Toaru Majutsu no Index:NT Volume4 Main.20
Kumokawa Maria and Oumi Shuri did not dive headfirst into that sea of blood because they wanted to. Kumokawa Maria was speaking about the helmeted man.
“Kihara Kagun,” she named him. “He was made to be deeply involved in the death of a minor at a certain Academy City elementary school. I must pursue him no matter what. I am very mindful of my own pride, but I am willing to destroy even that to accomplish this.”
However, the two of them understood that the situation in Baggage City was not normal. Merely staying there was a huge risk.
Kumokawa Maria’s goal was Kihara Kagun.
Oumi Shuri’s was the investigation of supernatural powers.
Neither of those goals had to be carried out within Baggage City. Both the Kiharas and Gremlin would leave Baggage City once the conflict was over. They could merely restart their investigation in secret once their targets were breathing a sigh of relief. As such, the two of them planned to leave Baggage City and redo it all after constructing an accurate information network.
However, sometimes beginner’s luck would lead people like them to a secret.
It led them there whether they wanted it to or not.
Like the kinds of pitiful witnesses who ended up deep under the sea or a mountain.
They had not tried to head toward anything like that. They had been trying to leave Baggage City as quickly as possible. They had already given up. They had known that was the wisest option. And yet Kumokawa Maria and Oumi Shuri’s escape route had passed by Marian Slingeneyer’s private room, the door had been cracked open, and the magical barrier was no longer functioning.
As a result, they had arrived at a certain truth.
And that truth was one that invited certain death.
While walking down the maintenance passageways for the hot water pipes, they had arrived at the garbage disposal facility at the center. While walking through that facility, they had come upon a certain room. They had not intended to peer inside the cracked door.
“…Why now of all times?”
They had only overheard a voice. And then darkness had burst from that crack into which they must not peer.
(I don’t recognize that maid, but the other one is a contestant in Natural Selector. I would rather not kill someone from Baggage City’s side, but the information about Sigyn is just too valuable. Too bad.)
Surrounded by psychedelic skin-colored furniture, Marian Slingeneyer smiled with her gold saw in one hand.
“I’ve been wanting a footrest and a small fridge for drinks. Which one wants to be which?”
Kumokawa Maria and Oumi Shuri did not choose to fight. Without hesitation, they spun around and ran off at full speed. They ran through the garbage disposal facility and back into the maintenance passageway they had come from. Even that was not the best option. In fact, no option could really be called “good” once they had run into her.
“Wh-wh-wh-wh-wh-what were those!? Were they some kind of cyborg!?”
Even someone as used to supernatural powers as Kumokawa Maria had fallen into a panic at the sight.
However, Oumi Shuri must have been used to the kinds of corpses that could be created under normal circumstances.
“One strategy to fill your enemy with great fear and high medical fees is to destroy their body without killing them and then abandon them. For example, you could lay out anti-personnel mines that only blow off a single leg. That was probably something like that! It may also have its roots in the idea of mutilating enemy corpses!!”
“Are you sure there’s that much to it!? From that look on her face, I’d say she does it for fun!”
It was on a completely different level.
It was more grotesque than anything they could imagine.
It was unclear what you would have to do to turn a normal human into a living table, but they certainly did not want to fight someone who could pull it off. They might be able to win, but who knows what would have become of their body by that point. It would not be surprising if they had a drill for a right hand or could fire flames from the bottom of their feet like rockets.
“Ah, no, no. Like I said, now that you’ve heard about our trump card Sigyn, I have to silence you.”
A loud metallic noise reverberated through the area. Kumokawa Maria turned around while running to see the girl pursuing them with a blade pressed against the passageway wall. She was only fifty meters behind them. If she had a gun, that would be within range, but she held a hammer and a saw made of gold.
“Wasn’t this way blocked by the tank and the collapsed building!?”
“That can actually work to our advantage. If we slip through the gaps in the rubble and then fill them up afterwards, we can stop her pursuit. That will require heading up to the freezing surface, but that’s still better than taking her on.”
They had a goal.
They had a bit of a lead.
This was not a fight they could not win.
(We just might make i—!)
Just as Kumokawa Maria was feeling some relief, the wall directly to her side suddenly bulged out to crush her.
She thought some kind of bulkhead had activated or that it was a trap from some ancient ruins like in an action movie, but that was not it.
“A human…!?” shouted Oumi Shuri.
It had been a human transformed to have the same texture, coloration, and luster as the wall. It was unclear who or what it had originally been. The human had been altered to the shape of a rectangular pillar and had slammed out into Kumokawa Maria’s side.
She immediately twisted her body and gently touched the side of the pillar with her right arm to rotate her entire body and completely escape the impact that was on the level of being hit by a car. However, the core of the issue was not there.
Again and again, both horizontally and vertically, similar rectangular pillars shot out, filling the passageway space. In just a few seconds, the passageway was completely filled with obstacles colored the same as the floor and walls.
Their path of escape was cut off.
“It’s not easy keeping them alive like that, you know. I mean, they’re rectangles,” said the brown girl with a grin. “I left them all over the place so I could fight at any moment. Since their sensory organs would be wasted otherwise, I had them double as sensors for me, but that didn’t work out too well. A Kihara even managed to slip past them in a wheelchair. Their eyes and ears are functioning, but the ego needed to process the information seems to reject the images of what they have become.”
It was not a one-time thing.
Nor was she only altering people when she had no other choice.
Over the entire area, she had caused a set level of damage as if she were stocking up on disaster goods such as crackers and instant noodles that would likely pass their expiration date without use.
“Their eyes and ears are functioning?”
“If you want to leave, you only need to think of them as obstacles. Of course, you will be slicing a living human’s body in two when you do so, so it may be a little bit difficult. A knife from the supermarket would probably chip when you get to the backbone. Really, you should smash the bones with a blunt weapon before doing the cutting, but then the slimy fat will get on the blade and dull its edge.”
Her words sent a chill down Kumokawa Maria’s back.
A question dealing with human life and taking it from others. The essence of someone who looked down on it. A proposition that normally no one ever thought about but put a heavy emotional strain on them once they did.
Was it right to destroy those pillars to protect oneself?
Was it right to view them as human and therefore not finish them off?
Was it right to view it as wrong?
Was it wrong to view it as wrong?
“What do we do?” Kumokawa Maria asked Oumi Shuri.
“I don’t like it, but have no choice but to destroy this enemy element to create a path out.”
As the two faced forward once more, the brown girl, Marian Slingeneyer smiled and spun her saw around.
“So you’ve chosen the way forward. Well, I suppose that’s the standard answer. That’s how humans handle their own lives. But,” added Marian, “that kind of uninteresting thinking will get you nowhere with Gremlin.”
Marian Slingeneyer ran. In a straight line. Without making a feint. As if she had decided on her target merely by who she had spotted first, she headed straight for Oumi Shuri. The other two specialized in hand-to-hand combat, so she seemed to be full of openings, but the problem lay with her gold hammer and saw.
Oumi Shuri pulled out her gardening trowel-type kunai, but…
“You won’t make it in time!!”
Kumokawa Maria’s leg cut in from the side.
She kicked at Oumi Shuri rather than Marian Slingeneyer. The gold weapons cut through empty air. As Kumokawa Maria circled around Marian Slingeneyer, she shouted a warning to Oumi Shuri who had fallen to the ground.
“Don’t charge toward someone with supernatural powers before you know how they work! Don’t try to fight her! Even if you get a good blow in, a single slice in return could turn you into one of those tables made of human flesh!!”
“Oh, you’ve already grasped my special trait? If you’re so used to these mysterious things, are you perhaps from Academy City? In that case, I truly can’t let you get away.” Marian swung around her saw and smiled without turning around. “My goal is not to slice you with my saw or strike you with my hammer. Each tool is merely built in the ideal form for getting across my intent to alter you. The primary items needed to alter objects have been collected into seven categories. From the instant this gold touches you, the human alteration begins.”
“Does it use nanodevices that enter the body and…no. Is it a high-tech medical tool that causes a chain reaction on the cellular level to send the alteration from the outside of the body to deep within using the osmotic pressure of the cells?”
“That’s completely wrong, you idiot. In fact, this isn’t even specialized for the human body. I’m only altering the human body with a function of the tool. Well, you may have the theory completely wrong, but it gives you the right idea in the end. I guess that’s type of talent.”
If you were hit even once, you would eventually lose your body.
In fact, you could even suddenly turn into a chair or table.
(Even a single counterattack while trying to throw her or grab her would be the end of it. I guess my only option is to fight focusing on building up damage!!)
“A passive strategy, hm?” Marian Slingeneyer had seen straight through her. “Keeping your distance would be the best way of avoiding my tools, but it would be difficult to get within range and then take me out in a single blow, wouldn’t it? The standard is to try to counter and build the damage little by little. Well, if you have some stronger technique like a high kick or something, that would be different, but…I don’t need to say more, do I?”
In a battle without rules, a high kick aimed for the head came with the risk of having your leg grabbed and being dragged down. Even if that did not happen, once you were supporting yourself on a single leg, your quick footwork giving you a longer reach would be unusable.
In other words, it simply added the risk of a counterattack.
“In the end, continually using your one safe card is nothing more than slowly trapping yourself.”
Marian Slingeneyer stopped spinning around her saw so that it pointed toward Kumokawa Maria’s head.
The brown girl licked her lips and said, “This is not an issue of who is stronger. From your thought patterns alone, you cannot reach Gremlin.”
Immediately afterwards, the situation greatly changed.
Marian Slingeneyer and Kumokawa Maria both charged forward at once.
“Ah…?” as the brown girl charged in, she let out that slight voice of confusion.
Kumokawa Maria dove toward the ground like she was diving into a pool and “stepped” onto the ground with her hands.
“This is just a shogi problem.” Kumokawa Maria’s body twisted around and rotated while she was upside down. “You are not necessarily safe just by distancing yourself from the enemy pieces. The trick is to move to a position where the enemy pieces cannot move no matter how close it puts you!!”
The gold saw that Marian immediately swung passed by Kumokawa’s legs by only a few millimeters and her heel shot up toward Marian’s jaw. A dull noise rang out. She swung the gold saw and hammer again, but Kumokawa Maria’s legs were no longer there. The weapons merely flew through empty air.
“Your vision was blurred and your brain rattled, so what do you think you’re following there!?”
With her hands still “standing” on the ground, Kumokawa Maria had folded up her legs as far as they would go. It looked like she was storing up all her strength like a spring, so Marian swung her upper body as far to the side as it would go with a creaking of her spine.
(Another shot is coming for my jaw!!)
“Is that what you thought? It looks like my pride is going to swell by quite a bit here!”
Kumokawa Maria spun her body while still upside down. Her legs wrapped around Marian Slingeneyer’s right leg.
That had been outside what Marian had expected.
With the threat of the gold tools, Kumokawa should not have been able to make that attack.
She had gone for something other than a blow.
She had used a locking technique.
Without knocking her opponent to the ground, Kumokawa Maria started to destroy Marian Slingeneyer’s right leg while the brown girl still stood.
A dull noise passed through Marian’s body and exploded in her head.
But before the bone was completely broken, Marian Slingeneyer swung down the gold hammer. Kumokawa did not stick around and instead let go with her legs and rolled backwards. Marian Slingeneyer tried to follow after her, but her right leg would not move properly. She lost her balance and had to lean against the wall.
“I didn’t get to the bone,” said Kumokawa Maria as she stood up by swinging her legs around like a break dancer and wiped nervous sweat from her brow. “But it looks like I did damage the tendon.”
“How could an uncategorized person with two arms and two legs do that…!?”
“Is four areas to strike from not enough for a decisive blow?” said Kumokawa Maria as she folded her spread arms.
It looked like she was defending her upper body, but it was actually a stance used for attacks with emphasis on the elbows.
“Then I will bring that up to eight with my two elbows and two knees.”
“Have you calculated out just how much this expands my possible strategies?”
Kumokawa Maria forcefully kicked off the ground and charged straight for her. Eight striking points irregularly assaulted Marian Slingeneyer in a way that would be impossible for a normal martial artist.
The brown girl was not all that used to hand to hand combat.
Also, the tendon of her right leg was hurt, so she could not evade like she wanted.
“It’s true that I may be no match for you with no materials.”
Marian Slingeneyer swung her gold saw. She was not aiming for Kumokawa Maria. She swung the tool in a large circle, damaging the floor, walls, and ceiling as it passed.
“But I don’t remember saying I have no other supplies of humans.”
They writhed. The people she had ordered to remain on standby while they had been transformed into the form of building materials scattered a great amount of yellow fat around the area. In what was like a stream from a high pressure water gun, metal pieces like nuts and bolts were fired like bullets.
Kumokawa Maria deflected them with her right fist, left elbow, and right knee. Using only the motion of her upper body, she avoided the gold hammer that came flying amid it all and then she charged straight in close to Marian Slingeneyer. She then pulled her head back in preparation.
Kumokawa Maria tried to swing her forehead down to knock the brown girl unconscious, but Marian swung her head to the side.
A new bolt shot from behind into the area Marian’s head had been in.
The bolt struck Kumokawa Maria in the forehead, knocking her back where she collapsed to the ground.
She seemed to have received a concussion because she showed no sign of getting up.
“Was that all?”
Marian Slingeneyer cracked her neck. The saw had disappeared from her hand. This was simply because she had thrown it backwards. It had changed the form of one of the “obstacles” blocking up the passageway which is what had attacked Kumokawa.
As the brown girl walked, she still favored her left leg. Oumi Shuri had been unable to keep up with the battle and Marian kept her in the corner of her vision while she retrieved the hammer and the saw she had thrown.
As she did, she pulled out her smartphone and called Sigyn’s number. While listening to it ring, Marian grimaced at the pain in her right leg.
“Dammit. I really need to learn when to play things a little more safe. I let my guard down because I thought she was a normal person. Agh, pick up already, Sigyn. If I have to deal with a Kihara without her ‘advice’, this could get to be a real pain in the ass.”
But no longer how long she waited, Sigyn did not pick up. And then Marian Slingeneyer noticed something. While Oumi Shuri sat down on the ground, she was muttering something under her breath.
Marian’s first thought was that Oumi Shuri had gone crazy.
However, that was not what was going on.
“Marian-chan…run…” Oumi Shuri’s muttering had clear reason behind it. “Run from there. Right now. There is no guarantee that they are working alone. If reinforcements come, your right leg would be a major weakness. So get out of there right away and tape it up…”
The voice was different, but the inflection, intonation, frequency and location of the breaths, and most importantly the words themselves were familiar to Marian Slingeneyer.
“Sigyn…? What? Why are you mimicking her voice?”
She had heard Sigyn speaking on the phone earlier, but that was not enough to emulate her so exactly. Even if she could get the surface right, getting the contents right should have been impossible.
(Was the Sigyn I spoke with on the phone her as well…? No, the Sigyn on the phone was in a different place than her. But then…)
“You were faking your panic up to this point? Sigyn is already in your or your comrades’ grasp?” said Marian Slingeneyer tentatively. “Did you hold a knife to her throat or add some kind of gimmick around her neck that activates with a remote signal to get her to speak to me? How many of our secrets have you gotten from—!?”
She bit her tongue partway through and could not finish her sentence.
“No. If this is all your supernatural powers let you do, they do not seem a worthwhile candidate to take in as part of the Kouga.”
As she muttered, Oumi Shuri threw a small object she had pulled out of her pocket. With a wet noise, it stuck to the wall. It looked like a disposable teabag.
It took Marian Slingeneyer a bit to realize what it was.
“It was around seventy percent alcohol by volume. It’s all referred to as ethyl alcohol, but the means of distillation greatly changes its properties. You could call this stuff a pro at getting you badly drunk. If you drank a straight glass of this, you would be able to wrestle an elephant. It was originally used by the ninja to throw pursuing dogs off the trail.”
With her head reeling, Marian swung her gold saw at the nearby wall. She tried to remake a person who had become one with the wall into a spear and drive it into Oumi Shuri.
However, it did not activate.
She failed to alter the person. The spear she had supposedly created did not listen to her orders.
“Affecting you was just an added bonus,” said Oumi Shuri smoothly as she pulled out a gardening trowel-type kunai. “I used alcohol to get all of your hidden materials drunk. After all, that’s their weakness. Since you alter living humans, their human thought patterns are built into the weapon. For that reason, they will not alter like you want or follow your orders if they are drunk. That’s the weakness Sigyn told me about.”
Marian Slingeneyer made a quick decision.
She turned around and immediately began to flee.
She was fleeing from someone she knew had no supernatural powers. She was running from someone she had ignored as too far below her for worry.
Cold words stabbed into Marian’s back as she ran favoring her left leg.
“Show me some supernatural powers more fitting of being included within the Kouga.”
These were the words of the ninja that had survived to modern times.
These were the words of Oumi Shuri who appeared on the scene first with flashy movements.
“If you can’t, I will decide I have no more use for you.”
Marian Slingeneyer could hear her pursuer approaching from behind.