Toaru Majutsu no Index:NT Volume6 Chapter6
Chapter 6: Monster, Monster, Monster, Monster. All_Bad_Stars.
The cityscape of Academy City was arranged to look tidy. Whether they were from 10 years ago, 5 years ago, the present, 5 years in the future, or 10 years in the future, people of any era would likely have a refreshingly neat impression of the city’s look. And that meant buildings had to be rebuilt frequently.
After all, the city was surrounded by a wall and had a limited surface area to build on.
Buildings were rebuilt to use the land more efficiently as well as simply to perform tests of the latest technology.
Of course, various types of technology were used to keep anyone from feeling that the city was “under construction” or “being prepared”. The people’s impression of the cityscape was simply that it was “nicely arranged” or “neat and tidy”.
Even so, buildings that were under construction were quite common.
As were abandoned buildings with all people and equipment removed to prepare for construction.
A few official members of Gremlin were currently in a room of one such abandoned building in District 7.
Marian Slingeneyer was hiding within that simple rectangular space that lacked even any carpet or wallpaper. She had originally had her headquarters in a District 7 hotel, but that hiding place had been revealed to the public on an Anti-Skill wanted poster, so she had moved to the abandoned building to prevent any surprise attacks by her powerful enemies such as Ollerus.
In reality, Kamijou Touma and the Lightning God Thor had used a few tricks to make that happen, but Marian was not aware of this. She had no idea that she was not actually wanted by Anti-Skill or that the wanted poster she saw had been created by Kamijou and Thor.
Her head shot up as if it had been struck.
She had heard an explosive noise.
It was a sound too deep to be a gunshot that she felt reverberating deep in her gut more than she heard it with her ears. It was not the sound of an unfortunate traffic accident or a building being demolished. It was a characteristic roar that that was oozing with killer intent all the way down to the planning stage.
It was more than enough to put her on guard.
She looked out a window that had no glass inside.
Instead of white or black smoke, a long, thin stream of sand-colored dust stretched up towards the sky. It was not far away. It was only about 500 to 700 meters away.
Marian stuck a hand into the side of her overalls and pulled out a saw made of gold.
And she smiled.
This was the smile of one who knew the taste of blood.
“Okay, now who was that!? Ollerus’s group? Someone from Academy City? Or maybe we’ll get lucky and it was Fräulein Kreutune herself. At any rate, this is no time to be sitting around!!”
In response, the girl(?) in the shape of a black drum named Mjölnir noisily shook in one corner of the room.
And Thor gritted his teeth so no one could see while holding a convenience store bag full of the block-shaped handheld food and mineral water he had been tasked with purchasing.
(They’re making more annoyingly noticeable actions.)
Thor (and Kamijou Touma) had played a trick on Marian in their attempt to keep the monsters of Ollerus’s group and the monsters of Gremlin from running across each other. That way they could prevent the enormous damage the city would suffer if those two sides clashed.
Unlike Kamijou who could only negate supernatural powers, it was obvious nothing good could come from having two ridiculously enormous powers clash.
(And after we went to so much effort to fake that wanted poster to make her afraid she would be tracked by Ollerus’s group.)
The Lightning God Thor was in charge of direct combat, Marian Slingeneyer provided support from behind the scenes with equipment and the like, and Mjölnir was a generator that was overly attached to Marian.
If they sensed a moderate threat, the proper course of action would be for Marian and Mjölnir to stay in the hideout while Thor headed out to gather information or engage the enemy in combat.
That method had succeeded so far.
“No matter how elaborate a hideout you create, it’s no good if they find it. Thor, Mjölnir. You two make a scene while I gather some people to use as materials!”
A cornered rat will bite a cat.
Marian was being cautious to avoid having to fight Ollerus’s group, Academy City, or even both at the same time, but that was also why she felt the need to quickly take action if it was needed.
He who attacks first wins.
The very fact that she saw their enemies as formidable meant she felt a strong desire to use overwhelming violence rather than to wait and go with the flow.
The black drum shook back and forth.
That girl(?) was always in support of Marian. If nothing was done, she would get worked up along with Marian Slingeneyer and cause an explosion.
Thor was the only one who could oppose Marian’s idea.
But he was also the one who had tricked her. If he tried to change the flow of events, it could considerably increase the risk of her suspecting him. It did not matter if she had no basis for suspicion. It was completely possible actions taken on unfounded suspicions could suddenly drive Thor into checkmate.
(This isn’t how I like doing things.)
“Hey, Marian. Who do you think it is?”
“I dunno. The worst possibility is Ollerus’s group, but the other options are plenty dangerous too. It’s possible that unknown monster known as Fräulein Kreutune has noticed what we are doing and has come to attack us in order to prevent us from pursuing her.”
“If this is someone trying to attack us, they wouldn’t cause a commotion before setting foot in this room.”
“Maybe their information isn’t very detailed, so they’re doing this to search us out.”
“In that case, reacting is playing right into their hands. Let’s wait for them to move on and then take a preemptive strike on their exposed backs. That would be best. I’m in charge of direct combat, so listen to what I say. The first strike is important. Are you the attacker or the defender? Are you the champion or the challenger? Your entire position in the battle can change.”
“Come on now, Thor-chan.” Said Marian while spinning her gold saw around. “That’s exactly why we need to move now. If we want to start off with the upper hand, the last thing we want to do is stay huddled up here. Even if their information is lacking in detail, they will be gathering more information as time goes on. Just because we’re standing still here doesn’t mean the enemy is going to wait around for us. These opponents are bad enough already. We need to crush them before they have a chance to level up.”
The drum made a clattering noise as it shook.
The girl(?) was not agreeing or disagreeing; she was simply supporting Marian.
Thor glanced over at the dust outside the window.
“Academy City has a lot of different problems. This might have nothing to do with us.”
“We’ll see whether it does or not when we go check.”
“And what if going to check reveals your location? This could fill in the details our enemies are lacking.”
Marian said nothing more.
With a snap of the wrist she was using to spin the saw, the tone of the whooshing it made as it sliced through the air suddenly rose. It had a similar nuance to snapping her fingers or whistling. Naturally, it was Mjölnir who responded.
“Thor, they have no information on you. I have already been tainted since information has gotten out on me, so I will head out. If you still want to talk about being cautious, go find a new hideout for us.”
Thor let out a sigh.
His strategy to stop her with words had failed. The decoy threat from the previous stage of his plan may have affected her too much.
Thor simply gave an honest response.
He had given up.
He unhesitatingly swung his leg up from behind and kicked Marian Slingeneyer in the side of the head.
The way she collapsed did not look like a human action.
It looked like a stick falling over after being stood on end. It was clear as day that the powerful strike had knocked Marian out cold.
It had been as high a kick as he could manage.
The strike had been pulled off so skillfully that it almost looked like time had stopped for an instant.
And of course, Mjölnir would not overlook that act of violence.
The drum-shaped girl(?) did not use words.
Its dark glittering surface emitted bluish-white sparks.
Mjölnir’s body hid energy great enough to vaporize one third of a mobile fortress the size of a city.
“You idiot!! If you go nuts here, you’ll put Marian in danger!” shouted Thor to hold back Mjölnir’s actions with the force of his words.
The drum’s movements stopped as if a wedge had been driven into its gears.
“You know why Ollerus’s group is targeting Fräulein Kreutune, right? As the specimen for a holistic esper, she is the final piece Othinus needs to prepare Gungnir. …It is only natural for someone wanting to interfere with Othinus’s plan to try to eliminate Fräulein Kreutune.”
Something floated up to the surface of the drum.
They were lips.
And it was not just one pair. As if to represent the eruption of her anger, those organs for emitting words appeared one after another. It looked like the surface of boiling water.
“…And?” was her only response.
No matter how logical his answer was, nothing but ash would be left in the next instant if she did not accept it.
“Do you still not get it?” Thor spoke slowly in response to that unspoken announcement. “The enemy’s ultimate objective is to stop Gungnir from being completed. If they can accomplish that, nothing else matters to them. The loss of a single piece will cause Othinus’s plan to fail. …In that case, they do not need to kill Fräulein Kreutune. If they kill the pure Dvergr who is the sole person able to produce the weapons of the gods, they still get what they want.”
The black drum fell silent for a moment.
But its countless lips did not disappear.
While searching for the proper words, the girl(?) known as Mjölnir said, “Are you saying Ollerus’s group was planning that from the beginning? Impossible. Even if they knew Gremlin was taking action, they would have had no idea what specific members would be heading here.”
“So what? An ally of justice like that Ollerus-chan would want to avoid killing some unrelated person like Fräulein Kreutune just to stop Othinus’s plan. He would find it easier to eliminate someone guilty of past crimes like Marian Slingeneyer.”
“Their initial plan may have been to kill Fräulein Kreutune. They may have prepared a means of killing that monster that no one seems able to kill.” Thor held up his index finger to keep Mjölnir from speaking. “But they saw Marian Slingeneyer’s wanted poster. They know she was last seen in that District 7 hotel.”
That was of course false information Thor and Kamijou Touma had prepared, so he had no idea if Ollerus and the others had actually seen it.
“Don’t you think they might have changed their plans when they saw that? Just because they have a theoretical means of killing Fräulein Kreutune does not mean it will actually work. They’ve never tested their method. But Marian is a normal human they know they can kill. If you compare the two, even a monkey can tell which would be the easier target and which they would have better odds against.”
“We heard an explosion. Dust was blown up into the air. Do you really think the enemy is just waiting around for us to head out and attack them? Do you really think the situation is that simple? The explosion and the dust may be separate events. We might get sniped from afar if we carelessly head out. Do you really think we should let Marian head out there with her blood rushing to her head? Well?”
For a while, Mjölnir remained silent.
Finally, the countless lips visible on the drum’s surface disappeared as if sinking below the surface of some water.
“We need to look into just how much information on Marian Ollerus’s group has and what kind of trap they have set up. I’ll handle that. You make preparations so Marian can escape if the time comes.”
The drum shook noisily back and forth.
Thor assumed she was asking for a more concrete suggestion, so he added, “If you feel things are getting dangerous, roast the entire city block. With a thousand or ten thousand corpses that barely look human anymore, it will take time to ID all of them. Even if someone has definite information that Marian is here, that should keep them off your trail.”
The essence of a lie was to let it fulfill its role without fearing the risk the information held.
The instant you held back, you would be exposed.
During the large scale cultural festival known as the Ichihanaransai, a large number of people were constantly moving around. This naturally led to a great rise in the number of lost children.
The standard Anti-Skill deployment was not enough to deal with all the various troubles, both large and small, so the student-led Judgment was sent to work out in the city at large.
And so, Uiharu Kazari was surrounded by elementary school students on a District 7 road. She was a Judgment member in her first year of middle school who had so many decorative flowers in her hair that her head looked like a vase full of flowers.
As the children tugged on her stereotypical sailor uniform, they all spoke to her.
“C’mon, do it. Say, ‘this is Judgment’!!”
“Ah wah wah wah wah wah,” said Uiharu as she was overwhelmed by the flood of words coming from all around her.
However, the surrounding children did not seem to care.
“U-umm, that is not actually a standard thing for Judgment. In fact, Shirai-san often gets in trouble for that because we cannot have people thinking Judgment is usually so violent…”
“C’mon, just do it! And do the teleport too!!”
“Eh? Isn’t it scary suddenly disappearing and reappearing somewhere else? What if you ended up in some strange place?”
“I know how that works. You travel through something like a tunnel that you call a wormhole.”
“But what makes up that tunnel? How long is the tunnel???”
“Eee!” Uiharu let out a pathetic scream.
(I think Shirai-san’s ability converts the perceived three dimensional space into strict 11 dimensional space and then moves a different axis instead of using wormholes, but the detailed theory behind it is on a university graduate student level. Please don’t look to a completely normal middle school student for an intelligent answer about it…)
On the other sidewalk across the road, Aogami Pierce was on his way to replenish the industrial flour used for their takoyaki stand. When he saw that keeper of the peace surrounded by little girls, he silently clenched his fist.
A look appeared on Aogami Pierce’s face like a genius composer who had been struck by a sudden revelation, but then someone tapped him on the shoulder from behind.
He turned around to find a high school girl with large breasts and glasses as well as a middle school girl with a flat chest and twintails.
Both of them had a certain characteristic armband on their right shoulder.
“Excuse me, we are from Judgment. …Could we speak with you for a moment?”
“Konori-senpai, can’t we just throw him in a cell? I don’t know if it’s due to the event, but all the small cases and mysterious reports are needlessly driving down our efficiency. …Honestly, why are people saying giant rhinoceros beetles are rampaging around?”
“You can’t just take your frustrations out on him. That explosive noise and smoke were probably just some school going too far trying to attract guests. Oh, we need to check your belongings, so if you could just head over to the corner here…”
“Judgment…” he muttered once more.
This was the 43rd time Aogami Pierce had been questioned by the authorities that year, but it looked like the experience would be quite moe this time.
In a District 7 subway tunnel, the white rhinoceros beetle weapons created from Kakine Teitoku’s Dark Matter were glaring at each other and aiming their cannons at each other.
They fired without hesitation.
They fired again and again.
Four of them acted as pursuers. The remaining one was the traitor that was protecting Hamazura, Fremea, and the others. Not only did the pursuers outnumber the lone beetle, but they only needed to kill the humans within the tunnel. It did not matter if Rhinoceros Beetle 05 resisted or not; the pursuers could crush their targets’ organs by filling the tunnel with the shockwaves of their blasts.
The same could be said for Rhinoceros Beetle 05’s side.
They did not need to defeat the other four beetles. Rhinoceros Beetle 05’s primary objective was to allow Hamazura Shiage, Takitsubo Rikou, Yoshikawa Kikyou, Last Order, and Fremea Seivelun to escape the tunnel and distance them from the threat to their lives.
“Brace for impact,” said Rhinoceros Beetle 05.
A simultaneous attack was carried out by the four beetles that had decided killing Last Order and those around her was the best method to carry out their objective of robbing Fräulein Kreutune of the reason behind her actions. They were not aiming for direct hits. Instead, they were firing the shells at the ground just in front of their target to fill every nook and cranny of the tunnel with a shockwave wall.
Normally thinking, this was not something a flesh-and-blood human could withstand.
Even if Rhinoceros Beetle 05 acted as a shield for Hamazura and the others, the shockwave would fill the entire area to swallow them up and crush their organs from within.
Rhinoceros Beetle 05 vibrated its giant thin wings at high speed to create an artificial voice. It was not trying to speak. The vibration it scattered through the air struck the coming shockwave and forcibly altered its direction.
“What…did they mess up? My ears don’t hurt.”
“I sent a wave of my own towards their wave. It cannot be seen so it may be difficult to understand, but a shockwave can easily be influenced like a billiards ball using other waves or obstacles.”
Several hurdles had to be overcome before that theory could actually be pulled off.
The beetle had to accurately repel or turn aside the shockwave and the fragments of the shell and ground created in the explosion to keep them away from those it wished to protect.
“That is his technique, says Misaka as Misaka comments.”
“Are you talking about Accelerator?” asked Yoshikawa.
“I used a theoretical routine based on our potential enemy’s actions, but I doubt I would be able to achieve his level. Our shells are unsuited to killing a target using the secondary effects such as the shockwave.”
“Because my body is made entirely out of Dark Matter, I have no means of creating the gunpowder needed to fire or detonate a shell. A spring system is used to fire the shells. It is said that in the past, a ‘strange’ weapon reinforced with the power of Dark Matter competed for market share with a shoulder-fired rocket launcher. The shells detonated by breaking the hardened outer coating with sponge springs, so their acoustic effect was only 36% to 50% that of the normal shell. I conclude that is the reason my evasive actions have been successful. …Meanwhile, that #1 would likely have no problem handling a nuclear weapon.” Rhinoceros Beetle 05 continued to use its giant wings to produce sound waves outside of the audible range to repel the shockwaves while using any gaps to produce its artificial voice. “There is a worker’s exit 15 meters behind us. On my signal, I will create a wall by making the ceiling collapse and you will run for the exit.”
The beetle had no intention of defeating their opponents.
For one thing, all of the rhinoceros beetles were strange weapons created by Kakine Teitoku’s Dark Matter. They had no “core” or “weak point” to speak of and they would automatically heal any part that was destroyed. The one exception was Rhinoceros Beetle 05 who had made an “interpretation” that opposed the will of Kakine himself.
Hamazura turned around to check on the location of the small metal door.
Sparks flew and the door burst open. Most likely, Rhinoceros Beetle 05 had skillfully turned aside the shockwave of the enemies’ shells to break the lock.
“Now,” said the beetle.
It began with an obvious explosive noise.
Rhinoceros Beetle 05’s cannon barrel moved and fired a shell at the ceiling. The ceiling collapsed around the other four beetles.
“Hamazura, run!” shouted Takitsubo.
While practically carrying Fremea, Hamazura ran through the ominously shaking tunnel. Last Order was being pulled along while hand in hand with Yoshikawa. Each time Rhinoceros Beetle 05 fired again to hold the other beetles in check, the tough tunnel ground seemed to sway like a ship in a storm.
Takitsubo charged through the worker’s door first, Fremea came next as Hamazura pushed her along, and Yoshikawa and Last Order made it last. Takitsubo grabbed Last Order’s other hand to help Yoshikawa pull her through the door.
Once it saw all of them had evacuated, Rhinoceros Beetle 05 moved backwards to slam into the worker’s door.
But the door was too small.
It slammed into the door with enough force to dent the wall around it, but it was unable to squeeze through the narrow exit.
Hamazura’s eyes opened wide.
“What are you doing!?”
“Do not worry. This is part of my plan.” With its back end slightly crushed, Rhinoceros Beetle 05 sat in the doorway like a giant stone blocking the way as it moved its thin wings to produce an artificial voice “Since I have left Kakine Teitoku’s control, I can no longer renew my Dark Matter. In the near future, I will break apart. Also, our shells are unable to destroy fellow beetles. The only way to escape from these enemies that can regenerate infinitely is to block their path in some way.”
Hamazura almost yelled his comment out loud.
(For nothing but a weapon, he’s got a lot of nerve to lie and put on a show of being tough.)
“Hurry up! Your shells are powerful enough to destroy this wall, right!?” he shouted instead.
“That would allow the enemy beetles to continue pursuit. Also, if I can destroy it, so can they. They will soon free themselves of the wreckage. I have determined something more is needed to act as the ‘wall’ that blocks their way.”
“Good luck. I will make sure to carry out my primary objective. Take care.”
Just as Hamazura let out that curse, the entire area shook ominously. The enemy rhinoceros beetles had blown away the pile of rubble. They now began firing on their fellow weapon that was unable to evade if it was to block their path.
It had no escape.
It would never end.
Using its ability to regenerate to a certain extent even while outside of the #2’s control, it could only continue the tragic shootout without end like a zombie even as its body was crushed further and further.
The joint of the building materials must have been shaken because a powder sprinkled down from the ceiling.
Yoshikawa pointed towards the staircase up and out of the subway tunnel with her chin.
“We have no idea how long this will stop them. We need to head to the surface.”
“But…!!” started Hamazura, but Takitsubo grabbed his hand.
In a quiet but clear voice, she said, “Let’s go. It cannot escape even if we stay behind.”
Hamazura gritted his teeth.
But it was true they would eventually be killed if they stuck around.
While only half able to brush aside his reluctance, Hamazura ran up the narrow worker’s staircase. Takitsubo and Yoshikawa followed him. At the top of the metal staircase was a door. It was locked, but it was only meant to keep people out. In other words, they could easily unlock it from the inside. After doing so, they charged outside.
Yoshikawa looked up into the sky while holding a hand up to cover the bright light of the sun.
“It looks like Accelerator has moved elsewhere.”
“But that doesn’t mean we’re safe. Dammit, we need to call Mugino or Kinuhata and…”
Hamazura trailed off.
Takitsubo in her pink track suit was looking around with a puzzled expression.
After looking in the direction she was looking, Hamazura finally realized something.
“Wait…where did Fremea go!?”
“It looks like Last Order…is gone too.”
In that moment, the white Rhinoceros Beetle 05 was not even attempting to move from its spot blocking the door in the subway tunnel even while receiving a fierce bombardment from the other beetles. Errors were constantly popping up over the discrepancy with the theoretical ideal evasive and tactical actions, but it forced all of that down and remained on the course of protecting the humans.
It was still firing shells to hold the other beetles at bay and vibrating its thin wings to interfere with the vectors of the shockwaves filling the tunnel.
But it was not enough.
The humans hiding behind it were a much smaller target to protect than the entire wall around the door that needed to remain intact to prevent the fleeing humans from being buried. And of course, the wider the area it had to protect, the harder it was to do so.
Several cracks had appeared on its smooth white surface.
It did not feel pain like a living being.
It was less concerned about the destruction of its own body by the relentless bombardment than it was about receiving too much damage to recover from in time and allowing the other beetles past. It did not want to make any predictive calculations concerning the scene of being unable to move and only able to watch as the enemy beetles headed past and brought danger back to the humans who had supposedly escaped.
It could not avoid being overwhelmed.
As the damage piled up, it quickly overcame the speed at which it could be regenerated. Whether Rhinoceros Beetle 05 liked it or not, it would eventually be left unable to function and the wall behind it would be destroyed.
But the humans would have fled far away by that time.
The threat of the other beetles would not reach them.
The beetle could not win and no amount of wearing down the enemy beetles could change that.
Any normal calculations would leave only the word “impossible” to describe the situation, but Rhinoceros Beetle 05 gave its all to protect that door.
The shells continued to fly.
Cracks ran through its surface around its red glowing eyes.
It checked the time.
It decided it had bought enough time. The humans would have arrived at the surface by then.
It had carried out its mission.
It recognized this fact.
Rhinoceros Beetle 05 also recognized that its body would be completely crushed after receiving 5 or 6 more shells, but it dug its 6 legs into the concrete ground to maintain its defensive position.
“Nyah, nyah!! In the first place, we won’t let you stay behind!!”
“You need to run too, says Misaka as Misaka calls out to you!!”
When the white Rhinoceros Beetle 05 heard those voices, it felt like its body had suddenly shrunk down in size. An organic life form with a normal construction of muscles and internal organs would likely express it as feeling like one’s heart was being squeezed.
It could only buy a short amount of time.
Once the other beetles wore Rhinoceros Beetle 05 down to the point they could make it past, those girls would be torn apart right away.
(This is not over yet!!)
It did not take long for the beetle to make up its mind.
Rhinoceros Beetle 05 moved its body slightly away from the door. It created enough of a gap for the small children to come back into the tunnel.
“This way!!” it shouted. “We need to escape. Please hurry!!”
Rhinoceros Beetle 05 ignored the girls who began trying to climb on top of its body for some reason and began vibrating its large thin wings at a set amplitude.
As soon as it did, Last Order and Fremea’s bodies began floating in midair.
“Nyawah!? In the first place, this is like a spacewalk!!”
“Are you making us float with the vibration? says Misaka as Misaka asks for confirmation.”
“The high frequency waves outside of the audible range are causing resonant vibrations in the extra space of the material of your clothes. It may be more similar to the way a flying fish glides through the air by beating its tail fin against the water surface than it is how a bird or insect flies using its wings.”
The girls may have not completely understood the situation because they let out screams of delight as they floated. Meanwhile, Rhinoceros Beetle 05 took action for a retreat.
While the other beetles continued their close range bombardment, it moved backwards deeper into the tunnel.
Naturally, the enemy beetles immediately reacted.
They could continue their bombardment even at a fair distance. They had likely determined that blowing away the traitor and sending it rolling through the tunnel would be enough to crush the targets floating above it.
But they never actually fired the shells to carry out this plan.
Based on the systematic vibrations they felt in the tips of their six legs, they immediately took evasive action.
In other words, they had determined that a train was likely approaching.
But even after 30 seconds had passed, the light of a train did not appear.
And then another possibility finally floated up in their minds.
The fleeing traitor could be travelling while striking the subway track in a pattern identical to the vibration of a train.
After moving backwards through the tunnel at tremendous speed for a certain distance, Rhinoceros Beetle 05 decided it had made it far enough away. While still remaining wary of the darkness, it turned 180 degrees and began moving at full speed in the same direction as before.
And then a change occurred to the back of the beetle.
The children floating above it were doing something.
To be specific, they had begun drawing something with a pen on the surface of the opened armor plate.
“Nyah, nyah. In the first place, there are a lot of you, so things will get confusing if we don’t give you some kind of mark.”
“What is that? asks Misaka as Misaka points at your scribbling.”
“This is the mark of the Hamazura Brigade!!”
Rhinoceros Beetle 05 appreciated the sentiment but wished they would at least use something other than a permanent marker.
Academy City had no giant radio towers that acted as landmarks. From the standpoint of protecting their technological information, a radio tower that spread its signal too widely was actually a problem.
But they were sometimes constructed as experiments of construction technology even if they were not needed.
A certain 50 meter metal tower that could only be called a miniature radio tower almost seemed buried by the high-rise buildings around it. And a boy was leaning up against a piece of its thick metal framework.
He was Kakine Teitoku.
“…That did not go as well as planned. I never thought he would take out 300 of the me-shaped ones in only 15 minutes. Even if they can’t be killed, it looks like he can still keep them from moving by smashing their bodies open or balling them up.”
No hint of bitterness could be found in his tone as he muttered solely for his own benefit.
In the battle between the #1 and #2, direct damage was not viewed with much importance.
Kakine Teitoku’s “creation” could replace anything destroyed with a newly created one.
Accelerator’s “destruction” could intercept any attack with his vector transformation.
What mattered most to those two was not the physical phenomena seen on the surface. It was the calculation patterns, thought patterns, and Personal Realities at the base of their powers. Coming up with a detailed analysis of what it was that made the two of them special was what would provide them with victory.
In their previous battle, Kakine had used his Dark Matter which does not exist in this world to reflect sunlight and shockwaves to create attacks that possessed vectors that could never exist on the earth.
The first condition for Kakine was finding a way to break through Accelerator’s wall of reflection.
If one observed the battle while focusing on that side of things, one would finally see the true path the battle had taken.
“When it comes to your attack patterns and the logic of your reflection, those 300 you destroyed are like playing a game of concentration. Even failed attempts help you succeed the next time as long as you memorize the pattern and numbers on the cards. And eventually you will have a complete view.”
Something white and 5 meters long flew above Kakine’s head.
The object cutting through the sky while slipping through the gaps in the framework of the experimental miniature radio tower was a giant dragonfly made of Dark Matter that was used for reconnaissance.
Looking like he was watching a paper airplane he had made fly away, Kakine muttered, “But this could always come to a pathetic end where you collapse from your battery dying before that happens.”
“…is probably what he’s thinking,” muttered Accelerator underneath a giant overpass.
He was on top of the complex metal framework that reinforced the overpass. He sat on one piece of the framework with his back leaning up against an intersecting piece of the framework. He was lightly touching the switch for the choker-style electrode on his neck.
The choker-style electrode’s battery would only last for 30 minutes.
He had already used half of that.
Kakine Teitoku only had to avoid a quick resolution and continue his attacks to hold Accelerator in check and Accelerator would be driven into a fatal situation. A certain situation had led to Accelerator’s brain being severely injured, so he could not use his power of the strongest or even stand on his own two feet or understand human language without receiving calculation support from the Misaka Network via his choker.
(That is not an absolute limit. It’s just that the battery is only able to hold that much power. In that case…)
The overpass seemed to have water pipes and power cables running through it and a thick cable ran right next to Accelerator. He glanced across the surface of the cable to check on the amperage and voltage running through it and then unhesitatingly removed the outer covering of the cable with his bare hands.
He was going to recharge.
The concept was simple enough, but he of course could not use the high voltage current running through the thick power cable as is. On his way to that overpass, Accelerator had gathered a few metal plates, wires, and the like. By assembling them, he had created a makeshift transformer.
If his calculations were off even by the slightest amount, not only would the choker-style electrode burst into flames, his fingers operating the transformer could even be blown off.
Yet he did not hesitate.
He quickly attached the transformer to the power cable and used a small cord to supply power to his electrode’s battery.
(I can’t sit here recharging for very long. I’ll probably only get maybe a dozen seconds recharged.)
To be blunt, he recognized he was at the disadvantage.
He accepted that fact.
And after accepting it, he continued on.
(But if he is convinced I’ll run out of gas after another 15 minutes, all I need is a few extra seconds. If I add an additional attack during that extra time, I can tear him apart.)
He had already made the preparations he needed for that.
The monster known as Academy City’s #1 had not consumed half of his battery’s power for nothing.
He saw the #2’s power as warranting the use of half the battery.
(Now then. Those attacks I intentionally used nonsense calculation patterns for should have reached him by now. If he’s calculated out an optimum answer based on that, I’ll be able to defeat that asshole without needing this extra battery time.)
“…is probably what he’s thinking,” muttered Kakine Teitoku as he leaned up against the framework at the center of the radio tower.
(Since that battery is his bottleneck, he’ll want to secure some extra power and he knows the vulnerabilities of his reflection better than anyone. He isn’t going to provide an opening so easily. But some idiosyncrasies will always remain. There is something real hidden among all the decoy information.)
Once he learned the white dragonflies soaring through the sky could not find the target, Kakine Teitoku focused his search on areas that could not be seen from the sky.
(The biggest danger is those wings that leave the category of logic altogether. Those can carry out attacks that overcome Dark Matter’s strength. He would be quite a threat if he could bring them out at will.)
But he doubted it was that easy.
(I don’t have enough data on them because they have appeared so infrequently, but it is always when his emotions are at an extreme high or low that they appear. It does not matter if the emotions are positive or negative. Plus the wings never stay for long. …In other words, I just need to hold him in check. That’s all. I don’t know what those wings consume, but just like with his other powers, they will disappear on their own if I buy enough time.)
He had had as much time to think as he could ever want.
During the time almost all of his organs had been crushed and replaced with artificial ones and while he had been used by some piece of shit or another to manufacture weapons, he had truly had as much time as he could want.
(The #1 is fiercely powerful but only in certain areas. An opening will surely show itself. It is a matter of timing…of finding the peaks and the valleys. Meanwhile, my creation ability is perfectly stable. This battle will be decided when he falls down into one of his own valleys. All I have to do is continue doing what I am doing.)
“…is probably what he’s thinking.”
“…is probably what he’s thinking.”
In two different parts of the city, two different monsters muttered those words. They continued thinking on and on as they worked to grow closer and closer to truly attacking their opponent.
It is often said that a fight was over before the fists ever began to fly. These two had already shown themselves to be monsters in that early stage.
The #1 stopped recharging his battery with the power cable and calmly left the overpass using his modern cane.
The #2 unhesitatingly jumped down from the radio tower when he determined surveillance from above was of no use.
They headed to the next exchange.
To their next move.
“This will decide the outcome.”
“This will decide the outcome.”
Their voices overlapped as if it had been rehearsed.
They muttered those words in unison as they showed each other their backs from afar.
The time would soon arrive.
“…Function?” said Kamijou with a puzzled look.
While almost making a creaking noise as she trembled, Fräulein Kreutune gave a slight nod with her long hair still scattered about on the road. Her eyes were writhing irregularly as if following something that was not there.
“A living creature that stands on two legs will view standing on two legs as natural. But is it really? If a baby that crawls on all fours is raised without being taught anything by anyone, would it ever think to stand up on its two unsteady legs?”
Kamijou knew what she was trying to say.
A baby was a living creature that crawled on all fours. It was a living creature that saw that as natural. What led to them standing on two legs was either being taught to stand with their parents’ help or watching the adults who lived while standing on two legs. Either way, they changed methods by “learning” in one way or another. They obtained a way of life where they stood on two legs thanks to external stimuli.
And once a living creature learned to live while standing on two legs, it would never go back to crawling on all fours. Even if living while crawling on all fours would be possible, it would never move around on all fours. Once it had obtained the function to stand on two legs, it would learn just how convenient it is.
“Not even I know when this function came to me,” whispered Fräulein Kreutune. Even as she spoke, her strangely hot breaths continued. “But for whatever reason, I have obtained it. I have obtained the function to gather information by eating a human brain. And now that I have obtained it, the point of reference for my actions has been overwritten to center on that function. So…I…”
It was not an issue of whether she wanted to or not.
It was just like how a living creature that gained lungs to live on land could no longer return to the ocean.
It was just like how a living creature that gained wings to fly through the sky could no longer run across the land.
To Fräulein Kreutune, not eating brains was like not breathing, walking on your hands, and never blinking again. No matter what she did, she would suffer. And the only escape was to take that “natural” action.
Kamijou glanced down at his right hand.
If her condition had gone awry because of this unneeded function, he wondered if he could destroy that function with the power of this right hand.
(That would be like performing delicate surgery. Can I really do that? Not to mention that I have no idea what makes Fräulein Kreutune herself run. What if she was completely destroyed as a whole the instant I touched her?)
“The function…is already taking effect,” she said while her teeth chattered. “They said I was their friend…but I cannot stop it. Why? Why did I have to gain the function to eat that girl’s brain?”
“Wait a second. So it isn’t that any human will do?”
Fräulein Kreutune’s head tilted horizontally. Her long silver hair fell down to cover her face. Kamijou could no longer see her expression.
Her body swayed.
She slowly stood up with an unsteady stance that resembled grass blowing in the wind.
“…Wait,” called out Kamijou, but she did not respond. “Where are you going? Wait, listen to me! When you say ‘that girl’, who do you-…!?”
Kamijou trailed off because the taste of iron suddenly filled his mouth.
His body faltered.
Fräulein Kreutune had not done anything. The scorching pain was centered on his right side. Kamijou had escaped the ICU as soon as his emergency surgery was complete. He had known his wound could reopen at any time.
He could see Fräulein Kreutune’s legs moving away as his viewpoint made the world appear to be on its side.
A slight trembling spread from his spine to his fingertips and he was not even able to stretch out his arm.
His mouth flapped open and closed, but no words came out.
(…Was I wrong?)
Fräulein Kreutune had said her function to eat human brains had come to her very recently.
Had it been leaving the windowless building that had caused it?
Kamijou and Thor had attempted to destroy the building’s armor, but it had been Fräulein Kreutune who had actually destroyed it from within. In that case, it was not Kamijou who had directly caused her to escape.
Why had Fräulein Kreutune headed outside with that timing? Had it truly been nothing but a coincidence? Or had Kamijou and Thor’s actions unintentionally pulled the trigger for her actions?
If that was the case…
(Was I somehow wrong to even try to save her in the first place?)
He heard a quiet scraping noise.
It was the sound of his powerless, trembling fingertips scraping against the asphalt.
As the flavor of iron continued to fill his mouth, Kamijou gritted his teeth and thought.
There was no way that was the case.
Fräulein Kreutune may have eventually left the windowless building even if Kamijou and Thor had done nothing. Even if she had not, Gremlin may have destroyed the windowless building’s armor. Ollerus’s group may have used some method to smartly abduct her. With all the different “ifs” surrounding her, she may have left the windowless building and gained the function to eat human brains regardless of Kamijou’s actions.
For that very reason…
“…I refuse…to accept it…”
Something was flowing from his right side. As it did, an unpleasant shaking began across his entire body. Yet Kamijou still used the frail power remaining in him to forcibly grab at the ground. He was trying to make a small foothold so he could stand up.
The fact that Fräulein Kreutune had obtained the function to eat human brains was indeed a major problem. But did that mean it would have been right to leave her trapped in the windowless building forever? Could he really have let that happen? He could not just cover up one problem with another. It was absolutely wrong to accept a problem just because it was smaller than another problem.
He would not accept it.
He could not accept it.
No matter how she had been treated during her long, long history…
Even if she was a human with a complex and messed up structure that no one could explain…
Fräulein Kreutune had finally made it “outside”.
Even if it was a dangerous tightrope act and even if she was merely squeezing through the gaps, she had still obtained freedom.
Now that she had walked out below the sun literally for the first time in decades, the world spread out before her.
Kamijou absolutely refused to accept that that world had to be a nightmare filled with nothing but blood, death, and violence.
Kamijou Touma slowly stood up. He placed a hand on a nearby roadside tree to forcibly support his body that was even now about to collapse underneath him. Even so, he managed to stand up.
He had no idea how many more hours he would last.
He had his doubts he would even last half an hour.
But that did not change what Kamijou had to do. He had to destroy all of the messed up shackles, nightmares, and conditions surrounding Fräulein Kreutune.
(Where did Fräulein Kreutune go?)
He looked around and silently moved away from the tree. As soon as he did, he almost collapsed to the ground, but he somehow withstood it. And then he took another step.
He could still walk.
He could still move.
After discovering that, a small smile appeared on his lips, but then all strength suddenly left his knees. He tried to regain his balance, but it did not work. His upper body headed for the ground.
But then he felt something soft support his body.
It felt like someone had reached out from the side just as he was about to collapse.
He tried to turn his head, but his body refused to listen.
“…I finally found you,” whispered a girl’s voice, but Kamijou could not understand it.
However, this was not because his body was not working properly due to blood loss.
Kamijou Touma had never been able to understand French.
“You are the key to the official members of Gremlin. You are the piece I absolutely need to carry out my revenge. Finally. I can finally begin my life.”
She was a blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl who appeared to be about 12 or 13.
And she wore a dress made up of a wetsuit and a clear material that created the overall silhouette of a fairy tale heroine.
She was one of those who produced that hell in Hawaii.
She had once named herself as a member of Gremlin.
The magician known as Cendrillon gave a dark smile and spoke in French.
“So do not die yet. I need you for my revenge.”
As the white Rhinoceros Beetle 05 floated Last Order and Fremea Seivelun above it like a skydiving training device, it moved from the complexly intersecting subway tunnels, through large scale city heating pipes and multipurpose drains used for flood prevention, and finally to an underground pathway that was under construction. From there, they headed out the exit and to the surface that was overflowing with sunlight.
Normally, a giant beetle would probably have caused a commotion, but the Ichihanaransai was underway. During that festival, the schools across Academy City used the city’s cutting edge technology to compete for focus that would lead to more students hoping to attend that school. It was a bit unusual for performances to be held outside the school grounds, but people still viewed it as normal enough given the special circumstances. (Of course, it probably helped that word of the commotion caused by the other beetles had not yet reached that area. Access to the major SNSs could be difficult on the day of a major event.)
But they could not just stay there forever.
Rhinoceros Beetle 05’s creator was receiving full-scale support from Academy City. If he had free use of the cameras and sensors around the city, he would be able to spot that large beetle moving through the city.
The beetle had few options.
The first option was to allow Last Order and Fremea to take advantage of their small size and escape via some small area such as a ventilation duct. Once they did, Rhinoceros Beetle 05 could go elsewhere and cause a commotion as a diversion.
The second option was to be constantly moving around at high speed and not using any one hiding spot. Even if their location was detected using the cameras or sensors, they could hide their presence by always moving elsewhere before anyone could rush to their location.
Rhinoceros Beetle 05 stopped temporarily at an impromptu basketball court made from an empty lot between buildings. While still keeping Last Order and Fremea floating above it, the beetle also changed the amplitude of its giant wings to produce an artificial voice to begin explaining the situation.
Both options were risky, but the white Rhinoceros Beetle 05 had decided the former was less so. In the former option, the girls could move through areas with no cameras or sensors while the latter option required them to be exposed to the cameras and sensors.
“Nyah, nyah! Are you still saying that!? In the first place, I can never abandon you now that you have the mark of the Hamazura Brigade!!”
“We can manage somehow if all three of us are together, so don’t worry, says Misaka as Misaka slaps her chest to show her determination.”
Rhinoceros Beetle 05 had no say in the decision. Shoving Last Order and Fremea into a narrow duct or a dumpster would be meaningless if they would simply follow the beetle as it tried to create a diversion.
Even if it was more of a risk, the beetle had to act alongside the girls.
Rhinoceros Beetle 05 immediately changed its line of thought.
“The two of you are being pursued by several different enemies, but I suggest we give those enemies an order of priority and act based on that.”
“Nyah, what enemies?”
“Currently, there are two major enemies. The first is the force made up of my colleagues…that is, the weapons created by the #2’s Level 5 Dark Matter…and Kakine Teitoku who controls them. But while this force is incredibly powerful, I can easily estimate what their actions will be. After all, I am a part of it. I simply have to think about what I would do in a given situation.”
That could also work against them as the enemy could estimate their actions the same way, but it was better than nothing.
At the very least, the situation would not turn deadly the very instant they happened across that force.
And on that note…
“The more dangerous enemy is Fräulein Kreutune. I do not know how powerful she is or what her behavioral patterns are, so the risk of a surprise attack is exceedingly high.”
Only the bare minimum of data on her had been enclosed within Rhinoceros Beetle 05.
It took the estimated derivative information of that data and converted it into words.
“Fräulein Kreutune is a creature that ecloses due to acquired information. She has come up with a way to gather massive amounts of information faster than observing it with her normal five senses. She wishes to take control of the massive electromagnetic information network known as the Misaka Network.”
Fremea gave a blank look, but Last Order fell into a deep silence.
“That network uses identical brainwaves and it can be felt as long as one has a means of manipulating bioelectricity. For example, my body is equipped with an organic antenna that uses the structure of the ampullae of Lorenzini that sharks use to find their prey. But…”
“Is it the same as how you cannot receive a TV signal by sticking a metal pole up into the air? says Misaka as Misaka asks for confirmation.”
“Yes, you need a program to act as a decoder. The most suitable person for that is you as you play the role of the command tower…or rather, of the external interface. By consuming your brain, she hopes to access the electromagnetic information inside of you by copying the entire labyrinth of synapses that is your brain. If she succeeds in that, she will take control of the Misaka Network, and quickly achieve eclosion by absorbing the entire information network.”
“Consume…do you mean eat? says Misaka as Misaka asks you a question.”
“Nyah! She would never do that! She said she was our friend!!”
Rhinoceros Beetle 05 hoped they were right.
But it doubted they were.
The data it had been given said those two girls had run across Fräulein Kreutune the previous night.
And Fräulein Kreutune had only obtained the function to consume brains once the date had changed at midnight.
It was best not to think of her as the same person she had been the night before.
“Fräulein Kreutune is not being driven by reason, thoughts, desires, urges, or instinct…this is nothing more than a function. And for that reason, it is powerful. Just as someone who uses their cell phone calculator forgets how to do simple arithmetic in their head and someone who uses their cell phone’s input method editor forget how to write kanji, this new function has forcibly changed her way of life. Fräulein Kreutune’s own thought patterns are of no consequence. Even if she tries to stop herself, this function will overcome her.”
She was a human who no one had been able to kill by any method for hundreds of years.
She was now approaching using the fastest method available to her in order to devour a small girl’s head.
To be blunt, Rhinoceros Beetle 05 had determined it was unlikely it could stop Fräulein Kreutune’s advance even if it was able to attack in any way it wanted. Firing countless shells, charging at her with its giant body, stabbing at her with its thick horn… The beetle could think of countless ways of doing great damage, but it could see no way that would stop her.
The beetle had a mental image of her legs continuing inexorably forward even if her head was blown off, her heart crushed, or her entire upper body ripped off.
Rhinoceros Beetle 05 itself was a weapon with no weak point. It was made to eventually regenerate any damage and regain freedom of movement even if it took some time.
But Fräulein Kreutune was a bit different.
Rhinoceros Beetle 05 had a nice proportional relationship between the amount of damage done and the time needed to regenerate, but no such relationship could be seen in Fräulein Kreutune.
The beetle would be unable to move for a while if it was heavily damaged, but Fräulein Kreutune could continue the attack with zero time lag even when heavy damage was done.
It was a subtle difference, but Rhinoceros Beetle 05 was able to understand exactly what it meant like an artisan who had reached a certain level of skill.
Ideally, they would never meet her.
That was Rhinoceros Beetle 05’s conclusion.
Facing her would be like playing an extended game of poker against an opponent that had an infinite amount of money to bet. The slightest mistake would bankrupt you. You would never last if you kept at it.
Luckily, Fräulein Kreutune could only travel using her own four limbs.
She could not suddenly grow wings or spit out strings like a spider.
It would raise the risk of being captured by Kakine Teitoku and his weapons, but they could set a hurdle obstructing her path simply by travelling along building walls or moving from rooftop to rooftop. The beetle could use the special characteristics of its insect-based form to their fullest.
But as Rhinoceros Beetle 05 was thinking that…
“Nyah. If that’s the case, we need to save her!!”
“Our friend is suffering, so we have no choice, agrees Misaka as Misaka nods.”
Their thoughts had shot off in a completely different direction.
The answer the beetle had come to based on its many different decisions had been completely blown away.
As Rhinoceros Beetle 05 fell into a confused state like a machine that had lost track its current coordinate position due to electromagnetic interference, the two girls spoke.
“After all, you said this doesn’t have anything to do with her thoughts. That means it isn’t her fault. I don’t get all this hard stuff about functions or whatever, but we can’t overlook this if she’s being forced to do it.”
“Misaka knows what it is like, says Misaka as Misaka remembers. Misaka knows how painful it is to be made to do something you don’t want to for someone else’s gain due to a program or a virus or whatever, says Misaka as Misaka taps her temple with her index finger. We can’t let this happen. If that is happening to Misaka’s friend, we have to save her, says Misaka as Misaka makes an announcement.”
Because she was suffering.
Because they wanted to save her.
Because she was their friend.
The white Rhinoceros Beetle 05 fell silent when it saw that those girls would act based on such small reasons despite knowing their lives would be at risk if they were actually attacked. The beetle analyzed why its carefully calculated thought process had not been valid. In addition to the standard logical thought process, Rhinoceros Beetle 05 had also obtained the ability to produce signal patterns modeled after simple human emotions. It began to investigate why it had been unable to predict how those girls would feel.
It came to a likely conclusion:
Because they possessed real hearts.
They put emotions above logic. They put their wishes above calculations. Even if it was foolish, that may have been what a real human heart was. Even if it was ridiculous, it was something precious that no one could laugh at.
In that case, Rhinoceros Beetle 05 had no choice but to go along with it.
The answer those girls had come to was something precious, noble, and beautiful. But at the same time, it was immature, dangerous, and would likely lead to failure. And so something was needed to bridge the gap between the ideal and reality. Before Last Order and Fremea could save anyone with that answer, something was needed to break through the risks of reality.
That irregular beetle that had left its creator Kakine Teitoku’s control was unlikely to have much of a future.
Its fate was to be pursued by its master Kakine Teitoku with nowhere to return to and no new goal point. Its fate was to be rejected as an outsider or a rampaging weapon by all other organizations and groups.
It would at least make sure to return these two girls to the place they had come from. If it was normal to risk one’s life for a friend in their world, the beetle would give priority to their way of doing things. And so it would not just view it as an objective to work at; it would make sure to perfectly accomplish it no matter what.
And that would also give meaning to the fact that it had left its master’s control.
“Understood,” said the white Rhinoceros Beetle 05 using its giant wings as it felt great inner distress over how great a risk it estimated this to be. “We will escape Kakine Teitoku’s pursuit and also work to save Fräulein Kreutune. Is that okay?”
“That’s what it means to be friends! says Misaka as Misaka bangs her palm against your open armor plate while floating in midair!”
“Nyah! I wouldn’t expect any other answer from a member of the Hamazura Brigade. Doing your best is great, but never forget that we all have to return home together!!”
Rhinoceros Beetle 05 lacked the ability to create expressions using the muscles of the face.
But it felt that was for the best.
It appreciated the girls’ promise, but it doubted it could live up to that.
The repeated sound of concrete being struck by metal grew more distant. The sound was coming from an underground tunnel, but Hamazura was still able to hear it from the surface.
“It sounds like those beetles are heading somewhere else.”
“Do you think they’re chasing Fremea and the other girl?”
Yoshikawa Kikyou operated her cell phone while glancing over at Hamazura and Takitsubo who were discussing the issue.
But she did not receive a response.
“She isn’t answering… But it might be safer if her phone isn’t on. That eliminates a means for her pursuers to track her location.”
“What do you think happened?” asked Hamazura.
“I am not exactly optimistic, but my guess is those beetles are chasing the two girls. I doubt their specs are low enough to lose to children’s legs and yet they still have not caught up. I suppose the logical conclusion is that someone or something is helping them.”
“Like that irregular beetle?”
Hamazura recalled that giant beetle that had blocked the exit with its own body.
But he was left with the question of who had released those weapons and for what purpose. And if they were being controlled by someone, were they equipped with any unpleasant functions?
Could the irregular beetle’s own thoughts be bypassed to give top priority to a remote command?
“Those tunnels were made for many different purposes: subway lines, underground passageways, multipurpose drains, and laying cable and other infrastructure. However, they all have one thing in common. Their layout is about as convoluted as an ant hill. If they are travelling while ignoring traffic rules, it would be difficult to predict what exit whoever is guiding them will use.”
“Even if we do catch up to them, what then? The pursuers will not be far behind. They have at least the firepower of a tank and they have a vector control technique to delicately manipulate shockwaves. Plus, they can regenerate given enough time even if split in two. …This is no enemy to stand up to with something like a bazooka,” said Yoshikawa.
“There’s still something we can do.” Hamazura crouched down and used a small rock he found to scrape a simple schematic diagram on the sidewalk. “We can’t destroy these beetles. In fact, they will regenerate even if we do. But what if we just obstruct them? For example, if we stab them with a bunch of thick hooked stakes like the harpoons used to kill sharks, they wouldn’t be able to pull them out.”
“Hamazura, do you know how tough their armor is?” asked Takitsubo.
“We saw a bunch of them fighting, remember? Maybe it’s because they’re made to regenerate, but they definitely didn’t look like their armor is so ridiculously strong that not even a nuke could destroy them. If we use something like what anti-terror teams use to break down doors, we should be able to break through their armor.”
“I remember a handheld pile bunker that could destroy fairly thick airtight doors being developed in case an armed group took over a research facility,” commented Yoshikawa. “Of course, people said it could lead to terrorism itself if it was misused.”
That type of handheld pile bunker would be stored in Anti-Skill stations or vehicles or in the disaster prevention boxes in research facilities. Hamazura was not particularly proud of the fact, but he could get his hands on one if he used the skills he had gained in Skill-Out.
To shoot through those white rhinoceros beetles’ armor, they would have to carry that heavy equipment right up to them. But to remain at a safe distance from those white rhinoceros beetles that had the specs of a tank, they needed to defeat the beetles while staying over 5 kilometers away. They of course could not prepare any means of doing that. And any distance less than 5 kilometers was the same. Whether they were 4 kilometers away or only 1 mm away from the enemy, they would still be shot by those shells the instant they were detected.
They could only succeed in an attack if they had a weapon small enough to carry in their hands and were able to travel without the enemy detecting them.
That would be best.
“But Hamazura, that means…” said Takitsubo.
“Yeah, the irregular one protecting the girls isn’t perfect either. If its movements are sealed, they’ll be defenseless. We need to save them before that happens.”
But suddenly they heard a familiar voice come from the side.
“Hm? What the hell? What is going on here?”
“Mugino?” said Hamazura in puzzlement after he turned around.
Standing next to Mugino’s tall form was Kinuhata Saiai who was waving at them.
“We were attacked by some annoying person before dawn and we picked up on something super suspicious going on in the city. I only just super lost that pain-in-the-ass Kuroyoru and met up with Mugino when all of a sudden I super spotted you two.”
“Hamazura, explain the situation in 30 seconds.”
As the situation required a lot of explanation, Hamazura began speaking very quickly. Mugino followed along politely enough at the beginning, but before long she fell silent and a displeased look appeared on her face. By the end of the explanation, she had grabbed Hamazura by the collar.
“Is that so, Hamazura? So what you’re saying is you have no idea where Fremea is, you’ve left her with an out-of-control weapon that might not be safe, and you have no idea why she is being attacked or who is behind it?”
“Heh…Eh heh heh. You could put it like that, I suppose.”
“Wait, Mugino, wait! This may be unfortunate, but forgive Hamazura!!”
“Yeah, if you keep slapping Hamazura with your fake arm, you’ll super knock his head off!!”
Kinuhata and Takitsubo frantically tried to stop the tyrannical queen after they saw Hamazura’s head sway back and forth in time to repeated striking sounds as if he had become a human metronome.
With the casualness of throwing away an empty drink can, Mugino tossed that high school boy to the side with one hand. He crashed into a roadside tree and slid down to the ground. It was hard to tell whether she had been releasing him or delivering the final blow.
“You get a failing grade for pretty much everything about that, but the one thing that is truly out of the question is your means of opposing the enemy weapons. What is this nonsense about it all being over once you’re spotted whether you’re 4 kilometers away or 1 mm away? Your plan is as irrational as deciding to throw a landmine because you don’t have a missile. Of course being 4 kilometers away is safer than being 1 mm away.”
Hamazura felt a strong desire to look away since he actually had once thrown a landmine at an armored vehicle in the snowy plains of Russia, but averting his gaze might upset Mugino and that could make her begin again with those deadly slaps.
And so he simply told the truth rather than making unnecessary excuses.
“But we aren’t Anti-Skill or some dark side organization that has proper support. Where are we supposed to find a means of attacking from kilometers away that can break through their arm-…bffaaah!!!???”
Hamazura suddenly shouted out because Mugino had mercilessly used her heel to step on his crotch as he sat on the ground.
Hamazura looked like he was about to start foaming at the mouth.
As he began to tremble, Takitsubo stared at him with a blank look in her eyes and said, “Hamazura, what’s wrong? Why are you shaking?”
“Maybe his entire body is just super grateful for that unexpected reward.”
The real answer was that he was simply unable to give a straight reaction.
Just as Hamazura began to seriously worry about where a girl’s boiling point was, he heard Mugino’s voice.
“Basically, you just need firepower that can take out a tank from 5 kilometers away, right? That’s easier than spinning a pen in my fingers. Why are you getting so worried about something like this that you’re preparing yourself to run up with a landmine in hand? What nonsense.”
“Or what? Are you trying to say Mugino Shizuri-san’s #4 Level 5 power of Meltdowner is cheaper and harder to use than some 10,000 yen rocket launcher!? Well, Haaamazuraaa!?”
“Nooooooooooooooooo!! I don’t know if you’re trying to cover up your embarrassment or if you really are pissed, but stop performing a denki anma in public! And the heel of your boot is seriously about to crush them, so stoooooooooooooppppppppppppppp!!”
Hamazura was unable to do anything to stop that hell of adolescence. As his consciousness grew faint, he noticed Yoshikawa Kikyou had called someone with her cell phone. She had said she was unable to reach Last Order, so this was likely someone else.
That intellectual woman who would probably look good in a lab coat grew visibly dejected as she spoke. She looked like a plant that had been left in the window during the heat of summer or a child who was being scolded by her teacher for forgetting her homework.
By the time she had hung up, a dark mood had come over Yoshikawa.
With a somehow distant look in her eyes, she asked, “It looks like I am also going to be scolded for inadequate supervision. I wonder if I will receive a denki anma from a high level esper too.”
After coming up to the surface, Rhinoceros Beetle 05 came to a stop while thinking. It lowered Last Order and Fremea to the ground nearby. It could have continued to keep them floating in midair using its giant thin wings, but they had started to rotate around and around on their centers of gravity and enjoying themselves so much that other children were drawing near. The beetle decided it was best to stop for the moment.
“Do you know about the Ichihanaransai? asks Misaka as Misaka turns her nose up at you.”
“Nyah! In the first place, how many times do I have to tell you I can’t stand having you looking down on me like that!?”
“Can you listen to me for a moment? Hello?”
At first glance, it appeared Rhinoceros Beetle 05 had left Kakine Teitoku’s control, but it had been unable to completely escape the #2’s curse. Even now, the order to eliminate the reason behind Fräulein Kreutune’s actions by killing Last Order was constantly repeating itself inside the beetle’s head(?).
“Tah dah! Misaka has the card for the stamp rally, says Misaka as Misaka shows it off. If you don’t have one of these ahead of time, you can’t enjoy the events, says Misa-…”
“Nyah, nyah!! I have one of those too!”
The reason Rhinoceros Beetle 05 did not actually take action on that order was because it was using its role of “narrowing down ideas” to constantly intentionally convert the oral command into its own interpretation. It was not rejecting the command or creating a new command on its own. The relationship of master and slave had not changed.
“We both have a card! In the first place, we need to see who wins as we go around to the school stands!”
“What happened to wanting to save Fräulein Kreutune!?” asked the beetle.
Rhinoceros Beetle 05 determined that it itself was most definitely one of the biggest threats to the two girls before it.
“Heh heh heh. Just filling up the stamp rally card is easy enough, but the elegance of the card changes depending on what stamps you use, says Misaka as Misaka explains the situation. Don’t think you can defeat Misaka without filling your card up with stamps for foods limited to 15 people or secret stamps! says Misaka as Misaka declares her victory.”
If Rhinoceros Beetle 05 was given an oral command intentionally made so it was unable to convert it incorrectly, it would be forced to kill Last Order and Fremea without hesitation.
“Nyah! I need to hurry up!! At this rate, you’ll hog all of the dangerous rare stamps for yourself!!”
“Hnya ha ha ha ha!! If you think dangerous rare is as high as it goes, you have no chance of defeating Misa-…Wait ,wait! Hear Misaka out before running off, says Misaka as Misaka-…!!”
And even if things did not go that far, if the information being gathered by the beetle’s five senses was shared with the entirety of what made up the “#2”, the Dark Matter army would be on them in no time at all.
“Huh? Where did those girls go?”
Rhinoceros Beetle 05 stopped thinking once it noticed the noisy voices were growing more distant. It emitted its artificial voice with its wings, but it received no response.
When it looked around, it found the two girls charging toward a nearby school with stamp rally cards in hand. The beetle decided the girls had lost all awareness of the fact they were being pursued. It needed to capture them immediately to keep them safe.
It could use its giant wings to float the girls in the air, but that did not possess the powerful constraining ability needed to capture people who were running around at random.
Rhinoceros Beetle 05 rechecked the specs on the foremost two of its six legs. Those legs were made to provide high speed movement and suppress the recoil when firing a shell. They also had claw-like spikes on the end, so there was a very real risk of slicing the girls apart if it tried to restrain them with its legs.
After thinking for a while, Rhinoceros Beetle 05 simply gave up.
It could not think of a way.
A few orange sparks began to fly from the asphalt as Rhinoceros Beetle 05 began chasing after Last Order and Fremea.
As it was the first day of the Ichihanaransai, the area around a school was crowded with students. The beetle saw no way it could blend into that scene, but to its surprise, no major commotion occurred.
A flood of voices reached its ears…or rather, the thin wings it spread out to detect the vibrations in the air.
“This is from that leading university, right? That thing where they fight while riding robots shaped like rhinoceros beetles or stag beetles. Boys sure do love bugs.”
“But did they have a white one? Is it a rare version or something???”
“The sad truth is that they will lose their research funding if they don’t periodically display the fruits of their research in a way even a child can understand.”
Once they had accepted the beetle in their own way, they saw no reason to find fault in it. Rhinoceros Beetle 05 was a bit worried about the fact that a strange weapon could make its way onto a school campus without any kind of permit, but it was finally able to catch up to the two girls running through the makeshift labyrinth of stands.
It seemed they were able to pay up front by handing their subway IC cards to the schoolgirl running the stand.
“What are you doing?” asked the beetle.
“Nyah, nyah!! This is a sharpshooting stand! Don’t you think it’s cheating to make the rare stamp itself be the prize!? In the first place, it’s too small to hit!!”
“Is it true the standard thing to do with these is to shoot the girl running the stand? asks Misaka as Misaka holds the cork gun in one hand.”
Rhinoceros Beetle 05 looked over at the stand.
The middle school girl running it was forcing a smile, but the smile was beginning to twitch a bit. The stand itself had several stepped shelves made of wood with cute stuffed animals and other prizes set up on them. It seemed to be a game where one attempted to shoot those prizes with the rifle.
Rhinoceros Beetle 05 shook its cannon barrel slightly in a mannerism similar to tilting its head in confusion.
“Isn’t this a slightly violent setup?”
“What are you saying? Misaka feels a lot sorrier for the one stuffed animal that is left all alone in the end, insists Misaka as Misaka holds up her cork gun. This strike will release this stuffed animal’s soul! says Misaka as Misaka leans way up over the counter to bring her cork gun closer to the target which is completely fair and definitely not cheati-…fgyahhh!!”
As Last Order practically climbed up on top of the counter, she very nearly fell inside the stand like a seesaw, so the middle school girl frantically stopped her.
As Fremea used up cork bullet after cork bullet in her attempt to hit the rare stamp, she suddenly turned toward Rhinoceros Beetle 05.
More specifically, she turned to look at the thick horn that acted as its cannon barrel.
“Nyah. You can’t use that.”
“I know that.”
“Nyah, nyah!! No matter how much trouble I have trying to hit the rare stamp, in the first place you can’t get frustrated and use that!!”
“I am having trouble determining whether you are trying to stop me or to get me to do it. At any rate, I am not going to.”
While providing that ideal response, Rhinoceros Beetle 05 continued staring at the stuffed animals lined up within the sharpshooting stand.
They were all nothing but colored cloth stuffed with cotton and shaped like animals.
One was shaped like the animal known as a lion, so it was called a lion.
One was shaped like the animal known as a giraffe, so it was called a giraffe.
One was shaped like the animal known as an elephant, so it was called an elephant.
It seemed that the standard human way of looking at it was that the one shaped like a lion was not called an elephant even though they were both made in the exact same way and they both contained the exact same thing inside. Yet the leather shoes the middle school girl running the stand was wearing were made of real cowhide yet they were not called a cow.
That mysterious world where the real thing and imitations were mixed together got Rhinoceros Beetle 05 wondering what that would make it.
Was it a rhinoceros beetle because its external appearance was made to look like one?
Was it Dark Matter because it was made up of that single material?
Was it merely something that was constantly receiving orders from Academy City’s #2?
Was there any value in something that continued to intentionally misinterpret its orders?
“Nyah. Do you want the lion?”
“In the first place, you’ve been staring at it. If you want it, just say so! We can work together to get it! Nyah, nyah. So point that giant horn towards the stand.”
“…I told you I am not going to fire.”
“You don’t have to, so hurry, hurry.”
Still confused, Rhinoceros Beetle 05 simply did as it was told. When it did, Fremea suddenly started to climb up it. She slowly made her way to the tip with her thighs wrapped tightly around the thick horn as if she was carefully crossing a log lying across a canyon.
When she reached the end of the cannon that was practically sticking into the stand, she held up her cork gun with an air of importance.
“Nyah. I can’t miss at point blank range!!”
Rhinoceros Beetle 05 did not want to help her cheat, so it shook its cannon barrel back and forth.
The schoolgirl running the stand still did not understand some of what was going on, so she simply smiled at what she could understand of the situation.
Right after that, the small sound of a crack running within Rhinoceros Beetle 05’s body could be heard.
The toll leaving Kakine Teitoku’s control had taken on the beetle was finally beginning to show itself.
Some kind of bombardment had suddenly occurred in District 7.
That small piece of information had reached the magicians who had wasted their time heading to District 12.
“It’s possible this is another diversion that will just waste our time, but it’s definitely better than nothing. Even a decoy can give you information if you push them hard enough,” muttered the Saint named Silvia while sounding bored.
She took a bite of a sandwich and a sip of some coffee from a world famous chain restaurant before expressionlessly pushing the entire plate away from her.
The plate ended up next to Brunhild, but she pushed it aside to Leivinia.
“Who we will find at the scene of this bombardment will change depending on whether it was simply a struggle to secure the rampaging Fräulein Kreutune or if it was a diversion meant to draw our attention. If it is simply the conclusion, it could become quite the drawn out battle with everyone after Fräulein Kreutune gathered in one place,” said Brunhild as she took a bite of a hot dog, grimaced, covered the entire thing in yellow mustard, and began eating it again. “And if it is an elaborate diversion, who set it up? Was it Gremlin? Was it the hidden side of Academy City? Or was it…”
“Kamijou Touma?” said Leivinia as she cut up a small salad with a fork without even glancing at the plate that had ended up with her. “I doubt he would carry out a diversion with a strong destructive side to it…or at least not of his own will. It all depends on who he is working with. To be honest, I sometimes cannot predict how his mind will work.”
Silvia gave a thin smile when she heard Leivinia spit out those words.
“So are you a sulking child? Well, it does suit you and I personally like it.”
“You look like a girl after the older neighborhood boy she relied on moves on and leaves her behind. Then again, he did manage to trick you despite being shot in an unexpected accident. So are you just surprised that someone you have been looking down on was thinking things through more deeply than you thought? But that is just how people are. People always think about a lot more than other people think they do.”
“Are you making fun of me?”
“I don’t know who you are mad at right now,” said Silvia to simply brush it aside. “But your anger is misdirected. You deceived him as much as you liked for your own ends, but now you can’t stand that he got you back? That is childish. You need to be prepared for people to do to you what you do to them. You should count yourself lucky he didn’t get you back two or three times worse than you did to him.”
The restaurant became filled with a feeling like something invisible was burning.
In a more dangerous country, the other customers may have realized it was killer intent.
Silvia was of course the type of person who knew perfectly well what it was.
Yet she ignored it and continued to speak.
“Of course, there are plenty of different reasons to deceive people. People often explain away what they said as being a ‘kind lie’. I suppose this would be especially hard on you if that was your intent. For example, if by any chance you were trying to get a certain someone to safely drop out of this dispute with Gremlin before it intensified too-…”
A high pitched noise like glass shattering exploded out.
It was unclear what had happened just by looking at the scene.
Leivinia Birdway was reaching her slender arm across the table and Brunhild Eiktobel had grabbed her wrist.
Silvia was still grinning.
A single drop of red was trailing down from the corner of her mouth.
“Restrain yourself,” muttered Brunhild quietly.
Leivinia roughly shook her hand free and spoke disinterestedly.
“Where is Ollerus?”
Leivinia openly clicked her tongue at Silvia’s simple response.
And then she stood up from her chair.
“Then let’s get started on our own. …This time, we will crush everything so thoroughly that nothing remains.”
Two of the fewer than 20 Saints in the world and the boss of one of the greatest magic cabals in England.
Those monsters possessed enough power to destroy an entire nation that had weak magical defenses. And they would soon take action.
“Rainbow yakisoba!!” announced Fremea as she proudly showed off a noodle dish that’s coloration was obviously much too artificial.
They had visited around 13 schools, but the girls were showing no sign of tiring. Given the makeup of their muscle tissue, they had to have been feeling fatigue, but Rhinoceros Beetle 05 determined the chemical secretions in their brains must have been slowing their awareness of that fact.
Rhinoceros Beetle 05 thought while an odd cracking noise could be heard from within its body.
(I wish I could deal with it in the same way…)
It was made from Academy City’s #2 Level 5 power of Dark Matter.
Originally, Rhinoceros Beetle 05 could have easily taken a blast from a tank and could have regenerated almost instantly from a blast from a battleship.
But the beetle was not actually all that tough.
It may have been similar to how the skin protecting an animal would rot if it was not made into a sturdy bag.
The slave was nothing more than a wonderful material. It was the master’s job to make use of it.
“Nyah? Why are you being so quiet?”
“Oh, no reason…”
“Are you hungry? In the first place, you can have half of my rainbow yakisoba!”
“I wish to decline that offer with all of my being.”
Rhinoceros Beetle 05 focused on rechecking its condition while hiding its internal destruction.
Academy City’s #2, Kakine Teitoku, and Fräulein Kreutune had to still be pursuing them. The beetle had input the initial condition that the chance of danger was lower if they remained constantly on the move than if they remained in one place. And on top of that, it had decided letting their path be decided by those girls’ seemingly random ideas was harder to read than mechanically calculating out the shortest and most optimal escape route.
It did mostly come down to the fact that Rhinoceros Beetle 05 had simply given in to Last Order and Fremea who were restlessly darting from one place to the next.
“Heh heh heh. Misaka has filled in half the stamps, says Misaka as Misaka snickers.”
Last Order had bought a bag filled with various prism-shaped sugar candies, but after grabbing just two or three of them, she tied up the clear bag with a fluffily decorated wire.
“These are a present, says Misaka as Misaka puts them in the storage area.”
It seemed the “storage area” was Rhinoceros Beetle 05’s cannon barrel. Ever since they had acquired that fluffy wire, the girls had been tying bags filled with sweets to that cannon like it was a clothesline.
“A butterfly would be cuter, says Misaka as Misaka complains.”
“You are being prejudiced. Please think about it rationally. You cannot tell them apart from moths.”
“Hah hah hah. Yes, but a rhinoceros beetle with a black shine would look just like a cockroa-…”
The beetle vibrated its giant thin wings to block out the rest of her comment with a reverse phase sound wave.
There were some things that simply should not be said.
“Um, can we get back to the real issue at hand?” asked the beetle.
“Nyah? What’s that?”
“Your earlier comments suggested you wished to take action to save Fräulein Kreutune, but how do you plan to do that? One problem that occurs to me is that we do not know where she is.”
“Hah hah hah. Leave that to Misaka! says Misaka as Misaka puffs out her chest proudly!” Last Order grew meaninglessly cocky. “I gave her a security buzzer so we could contact each other! says Misaka as Misaka reveals her secret plan. It has a GPS on it, so we can tell where she is right away, says Misaka as Misaka explains further!”
“Nyah, nyah! That was my buzzer!!”
Rhinoceros Beetle was going to finish with “…like a rather dangerous factor”, but it did not put that part to words.
Even someone who had no reason to target Last Order or Fremea directly could use that as a reason to target the girls in order to pursue Fräulein Kreutune.
Also, Last Order and Fremea trusted their “friend” unconditionally, so they had given no thought to what would happen once they found Fräulein Kreutune. The beetle approved of the idea of saving her, but approaching her unconditionally was like asking to be attacked. They needed some kind of plan.
“Anyway, we bought a bunch of presents, so let’s go meet her now, says Misaka as Misaka begins running!”
“I already told you I get to go first!! Don’t run off like that!”
Rhinoceros Beetle 05 heard the sound of a large crack forming as it began pursuit of those girls who had run off in some random direction once more.
(Measuring self collapse pattern. Adding burden caused by travel method. Beginning simulation…Some ability to control direction of crack advancement proven.)
Rhinoceros Beetle 05 could not avoid the cracks from forming, but it seemed able to control where they formed and how quickly they spread with its own actions.
The beetle called up a few tactical patterns and came to a conclusion.
(Cutting off crack advancement towards body surface. Readjusting direction of collapse towards inner portions of body.)
Even if it was made of Dark Matter, no one would normally decide to allow their inner structure be eaten away to protect their outer appearance.
And yet Rhinoceros Beetle 05 chose to do so.
If its damage was discovered, Last Order and Fremea’s random movements would be restricted.
The beetle had determined one of the reasons they had yet to be attacked was because of the randomness of their movements that no adult could predict.
That meant the worst thing they could do was stay in one place.
The beetle saw no meaning in drawing out their utterly useless emotions in that moment.
“Nyah!! Hurry up! The rainbow yakisoba is going to get cold before we can give it to her!!”
“Understood,” said Rhinoceros Beetle 05 using the artificial voice created by its giant wings.
It then began to think.
According to the data related to Fräulein Kreutune that had been inputted into it for the mission, she was trying to acquire a large amount of information by consuming Last Order’s brain.
Once she had seen her “target”, she would head straight for it while ignoring any obstacles in the way. It did not matter if there was lava or a concrete wall in between.
But if Fräulein Kreutune only knew how to head straight for her target without taking any danger into account, could it be possible to set up a trap?
Or could something cause her to no longer view Last Order as her target and stray from that path?
(But in both cases, I have too little sample information. And it is much too dangerous to attempt to gather information on the scene.)
The beetle of course could not entrust Last Order or Fremea to such a reckless plan.
If it came to it, Rhinoceros Beetle 05 would have to place itself in between them.
In its perfect state, Rhinoceros Beetle 05 was a monster supported by the #2 esper power in Academy City. It was possible it would be able to acquire some information during a fight with Fräulein Kreutune that could be used as a hint.
Ominous cracks were beginning to run through Rhinoceros Beetle 05’s body.
How long it would last was an unknown value.
In the worst case, it could even shatter like a piece of glasswork during the clash.
(From the beginning, I had incorporated into the plan that I will eventually be destroyed.)
Rhinoceros Beetle 05 thought silently while speeding up its legs to catch up with Last Order and Fremea.
It had to make sure the girls suspected nothing.
(But I hope to find some method of ensuring their safety before I am destroyed.)
It looked up into the sky.
The November sky was entirely dyed blue. Its shade was as clear as an answer reached via proven formulas.
But an airship cut across the sky.
For some reason, the large screen on its side was showing an image of schoolgirls in swimsuits.
“The beauty contest at Eiri Academy High School is causing lots of excitement on the first day of the Ichihanaransai! The amazing freedom of allowing outsiders to participate and allowing the contestants to bring their own swimsuits has really raised the level of the competition! I’m sure some of you are wondering if bandages or bandaids really count as swimsuits, but let’s not worry too much about that! But of those with normal swimsuits, the two with the most focus are definitely Academy City’s #5, Shokuhou Misaki-san, and the well-known and mysterious Kumokawa Seria-san whose age is a secret despite being a high school girl!! I’ve gotta say, they are pretty damn amazing!!”
“I am only up here because my friends forced me, but why would anyone be interested in some old woman who refuses to even come over here?”
“I just need to ask: why did I all of a sudden find myself on this stage doing this? And the reason I am keeping to the opposite side of the stage is because I do not want to enter your range, little girl.”
Rhinoceros Beetle 05 did not want the girls staring at that, so it opened up the pieces of armor used to store its giant wings and blocked Last Order and Fremea’s view.
Having that formulaic blue sky filled with the color of skin seemed to ruin it in a few different ways.
She did not want to gather any more attention than necessary, so Cendrillon grabbed Kamijou’s arm as he sank to the ground and half carried and half dragged him to a nearby alley. When she pressed his upper body against the ground and forcibly rolled up his shirt, she grimaced.
“This is…a gunshot wound?” she said in French, but Kamijou did not respond.
The girl muttered something under her breath and the blood flowing from the wound emitted an unnatural pale blue light. But once the light moved to cover Kamijou’s entire body, the light suddenly scattered like a candle being blown out.
Technically, it was the instant the light reached his right hand.
“So you negate even the simplest of healing methods. And yet the simpler the thing, the more powerful the effects. It will likely be difficult to interfere with anything that flows throughout your entire body.”
After giving her French comments that she clearly was not expecting an answer to, Cendrillon pulled a handkerchief out from within her dress. She tore it in two, balled the pieces up, and held them in place to stop up the wounds on his side and his back.
“It is the most basic thing to do, and so it cannot hurt to do it. I can hold the cloth in place with duct tape.”
“Wait, don’t put something you found on the ground over my wounds!!”
Whatever he said, it seemed she had no intention of replying with anything other than French.
But she was acting so roughly he would not have been surprised if she tried to close his wounds with safety pins.
“Hold those in place,” said Cendrillon before disappearing somewhere. She returned a few minutes later with a pot filled with a clear liquid, a thick plastic bag, a tube, and a few other items.
Kamijou’s face grew pale and he opened his mouth to say, “Wait a second…”
“I have treated it with boiling water and alcohol.”
“Muttering things in French isn’t going to make me any less afraid. You’re not explaining anything! Please don’t tell me that’s an attempt at an IV made with way too much originality. Are you sure this is safe-…byaaaahhh!?”
Kamijou cried out as some strange substance was sent flowing into a vein on his arm.
And then he realized he was feeling good enough to shout out that vigorously.
“This is saline water with a concentration of 0.9%. It only manipulates your blood pressure to get rid of your body’s warning signals, but it can help you avoid falling into shock from blood loss.”
After having been turned into a human table and back to normal, Cendrillon treated things having to do with the human body in a rather dry manner.
“If you do not want to die, keep your wound in mind at all times. You are still of use to me.”
Kamijou was a bit worried that he could still taste iron in his mouth.
He had first run into that girl in Hawaii and had found her again in Baggage City after Marian Slingeneyer had turned her into a table. Kamijou and Ollerus had returned her to her human form, but he did not remember her being so short.
When Kamijou took another serious look at Cendrillon’s face, she averted her gaze for some reason.
“…A lot has happened,” she muttered in French.
The Lightning God Thor had climbed up on top of the water storage tank that sat on a building rooftop. As he glanced around and spotted after-effects of destruction and panicked students here and there, he let out an irritated groan.
From his vantage point, he could see both the direction in which Fräulein Kreutune was staggering and where Kamijou Touma lay curled up with his open wound. But he also spotted something else he could not overlook.
“Is that the Cendrillon I saw in the reports? I had nothing to do with the incident in Hawaii, so it really has nothing to do with me, but I get the feeling things would get really annoying if she spotted me.”
But he could not let Fräulein Kreutune go free for much longer.
With the great commotion that had occurred, various different groups and various different people would soon be drawing in towards her. If he did nothing, she would either be captured or killed.
To solve the problem, he needed Kamijou Touma’s right hand.
Thor did not want any great damage to be done to Academy City which was almost inevitable if those powerful enemies clashed. However, if everything was being collected in one location, it was possible he could still avoid that path of destruction even if doing so would be like walking a tightrope. He was most afraid of having Gremlin, Ollerus, and the monsters of Academy City’s dark side beginning simultaneous battles all across the city. If that happened, mere individuals like Thor and Kamijou would be unable to stop the damage that would surely spread at an explosive rate.
(If possible, I wanted to solve each individual issue one at a time with surprise attacks and avoid having those powerful enemies clash at all…)
If one thought about it, Kamijou’s ability to negate only the enemy’s magic and Thor’s direct firepower was the ideal combination for that method.
But like in all things, what mattered most was timing.
Now that the proper timing had been lost, they would have no chance to play the hand they had collected.
He needed to change his thought process.
To deal with those powerful enemies as they were gathered in one place, Thor wanted to meet up with Kamijou Touma. But to do that, he needed something that would distract the focus of Cendrillon and her intense hatred of Gremlin. But he had few pawns available to him.
If Cendrillon saw anyone from Gremlin, she would likely explode.
That meant Mjölnir was no good. And Marian Slingeneyer was most definitely out of the question. But who else did Thor know?
“…Found someone. I know that face from the FCE”
Thor grinned as he looked around from atop the water storage tank.
After performing a simple task on his cell phone, he unhesitatingly jumped from the tank. He was not jumping to the concrete floor of the roof. He jumped past the edge of the roof and down towards the ground where the people looked like mere specks.
Ignoring the artificial wind pressure blowing up from below, he prepared his legs for the landing.
Just before impact, arc fusion blades shot forcefully out from the bottom of his feet. The air violently expanded and rapidly lowered the speed of his fall.
He had no time to spare.
Thor ignored the crowd that was beginning to make a commotion over his appearance, raised a hand, and called out to his target with a smile.
“Hey there, Miko-chan. How are you doing?”
“Who are you!? Don’t just start talking to me like we’re friends!!”
The girl shouting as bluish-white sparks flew from her bangs was Misaka Mikoto, Academy City’s #3 Level 5.
Technically, Thor had never met Misaka Mikoto, but he had thoroughly investigated her speech patterns using the FCE footage of her conversations in Hawaii in order to disguise himself as her. It would not be difficult to ad lib some way of getting her to do what he wanted.
Thor opened up his foreign-made cell phone to show her the small screen and he immediately got to the core of the issue.
“I happen to have a photo of your friend Kamijou Touma-kun doing his usual thing by being nursed to health by some mysterious little blonde girl. What do you think about that?”
“Tell me right this instant where he is.”
Monster, monster, monster, monster.
The situation had developed to the point where one could look around and not see a single normal human being.
Some came from different parts of Academy and some came from outside the city.
They drew together in one spot for a single battle over a single girl.
Between the Lines 5
Fräulein Kreutune herself had mostly become a legend during her long history and various theories had spread regarding her origin.
It was said she was a real witch.
It was said she had taken on a newly evolved form of humanity after becoming infected by a special bacteria.
It was said she was an alien.
It was said she was nothing but a mass of flesh that lacked a soul.
It was said she was the “true form” of the human body after it had been truly optimized.
It was said she was an illusion created by the guilt of those carrying out the witch hunt.
It was said she was a time traveler that had the technology to discretely perceive timelines and to freely move between them. (This was often conflated with the alien theory.)
It was said she was not an individual but an organization by the same name.
It was said she was like a dark Santa Claus and was therefore a fictional being created to frighten children.
It was said she was a mysterious existence that had been discovered beneath thick ice.
It was said she was a play on words the compiler of a fairy encyclopedia had worked into the list.
The fact that so many different theories had spread had meaning in and of itself. For example, it meant a large number of people knew of her existence. It meant that many people had given it so much thought and yet had been unable to find the answer. It meant she had continued to gather attention and focus due to the fear and disgust people felt towards her.
If one looked at the flood of different theories from a conspiracy theory viewpoint, it could be seen in a different way.
It was possible someone had intentionally released all that false information to hide the truth.
Or it was possible someone had randomly released that flood of information so it would be gathered as rumors, the wrong answers would be weeded out, and society would naturally approach the optimized answer. In other words, it was possible someone had been trying to automatically calculate out her identity.
It was true that Fräulein Kreutune was an eerie existence.
But there was no guarantee that she was the only frightening thing in this world.