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Killer Queen and Deep End
A killer whose method of murder fascinates people too much and cannot be handled with a normal investigation or normal reporting. This is a story of the darkness consigning those killers to the darkness.
They gathered at one point on the strange “wooden earth” that looked like a gym floor stretched on and on to the horizon.
In all, they were Kamijou Touma, Index, Misaka Mikoto, Quenser Barbotage, Heivia Winchell, Jinnai Shinobu (Status Effect: Freeze), Zashiki Warashi Yukari, the Yuki Onna, Anzai Kyousuke, Higashikawa Mamoru, the bunny girl, Nanajou Kyouichirou, and Satsuki.
That may not seem like quite enough, but unfortunately, Lieutenant Milinda Brantini aka the Princess was still inside the Baby Magnum. She must have run into some kind of trouble because communications were cut off and she was showing no sign of leaving the machine.
They had gathered in one spot to help grasp the situation, but it was obvious why they had gathered there specifically.
Whether one called it the ground or the floor, there was a perfect square of a hole in it with one meter sides.
Kamijou crouched down and peered inside. He saw wooden stairs leading down and a soft light that seemed to be from some kind of lighting.
His pointy head spoke.
“Welcome to the dungeon…I guess.”
The wooden earth continued as far as the eye could see and the distant square pyramid mountains looked like they were made from polygons. To be honest, it was a complete mystery where this was or how they had ended up here, but it would have been difficult to find anything besides the square hole to investigate.
“Hmm… We must have been set as the target of some kind of summoning, but not even my 103,000 grimoires can determine the exact system. Don’t tell me this was a technique on a level that only a Magic God could explain.”
“Wait,” cut in Mikoto. “What is this girl talking about?”
“At any rate, we should need the same technique to get back home. Ignoring who used the spell or how, we need to investigate everything we can to learn about the technique.”
“Oh, no. I think his ability to ignore me has infected her too!!”
Quenser and Heivia were focused on something else entirely.
“Hey, Sir Knight. They’re all boy-girl groups, so why are we the only one’s stuck with another guy?”
“We’ve got the Princess over there. Her defenses are a little strong, though.”
“Wow! Screw you! That’s just gonna lead to the usual pattern of you two sticking together while I’m left all on my lonesome!!”
“Complaining isn’t going to help and we don’t have any other choice here.”
“So we were called here in groups of two or three, right? So if one of the guys bites it, don’t you think we could ‘take their place’ if you know what I’m saying?”
“Hah hah! Great idea! So you’re saying if you die, I can have a lovely lady in both hands!? Then let’s do it! C’mon, Frolaytia! Or maybe the Information Alliance’s Oh Ho Ho!!”
As Heivia pulled out his combat knife and Quenser shoved a clay-like explosive in his awful friend’s mouth, the overly suggestive bunny girl peered down into the square hole just like Kamijou.
“Something this big is pretty abnormal, but it looks manmade. Is it some kind of ruins? Going in seems like the quickest way of figuring out what’s going on.”
College student Anzai Kyousuke gave an annoyed response.
“Yeah, but that isn’t giving a single thought to our safety. We don’t even know if it has any windows. We’d be goners if the lights went out after we’d made our way deep inside.”
They all exchanged a glance.
This seemed to be the only place to investigate, but none of them wanted to go in.
The one who went out of the way to raise her hand before speaking was the girl known as a Killer Queen.
“I understand investigating inside is risky, but can we really say it’s safe to stay here?”
“Why not?” asked Mikoto.
The girl pointed straight up toward the heavens.
“That…what was it? My common sense is harshly rejecting the use of that six-letter word beginning with a ‘d’, so I’ll beat around the bush and call it a massive black reptile. Anyway, ‘that’ could easily fly back here, couldn’t it?”
Another unpleasant silence fell over them all.
Not many people would actually want to fight the dragon (if that was really what it should be called) and just as few would want to get caught in the blast from one of the Baby Magnum’s stray shots. They had survived earlier thanks to the mysterious intruder, but nothing said that would happen the next time. It was even possible that intruder would show up as an enemy.
Both continuing on and staying put were risky.
After some thought, Kamijou made a suggestion.
“Regardless of what’s inside, the corridors don’t look very wide down there. If ten or so people swarmed inside at once, we’d clog it up. I don’t want to think about it, but if a giant metal ball started chasing us, we’d be wiped out in one shot.”
“Touma, then should we stay here?”
“No. If the risk is the same either way, I think we should split into a group to continue on and a group to stay. Personally, I would rather accept the risk and continue on than to shoulder that risk while doing nothing to improve the situation. What about the rest of you? Do you have any hope?”
His question received no response.
Eventually, Nanajou Kyouichirou summed up how they felt.
“Simply going with the flow is easy, but moving on your own is a lot harder than you think it is.”
“Then what should we do?”
“I already told you: simply going with the flow is easy. You pick the teams and we’ll go along with it. That would be easier.”
Kamijou had his doubts that would work, but no one objected. No one started arguing over who got to be the leader either.
(I didn’t get myself stuck in an annoying class president position, did I?)
He was unable to clear his doubts, but he had no choice since the majority had agreed to this.
He brought a hand to his chin and thought for a while. He gave a serious look to the dozen or so people here.
He then pointed at the ones he had chosen for the search team.
Once he had chosen that many, someone grabbed his collar from the side.
Quenser moved in close with the deadly serious expression he tended to get after discovering the military conspiracy at around page 300-350 in the latter half of Chapter 3.
“(Wait just a second. Don’t you get what this means, kid?)”
“Eh? Eh? What? What???”
“(You have the authority to put together your party as you see fit, so what kind of idiot chooses nothing but guys for his team!? Are you a celibate monk or something? Are you a hermit that cast aside all worldly desires!?)”
Quenser’s eyes grew so bloodshot that they looked pure red.
“(Don’t you get how juicy an opportunity this is? If you’re a guy, you should. When you can choose your own party, there’s only one option! Right!?)”
Kamijou remade his selection.
Zashiki Warashi Yukari.
The Yuki Onna.
The bunny girl.
“Now, the rest of us will be stuck here with nothing but guyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyysssssssssssssssssssss!!”
“I have no idea what you’re so mad about!! What is with you!?”
After the two boys grappled a bit and shoved at each other’s faces, Mikoto pulled an arcade coin from her skirt pocket and flicked it into the air with her thumb.
She caught it when it fell and made a suggestion.
“This is descending into chaos, so how about we decide this with heads or tails?”
“A coin toss, huh? Well, I guess no one can complain then.”
“Touma, no cheating with that magnet thing you were talking about the other day.”
“Bfh!? I-I would never do that!!” exclaimed Mikoto. “You worry too much!!”
“Bfhwah!! She wasn’t even talking to you and why are you strangling me!?” shouted Kamijou.
From there, their fates were decided by a coin toss each.
The results were as follows.
Search Team: Kamijou Touma, Misaka Mikoto, Heivia Winchell, Zashiki Warashi Yukari, Higashikawa Mamoru, the bunny girl, and Nanajou Kyouichirou.
Standby Team: Index, Quenser Barbotage, Milinda Brantini (lost by default), Jinnai Shinobu (Status Effect: Freeze), the Yuki Onna, Anzai Kyousuke, and Satsuki.
The white nun placed a hand on her chin and muttered to herself.
“I feel like someone cheated.”
“E-enough baseless accusations!!”
Mikoto blushed and shouted at the nun while Heivia secretly clenched his fist.
“Yes! An older girl with a huge rack and a bunny girl! This feels just like getting a good hand after a never-ending losing streak in poker!!”
“Are you sure you should be that happy?” asked Quenser. “I feel like both of them have a hidden sharpness that’s different again from Frolaytia’s.”
Incidentally, the Princess had yet to leave the Baby Magnum and perhaps could not leave, so she had lost by default. Jinnai Shinobu had also been unable to take part in the coin toss because he was trapped in a coffin of ice and the Yuki Onna was snuggled up against him while drooling in absolute ecstasy. She was even saying “Now I can be with you forever and ever. Eh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh.” like someone with a terminal case of yandere.
And with that decided, things were finally set in motion.
The batteries of their watches and other electronics were still functioning, so they knew the time. After agreeing to meet back up in two hours’ time, they began their labyrinth exploration tour.
“But Touma, there’s no way you can finish investigating these ruins in two hours.”
“We just have to figure out if the area around the entrance is safe. After that, we can all head down and use it as our base. Isn’t that better than hanging around up here where it’s open in every direction and that monster could find us again at any time?”
Kamijou Touma, Misaka Mikoto, Heivia Winchell, Zashiki Warashi Yukari, Higashikawa Mamoru, the bunny girl, and Nanajou Kyouichirou made their way underground through the square hole in the wooden ground.
They found a long corridor at the bottom of the stairs. It was about the size of a school hallway, but the floor, walls, and ceiling were all wood and it took an excessive number of turns. And instead of smooth curves, it made countless sharp turns at perfect right angles.
There were lights on the ceiling at a set interval. The outside of the lights was glass, but it was unclear what was contained inside. They did not seem like lightbulbs or fluorescent lights, but they were not torches or gas lamps either. They looked like a group of glowing particles or bioluminescent winged insects gathered in one place. Altogether, they produced soft flesh-colored light.
“I don’t get this place.”
Heivia must not have liked the unnecessarily complicated path of the corridor because he drew his sidearm instead of his assault rifle.
“Is this to keep out intruders? To get them lost? But if you just wanted to throw off their sense of direction or equilibrium, adding in a bunch of irregular curves would be easier.”
“Don’t ask me,” cheerfully added the Zashiki Warashi in a red yukata.
“Anyway, here’s another stairway down. What should we do?”
“Why not try going down it?”
Kamijou’s casual suggestion settled it for them.
The interior below was exactly the same.
“Here’s another stairway.”
“Let’s try going down it.”
The interior was exactly the same.
“Let’s try going down it.”
“Let’s go down.”
At some point, someone realized something.
Specifically, it was Nanajou Kyouichirou who gave a shout while looking around.
“Hey, wait! How many floors down is this!? Where are we!?”
Kamijou looked around again, but there were of course no helpful floor number on the wall and every floor’s interior was identical. There was nothing to tell them which floor this was.
They frantically ran back up a floor, but they could not find the next stairway up. They walked along the corridor for a while and found some stairs, but they had no way of knowing if these were the same stairs they had come from.
“This isn’t good,” said Kamijou, sounding annoyed. “I can’t trust myself for anything now. I’m not even sure where the stairs down are anywhere.”
Meanwhile, the bunny girl tilted her head (in an inappropriately cute way).
“Hmm. Did anyone scratch marks on the wall, tie a thread to themselves, drop bread crumbs, or use a convenient auto-mapping device?”
“Do I really look smart enough to have done any of that?” spat back Heivia.
However, the Zashiki Warashi cut in from the side.
“Oh? But that handheld device strapped to you has been blinking for a while now. You mean it wasn’t downloading map data?”
“N-no! This is, um….!!”
“What? You’ve got a military map?” asked college student Higashikawa Mamoru.
Kamijou Touma latched onto something else.
“You mean you’ve got a signal here!? Ah, crap. My cell isn’t. But we can still call for help with that, right!?”
“No, wait! This is filled with military secrets! I can’t let just anyone touch it!!”
Kamijou and the others ignored Heivia’s complaints and ripped away the pouch and surface fastener holding the device. Its transmission light was indeed flashing, so there some kind of data communication was underway.
Wondering what it was, Kamijou peered down at the screen.
It was simply downloading a porn video.
“Why!? This is such a waste!! And it’s so high resolution too!! What the hell!? It’s only ten minutes long, so why is the file so big!?”
“Guys need this as much as food! …No, wait! Don’t cancel the download, you idiot!! Now I have to wait another whole hour!!”
“Don’t be silly,” said the Zashiki Warashi. “Are you sure it wasn’t just trying to continue the broken download?”
“No, the god of downloads is here today. My device is in a good mood. I…!! I refuse to give up!!”
Heivia shouted and wept while anthropomorphizing a number of things, so the others chose to ignore him.
“I can hear something. But what is this sound?”
Kamijou and the bunny girl frowned as the mystery sound grew gradually louder. Something was approaching, but they could not imagine what. It was not footsteps, not flapping feathers, and not tires or treads either. If anything, it sounded like ice being scraped away, but they could not imagine what that sound meant.
“Something’s coming,” muttered Nanajou Kyouichirou.
With tears in his eyes, Heivia aimed his .50 caliber military handgun down the corridor.
The Zashiki Warashi had the unfair ability to negate all physical attacks, but she approached the edge of the corridor as if to say she wanted nothing to do with this.
Kamijou and Mikoto focused on the sound as well.
Nanajou Kyouichirou once more urged them to be cautious.
“Something’s coming! Be careful!!”
They were inside a complex dungeon and they had only their imaginations to tell them what that sound was. Someone was definitely approaching and the feel of the air gradually changed. And just as warned, something arrived. It moved out from one of the many right angle turns that prevented them from seeing further down the corridor.
And they saw just what it was.
It was a giant luxurious sofa moving swiftly along the ground like it was ice skating.
None of them knew how to react.
Not that they wanted to find a ferocious beast created by increasing the size of a lion or a next-generation iron maiden that moved around semi-automatically in search of its next victim. They certainly did not want that. But still. Was this really possible? Could their enemy really be a speedy sofa?
Dumbfounded, Kamijou shook his head.
“This must have some special meaning based on some kind of authentic passage of text, but Index is supposed to explain all that and she isn’t with us! We’re taking this seriously and we aren’t just messing around, but this surreal scene is nothing but a tragedy!!”
“While you lament, the surreal sofa’s getting closer. Damn, it looks to be seventy to eighty kilos. We can’t take this lightly. Wouldn’t that be like getting hit by a moped!?”
Heivia pulled his handgun’s trigger repeatedly.
At .50 caliber, it produced tremendous destruction without any special bullets such as dumdum rounds or hollow-point rounds. Someone who did not care about wildlife preservation treaties could take out a large tiger with a single shot using one.
But Heivia had forgotten one fundamental fact.
“Huh? Wait. How am I supposed to kill furniture!? This thing doesn’t have heart or a fuel tank!!”
Explosions of stuffing flew from the hit areas of the sofa, but it did not even slow down.
“Oh, no!” shouted Higashikawa Mamoru. “Get out of the way! Don’t be fooled by how it looks! This thing’s dangerous!!”
Nanajou Kyouichirou failed to escape in time.
No one covered for him or pushed him out of the way. Instead, they heartlessly pressed their backs against either wall.
The sofa slammed into him.
The impact struck him below the knees, taking out his legs and making him fall over. He tumbled onto the sofa and the “enemy” never slowed. It maintained its speed and disappeared down the next right angle turn in the opposite direction. And it was of course still carrying its victim.
The situation was surreal to the end.
Just before he vanished, Nanajou Kyouichirou looked more troubled than frightened.
That was why Kamijou just watched him go. Frozen in place after turning around, he spoke
“What in the world are we supposed to do?”
“I’m not sure if I should laugh or not,” added Heivia as he shrugged with a smoking handgun in one hand.
For Index, Quenser Barbotage, Jinnai Shinobu (Status Effect: Freeze), the Yuki Onna, Anzai Kyousuke, and the Killer Queen of the standby team, it was obvious what they had to do first.
Quenser pointed at the colossal weapon known as an Object that towered over fifty meters tall in the distance.
“Let’s think of a way to contact our Princess. If that dragon thing shows up again, it makes a huge difference whether we can use the Baby Magnum or not.”
“You say that.” Anzai Kyousuke frowned. “But the only person here who would know about radios and transmissions would be you. I’m just a college student, so I don’t know much about the hardware or the software.”
“Not to worry, not to worry. If you’re a student, you’re the same as me. In fact, you’re above me if you’re in college. Things like the relationship that radio waves and reflected waves have with a vertical rod are required material for just about any major these days, right? So help me out here.”
“This is hopeless. There’s something wrong with your standards.”
“Eh? But it’s no different from the TV antennae you see on the roofs of houses.”
“Either way, that isn’t something you do ‘while you’re at it’ like getting a teaching license. Can anyone else help?”
Anzai looked around, but the Yuki Onna was rubbing her cheek against Cold Sleep Shinobu’s ice coffin with a look of ecstasy, Index was dangerously muttering “shaved ice”, and Satsuki raised the danger to 120% by saying “I don’t have much detailed knowledge outside of human anatomy.” The situation was tragic enough to make Anzai wonder if anyone here was any help at all. He felt like he was in a nursery.
“My radio seems to be working without issue.”
Quenser messed with his device while approaching the Baby Magnum, so the other members decided to follow him.
“Which means the problem is probably on the Baby Magnum’s end.”
“How are we supposed to check on that?” asked Anzai Kyousuke while tilting back his head as far as it would go.
The machine was fifty meters tall, the spherical main body had an upside-down Y-shaped static electricity propulsion device attached to the bottom, and seven arms with seven main cannons extended from the rear joint. To a puny human standing less than two meters tall, even climbing up it would be difficult.
It was a massive and dense collection of steel. On that scale, it could have easily used up an entire mine’s worth.
The Killer Queen turned her gaze from the spherical main body and to the one hundred or so various cannons pointing in every direction.
“Where are its antennae?”
“It has a few specialized ones, but the armor panels and cannon barrels also function as auxiliary antennae. Just assume each cannon has multiple targeting cameras, sensors, and radars.”
Faced with that legitimate tool of war, that killer from a peaceful country concluded it would be best to give up on trying to understand that monster’s specs.
She then asked another question.
“Is there anything specific we can help with?”
“I’d like some advice on how to climb up.”
He heard a sound much like a whip cracking at the air. It came from Satsuki. Something like a black belt had appeared in her hand at some point. It was a ring of rubber that worked far better than a bicycle tire. One end was wrapped around the bridge-like main cannon passing by overhead.
Before anyone could say a word, the Killer Queen moved her hand again.
More rubber belts wrapped around the bodies of Quenser, Anzai Kyousuke, and the others on the ground.
There was no time to protest.
After a short lag of only a few moments, the tightly stretched rubber released all of the gathered force so it could return to normal. The six people (one of them in ice) flew up into the air.
They ascended the fifty meters in about 1.3 seconds.
Quenser felt an unpleasant sensation like his ears were clogged.
The next thing he knew, he was standing on top of one of the seven main cannons.
He looked around in confusion, but Satsuki spoke to him with calm eyes.
“Now, do your investigation.”
“It isn’t often I meet a woman more dangerous than our commander,” he muttered while jogging along the metal bridge that was the cannon.
He was making his way toward the base. His simple handheld toolbox was something like a multi-tool knife, so he could not exactly use it to take apart and investigate sensitive military equipment.
But after touching and investigating the main cannon’s targeting sensors by hand, he was able to reach a conclusion.
“The cameras and sensors themselves are working. They’re focusing on my movements.”
“What does that mean?”
“We don’t have time to check all of the antennae and sensors. If I did that alone, it would seriously take over a month. But if the ones here are working, it probably isn’t a hardware issue. You could say the wiring inside is like a spider web or built to work in parallel or whatever, but it means severing a wire somewhere isn’t going to keep the signal from getting through. In that case, is it an internal problem? In other words, a software issue?”
“You still haven’t answered what all that means.”
“I can’t determine the cause or find a way to fix it. With my handheld device, it would take days to search through the massive amount of control scripts in the Object. Plus, I’m not a programming specialist.”
“So there’s nothing we can do?” asked an annoyed Anzai Kyousuke.
Satsuki tilted her head.
“Can you open the hatch from the outside?”
Quenser shrugged at that.
“An official maintenance soldier would know how, but the method is top secret. They wouldn’t tell a battlefield student that.”
It was obvious if you thought about it, but having a weapon that could withstand a nuke would be meaningless if just anyone could open it up. It would be a problem if it could be kicked open like a bike lock.
“So what does that mean? Are we stuck?”
Anzai placed a hand over his eyes and stared into the distance. He was probably worried that the dragon might come back. Several mountains cut off their view of the horizon, but they were all perfectly shaped pyramids.
Index must have been hungry already because she had lost her energy, but she spoke up now.
“Can’t you wave your hands at it instead of using that ‘radio’ thing?”
“Wave my hands?”
Quenser frowned, so Index extended her arms perfectly straight and then methodically bent them at right angles.
He finally realized what she meant.
Kamijou and the others searched around here and there.
Nanajou Kyouichirou had been abducted by the far-too-surreal enemy that was a quickly moving sofa, but they found him in a room on the same underground floor.
He looked dazed and his bangs were a mess like a physical comedian who had fallen victim to the following gag: ‘Go wait in your dressing room for a bit!’ → The floor opens to reveal a pitfall → A trip down a steep slide.
“Eh? Eh? Wh-what? What is going on?”
“Oh, I guess he’s still alive.”
That surprisingly cruel comment came from Mikoto.
Kamijou Touma, Heivia, and Higashikawa Mamoru did not speak a word.
Perhaps due to the fact that they had failed to rescue him because it wasn’t a beautiful girl being abducted.
The Zashiki Warashi noticed what lay around the room. The Nanajou boy was weakly sitting with his legs collapsed to the side, but the room also contained a bus stop sign, the kind of elephant placed in front of drugstores, a Jizou statue, and a giant Shigaraki ware tanuki.
“Do you think this is set up so everything that sofa touches is brought back here?”
“You’re kidding. So this is like the failure room on a map filled with warp points or conveyer belts? Y’know, the ones where you’re always sent back to the beginning. That means we’re going to find ourselves back in this room quite a bit.”
Kamijou sounded annoyed, but giving up would not improve their situation.
They knew they would not find any important information or facilities near the failure room, but they still felt like they had to check behind every single door.
The bunny girl asked Heivia a question.
“What do you think?”
The room contained a single table, a few chairs placed irregularly around it, and enough plates and mugs for a few people. The grilled salmon and cooked potatoes on the plates were cold, but they looked like they had been partially eaten.
“What is this place anyway?”
Higashikawa Mamoru spoke from the door without stepping into the room.
“If we were in some ancient ruins, I might think it was a king’s tomb or something, but it definitely looks like someone lives here. Is it some kind of shelter?”
“This isn’t enough to know for sure. This could be the grave keeper’s room for all we know.”
They checked other nearby doors and found more strange rooms that made no sense at first glance.
For example, one room contained only three giant treasure chests lined up in a row. The Zashiki Warashi sighed and spoke.
“It would be a little too on the nose, but do you think there are steel swords and armor inside?”
“I feel more like it’s only meant to look like that and they’re spring-loaded so the box will chomp shut on us.”
For example, one room contained an abandoned casino filled with poker tables and slot machines.
“Hey, maybe our luck’s finally turning around. Poker and roulette might be out, but it looks like we can play the slots without anyone here.”
“Don’t. These things will be rigged to eat up everything we’ve earned so far. Look, there’s no sign of a bank or a save point anywhere!”
For example, one room contained a large shower room with nothing but nozzles hanging down from the ceiling like in a prison or at a school pool.
“(Hey, kid. Based on the standards set by the entire human race, there’s no way we can just pass this one by, right!?)”
Heivia grabbed Kamijou’s collar and began some direct talks with the same expression he normally got at around page 350 to 400 when the war looked like it was going to drag on.
“(That older girl in the kimono and that bunny girl are clearly hiding a really nice body below their clothes, so what is there left to hope for if we pass right by the showers? Right!? You know what I mean, don’t you!?)”
“After everything we’ve seen, doesn’t this look like a trap to you? The tiles are pink and the walls are needlessly made of glass, so this is blatantly suspicious!”
“Quit trying to sound clever, moron! I already know you’re the same as me, so surely there have been times when you’ve known something was a scam but still clicked the agree button. If a girl in your class said she’s show you her tits if you broke thirty roof tiles with your forehead, you’d keep at it until your head was a bloody pulp, wouldn’t you!?”
“I-I… Kamijou Touma has no idea what you are talking about.”
“When the options are to go for it and regret it or chicken out and regret it, we’re the ones that grab the imaginary steering wheel and swerve over to break through the mountain pass guardrail!! So quite hesitating! It may be cliché and it may seem silly, but we have to stick to the tried-and-true classics and run straight toward the steamy shower sceeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeene!!”
Someone grabbed Kamijou and Heivia by the back of the neck and lifted them up like in the crane game.
It was the Zashiki Warashi who could casually wield great strength in addition to ignoring physical attacks.
She tossed the two boys into the shower room and twisted the wheel-shaped faucet on the wall to spray a shower of cold water down from the ceiling.
Then it was Misaka Mikoto’s turn.
A tremendous high-voltage current surged from her bangs and a storm of bluish-white electricity enveloped the shower room.
“Fwa ha ha ha ha! Is that all? This is like a reward for meeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!”
“Wait! I! Stop! Such misfortuuuuuuuuuuuuune!”
His inability to make his protests in full added to his misfortune.
No one showed any concern for the two boys whose legs were twitching like a frog’s in a science experiment (even if one of them had been falsely accused).
“I feel like every room in here is a trap, including that room of half-eaten food,” said Mikoto with an exasperated sigh. “After all, if this was the third or fourth day of our exploration, we’d be ready to get into a fistfight over a cup of water. You would probably worry about poison in untouched food, but you might actually assume half-eaten food is safe.”
“And we don’t actually know who ate it or if they only tore some food away with a knife and fork,” added the bunny girl.
For some reason, she sounded very, very happy about it and Higashikawa Mamoru looked annoyed by that.
“So can we ignore all of the rooms around here?” he asked.
Nanajou Kyouichirou continued from there.
“Well, we are near the room that weird sofa took me to. Yeah, they must gather all the intruders on the floor to the one spot, put them at ease, and then have every room around them be a trap. Anyone who’s suddenly brought here will search everything around them to gather as much information as they can, so if they’re all dead-ends, this is a pretty cruel layout.”
With that, they continued on while ignoring the excessively numerous doors.
But even if they knew a plethora of traps had been set up, it gave them no hint what this giant manmade structure actually was.
They had assumed there would be some kind of family crest if it was a king’s tomb like the pyramids.
Kamijou glanced around and spoke.
“Just with what we’ve seen, this place is too big to build in just a year. And who knows how much farther it goes. From a financial standpoint and an effort standpoint, they would have needed a reason for building it that an entire nation wanted to get behind.”
After travelling about one hundred meters in an arbitrary direction, the rush of doors petered out. The corridor began to take irregular right angle turns again and there were no doors or stairs to be found.
They began to grow anxious as the corridor continued on and on.
They were worried they would find a dead-end and have to walk all the way back.
However, that fear proved groundless.
The long, long corridor led to a single thick door. It was clearly different from the many doors they had passed by.
Kamijou stared at it and spoke.
“We don’t need a special Gold Key or Silver Key to get through, do we?”
“If so, I can always just shoot out the lock or the hinges. Whatever the case might be, we can get this thing open right away.”
The pointy-haired boy grabbed the knob.
He was afraid of getting a high-voltage shock as soon as he turned it, but that did not happen.
The knob easily turned and the door opened inward.
And inside, they found…
That synonym for war stood over fifty meters tall and could withstand a direct hit from a nuclear weapon. The First Generation Baby Magnum of the Legitimacy Kingdom’s 37th Mobile Maintenance Battalion contained Milinda Brantini aka the Princess, a girl with short blonde hair who wore a special skintight suit.
The control system included eight levers of various sizes, several hundred buttons, and even special goggles to track the movements of her eyes. Not only would a normal person be unable to pilot it, they would have no idea how to even sit at the controls properly. But that was not surprising considering that there was no optimum design for an Object cockpit interface and no two were the same. The Princess could freely control the Baby Magnum, but even she would have to give up if it were another Object.
It was also the most comfortable place for her (although some suspected it had been designed to make her think that). While most people would think of their bedroom or bathroom as a place to relax, she would immediately think of the cockpit to a deadly weapon.
She pulled a sports drink and a ham and potato salad sandwich from the cockpit’s mini-fridge and thought cheerfully to herself.
(Still another 300 seconds until the communication system comes back up. But what even caused this? It’s protected against electromagnetic pulses, so noise or a surge of electricity shouldn’t have harmed the software.)
Data from the hundreds of cameras and sensors was gathered, countless small windows opened on the monitor in front of her, and they all displayed a bar indicating the system recovery. Like bubbles on the water surface, windows would disappear as soon as they appeared, but the overall number was gradually reducing. This meant the Baby Magnum would not be a giant metal coffin; it would actually recover as time passed.
Also, all of the Baby Magnum’s high-precision radars and sensors had led to a certain discovery, but she had no way of informing the others.
Communications were down and she did not see any way of leaving.
She felt no claustrophobia and was able to cheerfully eat her sandwich because this was where she normally lived. She had plenty of water, food, and oxygen for the time being, so there was little reason for concern.
(Maybe I should play some golf on my handheld. I doubt I can improve on my score any more, though. …Hm?)
She noticed something outside.
Quenser Barbotage, a boy with the 37th Mobile Maintenance Battalion’s emblem on his shoulder, was waving his arms in a systematic way. At first, it was far too primitive for the Princess to know what it meant, but a high-precision image recognition program translated it into words for her.
He was using Legitimacy Kingdom military semaphore.
His simple message was to respond if she could hear him.
The Princess used the main cannon arms on the far left and right to make gestures of her own, but…
“It isn’t getting through.”
She pouted her lips while sipping on her sports drink through a straw.
It was not a problem with her movements. Quenser and the others simply could not see her gestures properly from atop the Baby Magnum. It was much like a small insect on a human face being unable to tell it was a face at all.
But the Princess’s thoughts never made it that far.
When the situation did not improve even after a few attempts at semaphore, she grew a bit irritated.
(A code. I need some other kind of code.)
She tapped her index finger on the control console, but…
(Right. Morse code. That’s simpler and will get through to anyone!)
A tremendous roar knocked Quenser and the others from their feet as they stood on the bridge-like main cannon.
“Abah! Ababah! Abababababababababah!?”
The pure white nun named Index put on an expression she would never have let Kamijou Touma see.
Quenser was at least a little used to war, but even he got on all fours and held his ears.
“Dammit! What the hell is going on? Is she fighting another enemy somewhere!?”
“I-it doesn’t look like it,” said the Killer Queen as she grimaced and looked around.
Meanwhile, the large-scale shellfire continued.
The swirling noise and shockwaves were enough to shake up the contents of a human skull, but surprisingly, this was actually the smallest cannon in the Object’s repertoire.
College student Anzai Kyousuke was left twitching on the metal surface, but he still managed to speak to Quenser. Even so, he seemed doubtful his voice could be heard over the explosive roar.
“Hey!! This happened!! Right after your semaphore!! Didn’t it!?”
“Y-yeah. What about it!?”
“I don’t know what’s going on, but I have a feeling this isn’t going to end until you tell the person controlling it to stop. Get back to your semaphore! Hurry!!”
Quenser tried to stand back up, but another massive blast knocked him down again. This went beyond anything one could power through with focus or willpower. The noise was physically shaking up his inner ear.
“Eh heh heh. Eh heh heh heh heh. I’m not sure how to put it, but the happiness won’t stop.”
The Yuki Onna was pressed up against the ice coffin (which contained Jinnai Shinobu much like a piece of candy with a caterpillar inside) and she was using her Youkai ability to ignore physical attacks to maintain her look of ecstasy within the surrounding noise.
And that was why she noticed something.
“Huh? I think this noise has a pattern to it.”
The others finally noticed the dots and dashes of Morse code and realized the Princess was trying to tell them something.
There were no windows.
All four walls were filled with monitors and control consoles. Transparent partitions cut across near the center of the room. They looked something like transparent white boards and they displayed countless white dots of unknown meaning.
There was a single table in the center.
Something like a map was spread out, but they had never seen the writing system used on it.
“Wait, are we really having the language barrier thrown at us now?
I mean, we don’t even know what language we’re using to speak to each other. ”
“Eh? What was that? There was some weird static and I couldn’t hear you at all.”
Lots of metal pipes moved from the ceiling and to the wall, but they did not seem to carry water or steam. The Zashiki Warashi opened and closed the round covers attached to parts resembling the bell of a trumpet.
“Speaking tubes? I’m not sure if this place is high-tech or low-tech.”
A speaking tube was a device that let people in separate locations speak to each other using the same principle as a stethoscope. It was a lot like the grandfather of internal phone lines.
The ends of speaking tubes were packed in along the wall, so it all looked like a single giant device such as a pipe organ.
“Is this room the core of the entire underground space?” speculated Mikoto.
The countless rooms filled with traps may have been a failed attempt to keep them from reaching here.
“What is this?” muttered Kamijou Touma.
They all must have felt the same. All of the devices in the room were very specialized. Or rather, they were a mixture of high-tech and low-tech that did not seem like a natural evolution of machinery, so it was hard to tell what it was all for. However, one thing among it all was a dead giveaway.
It was located right next to the central table that had a map spread out on it.
A square pedestal rose to a height between Kamijou’s waist and chest. It looked perfect for holding the bust of a school headmaster or for some ugly sculpture, but it did not seem to have been made for that purpose.
It contained something else.
Attached near the top of the front side was a metal wheel measuring about fifty centimeters across. Straight bars were placed around it at a set interval much like bicycle spokes or the lines between pizza slices.
Even if they had never touched one before, anyone would have seen one in photographs or on TV.
The Zashiki Warashi in a red yukata named the device.
“A ship’s wheel?”
“Wait a second.”
Heivia looked around again.
Unsatisfied with the many monitors and consoles, the room expanded its data displays with the transparent partitions dividing up the room. He looked across the countless flashing dots of light and spoke.
“Come to think of it, this is a lot like a warship’s battle command center.”
If there was a control room with a ship’s wheel, there had to be a rudder it was connected to.
“Does that mean we aren’t underground?” muttered Kamijou in shock. “We’re on a ridiculously huge ship?”
When the Princess had been unable to grasp her location (because she had seemingly “flown” somewhere), she had made sure to immediately use the Object’s massive sensor array to scan the surrounding landscape.
She had reached a conclusion almost right away.
Even from a height of fifty meters, she was on a strange wooden land that continued to the horizon. However, that wooden land had an end or an edge. Everything was surrounded by water and the pyramid-like mountains had been placed there according to a certain set of rules.
Namely, the rules of stealth design that would drastically lower something’s radar cross-section.
Just like the early stealth fighters, this ship had a silhouette that appeared constructed from origami.
In all seriousness, it was forty-five kilometers across and yet any device that measured only radar waves would display a dot the same size as for a small fish. If the Baby Magnum had not used a composite of multiple methods, it may have been fooled too. The details of the stealth technology were a mystery because not even the Legitimacy Kingdom could produce results this good.
(It’s kind of like a heavy stealth cruiser, but I don’t know what technical classification it would fall under. I would call it a missile ship, but it also has catapults for launching aircraft.)
Overall, it resembled a stealth ship, but it was far too big and it had expanded functions added on like a Swiss Army knife. It did not quite fit in the category of battleship, aircraft carrier, supply ship, or missile destroyer. In fact, it included all of their features with more to spare. It was shaped like a ship, but its scale made it more like an artificial island. It was more like seeing a mobile fortress or floating naval port built on a mega-float.
As an embodiment of the idea “just throw it all on there”, this colossal weapon may have been created along a different path of the same evolution that led to Objects.
“Seriously? We can see all the way to the horizon, but it’s not land? I had assumed this was some kind of manmade ruins what with the wooden floor and all, but I was picturing something attached to the surface of the earth.”
The Morse code created through shellfire finally came to an end.
The Yuki Onna had been the only one who could move properly, so Quenser had instructed her to gesture back to the Princess.
And in exchange, the Princess had informed them of the following information.
“This is a forty-five kilometer warship? I’ve certainly never heard of a weapon large enough to carry an Object on it.”
“That’s not the real problem,” cut in Index.
Quenser frowned, so Satsuki continued.
“If this is a ship, where is it headed?”
That made him shudder.
This situation had not come about by chance. Someone had set it up. And that person had the ability to create this ship, send it out, and put it to use. They had free control over a weapon of such overwhelming scale that it could toy with an Object, the weapon which had destroyed the nuclear age with its great military might.
“Where are we being taken?”
Anyone with the proper knowledge would have reached a certain conclusion.
The moving seat that had come to crush them came from an event leading up to the battle between Thunder God Thor and Geirröd.
And among the ships of the gods, there was one made by a skilled dwarf that could be folded up like paper and put in a bag, but when unfolded, was large enough to hold all of the war gods as they crossed the sea (which in this case would mean travelling to other worlds).
That mythology was centered on war, so a ship large enough to hold all of the gods related to war would be the same thing as the ultimate warship that contains every last form of firepower in the world.
And that ship was known as the Divine Ship Skíðblaðnir.
“She” stood atop an especially tall mountain even on Divine Ship Skíðblaðnir.
It was covered by an over-the-horizon radar which made it look like an insect’s compound eye or a radio telescope ground station. If the radar had been functioning properly, the massive electromagnetic waves would have been enough to fry a human, but while in stealth mode, it was nothing more than a mountain with a nice view.
A metallic clanking sound came from the green armor “she” wore, but it was technically not made of metal. That armor could stop the fangs and claws of the gods’ enemies and an old inscription said it was made from a solidified version of the aurora that colored the night sky.
The swan feather decorations at her ears swayed in the ocean breeze.
“She” spoke into the empty air.
“The hostility scan is complete. Where they came from and how they got here are still a mystery, but these strangers register only low levels of hostility. They seem to bear no intention of conquering us. We need to continue secretly monitoring the management of Skíðblaðnir, how they passed between worlds, and the disturbance this is sure to cause.”
“Understood. By the way, could you give me the check sheet?”
A male voice directly reached her ears.
“I have already sent it. I don’t mind as long as you follow the official procedure.”
“She” kept a hand on her hip as she observed the strangers regrouping from within the ship and on top of the giant weapon (that seemed tiny compared to the divine ship).
“They never begin a fight except for in self-defense and they did not attempt to plunder or destroy the inside of the ship. They don’t let their anger at this unreasonable situation justify any violence either. Some of them appear to be trained in combat, but they are guided by standard ROE and the level of their technology is too low to pose a threat even if they go on a rampage. All they do is fire bullets using gunpowder. Do you really think they pose a threat to us?”
“Not really, no. There are probably quite a few surprises in store for them still.”
“If they show no hostility, we can treat them as guests. And when they’re this weak, protecting them will not be easy. In that way, this is no laughing matter.”
“The ship is about to arrive on the outer edge of the land in the giant’s world of Jötunheimr. If you’re going to contact them, I would suggest doing so before they carelessly head out onto land.”
“She” sighed and gently rubbed what was next to her.
It was the head of a small boy clinging to her waist.
“Now, let’s go. It’s time to greet them.”
A tremendous beam of light raced through the sky.
They were on a giant ship. After both the search team and standby team had reached that same conclusion, they had regrouped on the deck. If they were on the sea, they would never find an exit no matter how widely they searched the inside. They began discussing whether or not to try moving the ship using the control room filled with blinking lights, but that was when the beam of light arrived.
Kamijou Touma, Index, Misaka Mikoto, Quenser Barbotage, Heivia Winchell, Milinda Brantini (still aboard the Object), Jinnai Shinobu (Status Effect: Freeze), Zashiki Warashi Yukari, the Yuki Onna, Anzai Kyousuke, Higashikawa Mamoru, the bunny girl, Nanajou Kyouichirou, and the Killer Queen all turned toward the rumbling noise.
“Welcome, strangers, to the land forming the base of the World Tree Yggdrasil which connects the nine worlds.”
They saw a woman in a strange outfit that combined green armor with a miniskirt. Her long blonde hair fluttered behind her as she rode a giant white horse, held a spear that had produced the beam of light, had a small boy sitting in front of her, and turned her clever eyes their way.
“I am Waltraute, fourth of the nine Valkyrie sisters. I am one of the maidens of war who uses a divine spear to guide the souls of men and to smite the enemies of the gods.”
Heivia immediately made an unnecessary comment (that all the others were secretly thinking).
“Oh, wow. Look, everyone, I think she’s into little boy-…”
“Very well, strangers. Since I am introducing myself, I will demonstrate my divine power for you.”
A detailed explanation would deserve the labels warning of “violent and grotesque scenes” commonly seen on zombie games, but to put it more simply, a beam of light surged out and the idiot lost one of his remaining lives.
Kamijou was fairly certain he would be unable to eat fried chicken or turkey for a while.
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