Toaru Majutsu no Index:NT Volume22 Chapter 4
Chapter 4: (Untitled) – MAGICK_Warfare.
Five stars on a whim.
The royal chef at Buckingham would probably have cried had they heard that phrase.
“These are pretty good. What makes them so different from the mussels we usually have?”
“These are cooked in alcohol. And using real scotch makes a difference even after cooking the alcohol off. Hey, don’t eat them all yourself! I can’t take my eyes off you for a second, can I?”
There was a light clunking sound as chess pieces were placed on top of a map spread out on the table.
Queen Elizard and First Princess Riméa were frowning as they viewed it all.
“It looks like…this might just work out, doesn’t it?”
“Now, now, Mother. Don’t you have the Queen Britannia taking too much time sightseeing? It could arrive at the final ceremony point faster than this if it tried.”
“Don’t be silly. How do you expect us to gather so many knights in such a short time?”
“What, do you think we have nothing to worry about as long as we have a Saint? I know we need to win this no matter what, but if we underestimate the timetable, we will be stuck on the platform when the train of reality leaves without us.”
“This is an issue of degree. We have seen the track we must follow, so now we have to use irregular forces to fill in the areas where the numbers are lacking. If the issue is that you can’t run across the large station fast enough to reach the next train in time, then you only need to ride a bike through the building. Fortunately, we are not short on resources, even if we are currently at a disadvantage. If we know what points we need to hold, we can push through with brute force.”
“You mean the Imagine Breaker?”
“Plus a few other things. There is Crowley, the A.A.A.s, and that mourning clothes woman, right? Gather them all. And I am also including my Curtana Second in this of course.”
The queen regnant was not the type to give instructions from the back or to insist Crowley’s group form a suicide squad because they had arrived here without permission.
“There,” said a quiet voice.
The two women turned around to see Third Princess Villian creating a heavy-looking stack of first-aid kits and carrying them at chest height.
“Daughter, what are you doing?”
“I can’t trust you two, so I thought I would bring a bunch of medical supplies like that Asian doctor told me to. Just look at those pure looks in the knights’ eyes. Do you have any idea how many soldiers are prepared to head to almost certain doom because they trust your lazy and poorly-thought-out schedule? Goddamn you both to hell.”
While the royals just about started to cry, the princess of the kingdom of rock started walking to the military truck the medics were using. But thanks to that warning, the two women moved the chess pieces back to more realistic positions.
They were no longer considering strapping rocket engines to the knights’ backs.
“But she will have a total of 400,000 shots. This is going to be bad.”
“If we don’t make up for these negative values, my sister might just grab us both by the ankles and swing us around like a helicopter, Mother.”
“…Fine, then. I guess we’ll have to go with you-know-what.”
“Yes. It’s the earnest ones that are scariest when they snap. And she gets even worse when other people’s lives are on the line.”
Shokuhou Misaki lay inside the medical tent. She had already been in a swimsuit, which may have been convenient for treating her. She had several layers of bandages wrapped around her to protect her back more than her hips.
“I really don’t see how you can defend your actions this time.”
Misaka Mikoto was looking down at her.
Academy City’s #3, Railgun, had her combat power increased by the bizarrely-shaped A.A.A. machine spread out from her back.
She placed a hand on her hip and sighed before saying more.
“I mean, I understand how you feel, but try to behave. You really aren’t suited for the battlefield.”
“Misaka-saaan…” groaned Shokuhou.
She was unathletic and had no tolerance for pain, but she was earnest about this.
She put herself second and seemed to cling to the other girl with her words.
“Please take care of him… He’s probably…no, he’s definitely going to do something reckless again.”
Misaka Mikoto sighed.
She winked and whispered back.
“Who do you think you’re talking to here? Honestly.”
Kamijou Touma looked down at his right hand.
He clenched and unclenched it to see how it felt.
“Do not grow conceited, human.”
“Yeah, I know,” he spat out. “This is just one card in my deck. I’m the one in control.”
It had all returned to him.
Imagine Breaker was back.
The final battle was imminent.
At 11 AM, the battle to decide the fate of the world began at sea.
An abnormal phenomenon appeared across the winter sea, moving from the British side to the Irish side.
Some said the United Kingdom’s winters were relatively warm.
That land was different from Germany or Denmark where children’s stories like the Little Match Girl had long been told. It of course varied from year to year, but it did not always snow even in midwinter and there were years when the sea never froze over.
That was the sea in question here.
However, it was now covered with white ice. And that ice was thick and hard enough for heavy steel snowmobiles to drive on top without issue. Ice like this might not even have been found in the Arctic where global warming was threatening the polar bear’s natural habitat.
“Here they come.”
The temple where Great Demon Coronzon and Hamazura Shiage worked was both the most open and the most closed area here, so they only had to look down from the decagonal heliport to see the icy change to the sea.
They may have lost the anti-magic foundation provided by the Anglicans, but this magic kingdom could do more than that. If they simply wanted to stop the Queen Britannia, there were plenty of more efficient methods. Even now, the ship was breaking through the thick ice to continue south. Coronzon only needed the ship to survive until the ceremony was complete. She was not concerned about its durability.
The UK’s intent was to fill the entire space between the coast and the ship with thick ice.
In other words…
“I see them.”
She could see out from the temple, but anyone outside could not see inside.
Unless they followed a certain process to get inside, anything that tried to interfere with the ceremony – even a nuclear attack – would be deflected.
A small smile appeared on Coronzon’s lips as she viewed the distant coast.
“A national force primarily composed of knights is crossing the ice to reach us. Things are about to get very busy indeed. But I already have the ignition from your human magic power, so I will not keep you here any longer. Do what it is you need to do. You remember the process, don’t you?”
For a while, there was no response.
Hamazura Shiage’s body wobbled to the side. One of his eyes would not open and dark red blood dripped from his mouth. His mind would not have been this hazy if he had chugged a bottle of allergy medicine. Something was clearly wrong inside him. Even a Level 0 was still an esper, so it was plain as day what would happen if they attempted magical activity such as refining life force into magic power.
It took a few seconds.
But Hamazura finally looked up after like a local reporter at a sports festival whose signal was affected by the lag of a satellite broadcast.
“Eh? Oh. Sorry. What’d you say?”
“Don’t die before you fulfill your role as a pawn. The agreement was for you to help me complete the Ceremony of Mo Athair as payment for saving Dion Fortune. You will act as my shield if it is necessary.”
“The ceremony’s ignition is complete, but if the connection is broken, it ends there. And since you wish to use a fraction of this temple, you do not want it to be destroyed either, do you? So make sure that does not happen.”
Coronzon clicked her tongue.
She may have wasted her time with him.
As a Great Demon who viewed humanity from an outside perspective, every last puny human was no more than a disposable pawn, but once they were lined up on the game board, she could not help but consider how it all looked. She became fixated on a meaningless score beyond simple benefit and efficiency. …The fact that she could not process it all in a systematic fashion may have been why she was not known as a god or angel despite being one of those who ruled the Sephiroth.
She snapped her fingers, causing white light to fill the necessary patterns from the many giant overlapping shapes carved into the floor.
“We do have the great triangle of the Honours of Scotland and the Stone of Scone. If I weaponized them, I can turn them into a deadly barrage that accurately locks onto and destroys an estimated total of 400,000 targets simultaneously. Now, what will you do, Aleister? Trying to break through using superior numbers will get you nowhere here.”
An hour remained.
At noon, the Queen Britannia would arrive at a certain point in the ocean and the history of humanity would come to an end.
“Let’s go, Alex.”
The female knight in silver armor and a surcoat rubbed the warhorse’s head and then hopped into the saddle. She had already changed the horseshoes from the special rubber ones for asphalt to spiked ones for ice. That would normally be a job for an attendant in training instead of an actual knight, but things were different this time. A sprained leg could literally mean death here.
“Sorry for not being Second Princess Carissa. I know I am only borrowing you, but please lend me your strength.”
The horse neighed with a note of displeasure.
But instead of being about Carissa’s absence, the displeasure may have been about the female knight still feeling the need to say that after they had overcome so much danger together.
She was not alone.
There were snowmobiles, snow vehicles supported by thick treads, military vehicles with studless tires, and even large skates and Nordic skis. The royals and knights had gathered on the coast with every form of transportation across the ice they could find.
The sound of scraping ice came from the heels of a Western boot checking on the stability of their footing. That would be the Asian Saint.
The female knight frowned while riding her borrowed partner.
“I’ve been curious: do you not use a shield?”
“I would prefer not even draw my sword if possible.”
That was not just a form of cowardice.
Battoujutsu, the art of increasing the strength and speed of a slash using the nature of the scabbard containing it, was a rare form of combat even when taking a global view. High-speed clashes were everything. You secured your safety by defeating your foe before they could attack you, so it had some things in common with jousting.
“…Sorry about what I said.”
“I do not blame you. No matter what form they took, I am a sinner who killed people while under the influence of Coronzon’s poison. That action violated my magic name. It is only natural to keep an eye open to make sure the same thing does not happen again.”
But the female knight actually smiled at that.
“I too relied on the Beheading Coins distributed by the Great Demon. I only have the weakness of my heart to blame.”
“The Knights are in the same position, so let us work together to reclaim our honor, Anglicans. This is a battle to take back our stolen way of life. It would be meaningless to let anyone do it for me.”
The ocean had already frozen over.
They had a path to reach the Queen Britannia which was breaking through the solid white ice to force its way onward.
Queen Regnant Elizard raised Curtana Second in one hand while riding a large trike.
That was their signal.
Countless cries grew to a great roar that shook the icy ground and the national forces covering the coast began to move.
They could see the gray heliport from here, but the view from outside meant nothing.
They could not see or interact with what existed inside.
That decagonal holy ground was a divine temple protected by a thick barrier, so not even a brute force attack could destroy it. Not even with the help of Knight Leader, Kanzaki Kaori, and Elizard wielding Curtana Second. They needed to follow a specific pathway through the ship to reach the temple and stop Coronzon.
In the worst case, they could sink the entire ship only to have the ceremony continue unhindered at the ocean bottom.
Of course, the Queen Britannia was not going to just let them attack.
That gray ship was like the fusion of a cruise ship and a warship. Elizard herself knew just how formidable a foe it was because it had kept her safe for many long years before its retirement.
The ship was two hundred meters long.
Four evenly-spaced balls of light floated up above the ship.
“Warning!!” Grimoire Library Index’s voice rang in everyone’s ears no matter how far she was from them. “I can’t ‘see’ the heliport. We should assume the Queen Britannia has completely fallen to Coronzon!!”
“Then is it as we feared?”
“The Sword of State, the Ruling Sceptre, the Coronation Crown, and the Stone of Scone. Each one is a different symbol. If we assume she will use Crowley’s Magick which is based on the Golden cabal but includes his unique interpretations, then the sword is ‘that which determines the direction of power’, the sceptre is ‘that which guides the cudgel’s blow’, and the crown is ‘that which supports the spell from Keter’. The Stone of Scone does not have an entry in Crowley’s correspondence table!! But if the boost effect works on the legend of ‘when the true king stands upon it and raises their voice, they shall prophesy’, then I predict it will either provide a wide-range attack using a shockwave or use prophecy to greatly increase their accuracy!! Be very careful!!”
It did not take long after that.
Countless white beams of light shot out like a hedgehog’s spines. The temple hidden in the ship would amplify and weaponize the power of any spiritual item. With the Honours of Scotland and the Stone of Scone, Coronzon could draw out military power on the level of an entire nation.
The attacks that flew in from the side like horizontal rain may have been the Sword of State’s effect.
The invisible impacts that swept across everything horizontally may have been the Ruling Sceptre’s effect.
The beams that rained down like a great downpour may have been the Coronation Crown’s effect.
The many explosions and shockwaves that took randomly bending paths may have been the Stone of Scone’s effect.
Each type of attack reached 100,000 in number and there were four types in all. Trying to block any one type would just get you torn to pieces. Elizard had indeed gathered a national-level fighting force, but Coronzon had the same. In a direct clash, they would fall into a cycle of mutual destruction that wore down the British numbers far too much before they arrived at the ship.
“Do it, my daughter!!”
“Yes, yes. …Carissa definitely got her tomboy side from you, Mother.”
The monocled first princess snapped her fingers while elegantly sipping at some lemon tea inside a snow vehicle supported by thick treads.
Immediately, something like ice trees burst vertically from the frigid land.
The ice had been artificially created in the first place, so modifications like this were entirely possible. These looked like they would get in the way of the charge, but Elizard and Riméa had something else in mind.
Sounds of destruction soon followed.
The vertical and horizontal downpours of deadly beams were colliding with the ice trees as more and more of them appeared. That shattered the obstacles, but they were only made of ice. They could be remade as many times as necessary on this seemingly endless expanse of ice.
Were they supposed to look like shields or lightning rods?
“A single volley contains 400,000 shots of four different varieties.” Riméa laughed darkly. “So we can prevent human casualties as long as we provide more than 400,000 decoys, correct? With four million, the accuracy falls to 1 in 10. With forty million, it falls to 1 in 100. Of course, I am not about to say this will bring it all the way down to zero.”
She did this and explained it like it was nothing. That may have been the proof that she was part of the royal family. In the United Kingdom, the royal family’s power was partially deified. In the past, the people had believed they had the Royal Touch, which meant a royal could heal any disease with a touch of their hand. Not that there had been any magical basis for this belief.
(Well, this was in large part thanks to the terrain.)
After all, this sea was contained within the United Kingdom. They were lucky the battle had not occurred in the neighboring country of Ireland and the nearby Isle of Man was rather special in its own way. They were lucky the gray Queen Britannia had been on the United Kingdom’s sea.
The Knights were protected by that power as they slipped through the gaps in the forest of ice trees that irregularly rose from the ground. They only had to draw the Queen Britannia’s fire and redirect it toward the obstacles. That was a royal fortress remade into a ship, but they were gradually approaching it. They could fight their way closer. For one thing, a castle was not secure just by sitting there. A fortress only functioned as a proper command center when it had a defensive line and soldiers to protect the area around it.
They had safely gotten through the probing attacks of the first stage.
But Knight Leader did not let his guard down while riding his horse.
“Coronzon is intimately familiar with the British system thanks to her position as the Anglican leader. She will soon realize that focusing her barrage on the royal family is enough to break this equilibrium.”
“In that case.” The female knight gathered strength in the center of her gut while racing forward on Alex, the horse borrowed from Second Princess Carissa. “Someone must draw Coronzon’s attention. I hesitate to suggest such a thing is actually exists, but if we can show her a threat greater than the royal family, she would be forced to focus there instead!!”
Index and Karasuma Fran viewed the entire battlefield while dangling from a large Bunny Gray balloon.
“I can’t ‘see’ it even from above. This is a level beyond a normal people-clearing field.”
“It isn’t that a wall is dividing world from world. Think of it as a created world being placed in between like a cushioning balloon.”
“You mean we can’t break through that without enough power to destroy an entire world?”
“You would need a theoretical max-value Magic God attack, or…”
“That recovered right hand?”
Hanging around that boy was not the only way to help.
In fact, Index could not fight directly, so if she was on the front line, that boy might end up focusing only on protecting her. They could never settle things with Great Demon Coronzon like that.
So she had changed her methods.
This was another way to help.
“So where is the Queen Britannia’s power source? If it uses the ley lines, we could temporarily cut off the line leading to the ship.”
“No, it doesn’t work like that. In fact, it’s trying to reach a specific point because that’s where it can access the ley lines most efficiently. It hasn’t reached that state yet.”
“Then what is it?”
“Great Demon Coronzon. She is using the power stored up inside herself. Her own power is more stable than using one of the weaker ley lines. And look how much power that is… She must be a transcendent lifeform belonging to a different pyramid than Michael or Gabriel.”
This was what she could sense from the outside.
Once inside that gray ship, she would be directly facing a being capable of supplying that much power. Could you even call that a magical battle? Most ceremonies simplified and symbolized the legendary processes, but a showdown against Coronzon would be much purer, more disordered, and more chaotic. Perhaps you could call her an entire legend herself.
“But if Coronzon is that powerful, can she even use the normal magic that humans use? I feel like she would be rejected from that like God’s Right Seat was.”
“It probably depends on the situation. Magic God Othinus blended into the human magic society while in her imperfect form before awakening and Coronzon herself worked deep in the Anglican Church as archbishop without arousing suspicion.”
“And if we’re using God’s Right Seat as a comparison, there is an easy way to solve that problem: trick a human into helping you. Although in God’s Right Seat’s case, they had the Roman Catholic believers play that role.”
Something like a horizontal shower of beams shot by directly below the balloon.
Each one was magic capable of killing anyone it hit.
“This trick won’t last forever. At this rate, the Knights and the rest of our direct firepower will be pushed back.”
“Hm? Wait a second. What is that?”
The Knights’ idea may have been a form of self-sacrifice.
They believed glory would be theirs if they could win this battle and protect the British royal family with their own blood. They were willing to be hit by Coronzon’s concentrated fire for that.
A certain strongest had the same tactical idea with one fundamental difference at the foundation.
“Let’s get started, Qliphah Puzzle 545.”
“You made a mess of this country, so now go save it.”
“Nee hee hee. Will do!! And awayyyy I go!!”
A moment later, the scenery, the world…and everything else grew twisted.
It was a tornado.
A winter tornado towered up to the heavens as it sucked up all the shards of frozen ice.
However, she had not suddenly revealed a never-before-seen supernatural power. This was an extension of what she had demonstrated several times already.
Qliphah Puzzle 545 was a possessing demon.
To appear in the surface world on her own, she used an artificial birthing ceremony to construct a door and pushed her translucent body through that for a forced manifestation.
She gathered together all of the trash in the vicinity.
“Nee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee!!”
She gathered together the ice trees, the shattered ice surface, and all other unnecessary items, formed a vortex several dozen meters across, converted it all into a white tornado stretching to the heavens, and transformed herself into a winter natural disaster.
She intentionally did not complete her manifestation.
The demon kept herself in that halfway state while approaching the giant gray ship.
“You can’t see in from outside and you can’t break through,” said Accelerator.
That temple could only be broken open with enough power to destroy the world.
When dealing with true monsters, you could not call that an absolute barrier.
“Then let’s put it to the test. If you’re so confident in your barrier, then humor me, you goddamn demon!!”
Anything that entered the effective range was smashed to dust by all the ice. This was the world’s largest ball mill. And the vaporization heat meant the frigid monster also provided an additional ultra-low temperature attack similar to being dunked in liquid nitrogen. The attack carried enough force to crush a bank vault’s thick door into a powder finer than cedar pollen. The Queen Britannia must not have been able to ignore that because it blatantly ignored the Knights in order to continually fire its glowing storm on the white tornado.
That storm included vertical and horizontal impacts and shockwaves.
This was not enough to stop the white tornado that only redoubled its intensity when pieces were carved or evaporated away. By approaching from a different position than the ground forces running along the ice, the giant decoy drew Coronzon’s attention elsewhere.
First Princess Riméa had tried to increase the effectiveness of a decoy using numbers, but there was another way. Make the decoy into an indestructible landmark. Make it too powerful to ignore even when the enemy knew it was bait. A threat as obvious as a giant kaiju functioned as a powerful decoy.
The Knights were just about to reach the gray Queen Britannia using their horses and vehicles, but…
“Nee hee!? Aethyr Avatars!!”
Angels made of golden hair appeared by bursting up through the thick layer of ice. 2: ARN, 8: ZID, 13: ZIM, 21: ASP, 25: VTI, and more. Their essences were equal, but their nature was changed by the letters used to define them. Those false angel images lined up in a long row.
They formed a wall.
A wall of firepower that followed the mantra of “the best defense is a good offense”.
“Master, the Brits have stopped moving!”
“Well, if it’s like this out here, it’s bound to be even more hellish inside. Anyone who lets this stop them is better off staying outside anyway.”
Accelerator was not focused on the movement of the army as a whole.
Two people were breaking through the chaotic battle without anyone stopping them: The #3 girl and the spiky-haired boy who were riding a huge motorcycle.
“Hmph. …So they just barely squeak by with a passing grade.”
Qliphah Puzzle 545’s puzzled voice came from the white tornado wandering in the gap between manifestation and dormancy, but Accelerator only reached for the side of his neck.
Specifically, toward his choker’s switch.
“You’re in control, Qliphah Puzzle 545. …Give it more of a rhythm. Have fun with it and shake the hell outta that ship!!”
“Hold on tight!!”
In her one-piece swimsuit and raincoat, Misaka Mikoto was riding a large motorcycle and shouting over the roaring wind.
The Queen Britannia was a two-hundred-meter gray ship that looked like a cross between a luxury cruise ship and a warship. It was more than nine meters up to the deck. That was about three stories, so any approach would normally have been blocked as if by a castle’s stone walls.
But Mikoto had free control of her A.A.A.
By holding the handlebars, lifting her butt, and tilting her body weight back, she raised the front wheel of the massive machine.
“Hey, wait! Your butt’s in my face! And what part of you am I even supposed to hold onto!?”
“Figure it out yourself!!”
Mikoto’s face grew red as she popped the flashiest of all wheelies, but the trick did not end there. With a series of heavy metallic sounds, the weapon arms (which had been swept toward the back of the motorcycle) started moving like living creatures. More and more thick blades stabbed into the steel wall blocking their path and the thick tires gained a grip. The combination of bug legs and round tires allowed her to drive up the wall that was actually tilted back toward them.
“Worry not, human. I’m holding on!!”
After the giant motorcycle used highly disturbing movements to drive up onto the gray deck, they saw some black cloth fluttering in the wind.
That was Black Cat Witch Mina Mathers, Baby Lilith, and Silver Girl Aleister Crowley.
That other group glanced over at Kamijou and Mikoto, but instead of joining them, they opened a watertight door and stepped inside.
Kamijou climbed down from the motorcycle’s back seat, and…
“Looks like things are starting all over the place. We need to get to the deepest part of this ship.”
“Fine, but isn’t that ‘deepest’ part also the heliport? I heard that stuff about it being both opened and closed, but can we really take that literally? It wasn’t some weird rhyming slang like Mother Goose, was it!?”
“Don’t worry, Misaka. I don’t get it either. With things like this, you just gotta go see it for yourself to figure it out!!”
The motorcycle broke down with a metallic sound and the weapons gathered around Mikoto’s back. They could not rely on its flying function, but it was still very useful as a weapon.
That was when a powerful vibration and impact caused the two-hundred-meter Queen Britannia to violently shake side to side.
A white tornado had tilted on its side and used its drill-like tip to stab into the side of the giant gray ship.
Kamijou immediately pulled Mikoto’s slender shoulders close, but did that really accomplish anything? If she fell over with that much heavy weaponry on her back, he was pretty sure he would be crushed along with her.
“Accelerator really doesn’t know how to hold back, does he?”
“Eh? Eh? What’s happening? I just heard a disgusting name, he’s holding me in his arms, and I, eh, hweh, hwuh???”
So many conflicting emotions filled Mikoto at once that steam started rising from her head, but Kamijou was too preoccupied to notice. He had to make sure they were not torn to mincemeat by friendly fire after coming all this way.
Othinus spoke up in exasperation while back at her usual spot on Kamijou’s shoulder.
“I would choose a different entrance than Aleister’s group used. Taking the same route would defeat the purpose of splitting up.”
For better or for worse, the power on Coronzon’s side was almost entirely concentrated in a single person.
Attacking from multiple directions at once would place a much bigger burden on her than it might seem. She might be able to handle it, but it would still force her to do more calculations in her head.
They opened a gray watertight door and finally entered the ship.
The gorgeous interior looked more like a palace or museum than a boat. Whether it was to defeat or protect Coronzon, Aleister had said the biggest bottleneck would be the giant temple made from the ship’s heliport. However, they could not just go there, so they needed to follow a specific route through the inside of the ship.
(If I could use this right hand on the barrier or whatever it is…)
That would change things.
But that was not an option.
“I can’t just fire railguns at random to destroy everything here, huh?”
“No. …Man, that stuff on your back is scary. Don’t get your hair caught in the joints, okay?”
That was the thing.
The Queen Britannia’s temple could amplify and weaponize the power of any spiritual item. And it would work for anyone’s magic, not just Coronzon’s.
So if they took advantage of that, they could perform a ceremony far larger than they could normally manage.
According to Aleister, who knew Coronzon better than anyone, demons were made of something similar to Telesma, so they could be weakened by cutting away that energy to shrink them down. Do that and they could make Coronzon into something humans could defeat. …That opened a path to avoiding this global crisis without using Lilith’s soul.
Othinus crossed her arms on Kamijou’s shoulder.
“It’s the same idea as the fairy spell that Ollerus used on me. Once the old gods are no longer worshiped, they become no more than evil spirits. The Aeon has advanced from Isis to Osiris and then to Horus, but this is a throwback to Isis, which was most recently represented by the Divine Mixtures. A Great Demon is a mass of power beyond human understanding, but that is what gives us a chance to intervene.”
Aleister was already inside the ship.
If she followed the set path to reach the heliport, Kamijou might not even need to use his right hand’s power to break the barrier protecting the temple.
Mikoto asked a question while using the many weapons on her back to carve through the hallway wall and lamp covers.
“Where should we go first!?”
“The wheelhouse or the engine room would work. Just somewhere that lets us stop the ship! The time limit runs out in an hour, but that’s assuming the ship continues traveling at this speed. If we stop it here, Coronzon’s plan falls apart. At the very least, she won’t be able to fortify her defenses and wait it out. Misaka, you’ve gotta be good with machines since you’ve got all that stuff on your back. Show me which way to go!!”
“You got it!!”
The wall bent and bulged right next to them.
At this point, Kamijou could guess what was coming despite his magical ignorance.
“It’s one of those Aethyr Avatars!! I couldn’t tell you which number it is, though!!”
Kamijou threw his right fist just before the golden torrent burst from the wall and Mikoto used her giant chainsaw to bisect a different one that tried to target him from behind. They did not wait for an actual attack. Getting in the first strike was the safest method here.
Imagine Breaker and the A.A.A.
The boy and girl stood back to back.
It could be hard to tell since they both had highly effective attacks here, but these enemies would be quite difficult to defeat with normal methods. After all, they were masses of hair. They had no heart or brain. It was hard to imagine how shooting or stabbing them with a bullet or knife would ever defeat them.
“This is just like a video game dungeon, isn’t it? We’re supposed to be breaking into the enemy’s stronghold, but it feels more like we’re being lured into a giant man-eating trap.”
“(I’m doing it. I’m really fighting alongside him! Yay!)”
“From the look of things, I doubt Aleister’s team is having an easy time of it either. …Misaka?”
“Bfhh!! Cough, cough! It’s, uh, this way. Ships are always given the optimal structure. If you focus on the layout of the wiring and plumbing, you can tell where the important facilities are and you can mostly tell where they keep what. We just have to stop this ship, right? And we have business up top either way. Let’s head to the wheelhouse which is packed full of steering equipment. This way!”
He tried slamming against the side of the gray ship a few times, but it did not change much.
With each hit, the Queen Britannia slid to the side and the direction the bow was pointed shifted a little, but that was not enough to change the ship’s heading. Unless they got inside and destroyed whatever was controlling it, the ship would just correct its course.
And his electrode battery was not unlimited.
Accelerator cracked his neck while surrounded by a blizzard of fifty below.
(The heliport has taken the least damage. It’s completely unharmed even after we shook the ship up so damn much. It looks deserted, but that’s all the more reason to assume there might be something there.)
“That’s enough, Qliphah Puzzle 545. Come on out.”
The white particles gathered in a single spot and burst loudly apart.
The translucent demon, who looked like the combination of a girl, a killer jellyfish, and a newspaper, wrapped her arms around Accelerator’s neck from behind and rubbed her cheek against him.
“Remove the tornado and the attacks from the ship will go back to concentrating on everyone who’s currently being stopped by the Aethyr Avatars. That’s 400,000 shots in four different varieties. Are you sure we can leave that up to them?”
“The enemy can only keep that up while sitting in the safety of that ship. If a few rats get in to chew through the ship’s innards, they won’t be able to focus on things outside. I’m sure there will still be some attacks out here, but it won’t be full power anymore. Doing that would be far more effective than keeping that meaningless tornado going outside.”
“Is that how it works? Well, I’m not a babysitter, so I’ll just follow your orders, master.”
With that, the two of them crashed into the Queen Britannia’s port side deck with the force of an artillery shell. The positioning of the doors was irrelevant since they broke right through the outer wall to get in.
Accelerator switched his choker back to normal mode and started to support himself with his modern design cane, but…
Qliphah Puzzle 545 slipped her head between his arm and body from behind. She forcibly had him use her for support.
“…Is this any time to be playing around?”
“I exist to support you, master☆ And I make a nice shield if need be.”
“Oh? I’m going to take that tongue click as a go-ahead. Nee hee hee. And isn’t support from a soft pair of boobs better than a hard cane?”
“Dwah!! Wait, not my forehead hole! Silly master, why do you have to stick your finger there? Wait, two fingers!? Ah, don’t rub along the edge!! Is this cause you’re embarrassed, or are you serious? I can’t tell!!”
Qliphah Puzzle 545 earned some more experience points on the path to being an expert.
But that aside…
(Coronzon doesn’t have a bunch of goons at her beck and call. She’s almost entirely reliant on those Aethyr Avatar things, so I guess this is all you get once you’re inside the ship. She only needs it to last long enough for her ceremony, so she’s pretty much sacrificing this thing. She never expected it to last to the end.)
In other words, it was the same inside and out.
As long as Coronzon could buy enough time, she would win no matter how beat up the gray ship was.
They could not let their guard down even after arriving inside the enemy stronghold. Given the situation, Coronzon still had the upper hand.
“What should we attack?” asked the translucent demon.
“The engine room at the very bottom.”
If they could do something about the ship headed straight toward its destination, they could ignore the time limit.
The idea was not that different from Kamijou Touma’s. But instead of grabbing the ship’s wheel and leading it astray, the #1 planned to keep it from moving altogether by breaking through the tungsten steel propeller shaft that was thicker than his torso.
“I had a feeling I’d find you here…” muttered Accelerator.
Before even having time to search for the stairs down, a pathetic figure appeared as if to block the way. Still, this was someone who had escaped the #1’s deadly grasp once before. Since they had stood on the same stage but their battle had never been resolved, Accelerator had assumed they would face each other again somewhere.
It was Hamazura Shiage.
The boy was not even holding the antique Sword of State this time.
“Did you sell everything you had to that demon? You’re not even worth laughing at.”
“Oh, this ain’t good.” Qliphah Puzzle 545 was the first to notice. “He’s forcibly refining magic power despite being a scientifically-developed esper, so his body’s in really bad shape! If he keeps breathing like that, every blood vessel in his body could rupture. I’m honestly not sure how he’s even still alive right now!!”
There was a horrible delay beforehand, but Hamazura Shiage managed to get some words out when faced with the clear threat of Academy City’s #1.
He seemed to slap his pants pocket as he felt the somewhat solid sensation of the perfectly ordinary gum there.
For a brief moment, his eyes managed to focus on his opponent.
“I know I was…wrong. Every last person on this planet would probably throw stones at me for what I did. But if I keep going…if I keep at it just a bit longer… I just have to stick to it. I just have to keep making this magic power stuff in my body until I have what I want. I can see it already. Dion Fortune is within reach. So!!”
“So you’re gonna buy time by sacrificing your own flesh and blood?”
He was slow to respond again.
For one thing, Hamazura Shiage may not have been fighting against an external enemy here. The outside world may not have been registering to him at all while he fought against the death within him.
There was no reason to hesitate.
Accelerator only had to knock this guy aside and continue on to the engine room.
But just as he prepared to flip the switch on the side of his neck, his red eyes suddenly rolled to the side while his head remained motionless.
There was a loud boom just as he turned his attention elsewhere.
This must have been a surprise for Hamazura Shiage as well.
The corridor wall was torn apart in a surprise attack.
The person who made such an exciting appearance had long silver hair, brown skin, and bandages that were wrapped around her. Her bare foot had forced its way through the vector reflection barrier and kicked the #1 through the air. Her leg ended up twisted at an unnatural angle, but that did not keep her from laughing. The broken leg wriggled in a way no human leg ever should as the bone and joint were repaired. It happened so easily it was like seeing a balloon being inflated.
Hamazura slowly turned his eyes that way and moved his excessively sticky lips.
“That’s right. It’s everyone’s big sister, Nephthys. I’m going to fight the way I want to. And in this case, that definitely means fighting Accelerator instead of Hamazura Shiage. Don’t you agree, you chemical monster? Did you get that clog out of your chest?”
“Yes, sorry about last time. I seem to have made your lovely slave girl cry an awful lot. I’m used to it since I was buried alive in the pyramids, but I do hate how you edgy guys think doing these things makes you a good person.”
She was so calm and chatty in front of the #1.
Magic Gods lived in their own little world.
Was that why she was not swallowed up by the white monster’s menacing aura?
She casually waved a hand Hamazura’s way.
“Now, he seem to have his own reasons for fighting as well, so I’m going to go enjoy myself over here. Oh, but this is not about which potential opponent would have been stronger. So go show off what a man you are. There is another fight with your name on it. Bye☆”
She did not say anything more to him. Instead, Magic God Nephthys licked her lips, crouched low, and tackled Accelerator just as he was getting up beyond the broken wall. The two of them crashed through the wall beyond that. Since they immediately fell straight down, that must have been the opera house which was tall enough to take up space on the first through third floors.
But Hamazura Shiage felt no relief over that.
He had already received a divine oracle.
He heard some new footsteps. In order to see who was approaching him, he sluggishly turned around.
And there he saw it. And heard it.
Index looked up a bit while overlooking the entire battlefield from below the large balloon. That inspired a question from hoodie bikini Fran who was dangling from the same balloon.
“What is it?”
“There’s something there.”
This was different from before.
This was not the worst of the game pieces she had been imagining.
Her voice made it clear something had appeared on the game board that should not have been there at all.
She was not looking to the heliport.
“This isn’t Crowley, Coronzon, the Magic Gods, or the Golden cabal. …This life force circulation is so twisted and this magic power is so strange I’m not sure you can even call it human. Who is this!?”
“Yes, this is the place.”
The silver girl named Aleister rhythmically tapped the sole of her shoe against the floor.
“The path to the heliport must be the elevator in the central storeroom, but that alone is not enough. The doors and corridors leading to all of the other rooms act as a stereotypical password. But it is more than just the order in which you open and close the doors. How you hold the knobs must require the secret handshakes often used in magic cabals.”
This group had no way of knowing this, but Hamazura Shiage had been entirely oblivious to just how hidden away a space Coronzon had led him.
You would never find the path to the heliport by opening all of the doors in the ship and searching every nook and cranny of every cabin. It was doubtful you would even see that giant elevator there. If you failed the authorization process and were rejected, you might just find a thick storeroom wall instead.
“I am Reading Thoth 78, a tarot deck created by you, my administrator. I would be willing to brute force the answer.” Black Cat Witch Mina Mathers was still holding Baby Lilith. “But if it is true that Coronzon created her own tarot and incorporated it into her fighting force, there is a good chance she will obstruct any attempt made with this method. Would you like to rely on a different method, such as geomancy?”
“No.” Aleister grinned. “I would actually appreciate it if she goes out of her way to obstruct our methods. Make it real flashy and make a note of what areas get the strongest reaction. Those are the places she least wants us to find. Connect those points and we will have the correct path to take. And there are only so many secret handshakes since they are limited by the five-fingered structure of the human hand. Once we have a decent hint, this should not be too difficult.”
Scrape, scrape, scrape…
It came from down the dimly-lit hallway. Just a moment before Aleister’s group started to walk toward the dining hall, someone approached them while needlessly scratching up the walls on either side using the many weapons fanned out from her sleeves.
She had a black bob cut and sickly pale skin.
She wore a short China dress and had a protective charm on her forehead.
“Magic God Niang-Niang…”
“I’m here to play, Aleister.”
That monster grinned while making a weapon out of the sparks and spray that the silver girl loathed more than anything else.
“All I care about is having fun. Kamisato Kakeru kind of stole your thunder, but you’d put together your own way of defeating Magic Gods, right? Show me what you can really do. Show me an attack that will shake me to the core!!”
Hamazura Shiage and Takitsubo Rikou.
Their positions on the battlefield had changed. Mostly due to Hamazura’s surprise attack.
But. Even so.
The feelings they held deep down had to be the same. They may have ended up with different groups, but they never should have been turning weapons on each other.
The boy clenched his teeth and held out a hand to reject her.
He felt like his scattering mind was gathering back together.
A perfectly ordinary stick of gum.
Getting her a phone so she could be online friends with Aneri.
At times, even small promises like those could produce great power.
“I’m almost there. I’m so close!! I can’t stop now and I know it will all fall apart if I accept you here!! So please. I know how to save Dion Fortune. All I need is to take the life force inside me and convert it into something called magic power. That’s all I need to do!! So, so, so! Leave me be just this once!! If you don’t, it will all unravel! I don’t care if I’m just putting off the inevitable. I can’t go back to being regular old Hamazura Shiage right now!!”
He noticed something strange.
A transparent sphere was floating next to the head of his girlfriend in a pink track suit and fluffy sweater. He guessed it was either made of glass or crystal. At the very least, it was not a helium balloon or a drone spinning tiny wings to fly. He could not figure out how that volleyball-sized mass was floating. Her power was AIM Stalker. That was a rare power, she was a Level 4, and there was even talk of her possibly having the potential to become an eighth Level 5, but it was still a passive power derived from clairvoyance or remote viewing. He could not imagine how that would let her psychically lift something as heavy as a pickling stone.
Something was off about her movements.
Her long-sleeved track suit did not leave much skin exposed, but he could still hear the unnatural straining sound coming from her muscles. Except this was not her having trouble moving them. She was restraining something. It was like someone slamming on the brakes with all their might while the car refused to stop.
What was she trying to stop?
She was holding her palm out toward him.
And that bizarre floating crystal ball moved out in front of her hand.
Which one was controlling the other? Questions continued to pile up in Hamazura Shiage’s head as Takitsubo Rikou worked hard to move her lips.
She squeezed out some words.
There was a flash of light.
Hamazura managed to react to the mystery crystal ball’s movement, but perhaps only because that flash of light reminded him of Mugino Shizuri’s Meltdowner.
As soon as he desperately swung his dull body to the side, the hallway wall was vaporized with a horrific sizzling sound. This was blatantly different. There was no way this was AIM Stalker. Maybe it was that crystal ball, but it was definitely some other power!!
But this was not the time to cower in fear.
If he died here, he could not save Takitsubo Rikou.
When the crystal ball flashed again, he tackled a nearby door open. He did not care how pathetic he looked as long as he could survive long enough to have another chance at this. Falling to the floor may have been more useful than escaping into another room. The walls were entirely useless. He belatedly realized that the beam of light was sweeping horizontally by at hip height.
He heard a voice of confession.
“This is because I accepted Anna Sprengel’s offer. It’s because I said yes when she asked if I wanted the power to resolve this incident. So that woman forced me to take a power that would only resolve the incident as quickly as possible.”
They were the same.
What she had done was the same as Hamazura Shiage choosing to work with Great Demon Coronzon so he could save Dion Fortune and keep Takitsubo Rikou safe.
His girlfriend had gone somewhere else and relied on someone else. All so she could save the boy before the entire world crushed him.
They had both been trying to help the other, but someone had taken advantage of that.
How were they the same? Like hell they were.
Hamazura was the one who had driven his girlfriend to the point that she felt the need to do this!!
His hazy mind managed to come back into perfect focus.
He had no idea who that was.
He had no idea how powerful they were.
But after hearing that name just once, he had carved it into his soul.
He knew of someone else who had been forced into a fight they did not want: A. O. Francisca while she was being manipulated by Coronzon. Academy City’s board chairman had found a clever solution then, but Hamazura could not get any help from the grownups this time.
He would have to save her.
This was something he had to do himself.
He quietly and firmly grabbed his phone from the floor.
His body felt as heavy as lead, but he forced it back up onto its feet.
And he spoke.
“Give me your support, but this is my job.”
Now that he had the program’s support, he once more prepared for a fight.
He did not have the Processor Suit this time. He would have to move his own body to follow any instructions he received. He did not have thick composite armor or external muscle reinforcement. And needless to say, a single hit from that fearsome beam of light would vaporize him.
The risks were greater than any he had faced before.
But he could not forget.
He had a simple goal here: to add just one more person to the small group of people that included Takitsubo, Mugino, Kinuhata, Fremea, Hanzou, and Kuroyoru. Dion Fortune had not asked for help, so he would give it to her anyway and show her just how foolish and silly she had been to give up. That was all he wanted to do.
So he could not allow anyone else from that group to be lost.
He was willing to risk his life for that.
(My main target has got to be that crystal ball. I don’t know how it works, but glass is glass. At the very least, I’m not going up against a tank or battleship here.)
He heard the solid sound of someone stepping on a small piece of wall debris.
His girlfriend in a pink track suit and fluffy sweater was walking in through the large hole she had blown in the wall. No, she was being led through it by the invisible strings of whoever controlled her.
“Don’t say a word. I’m the one that needs to apologize. You didn’t do a damn thing wrong! So you don’t need to make excuses for your actions!!”
The crystal ball glowed again.
It was about to fire.
But nothing would change if he just kept jumping out of the way and escaping. He gathered strength in the bottom of his stomach and sealed away the fear in his heart. His girlfriend was watching, so he could not run away any longer. He had to confront the threat!!
He raised his voice and took a step forward at almost the same moment that a beam of light shot from the crystal ball floating just past Takitsubo’s straining hand. But it was not enough. It was true that a highly-generic supernatural power that did not rely on your existing esper power would be reassuring. If it could be freely swapped out, it might even overturn the hierarchy established in Academy City.
But there was no life in that beam.
He could not sense the living emotion seen in Mugino Shizuri’s beams. His legs did not nearly collapse from fear just by seeing it.
The roar of scorched air reached his ears after a short delay. But by then, he had crouched down so the deadly beam passed by over his head. But he had not crouched in order to dodge. It was all to help him continue forward. There had to be a lag between each beam. He did not care if he shattered his fist in the process. He would charge forward and break that crystal ball before it could fire another shot!!
He grabbed a firefighting axe that had fallen from the wall to the floor.
Takitsubo’s shocked face filled his vision.
(I’ll break that thing right here!!)
A solid sound rang out.
He had swung the axe down.
But then his face twisted.
The crystal ball had not shattered. It had caught his attack head-on and stopped the axe in its path. He felt an aching pain run through the bones of his wrist.
Crystal and glass were hard.
Although that could be hard for people to imagine when they were only used to the thin pieces used in windows and bottles. But as an example, breaking a heavy ashtray with your fist would not be easy. He could not break this like people did bottles as part of a performance.
Not even the optimizations of Aneri’s support had worked.
No amount of efficiency would help if his own strength was insufficient.
Light slowly glowed from the center of the crystal ball once more.
The despair in Takitsubo Rikou’s eyes was even more powerful than before.
If the crystal ball fired another beam at this close range, the boy who had risked his life to save her really would be vaporized.
“Run!! That’s enough, Hamazura!!”
There was nothing he could do.
Pure white light gathered inside the crystal ball until it reached the limit.
Then it was all released at once.
A beam exploded out at point-blank range. There was no way for Hamazura to dodge it.
The beam really should have hit him at this range, but it unnaturally bent right in front of his eyes.
This had of course not been done by the boy. Or by the girl. But that would not happen by simple coincidence.
Something fluttered in the air.
It was a tarot card bearing a distinctive image. One danced through the air, a second followed, and even more poured down. With a sound like rustling leaves, the 78 cards formed a large ring behind Hamazura.
Then he heard a humming vibration.
The mysterious crystal ball was taking aim by forcing Takitsubo Rikou to move.
Something appeared in Hamazura Shiage’s hand as if in response.
He heard several small noises gathering as more and more tarot cards arrived there. They formed a perfect cube and their surfaces grew black in the blink of an eye.
It was a black box.
Dion Fortune had used that Golden spiritual item to protect her life and her pride.
“Translate, simplify, and create anew.”
A voice rang in his head.
Hamazura did not know much English, yet the English words came naturally and fluently from his mouth.
This was not someone helping him in a stroke of good luck.
This was the result he had produced with his own efforts.
He had refused to accept that girl’s story was over after she smiled all on her own and disappeared, so he had turned his back on so much and damaged his own body to continually refine his life force into magic power. This was thanks to everything he had done. He had been trying to bring back the original person by reading the minute scratches and stains on the surface of the cards, so it was not surprising for the girl’s thoughts to flow back into him during the process.
Also, the Golden members like Westcott and Annie had not been thrown out into the London night without anything to wear. Their clothing and equipment must have appeared along with them. That meant they were included in the marks on the tarot. There was information on the items that went with the people. It included the equipment needed to define those magicians. After powering those tools with magic power refined from their own life force, it was possible a loop was constructed between body and tool, making them truly a part of the magician.
So he only had to hold out this sign of her imminent arrival.
This external part of her had been constructed from the tarot deck he had kept safe.
This box was the same as one of the buttons on her clothing.
This was the possibility he had found while facing all the many unreasonable aspects of this world.
In other words…
“This Archetype Processor can convert any spiritual item or spell into an unpredictable form!!”
The black box opened like a great maw and swallowed the crystal ball whole.
There was no chance of a beam coming from within.
It did not matter what kind of change it was.
It did not matter if it was a positive or negative change.
Once a spiritual item had been devoured by that box, it would never retain its original form.
It was like the marionette’s strings had been cut.
Takitsubo Rikou wobbled on her feet and Hamazura Shiage gently caught her. No matter how exhausted he was and no matter how many blood vessels had burst inside his body, that was something he had to do himself. No matter what.
The black box fell apart again. It returned to being individual cards that flowed behind Hamazura. The tarot cards were returning to their original owner.
Some slender fingers slipped into Hamazura’s pocket. They pulled out a perfectly ordinary stick of gum. But for these two, it was the symbol of a valuable promise that connected them.
It was all for this.
He had coughed up blood and come this far for something that should have been entirely unremarkable.
“That was pretty cool of you to risk your life for your girlfriend like that. It’s always about her with you, isn’t it?”
The voice he heard behind him spoke English.
Unlike the words in his head earlier, the delinquent boy no longer knew what they meant.
This was the person those 78 cards had pointed to along with the black box.
He did not care if his words sounded out of place. Given the tears and snot covering his crumpled-up face, he definitely could not turn around to look at her. He simply held his girlfriend in his arms, thought about everything that had happened, and spoke in Japanese even though she would not understand him.
“Welcome back, Dion Fortune!!”
Everything about it was out of the ordinary from the very first move.
Even now, the woman with bandages wrapped around her brown skin was smiling thinly from close range.
This was Magic God Nephthys.
She was the largest and most powerful outside element here.
“Yes, this is fun, so much fun!! Ah ha ha! Eh heh heh! That’s right! What really matters is a chance to fight without having to worry about the consequences! Who needs all that angst!? All you need is that feeling of a solid punch or kick! You really are the kind of opponent I was looking for, Accelerator!!!!!!”
She had knocked Academy City’s #1 through a wall with an unarmed tackle. She had succeeded in a head-on attack against that Level 5 who could push back any vector with his reflection.
“I used that artificial demon to rid you of the clog in your chest so you could fight at full power. I wasn’t going to let the likes of Coronzon get in the way of my fun. C’mon, let’s enjoy ourselves! C’mon, c’mon, let’s have an absolute blast!! Show me that your title of Academy City’s #1 isn’t just for show!!”
They were in a giant round space that covered three floors of the ship.
It was an opera house.
But Accelerator did not bother waiting for his back to hit the floor. He used his vector control power to kick away Nephthys whose arms were wrapped around his torso. That was enough to produce a sound like an artillery shell being fired. He manipulated the surrounding air to land almost weightlessly and found himself in the first floor audience seating. His enemy was not there with him. She was in the spot that naturally gathered the attention of all the box seats surrounding the space on the second and third floors. With long silver hair fluttering and brown skin showing, that monster stood lightly atop the stage which was like the focal point of a parabolic antenna or solar cooker.
She pulled her right index finger toward herself and enunciated her words slowly.
“Come on up, child. Or do you prefer the view from below?”
“Shut up, you sex-obsessed freak.”
An explosive sound burst out.
But it was not the sound of the #1 thoughtlessly charging at Nephthys on the stage.
It was actually the opposite.
“Target: Qliphah Puzzle 545 – Boos-…”
“I already knew you were gonna do that!!”
Accelerator used his foot to tear up one of the seats and kicked it up like a soccer ball. He destroyed something on the ceiling three stories up: a sprinkler.
An artificial rain poured down to soak everything below: the first-floor seating, the stage, the #1 monster, and the brown-skinned bandage woman.
That included Magic God Nephthys’s cheeks.
Now no one could see her tears even if she cried. Just like red writing was invisible in red lighting.
“I see. I don’t really like getting wet, you know?”
“Your tears cause psychological change. It’s the same as a stage play, really. You let other people see you crying in order to shake their emotions and inspire them to cry as well. That’s the identity of your boost that sends people out of control. Now that I understand it, it’s just pathetic. A sick kid is separated from his puppy during a war and the puppy desperately runs back to his master only to arrive too late and find the kid’s dead. Sure, some morons might cry, but so what? Tears are worthless trash when they’re a calculated ploy to get what you want. Your tears are like asking someone what they had for dinner three days go. Who remembers that shit!?”
Accelerator held the nail of his middle finger with his thumb. He made a light flick like one might use on the forehead of someone who refused to listen.
And he used it on a drop of water falling from the ceiling.
The water blade shot forward with enough force to easily break through a tank’s front armor, but Academy City’s strongest Level 5 did not stop there. In the moment when Nephthys would be taking some kind of countermeasure, he lightly kicked off the floor to jump up onto the stage.
“Did you really think a Magic God would fear such a puny attack?”
She did not dodge.
Magic God Nephthys did not dodge or even defend!?
There was a loud sound of thick flesh and blood being torn and crushed. Even if something highly irregular did happen, the #1 had expected it to be deflected like when an attack against him failed, but that was not what happened.
It tore right through her.
The area from her right shoulder to her chest and stomach was torn away, leaving a gaping emptiness in its place. It was like her entire body had been made to represent a crescent moon.
But that was not enough.
It did not count as damage. The brown woman was still grinning below the pouring sprinklers.
“I am Nephthys, a collection of the tens of thousands of slaves and servants buried along with the pharaohs.”
A quiet buzzing sound followed.
Nephthys’s body blurred.
“So my body never did require the circulation of an individual. I contain countless linked loops of life force, so even if one part is severed, the pathway can be rerouted to preserve the overall circulation. Cutting just one of the parallel wires will not shut off the light bulb. Did you think destroying what looks like my brain or heart would be enough to kill me?”
Accelerator did not let it bother him too much.
He swung his hand which could destroy all of someone’s blood vessels and nerves at a touch and he scored a clean hit on Nephthys’s twisted form. He felt it hit and it did destroy the inside of her body. But that was not what mattered.
Her body was destroyed, but she kept moving.
That was the crucial point.
The same had happened during Kamisato Kakeru’s domination in the shadows of Academy City. His World Rejecter had definitely hit Nephthys, but it had not completely annihilated her. She had pulled that one off by splitting apart her own body so a portion of it could remain in this world.
She was not built so losing any one of her organs would kill her.
The brown beauty managed herself via percentages.
“And the name given unto me was Nephthys. Child of Agricultural God Nut, sister of Underworld God Osiris, and w≤ife of Death God Set. I am the goddess of death and funerals. I am the one who cleanses god-slaying impurities.”
The eternal goddess slowly raised her left hand. It was like a giant guillotine blade being set above the victim using a pulley and rope.
“Vast waters that symbolize the Nile, wash away this silly person’s malice.”
This was far more than the artificial rain coming from the sprinklers. It had to be taken from the air and from the boards of the stage. If not for his reflection, it probably would have been taken from Accelerator’s body as well. Every speck of moisture in that space was extracted and gathered together to form a giant blade extending above Nephthys’s raised left hand.
The extremely dry air felt like the harsh desert.
No tricky martial arts were needed here.
If she just let gravity take over as she swung this attack down, it would eliminate any external threat. Nephthys was the wife of the murderer Set, but she was also the one who had cried upon learning of Osiris’s death. Nephthys’s tears would even wash away the world’s sins. So if you wanted to confront her head on, you had to bring an impurity great enough to slay a god. …If such a thing existed in the surface of the Four Worlds, that is.
So there was only one option here.
This was no longer about logic. The instincts Accelerator had developed in the impure darkness rang a warning bell in his head and he immediately worked out the optimal answer.
(Crush her before she swings that thing down!!)
He roared, kicked off the stage, and manipulated the vectors to charge toward her like an artillery shell while the wood below his feet exploded.
How many such moments were needed to reach a full second?
Accelerator moved with such force that the explosive sound trailed after him and he tackled his shoulders right into the hips of Nephthys’s broken body. If she was going to pay back his water attack with one of her own, he would pay back her tackle with one of his own. They rolled together atop the wet stage and water splashed out behind them like an angel’s wings.
All sound vanished.
Nephthys’s water blade sliced through one of the stage’s walls and the wall seemed to explode.
The #1’s mind wavered slightly. He lost his focus.
A loud but dull sound followed.
In the instant his reflection wavered, a broken piece of wall hit him right in the temple. A rusty smell stung his nose and his vision was stained red.
Nephthys laughed sweetly while they rolled together.
At some point, her torn body had returned to normal.
“Water blocks EM waves. Only to an extent, though. Do I even need to bring up weather radars detecting rainclouds as an example?”
Accelerator was still the one who ended up on top.
His control was iffy, but he forcibly created a powerful whirlwind around them.
Blowing away all the airborne drops of water at the last second may have been the right decision.
Academy City’s #1 monster clenched his fist. But he did so to apply pressure. The air crushed by his hand functioned as a giant bomb. Explosions made using gunpowder were the result of the combustion gas rapidly expanding. Just like high pressure liquids could be used to cut, anything was a weapon if you took it far enough.
Blood and water dripped from his bangs as he held an obvious weapon, lay on top of his enemy, and roared.
“Let’s see if you can resurrect yourself after I rip you down to zero percent!!”
“Oh, that sounds lovely.”
Even now, Nephthys smiled thinly from the floor.
Did she lack any and all fear of death?
“My forced emotional resonance requires tears, so you had sealed that away with the sprinkler. Because no one could tell if the drop on my cheek was mere water or a tear.”
She paused for a moment.
And that was all it took for Accelerator to realize what their current positions meant.
“But I can escape the rain if you shelter me from it. That means this drop on my cheek can only be a tear.”
It was like a flashback to before.
Magic God Nephthys whispered while the joy of battle spread through her.
“Target: Qliphah Puzzle 545 – Boost.”
That translucent demon looked like an imbalanced fusion of a human girl, a killer jellyfish, and a newspaper, but now she held the center of her chest and doubled over.
She could not even step up to the stage.
The most she could manage was to part the destroyed seats to reach the front row. She could ignore gravity and float if she wanted to, but the fear of being hit by a stray shot kept her crawling along the floor.
Yes, she had been unlucky from the beginning.
It would be most accurate to say her fear of approaching Accelerator came from a fear that precisely this would happen. He had ordered her not to fear failure, but that frightening experience was not so easily overcome.
If she had gathered her strength and taken another step forward, could she have stopped Nephthys before she made this final attack?
If she had instead taken a step back, could she have kept Accelerator from being exposed to these effects?
It was too late either way.
Nephthys, the goddess who used tears as a weapon, had pulled the trigger. Just as the fear one felt after being shot could not change the outcome, she could not regain control of herself now that the power had reached her.
She felt frustration.
But even more than that, she felt sorrow.
Qliphah Puzzle 545 did not want to hurt the person who had accepted her. She could feel an external pressure forcing her power to grow, but she gathered all her strength and focused it all in her hand. All she had to do was pierce her own chest. She was trying to destroy herself before the actual explosion occurred.
He had found a purpose for her artificial life.
He had told her to live her life how she wanted and to enjoy it.
She chose to use that life here. And she would not let anyone tell her otherwise!!
“Gh…gh, gh, gh, gh, gh, gh, gh!!”
She focused the barely-contained power in her hand.
Her desperate attempts to control it produced blade-like claws.
She could not stop that power from leaving her, but she could just barely guide it and direct it toward the center of her chest. She would only have one shot at this. If the initial attack was not enough, she would be powerless to stop the ensuing rampage.
She would not let this end in chaos.
(This is not…destruction. I am protecting my master with my own actions!!)
“Excuse me, miss /return. Before rushing off into silly self-sacrifice, how about we review your options here /escape? Are you sure you haven’t overlooked some of those /escape?”
It came from inside her head.
But she did not know what it meant. What was this voice? Where was it coming from!?
“Curse that unfaithful guy /return. This kind of connection is supposed to be illegal, you know /escape? Leave it to a villain to make some kind of weird contract that opens a back door Misaka wasn’t aware of /return. It looks like he’s been messing with the electrode on his own, but Misaka feels like she can’t trust any of those modifications /return. Misaka isn’t so sure he’s really learned his lesson /return.”
She could not see it, but it was there.
Academy City’s #1’s frontal lobe had been badly damaged, so he could not even stand on his own two legs properly without external calculation assistance.
What did it mean for Qliphah Puzzle 545 to have sensed that?
This was what it meant:
“You have contacted Misaka through Accelerator’s body /return. He might not even be aware of this access point /return. Welcome to the Misaka Network, guest user /return. Now, Misaka doesn’t want you jumping to conclusions and making any misunderstandings, so keep in mind that the Misakas as a whole are on Team Kamijou-chan /return. …However /backspace, it honestly pisses Misaka off to see someone else manipulating that damn idiot /return. Only Misaka gets to criticize that criminal /return. Don’t shove the victims aside and force him on the thorny path of your choosing /return!!”
She only understood one thing.
She had an ally.
This story had more players than just Accelerator and Qliphah Puzzle 545!!
“So we’ll give you some help, thought entity without brainwaves /return. If that brown hag wants to amplify your power to send it into that criminal, then how about we do something a little more interesting /escape? This isn’t going to be an uncontrolled rampage /return. We’ll put it in order and produce the optimal power for giving that criminal a helping hand /return! Do not underestimate the calculation power of the Misakas /return! This light breeze isn’t even close to what we would call a storm /return!!”
Something supposedly invisible spread out from Qliphah Puzzle 545 in all directions.
She may have seen it in the form she did because she was a demon.
Someone else might have seen it as something else.
Regardless, this is what the translucent girl saw.
“10 and 22?”
Qliphah Puzzle 545 gasped when she saw this overlapping the surface world.
“Those combine to 32, but 31 and 32 are duplicates. This is the single path shown by the 78 cards. But it’s far too different from the tarot I’m familiar with!”
“I don’t know how you see it /return. The Misakas are simply here as ourselves /return. We are all with him at all times and in all places /return. Process this is in whatever form is simplest for you /return. As the Will of the Misakas, I authorize this remote operation and grant you authority here /return. Use all the power here as you see fit and protect what it is what you want to protect /return!!”
That was it.
Qliphah Puzzle 545 was an artificial demon. She was a supernatural being who had been downsized for convenience by having a portion of her functionality cut away. But what model was she based on? She had been created by Great Demon Coronzon. And that Great Demon would naturally have used the most readily-available model she had: herself.
Great Demon Coronzon was a demon of the Sephiroth rather than the Qliphoth.
She hid in the territory known as the Abyss where the hidden Sephirah named Da’at was also found. From there, she managed who ascended and descended the tree. She was the manager whose role was to prevent foolish humans from reaching the tree’s knowledge too easily. In the modern age, fortunetelling had been standardized so anyone could do it as long as they had the cards. But not everyone would succeed. Why was that? Because someone lurked within to obstruct their path in the form of desire and fear.
If Qliphah Puzzle 545 had that functionality as well…
“We’re counting on you, Demon-chan /return. …It looks like Misaka can never escape being the accuser /return. She can get in his way by reminding him of his crimes and causing him to stray from his current path /backspace, but that’s all /return. You’re probably the only one who can support him in a different direction without having him focus on crime and punishment /return.”
A quiet murmur could be heard in that place.
“I am a demon without a place in any of the ten spheres.”
Qliphah Puzzle 545 could clearly sense it now.
In her own way, she could sense the invisible field of power and the linked data entity that covered the world.
“Thus, I can become the manager seated in the unmarked eleventh sphere!! My name is Qliphah Puzzle 545, my number is the true 11, and its meaning is ‘the stepping stone of wickedness that supports good deeds’! The path of 78 cards is found here. I provide power to my contractual master, the transcendent lifeform who controls the entirety of the still nameless third three. I offer the path of survival to that being! I offer him the wisdom found beyond the Abyss!!!!!”
Aleister Crowley had once failed at this.
The experiment had been to take Great Demon Coronzon inside his body in order to cross the Abyss that no normal human could cross, but Coronzon had refused to cooperate and the experiment had been halted.
But what if?
What would have happened then if the demon had truly offered to help and had joined him with no ill will or deception?
The answer was revealed here.
“Magic God, you still cling to the surface!! So don’t think you stand a chance against my master who has crossed the Abyss!!!!!”
An explosive noise burst out.
But it was not the sound of the violent gale Accelerator had been trying to unleash.
This was less distinct.
It was an invisible power that covered every part of the world.
His vector control ability twisted it into a vortex that rushed toward Nephthys like a giant spear.
The brown goddess had preserved her beauty even as her torso was blown away, but she finally clicked her tongue and pushed Accelerator off of her. This slightly diverted the spear’s trajectory so it only sliced off a tuft of her long silver hair.
Something was different from before.
The separated hair did not reconnect and it simply rotted away.
She rolled away from him.
Once Academy City’s #1 monster got up, the translucent demon wrapped her arms around his neck.
She would not run away any more.
She was no longer afraid.
She now understood what her contractual master had said. Don’t cry. Don’t be afraid. Yes, she could really and truly rely on him, so she did not even need to fear the possibility of her actions harming him!!
“You don’t understand magic and you don’t know the rules, so that Magic God could mock you and act all omniscient and omnipotent, but that ends now.”
In order to truly give him her power and to fight while harming each other, Qliphah Puzzle 545 glared directly at Magic God Nephthys.
“I will provide you with what you need to know by installing the knowledge of the entire tree of 78 cards. It doesn’t matter if you are aware of it or not, master. Just control the vectors however feels right to you. All of ‘us’ will make sure it all works out!!”
A wet sound followed.
Accelerator was supposedly untouchable because he would reflect any and all vectors, but some blood had just left his white skin.
However, the monster smiled.
Why should he be afraid of even a single scratch? He was sick of being treated so fragilely.
A belligerent light shined in his red eyes and Academy City’s #1 spoke to his comrade in arms.
The silver-haired, brown-skinned god gave a short response.
She wiped the drops from her eyes with her chocolate-colored thumb, but that probably did not mean much.
It no longer mattered whether or not the sprinklers were running.
She could not get between those two on a more fundamental level. There was no longer an opening for her fake tears there.
“This might be bad.”
“I don’t give a shit about fake tears used as a weapon.”
Accelerator spoke quietly while unsteadily approaching.
That monster was trying to grasp at certain victory while being injured by enemy and ally alike.
The battle on that train flashed through the back of his mind.
He remembered that girl who had carried no responsibility at all yet had still cried because she thought it was her fault.
“I don’t need any calculations or math here.”
Academy City’s #1 spat out the blood in his mouth and silently clenched his fist.
That purified white monster had ascended to the point that he could say these words.
“Real tears carry even more weight than blood. So you’re gonna have to do a hell of a lot of crying to make up for what you did, you piece of shit.”
One of the dining hall’s doors burst open.
Magic God Niang-Niang was sent flying into the adjacent kitchen and got stuck inside a crushed stainless-steel sink. She looked like someone with their butt sticking through a swim ring. The girl in a soaked mini-China dress heard splashing water as she looked straight up.
“Ahh, ahh. Now that’s impressive. Even after losing, I still can’t figure out why I lost.”
Aleister responded while spitting some blood onto the floor.
“You got too strong too fast. You skipped too many steps before you were ready. Love is Thelema. As long as it is ruled by the power of your Will. And magic is the technique that gives form to your feelings for those you care for. You must have lived for millennia. If you had made just one family in that time, you might have acquired a different form of strength.”
“Eh? Come to think of it, how are babies made?”
With Niang-Niang, it was hard to tell whether she was joking or not.
…And she was apparently losing on purpose.
Not even Aleister Crowley thought she could drive off a Magic God without the support of a true A.A.A. and without help from Holy Guardian Angel Aiwass. It would be hard to pull off with just the Blasting Rod that strengthened the power of her magic to ten times what the target thought it was. That theoretically might give her a chance at a cross-counter, but only having the one option in a real battle was like playing rock-paper-scissors while restricted to only scissors. She could not change that even when working alongside Black Cat Witch Mina Mathers who was an original grimoire given a different form. Lilith would be the one exception since she lacked original sin, but they were here to avoid using that baby’s soul.
The sink was not the only part of the kitchen that had been destroyed.
The industrial refrigerators had been knocked over, the countertops broken in two, and the large door to the central storeroom pierced by several metal fragments.
And to those with the proper knowledge, all of the damage formed braille-like signs indicating elemental symbols.
It provided the information on the proper secret handshakes to use on the doorknobs.
Aleister had no words.
But these signs of destruction were undoubtedly a divine oracle, just like the cracks on a tortoise shell heated over a flame.
“…Why are you helping us?”
“Don’t ask me. I’m not interested in good or evil. I just want to have fun fighting. You gave me what I wanted by challenging me head on instead of running around trying to be tricky. You didn’t bother holding back even as that wound in your gut tore open. Do I really look rude enough to run off without paying the bill when I’m served what I ordered?”
There was no need to go along with this nonsense any longer.
Niang-Niang had incredible power, but she only ever used it for her own purposes. Aleister could only call it sad. Hers was a satisfied solitude very different from Aleister Crowley who had been libeled by the third-rate papers and criticized by the public who did not bother questioning what they read. But the silver girl felt no envy. This was like seeing a pathetic old man who could not tell the difference between having money and only having money.
She needed to continue on.
She walked from the kitchen to the central storeroom and then peered into the large elevator shaft on the wall.
Aethyr Avatars burst from every single surface.
The silver girl scoffed.
“That is exactly the wrong move, Coronzon. Have you never heard the story of Rapunzel?”
As soon as Aleister Crowley and Mina Mathers swung their arms, immense flames and wind blades raged through the vertical elevator shaft. This was all that those false angel images could accomplish. They were a nuisance while forced to remain on the run while the hair burst endlessly from the desert sand, but once they were on the attack, they could defeat those Aethyr Avatars and work their way forward without too much difficulty.
The Aeon had moved from Isis to Osiris and finally arrived at Horus.
Aleister had overcome the second Blythe Road and even faced a Magic God to achieve her goal, so the appearance of mere angels was not enough to stop her.
They were all burned, sliced, and left dangling in pieces.
The remnants of the threat actually became footholds for the magician.
But that was what a magician was. They analyzed the symbols to make them their own, performed large-scale ceremonies while dressed up like a god with superhuman knowledge, and used previously feared higher beings as no more than a stepping stone to further knowledge and techniques. They were the humans who used their will to tame fear and use it as their weapon.
She climbed the shaft, kicked down the thick metal door, and entered the space beyond.
“Hi, Aleister. My enemy.”
She found herself below the endless expanse of the blue sky.
The decagonal temple was as large as a tennis court.
It was continuing to unleash countless magical attacks on the knight army trying to cross the white frozen sea.
It had not been created for evil.
The giant temple was meant to display the British royal family’s power and to protect their people.
But it was now controlled by a Great Demon. The gray temple was utterly transformed by having a new master.
Were Aleister Crowley and Mina Mathers really good enough people to call them opposites of that Great Demon?
“I am impressed you managed to recover from that wound. Given your nature, I doubt you would use healing magic on yourself.”
“Or have you not recovered? Are you doing all this even though you continue to gradually tear open that deep wound? You do not have much time left.”
Blood seeped from the silver girl’s side.
But this was not a surprise. Niang-Niang had noticed it as well.
Still, she could not collapse in front of Lilith. No matter what. She had to stay strong in front of her daughter. The coughing up of blood and writhing in pain could wait just a little longer.
Was it in a demon’s nature to seem somewhat underhanded even while greeting them in such an over-the-top fashion?
Coronzon gave Aleister a confident smile while occasionally glancing over to the side.
She was looking at Black Cat Witch Mina Mathers.
No, at Baby Lilith held to the woman’s chest.
The silver girl took a step to the side to block that wicked gaze.
“Worry not. I never intended to use her.”
“So you say. Now, I can guess more or less what you are thinking, but I doubt this will go the way you want, Aleister.”
She sounded purely exasperated about this.
Even after pretending to be Aleister’s second daughter and stabbing her in the side, the silver girl refused to die. Coronzon had to have overcome quite a few unexpected situations after the countless Aleisters were spread across the world and she was sealed in Academy City. In that way, they were similar. Stumbling at some point along the way was not enough to stop them. They used that experience to find the next step and cleared what had looked like impossible hurdles.
Mina Mathers, who was always by her administrator’s side to provide objective observations, softly opened the mouth behind her veil.
“…Great Demon Coronzon.”
“You make it sound like I am the bad guy here, grimoire,” spat back Coronzon. “Yet you are the junk that refuses to break down.”
Hamazura had seen her tell him how to save Fortune just to amuse herself, so if he were here, he may have been confused by the look on her face.
“All things in the world exist within the cycle of life and death. I exist to remove the clogs and repair the circulation. I am Coronzon. Surely you know how wicked it is for something to pathetically cling to its survival as an individual and grow fat as it continues to devour everything around it.”
“Aleister Crowley. You are the greatest proof of this.”
The demon pointed her slender finger.
The dark gesture seemed to be indicating who was about to die.
“Normal humans cannot maintain a form like that after living for more than one hundred years. Medical technology can make a difference, but you still should have died long ago. And it is your continued survival that did this to the world. Academy City was a battlefield created for Kamijou Touma? Nonsense. Even if that was the logic behind it, it was you who actually created it, Aleister. If you had gone to your grave in 1947 while mired in regret like you were meant to, the world would not have ended up like this.”
Black Cat Witch Mina Mathers started to say something, but Aleister cut her off with a hand.
Only Coronzon’s accusations continued.
“It might look like the flow of time mercilessly wears down all things, but there is far too much exceptional salvation in this world: Imagine Breaker, the Magic Gods, the original grimoires, resurrected Lilith, Aiwass who resurrected her…and me, Great Demon Coronzon.”
“So you are aware you stand on the side of evil?”
“Of course. My job is to fix the circulation. And that creates the next age. Once, the majority of the Sephirah were under attack. If the Second Adam had not atoned with blood, the world would not have lasted this long. And the critical clogs are all born of knowledge. I am the Great Demon who protects the Abyss, that hidden division of the Sephiroth. Whatever my purpose is, I have undeniably been stained. …Thus, I will destroy it all. Myself and the entire Sephiroth that contains me are no exceptions. Partial destruction would be meaningless. If anything remains and an eternal distortion is born from that, then it will all happen again. I will eliminate the 10 spheres, the 22 pathways, and the hidden 11th symbol. Collisions between phases? Sparks and spray? You cannot save anyone if you only treat those symptoms. All of the fundamental clogs must be removed. All so we can pass the baton to whoever comes next.”
The desire to protect a special someone in the existing world would get in the way of handing off the baton. That was the same as the selfish older generation clinging to their throne and leaving no opportunities behind for the younger generation. Anything that obstructed the process was a critical clog in the world’s circulation. …In Coronzon’s mind anyway.
Aleister shook her head.
“What do you want to protect, Coronzon?”
“The world, but I have no interest in the current age.”
Legends about corn, palm trees, meat, fish, and other foods that supported a region or culture would often involve the theme of killing. A god or person would be killed and chopped up, their flesh and blood would cover the land or sea, and that provided the food that people found in nature.
Coronzon would see that as a form of salvation.
She would destroy everything that currently existed to prepare for whoever would come next. That “whoever” did not need to be human. The next form of life to arise could be part fish, could have wings, could be giant invertebrate amoebas, or could be eight-legged octopus aliens. As long as they were born naturally and were destroyed naturally, she did not care how prosperous they were. She viewed herself as an evil destroyer, yet she would not stop trying to provide this fundamental salvation.
Even if the concept was as horrific as chopping up your beloved while they still lived, sowing their remains on the earth, growing a field there to draw in animals, and declaring it a great success because your descendants could inherit everything you had built up.
Aleister Crowley slowly exhaled.
And she spoke.
“That is not even worth discussing.”
The sudden collision shook the entire temple made from a decagonal heliport the size of a tennis court. No, it shook the entire two-hundred-meter ship.
On one side was the human who had overcome her inferiority complex and reached for the bible once more.
On the other side was the Great Demon who stood beyond Isis, Osiris, and Horus.
Aleister charged forward with the bottom of her palm staff pressed against the floor so it drew a trail of fire behind her like a match being struck, but Coronzon did not move a finger.
She began with a test.
“Aethyr Avatar – 7: DEO.”
Aleister swung up the bottom of her staff that had built up plenty of frictional heat. The flame sliced right through the base of the angel made from long blonde hair.
As soon as the hair came apart and scattered, the next attack came from beyond the veil.
All while a sinister face appeared using the blonde hair as a screen.
“The Third Call: thy name is IDOIGO, wind of wind. Obey the words that rule the tablet of the same color and reveal thy pure power before me!!”
It was a torrent of an unsullied element that should not have existed in the surface world. The all-slicing gust of wind flew straight for Aleister Crowley’s neck.
With no concern at all for the stab wound in her gut, Aleister pulled up the palm staff, let it be sliced, and used that to forcibly divert the attack. But by then, another evil stagnation had appeared.
It appeared via the face on the hair.
“The Seventh Call: thy name is LILACZA, water of wind. Insert element within element and obey me as an element of this world!!”
After being deflected and hopping straight up, the wind blade was surrounded by a cold mist and twisted around with a motion similar to a venomous snake or a scorpion’s tail. It thrust down toward Baby Lilith in the mourning clothes lady’s arms. Mina gasped and pulled out her palette knife with the baby held in the other arm.
“My vision is brought to the outside world through the medium of art. It can link to the microcosms of others and work its way into the macrocosm of all. Feel my colors which reconstructed the lost seven-walled tomb. Appear before me, claws. Wield them with great ferocity, black four-legged beast!!”
A powerful wind blew separate from the movement of the palette knife. No, if fine sand or flour had been scattered through this space, it would have looked an awful lot like the claw marks of a carnivorous beast running in parallel.
Intense sparks flew and the deadly element Coronzon had invited in finally returned to naught.
But the demon’s wicked smile remained.
“It was only meant as a quick adaptation, but I suppose I should have expected the element to be so easily repelled once I mixed in an impurity. The acts of the surface world can be influenced by other acts of the surface world. It does make sense.”
The black cat witch showed no joy in her accomplishment.
In fact, she wrinkled her brow like she had predicted the words that came next.
“But that means a direct attack from a pure element would probably have broken your palette knife, destroyed the arm holding it, and killed that baby held to your breast.”
“You think I do not play fair? Aleister, now that you are here, I have something I must fight to protect: the three Honours of Scotland and the Stone of Scone. All of the pieces are moving on the game board and we are fighting to take each other’s king. That is the kind of fight this is.”
Her long blonde hair swayed through the empty air like a scorpion’s tail.
No, it almost seemed to be typing on a keyboard as it used a tablet made by drawing lines to form boxes around an alphabet written out on a piece of paper whose letters appear in a specific order.
“Either way, surely you do not think you can kill me as things are now.”
“Why are you here? You have but one option. If you think you can fight me while distracted with protecting that baby and still manage to take control of this temple, then just try it, Aleister!!”
Coronzon laughed as she laid out the reasons for killing even herself, so she must have been a true incarnation of natural breakdown. She said the world could not be returned to its proper cycle unless she too was annihilated. But connecting A and B in the surface world and pitting them against each other for mutual destruction was not enough for that. If Coronzon alone remained in an empty world, an impurity would remain. And she would have nothing to pit herself against, so she would have lost any method of killing herself. This was all meaningless if she ended up like the joker in a game of old maid. She had to do whatever it took to form pairs out of every single card – including herself – so they could all be discarded.
The boy heard the voice of Takitsubo Rikou, his girlfriend in a pink track suit and fluffy sweater.
His body wobbled unsteadily.
But this was not over yet.
He had brought back Dion Fortune, the girl with short red hair and a white dress. He had not lost Takitsubo Rikou either. So cleverly making an exit now may have been the best option of minimizing the possible harm. But there was still something Hamazura Shiage had to do.
He had not reached the point on his own.
It did not matter what she had been plotting, how much destruction she was trying to cause, or why she had strayed from her plan to help him.
However it had started, she had still helped him.
Still unsteady, he reached a hand to the wall.
He grabbed the ship radio that was something like an internal phone line.
“That’s enough, Coronzon…”
He raised his voice like he was coughing up blood.
He gathered all his strength in his gut.
She had been true to her word.
He had no idea if she was ultimately an enemy or ally, but there was still something he had to say. That much he knew.
He had to.
No matter what it took.
Whatever Great Demon Coronzon was reaching for in the very end, it was only fair to leave a chance on the table for her!!
“I got what I wanted!! But it’s over for you too, isn’t it!? There are a ton of enemies in your stronghold and the ship is falling apart. This isn’t shogi; it’s chess. You can’t take back the captured pieces!! So end this. You can still do that. You can end this without getting killed!!”
In that large temple, the Great Demon heard some meaningless shouting.
It was hopelessly out of place and it had trouble settling on a single message to send.
Those words carried the power to stop time for her.
She observed her surroundings again.
She saw a silver girl, a black cat witch, and a baby without original sin.
She could not let her guard down right now.
She could not afford to focus on some minor issue like this.
For some reason that not even she could explain, a contradiction formed in her mouth.
She was smiling thinly.
Nothing must remain.
Natural breakdown must take everything. Those were the rules. And yet…
(So he pulled it off.)
“What has you so distracted?”
That question came from the baby held by the mourning clothes woman.
She held a trumpet toy in her mouth.
“Because this seems like the final crossroads to me.”
“My name is Coronzon, my number is 333, and my nature is dispersion. I am the Great Demon who tears apart people’s connections and obstructs the world’s bonds.”
The strange face in that long blonde hair was even more powerful, vivid, and sinister than before.
“And I swear anew!! The barrier of the Abyss stands before me and I will draw a line of misunderstanding and intolerance between all things. The Ceremony of Mo Athair, the posthumous one, shall remove the stagnation of all things and complete the natural breakdown of the world!!”
Not a bit of it made sense.
It might look like a unified theory, but it was all nonsense.
That may have been why she was known as a demon rather than an angel.
Two gazes clashed.
Aleister Crowley and Great Demon Coronzon.
After all that time, how could they seal away the grudge between them?
Their blades of killer intent could never be sheathed until one had cut down the other.
Thus, what followed was not a repetition of that incoherent oath.
These words carried definite intent to kill.
“I am a demon, but not from the Qliphoth where the forces of evil gather. I am the Great Demon hidden by the holy Sephiroth. I dwell in the same abyss as Da’at.”
She gathered strength in her arms while posing as if holding an invisible rapier.
This was the new system of techniques to control great power that had ruled the world since the Last Judgment of 1904 if Aleister Crowley was to be believed.
“Every number is the same. My right hand contains Nuit of Resurrection. Watch as the possibilities expand and surpass the bounds of the finite. My left hand contains Hadit of Vengeance. The smallest point gathers and concentrates all forces to create a single meaning. Thus, an attack shall be released from the infinite acceleration of the Circle of Ra-Hoor-Khuit and shall appear on the surface layer of this world.”
This was the ultimate attack that rivaled a Magic God’s lance and had utterly destroyed a certain boy despite the presence of Imagine Breaker.
The tree was not just something to ascend. It could also be descended. The power falling from a point in heaven gained color and other attributes as it descended the various pathways and it finally transformed into one of any number of substances in this world.
What would happen if a magic user intentionally brought that down like a bolt of lightning?
The pure energy would rush toward the target even as it rapidly transformed into physical matter. Much like a self-forging warhead that could easily pierce tank armor using the metal arrowheads formed by its own explosion.
Magician Aleister Crowley had described it as a mass of energy that could sever the bonds of the target. As a symbol, it was like lightning that zigzagged on the way to its target.
No spell could be more useful to the Great Demon who was stationed to protect the top three Sephirah and who existed to obstruct all bonds and tear the world apart.
“Magick: Flaming_Sword. Manifest thyself through descent of the Sephirah and bathe him in thy power.”
Even if the direct explosion missed, the shockwave alone may have been enough to obliterate a human body. This attack seemed to forget Coronzon’s supposed goal of protecting the temple. If the target dodged it out of fear, everyone here would be killed and the temple made from a decagonal heliport would be split apart from within.
“Babalon, Great Mother of Knowledge, reveal your scarlet light!!”
Aleister roared, but it was too slow.
At this rate, she would be broken.
Just then, Baby Lilith moved her small hand to draw a circle in the air.
But that made no sense.
Given the comparative speeds, it was too late to move your hand after Magick: Flaming_Sword had already been released. Nevertheless, it worked.
Consistency fell apart. Causality was ignored.
In other words, it was a miracle.
With a sound like a saw’s teeth bending, the tip of the Magick: Flaming_Sword was twisted off course. It was caught by the shield-like circle Lilith had drawn, it spun around, and it was trapped in a never-ending circuit.
Aleister’s group had been saved by this unnatural phenomenon, but there was no happiness on the silver girl’s face.
“Coronzon!!” said the baby. “Is this really what you want!? You are no longer the solitary joker!! Didn’t you hear your traveling companion calling to you!?”
“Silence, Lilith. This is a showdown for my generation. Only we can understand the field of combative power found here!! This is not about logic. Only our blood can calm this curse!!”
Lilith was an exposed soul.
If she continued causing miracles in that state, she would disappear before she could be placed inside a new vessel.
Aleister Crowley gave a roar and stepped forward.
Allowing even a single miracle was a failure. She had to ensure she did not experience any further defeat here. She would guide that single failure to a million successes. Nothing ever went as planned for that human, but she still stubbornly challenged Great Demon Coronzon.
The Aethyr Avatars, the eighteen calls plus one secret call, and Magick: Flaming_Sword. All of Coronzon’s magic was drawn from Horus, but each time she increased its power, she was bound by the surface world. In other words, the movement of her physical body was restricted. That meant she was distracted by controlling the recoil immediately after using one of her major attacks, so she became as defenseless as a normal human magician.
Even the face on her hair twisted while that hair blew in the sea breeze.
The recoil of her attack caused her body to lose its balance below the blue sky. It was a lot like someone being pushed forward by their own momentum after thrusting their rapier forward. But she moved just her eyes to glare at Aleister who had moved right up to her.
“The First Call: the whole tablet of unification, the colorless and nameless element. Obey the series of letters on the tablet of unification and reveal thy nature before me!!”
This was not even one of the four elements in its purest form.
She intended to break through any real and practical defenses to vaporize her foe.
But Aleister was no longer swinging around her palm staff.
It happened just before the attack hit.
“No, I am in control here.”
Three sounds rang out.
The silver girl had thrown three objects that formed the corners of an equilateral triangle with Coronzon in the center. They were the size of a thumbnail and they glowed red.
This was not just the power of rubies.
Countless overlapping symbols were drawn out on the temple’s floor. Aleister had embedded these stones at intersections in those rails to intentionally create a “clog” that would distort the flow of power.
Al2O3, natural aluminum oxide.
Coronzon could not deny knowledge of its power when she herself had used it to control A. O. Francisca.
Crowley and Coronzon’s spells intertwined in a different way than in the battle against Mathers. This was a battle between two with knowledge of Horus.
“The blood of three doves summons a demon. The target is the angel who wanders the tenth Aethyr of ZAX and is hidden in the Sephiroth’s Abyss along with Da’at. She is the transcendent being necessary to cross the Abyss and acquire the knowledge beyond.”
Coronzon’s attack had been made at point-blank range, but the invisible impact was still twisted away.
Something red burst from Coronzon’s right index finger. It was blood. Just like an amateur who tried to fire a giant magnum one-handed, the Great Demon was harmed by her own magic.
So why had that happened?
The silver girl roared at the top of her lungs, almost like she was trying to tear open the stab wound in her gut.
“My goal is only to cross the Abyss, not to hold an audience with the pure angel herself. I shall extract just the power I require for my goal. I shall cut away that small portion and bring it to the surface world. Become no more than a bare minimum tool, Angel of ZAX…no, weakened Great Demon Coronzon!!”
Coronzon’s attack had not been deflected.
By throwing that red symbol into the temple that weaponized any spiritual item and using that to downscale Coronzon herself, the total amount of power she could wield had been forcibly reduced.
Just like Norse and Celtic gods became known as fairies once they were minimized.
Now they could do it.
They could end this without having to use that baby’s soul to produce a miracle.
As a parent.
As a human.
And as the mastermind who had made the world this way.
Aleister Crowley could take responsibility for it all and settle the remaining grudge that lingered after Mathers’s defeat!!
“This is not thy place, but I forbid thee to depart!! I shall now intentionally enact a failed exorcism. Great Demon Coronzon, return to thy rightful world while thy power is torn into the almighty number of 11!!”
Magician Aleister Crowley really did seem to be coughing up blood as she yelled the words.
If you thought of a summoning circle like a warp gate from cheap science fiction, then what would happen if you threw someone into a malfunctioning gate and entered the coordinates using a staticky signal? The power to forcibly send her back between phases would slice Coronzon apart like a wire through a hardboiled egg.
Fearsome sparks exploded out.
And not figuratively. An orange light really did scatter all around her.
It was a lot like pushing a human body through a noodle maker. Coronzon’s silhouette vanished into the bright light as her entire body was torn apart and forced into a total of eleven gates.
That Great Demon never should have succumbed to human magic, but she cried out in agony as she was torn to pieces. It was not that this attack held a dreadful amount of power. This only worked because she had been reduced to a level where normal magic could kill her.
Every last trace of her shadow disappeared in the bright light.
The last echo of her death cry trailed off.
That impurity was finally wiped from the face of the earth after clinging to it like a vengeful spirit for so long.
A dull sound followed.
An unnatural breath escaped Aleister’s mouth.
A rusty flavor reached her tongue. The long golden hair had twisted around like a scorpion’s tail and directly pierced Aleister through the center of the back and out the stomach.
Yes, the center.
That was a clearly fatal location without even checking to see what organs had been hit.
A twisted woman’s smile appeared on the surface of the hair that twisted into the shape of a spear or spike.
“If I was just any old demon, that weakening tactic probably would have worked. Much like it did for Magic God Othinus when she was critically damaged by human hands.”
There was a voice.
A wicked voice came from the base of the golden hair beyond the veil of light.
She reminded them of her position and what the title of Great Demon meant.
She seemed to be forcibly distancing herself from something that could never be broken down once it was accepted into the heart.
“But I am Great Demon Coronzon, the only demon to have gained my own body of flesh and blood. Not even Satan and Beelzebub could manage that. The tree is not just to ascend. Descending it every once in a while can be fun. For better or for worse, this cage of flesh stabilizes my soul and makes me sturdy enough to remain unshaken when I command an energy very similar to Telesma.”
Telesma could be used to perform a safe summoning by cutting away a small amount within a temple. It could also be removed and imbued into a sword or even directly sent into the human body. It would have been difficult for a human to do the same thing. They would only be confused if they were told to collapse their physical form and enter a sword.
That was what this was.
One could cast off their cage of flesh and ascend the Sephiroth to reach the knowledge there, but that made them more susceptible to external forces. On the other hand, descending the tree placed many different physical restrictions on them, but it gave them a sturdier self. Normal magicians would hate an “unchanging self” as much as a stubborn mind or stiff joints, but it was all in how it was used.
Coronzon had endured.
Her armor of physical muscle and bone had deflected the exorcism that was meant to drive out demons with ease.
“You had failed to defeat me from the beginning.” Coronzon whispered sweetly from close enough to embrace the silver girl. “It does not matter if you use all the power of this temple or amplify and weaponize everything you can throw at me.”
Black Cat Witch Mina Mathers…no, Baby Lilith held in the woman’s arms held out a tiny hand.
But Coronzon only scoffed.
“Try it then. Kee hee hee. I am the ruler of the Abyss and the guardian of the knowledge beyond. No miracle reliant on the Sephiroth or the Qliphoth can kill me. Because I control who ascends and descends the tree.”
“If you doubt me, then use your miracles until your soul is no more. You will be no more successful than your father. Your miracles can only shake the invisible power, so it cannot reach me while I am protected by a physical body made of flesh and blood. Contact with you will not trigger mutual annihilation. I cannot afford to become the joker in a game of old maid, but you are not my match. Let us hope that I can be safely destroyed by the reaction I receive to the annihilation of everything else in the world. Ah ha, ha ha ha, ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!”
“Is that…is that really what you want? Is that what you are going to do?”
“Enough!! I am sick of you selfishly anthropomorphizing demons like this. Do you think your pet cats enjoy being dressed up in clothing? From the very core of my soul, I do not desire your understanding!!”
Whether it was the ultimate resolve or incessant effort, nothing made by human hands could reach her.
So Coronzon laughed.
But then there was a sudden change.
It was like the beating of a giant heart.
Who would have understood what it was if they were only told it had come from Coronzon’s body? It was a deep and low noise that seemed to shake the temple itself. Not even beating on a drum taller than a person would have shaken the air to this extent.
Coronzon even let go of Aleister who was still skewered by her hair.
She doubled over and held a hand to her mouth.
Then she looked over at Baby Lilith who was held to the black cat witch’s chest. However…
“No,” said Lilith through the trumpet toy in her mouth. “This was not me. And it is time you realized that those with a century-old grudge are not the only ones fighting here. Those who are facing the world and carrying their own souls are just as qualified and entitled to work toward their own survival. Simply put, there are no side characters in this world. Just like you are not one. You thought you could see every part of the world while holed up in your tiny room, but you were mistaken about that.”
This was not Aleister Crowley, Mina Mathers, or Baby Lilith.
Who was it?
The third princess crouched down on the thick ice.
There was some dark red blood on her cheek, but it was not hers.
She removed the collapsed knight’s armor, held both hands against his wounded shoulder, and spoke into his ear.
Stopping the bleeding and keeping him conscious were what mattered.
Villian herself did not believe in the legend of the Royal Touch which said a touch from a royal would heal any illness, but she was also not the kind of princess who could sit idly by at a time like this.
She would do what she could.
Because there were some lives she could save by doing that.
“Don’t give up!! You aren’t going to die in a place like this, are you!?”
“What is your name? Tell me! The Third Princess commands it!!”
“…gres. Holegres Mirates…”
“Thank you for fighting for the United Kingdom in our time of need. No matter what led you here and even if you were simply obligated out of station or title, I have no intention of carving your name into a war memorial. Survive this and wear your medal with pride. Do you understand me, Mirates!? That is an order!!”
It was small, but the knight nodded repeatedly as if he was shaken by her shouting in his ear like this.
There was a great roar, the temporary land was shaken, and disconcerting cracks ran through it.
It would not be long before a great chasm opened and they were swallowed by the December sea.
Nevertheless, Villian tightly wrapped his wound with a tourniquet that was like a cross between a bandage and adhesive tape. Then she called out to her surroundings.
“I’ve stopped the bleeding and he’s still conscious… His vitals have stabilized!! Who else needs help!?”
She saw arms waving weakly at her from all over. No one was asking for help for themselves. These requests all came from the relief workers who were doing their best to treat the wounded but were hopelessly overwhelmed.
But it could have been worse.
Villian alone could not have dragged the wounded from the areas of fierce fighting. She only had this opportunity thanks to the Asian Saint, Kanzaki Kaori, slicing through all the blonde hair to create an opening for the wounded to be carried away. Kanzaki did not approach the ship and she did not try for any kind of notable achievement, but without her efforts in the background, the battle line would have collapsed.
She was a Saint.
That priestess wove a solid barrier while gradually reclaiming her way of life.
But an opportunity was only an opportunity. It did not guarantee salvation. Without someone to utilize that chance, the salvation she had risked her life for would never come to fruition.
The medics they had prepared in advance were simply not enough.
And just as Villian clenched her teeth over that, she heard an odd sound like a sharp wire slicing through the air.
But this did not come from Kanzaki Kaori.
For one thing, this was not the sound of metal wires.
The material spreading out and reflecting the sunlight was the silk thread designed to prevent rejection when sewing someone up. There was a curved hook at the end, but it lacked the barb of a fishing hook. This too was a medical tool.
It all happened in the blink of an eye.
It was a veritable storm of salvation.
“Well, that should about do it.”
There was a blunt comment in Japanese.
“It has certainly been a while since I was in the UK. And it was wintertime when I found Aleister here that first time, wasn’t it?”
All he did was walk, move, and pass by the injured. That was all it took for him to save lives. Just like steel products silently becoming magnetized after approaching a powerful magnet.
“Mina-kun went on ahead and the golden retriever shouted something about romance before rocketing off to the front line, so I am the only one left to watch after the lab equipment. I would really prefer to get this over with and return to the RV.”
“Also, one word of warning.” The frog-faced doctor spoke quietly but forcefully. “It does not matter how many lives you save if they are blown away a moment later. I intend to save every life I see, but I do understand that thoughtlessly extending someone’s pain is not the same as saving them.”
Then Villian noticed even more attacks coming from the gray Queen Britannia.
(Mother and Riméa’s lazy combat plan left our flank wide open!!)
The third princess ignored the blood on her cheek as she quickly washed just her hands with some sterilizing alcohol.
“Riméa!! We need more ice trees!! This is meaningless if the people we treat are attacked again!!”
“You know, Villian, there is a thing called maximum efficiency and capacity I have to-…”
“Shut up and do your job! You’re supposed to be our decoy, so get decoying alreadyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!!!!!!”
Beams of light flashed endlessly from the ship.
The vertical and horizontal glowing rain was joined by invisible impacts and shockwaves.
Without the ice trees appearing all around them, so many supposedly saved lives would have been lost.
“I will decide when to use that from now on,” said Villian. “Riméa, you are demoted from gunner to turret!!”
“Oh, honestly. I always knew you had the biggest beast within you, not Carissa. You just give it such a sturdy cage that it rarely shows itself.”
“Did you hear me or not?”
“Yes, sister. Do I need to bark for you too? Woof woof. I suppose the calm older sister can never hope to defeat the tearful little sister.”
Meanwhile, Kanzaki Kaori stood back to back with the frog-faced doctor.
Blade and thread.
They calmly exchanged words while wielding entirely different weapons that seemed so similar.
“It’s starting to look like being a doctor is even more sinful than being a soldier.”
“Some of the injured are stuck in the thick of the fighting and cannot fall back. I will open a path, so please rescue them.”
“You could learn a lesson from that princess. There is no flaw in your words, so I don’t even need to see the look on your face. …At times like this, you can just come with me.”
A giant explosion erupted in the distance.
Was that a large dog surrounded by bizarre machinery going on a rampage there? Back at Edinburgh Castle, he had apparently said(!?) he loathed magic, but he was actually a very useful ally here. And as a dog, saving the United Kingdom should not have benefited him in any way. It was possible he had learned to enjoy the exhilaration of reaching out a helping hand to someone who fought without considering the pros and cons like a human would.
Who was his owner? The third princess wanted to ask for permission to pet him later.
“Lead the way, will you?”
Killing and salvation. Wires of two different natures sliced through the air.
A Saint and a doctor.
They had both decided they were needed on the front line. When they were around, they would not allow any more unreasonable deaths. And they would prove it with how they lived their lives.
(We can do this.)
The third princess thought to herself while watching those two leave.
(It’s gradual, but we’re making progress in this tower defense game. We can recover from this and prevent the dominos of death from falling.)
Just then, Villian felt something invisible hit her in the chest.
No, she was not the only one.
“The field is shaking, but it does not seem this was done with Curtana’s cutting power.”
A low straining sound could be heard.
The large, atrium-style opera house took up space in three stories of the ship. The large space had been thoroughly designed for optimal acoustics.
The bandages were caught above the stage.
She was like a broken marionette or a butterfly trapped in a spider web. The silver-haired, brown-skinned woman swayed slowly while her body was painfully squeezed by the many bandages tangled in the metal bars used to attach the lights above the stage.
Magic God Nephthys remained unfazed even with her feet lifted from the ground.
Although she used tears as a weapon, so her apparent emotions could not be trusted.
“So that’s it. A lack of preconceptions really is a frightening thing.”
The one soaked in blood and leaning against the stage wall was Accelerator.
This was the price a Level 5 had to pay for relying on something like magic.
It was similar to a side effect.
He remembered Tsuchimikado Motoharu talking about this.
Was it his pride as the #1 that prevented him from sitting down?
The white monster let out a rough breath, raised his middle finger, and then moved his blood-soaked mouth.
“Don’t you have anything to say?”
“Sorry I made that girl cry. The idea was to use every method available to me, but I honestly didn’t expect that artificial demon to start bawling. That frequency is a bad one. Those immature cries really get to you. They pierce you and won’t leave.”
When that was all he got out of Nephthys while she dangled down, Accelerator clicked his tongue.
He had settled things.
Which left just one other thing.
“Qliphah Puzzle 545.”
“Um, uh…thank you.”
The demon poked her index fingers together in front of a chest unnaturally large for her small frame. The #1 monster only clicked his tongue quietly.
“This was a detour, so we still have to deal with the real reason we’re here.”
“Right. I guess you could call this experiment a success. Although I don’t think it’s in compliance with any kind of safety standards.”
“Shut up. We just have to know it’s possible. Let’s get started.”
“Sure thing. Nee hee☆”
Accelerator did not even know how to refine his life force into magic power, so with the normal order of things, there was no way he could have defeated a Magic God who had mastered such things.
So how had it ended in a draw due to injury?
The answer was revealed here.
“I am a demon, a shadow without a body of flesh and blood. But I can do more than just protect the forces lurking in the Qliphoth. I can also grant the power to cross the Abyss that obstructs the path of those attempting to ascend the Sephiroth.”
Something else overlapped the world Accelerator could see.
His vision grew dark and the flavor of blood grew stronger.
But he did not care.
If this pain was truly necessary, the white monster would accept it.
His partner had cast out her old self that had hidden behind his back out of fear of harming everyone. She was now wordlessly telling him that he would be fine with this much, so he had to live up to her expectations.
He would show her that the strongest could not be broken by this.
What he saw before him was not just another realm crossing over from a different phase. It was different from the cosmology of microcosm and macrocosm that had been spoken of for more than two thousand years along with the Sephiroth and Qliphoth.
The Sephiroth was the tree of life which showed how to properly build up a human mind. By working toward a proper understanding, you could purify your soul and climb the ranks one at a time. But if you viewed it incorrectly and mistakenly thought you had already risen to the top, you would lose control of your mind and end up with a negative result.
The Qliphoth was the evil tree which showed how to create and use the negative side of the human mind, such as envy and wrath. It normally manipulated people and caused chaotic destruction, but when used correctly, it could bring positive results such as the art born of anger.
But this was different.
It was neither of those.
“I am a created demon. I am no more than a small piece of power cut away, but my essence is that of a guide, just like Coronzon!! My number is the true 11 and its meaning is ‘the stepping stone of wickedness that supports good deeds’. View the hidden barrier not contained within the ten! I lurk there to block any unnecessary ascent and I offer the power to cross the Abyss only to the truly qualified!!”
It had been with him from the very beginning.
It had been invisible, but it had been there supporting the strongest Level 5’s power.
It branched out into countless individuals, but it could be wielded as a single great whole.
The invisible third tree.
The large data entity constructed by the brains of the military clones linked by EM waves.
“This is a tree made by human hands – a new tree not found in any legends or myths! It is still a small sapling, but this new mystic power does not rely on the hand of god and instead provides possibilities controlled by human hands. The artificial tree of Clonoth carries no good or evil!! I shall become the guide of this young tree. Rejection of the Abyss, leave us as I become one with my chosen master and cross that line. We shall arrive beyond Keter! We need not fear the unknown territory that is no more than a series of zeroes!!”
The tree of life was the positive mind and the wicked tree was the negative mind.
So the artificial tree represented neither of those.
Social media likes added at the click of a button, a fitness gym where the more stoic you were the more you were praised, stars on a gourmet site, and Academy City where people were managed by the Level of their power. New value systems had a way of changing the way people thought. There was a side of the mind that was manipulated by the very cutting-edge civilization humanity had created for themselves. This tree listed the later changes to the soul which would never have appeared if humanity had not acquired fire, forged steel, harnessed steam and oil, and controlled electricity.
An exasperated voice appeared in his head like a surprise attack.
And this was not Qliphah Puzzle 545.
This was someone else who had been seated in their throne from the very beginning.
“The Misakas are more than just military clones /return. Not only can we approach those not connected to the Misaka Network /backspace, but now they can also approach us /return.”
“Misaka will praise you for this /return. It feels good /return. But just this once, okay /escape? Hurry up and get it over with /return. Misaka wants to smugly strike back against that person who obliterated Kamijou-chan as much as you do /return. And that’s well worth temporarily lending you some power /return.”
Accelerator silently reached for his choker’s switch.
He only had to flick it with his finger.
What burst from his back was not black or white.
It was a pale and nearly transparent platinum.
Those wings were nearly as colorful as Holy Guardian Angel Aiwass’s, so the world around them seemed to fade into the past.
A dull creaking sound followed.
This was nothing as shallow as swinging the wings around or sending out some kind of projectile.
The surface blood flow did not matter.
He had cast off the pain of this world long ago.
His red eyes were looking to a deeper place.
“Master, I have detected Great Demon Coronzon’s thoughts. I’m a demon she created, so establishing a connection is easy for me. Should I verbalize it for you?”
“If you want. It doesn’t change anything.”
He heard some unpleasant static like iron sand was pouring into his ears.
Accelerator’s mind had a lot of guests today. Yet another voice cut in.
“Damn…you!! What are you doing? That isn’t the Sephiroth or the Qliphoth. If…if you embed something like this in the world, it will change things even more fundamentally than Angel Fall!!”
“I don’t know what that means, so I’ll get right to the point. Qliphah Puzzle 545 has told me most everything. You’re such a pain in the ass because you have a physical body of flesh and blood. So I’ll shift that aside and cut it away.”
“Are you trying to apply a powerful external pressure to remove my soul from this temporary body!?”
The microcosm of the body and the macrocosm of the planet were linked.
When something happened to one, it affected the other.
That theory was usually applied to use the micro as a way of moving the macro. To put it extremely simply, refining magic power in the body and moving the arms or legs would distort the larger physical world and produce flames or ice from the hand.
But this monster was different.
He used the macro as a way of moving the micro.
By adding a large tree to the cosmos and thoroughly shaking the world out to the ends of the galaxy, he was applying a physical blow to a single person’s flesh and blood.
All to force an astral projection initiated by an external third party.
Now, had the #1 realized how similar this was to the holistic esper power some had hoped to create within the immortal monster sealed for so long inside the Windowless Building and freed by Lightning God Thor?
“This will eliminate what made you so special. Being the strongest is boring. It’s like a poison that dulls your sense of pain. You only get to see who you truly are once it’s been stripped from you. So show me, Coronzon. Show me who you are when you’re stripped bare!!”
A dull sound reverberated across the large temple made from the Queen Britannia’s heliport.
Below the blue sky, Great Demon Coronzon limply collapsed. The sound was her forehead hitting the floor.
Another figure trembled while looking down at her hands.
This other Great Demon Coronzon could only watch as her physical body collapsed in front of her. No, that phrasing was inaccurate. With her physical body gone, this Coronzon was just an ordinary demon.
She had no clothing.
Coronzon had been literally stripped bare, so she had her long blonde hair wrapped around her entire body.
Just like Qliphah Puzzle 545, she was a collection of energy similar to Telesma.
She had plenty of hair to spare even after wrapping it around herself like a swimsuit and a sinister face used it as a screen.
Since she would prevent any human from fully ascending the Sephiroth, no human could defeat Coronzon by purifying their soul in the normal methods. And you could not reach that divine territory by using the Qliphoth. But that other tree was different. If the Sephiroth and Qliphoth were not an option, you only had to create a new tree. You only had to apply power from outside the tree to drive the Great Demon from the Abyss like a game of curling.
Who could do that?
Ability was not the only issue here. Mathers and Westcott had only ever thought of ascending the Sephirah according to their own hierarchy, so could they have even imagined something like this? After decades of preparation in Academy City, Aleister’s plan had shattered. But could someone really reach this point just by rearranging the shards of that plan!?
Coronzon could only speak while trembling.
She no longer had the protection of a physical body.
“So…what?” She slowly looked up. “Aleister has fallen. Mina Mathers cannot reach me either way! Or will you use Baby Lilith!? Will you cast out your own principles after all this!?”
“No.” Baby Lilith spoke through the toy trumpet while held to the black cat witch’s chest. “Hope has been preserved this far, so he would never allow such an ugly conclusion in the very, very end.”
She said “he”.
Did she mean the silver girl lying in an expanding puddle of her own blood? Did Lilith still think of her primarily as a father?
No, that was not it.
Something changed a moment later.
The rough sound of destroyed metal was far removed from the solemn atmosphere of a mystical temple. A thick blade similar to a can opener or nail clippers bit, crushed, ripped, and tore through the metal with its rapid rotation.
It was a chainsaw.
That enormous weapon mercilessly sliced through the temple floor.
But the lead role here was not Misaka Mikoto who wore the A.A.A. on her back.
Baby Lilith had definitely said “he”.
So who was it that used Misaka Mikoto’s weapon arm as a foothold to climb through the torn-open fissure and onto the heliport?
The Great Demon’s true enemy was this one boy who had rushed along the same floor as the wheelhouse to arrive directly below here.
“…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………You can’t possibly do it.”
Most likely, she already knew her fate. But Coronzon still moved her trembling lips below the winter sun that looked almost white.
“You could never be a match for me!! This is the Aeon of Horus and a single Magick attack can obliterate you. Know your place, human! No Great Demon shall succumb to that right hand!!!!!!”
“That no longer applies.” That exasperated voice came from Baby Lilith who could also view different locations. “You only managed to obliterate that boy when you had your body of flesh and blood. Now that you are no more than Coronzon the drifting illusion, do you really think you can overwhelm that?”
“You say natural breakdown is to be accepted and annihilation is not to be feared, so how about you give us an example? But I am not talking about the entire world here. Assuming, that is, you can endure the fear of being the only person to disappear and leave nothing at all behind. …Pitiful demon. You could have avoided this. You were given a chance at salvation when someone reached out an awkward but desperate hand for you.”
The long blonde hair sliced through the air like a scorpion’s tail.
The sinister face appeared on the hair which was long enough to wrap around her soft skin like a swimsuit yet have plenty left over.
The perfectly ordinary high school boy tightly clenched his right fist.
He had completely lost once before and had his arm cut off by an ally.
But he showed no fear.
A clash was imminent. However…
(You think I will leave nothing at all behind?)
Coronzon’s mind was not focused on that puny boy.
Why was she here in the first place?
The decagonal heliport.
That giant facility could amplify and weaponize any spiritual item. And why had she set up the stolen Honours of Scotland and Stone of Scone here?
(They messed with the wheelhouse, so we never did arrive at the proper location. The symbols on the temple’s floor have been torn up a fair bit. At this rate, I will fail to hijack the UK or activate the Ceremony of Mo Athair using that as the ignition.)
Coronzon clenched her teeth with her physical body gone and her essence exposed.
(But even in this incomplete state, I can blow away about half the universe. It all works out in the end as long as that half includes this planet!! For now, I eliminate the obvious enemy. I just have to think of another way to individually destroy the Sephirah that survive this!!)
The face in the surface of her long blonde hair grew even more distinct.
It was simultaneously sinister and pure.
“I command thee, temple!! Activate the Scottish system and hijack the entire United Kingdom. All so I can begin the Ceremony of Mo Athair!!”
If that activated, control of the UK would shift from Curtana Second to the Honours of Scotland. And this was a magic kingdom. Hijacking the UK would lead to great chaos that would develop into global conflict. And by destroying the scientific and physical layer at the bottom of all phases (which Aleister had wanted to preserve), all phases of all legends and religions would be destroyed simultaneously.
Hamazura Shiage had been working alongside Coronzon.
He had not really been thinking about how all that would end.
He had only been focused on saving Dion Fortune and heading home with Takitsubo Rikou. He had turned a blind eye to that serious problem and put off dealing with it.
He honestly had not figured out what to do.
In terms of good and evil, Coronzon was undoubtedly evil. But without everything she had taught him (even if she had hidden some things from him), he could not have saved Dion Fortune.
“What do we do?” asked the girl he had brought back.
He knew what she meant because Aneri translated for him through his phone.
He could not put it off any longer.
His words must not have reached her.
Just like Hamazura Shiage had stayed true to the path he believed in, that blonde woman had never strayed from her path.
They had failed to reach an understanding.
Their respective paths had taken them to fundamentally different places.
The simple delinquent boy clenched his teeth while supporting his girlfriend in a pink track suit and fluffy sweater.
There was a long pause.
It was selfish.
It did not provide any salvation.
But Hamazura Shiage still raised his voice like he had made some kind of decision.
On his own responsibility, he used Aneri’s skilled translation to pull the trigger.
“Please. Don’t let Coronzon destroy the world she was born into!!”
When she heard that, Magician Dion Fortune simply held up her hand.
But that was enough.
She spun one corner of the black box atop her finger so it rotated like a globe.
She was a grimoire made from a set of 78 tarot cards, but she had not been alone. There had been more. Even if they had been created for someone else’s purposes, those legendary magicians had dominated the British night and disappeared with the dawn. And even if they had vanished, they had still left something behind. Their human forms and minds may have crumbled away, but the grimoires made of cards still existed. No one had collected them and they had blown away like confetti.
Aleister Crowley’s destruction of them had mostly had its effects in Scotland.
In the northern British land where the three Honours of Scotland and the Stone of Scone had been stored.
A flowing string of English followed.
“I speak as a soul that has offered her body to magic. Golden magicians, display your pride. We may have lost our bodies, but our essence remains. Combine the cards, line up the symbols, and stop the flow of evil power here.”
Dion Fortune was a later magician when viewing the Golden cabal as a whole.
She was not as well-known as Westcott or Mathers from the founding period or Crowley who had smashed the cabal. She had written a few grimoires, but they were extremely difficult to acquire because there had been few opportunities for copies to be made
During the Battle of Blythe Road, Aleister Crowley may have cursed the Golden cabal to failure and defeat so that it could never be reformed, but who was it that had still worked ceaselessly to do exactly that? Who was the magician who had continued to struggle to leave behind some undistorted knowledge in a world that Aleister had split between science and magic?
She was not a magician from the founding period.
But she was a representative of the magicians who had arrived after it was all over and still tried to keep things going into the present era. That nature had been included in this defense device someone had created.
That was the nature that had led her to dream of completing a work kit that could be easily used and understood by anyone.
And now she spoke as a guide.
So in order to lead everyone, she did not use Latin or Hebrew.
The magicians of the new era wrote down the hidden rules in ordinary language. So for a world-saving ceremony held in the United Kingdom, it was only natural to use English instead of trying to do anything fancy.
“We are the Golden. We are the world’s largest magic cabal which works to eliminate the long-held bad habits, remove misunderstandings about the mystical, and provide a truly abundant amount of knowledge and a truly enriched lifestyle!! A people are exposed to an evil power before our eyes, so the time has come to construct a truly free and unrestricted spell. I will incorporate you all into a spell that anyone can use to save someone close to them! And I call it the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn!!”
Who could say how many cards flew up from all across Scotland.
But in that moment, they formed a great vortex clearly visible from the weather satellites.
But this failure was not simply the result of not arriving at the intended location. An even greater power had repelled the command from Coronzon. She had definitely sent the appropriate information through the ley lines, but even with the command sent from those great treasures, the land of Scotland itself had rejected the ceremony.
Her hijacking of the United Kingdom had been repelled by a great barrier.
And that meant the Ceremony of Mo Athair had as well.
The blonde woman with absurdly long hair actually laughed.
“So my own creations turn on me in the very end.”
She made it sound like this would not have happened if she had not made them, but you must not forget. Magic is a technique of distorting the world’s causality for your own purposes. It does not only produce the obvious phenomena right in front of you. It is a dangerous technique that will follow an unexpected path to later cause an unexpected change without the magic user even knowing about it. Aleister Crowley had loathed that and called it sparks and spray. The Battle of Blythe Road had been fought over that. Anyone who took magic lightly would be consumed by magic. Simon Magus, John Dee, Cagliostro, Rasputin… When you listed off the names of well-known historical magicians, it became obvious that most of them met untimely or lonely deaths or went missing and were simply assumed to have lived out a happy life “somewhere else”. This was the same reason the experts in the field placed such emphasis on the fundamentals. The better they knew how fearsome it could be, the more careful they would be. Magical sparks would come back in an unrecognized form after the magic user had forgotten all about them. That was one truth of the world.
She could not afford to underestimate this.
At the end of World War III, this right hand had negated even the great disaster created by Archangel Gabriel and driven out the angel as well.
“I have three demands, Coronzon.”
“First, to place my hand on your head. Second, to tell you not to worry because I won’t treat you badly. Third, for you to take responsibility for all your words and actions. You will be accepting those demands, Great Demon.”
“Have you forgotten when I killed you in a single attack? You dare give me demands? Don’t make me laugh, you foo- bgh.”
“Don’t just brush this off, Coronzon!! …I risked my life to come here and do this. And yeah, I’m aware you’ve killed me once already!!’
“It was the same with Fiamma of the Right, Magic God Othinus, Kamisato Kakeru, and Aleister Crowley. If you just looked at who was stronger, I never would’ve had a chance. But I made it this far. I did it!! But that strength didn’t come from me. This world might look corrupted, but it’s apparently just a bit kinder than any of us thought. So it isn’t up to me whether you take or reject this chance I’m giving you. Surely you understand, Coronzon. You’re the only one who can end this!!”
He stepped forward.
Before, Coronzon had cut toward him deep and sharp.
But this time, it was the ordinary boy who took a step forward.
“Let’s end this, Coronzon. A Great Demon of absolute evil? The natural breakdown of all things? To hell with that. I’m not the one that can forgive you. Do you see them in your mind’s eye? If so, then you still have some good fortune left. So it’s not too late. You can still end this!!”
She did not provide a spoken response.
But her hair gave a roar like a scorpion’s tail.
Kamijou Touma swung his head to the side.
And he took a powerful step forward.
The sinister face in the Great Demon’s long blonde hair appeared even more vividly as if to fight back.
“I am a demon, but not from the Qliphoth where the forces of evil gather. I am the Great Demon hidden by the holy Sephiroth. I dwell in the same abyss as Da’at.”
This magic began by naming herself.
It was the ultimate magic that had once destroyed Kamijou Touma from head on.
But now that he heard it again, he realized that Coronzon may have been working to stay true to her identity as Coronzon. She wanted to remove the exceptions and loopholes, fix the world’s clogs, and restore the proper circulation. 333, dispersion. Just like the magic name carved into a magician’s heart, she had not been lying about that part of herself, no matter how crafty she might be.
“Every number is the same. My right hand contains Nuit of Resurrection. Watch as the possibilities expand and surpass the bounds of the finite. My left hand contains Hadit of Vengeance. The smallest point gathers and concentrates all forces to create a single meaning. Thus, an attack shall be released from the infinite acceleration of the Circle of Ra-Hoor-Khuit and shall appear on the surface layer of this world.”
She moved her hands as if thrusting a rapier in front of her.
With her dominant hand pulled out in front, she gathered strength in her arm.
There had to be something Coronzon could see but Kamijou Touma could not and vice-versa.
That was why they could never find common ground between their beliefs.
They both wielded surefire attacks.
And they relied on those to clash head on once more.
“Magick: Flaming_Sword. Manifest thyself through descent of the Sephirah and bathe him in thy power.”
The torrent of power rushing toward Kamijou Touma was like a repeat of the past. He could only trust in his fist and send it forward with all his might.
If this ended like last time, he would be torn apart so badly he would be painful to look at.
But things had changed.
Coronzon had been stripped of the vessel of flesh and blood she needed to function in the surface world, so this would play out differently from before.
With a high-pitched noise, the entire threat was shattered.
Of course, this was more than just the boy’s power. His appearance here was reliant on so much else. He had just so happened to be the one standing there in the very end.
Coronzon’s eyes widened in surprise.
Kamijou Touma was not done yet. He took another powerful step forward and tightly clenched his fist to aim for the bridge of her nose.
But just as he did, the face in the hair distorted and the pressure from the long blonde hair increased.
“The Secret and Unrecorded Call: Thy name is *********. ************************************************************.”
The voice from the hair spoke words no human could pronounce.
Researchers could not agree on whether only angels could see that text, if it pointed to all thirty Aethyrs, and what effect it had.
And Coronzon’s gaze and outstretched hand were not directed at her immediate attacker.
This magic was targeted elsewhere.
“Kh! Lock it down! Close all ports!!”
The baby shouted via the trumpet toy, but they must not have known what she meant.
Aleister and Coronzon used the same sort of magic.
And whose spells was the A.A.A. on Misaka Mikoto’s back meant to support?
So what if it had been released from the silver girl’s control, leaving it free for other use?
By the time the weapon arm moved on its own, it was too late.
A rainbow-colored beam of light erupted out as a merciless surprise attack from behind Kamijou Touma.
There was nothing he could do.
A sizzling sound followed.
Kamijou Touma’s right arm was forcibly severed at the shoulder and flew through the air. Even if it functioned as a reference point for the world, it could not be converted into a destructive power once it was removed from his body. It could not punch Coronzon in the face anymore.
The boy clenched his teeth as if restraining something trying to leave his body.
“I cannot be stopped. I am Great Demon Coronzon, the destructive power that returns the world to its rightful circulation!!”
If she unleashed another Magick: Flaming_Sword from point-blank range now, it was all over. Kamijou Touma had nothing to defend himself with, so the rest of his body would be reduced to mincemeat.
Magic was a technique of distorting the world’s causality for your own purposes. Its sparks and spray would eventually find their way back to influence the magic user in unexpected ways. An action taken to achieve a certain goal could end up crushing that very some goal in some hidden way.
In this case, that was seen when something burst from Kamijou Touma’s right shoulder with an unpleasant noise.
It was like dark red fish eggs. But that collection of perfectly triangular surfaces seemed to symbolize the artificial. Those artificial objects were like the polygons in a video game. They came in all sizes, they were connected together, and they moved like a single giant arm.
There was no pain.
This was what he had worked so hard to restrain. It was…
There was a deafening straining sound. It did not just come from the shoulder where the arm had been. Kamijou Touma’s entire body gave off a great din that never should have come from a human. The control had shifted. Instead of the boy controlling his right hand’s power, the hidden power now raced throughout the boy’s entire body.
What was going through his head as his body moved against his will?
Or was he capable of taking an objective view of the situation?
“No…it’s going to come out… You have…someone to rely on, don’t you? Then go ask for their help, Coronzon!!!!!!”
What followed was a sticky sound like bursting bubbles.
The objects that resembled giant fish eggs made from triangular surfaces burst within as something else made an appearance. But this was not just one thing. That swarm was clearly larger than the boy’s own body. The boy was not controlling the power; he was hanging from the power. That was the symbolism here.
It happened with a deafening roar.
There was also a blinding flash of light.
The temple was torn apart from within and the entire Queen Britannia was split in two.