Toaru Majutsu no Index:Volume21 Chapter6
 Chapter 6: The True Darkness Unfolds. Up_the_Castle.
 Part 1
There was nothing around him.
The area was just a snowy plain in the first place, but the area around Fiamma’s base had been thoroughly rid of any kind of cover. There were no manmade constructions or even any trees. On that gently-sloping plain, anyone approaching would be quickly spotted and missiles were prepared to fire on them.
Just past the effective range of that wall of firepower, Kamijou Touma looked along the ground that was buried in white snow.
There was a large hole.
The land had originally looked like a low hill, but the opening to a cave about 2 meters across opened up on the side of the slope. The cave did not head straight. It continued down.
“…So it is here,” he muttered half in shock. “Are there just secret bases all over the place or something?”
“What are you talking about? Japan’s Academy City is the same. It wouldn’t surprise me to see a lake split open and a giant robot to come out in that city,” Lessar responded offhand as she passed by Kamijou and headed down into the cave.
The cave was covered by snow on all sides and it was not dark. Bare light bulbs were hanging from the walls at set intervals. As they headed deeper in, the size of the tunnel grew bit by bit. After walking 50 meters, they came to a station for a freight train.
“…No one’s here.”
“The train isn’t here either.”
At first they had assumed people might be hiding and lying in wait, but they really could not sense any presences within the station, so they entered.
It was a different station from the one they had snuck into before, but it was constructed similarly. The main differences were the lack of the train and the lack of even a single wooden box to be loaded onto a train. The area was lit by a number of light bulbs and it had a weird out-of-place feeling like a house where the residents left and forgot to turn off the lights.
Kamijou crouched down next to the metal rails and pressed his ear to the cold metal.
“There are no vibrations. I don’t smell any diesel exhaust either. …It doesn’t seem like one is running anywhere nearby.”
“It’s possible Fiamma’s base has already gotten its last shipment of supplies.”
“But that means…”
Kamijou and Lessar exchanged unhappy glances.
They were about 40 kilometers from Fiamma’s base. If they couldn’t sneak aboard a freight train, they had no choice but to walk through the snow cave. Even if it was asphalt below their feet, that distance was far enough that they could be considered stranded.
Lessar adjusted the steel glove on her shoulder.
“Okay, I’ve got it. I have a suggestion.”
“Th-that’s right. You’re a professional magician. Do you have an alternative plan? It would just be too pathetic if we used up all of our energy here and ran into Fiamma with our calves hurting.”
“Say that again and I’ll kick your ass.”
As he regretted getting his hopes up, Kamijou looked down the long, long rail.
They really seemed to have no choice but to walk.
In order to force some motivation into himself, he made himself think positively by remembering that it was better than getting blown away by the howitzers defending on the surface.
“Let’s go, Lessar. Or are you going to wait here?”
“Okay, okay. But make sure to remember that your Lessar bravely stayed with you without giving a single complaint.”
Lessar lined up next to Kamijou, but for some reason she flipped the steel glove upside down, balanced it, and straddled the handle like it was a witch’s broomstick. The four blades moved almost like fingers and moved her forward.
Kamijou looked at her like he had spotted a traitor.
“…Lessar, what is that?”
“What do you mean? My steel glove can be used like this, too. It’s a little annoying how it makes everything ride up down there, though. Bayloupe rode around in the London subway tunnels like this, so…ah! Stop, stop!! It won’t work for you! Your right hand will break it to pieces, so just resist and walk on your own!!”
Kamijou and Lessar struggled for a bit, but it did not last long.
However, that was not because Imagine Breaker destroyed the steel glove.
What was destroyed was the path ahead of them.
With an explosive noise, the snow ceiling collapsed.
It happened about 100 meters ahead of them. The thick white ceiling had likely been supported magically, but it suddenly fell straight down like a giant shutter.
In an instant, the passage was blocked off.
And it did not end there.
Explosive noises that felt like they would make their eardrums burst continued on and on.
It was like the feet of an approaching giant were destroying the ceiling of the passageway.
At that rate, they would be caught up in the collapse and buried alive.
“Oh, shit!! We need to get back to the entrance!!”
“You don’t have to tell me that!!”
Kamijou made a right about-face and ran with everything he had. As he did, the passageway and the rail vibrated and the avalanche from the snow ceiling approached threatening to swallow them up. It was like they were being chased by a monstrous maw.
“What!? Did my right hand end up negating the magic supporting the snow!?”
“This might be a wonderful attraction presented to us by Fiamma. It may have been a bad idea to try the same trick twice…!!”
The heavy vibrations continued.
Kamijou and Lessar ran as quickly as they could.
Perhaps due to the approaching cave-in, small balls of ice blew into the air like dust and passed Kamijou and Lessar.
They were going to be caught.
As soon as he thought that, Kamijou made it out of the cave. Next to him, Lessar fell down onto the snow unable to bring an end to her momentum. The only question was whether it was a coincidence that he could see her panties from that angle.
(D-did we make it…?)
Kamijou put his hands on his knees and tried to catch his breath and then reached a hand out toward Lessar who was lying face up in the snow.
But he froze in the middle of that action.
He had realized that the cave-in had not been caused by his right hand negating the magic supporting the snow or by Fiamma blowing up the passageway to prevent them from getting in.
“Dammit…” Kamijou muttered as he heard what sounded like a high-pitched whistle.
The actual cause of the cave-in had been…
“It’s an Academy City bombardment!!”
He grabbed Lessar from the ground and practically swung her around as he put her and himself against the slope of the hill that had held the opening to the cave.
Immediately afterwards, something flashed in the sky that was covered in white snow clouds. It wasn’t just one of whatever it was. There were at least 50 of them. The high-pitched whistle-like sound was the sound of hunks of metal slicing through the air at faster than the speed of sound. The hunks of metal were falling shells. The shells were 15 cm in diameter and about 70 cm long. They were launched up about 500 meters with the power of gunpowder and then accurately guided to their targets with movements of their tails where they would then explode.
Kamijou didn’t have time to think about where they would fall.
They were not aimed at specific smaller targets. Their bombardment was simply meant to blow away the base itself and all the sensors set up in the area.
The light and noise seemed to overload their senses as Kamijou and Lessar trembled. The light was painful and the noise was like a shockwave. Because of the overwhelmingly bright white flashes, Kamijou couldn’t tell if he had his eyes open or closed. Even though the two of them were pressed against the slope of the hill, he could feel Lessar slipping from his grasp. No. Kamijou was lying on top of her and he was the one being blown into the air.
That state lasted for over 30 seconds.
Or perhaps it all only lasted an instant, but the afterimage burned into his senses remained for that long.
His voice was oddly hoarse. He could feel a throbbing pain in his temples like when one stared at a fluorescent light for too long.
He didn’t have time to tend to his injured body.
Kamijou heard the sound of heavy treads.
The sickly smell of exhaust mixed in with the scenery.
(An Academy City tank unit…!!)
Ignoring the loss of body heat, Kamijou sank down into the deep snow to hide.
He had smuggled himself into Russia and he would certainly be captured if he was spotted there. To save Index, he couldn’t allow himself to be captured.
The sound of treads and smell of exhaust were not coming from just one type of vehicle.
Most likely, small airborne tanks designed to be dropped from transport planes and bombers were in the front and special vehicles armed with longer range missiles and rockets followed. There were also a lot of transport trucks packed with over 20 powered suits each. The unarmed 8-wheel trucks were likely power trucks that supplied electricity for the powered suits and UAVs. The ones with a large number of antennae might be control vehicles for the unmanned weapons deployed in the area.
A scattered bombardment began from the base in opposition.
It was the Russian army’s counter attack.
But Kamijou was uneasy. Academy City’s first wave had likely greatly reduced Russia’s general force, but if a single one of the explosives being fired landed near Kamijou and Lessar, they would be blown to pieces.
“(This is our chance!!)” Lessar said to Kamijou after sinking down into the snow on the slope along with Kamijou.
Kamijou’s eyes widened because he wasn’t quite sure what Lessar meant.
“(How is this our chance!? The Russians have started firing, too. This is turning into a tank battle!!)”
“(And we can use that turmoil to sneak into Fiamma’s base.)” Lessar was staring at the powered suits that had gotten off the trucks and were beginning to enter the battle. “(Why do you think the Russian army has gone on the defensive like this? It’s because Fiamma does not want to move. Either he doesn’t want anyone to know he’s hiding here or he’s carrying out some kind of magical work. At any rate, we can head to the base above ground like this. Now that the underground route has been sealed, this is our only chance.)”
The battle between Academy City and the Russian army began.
Even though it was a few dozen kilometers away, once the base had gotten within range of the weapons, the battle seemed almost over. Normally, a defensive line would be a little farther out. Either Academy City had already taken out the troops of the defensive line or the supersonic bombers had forced the defensive line to quickly fall back.
It was true they might be able to get inside the facility during all that chaos.
“(What exactly are we supposed to do? Even if they’re fighting each other, we’ll still be spotted and shot if we just head to the base like this.)”
“(We steal a powered suit.)” Lessar grabbed her steel glove in both hands. “(Those things don’t use complicated controls or anything, right? If it just moves matching the movements of your arms and legs, even we can operate them despite not having any training.)”
“(You make that sound easy, but those things are on a level where you need a 30 mm Gatling guns to just barely manage against one of them. My right hand won’t be any help against them. How are we going to take one out?)”
“(I’ll be doing that part.)” Lessar entered a stance like a carnivore with her special weapon in hand. “(I don’t know if they’re aware of how important that base is, but that equipment isn’t enough to win against Fiamma. For some reason, Fiamma doesn’t want to move right now, but he will come out if the base seriously starts losing. If we don’t get in there before that happens, they’ll all be killed.)”
“(If you’re going to praise me, I’d prefer you did it while petting my head in bed.)”
Lessar ignored Kamijou’s voice trying to restrain her and she silently began to take action. She seemed to be aiming for a powered suit that was passing nearby with its back to them, but the machine held a giant shotgun in its hands. It was the anti-shelter weapon Kamijou had seen in Avignon.
Just one shot from that would put a human in a state where they couldn’t even have a proper funeral.
It was as if Lessar were trying to kill a large carnivore with a primitive spear or club. Those kinds of traditional skills may exist, but it still looked incredibly dangerous when he was actually seeing it.
“(…Dammit.)” Kamijou muttered under his breath while still sunken down in the snow.
He had a worry beyond Lessar.
“(There should be magicians as well as the Russian military at Fiamma’s base. When we snuck in before, there were almost 200 Russian Orthodox magicians in that large room with Fiamma. If they came out, they might be able to overturn Academy City’s advantage. Yet there’s no sign of them. Are they actually out here and I just can’t tell they’re there or have they still not come out? If they haven’t, why not? I doubt Fiamma would allow that base to fall. Is there any reason to preserve that base in a way that is practically inviting the Academy City forces in?)”
He hadn’t been speaking because he expected an answer.
He was merely getting his thoughts in order with words.
“Hm? That should be obvious. It’s to invite in the person who possesses that important right arm. In other words, you.”
He got a response.
Kamijou looked around for the source of the voice in shock. The voice had not come from any direction around him. It had come from within Kamijou’s clothes.
“I may have helped start this war, but it would be a problem if I lost that right arm due to a random shell. It would also be a problem if some people decided to kill you just because they know you are important to my plan. To recover you quickly, I purposefully left a hole open.”
Kamijou frantically reached inside his jacket and found a small doll made of kneaded flour.
As soon as Kamijou grabbed it with his right hand, it crumbled and was swept away by the cold wind.
Kamijou had run into Fiamma in the Elizalina Alliance. It had ended in a tie, but Sasha Kreutzev had been taken and the others were fairly beat up, so it had really been mostly a loss for them.
At that time, he had felt Fiamma had left a little too easily.
Fiamma wanted Kamijou’s right arm and had overwhelmed them in battle. Yet he had overlooked Kamijou simply because it was inefficient to carry both Sasha and his right arm at the same time.
Fiamma of the Right had surely had a plan worked out at that time. And of course, that cruel message he had left with Kamijou had not been simply out of cruelty.
He had made sure Kamijou would come find him.
And if Kamijou was searching for him, he could always attack the boy.
Attack him accurately and precisely.
Kamijou heard the high-pitched whistle-like sound many times over.
He immediately looked up, but it was already too late.
A great vibration reverberated through the white earth.
It came from below his feet.
 Part 2
Sellick G Kirnov let out a groan.
He wondered where he was.
He was in a dark room.
Sellick’s body was bound to a chair in the center of the room. A rectangular frame of light was a short distance away in front of him. It was probably a door. Light was leaking through the gap around it. That was the only source of light. As there were no windows or lights, he could only see everything around him in silhouette.
A scent that reminded him of iron or possibly blood seemed to put pressure on his chest.
Sellick had a bad feeling of what was to come.
He had an idea where he was.
“…Let’s keep this short,” said a voice.
He then heard a slight sound from in front of him.
It was the sound of someone placing a wooden chair on the floor and then sitting down in it. With the minimal lighting, Sellick could only see a single red eye staring at him.
“You can be honest or you can lie. I don’t care. You can even remain silent. After all, we can see into your head solely from your reaction to my questions. Think of it like an advanced lie detector. This’ll all be over soon.”
A bluish-white flash filled Sellick’s vision for an instant.
He thought it had been a camera flash, but he was wrong.
It was actually a spark from a high-voltage current. It had come from a girl who stood behind the person with the red eyes.
The one with the red eyes pointed back over his shoulder with his thumb.
“She can manipulate electricity. That’s the kind of esper she is. You know what an esper is, right? I’m sure they at least broadcast the Daihaseisai here…And I’m sure you would know in your line of business.”
Sweat started pouring from Sellick’s face.
The figure with the red eyes ignored that and continued.
“I want to know why someone like you would infiltrate a place like this. …Oh, like I said, you don’t have to respond. The brat behind me is measuring all the electrical signals within your brain. Oh, yes. It’ll go like this. I’ll ask my question: What did you come to the Elizalina Alliance to find out? Then you’ll respond: I was looking for something important on the orders of my superiors. And that’ll be enough. Then we’ll just use the level of affirmation or denial in your head regarding what you’ve said as a key for the brat behind me to search through your memories. The method of searching lacks delicacy, but don’t worry about it.”
Sellick had received plenty of training on not speaking.
He had also received training on seeming to give a confession and really providing false information.
But what was he supposed to do to stop them if they were going to search through his head whether he played along or denied them?
Sellick G Kirnov’s idea was to not go along with their process.
If the enemy could just read his mind unconditionally, they would have taken the information they needed while he was unconscious. They were going out of their way to ask those questions because it was necessary. Therefore, he might be able to defend the information by not going along with the process they used to gain information.
He now had a spirit of resistance.
He had found a way to fight back.
As if the red eyed person had read Sellick’s mind despite him not having said a word, he pointed his index finger at Sellick’s face.
No, he was technically pointing it behind Sellick.
Because he was bound to the chair, he couldn’t see behind him very well even when he turned his head. He could just barely catch glimpses of something on the edge of his vision.
He then heard a kind of creaking noise.
It was similar to something being tightly bound by thin strings, but it had a heavier and more ominous ring to it.
It was barbed wire.
The smell of iron or possibly blood once more slipped in through Sellick’s nose and into his lungs.
At the same time, he figured out what the object behind him was.
Multiple strings of barbed wire hung down from metal fixtures on the ceiling. A large hunk of meat was wrapped in the barbed wire and held on by the sharp metal spikes. He couldn’t tell what kind of meat it was. The hunk of meat was dark red as if the outer skin had been ripped off. He could see scraps of clothing stuck on the hunk of meat in places.
It was as if a human’s head, arms, and legs had been severed, all the skin had been torn off, and then hung there wrapped in barbed wire.
Sellick G Kirnov felt as if he had lost control of his breathing. When he looked again, he could tell there was more barbed wire hanging down. They did not have any meat on them. Instead, seven pieces of meat that had been torn apart were lying down below. The barbed wire must not have been able to withstand the weight. Adding together the one hanging and the ones on the floor, there were 8. Sellick remembered that number. That was how many people there had been in his team. All of the hunks of meat had dark red scraps of clothing stuck on them. They were quite discolored, but he remembered them, too. They were from the clothes they had all been wearing.
The monster whose red eyes were the only thing visible in that dimly lit room quietly spoke.
“They all refused to cooperate despite knowing that having the brat behind me read their minds would be fastest. It kind of pissed me off and I can get a tad violent when I’m upset.”
Sellick heard an odd noise from below his feet.
It was caused by the leg of the chair tapping on the floor due to his trembling.
Ignoring the noise, the red eyed figure gave a smile that looked like a rip along his face and leaned in close to Sellick’s face.
“We don’t have any more hostages, so please don’t upset me.”
Accelerator and Misaka WORST opened the door and left.
The room they had been in was not a gloomy torture room. It was actually a storage area for meat. It seemed there weren’t actually any torture areas in the Elizalina Alliance.
“Boring. That was way too easy,” said Misaka WORST. “He may not have been the best, but he was still a Russian spy who had undergone anti-torture training. Misaka thought he would have some resistance to physical violence.”
“Swindling techniques haven’t changed in a long time. You just don’t give them a chance to think things through properly.”
They wouldn’t have been able to get that spy to talk just by punching and kicking him. Even actually taking out a knife and skinning him alive may not have worked.
That was why it had been necessary to make that bluff.
Even a veteran Russian spy would not know how to deal with an Academy City esper. As he did not know, he would build up a logical strategy of how to fight that unknown existence.
That was when they applied a shock from a different direction.
To do so, they had chopped some beef up into blocks, stuck scraps of clothing on it, and hung it up in barbed wire.
That had pushed the spy’s already shaken mind over the limit. He had panicked. Whether it was a soldier or a spy, they were not strong in the face of pain because their sense of pain was dulled. It was because they had built up their mind to withstand the pain. That also meant that one could drop them down to having the stamina of a crying child by disturbing that mental basis. Both soldiers and civilians were the same type of living being at the core.
Accelerator leaned up against the wall.
Misaka WORST spoke to him in a tone that seemed to be mocking him.
“Keh keh. How kind of you.”
“Misaka had your fighting patterns inputted in to her to a certain extent. That was the first time you’ve dealt with an opponent without using violence, wasn’t it? Of course, Misaka only means professional opponents who made themselves your enemy, not civilians like Last Order.”
“There’s no point in doing something that’s ineffective and I’m not in the mood to play around with human flesh,” spat out Accelerator in response. “Or are you saying that wasn’t stimulating enough for you?”
“No, Misaka loves tricking people. And seeing a proud professional with tears and snot running down his face due to nonexistent fear is just the best! Kya ha☆”
A smile that looked like a crushed fruit appeared on Misaka WORST’s face.
Accelerator clicked his tongue.
“…What do you think of what that crybaby said?”
“There were all sorts of odd parts. The Russian army was going to use this war to start bombings and a serious invasion into the Elizalina Alliance which they’ve wanted for some time, right? It’s odd that they would send spies in at all given that. Normally, they would withdraw the spies before the bombings. …Although that’s only if they aren’t expendable. Keh keh.”
“The spies who were scheduled to withdraw were hurriedly ordered to remain behind a few hours ago. And then additional spies were sent to join them here.”
“Wow. That’s almost the exact same time you and Misaka entered the country.”
That was one way of looking at it.
In that case, the spies must have been quite uneasy.
They wanted to leave the Elizalina Alliance before the bombings, but their target had entered the most dangerous place. To carry out their objective, the spies had to follow Accelerator.
“But that spy fell for our trick too easily in that case. It was less like he had never had the chance to fight an esper before and more like he had never even thought of the possibility of fighting an esper.”
“Maybe the spies were after you and Misaka but they weren’t told the details of their targets for security reasons. Then they could have the details explained over their radios later,” Misaka WORST commented offhand. “So what was that spy’s mission?”
“To photograph the insides of the Elizalina Alliance military facilities. He had a small camera to do it with.”
“So any secret documents could be taken out of the facilities and then to a designated point before the bombings. Apparently, someone on the other side of a monitor was going to give him more specific instructions.”
As he spoke Accelerator’s expression turned to one of puzzlement.
The only “documents” he had were those pieces of parchment. Were they really that important to the Russian army?
“At any rate,” Accelerator said as he removed his back from the wall and put his weight on his cane, “we can meet the people who want those parchments if we go to that designated point. In other words, we can meet with people who know how to decipher them.”
That might lead to the key to saving Last Order who was still unconscious. As such, he had to go. Whether it was selfish or not, he would even attack a military facility in order to get those people to tell him what those parchments meant.
“Misaka thinks various parts of her body are getting hard from such a selfish development☆”
“Shut up. The designated point to bring the parchments is a Russian military base near the border. I’m going to attack it. You can do whatever the hell you want.”
“Misaka will of course be going to the place where more blood will be spilled. But what are you going to do about Last Order?”
“What would happen if I left her with you?”
“Misaka would probably get bored and do unspeakable things to her.”
Accelerator thought about punching Misaka WORST as she cackled, but his vision suddenly started to shake.
It wasn’t Accelerator’s vision that was shaking.
 Part 3
Deep in a military base near the border between Russia and the Elizalina Alliance, Fiamma of the Right was communicating over a book-shaped spiritual item.
He was speaking to one of the leaders of the Roman Orthodox Church, Bishop Nikolai Tolstoy.
“Now this has finally gotten interesting.” Fiamma sat on a plain chair and spoke towards the spiritual item that was placed atop a table. “To be honest, even if you did cooperate with me, Russia’s results in this war are not worth complimenting even out of flattery. It’s a pain, but I suppose I need to readjust the score myself.”
“I don’t care what you say.” Nikolai’s speech was stiff. “Just don’t hold back. You said you had Sasha Kreutzev, so send out that weapon now!! Don’t forget that Russia’s forces are being destroyed as we speak!!”
“The preparations are complete. I’ll be starting soon, but then you will not be able to tell what’s going on once again. That will be the true war in which Academy City will lose its control over the situation.”
“I don’t care what happens as long as I can accomplish my goal. If it functions as a shortcut, I will continue to aid you.”
“The Patriarch, hm? Do you really want to reach that position so badly? The Roman pope I know never looked too happy.”
“Don’t assume the top of Rome is the same as the top of Russia.”
“Is it really that great?”
“It’s even better.”
The tone of Nikolai Tolstoy’s voice lowered as he slowly asked a question.
“Where are you right now?”
“Why do you want to know?”
“You aren’t in that base. Your presence has disappeared from those coordinates.”
“Ha ha,” Fiamma, who was supposed to be in the depths of that “base”, laughed as he responded. “You’ll know soon enough…whether you want to or not.”
It may have been simple enough to witness the event, but very few people understood what it meant.
Probably the first to notice it was a man from a citizen’s group in Florence.
He had come to the front of an old church with his companions in order to protect the historical building. A world war may have been going on, but the flames of war were not burning too brightly in Italy. There was just a tense atmosphere within the cities. No one knew when something would incite a large scale riot.
The occasional vibrations were rumored to be caused by people taking advantage of the chaos to set fire to buildings and to town gas lines. That middle aged man thought that was what he was feeling then.
But he suddenly realized that the vibration that time was different.
It was not coming from somewhere outside the city.
It was coming from within.
In fact, it was coming from within the church he stood in front of.
The middle aged man slowly turned around.
He had a very bad feeling.
He heard a creaking noise.
The historical steeple that could be called the core of the church he was supposed to be protecting was breaking in two. The construction floated up ignoring gravity and taking with it the giant bell that would ring out throughout the city on the hour.
Why had it broken?
Why was it floating?
He felt his common sense shattering within him.
At that time, the giant steeple of France’s Mont Saint-Michel was torn off.
At that time, a number of pillars were pulled from Italy’s Basilica of St. Mary.
At that time, a grand pipe organ flew out of India’s St. Joseph Church.
The Roman Catholic Church held over 2 billion followers and it had constructed many churches, monasteries, and convents all over the world over its long history. Each building had its own individuality produced by the different styles, designs, lands, time periods, and cultures with which or in which they had been constructed.
Any especially important items had been taken from those churches, monasteries, and convents.
All of the objects flew toward one spot as if being sucked in by a magnet.
They flew toward Russia.
They flew toward the cold base in which Fiamma of the Right waited.
Thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of those crystallizations of each culture amassed in one place and intertwined together complexly. It was not like a jigsaw puzzle that was created from the outset to fit together. It was like trying to make one’s own small gears for a broken watch by forcing together parts to create something those parts had not been made for.
The giant mountain of constructions did not remain within the 10 kilometer base.
It expanded beyond that.
And the change did not stop there.
A roar resounded beneath Kamijou’s feet.
When he realized that, he was already floating in the air.
Or so it seemed.
He was not really floating. The snowy earth that Kamijou had been standing on had lifted up as if the ground had greatly collapsed. Underneath the ground there was the subway track that the Academy City bombardment had crushed. It may have been moving around in response to some change in Fiamma’s base.
For an instant, Kamijou did not feel gravity.
Immediately afterwards, the place he was standing on rose up like a cliff. Lessar who had been about to surprise attack a nearby powered suit turned around in shock. He tried to reach out her hand, but she was just too far. Lessar was left down at the bottom of the “cliff”.
Kamijou could not remain standing due to the incredible shaking. He saw the Academy City tanks and powered suits that had been lifted up like him falling off the edge of the cliff.
They were flying.
The ground Kamijou stood on and the base Fiamma was inside were flying.
The facility and weapons of the Russian military base in the center fell down along with the snow.
After rising about 10 meters, the last bit of resistance disappeared. The speed suddenly rose and Kamijou was surrounded in fog. An odd pressure seemed to press his body to the ground, but he didn’t have time to be confused. His eyes widened in surprise and suddenly the fog disappeared.
He could see the blue sky.
The scenery wrapped in white snow clouds was nowhere to be seen.
The freezing air hurt his throat and his lungs could not take in air very well.
Kamijou knew what all that meant.
(We’re…above the clouds!?)
An explosive noise pounded in Kamijou’s ears.
The supersonic bombers that had looked like tiny specks in the sky before now looked quite large. They seemed to be taking panicked evasive maneuvers in response to the sudden situation.
That was not the only noise.
There was also a low rumbling that sounded like stone gears turning. Kamijou was standing on what looked like a giant bridge made of stone. He could see a large mass a few dozen kilometers down the bridge. He could see it clearly because there was nothing in the sky to obstruct his view like the horizon or buildings, but the vastness of the structure also helped.
From that castle-like center, long, long bridges stretched out in four directions. The lengths of the bridges were not equal. One of them was twice as long as the others. Assuming the direction the fortress was travelling was the front, Kamijou was on the back bridge and the oddly long bridge was the right one. The walls, doors, steeples, and other similar items from churches of different cultures and time periods had been forcibly gathered together and had been turned into that complex shape.
In addition to those structures with hundreds of years of history were more modern items such as metal frames, metal pipes, and light fixtures. Those items might have been in the base already. Overall, it was an odd fusion that resembled somewhere from an old church.
Were they growing or were they destroying each other?
He didn’t know the meaning of the sight before his eyes and then a voice came to his ears from somewhere.
Perhaps speakers were set up in various places on that flying castle. Unlike with the flour doll from before, there was some static mixed in.
“I was not preparing some large spiritual item or facility.”
It was Fiamma of the Right.
His voice sounded somehow cheerful. He might have been satisfied at having imprisoned his target of Imagine Breaker in the sky.
“I was preparing the space needed to put this together. After all, everything else I needed was waiting for me all over the world. I only need to spend my own savings. For the construction, I needed a work area that was like a sterilized room. A large amount of expenses, time, and workers were needed for that consecration.”
Even then, the mysterious fortress was growing before Kamijou’s eyes.
It was almost like a blast of wind made of stone.
“The amount of materials is not a problem. What’s important is constructing the self-expansion cycle. Once that cycle is complete, it can expand as needed without any more materials.”
The stone blast of wind shot past the spot Kamijou was on.
He had been standing atop a stone bridge before, but all of a sudden he was inside an old building. He was a few dozen kilometers from Fiamma’s base. The fortress must have already expanded that much.
“…Are you sure it wasn’t a mistake to let me on?” Kamijou asked.
“Quite the opposite. Your right arm is absolutely necessary to carry out my goal.” Fiamma chuckled. “I suppose I should welcome you to my castle, the Star of Bethlehem.”
The Star of Bethlehem.
Since Fiamma had brought it up, that name must have held deep religious and magical meaning.
From the way he spoke, his manipulation of the Roman Catholic Church, his kidnappings of Index and Sasha, his starting of World War III, his attempt to steal Kamijou’s right arm, and all his other actions were connected.
That included sending that fortress up 3000 meters into the sky above the clouds.
It had a radius of a few dozen kilometers.
It was an overwhelmingly incomprehensible sight like seeing Academy City itself floating in the sky.
Of course, an object of any size or material could float if it had devices attached that gave it the lift necessary. It was the same as how a balloon would float regardless of if it was big or small. That was science. As such, it was nonsense to make a huge deal out of a large object floating.
But despite that kind of theory or reasoning, had a manmade object that large ever been made to float in the sky so with such stability in the history of mankind?
It was a historical first.
It was the same as the invention of ships, the invention of cars, and the invention of airplanes.
A chance had been born with the destructive force needed to definitively twist the range of what humans could control.
Such a great sense of the foreign wrapped around Kamijou’s body that he was forced to think that.
It may be true that great things could be accomplished with that, but he was also assaulted by a great unease because of the negative things that could also be accomplished with it.
However, that did not break Kamijou’s spirit.
He did not stay focused on that.
All he had to do was defeat Fiamma and destroy Index’s remote control spiritual item.
Being trapped in that ridiculously huge fortress threatened to make him lose his nerve, but he calmed himself and focused on the fact that he had more hope left than if he had been left behind on the ground.
Kamijou took a short breath and then finally stood up.
It seemed odd that he did not have any kind of altitude sickness after being thrown that high into the sky. He had a slight pain around his temples, but he had no deep urge to vomit, difficulty breathing, or narrowing of vision. He decided that moving around would not be a problem.
(The air pressure and temperature are the same as on the surface…? Is there some kind of weird barrier erected around the fortress?)
When he thought about it, he recalled that the clouds had split apart oddly when the fortress had cut through them…at least he thought they had. It was possible that they were being protected by some kind of field in the shape of a sphere squished in at the top and bottom.
He had no idea exactly how much magical effort something like that took.
However, he knew it would take a great amount of resources and effort just like causing that fortress to float would.
The power of the large organization that had 2 billion followers was symbolized and displayed in that.
(…Fiamma went out of his way to prepare this ridiculously huge facility. I don’t know what his final goal is, but this Star of Bethlehem must be necessary to accomplish it.)
As he thought, Kamijou looked down at his right hand.
He pressed the palm against a random wall and a crack of orange light appeared. An area of about a meter around his hand crumbled. However, some kind of power caused the fragments to float in place rather than to fall. They then moved back to their original place. There was most likely a core somewhere.
(In that case, I can apply damage to Fiamma by destroying that. While I’m searching for him, I’ll destroy everything of importance I come across. There’s no reason to just leave alone the things that the enemy can use.)
Just as he decided on that plan, Kamijou heard a loud noise.
There were windows in the stone room, but the glass all shattered. Kamijou plugged his ears and looked outside to see numerous fighters flying through the blue sky.
They were Academy City fighters.
Those crystallizations of cutting edge science soared about in the Russian sky.
Fiamma must have also detected the fighters because a voice spoke out that seemed to be suppressing various emotions.
It was like someone who had water thrown on them right when they were getting worked up.
“Sasha Kreutzev, the medium for the angel. The remote control spiritual item for the 103,000 grimoires. The ceremonial site, the Star of Bethlehem. And finally, your right arm that is most appropriate for wielding my power. I have everything I need, so I would rather the side characters would leave.”
Kamijou had a bad feeling about what was to come.
However, he did not know where Fiamma was in the large fortress, so he had no way of stopping Fiamma’s words.
And then Fiamma of the Right spoke quietly.
“Head out, Archangel Gabriel. Blow them all away.”
The world turned to night.
As if everything had been instantaneously painted over with black, the sky turned to a night sky.
That magic was so great that it gave one control of the positional relationships of the earth, the moon, and the sun. Kamijou could only stare in blank amazement upon seeing that.
It wasn’t that he didn’t understand the phenomenon he was seeing.
Kamijou Touma’s eyes were opened wide to the limit and he was trembling because he did know.
He had seen that before.
It was an angel’s spell.
That supernatural phenomenon was the build up to the even greater spell known as Sweep that interfered with the movements of heavenly bodies, built up one’s own power, and was enough to destroy the entire human race without moving a single fingertip. That was a true angel’s spell. As such, it was clear what the being using it should be called.
Kamijou’s face was paler than the night sky as he heard Fiamma continue to speak.
Fiamma sounded like he was enjoying himself.
He sounded like a soldier showing off a weapon he had heavily practiced with.
“No, I suppose I should refer to you as Misha Kreutzev here.”
Immediately afterwards, some sort of blue point of light became visible in the pitch black night sky.
If one stared at it close enough, one might have seen the form of a person. However, it was so far away that it just looked like a small point of light.
A giant wing-like object stretched from the blue point of light cutting horizontally across the entire visible portion of the heavens.
With a bit of a delay, an explosive noise pounded at Kamijou’s ears.
A few dozen of the unmanned fighters sweeping across the Russian sky were blown to pieces. The fighters that showed life-like movements must have been the ones with actual pilots. A few of those had their main wings severed and Kamijou could see the pilots frantically attempting to escape with their parachutes.
The destruction did not end there.
That blue point of light had swung that giant wing solely to blow away that formation of unmanned fighters. However, the giant wing disintegrated partway through breaking it in half. The severed half flew on and created a gigantic explosion near the horizon where it landed.
An enormous mass of dirt flew up into the air.
An entire mountain had been blown away.
“Well, Angel Fall was an accidental spell. With a summoning method based on and derived from that, stability is a bit of a problem.”
It wasn’t normal.
The difference in numbers had been overturned in an instant.
That was an angel.
An angel was a being that held overwhelming power.
“But doesn’t this make things pretty interesting? The science side has been showing off all sorts of secret weapons, so isn’t it about time the magic side got serious?”
And Fiamma smiled within the fortress.
(The Star of Bethlehem is still incomplete. I had to hurry its rise because of Academy City’s ground forces, but now that Misha Kreutzev is on the move, my victory will not be shaken.)
There was something he lacked.
The spiritual item Fiamma had obtained gave him free access to the 103,000 grimoires held within Index, but that was not enough. Truly esoteric knowledge related to things such as angels and God’s Right Seat was not held within her. Those parchments were needed to make up for that. Once he had his path to that knowledge, Fiamma of the Right’s plan would be fulfilled by sending it into a feedback within the Star of Bethlehem.
“Now then,” Fiamma of the Right said calmly. “How about you go retrieve them, Misha Kreutzev? Just because your opponents are weak is no reason to hold back. Go retrieve them with your full power.”
 Between the Lines 4
Misaka Mikoto also witnessed that change.
She was riding on an Academy City HsB-02 supersonic bomber. Of course, she was not taking part in a military operation on the orders of a superior. What she was doing was almost…no, it was a hijacking. The special forces that had been intended to ride in that bomber had been left behind in a District 23 hangar.
Perhaps due to the special characteristics of a bomber, the aircraft was over 80 meters long, but its only window was in the cockpit in the front. It was a coincidence that Mikoto had been in the cockpit. It was just because that was the only place with a proper seat.
Mikoto showed the pilot the screen of her handheld device.
“Anyway, get close to here and then I’ll parachute down on my own. After that, you can do whatever you want.”
The screen showed a still image from a recorded news program.
A reporter was saying something with a snowy plain in the background and an Asian boy who seemed to be a civilian was visible at the edge of the screen.
Letters at the bottom of the screen displayed the city where the footage had been taken. That cute tyrant was ordering him to go there.
“…D-do you know how much risk you’re taking on by doing this?”
“Doing this?” Mikoto frowned. “Doesn’t what I’ve already done give you some idea about what I can do? I had no problem with taking on group of professional assassins.”
“This isn’t an issue with how risky it is. If one side is putting all their efforts into killing a normal high school student and the other side is putting all her efforts into saving that normal high school student, which side do you want to be on? Which side could you proudly say you were on?”
The pilot fell silent upon being asked those questions.
Mikoto did not think that she was a “good person”. Nor did she think all the other people she could see were masses of good will. The incident involving the Sisters and Accelerator had taught her how dark an environment Academy City was and how merciless humans could be.
But at the same time, she knew that not every person in the world was that dark. There was that boy who had held out his right hand to save Mikoto and the others from that hellish experiment. There were the Sisters who had stood up in response to Mikoto’s call. While there was unavoidable darkness and desire within people’s hearts, there was a small but strong light there as well.
That was why the pilot had fallen silent.
That was also why he was unable to laugh scornfully at her while drenched in the darkness of that underground organization.
(…Ahh. This kind of talk just isn’t my thing. I think he infected me or something.)
Mikoto scratched at her head.
(This is all that idiot’s fault! As soon as I find him, I’m punching him!! Strategy meeting complete!!)
Suddenly, something huge quickly moved up from below the white clouds. The supersonic bomber she was on was quite large at over 80 meters long, but this other object made it look like a tiny bug in comparison. The giant construction had to be dozens of kilometers long. It was like an entire city was floating there. The sight simply seemed to ignore any scientific sense (even the sense of Academy City that seemed fairly ridiculous to begin with).
The object had a completely unreasonable design.
It was just a giant mass that seemed to have been created by taking stone buildings from different ages and cultures and then clumping them together like masses of clay. Even then, it was changing form from moment to moment like gears or like a living being.
(…What is that?)
Mikoto pressed herself up against the reinforced glass and stared at the mass.
Making an object that big float in the sky was probably something worth a Guinness world record. She couldn’t spot any wings or rocket engines, but it had to be gaining lift somehow. Perhaps it was actually hollow and the inside was similar to a hot-air balloon or a blimp.
(Why is it squirming around like that? Is it a collection of stand-alone robots?)
However, what truly surprised Mikoto was not the giant mass itself.
Something like a stone bridge extended out on the edge of the mass and she thought she saw the familiar face of a certain spiky haired boy.
When Mikoto frantically tried to make sure, the supersonic bomber’s intense speed had already taken them past that point. The location of the window was limited, so she couldn’t just turn her head to keep looking.
That unexpected scene had brought Mikoto’s thoughts to a halt, but the pilot did not wait around.
A steeple sticking out from the side of the mass was going to strike the body of the supersonic bomber.
He frantically operated the stick and the inertia suddenly gave Mikoto an experience similar to zero gravity as she was not strapped in. It only lasted a few seconds, but her body had definitely floated in the air.
She fell back into her seat, but she didn’t have time to complain.
The changes did not stop.
When they moved back above the clouds, the blue sky without any sign of weather suddenly changed to dark night as if someone had flipped a light switch. With that giant construction there as well, the scene just looked like a joke to her.
There was a light in the darkness.
It glowed like the moon in the dark sky.
But it wasn’t the moon.
It was a human-like silhouette floating in the sky ignoring gravity. It was so far away, she couldn’t tell what its face looked like. However, she could say one thing for sure: it was not a normal human.
This was because it had what looked like wings growing from its back.
Those mysterious wings looked like crystals and like a peacock tail. The shorter ones were less than a meter long and the longer ones were over 100 meters long. The figure had a few dozen of those wings of unequal length.
Mikoto didn’t have time to question it.
The figure swung one of those wings.
It was rather large at 100 meters, but that still was not enough to match the scale of the sky. Currently, the supersonic bomber was flying in an area farther away than that.
And yet the body of the HsB-02 that was made of the latest nonmetal materials was suddenly sliced in two.
The strike sliced the cockpit front to back. No, that single strike sliced through the entire 80 meter length of the bomber.
“Oh, you have got to be kidding!!”
Mikoto felt the chill of the high altitude air stab into her.
In the next instant, she was thrown out of the plane and into the air 3000 meters up.
She couldn’t even cry out.
At the edge of her vision, she could see the pilot spinning but wearing a parachute. He would probably be fine, but she couldn’t count on him. He had no duty to save her after all.
However, Mikoto felt more anger at having been taken away from the giant structure than she did fear of the height from which she was falling. Her small body was even then plowing through the clouds as it headed for the ground. She could clearly feel the thing she thought she had finally grabbed slipping from her fingers.
Of course, she couldn’t change that if she just fell to her death.
(Kh!! Wh-what do I do!?)
Mikoto changed her focus and looked down toward the ground. She didn’t even have 1000 meters left until she landed. She then spotted a mass of metal much farther down than her.
It was an attack helicopter.
She didn’t know if it was from Academy City or Russian, but she could use it.
Mikoto could manipulate magnetism.
She was not going to use it to cling to the attack helicopter. At that height and that speed, her flesh-and-blood body would be crushed the instant she made contact. She had to only use a bit of the magnetism she could so she didn’t completely cling to it.
Her body shot past the attack helicopter.
She didn’t completely cling to it, but there was a clear force lifting Mikoto’s body toward the attack helicopter. That force acted as a cushion to softly lower her downward speed. As Mikoto headed down toward the white snowy plains, she strengthened that force bit by bit in a carefully regulated manner so as not to crush her body from the shock of deceleration but to still prevent herself from being killed upon landing.
If someone had been watching from nearby, it may have looked like she was lowering herself down on an invisible rope.
Mikoto planted her feet atop the snow and completely cut off the magnetic force.
She was in the middle of a battlefield. Here and there on that plain with almost no manmade objects she could see tanks and other armored vehicles from both Academy City and the Russian army. It might have been obvious, but the Russian weapons were the ones being destroyed.
Mikoto smelled the unpleasant odor of fuel being burned and looked above her.
Even using her powerful magnetism, jumping up 3000 meters into the air was impossible.
“How am I supposed to get up above the clouds?” Mikoto muttered and then heard the sound of someone stepping in the snow behind her.
From the magnetic state, she could tell there was a human form about 10 meters behind her.
She sharply turned around and…
The other person’s expression did not change.
A girl stood there holding a rifle called a Kalashnikov that was made of both wood and metal instead of an Academy City F2000R.
“Misaka’s serial number is #10777, kindly explains Misaka to the Original who is at a loss for words.”
“Were you at an organization in Russia that was working with Academy City!?”
“The battle for the evacuation there is complete, so Misaka was given the rest of the time to spend on her private business, announces Misaka in a vacation-y mood with a dangerous rifle in one hand.”
“Private business…?” Mikoto repeated in shock.
#10777 pointed up into the sky.
“Are you here on private business as well? says Misaka asking for confirmation.”
“…Well, it certainly isn’t an official job or anything.”
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