Toaru Majutsu no Index:NT Volume2 Chapter4
Chapter 4: Invitation, and That Name is... Lecture_Four (and_More).
Just before Birdway was about to mention "their" name, she suddenly frowned.
Sounding annoyed, Accelerator said, "...You aren't going to put on an air of importance again, are you?"
"I have no reason to do that. ...But this is now hardly the time to be sitting here discussing this."
As Birdway spoke, she pulled her legs out from under the kotatsu and walked across the room. She was heading for the window connecting to the balcony.
"Is there something outside?" asked Kamijou. "Actually, this area has similar dorms lined up. The next dorm is only a few meters away, so you'll only be able to see a wall out that window."
"No, wait a second... If I go like this..."
Birdway went out on the balcony, and leaned out with her stomach on the railing. It seemed like she was staring beyond the gap between the buildings.
"Dammit... I was right," she said in almost a groan.
Those inside the room could see nothing outside other than that girl whose position put her skirt in a rather dangerous state.
"Is there something out there?" asked Hamazura.
Birdway finally got down from the railing, and stood on the balcony.
"'They' are here."
The three of them headed towards the balcony in shock. Kamijou tried to lean out on the balcony like Birdway had, but Accelerator kicked down the thin fireproof wall that divided the balconies between rooms.
They could now see it.
"Huh!? What the hell!?"
Hamazura was the first to yell out.
Academy City was overflowing with various lights at night, but the stars could still be seen. Something gigantic was obstructing their view of that faint light. Beyond the horizon was a huge construction of a scale never seen in real life. It was like a cumulonimbus cloud.
Birdway meaninglessly folded her narrow arms in front of her small chest.
"...I thought the science side would have brought it down at an earlier stage since Academy City was going to be dragged into this, but it seems that they were slower at dealing with this than I had anticipated. I guess the errors in his plan are having an effect."
"What did you just say?" Accelerator asked as he frowned at that line he couldn't just overlook.
Birdway nodded in an exceedingly arbitrary way.
"That thing was chasing after us from the beginning. ...Well, technically, it's chasing after that missing Imagine Breaker. That floating fortress with the mass of a dreadnought has been performing a worldwide search and following him around the clock. ...Shaking it off would have been a pain, y'know? And if we did, there was a danger of the Dawn-Colored Sunlight's trump card being analyzed. I decided that it was best to leave that troublesome thing to some troublesome people."
"So... what?" Hamazura's face paled. "Cumulonimbus clouds spread for dozens of kilometers. Are you saying that giant objet d'art is like a huge cloud made of concrete and it's going to fall on Academy City!? And you brought it here on purpose!?"
"Wait, I didn't hear anything about this!! That isn't the Star of Bethlehem, is it!?"
Even Kamijou was starting to panic, but Birdway remained completely calm. In fact, she seemed proud.
"Well, this boy was the one at the center of defeating Fiamma of the Right and ending World War III. As 'they' came about due to the war, they would want to know if he was still alive. But it takes quite a bit of effort to search the entire world. And 'they' also wanted to keep it a secret that anyone was chasing him. ...So they decided to hide a leaf in the forest. By creating a large-scale incident, they moved the world's focus to the catastrophic danger on a planetary level."
That incident was carried out in order to search for a single high school boy.
Those people were willing to risk the extinction of the human race for that purpose.
That was what magicians were.
They would use everything at their disposal for the sake of the individual while paying no heed to what it meant to the whole.
"What are we going to do...?" Kamijou groaned before he finally started shouting. "We know what they want, but we can't let them drop that asteroid-like fortress on Academy City!! How exactly are we supposed to stop them!?"
"...That's what I wanted to have Academy City do. There would have been plenty of methods while it was over the ocean, but now that it's over land, the wreckage would still fall down on the city."
"...You do have an idea, though, right?"
Kamijou shuddered, but it seemed that Birdway really wasn't stupid enough to not have a plan.
She said, "That search structure... um, I think the Anglican term was 'Radiosonde Castle'. Anyway, I have an idea as to how it is following Imagine Breaker. If we know how it works, we can use that to figure out a way to deal with it."
"So how does it work?" asked Hamazura.
Birdway meaninglessly stuck her index finger up and spun it around.
"Do you remember what I said about leylines?"
"...You said that they were one of the types of energy that could be used for magic other than the magic power created by humans. If I remember, they have to do with the Earth and its terrain," Accelerator said.
"That's right." Birdway nodded. "And Imagine Breaker negates all kinds of supernatural powers. And that includes the power circulated by the planet."
"So, his right hand is like a snowplow and that giant fortress is following the path he's created?"
"It's not that simple," Birdway responded to Accelerator's question with a sardonic grin. "Imagine Breaker works exceedingly well when it is normalizing abnormal values, but it does not show much power when dealing with something that is uniform from the start. It only carries out destruction of things that have already had their harmony taken. ...For example, he does not destroy someone's soul when he touches them, and he does not destroy the planet when he touches it. Yet those things do indeed have supernatural power flowing through them."
"...Does it really work so conveniently like that?" asked Kamijou himself.
The boy looked down at his right hand, and Birdway continued speaking in an arrogant way.
"This isn't just limited to Imagine Breaker. Natural powers like yours are often initially set to conform to the environment or situation. And the natural Gemstones are people who received psychic powers via stimuli from the environment of Earth," she said in a simple manner. "To talk about the leylines... Oh, I know. I'll use the example of a snowplow you used. When Imagine Breaker scrapes away the accumulated snow, more snow quickly accumulates, preventing anyone from seeing the path. It would be more accurate to say that a cycle like that has been set up from the beginning than to say that it has to do with how much the planet can replenish the power."
"Then how the hell is that fortress tracking that Level 0?" asked Accelerator.
"'They' can't search for him normally, so 'they' set up a kind of trick."
"A trick? On the fortress?"
Kamijou looked puzzled, but Birdway's response was well beyond his expectation.
"No, on the planet."
The scale was so great that Kamijou's thoughts cut out.
But Birdway continued speaking regardless.
"The amount removed by Imagine Breaker is made to be naturally compensated for by the surroundings. 'They' have interfered with that cycle. They have made it so that a mark only Radiosonde Castle can detect will be left behind during the process of repairing the amount removed."
"How...?" asked Hamazura who still had not quite come to grips with the concept of magic. "Saying they interfered with the planet is simple enough, but how did they do it!?"
"They used feng shui. The locations of mountains and rivers change the flow of energy, so people build their palaces in the most suitable place based on that. ...Well, the opposite is also possible. If you want a certain change to occur to the energy of the leylines, you just have to systematically destroy the mountains and rivers."
It was easy to say.
For the sake of a single spell, the terrain had been blotted out somewhere on that planet. That was yet another result of the individual surpassing the whole. The magicians used everything at their disposal to carry out the goal before their eyes without giving any thought to what would come later.
"Would they... would they really go that far to find a single person...?"
"Compared to Radiosonde Castle, that is nothing more than a sub spell. How much energy do you think it takes to make a mass that huge float like that? Well, it's certainly not something you can pull off with gas turbines," Birdway said smoothly. "Let's get back to the topic at hand. In order to follow Imagine Breaker, 'they' have interfered with the system of the leylines running through this planet. Imagine Breaker destroys that energy, and their mark is automatically created in the process of the repairing cycle. It's like a potato or a jewel. Using that, Radiosonde Castle can accurately follow Imagine Breaker no matter where in the world he flees. Do you understand that much?"
"But that would mean there's no way to escape it!!" yelled Hamazura with his eyes wide, but Birdway was as calm as ever.
"'Their' spell may be hitching a ride on the cycle that repairs the lost power to the leylines, but it is not producing the mark at all times. 'They' have to think about the cost. It would be easiest if you just thought of it like transmitters set up at even intervals."
"Basically, they're automatically produced in the Earth at about every 50 kilometers. If Imagine Breaker is not in range, it heads for the next transmitter, but if he is in range, it is guided with even more detail. In other words..."
"...If we destroy the transmitter embedded in the ground, Radiosonde Castle will lose its ability to track me?" Kamijou muttered. "But you said that the transmitters are automatically produced at even intervals, right? If a new transmitter is created, won't Radiosonde Castle correct its course?"
"'They' are not that almighty," Birdway said halfheartedly. "It's true that 'they' systematically destroyed mountains and rivers and interfered with the workings of the planet itself, but 'they' cannot continue that forever. ...'They' are already at their limit. They cannot create a new transmitter, so we just need to destroy the one that is here now. Since the transmitters are set up in 50-kilometer intervals, the final transmitter has likely been placed beneath Academy City. If we destroy it, Radiosonde Castle will pass right by us. After that, the members of the Anglican Church who are likely meaninglessly rushing around now will bring this to a safe conclusion."
A magical transmitter.
It was beneath Academy City.
If they could destroy it, they had a means of escape.
Kamijou looked down at his open right hand.
He then silently clenched it strongly.
Kamijou Touma was said to be at the center of all the disturbances around him, but he was not actually all that knowledgeable of the circumstances the world was in. He did not have the basis needed to actually calculate how much value there was in searching him out on such a large scale or how much meaning there was in keeping that from happening even if it meant getting Academy City involved.
Kamijou understood that the results of those actions had brought danger to Academy City and to those close to him. And he knew what was necessary to avoid that danger.
What he had to do did not change.
It was the same as always.
A great conflict may have been over, but he still had to do the same things as before.
"Can I ask one question?"
"What?" said Birdway as she looked over at him.
"If I were to start running away from Academy City as fast as I could right now, what would happen with Radiosonde Castle?"
"Normally, it would alter its course and continue to follow you," the small girl responded. "But there is the issue of time. I mentioned that there was a time limit, right? If the final mark has been placed here, then Radiosonde Castle may drop on Academy City regardless of your location."
Birdway had helped create that situation, but she showed no sign of timidity about it.
Kamijou Touma clearly clenched his right fist that time.
He ignored Index who was looking displeased.
"That's all I need to know."
The time to swing his right hand once more had come.
No. Even if his right hand had held no special power, what Kamijou Touma did would likely not have changed. He would have stood up to that crisis developing before his eyes and opposed the giant power lurking in its center. What he had been doing up until then was removing the weakness that divided his path based on whether he already had power or not.
If it did not matter if one had a special power or not...
"Wait," said Hamazura, interrupting him.
As long as one had the will.
It may not have been at the level of Kamijou Touma, but he had overcome a few crises of his own.
Hamazura had protected the personal world around him.
If the larger world spreading beyond it had not been protected, he would have lost the entirety of that personal territory.
Fremea did not know exactly what was going on, but she must have sensed the unrest in the atmosphere because her face grew cloudy. Hamazura grabbed her shoulders and pushed her away from him as he spoke.
"If the truth of World War III really is what Birdway says it is, then the world owes you one. In that case, you don't need to make that debt any bigger. I'll do my part to pay you back bit by bit."
Accelerator did not say anything, but he seemed to agree.
In actuality, it had not been Kamijou Touma's actions alone that had ended that war. It had mostly been the actions of many, many people intertwining complexly and supporting Kamijou. That support had been so great that a mere high school boy with a special power had been able to stand at a crossroads in history. And Accelerator and Hamazura Shiage had likely played a role in that supporting power.
But at the very least, a portion of that power was able to gather again at least partially due to the fact that Kamijou Touma had survived to that day.
Academy City's #1 flipped the switch on the electrode on his neck, and jumped up from the balcony to the roof.
Hamazura headed for the dorm's front door and spoke to Kamijou without turning around.
"You wait here. You've been working too much."
The sound of the door opening and closing reverberated through the dorm.
Kamijou looked back down at his right hand, and smiled slightly.
Just because he had a special power did not mean that he had to do anything special.
Just because he could negate all kinds of supernatural powers did not mean that he had to go charging out to stand as a shield before all kinds of powers.
Just as Kamijou was once more thinking deeply on the meaning of that, Birdway yawned and spoke.
"But those that will die without the necessary piece will die."
"Dammit!! I really just can't ignore this!!"
The black stone did not even have the slightest scratch, and it was polished like a mirror.
The cylinder made of heavy stone rolled around like a drum with a mind of its own, and headed for Kanzaki at high speed.
A normal person would have likely met a fate similar to getting run over by a road roller.
"Tch. So this magic user is the type that doesn't show his face!!"
Kanzaki clicked her tongue and reached for Shichiten Shichitou, the Japanese sword longer than 2 meters that hung at her waist.
Technically, she was using the seven wires for a slicing attack.
She aimed for the pathway the mysterious cylinder was moving along rather than the stone itself. She did not know how tough her enemy was, but Kanzaki knew that she could slice through the pathway. And they were on the lowest level of a fortress floating at an altitude of 11,000 meters. Without that pathway, even the strongest enemy could not avoid falling.
She unhesitatingly sliced through it.
That bottom pathway extended from pillars hanging down from the giant ceiling above her head. She accurately severed only the narrow pillars on the right side of the pathway. The pathway lost its balance, and the entire floor tilted to the side.
Kanzaki was standing just far enough away to not be affected, but...
An explosive wind blew violently.
Immediately after Kanzaki realized that it was a giant sphere jumping around the remaining pillars and charging towards her, a dull shock ran through her gut.
A sphere, not a cylinder.
(Gh... bh...!! It can... change shape!?)
She did not even have time to hold it back with her sword's scabbard.
The sphere sank in.
Kanzaki's breathing felt like it would stop, but then the sphere made its next move.
It was changing shape again.
The enemy became a cylinder again, and opened up like a pair of double doors, revealing its insides. The action was similar to an iron maiden opening, but the inside was not filled with iron spikes.
What lay inside was a giant crossbow.
Without bringing her breathing back under control, Kanzaki immediately swung her body to the side.
It fired a projectile that was as thick as a human arm and more like a stake than an arrow. Kanzaki just barely managed to evade it, but by that time, the enemy had already closed and returned to its original cylindrical shape.
The cylinder took an action similar to kicking off one of the pillars connecting the scaffolding to the ceiling, and managed to get some distance between itself and Kanzaki. When the cylinder landed on a different piece of scaffolding, it remained in a diagonal position, balancing itself on the edge of the bottom circle.
It then spun around once.
Immediately afterwards, a change occurred in the metal balloons that were providing lift to Radiosonde Castle.
With a sound like overflowing steam, a large amount of gas started to be emitted.
It was not due to what Kanzaki had done.
The rate was much too fast.
The enemies were clearly trying to drop Radiosonde Castle on the target location.
(...So they really are after Academy City!!)
Kanzaki gritted her teeth, and the cylinder opened like double doors again.
The contents were exposed.
This time, it was not a crossbow.
What came out were multiple matchlock guns, their barrels lined up in a row.
The hammers that had cigarette-like flames burning at the ends all fell in unison.
The sound of them firing rang out.
Immediately afterwards, Kanzaki Kaori unhesitatingly charged forward.
Kanzaki could travel faster than the speed of sound, so avoiding those bullets that were travelling at subsonic speeds was like an expert martial artist truly going in for a cross counter against a child.
Her speed and reach were greater.
The crossbow from before had caught her off guard, so her reaction had been delayed, but when she could predict that a projectile was coming, she could get the timing right every time.
Kanzaki's footsteps exploded out and seemed as if they would destroy the pathway, and she lowered her hips and moved her head in order to accurately evade the multiple lead bullets. She continued forward, accurately aiming for the enemy that had quickly returned to its cylindrical form.
(This thing opens up faster than I expected. I won't have time to draw my sword.)
Kanzaki calmly analyzed the situation.
She unhesitatingly struck the cylinder with her right leg.
Perhaps as some kind of defense, the cylinder changed shape to a perfect cube, but that did not stop the attack.
Kanzaki sent the enemy flying a few dozen meters away.
A few of the pillars supporting the pathway were destroyed, and the entire pathway tilted. Kanzaki had been intending to send it out into the empty sky, but either by coincidence or by the object's intent, it managed to stay on the pathway as if it were hanging down from the pathway's remains.
(...Dammit. The magician himself might be worth it, but I don't have time to play around with some toy!!)
Kanzaki gritted her teeth, and then felt a chill run down her back.
She was wrong.
The flow of magic power was different from a mere spiritual item.
(It isn't using what is stored within it... It is refining magic power within itself and circulating it. It couldn't be...)
The net of a cube had a few different patterns it could take, but one of them was a cross.
If that cross corresponded to the form of a person...
"Th-this isn't a spiritual item? This is the magician himself who has optimized his physical body into this form!?"
Kanzaki did not just have a massive amount of power. She also carried out delicate analysis and operations, and that was why she had noticed that something was off.
In response, the cube spread out its sides, forming a flat plane in the shape of a cross.
She heard a strange noise.
It was a laugh.
It was the kind of laugh that barely reached one's ears, one that a girl would make with her hand up to her mouth.
But it was not just a single laugh. At first, Kanzaki thought there were other magicians around as she paid close attention to the source of the sound... but she finally frowned in confusion.
It was coming from that cross-shaped plane.
Countless sets of human lips both large and small appeared on its surface.
Because the plane was made of smoothly polished cold inorganic stone, the bewitching lips that were covering the surface seemed horribly out of place.
"If you correspond the cross shape with the human body, it would be theoretically possible... but would anyone really go that far!?"
"Wrong," sang all the lips in unison in a delicate soprano that was at complete odds with the form the voices were coming from. "Mjölnir from Norse mythology also corresponds to the cross, but Thor who possesses Mjölnir is not just a thunder god. He is also a god of agriculture who controls all forms of weather, and the hammer is also used as a symbol of granting children."
That was right.
The enemy's form was not fixed. The cylinder, the sphere, the cube. Only the cube could correspond to the cross, but there was something else that all the forms could correspond to:
And the crossbow and matchlock guns must have also given it the properties of a projectile.
Just after Kanzaki realized that, the countless lips that had appeared on the surface in order to chant began reciting a spell in unison.
A storm of bluish-white lightning began to appear in every direction from the cross-shaped plane from which the enemy had taken the form of a hammer.
Accelerator flipped his electrode's switch, temporarily releasing the power of the #1, and jumped up to the roof of the tall building in one leap.
He stood on the railing, and looked around.
During the war in Russia, he had come into contact with "something like magic", and he had used a part of it. His body had been torn up from the inside by that power, but he had managed to save a girl from the brink of death in exchange.
He had taught himself to contact that power.
After receiving some explanations from Birdway, he had been able to give clear outlines to that vague idea he had before.
He breathed in, stopped, and then used his power.
The blood vessels around his temples pulsated unnaturally. The cold wind was blowing on him, but he could not stop an unpleasant sweat from coming from his body. He envisioned a cup so filled with water that it was just barely able to hold it all in via surface tension. If it was tilted even slightly in any direction, something that must not be spilled would spill out. He understood that clearly.
He could not ignore it.
He controlled the power within his body with the delicateness of someone balancing that cup on top of their upraised index finger. He then continued his work.
Yes, his work.
He discerned the paths of the power flowing within the city or flowing in from outside the city and then flowing back outside the city.
However, he was not directly seeing it like beams of light. Just like seeing the flow of the colorless wind in a swaying meadow, he indirectly detected it by detecting the movements of things affected by the power rather than the power itself.
In other words, he watched the flow of people.
(That Birdway brat said that feng shui causes the energy of leylines to bend depending on the locations of mountains and rivers and that the most suitable palaces are built in the most suitable places for that reason. I don't know if these rules apply to the entire world, but it seems this world is divided into comfortable places and uncomfortable places by the flow of energy through the planet.)
Of course, if you removed the occult from the equation and thought about it similarly to the price of land changing depending on how much sun exposure a place had, then the conditions to make somewhere "comfortable" had to actually be quite strict.
Accelerator could not determine whether feng shui was purely occult or if it was nothing more than statistically calculating what environments allowed people to live longer.
In any case, he knew that the enemy was using feng shui.
(And people will naturally flow to those comfortable places, just like how the grass in a meadow sways in the wind. I can't just detect the flow of magic power, but I can observe the movements of people from a tall location.)
When he surveyed the area from the rooftop, he realized that the flow of people was not determined simply by the abundance of shops or the transportation facilities.
There were similar convenience stores on the same road, but people clearly went into some more than others.
One could get to the same destination by train or bus, but people tended to use the same method to an unnatural extent.
Even if Academy City was the center of the science side, it was of course still a part of the Earth. Even if the city itself thoroughly eliminated all artificial magic, it could not deny the properties and energy held by the planet itself.
When he thought about it, it was obvious.
That truth made Accelerator's breath catch in his throat.
(...So there's a net formed by this non-compelling "comfortableness"? Hell, and this is right in the middle of the science side's headquarters. It's like the entire city is being controlled by some strange power.)
That power could be used artificially to create the people-clearing fields used by magicians, but Accelerator had not stepped deeply enough into the world of magic to realize that.
For now, he merely reached out his hand for the objective in front of him.
(I can understand people gathering at brand-name shops or a bus terminal building, but there are some strange movements. People are taking meaningless detours. If 'they' used feng shui to add in some trick to the ley line, then this may be a trace of that trick.)
A single spot had an unnatural amount of that kind of power gathered in it.
That power was supposed to lay out a net that created the different flows of people, but it was all gathering unnaturally in that spot like bathwater being swallowed up by the drain.
It was not directly sending people in a certain direction, but it was having a definite effect in slightly altering the direction taken by the people who were freely moving around in various directions.
(That's the place.)
Once Accelerator had his answer, he pulled out his cell phone.
He said only what was necessary.
"I've found somewhere that feels out of place. It's District 7's Central Hub Transformer Station. Some kind of twisted and stagnated power is gathered there."
Within a radius of 400 meters around the cross-shaped expanded cube, a high-voltage current emitted into the world exploded out all at once as a sphere-shaped storm.
At that time, Kanzaki rushed toward the stairs leading up to a higher level. In order to get as far away from the square entrance as she could, she practically rolled across the stone floor.
Her rapid movements suddenly stopped.
Kanzaki jumped up more from something else's interference than from her own wishes.
(The electrical current is forcibly coming from the stone...!?)
Kanzaki intentionally regulated her breathing that had been thrown out of order.
That magician had modified his or her body for the sake of his or her goal. That was the result of a magic user that continued to grow in the absolute opposite direction from someone like Kanzaki who was born with bodily characteristics similar to the Son of God and could draw out a portion of his power. As if in exchange for what that magician had lost and cast aside, the power of his attacks had increased.
The very fact that he could keep up with one of the world's fewer than 20 Saints in a battle was strange.
(But this method is not in any of Necessarius's records... Is this a new type that has appeared after the war...?)
A sound like oil being poured onto a frying pan reached Kanzaki's ears.
The sound was coming from the square opening leading down.
The magician was making preparations for the second wave.
(The attack itself mostly relies on the laws of physics. It is simpler than a curse with no form, but his aim may be to weaken my legs by continuing to hit me with it...)
She heard the explosive sound of a high voltage current.
In the next instant, Kanzaki drew Shichiten Shichitou and stabbed the tip forcefully into the stone floor as if she had timed it.
She cut into the stone like it was made of tofu and then felt a different type of resistance.
In other words, she felt herself slicing through the high voltage current and neutralizing it.
(There are legends of swords slicing through lightning in Japan. In a country with such harsh changes in the weather, you cannot name yourself a magician if you do not have an understanding of how to deal with a thunder god!!)
That was what magic was.
It exceeded the laws of physics and brought one to an absurd battlefield.
If she messed up the timing of her attack, she would receive the attack head on, so she could not let her guard down, but she could deal with spells of that level.
Just as Kanzaki had determined that, she felt an unpleasant feeling at the nape of her neck.
It was not a physical sensation.
It was commonly referred to as a bad feeling about the situation. However, when there was a concrete basis for the feeling, it could not simply be laughed off.
In other words...
"What...? What is this massive amount of magic power...!?"
In order to observe the enemy, Kanzaki headed for the square entrance.
She stuck only her head out and saw the expanded cube that was her enemy. The magician's physical body was modeled off of Thor's hammer Mjölnir and resembled a cross. It was not standing upright or lying flat on the pathway. Instead, it was flying calmly in the air like a kite.
There was regularity to its movements.
It was moving in a giant circle that had a radius of 20 km. Bluish-white sparks flew along seeming to trail it. Like that, the Throwing Hammer drew a clean circle. Its speed increased. It was not fixed in place. It rapidly moved up like the curve of a quadratic function. In just the 10 seconds Kanzaki had been watching, the enemy's actual form had disappeared from view, leaving only the giant bluish-white glowing circle visible.
It was much too ominous a phenomenon to be referred to as an angel's halo.
From the flow of magic power, the circular symbol, and the Thor's hammer form the magician existed in, Kanzaki was able to guess what was coming next.
She unhesitatingly fled.
A bluish-white beam of light appeared coming from below and heading up as if to stab into the heavens. It shot straight through the center of that 20 kilometer radius circle.
Immediately afterwards, a third of Radiosonde Castle was utterly annihilated.
Kamijou Touma ran through Academy City at night.
He was heading for the Central Hub Transformer Station that Accelerator had told him about.
Academy City's electricity was supplied by the wind turbines set up all across the city. That had the advantage of making it more difficult for a power outage to occur if some of them were destroyed in an accident or a disaster, but it added complexity because the network of power supplies spread all across the city. That made facilities that controlled the flow of electricity necessary.
One central hub existed in each district.
(But why there...?)
Kamijou thought as he ran, but he could not come up with an answer. It was possible electricity or something else related to the area functioned as an occult symbol.
Hamazura Shiage had begun heading for the same location just a bit ahead of him, but Kamijou had not caught up to him on the way. Kamijou was pretty sure he was taking the shortest route there, so the other boy may have taken a different route.
Eventually, Kamijou made it to the Central Hub Transformer Station.
That stern name had made Kamijou envision something that looked like a large scale industrial complex or a military facility, but he realized he had been wrong when he arrived.
It was surrounded by a concrete wall and barbed wire, but it had no guards or anything like that. Some security robots were periodically patrolling around the building, but that was no different than the security at a children's park in Academy City.
Kamijou looked up at the thick wall.
(...Climbing over would probably be fastest.)
Having made that decision, he picked up an empty can from the ground at his feet. Before he actually climbed up, he wanted to make sure there wasn't any electricity running through the barbed wire.
He threw the can.
It hit the taut wire, but no sparks were created.
"Here goes," Kamijou muttered as he faced the wall.
The barbed wire had sharp spikes in order to stop intruders, but they were placed at even intervals. The rest was just plain wire. If he was careful, he would not get hurt even if he grabbed the wire directly.
(It would be even safer if I had a thick rubber mat...but I guess these spikes are long enough to pierce through one.)
As he thought that, Kamijou glanced around the facility from atop the wall.
The area was not all that large.
The actual land was at most 30 meters square and there was only one two story square building. However, there was equipment that looked like drums lined up all across the area. Power cables stretched from the ground around them, so they likely had something to do with the transformation. He did not think it would be a good idea to touch them.
Kamijou jumped down from the wall and snuck into the inner portion of the facility.
His goal lay ahead.
A third of Radiosonde Castle had been annihilated.
An avalanche of wreckage did not rain down on the Kanto region because the massive amount of energy had blown away the third of the fortress to the extent that not even dust remained. That spell was powerful enough to forcibly destroy the ozone layer and it was similar to a solenoid coil. The Throwing Hammer had continually revolved around that circular orbit while carrying a massive amount of electricity. That had given the electrified air in the center of the circular orbit a vertical vector.
...That explanation alone seemed to make sense, but the attack was actually physically impossible.
With just the laws of science, the phenomenon created some inconsistencies.
But magic compensated for that and forced it to work.
Kanzaki breathed heavily right next to the edge of the destruction.
The edge glowed orange like the inside of a blast furnace. The stone walls and ceiling that had been creating an odd sense of intimidation were no longer there. Just a running long jump's distance away, there was nothing but open space.
She had used her supersonic speed to its limit without thinking of the consequences.
She had headed forward tearing through walls and pillars.
But she could not do it again.
She had no way to deal with it if the same thing happened again.
She had not been able to use her sword or wires in time for a few walls and had merely tackled her way through them at full speed. She had used a bare minimum of defensive spells, but her body was crying out in protest.
And most importantly, she would no longer have anywhere to run to after two more of the same attack.
Her situation was close to hopeless, but at the same time, a question grew in Kanzaki's mind.
(I thought he or his organization was trying to drop Radiosonde Castle on Academy City!? Why would he destroy it like that...!?)
Speaking of goals, there were many mysteries regarding that Throwing Hammer itself.
That thing could produce destruction that rivaled the mobile fortress.
However, that was merely a means, not a goal. If the magician had modified his or her physical body to that extent there had to be a "magician-like" reason to match beyond efficiency or rationality.
Protecting a loved one. Killing a hated enemy. Reviving someone who had died. Creating a dragon that had never actually existed.
Whether it was actually doable or not, a magician would have their goal carved into themselves in Latin...they would have a magic name. But she could not feel anything like that from that Throwing Hammer.
It had such great firepower, but it did not use it to directly attack Academy City.
Dropping Radiosonde Castle on Academy City was likely the overall goal, but it had unhesitatingly blown away a third of the fortress.
In those methods that gave a jumbled and mismatched impression, she could not see the consistent and, in some cases, abnormally tenacious behavior that was characteristic of magicians.
Was there some reason behind it that only the Throwing Hammer could understand?
"Has he...already lost his objective...?" Kanzaki muttered.
For example, what if the magician's magic name was to protect a loved one and that utterly changed body was the result of gathering everything needed to do so? And what if that loved one had died partway through gathering those things making that goal disappear?
In that case, only the power would remain.
That power would drift about the world without even a direction to aim its malice. Because the power had no strong direction, it would occasionally be swept along and go along with the views of another and it would occasionally be swept along and wield that power. But a power with no purpose behind it would attack the world with overwhelming ferocity.
He could not cast aside the power he had ended up with.
A true monster would carry out destruction just by walking down the street. How much damage would be done to a city by someone who decided on their actions for the day based on nothing more substantial than the thoughts caused by a TV commercial or a collection box next to a cash register?
An apathetic destroyer.
A natural enemy that did not even wish for the destruction of the world.
Someone who would destroy on a whim what people had desperately built up.
If a failed one like that had existed for long, it was strange that the world still existed as it did. Since Necessarius, an organization that dealt with magicians like that, had no records of that magician, he may have failed only recently.
What came to Kanzaki's mind first was...
"...World War III."
It had officially ended very quickly after only about 2 weeks and the rapid and precise deployment of large scale forces centered on Academy City had kept the casualties to a minimum, but that disturbance had still covered the entire map of the world. It was possible that there had been battles that had not been officially announced and tragedies that no one knew about.
"You fool." Kanzaki frowned at the cause she could not even imagine while taking a drastic measure. "Even if you failed like that, you would not have gone down this path had you recalled that the people around you have things they wish to protect."
It may have been "magician-like" to not understand that fact.
It was completely one directional. Magicians gained explosive propulsion by restricting themselves with their purpose. That may have been why they did not understand the feelings of those who headed down other paths.
But Kanzaki knew.
She knew of magicians who had stood back up even after losing their goal. In Necessarius, there was a rune card magician who had been unable to protect a certain girl, but he still continued to fight in order to protect the world that girl lived in. There was a magician who had lost her precious partner in an area between science and magic, but she now used a golem with that partner's name. There were many nuns who had been treated as sacrificial pawns by their parent church, the Roman Catholic Church, and then banished, but they continued to believe in God.
Losing something was indeed sad.
But that did not surely send one on a twisted path and it did not act as an indulgence.
And most importantly, destruction did not lead to the salvation the destroyer wished for.
Salvation was not something one simply depended on others for.
Kanzaki had seen smiles reappear on the faces of those who had stood back up countless times while coughing up blood. She could say for sure that she understood this. Kanzaki respected the types of strength she did not possess herself and that was why she did not hold any easily influenced sympathy for what that Throwing Hammer had become.
Instead, she named herself.
A saving hand for those who cannot be saved.
Without hesitation, she seemed to be stabbing out with the magic name she had carved into herself in Latin.
The Throwing Hammer that had lost even its magic name began flying to form the giant circle again. It had an instability that was somehow reminiscent of a kite being swept away by the wind after its string broke.
This time, the 20 kilometer radius was oriented vertically.
It looked as if over half of the fortress would be destroyed if Mjölnir was fired, but the magician showed no sign of hesitation.
According to Accelerator, the transmitter created using the leylines was at the very center of the Central Hub Transformer Station.
Kamijou forced open the lock on the back door using a flat-head screwdriver and entered the building.
The space was filled with pale illumination from fluorescent lights, but there was no sign of anyone there. There was a room with over 10 computers lined up in it, but no one was there operating them despite the numbers on the screens constantly scrolling. They seemed to be set so they could be operated remotely. The workers may have been working from home.
(They probably aren't supposed to be doing that...)
But it was better than having some diligent worker still there. Kamijou did not have time for any unnecessary disturbances.
He walked through the facility.
He soon arrived at the very center.
It was one square room in a square building and it had no real design to it. There were large computers lined up that checked on and controlled the power network so all the power coming from the great number of turbines within that district could be sent to the appropriate places.
It was not uncommon for places with equipment like that to be kept cold like a refrigerator, but that did not seem to be one of those cases. Most likely, the bookshelf-like cases had cold air flowing through them or some kind of liquid cooling system was used.
"The center..." Kamijou muttered as he walked across the room. "The center of the facility..."
But there was nothing like a magical transmitter in that spot. He thought there might have been some kind of invisible gas or energy, so he swung his right hand around randomly, but he never felt any kind of reaction.
Was it really there?
Had they gotten the spot wrong? Or was it something that only a professional magician would be able to recognize?
Kamijou suddenly remembered something and looked at the center of the room.
Technically, he was looking at the thick concrete floor.
The roof was not leaking, but there was an unnatural dark stain there.
"Underground...? Is it below this thick concrete!?"
By quickly flying in a giant circle while surrounded by a high voltage current, the Mjölnir spell caused the electrified air within the circle to move at high speed.
Once it was fired, it produced enough destruction to blow away a third of Radiosonde Castle which was a few dozen kilometers long.
Kanzaki, a Saint, did not have enough physical strength left to evade it again.
And she did not intend to evade it.
Using one's knowledge to prevail in a difficult situation was a magician's specialty.
(...When I think about it, why was it necessary to interfere with this fortress in such a roundabout way?)
Due to its altitude, neither an airplane nor a rocket had been able to make use of its normal level of performance against Radiosonde Castle. Due to that, Kanzaki had gone up in a rocket and then reentered the atmosphere in order to land on top of the fortress.
(Except for special cases like the #10 Saint, modern magicians are prohibited from a certain action. That is why I had to go up above the fortress first rather than going directly to it.)
The reason she had chosen to fall.
The reason she had not directly flown there.
Kanzaki Kaori referred to that.
There was one legend about Peter, one of the Twelve Apostles. He had confronted a magician named Simon Magus who was famous for trying to buy sacred acts. When Simon had freely flown through the sky, what had Peter said?
"Oh, demons carrying this magic user, promptly let go!!"
Flight was prohibited.
That barrier existed for all magicians living in modern times.
That means of interception had spread too far due to it being simple yet both powerful and effective, and due to it being based on a famous story. Thanks to that, humans were restricted by the fact that they would be brought down the instant they tried to fly without wings.
(I can't allow myself to be led astray.)
That magician's strange appearance had led to her forgetting something very basic.
The Throwing Hammer was not a spiritual item or a weapon. It was a living human being.
A voiceless voice let out a cry that was something like a shock-wave.
The perfectly controlled giant circle was crushed in an instant. The Throwing Hammer lost control and slammed into the fortress with a high voltage current trailing behind it. When it hit, a massive amount of sparks exploded out, but it was nothing compared to the destruction that had been about to be fired.
"...That appearance was necessary to change what people aimed their interception spells at, wasn't it?"
The Throwing Hammer had smashed through a few floors of the fortress and was surrounded by rubble. Kanzaki slowly approached it.
"If someone determined you were a spiritual item or a weapon, they would begin putting together interception spells to deal with those things. Simply put, you made people choose something other than an anti-personnel spell because an anti-personnel spell would easily defeat you. Thor's hammer would be meaningless if it could not fly, but you would be shot down if you flew in this day and age. That was why you thought up a way to keep people from recognizing you for what you were as they tried to lock on to you as a target."
With a sound like plastic boards folding, the Throwing Hammer changed from the flat plane back to the cube. It gave up on flying and seemed to be trying to roll away from Kanzaki.
But it was no use.
When the magician Simon had been brought down, he had died. For magicians, obstructing the opponent's flight was not just something that brought the opponent's altitude down to zero. The effects depended on what part of the story about Peter was being most strongly emphasized, but there was always something more than the simple damage from the fall added in.
As such, the expanded cube was unable to return to the proper cube.
The same sound continued, but the edges simply would not connect. It was like a die that a child had tried and failed to make out of drawing paper.
"That is also why you used that large attack to blow away a good portion of the fortress. When I realized that you were a human, you felt a risk greater than just the immediate battle. ...Since you have lost your goal, did you fear having that method taken from you as well? And yet if you did lose your lingering attachments to the past, it would likely be easier to seek out a new goal."
That Throwing Hammer had been in charge of controlling the metal balloons providing Radiosonde Castle's lift. She could not overlook it. If she defeated the Throwing Hammer there, she could stop the fortress from rapidly falling. She could prevent a catastrophe that would affect Academy City and likely the entire world.
Kanzaki Kaori recalled her magic name.
A saving hand for those who cannot be saved.
But she did not think that easily permitting the Throwing Hammer to live like that would lead to carrying out that goal. She believed that the salvation in the magic name she aspired to was not something so simple.
"...It seems there is a problem in how you live your life, so you need to think deeply about what you intend to do before you take action. I will give you the time and place to do that whether you wish for it or not."
The Throwing Hammer remained silent.
In its silence, it gave up on returning to the cube form and collapsed to the ground as the flat expanded cube.
But it did not stop there.
Without making a noise, something like a net appeared on the surface. Along the lines of that net, the flat expanded cube split apart complexly. At first glance, the shapes it was splitting into looked random, but they all became smaller expanded cubes. The many small expanded cubes looked like puzzle pieces and they started flapping weakly like many butterflies taking off in unison.
(...So even as he flees, he chose a projectile.)
It was possible his or her magic name lay in that fact.
Kanzaki thought for a second, but then mercilessly activated Peter's interception spell.
As if a giant metal sheet had struck them from above, the mass of expanded cubes fell in unison. They lost their power and were swept away into the sky by the wind.
Kanzaki did not think the magician was dead.
In fact, she had no idea how one was supposed to kill someone who could split up to that level.
For an instant, Kanzaki's focus remained on the Throwing Hammer floating in the wind, but she finally shook herself from it.
She would make sure to save that magician later.
But Kanzaki Kaori had something to do first.
The sound of a heavy piece of metal striking something hard rang out.
It was the sound of Kamijou Touma swinging down a shovel he had found in the facility, but as he had expected, it was not enough to break the thick concrete floor. He had tried it a few dozen times already and made many white marks on the floor, but that had only taken a few millimeters off the surface. Not a single crack had appeared.
His hands that were swinging down the shovel were at their limit.
Kamijou could not bear it any longer and tossed the shovel aside.
What he was after was below there.
The transmitter guiding Radiosonde Castle was most likely something that could easily be destroyed with just a slight touch from Kamijou’s right hand.
But he could not do anything without touching it.
That thick wall of concrete was a completely normal object that could be found anywhere and it had nothing to do with the world of the occult, but it was blocking Kamijou Touma’s way.
A power called Imagine Breaker resided in his right hand.
Using that right hand, Kamijou had defeated the #1 esper and the leader of God’s Right Seat.
But he could only negate supernatural powers.
He could not destroy completely normal concrete, he could not outrun a completely normal car, and his blood could be shed by a completely normal box cutter.
That was all he was.
Up until then, he had fought cleverly in order to ensure that those things would not work against him, but his strategy of using every trick in the book had finally bitten him back.
(What do I do…?)
Kamijou looked down at his numb hands.
(At this rate, Radiosonde Castle is going to fall on Academy City. There’s no guarantee that the danger will leave even if I leave the city. I have to destroy that transmitter somehow, but I can’t get to it with this thick concrete in the way!!)
Time was running out.
Radiosonde Castle was approaching.
Rushing things would not solve the situation. Kamijou picked back up the shovel that’s edge had chipped. He was seriously worried about the condition of the bones in his wrists, but he had to at least do something.
Suddenly, the wall to Kamijou’s side was blown away by a force from outside.
A great amount of rubble and dust poured into the room.
What had come crashing through the wall was a piece of construction equipment facing backwards. The reason it was backwards was most likely to protect the arm portion on the front. Instead of a bucket used to dig dirt, the arm had a sharp spike on it that vibrated electronically.
Kamijou recognized the boy sitting in the driver’s seat.
It was Hamazura Shiage.
“Hey, boss. Having trouble?”
“Cough cough!! Wh-what is that thing? And where did you get it!?”
“It’s a boring machine used to open small tunnels for underground cables. It was inside the facility grounds.”
As Academy City had no power lines, the power cables and communications lines had to be laid underground. As such, pieces of equipment like that were not too rare.
“I don’t understand all the details about this magic or whatever, but we basically just have to destroy the thing that’s calling in that fucking huge fortress, right? In that case, wouldn’t a little horsepower be helpful?”
The bottom of the vehicle that was wrapped in metal treads remained stationary and the upper portion with the driver’s seat and the arm on it rotated around. Hamazura was bringing the sharp spike to the center of the room.
He did not have any kind of special power.
That was why, when a powerful esper appeared, he did not take them on head on. Instead, he would first try to find a safe area. And when the situation also involved the occult, his options were limited even further. In order to protect those he did not want to lose no matter what and in order to save his comrades from unreasonable situations, Hamazura would occasionally confront people with extraordinary powers, but that was not really his area of expertise. Basically, Hamazura Shiage had nothing more than a commonplace role that had no place in the world of science or magic and could easily be killed at the slightest chance.
When the situation had nothing to do with those kinds of unreasonable powers, Hamazura Shiage could solve normal problems with normal techniques.
The tremendous noise of the spike digging into that concrete floor exploded out. That floor had not budged after Kamijou struck it with that shovel again and again, but thick cracks ran through it in no time at all. Gray dust flew into the air, the cracks connected, and the thick floor broke. For the first few minutes, the thick noise of the concrete breaking continued, but after that, it changed to a softer sound. It was now boring into the earth below the concrete.
Something suddenly changed.
A high-pitched noise almost like glass shattering rang out and orange sparks started flying from the sturdy spike. Hamazura forcibly operated the arm trying to dig further, but the tip of the tough tungsten alloy spike broke like a piece of hard candy.
The broken tip of the spike must have struck the cable along the arm because the spike itself stopped vibrating.
Kamijou peered down into the darkness of the newly opened hole.
Something was inside.
The object glowed a muddy red like some kind of strange jewel. It was cold like glass, it was hard like stone, and it colored everything an ominous blood-red.
It was a crystal about the size of a fist.
Most likely, it was…
Kamijou stretched his hand down into the hole.
Pain shot from his joints as he stretched them to their limits. He ignored the pain and stretched his hand, his fingertips, deeper and deeper down.
A sound like shattering glass reverberated throughout one corner of Academy City.
Immediately afterwards, Radiosonde Castle arrived above the city.
Its speed of descent increased slightly, but its horizontal speed did not lower.
Thirty seconds later, the fortress passed directly over Academy City and continued on.
Hamazura Shiage abandoned the piece of heavy machinery and fled the Central Hub Transformer Station with Kamijou Touma. What they had done was necessary, but they were not necessarily going to get a chance to explain that fact.
Accelerator jumped down from the building’s rooftop and landed near the two of them. He did not have a single scratch on his body. Looking annoyed, he flipped his electrode’s switch and leaned his weight on his modern cane.
“…Looks like it’s over,” he said while switching his cell phone to speakerphone using his thumb.
Birdway’s familiar voice came from the phone.
“It seems Radiosonde Castle’s speed was carefully controlled and it has landed in the sea off of the Boso Peninsula in the Chiba prefecture. There was no damage caused by high waves. I’m a little bothered by how slow Academy City’s reaction speed was, but the situation was resolved nonetheless.”
Kanzaki Kaori sat atop the topmost level of Radiosonde Castle that was floating in the ocean like an artificial island. She sighed.
She could communicate using her spiritual item once more, and she was currently listening to Agnese.
“The crisis has been confirmed to have been avoided. That means we now have to focus on gathering information. After all, we still do not know who exactly the enemy was. It isn’t known how long that fortress is going to float there, but please gather as much data as you can before any hints there disappear.”
“…Understood. However, I feel that focusing on putting up defensive spells so the water pressure does not destroy the fortress would increase the amount of data we could get down the line.”
As she spoke, Kanzaki stood back up.
Because there was a danger of it sinking, she did not intend to investigate deep within the fortress, but she did need to gather what information she could.
“I’d like to give you some words of thanks now, but I just remembered that I never got to the real issue at hand in our discussions,” said Birdway over the cell phone.
“You’re going to explain more? How many more hours are you going to keep us restrained…?” complained Hamazura sounding utterly fed up with it all.
“Don’t worry. Only the true core of the issue is left: ‘their’ name.”
Kanzaki Kaori discovered something truly out of place in one section of Radiosonde Castle.
It was unknown if the enemy was from the science side or the magic side, but that structure felt as if it had been built to look like the Star of Bethlehem, a magic side fortress. In order to give it the image of the fortress it was based on, the parts making up Radiosonde Castle had the designs of old churches and temples.
She had found something that completely ruined the atmosphere that had been built up.
It was a message covering one wall written in red spray paint.
The writing was messy.
It was nothing like the almost artistic kinds of graffiti often seen. Instead, the wall simply had the letters quickly drawn out on it which completely destroyed the overall image the rest of the fortress had created.
Those who had come about in the process of World War III. Those who were still squirming about after the war had ended.
For those three who had protected those important to them in that war, that was information they had to be made aware of.
“Yes,” Birdway said, “‘Their’ name seems to be…”
The message covering the wall before Kanzaki said the following:
Welcome home, hero.
Kanzaki knew who it referred to.
Just before she had set out on that plan to deal with Radiosonde Castle, she had heard from another magician named Itsuwa that a certain boy had been sighted.
The name of the ones who left the message was written at the end.
“…Gremlin,” Birdway finished.
That was the name of a type of fairy that was believed to cause malfunctions in machinery and to make weapons such as airplanes unusable.
That was a new generation of the occult that had only started being passed down by humans once the concept of machines had been created.
It was a symbol of one side of the world eating into the other side.
In that world where the winners of World War III, the science side, had greatly spread, a type of occult that would devour it had been born.