to escape if the bus sank, but Kamijou’s forehead was still split open when he broke through one of them head first. But he gained something worth the price. With a loud shattering sound, he and a sea of glass rolled inside the deadly weapon on wheels. With blood flowing down his face, he grabbed at the driver.
“Wah! Dammit, you…!!”
“Sorry. I regret only running from the High Priest. And because I stayed silent and watched with Kamisato, I can’t escape the weight bearing down on my back. I’m sick of that sort of thing!!”
It was unclear how strong Deborah was, but she could not do much while focused on driving the bus. When he grabbed at her, the large wheel spun wildly and the mass of steel lost its balance. It swerved nearly perpendicular to the road, rolled onto its side, and slid along while making a mess of everything on the inside and outside.
The armor girl’s horse was nearly hit by the sliding bus, so she frantically pulled on the reins, lost control, and fell from her steed. Wolf Girl Mary tried to slip past the bus on the side just as the back of the bus ran into a pile of white sand. The bus hopped up irregularly and betrayed Mary’s expectations. The heavy mass hit her like a roundhouse kick and the quadruped in red dress and blonde ringlet curls was thrown through a nearby building’s window.
The driver named Deborah had long since passed out.
Kamijou grabbed the fire extinguisher kept inside the bus, smashed the window that was pointing up now that the bus was on its side, and climbed up on top. He brushed up his bangs that were wet with his own blood. The giant mechanical lizard jumped over the bus like it was a hurdle and the broom-riding cosplayer passed by overhead. A weird bicycle where the rider lay on their back – he thought it was called a recumbent bicycle – approached next. He threw the fire extinguisher at the rider, scored a direct hit, borrowed the bicycle from the girl who slammed into a pile of white sand, and righted the bicycle in both hands. He could never get used to how the pedals were located out front where the handlebars would normally be. He made a few imitative attempts and managed to start riding it while lying on his back and looking down toward his feet.
“What is with this bike? This is going to hurt my neck…!”
He had trouble getting going, but it was stable enough once he was up to speed. And this seemed to be a racing model, so as he changed the gears, he felt like the sharp wind was blowing by even faster than in the cart. Elza growled like a beast and her fingers passed right by him, but his throat just barely escaped. He drove on out ahead.
He raced toward the giant lizard that Ellen was riding.
That was when the night air whirled unnaturally overhead.
After seeing Fran’s station fall, it may have been wrong to compare something to a meteor so readily, but the foot dropping vertically toward him really was like a meteor. The one strike took out entire piles of white sand, smashed the asphalt, and caused the buildings to creak, suggesting either their earthquake-absorbing structures or their actual foundation had been taken out.
The ground itself, and not just the recumbent bicycle, hopped up.
Keeping himself from falling off the special bicycle was the most he could manage.
“Stay away from our Kamisato-kun!!!!!!”
But the roaring vengeful spirit still had poor aim. If Luca was to be believed, Maya had not crushed Kamijou underfoot because her breasts were too big to see anything down there, but he could not rely on that coincidence again and again.
(Is Luca having trouble too?)
They could not communicate by cellphone and he did not have a navigation system displaying her position, but if he followed the former Kamisato Faction, he could gain a general idea of where Luca and Fran’s cart was fleeing. They had clearly strayed from the shortest route to District 11. They seemed to be fleeing in circles.
Whatever the horsepower of the moped-sized 50cc engine, it had to have great fuel efficiency. They would not run out of gas so easily, but the driver’s willpower was a different matter. They needed to lose their pursuit sooner rather than later. The tracer was preventing that, so Kamijou had to eliminate Ellen.
And with his own wheels, catching up to her was not that difficult. After all, Ellen herself was busy tracking the cart out ahead. Since she could not choose her own course, it was obvious who had the advantage.
Kamijou pedaled the racing recumbent bicycle at tremendous speed and kept the mechanical lizard in his sights. Then he thought he heard the girl in the baggy lab coat click her tongue.
“Tch!! Maya, add a +3 correction. I’ll tell you their estimated loca-…”
She trailed off and pushed the radio away from her ear while flinching from a loud noise.
“Oh, curse you, Fran!! She’s jamming us from her backpack!!”
Kamijou was not the only one fighting.
While the large lizard slowed down, Kamijou pedaled the racing bicycle and caught up. He rode up alongside it.
With that shout, the large lizard swung its tail.
Kamijou’s recumbent bicycle was thrown through the air. With a normal bicycle, his legs would have been smashed along with the frame, but the strange design paid off here. Since he was lying on his back, the bicycle below him was destroyed, but it did not reach Kamijou himself.
In fact, he remained right there in the air like with a Daruma Otoshi doll and he fell on top of the lizard’s thick tail.
He was fully focused on his task.
He clung onto the tail as it desperately tried to shake him off, but then it reacted to Imagine Breaker. With no brakes, the running lizard fell apart and scattered across the road, momentum intact.
Kamijou slammed into a pile of white sand.
(I can’t let it end here. None of it is over yet. I haven’t saved anyone…)
He felt woozy after the blow to his entire body, but he forcibly gathered his thoughts and got back up.
He saw a small form similarly standing in the darkness.
“Why is it you…?”
Unlike Kamijou, she had slid across the asphalt and had to have taken a lot of damage. Even so, she got up. There was great resentment in her voice and a light burned in her eyes. She supposedly had no direct ability to fight, but she stood back up on pure willpower.
“You aren’t Fran and you aren’t Luca. Why does it have to be you, the one who doesn’t understand anything…?”
“How should I know?” spat out the spiky-haired boy. “But if I had to say, maybe it’s because their true battlefield lies elsewhere. I promised them they could leave the rest to me, so I’ll take care of this entire pain-in-the-ass warmup round. That way Fran and Luca can focus on Kamisato.”
“Fran was lying to us…”
“If she hadn’t guided Kamisato-han here, none of that would have happened!! He matters more than my life, so I can’t leave his fate in her hands!!”
“Isn’t that all the more reason to give her a chance to make up for what she did? She wanted to be one of you, but she couldn’t. Yet she still found herself smiling happily with the rest of you, so can’t she do something here!? Kamisato asked me to take care of you girls. And Fran asked me to help bring her love to an end. None of you could be more stupid, so I’ve got to stick with you all to the end. I’ve steeled myself for this already!! I have no intention of digging back up the old arguments about right and wrong at this point!! If that was going to shake my resolve, I never would have urged Fran to action and picked a fight with you all!!!!!!”
Then a smile formed on Ellen’s lips.
It was the ferocious smile of someone viewing their enemy, but the girl still smiled.
“…You really are different.”
She sounded like she was confirming something more important than the truth of the world.
“You seem somewhat like Kamisato-han, but you’re completely different inside.”
“To hell with that. Don’t even compare me to that bastard.”
She was not a fighter.
She was meant to use her delicate forensics skills to provide logistical support.
“I am Arimura Ellen.”
But the girl in the baggy lab coat did not take a single step back.
Just like Karasuma Fran and Toyama Luca, Arimura Ellen had feelings she could not shake free of.
“I will not hold back!!!!!!”
It only took one attack.
And that was why Kamijou Touma did not even think about holding back either.
Kamijou looked down at the unconscious girl for a while.
That was when a familiar cart dove out from the intersection’s side road. He had thought they were far out ahead, but they must have returned to the same place while trying to escape.
“Perfect timing. Hop on!!”
Kamijou grabbed onto the roll bar again while glancing back toward the baggy lab coat girl lying unmoving on the ground.
Hoodie Bikini and Rabbit-Ear Antennae Fran gave a warning with no readable emotion on her face.
“That was too reckless.”
“Not as reckless as you.”
He smiled bitterly while accepting the Bunny Grey band aid the expressionless girl gave him.
The cart took off once more. They had eliminated Ellen the Tracer, but that did not mean the threat was entirely gone. No matter how poor their aim was, plenty of their enemies had enough firepower to destroy them in a single attack if they did hit.
“So what do we do!? Since you managed to pick me up after I jumped off, you must be driving in circles. Can we really escape Maya, Elza, and the rest of that crazy Hyakki Yakou!?”
“Not to worry. It took a while, but we’re about to leave District 7 and enter District 18. It won’t take long to get to District 11 now!!”
“I wasn’t talking about-…”
Kamijou stopped midsentence and looked back while clinging to the roll bar.
The ghost girl in white burial clothing and vaguely heart-shaped headdress was pursuing them with her giant legs. She slipped between buildings and the entire street shook like an unreliable thicket of trees in a typhoon.
“Don’t threaten Kamisato-kuuun!! Karasuma Fraaan!!!!!!”
“How can you pull off the magical ceremony needed to save Kamisato with that chasing us!? I don’t know how hard those ceremonies are, but we’re done for if one of her soccer kicks or head slides hits us!!”
“With that cosplay girl Olivia and the others up in the air, we can never escape on the ground. It’s like having a helicopter in the air during a car chase.”
As Luca drove the cart, a clear change came over the scenery.
While they had been surrounded by college prep schools with strange shapes thanks to the famous designers that worked on them, they now saw pyramids of stacked metal containers and gantry cranes that almost looked like giant torii.
It was hard to read without any streetlights, but the sign that flew by clearly said District 11.
“We made it…”
Maya and more of the former Kamisato Faction were still in hot pursuit. At this rate, they would be guiding those girls to the site of the ceremony. It was as hopeless as attempting a risky surgical procedure while a biker gang poured into the hospital.
But even though Luca held the wheel and would be the one holding the scalpel, her face contained some tension, but no irritation.
“Why do you think we were circling around and around that dangerous city?”
Hadn’t that been to get as far away as they could from the former Kamisato Faction? And hadn’t they failed to lose those girls?
But Kamijou’s guess was wrong.
“I knew from the beginning this 50cc cart couldn’t truly lose them. In fact, not even a floating supercar loaded with an antigravity engine could manage that,” said Luca. “And if they can interfere with the ceremonial ground in the container yard, all of this will be for naught. So setting up the defensive line here would be a losing gamble from the outset. Failure would be our only option.”
But the pirate girl was not done speaking.
She had more to say.
“So did you really think I would set up a defensive line with a countdown to the end of the crucial ceremony? I’d never allow that! The only way to ensure they won’t interfere even for an instant is to set everything up so I can complete the entire ceremony as soon I arrive on the scene. That’s what I was doing while driving around the city!!”
How had Ellen, the tracer and forensics girl, been following Luca and Fran’s cart around?
More than just perfect pitch, all of that girl’s senses were perfect sensory analysis devices, so what exactly had she picked up on in this wide world?
“Hm, hm, hm. I see. She must be in a rush because she’s spilling quite a bit there.”
Baggy Lab Coat Ellen had smiled while riding the giant mechanical lizard controlled by Lime, who wore traditional Japanese clothing yet had coral-like angel wings growing from her back with strings extending from each point.
“What can you see? Their exhaust or the tire marks?”
“There is that, but the biggest one is the gunpowder. She must have needed a nitrogen compound like nitric acid, but that’s my specialty since it’s an established part of quite a few inspection methods. I would never mistake this smell.”
Ellen had laughed and hid her mouth behind one baggy sleeve.
“Also, Luca uses an outdated musket, so it uses antique black powder. She’s so intent on using the old-fashioned production methods that it has a distinct aroma. Academy City is a dangerous city, but the scent of that retro gunpowder stands out in this high-tech city. There is simply no way she can escape me now.”
But Ellen should have wondered if that scent of gunpowder really was being leaked on accident. She should have asked if Luca might be letting it spill behind the cart as she drove out ahead.
As she shook the dark city around her, Ghost Girl Maya knew victory was hers. The enemy was only fleeing and had not put any more distance between them. She did not know where they were going or what they would do there, but they would be unable to calmly enter their base and relax if this continued. She did not need to give this too much thought. She only had to continue chasing them to either crush them or wait for them to make a mistake and crash.
She could not be shaken.
The ghost girl in burial clothes could not be shaken when she was working to protect Kamisato Kakeru.
After all, he had accepted her.
A mysterious shadow had appeared on the way back from school at night. Everyone had known what it was. And in front of that girl who could not remember how she had died or even what her name was, they had asked if she wanted her body back, wondered if she wanted to rest in peace, speculated she had been on the volleyball team because she was so tall, suggested they check through the records, and said plenty of other things, but he had been the only one.
Only he had said she was fine the way she was.
Only he had said a ghost was fine as a ghost.
So Goryou Maya would no longer run from what she wanted to do.
To that end. The ethereal girl manipulated the “incense” coming from her chest and the nape of her neck to alter how she looked and was interpreted. If she could see that boy again and if she could see his smile again, she would become a vengeful spirit, an evil spirit, or whatever else it took to accomplish “what she most wanted to do”.
But then she heard a high-pitched voice. Cosplay Girl Olivia, who had her shortish brown hair in twintails and rode a magic wand equipped with a jet engine, used the voice of the original Magical Powered Kanamin that it was rumored not even the original voice actress could reproduce any longer.
“Wait, Maya. Something isn’t right!”
“What exactly isn’t right!?”
“This path…this way of fleeing… It has to be on purpose. I vaguely recognize some of it from when I was checking through books on ancient runes to fill in some gaps not on the released design sheets. This is based on a modified hexagram drawn with a single brushstroke and it’s used to draw out the power of the sun to-…!?”
She did not manage to finish.
And we return to the present.
After arriving in the container yard, Luca kept one hand on the wheel and spun her large musket around in her other hand. When the bullet and powder were directly pushed down through the muzzle, it was not a good idea to aim straight down, but that did not matter here.
Any hint of a muzzle flash was enough.
The orange sparks only needed to ignite the line of gunpowder drawn out on the ground.
The feathered pirate hat and eyepatch girl sang.
“Let’s kick off the show.”
The surge of flames raced around the city at 6000 meters per second.
Ghost Girl Maya had grown as tall as a high-rise building, but even she would have had difficulty seeing the whole.
The ones who were truly left speechless were those like Cosplay Girl Olivia who flew freely through the sky.
In the dark and powerless city, orange lines were drawn out like a part of a fireworks show. And they drew out a secret and mystical symbol that had no place in a city of cutting-edge science.
“This is bad, Maya!! They’re already reaching toward Kamisato-kun’s fate!! This will never work without World Rejecter as the gate. They’re just letting their emotions get the better of them and they might as well be attempting heart surgery on him with a rusty scalpel! We can’t let them do this!!!!!!”
But their impatience did not matter.
The cart driving out ahead contained Luca, a complex tangle of Voodoo and piracy, as well as Fran, who had shed her shell as a UFO girl and returned as an unlucky star expert. They had both entered a unique mental state using a special focusing method much like those used by stage actors to get into character.
Their lips were moving. They sent a vibration into the modified hexagram they had carved into the planet.
“The peace of the six points is obtained through the four stages created by combining the great triangle of fire with the great triangle of water. But to achieve the result first and foremost, we seek the secrets of the simplified six points drawn from straight lines. We desire to summon the sun, but cast aside Apollo and retrieve Horus. Know that the world’s true image is found in the lost Library of Alexandria!!”
The foundation of the gray steel and concrete city was pulled out.
“Know that Horus is not a mere descendent of dead gods, but the foundation of the forces which shall cleanse the world of the accumulated stains of the cross. Correspondence, correspondence, correspondence. Shake the star which holds the opposing peaks of Da’at and Yesod.”
It was like the air had solidified with human killer intent. The extreme mental state much like “getting into character” ruled the dark container yard.
It was all remade into a tranquil sacred ground.
One of the two voices sometimes passed the other, sometimes was passed by the other, and sometimes coincided perfectly with the other.
It was like two different equilateral triangles lining up and moving apart to create a different shape and provide different meaning from moment to moment. The combination of the limited resources called in endless possibility.
“The separate image of the Four Worlds from which power is drawn becomes a different Four Worlds like the moon’s reflection in a lake.”
Kamijou began to wonder if he should be here.
He had not washed his body, his face, or even his hands. He wondered if he should be standing in this sacrosanct place while so filthy.
“The sun of Horus which shall cleanse the world shall be known by the divine name of Kamisato Kakeru!!”
All the while, wedges were driven into the world.
A supposedly lost name was once more carved powerfully into it.
“Legba Atibon is a frightening being who can surpass even time as the gate to manage all ceremonies. But just as the Qliphoth becomes a powerful compass that points to the truth of the world when used with truly accurate discernment, the curse of the second Aeon can be used as a powerful prism to divide the forces. This shall distort the line to the planet which descends toward the six-pointed star and thus shall substitute the symbols.”
There was no obvious light or sound.
But that was only because Kamijou could not see it. Just like the boy on the ground could not perceive the magic circle drawn across the city with gunpowder.
“Bind and strengthen the planetary symbol with the star of power carved into the earth.”
Something was changing.
No, it was being intentionally changed by human hands.
Even so, the girls’ power must not have been enough because they revealed the existence of a powerful trick up their sleeve.
“The symbol’s name is A.A.A.”
Finally, even an amateur like Kamijou could detect the change.
One of the metal containers forming a great pyramid began to glow despite its component materials and how thick it was. It was like the north star that guided sailors.
“Just like the endless reflection of opposing mirrors, they overlap like the rings of a powerful tree and provide the power to gaze into the abyss. As the identical symbols approach, have them resonate, just as the slightest breeze can occasionally break a stone bridge and send it plunging into the sea.”
What did it look like from above?
It may have been like being trapped in a harmful hallucination after reaching the end of an endless task, such as peering to the very back of the image in opposing mirrors or continually opening a Russian nesting doll until an electron microscope was needed
Or perhaps it was like peering into the depths beyond the deepest depths.
And after they broke through that thick wall, would they find that other boy they needed to drag back up?
“Edward Alexander, aka Crowley, says a great demon never before seen and not mentioned in any holy text can be summoned through a combination of the existing methods. So he said to learn that method and to break through the common view of the world with something that can be found anywhere!!”
A name was spoken.
It was the name of someone who had shaken the world to the point that it was thought he would destroy it.
“Tonight, we shall destroy one of the impossibilities facing the world! Summon the divine name of Kamisato Kakeru with physical form and fix him to Olam Asiyah, the surface of the Four Worlds!!!!!!”
In that instant, everyone there had to have been thinking the same thing. That of course applied to Kamijou, Fran, and Luca, but it was also true of Maya, Olivia, and the other girls pursuing them.
They wanted Kamisato Kakeru to return.
But because that missing boy was so important to them, the girls had taken different paths.
As Ghost Girl Maya, Cosplay Girl Olivia, and the others watched the ceremony begin without them, they all thought the same thing.
They wanted Kamisato Kakeru to return.
But they could not entrust his life to an untrustworthy doctor.
Because they had just the one chance, they could not let this group waste it.
The command was given by Olivia, the girl with shortish twintails who could see the entirety of the scene from her jet engine magic wand.
They knew what they had to do.
Kamisato Kakeru had disappeared, but they would still protect him.
If they tried this without Kihara Yuiitsu’s World Rejecter, it would all fail and the perilous suspension bridge would definitely fall. So to stay just a hair’s breadth away from that “definitely”, the girls could not allow anyone else to act on any other hopes.
They did not have time to analyze the entire scene from the foundation to the corresponding tools, so they did not know what method this magical ceremony was using. So Maya used her high-rise building height to attack the most obvious thing.
One thing stood out here.
Among the countless metal boxes in the container yard, a single light glowed like the north star above the dark sea.
It was the A.A.A.
The Anti-Art Attachment.
There was a roar.
The swinging fist could not attack just the one container, so it blew away the entire pyramid of metal boxes.
Kamijou Touma could only watch as it happened before his eyes.
The A.A.A. was the other mirror that corresponded to the magical circle carved into the city. That symbol created an endless array of images to create a normally impossible resonance, but it was shattered by an attack that tore into the very landscape.
“What happened to the ceremony? What about Kamisa-…!!”
He did not have time to finish his question.
The pyramid did not vanish after it was knocked into the air. The airborne objects were pulled back down by gravity. And they were not at all concerned about the tiny cart as it drove along.
As they fell all over the place, bounced around unnaturally, and sometimes broke apart or burst, Pirate Girl Luca desperately operated the steering wheel, but she could not handle it all. The cart could not support all three people’s weight as it swerved in a sharp S-shape, so it rose from the ground. The situation took a decisive turn when Fran let go of the roll bar lest she be trapped between the cart and the ground.
The cart rolled sideways.
Kamijou’s vision was utter chaos.
He had no idea where he was rolling to. After the countless containers had fallen randomly around, the yard was like a giant labyrinth. The surface of his body felt hot. He felt ill like his body’s core had been shifted sideways by an invisible hand. He flipped from his back onto his stomach and took several deep breaths. If he had stayed on his back, he had seriously feared he would vomit and be unable to avoid drowning to death in it.
(Why am I feeling nauseous…after a blow to my body? Dammit, what is happening to my body?)
He shook his woozy head and somehow managed to grab onto a nearby container wall. He slowly stood up.
What had happened to Fran? Was Luca all right?
And what had happened to their magic ceremony?
Kamijou Touma had no specialized magical knowledge. Index and Leivinia Birdway had explained it to him, but that had not reached the level of techniques he could actually use. However, there was one thing even his spiky-haired head could intuitively understand.
After all, Kamisato Kakeru was nowhere to be seen.
So there was no way it had succeeded.
He was surrounded by silence.
No one was moving.
As he stood there, Kamijou finally spotted Fran’s small form in the disastrous scene. She was resting her back against a collapsed container. The overstuffed backpack may have saved that rabbit-ear antennae girl.
“Fran! Hey, Fran!!”
Kamijou Touma walked unsteadily through the labyrinth to approach her.
She did not respond.
She was simply staring up into the night sky.
Was she searching for something there or trying to suppress the rising tears?
He also spotted Pirate Girl Luca.
She was collapsed near the toppled cart, so he passed his arms below hers and dragged her away in case the engine caught fire.
She was limp.
She seemed to be conscious, but she felt as heavy and hopeless as a corpse in his arms.
Kamijou bit his lip.
(Why did this happen!!!???)
It had looked like something would happen. Even an amateur like him had felt the signs of success. They had to have been so close. If they had given it just a small push more, it would have been like pouring one last drop into the cup so the surface tension broke and water spilled out. They might have broken down the wall between worlds.
No one here hated Kamisato Kakeru. They were all fighting based on their feelings for him. And yet this was how it had turned out. It had all stayed on the preset rails, they had failed to save Kamisato, and the girls were still trapped by the right hand and only able to obey Kihara Yuiitsu’s every word.
There was no light anywhere.
Kamijou could no longer tell where the A.A.A.’s container was. And the fact that the glowing container had fallen silent seemed to imply that something had ended. After all, they had nothing else to use. Rescuing someone who had been sent to an isolated frame by World Rejecter had always been like grasping a cloud. They had only found a point in common because Kamisato had just so happened to fight the original A.A.A. beforehand and had sent that device to the “other world”. That was not the kind of coincidence they could hope to find again. With that single opportunity stolen from them, no amount of struggling would-…
Something caught in a corner of Kamijou’s mind.
There was something he could not afford to overlook. Kamijou and Kamisato had not known each other for very long, but that short time had been packed full of events. He thought back over all of those.
Was the original A.A.A. really the only starting point for rescuing Kamisato?
Was there really nothing else?
He needed to recall everything he had been involved in.
Was there an item in common between the two worlds?
Was there something deeply linked to the world of magic?
He had assumed it had been erased. He had assumed he would never see it again and had driven it from his mind.
But if he was going to seek Kamisato Kakeru who had also been erased…
If he was allowing himself to think about the people who had supposedly vanished…
“There is something.”
Fran had looked like an empty-eyed doll, but her head finally moved. There was still no light of willpower there, but the spiky-haired boy understood his next words would greatly influence the fate of everything here.
“It isn’t just the original A.A.A.! There’s something else with extremely powerful magical symbolism that exists in both ‘this world’ and ‘that world’!! We still have hope!!”
So he said it.
He gave his conclusion.
“It’s Nephthys!! 90% of her was erased in advance and the remaining 10% was remade into Patricia Birdway’s body. That Magic God exists in both worlds!!”
A brown goddess with long silver hair rubbed a scar on her cheek.
“Oh dear. It must be difficult to send us here without leaving a mark.”
On occasion, a short statement could dramatically change the world.
As soon as they received new hope from Kamijou, Fran and Luca shot to their feet. They actually grabbed his arms and dragged him inside one of the containers that had burst open from the fall.
“That leaves Kamijou Touma…”
The ground trembled as the ghost girl’s giant foot dropped down surprisingly close nearby. It did not seem to be a specific attack because the “footsteps” continued on with the same rhythm.
“If we bring his head back, we can preserve the current status quo. We can protect Kamisato-kun…!”
That girl had no guarantee either. Even if the plan had failed this time, she could not allow Fran and Luca to escape if she decided those two could do the same thing again. And Kihara Yuiitsu had specifically ordered the death of Kamijou. He doubted she would leave before taking his head.
“First of all, explain this. Is the Patricia you mentioned that Patricia?”
“Yes! I mean the blonde girl who met Kamisato during the whole Sample Shoggoth business. You were there for the attack on my dorm, so don’t you remember what happened at the end there? The brown Magic God sacrificed herself to save Patricia, right!?”
“Come to think of it, I think I saw her watching us from the hospital window.”
“You’re right about that too. Our goal is the hospital Misaka led us to. It’s in District 7, so that’s pretty far away. But can we still do it!?”
There was no way they would argue with him.
They would grab at even the slightest hope now.
“The A.A.A. and Nephthys will have quite different symbols.”
“And this sounds like it will involve infection magic in addition to imitative. But Crowley is a magician deeply rooted in Egypt. If we can somehow link this to the secrets of Isis, Osiris, and Horus, we can use that as a starting point…”
An amateur like Kamijou could not judge the value of the information, so he threw out everything he had learned speaking with that true Magic God.
“Nephthys said something about having a habit of crying. Othinus said something about her not using a set system and instead helping out whatever human is around when she feels like it, but is that related to her traits as a god?”
“The crying woman at Osiris’s funeral…!! Luca, what about that!?”
“It’s a bit of a detour, but we’ve got our connection. Crowley viewed Osiris less as a god than as a symbol of death and we’re dragging Kamisato-kun up from the bog of death. Nephthys is related to funerals, so we can try to use that to achieve a resonance with the hexagram drawn out across the city!!”
That just left one question: how to return to the District 7 hospital. The cart had rolled over when the container yard had been blown away, so it was useless now.
“Luca, is there some kind of vehicle in the container yard you can drive? It’s a distribution base, so they should have plenty of trucks, mobile cranes, and forklifts.”
“I’m only licensed up to mid-sized motorcycles. Only that trucker Deborah would be able to drive those giant things with weird centers of gravity and wheel positions. If I try to drive one of those like the cart, it’ll topple over at the first curve.”
“And don’t forget about my heat wave microwaves. Even if a truck was abandoned here, it wouldn’t run anymore. All the electronics would have been wiped out.”
“Then what do we do!? Even if Ellen is out of the picture, Olivia and the others are still overhead. We can’t lose them on foot or on bicycles!!”
Then again, that would be true even if they could still use the cart.
Without enough speed to lose Olivia, the former Kamisato Faction would be hot on their heels all the way to the District 7 hospital. And instead of the original A.A.A. which was essentially a pile of junk, the attack would hit the hospital and Patricia this time.
What could they do?
And as they all tried to think of something, they heard rotors loudly chopping at the air.
They were large transport helicopters. Not many people still had functioning engines at their disposal in the dead city and one option came to mind immediately thanks to all the chaos they had experienced on the way here.
“Useful Spider!?” shouted Fran. “If they survived, they should’ve just stayed put!!”
“Well, it was your station that supplied the finishing blow to their observatory.”
With their base destroyed, they must not have been able to acquire more equipment. They were no longer fighting on equal footing with the former Kamisato Faction. They were trying to land here and there on the container yard, but most of them were shot down by Magical Girl Olivia and the others flying around.
And it seemed Useful Spider was after more than just a chaotic brawl.
Someone spoke from the loudspeaker on one of the helicopters that lowered its altitude while spewing black smoke.
“If you’re stuck, we can lend a hand!! If you need transportation, hop onto any one of the choppers!!”
That helicopter could not maintain its position and made an emergency landing behind a pyramid.
Kamijou and the girls exchanged a glance.
“Is it a bluff meant to lure us out?”
“They’re losing far too many helicopters for that, don’t you think?”
Kamijou stuck his head out of the container’s broken door and looked up at the helicopters shining spotlights down.
And he spoke.
“Let’s do it.”
“What if it’s a trap?”
Kamijou did not answer. When the spiky-haired boy took the first step outside, Hoodie Bikini Fran and Pirate Hat Luca followed.
With Maya swinging her arms around while standing as tall as a high-rise building and with Olivia using her jet engine for aerial combat, the container yard had become hell on earth. Useful Spider was sporadically fighting back with the heavy machineguns sticking out from the side cargo doors, but it felt more like a way to distract their opponents than to defeat them. Useful Spider was buying time while knowing they would be defeated. They wanted to get as many helicopters to the ground as possible so they could wait for someone.
A bright spotlight briefly shined down on Kamijou and the girls, but instead of stopping like in the theatre, it quickly moved away. Useful Spider may have decided drawing attention to them would only show the enemy where they were.
If Useful Spider intended to shoot them, they would have kept the light on them and started firing the heavy machineguns, but they did not.
“Hm? What’s going on?”
Luca frowned as they approached a helicopter that had finally managed to land. The man operating the heavy machinegun was beckoning them into the cargo door.
“Hurry up!! Hurry!!”
Still confused, the three of them piled on as the rotor above grew louder. The floor rocked due to the unstable motion, but the helicopter managed to rise.
Kamijou asked a question while still collapsed on the floor.
“Did you read the message I left?”
“Yeah, you mean the memo saying to help out if we really wanted to resolve all this, right? We thought it was just some kid’s nonsense, but then that station fell on us. That finally told us who was in control of this terrible situation, goddammit!!” The gunner looked up into the night sky while holding the heavy machinegun’s grip. “Also, we heard from that guy that there was a kid who charged right into a rioting crowd to save a filthy old man who wasn’t some cute girl or rich or anything.”
“Do you not remember the man you met in the park? Well, that’s probably even better. It shows all the more how virtuous you are. Oh, right, right.”
The last thing he said was not directed at Kamijou.
The gunner turned to Fran.
“We heard your confession too. If there’s a chemical fire or biological disaster coming, we’ll charge right in, but not even we could do that.”
Her words had gotten through.
They were standing on the same stage.
It had not been intentional and there had been no plan, but this situation was a direct result of that girl working up her courage.
“The resolution we’re talking about might not be quite the same as the one you’re imagining,” warned Kamijou.
“Anything’s fine as long as it brings light back to Academy City. Look at this city. It’s completely dead and covered in darkness! We’ll accept whatever nonsense the world might throw at us if it means getting the power, gas, and water back up and running!! That’s what Useful Spider is for! Listen, we aren’t going to let you spend Christmas surrounded by rubble!!”
This was all part of the 48 Hours to Restore Order. Kamijou could not approve of everything they had done to achieve that goal. He still remembered how they had mercilessly sprayed high-pressure water on rioting boys and girls to throw them from an elevated highway and how they had used giant fans to tear down the shelters that were hiding weapons.
But this was the desire at the base of it all. They wanted to bring Academy City back to normal as soon as possible. They were willing to play the thankless role to that end. They too were trying to protect Academy City.
That was why they had set aside taking revenge for the damage to their headquarters and instead prioritized suppressing the former Kamisato Faction that had caused all of this mess. They had used themselves as bait and let themselves be shot down to send a transport helicopter to Kamijou’s group since they held the key to ending this.
They would not betray Kamijou.
At the very least, not until Kamisato Kakeru’s return had ended the chaos.
“We need to get to the big hospital on the south end of District 7! We can end all of this if we get there!!”
That was immediately passed onto the pilot and they accelerated.
Perhaps to hide their intent, several other helicopters took off in other directions.
A loud rumbling reached them.
“Are you still doing this? You haven’t given up yet, Fraaan!?”
That voice seemed to shake the entire world and the hoodie bikini girl bit her lip.
“How can I give up…?”
But she spoke.
The small girl declared war once more.
“How can I give up on Kamisato-chan’s future!? Even if I can never be with him again and even if I know my feelings can never be fulfilled, I still won’t give up!!”
Kamijou once more focused on the people pursuing them.
And he resumed speaking.
“Also, this city’s chaos will never end if we don’t lose them and silence them!!”
The pursuers were also racking their brains in the face of this unexpected situation.
Cosplay Girl Olivia asked a question as she flew around with her jet engine.
“What do we do, Maya? It doesn’t look like this is over yet!”
“Either way, we can’t fulfill Tyrant’s order without Kamijou Touma’s head. We have to do this if we’re going to save Kamisato-kun!!”
After all, he had accepted that ghost as she was. He had supported her very existence by saying she did not need to change. And that was why Goryou Maya was still here.
So she would become any evil spirit and she would transform into even a vengeful spirit.
Even after growing to the size of a high-rise building, the ghost with the heart-shaped headdress and the bewitchingly revealing burial clothes had to travel along the ground. Olivia and the others who called the sky their home could view the situation from a different perspective.
“How about we destroy that magic circle?”
“If they don’t notice, they’ll essentially start operating on Kamisato-kun with broken tools. If we want to rest easy, we have to kill the doctor and not just break the tools. The magic circle on the road doesn’t matter. We need to keep chasing the ones who will use it!!”
But that target was a problem too.
After several transport helicopters had landed in the container yard in a nearly suicide mission, they had flown off again in different directions. It was unknown which one Kamijou Touma, Fran, and Luca were onboard. It was even possible they had split up and were riding multiple helicopters.
“What do we do!?”
“Let’s go with the only surefire solution: bring them all down!!”
Normal helicopters only had a top speed of 300-400 kph, but that was still far faster than a 50cc cart. And helicopters could ignore the terrain and take the shortest route, so the time loss was considerably reduced.
They still could not lose Cosplay Girl Olivia who had a jet engine built into her magic wand. She was continuing to fire tracer rounds that looked like red or blue fireworks, perhaps to look like magic bullets.
“Damn!! She’s still flying around up here!?”
The gunner leaned out of the side cargo door and returned fire, but the downpour of bullets could not hit the magic girl who was taking complex turns through the night sky.
“On your mark.”
Kamijou could have sworn he heard a voice saying that.
He immediately grabbed the gunner’s shoulder and pulled him back inside the helicopter.
The very next moment, someone jumped in through the open cargo door and continued on to break through the opposite door.
Kamijou thought his eardrums would burst from the explosive pressure of the wind.
The gunner had been strapped in by a belt in place of a lifeline, but that belt had been severed.
Fran had been sitting on the floor of the helicopter and she vocalized what she had seen from there.
“C-Claire!! Did that plant glasses girl make a comeback with her fake A.A.A.!?”
That girl had indeed made a decoy version out of plants to make Kihara Yuiitsu think the A.A.A. tech was spreading. It had not functioned as an actual weapon and only flew using plant alcohol fuel, but…
“All of you girls are way too obsessed!!”
“Also, I’m pretty sure Claire had both her fists held forward as she flew,” pointed out Luca.
Kamijou looked out from the helicopter which was much more ventilated now. The glasses plant girl and the magical girl were complexly intertwining their paths as they targeted the helicopter once more. Only the other cargo door had been hit, but the helicopter would break apart if they took any more of those attacks. And this was too much for the gunner to hit with his heavy machinegun.
They would be destroyed at this rate.
“Take us lower!!” shouted Kamijou. “Get close to the walls along the road!!”
The power of inertia seemed to erase the pull of gravity. Both cargo doors were wide open and they had no lifeline. They could be thrown outside at any time, but the pilot went all out in fulfilling the reckless flight request.
Kamijou thought he heard someone click their tongue.
Perhaps to avoid running into a wall or breaking through the helicopter, the jet engine cosplay girl sharply changed course at the last second.
But Claire charged right on in.
If she had not hesitated to avoid colliding with Olivia’s altered course, that attack would likely have destroyed the helicopter. But she strayed a bit off target and broke through the thick reinforced glass of a building alongside them.
And she did not seem to care.
She actually accelerated inside the office building and blew away countless documents and LCD monitors as she flew alongside the helicopter.
“I can’t believe her! She’s adjusting her glasses in the middle of all this!!”
“A refined gardening girl is a frightening thing. What is wrong with the world when she’s overshadowing a cosplayer who lives for posing in front of the camera?”
Claire broke through another window and was released into the night sky once more. While Olivia was essentially a normal human, Claire was made of plant cells and could regenerate even after being bisected. This damage would be nothing to her.
“She’s probably relaxed because she knows she can’t die. That just means we need to send her into a wall too thick for her to break through.”
The pilot must have picked up on that because the helicopter descended even further. They entirely abandoned the advantage gained by the flying machine. They skimmed just off the ground and followed the entirely unlit streets at 400 kph.
Olivia and Claire of course pursued them with their magic wand and boosters, but they had to be much more careful now. They sometimes had to duck below pedestrian bridges or fly above elevated highways while just about grazing the surface. Claire was far outside the norm since she had broken through thick reinforced glass before, but even she would have difficulty flying after running straight into a mass of steel or concrete.
But lowering their altitude so far brought another threat back into the picture.
Something heavy and gigantic passed by directly overhead. From the cargo door, it looked like a comet measuring several dozen meters across.
But it was not.
“Maya’s…will-o’-the-wisp!?” shouted Luca.
Then the giant mass dropped down in their path. In the blink of an eye, it remade itself into a girl in white burial clothes who then made a full right-to-left swing of a tower-sized arm.
The unnamed pilot screamed.
The helicopter rose somewhat and slipped between the giant fingers before passing between the two legs below the revealing burial clothes.
“Looks like she’s the type that doesn’t wear underwear with Japanese clothing,” commented Fran.
The gunner quickly looked back, but they had already passed by and it was impossible to tell if Fran was telling the truth. Having missed her target, the giant vengeful spirit let her humanoid form collapse and transformed back into a comet-like will-o’-the-wisp.
The pursuing spirit produced a spiteful voice.
“I won’t let you have him… I’ll never let you have Kamisato-kun!!”
“Who ever said he was yours?” asked Fran. “I will break Kamisato Kakeru’s curse and free him! I will show him he is not just a powerful attraction! I will show that we can leave him of our own free will and that that is exactly why all of you are staying with him of your own free will!! Doing that – just that – will surely take a burden off his heart!!”
“Why…would you do that!? There is nothing in that for you!!”
“No matter how this ends, I can no longer stay by his side!! But I can still do something for him! And I will see that desire of mine fulfilled. Maya, no matter what you might do, I won’t let you interfere with the end of my love!!!!!!”
Kamijou and the others were being helplessly tossed about, but they could not just let the situation carry them along. Kamijou had regretted doing just that with the High Priest and with Kamisato. He could not let that happen again.
“Let’s do something about this. We can’t bring these monsters with us to the District 7 hospital. That’ll just be a repeat of the container yard!”
“But what exactly do we do!?” asked Luca. “Normal bullets can’t hit Olivia or Claire and Maya has partially become a perpetual motion machine by turning her own scent into the incense that maintains her own existence. I can’t think of any way to defeat them!”
“I’ve been wondering about that,” muttered Kamijou. “Hey, Luca. You said Maya was adjusting her scent by being careful about what she eats right? And that she’s always munching on vegetable sticks or sipping at a sweet drink.”
“Only Maya knows the exact ratio, but it looked something like a combination of vegetarianism and an extreme sweet tooth.”
“Keh,” interrupted Fran. “You’re dead wrong if you think a girl’s body is made of fruit and sugar.”
The spiky-haired boy continued thinking and then leaned out of the cargo door even as the helicopter shook violently.
“What are you doing!?”
“That would mean her mouth, I guess. Okay, this might work.”
Without looking back, Kamijou focused on the powerless city.
“Somewhere…there has to be a windowless building somewhere…”
“Kihara Yuiitsu’s base? It’s true that’s somewhere in District 7, but…”
“No, not that one!!”
Kamijou shouted back, but the giant will-o’-the-wisp passed over the helicopter again. They could not ascend for fear of Claire and Olivia, so they were restricted to the roads. That made them easy to pursue for those who could fly freely.
He observed the area up ahead where Maya landed and become a girl in burial clothes and a heart-shaped headdress. He read the large writing on a building wall.
“H552M. That’s got to be it!!”
When Kamijou reached for the heavy machinegun sticking out of the cargo door, the professional gunner quickly grabbed him.
“Tell me how to shoot!!”
“Maya isn’t reliant on her Censer drones right now,” warned Luca. “She can’t be defeated by physical attacks!!”
“That doesn’t matter! Listen, I’m going to start firing with this!!”
It was a lot like a three-legged race. Without a lifeline, Kamijou could be thrown outside if the helicopter tilted and he worked with the gunner to forcibly aim at the flat wall of a building up ahead.
Each shot was a huge bullet the same size as from an anti-materiel rifle. It was a poorly aimed stream of bullets, but each one opened a fist sized hole in the wall, cracks spread from those, those cracks connected, and the entire wall peeled away. It may have been similar to piercing a window with an icepick to create a triangular hole.
But none of it actually hit Maya’s giant form.
“Don’t think your tricks can stop our feelings for Kamisato-kun!!” roared the ghost girl.
Fran manipulated the screen of the card-sized terminal she pulled from her backpack. Her UFO balloon had been floating around somewhere, but now she sent it toward the ghost girl. Pirate Girl Luca’s spare bombs had been attached to it, but even that failed. Maya swung her arm and they only blew away the wall of a nearby building.
The ghost girl with long black hair and white burial clothes was entirely unfazed. To target the helicopter down by the ground, she swung her foot back like she was about to kick a soccer ball. She built up enough strength to break a landmark broadcast tower.
“What do we do!?” shouted the gunner.
“It’s already over.”
The immediate reply was the one everyone had wanted but that no one had expected. Fran and Luca gasped right along with the gunner.
“Maya was careful about what she ate to maintain just the right scent. I don’t know what the exact ratio was, but messing it up is easy. When I was talking with the chemistry club, they said there are basic smells just like there are primary colors. Use them and you can overpower other, more sensitive smells.”
Henning’s theory had 6: Spicy, Flowery, Resinous, Fruity, Foul, and Burnt.
Amoore’s theory had 7: Camphoraceous, Musky, Floral, Pepperminty, Ethereal (as a chemical), Pungent, and Putrid.
Unlike sight or taste, the classification was not complete, but that showed just how complex a sense it was. For example, some neurophysiologists who researched smell rejected the very idea of basic smells and – with two exceptions – it was not known why humans detected those scents at all.
“That helped when we had no water during the heat wave. It was a luxury though, so when we didn’t have any, we had to search out used coffee filters and teabags.”
This was Kamijou Touma’s goal.
“I targeted a windowless agricultural building where crops are grown. And with an H for herbs and an M for mint!! The entire building is full of mint. Even if it’s all shriveled up with the power out, blowing holes in the wall should release a dense aroma. And once you breathe that in through your mouth or nose, you’ll lose that incense created from the optimal balance!!”
It was unclear if ghosts really existed, but Maya did at least. By inducing psychological instability with low-frequency waves and smells undetectable by human senses, she created an environment where she could be seen and thus exist. It was a lot like passing colorless light through a prism, so she could create the color or form that she wanted. And that had transformed the slender and ethereal girl into a nearly undefeatable force.
But what happened when that fell apart? What if someone took a hammer to the prism that split the light? Not even she would know how the light would scatter.
Goryou Maya’s beautiful face swelled out unnaturally.
The building-sized vengeful spirit could no longer maintain her own form. Her outlines collapsed one after another, like her own bones were consuming her flesh.
If she had come to a stop and calmed down, she might have been able to regain her form.
Even if she had died and lost her physical body, she was still a girl in love.
“I will…do anything…for him!!!!”
There was no way she would stop. She stayed true to herself to the end.
Even as she crumbled away, she tried to kick at the road like there was a soccer ball there. She did not give in. She would not hand Kamisato Kakeru’s fate to anyone she did not approve of. None of them was a villain, but they had all chosen the wrong method.
Kamijou leaned out of the helicopter and clenched his right fist without thinking.
He considered jumping out at her if she continued pursuing them.
But she could not keep it up. By attacking as she fell apart, she ended up detaching her own foot. The giant leg flew in a parabolic arc like someone throwing their shoe after picking up speed on a swing.
The helicopter just barely managed to avoid it and then slipped below the girl in burial clothes by flying right up next to the destroyed agricultural building.
But those behind them were not so lucky.
First, twintailed Sawai Olivia flew in on her jet engine magic wand. She tried to take a sharp turn away from the giant leg, but it grazed her shoulder and sent her into a tailspin.
Next, Tazuma Claire tried to fly below Maya, but she was caught in the collapse and crushed.
Kamijou’s group no longer had to fear pursuit.
The other girls might continue pursuing them on the ground, but the helicopter could outrun them by ascending and flying at full speed.
Kamijou Touma recalled where he had seen Patricia looking out of the hospital’s window.
“The 13th window from the right on the 8th floor!! We don’t have time to land. Fran, Luca, you two jump right iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiin!!”
Things were noisy outside.
A small blonde girl sat up in bend and looked out the window.
And then it happened.
An elevated window could be heard shattering.
The transport helicopter was piloted with miraculous skill. It flew right up to the hospital window and turned to the side like a stunt car drifting into a parallel parking spot. The cargo door had already been blown off and the girls were not strapped in, so that was a decisive action for them.
The powerful inertia swung them around and tossed them out before they could even steel their resolve.
They broke through the window and rolled into the hospital room.
Pirate Girl Luca groaned and got up, but she did not find what she expected.
“What’s this? He sounded so confident, but there’s no one here. Did he get the room wrong?”
“No, that may have been intentional.”
Fran also stood up and tapped on the wall with a loose fist. She seemed to be confirming the presence of a patient in the neighboring room.
After seeing Sample Shoggoth and the red fur of Cannibalization, it may have been impossible for that girl to look away from the truth of the world. After receiving the flesh and blood of Magic God Nephthys, it may have been impossible for her to be removed from the mystical.
But there was no reason to actively pull her into it.
That may have been the thought behind it.
“It’s just one thin wall.”
“That’s right. We can fit her inside the ceremonial ground from here.”
The two girls faced each other.
They were swapping the A.A.A. out for the remnants of Nephthys. The different symbols would require redoing some of the details, but they already had the overall framework worked out. They did not need any encouragement. They knew they could do it.
They breathed in and then out.
“Thank you for sticking with me this far, Luca.”
Then Karasuma Fran smiled and gave an announcement to the girl who had been her comrade in arms and her rival.
“Now, let’s bring an end to my love.”
When she received the report below the Windowless Building, Kihara Yuiitsu’s fate was also sealed.
The atmosphere had entirely changed. The girls she had positioned as her personal guards were no longer obligated to obey her orders. Plus, this was the group she had selected to protect her. Their combat ability was immeasurable. So once their positions changed, everything took a 180 degree turn and she was thrown into an utterly hopeless situation.
It was like a clownfish being mistakenly eaten by its symbiotic anemone.
The many blades, gazes, and pressures that had defended her now turned to face Kihara Yuiitsu from all directions.
“I see, I see, I see.”
Lab Coat and Bikini Yuiitsu did not sound particularly interested.
One-armed Mass Murderer Salome slowly stood up in front of her. No, it was not just her. The other girls with equally strange powers and abilities also approached.
While inside the predator’s maw, the greatest evil looked like she was seeing the end of an experiment.
“This would be game over then.”
Between the Lines 4
Someone spoke from somewhere.
“Oh? You’re leaving already? Well, don’t worry about us.”
“This battle will probably never end, but that should be a lot of fun.”
And someone else replied.
“Yeah, everyone’s calling for me.”