Toaru Majutsu no Index:NT Volume4 Sub.25
The Anti-Academy City Science Guardians guard, the pawn Shar Berylan, continued to breathe out white breath as he looked around.
He was crouched outside the house, where the vending machine was all frozen. He had disguised himself as snow that fell from the roof, and then set up windshields around him as he tried his best to endure the cold. He wasn't trying to be like a snow hut, but amidst the aerated snow, it was obvious that a certain level of insulation could be achieved.
In such an environment of -20 degrees Celsius, this level of hard work was a must even when wearing a standard army uniform.
If he showed any signs of laziness, what awaited him would be an icy hell.
The road had a thermal warming installation to make the snow melt, but the communication links with the command post were severed. In this situation, he couldn't trust Baggage City's own security. This would be a more reliable way to ensure his own safety when he considered that countless cameras were installed in many areas as part of anti-crime measures, and that his actions may be observed by the enemy.
…Of course, as he thought about this, he forgot all about his utmost priority to defend Baggage City. Anyone could understand from this situation that he was merely thinking about how to survive in such an environment.
At this moment, Shar suddenly lifted his head.
His attention was divided by something external.
(…Why is it so quiet? That's strange.)
The sounds of battle were already long gone. This would most likely be evidence that one side achieved an overwhelming advantage. However, that wasn't all. The city lost the all-important buzzing that was supposed to be part of a city. There was no space for humans to survive. It was like ancient monuments on Mars.
It was completely empty.
And thus, everything was completely quiet.
Shar frowned, and soon had a doubt.
Where did the millions of residents in Baggage City go?
(…Did everyone escape outside? No, the nearest place people live would be more than a hundred kilometers away. And it's impossible not to create any commotion when so many people are moving. We're not trying to play morals or pull shit or even run away from the guns of Academy City.)
Shar denied his own thoughts.
(Does that mean that Academy City killed everyone? No, that's not possible. We're talking about millions of people here. Even if it's killing those ordinary civilians that can't defend themselves, it will take lots of effort. The city's so quiet so quickly. This proves that the enemy couldn't possibly carry out some operation to eliminate a group.)
He couldn't be certain whether this was a good thing or not, but he didn't get any reply for now. It was like those critics who were watching from the other side of a river; there wouldn't be any constructive suggestions from criticism alone.
Shar Berylan pondered for a while, and finally crawled out from his self-made cover.
He didn't know what happened to the residents of Baggage City, but in fact, it was wrong to worry about their safety.
If one couldn't understand anything on the battlefield, there would be a certain level of mental disturbance. It was kind of unnerving to walk around like this when the situation was uncertain.
"…Orders from the higher ups. Letting the people evacuate and destroy all the large destructive weapons in the city; that's not possibly an order, is it?"
Shar made all sorts of somewhat suitable guesses, and then crawled forward silently in this quiet white street. There were no signs of enemies, allies, or even tourists. Maybe countless corpses were buried by snow under this snowy day.
After crawling about fifty meters away from his self-made cover, he got new intel.
Shar caught sight of the enemy, and then leaped into an alley between buildings where there was relatively less snow piled up, using the vehicle that was parked there. He was hiding at the back of a truck that used natural gas, where the danger would be at its maximum, but in this situation, he was unable to change his location.
Right in front of him was a cross-junction where no vehicles were moving, and four or five soldiers were standing there.
After checking that their guns and clothing weren't equipment that he was used to seeing, Shar concluded that they were soldiers on Academy City's side. In other words, enemies.
They were holding an object that looked like a beachball, and the base looked like a hair spray.
Shar, who once borrowed (or rather, snatched?) Academy City's manufactured weapon, had an impression of this. In other words, it was an intel weapon that was relatively simple in design. It was less like a small block full of technology than an idea of a product that would be even more attractive.
The exterior looked like a helium balloon that was released with a camera attached to it, and it was kept in the air to retain visuals; it was basically that kind of weapon. It was something that was used to make up for weaknesses in areas where the blessings of satellites and recon planes couldn't be reached. The effect would last for about thirty minutes. It would continue to fly up once it was released. And even if it was left untouched, it would be splattered sooner or later due to air pressure. However, it was just that kind of a thing.
There was a timer attached to the hair-spray-shaped cylinder object at the bottom to detect the location of the soldiers on the ground from where the balloon would float. The estimated time on the timer would cause it to explode at a certain time… But Shar could tell that Academy City intended to suppress Baggage City from the fact that they were using such a thing.
Shar didn't have the pride left to grit his own teeth painfully.
As for what he was worried about…
(They have declared that the suppression's over, but what exactly are they looking for?)
The initial Support Balloon was something that was to be used as support to make up for weaknesses in areas where there were no satellites or recon planes. But from the fact that Baggage City was controlled by Academy City, they wouldn't have the need to deliberately set a Support Balloon.
However, Academy City's forces were using the Support Balloon.
It seemed like they were searching for something that satellites and recon planes couldn't find, and even set even more cameras and sensors at its base.
What exactly was the thing they were pursuing such that such measures were warranted…?
"Maybe there's something even these people can't find? They couldn't even find the millions of people in Baggage City."
He was shocked, but that was all.
The number of cameras and sensors continued to increase. Sooner or later, they would be able to discover Shar's location.
He slowly left the natural gas truck, abandoned his old cover and looked for the next hiding place.
Something seemed to be mocking the almost-perfect Academy City.
And the targets weren't soldiers that were trained professionally, but millions of ordinary people.
Shar was somewhat impressed by them.
"…If that's the case, I really hope that they share some of this grace with me."
Shar trod over the pile of snow, and his profile slowly disappeared into the corners of the streets.
The pile of snow on the road continued to gather, which showed that the thermal effect was gradually weakening. But right now, he did not have time to think too much about that.
The streets were completely quiet, and this silence brought about a more unnerving presence.