Toaru Majutsu no Index:RailgunSS1 Chapter7
The sky was blue.
Seeming to ignore the swirling emotions of all the people, the weather was completely clear. The light rising above people’s heads early that morning was so clear and bright that it made one forget that it was September.
Along the border between America and Mexico near the shore of the Pacific Ocean was the front line base of the organization named Return of the Winged One which had its main base in Central America.
In modern terms, it was something like an aircraft carrier. They had bought an old large tanker and loaded it with lots of Mixcoatls. As a disguise, a pile of iron ore lay on top of the flat metal sheet that was easily over 200 meters long, but anyone within Return of the Winged One knew that their ultimate weapon lay beneath that ore.
Xochitl stood on one end of that large metal sheet. With the sun shining on her brown skin, she looked up at the pile of iron ore that was many times taller than she was.
Next to her stood another girl.
She was Tochtli, Xochitl’s colleague.
“Apparently, the preparations are finally complete, so it can truly be activated. Now we can blow that damn research facility to smithereens. Really, this would have been so much easier if we could have done this from the beginning.”
“Yes, it’s too bad Liberal Arts City stole the spiritual item needed to act as a key. …Well, at least it’s unlikely they were able to analyze how it worked.”
As Xochitl spoke bluntly, she stared up somewhere in the sky.
Tochtli smiled while looking at her.
“Are you worried?”
“With this thing, we can’t aim precisely. Liberal Arts City will just be turned to wreckage on the sea.”
“So?” Xochitl spat out as if she were shaking off her hesitation. “I gave her the hints she needed to make the right decision.”
A clunk sounded as the heavy metal sheet started to move.
Multiple alarms started ringing.
“They have begun to move due to the spiritual item! They’re moving, so get out of the way!!”
All of the Return of the Winged One members working on the metal sheet moved away from the pile of ore. As they watched, the black pile collapsed. With a horribly rough noise, majestic faces peered from within.
The giant weapons were over 100 meters long.
They were Return of the Winged One’s trump card.
They were Xiuhcoatl.
Like a large serpent writhing about atop the pile of ore, the four trump cards were raised up diagonally by remote control and peered down at the ocean’s surface. As she watched them, Xochitl frowned.
Flave and Over were working on Liberal Arts City’s number three short runway.
“…So how many usable ones are left?”
“Numbers 3, 5, 7, and 8. ..It seems that electrical princess really does want to make a deal. She left only the runways that could truly be used.”
“Hey, but didn’t she blow up the hangars with something like lightning?”
“She only did that to the maintenance buildings. The buildings with actual fighters in them weren’t even scratched. You can tell she was being considerate. …It makes me wonder if she’s really an enemy.”
“Oh, do you like strong girls?”
“I hate all kids.”
The two pilots continued their offhand conversation as their fighters were towed out of the hangar. The Laveze Squadron fighters were based off of F-35s, but their additional equipment made their VTOL functionality almost entirely unusable. They used a short runway of about 700 meters to take off.
Flave spoke while looking at the uniquely-shaped stealth fighter.
“…Do you know what that princess wanted?”
“She wants all the unrelated tourists and workers to be allowed to leave on the Salmon Red lifeboats. It’s a pretty broad request. Apparently, she even wants us to board them if possible.”
“Does she really think that’s possible? Those Mixcoatls can exceed Mach 2. It’s obvious what would happen if we were just floating in the ocean in those slow ships.”
“Yes, protecting those large lifeboats in this situation may indeed be difficult.” Over toyed with the dog tags around his neck. “But it’s also a good chance to test my pride.”
“You do like strong girls, don’t you?”
Suddenly, static came from the radio placed on a nearby folding chair.
The operator’s voice reached their ears.
“Mixcoatls have been detected 20 kilometers east of the city!!”
“…Time for work.”
“And they’ve appeared in a position that cuts us off from the American mainland.”
With small smiles on their faces, Flave and Over reached over to their flight helmets.
A great gap in firepower had been created by the damage they had taken the other day. With the armaments they had on hand, they were clearly at the disadvantage. Even so, they ran over to the fighters filled with bombs and missiles that were lined up on one portion of the runway.
“The world police, huh?”
“I’m already getting used to the term, but it isn’t a bad one.”
“Everyone, please hurry.”
An announcement in English flowed through Liberal Arts City.
The woman’s voice was coming from the countless large and small televisions scattered throughout the city.
“A major fault in the structure of Liberal Arts City’s foundation has been discovered. Due to continually receiving large waves with an average of over 7 meters for a long period of time, the manmade beaches are in danger of being washed away into the ocean all at once. Depending on the specific situation, the entire manmade island could be destroyed as a result.”
There was no video.
It may have been because only the bare minimum of a transmission could be maintained, but the screen was black. Using only the speakers, the polite announcement continued.
“A few hours ago, a tropical cyclone appeared at a point 40 kilometers southwest of Liberal Arts City. There is a danger of it becoming a hurricane.”
Those in their hotel rooms, those playing on the beaches, and those shopping in the malls heard the announcement in various ways from the large exhibition screens on the walls of buildings to the small monitors of their cell phones.
“There is a possibility that this hurricane would damage Liberal Arts City’s foundation, but there is no guarantee that would capsize the island even then. However, the lifeboats will be leaving in two hours. Anyone who chooses to leave for the mainland should hurry as quickly as they can. As for the various locations of the Salmon Red lifeboats…”
After reading through the entire script, the blonde-haired, huge-breasted genius girl Beverly Seethrough turned off the microphone.
“Was that good?”
“Yes, thank you. We know we should not have gotten you involved in this, but Saten-san and I cannot speak English…”
Uiharu bowed in thanks.
They were in a management office for the officials on one of the beaches. Normally, the facility would be used for lifeguard-like duties of ensuring the safety of the swimmers, but none of the officials were there. It seemed most of the personnel had been sent out for the battle.
Uiharu had used the computer there to hack into the local cable broadcast in order to make that pirate broadcast over the city’s televisions.
The other girl there, Saten Ruiko, looked out the office’s window.
“But I hope everyone heads to the lifeboats after hearing that…”
“Yes. No matter how many times we send that out, it will be meaningless if they do not believe it,” agreed Uiharu in a worried voice.
However, Beverly puffed her chest up proudly.
“You don’t need to worry about that.”
“Miss unfashionable flower print one piece, you couldn’t tell because you don’t know English, but I did not read off the script verbatim. I rearranged it as I saw fit and ad-libbed some of it.”
Uiharu looked puzzled because she was not quite sure what Beverly meant.
“Yes,” Beverly nodded. “It’s important to remember that I’m a film director. I’m an expert in the techniques needed to make a work that draws in viewers, secures them, and remains in their hearts. In other words,” she paused for a second, “there is no one out there whose heart I did not grasp with the words I came up with.”
A tremendous roar made the windows shake.
Uiharu and Saten’s eyes widened in shock as they saw all the men, women, adults, and children that had been on the beach running in the same direction. Their faces were anything but calm. In fact, they seemed quite panicked as they ran as quickly as they could.
“The trick is not to force them. If you leave the final decision up to them, it robs them of the ability to just optimistically assume someone will do something about it. Once you create an implied divide between the group that will be saved and the group that will not, they will want to be in the winning group. This method is especially effective in America.”
The officials who had been on the beach yelled something.
The officials had not publicly announced the existence of the Salmon Red lifeboat docked there. They would not be willing to let all those tourists in, so they would likely try to stop them. However, those efforts were pointless. When that many people were charging in a single direction, there was no way of stopping them.
Saten’s mouth flapped open and closed.
“Wah wah wah wah wah!! This has gotten out of hand!!”
“Okay, one more push. …Kyaaahhh!! The asphalt is cracking!!”
“Beverly-san, that’s too much!! With the provocation from that scream, the officials are being swallowed up!!”
Uiharu was worried that they might use riot control guns, but they were at the disadvantage against the Mixcoatls and Mikoto had already gone on her rampage. Mikoto had suggested the announcement strategy because she had doubted they would waste their precious fighting force on something like that.
They might deal with an intruder or two, but intruders numbered in the tens of thousands were a different story altogether.
The Salmon Red lifeboats were in classified areas, but those areas had little to do with the research Liberal Arts City was doing on psychic powers development using a different system from Academy City. If they compromised when it came to the lifeboats, they would not need to fight the crowds of people, so they were unlikely to put up a thorough resistance.
At any rate, it seemed Beverly’s skills as a film director had succeeded in grasping the hearts of the tourists across Liberal Arts City. In that case, Uiharu and the others had no reason to stay there.
“Okay, Saten-san. You too, Beverly-san. We need to head for the nearest lifeboat.”
Saten voiced her agreement, but no one heard it.
The tremendous roar of a fighter engine drowned out her voice.
Their eardrums shook. Saten covered her ears with her hands and crouched on the ground while Beverly looked out the window with tears in her eyes. Uiharu looked outside, too. Fighters were continuously cutting across the blue sky as they flew at low altitude after taking off from the runways.
Uiharu spoke to Beverly as she lent a hand to Saten who was still crouching down on the ground.
“Hurry to the lifeboat!! We have no idea when the battle will reach the city!!”
“Y’know, I now know that isn’t a show, but I still haven’t been told who is attacking and from where.”
Beverly seemed to want something in return for her help, but they did not have time to explain everything there. In fact, it was doubtful if the concept of psychic powers development using a different system from Academy City could be explained easily to someone from outside Academy City.
At any rate, they had to think about ensuring their safety first, so Uiharu pulled on Saten’s arm and left the management office along with Beverly.
Finally, Saten said something.
“I wonder if Xochitl is coming…”
Misaka Mikoto stood on the beach with her sandal-covered feet. As she watched the explosions and water spray visible near the ocean’s horizon, she gritted her teeth.
“It’s already started!?”
Almost all of the tourists and general workers in the city were in the process of boarding the Salmon Red lifeboats positioned at 12 points around Liberal Arts City. The ships would be able to leave soon, but it would be of no use if the route to the American mainland was cut off.
The Salmon Reds were large, but they were still basically lifeboats. They moved automatically according to the GPS in order to take the shortest route and they were only loaded with the bare minimum of supplies needed for that. There was simply no way of avoiding the battlefield by heading to Hawaii or Guam instead.
“The boats cannot move until that is over,” said Shirai Kuroko while staring into the distance with one hand above her eyes. “Well, let’s think positively. At least, it will be easier to fight now that the city isn’t overflowing with people. Even if the Mixcoatls come charging in here, there will be no one injured.”
Mikoto looked back toward Shirai.
The girl was wearing her sexy swimsuit as usual, but she was now wearing something like a fluorescent jacket over it and its front was completely closed. It was most likely a piece of equipment for the officials. From what Mikoto could see of the fabric, it seemed to be resistant to blades to a certain extent.
“Wouldn’t you have more protection if you used all the equipment?”
“…If I was dressed like that, I would collapse from heat stroke.”
“I see,” Mikoto responded. “Where are Uiharu-san and Saten-san?”
“They have already headed for one of the Salmon Reds. More importantly, what should we do? Is there anything we can do from here before the Mixcoatls get here?”
The truth was that they could not really do anything from where they were.
Mikoto’s Railgun only had a range of 50 meters and Shirai’s attacks using teleportation could only reach about 80 meters away. They could not get involved with the battle occurring near the horizon.
“I have no obligation to tell you this, but it’s an emergency…” said a woman’s voice.
Mikoto and Shirai turned around to find Olive Holiday standing there in her usual racing swimsuit and lifejacket. Her body must have been hurting from her repeated battles because there were bandages wrapped around her in various places and her face was looking a bit pale.
Olive was holding a small radio on her hand.
“I can’t stand requesting your help, but we have no other choice.”
“Enough with the intro,” Mikoto said to cut her off. “What is it?”
“New enemy crafts are approaching from 30 kilometers to the west of the city. That’s the complete opposite direction. They may have advanced stealth capabilities or the ability to dive under the water because they made it around there without us noticing.”
Mikoto’s eyes widened in shock and she looked back at Olive’s face.
“W-wait! What about your fighters!?”
“We are sending some of the Laveze Squadron to intercept them, but they’re coming from the complete opposite direction…” Olive trailed off there for a second. “Our PAC-3 surface-to-air missiles were destroyed by the Mixcoatls the other day and our remaining firepower is at its limit dealing with the enemy to the east. At this rate, they’ll fly right in and destroy a few of the stationary Salmon Reds on the west side of the city.”
Those large ships were currently having a large number of tourists and workers board them. They could not be sent out right away, but it would also be difficult to have all those aboard evacuate from them. There were simply too many people. If those ships were attacked…
There was no need to think about what would happen then.
Mikoto merely looked her partner in the eyes and called her name.
In response, Shirai grabbed Mikoto’s hand and they disappeared via teleportation.
Her teleportation could only travel about 80 meters at a time, but she could teleport again upon reaching each point allowing her to quickly travel long distances. If you converted it into a traditional measurement of speed, it would probably be over 200 kph.
“Maybe the reason you aren’t getting enough exercise is because you always rely on your power like this.”
Mikoto’s unnecessary comment made Shirai’s mental state a bit unstable, but she somehow managed to retain control over her power. They continued on and cut across the 10 kilometer diameter of the island in around 3 minutes.
Unlike the eastern coast they had been looking at before, the western coast had lots of pillar-like objects sticking up from the ocean surface. They were giant lights and they were lined up at even intervals across the area. Shirai spoke while looking at that mysterious scenery that headed with even intervals beyond the horizon.
“…Is this another piece of intentionally created scenery? This place was originally created to have the same look as an SF movie.”
It may have been that and it may have been created later, but they did not have time to worry about that.
Mikoto headed for the lifeguard platform installed on the beach. She used the binoculars there to see farther than she could with her eyes alone.
“What is that…?” she muttered in surprise.
She was not looking to the horizon.
She was looking into the sky.
A giant object that was blurry due to the air was visible at such a distance that it should not have been visible given that the earth was round. How high up was it? How fast was it moving? It was so far away, she could not tell. It was the same as how it was hard to tell how fast a large passenger plane flying overhead was moving.
At any rate, the Mixcoatls they had been fighting up to that point were nothing compared to that.
It was probably their true attack.
She could not allow it to make it to Liberal Arts City.
While staring into the distance, Mikoto asked Shirai a question.
“Kuroko, can you travel over there along those decorative pillars?”
And so, Mikoto and Shirai headed out over the ocean.
Because of the unstable footing, Shirai wrapped her arms around Mikoto’s waist to make absolutely sure that she did not let go between teleportations.
Mikoto left the travelling to Shirai and looked back. She could see black smoke.
The only parts of Liberal Arts City she could see at that distance were the large structures like the giant buildings and rollercoaster tracks, but the smoke was more noticeable. She could see it rising up from various places staining the blue sky.
At about 15 kilometers from the island where the fine net sectioning off the living things within and without was, the line of decorative pillars suddenly ended. However, there were mine-like buoys floating beyond the pillars. Those buoys must have been equipment for Liberal Arts City’s research. The two girls travelled along them moving further and further out.
After heading another 7 kilometers out, they could see the entire form of the giant weapon.
The long, narrow craft flying through the sky was over 100 meters long.
It was fundamentally the same as the Mixcoatls in that it was made of wood, cloth, and obsidian. Its body looked like a rugby ball that someone had forcibly stretched from either side. It had large and small wings on the sides and back, but they seemed to ignore the laws of aerodynamics. It looked like a giant fish swimming through the sky.
And there was more than one.
Three more of the things could be seen flying behind the one Mikoto and Shirai were looking at.
There were four of the giant weapons in total.
“Is this the Xiuhcoatl thing Saten-san mentioned?”
If so, they absolutely could not allow them to reach Liberal Arts City. Mikoto had no idea what kind of attack they were capable of, but from what Saten had heard from the girl named Xochitl, they held tremendous power.
Shirai’s shout brought Mikoto back to her senses.
That was not the time to get caught up in thought.
The Xiuhcoatl ship was much faster than it had appeared from the distance and before Mikoto knew it, it had passed by over her head. Even the second and third ones were about 50 meters past.
Mikoto finally reacted to the final one.
While looking up at the giant form cutting through the sky at about 100 kph, Mikoto pulled out the coin holder strapped to her sandal. She spoke to Shirai who was her means of transportation.
“Head back! I need to shoot them down! With your speed, you should be able to catch up!!”
“Well, I’ll take that to mean you trust me,” replied Shirai while closing one eye.
Suddenly, both of them disappeared.
Mikoto and Shirai travelled at tremendous speed along the buoys floating in the ocean. They caught up to the last Xiuhcoatl in no time at all and Mikoto flicked a coin from the coin holder with her thumb while Shirai was still wrapped around her waist.
(Its altitude is about 50 meters…That’s just barely in range!!)
Mikoto gritted her teeth, moved her thumb, and fired the Railgun. As the coin flew through the air at three times the speed of sound, friction caused it to glow orange making an orange line through the air.
With a slight delay, a great noise exploded out.
Because she had fired at an angle rather than from directly below, the coin melted and disappeared just before it struck the Xiuhcoatl ship. Even so, the melted remains just barely reached it. One of the wings made of cloth and obsidian on the side was forcibly torn off.
Mikoto clicked her tongue.
“Kuroko, we’re still too far away here! Get right below it somehow!!”
Suddenly, a great light was emitted from the side of the Xiuhcoatl that had its wing torn off. The source of the crimson glow was flames. However, it was not simply fire. It looked more like a great amount of a thick burning liquid was being scattered about.
Like water coming from a fire truck’s hose, it was not being emitted in an accurate trajectory.
As if a giant hammer was falling down toward them, an amorphous red mass about 20 meters across fell toward Mikoto and Shirai’s heads.
Shirai was the one that reacted.
With her arms still wrapped around Mikoto’s waist, she travelled across the buoys one after another. The giant hammer of flames struck the ocean, but it did not disappear even as it evaporated a large amount of water. The sea of flames spread out as if it were going to cover up the entire ocean’s surface.
“What is that!? Are they scattering fuel oil around or something!?”
However, they had no time to be surprised.
The Xiuhcoatl with its wing destroyed may have decided to seriously try to eliminate Mikoto and Shirai because the same type of crimson mass was released from eight points on the sides of the craft. The blue sky was covered up many times over and the flames spread across the ocean’s surface as they landed. Mikoto and Shirai were running out of places to flee to.
They were going to be trapped before long.
“Above!!” Mikoto yelled out of irritation.
Shirai immediately grasped what she meant.
She was not limited to horizontal movements with her teleportations. As if she were passing straight through the falling masses of flames Shirai travelled into the sky while still holding Mikoto.
They landed on another one of the wings coming from the side of the Xiuhcoatl.
The openings from which the flames had come turned toward them.
Mikoto took it as something like a human turning around in surprise, but she did not hold back.
An arcade coin was already on top of her right thumb.
An explosive noise rang out.
The Xiuhcoatl was torn in two and Mikoto and Shirai headed for their next target.
Uiharu Kazari was in an eastern area of Liberal Arts City.
She had not yet boarded one of the Salmon Red lifeboats. She was using a maintenance computer to hack into the network that was starting to fall apart. She was using the security cameras to see if there was anyone who had not managed to escape.
She may have been doing it out of a sense of justice or a sense of duty or she may have been doing it because she did not like the idea of simply boarding the large lifeboat while leaving everything to Mikoto and Shirai. Whatever the reason, Uiharu continued working while the distant explosions caused her fingertips to vibrate.
“Uiharu! We need to get onboard soon!!”
“Just a bit longer…Saten-san, you get on before me!”
“Uiharu!! Dah! C’mon!!”
Saten Ruiko was waiting for Uiharu while stamping her feet in frustration. Uiharu thought the girl was a truly good friend.
(Everything’s fine here…and here…and here… As for inside the hotels…the individual rooms don’t have cameras, so I can’t check there…but they should be fine. The workers reported that they already checked through all of them. That leaves…)
After 5 minutes, she had checked all of the important areas. There did not seem to be anyone who had not escaped yet. It pained her to have to leave the armed officials she saw around, but it didn’t seem there was anything left for Uiharu to wait around for.
“Uiharu! C’mon, hurry!!”
Urged on by Saten’s words, Uiharu started to leave the computer.
But then she froze.
She turned back toward the computer. She heard Saten tearing at her hair, but there was no time to worry about that. Her fingers raced across the keyboard, but she could not get the information she was after. According to Saten’s story, what she was thinking of should be in the most secure area. That meant the information may not be saved in a place where it could be accessed over the network.
Uiharu moved away from the computer and grabbed Saten’s shoulders.
“You said that official told you the missing people went beyond those double doors, right!?”
“Wait…” Saten seemed to have realized what Uiharu was worried about. “Are you saying those people are still there? But wouldn’t the officials have led them to one of the Salmon Reds…?”
“There is no guarantee that they would.”
“B-but can’t you check on the computer!?”
“The information seems to be treated as classified, so I can’t access it through the network. And I doubt they would give us a straight answer if we contacted them.” Uiharu stared Saten straight in the eye while still holding her shoulders. “Saten-san. You don’t have to be too detailed, but tell me where you got in the facility and where you went once you were inside. Also, please draw me a map that shows the inside.”
Saten did not think she could.
If she followed Uiharu’s instructions, Uiharu would head back into Liberal Arts City. The situation was dangerous enough as it was, so there was no guarantee that she would come back safely.
She heard Uiharu loudly call her name.
She looked into her friend’s eyes, hesitated, looked back into those eyes, and then made up her mind.
“…I’ll go with you.”
“C’mon!! Let’s just go check and come back!! Xochitl and the others haven’t made it to the city yet, so let’s get this over with while we have a chance!!”
Uiharu fell silent, but then nodded. She and Saten ran from the lifeboat dock.
They left that temporary area of safety and started their own fight.
Mikoto and Shirai moved across the ocean’s surface at high speed using the slight footholds of the buoys.
They were after the Xiuhcoatls above their heads.
They had taken out one which left three more.
Those huge crafts were over 100 meters long and they seemed incredibly oppressive up close. At the same time, their rounded bodies gave a sense of revulsion like they were the bellies of giant insects.
However, the Xiuhcoatls were not undefeatable enemies to Mikoto. Shirai teleported them directly underneath one of them and Mikoto fired an arcade coin straight up at three times the speed of sound. In an attempt to crush the two girls, the Xiuhcoatl scattered a great mass of flames around, but the Railgun blew away the fuel oil-like burning liquid and continued on into the bottom of the Xiuhcoatl.
Mikoto fired a second and a third shot which destroyed the second Xiuhcoatl’s body. The wooden exterior was smashed to pieces and the Xiuhcoatl came apart in midair.
They heard a whooshing sound.
One side of the destroyed Xiuhcoatl’s exterior was spinning around while still emitting that mass of flames. The wreckage scattered the flames in all directions covering the third Xiuhcoatl flying nearby in flames.
“This is our chance!!”
Mikoto’s eyes shined bright as she looked over at the third Xiuhcoatl that’s movement had been dulled. In order to finish it off, she instructed Shirai to take them up into the air. They would land directly on top of the craft and give it a nice gift of a close quarters Railgun blast.
However, Shirai’s landing failed.
There was nothing below her feet.
Mikoto and Shirai had essentially been tossed up 50 meters into the air.
It had not happened because Shirai Kuroko had messed up her teleportation calculations.
With a great noise, the Xiuhcoatl’s shape had greatly changed. It had opened up from the inside like an umbrella.
It had been ignoring aerodynamics before, but the air resistance from opening up a giant parasol-shaped object had been enough to make its speed drop suddenly. Mikoto and Shirai corrected their position and landed on top of the giant flower-like object.
It was a circle with a diameter of about 200 meters.
In the center, something like a long, narrow pillar rose up.
It almost looked like an umbrella opened upside down with its handle pointing up into the air.
(No, this is…!!)
Mikoto looked up into the blue sky while imagining what was on the other side.
“A parabolic antenna!?”
At a location 35,000 kilometers up, a giant object floated in a pitch black area with no oxygen or gravity.
Given the normal techniques of making a rocket or space shuttle, it was hard to imagine making one out of wood, cloth, and obsidian, but that was what this object was made of. In modern terms, it could be referred to as a satellite…no, a space station. The round pieces of obsidian arranged across it flashed at irregular intervals possibly for transmission purposes.
Ancient hieroglyphs were carved into the side of the main body.
They meant Xiuhcoatl, the sun serpent.
It was the fifth Xiuhcoatl craft and it was the main craft.
That symbol of a civilization had been forcibly launched ignoring the laws of physics by a people who had a high level of astronomical knowledge and skills during a time when certain legends still ruled their world.
In those legends, it was believed that it was possible for the sun to be destroyed. This was not the modern idea of the star slowly approaching its death over hundreds of thousands of years. They believed that the sun could be destroyed right that very instant, so the people had decided that they needed to do something themselves to protect that radiance. That was why they had used various methods in an attempt to interfere with the sun.
They had done many things. They had carried out all sorts of ceremonies in order to give power to the sun. One of those projects was launching Xiuhcoatl into space.
Xiuhcoatl was the name of a god they believed had the duty of carrying the sun from the ground into the sky.
The duty of the satellite they had given that name to had been to launch a large amount of flint into the weakening sun in order to restore its vitality. In modern terms, the concept was similar to putting another fuel rod into a nuclear reactor.
In the end, the project had failed.
However, Xiuhcoatl still had a use despite losing its original role.
In other words, it could provide a large scale bombing from orbit.
Xiuhcoatl was also the name of the weapon that had defeated 400 gods.
There was a flickering in the blue sky.
It was not just in one spot.
Bright sunlight poured down like it was midsummer, but the sky flickered like a sky full of stars. Before Mikoto could figure out what it was, the downpour of destruction hit the surface.
Everything was swallowed up by the noise.
The one-sided roar stole all other information from Mikoto’s ears. The objects raining down were over 1000 brilliantly white beams of light. With the opened parabolic antenna in the center, an area with a diameter of 10 kilometers was utterly blown away.
Mikoto and Shirai were lucky that it had not been one giant bomb. The randomly scattered attack was more like a shotgun blast, so Shirai could carefully teleport around just barely managing to evade.
A huge amount of seawater was evaporated.
The parabolic antenna was blown to pieces by its ally’s attack.
The sea of flames that had been spreading across the ocean’s surface was utterly blown away.
Shirai continued to teleport around while still holding Mikoto and somehow managed to make it through the first wave. However, a second and a third wave were already raining down from above.
One Xiuhcoatl craft that carried out the role of the parabolic antenna remained.
It flew outside the range of the bombing and headed for Liberal Arts City.
“Kuroko, are you okay!?”
“Leave it…to me!!”
Using the slowly falling remnants of the parabolic antenna as a foothold, Shirai teleported around irregularly.
The downpour of light would not last forever.
From what they could see of the sky, the next wave or the one after that would be the last one.
(Can we make it…!?)
Mikoto glared at the final Xiuhcoatl heading for the horizon. It was about 50/50 whether they could catch up to it. It wasn’t fair to Shirai, but Mikoto had no choice but to have the girl continue evading the downpour of light.
Suddenly, Mikoto heard the sound of something cutting through the air.
Mikoto looked over and saw something already a ways up from the ocean approaching at high speed seeming to slip through the gaps of the raining light. It came to a complete stop next to Mikoto and Shirai.
It was a special craft with a 5 meter long main body made of two canoes one on top of the other and two wings on either side.
It was a Mixcoatl.
Its body was completely covered in wood, so it was impossible to see who was piloting it. A certain name immediately came to Mikoto’s mind because it was the only one of their names Saten had mentioned.
Of course, no response came from the craft.
Something like a missile shot from a hole on the side of the body. With the sound of escaping gas, a long and narrow contrail was drawn behind it.
Shirai frantically teleported to evade the missile.
However, she was worried about the raining light, so she tried to use a short accurate movement instead of putting a lot of distance between them. As a result, she succeeded in evading the missile, but the shockwave from the missile exploding hit her.
Mikoto and Shirai did nothing, but their bodies slid 3 meters horizontally. All the oxygen in their lungs was forced out. The damage was much more than from a body blow.
“Kuro—Kuroko!!” Mikoto yelled.
It seemed Shirai had passed out from the impact. Of course, that meant they could no longer benefit from her teleportation ability. Mikoto and Shirai once again properly obeyed gravity and started falling toward the ocean from a height of a few dozen meters.
Mikoto had no time to think.
Despite how high up they were, she only had a few seconds until they hit.
Mikoto held onto Shirai’s unconscious form and felt a powerful impact on her back. It was not from the water’s surface. It was from the destroyed Xiuhcoatl. They had landed on the giant wing made of wood, cloth, and obsidian that was attached to the destroyed side that was even then sinking into the ocean. It protected them like landing on a trampoline.
Mikoto kept one arm around Shirai’s waist and grabbed the coin holder with her other hand. She paid no heed to her unstable footing and stared up into the sky.
However, it seemed the Mixcoatl had no interest in them. After succeeding in the bare minimum needed to stop them, it headed down and landed on the ocean surface. It then sped off along the ocean in the direction the final Xiuhcoatl had headed.
“Dammit, wait!! Ah!!”
Mikoto’s footing wobbled and she subconsciously fought to keep her balance.
She was around 20 kilometers from Liberal Arts City, so the artificial island was quite far away. If she fell into the ocean there while still holding Shirai’s unconscious form, they would definitely drown.
On top of that, a large amount of seawater had been evaporated by the downpour of light. However, only the very surface area seemed to have been effected. The cold seawater below must have been mixing in because it was not boiling. Even so, she could feel a steamy heat just by holding out her hand. The water temperature had to be at least 70 degrees. It seemed like it was going to take some time before the deeper cold water managed to lower that temperature.
Seeing the plain horizon in all directions did not give her a sense of freedom or a sense of the majesty of nature.
It was the same as being trapped in the middle of a desert.
She was trapped in one point of a vast area, so she felt only impatience and fear.
Mikoto looked at Shirai whose limbs were sprawled out and who was not moving.
She seemed to be breathing properly and she did not seem to be bleeding. Her life did not seem to be in danger, but she did not look like she would come to anytime soon.
Mikoto’s legs trembled.
The Xiuhcoatl wreckage she stood upon was slowly, slowly tilting and beginning to sink. It was like a large board slowly sinking into the water. However, if that wreckage completely sank, Mikoto and Shirai would be dumped into water that exceeded 70 degrees.
(What do I do…?)
Mikoto was conflicted over whether she should start shaking Shirai’s shoulders. She looked around the area. Of course, there was nothing there that could act in place of a bridge or a boat. Mikoto could use electricity to cause all sorts of phenomena, but she could not support both their weights and fly through the air.
At that rate, they would sink.
They would sink without having stopped the final Xiuhcoatl heading for Liberal Arts City.
(What do I do…!?)
As Mikoto looked up into the blue sky out of annoyance, she suddenly realized something.
The wreckage of the Xiuhcoatl she had shot down had been smashed when it had hit the ocean surface, but there was something like a cylindrical tank inside. The strange tank was made of cloth pasted to a framework of wood.
(Come to think of it…didn’t the Mixcoatls have a large amount of hydrogen onboard?)
It was used as the propellant for the missiles and probably for controlling the entire ship itself.
A rocket engine using hydrogen.
Mikoto looked around.
The ocean water spread around her…no, the water molecules spread around her was made of oxygen and hydrogen. If she used electrolysis, she could retrieve the oxygen and hydrogen from the water.
She did not hesitate.
Bluish-white sparks flew from her bangs and a lightning spear was fired at the ocean surface.
(It’s no good. I can break them apart, but I can’t turn it into fuel…!!)
Even if she could retrieve the oxygen and hydrogen, there was simply too little of it. To get anywhere, she needed to obtain a whole lot more hydrogen all at once.
The wreckage jerked below her feet.
She only had a few minutes before it completely sank.
Mikoto’s head suddenly shot up.
Something was odd.
As previously stated, she was an esper that could manipulate electricity. As a side effect, she could also control things such as magnetism and the Lorentz force, but she could not interfere with any phenomenon that did not have its basis in electricity.
But for some reason, the range of what Mikoto could control spread by quite a bit. It was like she had stretched invisible sensing tentacles into the air around her. It was a very strange feeling like she could control every single thing stretching even beyond the horizon in every direction.
Mikoto looked around.
More accurately, she looked at the air around her.
(Water vapor…? I see. Because such a large amount of seawater was evaporated all at once, the water molecules are floating in the air having been turned to particles!!)
And a faint force existed bridging the space between the tiny particles.
It was static electricity.
(The bonds between the tiny particles are being realized using electricity… The laws are a little different, but if I use my equations for gathering iron sand into a sword using magnetism…)
It would not have worked with mere water molecules.
Mikoto could not control water or mist.
However, the “proportions” of the water molecules drifting through the air may have been optimal or the sea wind mixing with the water vapor may have altered the electrical conductivity. Mikoto did not know the details herself, but she could probably manipulate the huge amounts of water molecules floating in the air around her.
(Once the water vapor cools, the water molecules will join together returning them to mere drops of water. And who knows how long the conductivity will remain at this perfect level. This is my only chance. But if I can acquire the output of a rocket even for a short period of time…!!)
It was an odd feeling like thinly, thinly stretching out.
Mikoto did not fight it.
She greatly switched out the direction her power was headed effectively “grabbing” the huge amount of water molecules drifting through the air. By taking her equations for creating the iron sand sword as a base and switching out some of the values and symbols, she newly built up equations to use static electricity to control the water molecules in the air. The water vapor in the 10 kilometer area the downpour of light had hit all compressed toward Misaka Mikoto.
That alone was not her fuel.
That aggregation of the water molecules in the air was nothing more than a catalyst connecting the electricity and seawater together.
After putting a large cushion between them, she sent her true order to the seawater spread out around her via the huge amount of water molecules. It was like creating a chain reaction from a single phenomenon.
She had everything she needed.
Mikoto looked up into the sky.
She then focused her power on her forehead and sent out the final instruction.
A tremendous roar rang out.
Bluish-white wings of burner-like light appeared from Mikoto’s back.
Technically, that was inaccurate.
What rose up from near Mikoto’s back were wings that looked like blades made of water. Also, bluish-white eruptions that looked like laser blades were being emitted from the side of the wings.
At the same time as the water wings gave Mikoto lift, they also took on the heat transferred from the burner. They would normally evaporate in a few seconds due to that, but seawater was spread out over the entire area. If she constantly replenished from there, it was no problem.
Carried by the two wings, Mikoto slowly left the ground while holding Shirai in both arms.
The Xiuhcoatl wreckage sank into the ocean as if it had been waiting for that moment. She could no longer go back and land.
Mikoto was managing to float in the sky, but her balance must have been off because she started floating to the right. She immediately modified the equations she was using, added on four smaller wings, regulated her balance in the air and the output of the burners, and managed to come to a complete stop in midair.
“Okay, that’s enough for the warm up exercises…”
Mikoto intensely stared forward and the burners erupted all at once.
A bluish-white beam of light shot out behind her.
“Wait for me! I’ll show you that this hasn’t truly started yet!!”
She seemed to be dragging along a tail of light as she headed straight for Liberal Arts City. Now that she had started to control the seawater via the water molecules floating in the air, there was nothing to be afraid of.
In order to replenish the fuel for the water wings and the burners, something like a giant human arm shot up from the distant ocean surface. With that “arm” still connected to her back, Academy City’s #3 Level 5 soared through the sky.
Misaka Mikoto flew through the sky at a speed fast enough that it was difficult to breathe in any air.
She had a single goal.
She had to shoot down the Xiuhcoatl heading for Liberal Arts City and protect the tourists and workers there.