Toaru Majutsu no Index:NT Volume20 Chapter 4
Chapter 4: That Which Crowley Hates Most – Justice.
By the way, Hamazura Shiage was in serious trouble.
He had dropped off the glasses nun and the others at the British Museum, but sitting around in the parked four-wheel drive vehicle afterwards had been a mistake. He had partially been waiting around in case they needed another ride, but he had never expected a blinding light to erupt from the pure white temple of a museum and shatter every last window. He honestly thought it had exploded, so he grabbed Takitsubo Rikou, his girlfriend in the passenger seat, and pushed her over.
What was that?
What the hell was happening?
“Hamazura. I can’t breathe.”
At the very least, their bones had not been scattered everywhere within the scorched wreckage of the vehicle. Hamazura finally pulled his face from her surprisingly large chest and hesitantly looked outside the vehicle while still clinging to her.
He wanted to put himself at ease by gathering as much information as possible, but once his eyes met with something, he grabbed her bob cut head and forced her down.
The stolen vehicle’s passenger seat must have been broken because it leaned back on its own without him having to mess with the reclining lever.
The mini-China dress girl and bandaged woman poked their heads forward from the back seat.
“Hey, if you’re gonna let your hormones take over, could you at least let us leave first? Just say the word and we’ll kill some time elsewhere. 45 minutes should be enough for a round, right? But make sure to disinfect the vehicle afterwards. And get rid of the smell too!!”
“Don’t be so rude, Niang-Niang. If they want us to watch, we need to do that for them. And doesn’t that sound exciting?”
Nephthys elegantly placed a hand over her mouth and smiled, but what she said was just as bad. Plus, Hamazura was too preoccupied to worry about what those pieces of shit were saying.
His focus was outside.
This was bad.
Whatever that was, it was bad.
It may have been too late already. He could hear the footsteps, perhaps because they were walking barefoot through the silver sand blowing around outside. No, even then he should not have been able to hear it through the glass at this distance. He had parked the four-wheel drive vehicle alongside the museum, so while hiding, he opened the passenger side door and got out with Takitsubo so the vehicle itself acted as a shield. He did not care how it made him look and he honestly doubted he could help the Magic Gods out as well.
This was different from Mugino Shizuri.
This fear was…invisible.
It was different from having a venomous spider or carnivorous dinosaur approaching you head-on. It was like being told to stick your hand in a box and that something bad would happen once you did. It was a hopeless fear that bore down on you like a thick wall because you could not see its form or give it a name.
“You’re kidding, right? You’re kidding, right!? I try helping people for once and this is how I’m rewarded? What the hell are those nuns doing?”
“Hamazura. Weren’t there people in the back seat?”
“That bandaged woman and mini-China dress girl? Oh, goddammit.”
He had decided to abandon them, but he could not follow through on it. He was well aware this action was born from weakness, not heroism. While still crouched down behind the vehicle, he knocked on its door. That alone was enough for his heart to pound wildly in his chest, but the back door was opened in an almost carefree way. Nephthys and Niang-Niang must have been as senseless as their clothing choices because they showed no sign of keeping their heads down. They did not bother using the vehicle as cover, so they stood out like a sore thumb.
“(You idiots! They’ll see you through the window. Keep your heads down!! Wow, those outfits were not made to be seen from below, were they!?)”
Thanks to the idiot’s unnecessary final comment, Takitsubo pinched his cheek and Nephthys and Niang-Niang looked somewhat amused while stepping on his face.
The Magic Gods remained entirely carefree. They were fully in sightseeing mode. They sounded like they were waiting for the night parade at a resort.
“It’s started, Nephthys.”
“Yes, it has, Niang-Niang.”
Hamazura’s head was full of question marks at this point.
He recalled that those two had also been excited when they saw the stone pillar and giant crocodile wreaking havoc on London.
“Bwah, pwah! Wh-what? Are you Magic Gods going to fight that and drive it away?”
“…Are you sure you want that?”
“Stop it, Niang-Niang. He obviously doesn’t have the appropriate knowledge. Dragging the words out of him wouldn’t count.”
For a brief moment, he sensed an ominous atmosphere like someone had thrown a hunk of red meat in front of the king of the jungle.
It did not last long.
When Nostradamus’s prophecy had not come true at the end of the previous century, this may have been the feeling in the hearts of the people who had missed out on that major event. They did not actually want that destruction, but it still felt anticlimactic. That was what he sensed from bandaged Nephthys’s sigh.
“It’s no use. That girl doesn’t seem interested in us.”
He was not sure what she meant.
It was true his eyes had met with something that walked out of the destroyed main entrance, but what had it been? Had it really been ordinary enough to call “that girl”? No matter how much Hamazura searched through his memories, he could not find any details. All that remained was the fear of their eyes meeting.
“I feel sick.” Normally expressionless Takitsubo groaned in his arms. “The noise is really bad. It’s supposedly so close by, but there’s something wrong with the signal. I can’t tell which direction it’s coming from…”
“Oh. You didn’t seem very interested in your surroundings, but are you the connective type? If so, I recommend not channeling that. You can’t call that normal even for a god, so your average trance won’t cut it. It could harm you like damaging the hardware by reading a corrupted file.”
Mini-China dress Niang-Niang sounded carefree, but Hamazura had no idea what she was talking about.
He felt some kind of twisting feeling in his brow. It was like an icepick had been brought right up to his head but was now gradually turning elsewhere.
…Something was leaving.
He did not understand anything about this. He could not let his guard down. If he did not stay focused, he thought he would pass out from the avalanching sense of relief. Only now did he realize how tense he had been. He could never go through that again. Just as a wasp’s sting was worse the second time, he could not imagine attempting that again after the fear had permeated his very core. Simply considering the possibility felt like it was triggering a severe allergic reaction.
Nephthys had exposed her alluring body as bait, but she had been entirely ignored. She pouted her lips in a childish way that felt out of place given her bandage clothing and brown skin.
“She must only be interested in annihilating the United Kingdom’s enemy: Aleister Crowley.”
The initial flash of light was visible no matter where you were.
Even with his limited magical knowledge, Kamijou Touma understood something when he saw it.
This was overwhelmingly different from the stone pillar or giant crocodile he had seen before. The word “real” came to mind. He was running full speed, but he had yet to reach the British Museum. He had not arrived in time. He clenched his teeth. He knew how dangerous it was, but he could not stop.
The bright light had frightened an African elephant which ran head-first into a wall.
Brick rubble poured down from overhead.
One piece of rubble larger than a motorcycle was smashed from directly above by someone else who was freely flying on a broom.
“Don’t die on me. Keep in mind how valuable your right hand is.”
“Go to hell, Aleister!! How much psychological pressure do you need to place on these people!? I don’t know what Agnese’s group has used, but why are you pushing those defenders toward killing!? Once this is over, I am giving you such a spanking!!!!!!”
“I am aware I have taken this too far, but do not underestimate a pervert. That sounds more like a reward to me.”
Once the silver girl lightly placed her feet on the ground, the female knight on horseback stared in shock.
“Did you say Aleister!? This is, um…uh? Wait, I thought Aleister was…?”
“Finally, a proper reaction. I appreciate it, lady. Although I believe I already rescued you once back at the Dover beach.”
Kamijou and Othinus both stared into the distance. Their looks asked how Aleister could say that when she was the one who had sent in the Crowley’s Hazards in the first place.
“That’s the originator of the Golden-style stuff, right? Then you do something about it!”
“I am unfamiliar with that pervert. And I will be leaving now.”
While the civil servant was busy questioning a new target, the true criminals of Lessar and Birdway made a quick getaway. The next thing anyone knew, they were gone.
“(The Dawn-Colored Sunlight, hm? That magic cabal has also dipped its toes into cutting-edge science, so you could say they have most strongly inherited what I left behind.)”
“What? Hey, where’d Birdway and Lessar go!? Aleister, you help me stop them!”
“Here’s hoping they develop into a good, perverted cabal.”
“Saying things like that is not helping!”
It had looked like someone else was accompanying Aleister on the apartment rooftop earlier, but whoever it was must have decided to stay up there. And the silver girl did not seem bothered that they were separated.
“I have already destroyed a few of the Divine Mixtures. The ones I know for sure I destroyed are Ra-Zeus, Osiris-Hades, and Tefnut-Artemis.”
“I destroyed one called Wadjet-Leto.”
“No hesitation? Excellent as usual. Although you will have to decide for yourself if a compliment from me is a good thing.”
“Touma,” said Index. “When mixing Greek with Egyptian, not all of the gods are going to fit together so neatly. This was just the Greeks matching the major gods so they felt like they understood them. There might only be a limited supply of them.”
“…Hm,” said Aleister. “My guess is the only other dangerous one is Isis-Demeter.”
“I don’t care what it is,” spat out Kamijou. “But be honest with me. Who do you think became it?”
“That I can’t say,” said Aleister. “Everyone’s heart has a different limit. I would have to take a look at them.”
“Fran, help me out. We’ll hurry there, but can you go ahead of us and take a look from above? I want to know who of the former Agnese Force was made a part of this.”
“Sure. …That direction is a bit removed from the political center. The British Museum is there. Yes, those people who were planning to place Bunny Grey in formaldehyde. Tremble, tremble…”
After the rabbit-ear antennae girl floated up into the night sky with her balloon, Kamijou and the others ran toward the site of the blast. The female knight in silver armor and a surcoat panicked because Kamijou, Fran, and Lessar’s group had all split up and she was unsure who to pursue. And to be honest, she would be safer if she did not follow any of them.
They did not make it all the way to the British Museum.
The oddity showed itself before they arrived.
Several bridges of varying sizes crossed the Thames as it meandered across London. Either due to the battle or as some kind of trap, a lot of them had collapsed. One of the surviving ones was an iron bridge.
It had a characteristic Ferris wheel next to it. It connected the Waterloo Station area, which was a business and residential area, with the political center that included the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey.
There was something in the center.
At first, it looked like a star had come loose from the night sky and fallen onto the bridge.
Kamijou muttered to himself with a look of utter disbelief in his eyes.
If he was being honest.
If he was being completely honest.
He had been biased when guessing which one of the Roman Catholic nuns would have used that spiritual item. For example, he had expected Agnese, Lucia, or another of the fierce and combat-oriented nuns. He still would have felt faint upon seeing it, but he would have understood.
But this was different.
So very different.
Something had gone horribly wrong. She had lost sight of her core. It was like looking to a non-profit organization that visited impoverished regions around the world in the name of charity and finding it was actually war profiteering and participating in arms and human trafficking. It was that shock of a painful truth that hit him in the center of the chest.
He had trouble breathing, but he still tried desperately to force it down.
He could not keep going otherwise.
He could not save the captured nun.
This was one of the Divine Mixtures: Isis-Demeter.
“Isis from Egyptian Mythology is the goddess of life and resurrection. She is best known for bringing back Osiris after he was killed by Set and for giving birth to Horus who would later attack Set.”
As a god herself, the Magic God whispered in his ear while sitting on his shoulder.
That god had sacrificed an eye for knowledge and prided herself in her almost coldhearted observational skills.
“On the other hand, Demeter from Greek Mythology is the goddess of spring. She is Persephone’s mother and a ruler of agriculture who must give permission for any plant to bud. Setting aside how those two goddesses will be transformed into an attack, I have one piece of advice for you since the Japanese have such excellent but terribly biased imaginations: Just because this is based on Egyptian Mythology, do not simplistically assume this is a goddess who rules over a dry land of scorching sand. Do so at your own peril.”
Orsola’s Roman Catholic nun habit was nowhere to be seen. Her fine white skin was directly exposed to the air of the London night. That black habit had symbolized asceticism and its absence revealed the sexy body that had been hidden below. She only wore some broad white silk and pure gold decorations. She had a gold bracelet on her right wrist. While it did look Egyptian-ish, was it actually genuine? It may have been what the Greeks had imagined an Egyptian priestess would look like. Similarly, his outsider’s perspective as a Japanese meant he could not tell whether it was accurate or not.
Regardless, it looked twisted and out of place.
It was like having someone introduced as Cleopatra and then seeing a blonde woman step up onto the stage.
In addition to the pure gold decorations and the white silk that just barely covered her nudity, there was a giant circle behind her. It was a gorgeous flower made from a complex arrangement of gold and diamond, but it looked like the halos depicted behind holy figures in religious art.
The one trace of her former self was the cross hanging at her chest.
That symbol glittered in the moonlight, but it looked so flimsy and unreliable now.
He might have understood if she had been corrupted by evil.
But did it really look so repulsive to see someone corrupted by a different system of justice?
“Why did you of all people use it, Orsolaaaaaa!!!???”
And in response.
There was a disturbing pause, like she was a beat behind. And before any motion from that woman dressed as what looked like a combination of a priestess and a dancer, the giant halo behind her wriggled creepily. Then she clasped her hands in front of her large chest, slightly tilted her head, and smiled.
And Orsola Aquinas spoke.
“My, my. So we meet again, Kamijou.”
For the opening line of a battle, it was far too twisted and unexpected.
But in reality, the entire London scenery grew distorted. On either side of the giant iron bridge, the dark water of the Thames split apart and multiple colorful objects burst out. They were strange tropical vines thicker around than Orsola’s torso. The rainbow-colored masses wrapped around each other to form something like a plesiosaur. And there was more than just the one. More and more and more of them burst out on both sides of the iron bridge.
Technically, they were not actually plesiosaurs.
They were only collections of colorful, tropical-looking plants. But it would be very wrong to assume mere plants would be harmless and nonthreatening.
There were great maws.
Elliptical shapes hung down from all over the plesiosaur-like silhouettes. They opened like iron maidens and revealed sinister thorns and spikes within.
These fearsome things could swallow a large truck whole.
They were Venus flytraps.
The colorful masses were kneaded together like sugar sculptures to form gigantic carnivorous plants as tall as buildings and broadcast towers.
This was no time to leisurely think about hitting them with Imagine Breaker.
As soon as the rainbow-colored carnivorous plants poured down at him from either side as if throwing their bodies at him, he was enveloped by a sweet aroma and the iron bridge was smashed to pieces by their weight.
Modern architecture and trustworthy reinforced concrete felt flimsier than a sugar sculpture now.
If hoodie bikini Fran had not grabbed him with a silly voice while dangling from her large balloon, he would have fallen right into the dark Thames. Into that river which had transformed into an underworld that could be crawling with anything.
While Kamijou shouted, Othinus groaned like she had a headache.
“What is this image? It was imprinted into my mind from somewhere. A spiral wrapping around a streamlined core. 2 loops on the right…???”
Whether that tool had actually existed or not, Aleister casually called over to them from a broom like a picture book witch.
“It is grapes and olives. I am having trouble grasping the details, but the symbolism is very Greek-oriented. …I am not so sure grapes had made it across the Mediterranean during the ancient Greek era, but, well, it may be like the fox and the jackal. All that mattered was that the Greeks would understand and accept it.”
“More importantly, did you notice?”
“Notice what!? All I know is that the situation could hardly be worse!!”
“That understanding is good enough. It is true this Divine Mixture is a much greater threat than before. I imagine they established a proper connection this time. However.” The silver girl made a dramatic pause. “That is not the point. Do not be distracted by the flashy blessings of spring or the colorful carnivorous plants. The crux of the problem and the core we must understand lies elsewhere.”
This was not the time to desperately cling to the balloon string and stare doubtfully at Aleister.
What would happen if he carelessly looked away from Orsola Aquinas now?
After easily destroying the very bridge she stood on, the sexy priestess brought her feet together in empty air and floated there. She was light as a feather but also fixed solidly in place. And that created goddess was surrounded by the large rainbow-colored vines rising from the water and some things that looked like toothbrushes with small spheres at the ends of the bristles. They were probably something like sundew which captured bugs with its sticky fluid, but she was not capturing herself with those.
Assuming no tricks with wires, she was defying earth’s gravity all on her own.
The separation between the physical and the paranormal made that the most obvious kind of miracle. It was a showy advertisement for the glory of the gods in heaven.
“The fingertips on her right hand. …3 loops around the left side on the index finger and 8 loops around the right side on the middle finger.”
Guided by Othinus’s groaning voice, Kamijou did indeed see some kind of pure gold thread wrapped around floating Orsola’s fingertips.
“When you look at all of her decorations, that nun herself is the olive tree while the gold thread around her fingertips is the grapevine. Yes, that’s it. But what do the specific signs mean? Blessings or madness? The meanings of peace and blood are too new. I have heard the olive branch has long been used for fortune-telling, though.”
“It’s like a game of concentration,” said Aleister. “Put off figuring it out right away and focus on committing it to memory. Right-2, Left-3, Right-8. Those correspond to the Venus flytraps, the sundew, and the flight. Remember that. You will regret it if you let it slip past you now.”
“Hmph,” said Othinus. “You had better hope there isn’t a further trick to it. Like maybe it matters which specific finger she used or which way she bent the fingers. Or maybe the fingers are a distraction while she actually chants something under her breath.”
The mention of grapes and olives had only reminded the spiky-haired boy of Orsola’s cooking skills, so he could not keep up with this conversation.
“There are several spells for beginning down magical flight,” pointed out Fran.
“Even though this is their Crowley killer? No, there will be an extra step in there to guard against it.”
Kamijou gave up on understanding the higher-level discussion between Aleister and the others and he focused on observing Orsola while clinging to the balloon.
She seemed to have plant powers and she was flying, so did that halo behind her back gather the air like dandelion fluff? Pure gold could be stretched out until its thickness was measured in microns, so was there some trick to the halo or the decorations on her body? …No, that sensible reasoning may have been a sign he was trapped by ground-oriented preconceptions.
This was flight. Even after millennia, humans had not changed.
Even in the modern age, people trembled in fear when viewing grainy photos and videos of UFOs.
(This is bad…)
He had spent enough time with Imagine Breaker to notice his disadvantage already. His right hand’s greatest enemy was distance. There was nothing he could do if his opponent fled outside of his arm’s reach. So his legs mattered before his right fist. Valleys, moats, and other height differences were off limits because they prevented him from approaching within brawling range. If Orsola could fly through the air while controlled by Isis-Demeter, then she was just about the worst opponent for him.
Orsola Aquinas herself continued to smile brightly as if having a chat over tea.
That mismatch scared him.
She displayed no hostility whatsoever, and that made her impossible to read. He could not even prepare himself in advance for any pain that was coming.
“My, my. London is very dangerous at night.”
“Here she comes, human.”
“Now, now. Don’t run away. Come here and take my hand, Kamijou. Boys generally aren’t allowed, but you are an exception. Hee hee hee. I will secretly introduce you to our dorm. Come see our cozy dorm where everyone lives with a smile on their face and there is nothing at all to worry about.”
“8 loops on the right! Dodge this with everything you’ve got!!”
Fran wanted to stick with her balloon, but Kamijou lightly kicked her away and used the force to jump in the opposite direction.
A fearsome, guillotine-like attack scraped through the midpoint between them.
When a tightrope wire snapped and released all of its tension, it could apparently fly around as wildly as a rubber band and sever a human arm or leg. That piece of trivia flashed through Kamijou’s mind. When the colorful sundew sliced through the air like a whip, it was no longer a passive trap that captured you with its sticky fluid. It became a simple deadly weapon with increased resistance. That head would now scrape across the target like a whip made with the roughness of a file. And that single strike had enough force to tear through a giant warship like papier-mache.
To imagine the level of pain, picture dumping a bucket of instant glue over your head and then tearing off the T-shirt solidified to the skin and flesh below. This was thousands of times nastier than just a knife to the gut.
Kamijou very nearly fell into the danger-filled Thames without thinking of the consequences, so Magical Girl Aleis-tan rocketed into to him with her broom. This was his second traffic accident of the day. With a powerful impact, Kamijou’s trajectory through the air was greatly altered and he fell into a tree alongside the river. The many branches cushioned his fall.
“Get up, human. There is no time to sleep. You need to fight. Right-8 is the sundew. So is Left-3 the flight and the initial Right-2 the Venus flytraps? …Grapevines wrapped around an olive tree. I can predict the next motif, so I won’t let you waste this advantage.”
A god of war could be quite harsh at times like this.
And that understander knew how to motivate him.
“It no longer matters whether you are obeying Aleister or not. Don’t you want to save that girl who is about to fall before your eyes?”
He groaned but gave no further complaint.
The spiky-haired boy sat up with just the strength of his abs.
But the next thing he saw obliterated the serious atmosphere. Kamijou shouted while looking up at Broom Girl Aleister’s panties.
“…Hey, you idiot! What the hell is that? Explain it all to me. Is this just like with A. O. Francisca?”
“You two are polar opposites, but you reach such similar conclusions. Higher beings on the level of Aiwass and Coronzon are not that common.”
“Is that Orsola? Or isn’t it!?”
“I still have not figured out what the grape and olive symbolism means. I do not know what the world looks like to her, but based on her eye motion, she can perceive external stimuli. But after that, there is some kind of nonsense reconnection being made between her thoughts and actions. If you order someone to punch someone else, they might not like the idea, but if you distort some preset actions like ‘knocking before entering someone’s room’ or ‘breaking an egg on the edge of the countertop’ and use that, they will be much less reluctant. That would explain the extreme discrepancy between what she is saying and what she is doing.”
While listening to Aleister-sensei’s lecture, Kamijou scooted off of the flower bed at the bottom of the tree he had landed in. And he got straight to the point.
“So is it hypnotism?”
“Let’s not oversimplify. You’re reminding me of those foolish newspaper reporters who sum up the life of Aleister Crowley as nothing more than ‘wicked’… More seriously, I have seen no signs of a trance or strengthened suggestion, so it would be hard to call this a hypnotic state.”
Her identity as Academy City’s Board Chairman seemed to show through here.
“This is tricky because, while she is receiving external stimuli, a lot is unclear about how she sees the world, so I have no idea what would happen if I attempted to use Spiritual Tripping on her. That technique uses pantomime and astrological suggestion to bind me to my target, but it also takes advantage of the way the brain fills in the gaps when it receives limited information.”
“Wait, are you serious!? Now I feel like an idiot for facing that head-on in the Windowless Building!! …Ohhh, I should’ve just hypnotized myself using Mina’s kitty tail instead of a 5-yen coin…”
“If that level of self-aware action was enough to overcome it, I never would have singlehandedly destroyed all the monsters in that Golden cabal. I know giving silly names to your enemy’s weapons and operations is an old military trick, but I really will cry if you keep simplifying this down to mere hypnotism.”
There was a deep roar as if the entire atmosphere was being torn away. That was enough for Kamijou to duck down, but Orsola was looking elsewhere while floating in the night sky. Tropical colors were tangled around the pure gold halo behind her back. She reached out an arm that shined an alluring white in the moonlight. The halo unleashed a rainbow-colored torrent that could be seen as plant vines or bizarre internal organs. She seemed to be bombing an entirely different area a few kilometers away.
She launched several shots in quick succession.
Across the winding river a giant clock tower rose from the Houses of Parliament. Kamijou thought it was called Big Ben, but he vaguely recalled hearing it had been renamed. Regardless, Orsola floated with her back to that tower, so the halo behind her back looked like the clock face.
“What is she doing…?”
“Ghhh.” Othinus held her small head. “Left-3, Right-2, Left-5, Left-6…there’s still more!? Damn, she’s looping it around every finger on both hands and it’s mixing the symbols together. There’s so much noise…!”
“That is what happens when you try to view it all at once in order to act the wise god. From the look of things, I imagine she is making 10 simultaneous commands using all 10 fingers. And instead of commanding 10 different people, she is commanding 10 different disasters. You must remain calm enough to temporarily throw this in a box labeled ‘mixed’.” The genius known as a fool maintained a composed expression. “Isis-Demeter’s top priority must be Aleister Crowley. That means every last one invading London: the many Crowley’s Hazards and me as I exist in parallel here. Assume that each shot is destroying an average of 50 to 100 of me. Of course, that blood sacrifice will defrag and optimize ‘this me’, so it is not a real problem.”
Someone sat by the riverside.
It was the female knight in silver armor and a surcoat.
Her horse was trained for patrols around Buckingham Palace, but she was more clinging to its thick neck than holding its reins.
Was she shocked by this overwhelming force?
Or was she being crushed by the weight of the guilt she felt upon seeing the wartime madness created by a fellow knight like Sir Mirates?
The silver girl gave an interested smile from her broom.
“I have seen that lady a few times now, but…I see. So is she the black spot of a large army?”
“That is a piece of battlefield theory, human,” explained the military god on his shoulder. “When a certain number of soldiers take group action, there will inevitably be those who disobey orders out of benevolence or to follow their conscience. When a group of soldiers forms a firing line, some will only pretend to fire and others will fire warning shots that are clearly intended to miss. Even for professional knights and warriors, killing is as difficult as swimming against a powerful current.”
“And yet during uprisings of angry civilians or witch hunts driven by fear, even women, children, and the elderly will reach for weapons and readily kill. That is humans for you. Following your Thelema – your True Will – is no easy task. Anyway, you could say that this knight has retained her senses even in the hopeless wartime atmosphere intentionally spread across England. During pressing situations, when the country or the current age have a way of changing people, people with a strong sense of themselves stand out.”
If someone were to think of an enemy soldier’s family while facing them on the battlefield, it might mean they are an incredibly good-natured person. Someone like that could be seen as a hope for all humankind, but at the same time, they almost never changed history through their actions in a war.
Standing still on a fierce battlefield would only get you killed.
“Is there any way to get her to withdraw?” asked Kamijou. “A single stray shot and she’s done for!!”
“Hm. She is fortunate she is on horseback. She might be in a daze, but spook the horse and it will flee to safety on its own. The common ideas of good and evil mean nothing to animals and they do not restrain themselves with self-discipline, so we can trust it to do as it should.”
The silver girl snapped her fingers. No, she rubbed some kind of dried powder between her fingers and let the wind carry it away. The horse gave a start and raised its front legs like that painting of Napoleon. It ran off somewhere with the female knight on its back.
“Oil, candle, stick, powder, mist. Simplified incense is the standard for constructing a ceremonial ground. That said, we can only trust in the animals’ wild instincts now. But what are we humans to do, seeing as we lack that?”
“We don’t have time to sit around, you pervert. If Orsola flies away from here, we’ll lose her. We’re in trouble if we have to chase after her. She can wear us down just by keeping her distance and firing projectile attacks at us.”
“Which is why I asked what I did: what are we to do?”
Kamijou answered the silver girl’s question by pointing to one corner of the London streets while still sitting on the ground.
When she saw the sign there, Aleister nodded in understanding.
“…I see. Is this what it is like to have a superb student?”
“We can’t leave Orsola like this. And you just saved that knight, didn’t you? I have no obligation to do what you want, but this is different. Still, let me make one thing clear: I will deliver the finishing blow,” spat out Kamijou. “However, she won’t necessarily come to me if I call to her. Fortunately, you already said you would make the perfect bait. Can you do that for me?”
“If you insist. I do not know if it is intentional or not, but I cannot advance with Isis-Demeter blocking the way. I cannot approach my final destination of Westminster Abbey on the other side of the Thames.”
The nature of Aleister’s smile changed a bit there.
She spoke like she was trying to push someone away.
“Also, this is something I already told the #1.”
“You do not need to stay with me to the very end. Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law. In other words, do not consider unnecessary obligations, do not restrict yourself for no good reason, do not become trapped by search results and the amount of agreement found on social media, and simply do what it is you truly think is right. Worried boy, do not rely on others. Believe in yourself. In every age, that is the best answer of all. Although it is a thorny path.”
“Then I’ll clean up all of this mess and get you and Lola back to Lilith and Mina. And the first step is Orsola. If I abandon her, it’s all over. I won’t let there be an answer other than that. Not one!!”
There was another form there.
It was a white form that was neither British nor Egyptian and overwhelmed the scenery all on its own.
Near Piccadilly Circus, which was famous for its theatres and shopping centers, Nelson’s Column rose more than 50m from Trafalgar Square. Academy City’s #1 Level 5, Accelerator, stood alongside the statue at the top. Once Aleister had left to do her own thing, this monster had also started doing his own thing.
A pathetically shrieking voice disturbed the tranquil desert night.
Accelerator held a fat middle-aged man by the ankle and dangled him off the column.
He had done it himself, but the #1’s displeased voice made it sound like he was holding a piece of filth.
“This atmosphere really takes me back. I’m assuming you’re the damn old man named Holegres Mirates. And that means you’re the shittiest of the shit who designed this goddamn mess.”
He had picked up this idiot at St. James’s Palace.
The city of London was of course quite large, but if you paid attention, you could pick out the important locations. One: For some reason, the important Britons liked to stay in historical buildings. Two: This illusory London was full of scorpions, cobras, camels, African elephants, and other pests and beasts, but they unnaturally kept their distance from the locations held by the aforementioned important people.
Accelerator did not care if they wanted to indulge in the superiority complex commonly found in big cities, but if you lit bug repellent smoke in the jungle, you would give away the location of your secret camp.
Noble knights would apparently show off their flag and coat of arms during war, letting everyone know exactly where they were. Accelerator had not studied heraldry, but by looking around and gathering some sample data, he could quickly work out the pattern. It was not enough to call a code. In the end, it was only a combination of limited colors and symbols. And once he knew that, the rest was easy. The carriage stopped outside the building had the symbol prominently displayed, so there was no mistaking where to attack.
Unfortunately, this man was more of a corrupt noble than a chivalrous knight. He had grown so fat that the armorsmiths may have thrown in the towel. Just like tiny gnats, luxurious food, and gold bars could seem overwhelming and creepy if their numbers grew too high, just looking at his outdated, jewel-covered, all-silk clothing pissed Accelerator off.
“Whabh…bh….what is this? Dobh…do you know who I am…hbh?”
The man attempted to recover from the humiliation since he had nothing but his pride to cling to, but he suddenly stopped speaking.
Face, stomach, chest, and more.
As Accelerator kicked him a few times while he dangled upside down, the man’s fat body swayed like a sandbag.
“You can piss yourself if you want, but you’ll only be hurting yourself there.”
“How do we stop that thing? You designed this farce, didn’t you?”
“E-eek. Are you friends with those nuns or something? They do not have pure United Kingdom blood in their veins. Those people just barge in, steal our culture and traditions, eat off of our tax money, and occupy English land. How can we accept people who…eh heh, eh heh heh, ahhhh…”
He got carried away and ended up trailing off partway through his rant. He must have finally noticed the displeasure growing in the monster who held his life in his hands.
“So you rushed into this war so you could send people you didn’t like to their deaths? All so you can surround yourself with identical thoughts, identical tastes, and identical smiles to dye this country in a single color?”
All the fat surrounding him may have dulled his instincts.
“You know what?”
“It doesn’t matter if I’m their friends, you dumbass!! Do you not know how to look at what people do and decide whether they’re good or bad!? What do you even think people’s lives are, you piece of shit!?”
After tenderizing him with another 5 or 10 kicks, Accelerator opened his mouth again.
“Get it now? This is what a villain does. The people who don’t do this are the good guys. Figured it out? Now, since you still haven’t told me anything, should I assume not even you can stop this once it’s started?”
“………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………I’m sorry, I’m zowwy. I don’t know what to say. What can I say to make you stop?”
There was no more dignity left in that man. If he returned to his mansion, he would probably be greeted by a giant oil painting of himself, but he was currently acting like someone clinging to a thuggish debt collector hoping to get them to change their mind.
He may have thought he was being extremely clever.
But in the end, he was no more than another puppet influenced by the wartime atmosphere. If none of this had happened, his fantasies would have remained fantasies. He never would have even considered making them a reality.
None of that mattered to Accelerator.
“So this was all a waste of time? I can’t afford to waste any more of my choker’s battery, so I’ve had enough of you.”
“Eh? You mean…?”
Battered Holegres smiled as brightly as a spring flower, but he was fundamentally mistaken about something.
Let’s say we polled 100 people on the street.
…Would even a single person be willing to forgive that man with a smile? Wouldn’t far more feel certain he would just do the exact same thing again if he was set free?
“I don’t really get how it works and there’s gotta be something crazy there if even I have to give up on understanding something, but you’re doing just fine after 10 or 20 direct hits from the #1. You’ve got some impressive armor there, don’t you? That luxurious thing is far better than Academy City’s powered suits.”
“Eh? Ah? Heh. Eh heh heh. I wouldn’t say I’m ‘doing just fine’…”
“You are if you can talk back like that. Incredible. You really are incredible.”
The bad feeling finally caught up to the man.
He would have much preferred insults to these compliments that felt like being strangled by silk.
Holegres Mirates tensed his fat body more than ever before as Accelerator continued.
“I’ve been extreeeeeeeeeeeeeemely pissed for a while now, but if I lashed out at someone, I’d just kill them. Annoying, right? Well, I’ve grown enough to actually think about those things now. I’ve learned my lesson, so make sure to tell me I’m doing a good job. So you see…”
“W-wait, please forgive-…”
“I’m so very, very thankful I found someone who won’t die when I hit them and who I won’t feel even a twinge of guilt for attacking!! I’ve got nothing but thanks for you, you piece of shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit!!!!!”
He threw a kick that would have broken through the front door of a nuclear shelter.
The man was like a shooting star.
Holegres Mirates’s body flew horizontally for more than 1000 meters. He grazed several steeples as he tore through the night sky and he finally crashed into one of the faces of London’s famous clock tower.
With a deafening boom, seismographs around the city registered a slight error.
Accelerator cracked his neck, reached for the switch on his choker, and spoke to himself in the most annoyed voice imaginable.
“Now, what should I do?”
Would he simply continue observing Aleister Crowley while she flew around London?
London was a city of security cameras. Could he gather security information? Or could he disturb that information?
Was there an option superior to observing Aleister? Could he really surpass Aleister by following the path she laid out for him? He could not just obediently follow the rules. But if he strayed from the path and was left behind, he would gain nothing.
He had to latch onto it. It was time for him to take the initiative.
The monster muttered the same thing once more.
“What should I do…?”
Kamijou dragged his aching body away from the Thames.
Since he could not fly freely through the sky, he would have trouble fighting a battle with a large river between him and his opponent. Attempting to fight on Orsola’s field while she was strengthened by Isis-Demeter was unlikely to work out for him.
No, it was not the action of flight itself that caused the problem.
The problem was the distance introduced by the height difference.
“Hurry, human,” whispered Othinus on his shoulder. “She has already proven she will attack non-priority targets if they enter her field of vision.”
“I know that… Dammit, Orsola isn’t going to attack Index, Birdway, or the others, is she?”
“Worry about yourself first, you fool.”
This side of the Thames had more businesses and residences, so it had fewer landmarks than the administrative center. The only things that stood out were Lambeth Palace, which was the Archbishop’s residence, and a few small museums.
Thus the most visited landmarks were something other than tourist locations.
For example, Waterloo Station, which was one of the largest even in London.
And needless to say, this city was known to have the oldest subway system in the world.
“Run! Get inside!!”
“Shouldn’t a god have more helpful advice!?”
Kamijou Touma nearly pitched forward as he followed the subway sign and grabbed at the metal shutter over the giant station entrance. The station looked like piece of art or like a white stone temple, so the modern security seemed out of place. He of course did not have the key, so he intended to ignore any alarms and use the principle of leverage to break the lock.
He could not stop Orsola Aquinas from flying.
But that just meant he had to lure her into a field with too low a ceiling to create much of a height difference. However, the location had to be sturdier than an easily-destroyed home or business. It was still extremely risky, but by forcing her underground, his odds were at least better than zero. His right fist would reach her when their paths crossed.
A point in the night sky flashed.
“Get down, human!!” shouted Othinus.
The explosive roar arrived after a short delay. It was preceded by something flying inside the station entrance and tearing through the metal shutter like it was made of paper. There had been two “projectiles”. The first had been Aleister Crowley on a broom and the second had been Orsola Aquinas with a giant golden flower behind her back. Kamijou pulled his head back just in time to avoid being decapitated by the jagged pieces of destroyed steel.
“Damn, this is already not going as planned. She went in ahead of us!?”
“As long as you can meet in a field with little height difference, it does not matter how you got there. Instead of trying to get ahead of her, you should follow the trail of destruction and give chase. Be prepared to use your right hand at any moment. If Isis-Demeter wants certainty and attempts to come back the way she came, you will almost certainly run into her. Don’t waste that chance.”
It was hardly surprising, but when he peered inside, he saw a modern tiled station.
When compared to the temple-like exterior, the recharge stations for ticket IC cards and the other machines looked strange.
“When she wraps the gold thread around her fingers, three loops on the left is the sign for flight. Hit that with your right hand and you might be able to keep her from flying.”
“You saw how fast she was moving. I just hope Orsola doesn’t lose her balance and fall on top of me…”
London did not have much of a nightscape and even the moonlight was valuable there, but the enclosed station went one step further and felt like a mysterious cave. Kamijou started to regret suggesting this plan. But Aleister and Orsola had already flown inside, so he could not run away. He had to rely on his cellphone’s backlight since he could not feel his way along the wall in this situation, but carrying that obvious light source in the darkness felt like asking to be killed. The more he thought about it, the more he questioned what the right answer was.
One of Kamijou Touma’s few good points was how he would simply ask when he could not figure something out on his own.
And at times like this, he was reliant on his god of war.
“To ensure you can use your right hand to attack, hold the phone in your left hand. Hold the light source as far from your body as you can. If Isis-Demeter targets the light from the darkness, you can at least avoid having one of those colorful carnivorous plants hit you in the head or torso.”
“Huh? The backlight? Why not the LED light next to the camera lens?”
“I will explain later, but you need to switch it on and off. If you have to press a button on the screen or front surface, you will end up shining the backlight on your own face. Do you want all of those carnivorous plants attacking you at once?”
“…Fine, but won’t I get my fingers taken off when they attack the backlight?”
“Also, do not keep the light on at all times. Start using it once every three seconds and then once every five seconds after you’ve gotten used to it. Experts can go 10 seconds or more between flashes.”
“Why? To preserve the battery?”
“You idiot. If you don’t want those creepy carnivorous plants attacking you, don’t shine the light on your surroundings and then look around. Use it like a camera flash to burn each moment in time into your brain. Shining the light less often makes it harder to target you. But this is also a warning: even if you only flash the light for an instant, you must never stay in the same spot. Move when you make the flash and wait until the image in the back of your mind begins to fade before making another flash. And if you choose to come to a brief stop, avoid flashing the light.”
“I see. You thought this through.”
“I shouldn’t have to say this, but do not shine the light directly on glass, mirrors, or stainless steel. That is one of the most surefire ways to get yourself killed when fighting in a dark area. Light up your entire body like that and you’ll be torn to mincemeat by her colorful attacks.”
…However, all of this relied on the assumption that Orsola’s senses remained those of a normal human. If her eyes had been expanded beyond the human level or she had been given some kind of sixth sense, she would have no trouble locating him in the dark.
But once he started using the backlight flashing method (even if he did not know if he was really doing it right), he started to question whether Orsola had really conquered the darkness. He saw benches knocked over, dented-in vending machines, signs of metal scraping across the tile walls, and shattered fluorescent lights. It may have been because she was moving so quickly in an enclosed space, but there were raw scars of her bumping into all sorts of things. That made an obvious trail to follow, but it also worried him.
Based on those many scars, it seemed Aleister had successfully lured Orsola into the underground area.
“I hope Orsola’s okay… I don’t get that olive and grape stuff, but she’s dressed like a dancer, right? Will that Isis-Demeter thing really protect its host?”
“Hey, human. Can you not shut off your adolescent fantasies even now?”
“This includes you, moron. Nephthys and Niang-Niang too. Do female gods have something against wearing armor?”
The small war god tugged on his ear while he descended a stopped escalator and entered the subway area. The scrapes all over the walls led past the platform and into the tunnel.
“Hey, Othinus. Do you really think the trains are running?”
“I doubt they are running like normal, but it is possible the Knights or Anglicans are using them to transport supplies. Regardless, I was talking about the electricity. With a subway, you’ll be roasted if you step on the power supply rail, commonly known as the third rail.”
“It apparently doesn’t reach 1000 volts, but it is not a toy like the stun gun that idiot Aleister used in the balloon. This is the powerful current used to move a train, so touching it would normally kill you.”
More and more, he realized just how ignorant his suggestion had been. He could only pray he did not find Aleister and Orsola’s electrocuted bodies lying on the ground.
He had no idea how many British laws he was breaking, but he hesitantly climbed down onto the track.
A thick atmosphere of death seemed to be creeping toward him.
After walking 20 or 30 steps away from the platform, the regret was already pushing in.
“You’re kidding, right? There’s a fork already? It isn’t just one path?”
Kamijou groaned while noticing some small flowers poking out through cracks in the concrete and feeling impressed they could survive down here.
Meanwhile, Othinus spoke.
“London has the world’s oldest subway system. It has been modified so often that it spreads out all over the city like a spider web. There are apparently a lot of abandoned lines and stations that not even the subway maintenance workers know about, so I would guess the Anglicans have remade some of those into training grounds or treasure vaults.”
…His plan was to pursue Orsola and hit her with his right fist when they crossed paths. With a single narrow path, he could have done so when she made a U-turn and returned, but the difficulty of predicting her actions increased considerably if it was a labyrinth that spread out in every direction, possibly even vertically. He could try to chase her down and end up being hit by a surprise attack from behind.
“Othinus, can you track Orsola’s location and actions with those weird headaches you’re getting?”
“Don’t be dumb. This isn’t telepathy or channeling. It is only a subconscious warning when I vaguely grasp the image of grapes tangled around an olive branch from the movement of that nun’s fingers. And it is a lot like hieroglyphics that contain various meanings and scenes in a single glyph. That means I can’t sense anything without seeing her first.”
Of course, this situation had to be unexpected for Orsola as well.
This surprise attack would not work again.
It was all over if Orsola left the subway tunnel, realized the advantage provided by a height difference, and stayed put in the night sky. There would be nothing Kamijou could do.
“Right or left? Which tunnel? …Hm, there are scars on the wall. I just hope Orsola didn’t circle around to sneak up behind me…”
“(You fool! Don’t stand there swinging the light around!)”
He had never been in control of the situation.
Something flashed deep within one of the two tunnels.
Enough colorful and intertwined vines shot down the tunnel to completely fill it.
Several Venus flytraps opened like great maws.
That manifestation of destruction approached while crushing everything in its path.
This was not the time to think about what the enemy was doing or what kind of attack it was. This was worse than a surprise attack from a train. It was like spraying an anthill with a hose. This was crushing every nook and cranny of the tunnel, so pressing up against the wall was not enough to dodge it.
He did not have time to think about his right hand.
If it had been a single path, he would have been reduced to mincemeat. Fortunately, he was able to run down the other tunnel. He had just barely avoided it, but the pressure to the air sent a blast of wind down his fork and it swept over him like a solid mass. He was very nearly sent flying by the compressed air.
“Argh, I screwed it up! Is Orsola down that other tunnel!?”
“Stop! What idiot would charge straight toward her!? On a straight path with nowhere to escape, you will only be unilaterally worn down with no hope of approaching her. Your right hand can only do so much. Have you forgotten you can’t afford to get hit even once, whether by a careless mistake or a nightmarish coincidence!?”
That meant he had to focus on that destination while taking a detour through the complex arrangement of subway tunnels.
“Here it comes, human!!”
Whether it was still used or not, he entered a small tunnel which had the metal rails removed, jumped over a dangerous point where the tracks intersected even though this was a subway, and escaped down a Y-shaped branch line. He left each tunnel just before a torrent of carnivorous plants filled the entire thing. Running was the most he could do and he was worried he would lose his bearings as he took so many turns.
When he shined his phone’s backlight by the wall, he saw something wetly reflect it.
“Don’t worry. It’s only a tarp. This appears to be a relatively old section.”
Othinus sounded both exasperated and astonished. Apparently, both Japan and England chose to use blue tarps.
“I was right,” she said. “Part of the ceiling is covered. This may be makeshift rain protection while they wait for repairs.”
“The rails have been removed in some parts. If they don’t use this section anymore, would they really spend a lot of money on construction?”
“It is still connected to areas they use, right? If they leave it be, it will become a hotbed for mold and corrosion. Let the water get in and it could become an underground lake. Even reinforced concrete can break if water gets to the rebar through small cracks.”
They were fortunate the narrow tunnel prevented the carnivorous plants from swinging around like they had in the air above the Thames.
No, something did not quite make sense if they were simply being fired in one direction.
“Aren’t we being attacked from way too many directions!? Even if London’s subway tunnels have spread out like a spider web and even if Orsola is launching herself from place to place! It might be dark, but shouldn’t we have at least caught a glimpse of Orsola!?”
“(It is true the images haven’t entered my head since we entered the tunnel. But more than that, how is she accurately tracking our location inside this labyrinth? Since she is firing at us from beyond curves in the tunnels, it can’t just be the backlight. And with so many tunnels for things to echo through, I doubt she’s using sound either.)”
They may have had a fundamental misunderstanding.
Orsola Aquinas may have been using an even more disgusting method.
Kamijou Touma broke his promise to Othinus and shined his cellphone backlight around while standing still. Instead of just flashing it, he risked keeping it on. He tried observing his surroundings while moving the light around, but he did not see Orsola hiding anywhere in her flashy dancer outfit. He only saw the concrete ground, the rusted rails, a ceiling covered in black soot (perhaps from the steam engine days), some weeds growing from the cracks in the walls, and a few crushed cans that had gotten in here somehow.
Kamijou’s eyes stopped on something among all that.
“Hey, Othinus. Blogs sometimes post heartwarming photos of ‘gutsy dandelions’ growing out of cracks in the road, right?”
“What is it, human? This really isn’t the time.”
“…I’m not going to say things can’t grow out of the asphalt or concrete. But would weeds really grow in a subway tunnel? In parts that never get any sunlight, I mean.”
“Wait.” The tiny Magic God groaned while sitting on the boy’s shoulder. “Is that what that plant weapon is doing!?”
“I see,” muttered Leivinia Birdway as she brushed her blonde hair off of her shoulder. She was mildly irritated by the silver sand getting in it.
She had not carelessly set foot inside Waterloo Station.
She was fine as long as the female knight did not pursue her. She was looking at a metal grate on the road. It was a vent to let out the stagnant subway air.
Sprout-like things that resembled a skinny white beard were tangled all over it.
Were they roots or vines?
It was possible you would never discover the exact species by poring through a botanical encyclopedia.
At any rate, the fact that she could see this held great meaning.
Birdway muttered under her breath with her tone more than half colored by exasperation.
“…Curse that Isis-Demeter. Has she spread the roots and vines of her carnivorous plants all across London’s subway tunnels?”
The veracity of the claim was unclear, but it was said that London’s subway structure would circumnavigate the globe two and a half times if it was all laid out end to end. A certain Egyptian goddess was said to have brought a different god back to life and a certain Greek goddess was said to have such great authority that the season of spring required her permission. And Isis-Demeter was no longer either of those. This oasis goddess decorated in silk and gold controlled all water and greenery on the planet, so she had the power to instantly control an area that covered a mere two and half times the circumference of the earth.
After regrouping once more, Index and Karasuma Fran groaned simultaneously.
Now, had Birdway realized that those two were both deeply connected to the Anglican Church and had both been modified by Lola Stuart so she could directly control them?
Two and a half times the circumference of the earth was nothing. No matter where Orsola Aquinas herself stood, she could place “turrets” anywhere in the tunnel network and establish a crossfire wherever she liked.
The leaves growing here and there acted as her eyes and ears. She sensed sound when the thin leaves vibrated much like an eardrum and, by using photosynthesis, she could sense light and even sense breathing from the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the air. That gave her multiple methods of searching for her target’s accurate location.
“You may have chosen the low-ceilinged subway to eliminate the height difference.”
Which side had been cornered by that decision?
Throwing a new trump card on the table had greatly changed the playing field.
“But you have found a true hell in there. You really, really have.”
Winding paths bulged out in the thick concrete walls like a mole was digging through them.
The restrictions of a tunnel no longer seemed to apply.
Just like the roots of a roadside tree pushing up the sidewalk, the walls and ceiling were broken through, the thick tarps used to keep out rain were blown away, and vines thicker than Kamijou’s arm burst out. Something swelled out at the end of those vines. They were bags larger than a balance ball and they had a milk-pot-like lid on the top.
“Those are pitcher plants! Don’t let them dissolve you!!”
Othinus shouted from Kamijou’s shoulder immediately after he tore out the weeds growing from the wall.
The top of the heavy plant bag opened. It splattered a strange liquid around, like someone swinging around a bucket full of blood and guts. It may have been something like brutal stomach acid. As soon as some of it splashed onto the ground, a white chemical smoke burst out. It was dissolving the railroad rails and the concrete.
One hit from that and his bones would be showing.
Those weeds likely functioned as her eyes and ears. He had torn them out just before the attack, so she had missed her mark. But that method would not necessarily work forever. For one thing, he did not know how many of those leaves were hidden around each area.
“You’ve gotta be-…”
“Do not relax your guard during this pause you created! Watch your feet, human!!”
Just as he prepared to flee, the god of war shouted at him again. If he had not heeded her warning and immediately altered his footwork, he would have stepped on a protrusion sharp enough to pierce the rubber sole of his shoe and the foot within. The ground was littered with fist-sized seedpods with thorns covering their hard shells.
“Your Japanese word for caltrops comes from a hard seedpod, after all. You were just about to fall victim to the trap in its proper form, human. Lose your mobility now and you are doomed.”
“I can’t let myself feel relieved at every little thing I survive. This is like a deadly forest composed of carnivorous plants. It’s a tropical rainforest labyrinth. Dammit, Orsola, where are you hiding!?”
Sweet aromas wafted in from all directions.
The air itself was being overrun.
If these roots and vines covered the entire underground area of London, it was possible Orsola could even bring down or destroy the entire British capital. It was unlikely she would actually do so since Isis-Demeter was on the defenders’ side, but it still helped sum up Orsola Aquinas’s power. She had far exceeded the power of an individual.
Fleeing the direct and visible threats was not enough to ensure safety.
Being in the network of tunnels was like being inside Orsola’s stomach.
“What is this place…?”
While running away as best he could, Kamijou eventually entered a more open area.
Originally, multiple tracks must have run in parallel there. It had to be the size of a soccer field, but it did not feel that large with the evenly-spaced stone pillars holding up the roof. Multiple tracks were lined up like in a switchyard and several hemispherical tunnels were opened on the walls. It must have been very old because the ceiling was blackened by a thick layer of soot. That had likely been caused by the smoke rising from steam engines. That made the occasional blue tarp look extremely out of place.
Kamijou’s cellphone backlight illuminated a small figure sitting with their back against one of the square pillars.
The silver girl slowly raised her head when she heard Kamijou’s shout. Her usual spirit was nowhere to be found. He did not know how badly injured she was since he had not stripped her and taken a look, but she did not seem to be doing well.
Several objects larger than basketballs were attached to her cape and blazer. They looked something like the metal balls used to restrain prisoners and slaves in an older age. Those cocklebur-like plants must have slowed her down enough for the other attacks to hit her. It was extraordinary that she was even in one piece after taking the full brunt of Orsola’s fierce attacks which had broken the iron bridge. Aleister was a monster in her own right.
The silver girl’s breathing was shallow and she held one eye shut as she moved her lovely lips.
“It wasn’t physical. Be careful. That is more-…”
“Hey, you can hear me, right? Aleister, I can barely hear you, so just nod or shake your head! Hey!!”
His voice did not seem to be reaching her.
The silver girl tilted to the side and then collapsed to the ground like a broken doll.
Her arms, legs, and short skirt were sprawled out, her hips were twisted in a way that looked painful, and she stopped moving.
It wasn’t physical.
“…Honestly, this is the best she can do after having the nerve to lecture a god about olives and grapes? Is she just too clever for her own good, or is it that foolish human’s curse to never have anything go the way she wants?”
What had that meant? And was it really worth saying out loud? Orsola Aquinas was possessed by Isis-Demeter. That was a magical item, so didn’t they already know it was not something physical?
“It looks like she has a few lacerations, some chemical burns, and a blow to the head. Don’t shake her. It’s a miracle she wasn’t more badly hurt. And this was a miracle she caused herself.”
Othinus warned him when he grabbed Aleister’s shoulder to prop her up.
Even Aleister Crowley was reduced to this.
Hiding behind the adult’s back was no longer an option. From here on, Kamijou Touma really would have to do it himself.
“…Othinus. We have no guarantee from here on out. You should look for a chance and escape to the surface. There should be plenty of escape routes at your size.”
“Do not be silly, human. My spot is here on this shoulder. If you want to save me, then find a way to keep yourself alive.”
They heard the sharp sound of the air being torn apart.
Something lurked in the darkness.
“Right-8. But there are some we haven’t seen as well.”
He did not have time to aim the cellphone in that direction. It must have been a kind of algae with the same bioluminescent luciferase found in fireflies. The entire soccer-field-sized space was lit up by a sticky, pale green light. But Othinus whispered to him without relying on that light.
“Left-6. Keep in mind that a light provided by the enemy can be taken away at any time. If you don’t want to be suddenly thrown into darkness and pummeled from all directions, keep your own light source at the ready.”
With pale light filling the large space, they could see something walking out of one of the many tunnels. It was a flower goddess guarded by several sundew whips. The beautiful woman’s sexy body was adorned with silk and gold as if to symbolize a colorful oasis.
“My, my, my.”
With her hands clasped in front of her large chest and a giant flower behind her back, she smiled and walked closer, step by step. A quintuple gold bracelet glittered at her right wrist.
With each step, a cross shook unreliably at her chest.
She did not use the flight she had relied on before.
A vine of gold thread was tangled around her right hand’s index and middle fingers and her left hand’s middle and ring fingers.
She must have learned she could not make use of her greatest advantage while trapped below the tunnel’s low ceiling. Or did she no longer feel she needed it now that she controlled this entire underground area? With an odd sprouting sound, all of the parallel tunnels were blocked with giant flowers.
Othinus gave a quiet warning from his shoulder.
“…Butterworts. If the flowers alone are that big, the sticky leaves must cover the entire interior of the tunnels. Try to escape down there and you will be trapped.”
With that, she had created an inescapable underground colosseum.
“Walking around at night won’t do you any good, Kamijou. All the standard tourist locations are closed. But if you take a nice, warm bath and sleep below a fluffy blanket, it will be morning in no time. Don’t worry. I will keep away all the scary things.”
“Hee hee hee. How about you start by curing that jetlag? If you like, I could sing you a lullaby.”
Why had she directly shown herself when she could position “turrets” wherever she liked and attack from any direction? It was even possible the goddess herself could have escaped to the surface.
The answer was simple.
While Aleister lay unconscious on the ground, she held a plant in her hand. The goddess had scattered plants as her eyes and ears and this was likely one of those. Aleister had pulled out all of the sensory weeds that covered this large space. She had created a black box that forced a personal visit from Isis-Demeter herself.
She had left behind an opportunity.
Kamijou could not let that go to waste.
“(Is it camouflage, or is she making multiple simultaneous attacks? Be careful, human. Her olive fingers already have several grape vines wrapped around them.)”
Kamijou stared straight ahead while listening to Othinus’s whispered advice.
“Yes. Please enjoy London, the city of fog, magic, and tea.”
The smile on her face did not fit the situation.
The cross at her chest swayed slightly, like a trapped heart.
Colorful plants tangled around the halo behind her and countless vines shot out with the grotesque force of spewing entrails.
From the beginning, Kamijou Touma may not have had much of a chance against Orsola Aquinas even in a direct battle. What did it matter that she had lost the height difference provided by flight? By tangling rainbow-colored plants around the halo behind her, she could swing around several plesiosaur-like carnivorous plant vines.
It was a horizontal strike.
The dominoes everyone had worked so hard to line up were mercilessly knocked over. Just one of the “plesiosaurs” crashed through the dozens of stone columns supporting the vast space as it swung toward Kamijou’s body.
Venus flytraps welled up like lumps or bubbles and they opened like wicked iron maidens.
He could only shout and swing his right hand around.
The colorful mass of carnivorous plants withered away, tore off, and flew away on contact, but he could not forget that 12 of them had shot out from the halo. Did it really affect the overall battle if just one or two of them withered?
“Don’t be fooled! Look at the type and you’ll see they’re all the same attack! She can do it all with just two loops around a single right finger!!”
A dull sound burst out.
One after another, three “plesiosaurs” rushed in like a straight punch in boxing. After he dodged two and blew away the third with his right hand, another one arrived along a large arc.
He had failed to predict it.
In boxing terms, it was a hook. No, it was a body blow targeting his side. He just barely avoided being chomped by some leaves that resembled a bear trap, but he could not avoid the collision. The solid hit sent Kamijou Touma flying like a scrap of paper in the wind.
A dull scraping sound exploded from his ribs and all oxygen was forced from his lungs, so he could not even scream. He bounced and rolled along the concrete ground. Still, he was lucky there had been no whip-like “bending”. If it had gathered strength like that, his torso would have been smashed just like the stone columns.
He rolled and tried desperately to breathe, but he had bigger problems to worry about.
Orsola was still not finished with her first dozen attacks.
With a carefree voice, the sexy woman looked him in the eye.
The cross swayed at her chest.
She did so even though the spiky-haired boy was lying face up on the ground. That blonde beauty decorated in silk and gold was standing upside down on the low ceiling. The squishing sound would be her stepping on a blue tarp meant to keep rain out.
Flight. Left-3. She had not abandoned that option.
The remaining Venus flytraps were released from the halo behind her back. It may have been like approaching to point-blank range before firing to increase the damage done by a shotgun. Of course, he could not stop all seven approaching attacks with his single right hand.
He could only desperately roll to the side. One after another, the bundles of vines punched through the concrete ground in pursuit of him. This drew a dotted line of destruction, like the aftermath of a spray of Vulcan cannon gunfire.
For Orsola Aquinas, that had been a single action.
The symbol of the grapevine wrapped around the olive tree could take countless forms.
She must have felt no need to finish him off quickly. Or rather, it was unclear if she was even aware she was fighting. What did the world look like to that smiling woman who was exposing so much of that reflectively white skin?
“Left-8? Be on your guard, human! This is a new loop number!!”
Even if he tried to attack in the moment she landed, the giant petals of the rafflesia shields kept him from moving.
Of course, it did not end there.
“Hee hee hee.”
As Orsola slowly turned toward him, the low ceiling seemed to split open and several giant objects dangled down.
The laughing nun brought her hands together in front of her chest. She kept her palms apart with just the fingertips touching as gold vines wrapped around those fingers.
(What? Right-6 and Left-7!?)
“How about I lead you elsewhere? Yes, how about we leave this gloomy place and head up to the surface?”
Pomegranate and garden balsam.
The giant fruits swelled up larger than Orsola and then burst like directional mines.
There was no room for his right hand.
Hundreds of small “bullets” covered not just a point or a line but an entire surface. They struck Kamijou Touma’s entire body like a wall.
“Human, you fool!!”
The spiky-haired boy trembled as he rolled along the ground and palm-sized Othinus clung to his clothing and shouted at him.
“Why would you protect me when I can’t even fight!? Besides, I have no hope if you’re defeated!!”
Kamijou could not even get up, so she could protest all day and it would not give him a chance to redo it. The boy desperately attempted to suppress his body’s convulsions as the blonde beauty’s feet left the concrete floor with that gentle smile still on her face.
Colorful vines tangled around the golden halo behind her. Mixed. Unable to keep up with the multiple simultaneous signs, Othinus grimaced as if from a headache.
But at times like this, that god of war and magic was quick to change her train of thought.
No matter how rough the emotional noise was, her horribly rational thoughts continued all the same.
“Think, human!! What does grape matter? What does the olive matter? You cannot create something from nothing, so there must be a secret to her strength. That girl must have had something of equal value taken from her. Can we really let that happen? Aleister cannot save his daughter, that human girl has something taken from her, you simply die without being able to do a thing, and I am alone once more. …I won’t allow it. I will never allow all of this to go exactly as that Great Demon wants!!”
Those words shook something inside Kamijou as he lay collapsed on the ground.
The trembling of his fingertips briefly stopped.
That allowed him to rub the head of the tiny understander who was clinging to his coat and wailing.
Something had bothered him.
The Divine Mixture was undeniably powerful. Isis-Demeter alone could do all this, but there had also been Ra-Zeus, Osiris-Hades, Tefnut-Artemis, and Wadjet-Leto. What would have happened if they had all been properly fused with a human host and sent out to fight? No matter how many Crowleys had invaded, they might have crushed them all literally without breaking a sweat.
But that had not happened.
According to Lessar and Birdway who had been hired as couriers, hastiness and a misunderstanding had led the Divine Mixtures to be removed from the British Museum without being used properly. They had been connected to the ley lines in the earth rather than a human and they had been wielded in an imperfect form.
In that case.
Even now, more and more colorful vines were covering the giant halo behind Orsola’s back. Just like watching a pie chart slowly but surely fill in. The carnivorous plants continued to be loaded, like a bowstring being drawn to the limit. No, there were a lot of gold threads tangled around her fingers. It was possible she was also attacking some people located elsewhere.
Most likely, this one would be devastating. A single hit would be game over.
Kamijou Touma would be smashed to pieces.
“Why exactly do the Divine Mixtures desire people???”
Magic was not Kamijou’s area of expertise, but there was something he could sort of picture here. When comparing the power running through a human body and the power running through the earth, the latter seemed like it had to be stronger. And yet Isis-Demeter had chosen the former. Why? And unlike Agnese or Lucia, Orsola Aquinas did not specialize in combat.
That meant its goal was not the strength of the power it would gain.
It was not hoping for a special boost like it might get from Saints like Kanzaki Kaori or Acqua of the Back or Magic Gods like Othinus or Nephthys.
“Why are you like that?”
“Hm? Is there anything odd about me? A train could run through this subway tunnel at any time, so isn’t it perfectly natural to want to move elsewhere and avoid that danger? So how about we head to the surface and get to the women’s dorm?”
She slowly tilted her head and the motion caused the cross to sway at her chest.
Orsola did not seem to question her near-nudity or her deadly actions. The connections in her head may have been altered to create a mismatched form of consistency there.
Yes, and he had a question about that.
Kamijou Touma did not know the exact situation that led Orsola Aquinas to use Isis-Demeter. But if she had not been forced into it like a living sacrifice, then she had done so of her own free will in order to fight back against the Crowley’s Hazards.
In that case…
Why was her perception skewed? This was different from A. O. Francisca who had been forcibly controlled and ordered to harm people she did not want to fight. It was also completely different from Index who had a self-defense mechanism meant to protect the grimoire library. Orsola Aquinas had supposedly had the will to fight, so why mess with her mind after that?
Plus, there were the words of some transcendent beings.
Aleister Crowley had said it was not physical.
Othinus had said you cannot create something from nothing, so something of equal value had to have been taken from her.
It may have all pointed to a single answer.
And if it was all connected in a straight line with none of it wasted…
“It can’t be.”
Mixed. Orsola Aquinas unleashed 12 consecutive colorful attacks.
Agnese Sanctis was itching to take action.
She ran out from the British Museum’s main entrance, but the disaster was nowhere to be seen.
Had it flown into the night sky or descended below the ground?
London was already unstable with the fantastical Egyptian scenery mixed in, but a further dull tremor shook the city from below. Agnese kept her balance and glanced around until she spotted a four-wheel drive vehicle parked where it should not be.
“Eek!? What, what!? Foreign languages scare me!”
To Hamazura Shiage, who was pressed against the driver’s side door after leaving the vehicle, it did not matter that this was a small girl. The language barrier combined with a threatening look was enough to frighten him.
“Did you see…um, how should I explain this? Did you see a woman here!? A shining woman dressed like a pagan goddess!!”
“You’re talking way too fast!!!!!!”
When his intelligence failed him, he could only shout tearfully.
When glasses-wearing Sister Agata walked up and noticed the disastrous scene, she quickly cut in.
“Please wait, Sister Agnese! He might look very, um, unsophisticated, but he still saved our lives. Without him driving us, the Crowley’s Hazards would have gotten us. We can’t treat him so poorly!!”
“Argh, Sister Orsola is only getting farther away while we argue…!!”
“When you’re in a hurry is when you most need to be careful! Shouldn’t you make sure you get accurate information!?”
Meanwhile, Hamazura Shiage could only tremble like a small animal.
He was confident he could have wet himself on cue at the moment.
“What is this? I’m in an unfamiliar country and surrounded by foreigners while they discuss something in a foreign language. It’s so damn scary. They aren’t discussing whether to boil us or fry us, are they?”
…If they had looked in the four-wheel drive vehicle’s back window and seen the bandaged woman and mini-China dress girl relaxing there, Agnese and Agata’s path might have changed significantly.
But for better or for worse, fate did not choose them.
First, Agata ran over to small animal Hamazura, causing pink track suit and sweater Takitsubo to silently glare at him.
Agnese quietly clicked her tongue and looked into the night sky. Given who they were looking for, simply searching the surface streets would not be enough. It was possible she was straight-up flying.
Agnese could not ignore this.
She understood painfully, painfully, painfully well.
When they had all faced Isis-Demeter back then, there had actually been a few different movements. Agnese had seen movement from Oriana Thomson, a courier with no real faith to speak of, and Orsola Aquinas, who felt driven to it specifically because she was part of the noncombat personnel.
And there had been Agnese herself.
…If no one else volunteered, she would have had to do it herself. Or so she had seen it. She led those 250 girls, so she could not force it onto Lucia, Angelene, or the others in that same environment. But they also could not abandon England which had accepted them. If using Isis-Demeter would have been the only way to protect what she cared for, Agnese would have used it. Even if her nun’s values made it a forbidden power.
It had only been a slight difference in timing.
If anything had been just a little different, Oriana Thomson or Agnese Sanctis might have grabbed it.
(I can’t force this onto her…)
Agnese ground her teeth, but she had no hint to help her search.
(If this was an unnatural occurrence propped up by something, I can’t force everything onto her alone!! I understand. I really do understand. I understand just how heavy and painful that pressure is, and that’s why I can’t let this happen!!)
“Hamazura.” The dazed-looking bob cut girl said something in Japanese. “If there’s nothing for us to do, we should probably run away.”
Just then, a metal grate on the road was launched straight upwards. It may have been the cover to a subway vent. Frightened Hamazura fell over and glasses-wearing Agata held him in her arms to protect him. And then…something slowly rose from underground. The overall shape resembled a body with a face and four limbs, but Agnese instantly saw it as a collection of colorful entrails. The oddly sweet aroma made her feel nauseous, but an even closer look made it look like a complex tangle of carnivorous plants such as Venus flytraps and sundew.
Hamazura Shiage tried to say something in Agata’s protective arms.
And then Agata gave a shout.
“Sister Agnese!! Please run away!!”
What was in Agnese Sanctis’s heart at that moment? Did she think she might have found a clue that would lead her to Orsola Aquinas? Or did she think she could not let anything connected to Orsola Aquinas kill a civilian?
Not even she knew.
Several brutal Venus flytraps opened their maws wide and moved to swallow Agnese headfirst. One of those thorny mouths moved with enough force to swallow her down to her waist and chomp her in two.
A moment later, something happened.
There was a dry bursting noise.
It was Agnese who uttered that surprised sound.
Just before the giant carnivorous plant’s maw touched the girl’s soft skin, it was seemingly deflected by an invisible wall and knocked back. It took all the damage, just like a human attempting to bite into a concrete block.
But Agnese Sanctis had not done anything herself.
She was not Kamijou Touma. She did not have Imagine Breaker.
So what happened?
A dry sound echoed down the subway tunnel.
Orsola Aquinas had launched a rush of 12 attacks from the halo behind her back.
Kamijou’s right hand could never deal with all of them, but there were no new wounds on that boy who could not even get up from the ground.
The one who gasped was Orsola.
All of those deadly attacks were deflected by some unknown force.
“Huh? No, there is no need to think. This is fine. Just fine. Yes, I must invite him in. He came all the way from Japan, after all.”
Something out of the ordinary had occurred.
Her consciousness seemed to rise and fall like a ball floating in the stormy ocean.
It was unclear how she perceived this, but Orsola Aquinas slowly tilted her head while floating a short distance away.
Something flashed into view. It may have been the result of Kamijou Touma’s efforts and it may have been the honor of someone else “fighting” in a completely different location.
Either way, something was seen at her fingers for just a moment.
“You can’t…you can’t keep going like this.”
Kamijou Touma forced his nearly broken body to move and slowly stood up. His breathing was shallow, but he was not dead yet. And if he was alive, there was something he could do.
“I thought it seemed unnecessarily complicated. Why would Isis-Demeter accept Orsola who has no ability to fight? And she had already decided to fight, so why mess with her perception like this? But that was the wrong way to look at this.”
Orsola’s head remained tilted as the ground split open at her feet. The thread tangled around her slender fingers had 6 loops on the right hand and 7 loops on the left. They had seen this before. More and more giant pomegranates and garden balsams welled up like bubbles. It was this explosion that had driven Kamijou Touma so close to death.
But things were different this time.
Even when they burst right in front of him and sent their many “bullets” rushing toward him, the boy did not even need to raise his right hand while standing unsteadily on his feet. Or perhaps it was better to say he felt no fear of them.
They almost literally were peashooters.
“It wasn’t physical.”
He started by borrowing Aleister Crowley’s words.
“The Divine Mixtures could not reveal their true power while unmanned. They needed a link with someone.”
“…Wait, human. So that’s it. This, Ra-Zeus, Osiris-Hades, Tefnut-Artemis, and Wadjet-Leto were all comparisons made by the Greeks with no concern for the original Egyptian myths. They had no intention of studying and learning and no intention of accepting these new gods they had discovered. From the very, very beginning, these Divine Mixtures were spiritual items that incorporated the rifts of bias and preconception!!”
Something audibly sliced through the air.
Right-8. Several sundew whips made horizontal attacks around Orsola Aquinas. These attacks had “bent” to build up more than enough power to tear right through a thick tarp, a stone column, or even a skyscraper.
Kamijou Touma did not raise his right hand. There was no need when Orsola’s attack was meaningless. The smashed fragments struck his body, but the whips themselves passed by above his head.
This was what had happened:
“A refusal to understand. Intolerance. The Divine Mixtures take the malice of two people who have given up on each other and convert it into a physical attack.”
“Oh. Well, if you say we do not understand each other enough, why don’t we patiently talk it out until we do?” said Orsola. “Now, what will it be? Shall we play chess or do a jigsaw puzzle to help deepen our understanding? Would it be best if we eliminated this meaningless awkwardness before heading to the women’s dorm?”
“Like I was saying! We might be using the same words and claiming we understand each other, but the more the thoughts in our heads differ, the more freedom this spiritual item gains!! Just like humanity’s long history of fighting over words that everyone knows: war, peace, love, calm, the future, prosperity!!”
Orsola, whose sexy body was only barely covered with silk and gold, must not have understood what he meant. She only tilted her head like a child.
“Based on that theory, it would be like a generator or capacitor…no, a transformer might be closest,” said Kamijou’s tiny understander from his shoulder. “And I mean the kind that handles electric currents, not the robots.”
It really was different.
Between Kamijou and Orsola and between Kamijou and Othinus.
The boy may have had no proof of what he said, but that did not mean he was not worth trusting. Othinus was saying she would supply the necessary trust.
It would not have worked this way if that understander had not decided to trust him and stay by his side.
Palm-sized Othinus clung to his jacket as she continued.
“The device alters an electric current by passing it through two connected coils of different sizes, but this is doing the same with the life force circulating between two people. Think of the loops around the right and left fingers. Of course, that does not directly mean anything in electrical engineering terms, but it is included in the symbolism of the gold grapevine and the human olive branch. That way it can adjust the energy and convert it into the attack that best fits the situation.”
If this theory was correct, Orsola was not consciously launching attacks; the attacks were being automatically launched by the discrepancy in the size of the coils. All she could do was change the number of loops and harm her opponent with malicious words or direct actions.
It was unclear if Orsola Aquinas even intended to attack.
To use her for this destructive purpose, something else was needed to have her select the attacks.
“On the other hand, lining up identical coils is meaningless outside of some special applications. Because it’s generally like changing a car’s gear ratio. …It has the user converse with the target so that they will lose hope. They will think the other person isn’t listening. The Divine Mixtures are some very gourmet and inconvenient spiritual items if they can only absorb energy that has been adjusted to a specific ‘voltage’ by the magical transformer. I will admit its effects are well worth that selfishness, though.”
This had to be getting through to Orsola Aquinas as well. Aleister had said her eye movements suggested she could perceive external stimuli. She had said this was not hypnotism.
It was getting through to Orsola, but she was throwing it out.
That was the situation the Divine Mixture wanted.
It created a giant transformer, adjusted all that energy as it saw fit, and produced a direct destructive force. It trampled on the human mind to coldly benefit itself.
“…So this is the trick the Anglicans had up their sleeve,” spat out Othinus. “I expect Coronzon understood all this and hid them as landmines. They were reserved as Crowley killers. If these had been used sooner, the British Halloween, World War Three, and the conclusion of everything related to my Gremlin might have gone very differently.”
The boy could only rely on his own subjective inspiration, but his understander’s knowledge had supported his theory. It meant so much to have a third party there, to not be alone, and to be accepted by someone.
She was supporting him.
So Kamijou Touma directly accused someone other than Orsola Aquinas.
“In that case, the only way to keep this magical transformer intact was to prevent my words from reaching Orsola! Isis-Demeter itself is just a device with no biases and prejudices. That plain viewpoint isn’t enough. No matter how much power it can suck up from the ley lines or whatever, it all goes to waste if it can’t be adjusted to the proper value! So you did this! Isis-Demeter needed a human, so you distorted Orsola’s perception even though she had already decided to fight!! You didn’t surround her with malice. You set her up so we would naturally think there was something wrong with her when we saw her!!”
“No, there is nothing wrong with my perception. I can see everything just fine. Now, there is no need to talk about magic. Everyone is waiting at the women’s dorm, so let’s throw an early Christmas party and have some fun.”
She spoke like a kind mother confiscating a knife from a small child trying to help cook.
Under normal conditions, her view may have been fine.
An acquaintance was visiting, so there may have been nothing wrong with setting aside everything about the Anglican Church and Necessarius to instead enjoy the trip to England. But these were not normal conditions. Could Orsola not see that London had been transformed and Aleister had been badly beaten?
Had Orsola’s thoughts been twisted so much that she could see all that and ignore it?
Othinus sighed in exasperation from the boy’s shoulder.
“…Well, I can see why the arrogant Aleister Crowley was the first to fall. When newspaper reporters wrote all sorts of baseless criticism of her, that eccentric struck back by becoming exactly the wicked person they described and she even enjoyed frightening people with that identity. She never looks for understanding or tolerance from others. If the transformer supporting Isis-Demeter works better the greater the rift between two people, it would indeed be the greatest Crowley killer. Regardless of what anyone else could do, she could never accept it!”
“333…and dispersion was it? The terms related to that demon are so easy to forget.”
“Coronzon’s number and essence. Ha ha! I see, I see. This is very well made. I thought it was odd to have these foreign gods show up so suddenly, but it all converges there. The mixture of mythologies barely even matters. The important part was the magical transformer that uses human bodies as the coils and stabilizes its power the greater the discrepancy between them. The grape and olive symbolism made it look like it was all one device, but this was no more than the silly essence of that Great Demon who obstructs the world’s bonds!!”
That may have been why.
Agnese Sanctis stood there in a daze for a while.
They had far too few samples to be sure while the London night becomes the stage for a defensive line and delaying tactics. It was not enough to risk one’s life on. She knew that. But the young nun still spoke while facing that mass of carnivorous plants which had been torn apart and blown away all on its own.
“If we don’t give up on her…”
She could not even call it a theory.
But her words were still decisive.
“If we don’t see her as a monster and we don’t lose sight of her usual smile…there’s nothing to be afraid of?”
There were no hints.
Orsola Aquinas was not in front of them.
But oddly enough, Agnese Sanctis had found the right answer, just like immediately drawing two identical cards in a game of concentration.
Once he had it figured out, it should have been easy.
Kamijou Touma did not need to clench his right fist here. No matter what Orsola did, there was nothing to fear. In fact, the more he opposed her, gave up on understanding her, and thought it would be easier to restrain her by force, the more power would come from the transformer that used the misunderstandings between two people. The more that power stabilized, the more she could overpower him and the less he could do. Isis-Demeter would send out power rivaling a natural disaster.
So how could he give up on speaking with Orsola just because she could not see what was happening?
So was it really right to remain silent just because anything he said would widen the wound?
To hell with that.
How would those obedient choices ever lead to the path of an understander?
He had been wrong.
He had been mistaken.
He may have been led astray by the precedent of A. O. Francisca being fully controlled, but even so. Would Kamijou Touma really reject his opponent before even speaking with them and try to settle everything with violence? He had assumed no one would forgive Aleister Crowley even if he explained that human’s suffering. He had assumed no one would understand even if he revealed Lola Stuart’s secret. He had raised the bridge before even trying, looked at his acquaintances stuck on the other side of the ravine, and claimed this was their fault. Wasn’t that the entirely wrong approach?
He placed his hand on a broken column to support himself.
He had no idea how long this large space would last. It could collapse at any moment.
Still, Kamijou Touma looked straight at her.
He looked at that symbol of London’s current war formed by the giant magical transformer that donned intolerance and a refusal to understand so it could shred everything people held dear.
“Orsola, that’s enough. It’s true I would be hard pressed to call Aleister a good person, but you don’t need to be so afraid. She isn’t going to take England from you. Aleister Crowley just wants to save her daughter. And to do that, she needs to find a secret hidden in London!!”
He walked toward her.
He was unsteady on his feet. He had seen an opening, but his previous wounds remained. Still, he could not betray himself at times like this. He had suffered from memory loss and he had experienced a Magic God’s hell of endless suffering where his body was pulverized so many times he lost count, but even after all that, his body would still respond when he needed to move and he gathered his strength.
He would save her.
He had to save her.
Orsola had worked so hard to remain understanding, so he could not allow that to be broken just for the differently-sized coils of the transformer.
He would not allow any further discrepancies.
If people were viewed as different coils and the difference between them was used to wield power, then he only had to approach her. Once the coils were identical, the transformer would cease to function!!
Orsola still seemed detached and her bare feet floated off the ground as she placed her index finger on her slender chin and spoke.
“Hm, I’m not sure what to say to that. I don’t know how much you know this person, but by Crowley you mean the Crowley, don’t you?”
Right-8 and Left-2. Several sundew whips were swung horizontally and the ceiling broke apart as acid-filled pitcher plants dropped down. Next, it was Right-7 and Left-5. Something like giant green centipedes flew through the air and twisted their bodies as they approached. They may have been a type of bladderwort or waterwheel plant. Each attack introduced a new deadly carnivorous plant to the colorful labyrinth. Kamijou took a deep breath just as one of them shot up from below to strike him in the center of the gut. The waterwheel plant had the force of a light punch, but just as his focus reflexively turned toward his right hand, a horizontal strike from a bladderwort sent the boy flying. It was pathetic. After saying all that, he had failed to eliminate his fear.
A refusal to understand. Intolerance.
Everyone knew the words peace and calm, so why did they lead to aggressive actions here? Why was she so detached from Kamijou when she was seeing the same things? This was not inexplicable or impossible to understand. He had to read what was supporting Orsola here. Her motivation was more than just anger and hatred.
The cross swayed unreliably at her chest.
It caught and reflected the light like a shed tear.
It looked like a trapped heart.
There could not have been a major change inside her. Even if she had reached for this great power, Orsola still wore that cross around her neck. She had not abandoned it yet. She had not been stained yet. Deep, deep, deep inside, she had to still carry the soul of a pious nun.
(So that’s it…)
“Fear and anxiety.”
“Yes, that’s probably it,” bluntly agreed Othinus after climbing back up to his shoulder. “If it was an ambition for world domination, she would only have to suppress her own desire, but with the fear of losing something, nothing you can do can prevent others from attacking. It can feel hopeless.”
Orsola Aquinas had never cared about the big picture.
Lola Stuart’s whereabouts and the invasion of Crowley’s Hazards were not her main concern.
She wanted to protect.
She simply wanted to protect the women’s dorm where everyone lived.
That was all.
And someone had used that feeling, abused it, and given her a push in the wrong direction.
They had led her to rely on the immediate power of Isis-Demeter!!
“To hell with that…”
“If you can reach that conclusion so quickly and face your true enemy this time, then you should be fine. Your hatred should not be directed at Orsola Aquinas. It should be targeted at something else. She can still be saved. And that salvation is named Kamijou Touma.”
Orsola Aquinas’s soul remained.
As long as she did not let go of that cross at her chest, it would just barely remain.
So what did he lack? He had stood back up, but how could he save her?
He had to view the fear and anxiety inside Orsola Aquinas. She was certain that people she cared for would be harmed and lose their home. He had to shatter that groundless fear.
She had to be told Aleister Crowley was not like that.
And the only person who could do that was the boy who had climbed the Windowless Building and experienced the secrets of the Golden cabal!!
“It all began when a magician named Mathers summoned Great Demon Coronzon. The demon was ordered to bring down and kill Aleister Crowley and that command eventually led to Aleister’s daughter Lola being possessed. Orsola, this affects you. You can never protect England if you don’t free Lola Stuart from Coronzon’s control!!”
It was a casual word. His words were clearly entering one ear and leaving the other.
Bright colors tangled around the halo behind her back. Kamijou told himself to not be afraid. If he felt no fear, Isis-Demeter’s attacks would have no effect.
Don’t give up. Don’t give in. Keep explaining, no matter how many times it takes.
The amount of effort he exerted was not the issue. The question was how much she understood. If he felt anger because his efforts had been wasted, Isis-Demeter would regain its destructive power.
He would be fine as long as he directly faced Orsola and approached her step by step. All of her many attacks would be smashed and destroyed upon contact.
She could perceive external stimuli.
No matter what it looked like on the surface, it was impossible that his words were not reaching her deep down. Even if it was a little at a time, he had to pull Orsola Aquinas’s soul to the surface. Once her horribly blurred vision came back into focus, his words were sure to reach her. She would understand.
Let us review something that goes without saying.
Kamijou and Orsola thought of completely different meanings when exchanging identical words like peace, calm, and defense. Orsola wanted to protect the cozy women’s dorm and she could not bear to see their home destroyed. Those feelings had been manipulated to bind her with intolerance and a refusal to understand, but she herself was not an aggressive and malicious person.
From here on, he could never lose sight of who she was, no matter what she might say!!
“Aleister Crowley is not at fault.”
“I’ve probably suffered tens of thousands of times more, but I’ll still say it: Aleister was a hopelessly pitiable human.”
“Hm, do we really need to discuss this? I want to hurry back to the dorm to surprise everyone with some enjoyable memories. And of course, Crowley is invading England in order to harm it as we speak, right?”
“Kh, the Anglican Church dragged out this Divine Mixture and pressed you into using it! And they knew what would happen and what they would be trampling underfoot!! Do you really think this is a one time thing? The root of the problem isn’t Aleister. She’s just highlighting the problem. Like I said, the only way you can protect the peaceful lives of everyone you care for is to do something about the person at the top!!”
“How is this a problem? I used Isis-Demeter because I wanted to.”
“Could you have smiled like this if it was Agnese or Lucia that had used it!?”
She paused for a beat.
No, for half a beat.
The cross swayed at her chest as if to show the wavering of her heart.
“But if the Crowley’s Hazards had not attacked, no one would have had to make this decision.”
“It was England that created the human known as Aleister Crowley!!”
Orsola swung around the olive and grape symbols as she came dangerously close to losing focus again, so he shook her again. He would not let her escape. He would not let her become detached so easily.
Stand your ground.
If she doesn’t understand, keep at it until she does. No matter how painful it is, no matter how hopeless it seems, and no matter how much of a beating you take. Continuing to talk is not a wasted action!!
“At school, she was constantly bullied and abused by pious believers, so she grew sick of the god that protected them!! And after learning magic just to spite them, she found out even that only harmed her family! She took responsibility by destroying the Golden cabal and then her baby was killed just as foreseen!! And the newspaper reporters, who controlled the great power of the mass media at the time, all pointed and laughed. They called her wicked, a pervert, and a ghoul!! And you’re saying she alone is at fault? She was driven out of a country more than once when people around the world gullibly believed everything in the newspapers and started throwing stones at her. There was no safe space for her. But can you still say Aleister was 100% to blame? You can’t blame both sides for that!?”
“Looking at history, Aleister Crowley did many things warranting those labels. Just go to the library and you will see. Read the newspapers stored as microfilm and you will see bits and pieces of it. And if you compare that to the Anglican records, you might learn what was going on behind the scenes.”
“That isn’t the real Aleister… Those articles might include some ‘facts’, but they don’t say a damn thing about Aleister’s feelings!!”
“I will admit newspapers at the time were not the most reliable things.”
He felt like things had suddenly come into focus.
It may have sounded like he was just arguing more forcefully, but that was not it. Isis-Demeter separated what the two of them thought of when using words like love and peace, but that “diversion” of intolerance may have been losing its effect.
Arguing directly at each other was a happy thing. That meant they had reached the point where they could lay their arguments down on the same table. It was so much better than being ignored and rejected with a smile and unable to look each other in the eye.
At some point, Orsola Aquinas had begun to hold the cross hanging from her neck.
Was it a sign of subconscious worry?
While swaying side to side a bit but viewing everything head-on, Orsola opened her mouth with her focus being adjusted to protect the transformer powered by the discrepancies between people.
“But that means you have no accurate records to prove what kind of person Crowley was. Biased personal journals? Accounts by friends and acquaintances? Reports from school or the cabal? …None of them are definitive enough to build an argument on. In the end, wouldn’t you find the least mistakes in using the widely-accepted view of Crowley?”
“I’m not writing someone off as a rounding error!! There was no place for her with her family or at the school dorm. The magician named Aleister Crowley didn’t have anyone like you to protect their kind home!! Her wife Rose tried to become that, but it all fell apart when their daughter Lilith died!! How could someone not feel anything after that!? How could there be nothing more than what’s written in those reports!? Don’t give up on her. Someone as kind and strong as you must not give up on her. Please!! Is it because it happened so long ago? Is it because it has nothing to do with your life now? Isn’t it cruel to ask Aleister to accept that reasoning? Isn’t that just telling her she can’t complain even though not a damn thing has changed in over 100 years!? Everything is built on that foundation. Her return today is directly related to all of it. This isn’t just a natural disaster or a random attack on the streets!!”
“I see. But nothing you can say will change Magician Crowley’s evil deeds.”
The understander on Kamijou’s shoulder snapped her fingers.
After a short delay, a chill ran down his spine. Orsola’s short statement was far too broad. Without Othinus’s intervention, it might have toppled everything he had built up.
The god of war sounded somewhat exasperated when she spoke.
“That was hardly fair. It was so vague you could use it to attack Nobel, the Wright Brothers, or anyone really. Sorry to make this two-against-one, but this god is going to ask a question to place a weight on the scales. To what evil deeds do you refer: the historical ones found in the records, or the ones occurring in the world right this instant?”
“I am talking about the present, not the past with poor records that can be used to prove anything depending on your interpretation.”
“That is fortunate. Even as a god, I’m not confident I could defend a life that shitty.”
These had been frightening words as well.
And yet Othinus crossed her slender legs on Kamijou’s shoulder.
“It is true Aleister Crowley has split into more than a billion Crowley’s Hazards which are making a simultaneous attack on the 53 members of the British Commonwealth. Every part of the world has been dragged into the war, creating a hellish scene that stains the planet itself with blood.”
“Are you saying there is some special reason for that? And are you saying the sacrifices are acceptable if there is?”
“Is that supposed to be criticism? Isn’t your position that you will protect that women’s dorm no matter what? The thing is, Aleister Crowley has not killed a single person.”
“And that includes the Port of Calais. I believe it was all a means of maximizing the efficiency of her magical power, much like a superconductor. Her goal is the defeat of Coronzon and that only required the blood sacrifice that she mentioned herself. So she had no real reason to harm people. Summoning a billion Crowley’s Hazards and allowing them to be defeated was enough to set a world record. Even World War One pales in comparison. That is enough to secure history’s largest number of war dead, isn’t it?”
Academy City’s #1 and a god of war, magic, and deception.
When those two had viewed Aleister Crowley and the state of the world, they had said that human had gone soft. This was why.
“Is this another product of the intolerance or refusal to understand that powers your magical transformer? Accusing someone without investigating the truth of the matter is all well and good, but did you never consider the fact that you have only placed the rope around your own neck if the truth is then revealed?”
There was nothing to be afraid of.
It would all be okay.
This time, Kamijou Touma really did directly face Orsola Aquinas.
The boy told himself to match her.
They were two humans, two coils. The transformer wielded the difference between the two as power and converted it into various attacks. Right-2, Right-8, Left-3, Left-2, Right-6, Left-5, Right-7, and Left-7. Orsola had wrapped that gold thread around her fingers in a variety of ways, but there was one thing she had never used for an attack: her wrist.
She wore a bracelet at the base of her fingers.
That was Orsola herself. Everything was shifted from there to create the deadly power. But if he synchronized with Orsola, deepened their understanding, and matched the number of loops, the difference between the two coils would vanish. He had to swear he would not let that magical transformer continue to function. He could not leave her alone!!
“Looking at what has happened in Academy City is enough to know that Aleister Crowley has hurt a lot of people,” he said. “And Aleister abandoned her own city and released herself into the world. From an outside perspective, it might seem best to push away that ominous symbol just to be safe. But you can’t do that… She can only be purified if she is forgiven by this country where she was born and raised. Nothing anyone else says can save her! This isn’t like Othinus who truly had nowhere to return to. It wouldn’t truly save her even if I became her understander!!”
“Has Crowley said that? And even if so, Crowley’s words are not to be trusted.”
“Yes, you can’t trust Aleister Crowley. She’s a contrarian who hasn’t even noticed what kind of happiness she truly desires, so accepting her words at face value will only lead you to hell. That’s not the future I’m risking my life to fight for!!”
“Why should we go to any trouble for a happiness Crowley does not even want?”
“I don’t care if she wants the happiness or not! I want to give it to her. And like I said before, Orsola, this affects you as well!!”
“Isn’t it obvious? Let me be clear about one thing, Orsola. Of all the people I’ve ever met, you are the most selfish of them all. Not Fiamma of the Right, not Magic God Othinus, not Kamisato Kakeru, and not Aleister Crowley! It’s you, Orsola Aquinas!! That’s why I admired you and why I wanted to protect you even if it meant fighting the Roman Catholic Church!!”
A sundew whip forcefully struck the boy’s cheek.
Kamijou Touma did not even flinch.
His trembling had finally stopped. Fear and avoidance would only be converted into the power supporting the attack. To strip it of its deadly force and survive, he had to look her dead in the eye and accept it. Not even Right-8 was acceptable. It had to be Right-5. He would match Orsola Aquinas’s core. Do that and he could truly view her.
He stepped further forward.
He now stood right in front of that goddess of spring and resurrection who glittered with gold.
It was a gentle action.
Kamijou Touma’s right hand touched Orsola Aquinas’s soft cheek.
“Do you have any idea how much strength is found in that selfishness!?”
Then the other one.
He held her warm face between his hands and pressed his forehead against hers. And Kamijou Touma roared at her from point-blank range. He was not interested in some created goddess. He was not seeking the power to fight. He wanted to remind her of the much stronger and nobler power that only Orsola Aquinas had.
He would not let her escape anymore.
No matter how much Isis-Demeter tried to shift the focus of their conversation with intolerance and a refusal to understand, he kept himself literally right in front of her eyes so she could not escape.
It was like reigniting a cooled engine.
The boy did not hesitate to hit her with his words.
“Abandon violence and fight with your words!! Orsola Aquinas is the person who spread Christianity around the globe even though those people did not know of or want that salvation!! And all because that’s what she wanted to do!! You dedicated yourself to that greatest and ultimate selfishness, so shouldn’t you understand this better than anyone!!!???”
Isis-Demeter used the discrepancies between people.
So what would happen if those were entirely erased?
They already had their answer.
This was something other than the Right-5.
Aleister Crowley might have looked disgusted.
But the cross hanging from Orsola Aquinas’s neck was not a symbol meant to further conflict. Orsola had tried to remain with that cross even in this state, so if she could show a power different from the people Aleister had seen throughout her life, those barriers were meaningless!!
“If you don’t understand someone, don’t push them away. Walk toward them.”
There was no dramatic flash of light or thunderous sound.
It was only a quiet sound like a crack running through a thin layer of ice.
This was not just some lofty ideal. Orsola Aquinas had accomplished exactly that. Orsola and Agnese got along in the Anglican women’s dorm despite everything that had happened, but she could have chosen a different path. Orsola had arrived first and Agnese’s group had arrived later, so she could have said something else: I can’t bear to live a life surrounded by people who tried to kill me. I refuse to let the former Agnese Force live at this dorm. Please go elsewhere.
But she had not.
She had accepted them. She had smiled and let bygones be bygones.
Kamijou Touma may have been the one to save the Agnese Force’s lives after they were used by Biagio Busoni, but it was Orsola who had looked after them afterwards. Just how much had those girls been saved by the pure smile on her face? That was something only they could understand and that was fine. What mattered was that Orsola Aquinas did have her own power to save. And it was a much nobler power compared to Kamijou Touma who could only clench his fist, hit people, and reject people’s efforts by negating their supernatural power.
“Don’t screw with me, Orsola…”
How could he let someone deny this?
How could he let anyone trample on this possibility!?
“That’s something that only you can do, Orsola! It’s a strength only you have! Not me, not Fiamma, not Othinus, not the other Magic Gods, not Kamisato, not Aleister, and not Coronzon!! The rest of us might talk big, but we always end up fighting! Only you really did let go of the weapon!! You surpassed any of us in virtue and strength!! …That had to be hard on you. You’re more honorable than any of us and you did something no one else could do, so don’t just throw that away!!”
He would not let her escape.
No, Kamijou and Orsola had to be in the same place now. Now that the discrepancy between them was gone, his words could reach her and she would not mistake the meaning.
It had to be hard.
It had to be painful.
Looking away from reality would have been easier. But Kamijou was confident that would not happen. Because Orsola Aquinas was far stronger than Kamijou Touma who could not stop fighting. This was not just a groundless fantasy. She really did have the strength to approach a knife-wielding person with no weapon of her own.
The cracking sound ended.
Isis-Demeter lost its support. It was obvious what was happening.
Her trembling lips uttered words that rejected this immediate power.
The cross at her chest reflected some light.
“What have I done?”
Had Isis-Demeter even been fused with her in the first place?
You almost had to question that with how easily and vividly it happened. All of the intolerant symbolism of the silk and gold fell away from Orsola Aquinas.
Once she accepted her mistake, she threw out that power to fight.
Now that she had lost it, she could walk forward without looking back.
That feat may still have been out of reach of the boy who only knew how to face the world by finding an excuse to rely on the power of his right fist and fight.
After losing the temporary power of the Isis-Demeter Divine Mixture, Orsola Aquinas crumpled to the ground.
“This isn’t over yet, human. You can’t live happily ever after yet.”
The small understander spoke those piercing words from his shoulder.
All of Isis-Demeter’s power had been lost, from the giant butterworts blocking the tunnels to the algae faintly illuminating the entire space. He only had his cellphone backlight to rely on. But this was not necessarily a good thing.
Yes, an escape route had opened up.
Worse, this was an old area with blue tarps on the ceiling to keep rain out. There could be a large hole somewhere. It was a lot more fragile than it looked.
“Isis-Demeter is neither good nor evil. It is not a talent or a character trait. It is no more than a spiritual item – a tool. …Do not allow it to escape outside. If the Divine Mixture finds a new user, the grapevines coiled around the olive branches will regain their original power.”
Kamijou Touma knew who his enemy was.
His clenched fist’s target was not Orsola Aquinas.
“I know. I’m never letting it do that to anyone again.”
Vines extended in all directions from the gold and diamond decorations stripped from Orsola’s naked body and they moved like legs to escape through the subway tunnels. It was like a giant spider or octopus. With no set joints, it tilted every which way as it crawled and it quickly became a Rorschach test that looked different to everyone who saw it.
But at its core, it was meant to be with a human being.
Even with nothing attacking it, the vines twisted, shrank like plastic exposed to fire, and deteriorated. It would soon return to being an inanimate piece of art, but he could not let his guard down. It was all over if someone grabbed it in the very end.
He could never know if it still had another trick up its sleeve.
It was said that a cornered rat would bite a cat.
So Kamijou Touma whispered the magic words.
“I will accept you. So use my body.”
The many golden legs trembled in a different way from before. It seemed to be overwhelmed by a temptation it wanted to fight. And the Divine Mixture was no more than a tool. It had no sense of good or evil and it had no instincts to keep it away from danger.
It took the shortest possible route.
It leaped forward in the span of a breath, as if ignoring the distance in between. Its leg-vines spread wide, yet again changing what it looked like. This was now a form of predation. It was like a strange maw or the infamous iron maiden.
It entirely ignored Kamijou Touma who had an absolute counter to supernatural powers and instead leaped toward Aleister Crowley who lay collapsed next to a nearby column.
“Tch, to the very end, huh!?”
Kamijou quickly changed course, but it was just a little bit closer. He was unable to protect defenseless Aleister and Isis-Demeter would regain its power.
That was only if the silver girl remained truly defenseless to the end.
The silver girl had been as motionless as death, but she suddenly rolled to the side.
After missing its target, the giant spider-like mass of gold and diamond landed hard on the empty floor.
As a reminder, the Divine Mixture could only fuse with a human if they accepted and grabbed it of their own free will. Close to death or not, that desire for power had to be there. It could not contact an unconscious person.
And Kamijou only needed an instant of time.
This time, Kamijou Touma shoved his right palm against one of the Isis-Demeter vines which had shrunk down like plastic in a fire.
“We don’t need a montage god. We humans aren’t weak enough to need you!!”
An odd snapping sound rang out, but it was not over yet.
The tool acted as a tool by using all its strength and moving its trembling vines around to grab at the silver girl.
“It’s honestly impressive that you’re willing to go this far to fulfill your purpose! I’m about to empathize with you like with a cleaning robot!!”
A loud bang exploded from Aleister while she was pinned below the vines. Almost like she had pressed a gun against the thing’s belly.
But it was the silver girl who clicked her tongue.
It should have had the appropriate force, but it had not pierced the thing.
“I used Spiritual Tripping…but can I not establish a strong enough link when it doesn’t have a humanoid form!?”
The links between gold and diamond crumbled and cracks ran through it.
But it was not enough.
Kamijou Touma and Aleister Crowley’s combined powers were not enough to fully crush it.
They just needed one more helping hand.
Couldn’t someone – anyone – lend a helping hand!?
And then, someone squeezed their eyes shut and swung down a piece of brick that must have broken off when the stone pillars collapsed.
It was Orsola Aquinas who had taken one of the blue tarps and wrapped it around herself like a bath towel.
She did not rely on anyone else.
She stood up to the nightmare of her own creation so that she could bring it to an end.
Kamijou Touma, Aleister Crowley, and now Orsola Aquinas.
The addition of the third person clinched it.
The five loops on the right wrist were no longer necessary.
She only needed the cross at her chest.
You would have thought someone had poured liquid nitrogen on it.
Cracks had already filled Isis-Demeter, but now it ceased to function and shattered.
“And here I thought you would remain a damsel in distress to the end.”
This had even caught that war god by surprise.
Although that kind young woman would not want the praise of a pagan god, especially a barbaric one that enjoyed blood and conflict.
Even so, Othinus could not help but speak with a fierce smile on her face.
“…You’re pretty strong. You’re my kind of woman, sister.”
Between the Lines 4
They were on the Indonesian island of Bali.
“Hm, now that we’re here, it’s not that great. Maybe we should have gone with a resort where you can actually drink the water.”
It was December, but this comment came from someone lying on a special beach chair below a parasol and sipping at mango juice through a straw. Needless to say, Queen Shokuhou Misaki was in swimsuit mode. Perhaps because she was no longer inside the School Garden, she wore a normal white bikini over a much skimpier swimsuit that was essentially nothing but strings.
Misaka Mikoto wore a one-piece swimsuit different from her school one and she responded in exasperation while bothered by how the swimsuit felt on her butt.
“How can you complain when you have the girls from your clique catering to your every need?”
When Academy City shut down, its 2.3 million residents had gone elsewhere, but the students of Tokiwadai Middle School had naturally stayed together even without their teachers telling them to. With this much chaos, they were at risk both inside and outside Japan. Academy City was no longer functioning, but to continue teaching themselves to the “Tokiwadai standard”, it was best to remain with others at the same intellectual level.
(I wish I could have gotten Uiharu-san and Saten-san to come with us too…)
Those two girls’ families had apparently come to pick them up almost immediately. And it was hard to ask them to stay with their friends when family issues were at play.
Mikoto and Shokuhou did not think this chaos would last long. People’s optimistic assumptions of safety had crumbled away during the heat wave, so this conclusion had been reached after rationally observing the situation.
“I thought there would have been more of a panic over the leaked technology ability, so this is something of a surprise.”
“We’re talking about 53 countries. And there are fewer than 200 in the UN, right? That shows just how big a deal this is.”
“Yes, I suppose.”
Shokuhou Misaki did not seem to care much as she spread out her long blonde hair and crossed her long legs while lying on her back.
Her shapely butt was seated on something unusual.
It was an extra-large tin doll that added a bull’s head to a muscular giant’s body.
Academy City’s #5 Level 5, Mental Out.
The blonde girl in a swimsuit twirled a TV remote in her hand.
“It seems there are some I can control and some I can’t, so I suppose some are still human and some have abandoned their humanity… I wish I could figure out the specific rules ability behind it.”
“Don’t look at me. Defeating those things isn’t easy.”
Mikoto sighed as bluish-white sparks scattered from her bangs.
“Hot, hot, hot! You’re roasting my back on this tin!”
“Well, why are you lying on top of a grill? Trying to serve yourself up as some beach barbecue???”
A girl who could freely control 1 billion volt currents was far too dangerous on a field where the ocean stretched as far as the eye could see. Those things would not have been directly targeting Bali, so they may have gotten lost on the way to Singapore which was militarily connected to England. The “army” traveling over the ocean had met a devastating fate. Since they had been rendered powerless out at sea, human-faced fish larger than submarines and collections of countless tentacles were washing up on the beach where they simply convulsed.
“So what do we do now?” asked Shokuhou.
“Are we really in any position to make decisions? Strength as an individual and strength as a group are two very different things. The Tokiwadai power balance might not apply outside Academy City. …Nn.”
While they discussed that, Mikoto felt a slight vibration from the waterproof cellphone held below her one-piece swimsuit’s shoulder strap. It was apparently a voice app rather than an email. When she pulled the phone out and held it to her ear, she heard a familiar voice.
“Oh, that was a lot of lag. Is this going through an exchange? I hear things aren’t going well for Academy City, so have you left Japan?”
“…I really wish you had stayed in Japan. Well, no use in crying over spilled milk. Run to the nearest embassy or consulate. This is bad. From here on, the world’s boiling point is probably going to drop.”
To be honest, Mikoto did not know much about what her father did while overseas, but was at least a hard enough worker to get her into a prestigious girl’s school. He traveled the world year-round, so if he was saying this, a major wave had to be coming.
Mikoto focused herself as she listened.
“England is especially bad. Stay away from London at all costs. Wow! What’s with that blonde woman? Eh? What? She’s naked!? Man, that spiky-headed Japanese boy sure is popular. Man, I wish I was him. Wait, no! Don’t tell your mama I said that! Anyway, you need to stay away from here! It’s probably the center of the entire- ahhhh!!”
The phone call suddenly cut out.
The app displayed the long number of an international call. When she analyzed the extra numbers attached to her father’s usual number, she found that the international call code, country code, and city code all indicated a call from London, England.
“Oh, what is it?” asked Shokuhou. “Did you find something interesting?”
“Don’t you dare come with me. Got that!?”
“Um, where are you going with this?”