Toaru Majutsu no Index:RailgunSS1 Chapter2
Liberal Arts City was the world’s largest artificial island. It was created on the ocean 50 kilometers west of the California coast. After the filming of a certain movie, it had been remodeled into a certain type of theme park, but the large movie country of America saw value in having it also function as a large facility for research and development of new filming techniques.
It was a collection of attractions that were created by those working on the front lines of the world’s movie business. Those attractions were first seen there and were overflowing with stimulation and wonder.
But Misaka Mikoto knew something.
She knew that every kind of abnormal situation was treated as a “show” there. Even if someone was shot right in front of people’s eyes, they would merely be surprised that an actor had been mixed in with the crowd, surprised at how well the actor was showing pain, and surprised at how real the fake blood looked.
It was an area where no one would be shocked upon seeing a corpse.
And that atmosphere was no coincidence.
There was Saten Ruiko.
“Wow, Misaka-san!! When did they get you to join the show!?”
Even after seeing Mikoto get involved in a real incident, she thought it was part of a show.
There was Uiharu Kazari.
“I-Is it really okay to show off Academy City powers publicly like that?”
She was a little worried, but she was worried about the wrong thing.
There was Shirai Kuroko.
She was a little suspicious, but it had nothing to do with an incident or a fight.
And then there was Misaka Mikoto herself.
“…What is going on here?” she muttered.
No one could hear her quiet voice that had a bit of annoyance mixed in.
“Just what is going on in this city?”
Uiharu Kazari let out all those yells and then exited the private showers lined up near the hotel. She had been playing in the ocean all day until the sun went down, but all the seawater on her soft skin had been washed away. In fact, there was not a drop of water on her hair, skin, or swimsuit and the smell of salt water was completely gone.
She lightly tugged on the swimsuit that looked like she had just bought it and then her classmate, Saten Ruiko, approached her swinging an arm around.
The area was getting dark and the richly colored lights characteristic of theme parks had been turned on, but Saten was still the same as ever.
“Oh, Uiharu. How was it? Wasn’t that amazing!?”
“Was that thing a full body dryer? That’s a pretty major device. It washes and dries your swimsuit and your body as well…”
“Well, you wear your swimsuit everywhere except for your hotel room bed here, right? They’d rather you were clean and dry when you enter the hotel.”
Uiharu and Saten continued to give noises of admiration.
They lived in Academy City where the technology was about 20 or 30 years ahead, but Academy City was in western Tokyo, so they did not have many opportunities to use technology related to the ocean. That kind of research would obviously be done in Academy City, but the children of the city did not get a chance to use it.
Saten rubbed her upper arms.
“…But Liberal Arts City sure is cheap to charge for the cream that keeps the dryer mode from drying up your skin.”
“Ah ha ha. Yes. The theme park builds up this image with everything from the scenery down to the smallest details, but when they start bringing up money, it takes you back to reality.”
“And that wind pressure was amazing. It shot my breasts right out of my top.”
“Yeah, maybe I shouldn’t have hit the quick dry switch. And my top is supposed to stick to my skin like a NuBra…Wait, if you were wearing a normal bikini, they’d be blown out for sure!”
Uiharu blushed at that topic of conversation, but there must not have been anyone around who knew Japanese because the passing foreigners did not look their way.
Saten Ruiko cared the least about her surroundings and she grabbed Uiharu’s hand.
“Okay, let’s go find Misaka-san and Shirai-san and then go get some dinner!”
“By the way, why did all the food on the menu at lunch have the titles of movies?”
“That restaurant gives you the food that appeared in various movies. If you aren’t familiar with the movie, you’ll have no idea what food you’ll be getting.”
“…I see. So that’s why I got a toothpaste-like tube of space food when I ordered Alien Wars.”
Uiharu had a distant look in her eyes as she and Saten entered the hotel.
“Oh, right. Have you checked in with the teacher? We have to do it in the morning and in the evening, right?”
“The roll call is after dinner. We’re free to eat anywhere we want. But I can’t believe we have to line up in front of the hotel as they call out our names. How lame. That makes it obvious we’re here on a school trip.”
The large hotel had over 800 rooms. It was mainly made of sparkling white marble with a few amber accents made of wood. Red carpet was laid out on the path the guests would take like it was some sort of movie palace.
People of all sorts of races were coming and going in the lobby making it clear that the city was popular all over the world.
“Are you bothered by all the guys looking at you, Uiharu? A leer is the same worldwide.”
“…I’m sure it’s you and your bikini that’s drawing attention, Saten-san.”
“Heh. But the way you’re fidgeting oddly and rubbing your thighs together is much sexier.”
“Ee!? I-I’m not….!”
Saten walked through the large atrium lobby that an entire large passenger plane could fit inside. Uiharu walked next to her and then suddenly asked her classmate a question.
“By the way, what do you want to eat for dinner? Even this hotel has plenty of restaurants in it.”
“Hmm. I’m kinda in the mood for Chinese. Well, I can just ask the hotel manager where a good restaurant is.”
“Oh, Saten-san, you can speak English?”
Uiharu held a waterproof cell phone in her hand. She had downloaded a voice recognition application that also translated for her, so she could speak Japanese into it and it would speak in English for her. Uiharu only had a first year middle school textbook knowledge, so the instant the battery died, she was dead in the water.
“Ah ha ha. We’re both humans right? I can get my words across through feeling alone. Hey, you, boy! Chinese food want eat delicious restaurant please!?”
“Gyaaahh!! I-I don’t think that’s going to cut it! You can only fumble around so much!!”
Uiharu started blushing, but the hotel worker must have managed well enough with the words and nuance Saten had thrown at him because he explained mostly via gestures that they had to take a turn up ahead and they would find one.
Saten nodded confidently.
“It seems there is an amazingly good Chinese restaurant, but it gets really busy around this time so we should wait until later. What do you think, Uiharu? If you’re so hungry you need to eat now, we can go somewhere else.”
“…A-am I just a very unsophisticated girl?”
Saten cheerfully handed a tip to the hotel worker and then waved at him as Uiharu felt slightly depressed.
They decided to look for Mikoto and Shirai so they could eat that amazingly good Chinese food and then Mikoto appeared out of the elevator hall with perfect timing.
But her face was red and she was running as quickly as she could.
Uiharu called out her name and Mikoto immediately turned her head in that direction.
However, she remained silent.
With a clear liquid welling up at the edges of her eyes, Mikoto ran straight for Uiharu. She leapt into Uiharu’s arms and refused to let go.
“Funyaaaahhhh!? Wh-wh-wh-wh-what is this all of a sudden, Misaka-san!?”
“I-I was scared!! I was so scared!!”
As Mikoto yelled, she was trembling and she was rubbing her nose into Uiharu’s small chest.
Saten placed a hand on her chin.
“Uiharu, this might be that cute kind of development where it turns out the ultimate invincible Ace of Tokiwadai is actually super afraid of roaches.”
“No. This is in a completely different dimension!!”
Mikoto finally pulled her face out of Uiharu’s chest and held out a magazine in her hand.
It seemed to be a swimsuit catalogue.
“K-Kuroko was reading this! She was muttering something about choosing another one. I casually looked over and now I don’t know what to do!!”
Uiharu and Saten grabbed the catalogue from Mikoto and started flipping through the pages.
And then they seriously regretted that encounter with the unknown.
“G-gyaaahhhh!? Uiharu, this is…wait, what!? I can manage—just barely—to understand the T back here, but this is an O and this is a V and this…Eh? An I!? How is that supposed to stay on!?”
“L-look at this, Saten-san. It says it’s a low leg, but there’s only 5 centimeters from the inseam to the waist!! It’s like it’s a…belt?”
“Watering material…? This is a see-through bikini with colored liquid inside…is that really okay!? It says the pattern changes depending on the slant of your body, but can you really not see anything through it!?”
“A reflective crystal bikini…? This is basically a mosaic! It’s true you can’t see things properly, but the color remains the same!!”
Saten and Uiharu’s faces were bright red as they started to wonder what kind of inhuman punishment game would lead to wearing things like that. Every item in the catalogue was full of danger to a maiden on the level of no longer being able to be a bride.
Misaka Mikoto, the Ace of Tokiwadai, sobbed which was rare for her.
“Th-there’s no guarantee that she only brought one swimsuit. What if Kuroko is still hiding an even worse bomb? I-if Kuroko clings to me wearing something with even more of an impact than the one from today…what am I supposed to do!?”
If someone wearing those kinds of things was walking next to them or clinging to her, Saten and Uiharu would be embarrassed, too. They could not just leave such an obscene girl to her own devices.
But what were they supposed to do about it?
Was there an effective method of sealing that pigtailed monster that was like an incarnation of freedom of expression?
The three of them silently thought for a bit and then an older girl passed by them who looked like some sort of celebrity having just finished a lovely dinner. She was wearing a black one piece swimsuit with sparkling gold thread sewn into it and a large pareo wrapped around her waist.
The three girls watched the celebrity-like girl’s butt as she walked off seemingly purposefully shaking her hips back and forth.
“A pareo! That’s it!!”
At that same time, Shirai Kuroko was rolling around in her bed still wearing the same swimsuit while digging through a ridiculously huge suitcase.
“Hmm… Just being highly revealing may not be enough. This one looks like a white school swimsuit at first, but it all becomes see through except for the three most important points when it gets wet. Maybe this one. It’s a string swimsuit that makes seven different transformations while wearing it. Heh heh heh… Onee-sama’s face when it transforms in front of her eyes would be something to see…”
Shirai was holding a swimsuit that did not have even a millimeter of cloth and was made of braided strings so it covered up the bare minimum of space. She laughed as she plotted something, but then the electronic lock to her room’s door started making odd noises.
The instant Shirai looked over, the door burst open. Misaka Mikoto entered with sparks crackling from her bangs.
Seeing that, stars starting sparkling in Shirai’s eyes.
“Oh!? My, my, Onee-sama!? I never thought you would be so in the mood that you would break my lock to sneak a visit to my roo—gwoohhh!? Ah, it’s so hot in this thing!? What’s with this large piece of cloth!?”
“It’s called a pareo! It’s meant to cover up the delicate zone of shyer people! Everything about you is worth being shy over, so it’s going to cover up all of you!!”
“S-stop, stop!! Don’t wrap me up like a teru teru bouzu! And this is more like an elementary school swimming towel than a pareo…mghgmghg….”
Uiharu and Saten had heard the commotion from out in the hall and then they heard the sound of the door opening. The looked over and saw Mikoto looking oddly refreshed.
“Okay, we’re ready! Now we can freely enjoy dinner.”
“??? What about Shirai-san…Ee!?”
Uiharu Kazari’s shoulders jumped when she saw Shirai Kuroko wrapped up from the top of her head to the bottom of her feet many times over with a large piece of cloth making her look like some kind of lame bigfoot.
After eating dinner in a mostly red Chinese restaurant within the hotel, Mikoto, Shirai, Uiharu, and Saten met up with the other students and the teachers carried out the roll call (that Saten claimed was lame). After that, the four of them gathered in the hotel lobby. They sat at a table in the rest area and relaxed as they ate desserts like almond jelly and ice cream.
Shirai had managed to get just her head out of the pareo.
“By the way, about that Beverly Seethrough we met today…”
She used a small spoon to scoop up some milk pudding as she spoke.
Beverly was a girl film director staying in Liberal Arts City.
“It seems the facility for research and development of new filming technology is real. It seems they have invited painters, sculptors, potters, doll makers, clockmakers, ukiyoe artists, and all sorts of other artists.”
“Ahn? That doesn’t sound like a Hollywood movie to me. That sounds more in the direction of a traditional craft or something. Why are they calling all sorts of people like that?” asked Mikoto with a spoon in her mouth making the spoon move up and down as she spoke.
The spoon fell from Mikoto’s mouth as a sudden loud voice came from behind her.
She turned around and saw the genius girl film director walking there.
“Did you finish your work?”
“It was really more of an inconvenient process required of us, so I wouldn’t really say it was part of my work. Now back to the topic at hand,” Beverly said nonchalantly. “Liberal Arts City—or rather, the rival spirit of the American film companies—has turned in the direction of the leading edge of the science side, Japan’s Academy City. They have concluded that they can’t win just by simply developing further technology such as CG or VFX. As such, they want to grow in a different direction from Academy City and they think a hint may lie in the more traditional arts.”
However, they were not simply planning to make a movie out of puppets or anything. Once they had perfectly analyzed the traditional art, they would check to see if it could be used in cutting edge films and then try to put it all together.
“And there are many different types of movies. Some have ancient dinosaurs and some have giant robots in the future. These traditional arts can of course be used for the historical movies, but they can also be studied to see in what way the arts evolved to help predict future evolutions of such things when creating a city set in the future.”
“Hehh,” Uiharu said in a very Japanese sound of admiration. “But is everyone cooperating? I think of potters as being stubborn old men.”
“Ah ha ha. Well, there’s a lot to this. Those kinds of arts are falling into decline all over the world. It isn’t unusual for these kinds of things to disappear altogether. Since Hollywood is taking great efforts to preserve them, they’re actually incredibly happy about the whole thing. They’ve even got things like a traditional Japanese workshop.”
If Academy City was a collection of cutting edge science, then that place was the opposite. It was a city created from a collection of traditional techniques from all over the world.
Mikoto and Uiharu gave more sounds of admiration, but Saten seemed not to be interested with that inside story. Her eyes were glued to Beverly’s giant breasts and she elbowed Uiharu in the side.
“(…Hey, Uiharu. What unprecedented cup size do you think she’s reached? I think she’s secretly made it to G or even I.)”
Uiharu choked and a few flower petals floated away from her head.
“Hm? They’re L,” Beverly responded.
An immeasurable shock pierced into those still-growing maidens. Saten regretted having brought it up, most of the flowers on Uiharu’s head fell out, Shirai’s eyes opened wide, and physical sparks crackled from Mikoto’s back.
Saten was unable to move for a bit, but she finally managed to bring her hands to her flat chest.
“…Uiharu. Your cup size levels up every 2.5 cm, right?”
“Y-yes,” Uiharu nodded.
“A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L,” Saten muttered under her breath as she moved her hands away from her chest at set intervals.
Finally, her hand stopped.
Saten looked down at her own chest to check on the hopeless gap between her hands and her small chest.
“That’s a huge gap!! Look at how much space there is here! Wait, this looks like I’m pantomiming hugging Uiharu!”
“Eeee!? Y-your calculations say my entire body would be buried in the boobs!?”
Saten was in a state of confusion and Uiharu was yelling in a shrill voice. The winner at life, Beverly, watched them and laughed.
“Don’t worry. Your body will grow on its own whether you do anything about it or not. After all, breasts are nothing more than masses of fat.”
“There it is!! The favorite line of the bourgeois winners!! Uiharu, bring out the sun oil. Let’s oil up the entire body of this girl and her pointlessly huge breasts!! Let’s show her what tears taste like!!”
“Ah ha ha. You don’t scare me,” Beverly laughed.
Suddenly, there was a great noise like a beer stein or a judge’s gavel being slammed down. It was caused by Misaka Mikoto slamming the bottle of oil on the table.
The flat-chested girl was hanging her head down so her expression could not be seen and her entire body was wrapped in a dark shadowy aura.
“Hey, you,” she said while barely moving her lips.
Mikoto slowly raised her head as a rumbling sound effect could be heard in the background.
Her eyes glowed like a carnivorous beast’s as she stared straight at Beverly and spoke like a drill sergeant.
“I’ll teach you that sun oil can sometimes be an excellent weapon.”
Misaka Mikoto watched Beverly Seethrough’s shiny retreating back with its slumped shoulders. She then high fived Saten, punched Shirai Kuroko who was trying to rub the oil on her body, and then returned to her senses at a comment from Uiharu.
“Uh? Weren’t you going to get Beverly-san’s autograph?”
(Dahh!! There’s just too much going on.)
An overseas trip just had too many things to do.
Mikoto returned to her hotel room because she knew it would be bad if she forced herself to stay in such high spirits all the way until morning. She entered the bathroom, turned on the sink faucet, and washed all the oil off of her hands.
She returned to the main room and sat on the bed.
She could see a summer night through the window. The buildings and pathways were of course decorated with various types of lights. She could see a large number of fireworks bursting in the distance and the dark ocean was being used as a screen to display various images.
(The pamphlet said something about a night swim in the ocean of light, but I just don’t feel like swimming right now. I think I had too much fun during the day because I’m kind of tired.)
Mikoto wanted to just collapse into the bed, but she did not do so.
There was still something she had to do.
There had been that battle between the fighters and the flying fish during the day.
And there had been that strange situation where everything was dealt with as if it had been a show.
She did not know what was going on in that city, but she had to stop it before another flying fish came and someone ended up dead. At the very least, Liberal Arts City had definitely intentionally hidden the incident by using the term “show” to make it disappear despite it happening right before people’s eyes.
She was not in Japan’s Academy City.
If she investigated into the secrets of the city, she could easily be shot on the grounds of protecting their information. It sounded like something from a movie, but she was not in Japan. She could not forget that she was in a place where anyone could easily get their hands on a gun.
Mikoto thought for a bit.
And then she nodded.
In that dangerous situation, Liberal Arts City had not provided emergency exits or even sounded an alarm. She could not exactly have a fun, carefree time knowing that. She could get wrapped up in a fight between fighters and flying fish again. Or some other “show” could take place. There was even a chance that her or some other visitor could end up being made into guest performers as the ones that get taken out.
Even though she had managed to stop it the first time, there was no guarantee that she would be able to stop it the next time.
“I guess I’ll do this.”
She looked over at the corner of the room where a device like a convenience store ATM was located. Liberal Arts City was an ocean and water theme park. That made it difficult to carry paper money around, so visitors borrowed an IC card upon entering and it could be charged with electronic money whenever needed. This allowed visitors to go to any facility they wanted with just that one card and small change to use for tips.
Mikoto lightly rubbed the chip portion of the IC card with her thumb. She then pushed the card up against the reader for charging it. With a beep, it switched from the simple screen for guests to a cold and efficient screen for the maintenance staff.
She had used her electric ability to hack in.
She passed her thumb over the IC chip again returning the monetary information back to normal. She then began typing on the keyboard displayed on the touch panel monitor.
She wanted all the information on the attractions and shows taking place in the city.
It seemed that information was not held on that computer itself, so she started to hack into Liberal Arts City’s local network.
“Wah!? ...What the hell?” Mikoto cried out as she looked at the screen.
She did not cry out because she was faced with extremely difficult security.
It was the opposite.
(Wah! Wah! I had heard that Academy City’s technology was 20 or 30 years ahead of the rest of the world, but I can’t believe their system is written in such an old style of language… This is like seeing a car running on coal.)
It was so simple that Mikoto felt it might be a trap.
But of course, not every student living in Academy City could do that kind of thing. Mikoto was both enough of a genius to go to Tokiwadai Middle School and she was the strongest esper in the category of electrical powers.
To her, Liberal Arts City’s security was not even at the level of a bucket with a hole in it. It was more like a bucket made of cotton cloth.
And the information she got was real.
The “show” with the fighters and the flying fish after the pirate ships had indeed been a real battle.
(They have 50 interceptor fighters based on F-35s and made to look like the ships from Alien Wars. This armored clothing and these rifles are…for the officials? I see. Those aren’t costumes. They really are fully equipped. And these aren’t even replicas. They’re all real guns. And they have tanks, armored vehicles…and PAC-3’s? Wait, those are surface-to-air missiles meant to intercept nuclear missiles! What kind of threat are they expecting!?)
From what she could see, Liberal Arts City had more firepower than an American military base in Japan. However, the area did not have the intimidating air of a military run facility. It seemed like they knew a powerful enemy was coming, so they were frantically gathering as much firepower as they could.
It couldn’t just be a spy from the film industry.
Then who was this enemy?
Mikoto recalled the flying fish that flew across the ocean earlier that day. Its movements had clearly not been something that could be easily done with the technology outside of Academy City. What had it been?
However, no matter how much she investigated into the mysterious object that had been fighting the fighters, she could not find any information on it. It was not that there was special security or encryption keeping her from the information. And she doubted Liberal Arts City did not have a single piece of information on it.
The term “cut off” passed through Mikoto’s mind.
The truly important data would not be connected to the network. That was why Mikoto was unable to access it just by gathering information through the network. She had access to the entire system, but with only that she was still missing a few pieces of the puzzle.
(…Going any further will be difficult.)
Mikoto completely gave up and exited the depths of the system with even more caution than when she entered it. She logged out from the network, checked to make sure no logs of what she had done remained, and then switched the IC card charger from staff mode to guest mode.
Mikoto left the charger and headed for the exit of the hotel room.
From the layout of Liberal Arts City, she had a good idea of where this computer was that held the information she could not get through the network.
“From here on out, I need to investigate physically.”
Even at night, Liberal Arts City was not lacking in light. Various sources of illumination lit up the buildings, a parade was being held along the roads, and lasers were being used to create art made of light on the ocean and the pools.
But even all that was not enough to completely wipe away the darkness.
Areas far away from the hotels such as the central inland area of the city were surrounded by darkness.
(…I guess this is the place.)
Mikoto was walking along the white sand a distance from the promenade built over the beach.
Standing before her was a large facility.
It was an area of about 3 kilometers in every direction with a facility made up of a multitude of rectangular buildings both large and small. Towering above everything else in the center was a full size model of a large rocket.
It may have been intentional, but the large rocket in the center made it all look a bit like a tough castle made of steel and concrete.
The name of the facility was Large Launcher.
It seemed Liberal Arts City had originally been created for the filming of an SF movie. According to the pamphlet, that rocket launch pad, Large Launcher, had been incredibly important in the film. Almost every part of the city had been remodeled for sightseeing purposes and pathways had been prepared, but that launch pad alone had been preserved as the location of a famous scene. It seemed a large number of fans had started a petition in order to ensure it stayed that way.
The Large Launcher was lit up by various light sources and there were viewing platforms, Ferris wheels, and large hotels from which it could be viewed. Despite being off limits, it was a popular place that drew in a lot of visitors.
Mikoto was at the outer wall of the facility. She was at a maintenance entrance that was wrapped in darkness away from all the bright lights.
At first glance, it was a completely normal door, but that was just the outer appearance.
It may actually have been an entrance to the secret behind the mystery that Mikoto was investigating.
Mikoto looked around to ensure that no one else was around.
She then silently approached the outer wall and reached over toward the door and its electronic lock.
“Oh? What are you doing here, Misaka-san?”
Mikoto’s entire body jumped upon hearing Saten Ruiko’s sudden voice coming from behind her. After all, she was 5 seconds away from unlocking the door to an off limits zone. The electronic lock’s display was made so it could be understood regardless of what language one spoke, so it would be difficult to talk oneself out of that situation.
Workers entered and exited the area to maintain the rocket launch pad set, but Mikoto guessed that it was actually being used for a different purpose.
She could not bring Saten there.
Mikoto frantically put on a smile and moved her arms around as she spoke.
“Um, well…you see? The hotel’s air conditioned air is nice, but it’s too uniform and it’s messing with my bodily rhythm, so I wanted to get a taste of the real night air.”
An electronic beep was emitted by the door behind her indicating it had been unlocked.
She ignored it and continued speaking.
“Preferences for the natural are really something like an illusion. I know that there’s nothing that can’t be analyzed scientifically, but there’s just a psychological effect, y’know? Real palm trees aren’t something you get to see every day.”
“What was that beeping just now?”
Mikoto’s eyes wandered back and forth after Saten pointed that out right away.
Before Mikoto could say anything more, Saten gasped as if she had realized something.
“Y-you don’t mean…this is…!?”
“Wha-? Wait…Eh? No, this is…this isn’t…!!”
“This is the casino authorized by America that is said to be somewhere in the city!!”
“What?” Mikoto’s eyes turned to dots.
Saten’s eyes started sparkling as if she had caught scent of something dangerous.
“You met Beverly-san later and she told you about it, didn’t she!? You asked her what you do in Liberal Arts City in the seasons when you can’t go swimming and she told you there were places for more adult ways of having fun! Kuhaaah!! A casino!! That entertainment of money and desire that can’t be had in Japan!! I always wanted to see one at least once if I ever went overseas. But will they really let a middle schooler in?”
In Saten Ruiko’s mind was an image of lines of slot machines with piles of coins pouring out like they were broken. Saten was wearing her swimsuit and being swallowed up by the ocean of gold with a gigantic grin on her face. Ladies and gentlemen dressed in tuxedos and cocktail dresses were circled around her at a distance while a pair of red bunny girls were standing on either side of her giving her a baptism of kisses. “Ga ha ha ha ha! This is it! This is the nonstop flight from Las Vegas to the American Dream!” she shouted while immersed and intoxicated by her happy vision.
In Misaka Mikoto’s mind was an image of Saten staring blankly at the Baccarat table as her last chip was taken by the dealer. “Hand over everything you have on you. We’re taking everything that’s worth anything at all.” “No, no. All I have is this swimsuit.” “Then we’ll start with that!” was how the scene played out in her head when she remembered how Saten had a knack for getting into trouble. In the end, she knew it would end up with her barging into the casino and blowing away all the villains with her Railgun.
“C’mon, Misaka-san! I won’t let you say that the casino is for celebrities only!! I just want a peek! Just a peek!!”
“N-no. And this isn’t even a casino!!”
Saten didn’t even listen to what Mikoto was saying as she opened the door to the off limits zone and charged into that dangerous area.
(Ahhhhh!? That idiooooottttttttt!!)
Mikoto scratched at her head with both hands as she yelled internally before heading after Saten who had disappeared into the darkness. On the other side of the maintenance door was a narrow passageway. It had cables strewn about and tools left on the ground like the backstage of a theatre, so it was obvious at first glance that it did not lead to some facility of enjoyment.
“Ohhhhhhhhhhhh! Casinos sure are dangerous! This wild and undecorated feeling has such an immoral atmosphere to it!”
“You don’t even know what a real casino is like, do you? And like I said: this isn’t a casino…”
Mikoto felt exhausted as she somehow managed to catch up to Saten.
Up until that point, there had already been a few sensors mostly of the infrared variety, but Mikoto had used her electrical attacks to rather forcibly “fool” them. She didn’t think she had left a trace, but she was rather uncertain due to her crude method.
(But if I hadn’t done that, they’d be closing in on us armed with guns right about now. For now, I need to get this ridiculous girl to come to her senses…Wah!?)
Mikoto frantically grabbed Saten’s shoulder and pulled her back just as the smiling girl was about to head into an infrared zone.
(How can she head so thoughtlessly into such a dangerous area? I think that may be a type of talent.)
“S-Saten-san. I need to talk to you about something.”
“What? Let’s just hurry up and get to the casino. Wait! You don’t mean it’s a true super celebrity place that you need a membership for, do you!? C’mon, Misaka-san. Can’t you use your connections to get me in?”
“L-like I said, this isn’t a casino. I only came here because I have business to take care of. There’s nothing fun like that here.”
“Ohh, so it’s not a casino. I wonder if there’s anything else interesting in here then.”
As she spoke, Saten started to head back on the path she had come in on.
Mikoto grabbed Saten’s shoulder again.
She had only temporarily “fooled” the sensors, so their basic functionality was not gone. If Saten turned back there, the chain of events would clearly be “alarm -> captured -> shot”. Mikoto was the only one who could do anything about the security (and it was entirely possible that Saten would open some other door partway back and get lost), so she had no choice but to take Saten with her.
But Mikoto wasn’t sure how to explain it to her.
“…Something interesting is about to start, isn’t it?” Saten said with a grin as Mikoto still held her shoulder. “As a newcomer, I don’t know the details, but something truly interesting is about to begin, isn’t it?”
It seemed the great Ace of Tokiwadai Middle School could not stand people who had a knack for getting into trouble.
(It’s like Area 51.)
Mikoto was reminded of that air force base in the middle of the desert that was a top secret facility and had many rumors including those about aliens preserved in formaldehyde or analysis of crashed UFOs. She might have been more easily reminded of that because she was in America.
They had walked along the short passageway breaking through the security as they went (or rather, Mikoto did all the work with her power while Saten just walked along) until they reached a large space that was what had brought that thought to Mikoto’s mind.
It was a rectangular area.
The area was made of iron and concrete, it was about 1.5 kilometers in every direction and it was almost 20 meters tall. The roof was strengthened with a complex metal framework much like a school gym and lights hung down at set intervals illuminating the large room. Narrow steel passageways ran across at about 10 meters above the flat concrete floor.
Saten looked around the area and spoke in admiration.
“Wow. Just this building alone shows the difference in scale between America and Japan.”
Saten’s innocent comment resounded about in an unpleasant way.
There did not seem to be anyone inside the facility and Saten’s voice had the same feeling to it as when someone gave a yell in an empty gym.
Mikoto’s face naturally stiffened at the sight of that dreadfully large space.
The facility was clearly not there for the purposes of amusement. Nor was it a space for the officials and workers to make preparations in order to please the tourists.
Most likely, that facility was the true center of Liberal Arts City.
(But the scale of things in America really is different…I can’t believe the largest landmark of the city is actually something like this.)
Mikoto looked around the large rectangular area again.
She had once seen a certain show on television.
It had been a quiz show. A certain object was being created in a factory. The question had asked what was being made. The answer had been a large passenger plane. The area reminded her of the footage they had shown then.
However, the large space was not storing round airplane parts.
It was storing the same type of flying fish that had been battling the fighters earlier that day.
The main body was about 5 meters long, made of acute angles, and made of wood. The sharp body looked like it had been made from an upside down canoe placed on top of another canoe and each side had a large wing and a small wing on it. The strange hovercraft was made of things like cloth and obsidian rather than metal.
The flying fish was enshrined like a butterfly specimen as if it was being studied.
However, the one there appeared to be defective…or rather, damaged. A giant hole had been smashed near the center of the canoe and the entire body was bent into a shallow V-shape. One of the wings had been broken off and was merely lying on the ground next to it.
“Hehh. This is the thing they used in the show today, isn’t it? Is this a tool room for their performances?”
Mikoto did not nod in response to Saten’s question.
(…No. This isn’t the one from today.)
The flying fish Mikoto had fought had been blown to pieces by its self-destruct device in the end. That did not match up with that body that had been forcibly bent from an outside force.
(There isn’t just one of them. So was today not the only attack?)
She looked around again and noticed more flying fish. It looked like the kind of makeshift morgue set up after plane crashes that would be seen in dramas sometimes. Instead of having body bags lined up, the broken flying fish were lined up at even intervals. There were more than 200 of them there.
Each individual flying fish was lit up by a spotlight and no two were destroyed in the same way. Some had the front crushed in, some had all the wings broken off, some were missing the entire back half, and some were just a bunch of crushed parts laid out on the floor in the shape of the flying fish. It seemed all the flying fish that had been shot down up until then were stored there implying the history of intense fighting that had been occurring.
Mikoto approached one of the broken flying fish and spotted something like a plastic tag stuck to it. It had a string of letters of the alphabet and numbers on it. The numbers seemed to be a sort of code. Other than what looked like a date, the code was completely random. Without seeing the way Liberal Arts City used the code, it was meaningless data. The letters of the alphabet seemed to be some kind of name. It was a long word that started with an “m”. Mikoto didn’t think it was English, but it didn’t look like French or Italian either. It was a ridiculous spelling that looked like a language that did not use the alphabet had been forcibly spelled out.
“What is this? M…Mix…Mixca…no, Mixco maybe?”
Mikoto looked puzzled as she tried to read it. She couldn’t stay there for too long, so she thought about taking a picture of it with her cell phone so she could try to figure it out later, but…
“It’s Mixcoatl. It’s a Central American word that I’m told means Serpent of the Sea of Clouds.”
Mikoto and Saten turned around at that sudden female voice.
They had no idea how long she had been there, but a Liberal Arts City official stood there. The woman seemed to be in her mid-twenties and she was wearing an orange lifejacket over a sporty racing swimsuit.
She had her ID card hanging from her neck, so they immediately knew what her name was. The card said Olive Holiday.
Mikoto stuck her fist up to her head and spoke.
“Um, sorry. We’re kind of lost…”
“Ha ha. So you’re going to play dumb. If you want a job as a performer, you’re going to have to do better than that.”
Mikoto glared at Olive and took a step forward so she could more easily protect Saten.
“You’re not going to tell us these are costumes for some kind of hero show, are you?”
“Is that how you see us?”
Olive shook her head while smiling.
“Playing everything off as a show requires the proper atmosphere. If we opened this up as a large underground hanger after building an entrance gate, charging money, having officials lead them in, and playing loud sound effects and visual effects, then people would believe that it was a large set we spent lots of money creating. It’s all the result of our great efforts, so please don’t act like it’s something that’s easily done.”
“…So you’re aware you’ve been found out. You’re getting attacked by these unknown enemies because there’s something here worth it, so you can’t fool me anymore,” said Mikoto with a sneer ignoring Saten who had been left behind in the conversation.
“Yes.” Olive Holiday slowly nodded. “It looks like I have no choice but to do it.”
“This can no longer end quietly.”
A chill ran over Mikoto.
A killer intent exploded out from the official’s smile. Even Saten who had no idea what was going on started trembling behind Mikoto having finally realized the gravity of the situation.
Mikoto made sure her body did not tense up.
“What are you doing here? Seeing all these flying fish, it’s clear that “show” hasn’t happened just a few times.”
In response, Olive Holiday’s smile slowly grew with a sense of intimidation that seemed like it could push someone back despite the fact that she was in a swimsuit and had no weapon.
“Let’s talk about a hypothetical girl who was in a situation similar to yours.”
“I’d rather not,” said Mikoto calmly.
“Don’t take me lightly, you fucking brat.”
The instant the official said that, the killer intent-filled air got two or three times colder. She did not allow someone else to send killer intent back at her evenly. She only allowed for her to crush her opponent from above. A dark and wet hostility filled with that intention hung in the air.
“Why do you think I spoke to you from this position? I have nothing hidden on my body, the nearest exit I could escape through is far off, and I am right in the middle of this large area. Why do you think I am facing you here?”
Olive Holiday smiled.
As she smiled, her slender hand slowly moved bringing her index finger to her mouth.
It was as if she were purposefully taking her hand away from her lifejacket.
“The reason is that this location, this distance, and this timing are all within my needs for an ensured victory. I have no need to defend and no need to flee. …This is our stronghold. I could get anything I needed here and yet I stand here alone. That means that I already possess everything I need to control this location.”
She was exactly like the official who would lead a child who had gotten lost in the facility.
Except, she would lead them to an attraction that was a battlefield covered in fresh blood and death.
“…A word of warning. You should stop for your own sake,” Mikoto said.
“I have seen the data on the destruction of the Mixcoatl.” As if to demonstrate her control of the situation, Olive took a step forward. “And I still deem my victory ensured despite what it told me. You really need to realize that you two are no longer guests. You are nothing more than foreign enemies.”
Mikoto and Olive silently glared at each other.
Mikoto heard no noise from behind her. Saten may have stopped breathing.
(What’s she going to do…?)
Would a projectile fire from the lifejacket? Or would she charge in at high speed? Or was she hiding a secret weapon somewhere other than the lifejacket like her hair or her ear?
(How should I move…?)
There was no one move that would work on all situations. Every attack had its strengths and weaknesses. In other words, there was a risk of being wounded if she misread what her enemy intended to do.
Killer intent clashed with killer intent.
All sound disappeared.
A small electronic beep was heard.
“…What is it?” Olive asked.
Her index finger was still on her lips and her gaze was still on Mikoto, but she was speaking to someone else.
The response came from the small radio strapped on like a knife near the shoulder of the lifejacket.
“Leader, the directors in management have completed their negotiation.”
“What’s the plan?”
“Do not touch Academy City’s #3, Railgun. If a Level 5 class person were to be treated as having gone missing, Japan’s Academy City would determine that there was a danger that the important military secrets included in her DNA map had been leaked. There would be a risk of a multi-sided war on technological, economical, intelligence, and military fronts.”
“The world police decided that? I’m shocked.”
“Indeed,” came the immediate response over the radio. “Should we just ignore it?”
“Good question,” Olive said with a laugh.
Mikoto put herself on guard and bluish-white sparks flew from her bangs.
“Let’s not. We could deal with this independently, but the cost would be too great. The losses would be greater than the gains, so there is no reason to expend the effort. It doesn’t have enough value to incite the wrath of management.”
“Then we’ll go with that.”
“Yes. Leave the escorting of our guests to me.”
With a slight bit of static, the transmission cut off.
The killer intent being emitted from Olive disappeared, her shoulders relaxed, and she put on the traditional smile of the service industry.
“And that seems to be how this will go,” she said to Mikoto.
“…What do you mean?”
“I am saying that I will let you go. If you insist on fighting, I will of course do my best to satisfy you as you our guest. In that case, I would ensure that we fought until one of us was dead. Even if both of you fought me together, I’m sure it would not take even a minute.”
Olive’s overly polite speech seemed to be slightly sarcastic and it may have been expressing how angry she was. It was the kind of anger a child had when someone else splashed them.
“And what if we tell others about what happened here?”
“We have plenty of information experts. Have you forgotten that our country has the world’s largest intelligence agency? Anything you do in that regard will not leave Liberal Arts City, but if you still want to, feel free. We wholeheartedly want to give you the greatest hospitality we can. The gap between a professional and an amateur is clear and I’m sure I don’t have to tell you which one would win.”
Mikoto suddenly exhaled upon realizing Olive was telling the truth and not just being unwilling to admit defeat. If they had a standardized way of dealing with that kind of thing, then it also meant that they might not end up assassinating Mikoto and Saten.
(They’re letting go someone who has seen a portion of their secret. Normally that would be an unthinkable option, but they must some kind of foundation they’re basing that decision on.)
Of course, there was still a risk of everything that official saying being a lie and that they would end up being attacked in their hotel rooms that night.
(Either way, she is not the only issue. Getting held up here won’t help anything. Defeating her might even make them get more serious which would cause even more problems. …I’d like more information before I make my move.)
“I’ll take you up on your offer.”
“Heh heh. An excellent choice,” said Olive as she smiled. “Now, let me show you two guests to the exit.”
“…Are you serious?” Mikoto said as she realized Saten was utterly frightened behind her. “You want us to walk through some unknown facility following someone who could stab us in the back at any moment?”
“Do not be mistaken. I am nothing more than an official of this institution. I am only allowed to take action in order to physically enforce the rules of Liberal Arts City.”
Olive took a step to the side and held her hand out horizontally as if showing the way. The gesture seemed to be one of regulating the confused flow.
“As such, as long as you follow my warnings and do not take any unnecessary actions, we officials will do our best to give you an enjoyable stay.”
With a smile that made Mikoto shudder, the supple official began escorting them.
Uiharu Kazari had been a bit hungry before she went to bed, so she had used her cell phone translation application to speak with a tall waiter in the hotel lounge.
“Excuse me…My order…um…I want to eat…black tea and…a sandwich.”
Defying her expectations, a large plate covered in a large number of sandwiches was brought to her. As she was staring blankly at them…
“Uiharu! Uiharu!! Uuuuiiihaaaarrrruuuu!!”
“S-Saten-san!? Waah! Perfect timing. Please help me do something about this mountain of sandwiches! There’s no way I can eat all of them myself!!”
“That doesn’t matter right now!! It was amazing!! If I told you some things, I think my head might end up rolling on the floor, so I can’t explain, but it was all amazing!!”
“What are talking abou—? Wah wah wah! Don’t start a focused attack on the healthy vegetable sandwiches!! Be more varied! Don’t leave just the juicy chicken sandwiches to me!!”
Saten’s mouth was stuffed so full of sandwiches she could not reply.
She merely tilted her head questioningly toward Uiharu.
Despite those girls in their swimsuits creating an uproar between themselves, the quiet Liberal Arts City night continued.