Toaru Majutsu no Index:NT Volume8 Chapter3
Chapter 3: Doubt at the Edge of Decision. Turning_Point.
In truth, Kamijou and the others had been wearing lightweight parachutes before the plane took off. Unlike normal parachutes, these ones had no secondary chute and no safety feature to automatically open based on an altimeter. These alterations shaved away at their life-saving features, but allowed the packed parachute to be as small as a thin school bag.
A parachute could not be used under certain circumstances such as extreme wind.
And did you know one of those conditions was being below a certain altitude?
The parachute would not be able to provide enough deceleration, so the wearer would slam into the ground.
His vision spun around and around until he had no idea which way was up. He could only feel a strange fear inside his gut. He had been dropped from 300 meters up, so he could not avoid an instant death if he struck the ground. He frantically reached behind him and tried to pull the string, but he could not get a good grip on the thin string being blown around by the air.
It took three to five seconds.
He tried not to think about how far he had approached the ground in that time. He squeezed his eyes shut, grabbed the string, and pulled as hard as he could.
The bag on his back exploded open.
An intense burden was placed on the shoulder straps, but something was wrong. Kamijou had never thought a parachute could reproduce the phenomenon of a dwarf slowly travelling through the sky with a large umbrella seen in picture books, but he was falling much faster than he had expected. The deceleration was insufficient. He was still falling rather than descending.
(You’re kidding me… It didn’t open properly!? Did it get tangled up!?)
He looked up to see the fabric of the parachute had not formed a proper circle. It had formed an odd shape similar to a half-moon with pleats.
A parachute could not open and function properly in every position.
Forcing it open while spinning through the air had increased the risk of it not functioning properly.
His altitude was also insufficient.
Even if he had used the parachute properly, the landing would have provided enough of an impact to break a bone if he got his footing wrong.
It was blatantly obvious what would happen if he slammed into the asphalt now.
To put it simply: instant death.
(If I fall…I’ll die!!)
Kamijou flailed his limbs around despite knowing it was hopeless.
And then his body stopped as if it had caught on something. The impact knocked the breath out of him. After a short delay, he realized he was swaying back and forth like a clock’s pendulum.
He looked up and saw something sticking out in a straight line. It looked like an improvised rope forcibly made out of a curtain or something similar. At the end, he could see it was tangled around a silhouette resembling a giant fishing rod made of steel.
(A crane… Is this a high-rise building under construction?)
A quick glance told him he was over 30 stories up.
He was over two hundred meters from the asphalt surface.
The building was incomplete, so this was not the roof. The crane was made to have its height extended after the exterior of each floor was completed.
As Kamijou dangled down, the highest floor was approximately seven meters below his feet. That was no different from jumping off the roof a two-story house. However, the crane must have been in the middle of lifting steel beams up from the ground because it was protruding out from the building. If Kamijou let go of his parachute bag, he would not even graze the building as he fell to the surface.
Kamijou heard the disturbing sound of snapping fibers from overhead.
If a parachute was blown away from its landing point, it could enter a forest. If it got caught in a thick tree and left the wearer hanging for long periods of time, it could cause serious enough damage to crush the artery under the armpit.
What if that risk had been eliminated by having the silk fabric woven such that the parachute was strong to the even force of catching the air but weak to more narrow impacts? What if it was made to quickly break when it was caught in a tree?
Kamijou immediately grabbed at the wire holding him up.
The sound of the fabric tearing grew louder.
(Not good!! If the parachute caught on the crane tears, I’ll fall straight for the asphalt! I need to climb up to the crane before that happens!!)
However, this was not as easy as Kamijou imagined it would be.
He was dangling from the bottom of the wire which was attached to his back, so he had to climb up while supporting his entire bodyweight with his arms.
In movies and documentaries, special forces were often seen quickly climbing up or down a wire hanging from a sheer cliff or a hovering helicopter, but that was because they distributed the weight bearing down on their grip by having their legs grabbing onto the wire as well as their hands.
Trying to crawl using only one’s arms shows how surprisingly difficult it is to move forward. This was the same but with the bonds of gravity at their greatest due to advancing vertically.
It was near impossible for anyone but a competitive weightlifter.
Before he even made it three meters up, an unpleasant pain started coming from the insides of Kamijou’s upper arms. He had pushed his muscles past their limit and they had raised the white flag.
The ripping of the complexly tangled parachute’s fabric was now visible.
Once it completely tore, there would be nothing he could do.
His all-negating right hand gave him no way of safely landing from that hellish free fall.
(Am I going to die this easily? I don’t even know what’s going on and haven’t even seen the person attacking. Can this really happen!?)
Suddenly, he heard a sound similar to roaring wind.
But this was not the common sound of wind blowing between high-rise buildings.
It was not even wind.
It was a giant form.
It was that dragon-like flying monster that had flown alongside the supersonic passenger plane and cut it in two.
It circled through the sky and charged directly toward where Kamijou dangled as if destroying its previous steel prey had not been enough.
He did not even have time to complain about the cruelty of the world.
The steel crane Kamijou hung from was completely smashed and flew through the air.
He could not even hear the sound of the impact.
The scenery transformed into distorted flowing lines. He could tell he was being swung around like a morning star. He felt an unpleasant chill as if his heart had shot up from his feet. Even as his vision was thrown into disarray, Kamijou was just barely able to tell he had been thrown further away from the building and toward a road wide enough to land a small Cessna on.
And then he grasped the situation.
(The crane broke and is falling toward the road!?)
A snapping sound cut off Kamijou’s thoughts.
The parachute fabric binding him to the crane had finally reached its limit.
As if he had slipped out, Kamijou’s body was thrown from the remains of the crane as they rotated and fell. It was like fixing a stone to the end of a stick with double-sided tape and then swinging the stick around as hard as one could.
Even so, Kamijou did not reach the top floor of the partially-constructed building.
He was mercilessly tossed into a floor partway down which had not yet had glass added to the windows.
His cry of pain was drowned out by the roar of the remains of the giant crane reaching the ground.
Unable to withstand the pain, Kamijou curled up in the fetal position. He rolled around and continued screaming. He was not simply trying to distract himself from the pain. He was doing it without realizing it, but he was screaming in order to release the limiters in his head and intentionally secrete certain substances in his brain. It was the same thing done in certain track and field events such as the hammer throw.
Kamijou finally unsteadily rose to his feet on that floor with exposed concrete, exposed steel columns, and no interior whatsoever.
The monster from before shot by just outside the building, so Kamijou hurriedly hid behind a thick column.
But it did not try to attack.
That monster which was completely covered in red thread must have been satisfied with destroying the crane. It flapped its giant wings and flew off without checking on the damage it had done.
(Where’s Index? And what about Misaka, Birdway, Lessar, and Kumokawa Maria!? What happened to them? Did they make it to the ground safely with their parachutes? They weren’t attacked on the way down, were they!?)
He pulled out his cell phone and called Index’s number. She tended not to answer her 0 yen phone, but he had no choice but to gather what information he could, one by one.
Index did not answer.
In fact, it did not even ring once.
Instead, a recorded female voice gave a looping announcement.
“The lines are currently extremely congested. To give priority to emergency services such as the police and firefighters, we ask that you refrain from making unnecessary calls or emails. To check on the safety of your family and friends, please use the cell phone companies’ emergency voice message service.”
Calls would not get through. Emails were out, too.
He could not display the simple message board for cell phones either. The screen displayed a communication error and froze up.
He tried routing around the issue with a wireless LAN app that used wi-fi, but it would not work either. He doubted all of the phone’s services would work here because it was an Academy City phone, but this was too much.
For an instant, he wondered if the communications network had been intentionally knocked out, but he decided against it.
There was something else to suspect before resorting to conspiracy theories.
If the lines were overloaded, something must have happened to overload them.
Kamijou looked back toward the glass-less window.
He had rolled a good way along the floor, so he was over ten meters from the window. He could not check on the wide road down below from there. To check, he had to approach the window and peer down.
He realized he was feeling an intense aversion to doing that.
This was not a fear of heights. It was not a refusal to remind himself he was in a dangerous place. He was afraid the scenery down below would have transformed into something he could not even imagine.
Whether he checked or not, the truth would not change.
And the sooner he gained that information, the more options he might have for his next action.
Kamijou slowly and unsteadily moved out from behind the steel pillar. He walked toward the glass-less window. He took one step, then another. Each time the soles of his shoes touched the ground, he felt the tension inside him grow. It was like playing Russian roulette and seeing the odds of the bullet rising bit by bit as each empty round went by.
He took the final step.
Kamijou stood on the edge of a steep cliff with nothing to grab on to.
With motions so stiff they seemed to make creaking noises, he lowered his gaze.
And he saw…
Misaka Mikoto was thrown mercilessly from the supersonic passenger plane.
She calmly grabbed the string to her parachute, but she spotted a white form falling quickly toward the ground. It was Index who was holding a struggling calico cat. The parachute had no safety device to automatically release based on an altimeter. If she did not know how to use her parachute, she would literally plunge headfirst to the ground.
Mikoto stopped using her parachute and stretched out her arms and legs as if diving into a pool. With a sensation of accelerating toward the ground, she quickly approached Index who was chaotically rotating as she fell.
“Come here, you!!”
She reached out a hand and grabbed the white nun’s arm with her fingertips.
They were less than 100 meters from the ground. Even if she opened her parachute now, it would be impossible to stop their combined weights before hitting the ground. They would slam into the asphalt with plenty of momentum to spare.
She gave up on that.
She switched over her focus and began controlling magnetism.
Mikoto felt bad about how much the cat in Index’s arms began to struggle, but she had more important things to worry about.
She bent her legs and pressed the bottoms of her feet against the wall of a giant train station building and slid down with tremendous force. She decelerated so quickly it was amazing orange sparks did not burst out. While detecting the stench of leather being burnt by friction, Misaka Mikoto finally killed their falling speed and came to a stop at four stories up.
Mikoto glanced around while supporting Index and the calico cat in one arm.
“Is this Shinjuku Station? I’ve only ever seen pictures online.”
More specifically, it was the east entrance. The familiar TV studio from a certain national midday TV show was there. Mikoto had imagined it was filled with non-Academy City fashion shops, but the signs for consumer electronics stores stood out more prominently. They could be seen all over the place.
But she did not even consider dropping to the ground and looking around from there.
There was a simple reason for this.
“What is all this?”
It looked like the tide going in and out on fast forward.
It looked like marching army ants.
The true identity of this strange sight was people. People young, old, male, and female filled the streets and plazas to the extent that Mikoto wondered why they were not in school or at work (even if the same applied to her).
They had not gathered from across the country for some event.
They had nowhere to stand. Mikoto could not tell what color the sidewalk was. No matter where she looked, she saw only heads, heads, and more heads. And this was not limited to the sidewalk. With no regard for the color of the traffic lights, the streets were filled with long lines of congested traffic and the gaps between cars were filled with large numbers of pedestrians. The sight seemed to twist one’s sense of what was normal. The area was so packed that one began to wonder why no one was standing on the hoods or roofs of the cars.
“It’s Gremlin.” muttered Index as she hung down. “Gremlin did something.”
That may have been the case.
However, they could not tell what exactly that was.
A giant shadow cut by over their heads. It was that fairy tale monster which had sliced apart the supersonic plane earlier. However, it only passed by in the sky. It gave no concentrated attack on Mikoto and Index and it did not indiscriminately destroy the buildings or people in the area.
Mikoto suddenly pictured the face of her mother, Misuzu, who lived in the city.
She used her powers to access her cell phone while holding Index in both hands, but received no response.
“All of the lines are overloaded. I can’t connect to anything but the disaster message board. And it looks like there’s no message there.”
Just to be sure, she set it to record the message on her phone if one came in. She then released her control over the phone.
(Shinjuku is right in front of Academy City. If these Gremlin people are advancing from Tokyo Bay to Academy City, they should have no reason to stop here. Why aren’t they charging straight into Academy City?)
The gigantic traffic jam and all the people spilling out onto the streets meant it was likely some major roads and bridges had been taken out somewhere else. However, that stance seemed somehow insufficient. They could try to attack Academy City without doing any damage to Tokyo in the middle or they could view Tokyo as an obstacle and destroy it as they advanced. However, they were causing sporadic damage without leaning toward one stance or the other.
Mikoto could see no obvious conviction or benefit from doing that.
However, they had to have a reason.
She thought for a while, and then…
“It can’t be…”
Leivinia Birdway, Lessar, and Kumokawa Maria had no particular sense of camaraderie between them. They had all boarded that supersonic passenger plane because they wanted to stick with Kamijou Touma for their own individual reasons, so that should not have been surprising.
Unlike the other scattered members of the group, they had calmly controlled their midair orientation and opened their parachutes. Their falling distance had been a bit on the short side, but they had greatly bent their knees upon landing to absorb and soften the impact. That had allowed them to land on the asphalt without injury.
Birdway unfastened her parachute, balled it up, and tossed it in a nearby trash gathering spot.
“Where are we? The wind blew us a good ways.”
“This shabby disorder makes me think of Kabukicho. Look, the overall cityscape is identical to the one in Tatsu no Gotoshi. Oh, where’s the Nice Middle Japanese tattoo shop?”
“Don’t think of that as normal scenery in Japan, you damn Westerner. And…ugh. The area above us is filled with power lines. If we had hit those, we might have been electrocuted.”
Lessar and Kumokawa Maria gave casual comments, but this was Japan’s largest shopping district where girls their age would be taken in by the police if they were found walking around, even during the day. Kumokawa Maria would receive an especially thorough questioning since she was a minor wearing a suspicious-looking maid uniform.
And they soon stopped talking.
But not because they heard police sirens or because a black luxury German car attacked them.
It was due to the low rumbling below their feet.
Near a baseball stadium, even the buildings and train stations built of reinforced concrete would physically shake during a dramatic come-from-behind homerun. When tens of thousands of spectators stood up and stamped their feet at the same time, it would produce a shaking detectable on a seismometer.
As magicians, Birdway and Lessar had experience with areas of unrest and Kumokawa Maria had acquired an antenna to detect danger while in Baggage City, so they all detected the dangerous scent immediately.
“This is bad. I don’t know who, but a large number of people are headed this way.”
“Wow. Is this that one where you think it’s gonna be about yakuza, but it’s actually about zombies? Where’s my gun!? I need to find a cabaret club right away!!”
“Again, that should not be what reminds you of Japan, you damn Westerner!! …Are you always joking around like that because you’re trying to motivate yourself?”
At any rate, they would be trapped if they were surrounded by all those people.
The three girls began running away from the source of the rumbling without checking where they were going.
“That was a large train station over there, right?” asked Birdway as she looked over her shoulder.
“Yes. I just hope the destroyed plane didn’t crash into it.”
“We play dirty with our countermeasures to prevent technology from leaking out, so you don’t have to worry about that. As soon as it can no longer fly, a special jet fuel and powerful acid are used to thoroughly destroy the entire plane. The only thing that reaches the ground is a black dust of which the components cannot be analyzed even with a microscope.”
“Oh, I see. So what happened to the pilot?”
“They’re professionals at this sort of thing. We can only pray he wasn’t stupid enough to screw up his escape.”
There were others in their scattered group who had been thrown out into the sky, but those were their only worries. They each seemed to understand that normal common sense would not work with the others.
“I don’t like getting separated from Kamijou Touma at a time like this. His right hand is the cornerstone for attacking Sargasso and stopping the production of the lance.”
While they continued running from the source of the noise, they heard a similar low rumbling coming from a different direction. The directions that noise came from continued to increase until they were surrounded.
Kumokawa Maria pointed arbitrarily to the side.
“Let’s go to a nearby building.”
The nearby multi-tenant buildings were of uneven height and had disorderly decorative lights on them. A dirty metal staircase that was of dubious usefulness as an emergency staircase could be seen between two of the buildings. The three of them ran up that narrow staircase that looked like a collection of folded metal rods.
Immediately afterwards, two waves of people suddenly met up in the narrow intersection as if colliding. It looked like a beach during midsummer. People filled the space so thoroughly that the color of the road could not be seen. Occasional sounds of breaking glass could be heard. Either the overflowing people were breaking through the shop doors or the scooters parked alongside the road were being knocked over.
A deluge of voices came from the crowd. They sounded both angry and uncertain.
“Dammit. How far do we have to walk to catch a cab!?”
“Oh, no. That flying thing isn’t going to come here, is it?”
“Wait, my cell phone seriously isn’t working? But now I can’t upload the video I took! I know I’d get tons of views if I uploaded it!!”
“Ow! Don’t push me, you idiot! I want to get to the station. I need to get a delay certificate…”
However, none of the voices were completely panicked. None of them seemed to feel their life was in danger. It felt more like the extreme of the complaints when traffic was stopped due to a large scale traffic light malfunction.
“This is Gremlin’s doing.” Birdway clicked her tongue while looking down from the staircase landing. “They destroyed a few choice roads in the city to paralyze the transportation network. That must also be why that dragon-like thing is flying around but not attacking Academy City.”
“What do you mean???”
“They’ve made a human wall,” she said in a displeased voice. She may have experienced something similar at some point. “It’s the same as a hardening of the arteries. If you take out an especially large road, the cars have to take a detour down another road. That causes congestion on that smaller road. Once the cars and buses aren’t working, the people start going by foot. This fills the sidewalks and walking paths with people, preventing anyone from moving along them either. The entire system grinds to a halt before long.”
“So they filled the mesh of roads in Tokyo with people so no one can get through. That’s what happens when you have 17 million people living in such high density. If you destroy even a small number of important points, a barricade of living flesh sets itself up on its own.”
One could not walk from the front of a train to the very back when it was filled with people during rush hour. This was similar to making all of Tokyo the same.
It made sense.
But something seemed off to Kumokawa Maria.
While in Baggage City, she had personally experienced how fiercely Gremlin could attack.
“Is Gremlin really a group that worries about keeping damage to a minimum? If they wanted to create a barricade, they just had to destroy enough buildings to cover up the roads. Masses of concrete seem more reliable than trying to control uncertain flows of people.”
“That’s true,” readily admitted Birdway. “But who is this barricade meant to hold in check? Do you really think a group willing to make an enemy of the entire world would only be worried about us?”
“…? Then who are they trying to stop?”
“A much larger framework,” said Birdway.
Lessar shrugged and gave her guess.
“They are maintaining a situation with little damage but where they can cause great damage and bloodshed at any moment. They’re trying to distribute what people have to gain from this.”
Everyone heard the sound of the air being beaten.
The Tokyo Sky Tower was a new Japanese broadcasting tower over 600 meters tall. That giant steel tower was expected to become more of a landmark than the domed stadium and “it” had quietly landed at the very top.
Its giant form was made up of a massive amount of red thread.
It had thin membrane-like wings, similar to those of a bat.
That strange monster stared down at the concrete city like a bird of prey sitting atop a tree watching for a small animal.
“Shit, isn’t that dangerous!?”
“Posting it online can wait. I need to film that thing!! The guy who finds a new type of animal gets to give it a name, right? Is that in the order you send it in? Where do I send it!? The Tanaka Wyvern is right there!!”
“Something that huge must eat a ton every day. Kh. I hope it eats plankton like a whale!!”
It did not breathe fire and it did not knock down buildings with its giant body, but the majesty of its size and the clear look of a predator in its eyes was enough to put a great pressure on the human psyche. And that effect spread to the vast area from which the Tokyo Sky Tower could be seen.
“Do not fire! I repeat, do not fire!! Do not shoot at it!!”
A particularly noticeable shout rose amid the wave of people large enough to crush anyone fighting against it.
A police uniform was designed to stand out in any situation, but a newcomer who had only just graduated the police academy had lost sight of the owner of the voice.
He shouted out while searching for the figure who had to be somewhere in the darkness.
“Why!? I doubt the handguns we were issued can do anything against that dinosaur-like thing, but a police officer isn’t supposed to just stand by doing nothing!! If that thing charges into all these people…!!”
“That’s why I’m telling you not to provoke it!! Are you prepared to take the blame if an attack causes it to take action? Right now, there’s still a chance it won’t do anything. So don’t do anything to make it move!!”
Simply put, that was Gremlin’s aim.
During World War Three, countries around the world, whether from the science side or the magic side, had gathered in one spot to bring an end to the war. And that had ultimately been enough to defeat the giant force led by Fiamma of the Right.
Someone may have taken the lead.
Someone may have been the symbol of the group.
But in the end, it had been a large number of people fighting for a common goal that had safely brought an end to that large war that could have easily wiped out mankind. That overwhelming power had miraculously stopped the tragedy that should have occurred.
Gremlin had planned to distribute that.
They had distributed what people stood to gain.
It was possible they might not draw the joker. If they did not do anything to draw Gremlin’s attention, Gremlin might overlook everyone but those opposing their objective. That meager hope destroyed the people’s unity. Even though Gremlin, an obvious enemy, stood right before their eyes, something weighed down one side the scales in their minds so heavily that they averted their gaze from what normally would have been their top priority.
And this did not stop with the people of the city fearing for their lives and homes.
Could the people who ran the Japanese government choose to abandon the country’s capital city of Tokyo? At the same time, could they allow a battle between Academy City and Gremlin?
United States President Roberto Katze had brought together many different nations and powers to prepare a unified attack on Gremlin.
However, that was stalled as well.
They all wanted to protect different things. Gremlin had used that obvious fact in the worst possible way. People could not gather into a single group. The situation was now one of multiple scattered individuals.
This seemingly small trick had sealed the miracle which had occurred during World War Three.
If Gremlin destroyed the most dangerous elements of those scattered individuals, one by one, only a group of those too weak to fight back would remain.
That crowd that uncertainly moved about was destined to be destroyed by Magic God Othinus’s power once Gungnir was completed.
Until that instant, the sweet illusion that everything might turn out okay would remain.
“What are the riot police and JSDF doing? There’s a monster flying overhead that can fly from one end of Tokyo to the other in just a few minutes!!”
“Stay focused, newcomer!!”
The new police officer’s hand was tugged on forcefully.
He was dragged to a slight space below the staircase to a pedestrian bridge. The flow of people cut off there with almost laughable abruptness.
“Guiding the people to evacuation points comes before glaring at an enemy we can’t hope to defeat! If people start falling like dominos here, how many do you think will be crushed to death!? All of the surrounding roads are blocked up with people. Do you know how dangerous it is to not be able to call in an ambulance!?”
“I do, dammit!!”
Just as the new police officer shouted in desperation, a large number of voices burst out like an explosion. He looked over and saw the flow of people in one direction was being stopped by something. The people were pressing forward with the force to flip over a car, so this had to be something significant.
Had a new monster appeared?
Tension ran through the police officers, but their guess was wrong.
The sound of rubber tires tearing at the ground rang out. Several armored vehicles appeared in a large intersection while scraping alongside the line of cars stuck on the road. These were not the high-pressure water trucks the riot police used. They had tank-like turrets attached on the roof.
“Low pressure smoothbore guns!? They brought those in!?”
“I’m not obsessed with that kind of thing, so I don’t know what that means! Anyway, where did they come from? I thought all of the streets were packed.”
More of the same armored vehicles appeared.
That was when they finally caught on.
“The subway tunnels!? Did they force them through there!?”
“Has the JSDF decided to seriously take that thing on?”
A few seconds later, the new police officer realized he was being too optimistic.
The armored vehicles cut across the intersection and stopped such that they blocked off the flow of people. Their guns would never reach the monster on the tower from there. And most telling of all, the guns on top of the vehicles were not pointed toward the monster. Every single one was pointed directly toward the crowd.
It was as if they were fighting back against the people pressing in.
“That road, Roppongi Street, is one of the representative routes to Kasumigaseki!! They’re solely focused on keeping the VIPs happy at a time like this!?”
“Call center! Shut down all of the computers. Remove the server cables in order. Hurry!!”
A middle-aged man in a plain suit shouted into a rectangular room filled with nothing but rows of computers like a school computer lab.
An office lady inside was wearing the tight skirt uniform required for employees despite having no one around to see it. She whispered to a colleague in the neighboring seat. As this counted as work time on her time card, she made sure to keep her hands moving as she did so.
“What’s that about?”
“Are you serious? Have you not looked out the window at all? The city is in a complete panic. It seems the phones and internet are overloaded, so they can’t check their SNSs and message boards.”
“I don’t want to hear that from the person who toys with her phone while handling customers. Anyway, what does that have to do with shutting down the server? Our selling point is our 24/7 consultation. Keeping the server up seems important to me.”
“That’s just how bad the panic is outside. They don’t want to give any careless answers until coming up with a proper policy. If we start paying out insurance money to all of our clients, we’ll go under.”
“Eh? Is it that bad outside?’
Insurance companies were businesses that dealt with the small using the large.
Statistically speaking, someone grew ill, had an accident, fell victim to a crime, or was hit by a natural disaster every day. However, those sorts of trouble would only happen a few times in any one individual’s life.
The company would gather an equal amount of money from a large number of customers and pay money back only to an extremely limited number.
The company could provide a large amount of insurance money to each individual client by keeping that ratio intact.
What if a nation’s capital was utterly destroyed, over 15 million people received some kind of damage all at once, and 20% or 30% of an insurance company’s clients requested insurance money at the same time?
Simply put, the amount would instantly exceed their available funds and a large corporation known as a financial monster would be felled overnight.
“The higher ups are probably in a panic right now. They’ll be digging through the contracts and usage agreements. They’ll probably weasel their way out of it similar to how normal fire insurance doesn’t cover fires started in an earthquake.”
“But that only works because they specifically state that it doesn’t cover that. Insurance money is enough to influence the rest of one’s life, so I think they’ll get some arguments if they say they don’t cover it just because it isn’t mentioned. After all…”
As the office lady began to continue, the entire floor shook sharply.
A female worker near the window let out a short shriek.
Something large had flown right by the window, but it was not an aircraft. It was a living creature that resembled an eagle. The monster was made up of a great amount of red thread. It looked like a fighter one could only see in a movie.
No one had ever imagined something like that would attack.
And if no one had imagined it, it would not be described in the contracts.
“Yeah… I think it would be best to stay here for a while.”
“I hope the company still exists tomorrow. I can only pray the higher ups aren’t gathering up all the contents of the safe.”
“What do we do?” asked an annoyed man in a dark back alley.
He was wearing a dark blue work uniform and a similarly colored helmet that did not look like it was for construction work. The front of the helmet had a clear face guard attached and a simple baton made of oak wood hung at his waist. A dully-shining silver duralumin case sat at his feet.
He worked for a security company in a group that transported cash.
Several men and women wearing the same outfit stood in that back alley. It was technically a private road and a stainless steel fence and door were set up at the entrance to the alley, so it had not been swallowed up by the flood of people. However, that could change at any time. With that many people, the door could break from the great burden and then people would surge in.
“We can’t get back to the transport truck. And even if we could, it can’t get through those crowds. The nearest branch office is three kilometers away and it’s possible it will have the shutters lowered and the drop-off window sealed up.”
“How many hundreds of millions are in there again?” asked the youngest woman while kicking the silver case with the tips of her toes.
A man with a slight beard and a constant smell of cigarettes spoke up from the side.
“If you hit it too hard, it will send an emergency alarm to the main office.”
“Will they send a helicopter if that happens? If so, I’ll beat the crap out of the thing.”
Their cell phones could not get through.
Their company radios were filled with noise that could just barely be identified as human voices.
Only the police and firefighters did not seem enough to overload that. Someone somewhere must have realized the radio was usable and was sending out signals everywhere, radio laws be damned. All of them came up with the baseless assumption that it was a panicked investor trying to contact the financial market. Security guards who risked their lives transporting money naturally thought of investors when it came to selfish and senseless people.
“What are the company’s regulations? What’s the punishment for abandoning the money and running away?”
“I doubt it’s paying back the full sum. Even if that was the rule, no ordinary worker could hope to pay back that much.”
“Then the company would go bankrupt. There are already only a small number of clients for cash transportation. Once the company loses trust in one neighborhood, the clients will disappear like the receding tide.”
“Then will our manager sue us?”
“Wow. So it’s a life of hellish debt one way or another!?”
However, it was likely impossible to transport hundreds of millions of yen three kilometers by any normal means.
They understood how much of a commotion was occurring.
Something similar to a giant dragon or bird was flying through the sky and highways, elevated railways, and other important points of the transportation network had been destroyed. It was hard to tell if this was a coordinated attack or a natural disaster, but the people crowding the roads had lost any means of transportation. They were not boiling over with malice or hostility.
However, that did not mean they could be 100% trusted.
Someone might suddenly think they would not be caught because the phones were down and the police cars could not drive along the roads. That duralumin case was much too dangerous. It had enough destructive force to burn away someone’s ability to reason.
After thinking through the situation that far, one of the men from the security company moved his eyebrows slightly.
“What is it? That’s an odd expression.”
“Let’s change clothes,” said the man quickly as he glanced around.
They were in a back alley which was a private road, so trash bags and plastic buckets had been gathered without worrying about complaints from the neighbors. He checked through those and chose a few old rags.
The woman’s face stiffened.
“Seriously? It looks like this household put their kitchen trash and paper together as burnable trash.”
“If we wear reinforced outfits as if we are protecting something important, people will target us. Let’s go with this. If we’re dressed like we dig through the trash for food, no one will think we’re transporting cash.”
Their uniforms were made of synthetic fibers, so they were somewhat waterproof. They unlocked the duralumin case, divided the bundles of bills into a few different groups, threw them inside their coats after tying off the sleeves, and collar, and finally tied off the bottom hole. They tossed those inside bags of kitchen waste. …It would stink a bit, but they would have “protected” the cash as long as it was in good enough shape to be exchanged at a bank later.
“People’s dissatisfaction could explode into a riot at any moment, but you want a fair maiden like me to change out in the open? …Won’t that call in even more danger?”
“Don’t worry about it, Miss Judo. And if you were good looking enough to draw in men like that, you wouldn’t be stuck working at a security company that can call you in at all hours.”
“I did aikido, not judo! That’s the slender and delicate Yamato Nadeshiko course!! And why are you all staring at me!? Can’t you be even a little considerate!?”
No matter how unusual the situation was, it would not all end that day.
In order to return to their normal lives tomorrow, they dove into the maelstrom themselves.
A bitter look covered President Roberto Katze’s face as he made a call over a phone line too crude to be called a hotline.
“I don’t care if it’s Atsugi, Yokosuka, or what!! We are preparing to scramble right away. As soon as you give consent, we will help fight that thing!!”
“Yes.” The response from the phone was awkwardly-spoken English as if the speaker was working to pronounce the words exactly as it was written in the textbook. “But we have a duty to protect our citizens, so we have decided the capital of Japan must not be made into a battlefield. Unfortunately, we also have not found another way of attacking the source of the problem.”
“We are monitoring the situation in your country using satellite images. Your unit deployment has no connection to Gremlin’s location. You are cutting off major roads while showing no concern about crushing your own people. You aren’t simply trying to buy time until the Diet building can evacuate to the shelter in Nagatacho Station, are you!?”
“We would never dream of it. We always make the best decision to protect the people of our country. …Um…We fear your suggestion of an allied attack would apply unneeded tension on the Asia-Pacific region, so…let’s see, let’s see…”
“Are you holding the phone in one hand and a script in the other!?”
As soon as Roberto slammed down the receiver, the phone made a hard sound and broke.
Queen Regnant Elizard disinterestedly raised her index finger and spun it around and the Russian Patriarch boy looked around nervously. The gloomy French woman sipped at her coffee that had long since cooled.
Elizard stopped moving her finger while it was pointed at the president.
“Before breaking the phone, you should have asked what Academy City intends to do. Everyone else there barely matters.”
“Do you really think the people who ‘barely matter’ will know what Academy City plans to do? That is a true monster that waged a major war as an independent city.”
The presidential aide, Roseline, held her head in her hands.
“The Japanese government is divided on the issue. Academy City has made no announcement and they could view a force gathered to attack Tokyo Bay as an enemy. If Gremlin intentionally created this power balance, they did an amazing job.”
Sooner or later, someone had to make the decision to attack the Sargasso on Tokyo Bay. The Japanese government would not want their capital city trapped between Academy City and Sargasso for long. They would have to fight eventually.
But the situation was currently a race against time.
Japan would be having their politicians escape to shelters, preserving their assets, and transferring their administrative cloud systems and financial trading servers. However, Roberto could not wait around until they had backed up the functions of the capital, secretly dispersed them to several regional cities, and otherwise made sure they would be fine even if Tokyo was reduced to a pile of rubble. They only had half a day. Those 12 hours would decide the history of the world.
“Academy City should make their move soon,” quietly said the Roman pope, Pietro Yogdis. “The question is whether they will bother distinguishing between Gremlin and our allied force. If they choose to kill everything that uses the phenomenon called magic which they cannot understand, the situation will fall into complete chaos.”
“For one thing, it is hard to say we are completely trusted by Academy City.” The French woman removed the coffee cup from her lips and spoke in almost a whisper. “Academy City may think another magical group will try to attack them within the confusion caused by Gremlin. If so, they will begin an utterly meaningless multi-sided attack. They will increase the bloodshed that no one but Gremlin wants.”
“B-but… This doubt and these constraints are all part of Gremlin’s attempt to buy time, right? We need to work to have as many people we can trust, even if only slightly,” said the Russian Orthodox boy.
However, no one voiced full agreement with him.
There was no time to sow the seeds and wait for them to bud.
President Roberto Katze scratched at his head and spoke.
“I hear that Academy City and the Anglican Church joined forces during World War Three. Do you have a hotline we could use?”
“That was the Anglicans doing. The Royal Family was barely involved. …But I doubt it would help. It seems they have been unable to contact Chairman Aleister since the war ended. Some have even questioned whether he is in the city at all.”
“So even the Anglicans who are closest to them have no idea what’s going on there, is that it?”
Even with this allied force, there were a lot of unknown factors concerning whether they could sink the Sargasso which functioned as Gremlin’s base.
And on top of that, Academy City was a giant black box.
They could not tell what would happen. How much damage would be done? Could they stop the crisis to the world even if some damage was done? All they knew was that the time limit until the completion of the lance grew ever closer. And as it did, the odds of the allied force’s attack succeeding dropped. And once those odds reached zero, they would never again have a chance to fight back.
Their decision could cause a great number of people to sink into pools of blood.
Later historians might curse them and textbooks might call them truly foolish leaders.
The power of “what if” bound the actions of every force with the power to oppose Gremlin.
“President,” said Roseline quickly.
Hearing that, Roberto Katze finally gave a small smile.
“What we must do hasn’t changed. Let’s take a vote.”
“Are we using a democratic decision to distribute the responsibility?”
“No. Only those who agree will go along with this. Any true fools who aren’t afraid of death will come with me.”
“Communications are still down and there’s no message on the disaster message board.”
Kamijou thought as he ran down the exposed metal stairs of the partially-constructed building.
Returning to Academy City was not an option.
For one thing, Academy City was surrounded by thick walls. He had left by irregular means, so he would have to explain the irregular situation if he turned back. He doubted he could manage that without Lessar or Birdway.
On top of that, Gremlin was sending a powerful force out from their base on Tokyo Bay. Kamijou did not know where Academy City would set up their defensive line, but the walls around the city would truly become the final line of defense. They might very well seal off all entrances into the city.
(That means my objective has to be Sargasso!! I need to stop the production of the lance and defeat the source of all of this. I don’t see any other way to ensure safety than to calm down this commotion!!)
He would have to cut across almost the entire capital city, but he could not use the normal roads after descending from the building. The remains of the fallen crane had blocked off traffic, but both the road and sidewalk had become filled with waves of people in only a few minutes. It would be difficult to walk through there, much less use a bus or taxi.
(Where am I anyway? I’m not too familiar with the area outside Academy City.)
The partially-constructed building had no windows or outer walls. Outside that building of exposed floors and metal pillars, he saw a strange building that looked like rugby ball stood up on end.
(The subway! Even if the trains are stopped and the station is filled with people, the tunnels should be almost abandoned!!)
While standing perpendicular to the station building’s wall, Misaka Mikoto used both hands to hold Index who she had been supporting with only one arm.
“Here we go!!”
She altered the aim of her power to control magnetism in order to move from building to building.
Index desperately held onto the calico cat so it did not fall and managed to shout out while being tossed about by their midair movement.
“If I know that idiot, he won’t give any thought to retreating or getting to safety. The city may have fallen into chaos, but heading to that base called Sargasso should be the best way to meet up with him again! We may be taking different routes, but we all have the same goal!!”
She jumped between the rooftops and walls of the high-rise buildings. The surface was as crowded as the starting point of a marathon wherever she looked, but the sky was surprisingly clear.
However, that did not mean there were no risks.
(How far is it to Tokyo Bay? Twenty kilometers? Thirty? I hope I don’t run out of energy before I get there. In fact, this only really begins once we arrive, so it would be really bad if I was out of breath there.)
“Short Hair! Hey, Short Hair!!”
“Damn you!! Is that any way to talk to someone who is currently in the process of saving your life!?”
“Watch out! Something’s coming!!”
Mikoto saw motion before Index had even finished speaking.
While holding Index in both hands, Mikoto landed perpendicularly on the side of a high-rise building. As soon as she did, she saw sparks floating down from over 100 meters up as if during a forest fire.
When each spark struck the glass-covered wall, it produced a giant pillar of fire perpendicular to the wall to match Mikoto’s orientation.
Those pillars of fire twisted and gained form. They produced countless human figures.
“This is a Norse mythology based spell. It uses the symbols of army, enemy, flame, and heat. …Is this the Muspell? This might be a group of automatic attack spells set to feel artificial hatred for those who match certain conditions.”
Mikoto did not understand any of what Index was muttering under her breath.
However, the physical threat was obvious enough. Below the feet of those flame figures standing perpendicular to the wall, the glass began to glow orange and melt like candy. The melting point of glass was approximately 1400 degrees, so these figures could easily kill a human by embracing them or even just breathing on them.
“Cheh,” lightly spat out Mikoto. A hostile look filled her eyes. “I guess the path to reach that idiot isn’t going to be easy!!”
“There’s something here,” said Birdway.
She, Lessar, and Kumokawa Maria had decided to use the rivers rather than the roads, railroad, or air. First, they had entered the sewers through a random manhole. If they followed that path, they would arrive at the drain that emptied into a river. From there, they could follow the bank until they arrived at the ocean. Ideally, they could steal a motorboat or something on the way, but they could always walk otherwise.
But something happened while they were still in the sewers.
Fluttering sparks flickered within the almost completely dark space. And yet there should have been no way for those sparks to blow in from a distance in that sealed location.
“As expected, they have a trap spell that automatically detects and attacks people who are not ‘stalled’. This monster is set up to appear when people exceed a certain speed. …The businessmen and investors who tried to flee with helicopters and chartered planes might have been wiped out.”
Just as she spoke, a tremendous noise was followed by giant pillars of fire appearing to block their path through the sewer. They twisted oddly and gained form to produce human figures.
“The flame army of Norse mythology!”
“The Muspell! They oppose the gods with the giant Surtr as their leader, right!?”
Birdway and Lessar seemed to understand, but Kumokawa Maria did not. All she could guess was that the close quarters combat she specialized in would not work on these collections of flames.
“What are you two talking about!?”
“I’m amazed someone so ignorant could survive Gremlin’s attack on Baggage City. Are you the kind of person that gets by on luck?”
“Could you maybe pay attention to the enemies moving in as you chat?”
With the unnerving sound of the air being sucked in, the flame figures known as Muspell swelled up like round balloons.
“Wait, don’t tell me…”
A certain unpleasant thought came to Kumokawa Maria, but she could see no way of countering it. Having this happen in a sealed sewer tunnel was very bad.
And the enemy was not going to wait around.
After taking in all of that air and heating it up to over 1400 degrees Celsius, they would blow it back out with tremendous force.
It would be less of a hot blast of air and more like the orange spear that was stuck inside a furnace.
Being struck by that would fry a human as much as sticking them in a steam oven.
Breathing in just a bit would horribly burn the trachea and lungs.
One’s hastily shut eyelids would melt and the eyeballs inside would boil.
Almost anyone could easily imagine how difficult it would be to physically avoid a wind being blown at them. Even if one knew that wind would be fatal, there was nothing they could do. And this was a sewer tunnel. Kumokawa and the others would be hopelessly cornered like a bug in a bath pipe while the pipe was being cleaned.
“A blazing wind. …Flames. Or is it primarily wind? Anyway, as long as you know the proper attribute, it is simple to deal with. Adding on some little tricks does not change its true essence!!”
At some point, a wand had appeared in Leivinia Birdway’s hand.
In the blink of an eye, it transformed into a sword.
“The color is yellow, the shape is a dagger. With the action of defense and the symbol of flow and change, one of the five great internal symbols of my temple shall be contained in my hand!!”
The massive blazing wind which should have filled the entire closed space began to spin around the dagger in Birdway’s hand. The compressed and pointed tornado this created looked like a giant sword. Birdway thrust the tornado sword raging about her hand into the sewer water flowing down the center of the tunnel.
With a sound like water being thrown on a hot metal plate, the tornado vanished.
“Norse mythology is a mythology of mutual destruction. There are enemies prepared for each of the gods. …And the same applies to the Muspell and their king, Surtr.”
Lessar’s voice was followed by a reverberating metallic noise.
Kumokawa Maria did not know where she had been hiding it, but Lessar was holding a strange tool that looked like a mechanical arm created by adding multiple blades to the end of a long handle.
Lessar began shouting something nonsensical while opening and closing the blade “fingers” of the hand.
“The king of the world of fire and the weather god Freyr both die after battling each other. The deer antler carried by Freyr could not be removed by the followers of the king! The masses who cannot match the king even as a group can only accept defeat!! Let the subjugation of the strict scales fill you with the order of my temple!!”
Lessar complexly folded up the blade fingers as if forming a special sign and then swung it to the side. In response, every last one of the flame figures was ripped apart regardless of distance. It looked like a powerful gust of wind blowing out the unreliable flames of a few candles.
Before Kumokawa Maria’s eyes was the frightening scene of the reason of the world being twisted for an individual’s convenience.
However, she did not have time to be overwhelmed by that result.
“Don’t cause a reaction between the sewer water and those explosive flames! Are you trying to create dioxin!?”
“Either way, we can’t stay here long. This won’t be too bad if this is completely automated and we just get more of the same enemy, but I doubt it will be that easy. To put it simply, we should expect a more powerful enemy to come now that we’ve defeated these ones.”
The three of them ran toward the exit to the river.
The other scattered members of their group were likely in the same or even more dangerous situations.
“At any rate, we need to head for Sargasso. We won’t necessarily be able to use Kamijou Touma’s right hand, but we have to do the most we can. If he alone reaches Sargasso, he’ll die before he is able to use that right hand of his. And if we do nothing, the world is scheduled to end in half a day. It would be most constructive to bet on the possibility of him arriving, no matter how unlikely it might be.”
However, none of them raised a voice of worry.
They were all on their way to the same place, so they would meet up eventually.
There were plenty of sports gyms, fitness clubs, and athletic gyms in the city. Japan’s capital city was mocked for having rabbit cages for houses, so it needed other areas prepared for exercise.
In one such facility which was centered on an indoor pool, Kamijou Shiina and Misaka Misuzu were watching the commotion.
“Oh, dear. Oh, dear. What is going on?”
“Wow. The entire road outside is as crowded as a store during a major sale. Are they having a parade or something? I don’t keep up with the international soccer games…”
A young instructor was yelling something into a megaphone near the entrance to the pool. It seemed they did not want anyone leaving the facility until the crowds died down.
Misuzu pulled her waterproof cell phone from the chest of her swimsuit.
“The internet and email are frozen. Oh, even the phone will only connect to the disaster message board.”
“Now we cannot know what is happening.”
Shiina had tried to watch a 1seg news broadcast, but the reception was too poor to display the program properly. She did not understand it well enough to know that the many irregular signals being sent out were creating too great a burden.
Shiina elegantly tilted her head while wearing her wet swimsuit.
“What should we do?”
“I live alone, so I’ll be fine even if I have to stay here. What about you?”
“I should be fine.”
As she spoke, Shiina held her cell phone in one hand and began pressing buttons one at a time with her other hand. Shockingly, she was operating it entirely with her index finger. Misuzu asked a casual question.
“Who are you calling? I don’t think you can get through to anyone.”
“Yes, but I thought I would leave a message saying I am fine on the message board.”
“I see. I guess it would be best to leave a message.”
While chatting, the two housewives attempted to use the unfamiliar message service.
Even as various boys and girls fought Gremlin with the fate of the world hanging in the balance, these two were as carefree as ever.
Unlike the ground which was paved with asphalt roads, people often held an image of freedom and wide open space when it came to the sea and sky.
However, reality was different.
As the terms like sea route and airway suggest, the sea and sky had fixed routes as well. Focus was usually placed on the shortest distance in order to minimize fuel costs, but that was not always possible. There were power balances along national borders, weather conditions, and most importantly, the overwhelming number of ships and airplanes travelling every day. Those masses of steel filled the air like a mesh pattern and it had become normal for takeoffs and landings to occur every few minutes at international airports. In these conditions, one had to follow a set route guided by a precise control system to avoid having ships or airplanes collide with each other.
In that case, it was not too difficult to seal off the routes of the sea and sky that seemed to stretch on forever.
It only took one point.
If one controlled a single important point on the invisible traffic network in the sea or sky, one could paralyze transportation across those vast territories.
In other words, it was not much different from causing a giant traffic jam by blowing up a highway or railroad.
A formation of Russian air force bombers was flying through that constrained sky.
The formation contained three subsonic bombers which could carry nuclear weapons and eight large fighters for protection. They were not accompanied by an aerial refueling aircraft. In order to protect the world’s most vast country, Russian-made aircraft were often developed for long-distance reconnaissance and could therefore fly for hours at a time. Those fighters even had a simple kitchen aboard.
“Is there any point in this? We don’t have any bombs loaded.”
“The world police told us to knock some sense into Japan’s indecisive head. As usual, those comrade bastards get to be the allies of justice while we in Russia have to play the rogue villain. Someday, I want to blow away Geneva and New York.”
“Do you think this will make those Hinomaru Bentos act?”
“It’s about having a nice balance. If America did it, it would cause an international incident.”
The bomber formation’s mission was to send a threat to the Japanese government. They would be saying, “The allied force is going to take action without your approval. In fact, we already have☆ Shooting your fighters down over your cities would be a pain, so stay out of our way.”
It was mostly a bluff.
And there was a reason why Russia had acted first.
That reason was not simply because they were so close to Japan.
“It’s amazing, really. Russian spy planes and bombers encroach on Japanese airspace so often that only the most important parts of the government are informed. Talk about getting your priorities backwards.”
“I heard that, during the Cold War, a bomber loaded with a nuke flew right over Tokyo for some sightseeing and they still didn’t panic. They’ve been trained like Pavlov’s dog. They baselessly assume they’re safe no matter what we do.”
“But then the Hinomaru Bentos won’t act, will they?”
“We’re leaving a sign to show we aren’t just sightseeing. The door boys will be making their way here before long. We’ll shake their hand and without a rock paper scissors tournament. If we hit them with a targeting radar signal, they’ll pale and report it.”
If Russia interfered in an argument between Japan and America, the situation would begin to move bit by bit until an avalanche built up and the allied force was making their way to Tokyo Bay. It would become a horrible problem later, but politicians excelled at having soldiers simply move their arms and legs rather than trying to use their insufficient brains. Occasionally, it was time for those politicians in charge of the “brains” to suffer.
The tactical bombers had nothing major loaded inside, but that was impossible to tell from the outside.
And if told to clean the toilet, a soldier would immediately grab a brush and cleaner. If told to perform in a play at a school arts festival, they would put on the animal costume. They would hum and chow down on some pirozhki while not hesitating to trick someone into thinking the world was coming to an end.
That was when it happened.
There should have been no difficulty, but none of them had let their guard down.
Yet someone suddenly dropped down and grabbed on to the main wing of one of the bombers.
Unlike passenger planes, bombers did not have plenty of windows along the side. As such, the crew of the bomber in question could not see what had caused the abnormality.
The first report came over the radio.
It came from the fighter flying quite nearby.
“What? Hey, what!? There’s something clinging to your wing… You’ve gotta be kidding me. The altimeter and speedometer are working properly, so what is that!?”
“What is it, newcomer. Frogs and fish are sometimes spotted 10,000 meters up. Tornadoes and the like send them up. At the very least, it isn’t the doing of UFOs or aliens.”
“It’s a human. A human is clinging to your left main wing!! Shake him off. Shake him off of your wing! I don’t know why, but this looks dangerous!!”
The bomber’s crew had no idea what that meant, but every other plane in the formation changed course as if twisting around. If they were left behind, there could easily be a collision within the formation. The pilot frantically moved the bomber to follow which naturally shook the main wing.
“No good. He won’t fall off! What is he!?”
“Newcomer, explain what’s going on! Keeping this up will just leave us flying in circles!!”
“His hand…is glowing.”
“What is that? What is that!? Is it a bomb or welding blowtorch? You’re kidding… Is he trying to cut off the main wing!?”
A horrible chill ran down the pilot’s spine.
And in the next moment, the giant bomber shook unnaturally.
The boy known as Jörmungandr among his comrades jumped along the main wing of a Russian tactical bomber. He should have been blown away by the subsonic wind of the plane’s speed and even standing unprotected at 10,000 meters was not normal, but he landed a short distance away as easily as a child playing in a park.
The vibration from before had not been the boy’s doing.
It had been the interference of someone else trying to stop him.
He laughed as he saw the pillar of fire unnaturally spreading before his eyes.
Technically, it was not just a pillar of fire.
It was a three meter tall monster in the shape of a human. It was a type of spell known as Innocentius.
“In modern magical combat, it is easy enough for magicians to fly, but causing them to fall is just as easy. That’s why the standard theory is to not rise above ten meters,” said Jörmungandr while ignoring the fact he had flown up there.
He then used his index and middle finger to grab something that was flying through the air.
It was a rune.
That laminated card contained a character that held Norse power.
“By using no magic to send these up into the air, they can’t be shot down with magic. Did you use the strange phenomenon you occasionally hear about where frogs and fish fall from the sky like rain? Did you blast a bundle of cards up in a tornado and only then activate the attack magic?”
A voice replied to Jörmungandr.
The boy could not tell if there was some other type of card or if Innocentius was speaking.
“You may think it is reliable and not very interesting, but that is why it has no weaknesses. For one thing, that which stands before you has no concept of damage. Go right ahead and attack it and crush it as much as you want. I do not have time to deal with small fries.”
“Ha ha ha.” The boy could not hold back his laughter as he clung to the main wing. “Did you think the attacks would only go one way because you aren’t here? Don’t be so naïve. I can find your true location from the site of the tornado. And…”
As he spoke, he raised his index finger.
A sphere of purple-glowing light grew to the size of a ping pong ball on the tip of his finger.
“Jörmungandr is a giant serpent that wraps around the entire world. However, the legends do not have it crush its enemies with its giant body or swallow its enemies whole. Jörmungandr’s greatest attack is the symbol of what allowed it to kill the lightning god while also being killed by him.”
He pointed that finger not at Innocentius before him but at the Sea of Japan far below.
And he spoke.
“That is its immensely poisonous breath which can even kill the gods in heaven.”
Immediately afterwards, something purple and carrying lethality shot straight down toward the ocean like ultra high pressure water being used to cut sheets of steel.
It was one against one.
A battle between magicians began with no safe areas and with both their lives hanging in the balance.
The area was filled with such great confusion that there was nowhere to stand.
But at the same time, it had happened too suddenly for most stores to close their shutters. Part of it came down to not wanting to take unneeded actions. By not doing anything differently than normal, they hoped to avert their gaze and not accept reality. A lot of the store clerks had likely decided to stay at the register because they were afraid to go outside.
At a fishing pond in Ichigaya near a subway station, someone halfway between being a girl and a woman had a fishing line dangling down while sitting on an upside down beer case. She was fair skinned, her eyes were blue, and her hair was short and wavy. She looked just barely old enough to be in college, but she was wearing a maternity dress and her stomach stuck out as if in the last month of pregnancy.
The fishing pole was not getting a single bite.
After all, the entire area was filled with people. Just a single step outside of the fishing pond area was a crowd of people like in a train during rush hour. In fact, it was so packed that it made one doubt if they could enter into that wave of people.
Just as a commotion at a large stadium or concert would shake the ground, the tension had to be transferring into the water.
“Yes, yes… Well, I went ahead into Tokyo just as Thor asked. I suppose Thor and Mökkurkalfe will take root at Tokyo Bay. Hm, what about Bersi? Well, that doesn’t matter. This is so boring. Dammit… I haven’t caught a single fish. I want a nice healthy one.”
The woman in the maternity dress showed no sign of caring about the commotion.
There was something different about her when compared to the other fishers who were staring blankly into the distance to escape from the reality of the situation. It was not that she was slow to accept reality. Instead, she had already adapted to it.
“The improvised Níðhöggr I gave birth to is resting on top of the Tokyo Sky Tower after circling around the city. Yes, and the Muspell are reacting here and there. Everything is going as planned. Ha ha ha. I knew it would. When we drive most of the people into a standstill by distributing what people stand to gain, a few irregulars are bound to appear. …But that just means we have to crush them one by one before they can gather.”
The woman spoke disinterestedly while pressing something against her ear.
Even if they did not know what she was saying, the people around her began to pay attention to this action. The great confusion in the city had left normal cell phones unusable. When no one could check on the safety of their family, friends, lovers, and others close to them, a communication device was as valuable as a jewel.
“It seems the Muspell are being destroyed, so I need to prepare something nastier before long. I guess I can’t just sit around here any longer.”
That woman with short wavy hair had a large protruding pregnant belly that did not match her young age.
Some people felt they could not act violently toward her once they saw it.
Some people felt they would have an easy time attacking her once they saw it.
“Wait a second. That’s a cell phone, right? Hey, could I borrow it. Please let me borrow it! Just a minute! I just need it for a minute!!”
A man called out to her from the side.
By the time the woman realized that, the man had already grabbed the slender hand she was holding to her head.
But she paid him no heed.
She merely glanced over and muttered something under her breath.
In the next instant, something leapt from the fishing pond, took the man’s body into its mouth, and instantly dragged him into the water.
Everyone there had to have seen what it was.
However, none of them would have been able to explain it. None of them would have been able to draw a picture of it.
All that remained in their minds was terror.
It held such overwhelming dignity that they felt their minds would burst if they did not turn their focus elsewhere.
“Okay. With that, I’ll head out to the place where the most Muspell have been defeated.”
No one was able to do anything.
No one restrained the woman in the maternity dress and no one rescued the man who had sunk into the water.
The woman merely leisurely held the fishing pole.
The pole suddenly bent like a bow.
However, this was no ordinary bite. She had clearly not caught a fish. But it was not the unidentified monster from before. The sound of something splashing against the water’s surface could be heard. The barbed fishing hook had stabbed into some part of the man from before’s body.
The woman in the maternity dress stood up from her seat made of an upside down beer case and casually tossed the pole to the closest fisher. She yawned a bit and walked toward the exit without showing any concern for her large belly. She walked toward that crowd that looked like something a woman as pregnant as her would want to avoid at all costs.
Lastly, what the woman held was not a cell phone.
It was a wooden charm.
It was a communication spiritual item that had a few runes burned into it.
“So wait for me, formidable enemy. The fertility goddess Freyja will be your opponent☆”
The only way to the nearest subway station was to force his way through the crowds.
After leaving the partially-constructed building, Kamijou moved along with the flow of people and desperately made his way forward, bit by bit, even as the great crowd tossed him about. Once he arrived at the entrance to a subway station labeled “Imperial Capital Metro Marunouchi Line”, he opened an emergency disaster prevention door instead of using the normal stairway down.
Finally freed from the waves of people, Kamijou placed a hand on the wall and let out a large breath. He felt so hot he almost forgot it was November and an unpleasant sweat covered his entire body.
(How am I supposed to reach the platform from here? At any rate, I need to get back to the normal areas of the station.)
He began to run.
Unnatural sparks floated about in the air. They produced pillars of fire and several flame figures appeared, but Kamijou did not stop running. He did not know what made them appear or how they attacked, but Imagine Breaker in his right hand could negate any supernatural power. As such, the best option here was to not give it much thought and simply blow them away before they could attack.
Flames and explosions were symbols that would bring fear to anyone, but Kamijou shouted as loud as he could and forcibly suppressed those instinctual feelings. He held back his heart that wanted to put on the brakes and he ran toward that “oddity” as quickly as he could. He approached, swung his fist up, and defeated them before he could even determine what they were.
Fortunately, they did not seem to have the same extreme regenerative ability as Innocentius.
He blew away that wall of flames and continued running.
(Is something calling these things in? Is it random or are they targeting me? Are they locating me somehow? How does it work?)
A few theories appeared in Kamijou’s mind, but his knowledge was no match for Index’s or Birdway’s. He merely had guesses floating around in his head with no proof or foundation.
“There we go.”
At the end of the long passageway was a stainless steel door that opened toward the corridor. If it had opened the other way, it most likely would not have opened. That was how many people there were on the other side.
“Uuh… What? Is this really the station platform?”
He felt a bit guilty over entering without buying a ticket, but this was not the time to worry about that.
The platform was a little different from the roads above.
It was packed with people from one end to the other. The people who had been waiting for a train that never seemed to arrive had collided with the people who had gone to the station as their last hope after the busses and taxis obviously were not going to work. If many more people entered, people would start falling from the platform.
From the looks of things, it would take a while to even climb down into the tunnel.
But just as Kamijou thought that, a mass of steel shot by with tremendous force and produced a great roar.
It was a five-car train.
It had no intention of stopping at this platform. It shot from the exit of one tunnel and into the other without slowing down. Even in this confusion, some people must have decided to complain to a station worker because angry shouts could be heard.
(The subway is running? They obviously aren’t keeping the usual schedule, so maybe the police or the government are using them. At any rate, this means walking through the tunnels won’t be safe.)
However, that presented a new possibility. Kamijou did not know how often the trains ran through the tunnels, but if he could jump onto the roof of one…
(The tunnel. Is there no way to get up above the tunnel? Is there a ventilation duct maybe? I need something to drop down onto a train from above the platform.)
The ventilation ducts in subway stations connected directly to the surface and merely allowed one to feel the flow of air when a train passed through. It was most easily described by the image of the world’s most famous Hollywood actress having her skirt blown up.
Of course, the surface was too crowded to remove the cover there and climb in.
However, the ducts themselves were made quite large to allow in a lot of air and prevent a lack of oxygen yet were focused on the one exit point on the surface. In that case…
(It doesn’t matter where. I just need some way into the duct so I can travel directly above the platform.)
He returned to the evacuation corridor.
He glanced around in search of a duct and spotted a notice he had not seen on his way there. It described the route to avoid smoke, so it gave the area and height of the station and tunnels with actual numbers.
(The way the tunnel gets quite low at some points scares me, but this is no time to be complaining. I need to drop onto the roof and stay crouched down.)
He looked up and spotted the cover for a duct on the low ceiling. He grabbed it with both hands and it easily came off. He stretched out both hands, grabbed the edge, and forcibly climbed up as if performing a pull-up.
“Dammit!! It’s all sticky in here!!”
There were shops and restaurants inside the station, so steam and smoke would often flow through the duct. The slight particles inside had collected over long periods of time. Kamijou had to crawl through it all, so he could only pray it had not become the home of flies and roaches.
It was mostly a straight path, but it had a few right angle turns. He had the feeling he was taking a long way around, but he could not back up now. He was forced to follow that winding path toward the area above the platform.
In truth, he travelled maybe fifty meters.
As he began rubbing at his eyes, Kamijou finally arrived at his destination. He may have cleaned the duct somewhat with his school uniform.
None of the sparks or flame figures from before appeared. He began to wonder if it was due to moving below a certain speed or due to being in such a cramped space.
He removed the duct cover and could tell he was directly above the track running alongside the platform.
He was only a few meters up, but he felt a different kind of chill than when he was hanging from the crane on that building. He could actually imagine this height in his head and he also had to fear falling down, spraining his ankle, and being hit by a train.
When the previous train had passed by, there had been no announcement.
He needed a different sign to judge the timing.
(When a train arrives at a subway station, it brings a gust of wind because it pushes the air. I have to use that as a sign.)
This was not a definite answer.
If he was wrong and messed up his timing, he could fall down in front of the train.
In fact, he was not sure he would be fine even if he did land perfectly on the roof of the train.
He had no choice but to entrust his life in something he knew almost nothing about. The overwhelming pressure of that fact made him want to roll over and give up right then and there. He had no safer plan and the situation would only grow worse as he tried to search for one.
He heard a low rumbling.
His throat grew dry.
He waited one, two, three seconds.
And then it came in an instant.
Something filled his vision. A clunking roar struck his ears a moment later. He was too late. And by the time he realized that, the five-car train had already disappeared into the other tunnel. If he had dropped down that time, his body would have slammed into the track.
An unpleasant sweat spread across his entire back.
He could tell his breathing was gradually growing erratic.
(I know the timing now. To a certain extent. It comes five seconds after hearing the wind. After five seconds, the train passes by. If I throw myself down with that timing, I should land on the train’s roof.)
Fortunately, there was not a long gap between trains.
After a few minutes, the next train came.
And this time…
Just as the train arrived, Kamijou Touma forcefully jumped down from the duct.
A metallic thud exploded out.
Kamijou had safely fallen on the roof, but a tremendous force caused his body to spin like a top the instant his body touched it. Finally, his hip struck a protrusion similar to an external air conditioner. He cried out as intense pain ran up his spine and he reached out to grab onto the protrusions of the train’s roof in a desperate attempt to not slide off.
The five-car train instantly entered the tunnel.
“Gh… Pant pant!!”
He caught his breath and somehow put up with the pain as he lay on his back.
(I-I’m finally making my way to Tokyo Bay. If this train turns out to be headed the other way, I’m going to get seriously depressed.)
The distance to the ceiling was shorter than he had expected, but it was not so short that he had to lie down in order to not touch it. In fact, the height changed frequently. In the higher areas, the walls and ceiling were often covered in construction sheets.
(In the areas where old infrastructure is being repaired, are they raising the ceilings to give smoke somewhere to go during fires? But an amateur like me has no way of knowing how far the tunnel repairs will last. It may be safer to remain lying down for a while.)
Kamijou actually had no idea where the train was headed, but it at least seemed to be moving east which was toward Tokyo Bay.
As he thought that, Kamijou’s vision was suddenly filled with bright whiteness.
His eyes had grown so used to the dark tunnel that this sudden shock caused physical pain.
It took him a bit to realize the train had merely left the tunnel and appeared aboveground.
He heard a loud thunk.
He desperately blinked his dazzled eyes and tried to look in front of him. Someone seemed to be standing there. It looked like a woman just barely old enough to be in college. However, something was odd. Kamijou could not figure out what it was at first, but he finally caught on.
It was her stomach.
She wore a loose maternity dress and her stomach swelled out like a woman in the final month of pregnancy.
“Nheh heh☆ I decided to check on the target with the highest Muspell kill count, and it looks like I have to fight after all. Well, I intentionally left this one track intact in order to draw in all the most formidable enemies.”
“Who are you?”
“Freyja. Is telling you I’m a Norse goddess enough for you to catch on? Just because we’re on a train is no reason to worry about the pregnant woman. There are no priority seats on the roof and it doesn’t look like you’re in any condition to do anything anyway.”
That could be called the foundation of Gremlin.
The train shot back into another tunnel.
The magician going by the name Freyja continued speaking while her eyes sparkled in the slight light of the fluorescent lights.
“You should be honored. I have decided you are currently the biggest threat to Gremlin and thus must be defeated first☆”
In the next moment, something burst from behind her that further overwhelmed the darkness.
Between the Lines 3
It resembled a flower.
Dark Matter that resembled a carpet or flower petals spread out in the eight directions around a beautiful white girl. All of it, including the girl standing in the center, was a single system. Gungnir could not be completely constructed even with the use of every kind of magic. This was the result of reaching into the realm of science to forcibly fill that technical gap.
At its essence, it was a simple device.
It had a human form but no mind. It could not really be called a living being. There was no fire in the furnace. As soon as their objective was achieved, this hollow doll would be destroyed and disappear.
“My role is complete,” said a gloomy man.
He went by two names: Bersi and Kihara Kagun.
He had just finished stabbing the final of countless cables into the eight giant flower petals stretching from the girl’s feet.
“This holistic esper and everything else are Marian Slingeneyer’s territory. I see nothing more I must do. Give me my next instruction.”
The girl named Othinus did not even turn her one uncovered eye toward Kihara Kagun.
“Head out to intercept our enemies. Destroy everything you need to destroy and buy us time. That is all.”
The fact that Gremlin’s base was located on Tokyo Bay was already known around the world. That was not a problem for them. They did not intend to hole up inside Sargasso forever. It was only meant to let them complete the lance. Once Othinus had the lance, she could destroy everything in the next moment, so it was no problem at all.
Once that moment came, it would all be over.
Kihara Kagun walked across the countless remnants of ships that made up Sargasso. His pace had the uniformity of the second hand on a clock as he walked to one end. A few usable motorboats were located there. He climbed aboard one and travelled out into the ocean.
The mountain-like Mökkurkalfe formed a shadow behind the white steam covering the ocean.
Kihara Kagun travelled toward the Tokyo coast.
He rode the boat up to the concrete coast at the harbor.
Several dozen to several hundred figures were visible there.
They were police officers, riot police, and JSDF.
They all belonged to different organizations and groups, but they all seemed to be those who preserved the peace of the country.
To ensure their enemies did not gather into a single large group, Gremlin distributed what everyone stood to gain so everyone would naturally get in each other’s way. For that reason, no unified force had come against Gremlin and everyone had stayed put despite knowing what a crisis lay before their eyes. In other words, the situation was engineered so no order could be given to attack Gremlin. However, it seemed a group of volunteers had gathered together without waiting for official orders. Special vehicles were visible here and there. That situation alone would normally have been a large enough incident to show up on tabloids.
Sargasso was visible even from that distance.
Or more accurately, the giant shadow of Mökkurkalfe was visible as it slowly circled around Sargasso.
Kihara Kagun felt nothing even as he watched that group attempt to motivate each other.
His entire body had ceased to function, including the portion that controlled emotions.
In life, he had had a single objective and he had already perfectly carried out that revenge.
He had built up a great amount of magic for that objective.
And that empty shell which had lost all ideals and belief now unhesitatingly charged toward that group while armed with that powerful magic.
- Means “Like a Dragon”. “Ryuu ga Gotoku”, also meaning “Like a Dragon”, is the Japanese title of the Yakuza series of video games.