Toaru Majutsu no Index:NT Volume8 Chapter2
Chapter 2: Miniature Garden Within the Investigation. Area_No.23.
There was a fair bit of conflict on the way, but as planned(?), Kamijou Touma arrived in Academy City District 23 by bus.
His party had started out with Index, Leivinia Birdway, Lessar, and the calico cat as members, but Misaka Mikoto had joined at some point.
“What happened to Japan’s compulsory education?” he asked her.
“Unlike you, my school trusts me. I don’t have any problems with attendance, so I can miss a few days and be fine.”
“Trust, hm? Yeah, I don’t have that…”
“Wait. Why are you staring off in the distance so much today? Are you tired???”
If Kamijou Touma wrote down a detailed time schedule, he had a feeling it would be in violation of some kind of labor law, but unfortunately for him, clenching his fist and punching people did not legally qualify as labor.
The terminal building for District 23’s international airport had a very open design that used a lot of glass to allow plenty of sunlight in. It was a weekday and Academy City was strict about who it let in and out, so it was not filled with sightseers. Nevertheless, it still had plenty of people coming and going.
One group was wearing the traditional outfit of some distant country. There was a businessman wearing a custom suit that was obviously not premade and probably cost as much as a domestic family car. The person with him was either a secretary or translator. The great number of people in work clothes was due to Academy City’s lack of any entrances by sea sending that traffic to the land and air routes instead.
“We made it this far, but what do we do now?”
“Nothing,” simply replied Birdway. “As I explained, we are waiting for further instructions right now. The supersonic passenger plane is completely chartered, so we don’t have to line up at the reception counter for some airline. We can also skip the metal detectors and X-ray scan. We head out to the runway through the crew exit and ride an electronic cart straight to that monstrous plane. We also have the highest rank for takeoff priority, so we don’t have to wait for other planes to take off.”
“I can’t believe that,” muttered Mikoto who had been half-listening. “Academy City is full of scientific information. There may have been takeoffs and landings that ignored the standard procedures during the confusion of World War Three, but this kind of special treatment could be used to slip proprietary technology out of the city.”
“And there’s enough danger now to warrant that risk. This is on just as large a scale as that war, if not larger. This is no time to worry about the smaller issues.”
“Wow. That sounds bad,” cut in Lessar as if it had nothing to do with her. “But if we’re waiting for orders, that means this is essentially free time, right? Then I want to go to the shopping mall over there. There’s something I want to buy duty free while I have the chance.”
“What is it?” asked Index as she held the calico cat.
“Well,” replied Lessar immediately. “A showy swimsuit.”
For an instant, Kamijou Touma lost his ability to chain events together as if a stun grenade had gone off nearby.
It was November. What would she be doing that needed a swimsuit!?
As confusion fell over Kamijou, Mikoto silently grabbed the collar of his school uniform.
She shook him back and forth and asked him questions with all her strength.
“Hey!! What kind of space-time exists around you!? Do you have some special characteristic that distorts the rules of the world around you toward the color pink like some kind of black hole!?”
“This! Isn’t! My! Fault! I! Don’t! Know! What! To! Tell! You!!”
Kamijou gained the new experience of hearing the Doppler Effect on his own voice, but it was not something he could enjoy. His semicircular canals were on the verge of being completely destroyed and he did not want to vomit before even boarding the monster airplane.
“Listen. We may be fighting alongside the Anglican Church and the Roman Catholic Church for now, but we aren’t going to get along forever,” said Lessar as she shrugged. “Once we make our united attack and finish things with Gremlin, who will their next enemy be? They’ll naturally want to defeat the thorn in both their sides while working together. …And they will work fast to defeat that enemy while they still know where it is.”
“So that’s it,” spat out Birdway. She looked calm, so she had likely already anticipated that problem. “Yes. A southern resort on the other side of the world would be a good place to hide until the heat dies down.”
“Ah, that was my vacation plan! Please don’t come along! You’ll just make some odd mistake and bring them after both of us!!”
As the two girls argued, Kamijou’s party was dragged to the duty free shopping mall. It was obvious the word “swimsuit” would bring nothing good with such a dangerous group. (He was especially worried about a heavy tsukkomi coming in the form of biting or high voltage electricity.) However, he had no answer of his own as to how to kill time until someone contacted them.
In fact, a normal high school student had no way of knowing what was inside the service facilities of an international airport or where any of it would be.
The aforementioned shopping mall was a vast three-story building with the center opened up between all three floors. According to the posters hung up here and there, the building contained over one thousand stores. Kamijou had a feeling a glance at a map of the place would make him dizzy.
“I doubt there are even 1000 different kinds of stores in the world. How much internal competition is there in this place?”
While not listening to Kamijou’s comment, Birdway and Lessar stared at the guide map that had a touch screen to search for the store one wanted.
“This has the same layout as a prison’s cell block.”
“When you want to cover as much of the facility as possible with as few cameras as possible, you naturally end with something similar.”
Kamijou wondered if it was normal for their chats to have such dangerous words mixed in. He also thought they would stand out in a tropical resort right away no matter how proper a swimsuit they wore.
“So where do you want to go? Have you found a store that caught your interest?”
“50% Less Skin Covered.”
“That isn’t proper at all! You really aren’t trying to blend in, are you!?”
“You fool. We are going to an international resort where you’re free to have fun however you like. You try going there wearing a mass of cloth that some hick would wear. You would stand out more than the shining sun.”
“N-no. Kamijou-san doesn’t have it in him to oppose the entire idea of swimsuits in November even if it is a turn of events on the level of having the whatever-they’re-called lines on your palm turn at a right angle. But I would at least like to turn your choice of store in a more normal direction, okay? H-how about this one called Tropical Bright Girl?”
“That’s for hicks.”
“Go apologize to the people working there!! I promise I’ll bow down with you!!”
Kamijou could tell this was bad. From that store name alone, he could tell he would be thrown into a mysterious space of comedy. It would start with an “Okay, I’m going to go try this on”, and then “Oh, no! The changing room’s curtain!”, and finally a series of blows. He could not let that happen. He was with Leivinia Birdway, Lessar, Misaka Mikoto, and Index. If those four ganged up on him, he would turn into something unrecognizable! Kamijou Touma was not a pure saint. If the goddess of some spring appeared and asked him if he wanted her to wear a swimsuit made up of a lot of cloth or one made up of little cloth, he would choose the one with little cloth. He might even ask if no swimsuit at all was an option! However, his answer would change when he knew reaching out for it would cost him his life!!
(Wh-wh-wh-wh-what… What am I supposed to do? When it comes to the genre of girls’ swimsuits, Birdway and Lessar’s opinions pack more of a punch than mine. Can I not win with the logic of a guy!? What do I need to push this in a more normal direction!?)
“Ah! That’s it! Okay, okay, okay!! Kamijou-san suggests we hold a democratic vote! Where do people want to go: 50% Less Skin Covered or Tropical Bright Girl!?”
Birdway gave an understanding look.
“Don’t be shy, boy. You actually want to head in the direction of more skin, but you’re hesitant to boldly suggest it yourself, aren’t you? Don’t worry. We will give you the justification you need. Okay?”
“You’re being considerate of the exact opposite of my feelings!?”
“In fact, I’m fine with pointlessly stripping down right here.”
“Why would you do that!? That really is pointless!!”
This may be getting repetitive, but a romantic Kamijou Touma that wanted to pursue girls’ bare skin did exist within him. However, his experiences told him this would end in a great tragedy brought on by his usual miraculous misfortune.
He had to bring this to an end somehow.
He did not want to leave behind the ultra silly dying words of “I think I’ve lost more blood at times like this than during World War Three”.
“(Misaka-san, Misaka-san! This is in your best interest, too. Could you help Kamijou-san out here?)”
“Eh? What? This has nothing to do with me. I have no plans to visit a tropical island, so why would I go into a swimsuit store and buy one?”
“(Letting your guard down will end up showing that truth is stranger than fiction by giving you a three bandage set.)”
“That has no connection to the past, present, or future, but it does seem like anything could happen when I’m with you. I don’t want that!!”
“(And Index-san! Between 50% Less Skin Covered and Tropical Bright Girl, you would choose the latter, right? Right?)”
“I don’t know what either of them are.”
“But tropical sounds delicious, right?”
“You’re right!! I agree with Touma!!”
“That was a complete non sequitur!” shouted Mikoto in surprise, but Kamijou did not care.
“Fwa ha ha ha ha!! With my vote added, that’s three against two. Birdway, Lessar, your ambitions have come to their end!!”
“What? It’s too soon to think you’ve won. Your suggestion has a single loophole.”
“You aren’t going to raise the cat’s paw to make it three against three, are you?”
“This is a more fundamental issue.” Birdway snapped her fingers and spun around the cell phone she pulled from her skirt pocket. “You said we would have a vote, but you never said who could vote or how many people could vote! In other words, I can gather as many reinforcements as I need with a single phone call! Boy, don’t underestimate the personnel network of one of England’s…no, one of Europe’s…no, one of the world’s leading magic cabals, the Dawn-Colored Sunlight!!”
“What!? I-if you can do that, then I can…”
“Are you going to get help from your friends and classmates? Do you really think that can stand up to the scale of the Dawn-Colored Sunlight that has spread across the world!? A democratic vote is essentially violence in numbers. You were quite the fool to challenge the boss of a magic cabal in that arena. Ha ha ha ha ha ha!!”
Birdway gave the perfect villainous boss laugh, typed out an email with her thumb, and sent it out to the world.
Countless responses arrived from a few seconds later to a few dozen seconds later.
That speed showed just how tightly she held the reigns of her men.
And then Birdway glanced down at the screen.
From: Mark Space
To: Leivinia Birdway.
Sub: We don’t have time for this nonsense. Have some sense.
Body: / /
It was an extremely rough email with no body.
“Okay, let’s begin the vote! Birdway?”
Kamijou Touma took on the role of host, but Birdway only stared at the cell phone screen while trembling and not raising a hand for either option.
The battle was over.
The Kamijou Party changed their destination from 50% Less Skin Covered to Tropical Bright Girl.
“Come to think of it, no one needs Kamijou-san in the store, right? I-in that case, I can wait here.”
He tried to compromise even further, but Birdway gave a cry of desperation.
“I told you the plan was to throw you in a supersonic passenger plane and send you anywhere in the world as soon as we got word, you fool! We need to stay a single group to make sure you don’t get lost at the crucial moment!!”
Kamijou ended up being dragged away like a vacuum cleaner being pulled along by a young housewife.
Mikoto and Index followed from a short distance.
“Hey, are things always this crazy with him? Do you never question the overwhelming unfairness of it all?”
“Touma’s usual chains of incidents go much further than this. This is still at about the third link on the chain.”
Kamijou walked around the shopping mall while being pulled along by Birdway’s small (and extraordinarily powerful) hand. He glanced at the different stores to see what they were selling.
They were all airport duty free stores, so they primarily sold what would function as souvenirs.
On top of that, there were a lot of fashion stores. Kamijou could only think they were targeting the fashionable people who were winning at life or that they wanted to give a fashionable impression of Academy City to the tourists and businessmen who came through. There were also plenty of stores that sold electronics, but all the products were very focused on design. They were all small devices with smart, streamlined shapes not seen in foreign models that looked like they could look up the day’s recommended recipe in a colorful kitchen. They looked like something from an economics magazine article titled “The Ideal IT Life of the World’s Top 100 Influential People!”
…Or so Kamijou had expected.
“What? These are all really old models.”
“That’s because these are duty free stores meant for visitors,” cut in Mikoto. “These are meant to be brought out as souvenirs, so putting in Academy City’s latest technology would allow the technology to leak out. In other words, everything here is kept at a level that is acceptable to have leak out.”
“Um… Then I don’t see how we could enjoy looking at any of this.”
“Ohh? Does this disappointment come from the sexy swimsuits you hoped to see those tea-drinking, cake-eating British nobles wearing? Is that what you mean? Is it?”
“Why!? Why is everything so difficult to deal with today!? Kamijou-san was only trying to find some small objective amid this hopeless away game of visiting a swimsuit store with a guy-girl ratio of 1 to 4! I was only desperately trying to turn my focus to the guy-like interests of electronics and gadgets! That’s all I was trying to do!!”
“D-don’t call me difficult to deal with!!”
“Ahh! Things just got even more difficult!!”
As his mental escape paths continued to dwindle, Index walked up next to Kamijou and spoke while holding the cat.
“I’m fine with any store as long as it has food.”
“You’ve finally reached the point that you’ll eat swimsuits? Or do you mean the cell phones?”
“I can smell cafés and bread shops all around here! That’s a caffé mocha and that’s a fresh butter roll!!”
“What kind of new skill is this!? Is your sense of smell the amazing part or is your accuracy when comparing the smell to your memories the amazing part!?”
“There may be a twenty or thirty year difference, but food doesn’t change! A fried egg was perfected as a fried egg a hundred years ago!! So there’s no problem!! As long as there’s food, I’ll eat it!!”
“Oh? Don’t underestimate the advances science has made, Silver Sister.”
“Touma!! Short Hair gave me a mean nickname!!”
“And what do you call that you called me!? Well!?”
Mikoto almost flew off track, but she used the power of her rationality to hold back.
“Research into the inosinic acid deeply related to the maturing of meat has advanced quite a ways in the past few years. A maturing method has been developed that uses supercooled water and endothermic alloys to cool raw meat with previously unheard of pattern graphs which really draws out the savory flavor. What is treated like trash meat here in Academy City is much better than the average in the outside world. In that case, what would A5 top-class meat here taste like?”
“Even if you shout out like you’re on the top floor of a burning building for the final battle, no top-class meat is going to appear!! For a poor student, a large gyudon is as luxurious as it gets!!”
But despite what they discussed, Birdway and Lessar were still the ones who decided where the party went.
And so they soon arrived at the swimsuit shop.
The shops in the shopping mall were divided into small unit blocks. If a store wanted more space, it would rent two or three of those blocks and take out the walls between. The swimsuit store used only one block, so it was only as large as a small convenience store.
“Wait a second. Do I really have to go in here? I’m not quite sure how to put it, but I feel some kind of…pressure.”
There was nothing particularly outrageous visible from outside and this store did not stand out from those around it.
It was merely a part of the scenery.
But. Kamijou could not enter that store as casually as he would a gyudon restaurant. He was not allowed to. He could feel an aura or pressure that told him as much. This in itself was no crime. The problem came from the store being a poor combination with a high school boy like Kamijou Touma. For example, no one would question seeing menstrual products lined up on a shelf at a drug store. If a suit-wearing OL or female teacher picked one up and carried it to the register, no one would bat an eye. But what if an obviously adolescent high school boy like Kamijou Touma brought that same product to the register? That combination was out of the question. That left nothing but mystery. Doing so was not a crime, but there would be a massive pressure over the short distance to the young woman at the register. That overwhelming pressure would be like the winds of a giant hurricane.
With that in mind, Kamijou glanced over at Mikoto.
“Why do we have to go look at swimsuits in November? Well, I could always go to the southern hemisphere for New Year’s.”
She was a bit annoyed, but was sucked in toward the entrance fairly easily.
What was going on? He turned to Index now.
“I smell a sweet aroma. Sphinx, I think this might be a heaven of fruit!”
She ran into the entrance for a reason completely unrelated to swimsuits.
And then Kamijou caught on.
“I get it now! This is like the pink tile barricade of the girls’ locker room!! Damn. It’s unfortunate, but there’s nothing I can do!!”
“Why do you know the girls’ locker room has pink tiles? Anyway, this isn’t a problem, so come on in.”
“Well, this store is for commoners instead of experts, so I don’t expect to find much. But I’ll post some half-truths about the place online if they don’t at least have a slingshot.”
However, the truth remained that their destination had changed from 50% Less Skin Covered to Tropical Bright Girl. This was no longer the hellish situation in which any option would ultimately lead to a head injury for Kamijou. He was guaranteed some safety!
Or so he wanted to believe. However, he could not help but feel a chill as he stood in front of the store.
The human tow truck that was Birdway dragged Kamijou into the dreadful pressure of that store.
Instead of shelves, the store contained several stainless steel rails. Each of those rails had over 100 special hangers on them and countless swimsuits divided up the store like hedges.
The walls and ceiling were made of marble and the walls were covered in thick curtains despite there being no windows. The floor had a black and white checked pattern similar to a chess board. They may have wanted to give the place a luxurious feel, but the lights were so strong it had the bright atmosphere of a movie theater after the movie finished playing. Using only indirect lighting would have fixed that, but that would have made the colors of the products too hard to see. The store had definitely been created with the customers in mind.
“Oh? It looks like they at least have a full selection of micro bikinis. Ohh! Is this a ribbon swimsuit that uses silicon material to stick directly to your skin!? …You really can find the best things in the most unexpected places. I think I will be able to enjoy myself here! Gwa ha ha ha ha ha!!”
“You’re kidding me!! You promised Kamijou-san we would be going to a normal swimsuit store! If this is what’s considered normal, what kinds of swimsuits cover 50% less skin than this!?”
As Lessar grew overly excited, Kamijou held his head in his hands. Birdway then spoke up as she reached for one of the hangers with a swimsuit fixed on it.
“Hey, Kamijou Touma. I found a cow-print slingshot, but I think this kind of animal symbolism is going too far. As a guy, what would you think if you saw me wearing this?”
“Umm… That it was a self-deprecating joke?”
Kamijou’s honest answer earned him a most welcome knee to the crotch that left him writhing on the ground. As Birdway threw the hangar back onto the stainless steel rail and went back to choosing a swimsuit, she showed no sign of concern for her servant.
“Hey. Wait. Hey!”
“Just a second, Misaka. This hopping around is important. To a middle school girl like you, it may look like I’m jumping around as a joke, but this is the brink between being able to return to the battle or not. Let me focus here. …I need to enter the zone for a moment.”
Mikoto frowned and tilted her head as Kamijou jumped straight up two or three times and somehow managed to recover from the status effect.
He breathed a sigh of relief, but Mikoto did not understand any of it.
“Anyway, I’m going to look at the swimsuits over there.”
“Why!? Do you have some reason to flee Japan!?”
The reason Birdway and Lessar wanted swimsuits in November was because they wanted to hide in a southern country on the other side of the world while the Anglican Church and other groups were pursuing them. That had nothing to do with Index or Mikoto. Kamijou could not let her get caught up in the moment and lose sight of the situation.
“No, but I think they made a new indoor pool in the leisure facilities of District 6. My mama said swimming is one secret to beauty, so this is a good opportunity. If I buy a swimsuit now, I can head to the indoor pool before I decide it’s too much effort.”
“Y-you don’t need to make such a carefree decision in such a chaotic place. Wouldn’t it be safer and easier to buy one at a sporting goods store later?”
“If I wait until later, I’ll just decide it’s too much effort. And the swimsuits in that corner look normal enough, so I’m just going to look through them,” said Mikoto. “Also, if you peek on me while I’m choosing, I’ll kill you. I’m not joking.”
“Don’t worry. Don’t worry. You don’t need to bother with a warning. No matter what you do, I always end up on the verge of death.”
He tried to casually turn aside the comment and ended up with a one billion volt lightning spear flying toward him.
If it had not been for his “right hand of mystery”, he might very well have died.
“Don’t scare me like that!! Do you have some kind of grudge against Kamijou-san!?”
“Pay attention to what people say to you. Hmph.”
With that comment, she headed to another corner of the store.
This left only Kamijou and Index.
“Just so you know, Kamijou-san is quite relieved that you stay the same no matter where you are, Index-san.”
“Ahh… I don’t see how you can care about swimsuits when it’s so cold. More importantly, Touma, when will the delicious bread, cake, black tea, red bean soup, matcha, coffee, and hot dogs be served?”
“Way too many of those are from the same genre. And that’s too much caffeine, sugar, and carbs!! What could possibly bring you to that combination!?”
“All those different smells are floating around, so I can’t help it!!”
“I’m not really sure what ‘it’ is that you can’t help!! W-wait a second. Are you the type of person that would cause devastating damage if I brought you to a fish market!?”
“Heh heh heh. Are you talking about the legendary Tsukiji Market, Touma? Of course I would go around eating everything! In fact, when will you take me there!? I’m really interested in seeing Ryugu-jo, that fantastical kingdom made up of countless types of seafood, revived in the modern age!!”
It seemed there would be devastating damage even if the rescued turtle brought Index to Ryugu-jo. She would see Otohime and the others who greeted her as nothing more than one half of “beef or fish”, so she would show less mercy than Momotarou on Onigashima.
Kamijou doubted he would get any support from the cat in Index’s arms. The cat’s shameless expression seemed to say, “Do you find it sad? This is survival of the fittest.”
Meanwhile, Mikoto returned to Kamijou and Index.
She held a hanger with a swimsuit on it.
“I made up my mind, so I’m going to buy it. …Don’t look at it.”
“What? Are you a comedian in front of a boiling bath? Are you saying you actually want me to-…prhah!?”
Mikoto fired a lightning spear for each naïve question.
It seemed she could not stand having the sight of a girl and a new swimsuit remind him of a man in his forties in a clichéd situation. However, Kamijou Touma was not the type to notice such subtle things.
Mikoto had chosen a sporty one-piece that looked like a racing swimsuit with more focus on streamlined design. Kamijou’s imagination may have been lacking, but it did not look particularly revealing from what he could see on the hangar.
And so the boy gave his opinion.
“That’s not really something you need to hide, is it?”
“Wha-!? I told you not to look!!”
“It doesn’t look that much different from a school swimsuit.”
“You idiot! It’s completely different!! Don’t tell me you’re the type who looks at a fashion magazine and complains that all the clothes look the same! Look. This part here and this part here are completely different!!”
Mikoto blushed and began arguing her point while pointing here and there on the swimsuit.
Having her fashion sense questioned seemed to have caused the blood to rush to her head, but this resulted in destroying the original condition of not looking at the swimsuit she had chosen.
The more Kamijou tilted his head, the more Commentator Misaka Mikoto-san (14) increased the speed of her gesturing.
The cloth of the swimsuit in Mikoto’s hand peeled right off from just below the chest all the way down to the very bottom of the abdomen.
This shocking removal reduced its defense stat by 85%.
As Kamijou watched on, he silently covered his face with both hands and crouched down on the ground.
He let out a groaning voice.
“…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………Misaka has finally broken, too.”
“N-no! Idiot!! I didn’t know about this!!”
“And now she’s started zapping things!! Is the end of the century about to begin? No, there’s still time! If I can defeat Misaka before the flames spread to Birdway and Lessar, I should be able to avoid a truly hopeless situation!!”
“Defeat!? What do you mean defeat!?”
“Okay, Misaka-chan. Go on, go on. Blush and put that swimsuit back now that you’ve changed your mind.”
“That’s what you meant!?”
As she was pushed from behind and led with the uncaring motions of a construction worker making 900 yen an hour as he guided traffic around the construction zone, Mikoto returned to where she had gotten the swimsuit. There was a lot she wanted to say, but she wanted to avoid having him think she was intent on buying that swimsuit.
Kamijou Touma’s plan had worked this time.
However, there was no guarantee things would go so smoothly every time.
He was not a martial arts master whose motions were like the branches of a willow tree.
And if a billion volts or metal flying at three times the speed of sound hit him, he would seriously die. On both the science side and magic side “Kyah! Pervert!” situations were done on reflex, so there would be no discretion or mercy. Bringing together girls who had great firepower was more dangerous than mixing different cleaning agents.
(I need to stay as docile as possible. Jizou mode on!)
Trying to leave the store could draw the girls’ attention, but he desperately wanted to avoid helping them excitedly choose a showy swimsuit followed by some unexpected misunderstanding. He would not let it happen. He had to deal with Index, Misaka Mikoto, Leivinia Birdway, Lessar, and the calico kitty. That was too much firepower. Any reflexive and impulsive strike brought on by shyness (and targeting Kamijou Touma) would clearly exceed the max damage value. An outsider might think it sounded like something to add to a daily album, but the situation could literally smash his body to pieces. He wanted to avoid that at all costs.
(Your mind is empty, Kamijou-san, your mind is empty. …First, I need to move from the most dangerous spot. That would be the dressing rooms lining the wall. I can’t imagine how approaching them could be a positive thing for my life.)
Kamijou moved toward the opposite wall to distance himself from the wall giving off a difficult to detect but definitely present negative aura.
For some reason, there were a few chairs without backs sitting near the thick curtain on the wall.
Kamijou sat down in one and breathed a sigh of relief because nothing had happened. He truly entered Jizou mode and tried to make time pass more quickly by becoming a sensory “time traveler to the future”.
“(Adolescence is like a wild beast that can attack at any time.)”
By the time Kamijou heard that girl’s voice and tried to destroy his Jizou field from within, it was already too late.
He was grabbed by the back of the neck and pulled backwards.
Kamijou Touma suddenly disappeared from the area covered by the store’s security cameras.
“Wh-whaaat!? There was nothing but a wall behind me. H-how did I end up here? I’ve already been attacked, but I can’t tell what happened. D-don’t tell me! Do you have a power that lets you freely control an alternate space that ignores Euclidean geometry!?”
“C’mon. If you struggle too much, the others will realize we’re hiding behind the curtain.”
It was Lessar.
For some reason, she had been hiding behind the curtain and she now looked down at Kamijou’s sitting form with the eyes of a feline toying with its prey.
“Wait! What possible reason do you have for this!? What are you going to do to Kamijou-san now that you have dragged him in here!?”
“With someone as experienced as you, something will definitely interfere if I try to use any normal approach. …It was New Light that wanted to use someone with such rare ability, so I’m not going to sit idly by while a big shot like the Dawn-Colored Sunlight barges in before the enticement plan is complete.”
“More importantly, it looked like there was a full complement of people perfect for interfering with this kind of thing. With the stereotypical dressing room under such heavy guard, I had no choice but to use a trickier method.”
“What do you mean experienced!? And I get the feeling this strange difference in opinions will lead to serious trouble… L-Lessar-san! Let’s calmly go over our thoughts so we can be on the same page!!”
“Shut up. If you don’t go along with this, I’ll strip naked and then strip you naked too.”
“What kind of unprecedented suicide strategy is that!?”
“Fwa ha ha. If you are seen naked with an innocent girl outside of the dressing room zone, what will the 6 billion people of the world decide happened?”
“Wh-what do you want?”
“Tah dah! You get to decide what swimsuit I wear!!”
At some point, a swimsuit hanger had appeared in each of Lessar’s hands.
“Okay, Kamijou Touma. Did you drop this sexy black wired bikini? Or was it this sexy white skeleton one-piece?”
“Those names are too specialized for me to know what they mean and I get the feeling either option will not end well!!”
“Oh, by the way, an honest person gets a lovely present as a third option.”
“I can only assume that means I have a time limit!!”
Lessar gave a disappointed sigh when she saw Kamijou looking as cowardly indecisive as someone ordered to disarm a precision time bomb while blindfolded.
“Um, as you can see, the wired bikini is a bikini made almost entirely out of wires. The triangular portion is nothing but a wire outer frame. But that would show off something that shouldn’t be seen, so a triangle of cloth has been placed in the opposite direction of the triangular frame to hide the important part.”
“So it’s basically a deadly weapon! Got it!!”
“But as the name suggests, the skeleton one-piece is essentially a perfectly normal one-piece swimsuit. It isn’t that different from the ones worn by girls at Japanese schools.”
“Sigh… So there’s actually a normal option. In that case-…”
“But when it gets wet, it becomes perfectly see-through.”
“Then it’s pointless!! It’s entirely pointless!!”
“Oh, the crotch of course has a different cloth attached on the inside. Then again, it’s only the size of a bandage. It’s actually hard to tell it has that extra cloth there. It ends up looking more like some air happened to get inside so that spot isn’t touching the skin.”
At any rate, both options would cause the lifeguards to begin shrilly blowing their whistles anywhere but at a nudist beach. In an RPG, the swimsuits would probably have strange curses.
Kamijou raised his knees, buried his face in them, and spoke his thoughts in a groaning voice.
“Lessar. Living in a small island nation like this can sometimes make it hard to tell what is normal for the rest of the world.”
“What are you talking about? These are special terms that would only be recognizable somewhere as advanced as Academy City. If you searched these swimsuit names on the internet outside, you probably wouldn’t find anything.”
“All of a sudden, I have no idea what Academy City is trying to do!! Are you saying this will be the norm around the world in twenty or thirty years!?”
“By the way, wearing the wired bikini over the skeleton one-piece would bring out a different style altogether. Heh heh. It would be like a cocktail of sexy swimsuits.”
“Is that the punishment for running out of time!?”
Kamijou had the feeling his life would switch over to a completely different and amusing set of rails if he was naturally able to give a gourmet-like comment here.
In the right hand was a black wired bikini.
In the left hand was a white skeleton one-piece.
“Now, which will you choose?”
A spiritual item that resembled an arrow-shaped tail extended from Lessar’s miniskirt as she spoke with the expression of a demon asking him to sign a contract.
The air was cold and wrapped in mist-like weather.
The lightning god Thor walked through Sargasso, the headquarters of Gremlin made from a great number of ruined ships.
Technically, this was Ollerus disguised as Thor.
This environment was not foolish enough to let him bring in a cell phone with GPS functionality.
The quickest way to find Sargasso’s location would be to check on the location of the stars and sun.
But at the same time, this was Magic God Othinus’s base and she was currently focusing all of her power and skill on producing that lance. While she was focusing all her senses to eliminate as many impurities as possible, she would take issue with any magic Ollerus used that was not related to Gremlin’s actions.
Even Ollerus could not survive if he was surrounded here.
Then again, the most fundamental problem was his inability to defeat the magic god on his own.
(I could cause some serious trouble and secretly use investigation magic in the middle of that…but that won’t work here. The smaller the trick the better. The odds are good Othinus would detect my preparations for the diversion.)
Due to his great power, Ollerus did not seem the type for this kind of covert attack.
However, he had lived a peaceful life as a recluse while slipping through the gaps in the Anglican Church, the Roman Catholic Church, and other world powers’ search networks. That great power of his had given him the skills at covert operations that not even your average intelligence agent or spy had.
(That means I need to go about this the normal way.)
Sargasso was made up of the rusted ruins of everything from small boats to naval ships, but the members of Gremlin preferred to use the luxurious passenger ship that had broken in half. It seemed even crazy magicians found a high-class hotel room more comfortable than a cave.
Ollerus crossed a makeshift bridge that looked like a ladder on its side and made his way inside the passenger ship.
“Hm? What is it, Thor?”
The brown girl was holding some strange device with a lot of red and flesh-color on it. She turned toward Ollerus and frowned.
“I’m about to be pretty busy, so I can’t do anything for you. Aren’t you supposed to be guarding the perimeter of Sargasso?”
“I already performed the final check before the real deal begins. You know what my output is. Since I can’t use Mjölnir, I’ll have to head out as Almighty Thor. But I don’t want to go nuts with no limitations and hinder the production of the lance. I’ve had enough of Othinus cutting off my arm.”
“That would be bad for both of us. I’m not taking the blame for a mistake here. I’d rather not lose my head because of you.”
“As long as our magical symbols don’t overlap or conflict, nothing should happen. What direction are you going to draw power in from when you put together your temple? I can ask Bersi about the scientific stuff, so that only leaves the reactor.”
“Wait, wait. I have a memo pad in my right pocket. You can check that.”
When one wanted to avoid any illegitimate and unnecessary actions, sticking to the legitimate actions was best. When performing a large-scale ceremony, the effects of ley lines and the movement of the stars had to be taken into consideration. For that reason, one had to check on the terrain and coordinates.
If he could not use investigation magic, he just had to get his hands on the data that was already there.
He could gather that data without Magic God Othinus catching on.
While holding the memo pad filled with Gremlin’s secrets that could not be viewed so easily, Ollerus thought to himself.
(She must be the type with a strict line between enemy and ally. This is what she’s like once she thinks of you as an ally.)
He flipped through the memo pad evenly. He found a page on which Marian had written down the information on the sun and stars she had calculated out, but flipped right past the information he wanted and looked through every page. He did not want her to know he was focused on a single point.
“Got it. Got it. I understand the gist of it. There shouldn’t be an issue.”
“Is that so? That’s good.”
“One other thing. Mökkurkalfe is Freyja’s territory, but it’s a mountain-like giant made of clay. It can change the ley lines around it as if a mountain really does exist where it is standing. Once the actual production of the lance begins, keep an eye on its location.”
“I know that. I’m more interested in its core. You know, that heart on the plate. Even though it’s exposed like that, it still beats like a proper heart. Just seeing it makes my mouth water.”
“How about you have Freyja give it to you once this is over?” said Ollerus with a shrug.
“I’ll do that,” she replied honestly.
It seemed this brown girl’s sensibility was different from the others.
Ollerus parted ways with Marian Slingeneyer and continued down the corridor.
(Now I need a method of getting this data out. Once again, using any unnecessary magic would alert Othinus. I need some way of disguising it.)
At that point, Ollerus stopped thinking and turned a corner in the corridor.
He had spotted Bersi walking down the corridor with a pace as regulated as the second hand of a clock.
He could not meet with him.
Bersi was different from a pure human or a pure spiritual item. There were several ways of deceiving a living being and several ways of deceiving an inorganic object, but he wanted to avoid meeting with that man who was somewhere in between. Of course, acting too suspiciously to avoid meeting him would be getting his priorities backwards.
(I need to deceive them using a legitimate line.)
Ollerus thought for a moment.
(In that case, I can use that “heart on the plate” mentioned just now. That heart kept here in Sargasso is the driving force for that giant, mountain-like Mökkurkalfe. It’s set up to control it remotely. I should be able to borrow that line and send a message to my contact with the Anglican Church.)
In the UN headquarters building in New York, one of the several small conference rooms was filled with the light of fluorescent lights. It was filled with those who directly ruled a nation, supported one from where the light of the sun did not reach, or mentally supported the people as religious symbols.
“To sum up,” said the presidential aide Roseline Krackhart in order to check back over everything.
Unsurprisingly, an adult woman like her chose how to speak based on who she was speaking to. She was sensible enough to not enter full S mode and verbally crush a foreign head of state under her foot.
“This illegal force named Gremlin has a hidden base called Sargasso somewhere on the seven seas and they are developing a weapon of mass destruction called a lance. They will not hesitate to use it and there is a great danger of them using it as soon as it is complete without bothering with negotiations. …Does that properly cover the information that has been discussed thus far?”
There was a reason she had repeated all that.
When the British or Russians had been speaking, there had been a lot of terms she had not understood: magic, magic power, spell, spiritual item, ley line, demon god, Dvergr, holistic esper, Gungnir. The United States of America was in part a religious nation that promised freedom to worship any number of religions with Protestantism being first and foremost. However, when Roseline saw these people seriously discussing all this in front of her, it ended up sounding like a very distant issue. It was as if they were philosophically analyzing the world of some picture book.
World War Three.
Hawaii and Baggage City.
The conspiracies of the military-industrial complex that America knew so well were not enough to fully explain the great force that had left its mark on the history of the world. Roseline had even been directly involved in one of those.
But even so, it lost any hint of reality whenever she thought back over it. It felt as if her own memories were wrong and that forgetting any of it had happened was the right thing to do.
She could not sustain a sense of danger.
The memories faded all too quickly.
Before she could come up with an actual countermeasure, it all grew muddled and vanished into the shadows of history. Just like the odd jobs of everyday life stole away one’s free time, this disaster that should have been their top priority as the world police was dissolving away into the passage of time.
Something like this may have been more frightening than direct violence.
That was why she had restated it in her own words.
This was something the conspiracies of the military-industrial complex could not fully explain, so she had to make sure the phenomenon did not escape the common sense in her own mind.
Otherwise, she felt she would lose more and more information once that first bit leaked out.
“That’s more or less accurate,” lightly commented the head of the British Royal Family. She was Queen Elizard. “This information comes from a spy inside Gremlin. He is quite skilled. To be honest, he is so skilled not even we can control him. What matters most is the creation of the lance at Sargasso. To be blunt, this is very dangerous. If we do nothing, it will be completed in less than half a day. And if that happens, the six billion people of earth have no chance of winning.”
“I don’t really get it,” said United States President Roberto Katze. “But can I think of this lance like a nuclear weapon?”
“Can a single nuclear weapon kill every single one of the planet’s six billion people? If not, then think of this as a new weapon. Call it a supernova missile or a black hole bomb or whatever you want, but this gives someone that fantastical power in reality.”
“This is on such a large scale, it might be difficult for it to feel real,” added the young Patriarch at the top of the Russian Orthodox Church. He did not directly cut in because he was the leader of a religion that put an emphasis on mental activity. “If this Othinus becomes a complete magic god, a world will come where all that power can be wielded at the discretion of a single individual. If she takes a liking to you, you will gain vast riches. If you irritate her, she will slaughter you. …We do not actually know what Gremlin’s ultimate objective is, but an age will come where a single individual’s ideals cover the entire world. In that age, straying from those ideals even slightly will be enough to have your severed head displayed in the public square.”
“That great power will remain forever, but an individual’s ideals will not necessarily remain the same.”
This time, the Roman pope spoke up.
The pope had been replaced during the confusion of World War Three, so the position was now held by an old man named Pietro Yogdis.
“It may begin as a truly idealistic reality. Evil may be temporarily wiped out, people’s negative thoughts may be removed, and miraculous solutions may be found to the planetary concerns of the remaining fossil fuel resources and the destruction of the environment. …But how long will that last? Five years? Ten years? Fifty years? One hundred years? If a single gear falls out of place somewhere, an eternal age of personal pleasure and slaughter may begin. With no doctrine to follow, an individual’s mind is made to easily stray no matter how strong their will is. Normally, that mind is corrected by many external factors, but here…”
“If the one with power strays from the proper path, no one can tell a magic god she is doing something wrong. Handing the decision-making power for the world to a pure child does not mean the world will become pure,” said a blonde woman with a sickly complexion.
She had been confined deep underground in France for a long time but had still functioned as the cornerstone to the country’s important political decisions.
“So before this ‘untouchable baby’ grows too fat, she must be stopped. Someone must stop her while she can still be stopped,” said Queen Regnant Elizard immediately. “What matters is the location of Sargasso. Even if we only have half a day, Gremlin has not finished making this lance. That means this is our last chance. This specialized spiritual item will let her control her power as a magic god. …Its creation has to be a delicate process. If the world gathers its strength and attacks Sargasso, the shock could be enough to drive the creation of the lance to failure.”
Elizard did not say it would be enough to defeat the magic god.
As an anti-magician expert, she could not view the situation so optimistically.
“And how do we find it?” casually asked President Roberto Katze. “I don’t know any details about magic, but this place won’t show up on the cameras of normal satellites or surveillance drones, right? These…magicians rely on manual methods. How are you going to search every corner of the globe like that? The seven seas cover 70% of the earth’s surface. Do you know how many tens of thousands of meters the earth’s circumference is? It’s impossible to check through all of that in only 12 hours.”
“It is not impossible,” immediately replied Elizard.
Roseline was taken aback, but the queen continued regardless.
“We can divide 70% of the earth’s surface into 1000 blocks and send five magicians to each block. For the magical nation of England, it is not hard to find that many people. A magical investigation of the entire globe would be quite difficult, but it can be done using overwhelming numbers and common spells for investigating a limited area. This is the strength of working on a national level.”
She was also revealing that England had a secret transportation network that allowed them to fill the entire world with those known as magicians without anyone knowing. This statement held great meaning diplomatically and defensively.
But Elizard showed little sign of caring.
“Hm? If we’re talking about playing dirty, the Roman Catholic Church has us beat by a long shot. After all, they are the world’s largest denomination and have two billion followers. All of them at least have a cross around their neck and the many churches and cathedrals that are the nearby symbols of their faith exist all over the world. …What if they have some large-scale magic that uses all of those together? It seems to me there is a much more massive pool of data resources there than in the recent conspiracies about SNSs and online stores.”
“I can think of a few, but those projects were all completely frozen upon the destruction of God’s Right Seat. And they will not see the light of day again as long as I am around. That is my duty as the inheritor of this position.”
Despite being in the middle of an (unofficial) international conference, Roseline let out a sigh.
She was reminded of the legendary Echelon during the Cold War or the F.C.E. surveillance system that had covered America and had been controlled by a single corporation. This made both of those seem like nothing.
“In other words, you have already constructed a limited system for locating enemies all over the world. Is that what you are saying?”
“Yes. But only on the level of expert magicians. Given Gremlin’s habit of disregarding profit, there is a risk of overlooking Sargasso if we only search for it from outside.”
“And that is what the spy is for, is that it?” said the Russian Orthodox Church’s young Patriarch in a heavy tone of voice. “Sargasso is probably hidden by a special barrier, but the British magicians scattered throughout the world will be able to detect the signal sent from within. Is that right?”
They had known this from the beginning.
They only repeated it to make sure everyone understood and to bridge the gap between those who knew about magic and those who did not.
There was no need for discussion because there was no other effective method.
Elizard slowly spoke up.
“The standard forces will primarily come from America, Russia, England, and France. The magical forces will be led by England, Rome, Russia, and France. This will require some countries to do double duty. Are any changes necessary?”
“That is not a problem.”
“I do not recall having such a weakly-made country.”
Russia and France readily agreed.
The focus then turned to Elizard and President Roberto.
“If we do locate Sargasso, how much firepower can you use?”
“The House is still practically boiling over in their desire for revenge over Hawaii. I’m stopping it from getting anywhere, but I can get immediate approval for an attack on Sargasso if I open up the gas. I can officially use the military stationed at four overseas bases in allied nations and if Sargasso is in international waters or the territorial waters of America, the EU, or any other allied nation, I can fire ballistic missiles in the name of having a test launch. I can’t use any NBC weapons, but I can at least fill the warhead with bunker clusters.”
“Hm?” Elizard frowned. “I thought we had a treaty banning those. I seem to recall my military-obsessed daughter shouting shrilly about it.”
“As usual, the world’s largest possessor of them didn’t ratify that. …Also, could you introduce me to this daughter sometime? I’m sure we’ll get along great. She’d probably clap her hands in joy if I gave her a tour of Area 51.”
“If you are after her body, go to the corner of the room and use your right hand instead. Ahem. Anyway, the normal military forces will run into trouble if Sargasso is in the territorial waters of a neutral or enemy nation or territory. We do not have time to try trickery.”
“In that case, we’ll have to rely on this Secret CIA Notebook☆ that thoroughly covers diplomacy, trade, major industries, and the sentiments of the people.”
The aide Roseline Krackhart’s cheek visibly twitched.
That was apparently not something he should have said during an international conference.
“We have important people from America, Russia, England, France, and the Vatican. Even if they do not get along with one of us, they will likely have a close relationship with another. And the country in question would never be able to recover if the thick pillar of that relationship were broken. The only question left is who the dirty work will fall to. Who will put a few cracks in that thick pillar to force this through? This should work no matter what country it ends up being.”
“I just hope it does not turn into a century-long grudge,” groaned Roseline as she spoke quietly to the president.
“Which is better, that or having the world destroyed today? To be honest, I’m not sure I can answer that,” replied Roberto.
Fortunately, they would not be wiping out an enemy hiding in a large city of the target nation. They would only be attacking a ship graveyard on the ocean. There was almost no chance of collateral damage. They were only targeting an uninhabited island. It would officially be recorded as a request to use the military power of the world to attack a pile of trash in their country. Air-to-surface missiles cost one million yen each and stealth fighters cost twenty billion yen each, so there would probably be a lot of confusion over why they were doing it.
“So,” said the Russian Patriarch. “Any guesses where Sargasso is?”
“An area of the ocean with close ties to Norse mythology. And they went to Hawaii for the volcanic energy, so somewhere without any submarine volcanoes or at least with no active ones.”
An internal phone began to beep.
Roseline picked up the receiver just as Elizard spoke.
“Here’s my guess: the North Sea or the sea near Iceland.”
The black wired bikini.
The white skeleton one-piece.
Either one would be full skin mode. Everything was happening so fast that Kamijou half expected Lessar to begin changing right in front of him. And unfortunately, not all people could be brought to the new era. He would probably lose his life after having his skull bitten off by Index. However, Lessar did not seem kind enough to end this because they had run out of time.
That was when Kamijou Touma’s survival instincts instantly and explosively increased the functionality of his brain.
This was the same thing that occasionally happened during his run-ins with expert magicians.
“Lessar, think back. Do you remember what you said?”
“The white skeleton one-piece becomes see-through everywhere but the crotch when wet. And the hidden crotch looks more like it just so happened to not stick to your skin because some air got in.”
Kamijou Touma forcefully grabbed the hangar containing the black wired bikini.
“So here is my choice!!”
“Eh? You want me to wear the wired bikini?”
“No!! You put the wired bikini on first and then wear the skeleton one-piece over it!! You will wear that combination!!”
Kamijou made his announcement in such a loud voice it seemed like lightning should have struck behind him.
“If there is some air or any other kind of gap between the cloth and the skin, you cannot see through the skeleton one-piece!! The wired bikini is a crazy swimsuit that creates the pattern of a bikini by placing wires as a frame, but the silhouette alone looks like a normal bikini. The wired frames and the upside down triangles of cloth will push up from the inside, causing the same effect as having air inside. It will merely look like you are wearing a black swimsuit underneath a white swimsuit. The exposure will be no different from a normal bikini!! And thus you will have no eroticism left!!!!!”
Lessar’s expression made it look like she had been struck by another bolt of lightning.
“I give you the two sexiest swimsuits I can find and you find a way to escape without a hint of sexiness? How much of an expert are you!? Y-you were not on this level when we were wandering through the snowy plains of Russia!!”
“Hah hah hah!! Do you have any idea how many times I have been unfairly bitten by Index!? Kamijou-san has overcome all that pain, built up tear-filled experiences, and continued to move ever forward! I will not let girls push me around any longer!!”
Kamijou Touma gathered strength below his stomach to speak while using abdominal breathing that would surprise an opera singer.
“Watch in frightened awe as Kamijou-san comes up with an answer no one ever expected and stands on a brand new stage!!”
Kamijou let out a roar of victory as he held the wired bikini hangar in his right hand and the skeleton one-piece hanger in his left.
The thick decorative curtain was forcefully drawn to the side. Index, Misaka Mikoto, and Leivinia Birdway stood on the other side with blank expressions.
He had just barely made it.
If Lessar had begun changing, Kamijou Touma would have gained one more memory stained with blood due to a great misunderstanding.
“Don’t tell me…”
“Everyone is free to have their own tastes, but that’s going a bit too far…”
This was odd. Their reaction made no sense. The elation filling Kamijou Touma silently froze over and he finally regained the ability to view the situation objectively.
A girl was on her knees after having those sexy swimsuits ripped from her grasp.
And a high school boy was holding those sexy swimsuits while declaring “Watch in frightened awe as Kamijou-san comes up with an answer no one ever expected and stands on a brand new stage!!”
If this led to the misunderstanding he was thinking of…
“N-no!! You…you have it all wrong. I didn’t take these from Lessar because I want to wear them! D-don’t be ridiculous. That misunderstanding is just too out of left field. I mean…think about it! That won’t make anyone happy!! Not a single person!!”
He had expected a fierce barrage of abuse based on the misunderstanding.
But for some reason, the girls would not look Kamijou in the eye. Their blank expressions looked past him.
“W-well, our father in heaven respects human free will…”
“It’s a good thing this is a free country. (deadpan)”
“I seem to have been a bit mistaken about Japan’s culture. I suppose it makes sense. This is the country that has always loved the fundoshi. I had completely forgotten.”
There was not a single “You pervert!” or biri biri.
The situation did not turn toward action. It was ruled by a perfect stillness.
“W-wait! Please don’t go!! Th-this…This isn’t right. I never knew having no grand tsukkomi could be so heartrending. I may have won, but I didn’t get anything for it. At least let me explain everything!!”
Carissa was unmistakably Britain’s second princess and also the woman who had plotted a revolution to usurp the throne.
William Orwell was a mercenary who had once conquered under the name Acqua of the Back.
And Knight Leader was the man who led one of the magical forces of England as the head of the knights.
Two of them had been imprisoned in the Tower of London on the charges of treason (Knight Leader had not been charged with a crime, but he had his own issues), but they had been temporarily released for an emergency situation.
They stood in a naval port on the northernmost edge of Scotland.
Carissa spat out some words while the sea breeze struck her cheek in the darkness of the night.
“I can’t believe they brought out the princess who lost Curtana and the injured man whose insides have been churned up. England must be really shorthanded right now. Mr. Macho, will you really be any help?”
“I have of course lost my powers as a member of God’s Right Seat and as a Saint. However, the methodology for freely manipulating great power still remains within me. I can parry, deflect, and otherwise handle whatever your average magician can throw at me.”
“You are speaking to the second princess, you know? You certainly treat her differently from the third princess,” muttered Knight Leader in shock.
That third princess had not been informed of this personnel usage. She was usually quite gentle and obedient, but she would likely come along while carrying a giant crossbow if she knew William was heading to the battlefield with his severe wounds still unhealed.
That sheltered girl (or rather, princess) had gained a desire to take action during a certain incident, but it had a way of working out for the better or for the worse depending on the situation.
And if the third princess took into consideration that the young second princess would be together with William the mercenary, the target of her crossbow might change considerably. That was another reason to keep her in the dark.
“How many of the mobile fortresses can we use?”
“The recently commissioned Queen Mermaid and Hotel Ariel for sure. It might be difficult to get Fly in the Heavens ready in time. The others are either in for maintenance or needed to maintain a military balance elsewhere.”
“But World War Three is over…”
“The ones that were not ready in time for the war are just now being completed. We had hoped to retire them without ever once using them as a sign of peace, but oh well.”
The fact that such large-scale mobile fortresses were being prepared suggested a certain fact.
Namely, they had had a decent guess as to Sargasso’s location from the beginning.
While the mobile fortresses could move quickly across the sea and through the air, they could only be deployed instantly within a certain range. Carissa, William, and Knight Leader were making preparations under the assumption that the enemy base would be located within that range.
“The North Sea or the sea near Iceland, hm?”
“Do you know what month it is? If we’re unlucky, we’ll have to head into the Arctic. A naval battle at this time of year should be exciting. The cold of winter is a great enemy that has frozen even tanks. Check the weather forecast down to the minute. Taking the weather lightly will lead to nothing good.”
“If Gremlin is staying in such an extreme environment, does the location hold some special meaning?”
Knight Leader was a member of adult society, so he spoke differently depending on if he was speaking to his old friend William or the second princess.
“The reports we have received make it clear they are based in Norse mythology. However, the spread of Christianity destroyed most of the documents on Norse mythology throughout Europe. …And the name of their base is Sargasso. There may be a spot in the ocean where fragments and ruins of ships have gathered after floating aimlessly for hundreds of years. There may be more documents remaining on the ocean than on land where they have been destroyed by fire or acid rain.”
And it was not just those three who thought Sargasso was in the North Sea or the sea near Iceland.
Otherwise, Knight Leader would never have been removed as the Queen Regnant’s bodyguard in New York. Elizard was not narrow-minded enough to let a grudge from the past affect others. In fact, Carissa and William were only imprisoned in the Tower of London because they had refused her amnesty and entered the cells on their own.
There was a job more important than protecting the queen while she visited another country.
Knight Leader stood here now because Elizard had made that decision.
And it had likely been more than just Elizard. Anyone belonging to a group familiar with magic would have guessed at the same place before the investigation even began. No one had said anything, but a large number of magicians were waiting for the signal to attack while in the cities bordering the northern seas of the EU.
And then a cell phone rang.
It was Knight Leader’s.
As the young man answered, Second Princess Carissa gave him a sidelong glance and spat out some more words.
“It looks like we won’t get to use Fly in the Heavens. We’ll have to use Queen Mermaid and Hotel Ariel to their fullest. …Let’s make them regret ever trying something like this right in front of us.”
The misunderstanding had been resolved.
It had to have been resolved.
(Please let it be resolved!!)
Kamijou could only hope, but for some reason, Index, Misaka Mikoto, and Birdway disturbingly gave him an oddly kind smile and unconditionally agreed with him like yes-men.
“I don’t want to be here anymore,” muttered Kamijou blankly.
The group only replied kindly once more. Birdway and Lessar stopped choosing swimsuits without purchasing anything and led Kamijou out of the store.
Lessar understood the truth, but her ability to think properly had been destroyed by the sense of defeat from having him so splendidly escape her erotic trap.
For the moment, they had decided to calm down and find somewhere to drink tea, so they were searching for a café.
However, this was surprisingly difficult. It was not that they could not find a café in the airport shopping mall. The problem was the great number of them. Kamijou felt putting over 1000 stores in the same building had been overkill. There were too many redundant stores.
It was often said that humans had trouble choosing when there were too many options. Index’s revolutionary idea of going around to all of them and ordering coffee and sandwiches at each one had been immediately rejected.
Kamijou and Lessar were useless now that their spirits had been broken, so the uproar over which café to go to was mostly between Misaka Mikoto and Birdway. They each seemed oddly picky about it (and mostly in a negative way). Having a single high-class girl with you was convenient and added some beauty, but this scene proved that gathering more than one together was never a good idea.
While Kamijou’s soul was partially detached from his body in search of an escape path, a girl’s voice called out to him from behind.
“Hm? Oh, that guy over there is…Kamijou Touma was it? What are you doing here instead of at school?”
It was a maid with an outfit eccentrically colored in the yellow and black of a bee.
Technically, she was only a maid in training. She was a student at Ryouran Maid School.
Her name was Kumokawa Maria.
“Touma has won over another girl I didn’t know about!!”
“What do you do to know so many girls!?”
“I do not know who she is, but perhaps I should study your unstoppable skill at creating connections between people. It could be useful for the cabal.”
“Heh…heh heh. First you escape my sex appeal and then you treat me like this? I need to study more to make sure I am not lost within the crowd.”
Everyone except for Kamijou and the calico cat exchanged a glance. The look said, “What? Do none of you know this girl?”
A lot of what had happened in Baggage City had occurred in something like a black box.
Meanwhile, Kamijou began speaking with this potential maid who had wonderful black ringlet curls.
(Oh, it’s almost heavenly to have a friend who hasn’t made any strange misunderstandings.)
“Why aren’t you at school? Aren’t you a middle school student?”
“I am in the middle of some on-site training. I have to use different languages to guide foreign businessmen. And with a smile so they do not find me suspicious or annoying. I wish the EU would standardize its language like it did its currency.”
It was obvious Kamijou could not keep up with this, so Mikoto shrugged and spoke.
“She needs to learn how to actually speak the language rather than just read the textbook. The etiquette and position one takes with a guest changes subtly between countries, so the ability to instantly determine that kind of thing is needed to handle visits from unexpected guests. An international airport and a world-famous amusement park naturally gather people from different races, so they are decent training grounds for languages.”
“Unlike the amusement park in District 6, everyone is walking around restlessly in the airport. Not many people give off a welcoming aura. It’s important to know how to skillfully interrupt, have them stop, and speak with them while not making them feel uncomfortable.”
“Um… Do you do this too, Misaka?”
“None of my excursions have been this involved.”
Mikoto’s words of denial felt like a sort of salvation to Kamijou.
After all, he was the only one who only knew his native language. And yet he was obviously the oldest one! He had felt the common knowledge below his feet warping as he grew uneasy and wondered, “Wait… Am I the wrong one here?”
And then Mikoto said something else as if it was completely normal.
“It was a lot easier at my school. Everyone drew a card with a foreign language written on it and we had to speak that language for the rest of the day. I would have to speak English while listening to French, so it was some nice mental exercise. And all the voices around me were speaking in different languages.”
Kamijou Touma thought silently.
He decided giving up was not something to be ashamed of.
“That does not sound like something middle schoolers should be doing. I do think it’s a problem that I only know Japanese, though.”
“Wait a second. Then how did you get to Baggage City in Eastern Europe?”
A lot had happened in the world.
Whether in France during riots, England during a coup d’etat, or the snowy plains of Russia during the intense battles of World War Three, Kamijou Touma’s rare skill allowed him to charge through with nothing but Japanese. He was on the same level as an old woman who spoke the Kansai dialect.
“How have things been since then? You don’t seem to be suffering from any odd aftereffects.”
“No. My heart was stopped, but it didn’t leave any kind of arrhythmia. Oh, and I’m email friends with that mixed martial artist. That ninja disappeared somewhere, so I don’t know about her. But she wasn’t the type to die easily.”
He did not fully understand the circumstances surrounding Baggage City.
“I’m still not satisfied with what happened to my teacher…to Kihara Kagun. I was sure he had completely died back then, but then that eyepatch girl arrived. She did something to him and he stood back up. But unlike us, it didn’t look like his stopped heart had started again. Anyone would have said he was dead.”
Kamijou did not know much about him either.
He only knew he was one of the people he had not saved at Baggage City.
And due to what he had left behind, he had indirectly given Kamijou the first step toward rescuing Fräulein Kreutune.
He had left behind several backdoors while working as a researcher in Academy City, he had fled from the city, and he had been closely related to the lightning god Thor of Gremlin. That put him in at least as rare a position as Tsuchimikado Motoharu. And that was the very least. It was possible he had lived somewhere even deeper. That was a world Kamijou could not even imagine. He actually felt guilty for casually wanting to know more.
“Who was that eyepatch girl?” asked Kumokawa Maria. “While in Baggage City I saw those people who were not from Academy City, but she did not simply seem the same as them. The sword that brown girl had wasn’t normal either, but I could not even comprehend the fear I had for that eyepatch girl. What kind of creature is that girl who took away my teacher? Where does someone like that stand?”
She was a magic god.
She was Othinus.
And Kamijou himself had experienced a portion of her power in Baggage City. It had not simply been a case of being able to do nothing. It had not simply been a case of being defeated the instant the battle began. She was in a completely different dimension.
He was left wondering when the battle had even started.
And without even knowing that, a decisive final line had been crossed. As if it had been left behind by something, a hopeless sense of defeat had arrived a moment later. That strange feeling was all there was. Even after his defeat, he was left with nothing but mysteries and questions.
Kamijou had suffered defeat at the hands of a few different monsters in the past, but none of those defeats had been that overwhelming. He had not been told the rules, what the stage was, or what the time limit was. The next thing he had known, it was already over.
That was the kind of competition it was.
What kind of creature was a magic god? In what world did a magic god stand? It was as if he had been told someone who did not know those fundamental facts could not even take part in the fight.
If Kamijou Touma was thrown in front of Othinus once more, what could he do? He was not sure he could do anything. He could find no factor that made him think he could manage with his right hand that could negate anything.
“We will know before long.”
“We will know. I don’t know how dangerous a monster she is, but we will finish this. And once that happens, you might be able to meet Kihara Kagun once more.”
Kumokawa Maria began to ask a further question.
But then Birdway’s cell phone rang. That elegant magic cabal boss did not hold her phone in one hand and move to an abandoned area. She raised her index finger to silence everyone there and boldly answered the phone amid them all.
“Okay, got it.”
It was a short conversation.
The next thing she said was addressing those around her rather than the phone.
“It’s time. We finally have our cue.”
A certain simple cabin was made from a number of logs.
However, not even a single breeze was allowed within that space and the kind heat from the fireplace evenly filled the air. A space was not defined by the monetary value of the furniture and other items within it. It would contain what the person who arranged it saw value in. That obvious fact was driven into this room with tremendous force.
The softness of a sunbeam coming in through the window seemed far more elegant than a gaudy furnishing made of pure gold.
One room contained a few chairs and a wooden table that looked like a cross between a piece of furniture and a camping supply. Sitting at the table was a blonde woman wearing a thick work jacket, thick work pants, and a work apron. On her blonde head, she wore large goggles meant to protect factory workers’ eyes.
Her name was Silvia.
She was one of the fewer than twenty Saints in the world. She was also one of the most skilled of the royal maids that looked after and protected the British Royal Family. Everything she wore was unrefined and would only bring the word “austere” to mind, but the way Silvia wore them, they somehow produced the silhouette of a delicate maid. This was due to her occupation and her natural disposition.
Another woman spoke to her.
The woman speaking to Silvia was named Brunhild Eiktobel.
“You could pretty much call this the last supper, so why is the table covered in sandwiches? I would also like to ask about the simple water filling this glass.”
“When in a country and region where you can drink water fresh from a spring, it is sacrilege to boil it and steep tea in it. In fact, most of the world sees delicious water as a luxury. This is similar to how the truly top-class fish is only eaten by fishermen. I won’t insist you tell the difference in taste, but at least give it some thought before complaining.”
“I find it difficult to be thankful for something with no flavor.”
“So if I filled your glass with salt, would you give it perfect marks?”
Brunhild was a Saint as well, but she also had the unique characteristics of a Valkyrie which drew out special Norse power. However, the two powers did not work well together, so they would alternately strengthen and weaken on a fixed cycle like the waxing and waning of the moon. During the worst time, the powers cancelled each other out, leaving her no different from a normal human.
She had long, wavy blonde hair and she wore a dress with denim pants worn under the short skirt. Over that, she wore a bulletproof jacket, supporters to protect her knees and elbows, and a feathered hat. Altogether, her outfit used modern materials to produce the silhouette of a legendary warrior maiden.
The joints of the chair held together by nails creaked under Brunhild’s weight.
“Have you received word yet?”
“I already passed the message along.”
“Then we do not need to wait around any longer.”
“Yes, it’s about time we began the destruction.”
After that short exchange, Silvia took a single sip of the chilled water in her glass.
Brunhild grabbed two or three of the sandwiches containing various contents, lifted them up as if crushing them in her grip, and put them all in her mouth at once.
She then asked, “May I ask a question?”
“You’re surprisingly talkative. I thought you would be more silent and harder to deal with.”
“Are the picture books scattered across the table part of standard British hospitality?” she asked while licking her thumb.
Among the books on the table were Peter Pan, the Golden Axe, and Snow White. The collection had no obvious connection such as all being from Grimm, Andersen, or Aesop. The only possible connection was that they all contained fairies or characters that could be interpreted as being fairies. They were likely meant for children as they were thin books with few pages, but the parchment used for the covers exuded a kind of tension that made even Brunhild hesitant to touch them. It may have been similar to how a stuffed bear was cute, but seeing one floating in a ditch filled with rushing water made one think something terrible had happened.
“They are a trump card,” spat out Silvia casually. “A trump card against the magic god.”
Brunhild did not press further.
She had not known them for long, but when Silvia and “those not currently there” said they had an idea, it was difficult for a normal person to understand yet tended to be constructed so as to always achieve results. There was no need to ask for details to understand it.
“The preparations are complete and the time has come. Is there any reason to stay here any longer?” asked Brunhild instead.
And with that, the two women stood up from their chairs.
The mass of metal Brunhild called a sword was lying on the ground, so she kicked it up and caught it in one hand. Silvia gathered what looked like a bundle of laundry rope in both hands.
They opened the door of that simple log cabin.
The wind roared as it blew in.
They abandoned that log cabin more easily than a cheap tent as they headed for the battlefield.
The North Sea could most simply be described as the ocean between England and Norway. It was near the Arctic, so no one would want to throw themselves into that dark nighttime ocean during November. This was one of the places one could call the “garden” of the Vikings who had once conquered the Arctic by ship. For that reason, there could easily be a pile of documents in the ruins of ships that contained the Norse knowledge that had been lost in the storm of Christian conversion.
There were said to be tens or even hundreds of them throughout the world, but the exact number was not known. Here was one of those twisted islands that could be said to be both manmade and natural.
A large number of military rubber boats approached it.
The main members of the group were Second Princess Carissa, William Orwell the mercenary, and Knight Leader. This was an allied anti-Gremlin force mostly made up of British forces.
Carissa wore a showy red dress and she brought an unrefined radio up to her mouth as the quickly moving boat rocked beneath her.
“Gentlemen, it looks like America and Russia will be a little late. They will enter as the second wave of the attack just as I explained before. You know what we must do, right?”
“We must take all glory for ourselves before they arrive.”
“Good. This pile of trash isn’t on any map, so let’s blow it away to make reality match!!”
While the North Sea was a former “garden” of the Vikings, it had another important role as well.
It was a large-scale offshore oil field.
The towering shadows of cranes could be seen here and there in the white fog covering the ocean. Red lights blinked at fixed intervals at the ends of those cranes.
England owned half of the offshore oil platforms in the North Sea.
Carissa and the others had used the heliport on one of those oil platforms to arrive by air and then continued toward Sargasso by boat.
William Orwell spoke from within the same boat.
“When will that right arm boy get here?”
“He should make it in time for the second wave. Academy City’s supersonic planes can travel around the world in just a few hours. He might even arrive before the normal forces from America and Russia.”
Many mysteries still remained concerning Magic God Othinus, so that boy’s rule-breaking right arm was needed to destroy the equipment used to produce the lance. However, he was not needed for anything else. They could raze Sargasso and then have that right arm boy dropped from the supersonic plane like a bomb.
Several dozen military boats travelled through the cold ocean water while almost skipping along the surface.
Something like a giant mountain became visible through the white fog.
At the same time, they all heard the low noise of something tearing through the air above their heads.
Carissa spoke into her radio.
“Don’t hit the oil platforms.”
Immediately afterwards, several aerial bombs were let loose at an altitude of 10,000 meters. They mercilessly exploded above Sargasso.
These were known as fuel-air bombs.
A special combustible substance packed in a metal case was chemically made to expand, turned into an aerosol, scattered over an effective range of several hundred meters, and ignited. This allowed the weapon to cover a broad area in flames and explosive pressure. It was classified as a normal weapon that did not use nuclear technology, but it was rumored to have the destructive power to produce a mushroom cloud if used on a large enough scale.
In this case, a parent metal case produced several dozen child cases, each child case produced several dozen grandchild cases, and those finally scattered and detonated great amounts of the combustible material at just several dozen meters above the surface.
The darkness of the night was blown away.
A flood of light, heat, and noise filled that small world.
And it did not end after that single bomb.
There were five, six, seven… By the end, thirteen such bombs had been dropped on that same location.
Even if a mushroom cloud had been produced, no one would have been able to see it. The explosions swallowed up the other explosions and that worthless scenery spread as far as the eye could see.
“Silver Bullet A here. Every grape jelly we dropped hit. We will begin dropping the Mont Blancs.”
“Good. We will move in close while you do so.”
“Remember to check for toxic gas when you land. It is possible the high temperatures caused a chemical reaction in the ruins of those ships.”
A few more explosions occurred.
This time, the blast was used to drive thousands or even tens of thousands of sharp metal stakes downwards. That was why the weapon’s nickname was a chestnut dessert.
“Your methods never change,” said William without moving his eyebrows in the slightest. “The incident you caused in England is well known around the world. Gremlin may have analyzed your methods.”
“If you remove all the waste and search for the optimal usage of your weapons, everyone will ultimately arrive at the same place. What a military run by a nation needs is an attack method that is impossible to avoid even if you know it’s coming.”
As that downpour of deadly weapons fell on Sargasso, the group of military boats continued toward it. Carissa was not optimistic enough to think that bombing was enough to kill all the members of Gremlin. But whether they were a magician or a magic god, they still had the physical body of a human. They would have to use a good amount of their magical power on defense to push back that storm.
Carissa and the others would attack Gremlin’s flank while they were wholly focused on defending from the front.
That way, they could exterminate Gremlin before they could use their many strange spells.
The young British soldier operating the boat’s engine gave a report to Carissa.
“No toxic substances were detected. We do not need masks!”
“Good. Let’s accept the invitation to this home party. Ladies and gentlemen, let’s remain sensible, mind our manners, put on a gentle smile, and use plenty of flowery speech while we eat all the food prepared on the table!!”
Even as their boats approached the coast, they did not slow down.
They crashed up onto Sargasso all at once like a large killer whale hunting seals on the beach.
Everything was dyed black.
No toxic gas had been detected, but Carissa’s shapely nose detected the stench of melted plastic.
She heard a voice.
It was an elderly voice.
Carissa and the others looked up toward a tanker sticking up diagonally across Sargasso. On the front of the tanker stood an old soldier holding a cane and wearing a silk hat and tailcoat.
He looked like an illusionist or a stage performer.
That impression was emphasized by the complete lack of hostility or malice he gave off even as he faced those who meant to kill him.
However, that did not mean he was not a threat.
It was the exact opposite. Someone with no hostility and someone able to completely hide their hostility appeared the same on the outside, but were completely different on the inside.
“I did not think this island was on any map. Did you ask the local fishermen perhaps? You certainly have grown soft if you are willing to entrust your life to the rumors spreading through the city.”
He spoke politely enough, but he had a mocking smile on his lips.
Carissa ignored his light comment.
The second princess spoke quietly with the head of the knights and the top mercenary on either side of her.
“Who is he?”
“You may call me Loki. Lady Othinus gave me the task of protecting this place with my-…”
To repeat: Carissa ignored the old man. She ignored him from beginning to end.
A flying blade similar to a giant arrowhead stabbed directly into the center of the old man’s neck and pierced through.
This happened an instant after the second princess raised a hand.
This was an Anglican spiritual item. It was a magical arrow accurately guided by the knights’ spell. It dealt enough damage to take Loki’s life in a single blow. The spells of the knights who protected an entire nation had evolved in a different direction from the average magicians who aimed to stand at the top as individuals. On the assumption that an excellent statesman would manage its use, all ideologies were stripped away. Their techniques were simply made to be powerful, to be easy to use, and to assuredly kill their enemy.
They would not know how heir enemy planned to evade or defend, but they would attack head on to crush that enemy’s armor and smash their shield. They would not hesitate to stab their blades into the soft flesh beyond.
They would take that enemy’s life.
Loki tried to say something, but Carissa continued to ignore him.
She spoke to the men behind her rather than to her enemy.
“Continue on and eliminate everything that moves.”
The fully armed and armored knights moved in an organized manner throughout Sargasso. The old man fell from the tip of the tanker sticking up diagonally and slammed into the ground, but no one bothered to watch.
Carissa, Knight Leader, and William began walking past Loki who was just a corpse on the battlefield.
But they heard a small noise.
It sounded like the clattering of a window during a stormy night.
The noise continued and refused to stop.
“Cough cough cough cough cough… Well done, second princess of the country of knights. I cannot assess your performance any other way.”
The stench of rusty iron quickly spread out.
As he lay on the ground, Loki tried to forcefully pull out the Robin Hood projectile that had pierced through both his windpipe and his spine. It was a rough action that did not look like an attempt to heal himself or prolong his life. Instead, it looked like he was removing it so he could speak more easily.
Carissa did not look down.
She faced forward and spoke to the old man for the first time.
“Do you want to suffer as you die?”
“Loki spreads chaos through both the gods and their enemies to guide the entire world toward the final battle. He is a character who could be called the source of malice.”
The old man smiled despite having received a wound so fatal that it was hard to tell if his voice was coming from his mouth or the dark red hole in his throat.
“But at the same time, Loki is not an all-powerful lord of evil. Even in the legends, he is captured and harshly scolded by the gods whenever he spreads chaos. Sometimes he cries, sometimes he fails, and ultimately he is bound to a giant stone and eternally tortured until the beginning of world’s end. …In other words, the trend of the situation has no bearing on my strength or weakness. It has no bearing on my victory or defeat.”
They heard a noise.
It sounded like countless insects flying around by their ears.
“Wait. Don’t tell me…”
“My victory was assured from the moment you set foot here.”
The noise grew.
“As the bearer of the name Loki, it is my style to deceive both my enemies and my allies. Lady Othinus said it was unnecessary, but I still maliciously doubted every single member of Gremlin! I gave thorough thought to what a supposed traitor would need to determine the location of the true Sargasso. The answer I arrived at was the signs in the sky such as the stars, the moon, and the sun. So what if I had a spell that could encase all of Sargasso in a dome and display false stars like a planetarium? And with enough precision to fool both this enemy and my allies! What if I took such a selfish action that could even affect my allies’ ceremonies!?”
As the sound of wings grew ever louder, the old man’s body began to disappear.
And it finally vanished altogether.
It dissolved into the fog as if nothing had ever been there at all.
Only his voice remained.
“The Territory of Víðópnir may have cracked my bonds with my comrades, but it has proven my theory correct and given me certain victory!! I even altered Marian’s memo pad! Now, you sublime supervisors of war who have challenged Gremlin head on, be struck down by the malice of someone as lowly as I!!”
All that remained at Carissa’s feet was a bloody doll the size of a human palm that appeared to have been cut from a large wooden board.
Carissa stepped on the Robin Hood stabbing into its neck to completely destroy the wooden board.
At the same time, a magical transmission arrived from the knights.
“I have a report. Teams A through F have found no trace of the magic god or the production of the lance. I repeat: we have found no trace of them! This Sargasso is completely empty!!”
“So we picked the wrong target. All men, do not even think about escape. We don’t have time!! Focus all your power on defense, so you can outlast the-…!!”
Before she finished speaking, something else happened.
Sargasso was swallowed up by an explosion and disappeared from the planet.
The presidential aide Roseline Krackhart frowned within one room of New York’s UN headquarters building. She glanced over at Queen Regnant Elizard without thinking.
“What do you mean?”
The nun Orsola Aquinas was providing support with information organization and analysis in London’s national library. When she received the report, she exchanged a glance with Sherry Cromwell, the brown magician who specialized in using a golem.
In Academy City’s District 23 international airport, Leivinia Birdway initially thought she had misheard. But the subordinate she was speaking with over the phone, Mark Space, repeated the exact same words.
“We received a second report. The spy noticed a trap set by the enemy and corrected the information. The real Sargasso that Gremlin is using as their headquarters is located…”
The background noise was loud.
A violent impulse rose within Birdway’s chest that made her want to fry every single thing that could produce noise.
But that was nothing more than her impatience and tension rising to the surface.
Her subordinate continued speaking.
“…in Japan. It is almost in the very center of Tokyo Bay!! They are already on the move!!”
“This is no joke,” muttered Birdway as if spitting out the words. Her voice quickly grew louder. “This is no joke, dammit!! It had nothing at all to do with the layout of the ley lines or the historical foundation of the location? Damn Gremlin!! Was freeing themselves of those locational conditions part of their preparations around the world!?”
“Hey, Birdway, what’s going on?”
Unsurprisingly, Kamijou and the others had not heard everything said to Birdway over the phone.
Just as Birdway started speaking, something else happened.
They felt a low rumbling in the earth.
Small objects floated down from the ceiling. They were pieces of various materials that had scraped off.
“What?” Kamijou looked up. “That was distant. It sounded like thunder, but…was that an explosion? To hear it this far away, how big was it?”
“This is no time to be worrying about that,” said Birdway quickly. “They placed their Sargasso base in Tokyo Bay near Academy City!! Academy City has given no official opinion on the destruction of Gremlin. They aren’t part of the international conference in New York! Units have been sent out to places all over the world in preparation, but the area around Academy City is the one place where the usual military balance won’t work. After all, this one city caused a world war! Gremlin is using that fact!!”
“Wait… Hold up…”
“From that commotion just now, I assume Gremlin has learned the investigation is over. And to deal with it, they’ve started an attack of their own! I don’t know if this is a preemptive strike out of fear of Academy City’s military might or if they’re targeting your right hand!!”
“Wait a second, Birdway!! Tokyo Bay? Gremlin’s in Tokyo Bay!? But that’s a terrible place for them to be… With Gremlin in the bay and Academy City to the west, the primary battlefield between the two of them will be…!!”
Even Birdway was showing some panic.
Even so, she spoke clearly.
“The battlefield today will be Japan’s capital of Tokyo. And it will be the 23 special wards at the heart of the city where most of the administrative agencies are!!”
Kamijou felt faint.
This was insane.
Gremlin had placed their base right next to Academy City. If they launched an all-out attack on Academy City, the city would not remain silent. They would do whatever they could to set up a defensive line in the center of Tokyo. If that happened, the two forces could end up mercilessly clashing throughout Tokyo. It would be Baggage City all over again. And this time, it would be in the capital of a nation, even if Academy City tended to overshadow it. Kamijou could not even guess how far the effects would spread if the city was paralyzed by a battle that made one want to cover one’s eyes.
But this was no time to be standing around in shock.
No matter how they spent their time, the crisis would arrive just as soon.
Birdway struck Kamijou’s back and shouted at him.
“We need to get to the supersonic passenger plane. Pass through the employee gate and get to the electronic cart!!”
“We’re going to run away!? Even though we know blood is going to be shed here!?”
“The only way to stop this is sinking Gremlin with a swift attack before the two forces collide! And right now, the only way to stop the production of the lance is with your right hand! We need to get to Sargasso no matter what. We can jump out of the plane with a parachute if we need to!! You need to assume each decision you make here could lead to a capital city’s…no, an entire nation’s destruction!!”
He did not even have time to worry about Index, Mikoto, or the others.
He did not know how exactly Gremlin would attack. Depending on the route they chose, a large-scale battle could occur right next to the part of the city his parents had moved to.
“Where the hell is the employee gate!?”
He started running through the airport.
Even if they did not know what exactly was happening, a slight commotion had started running through the airport. The electronic displays were saying all flights had been cancelled due to an emergency. At first Kamijou thought a lot of foreign businessmen were rushing toward the airline reception counters, but it turned out that was not the only place people were headed. An announcement began cycling through different languages.
After a few loops, Kamijou finally heard the Japanese announcement as he ran.
“Please head to the special shelters. Halls A3, E4, F2, and H3 have underground shelters large enough for 2000 people each. For information on the situation, please check the displays throughout the airport or the official site. Please get to a shelter that has room left.”
District 23 had the city’s aerospace development facilities contained within it. In addition to the terrorist countermeasures common to all international airports, this one had airtight underground shelters in case rocket fuel containing toxic components leaked out.
However, this was the first time Kamijou had ever heard this announcement.
The announcement sounded gentle and calm at first, but that hinted that the situation was actually quite out of the ordinary.
(Damn. The atmosphere has grown tense.)
Kamijou grimaced as he ran in the opposite direction of the flow of people.
(Do I really have to smell this stench here? This dangerous stench!! Can wars really start this easily? I thought this was only supposed to happen when someone made a decisive mistake as they steered history!)
“Wait! Wait up, you!!”
He heard a loud voice.
He turned around while still running to see Misaka Mikoto behind him.
“Tokyo is going to be a battlefield? Like in Hawaii!? You have to be kidding. Please tell me you’re kidding!!”
“I don’t know what’s going on either!! But you can tell things are bad from the smell, right!?”
“My mama lives there! I need something more concrete than that!!”
Kamijou clenched his teeth.
And he spoke.
“Come with me! That’s better than just watching, right!?”
Index ran up behind him as well.
That white nun holding a calico cat looked indignant.
“Touma! Why aren’t you relying on a magic expert when you’re about to fight a group of magicians!?”
He did not have time for these questions.
If it came down to it, he could have just him and Mikoto parachute down when they passed over Sargasso in the supersonic plane. This was not the time to get bogged down in an argument.
“Where’s the employee gate anyway!?”
“Did you just start running without thinking!?”
Kumokawa Maria thought over the conversation she had heard just before the situation began to move.
She felt overwhelmingly more fear toward that organization than she did hostility. She wanted to keep her run-ins with them to a minimum. After that one incident, she simply never wanted to see them again.
Kumokawa Maria understood that teacher of hers was already dead. She had accepted that. The problem was that the eyepatch-wearing girl who called herself Othinus was controlling Kihara Kagun’s supposedly dead body.
She would not have done so for no reason or with no need.
That eyepatch-wearing girl did not seem as violently emotional as the brown girl Kumokawa Maria had once met in Baggage City.
She would use someone because they were useful.
She would ensure she had something because she could use it in her plan.
In that case, why had she done that?
(His life should have ended there. No one would ever accept it, but that had to be the best end for him! Yet… Yet…!! She’s using his empty shell to do something? That oppression could twist what kind of person he truly was!!)
She would take him back.
She had been unable to rescue the human named Kihara Kagun, but she could not let her teacher’s honor be disgraced any further.
And so she set her sights on retrieving that teacher’s body no matter how frightening an opponent it put her up against.
The thin thread she needed to do that lay before her eyes.
That thread was Kamijou Touma.
This meant she would cross paths with those monsters from Gremlin once more. It had been a miracle that she survived in Baggage City. It could be even worse this time. She might not come back alive.
(I will do this.)
But Kumokawa Maria could not stop.
(I will do this!! If I overlook this chance, I will live a life of regret, so I need to focus my entire life here. I will make sure I am decisively rejected and then give up! I will bring an end to everything related to him!!)
They could not even spare the time for a detailed explanation.
Kamijou and the others jumped over the employee gate like it was a hurdle and ran down the narrow passageway while ignoring the cries of the airport employees. They threw open an oddly thick stainless steel door and jumped into the electronic cart waiting there.
Birdway and Lessar must have used a shorter route because they were already aboard.
But something else happened before the cart could move toward the supersonic passenger plane on the runway.
It was Kumokawa Maria.
Instead of using the cart’s door, she practically climbed in through the window to force herself inside.
“I’m going, too. I’ve already made up my mind, so you can’t talk me out of it!! I’ll do anything, so please take me with you to where Gremlin is!!”
“Gnyaaah!? She managed to casually climb on the lap of my target, Kamijou Touma. Such exquisite negotiation skills. And she’s also a maid that managed to slip in the fact that she will do ‘anything’!? I-I may have been mistaken about who my greatest rival is!!”
Lessar raised her voice in confusion, but Kumokawa Maria did not seem to be listening.
“From what I heard, it seems Gremlin’s base is in Tokyo Bay. In that case, I don’t need my passport. Adding on a last-minute passenger shouldn’t be a problem!!”
“N-no, wait! There’s still the hurdle of leaving Academy City without permission!”
“All of you are slipping past that restriction, so that means there’s a loophole here, right?”
“We don’t have time to argue,” cut in Birdway. “We can easily take someone with a death wish to the battlefield. What matters right now is getting Kamijou Touma out of Academy City! If Gremlin’s primary objective is Imagine Breaker rather than Academy City, then we can draw their aim away. That might prevent the two forces from entering into direct conflict!!”
Birdway tapped on the driver’s seat headrest and the driver set off. The electronic cart produced no engine noise and moved surprisingly smoothly toward the unique silhouette of a supersonic passenger plane.
It was a civilian craft that used bomber technology.
And since it would now be carrying what firepower they had (i.e. Kamijou Touma), its role was not much different.
“It looks like the engine has already been warmed up. Get on! We’ll take off in five minutes!!”
Urged on by Birdway, Kamijou and the others climbed up the stairs and into the plane. The plane lurched before they had even sat in their seats properly, much less fastened their seatbelts. That would have been bad enough in a normal airplane, but this supersonic plane could fly at 7000 kph. They could easily be freed from the bonds of gravity while in a narrow tunnel-like space.
“Sorry about asking you to do this,” said Kumokawa Maria just before they took off. “But I just couldn’t let go of this last connection to my old teacher. This might be the point where my life switches over to another set of rails. So…!!”
Kamijou did not know the details of the situation.
But he did not think that was a major issue.
It was rare for someone to truly understand the situation another person was in.
She wanted to accomplish something for the sake of someone else. Kamijou had met several people with similar feelings hidden within them. Kumokawa Maria had the same light in her eyes.
“I’ve lived my life so far by doing the same thing. It’s nothing admirable, though. The place you think you are is not as much of a dead end as you think it is.”
“Y-your panties are striped yellow and black, too!! You’re too shocking! Your seat is over here!!”
Lessar dragged Kumokawa Maria away, but they truly took off before she managed to sit down.
Kamijou frantically spoke up because he was familiar with the world of 7000 kph.
“H-hey! Hurry up and fasten your seatbelts! Just grabbing on with your hands isn’t enough!”
“You’re still focusing on that bee girl!? Are you trying to turn me into a jealousy character!?”
Hearing that, Mikoto covered her face with one hand.
“Bee girl? That reminds me of her. No, I can’t have her showing up here…”
The sense of acceleration pressing against their gut grew.
The supersonic passenger plane left the international airport’s runway and glided nicely up into the air. By the time Kamijou looked at the scenery outside the window, thinking they would be outside Academy City soon, the cityscape below had already greatly changed.
They were no longer in Academy City.
He was seeing the scenery of Shinjuku or somewhere similar.
At this rate, he thought they might arrive at the Sargasso on Tokyo Bay before reaching 7000 kph.
But he was being naïve.
With a great roar, some kind of giant monster flew alongside the plane outside the window.
He did not have time to voice his question or give a warning.
The creature was the size of the passenger plane and it looked like a lizard with bat wings added on. Its entire silhouette appeared to be formed from massive amounts of red thread.
However, one would never find this creature in an animal encyclopedia.
In picture books, it may have been called a dragon.
A giant eyeball with a vertical, snake-like pupil rolled in the creature’s head and looked at Kamijou Touma through the window.
It did not breathe fire.
Instead, it gave a large flap of its giant wings.
In an instant, that crystallization of cutting-edge technology was mercilessly sliced in half.
Kamijou Touma, Index, Misaka Mikoto, Leivinia Birdway, Lessar, Kumokawa Maria, the calico cat Sphinx, and the pilot were all mercilessly thrown out into empty air.
The plane may not have made it to its proper altitude yet, but they were still three hundred meters up.
And they fell toward the center of Tokyo.
Between the Lines 2
The power of Academy City’s #2 Level 5 was known as Dark Matter.
No matter where the essence of that power or the primary personality ruling it may have been at the moment, “he” was undoubtedly the one who had first brought that #2 power into the world.
His name was Kakine Teitoku.
He was currently known as an empty husk because he was nothing but a collection of a few organs including his brain.
Those few organs began unnaturally wriggling like a worm as if an invisible hand had grabbed a bag filled with water. A pure white and sticky substance gathered around those organs. Details began to form and pale color appeared on the surface. In the blink of an eye, it transformed into something that could not be distinguished from a beautiful human boy.
“Ghahhh… Cough cough! Cough!!”
The sea breeze stung at his nose.
The merciless chilly air stabbed at his exposed skin.
He was lying atop a strange land made up of the ruins of countless boats. He realized he had several cables attached to his body here and there. He had seen something similar before. That was back when the dark side of Academy City had hooked him up to a life support device and had him do nothing but produce Dark Matter as a material for weapons. The equipment around him now was junk compared to back then, but he thought it was praiseworthy to catch up to Academy City using nothing but junk.
He heard a female voice coming from somewhere.
“It looks like he’s conscious.”
A gloomy male voice answered.
“That does not matter. I only need to have him produce what we need.”
It seemed they were indeed after his Dark Matter as material for a weapon. The reason him being conscious “did not matter” may have been because the man thought he could eternally control and restrain his physical body by sending special electrical signals into his brain.
That was not entirely wrong.
Or at least, it was not wrong when talking about the Kakine Teitoku who had sunk into the depths of Academy City’s dark side.
“A new age has arrived.”
He slowly moved his lips.
This must have been an unexpected reaction. He could clearly tell focus had turned to him. He heard the sound of some kind of meter being operated, but no change came over him. His smile did not vanish.
“The old age is long over. I don’t know who you are or what you’re after, but your fate is clear now that the age has left you behind. How sad. If you had tried this exact same thing just a few weeks ago, you might have gained everything you wished without issue. I really do feel sorry for you.”
The sounds of narrow tubes breaking from the inside could be heard.
The Dark Matter ate into the objects around him as if flowing back through the electrodes and cables meant to control the device known as Kakine Teitoku. All color turned to white and the electronic devices at the other end of the cables were swallowed up in an instant.
“Ha ha ha!! Ogaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!”
It seemed they had set up a parallel processor by constructing a giant system out of hundreds of computers, but it did not matter. It was too late. He spread out through each and every one of the cables set up like a spider web. He devoured all of the computers, all of the power sources allowing those computers to run, and everything else they were connected to. He bit into them, swallowed them, digested them, and turned them all into a part of him.
“I don’t care who you are. It doesn’t matter what you’ve built up. I’m not interested in what you’ll give to the world. Good and evil? Kindness and malice? Gain and loss? Positive and negative? We can let historians decide that 100 years from now. All I know is what fate you deserve for trying to use me as a tool!!”
A horrible noise continued as if he were breaking every last bone in his body from within.
Pure white wings extended from his back. They spread out like plants growing in fast forward. They were not merely a few dozen meters long or a few hundred meters long. In an instant, those wings enveloped that giant pile of ruined ships that could be mistaken for an island.
They formed a dome around it.
They formed a cage of slaughter.
“Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!! Ah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!”
The situation was thrown off track.
The situation tilted and then toppled over in a direction no one had imagined.
During the Cold War in which both sides had thrust thousands of nuclear missiles before their enemy as a threat, the most feared thing had been an uncontrollable chaos. That nightmare was blooming here.
And an instant before that chaos arrived…
An eyepatch-wearing girl unhesitatingly grabbed Kakine Teitoku’s neck in one hand.
Not even a subtle change could be seen on her face.
Even with that horrifying result before her, her entire body appeared perfectly relaxed.
For a while, he did not understand why there were groans coming from his mouth.
The eyepatch-wearing girl had grabbed Kakine Teitoku’s neck with a single hand and lifted him up. No, she was not just grabbing his neck. Her fingers were digging into it. Those fingertips sank deeply into that body made of Dark Matter. She used pure strength. Her fingertips had dug in deep enough to reach his spine, but she increased that strength a bit further and those fingertips sank even deeper. The sensation of that hard bone being crushed was followed by indescribable pain filling his entire body.
It only took a single attack.
The dome-shaped cage of slaughter covering the entirety of Sargasso shattered and floated down like snow.
“I see everything is on schedule.”
“This is the scientific material needed to fill the gap magic left in the construction of the lance. Any pure specimen tough enough to withstand the development into a holistic esper can be used, so Fräulein Kreutune specifically is not needed. We do not need any combat ability from the device that produces the material.”
The eyepatch-wearing girl and the gloomy man exchanged a few short words.
All the while, a cracking sound could be heard as the girl poured tremendous strength into Kakine Teitoku’s neck.
“Listen, you piece of scrap. I only expect one thing from you. Just one.” The eyepatch-wearing girl spoke slowly to him. “Be of use to me. …If you can’t, I’ll carefully remake everything about you until you can and do. It will be like holding a girl’s head down and beating her face into something completely unrecognizable with your fist.”
The sounds of breath escaping had no connection to Kakine Teitoku’s will.
The girl dug her fingertips inside his spine and disturbed what lay within. That stimulus caused his body to involuntarily convulse. He was like a ventriloquist doll made of living flesh.
“Where’s you answer? Say ‘as you wish’.”
And with that, a dull sound exploded out.
This was nothing as simple as breaking his neck.
It was unclear what force was acting on him, but the object that made up Kakine Teitoku’s human form was compressed from all directions and transformed into a mass the size of a volley ball.
A distorted pattern could be seen on the surface similar to when transparent glass was forced against someone’s face or someone wore a stocking over their head.
The eyepatch-wearing girl grabbed the ball in one hand and tossed it to the gloomy man.
“Do what needs to be done. You should be able to finish this before the same happens to you.”
Suddenly, a deep noise similar to a dinosaur’s roar burst out overhead.
The vibration of the air filled Sargasso and a few of the ruined boats rolled down the pile. The girl looked unconcernedly up into the white steam-filled sky.
“Mökkurkalfe and Níðhöggr. So their turn has finally come. It took you a while to find this one little base,” spat out the girl.
However, she showed no interest in the enemies surely making their way toward her.
She was speaking only to what lay within herself.
“The production of the spear is in its final stages. Bring in Marian Slingeneyer. Have her finish the work with the skills of a Dvergr.”
- The “hou” of “Shokuhou Misaki” means “bee”.