Toaru Majutsu no Index:RailgunSS1 Chapter3
Dawn came and the brilliant white midsummer sun once again rose into the blue sky.
Seeing the sunbeams falling down, it almost made one forget that it was actually September.
Uiharu Kazari was looking up at the explosively shining sun while wearing a pink one piece swimsuit with a floral print.
“Hey, Uiharu. Quit fading away over there and get over here, you midsummer girl.”
“Saten-san. Don’t call me a midsummer girl. And what does that mean anyway?”
Uiharu looked over and saw Saten Ruiko approaching and seemingly irritated about something.
“Hm. It looks like you got a nice suntan from playing outside all day yesterday. Let’s see. Let me see the before and after of your tan.”
“Wait, ah!? Please don’t pull on the strap of my swimsuit!! Is that what you meant by a midsummer girl?!”
Uiharu protested, but Saten stretched out her swimsuit and stared at the line between milky white and light brown.
“My hair is long, so if I just stand there, I have parts that don’t get tanned. That’s why I used a strong sunblock, but I think it was too strong. I’m completely white. That’s pretty boring, so I wonder what I’ll do today. Maybe I should put my hair up so I can get a good tan.”
“W-wait! Don’t peel the brown parts! Th-that’s disgusting! You’re going to make it look terrible in the end, Saten-san!!”
“Don’t worry! You can play a lot today so it will tan up again!! Ga ha ha!”
That was when Mikoto arrived. They had eaten breakfast together, but they had split up to head back to the hotel before meeting up on the beach again.
“Hey. Sorry it took so long.”
“Oh, we don’t mind…Huh? Shirai-san isn’t with you?”
“That’s what took so long. Her sexy swimsuits were simply too destructive, so I had to go through all of her luggage to see if she had a swimsuit that was at least a little better. And I finally found one. It was a completely normal swimsuit.”
“So I’m here to introduce her reincarnation with this simple swimsuit!!”
Mikoto swung her arm over pointing in an odd direction. Standing there was Shirai Kuroko with a bored expression on her face. The swimsuit she was wearing was no more revealing than a school swimsuit. It was a white-ish one piece. It had a few straight lines on it and it was much more normal than her ridiculous swimsuit from the day before that had been nothing but a few lines.
But Uiharu and Saten were taken aback.
They looked like they were about to vomit.
“I-it doesn’t suit her at all!! Wh-why does it seem so off for Shirai-san to be wearing a normal swimsuit!?”
“How unfashionable can you get!? That looks like it would be in a cheap grab bag in a shopping district!”
Shirai Kuroko, the Japanese samurai, seemed to have become rather famous because even the surrounding (male) foreigners were making a disappointed commotion.
“Oh, it’s something simple today.”
“You idiot. That’s normal.”
“The Japanese bushido certainly is dreadful to have grabbed our interest like that.”
Shirai gnashed her teeth.
“Th-this is why I didn’t want to wear something like this!! And if wearing something like this disappoints everyone, then I should have just worn a showier swimsuit!”
Steam seemed to be coming from Shirai’s head as she yelled, but Mikoto had a triumphant smile and Uiharu and Saten drew back. Shirai Kuroko finally ran out of patience and reached out for her ultimate weapon.
“Here we go!! Secret switch activated!!”
“D-don’t tell me this is the ultimate sexy swimsuit that can transform and combine!? …Huh?”
The three of them put themselves on guard, but the swimsuit did not come apart revealing skin.
The white swimsuit seemed to be made of an outer cloth and an inner cloth. By using the intentional notches in the outer cloth, the blue color of the inner cloth made patterns on the white swimsuit.
“Wha-? …Eh? ...Wait! Th-this is..!!”
“I don’t understand why, but Shirai-san looks incredibly sexy!”
Mikoto, Uiharu, and Saten’s faces suddenly turned red. Shirai’s swimsuit was still the unfashionable one piece type that anyone from a young child to an old woman could wear. It truly was an extremely unfashionable white piece of clothing that was disappointing in how revealing it was.
“Heh. This is your fault, onee-sama. I did not want to use this ultimate weapon, but you forced me to wear it today.”
“Gh…Gfh….What is that mysterious swimsuit…?”
“It is a collection of the best of Academy City’s technology. It was designed with the courtship displays of 38,000 animals in mind. Everything that living beings find to be sexy was gathered together so that it has sex appeal that will not only arouse men and women both young and old, but it will also arouse every kind of animal!!”
“Wait, aren’t the showier courtship displays usually done by the males…?”
“Complaint sealing courtship bomber!!”
“Mgyaaaaaaaahhhhh!?” Mikoto screamed upon seeing the courtship swimsuit.
She tried to overcome its effects, but it seemed Shirai’s swimsuit used more than the visual effects from the lines. It had small speakers installed inside and even had (electronically disseminated) pheromone scents woven into the fabric. That terrible swimsuit attacked via each of the five senses. Most likely, it would have a courtship flavor if you licked it and a courtship feeling if you touched it. In fact, with such a strange piece of technology, it may have even entered the realm of sixth sense courtship.
“Ahah…I’m the one wearing it, and even I’m feeling a little woozy…”
“Gwaah!! The idiot at the center of it all is receiving the most damage!? H-hey, Kuroko! At least tell us where the off switch is before you collapse!! Are you trying to turn this entire beach into an indiscriminate storm of courtship!?”
Mikoto’s vision was getting a bit distorted and it was all tinted a pale pink like she was seeing some kind of illusion. If something wasn’t done about that tactical courtship bomb, it could easily end up being reported on the news as a joke story.
“What, Kuroko!? J-just tell me where the switch is! If we don’t get that thing off soon, I’m going to make it stop even if I have to rip it apart!!”
“W-wait, why are you smiling? Why are you pulling your lips back and staying so silent!? Just hurry!! You can wear that sexy swimsuit from yesterday or whatever, just get rid of that new generation high-tech weapon!!”
In the end, Shirai had remained limp and silent, so Mikoto had searched about her swimsuit until she finally found the off switch.
Saten sighed heavily on the beach.
(Shirai-san certainly looked happy…)
Saten recalled Shirai Kuroko’s expression when she had been kicked in the back and sent back to the hotel. That futuristic swimsuit’s effects should have been gone, but an odd disturbance remained in Saten’s head.
“Uiharu, I’m a bit thirsty, so I’m going to go buy a drink.”
“O-okay. I was just about to go rest, so I’ll be lying over there getting a tan.”
After hearing Uiharu’s exhausted response, Saten walked from the artificial beach to a narrow promenade made of bricks.
Saten thought to herself as she walked along.
(What was that yesterday?)
Saten may have usually seemed rather thoughtless (and she basically was), but that did not mean that she never thought about anything. There had been that hangar-like area in the center of Liberal Arts City and the destroyed flying fish-like crafts. And there had been the conversation between Mikoto and the official named Olive. It seemed something had been settled between them, but Saten had been left out. She had no idea what had happened and she could not relax until she did.
(On the way back to the hotel, Misaka-san said thoughtlessly getting into a dispute would draw unwanted attention from the teachers and might cause problems for the other students. She also said causing trouble could ruin the entire trip, so I shouldn’t make too much of an uproar over it…but why did she go in there in the first place?)
Truth be told, she had not slept well the night before. It may sound stupid, but she had felt like her window could shatter at any time and a special forces-like group would swing in on ropes like in a movie.
But nothing had happened.
The sky and the sea were blue and Saten Ruiko was in her swimsuit as usual.
(Misaka-san seems to be silently observing things…and I know someone like me can’t accomplish anything by worrying about it, but…)
She sighed and pushed her worries away to a corner of her mind.
The scenery of the area she was in seemed to be modeled off of Hawaii or Guam because the gently curving promenade next to the beach was lined with palm trees. After walking a bit further, she came across a stand selling drinks made by sticking fruits and milk into the juicer right there. The stand was really just a remodeled RV, but the undercarriage was thicker like an off-road vehicle perhaps so it could drive on the beach.
Saten looked over the menu that was written in English, Japanese, and Chinese.
(I guess the basic is a combination of banana and milk. Oh, but vanilla is something else entirely. Hmm? They have coconut. I’m pretty sure I’ve had a coconut soda before, but I wonder what a real fresh coconut tastes like…Wait!? They’re selling coconut milk like it’s nothing!!)
The shop was selling various nostalgic things, but Saten chose the coconut drink for the roundabout reason of it seeming “tropical”. She used the IC card around her neck to pay for it and took her cup from a man with very wild arm hair.
(Now then, time to see what real coconut tastes like.)
As she walked along the path leading back to where Uiharu was, she mixed the contents of the cup with the straw.
Suddenly, she heard a nearby thicket rustling. The thicket was made up of shorter trees planted behind the palm trees lined up along the promenade. The combination of the path, the palm trees, and the shorter trees was somewhat reminiscent of a Baumkuchen. The thicket was something like a green afro on the ground and it was rustling and moving in front of Saten’s eyes.
Generally, there were two different types of reactions people had upon seeing something strange.
Some would raise their guard and move back and some would be interested and move forward.
Saten Ruiko was most certainly the latter type.
(Wh-what? What what what what is this?)
She strayed from the promenade and pushed aside the giant afro thicket.
Immediately afterwards, two brown arms stuck out of the afro. Before Saten could react, the arms grabbed her arm and her waist and pulled her into the afro.
“Dwaaaaaaaahh!? Dammit, my drink!! I still don’t know what fresh coconut tastes like!!”
The instant she lost her balance and tripped, the contents of her cup spilled onto the sand. After seeing the coconut drink being absorbed by the earth, Saten glared at the one who had done it.
But she did not complain any further.
The owner of the brown arms used some strange kind of throw to hurl Saten further. Saten now lay on her back on the sand with the brown person on top of her. The person’s thighs were used to keep Saten from moving her arms and a brown arm was used to seal Saten’s mouth.
“…You’re not an official. Tch. I got a simple tourist involved. I was hoping to beat one of them up and steal their clothes…”
Those words were spoken in some foreign language by a girl who looked to be around high school age. Her shoulder-length black hair was wavy and her eyes were piercingly black. The sunlight seemed to emphasize the tight lines of her brown skin.
The brown girl kept her hand over Saten’s mouth and then spoke in Japanese.
“If you yell, I’ll kill you.”
Saten Ruiko’s response upon hearing that was quite simple.
She used her small mouth to bite the brown hand over her mouth.
The brown girl yelled in a decidedly unfeminine manner and she removed her hand from Saten’s mouth due to the pain. At the same time, Saten opened her mouth wide.
“S-someone help! I’m being mugged! Ah, how do you say it in English!? U-um…Help!! Pinch!! I’m in a pinch here!!”
“Hey, I said I’d kill you if you yelled, didn’t I!? Dammit…just shut your mou—ow!! Don’t bite me! Don’t bite me, you stupid bitch!!”
The brown girl looked around the area as she desperately tried to cover up Saten’s mouth again. When she did, that mouth closed on her hand like a bear trap. After being bit two or three times, it must have pissed her off because she grabbed some white sand and thrust it into Saten’s mouth.
“…I-if you don’t shut up, I’ll show you just how full your mouth can get.”
Saten finally quieted down.
She coughed up the sand, but the brown girl did not get off of her.
“Ueh. Cough. Wh-what was that for…?”
The brown girl’s thighs finally loosened up just a bit and Saten looked up dumbfounded.
“Yesterday, a Mixcoatl crashed here.”
“That is the name of our vehicles that were fighting with the scientific airplanes. One of them crashed on the beach yesterday, right? I came here to rescue my comrade who was aboard, but I had to lend my one-man reconnaissance model to the injured pilot, so now I can’t get away,” the brown girl said in a fairly sulky and desperate way.
She turned her head aside and the feathered decoration in her ear lightly waved.
(I didn’t understand any of that…)
Saten had no idea what was going on, but she had no choice but to continue looking up at the girl who was sitting atop her.
Liberal Arts City was a ridiculous place where everyone wore their swimsuits everywhere, but even there, that brown girl’s outfit stood out. However, that was not because it was exceedingly revealing like Shirai Kuroko’s swimsuit.
She was wearing some sort of Indian or tribal sort of outfit. It was not made of the shiny materials common in costumes. Instead, it was faded and stained like it had been worn for a long time.
Swimsuits tended to be made of synthetic fibers which gave them a scientific taste. The brown girl’s tribal outfit stood out amid that.
“…Damn, I guess I have to change my plan. Hey, I’m gonna make use of you,” the brown girl said while looking down at Saten. “Walking around in the open dressed like this will just bring the annoying officials to me, so I need a swimsuit like the one you’re wearing so I can hide among the crowds.”
“I could always just steal what you’re wearing now. It may be simpler to just kill you,” the brown girl said bluntly.
Saten could not tell how serious the girl was being.
“I don’t want to kill a civilian if I don’t have to, but if you refuse to help, if you say you’re going to buy me a swimsuit and just run off, or you go running to the officials…Well, let’s just say you should just do what I say.”
Saten literally booed, but then she felt something cold pressed against her throat.
The brown girl had stretched out her arm. She was holding something, but Saten could not see what it was because it was pressed against her throat.
“An obsidian knife may be a rare sight for you, but it can peel off skin, remove organs, and scrape the muscles and fat off of bones. This knife was originally made to use on human flesh.”
“If you don’t want me to use it, listen to what I have to say. This is not made to sever without giving any pain. If it cuts your flesh, it will hurt. Do you understand?”
Saten nodded quickly.
Seeing that, the brown girl finally moved off of Saten.
Saten brushed the sand off of her back and butt while she grumbled in her heart.
“Dammit… Fine, I just have to buy you a swimsuit, right? So what are your measurements?”
“84, 58, 81.”
(Damn. I lose on all counts.)
“What’s with those glazed eyes? I don’t care about the color, but get something that’s easy to move in.”
Saten pushed aside the afro-like thicket and started to head back toward the promenade.
“Oh, right. What’s your name?”
“Hmm,” was Saten’s arbitrary response.
(Hm? If she needs a swimsuit for camouflage so she isn’t found by the Liberal Arts City officials…then she can’t walk out in the open, right?)
“Gwoohh!! I’m outta here! I’ve gotta make a dash for the safe zone…Gyh!?”
“I thought you’d do that, you idiot!!”
The brown girl stretched out her arms again and pulled Saten Ruiko back into the afro.
Xochitl spoke with her head hanging down and a dark smile on her face.
“…You seem to be mistaken about something. Having the swimsuit does nothing more than make it easier for me to blend in with the crowd. If I wanted to, I could secretly move from cover to cover and chase you down. I would just prefer a safer plan that is a little less risky.”
“Fwa ha ha! Do you really think I’m going to remain silent after hearing something as dangerous as tha—fgh!?”
Saten’s words were cut off because Xochitl had pulled something from her pocket and shoved it up Saten’s nose. An extremely unpleasant sensation moved its way up her nose.
Saten brought her hand up to her face, but the mysterious object had been completely embedded in her nose. She rubbed at the bottom of her nose, but could not feel anything there. It seemed it would be difficult to get whatever it was out.
“What the hell are you doing to a maiden’s nose!? And what was that!?”
“You want to know? It was one of these.”
In Xochitl’s hand was an odd rod that looked something like half a Q-tip. She then pressed a sort of button in her other hand. With a slight sound, small thorns emerged from the end and the entire rod started vibrating like an electric toothbrush.
“It isn’t what they’re made for, but they’ve become popular tools of torture in recent times. The mucous membrane in the nose is sensitive. Having it scraped off is rather painful.”
Saten’s face paled.
“It would be rather bad for you if it was activated while it’s still in your nose. If you don’t want that to happen, then go buy me a swimsuit. Oh, and don’t recklessly try to pull it out. It's remote controlled, so I can activate it at any time.”
And so Saten Ruiko ended up running an errand for someone in a distant foreign country.
She came to a large shopping mall in Liberal Arts City and had no motivation other than to just buy some cheap swimsuit and head back so as not to make the other girl mad.
“What are you doing looking through the swimsuits?”
“Hm? Oh, it’s the suspicious-looking film director,” was Saten’s arbitrary response to Beverly Seethrough whose breasts were as huge as ever.
Saten may have been the type who gets onboard each new big thing, but she had no interest when it was in a genre she did not care for.
Beverly stared at Saten’s red bikini.
“Have you gotten tired of the one you’re wearing?”
If she actually explained what was going on, something bad would probably happen, so she had no choice but to evade the question.
“A friend of mine had her swimsuit’s strap break, so I was sent out on an emergency mission. She’s trembling in a thicket even now.”
“Oh, poor thing.”
“Oh, don’t feel sorry for her. She’s about as arrogant as you can get. I was thinking of getting revenge by choosing some terrible swimsuit that was so showy it would make her cry.”
“Hmm. How about this one?”
“No, that’s not nearly enough. I want something at least this bad.”
“No, no, what about this one?”
“No, no, no, this one has the destructive power I’m looking for, so…”
The organization Xochitl belonged to was created by gathering people from Central and South America and gathering techniques that were different from the existing scientific technology. That organization had been continually fighting with Liberal Arts City for years.
That brown girl who was all alone in the middle of enemy lines may have been hiding like a beast within the thicket, but she was actually feeling rather depressed.
It wasn’t that she could not take a step out of that afro-like thicket. She had actually been moving about slipping through gaps in the security since the day before. But moving around while having to cautiously pay attention to her surroundings like that had worn her down mentally. That was why she felt that stealing an official’s outfit or getting a swimsuit so she could mix in with the crowds would be much easier.
(…But I’m still in the middle of enemy territory. I guess things won’t go that easily.)
She had no idea when her comrades would come to help her, she would clearly be outnumbered if the officials found her, and despite her threats, she could not really do anything if that girl she had sent for a swimsuit actually ran away. Even if she did get revenge on the girl with the remote control, it would just mean mutual destruction.
And on top of all that, Xochitl had become fairly injured in the process of hiding herself and she had eaten practically nothing for an entire day.
Xochitl checked on her weapons while in that isolated state.
However, she barely had any weapons.
She was not trained for battle. Her role was to recover the pilots from the Mixcoatls that crashed or became otherwise unusable.
She had ended up there because the pilot who had escaped from the Mixcoatl that had crashed on the Liberal Arts City beach the day before had sent out a distress signal.
Xochitl had been flying a one-man reconnaissance craft. She was supposed to have only confirmed the location of the injured pilot and then sent that information to the rescuers, but the pilot had been too greatly injured. It had been necessary to take him back to their base as quickly as possible. Xochitl had let him use the tiny one-man craft meant to be used for reconnaissance which left Xochitl as the one needing rescue.
Xochitl looked down at her knife made of obsidian and sighed. If it came down to fighting the officials, she needed to be prepared, but just as she was about to focus on that…
“Hey, have you been waiting, little kitty? Saten-san is back with a swimsuit for yo—gfh!?”
The idiot was back, so Xochitl covered her mouth and pulled her into the thicket.
Xochitl pulled a plastic bag from Saten’s hand. Annoyingly enough, it had the Liberal Arts City’s logo on it.
Saten made a pouting expression with her lips.
“C’mon, you don’t have to be so arrogant.”
“Oh, and could you take that thing out of my nose?”
Xochitl muttered something under her breath and Saten frantically reached up to her nose. She most likely thought she had a runny nose, but it was the thin rod that came out.
“I’ll be changing, so get out,” Xochitl said sounding annoyed.
“Okay, okay. Heh heh heh.”
“What? Why are you laughing?”
“No reason, no reason. Geh heh heh.”
Xochitl stared at Saten oddly as the girl headed from the thicket back to the promenade. Xochitl finally opened the plastic bag with the swimsuit in it and stuck her hand inside.
“Are you done?” Saten Ruiko shouted in a carefree voice toward the green afro-like thicket.
No response came, but the entire thicket shook as if to indicate the trembling of Xochitl’s body.
Saten ignored that and asked again.
“Are you done? If you don’t come out, I’m heading back in there.”
“What…?” said a voice from within the thicket.
“Hanyah?” Saten said purposefully tilting her head to the side as she pretended to be confused.
“What the hell is thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiisssssssssssssss!?”
Two arms shot from the green afro and Saten was swallowed up by the thicket as if it were a ridiculously huge sea anemone from a tropical ocean.
Saten was annoyed at how much the branches and leaves scraped against her and Xochitl was standing dauntingly on the other side of the thicket.
Seeing her, Saten Ruiko couldn’t help but laugh.
“Ahh…You really put on that sexy swimsuit…”
“How can you say that when you’re the one that bought it!? What! The! Hell! Is! This!? How stupid can you get!? Were you not embarrassed to take this up to the register!?”
What Xochitl was wearing was what would commonly be referred to as a bikini.
However, all of the narrow strings were covered in beads of various colors as if they were rosaries and the actual cloth was made of sparkling lamé. The cup portions covering the breasts were not made of cloth. They were made of spirals of strings with red, blue, and yellow beads that just barely covered up what needed to be covered up. This left the bottom of Xochitl’s breasts almost completely bare.
Saten put a hand to her mouth and a smile spread across her face.
“Heh heh. That’s called a jewelry bikini. You have much to learn, Xochitl-kun. Don’t you look a lot like a samba dancer!?”
“Th-this is…This is no time for joking around!!”
“Oh, watch out. If you move too much, something might pop out. Unlike my zip-up bikini, that isn’t made to stick to your skin, so you might end up putting certain things on full display. …And don’t try to go swimming. The resistance of the water would strip it all off.”
“Do you not see a problem with a swimsuit that can’t be used to swim in!?”
Due to both anger and embarrassment, Xochitl’s face was red and she was breathing erratically. It seemed she wanted to attack Saten right then and there but she could not do so because she was afraid the jewelry bikini would catch on something.
Xochitl finally realized she was at the disadvantage, so she gave up on heading over to punch Saten.
“…Hey, come with me.”
“Eh? I already bought you the swimsuit.”
“If you don’t, I’m prepared to take you down with me by ripping off your swimsuit. …Do you want both of us to be naked?”
Saten Ruiko was not able make a careless bet on whether Xochitl was bluffing and she would rather not have that strange rod stuck up her nose again.
And so Saten Ruiko ended up walking around Liberal Arts City with the mysterious brown girl named Xochitl. Xochitl did not want to go shopping somewhere or to ride on a roller coaster or anything. She was not walking around heading for a destination like that.
As she walked by a beach and a shopping mall, Xochitl gritted her teeth.
“(…Dammit. I want to take out at least one facility, but I can’t get a chance to do anything like that when I stand out this much!!)”
Probably due to her showy swimsuit, everyone’s gaze gathered on her wherever she went. The colorful beads glittered in the sun and living beings tended to turn their gaze toward shiny things, so all the men’s gazes were naturally drawn in toward the bikini covering her breasts and waist. Drops of sweat appeared on her skin due to the heat and her embarrassment. They also glittered, but in a much healthier and more lascivious way than with the beads.
“(…W-well, I have more than one goal. If I can’t destroy anything, I just have to put my focus on something else. Maybe I should try to get some more complete information on the enemy. If I don’t get at least something, this will have been such a waste that I’ll might feel like killing myself.)”
“What are you muttering about?”
“Nothing. I was just thinking that I might need to change my face if it comes down to it.”
Saten put on a puzzled expression but did not ask any more as she walked along.
She was being dragged along without knowing where they were headed. Her amateur thoughts led her to assume Xochitl was walking around with her because she would stand out less as she looked around if she had someone with her.
(Oh, no. I chose an extremely showy swimsuit for her and I’m betting the officials have me marked after that incident yesterday.)
An unpleasant sweat started pouring form Saten, but Xochitl did not seem to notice.
After walking through an area made up of a couple of artificial islands created by artificial canals, Xochitl suddenly put her hands on her small waist and sighed slightly.
After walking all over the place, they had ended up near the shopping mall where Saten had bought the jewelry bikini.
“…Well, I guess that’s pretty much it.”
“The traces of underground facilities cannot be completely erased. The general size of a facility can be deduced from the number and locations of the ducts. …And so many of my comrades have been injured for the sake of those ridiculous underground areas.”
“Basically, they need facilities prepared in order to fill in the discrepancies between a real battle and a show and they have all sorts of different kinds of ammunition stored up.” Xochitl seemed annoyed. “But the main facility for analysis and research doesn’t seem to be here. I guess the rocket launch pad in the center of the city is the most likely place. …Hmph. This artificial island was created by piling sand and manmade objects on top of the rocks that jutted up from the bottom of the ocean to only about 20 meters from the surface. In that case, they wouldn’t have the proper depth needed for a shelter. …Yes. If they dug too deep, they would open up a hole in the supporting rocks which would weaken them and could possibly cause the entire city to start to tilt.”
“Underground shelters are strong, but only if they are deep enough. If they aren’t there is a great risk of a cave in from the shock of an attack even if the shelter itself is not hit. And this country’s bunker busters are said to be able to blow up bases 20 or 30 meters below the surface. In that case, it would indeed be safer to not build their most important facility underground.”
“Xochitl, what are you going on about…?”
“Don’t ask. It’s better if you don’t know.”
At that time, Saten Ruiko saw multiple white contrails cutting through the blue sky above. It was the Laveze Squadron from Alien Wars doing an acrobatic show. Saten let out a stupid voice as she watched the multiple jets fly straight from the land out to the ocean.
“Wow. They’re doing that battle show today, too!”
The two of them were standing in an inland area a bit away from the beach. Even so, there was only white sand beneath their feet. The bricks of the promenade and the roads as well as the buildings such as the shopping mall and the hotel were all built atop the sand.
The blue ocean could be seen in the distance between two buildings.
Finally, Xochitl muttered something.
“So they’re finally here.”
Saten looked puzzled and then a tremendous explosive noise struck her ears. The noise was louder than one would expect from a show. It was more like an accident had occurred during the aerial acrobatics. Saten covered her hurting ears with her hands and saw some black smoke rising up in the distance seeming to sully the blue sky.
With another explosive noise something fluttered through the sky. Looking up, it looked like a small fragment of something, but it was actually a large fighter over 20 meters long and it came crashing into the beach. The sound of steam came from that fighter that was one of the ships used by the Laveze Squadron. The pilot must have ejected because the glass canopy covering the cockpit was gone.
Saten did not have time to be surprised or to think that it was just a show.
Dozens of white lines cut across the blue sky. They looked similar to the contrails from before, but they were narrower, sharper, and faster. The white points were reminiscent of spears. They stabbed across various parts of Liberal Arts City, mercilessly exploded, destroyed building walls, dug up sand, and generally spread about damage and confusion.
One of those white points landed near Saten and she was knocked down on the hot sand despite not having been directly hit.
Xochitl calmly remained standing.
The girl’s expression did not change in the slightest as she slowly looked up into the sky and muttered a few words.
“You certainly took your time.”
As if in response, the beach right next to Xochitl exploded as if it were being lifted up from below. It was less like something was breaking out from within the earth and more like something was breaking through the ceiling of an underground facility. What appeared was one of the things that had been fighting the Laveze Squadron the day before. The craft looked like it was made up of a 5 meter long canoe with another one placed on top upside down. A short wing and a long wing were on both sides of the front of the flying fish-like craft.
Xochitl turned toward the flying fish and spoke in a much, much more friendly way than she had toward Saten.
She was speaking in a language Saten did not understand.
“So my survey of the enemy land was a waste, hm? My prediction was that the real analysis and research was not carried out in the facility underneath the attractions but in the rocket launch pad facility at the center of the city.”
“You were correct, but the two facilities share a large underground area, so they can travel between them without leaving.”
“And so you got in. How did it go?”
“I carried out the minimum amount of destruction needed and I retrieved you know what. But the inside was much more toughly built than I had expected. Personally, I didn’t like it.”
“Don’t get greedy. You shouldn’t have gone this far inland using a sea battle Mixcoatl in the first place.”
“And who do you think I did that for? I used one of these because you might have had a broken bone making you a complete burden.”
With a sound like a can of something carbonated opening, the upper canoe-like section slid back opening up the craft.
Inside that acutely angled main body was a girl with brown skin just like Xochitl’s. She appeared to be just a bit older than Xochitl. The gap in age was small enough that an adult would probably just refer to them both as kids, but a middle schooler like Saten noticed age differences like that.
It may have had some formal meaning or it may have functioned as a kind of pilot suit, but the girl was wearing the same kind of tribal outfit as Xochitl had when Saten had first met her.
The girl in the canoe looked at Xochitl and then pointed behind her.
“Hurry up and get on. All four wings are almost crushed because I forced it to walk on the land. Just getting back to the ocean will be about the limit.”
Xochitl headed to the canoe as instructed.
“Ah…” said Saten without meaning to upon seeing that receding back.
Even Saten could tell by then that she was not just seeing some kind of show. She had not just seen an explosion; she had gotten caught in the blast. And now Xochitl was headed toward the person who seemed to have caused the explosion.
She wanted to say something, but nothing came out.
Xochitl did not turn back toward Saten.
Xochitl put her small body into the back of the canoe and the upper part slid back to its original place closing up the craft. The flying fish made of wood, cloth, and obsidian vibrated as if it were trembling and used the four wings carefully crushed underneath it to walk away from Saten.
The Mixcoatl made it from the beach to the ocean and then used its wings to float up a few centimeters from the water’s surface allowing it to regain its normal speed.
The girl in front of Xochitl who was controlling the Mixcoatl was named Tochtli. She spoke without turning around.
“Well, it looks like you didn’t get any obvious injuries.”
“I was only unable to contact you. Well, I’m thankful you went out of your way to retrieve me.”
“I’m impressed you managed to wait it out there.”
“The center of the land of the enemy we’ve been fighting for years was as boring as I expected.” Xochitl sighed. “…I’m sure Tecpatl isn’t going to shut up about this once I get back.”
“Well, the higher ups are afraid of losing any of their fighting force, so it’s unlikely you’ll be seriously punished.”
Tochtli did not turn Xochitl’s way, but from the shaking of her shoulders, she seemed to be laughing.
“So you said you managed to retrieve it?”
Tochtli nodded without turning around and pointed to the side.
Right next to her was an object about the size of a softball that appeared to have been casually placed there. It was wrapped in a soft cloth like one that would be used to wipe glasses with, so its outer appearance could not be seen.
“I see. So it’s finally returned to our hands,” Xochitl muttered.
“But we won’t be able to activate it right away just because we got it back. It seems the assembly and adjustments will take some time. But even so, we’ve made quite a bit of progress.”
“…Xiuhcoatl, hm?” Xochitl muttered.
The inside of the craft fell silent for a short time.
Finally, Tochtli spoke while operating the Mixcoatl.
“That was a nice girl.”
“That girl was quite nice to help you even though you were about as suspicious as a person can get,” Tochtli said completely seriously. “Did you see her face at the end? Her head was full of questions and she wanted to ask you all sorts of things, but she was clearly troubled because she wasn’t sure how to ask those questions without hurting you. In the end, she ran out of time and didn’t say anything, but she was definitely a nice girl. This city itself may be twisted, but it seems good people do come in from outside. I’ll admit that much.”
Xochitl did not respond.
Tochtli did not say anything more and merely piloted the Mixcoatl outside of Liberal Arts City’s sphere of control.
Tochtli finally recalled something.
“By the way, Xochitl.”
“What’s with that ridiculous swimsuit? Even if you were trying to mix in with the crowd in enemy territory, wasn’t that a bit too risky? Well, I suppose it’ll make a nice souvenir for the guys back at the base.”
“…I’m reminded of something I said back in Liberal Arts City: I could always just steal what you’re wearing now.”
The sounds of the girls yelling back and forth and enjoyable sounds of destruction resounded within the Mixcoatl.
“Do you really think I’ll let you!?”
“If you don’t like it, then come up with something better!”