Toaru Majutsu no Index:NT Volume21 Chapter 3
Chapter 3: Highway Lock On – Speed_Freaks.
It was December in Academy City. All the lights were out, so darkness ruled. When viewed from satellite, it would look like a gaping black hole in that capital city of ten million.
And in those sticky shadows was something possibly even more unnatural.
It was like a tar pit splitting open.
The giant seal used the entirety of Academy City.
A single slender arm burst from the solid asphalt of the paved road. It wandered through the air in search of a handhold and eventually found a broken piece of plastic. Just like the survivor of a shipwreck clinging to a wooden board.
The rest did not take long.
A woman’s face, torso, and legs crawled out from the black earth. She had extremely long blonde hair and a modest beige habit. That person known as Lola Stuart crawled back to the world of the living.
At the same time, there was a deep noise. And several more followed. Power traveled from the generators to the transformers, power transmitters, and spider web of power cables to breathe life back into the dead city. Bright artificial lights blinked on inside the skyscraper windows, traffic lights, and every other corner of the city.
This had been an absolute necessity for Aleister Crowley.
She had needed to outdo Mathers and use a single powerful counterattack to escape a bind.
But that was summoning another threat.
Lola spoke deeply while curled up in the fetal position and surrounded by sticky colors. At the same time, she sensed something with her sensory organs as a higher being. That Great Demon clenched her teeth and waited for her avatar’s pulse to calm.
She heard something rattling in her sleeve.
She pulled it out and clicked her tongue.
It looked like a long and narrow wooden card, but the panel actually functioned as an extremely special easel. It was a handheld underlay on which she would draw lines and fill in colors.
She would draw rough sketches on it with special charcoal made from red wine and iron oxide while using bread crumbs in place of a kneaded eraser. Needless to say, those materials had been chosen to apply symbols of flesh and blood to the card. By coloring it with pigments chosen based on personal traits found in things like bibliomancy and reinforcing it with a thin layer of the wax used for cursed dolls, she could create a member of the Golden cabal.
As seen with the artist Mina Mathers, magical items like tarot cards could be newly created from just about anything.
So why had this one broken?
The demon thought about that small wooden panel’s combination of sketch, colors, and wax coating.
It may have been a similar data transmission method to heating a turtle shell in the fire and reading the future in the cracks.
(Mathers and a few of the others have taken damage and Berridge was destroyed. Damn, this couldn’t have been by chance. I guess they’ve figured out the trick by now.)
Looking just at their specs, Mathers was superior to Aleister no matter what the latter tried. And with the Golden army at his command, they could easily slaughter a swarm of Crowley’s possibilities.
Because Coronzon was Coronzon, she was not relieved by that and she did not simply accept it.
She interrupted the bonds between people and the world and she tore them apart.
The world was embedded with that obvious symbol of natural decomposition. In other words, people should naturally fall into conflict and destroy each other. Yet that was not happening. It was highly unnatural, but humanity still existed. As tiny, puny, insignificant, and obscene as they were. Coronzon saw no value in the bonds between people, but even she had realized something. If there was a reason for everything that happened, then as much as she hated it, those bonds did have power.
Humanity was like microplastics.
It did not matter how harmful or powerful they were on their own.
If they would not be broken apart, they could still distort the entire world.
(They were only ever meant for use against Crowley, so I can’t expect them to work perfectly in any other situation.)
She left the fetal position and slowly stretched out her arms and legs. Her body had calmed down. She consciously breathed in and out and then got up from the cold road.
(There is no real reason to stay here. Even the Windowless Building has left. I lost my chance to have some fun controlling Academy City with the board chairman’s corpse, so I’ll have to rethink how to use this toy box.)
At that point, she grimaced slightly.
Using the leader’s corpse as a relay point to manipulate the giant gears was the exact method Lola had suggested using on the dying Aleister back in the Windowless Building. And now Aleister was attacking England to reach Mathers’s corpse. She had unwittingly given that human a hint.
“What a pain. I really need to fix my bad habit of talking too much when I call checkmate.”
It did not take long once she got moving.
Academy City had to contain enough power to annihilate the human race ten thousand times over, but figuring out what it all was and how to unlock it would not be easy. Losing the Windowless Building and Aleister’s corpse was a major blow. It was like having a giant supercomputer but not knowing where the mouse and keyboard were.
Even if she could not control Academy City as a whole, some smaller parts of it were a different matter.
This was like opening up the supercomputer, removing one of the blade servers lined up like mille-feuille, attaching a clip to the circuit board, and sending it a signal from your mobile device.
In this case, her long blonde hair wriggled like an independent creature and acted as her hacking tool.
An old tradition said demons resided in a woman’s hair.
That was very true here.
She sliced up the shutter to a random warehouse and viewed the collection of steel and composite armor within. Academy City had been Aleister’s territory and that human had apparently been in the habit of leaving backup supplies around the city. Although that only applied to the items that could be duplicated.
With a hand on her hip, Lola named the device before her eyes.
This was not a complete set. It was only a collection of repair parts. Those parts were not assembled into its proper form, but that was not an issue for Coronzon. She sent out the hair that was more than 2.5 times her height. Once the hair slipped into the cracks in the armor like nematodes, she read the inner structure in the blink of an eye.
She could not control science, but the magical symbols hidden in the steel and concrete city were a different matter.
“This isn’t even a flash tablet or planetary magic circle. It just uses ordinary sigils.”
She pulled her hair out with a sticky sound.
No, her hair did more than that. Like a ribbon in rhythmic gymnastics or like the cursive writing on a parchment contract, the dancing golden light formed meaningful characters in the air. Then bat-like glowing wings burst from the sides of her beige habit.
These sinister wings were formed from the “contents” of the A.A.A., not its mechanical structure.
(I should take a ballistic route instead of normal flight. Heading ‘outside’ and reentering should be faster.)
That Great Demon did not care about her avatar’s convenience.
With Coronzon filling the avatar, that soft flesh would not burn up in the atmosphere.
Even though she was using the same thing, those wings did not possess over-the-top rocket boosters like Aleister’s toy did. The wings remained wings, so she only had to flap them.
Those excess functions were a sign of fear.
Facades, justifications, theoretical arguments, and ideals. Humans grew fat on all that extraneous nonsense. To the point that they lost sight of what lay at the center of it all.
Coronzon encouraged the world to naturally break apart and she did not hide her evil deeds.
She looked straight up.
The thick ceiling overhead did not even enter her thoughts.
“The Great Demon is coming for you, Aleister. And you only have yourself to blame.”
A single line of light broke through the giant warehouse’s ceiling as it launched itself outside the atmosphere.
Finally wearing a Roman Catholic habit once more, Orsola Aquinas looked out a transport helicopter window. She was on her way to Scotland. The helicopter could travel at three to four hundred kilometers per hour and it could ignore the roads and traffic, so it would not take long to arrive.
It may have been late at night, but the surface was awfully dark.
That reminded her that the country was experiencing a crisis. She was just glad that she did not see a giant sea of flames below.
Although the fact that the possibility even came to mind may have proven how abnormal a situation this was.
“Thank you very much.” Orsola looked away from the window and spoke to the woman riding with her. “I can’t protect myself and I couldn’t ask for a better bodyguard than a Saint like you.”
It was Kanzaki Kaori.
She was the Priestess of the Amakusa Church and one of the fewer than twenty Saints in the world, but she showed little confidence or brightness at the moment.
She had likely experienced her own troubles during this national crisis.
She covered her face with a hand and groaned.
“To be honest, I am not confident I have it in me to continue fighting.”
“I killed someone. Whatever form they might have taken, the Crowley’s Hazards were still people. I violated my magic name. So I am not sure how I should wield magic now.”
Orsola did not simply comfort her.
She placed a hand on her cheek and then spoke.
“Then I will protect you until you are back to your usual self.”
“Do not worry. I too am part of the Anglican Church. I am not entirely ignorant of magic.”
This contradicted what Orsola had said earlier.
Kanzaki Kaori of course noticed that, which was why she said what she did.
“Why are you so certain this is a temporary thing? Why do you think I will recover with time?”
“Because you are much, much stronger than I could ever imagine.”
“I’m really not.”
“And I too made a serious mistake. It might be something I can never make up for. But even if I cannot, I must not give up and look the other way. Isn’t that what it means to be human?”
Kanzaki could not answer.
Even Saints were flawed humans. And after the mistake Kanzaki had made, she could not act like she was better than someone else.
She could come up with an answer once she had a better grasp of her own life.
Everyone lived their lives with the same doubts.
So Kanzaki Kaori spoke once more.
“I pray that I can one day live my life correctly once more.”
“Yes, so do I.”
That room was supposed to be for mending the covers and pages of books.
Grimoires had only been gathered there because it was off limits to normal people.
“I knew it,” said Index as she looked around the work tables lined with different colors of paint, glue, and cutters for neatly slicing the ends off of paper.
Was it wine or iron sand? Some kind of red pigment had been worked into a charcoal-based drawing tool and kneaded erasers had been made from bread crumbs. There was also some soft wax.
“This isn’t for repairs. It looks like they were creating something new. But it looks smaller than a book. Maybe a notepad? No, it could even be a set of cards.”
“Like tattva or tarot? There are a few scraps of thick paper in the trash. It’s only as wide as the end of a fork, so I bet it came from some cards. The scraps are all lined up like after someone cuts the crust off of bread.”
The individual marks and scratches left on books or scrolls could be extracted and copied as a data medium. And that meant the data could be transferred to a brand new book with nothing written in it.
“Is there nothing else we can figure out here? I just wish we knew what was being made here.”
“Could we figure out who was making it?”
“Normal people aren’t allowed in here. This is the repair room for the British Museum’s important documents, so only a limited number of people would be allowed to apply paint and glue or cut them with a blade.”
“So it was an inside job? And by an Anglican with a lot of authority?”
“Like the Anglican leader, Lola Stuart?”
Index and Fran had both been directly or indirectly controlled by Lola (i.e. Coronzon), so it was natural for their suspicions to fall there.
Index had a perfect memory, so she would not forget something even if the topic was shifted elsewhere. She wrote out a list of the books she wanted from the British Library while she made a suggestion.
“While we’re at it, let’s investigate Lola.”
“What do you mean?”
“No one knows how old she is and no one knows when she took her position as archbishop at the top of the Anglicans. What is her real history? She claims to be Aleister Crowley’s second daughter, but how did she work her way up to the top of the church?”
Luckily, they had plenty of reference material here.
So they could make better use of their time than running around blindly.
A solid yet light clanking sound rang through London late at night.
Needless to say, it was Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers. That peerless magician wore a witch’s hat and cloak over a bright Scottish military uniform that predated the use of camouflage and his four Symbolic Weapons were bumping together as they danced around him.
“Cold and wet, then hot and wet.”
When the Golden leader spoke those words, blue and yellow lights spiraled around him and attached themselves to his leather shoes. Instead of running, he slid and leaped. He sometimes slid across the road surface and sometimes kicked off of walls or signs to speed through the night faster than a police car equipped for highway patrols. His witch’s cloak and his scarf trailed behind him like a shooting star.
And he was not alone.
Arthur Edward Waite, John William Brodie-Innes, Robert William Felkin, and other magicians with their own unique legends accompanied him at that speed. They jumped over abandoned cars and took detours around the haphazardly placed ancient Egyptian stone. Any who saw that group would have felt the same fear as seeing a pack of wolves chasing down their prey.
But someone was missing.
Edward Berridge was not bowing his head by the short-tempered Mathers’s side.
“The Praemonstrator is Felkin and the records and backup will be done by Waite. Westcott, you can be Imperator. You choose the Hiereus and Sentinel.”
“Oh? Unusual for you to give up command. I expected you to take the Imperator job.”
“Don’t let him distract you by giving you a 6=5 level role, Westcott. He doesn’t seem interested in the 7=4 position, so he’s really just leaving the performance to us while he can sit back and relax in the audience seating. I can’t stand it.”
Even if they had all studied in the same cabal, they had their distinct areas of expertise. The possibility might be there, but not everyone’s magic could reach Mathers’s level.
On the other hand, they were a cabal.
When an individual’s power was not enough, they just had to work together.
Movement was a symbol of the wide area one controlled and of the amount of knowledge they could obtain. The most obvious example was flight, but there were plenty of others. For example, the legends of parting the sea, the legends of passing through a jail cell’s bars or door, and the astral projection achieved by staring at a tattva card.
They used a white and black pillar, tarot, the Banner of the West and the Banner of the East, a rose cross medal, a planetary magical circle, tattva, a magic sword, a seven-branched candleholder, a censer, and the four types of Symbolic Weapons.
They were all symbols with their own important meaning, but they were also props which established a major ceremony when used as a set. Words and sentences differed, but it would be strange to try to rank them against each other.
The Golden magicians passed each other, their speed rose and fell, they changed lanes, and they were constantly swapping positions. Their movements changed the location of their ceremonial tools which also changed their meaning. This was the Golden method of performing a ceremony much like a stage play.
They constructed a single large current that moved like a dragon or serpent and they picked up speed like a car shifting gear.
They had originally been created to protect England, so why were they targeting the British Royal Family?
The Anglican archbishop would never give such an order.
But what about Great Demon Coronzon?
To that sinister higher being, England was no more than one of her toys. She had used it when it would protect her, but if it lost its usefulness, she was more than willing to destroy the entire nation. That was the thought process of a demon with no fear of god.
“It doesn’t really matter where the target is since we have Waite’s tarot. It won’t be hard to work out which route they’re using,” said Annie Horniman, the monocle and dress woman who looked like an old-fashioned tutor. “How does it feel to be ordered to protect your own corpse, Mathers?”
The Golden leader did not even glance her way while his Scottish military uniform and thick cloak flapped behind him.
It did not matter where he had come from or that he was created from a tarot card. He was the leader of the world’s greatest magic cabal.
If Coronzon had fully copied Mathers to the card, then he would be the same Mathers who had held Coronzon below his foot and had her do his bidding.
“I will remove these bonds. There is no such thing as perfection or absolutes in this world. 333. Dispersion. That absolute evil prevents the bonds of this world for no real reason. She is an incarnation of the natural breakdown of human civilization, so she should know that.”
And for that reason, Mathers could not afford to let anything interfere with Coronzon now. That would ruin everything he had prepared. So he would protect it. He would not let anyone touch the corpse in Edinburgh Castle which could be used to relay commands. If anyone threatened to do so, he would defeat them.
Even if that meant attacking the head of the United Kingdom even though he had been created to protect that nation.
“Let us follow our country’s traditions.”
He showed no hesitation whatsoever.
“Let the foxhunt begin.”
A great number of carriages left Buckingham Palace and traveled north.
They each had four horses, but the rain roof stuck out further than the coachman’s seat, making it look like a long line of connected cars from a distance.
Queen Elizard spoke slowly and deeply inside one of the carriages.
“Hand me a sword. I am not picky. A mass-produced steel one is fine. The Crowley’s Hazards? An unidentified magic cabal? What do I care? I will fight alongside everyone else in London.”
“Discard restraints #05 through #60! Set up more! Rebind her entire body with the common divisors 3 and 4!! Hurry!! Before she breaks free of them all and goes on a rampage!!”
This did not seem at all the way to treat an elderly woman. She was like a ferocious beast. It was the aides wrapping wide silk bands around her arms and legs who were nearly dragged and swung around.
Meanwhile, black-haired and monocled First Princess Riméa breathed an exasperated sigh while sitting across from her mother. She was a fundamentally distrusting person.
“Do not be silly, mother. Whatever the reason, this country will never break free of the fighting if you are taken out. Why don’t you understand that? You might as well be sending the entire population to their deaths in order to save just one person.”
“But,” said Third Princess Villian as she glanced somberly out the window. “I think I understand. Ordering the normal citizens to evacuate would only cause massive congestion to the roads. I get that, but I still don’t like leaving the capital on our own.”
“Oh? Did you catch Carissa’s love of war?”
Second Princess Carissa specialized in this sort of thing, but she was still imprisoned in the Tower of London. She played the same role as the political hostages of an older era. The Royal Family had left one member in London. That would put the people’s minds at ease because surely they would not leave a royal in danger, right? That was the intended message.
“The Crowley’s Hazards, Egyptian Mythology, and now an unidentified magic cabal. This has fully left our understanding. Win or lose, if we force our way through this without the proper information, we will almost certainly create a great number of victims among those around us.”
1st Princess Riméa was not naïve enough to immediately praise the Egyptian symbols and magic cabal just because those things had defeated the external threat of the Crowley’s Hazards. Any fighting force unknown to the Royal Family had to be a rogue unit within England and a magic cabal was a criminal group needing elimination. Even if a gang protected the people of a city during a zombie outbreak, Riméa would not hail them as national heroes.
Unregistered fighters had to be viewed as enemies.
And the more powerful they were, the more their uncontrollable firepower threatened the common people.
“Also, the Royal Family leaving London will protect the people who cannot escape the city. We are aware of several different threats in the United Kingdom, but whether we intend to attack them or defend against them, we should assume they will view us as the center of the nation. If we move, their indiscriminate attacks will move with us. Surely you understand that.”
If they fought in London, it would cause damage in London.
No matter whether that battle was meant to destroy or save the city.
However, that did not make it okay to bring that same damage to Scotland.
“This is a race.”
With a heavy metallic clunk, First Princess Riméa rested something on her shoulder. Its structure was far too complex to call it a staff.
“That means the scoundrels cannot remain bunched together. We dangle some bait in front of them, lure them across a long enough distance to spread them apart by their varying specs, and then we defeat them one at a time. Scotland is our destination, but it would be best to eradicate them before we arrive. We have four hundred kilometers until the border. And Edinburgh Castle is another one hundred kilometers from there. On the way there, we will keep our distance and fire on them. And all the while, we will be spreading out their group to pick them off one at a time.”
They had given this thought.
The Royal Family would not simply flee in the face of a national crisis.
Third Princess Villian had another somber thought.
(If that isn’t enough to defeat them all, we’ll be spreading the flames of war to Scotland.)
After leaving the ordinary London apartment which was actually the Isis-Urania Temple, Aleister Crowley took a very simple action.
Her cape fluttered unnaturally and then four objects the size of 500mL bottles emerged. They were micro rocket engines.
Kamijou Touma could only stare.
She was floating in the night sky. Only after a few moments of staring at the magician’s white panties (which he did not particularly want to see), the spiky-haired boy asked a question.
“Wait, are you chasing after Mathers? What are we supposed to do!?”
“I can’t afford to lose track of him. And now that I have unlocked the tech, there is no reason to continue hiding the cards up my sleeve. Scotland is about four hundred kilometers away. That might sound like a lot, but it only takes a few hours in a car. You two find your own transportation and follow after me.”
The silver girl was no help at all.
She used her micro rocket engines to fly off into the night sky while Kamijou remained helplessly on the ground. It sounded like a bad joke, but he had been left behind all the same.
“Hey, Accelerator, what should we do?”
“Don’t ask me. You figure it out yourself.”
“You’re headed the other way!? U-um, where are you even going!?”
Kamijou shouted after him, but the #1 waved back at him and messed with his choker. With a dull sound, he jumped up to a nearby rooftop and disappeared from view. He clearly had no intention of chasing after Mathers or Aleister.
Was it so wrong that the spiky-haired boy could not fly?
Left all alone, Kamijou Touma trembled and muttered to himself.
He felt so very forlorn in the foreign night.
“Why? Why am I surrounded by selfish morons who refuse to cooperate no matter what!?”
“Whatever the result, I really don’t think you have any room to talk when it comes to being self-centered, human.”
“I was wrong. I’m not alone. I still have you, Othinus-shwaaan!!”
“Wait! Stop that, understander! I know you’re feeling lonely, but don’t grab at me like that when we’re outside and anyone could be watching!!!”
“Wow,” groaned Hamazura Shiage.
They moved elsewhere after the previous encounter. He had driven the four-wheel-drive vehicle below a bridge due to his habit of avoiding satellites.
Five people was a lot for that vehicle. It was feeling cramped, so he had hopped out and tried climbing up on top of the bridge.
But he had spotted something odd in the London night: four-horse carriages. And they did not appear to be for show like the ones tourists could ride around. There were ten rows of two, for a total of twenty. And the rain roofs stuck out well past the coachman’s seat, so it all looked like a single luxurious sleeper train from a distance. There was also a cavalry unit protecting it all.
However, that did not mean much for him on the narrow sidewalk.
Only after watching them drive past did he wish he had snapped a photo with his phone. Although he had the phone turned off to keep anyone from tracking it, so he could not have opened the camera app fast enough anyway.
But then he heard a quiet electronic jingling from his pants pocket.
He could have sworn he had turned it off.
(Are you kidding me!? Why did it restart!? That’s really not good!! It might’ve been broadcasting my location this whole time!!)
He snatched his phone from his pocket and saw a familiar display on the screen.
“What? It’s you, Aneri?”
The device vibrated a little.
He took that to be the same as a nod.
“You weren’t the one to turn my phone back on, were you?”
Silence this time.
But that did not seem to be meant as a denial.
It was impressive that the program could express awkwardness.
Aneri had originally been the support AI for the Dragon Rider supersonic motorcycle and its special protective suit. The machine had been destroyed rescuing Fremea Seivelun, but the program remained. The AI had also helped a lot with the Processor Suit – which was the Bank itself in the form of a humanoid suit – during the fight against A. O. Francisca.
That said, he had thought Aneri had ceased functioning when the board chairman had shut down all of Academy City’s technology.
(If she’s up and running again, does that mean the entire city was unlocked???)
But hadn’t the city been shut down to stop the villain named Lola or Coronzon or whatever? Hamazura did not fully trust Aleister and he had no way of seeing into the board chairman’s mind, but he still had to wonder what she was thinking.
“Well, I’ll set that question aside for now. Anyway, this should help a lot. Did you only now get inside my phone? How much do you know about the mess around here? I need as much support as you can give me because, honestly, I’m in way over my head here.”
The device vibrated again in response.
Aneri had always been oddly sociable.
With phone in hand, he returned to the vehicle below the bridge and found Dion Fortune trapped between the two Magic Gods in the back seat.
“Mwa ha ha. Spill it. Spill the beans. This will be much easier on you if you do!”
“The great Dion Fortune, elite of the Golden cabal, will never fall for such underhanded tactics! Hee!”
“Sure, sure. Okay, the tickling just passed the thirty second mark.”
“Bwa ha, wa ha ha!! I-I will nyever syuccumb to- ah nya ha ha!!”
Hamazura was pretty sure it was best not to ask what was going on. He had noticed the vehicle rocking as he approached it, but this was what he had found inside. He could only say it was crazy for the windows to be fogged up just from those girls’ sweet breaths. He felt like he had lost a lot of points as a human being for leaving his girlfriend alone in a place like that.
“What are you doing?”
“Ah, Takitsubo, you idiot!”
“But Hamazura. That person saved you, so we can’t just abandon her.”
The delinquent boy had interpreted it as Fortune saving Takitsubo, but which interpretation was the correct one?
Niang-Niang took a break from supplying the tickle hell and faithfully answered Takitsubo’s question just to kill some time.
“Hm. Dion Fortune seems to be an obsessive note-taker, so we’re having fun asking her what she wanted to write down so bad she started running her fingertip along her palm.”
“Just leave her alone!!”
Hamazura spun around in the driver’s seat to look back, but that proved to be a bad idea.
There were some moments when people did not want someone looking them in the eye.
The laughing redheaded girl seemed to get excited when she was the center of attention because she held her head high.
“Ah ha nya ha nya ha! Pant, pant. Do not underestimate the great Dion Fortune. I write grimoires, contribute to an occult magazine, work on correspondence education, and even give lectures! I am the cute spiritual medium who reveals her charm on multiple fronts instead of letting the old ways hold her back! Hwa ha ha ha ha ha!!”
Why did he feel so disappointed once he got a translation of that? He did not feel particularly jealous and was not entirely sure any of that was something to brag about. He wished she could find pride in something else. Perhaps it all sounded so old and musty because it was so far removed from the modern digital world of video sharing sites and social media.
“Heh. Bowled you over with my charisma, didn’t I? The great Dion Fortune is a modern young magician who is always on the lookout for the next hot thing. Oh, whoops. I need to suppress my charm a bit for this sensitive teenage boy. But I can’t blame you for recognizing talent when you see it! Kneel before me now and I will give you the privilege of being my chair! Hwa ha ha!!”
“She says she is very interested in bathing in a guy’s used bathwater, boy☆”
“Are you sure that’s what she said? It sounded like she said a lot more than that! Am I wrong!?”
Then something odd happened. The frilly dress girl’s spiel came to a complete stop and she stared wide-eyed at Hamazura.
No, she was technically staring at the delinquent boy’s phone.
And the frilly dress magician spoke a certain title in a daze.
It was a bombshell of a statement.
Hamazura had no way of knowing, but Aneri was a downgraded version of Reading Thoth 78, aka Mina Mathers.
And why was Mina Mathers Mina Mathers?
Why was she known as a black cat witch?
“Wh-what are you doing in such a tiny box!? Was there some kind of mistake during the setup to establish your physical form? No, something isn’t right. Is that an entirely different system than us!?”
Dion Fortune began panicking and talking endlessly without stopping to listen.
And Aneri remained entirely silent.
There was no response.
It was the same awkward atmosphere as an elevator. That was enough for the frilly dress magician to jump so much her head and the white flower decoration bumped against the ceiling.
“Wait! Please wait! Anything but more scratches!! I’ll do anything, so please work with me, mistress! We know each other well enough for that, don’t we!? All those cat scratches on my back were no laughing matter! And what kind of black cat is the size of a tiger!? Was that really a cat or was it some other member of the cat family!?”
As question marks filled Hamazura’s mind, Niang-Niang explained while rolling around in laughter.
“Dion Fortune originally joined the cabal under the courteous protection of Mina Mathers, but due to some turf wars within the cabal, she fell victim to a harsh magical attack from Mina. Her house was surrounded by black cats, her back was sliced open by the carnivores’ claws, and she even saw phantom black cats the size of tigers.”
That explanation did not mean much to Hamazura Shiage who did not really know who Mina Mathers was. He only knew her as the one with the big boobs and mourning clothes who was looking after Lilith. And he had no idea what any of that had to do with Aneri.
Regardless, he could tell this had unearthed some kind of trauma, so Hamazura the Gentleman decided to put the phone back in his pocket.
But just then, a great din thundered down from overhead. It was even more heavy and continuous than a focused downpour of rain. At first, he had ducked down because he did not know what it was, but then he remembered they were hiding below a bridge.
“Wh-what the hell!? What is going on up there!?”
A semi-truck or a tanker truck would not make that much noise driving by overhead. This tremor was like all the guests in a club or the audience in a stadium stomping their feet at once. The sound soon left them, but a strange uneasiness stuck with him. Something strange had happened, but no one was telling him whether he should be afraid or not.
And if whatever-it-was had crossed the bridge, should he assume it was chasing after those carriages?
The two Magic Gods giggled and redheaded Dion Fortune looked up at the ceiling with her pale face between theirs.
“That was Master Mathers and the others.”
Everyone focused on the frilly dress girl and she gasped when she noticed. She frantically covered her mouth with both hands and shook her head.
She had saved them.
So Hamazura knew he could not treat her badly. It simply was not an option.
“I won’t talk! I won’t!! Even if we’ve parted ways, I’m still a member of the Golden cabal, so I can’t betray the others!”
Once Nephthys pinned the girl down, Hamazura called Aneri up on his phone and rubbed it against the struggling girl’s cheek.
Misaka Mikoto and Shokuhou Misaki had crash landed in London.
They ended up a good distance away because they had used a shallower angle to reduce the damage as much as possible instead of just plowing into the ground like a meteor. The English signs said they were even further north than Primrose Hill. They were just about in Outer London.
And Academy City’s #5, Mental Out, was in trouble.
“C-c-c-c-c-cold, it’s so cold. What is going on? I can see my breath. Oh, right. It’s December, isn’t it? What kind of idiot wears a swimsuit in London during the winter? I’m going to die. Why do I keep having to fight for my life ability against things that aren’t even my own fault, Misaka-saaan!?”
“Hmm, looks like it’s more the movable joints than the rocket boosters themselves. It’s the bearings. I wonder if I could fix it using the parts in the swiveling portion of the other weapons. But I’d be nervous using it without testing it first.”
They were living in entirely different worlds.
The queen could not believe her eyes while she held her shoulders, pressed her legs together, and shivered.
“I-is her tunnel vision ability breaking the limits of the human body now?”
“No, this might just be an extension of the law that prevents idiots from catching col-…”
“I can hear you, Shokuhou.”
And unless Mikoto opened up her mind, Shokuhou Misaki’s Mental Out could not control the #3.
She should have caught on sooner. In this post-apocalypse, it was the physically strong who reigned supreme.
“No, wait, Misaka-san!! Why are you grabbing me around the hips and lifting me over your shoulder? Wait, don’t tell me. Is this the legendary-…ahhh!! My butt!? What kind of person starts spanking someone in the freezing December weather!?”
“I have a feeling your hopeless personality is a result of a spoiled upbringing, so I need to reeducate you from the ground up.”
“How did you reach that silly conclusion? And how am I supposed to respond when you act like a middle-aged mother with a full-on broccoli-style perm?”
“Act now and you get twenty percent more at no extra cost.”
Loud slapping sounds echoed through the London streets for a while. The young lady of the prestigious Tokiwadai Middle School could not escape her punishment. She could only cover her bright red face with her hands.
Finally, she was freed.
Swimsuit Queen Shokuhou Misaki was feeling a bit warmer from the embarrassment, but her heart would die if she had to continue keeping warm that way.
Also, why wasn’t Misaka Mikoto bothered by the December London weather?
Even if her one piece covered more skin, it was still a swimsuit.
“No, don’t stop thinking, Shokuhou Misaki. There has to be some kind of trick. Yes, that’s right. Didn’t Misaka-san say something about being able to stay warm using microwaves!?”
“Tch, you remembered.”
“Fully-Electric Hot Water Bottle Girl Misaka-san, could you please share some of that happiness with a girl in need?”
“Get off of me!!!!! You have no restraint at all when you’re desperate, do you? If you found yourself stranded on a desert island, I bet you’d immediately strip and start sending smoke signals in the nude.”
“The best queens increase their charisma by giving off just a hint of defenselessness☆ Like the pinch of salt to bring out the flavor of a watermelon.”
“I’m going to hit you if you don’t let go. Besides, don’t you have that juicy power that lets you control people’s mental state by manipulating the fluids in their body? Can’t you keep yourself warm with that?”
“Call me juicy again and it’s a sexy dance festival for you. And don’t think your #3 brain defenses can stop me! All your craziness today has seriously put my life at risk, so I’m on the verge of releasing all my limits and awakening to new powers, Misaka-saaaan!!”
Whatever the case, they could not do anything hasty when they had doubts about the A.A.A.’s ability to fly. They needed to spend a lot more time carefully working with the machinery, so the necessities like food, clothing, and shelter became much more important.
“Well, that last attack was only for good measure, so papa should have been able to escape without it.”
“Your love for your family is great and all, but I don’t see how that helps me and my blue lips. By the way, how much money do you have on you?”
Shokuhou Misaki pointed a shaking finger toward a line of vending machines. In addition to the hot drink and sandwich machines, there was a machine with rain gear like umbrellas and raincoats.
“Ohh, I guess London is known for its rain. This is perfect.”
“Well, it’s better than nothing. The food might be full of artificial colors and preservatives, but I must have one of those raincoats! However, there is a problem there. I happen to be a classy cashless girl who only carries a card, but these local vendors do not appear to accept electronic money. So please, Misaka-san! Can I borrow just one crumpled bill!?”
Shokuhou Misaki had finally completed her transformation into a begging girl tearfully clinging to a schoolmate (in the filthy late-night streets while wearing nothing but a swimsuit).
And that signaled the start of a noble game.
“Oh, poor Shokuhou Misaki. She can’t warm herself with microwaves and she can’t even buy a raincoat. Is this what you call karma?”
“Wait, no! I’m only #5, so I don’t even get a spot on the winners’ podium, but you are the glorious #3!”
“Hm, you can do better than that.”
“Woof, woof. Wait, a photo!?”
When the phone’s flash went off in front of her, Swimsuit Girl Shokuhou Misaki immediately held her right hand horizontally to at least cover her eyes. But Mikoto was not cruel enough to wait until the girl froze solid. The #5 attended the prestigious Tokiwadai Middle School and her intellect was the real deal. Even if Mikoto could not stand her, she would still come in handy for repairing the A.A.A., so it would be best if she was not knocked out by the cold.
“(I have a feeling she’ll turn on me the instant I buy her a raincoat, so maybe I should have her fend off the cold with the cardboard boxes and newspapers lying around here and only buy it for her once she’s truly desperate. She needs to properly appreciate what I’ve done for her.)”
“I hope you aren’t really considering that, Misaka-san! I-I-I really am at my limit here! The shivering ability is reaching the core of my body! I’ll do anything! I’ll give you a shoulder massage and shine your shoes, so please, Great God Misaka!!”
This girl did not even have any matches (and was wearing a swimsuit), so she had her hands full in a number of ways. She was willing to go this far over what was little more than a thick plastic sheet.
“Hm? A horse???”
Which was why the shivering blonde girl initially thought she was hallucinating.
With all the chaos in London, it would not have been too surprising for some animals to have escaped the zoo, but that did not seem to be the case here. A muscular horse was fully outfitted with reins and armor and it was ridden by a female knight decked out in silver armor and a surcoat. The queen’s discerning eye could tell she was not just a troublesome performer hoping to earn some money from tourists wanting to snap a photo with her. She may have been an actual knight who guarded Buckingham Palace.
But that was not the real problem.
There was someone else on the horse: a spiky-haired boy sat right behind her.
“Heh heh heh. It must be destiny that we ran into each other again, so let’s have a lovely journey together, Miss Knight!!”
“You must be joking!! How dare you take advantage of my compromising position to boss me around!? Have you no shame!? And you call yourself a man!?”
The leisurely clip-clopping of hooves passed by from right to left.
They did not seem to notice the two girls.
But those girls were very curious about what they had overheard.
“Taking advantage of her?”
The female knight had spoken in proper Japanese. That was unusual for a blonde-haired, blue-eyed resident of London. That seemed to sum up who was in charge between her and the spiky-haired idiot.
There were some issues with the A.A.A.’s flight capability.
It could be fixed by substituting other parts, but the work would take a while to complete.
Mikoto and Shokuhou both recalled their situation here. And they arrived at the same conclusion:
“Who cares about that!? What is he doing after traveling all the way to London!?”
The roar of rocket engines shook the English night.
After the disconcerting sound of metal fitting together in complicated ways, the winged devil silhouette shifted all of its rocket boosters to the back. The flying device transformed into a monstrously large motorcycle. Even with the hovering support legs holding it up, its shape was far too brutal.
Occasionally, variety shows or documentaries would focus on the vehicles for a unique kind of race in foreign countries. Existing cars or motorcycles would have jet fighter or rocket engines forcibly attached to the back to blast those drag racers down a straight road.
Right now, they did not need to fly.
They only needed to give chase.
They had nothing as nice as helmets. Mikoto tossed a translucent vending machine raincoat to Shokuhou, put one on herself, and then jumped onto the monster bike.
“Hop on, juicy powers!! We need to go punch that idiot!!”
“Okay, Misaka-san. Now that I have a coat, the perfect queen is back!! …And don’t think I didn’t hear that.”
The bike gave a violent roar.
Mikoto frowned while holding the handlebars.
The unathletic girl had climbed onto the extra-large motorcycle just fine, but now she was fidgeting oddly. Mikoto gave her a puzzled look through the side mirror, but she could not see the other girl’s expression because she stuck her face into the raincoat hood and rubbed her forehead against Mikoto’s nape.
“What is it now!? That’s really distracting!!”
“It’s just, ah, I wasn’t expecting it be so-…oh, this vibration is a bit much…”
“………………………………………………………………………………………………I know you always have a member of your clique call a car for you, but that isn’t because you’re too sensitive for a bike seat, is it?”
The blushing girl used her silence to forever bury the truth.
Mikoto cleared her throat.
“Yeah, I guess it couldn’t be that.”
“Um, wait, Misaka-san. Could you please drive safel-…”
“So enough messing around. Let’s do this!!!!!!”
Shokuhou could not even form proper words after that.
They were chasing someone with no clear destination in mind, so the monster bike roared through the London night in a next-generation rodeo.
There was actually a good explanation for why Kamijou Touma was seated right behind a female knight whose name he did not know.
Let us move back in time just a bit.
He of course had to stop Mathers’s group from attacking the Royal Family’s carriages, but he was a simple high school boy without even a bicycle. Aleister had flown off with her cute little jet engines and Accelerator had gone off somewhere under his own power. Left behind, Kamijou needed to find something that could travel at more than 100km/h.
That left just one option.
“Okay, it’s mooching time. Where can I find someone to drive me around!?”
“It might sound nice when you call it the power of your bonds, but you really are the worst sometimes, human.”
That was just how a high schooler without a license viewed cars and motorcycles. Whether it was their parents or public transportation, it was always someone else doing the driving.
Plus, he already knew there were several familiar faces in London. Lessar and Birdway had been riding a scooter together and he bet he could get a ride from Orsola, Agnese, or one of the other nuns. Add Sherry and Oriana into the mix and surely at least someone had a car.
When Kamijou Touma peered around a corner, he spotted an innocent little fawn in the concrete jungle.
“Isn’t that the knight we helped evacuate near the Thames???” he asked.
“She’s already recovered?” added Othinus. “That was quick.”
“She’s staring at a map on her horse. And wait. Is she tilting her head and flipping the map around trying to figure it out? Isn’t this her hometown???”
“She isn’t following her usual patrol route and the Royal Family is apparently headed to Scotland. She was probably ordered to join them as a guard.”
“Looks to me like she’s about to cry.”
“Well, in the confusion of battle and with communications out, a certain percentage of soldiers will get lost on the way, but unfortunately, I think she’s just not very smart.”
Whatever the case, it looked like they could come up with a mutually beneficial arrangement. Kamijou had business with Mathers’s group which was trying to attack the Royal Family. If he gave the female knight directions, she might just give him a ride on her horse. And since Kamijou could not hide his stupidity on the knowledge front, he was more than willing to rely on Othinus for those directions.
All the spiky-haired boy could do was attempt a hellish negotiation by channeling the spirit of an old lady who traveled the world knowing only Japanese.
“Yahoo!! Having trouble there, miss? If you like, Kamijou Touma here could escort you on a much less irritating journ-…!!”
Before he could finish, his tiny understander and the female knight gave the exact same warning:
“You fool! Don’t sneak up on a horse from behind and then shout!! Those herbivores are easily spooked!!”
The idiot was kicked away by the horse’s back legs. It was such an impressive kick that the scene was a little comical.
And that was the reason.
“I was careless, but I still feel taken advantage of. Is this what it feels like after an insurance scammer runs in front of your car?”
The clip-clop of hooves continued.
But despite that peaceful cadence, the wind blew by and the scenery flowed by like they were driving down the highway in a convertible.
The female knight did not throw Kamijou Touma off of the horse despite her complaints because she felt bad about what had happened. Leaving him there had been an option, but she was a good person through and through.
A horse might sound primitive, but when equipped with special rubber horseshoes for urban terrain, their mobility rivaled that of a motorcycle. Also, this was the magical kingdom of England. Several different spells were used when raising a horse for official duties. Running around a two-thousand-meter lawn would not be enough to exhaust them.
Kamijou Touma was still woozy, so he leaned on the female knight from behind and spoke with a smile.
“It’s, ugh, it’s okay, Miss Knight. Pant, pant. It was all necessary.”
“Why is he so full of life? That kick could have easily killed him.”
“I’m a god and I couldn’t tell you that.”
“More importantly, tell this fool to match his breathing to the horse’s movements!! He keeps throwing me off my pace and Alex is getting sick of it!!”
His right hand had touched all over her armor, but her clothes still had not exploded. Any magical reinforcements must have been applied inside the armor.
And Kamijou was interested in what the female knight had just shouted.
“Ho ho? So this horse’s name is Alex, is it?”
“He is not mine. I am borrowing him from Second Princess Carissa. She ordered me to take care of him while she is imprisoned. He normally only gets to walk around the Tower of London’s courtyard, you see. I cannot let anything happen to this royal horse, so breathe with the horse’s movements, you fool!!”
It sounded a bit like she cared more about the horse’s wellbeing than Kamijou’s. And the mention of Carissa brought a light squeezing to the spiky-haired boy’s heart. Angering her would indeed be a bad idea. He might just find himself on the receiving end of that overbearing princess’s high heels.
But this also meant he had recovered enough to consider such things.
They had to be moving faster than your average motorcycle, but he did not feel his mind going blank like when he rode a roller coaster. Similar to a bus or taxi, it may have been comforting to have someone holding the reins. Nevertheless, accidents still happened and he would share her fate even though he had done nothing wrong himself.
“Yo, oh. Breathe rhythmically? Like this? Does it really make that much of a difference???”
“Stop that, scum! Quit rubbing your crotch against my hips just because I can’t stop you right now!”
Apparently unfamiliar breathing methods could lead to unfortunate misunderstandings. The female knight blushed bright red and shouted resentfully back at him.
“Ahem. While it does not go as far as the unicorn legend, Alex is known for only growing attached to pure maidens.”
“Why did your heart just leap in your chest? What is it now?”
“Well, um, you see…I had heard people in the west tended to, uh, hit those milestones at a younger age, but if this horse is fond of you…my, oh, my. Does this mean you are, um, pure? Or how should I put this?”
The spiky-haired boy was too embarrassed to ask any more clearly than that.
But that topic was the only thing in his classy mind. It no longer mattered to him that they were traveling faster than 100km/h.
Then Othinus gently whispered in his ear.
“(That settles it. She’s a virgin.)”
An odd noise came from the adolescent Kamijou Touma.
Also, Alex began struggling, so the female knight had to force him back on track with the reins. And she was too busy dealing with the horse to check on the situation behind her.
“What is this? What is awakening inside him? Explain this to me!!”
“Don’t worry. It’s just a sickness,” said Othinus. “Innocent young boys have a great weakness for a certain word. No matter how much they try to guard themselves against it, they cannot help but react to it.”
“That explains nothing. And small one, why do you sound so relieved by the boy’s disturbing react-…”
“And another thing, human. Did you realize this raises a certain question about Princess Carissa?”
“Gwah!? What is this aura behind me!? Really, what is awakening inside you to spook Alex this badly!?”
The female knight trembled with biological revulsion, but she still overlooked something thanks to the god’s forceful change of subject.
Then she got back on topic to help shake off the fear.
“So the central focus has shifted from the Crowley’s Hazards to the Golden magic cabal, has it? I find it hard to believe they really are the Golden cabal, but I have received some suspicious information in official reports. Wars do tend to escalate because you have to strike back when attacked, but I can’t believe they would release something so uncontrollable in our country.”
“What do you think about Lola Stuart at the center of it all?”
“I refuse to believe it. For one thing, that Great Demon simply does not exist.”
It was a blunt answer, but it was a sensible one when no material evidence had been provided.
“More importantly, you’re sure this is the right direction? Putting up with your behavior has been a trying experience, so if we fail to regroup with the Royal Family, not even I know what I will do to you.”
“Come to think of it, why didn’t the queen use an airplane?” asked Kamijou. “Wouldn’t she have a really fancy private jet or something?”
“There are signs of an internal threat in addition to the external one. We cannot rely on the air routes when we might have someone leaking information. Secrecy is a government plane’s greatest defense.”
Kamijou Touma looked impressed with her knowledge, but Othinus snorted from his shoulder.
“Try to sound smart all you like, but care to explain how you ended up running around in circles? The Royal Family is taking the land route north to Scotland, right? I don’t care how complex the roads are in London, there are only so many highways between cities.”
“The many branches converge into a single trunk. If you head to Scotland, you will naturally rejoin them. What, were you hoping to stop for a picnic?”
Of course, Mathers and the other pursuers would come up with the same idea. That was why the Royal Family had predicted an attack and gathered as many defenses as they could.
“There it is. That’s the entrance to the highway.”
“Looks like it isn’t blocked off. A normal car could wander onto there, not to mention Mathers.”
The experts had that to say, but the lower middle class Kamijou was surprised to find no tollbooth at the highway entrance. The armored horse ran up the onramp and entered an elevated road as wide as a runway.
Just then, Kamijou’s shoulders jumped at the loud roar coming from behind them. It sounded a lot like a rocket engine, but it had apparently missed the onramp and entered the road below. He had no idea who that was, but it may have been a lost out-of-towner.
Meanwhile, the female knight clicked her tongue.
But not because Kamijou had wrapped his arms around her even tighter when the previous noise caught him by surprise.
“Ignore whatever that was behind us. The Royal Family really is up ahead. We’ve fallen behind, so we need to hurry it up! We can’t regroup with them by waiting here!!”
“How can you tell?”
“There are horse droppings here and there. More than twenty four-horse carriages must have passed through here.”
“D-don’t give me that disappointed silence!! It’s an unavoidable part of using living creatures!”
Her shouting just about led to disaster.
She was slow to notice an obstacle lying on the highway, so the horse nearly trampled it.
It was a human.
Someone had been thrown to the asphalt and they were still collapsed there.
The female knight gave a shout and quickly pulled on the reins. She just barely dodged the person. It was a boy who looked middle school aged. No, maybe even elementary school aged. His baggy habit allowed even the spiky-haired amateur to know he was connected to all this, so Kamijou looked back and shouted.
“Who was that!? Do you know him!?”
“I do not!! He wasn’t a Knight. He looked more like an Anglican to me.”
The female knight shouted back at him while lighting a flare so colored flames spewed from it like a firework. She threw it behind them either as an SOS signal for the medics to retrieve the boy or as a hazard light so no one else would hit or trample him.
Her explanation placed a cloud over Kamijou’s face. He did not exactly want harm to come to the enemy, but this meant the boy was not a Golden magician who had gotten himself defeated while attacking the Royal Family. It was the Royal Family and their protectors who were being defeated.
“It’s started,” muttered Kamijou. “The fight has already started up ahead.”
Hamazura Shiage gave a puzzled look inside the four-wheel-drive vehicle parked below the bridge.
“Eh? Tarot cards???”
Dion Fortune was so afraid of Aneri(?) that she finally confessed with tears and snot staining her face, but Hamazura was not sure what it meant or why it mattered. Would a detective look so foolish if they confidently explained the trick to a locked room murder only to find everyone was too dumb to understand?
“It’s okay, Hamazura. I don’t understand it either. It might be a metaphor or codename for something.”
Not being the only one was such a wonderful feeling. It didn’t solve shit, though.
However, the bandage woman and mini-China dress girl had shown no mercy to Fortune.
Being too powerful may have come with its own issues.
Fortune was speaking English, but he could still tell there was no ill will behind her words.
“She isn’t saying anything too tricky. She just hasn’t explained everything you need to know.”
“Yeah. I can see why she’d be so confused when you keep pressing her for an answer.”
“Higii!?” was apparently universally understood.
Even without a translation from Takitsubo, Hamazura could tell how cornered Dion Fortune felt.
“Stop that. Fortune saved us, remember? And I feel like you two are giving everything a skewed viewpoint and Fortune is actually a pretty amazing person.”
Those ruinous words should never have been translated into English.
The frilly dress girl brushed back her white veil as she started getting a big head again.
“Heh. Eh heh heh. Yes, I am the great Dion Fortune. Pitting me against Magic Gods is cheating, that Egyptian one is enough to bring me to tears, and finishing me off with my mistress is not playing fair at all, but that is not what matters here. Yes, I am amazing. I might be surrounded by insanity right now, but if you understand my value and show me the proper respect, I will give you the privilege of shining my shoes, massaging my shoulders, carrying my bags, and otherwise doing my bidding! Ah ha ha ha ha ha!!”
“Boy, you deal with this one.”
“Hold on! Don’t you carry some of the responsibility for translating all that!?”
At any rate, the frilly dress girl gave more of an explanation from the back seat.
“When you get down to it, we are just one of the defenses prepared by Great Demon Coronzon. Master Mathers seems to be working toward some way of breaking free of that so we can do whatever we want. He always was good at translating grimoires.”
“He is the leader of our Golden cabal…although that description makes me feel bad for Westcott who claims to be the second leader.”
Keep in mind that Hamazura Shiage was not present for the events at the Westminster Abbey graveyard. Thanks to that, he could not even imagine what kind of person Mathers was or what kind of organization the Golden cabal was.
That was why he arrived at a certain thought in the driver’s seat.
(Hm. I don’t get any of this, but Coronzon is the villain who was chasing after Lilith, right? Then could we work with this Mathers person to fight her?)
Nothing could have been more presumptuous.
If things had been different, it might have been a possibility, but that option had been eliminated a century ago.
“So if we go to…Scotland was it? We can meet this Mathers person?”
“Hamazura, isn’t Scotland pretty far away?” asked Takitsubo.
“I don’t know the geography here.”
“Scotland is to the north,” explained Nephthys. “And the UK is about half the length of the Japanese archipelago.”
“It’s that long? Then we can’t just sit around here. After filling up with gas somewhere, we can go talk with this Mathers guy.”
That shocked Dion Fortune as she sat between the Magic Gods in the back seat. The exhibitionists were giggling and whispering into her ears, so they seemed to be acting as a luxurious two-person translator. Hamazura had a feeling they were taking some liberties in their translation, though.
Either way, Dion Fortune tearfully thrashed her arms and legs around and raised her voice.
“Wait!! This is all moving way too fast!! And why are you acting so tough!? Have you already forgotten how quickly Annie and Westcott took you out!? And you think you can deal with Master Mathers of all people!?”
“Wa ha ha ha!! I’m pretty sure this boy’s brain is throwing a party 24/7. …But I see. This is the bystander’s perspective. You get a lot of interesting ideas when cheap emotion isn’t clouding everyone’s minds☆”
“Yeah, Kamijou Touma and Accelerator wouldn’t have worked this time. Like we said at the beginning, they’re way too close to the action.”
Niang-Niang and Nephthys shared a meaningful smile in the back seat.
Due to how weak he was, Hamazura was sensitive to changes in the mood and he could tell something was changing now. He felt like it had started with seeing those carriages. The threat of imminent death seemed to be fading and the usual stillness of late night was returning to London. The city was entering a world of peaceful sleep where that abnormal excitement was unneeded.
“How do the convenience stores and fast food chains work in England? I’ve heard they close early overseas, but the self-serve gas stations are open 24 hours a day, right???”
“Hamazura, we’ll know when we get there.”
“Y-you’re going to visit Master Mathers with these two spirits? For real!? Th-there’s something wrong with the world when saving people only puts me in even more danger. Wh-wh-wh-what do I do? I might die today…”
Hamazura drove the vehicle out from under the bridge and into the London night. Before long, he spotted a sign he recognized, so it must have been an international brand. The lights were off, but since there were no barriers or chains keeping them out, he tried pulling up to the self-service gas station.
“Oh, the digital display is on. The pump should be working.”
“Hamazura, if there are vending machines, go buy some snacks and drinks. This might be our last chance for a while.”
After they discussed what to do while viewing the gas pump through the window, Hamazura opened the door and got out. Self-service stations would have at least one employee inside, so they may have been asleep. Or they had abandoned their job and fled due to the emergency.
And while he thought about that, he noticed something.
Two very small girls were doing something in the darkness. One was a lacrosse-style girl with long black hair braided at the end and the other was an elegant young lady with shoulder-length fluffy blonde hair, a white blouse, a black miniskirt, and black tights. Neither one was the type he expected to find at a gas station.
They were standing restlessly around a scooter.
“Ugeh. This gas is expensive. When did a liter pass 1.3 pounds!? Nwah! War really is a crime!! So we’re definitely splitting this bill, right? You’ve gotta be loaded with your big-ass cabal.”
“Don’t try to scam me, small-fry. This is your scooter, right? So this is your responsibility.”
“Does driving you around earn me nothing!? A taxi would’ve taken ten pounds in just two kilometers. And isn’t the Dawn-Colored Sunlight the proper successor of the Golden cabal? This is like a giant defense contractor driving a small local factory out of business to get the patent to a single tiny bearing! Stop picking on the little guy!!”
“If you were a driver from my cabal, I would have fired you for speaking to me like that. New Light, was it? Besides, it’s obvious you’re only staying so small to hide your actual skill and keep your operations lightweight. You have no right to say anything to me.”
They were arguing over something in English, but there was no way in hell those two were old enough to be using a car or motorcycle. Unfortunately, Hamazura Shiage was driving around in a stolen vehicle, so he was in no position to scold them here.
Instead, he stuck some wrinkled money (that he had found in the stolen vehicle’s dashboard) into the pump.
Afterwards, there was nothing much to do except listen to the heavy liquid running through the hose.
But then those two girls noticed him.
The one with shoulder-length blonde hair gave him a quizzical look and then spoke in fluent Japanese.
“Hm? I thought I recognized you. You were one of the guys hanging around Kamijou Touma.”
“Who are you again? My precious memory space is reserved for people with big boobs.”
A merciless slap sent Hamazura Shiage rolling around the area.
“I recognize this pain. Bard…no, Bird-Something, right!?”
“Almost there. Do you need another hit to jog your memory, you hunk of junk?”
“Ow, wait, ow, ow! When you step on someone, you’re supposed to let each blow linger for a bit! This isn’t a reward; it’s just violence! Please stop, you little dominatrix! What is even happening!?”
“Oops, I hit him too much and he rolled away. Guess I went overboard.”
This was odd. Hamazura Shiage was the delinquent with a heart of gold who would rescue little kids and abandoned kittens in the rain. His time with Fremea Seivelun, who was always nyah-nyah-ing, had taught him how to deal with kids, but none of the usual logic seemed to apply here. Why not? Yes, it was a lot like this blonde girl looked like a kid but was more like an old lady on the inside!!
“Oh, so it isn’t that you haven’t developed a chest yet. You had one, but it shriveled away. You’ve made yourself look young enough, but you’re a wrinkled old hag on the ins- brbwobergh!?”
“Next time I’m jabbing the toe of my shoe up your ass, you fool. More importantly, what are you carrying in that thing?”
Someone rolled out of four-wheel-drive vehicle as if they could not bear to stay inside a moment longer. Since the Magic Gods were stationed in front of the side doors, she had apparently opened the door at the very back. The frilly dress girl forgot to stand up and frantically clung to Hamazura.
“Wait, wait, wait! Please don’t barge in on Master Mathers uninvited! You seriously need to rethink this! He really does have a short temper and no sense of humor! What will you do if he uses his Belzébuth meant for punishing his own people!? You’ll die!!”
He could not make heads or tails of her English. His grasp of the language was so poor he had considered asking Takitsubo if he was right about which label meant gasoline and which one meant diesel. He felt like his only option was turning toward the blonde girl who knew Japanese.
“That’s right! You can always count on Bird-Something! Hey, sorry about the trouble, but could you tell me what Fortune is saying?”
For some reason the little blonde dominatrix and devilish lacrosse(?) girl froze when they saw the frilly dress girl. They stopped moving with their eyes wide.
“Hm? What’s with you two?”
They did not answer his question.
Instead, the little blonde girl’s entire body trembled and she somehow managed to force out a voice so unsteady it nearly cracked.
That tear-and-snot-covered face was gone in a flash. Dion Fortune sat on the hood of the vehicle, elegantly crossed her bright stockinged legs, and held her head high.
“I see, I see. So these are the descendants of the Golden cabal. How cute. Hee hee. How does it feel to see one of the originals? Quite an honor, isn’t it? Your heart is pounding with excitement, isn’t it? Hwa ha ha! Well, soak it all in because this will be a memory of a lifetime! Yes, there’s more than tears for me today! This is just another lovely day in the life of Dion Fortune, magician of love and glory!!”
Was this something like an entertainer surrounded by fans on a street corner?
Yet when Hamazura glanced over, he saw the blonde girl and lacrosse girl hanging their heads with shadows over their faces. And a closer look showed they were biting their lips. There were even tears in the corners of their eyes.
“(This is…this is a member of the original Golden cabal? You’re telling me this is what I’ve dedicated so much time to studying!? No, no! I don’t want to write it all off as a waste of time! Ah ha ha ha ha ha!!)”
“(S-surely this is some kind of mistake, right? Right!? I know you’re supposed to view a technique or technology in isolation from the thoughts and personality of its inventor, but this is still something of a shock!!)”
This seemed different.
Those two looked more like mixed martial arts fans who had gone to see a match in person and found it was much less exciting than on TV and the fighters were a lot smaller than they expected.
The blonde girl intentionally took a few deep breaths to calm herself before speaking.
“Anyway, you mentioned Mathers just now, didn’t you?”
“Yeah, but I haven’t actually seen the guy,” said Hamazura. “Most of what I know comes from her.”
“Hey, Fortune!! A founder like Mathers isn’t, uh, like this too, is he!? Just nod or shake your head! This is important! Depending on your answer, I might just crawl into bed and not get out for like a month!!”
“Eh? What’s this? Are you hoping to write him a letter, or do you think you can make some corrections to the grimoire? Uwehhh, don’t grab, ugh, my decorative collar, urgh, and shake me like that. Bleh, I feel sick.”
She was a surprisingly powerful little dominatrix.
But she was inexperienced and showed room for improvement. Her British training had clearly not taught her how to provide punishments and rewards in equal measures. In fact, the frilly dress girl started to look pale, so Hamazura quickly intervened. He did not want to see a girl foaming at the mouth.
“Hey, stop that, Little Miss No Boobs! I can’t just watch you do that to Dion Fortune!!”
“Shut up, I do too have boobs!! And what are you to Dion Fortune anyway!?”
“What am I to her?”
Come to think of it, why had she stayed with his group after saving them?
Everyone around him was such an irregularity (including Takitsubo and Aneri) that he was actually glad to have someone more on Fortune’s level, but he did not want to make her feel like she had to stay.
“Um, that’s actually a good question. Why am I traveling with her?”
“Yeah, I wouldn’t say that if I were you,” cut in the lacrosse girl. “She might not understand your words, but your facial expression and the general mood say a lot. Do you want to make Class Rep Fortune cry? …And that size of yours is generally referred to as a margin of error, Decimal Point Girl. Bwa ha ha!!”
If this was enough to make Dion Fortune teary eyed, she must have opened herself up to Hamazura and Takitsubo more than he thought. Maybe the Magic Gods had effectively played the bad cop role.
Thanks to the reference to her chest, the blonde girl held the lacrosse girl’s head between her small fists and rubbed at her temples while speaking in a low voice.
“Hey, let’s go see Mathers for ourselves. I don’t really care about the fate of the world, but my identity as a Golden magician is at stake here.”
“Ummm, unlike a certain idiot who does everything out of pure self-interest, I’m a legit patriot, so I’d like to put the safety of the UK first and foremost.”
“Do I need to use my heel?”
“Ha ha. I’m well known for my wide range of defenses, so if I were you, I wouldn’t underestimate-…”
“I’ll use it on your family. I’ll turn every last one of your relatives into an M.”
“Wait just a second! Targeting someone’s family is the absolute worst and scummiest thing a criminal organization can do! I-I couldn’t bear to see my parents with that kind of fetish!!”
The lacrosse girl bristled at the thought.
That was when Hamazura interrupted.
“Hey, she said the guy’s headed for Scotland. And I heard the UK is half as long as the Japanese archipelago. How long would that take on a scooter? Wouldn’t you end up with your asses all red and raw?”
The blonde girl and lacrosse girl exchanged a glance.
It was a worried one.
“If Mathers went to Scotland…oh, I get it. It’s that obsession of his. He really is claiming to be the Count of Glenstrae, isn’t he?”
“Let’s just pray he isn’t wearing white tights and a crown in full-on prince mode. And if we know where he’s going, couldn’t we get there ahead of him? Instead of burning out the scooter’s engine on the highway, I bet it would be faster to hop onto a freight train running through the night.”
“Don’t be silly. I am the Dawn-Colored Sunlight’s leader, so I can get us a private jet to use. I’m a little worried the airport won’t be running during this crisis, though.”
“Then why was this domineering girl weighing me down on the back of my scooter this whole time? I really want to give you a punch now.”
The sound of the liquid running through the hose and the digital display both stopped, so the fueling was complete.
The same was true with the lacrosse girl’s scooter.
“Wow, the price feels even more outrageous when you see the total. Gas is way too expensive. Electric has got to be the way of the future. Y’know, living a cheap and ecological life on solar power.”
Hamazura heard an odd warning tone. The money he had shoved into the pump must not have been enough. He had no sense of how much this British money was worth and just shoved another wrinkled bill inside, so the lacrosse girl whispered the answer to him.
“1.3 pounds a liter is more than 180 Japanese yen.”
He thought he was going to throw up.
“I don’t see Nics anywhere!”
“He fell off a while back. He might even be dead.”
Those words came from above the twenty horse-drawn carriages.
The roofs stuck out past the coachman’s seat and the carriages were in perfect synchronization, so there was plenty of space to stand on, much like the top of a train.
(This trip was ill-advised for a number of reasons, so we should count ourselves lucky we even made it to Manchester. But this is only the halfway point to Scotland and Edinburgh Castle is even further than that! I can’t believe they’ve already caught up to us here!!)
The blonde woman in a classic maid outfit was named Ange Catacombs.
The young wife holding a leash attached to a large rusted circular saw instead of a pet dog was named Cutia Virginroad.
Needless to say, both were part of the Anglican unit known as Necessarius. The chaos in the chain of command was obvious from the fact that Anglicans and not the Knights were directly guarding the Royal Family. Also, both Ange and Cutia had earned enough of a negative reputation for their particular skills that they could not be deployed to other countries, but this was no time to worry about that.
“These aren’t the Crowley’s Hazards.”
What were they?
What were they!?
“Then is this some allied group gone rogue, or is it a dangerous domestic group like a magic cabal!? Argh, why does the archbishop have to be incommunicado now of all times!?”
“My, my. But whatever the case, we have to view any unauthorized magical force as an enemy, don’t we?”
They were approaching a large English city, so the highway changed from a strip of asphalt through a grassy field to a modern elevated roadway. They could see variously-sized buildings beyond the soundproofing panels covering the left and right side.
And at the same time…
“Maintain the movement formation based on the three vertices. This relative speed is good enough.”
“How about you trust your cabal-mates’ skill a little more than that? Try passing them, Mathers.”
The people targeting the Royal Family were not clinging to the roofs and sides of the carriages. Nor were they using their own carriages or vehicles. They were using their own feet to run along the asphalt, the median, and sometimes even the signs or streetlights. Instead of running, it looked like they were sliding along a thin layer of water to match the 180km/h speed of the carriages.
The Necessarius women heard a sound like dry wood or glass clanking together.
“Cold and dry, then cold and wet.”
It came from the roadway rushing by so quickly. A witch’s cloak and a scarf flapped as a threat in human form opened its mouth.
The magician known as Mathers would not hold back at times like this. He did not scale up one stage at a time when facing beginners. He used his ultimate technique right off the bat. He completely ignored any gap in skill level and used his special attack to crush anyone he was up against.
The Royal Family’s plan was to lure in the enemy group and lead them around in order to split them up and pick them off one at a time, but that was only a theoretical concept. It was looking more like the Royal Family would be devoured instead.
A rapidly-rotating blade could be heard tearing into a carriage roof. The rusted circular saw at Cutia’s feet was trying to forcefully snag and tear apart the filthy black hairs targeting its master’s heart. That curse used two names: the powerful demon lord’s and the target’s. So the sticky black threads had to be destroyed along with their illusionary foothold before the two names could be connected.
“Surely you did not think you could stop my magic all on your own.”
“I would have ignored you had you remained an irrelevant distraction. But be it the Crowley’s Hazards or the United Kingdom, I will tear down all that stands in my way. Tremble with joy as you are defeated at the hands of the Golden cabal.”
The classic maid clenched her teeth.
(Still, this is better than letting them topple the carriages themselves by interfering with the magic boosting them.)
But that was not the two Necessarius women’s accomplishment.
The first princess in a blue dress was seated in the window of one carriage and leaning outside. She held a long object that looked a lot like a spear, but it was not actually a spear. Curtana was the royal sword without a tip. That flat sword was a symbol of peace, but its dangerous tip had been retrieved and attached at the end of this spear to create a true weapon of war and slaughter.
The heavyweight weapon was thoroughly reinforced with steel pipes and armor panels in order to control a sword fragment measuring only a few centimeters long.
“Curtana Lost. Oh, blade fragment symbolizing the fearsome side of the monarchy, lend me your power.”
“You claim to be the Scottish Count of Glenstrae? Well, I am 1st Princess of the entire United Kingdom. If you really are a noble, then bow your head to the royal bloodline, Mathers!!”
A quiet tongue click came from the scarf.
If he was simply the leader of the Golden magicians, he might have managed to wipe out the carriages in three seconds flat. But the other side of Mathers showed itself here. His claim of being a descendant of the highlanders was short on actual proof, but he could not ignore the background he insisted on. Crushing this princess would be admitting it was a lie.
But this was a stalemate for Riméa as well.
The plan had been to lure the enemy into a chase while picking them off one at a time, but the Royal Family had its hands full simply keeping the carriages upright. At this rate, they would be inviting the enemy – she did not hesitate to think of them that way at this point – into Scotland.
Thus, the first princess had to rely on someone else.
“Do it, Anglicans! Don’t disappoint me any further!!”
The command of one with royal blood struck them in the back.
It was no longer time to be speaking in a drawn-out, carefree way.
The young wife revealed her true face.
“Oh, pure saints whose thoughts remain even after your unsullied flesh and blood were scattered in death. Raise your voices, entangle yourselves with the approaching attacks, and redirect them from within to prevent disaster!!”
This attempt proved too much for her.
She never should have tried to match Mathers’s strength. With a loud sound of breaking metal, it was the circular saw that shattered. When the shards struck the asphalt, they produced orange sparks and were quickly left behind.
“My, my. That is not good!!”
But even with her partner lost, Cutia only placed a hand on her cheek. She had not lost the will to fight. In fact, she did have a partner after all. With the sound of something swishing through the air, the thick leash thrashed about like a great serpent. It was a thick rope with a large loop at the end. There was no need to explain what that symbolized.
“Hanging is a merciless execution. The rope which tortured so many sinners at the will of the gathered crowds is a tool of bondage and release. Watch from the depths of your slumber, foolish descendants who have forgotten the meaning of those many deaths. Bind your souls and do not allow your leaders to succumb!!”
But Mathers did not even give a command to the four Symbolic Weapons floating around him.
He simply breathed an exasperated sigh.
How smoothly they switched places was a sign of just how high-level their coordination was.
A moment later, someone landed on a carriage roof after jumping off of a plastic bucket full of water used for shock absorption at the start of an off ramp. The man in the black robes of a judge was John William Brodie-Innes. His shoes must have had metal built in because they produced a dry sound much like tap shoes.
And that tapping caused something like orange sparks to scatter around.
“The knowledge of the cross is hidden in the intersections of all symbols. The modified pyramid cross signifies the gathering of power, so send this danger right back at them!!”
John William Brodie-Innes’s sparks acted as intersections – that is, crosses – of the lines and curves in all magical circles, writing, and symbols. The Calvary cross, the Maltese cross, the Greek cross, and the pyramid cross. The magical power flowing toward him from the Necessarius woman was taken into the magical circle and sent down different branches of each intersection like a train switching rails.
And what did that mean?
The young wife heard a loud roar by her ear.
Those crosses used the enemy’s magical symbols to John William Brodie-Innes’s advantage.
The leash in Cutia’s hand should have been her trusty companion, but it was now attached to a growling four-legged beast crudely constructed from nothing but blood-red cubes. But she did not know this beast. She did not even have time to brace herself. It charged right toward her as she held the leash. It bit into her right side and threw her toward the asphalt rushing by with such frightening speed.
The maid with a long skirt jumped toward her companion’s scream and reached out her hand. When Ange snapped the fingers of her other hand, various sizes of autonomous suitcases slid toward the road surface as temporary footing for their master.
“Close, seven-cornered wall. The catacombs will not yet allow you to awaken!!”
When the maid shouted that with the young wife in her arms, a suitcase she was not standing on hopped up irregularly like it had stepped on a pebble. No, it opened up like a crocodile attacking a small bird on the water’s surface.
It swallowed the red cube beast and snapped shut once more.
That alone demonstrated inhuman skill.
But even then…
“Did you think you could defeat your enemy by playing with your own magic? It is the macro universe you should be responding to now.”
Mathers did not bat an eye.
His four Symbolic Weapons continued to dance around him.
“Hot and dry. I will now show you what happens when you take your eyes off your true enemy for even a moment.”
The fire wand made a full rotation in front of the man as he ran at 180km/h in leather shoes.
That was enough to create a flaming circle which spewed flames across the entire roadway with the intensity of a flash flood.
There were no shouts or screams.
He had not given them the time, but there was another reason.
The maid and young wife saw that powerful magic blown away before their eyes.
Blown away by the right fist of an Asian sitting behind a female knight on a military horse.
One of Mathers’s eyebrows twitched slightly while he moved at 180km/h.
“Hey, Mathers.” Kamijou Touma shouted at him in Japanese. “What, are you only interested in your target? Well, I can keep you busy in the meantime, you living fossil of a coelacanth!!”
Ange Catacombs and Cutia Virginroad gasped atop the autonomous suitcases, but that was a reaction to Mathers’s change of expression, not the fact that their lives had been saved. That boy had worked his way under Mathers’s seemingly impervious skin, even if just a little.
Mathers’s eyes clearly moved below the witch’s hat.
He set his sights on just that one boy.
“I see. I suppose I did just say I would show them what happens when you ignore an enemy. So I will not allow this. I will not, my inexperienced enemy. It is time you felt the appropriate fear and regret for hastening your death by making an appearance here.”
Kamijou could not understand his Scottish English response.
Othinus gave an inaccurate translation with a straight face.
And that god stuck out her tongue afterwards.
“He says he is as much a pervert as Aleister and wants you to ‘reward’ him good and hard. Human, do not hold back. Smash that arrogant nose of his!!”
His girlfriend, Takitsubo Rikou, was asleep in the passenger seat.
They were traveling north to Scotland after leaving London in the stolen four-wheel-drive vehicle, but since it was stolen, using the highway would be too risky. He had decided to stay on the normal roads running alongside the highway and keep an eye out for checkpoints and police while staying below the speed limit. The supernatural was not the only thing to fear since Hamazura Shiage did not have anything that let him skip right past those more ordinary concerns.
The digital clock told him the time was better described as early morning than late night. The only radio stations he could find were playing soft jazz with no talk at all. He was a little worried this would cause British truck drivers to doze off and crash, but the music choice may just have been part of the local color.
The bandage woman and mini-China dress girl had been causing such a ruckus earlier, but when he checked in the rearview mirror now, he saw them leaning together (Dion Fortune between them) with their eyelids gently shut.
His eyes met those of the frilly dress girl.
She looked melancholic.
She had her feet up on the seat and her arms around her knees.
“(Are we seriously going there? But I only just fought back against Westcott and Annie. The rest of the cabal will have heard, so they’ll probably all be against me. And Mathers has such a short temper he’ll probably just kill me! Why did I have to run across the kind of person who rushes out to see the hurricane or tornado!?)”
With one hand on the wheel and his eyes on the road, he held some caffeinated gum back toward her with his other hand. Her small hand hesitantly reached for it. It was not always clear whether sleeping or just staying up was better at this time of night, but Fortune must have given up on sleeping.
“What kind of person is Mathers?”
She did not understand his Japanese question. She had to be quite intelligent, but she just tilted her head. Her white veil shook. All of the girls who could translate for her were in their separate dream worlds.
But then they heard a quiet electronic jingling.
When Dion Fortune realized it had come from the phone in the holder, her shoulders jumped. The Magic Gods leaning on her groaned a bit at the movement. Hamazura was not quite sure why, but Fortune seemed to have trouble with Aneri.
“Don’t worry. Aneri won’t bite. Okay, Aneri, can you translate for me? I don’t want to wake the others, so it would help if you used text instead of speech.”
“It’s true my mistress doesn’t bite, but she does scratch.”
“Hey, Aneri, are you sure this translation is right???”
He still had his doubts, but this was apparently accurate.
The bandage and mini-China dress Magic Gods were leaning on Fortune with their soft-looking cheeks resting on her shoulders. If you only focused on the visual, it looked…cute?
“Nnn, mutter, mutter. No, I couldn’t possibly eat any more Fortune. I’m stuffed.”
You could not blame someone for their dreams, but was Niang-Niang really asleep? The frilly dress girl’s shoulder was wet with the drool dripping from the corner of the Magic God’s mouth.
This reminded Hamazura of something.
“You slept pretty peacefully, Fortune.”
“Ugh, you were watching me sleep?”
“Although you did convulse weirdly from time to time. It was honestly kind of hot.”
“Being an excellent spiritual medium has its downsides!! Dammit, why do trances have to be like that!?”
Now he was even more certain the translation was bugging out on him, but apparently not. He desperately wanted to find some common language with Fortune.
He tried to think of something while blowing a bubble with his gum.
And then he heard an odd sound.
He checked in the mirror and saw Dion Fortune puckering her lips and straining until her face turned red. He was confused at first, but then it hit him.
“Ha ha. What, can you not blow a bubble?”
“Why do you look so pleased with yourself?”
“There’s no real trick to it. Just chew the gum up nice and soft, make an indentation in the middle with your tongue, and then blow into it. I think that’s all it is. It comes so naturally to me now that it’s hard to think about how I do it.”
How long did it take to find this side of someone?
What about with Mugino, Kinuhata, and Takitsubo?
Or what about Westcott and Annie? Would things have been different had they met under different circumstances? And was it too late to change that now?
Hamazura Shiage only had a name for that person.
He chewed completely ordinary gum as he continued speaking words that might not reach the girl.
“I’ll teach you how to do it later. If you’re fine with that.”
Dion Fortune puffed out the cheeks behind her white veil. He may have hurt her pride a little. And he was impressed with Aneri for actually translating the “hmph” into Japanese for him. How did that AI recognize things that were not really words?
“Why are you and my mistress such good friends?”
“Personally, I’m not quite sure why you’re treating a program like it’s female.”
“Or am I just an exception? Aleister and Mathers were so eccentric and narrow-minded, but even they could hold a proper conversation with the black cat witch. The only magician that ever truly angered her was me, the great Dion Fortune.”
“Aneri, did you do something to her? Now’s your chance to apologize.”
His phone vibrated as if to shake its head at the accusation.
“Hmm.” Hamazura thought for a moment. “Fortune, do you have a phone?”
“I was ringing a bell to call for help. What do you think?”
“Don’t sulk. Why not buy one if you get the chance? They have cheap prepaid ones here, don’t they?”
“Not a chance. If you want to friend me, then at least build a temple for me first.”
“You know how to use ‘friend’ as a verb? Then you’re definitely interested in this stuff! Aneri, once she gets a phone, stay on there for a while.”
“Why would you want me to be on edge 24/7!? What did I ever do to you!?”
“That’s not the point. There seems to be some kind of misunderstanding between you two, but I bet you can get over it if you’re together for a while.”
“Please. I don’t know what your problem with Aneri is, but this is a chance for you too.”
Dion Fortune said nothing for a while.
But when he glanced back at her through the mirror, she finally let out a sigh.
And she answered even if it cost her some of the currency known as pride.
“Okay, fine. I promise.”
The transport helicopter arrived in Scotland.
There was no heliport, but any flat area of land was enough.
The first order of business was to take the palm rod that Karasuma Fran had given her and stab it into the ley line to establish a temporary magical communications network.
“We should take readings across the whole area. Miss Kanzaki, you do the other side of the lake!”
There was no difference between Saints and normal people here. The power flowing through the earth was determined by the terrain, so you only had to view the arrangement of mountains, valleys, and such. That said, it only gave you a general idea. The plumbing, gas pipes, and other artificial objects buried in the ground would change things, so maps and satellite photos were not enough. It was always best to do a local survey.
There was no one around, but there was fortunately a church nearby.
Orsola set that up as their base, left a few pieces of equipment there, and then stepped back outside with a basic spiritual item that matched her height.
It was really just a glass weight on the end of the sort of thin chain used for necklaces. She slowly walked along the field with it. It was one of those things where the weight’s swaying and rotating would supposedly change in response to water or metal in the ground.
Using the Divine Mixture had been a terrible mistake.
But she did want to do something for this country which had accepted her and let her in.
So wasn’t there something she could do other than wielding a weapon and fighting?
Orsola Aquinas could not find a definitive answer.
But everyone was filled with doubt in their life.
(I need to hurry.)
She marked her map at every point where the thin chain responded. Once she had a few marks, she compared them to the predicted ley line location and drew some curving corrections to its path.
(I need to get this done as soon as possible!!)
She found the point at which she could stab in the rod to bring back communications.
It looked like a completely ordinary field.
Orsola lifted the palm rod that the hoodie bikini and rabbit-ear antennae girl had given her.
She heard a muffled sound.
It did not matter if it was only a small thing or if she could wield no direct firepower.
Orsola Aquinas was once more doing something for the people living in this country.
The Royal Family carriages left the Manchester area. The highway descended from the elevated roadway and returned to being a thick stripe down a grassy field. The frequency and brightness of the lights reduced to something more befitting the late night, but there were now some normal vehicles here and there. While London had been exposed to such constant tension, the atmosphere and mood here may have been different.
Even though the threat known as Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers was here with the entire Golden cabal in tow.
Kamijou could tell these would not be easy opponents.
And not just because of the strength of their magic. While he had to remain on the horse, Mathers and the others could run around at 180km/h just fine. He could not even stand on the same stage as them to fight.
So what was it he needed to do?
He shouted to the female knight holding the reins.
“The others don’t matter, so chase after their big boss: Mathers!!”
“Wh-what!? Do you even know how his magic works!? You make that sound so easy.”
“No matter how powerful he is, history has proven that Imagine Breaker works on Mathers’s attacks! So don’t think about it too much and just ride the horse toward him!! I’ll deflect any attacks with my right hand!!”
They did not have time for further argument.
But instead of the female knight making up her mind, Mathers forced her hand by using the wand, cup, dagger, and disc floating around him.
“Hot and wet.”
She was a warrior by trade, so she moved to crush the enemy before he could attack.
But instead of charging straight into him, she rode up alongside him to reduce the lateral distance between them. Mathers was nearly pinned between the military horse and a Royal Family carriage – although he mostly seemed worried about Kamijou’s right hand grabbing one of his floating Symbolic Weapons – so he kicked off the side of the carriage and onto its roof, his witch’s cloak and scarf flapping behind him.
Kamijou also gathered his strength.
“Stay like this.”
“Wait, are you insane!?”
“My legs are already shaking, so please don’t say anything to make me rethink this!!”
“Human, allow me to encourage you. The city of Manchester is said to get its name from a term meaning ‘breast-shaped hill’.”
He jumped from the female knight’s horse to the top of a Royal Family carriage. The airtime was minimal, but he still thought his heart would stop. He was not a magician who could react to any situation. If he made one wrong step and fell to the road, his whole body would be shredded as if by a giant grater.
“Argh, I can’t stand this! I can’t turn my weapon against carriages bearing the mark of the Royal Family!!”
“You collect the two on the suitcases!!”
The magicians riding the variously-sized suitcases waved to say they did not need the female knight’s help. The suitcases gradually slowed down, so the two women vanished into the distance behind them. But Kamijou did not have time to watch it all and faced forward once he was certain they were safe.
He was standing atop one of the carriage roofs that seemed linked together in a long row.
And he was directly facing the Golden leader.
“It would seem you think this puts us on equal footing,” said Mathers.
He had not noticed himself, but it meant a lot that he was speaking to an ordinary high school boy just as he had to the legendary Aleister Crowley.
He grabbed the fire wand and tapped the carriage roof.
“The science side? Academy City? I can deal with you by crushing just one carriage…no, just one horse. You will share the fate of the collapsed carriage while I can run along the asphalt just fine.”
“Is that so?”
“Your Imagine Breaker cannot protect you from everything. Try it if you like, but I can destroy the roof below your feet long before you can cover the short distance between us and swing your fist. You will not make it.”
“Is that all you’ve got, Mathers?” spat out Kamijou. He did not hesitate to respond. “I can tell there’s nothing to you. Settling the score with Aleister? A battle a century in the making? Don’t make me laugh. You can look at the world around you and see how far we’ve come since the Battle of Blythe Road and yet that’s all you can talk about!? It doesn’t matter that you’re not the real Mathers. Black Cat Witch Mina Mathers was a richer person than you. She could accept the present world and enjoy herself!!”
Mathers may not have understood everything the boy said in Japanese.
But the Golden leader’s eyes narrowed slightly at the names he mentioned: Aleister and Mina.
That had to have been a decisive fork in the path forward, but Kamijou could not quite tell how.
Mathers’s response was short.
“If you wish to lecture me, wait until you have won.”
Kamijou had more to say once Othinus whispered a translation from his shoulder.
“Is that how you see it? Well, I’m not fighting for the #1 spot on the winners’ podium. This doesn’t have to be a competition between science and magic and I don’t have to compare my strength to yours.”
But Kamijou pointed his right hand in a different direction altogether.
He put his other hand on his hip and finished his thought.
“I’m not fighting alone.”
It was unclear if the Golden leader really understood his Japanese, but the boy’s gestures and expressions must have been enough to get the gist of it.
For the first time, Mathers grabbed the brim of his witch’s hat and let his attention shift to something other than his target. Arthur Edward Waite, the Lady of the Masquerade Ball, and the other Golden magicians likely thought of that silver girl.
But there was no one there.
Only the grassy field flying by at 180km/h. The night breeze smelled saltier now, so they may have been near the ocean.
John William Brodie-Innes, who wore a black judge’s robe, and Robert William Felkin, who wore a black cloak and a pure white suit, crashed into each other while looking to the side.
And after they lost their balance and fell, Alex mercilessly trampled them.
That magic cabal performed large ceremonies like a stage play, but their coordination had been broken.
The female knight seemed as surprised as anyone.
Her eyes were wide and her mouth formed a small triangle after unintentionally crushing two Golden magicians.
“Okay, Felkin is out! Someone else take over as Praemonstrator! You, the weakling with nothing to do! Yes, you, the one who looked over when I said weakling! No, you can’t get out of it by looking away now!! Don’t let the 7=4 position scare you! We’ll only treat you like a temple chief, so just do it!!”
“Show a little concern for Brodie-Innes too, Annie.”
The Golden magicians were clearly out of sync as they slid along the road like it was ice. And as they weaved back and forth and traded positions, they finally stabilized themselves once more.
Of course, just because something would kill a normal human did not mean it could fully destroy an original grimoire. Still, a couple of them had been successfully removed from the battle for the time being.
And Kamijou’s real target was Mathers.
The man only had to be distracted by his subordinates’ screw up.
If the boy could run up to the man, Imagine Breaker could reach him!!
“You might not care since you can pull it off so easily, Mathers, but you need to keep in mind just how abnormal a place 180km/h is!!”
There was an opening.
Kamijou was unlikely to get a better one.
But Mathers immediately spoke without even turning the boy’s way.
“Hot and dry.”
After the translucent demon named Qliphah Puzzle 545 passed through the temporary birth canal created by gathering the surrounding cushioning, packaging, and cardboard boxes, she tilted her head.
She was taking a leisurely journey in the back of a semi-truck.
The truck appeared to be loaded with electric guitars, amps, large speakers, and other musical equipment.
Academy City’s #1, Accelerator, had snuck into the closed back of the truck, which had to weigh more than ten tons, and then sat with his back against the wall. This truck’s driver was either good at judging the risks or just plain hasty because it had fled London as soon as the threat of the Crowley’s Hazards faded, but there was no way it would catch up to the Royal Family carriages or Mathers’s group.
Qliphah Puzzle 545 flipped upside down with a weightless motion and flapped her wings meaninglessly as she spoke.
“Might I be rude enough to ask if you plan to help out?”
“I don’t. Why should I risk my life for that shitty board chairman?”
“Nee hee hee! Right!? Right!?”
That girl, whose short height and large breasts gave her imbalanced proportions, matched her eye level to his while upside down and she spoke with a voice as sweet as candy and laughed with the grating voice of an ill-natured old woman. Listening to her was like listening to a record when the needle kept skipping.
When she flipped right side up again, her thick tail bent like an S and touched the floor and she crossed her legs like she was seated in an invisible throne. It almost looked like she was lifting the #1’s skinny jaw with her toes.
“Yet here you are on a truck to Scotland, even if it won’t arrive in time. And you’re charging your battery using the fuel cells for an outdoor concert.”
“Nee, nee hee hee. Should I not have mentioned that? Should I have turned a blind eye? Hee hee. I’ve – hee hee hee- learned my lesson, so – hee – please stop! Hee hee hee hee! Not the bottom of my foot! Hee hee hee! Please stop! Hee hee! Ah, if you grab – hee hee hee hee – my ankle, I can’t – nee hee hee hee hee – get away!! Hee hee hee!! I won’t, I won’t do it again! Hee heeeeee!!!???”
She was laughing even more than usual because Accelerator started tickling the bottom of her bare foot with a blank expression. That monster was always learning, so he knew there were ways of humiliating people that did not involve pain or suffering.
He kept his hand around her slender ankle, so Qliphah Puzzle 545 futilely flailed around like a balloon in a windstorm. Eventually, Accelerator gave an annoyed sigh while still seated with his back against the wall.
“The battle has transformed into a highway car chase, so we have to stop Mathers before they reach Scotland. But so what? There’re plenty of people on our side, so not all of us need to chase after the immediate target. The Royal Family? Will protecting them really bring this to an end? Without any loose ends?”
“Nya ha! Nee hee hee hee hee hee hee!! I-I can’t breathe! My diaphragm is breaking! Hee, hee, hoo! And this positioning – nee, nee hee – lets you look right up my skirt, doesn’t it?”
“Eek! Okay, I’ll take this seriously! I’m a demon, but I’ll go to bed at 9, get up at 6, eat three meals a day, cut back on fat, salt, and carbs, always exercise after meals, and crash into you with a piece of toast in my mouth every morning! I promise I will, so please not between the toes! That’s getting a little kinky! Ha ha hee ha heeee, buhee, nya ha ha ha ha ha, nee hee hee, tremble, tremble, bleh!!!???”
There seemed to be some pig-like noises mixed in with her laughter and her body started bugging out and shifting toward nausea at the end, but the #1 showed no mercy.
“The others can deal with the real-time chase. I’ll use this time to stay in hiding, save my strength, and charge my battery. This is all a waste of time if they win the battle but are too tired to do anything afterwards, so we can’t look at this as the end. It’s more like the traffic cone at the turn back point.”
“The others can deal with the real-time chase. I’ll use this time to stay in hiding, save my strength, and charge my battery. This is all a waste of time if they win the battle but are too tired to do anything afterwards, so we can’t look at this as the end. It’s more like the traffic cone at the turn back point. …There, see!! I was listening to the whooole thing!!”
“Eh? Wait, you’re really going to stop? That’s honestly a little disappointing. What do I do now? My body wants more.”
The #1 was starting to catch on. Qliphah Puzzle 545’s tentacle-like tail was swishing back and forth unhappily and her lips were pouting. That demon was more than willing to sacrifice herself if it would make a mockery of the world and create an inappropriate mood.
“We need to keep our options open.” Accelerator continued calmly while still seated. “If things go the way Aleister expects, we can go with that. But if they don’t, I’ll have some insurance ready. I’ll use what they call a time-delayed attack, so being a little late is actually perfect.”
“Nee hee hee. Yeah, it’s Aleister at the center of it all, so it would be best to assume following her instructions won’t turn out well for you. I mean, imagine if there was a charismatic leader insisting they have a vision of the future in a thousand years’ time so you should join their evil organization to fight for heaven on earth, but it turns out their wrists are actually covered in scars, they’re suicidal, and they actually want to hasten the apocalypse? Would you really leap at the chance to follow their grand vision?”
He nearly agreed, but then the translucent demon stopped moving.
She seemed to have realized something.
“What is it?”
“Well, um… Your plan sounds just fantastic, but doesn’t that mean we’re going to have a lot of time on our hands in the more immediate future?”
“Qliphah Puzzle 545, I’m going to get some rest while my battery charges, so you stand watch until that’s done.”
“Whoa, hold on! Surely there’s something I can use to kill the time! I’m gonna be hella bored in here. Now I see why Coronzon rebelled against that old contract. At least let me watch some videos! Isn’t that what the modern marvel of the smartphone is for!?”
That was not Accelerator’s problem, so he rested his chin on a raised knee while still seated with his back against the truck wall.
“Wow, I knew you were like arrogance incarnate, but I didn’t know you had the miraculous skill to sleep without even a chair.”
The imbalanced girl grumbled for a bit longer, but then she tilted her head.
There was no response.
She blinked a few times.
“Nee hee, nee hee hee. Wait, did you really fall asleep like this? I mean, what if someone attacked? The first hit would kill you before you could wake up and hit the switch on your choker. And what makes you so sure I’m not gonna betray you?”
She tried swishing her thick tail right in front of him, but he still did not react in any way.
Now she started to feel worried.
“H-hey, you can quit pretending to sleep now.”
She had to accept it.
The #1 really was unconscious. He was focusing on recovering before the upcoming battle. He may have simply chosen the lesser of two evils between the options available to him, but he really had done it instead of just saying he would.
He had left Qliphah Puzzle 545 in charge here.
She plopped down next to him, but her contractor still did not wake up. That imbalanced girl held her knees between her arms, pouted her lips, and finally rested her small head on the #1’s shoulder.
And she said just one thing.
She decided against simply going to sleep.
Flames roared across the seemingly-connected roofs of the carriages.
Mathers did not hold back.
Even when his opponent was an amateur kid who could not hope to call himself a magician.
That thick mass of light and heat formed a thick and solid wall as it pushed toward Kamijou Touma.
Everyone already knew what his trump card was.
His right fist, Imagine Breaker, was his only real option.
Seeing him break right through the Golden leader’s magic was enough for Annie Horniman to gasp.
He took another step forward.
He had to get within punching range of Mathers.
Just as he broke through and blew away the wall of fire, he heard a series of dry sounds.
“You may have broken the hot and dry, but the hot and wet and cold and wet are joined with it. There are no pure elements at the surface of the four worlds, but the isolated cold and dry will use its great influence to disturb the world’s harmony. Earth born of fire, use your great fusion to reinforce your meaning and strike the destroyer of the elements!!”
There were four elements.
In the largescale ceremonial magic used by the Golden cabal, you could not exclude any of those four even if you only wished to use the one.
In a technical sense, there were no pure elements in this world.
For example, fire always contained some trace amounts of water, wind, and earth.
Trying to remove that margin of error would be the same as forcibly removing electrons or protons from stable atoms or molecules.
“Westcott, Lady of the Masquerade Ball, and the rest. Look after yourselves. Do not get caught in this and die.”
So destroying the magic was not the end of it.
Mathers had set his magic up under the assumption it would be destroyed.
The great destructive power that followed was an unstable element.
A horrifying white beam of light blasted forward from Mathers’s hand.
A hit from this would be fatal.
And Kamijou had already swung his right fist with all his might.
He could not dodge this attack.
He only survived because the carriage he stood on shook hard to the side. The white beam passed right by his head and left a tingling pain on his nearly-scorched cheek. This was no coincidence. The coachman holding the reins had moved the carriage at just the right time.
But that action gathered Mathers’s sadistic attention.
He tapped the heel of his leather shoe on the roof and spoke.
Kamijou had to take a gamble.
“Slam on the brakes!!!!!!”
When the boy shouted, Mathers grew cautious of something. Yet nothing happened. Of course it did not. None of those British people were going to understand something yelled in Japanese. And when someone shifted their body weight in anticipation of a coming shock, they would only throw themselves off balance if nothing actually happened.
This plan would not have worked had the coachman understood Japanese.
But Kamijou’s gamble had paid off.
It was only for a moment, but Mathers’s center of gravity shifted slightly out of place. This method used his own body weight against him, like a form of aikido. His witch’s cloak and scarf fluttered from the movement. Kamijou could not waste the time he had bought himself, so he rushed sharply toward the man.
He had to land a punch before the person who had saved his life was killed.
An odd sound reached his eardrums. It was very different from the previously smooth sounds of the runners. Yes, Mathers was not the only one here. Israel Regardie and Netta Fornario. Annie Horniman and William Wynn Westcott. The Lady of the Masquerade Ball and Frederick Gardner. The Golden magicians running alongside the carriages were finally taking aim at Kamijou Touma.
Mathers spoke coldly from below his witch’s hat.
“Attack the both of us. Knock over the carriage and he will die.”
“How insane are you, Mathers!?”
The magicians took action on the right side of the carriages. Their magic was demonstrated through group movement, much like a stage play. They used chess pieces modeled after Egyptian deities, a silver cross discolored a pitch black, white and black clubs, a scroll of old parchment, a cloak that flapped on its own, and illusionary fire that flickered like heat haze. So many magical symbols filled with light as each and every one of them prepared to blow away the entire row of carriages.
But just then…
“Not so fast, traitors!!”
The female knight roared from horseback while moving at the same speed.
The Golden magicians were not the only ones here. That woman drew the steel sword at her hip, and…
“Respond to my vibration, General Use Series 25. …S T T A T L O J!! (Shatter this threat as the light of judgment!!)”
With the low buzz of a neon light powering on, the sword’s outlines transformed with the grip unchanged. It became a giant spear made of bluish-white phosphorescence. Its use could not have been more obvious. She intended to use Alex’s powerful legs to smash them with both weight and speed.
Mathers did not even bother looking in her direction.
The only one of the Golden magicians to react was Frederick Leigh Gardner who wore the thick, long-sleeved shirt and comfortable pants of old-fashioned tennis apparel. He was probably more interested in protecting the Lady of the Masquerade Ball than Mathers. He clearly altered the formation as he swung around a lamp. The illusionary fire surrounding it grew and changed shape. It formed a giant symbol made up of a crescent moon, a circle, and a cross. Kamijou had no idea what it meant, but the female knight shouted as she made her charge.
“The Cup of Stolistes!? No, not quite!”
“Thou art the entire tree except Keter. Thou art the pillar of Mercury. Aim for the head and eliminate all wicked thoughts. Offer victory unto my lady!!”
The female knight did not know exactly how it worked.
But just as there was a rule saying the magic Aleister had created would not work against Aleister, the Golden magicians who had helped create the very foundation were beyond powerful. Just as the symbol shattered and a light flashed, her eyes dilated unnaturally. At the same time, her giant blue spear shattered and disappeared into nothingness.
What would happen if you charged a ferocious beast after losing your weapon?
The female knight did not need to be told that.
“I never thought I could stand up to you. No matter what fancy words I use to describe myself, my skill was not enough to keep up with even the Divine Mixtures.”
Yes. She had yet to lose the will to fight.
“But when the United Kingdom and the Royal Family are in danger, did you really think a knight would back down just because her blade cannot reach the enemy!?”
Beyond the shattering light and past that lost illusion, she held something in her hand.
It was a perfectly ordinary briefcase-sized crossbow made of synthetic fibers and reinforced rubber. It contained no magical symbols whatsoever.
She fired it with a sound very different from a gun using gunpowder. If anything, it was more like a daikon radish being forcefully sliced through with an icepick. Of course, this would not be enough to defeat a Golden magician. But it was enough for him to tense up slightly. The complete lack of magic power in the weapon may have made him suspect it had magical properties that were concealed in some way.
They were already close together, so the female knight used his moment of tension to kick the belly of her horse and pass by the man.
And she embraced the horse’s thick neck to whisper in its ear.
The next noise sounded even more brutal than a shotgun blast.
At first, Kamijou Touma had no idea what had happened. That military horse with powerful muscles covering every part of its body had used its hind legs to kick Frederick Leigh Gardner.
“Annie, alter the formation. Gardner is out, so you take over as Stolistes!!”
“Wait, Westcott. I’m already holding Jachin and Boaz!”
“The black pillar should be enough. And if you won’t do it, the role has to go to the Lady of the Masquerade Ball who has been itching to get her hands on it for a while now. I think she was trying to surreptitiously take it from Gardner.”
“She always has to stand in the spotlight, doesn’t she!? Okay, fine, I’ll do it! We’re all in this stage play together, so if you want to show off by rearranging the symbols and adlibbing, you’ll have to follow through on your own. Got that!?”
It did not matter if their magic was hijacked or negated.
That was the same strategy Mathers had used against Imagine Breaker. So they would not complain even if the magician in the old-fashioned tennis apparel was taken out of the fight by brute force.
Regardless, the female knight calmly began a count.
“I can see why Second Princess Carissa chose this horse. He follows my instructions better than I could have hoped. I am honored I could hold your reins.”
The horse whinnied happily.
These magicians had brushed off Aleister’s handmade superweapons, so this would not be enough to kill them. But by tossing them out of this 180km/h world, they would be left far behind. It would take some time for that man to catch up and rejoin the battle.
On top of the carriages, Kamijou groaned at what he had seen.
“Y-you’re kidding, right? That’s what happened to me???”
“You idiot! Stay focused on the more immediate problem, human!!”
Mathers stood atop the seemingly-connected roofs of the carriages with his witch’s cloak and scarf flapping behind him. As long as he remained on that roof, any interference with his mobility did not matter. This was no time to get distracted by an unexpected success.
Mathers and Aleister may have been similar in how they did not place too much weight on any one victory or loss. But while Aleister always assumed loss and failure, Mathers always assumed victory, so he was not foolish enough to lose focus over a single win. That was why he would thoroughly analyze any losses or failures to reveal what had tripped him up. And if it was something he could use, he would immediately convert it into his own power.
Thus, the Golden leader would never overlook that moment.
“Cold and dry, then hot and wet.”
When Kamijou heard those words, he held his right hand up before even turning his head.
But the initial scattershot of small stones was accelerated even further by a gust of wind behind it. That threw off the boy’s rhythm. The attack hit before he could get his right hand up. He may have been able to stop it if it had had that speed to begin with, but the secondary acceleration had messed with his timing.
It was not quite the same as being stabbed with a knife.
Dull pain exploded across his entire upper body as hard and dull objects were forcibly pushed into him.
He lost his balance and fell from the carriage.
The deadly asphalt was rushing by at 180km/h below and the female knight could not catch him on the horse because she had charged at the Golden magicians.
An explosive roar rattled the cores of everyone there.
This was a rocket engine.
The powerful thrust threatened to lift the mass of steel from the ground as it shot right past the Royal Family carriages.
“I wish we hadn’t gotten lost on the way here, but we finally found you!”
It was the A.A.A.
That mass of weapons had transformed into a colossal motorcycle and Mikoto shouted while holding the handlebars.
“Yet again, I have to ask you what you’ve gotten yourself involved in!!”
Just when the carriages had come into view up ahead, she had seen a sign for Heysham. They were almost at the Lake District and Scotland was just past that. The salty scent of the sea was so strong because Heysham contained a port for reaching the Isle of Man and Ireland. They were near the Irish Sea. Since railroads and highways would generally avoid the mountains whenever possible, the roads tended to run through the fields and along the coast.
Mikoto had just slid the motorcycle directly below the spiky-haired boy as he fell from one of the carriages. That required incredible power and incredibly precise control. Even accounting for the hovering support legs, it felt nothing like swinging around a five-ton mass at 180km/h. It felt as light as moving a wireless mouse in a café.
Kamijou Touma fell onto the motorcycle.
But instead of Misaka Mikoto who was focused on controlling the handlebars, he fell toward Shokuhou Misaki who was clinging to Mikoto’s back as she tried to bear with the vibration.
The blonde girl blinked her starry eyes.
“Oh, a gift from heaven.”
But coincidence or not, once she had caught happiness in her arms, the Queen of Tokiwadai Middle School was not about to let go.
“Heh, heh heh heh. Ha ha ha ha ha!”
“Wait, quit taking advantage of the fact that I can’t let go of the handlebars!”
“Nwa ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Poor Misaka-san!! Just focus on your chauffeur job while Kamijou-san and I have some fun in the back seat of our motorcycle limousine! Is this what you call karma!? You’re finally getting your comeuppance for tormenting me over this raincoat! Now, Kamijou-san, are you okay? Are you injured? If anything hurts, I can rub it nice and gently for you.”
“Oops, I hit a rock.”
Just as the girl had started to get used to the rocket engine’s vibration, it thrust sharply up from below and her spine stiffened.
As for Kamijou Touma, he had fallen between Mikoto in the front and Shokuhou in the back and his soul was trying to escape from his mouth. His back was pressed against Mikoto’s back and his front was pressed against Shokuhou’s front. He would normally have found this to be the most wonderful kind of sandwich, but he was a little preoccupied since he had assumed falling from the carriage meant death. In all seriousness, his heart had nearly stopped from the shock.
“(Ah ha ha. Eh heh heh. I’m finally being rewarded for putting up with this entire ordeal. I know he’ll forget all about me almost immediately, but that just means I have to make my move right away. Time for some flirting. Hee hee hee. Yes, time to flirt my heart out☆)”
“Pipe down, you bitch in heat. Get your hands off my understander. It’s pissing me off.”
There was a dull sound of impact followed by a shriek from Shokuhou Misaki.
When she held a hand to her nose and looked up, she saw a fifteen-centimeter girl standing proudly on the boy’s shoulder.
“Eh? What’s with this doll? Was she made with Academy City tech???”
“You should call me a god.”
“(They made a small doll of me like this, but this one’s programming certainly is interesting. Has he awoken to the enjoyment ability of being talked down to? Oh, dear. My, my. If that’s true, then what reason do I have to hold back?)”
And finally, Kamijou Touma recovered from what had felt like a blow to the heart.
“Ah!? Where am I? What’s happening? Why is there a sweet-smelling carnivorous girl licking her lips in front of me???”
“Shokuhou, what in the world are you doing behind me!? How impure are you!?”
“~ ~ ~☆△♂♀××〒＊~ ~ ~ Whatever you’re accusing me of, it isn’t true!!!!!!!”
The queen’s domineering side withdrew and Shokuhou Misaki instead blushed bright red, looked away from the spiky-haired boy, and had something of a coughing fit. That had been a serious error in judgment. Something had come over her. That was not at all how a pure maiden should be acting.
“Yes, it sounds like you’re a little busy back there! I’m guessing you don’t have time to fill me in the details, huh!?”
“Hey, does it not bother you that our butts are kind of rubbing and bumping together?”
The ultra-large motorcycle swerved in an S-shape and nearly flipped over above the asphalt.
With her entire face bright red, Misaka Mikoto glared back at him through the side mirror and began crackling with electricity.
“Well, aren’t you observant.”
“Hold on, whoa. I’m not sure how to classify this new feeling of electricity zapping me right in the ass!”
Yes, he could not stop the electric current since Imagine Breaker was trapped between him and the blonde girl. And even if it was necessary, it would not have been appropriate to grope that little butt to stop the zapping.
“It might be hard to tell, but there are two sides here!! One is the bodyguards for the British Royal Family and the other is a group of magicians known as the Golden cabal! I’m trying to help protect the carriages and the biggest threat is that guy on the roof: Mathers!!”
“Eh? Ehh!? How am I supposed to tell them apart when they all look like old-fashioned British people!? Are they color coded, is one side wearing IR reflective tape, or are there ID signals!?”
“The ones that are winning are the Golden cabal. The ones that are losing are the Royal Family.”
That simplified matters.
In fact, it oversimplified things to the point of that some might mistake it for disrespect or an insult on the country. Had this boy already forgotten the welcome party he had received at the Tower of London?
“I see, I see.”
Kamijou heard the disconcerting sound of metal fitting together with metal. He soon noticed that some metal tubes much too thick to be mufflers were moving like they were alive.
Whatever form it had taken, the A.A.A. was a weapon.
“Then I’ll start by attacking that Mathers guy and judge the rest by how they react.”
“Oh, Kamijou-san, you should really cover your ears.”
They started with a single shot.
This was the Liquid Proof Railgun.
This was the fearsome attack that had torn holes in the Windowless Building which was built to withstand a direct hit from a nuclear weapon, but they unleased it upon Mathers as their very first attack.
The shockwave burst out a moment later and the surrounding air raged about as a violent wind. The intense heat turned some of the atmospheric components to plasma, so light flashed intermittently through the air and made it briefly impossible to see. The process was entirely different, but it felt a lot like seeing stars after taking a blow to the head.
In a way, this blast was stronger than the #1.
It was unclear if it had annihilated Mathers, but Kamijou needed to get back up on the carriage roof during this “fluctuation”.
He placed his hands on the shoulders of the blonde girl who it seemed was named Shokuhou and carefully stood up on the motorcycle. The girl could do nothing but frantically wave her hands in front her face while he used her as a handhold.
“(Wah, wah, wah! Too close, too close, too close! Your hips, your hips, your hips!?)”
“Cough, cough! Ahem!!”
Shokuhou Misaki could only reflect on her actions.
“Do you even know what kind of person Mathers is when you only just now joined the fight? Did you shoot that thing at him without knowing what was going on!? Isn’t your trigger finger a little loose!?”
“Shut up! I know you aren’t the kind of person to lie about this stuff!” Mikoto childishly pouted her lips while using the hovering support legs to keep the motorcycle’s balance as they moved up alongside the carriage. “More importantly, if you’re gonna jump over, just do it already. And turn on your phone. I’ll use its signal to prevent any of the weapons from firing on your location.”
“That attack was enough to check everyone’s reactions. The Golden…cabal, was it? I don’t really know who they are, but I manually tagged everyone I need to target. So once you’re up there, we’ll start hunting down the enemies on the road! It looks a lot like they’re coordinating their movements, so reducing their numbers might accomplish something!!”
On Kamijou’s shoulder, Othinus used both arms to form a large circle.
She seemed to approve of Mikoto’s plan.
“This is a ton of help, but we need to have a talk once all this is over!!”
At any rate, she really was Academy City’s #3. He felt as stable as if he had a lifeline around his waist. This was not just a simple issue of strength. He had not felt like this when working with Accelerator or Aleister. It kind of reminded him of how his understander, Magic God Othinus, felt a lot more reliable sitting on his shoulder than when she was a full-powered god who could destroy the entire world.
Hoodie bikini and rabbit-ear antennae Fran had told him to keep his phone off, but he was already working alongside the Royal Family. There was no point in hiding any longer.
And he had a bad feeling.
Even if he felt stable here, this was not over. Even if he did have a lifeline, the risk of death did not just disappear. He moved from the colossal motorcycle to the carriage wall and climbed up to the roof. The carriage had used its speed to shake free of the dangerous wind and plasma storm, so the view was washed clean.
He was there.
That great presence stood there.
The boy could tell the stability and lifeline he had sensed was slipping from his fingers. A single mistake would mean death. No, this tension was so great that it felt like a miracle he was not dead already.
The smell of the sea breeze was fading.
He was not too knowledgeable of British geography, so he could not picture where they were on the map. Still, he could tell they had passed one stage on their journey and were drawing ever closer to Scotland.
And that meant his opponent could not waste any time either.
Not even the attack that had brought down Board Chairman Aleister’s strongest fortress had been enough to destroy that man.
Mathers’s thick cloak and scarf flapped behind him as he stood in the same spot as before. He would not be taken out like Edward Berridge had been. Seeing that, Kamijou fiercely bared his teeth and spoke his mind.
“You damn monster.”
“At this point, I will take that as a compliment, you philistine.”
The four Symbolic Weapons crashed together around the Golden leader.
He glanced back at the mass of weapons swerving side to side next to the carriage.
“Another fruit of Aleister’s labors? So what is this? Did you hope you could affect me by disturbing the pack of wolves accompanying me? You really have inherited Crowley’s arrogance as he passed down his knowledge. I can easily handle this with a solo performance. You can curse Aleister as you die. But first, I will knock you down a peg.”
This man would not go easy on a frightened opponent.
The lifeline had already come loose.
So Kamijou forcibly reminded himself that staying calm was the most important part of a tightrope walk.
He looked up just a bit and spoke.
“I think you’re the one who’s losing his cool, Mathers. You were so immovable back when we started, so why are your eyes darting all over the place now? Found more that worries you?”
“I will not say it again.”
“Is getting angry at every little thing a common trait in magical geniuses? Cause you’re a lot like Aleister there.”
A blade of highly pressurized water shot out in a straight line.
The endlessly long blade swept from right to left.
Kamijou responded by forcibly swinging his upper body down. If he blocked it with Imagine Breaker, it would only be a repeat of last time. This attack was made to be destroyed. However, that also meant Mathers expected this magic to be destroyed by Imagine Breaker. By shaking off his fear and not using his right hand, he could catch the man off guard. He could unbalance him, just like letting go of the rope just before your opponent pulled in a game of tug-of-war!!
Kamijou understood the logic of it, but not using the card he had to play was even worse for his heart than he imagined. When he heard something pass by overhead, he seriously felt like his heart had shrunk. Tears welled up in his eyes. The worst attack in this case was not one aimed for his head or heart. It was one aimed for his navel. That was his center of gravity. It was simplest to think of it in relation to each of the body’s joints, but unlike the face or legs, that area was the hardest to move around and thus the easiest to hit. If he jumped, the attack would hit his legs. If he ducked, it would hit his face. Targeting that general area was the most frightening thing when the attack was powerful enough to tear his body apart no matter where it hit him.
But he managed to dodge it.
He had made a change of plans as soon as he noticed this was at hip height.
Ducking was not going to cut it.
Instead, he ran forward and threw himself to the carriage roof to slide below the deadly attack. Once the blast of water had passed him by, he got up by pressing both hands and his right foot against the roof. He took a crouch start and then started running.
He had gambled his life on that choice.
But Mathers did not seem particularly bothered that Kamijou had not used Imagine Breaker. The Symbolic Weapons crashed together with more dry sounds.
And the man spoke in a steady, low voice.
“Hot and dry.”
Kamijou was right in front of him now, so he clenched his right fist tight. Using that could lead to that beam of light from before, but this was close range. Mathers’s attacks were generally projectiles. He would avoid carelessly using any spells that might hit him as well. Because he was the strongest, he could not take his own magic lightly.
And Mathers pushed up his witch’s hat and raised his head.
But he was not focused on Kamijou Touma right in front of him. His eyes were focused on the distant night sky.
“There you are, Aleister.”
If Aleister Crowley had been the first to realize what was happening and had flown off with her micro rocket engines ahead of Kamijou and Accelerator, what had she been doing all this time?
(The ultra-low temperature bondage liquid, the planetary core vibration magma cannon, or the deadly magnetosphere compression EM wave cannon? No. My hundred years of work is not enough to deliver a finishing blow against Mathers.)
Everything always backfired for her.
Even when she was certain her preparations were flawless, she would find herself in a strange dead end.
(So I need to build up my foundation from an even deeper place. Which means I need to overcome my own issues.)
She had found the answer.
A voice spoke at an altitude of one thousand meters where no one could interfere.
This time, it would take some time to prepare.
“Every man and every woman is a star.”
“The secrets erased from the later grimoires are passed down by word of mouth so their influence can still be felt in this world. Watch Babalon, holy mother of wisdom who rides Master Therion. The golden cup in her hand shall be full of the blood sacrifice. Isis and Kali. The light of the female deities is red. I shall break down the door sealed by the foolish old ways and release the laws of the father in heaven and mother earth that should have taken root in this planet since the beginning.”
“There is no absolute good or evil in this world, all is relative, and nothing is unneeded. The forces of creation are greater than those of destruction. Thus, nothing can be stopped by sending power against power. Scarlet impact, pierce this masculinity which has forgotten even the natural life-giving act!!”
She did not throw anything down at her enemy.
The silver girl shut off the engines and she herself became a red light as she shot down toward the earth.
Now that Aleister was no longer hiding where she was, Mathers had of course noticed her.
“Cold and wet, then hot and wet.”
He started with a wall of water and powerful wind.
Once again, he was diverting the incoming attack. Kamijou’s fist destroyed the magic, but the resistance threw off his aim. Kamijou and Mathers switched places like they were moving through the opposite sides of an invisible revolving door. And the four Symbolic Weapons continued their dance in that short time.
“Cold and wet, then cold and dry.”
A great quantity of dried peas scattered at Mathers’s feet before growing discolored and sending out black threads to connect together.
Babalon, also known as the Whore of Babylon, was an important symbol, but she was still one who stood opposite of the angels. She was far removed from the common examples like Satan or Lucifer, but that categorization left an opening for interference and intervention.
“The blessing of the earth becomes decay. Come forth and spread, lord of demons born from the decay of all that is.”
In modern times, this lord of demons was seen as holding the #2 spot, but a sixteenth century demon researcher had placed that demon derived from Baal as the ruler of hell while Satan was only seen as something like the opposition leader.
If that powerful name could be linked to the target, the contamination would reach the target no matter who they were.
“Thy name is Belzébuth. Purge the insolent ones who stand before me.”
The sinister red light descended from above like a satellite weapon, but it bent unnaturally partway down. It was like breaking a sword. Unable to continue targeting the carriages on the highway, it crashed into a field.
The result was plain as day.
Science and other tricks could be used to buy time, but they were not enough to supply a decisive blow. And they had already seen what happened when Mathers and Aleister directly clashed using pure magic.
Kamijou Touma’s voice was swept away by the powerful wind.
If that was the silver girl’s final trump card, only torment and death awaited her now.
Mathers had to have thought the boy’s voice was trembling.
But it was not.
The spiky-haired high school boy had more to say.
“Argh~ Don’t worry about that and just do it!! No matter how powerful the side effects, I’ll suppress them with my right hand!!”
“Weren’t you going to settle this and go save your daughter!? Weren’t you going to take back your life!? A pervert like you doesn’t need to suddenly start worrying about everyone else now! Just do iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit!!!!!!”
Mathers’s eyes widened somewhat behind his witch’s hat.
Something seemed off, but it was not something in the sky. That colossal motorcycle continued to hold the Golden magicians in check while driving alongside the carriages. It was a collection of next-generation weapons.
But what was it originally meant to do? The answer was written on the rear weapon joint.
Anti Art Attachment.
It was meant to be piloted by Kihara Noukan. While hiding in the Windowless Building, Aleister had used that device to send her own magic elsewhere in order to kill the Magic Gods.
“That really is a fruit of your labors, isn’t it!?”
Intercepting the attack from the sky had created a slight opening.
Mathers could do nothing in that time, but he still had a savage smile on his lips.
The colossal motorcycle fired an identical red light from one of its cannons and it tore into Mathers’s side.
Of course, Aleister Crowley had not expected the A.A.A. to be there. Misaka Mikoto and Shokuhou Misaki’s actions were outside her control.
What was it she had done with her patched-together plan? No matter how badly she failed and no matter how much she tasted the bitter flavor of defeat, that human had made adjustment after adjustment to follow that complex network of detours back to the original path. If it was there, why wouldn’t she use it? Aleister Crowley made use of that foundational idea she had used to sidestep all kinds of morals and approach the truth.
But she was in no position to gloat.
She had still been shot down by Mathers and crashed in a field. She could not ignore that damage. She had so many injuries that she could not distinguish one pain from another. Her entire body just felt generally overheated.
And it was not over yet.
That was obvious from the angle of that second shot she had forced out of the A.A.A. It had hit Mathers from the side, so he would have been blasted far into the distance. In other words, toward Aleister’s location. That would not be a problem if the attack had killed him (which required filling the space around him with such immense energy that it disturbed and cut off the supply of magical power from the ley lines, causing him to crumble like Edward Berridge had), but she doubted the Golden leader would have allowed that to happen so easily.
He was here.
And if he could move under his own power, he would work to settle things with Aleister Crowley.
Aleister vs. Mathers.
A clash between the two of them had been unavoidable from the start.
(Where am I?)
It was a perfectly normal field.
For some reason, a palm rod was stabbed into the ground at one corner of it.
That appeared to be a point on the ley line.
“So I’m in Scotland,” muttered Aleister when she saw the sign in this field off the highway.
They had long since passed the Lake District.
“This will change nothing, Mathers. Nothing you do here will prevent them from revealing your secret.”
She should only have been speaking to herself.
There should not have been anyone else here.
“Don’t be so sure. I only need to kill you and continue pursuit. The Scottish border was not the finish line. I can chase them down and end this before they reach Edinburgh Castle.”
A deep voice seemed to whisper in her ear.
And she doubted it was a hallucination born of nostalgia.
“Coronzon controls me? That only applies to the tarot. Different grimoire formats and codes can convey the same information. As a translator, I should know.”
(An astral projection? No, is this a more primitive echo? He hopes to locate me when I carelessly react.)
Kamijou Touma, Accelerator, and the Golden magicians such as Arthur Edward Waite and Israel Regardie. A great many people were headed to Edinburgh Castle in the center of Scotland while most of them fought over the Royal Family carriages. The entire United Kingdom had been destabilized, but if the anonymization field erasing the true Mathers’s remains from the world was broken by the Royal Family’s arrival at that castle, everything else would fall into place. Whether Aleister or Mathers won here, someone else would build the relay device to command Great Demon Coronzon to stop.
Or to put it another way, Aleister and Mathers were removed from the main struggle.
That meant no help was coming for either of them.
They would have to settle this one-on-one.
Their showdown would be a competitive performance.
That silver girl was constantly plagued by failure and defeat, but even she was seriously working towards victory here. Mostly because it gave her chills to even consider being helplessly tormented and killed by Mathers of all people. What did she need to win here? Relying on her century of science was not enough, so she had to truly draw on everything Aleister Crowley had built up. What was in Scotland? It could be the manor by Loch Ness or the national museum. Not even Babalon, who had been erased from the later grimoires, had been enough to kill that true monster. What did she need to finish him off?
While considering that and looking around, Aleister frowned just a bit.
There was a small church there.
But the feeling in the silver girl’s chest was not born of the hatred of Christianity she had harbored since her youth.
History had recorded that Aleister Crowley and Rose Kelly had been married at a church in Scotland.
Aleister tried to stand up by clinging to the sign pole, but she lost her balance and slid back down onto her butt.
“Ha ha…ha. I can’t believe it. I come all this way…and this is what I find in front of me?”
Only now did a soft electric light come on in front of the building. The home security system may have triggered it. It looked the same, but the details had changed over the past century.
Aleister Crowley might die here today.
That was not a problem in and of itself. Her carefully-prepared plan had failed from the moment she left the Windowless Building in Academy City. Resurrecting the baby Lilith and defeating Coronzon to rescue Lola Stuart were all outside of anything she had expected. It had all passed the point of correction. Even if she survived this, doom would reach her before long. So she did not care. As long as she could save Lilith and Lola. She had shown the way. Even if she died, as long as someone else would acquire the real Mathers’s corpse and used it to relay a control signal to Coronzon, her wish would come true. That was how she had viewed her situation.
But this was different.
This alone was different.
The danger of the situation had not reached this church. Probably because the center of the conflict had been in London. The double doors at the front of church stood wide open. Someone hesitantly peeked out and quickly ran out upon seeing the bloody silver girl. Strangely, the young woman wore a Roman Catholic nun’s habit.
“Oh, my! Are you okay!?”
Aleister recognized her.
The artificial demon had manipulated this woman into reaching for a strange weapon.
She had no connection to Aleister Crowley or Rose Kelly. Everyone who had been present for that wedding would be in their graves. This woman may have simply happened across the church and had nothing to do with managing it.
“How did you get hurt so badly? And I didn’t hear a car, so where did you come from?”
“It is…dangerous here.”
Aleister’s injuries did not matter.
She had zoned out for a different reason, so she moved her lips now.
“You should escape from here, young lady. You should not take part in the fighting any longer.”
“I don’t want to hear that from such a little girl. Now come here. Hurry! Oh, honestly. I can’t believe such a young girl is so badly injured. And this one…oh, I did that, didn’t I? Well, I need to stop the bleeding regardless!”
The nun practically forced Aleister to lean on her shoulder.
Rose had become an alcoholic after being blamed for their baby’s death. But Aleister remembered how she had been a lot like this back when she had been kind.
“I have spat on all this.”
Barely able to breath, Aleister had to put this in a way anyone could understand.
“I cannot enter the house of God. I long since lost that right. Surely you know my name. You should let go of me and disinfect your entire body.”
“No one can really and truly say what you have done, but there is no such thing as a last chance. Everyone strays as they try to live their life correctly. And even if you have given up on yourself, god has not given up on you. So hurry.”
“If you feel any pain at all in your heart, then now is the time. So hurry inside!!”
She practically dragged the silver girl inside.
Aleister could not stop herself from entering the chapel, but there was one thing she had to do first.
“Why are you turning off the light?”
“It is for your sake.”
This nun was not aware of the imminent danger.
She had Aleister sit down in a pew and practically embraced the silver girl as she began treating her wounds by moonlight with the first aid kit she brought out.
“This will sting.”
“Is this supposed to be a pietà, young lady? You seem a little young to be the Virgin Mary.”
“I see. It is your mouth that gets you into trouble, isn’t it? And I imagine it all comes from your own lack of confidence.”
“You could call it unrecognized talent if you like. Most likely, you have considerable skill, but the people around you do not recognize it.”
The words kept coming with the speed of someone who had long listened to people’s worries and given them advice in the confessional.
This nun must have never hesitated to walk the exact opposite path of Aleister Crowley.
Stumbling once would not be enough to break her.
“So do you want to level the playing field to bring everything back to where it belongs? You cannot relax until you have compared every part of yourself to others and find yourself superior. That is where the insults and sarcasm come from. The deadly sin of pride also encompasses vanity. You struggle to be someone important and that is why you try to look the part. But if you want confidence in yourself, it would be faster if you worked to comprehend yourself and worked to convey that to others. Simply put, I recommend putting in the effort to love others.”
“I already…did that.”
The silver girl gave a self-deprecating smile while quietly watching the nun wrap bandages around the disinfected areas.
“I did it as best as I could…and this is where it got me.”
(The guidance of fate took the life of an innocent baby and my wife descended into alcoholism because it was too much to bear. If I hadn’t tried to love them, that never would have happened. If I had just lived alone. But I still had enough sense not to impulsively castrate myself then and there.)
Mathers would arrive soon.
And now this nun was linked with Aleister.
The logic of it no longer mattered. If Mathers ignored the corpse in Edinburgh Castle and came here instead, it meant settling things with Aleister Crowley came first and foremost. In the worst case, he would be doing it out of little more than personal amusement.
The fate of the world and the future of the United Kingdom was not riding on this battle.
It was a showdown between a teacher and a student.
What could she use?
What was here?
Still seated on the pew, the bandaged silver girl looked to the lectern. During the wedding, she had been one of the stars walking down the center aisle, but the place looked different when seated here. One look at the back wall was enough to know who the real star was here.
There was a large cross there.
“This is that church, isn’t it?”
“Which church do you mean? The size or opulence of the house of God does not matter.”
The nun looked puzzled, so Aleister decided there was no point in asking further questions. She seemed to have researched Crowley to an extent, but she must have only been borrowing this place. It was unclear who had maintained the church, but Aleister was fortunate it still remained in this form. If the building had been preserved and thoroughly cleaned on a daily basis, a certain item would still be there.
Aleister Crowley probably knew this church better than anyone. She even remembered the location of the lost change in the gap between the wall and the pipe organ.
If she only shattered and cast aside her principles and beliefs.
If she only had the courage to reach out and grab what lay before her, she would have a weapon to fight the monster named Mathers.
Aleister spoke while viewing the moonlight colored by the stained glass and with her bandaged naked body exposed.
“I have one question.”
“Ask as many as you like. Listening to the worries of lost lambs is part of my job.”
“Do you think sins can ever be forgiven?”
“People spend their entire lives searching for the answer to that question. And you must not think you will find the answer if you seek it. Forgiveness can only be given by god and his heart is truly unfathomable. All you can do is live your daily life the best you can, be on your best behavior, and wait for the time of judgment.”
That was not some comforting ideal.
Her words contained the slight pain of an irremovable thorn.
Aleister had seen what the madness of war had driven her to do.
And it may have been because she was imperfect that the words she worked so hard to get out reached the silver girl’s heart.
“Probably so,” said the silver girl as if giving up on something.
There was no easy salvation in this world.
The more you sought it, the more it slipped from your fingers.
In the children’s story of the Three Little Pigs, the oldest brother built a house of straw, the middle brother built one of sticks, and the youngest brother built one of bricks. The youngest brother was ultimately proven correct when the big bad wolf arrived. But what if the wolf had never arrived due to some small coincidence? That would of course be a happier ending for them all, but then the youngest brother would have been mercilessly mocked by the other two. Even though the oldest and middle brother had been wrong.
The silver girl had felt like that for her entire life.
Whenever she had heard of someone else’s happiness, she had rejected it and insisted there had to be a catch. That had ultimately pushed everyone else away. It was like expecting to get the day off of school because of a big storm only for it to be nice and sunny the next day. You would feel so very guilty for being disappointed that a major disaster had not occurred. That was how she had felt while crawling through the depths of the earth.
There was no salvation. It simply did not exist.
If it did, why was she having so much trouble finding it?
But, but, but.
She could not help but conclude that it was right there. Aleister knew that all too well after spending so long viewing her plan as the one who created misfortune and tragedy. She had seen when her predictions unexpectedly fell apart, failed, and crumbled away. She had seen when complete coincidences had aligned in such a way to leave innocent smiles on the faces of people who should have lost their lives.
It could not be true.
It could not, yet there it was.
There was no denying it any longer.
It had never been given to her.
But that had to be the identity of the thing which had long been spoken of as a miracle.
“That’s why I hate that piece of shit you call God.”
With those words and a self-deprecating smile, the silver girl shook free of something.
She put back on her clothes, donned her cape and hat, and took a deep breath. She returned to her foundation as a magician.
If it was there, why wouldn’t she use it?
“I’ll be borrowing this.”
“Hm? That belongs to everyone. Anyone who feels a need for it may take it, so if it will help guide you.”
Aleister Crowley picked something up in order to once more…no, to finally settle things with the leader of the Golden cabal.
She picked up a perfectly ordinary bible.
Between the Lines 3
Once, the Golden…had nearly lost everything.
...disaster very different from the…of Blythe Road.
“Are you here…crush my cabal?”
Technically, Anna Sprengel had never once… She…only a name…Westcott’s letters. And just when Mathers thought…the real one, she had slipped…his fingers.
The real one had never…yet that fictional…became the Achilles’ heel of the Golden… To Mathers, it…like a curse.
So…was not Anna Sprengel.
Mathers spoke…incredible hatred in his voice.
She was technically…
“Madame Horos. You despicable fraud of a… You puny soul not fit…the title of magician.”
History had proven that both Belzébuth and Typhon-Set were powerless against that exceptionally greedy woman.
That unbearable rage may have been very different from the anger he had directed at William Wynn Westcott or Aleister Crowley.