Toaru Majutsu no Index:RailgunSS1 Chapter1
It was a refreshing summer day.
It may have been wrong to express it in such a simple and abstract way, but that was the first thing that came to mind when Misaka Mikoto looked up at the blue sky. She felt the intense rays of the sun roasting her skin, the low-humidity wind blowing at her face, and the soft sand under her feet through her sandals. The wind brought her the sound of crashing waves and the smell of salt.
She was on a beach.
She was on a California beach.
Nnn… After the plane, the linear motor train, and all the other things I rode on, this sure does feel liberating.
Mikoto lifted her arms up to stretch her back. She was wearing a black racing swimsuit with curving white lines on it. The swimsuit gave a killer whale-like impression. The back of the swimsuit was open, and it was held in place by an "H"-shaped band. It was the designated swimsuit for Tokiwadai Middle School’s power measurement tests. The swimsuit had so much cutting-edge technology packed into it that even an Olympic swimmer would be envious, but Mikoto did not particularly like it. It was so effective that she sometimes felt like she wasn't wearing anything at all.
Ahh, dammit. I brought it because this is a school-related event. I didn’t know you were free to choose your swimsuit! I should have actually read the pamphlet…
Then the lack of feeling made her suddenly wonder if she was wearing it at all, and she shuddered in the same way she had countless times that day. She pulled on the chest portion of the suit and felt along the butt portion of the suit to assure herself that she really was wearing a swimsuit and not just body paint.
“M-Misaka-saaan…” came a small and pitiable voice from a bit of a distance away.
Mikoto looked over and saw Uiharu Kazari running her way. Her sandals that seemed to be made of cork slapped against the sand as she ran. The girl had a large number of flower decorations on her head. As if the flowers were part of her identity, her swimsuit was a light-pink one-piece with a flower print. It was a perfectly wholesome swimsuit.
The swimsuit was not very revealing, but Uiharu must not have liked it much, because her face was completely red, she had tears welling up in her eyes, and she was covering her upper body with her hands. It was possible that she just wasn’t used to being in an area with lots of foreigners.
While focusing on her surroundings, Uiharu spoke,
“Sigh… Misaka-san, I’m jealous of how sharp your swimsuit is. Mine is just so unfashionable or makeshift or something…”
“No, I wouldn’t say that.”
Mikoto was in a bad mood herself for having sabotaged herself by wearing a school-designated swimsuit. Uiharu didn’t seem to notice and looked down at the chest of her own swimsuit.
“I never thought I would be chosen in the lottery for this. I had no time or budget to choose a swimsuit, so this was really the only thing left at the store…”
The two of them sighed.
A new challenger then barged in on them. She was Saten Ruiko, Uiharu Kazari’s classmate. She was a lively girl with black hair that went just past her shoulders and that had a single flower decoration in it. She tended to be influenced by the Level 5 Misaka Mikoto and the Level 4 Shirai Kuroko, but…
“Yahoo, Misaka-saaan, Uiharu!! Were you waiting?”
Heading toward them with a smile and waving a hand was a girl who had escaped being plain. Saten’s moderate body was wrapped in a red triangle bikini and she looked like a girl who would fully enjoy summer to the two who disliked their own swimsuits. And she must have bought it at a fairly exquisite store because the chest of the bikini was fastened like it was a front hook but with a zipper instead.
Uiharu started trembling as she focused on her chest.
“Wh-what is that, Saten-san? What kind of mysterious item is that…?”
“Hm? You need to do some studying, Uiharu-kun. It’s called a zip-up bikini. Look, look. When I move around, it almost looks like the chest is going to pop open. Doesn’t that have a nice dangerous feel to it?”
“Gyaah!! J-just by looking at that as a girl, it scares me, Saten-san!!”
“Don’t worry. It’s actually like a NuBra. The entire top sticks to my chest, so nothing’s gonna pop out just because the zipper is undone.”
As she watched the Uiharu and Saten combo get all worked up, Misaka Mikoto got a serious look in her eyes as she thought silently.
She didn’t try to trick anyone about her bust size, but she managed to increase her impression as a breasts character by bringing focus on the possibility of them coming out of the swimsuit… I see. So you can fight that way, too!!
Saten noticed Mikoto staring at her and looked at her in puzzlement.
“Umm, is something wrong, Misaka-san?”
“Afh!? N-nothing at all!!”
Mikoto frantically shook her head.
Saten looked puzzled, but she didn’t press any further. She then glanced over at Uiharu’s swimsuit.
“Hey, Uiharu. Are you trying to be a loli character so you can prey on older men?”
“Abhah?! Wh-what are you saying, Saten-san!? That’s the worst possible opinion of my swimsuit I can think of!!”
“But your light-peach flower-print one-piece clearly gives you the image of a cute girl. And not a cute girl from another girl’s perspective. This is the kind of cute girl a muscular festival of sweat and tears would imagine in his head.”
“I had no choice!! I actually wanted to wear a nice sharp swimsuit!! But this was the only thing left in the sale corner!! Gyaahh!!”
Uiharu gave out a cry of embarrassment, Saten pointed at her and laughed, and Mikoto realized that her sense of style was off from the norm because she had just been thinking that a flower-print one-piece would be nice and cute.
And then Mikoto realized something.
“Huh? Where’s Kuroko?”
“I met her at the hotel, but she told me to go ahead because she was going to take a while,” responded Uiharu.
“What is she doing that’s going to take a while? She isn’t going to put on makeup in order to play on the beach, is she?”
“She might be the kind of person that worries about her tan. She might have wanted to put oil all over herself before coming outside,” said Saten, giving an offhand guess.
Suddenly, a strange chill ran down all three of their backs.
There was some kind of commotion in the distance. Something was approaching, dragging the sound of chattering voices with it. A sweat drop dripped from Mikoto’s forehead, past her nose, and off her chin. Uiharu’s eyes restlessly darted back and forth. All of the hair on Saten’s body stood on end.
Something was coming.
A monster was approaching.
At that time, those pure maidens had a few different options: they could pretend to be strangers, run away at Mach speed, or rush into the ocean. However, they had no time. Before they could choose any of those things, the approaching calamity turned its eyes in their direction.
Standing there was a completely flesh-colored girl who was wearing an unexplainable self-imposed restraint.
The high-pitched scream must have come from Uiharu. Saten was wearing the already revealing zip-up bikini, but she wobbled as if suffering from heatstroke. For some reason, Mikoto’s vision blurred as if she were chopping onions. She heard various voices in English around her.
“Wh-what the hell!?”
“Can you do that…? Can humanity really accept that!?”
“So that’s what a Japanese samurai is…”
Normally, sweaty men would try to figure out how to curry the favor of a girl in a highly revealing swimsuit, but the crowd was in a very odd mood because that swimsuit was past the level of being sexy.
The pigtailed girl who was throwing people’s minds into disorder was named Shirai Kuroko. The smile on her face alone was innocent-looking as she locked on to Mikoto.
“Onee-samaaa. I’m so very sorry. It took some time to get ready. Heh heh. I couldn’t let myself look bad before you, onee-sama.”
“S-stop!! Don’t talk like I like this!! We’re in a foreign country! What are you doing!? I’ve thought it before, but now I’m sure. You’re completely insane!!”
“Oh, dear. Is covering the three important points of the body not enough for a swimsuit?”
“That certainly does just barely cover up those points…” Uiharu muttered with a look of despair on her face.
Shirai truly must not have minded because her expression did not change. Her truly evil swimsuit was made up of strings and small points of cloth that seemed to construct just the basic “framework” of a bikini. The top had strings arranged in triangles with Y-shaped strings stretching from them splitting the inside of the triangles into three zones. Only the inner zone close to her “cleavage” had a piece of cloth stuck on it. The bottom was just a triangular point of cloth inside one of those triangular “frameworks” with thin strings connecting them.
Decorative strings pushed out the slight bit of white flesh at her chest to give the feeling that she was bound by ropes in order to give extra-special nosebleeds. The swimsuit seemed more like something someone would be forced to wear by someone else than something one would wear of their own free will.
But… what is it like on the back?
Saten Ruiko circled around Shirai like someone looking at something that terrified them.
“Uuh!? Cough cough cough!!”
“A-are you okay, Saten-san! Saten-san!!”
“D-don’t look, Uiharu… The back is quite something, too!! While her ass is not completely lifted up, it has much more of an impact than a T-back that just digs in at one point!!”
“Nnn. It’s just a variety of bikini. Really, swimsuits are all either one-pieces or two-pieces. Even with a slingshot, if you observe it calmly, it’s nothing too surprising. There are also types where the material is put directly on the skin, so I feel that it’s about time we started a revolution.”
“…You aren’t about to begin using body paint, are you?” Mikoto asked with a disheartened expression.
That swimsuit was probably made to not come off easily similarly to Saten’s zip-up bikini, but it was already too much whether any more came off or not.
Then, Uiharu Kazari began speaking while blushing, having just barely managed to recover.
“W-well, arguing about it isn’t going to help anything. They say to just throw away your shame while on a vacation, right?”
“??? What shame?”
“…It’s no use, Uiharu-san. She threw all that away long ago. There’s no helping her,” said the ace of the prestigious Tokiwadai Middle School in a rare complaint.
As Mikoto stood stricken on the white sand, an older blonde girl who seemed to be a part-time worker glanced over (probably at Shirai), and gave a small gasp. However, she then continued on with her job.
The girl was wearing a sun visor and a sporty bikini that made her look a bit like a beach volleyball player. She was holding a white rectangular box in her arms. At first, Mikoto thought she was selling ice cream, but that wasn’t it. The beach volleyball-like blonde girl spoke in English,
“I’ll take your handguns here. Anyone who does not want their precious partners to be ruined by the sand, seawater, and sea wind should use our services. Any handguns from the eight major companies get complimentary maintenance.”
That announcement would have left people speechless in Japan, but it seemed to be standard there. Everyone from macho black men to slender housewives handed those shining black hunks of tough metal to the girl. The girl wrapped rubber bands around the grips of the handguns, and then put them in the white box. The rubber bands had chips within them that had GPS locators and information on their owners inputted into them.
“Wow,” Saten said as she looked on in amazement.
It seemed that Shirai and Uiharu had dealt a little with guns before in their Judgment training, but they still couldn’t hide their surprise. Mikoto sighed.
“…We really are in America, aren’t we?”
It all started with a large-scale field trip.
A randomly selected group of students from Japan’s Academy City went to places all over the world over the week of September 3 to 10 in what was essentially a study group. Groups of about twenty people would head to a single city. Meanwhile, children from all over the world were invited to Academy City.
While it was referred to as “all over the world”, most of the places were cities across America. This was likely because of their cooperative relationship when Academy City was founded. It was clear that more students ended up going to America than any other country.
“I’m really glad some people I know like you are with me, Saten-san, Misaka-san.”
“Well, more people were sent here than most other places. Then again, where we go and what group we’re in are supposed to be random, so we were lucky.”
In the end, it was essentially a field trip. Other than writing a simple report, all they had to do was have fun, so it was practically a paradise for a student.
Other students and a few teachers from Japan were there with Mikoto and the other three, but they weren’t really sure where those others were because they were all more or less free to do what they wanted. The only structured thing was a roll-call in the hotel at the beginning and end of each day.
When they had first gathered at the Liberal Arts City hotel, Mikoto had seen a Psychometry girl wearing a bikini with ring-shaped parts in place of knots, an Aero Hand girl wearing a one-piece swimsuit with the back open wide, and a few others, but she no longer knew where they were. That was just how free they were to do what they wanted on that trip.
“America sure does do things on a large scale,” said Saten Ruiko as she looked around the beach. “I can’t believe all this was artificially created to film a single Hollywood movie. That would be unthinkable in Academy City. Well, we have the tech to do it, but we just don’t have enough land.”
They were on a gigantic manmade island with a diameter of about ten kilometers created on the ocean about fifty kilometers off the coast of California. The ocean in that general area had a depth of a few thousand meters, but apparently, rocky areas had gradually risen up, giving that specific area a depth of about twenty meters. Manmade items had been piled up on top of that with a huge amount of sand at the very top in order to create the manmade island.
I’ve heard of manmade beaches around Hawaii, but the scale here is way bigger…
The artificially created island was divided into a few different areas. Mikoto, Saten, and the others were in the outermost area. Beyond the sandy beach was a shallow area of ocean, with the open ocean of the Pacific beyond that.
The name of the island was Liberal Arts City.
Appropriate for a large country of amusement and movies, the entire area was filled with attractions. Many different roller coasters intertwined through the air, and the rings of weird Ferris wheels with no center overlapped like the Olympic rings. It was a theme park where everything from the exteriors of the hotels to the shape of the trash cans had been cutely designed. The island was designed to be a fusion of the sea and fun, so everything aside from sleeping in your hotel bed was made to be done in your swimsuits.
“So this was a movie set, hm? Saten-san, did you see that one?”
“Hmm. Unfortunately, it was released over twenty years ago, and apparently, a lot happened, so it was never released in Japan.” Saten laughed. “I think it was an SF movie. It was supposed to be on Earth in the near future, so they faked an environment made up of plants and animals from fifty years in the future. Apparently, there’s even a fine mesh around Liberal Arts City called a biological guard that keeps living things from getting in or out.”
“Hmm.” Mikoto looked over at the horizon on the ocean. “So that’s why it’s connected to the rest of America by an undersea linear motor train tunnel. They want to keep the scenery as uniform as possible.”
“They didn’t have that linear technology at the time of filming, which made things difficult. Apparently, it took over an hour each way.”
Linear motor trains may have sounded futuristic, but they were already in use in China. They were not seen very often in Academy City because the city did not have very many long distances that required them.
To Mikoto, heading through the transparent undersea tunnel and seeing all sorts of fish had made the experience a very dynamic and interesting one.
“Anyway, once the filming was finished, people started saying that it would be a waste to just abandon it all, so they decided to remake the entire manmade island into a theme park.”
“I see. No, get away from me, you exhibitionist.”
Mikoto pushed away the girl wearing the perverted swimsuit who she wanted to pretend to not know.
Uiharu’s flower decorations swayed in the wind.
“If I remember correctly, the state’s ocean conservation regulations didn’t allow them to just abandon an unused facility, and the film company got mad, saying that the politicians didn’t understand how much it would cost to demolish such a large facility,” she said. “Some people made the ridiculous argument that they should just make sure the facility remained in use, and that just so happened to be the same time the film company was looking for some land to build a theme park on, so they just ended up solving both problems by building it here.”
It was a bit scary that such a huge theme park had ended up being created based on such a ridiculous argument. Mikoto looked up in the sky and sighed while watching a roller coaster that cut across above.
“You’ve got that wrong, you living flower girl wearing that unfashionable flower-print one-piece!!”
Uiharu Kazari was in shock at having some complete stranger suddenly insult her sense in swimsuits. The mysterious person who had gone out of her way to speak to them in Japanese was a blonde-haired, blue-eyed, older American girl with huge breasts.
She looked to be around eighteen years old. She had white skin, blue eyes, and long blonde hair with a bit of caramel mixed in that was roughly lifted up in a hairband. She wore a highly functional-looking two-piece swimsuit and a T-shirt with a film company’s logo on it. The shirt was bulging out quite a bit because…
“Th-they’re huge!?!?!? Those are stupidly big. They’re just way too big! I mean, what the hell!?”
“M-Misaka-san, it’s okay! Those boobs aren’t eating anyone or anything!!” Saten grabbed Mikoto’s shoulders, gathered strength in her belly, and yelled out. “And don’t worry! I thought this might happen, so I made sure to search for rumors of the Bust Upper that can easily make a girl’s breasts grow!!”
“W-wait, Misaka-san! You, too, Saten-san! You’ll definitely get caught up in some terrible trouble if you do that!!”
“…Um, are you even listening?”
Hearing that moderate remark, Mikoto came back to her senses.
The blonde-haired, blue-eyed, huge-breasted girl worked towards regulating the tension of the atmosphere as she spoke.
“The circumstances surrounding the origin of Liberal Arts City were a bit more complicated than that. I was trying to say that I could tell you the whole story if you liked, you not-yet-grown girls!!”
The huge-breasted girl struck them right in their complex about their breasts. Mikoto’s temple throbbed, but the more pissed she got, the more pathetic she seemed because of the overwhelming difference in breast size.
“…Who are you, anyway?”
“Hah!? Don’t tell me you’re the type of person that explains all sorts of things without us asking and then demands we pay a ten-dollar fee for the explanations!!”
Saten went into full caution mode, but the huge-breasted girl just gave a proud laugh and answered,
“I wish I could just hold out a business card and say 'this is who I am', but this is the beach! I don’t have little pieces of paper like that with me!! As such, I have to introduce myself by mouth despite knowing it’s impolite. I am Beverly Seethrough. I may not look it, but I’m a film director.”
A look that said “Really…?” almost showed up on Mikoto’s face. The girl looked eighteen. If what she said was true, she wasn’t just on the level of a genius girl. Mikoto didn’t really have a good image of what a film director was, but she had a feeling that it wasn’t something one could become with just a bit of talent.
Well, who cares if it’s just a lie?
They said to just throw away your shame on a vacation. Getting fooled could be mildly entertaining as long as it didn’t involve money or their lives.
Meanwhile, the huge-breasted girl calling herself a film director grinned.
“You all are Japanese students from Academy City, right?”
“Oh, you can tell?” asked Saten with a puzzled look on her face.
Beverly nodded once and pointed at Shirai Kuroko.
“Even in America, you don’t see anything like that. Only Academy City would sell a swimsuit that evil.”
“…You’ve outdone even the land of the free.”
“Don’t think of America as number one at everything, onee-sama.”
“Don’t compete for being number one in the direction of being worst,” Mikoto sighed, but Shirai of course didn’t seem to mind. “So why is a film director like you here?”
“Isn’t that obvious?”
The woman suddenly puffed her chest up with pride, but Mikoto had no idea. The screams from the roller coaster rushing by overhead sounded a bit stupid.
The blond-haired, huge-breasted girl cleared her throat in response to Mikoto’s blank expression.
“You know Liberal Arts City was created by a major film company, right? Why do you think they did it? It was to search for new filming techniques. That is why all sorts of people in that line of work have been gathered here.”
Beverly lightly waved her index finger around. “Movies are about enjoyment, and they are America’s best means of acquiring foreign currency. To put it bluntly, a few percentage points of America’s budget are supported by it. It isn’t too surprising that something like this was created.”
“Wow. That’s Hollywood for you. I guess that’s how people who built a city in a desert think.”
Uiharu was simply expressing her admiration, but Beverly chuckled.
“By the way, there is a single cause for concern in America’s film industry, and that is Japan’s Academy City.”
“The entertaining epics of this country really come down to the world of CG and VFX. Some people insist on the value of the work itself or the art involved, but in the end, a certain amount of showiness is needed to create a huge hit. So, if Academy City seriously used all of its scientific technology to create a movie, our works would seem shabby in comparison. It’s like how the old cell phone models all look dated as soon as a new model is released despite the models up to then working just fine.”
Beverly spun her index finger around in some sort of gesture.
Saten looked puzzled.
“Are you sure…? I decide what movies to watch by who’s in them.”
“Yes, and there are people who watch over that kind of thing. They use information and money to search for actors from all over the world, invite them in, and make contracts with them. And all of it is a countermeasure against Academy City.”
“Wow,” said Uiharu in surprise.
“But is Academy City even trying to make movies?”
“No, but we want to have filming techniques that can outdo Academy City before they decide to and get so far ahead of us that we can’t catch up. It’s amazing. The film company, the film investment fund, the Senate, and the House of Representatives were all for this.” Beverly, the self-proclaimed film director, laughed. “As such, I wanted to have some bit of contact with Japan’s Academy City, the home of the science side. That’s why I called out to you. I’m hoping that you can give me some kind of motivation. Remember that some of the things you are casually using as sightseers have great value to us.”
“…Um, I don’t think you’re going to get anything from us. We’re just normal people. We aren’t aliens or anything, so I hope you aren’t expecting some sort of exchange of technological cultures or anything,” responded Mikoto wearily.
Beverly stared blankly up and down along Shirai Kuroko’s perverted swimsuit.
“Oh, sorry. Please don’t use that as your reference point.”
Despite what the self-proclaimed film director Beverly Seethrough said…
“Huh!? Where did that pair of breasts get off to!?”
“She made some kind of complaint about having to go work and then wandered off that way,” said Shirai as she looked around the area.
She might be able to find her using her teleportation, but it didn’t seem that important.
“But she said she’d show us around. Maybe she’s a workaholic,” said Uiharu.
Meanwhile, Saten muttered faintly as she watched Beverly leave.
“…Liberal Arts City sure is amazing. That’s a movie city for you…”
“Yeah, but was she really a director?”
Mikoto was beginning to think she had just been a theme park official or a part time performer. It could have been an attraction meant to give the park more of the sense of being a movie city.
But Saten then spoke in puzzlement.
“Eh? That was the real Beverly Seethrough. I’ve seen her picture in movie magazines before. She’s the genius new director who received high praise last year at Cannes. It was big news that an underage girl managed to outdo the veterans she was up against.”
Misaka Mikoto did a spit take.
“Wha—Wai—Dahhh!! You mean she’s the one that made “An Iron Bridge is a Sign of Love”!? If so…gmaaaaahhhh!! I need her autograph!!”
Mikoto yelled, but the huge-breasted girl had already disappeared into the crowd. Mikoto’s miserable cries resounded throughout the area.
“People were treating her like she was the next big thing in European romance films, but I guess she ended up coming here. They must be trying to make a really showy film.”
“…Y-you sure are calm, Saten-san.”
“Hm? Her movie was pretty, but it was too difficult for a kid like me to understand. I take it you’re the type that goes for that kind of subjective romance film, Misaka-san.”
“N-n-n-not really. It isn’t like I only like that genre or anything.”
Mikoto’s face turned red and she waved a hand in front of her face.
Suddenly, an explosive noise struck Mikoto’s eardrums.
It was so sudden that she forgot to cover her ears and she was as surprised as if someone had struck her on the back. She turned around in the direction of the noise and saw a pirate ship floating in a waterway that seemed to have been directly cut out of the land. Smoke was floating up from the cannon on the side of the ship.
A large pirate captain-like man with a showy beard stood on the front of the ship and raised his arms in the air as he shouted in English.
“I have no duty to protect you small fries, but I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if I abandoned you!! I’ll work for free, so you’d better be really damn thankful!!”
Immediately after Mikoto realized that was a famous line from a famous movie, the spectators around her cheered, applauded, and whistled. Seeing that reaction, the actor playing the captain gave a satisfied nod.
The pirate ship’s cannons then fired one after another.
Another ship had appeared at some point in the ocean beyond the beach putting it opposite the first ship. The second ship fired its cannons back.
The loud roar seemed to shake one’s entire head.
Mikoto finally covered her ears with her hands and yelled to Saten, Shirai, and Uiharu who stood right next to her.
“Wh-what’s going on!? Is this one of the park’s shows!?”
“Ohhhhhh!! That’s the Skull and the Broad from “The Pirates’ Scarlet”!! Now this is how you do an attraction at a movie city!!”
It seemed Saten had not heard Mikoto as she raised her hands in joy amid the roar.
Huge cannonballs were not actually being fired from the pirate ships. Most likely, blanks were being fired and gunpowder preset on the other ship was detonated at the same time. Even so, it was amazing how much the thick pirate ships were being destroyed.
Yet Mikoto felt a little dissatisfied that she had been forcibly made to participate in the event rather than choosing to go see it.
(I guess a quieter and calmer romance movie really does suit me better…)
Then Mikoto’s expression turned to a slightly puzzled one.
“Wait, are that waterway and that part of the ocean really deep enough for a ship to float in? I’m pretty sure people were swimming there just a bit a go.”
“Before the event, they have all the guests leave the water and then activate a device that can bring the bottom of the ocean either up or down. This place was originally just a spot in the middle of the ocean 50 kilometers from California, after all. We’re on a manmade island built on top of a rocky area, but normally no one would be able to touch the bottom.”
“I see,” Mikoto responded offhand.
After a bit, the pirate ship battle seemed to end. The people on the ships dove off and the ships themselves sank. It wasn’t clear if the ships could dive, if they were on rails leading them down, or if it was some kind of trick. The normal guests didn’t seem to particularly care. They merely applauded.
And then another great noise began.
A high-pitched engine noise assaulted Mikoto’s ears.
It was not coming from a car.
The noise came from black supersonic stealth fighters flying through the sky from the land out to sea.
Saten excitedly pointed toward a unit made up of five of them.
“Gwahh! That’s the Laveze squadron from Alien Wars!! America is so awesome!! The country of Hollywood sure does love their guns and weapons!!”
“I really prefer the style that delicately deals with people’s emotions…”
Mikoto continued to mutter, but no one responded to her.
“Wah!” Uiharu said half in admiration and half in surprise as she looked up in the air.
“In the movie, they were supposed to be F-22’s modified to fight UFO’s, but they really did do it, Shirai-san. I heard each one cost over 15 billion yen.”
“I’m sure they’re just decorated to look like the movie specifications. Isn’t that just an acrobatic model made from an F-35 with all the weaponry removed?”
Even so, they had purchased multiple modern fighters, modified them for filming, and were actually sending them into the sky. That was a scale that the idea would never even be brought up in a meeting in Japan.
“Ohh! They’re fighting something over there!!” Saten yelled as she pointed toward the horizon.
It must have been a type of show that used explosives because multiple fighters were flying in sharp arcs through the air. The smaller curving contrails must have been created by fake missiles. Flashes of light as if from machine guns could also be seen. Instead of multiple repeated sounds a single continuous noise could be heard even there on the shore. It was very loud for blanks. It was quite an extravagant performance.
And the Laveze squadron was battling against…
“? …What is that?” asked Saten looking puzzled despite being the most well-informed of the group.
The object was on the water’s surface. It was an elliptical craft about 5 meters long. While it was elliptical, it was not shaped like a rugby ball. It had very acute angles like a canoe that had another canoe placed on top of it upside down. It also had a large and a small wing on the front of either side making it look a bit like a flying fish. No, since only the tips of the downwards pointing wings were touching the water’s surface and it seemed to kick the water as it advanced, it may have been more like a water bug. Whatever it looked like, the odd craft pushed itself along the sea at tremendous speed as if it were being repelled by the water. It was moving so fast, that a large amount of seawater shot into the air trailing after the flying fish.
The flying fish avoided the machine gun fire from the sky by moving in a slightly jagged path and fired missile-like objects in return. What looked like white contrails cut through the air.
“I’ve never seen that thing before. Uiharu, do you know what movie that’s from?”
“The theme park has the support of the film company, so maybe this is a promo for some new movie. But the show is happening too far away. …Ah!? Don’t tell me this is some cheap attempt to get us to pay to rent binoculars!” Saten said and started looking around.
Meanwhile, Mikoto frowned. Looking over at Shirai, she could tell the other girl was also a bit suspicious.
At first glance, it looked like nothing more than an attraction with the fighters in the sky and the flying fish on the sea, but there was something odd if you thought about it.
(How is that flying fish moving so fast?)
Mikoto had never heard of a ship capable of matching the speed of a fighter. Even if you included hovercrafts, the world’s fastest ships could only reach about 90 kph. Mach 1—that is, over 1200 kph—was completely unheard of.
Now, the flying fish was not a pure ship because it was floating off the ocean’s surface, but that brought issues of its own. The ocean had waves causing its surface to not be level. The mere fact that it was maintaining perfect attitude control at that speed was surprising.
“The scale of things sure is different in America. In Japan, they wouldn’t let you blow things up like that even over the ocean.”
It seemed Saten Ruiko thought it was just a show that used explosives.
The other tourists in the area were responding similarly. They were cheering and laughing and some were even yelling that the battle didn’t have enough of a presence and they needed to make it flashier.
However, Mikoto alone held some questions in her chest.
She thought for a bit as she stared at the battle unfolding on the distant horizon.
(It couldn’t be…?)
The sound of the explosions continued.
A missile had hit the side of the flying fish-like craft on the side and detonated.
The flying fish lost its balance and forcefully struck the ocean water.
Mikoto’s body stiffened.
The out-of-control flying fish ran up onto the beach and slammed into the sand.
The Liberal Arts City Air Defense Force, aka the five fighters of the Laveze squadron, flew around making sharp curves again and again at around 200 meters above the ocean surface.
The name of the enemy was Mixcoatl.
The term meant Serpent of the Sea of Clouds in some language and it referred to the four winged enemies that were almost gliding at high speed across the water avoiding the aim of the cutting edge fighters.
There were only two of them and yet the Laveze squadron made up of five fighters had yet to even scratch the enemy crafts. The waves were fairly high, but the Mixcoatls’ four wings moved skillfully to keep them gliding quickly along the ocean without moving up and down in the slightest.
And the most surprising thing was that the Mixcoatls did not use steel plating like a normal military vessel. The acute main body was made of wood like a barrel and it looked like two canoes placed one on top of the other. The rest of it was made of cloth and obsidian. There was not a single bit of metal on it.
Those masses of wood and cloth that overturned the standard knowledge of modern weaponry were managing to prevent the cutting edge fighters from getting a lock by making slight movements back and forth that made their trajectory look jagged.
The pilot gripping the stick clicked his tongue.
“It won’t stay still!!”
As he aimed for the Mixcoatl that was fleeing across the sea, he fired with the machine gun. A line of bullet marks flew across like a sewing machine had been activated, but it was only across the ocean. The bullets did not manage to approach the Mixcoatl.
However, the Mixcoatl was forced to flee to the right in order to avoid the line of bullets. It was a predictable movement. The fighter managed to get a missile lock. The mark on the HUD indicated the lock was complete.
He immediately fired.
The missile that was released from the aircraft shot toward the ocean at tremendous speed. The explosive flew in a sharp arc and exploded in range of the Mixcoatl. A large amount of sea water was blown into the air making a white curtain.
“Dammit! Did I get him!?”
The pilot tried to peer through the great amount of white spray, but the fighter’s speed took him past the point in no time at all.
“You dumbass! Above you!!”
The pilot’s expression turned to shock upon hearing that transmission from a fellow pilot.
By the time he noticed the shadow above him, the Mixcoatl was already heading for him with its four wings spread out. A hole in the double canoe-like body aimed directly for the pilot’s body like the hole was a gun barrel.
(Did he jump up to avoid it in that instant!?)
A normal aircraft would not have been able to do anything and would simply have had the cockpit blown away, but the pilot immediately increased the strength of his grip on the stick.
The fighter rotated.
It was a special maneuver meant to bring up the nose of the craft like it was doing a wheelie.
Knowing that air resistance would slow him down considerably, he forcibly pointed the nose toward the Mixcoatl above him. Doing so forcibly aimed his machine gun and missiles at the other craft.
The two had their weapons aimed at each other.
That standoff did not last even a second.
As the pilot yelled, he pulled the trigger for the machine gun that was on the stick. With a roar, splinters and orange sparks flew from the front of the Mixcoatl, but no serious damage was done. The Mixcoatl fired something like a missile from the small hole opened on its main body.
The pilot thought he heard a slight sound as it was fired.
In an instant, something like an arrowhead that left behind a contrail was fired in the direction of the fighter. It stabbed into the fighter’s left horizontal stabilizer and mercilessly broke the wing off sending it flying off into the sky.
The pilot heard a fellow pilot telling him over the radio to use his parachute, but he did not do so.
The Mixcoatl seemed to be giving a sidelong glance to the damaged fighter as it finally started fall back toward the ocean having lost the lift from its great jump.
The fighter started to spin like a leaf now that it had lost that wing.
But that was not because the pilot had lost control because of the destroyed tail.
The pilot was using his skills to get the falling Mixcoatl in his sights.
Unlike when flying in a large circle in a loop-the-loop, the fighter was spinning around like its center had been skewered. The pilot fixed the craft pointing down toward the falling Mixcoatl as if the fighter were standing on end and he focused his last bit of strength into the stick.
“Did you think I was just gonna let you damage me and that’s that!?”
As he yelled, he fired an air-to-air missile at the Mixcoatl.
The flying fish headed her way at tremendous speed.
By the time Mikoto’s body stiffened, the flying fish had already run up onto the beach. A large amount of sand was knocked up into the air and the flying fish continued further on. As it scraped along the asphalt pathway, sparks flew and it finally struck the private showers for swimmers.
A portion of the smashed wall flew spinning through the air. The giant piece of rubble was over 3 meters long and it passed by over the sightseers heads.
Immediately afterwards, light sparked from Mikoto’s bangs.
The white sand at her feet swelled up. No, technically it was the iron sand mixed in with the white sand. That iron sand formed a black sword which shot a few dozen meters into the air with snake-like movements where it mercilessly blew away the falling piece of rubble.
At first, the tourists merely stood there with blank expression, but a few moments later, multiple shouts pounded at Mikoto’s eardrums.
“Wow!! Things really are different at Liberal Arts City!!”
“What was that? What was that advertising? When’s that coming out!?”
“Oh, so they started the show so far out to build up to this thrill.”
“So there was a performer mixed in here. You just can’t let your guard down at a movie city.”
“Who’s that girl? Asian performers are pretty rare. Was this a promotion for a new actress?”
“Oh, god. I’ve got sand in my mouth.”
The shouts were actually cheers being made in English.
Mikoto felt a chill run down her back.
(What are they saying…?)
Of course, Mikoto was not a performer for a show. That would seriously have been a major disaster if she had not interfered. However, they did not realize that fact. In the special area known as a movie city, no matter how crazy or strange things got, people treated it all like they were in an extended haunted house.
Mikoto had an unpleasant vision.
If she had not defended against that rubble, how would they have processed the disaster before their eyes? If there was someone collapsed on the ground covered in blood next to them would they think the person was a performer and the blood was fake?
Of course, there would be people who would know the victim. They would be saying that it was not an act and that the person was truly suffering, but would anyone believe them?
If the other people assumed the person crying was another actor, then it would truly seem like nothing real had happened. And if the crying people were made into the “performers” for the next attraction, all the uproar would be gone.
It was a situation brought about by being too used to peace.
It was a world where no one would believe something like that was happening even if it happened before their very eyes.
Was Liberal Arts City hiding something incredibly dangerous?
Suddenly, a terrible noise pounded at Mikoto’s ear drums. She looked over and saw the flying fish backing away from the private showers with squirming movements.
With that, it was made clear once more that it was an odd craft. It used no metal, its body was made of wood like a barrel, and its four wings were made of cloth and obsidian. Mikoto could not even take a guess at how it managed that amazing mobility when it was made of materials like that.
But that was not the time to be arguing over technology.
The problem was that the flying fish had started to move again while in the middle of the tourists.
(This is bad…)
The tourists around it felt no danger. Some of them even drew in closer to snap photos with their cell phones.
The body that looked like two canoes one on top of the other moved. A gun barrel-like hole on the body aimed toward the tourists trying to take pictures.
Something like a missile had been fired from there during the “show”.
Ignoring Shirai’s attempt to stop her, Mikoto started running along the sand toward the flying fish. Sparks flew from her bangs. A one billion volt lightning spear headed in a straight line and struck the side of the flying fish.
With a tremendous noise, the shock sent the flying fish’s body sliding to the side and the side that was struck remained slightly burnt.
But it did not stop.
The flying fish changed its aim from the sightseers to Mikoto. She heard an odd sound from the hole in the body.
“Dammit! So it really is using live ammo!?”
Mikoto’s body stiffened in shock.
It seemed to be a missile fired at high speed wrapped in a band of steam. Mikoto immediately shot the attack down with a lightning spear.
(I’m not quite sure on the specifics, but it might be a hydrogen propellant.)
She quickly moved her feet as she further approached the flying fish.
(Compressed hydrogen mixes with the oxygen in the air which ignites. I’m guessing it was wrapped in that band of steam because the hydrogen and oxygen bind together and form water after the explosion!!)
The flying fish must have decided to avoid any unnecessary risks because it used its four wings like feet to move back and away from Mikoto. It broke the palm trees growing on the side of the road as it moved from the beach to the more inland area. Its speed was not too great, but its insect-like movements were rather creepy.
The flying fish then slipped into the gap between two buildings.
“Ahh, dammit! Why can’t it just come back to the ocean!?”
Mikoto ran along and reached for the heel of her sandal. She forcefully pulled on something that was held on by a strap. What she pulled out like a special forces knife was plastic, 10 cm long, and looked like a handgun magazine. However, it held arcade coins rather than bullets. It was a type of coin holder.
(What is that thing anyway!? Is there someone inside? Or is it moving based on a program like a robot!?)
The flying fish must not have been made to move on land because it was not moving anywhere near as quickly as it had on the water. With its wings made of wood, cloth, and obsidian carefully crushed beneath it, the double canoe-like main body scraped along the ground as it moved.
Mikoto turned her focus toward the coin holder in her hand.
(I can use my Railgun…!!)
She could use electromagnetism to fire an arcade coin at three times the speed of sound. Using that to stop the flying fish as soon as possible would be the best method of preventing any more damage, but…
Mikoto tried to use her thumb to bring an arcade coin from the coin holder, but it didn’t work. Having it held in her sandal must have been a mistake because sand was packed in the coin holder’s spring preventing the coin from coming out.
(Dammit. Why now of all times…!?)
On top of the artificially spread out white sand, innumerable tents were set up creating a type of shopping district. They were all souvenir shops for the tourists. Families wearing swimsuits were watching Mikoto and the flying fish while cheering. They clearly did not understand what was going on.
Mikoto made a bitter expression and the flying fish made another move.
The double canoe-like main body suddenly spun around 180 degrees and the longer two wings were used to lift it up. The shorter two wings were used like a carnivorous beast’s front arms and the entire craft covered up Mikoto as if to crush her.
Like the wings were a bear trap, they snapped shut with the speed of a hunting praying mantis.
Mikoto frantically tried to jump to the side, but she ended up directly below the flying fish. She was knocked to her back and the two wings held her arms in place.
The heat of the hot sand seemed to stab into her back, but that was the least of her worries.
She could see the bottom of the double canoe-like main body. The sharply angled body looked like a suspended ceiling above her. A rectangular portion of the bottom of the canoe was missing.
(What is that? …The cockpit!?)
That shocked Mikoto, but something else was more important.
That rectangular hole was most likely something like an emergency escape hatch. She now knew no one was inside. The pilot had fled while keeping the thing in an autopilot-like mode.
(Dammit!! When did that happen!?)
Mikoto gritted her teeth, but she noticed something blinking within the rectangular escape hatch. There were some hieroglyphs that Mikoto did not recognize even with her extensive knowledge and there were four numbers listed below them. She had no chance of understanding the hieroglyphs, but she could tell that the numbers were counting down.
Mikoto had a bad feeling about what that meant.
(Don’t tell me it has a self-destruct device!!)
She recalled the missile she had shot down that used a hydrogen explosive. If all of the missiles remaining in the craft detonated there, it would create quite a bit of damage and if the thing was loaded with liquid hydrogen specifically for the self-destruct…
“Dammit! This is no joke!!”
Mikoto tried to move her arms with such force that her face turned red, but they were being held too tightly. Also, the coin holder she needed for her Railgun had been knocked a bit away from her when she had been knocked down.
Still being held down by the giant flying fish, Mikoto moved her head. The tourists used to peace were showing no sign of fleeing.
“Wow! It looks so real!”
She looked over and saw a girl of about 10 approaching as if she were going to touch the craft out of interest.
If the countdown inside the escape hatch really was for a self-destruct device, then it would all disappear before long. The families that had come to create some enjoyable memories, the small children begging for ice cream, and the busy workers at the souvenir shops would all sink down into a sea of blood.
Mikoto heard a splitting sound.
It took her a few seconds to realize it was the sound of her own teeth biting into her lip.
She could not move her arms because they were being held down. The coin holder she needed for her Railgun was lying a bit away. It seemed like Mikoto could do nothing about the self-destruct device about to detonate, but that did not enter into her own thoughts. One should not underestimate the Ace of Tokiwadai Middle School, a prestigious school in Academy City. She was not the type to be defeated just because one or two of her trump cards were sealed off.
A great noise burst out.
It was the sound of a large amount of iron sand moving up from the white beach around her.
The mass of black powder spread out around the flying fish with a radius of 5 meters. It was both a barricade to keep the tourists from getting close and her final key to turning the situation around. According to Mikoto’s will, the great amount of iron sand attacked the flying fish from all sides and coated it 360 degrees around without leaving a single gap.
(If I don’t have a coin for my Railgun…)
Bluish-white sparks flew from her bangs indicating the presence of a high voltage electrical current.
(…then I’ll use you as my ammunition!!)
A tremendous roar rang out.
The giant flying fish that had been covering Mikoto was fired up into the sky.
The flying fish and the iron sand coating it was blown away. Of course, it was not a coin, so it did not reach three times the speed of sound, but that did not particularly matter. The giant flying fish flew away diagonally and was caught by gravity at an altitude of about 200 meters. It arced like a long throw in baseball, passed beyond the tourist area, and disappeared beyond the horizon.
And then a giant explosion occurred that drowned out all other noise.
Despite its great distance away, a few of the souvenir tents collapsed down onto the beach. At first the swimsuit-wearing tourists were surprised, but then they started pointing and laughing at the workers struggling to get out from under the collapsed tents. No matter what happened, it was all nothing more than a stimulating but safe show.
(Dammit! Where did the guy piloting that flying fish go!?)
Mikoto got up off the burning sand and brushed off the white sand stuck to her back and butt. Her eyes suddenly met with a small girl’s. The small girl stuck her little thumb up and spoke in English.
“Good job, miss.”
Beverly Seethrough removed the binoculars from her eyes.
She had come to Liberal Arts City as a guest, so she did not know the attraction schedule well enough to know whether the Laveze squadron or those strange flying fish-like ships were on it or not.
But there was something she did know despite being left out like that.
That girl in the racing swimsuit was not part of the American staff.
She did not know the details of what had happened, but she assumed the girl had ended up joining in the show at the last second for some reason.
Beverly gave a dry laugh.
Sweat was moistening her hands holding the binoculars.
“That’s an Academy City esper for you. CG or VFX just can’t match that.”
A burning curiosity resided in her eyes.
Beverly swallowed and then licked her lips with her small tongue.
“…I suppose I can at least be satisfied that I met some interesting people.”