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They had no time.
Kamijou and the others headed to a mall filled with restaurants that truck drivers frequented. They were of course not planning to eat anything. They were instead searching for a truck heading to District 23 out of all the ones parked there.
“The satellite guidance vehicles have a sticker indicating they have been approved. Here we go.”
Kamijou and the others opened up the door for the container on the back and hid inside. Academy City’s busses and trains stopped running after the curfew, so they had to use a bit of cleverness to hurry to a distant location.
After finishing his meal, the driver drove the vehicle away without realizing they were there.
Stiyl spoke within the container.
“We will use this truck to head to District 18 which neighbors District 23. After that, we have to break in. Our only hope is to climb the fence and force our way in.”
“The security is in shambles thanks to the trouble caused by that interference, so it shouldn’t be a problem on its own.”
“The only problem left is my sister,” added Sozty as she leaned against the container’s door. “The project my sister took part in was special even within the cabal. Her entire body was completely remade to meet the usage requirements of Brahma Astra. I have no idea what she might be capable of.”
Index tilted her head in confusion and asked, “You mentioned that before, but does it mean she has been so specialized for Brahma Astra that she cannot use any other spells?”
“No. When I worked alongside my sister on missions in the past, I saw her using other Astras. In other words, she can use other attack spells. Because the experiment failed, she switched over to using Astras related to the god Shiva. But those are not as pure as the Brahma Astra. They are on a level I could use as well.” Sozty hung her head down as if she was trying to remember something. “Trishula, Gandiva… They are all related to Shiva, the god of destruction. If we think of Brahma Astra as a special case, that might be a set rule governing the weapons she normally uses.”
“But we can’t forget that Ureapaddy has intentionally regulated what she reveals to you in order to fool you. She may have purposefully narrowed down the information she gave you so you would analyze it in that way.”
“Exactly. We need to assume there is a chance she will suddenly use Astras of Vishnu, Brahma, or other gods. In other words, it is useless to think about it. We could fall into a trap of hers.”
Either way, an amateur like Kamijou could not calculate out the exact structure of the magic to either neutralize or counteract it, so he decided to keep his thoughts positive. He would be on the lookout for attacks from every direction and intercept them with his right hand. In other words, what he always did.
Stiyl frowned slightly and said, “Since Ureapaddy is trying to use Debris Storm to cover the world in tens of thousands of shooting stars, her target is likely more than just Academy City. And no one knows when the attack will happen. In that case, speed is what matters most. The grimoire library can remain as backup, but Kamijou Touma, Sozty, and I must be prepared to take some injuries.”
“I understand,” said Sozty through clenched teeth. “She is justifying it with some ridiculous hope, but my sister is giving up every part of her life for this day. If she is trying to wear away her entire life, I cannot expect to remain unharmed.”
“But it goes no further than injuries,” said Kamijou as if to cut her off. He continued when everyone’s attention was focused on him. “I will not let anyone die. Not us, not Ureapaddy, and not the people she is targeting with Brahma Astra.”
Stiyl clicked his tongue.
That was when the truck they were riding on came to a stop. This was not simply a traffic light; its engine shut off. They assumed they had reached their destination of District 23.
And they were not wrong.
However, when Kamijou cautiously opened up the container door to peer outside, he found a large parking lot lit up by large lights of the sort found at a baseball stadium.
A great pounding noise struck his eardrums.
It came from the footsteps of a large group of Anti-Skill. They were fully equipped and even held guns in their hands. Kamijou initially assumed they must have stumbled across some kind of incident, but he was wrong. As soon as his eyes met those of Anti-Skill, the guns all aimed in his direction.
He frantically escaped back into the container just as several gun shots exploded through the air. Orange sparks flew from the metal door.
“What the hell is going on!?”
“We are trying to use this confusion to sneak into District 23. Is it that surprising that they are treating us as dangerous?” responded Sozty in annoyance.
But Stiyl raised an objection. “But how did they get this information? Sozty, the grimoire library, and I are experts from the magic side. I doubt standard law enforcement could have detected our actions.”
“What is this then?”
“To help lessen the friction between the magic side and science side, I provide periodic reports on my actions. I of course leave out any unnecessary information, but I do not doubt they use the information I give them. In other words, the higher ups of the science side must truly not want us to approach that space elevator.”
“Why? Brahma Astra could be activated at any time! If that happens, there will be no magic or science. Everything will be destroyed!”
“There has been a lot of fighting between magic and science over who has the rights to space. You could call it the gold rush of the modern age,” spat out Sozty. “Even if my sister is planning to use Brahma Astra and no matter how much damage it will do, we could be using this as a chance to sabotage the space elevator. That is probably how they are viewing this.”
“What are we supposed to do!? This is no time for two groups of protectors to be fighting each other!!”
The Imagine Breaker power in Kamijou’s right hand would have no effect against a normal bullet. And this was a group of professionals whose everyday job was to suppress criminals who wielded supernatural esper powers. This was not an opponent he could easily break through.
“They are focusing on the single door to this container. I will slice through another wall with my flame sword so we can escape. After that, we will all flee via different routes,” suggested Stiyl. “At least one of us needs to get further into District 23. With the urgent situation regarding Ureapaddy and Brahma Astra, we cannot all be held back here. Kamijou Touma, can you calculate out candidates for routes?”
“District 23 is mostly made up of wide open spaces to provide room for the large runways. They will be able to see where we are at a glance. …Or so Anti-Skill will think. They will not bother to check behind the small pieces of cover. If we keep our path along those areas, we might be able to continue on without being noticed.”
“Then tell me what the most dangerous routes are. Sozty and I can use concealment magic to head unseen through the areas Anti-Skill is most confident are safe. You two head along the routes with the most cover.”
“Understood. And it would be great if you could cause a few diversions along the way.”
“Deal with this on your own.”
With an unpleasant noise, Stiyl sliced through the thick wall of the container. Kamijou and the others exited onto the large parking lot and split up as they slipped through the gaps between the large vehicles lined up there.
Kamijou spotted a few of Anti-Skill’s guns turn in his direction.
As soon as he thought that…
The large baseball stadium-like lights suddenly shut off.
All of a sudden, darkness arrived.
Kamijou had no idea what had caused the blackout, but this was their chance
Kamijou turned toward Stiyl and shouted, “Put out your flames! We can escape now!!”
Anti-Skill’s bullets caused sparks nearby, but fortunately even their professional training was not enough for perfect accuracy at that distance.
It was unclear whether Anti-Skill had night-vision equipment or not, but Kamijou and the others could still gain some distance while they switched over to using it.
Kamijou Touma, Index, Stiyl Magnus, and Sozty Exica.
Those four scattered to different areas as they all headed for a single destination.
The brown-skinned, silver-haired woman named Ureapaddy Exica stood at the base of the “tower”.
Officially, it was known as a large-scale air traffic control tower. By the time the world learned it played the role of the earthport at the surface-side end of a space elevator, it would be too late. The elevator could cheaply, reliably, and quickly transport large amounts of materials into space. The age had come where regions across the world would need to fear explosives raining down from the heavens and where a minefield could be laid in space that had such high density that it could completely defend against the thousands or tens of thousands of ballistic missiles fired to destroy that demonic tower.
Academy City would have a monopoly on space.
And the risk seen in that fact was not limited to the science side that launched rockets and shuttles. In fields such as astrology, the magic side had made use of outer space for much longer than the science side had.
It had been a dangerous project from the beginning.
If Ureapaddy had not come, something else would likely have happened.
“The development has already reached the seventh stage. The construction of the wire for the initial work has been completed,” muttered Ureapaddy.
The most difficult aspect of constructing a space elevator was hanging a single wire down from space to connect the spaceport and earthport. From what she had heard, that alone had taken several years.
The construction of that single wire could only be done by relying on the old method of launching rocket after rocket. But once that was complete, the speed of the work would rise dramatically.
A tower reaching up into space.
Normally, even several decades would not have been enough to create something like that.
However, Academy City had given each individual block of the tower the ability to function as an unmanned mobile robot. Hundreds of million or even billions of such blocks would move along the elevator wire from both space and earth to quickly create the exterior of the tower.
No need for scaffolding.
No need for cranes.
No need for safety checks.
That method allowed a durable building to be constructed with overwhelming speed even in an Antarctic environment where room temperature water would freeze almost instantly.
And while the tower was given durability, the method also provided joints in the connections between each block so that it could “bend” a bit if needed.
Such a gigantic building would normally take over 100 years to complete, but this construction technique allowed it to be finished in only a few days.
That alone may have rivaled the military advantage of the space elevator itself.
It displayed just how much of a threat Academy City and science were.
“The inside of the tower will include more than a single wire. Ultimately, several carbon nanotube belts will be lined up within.”
But Ureapaddy did not need to wait for everything to be complete. She merely needed something that would carry her magic power from the surface up into space without attenuating. As long as that initial wire was connected, she could use the tens of thousands of shooting stars from Debris Storm to activate Brahma Astra.
“Now then. I was waiting for some information, but it is about time I ended this.”
Ureapaddy smiled thinly.
She had most feared something would interrupt in the middle of her spell while completing the delicate task of using Brahma Astra on an unprecedentedly large scale.
The simplest form that could take would be if the elevator’s wire snapped while the magic power was being sent through it.
Carbon nanotubes were stronger than steel and resistant to heat, so they were not easily destroyed. However, they were also extraordinarily weak to high voltage electric currents. If Academy City had built in a system to sever the wire, they might have activated it as soon as they detected what Ureapaddy was after.
And so she had waited.
She had given her enemy more than enough time to decide to use such a system.
But she had seen no sign of the space elevator’s wire spontaneously snapping. It was obvious what Academy City’s higher ups were thinking.
“They know the risk, but they must not want to lose the advantages the space elevator will earn them. If they cut the wire and the project is delayed, the rest of the world may detect the elevator and begin putting together countermeasures. If space is sealed off to them before it is complete, they may find it difficult to even construct the space elevator. And so they wish to quickly complete the elevator while it is still hidden.”
This was exactly what she had expected.
And despite knowing it was coming, she still felt scorn for them.
“Such a foolish decision. If the world is destroyed, any advantage will be worthless.”
Individuals made frequent mistakes, but they came to a decision quickly.
Organizations made few mistakes, but they came to a decision slowly.
Both sides had their advantages and disadvantages, but it worked to Ureapaddy’s favor this time. Her enemy may have been able to choose to stop her even at that very moment, but the situation was leading them to destruction.
And so Ureapaddy had no reason to hold back.
With nothing left to stop her, she merely had to continue as planned. As long as nothing stood in its way, a ball rolling down a hill would naturally reach its goal. And Academy City had taken all of the walls out of the way of the ball.
Or so she thought.
Ureapaddy Exica frowned slightly.
She had caught sight of a small “wall”.
However, this was not a special defense system built into the space elevator that was humanities largest ever building.
It was something standing directly in front of her.
With the city’s various defensive networks compromised due to the wishes of the higher ups and the system interference from solar winds, the final “wall” to obstruct her took the form of a pitiful human being.
It was a boy.
A boy with spiky hair and a tightly clenched right fist.
“When I planned for this sort of obstacle, I assumed it would be my sister.”
“She’ll be here soon. I just got here a bit ahead of the others.”
“It does not matter. The number of my enemies is no longer an issue. I already have Brahma Astra in my hands.”
“Why do you need to go this far?” asked the boy calmly. “What is your goal here? With that level of destructive power, the damage will spread beyond Academy City. You should be able to target the entire science side…or the magic side if you want. You might be able to crush both sides with arrows to spare. What are you trying to destroy!?”
That put a slight smile on Ureapaddy’s lips.
Her long silver hair waved in the wind.
“…is what I must destroy. That is what I am fighting for.”
At first, her response made no sense. But she continued speaking. What motivated Ureapaddy grew apparent, little by little.
“Why do you think the science side has used such a cautious method to construct this giant building? A method of transportation cheaper and safer than rockets, a business sending out satellites and probes to other heavenly bodies, a starting point for acquiring resources from the moon, the beginning of production for orbital weapons that outdo ballistic missiles…They have many different ‘official’ objectives, but it all comes back to one thing: the conflict between science and magic. This is one step in the preparation to win that conflict.”
The positions and paths of the stars in the sky were used in magicians’ spells, so the giant space elevator was a threat. They had to think about the effect the tower itself would have on the “night sky” and, if large quantities of resources were carried up using the elevator to create space stations on a scale never before seen, the armillary sphere itself would need to be redrawn.
It was possible the elevator could cause the spells of countless magicians around the world to activate without warning.
“And the magicians like me that have been modified or constructed to be specialized towards a specific spell are more or less the same thing. It is blatantly obvious that making us so specialized leaves us with major disadvantages in most situations. The reason the magic cabals stubbornly insist to focus on a single piece of magic is quite simple: they desire large-scale military might with which to oppose the dangerous science side.”
“Is that why you are doing this? Because you were forced into these changes you did not wish for?”
“Admittedly, the Astra reorganization was not an enjoyable experience. I am no longer anything more than an existence created by taking around 15 people with the ‘proper’ ability, having only the ‘proper’ portions of their spirits removed and combined, and finally having that averaged artificial spirit reinserted. Technically, all 15 had that artificial spirit reinserted, but I am the only that remains. The spirit itself was optimized, but discrepancies with the physical body that received it caused the others’ spirits to be rejected by their physical body. I just happened to be a close enough match. But thanks to that optimization, it is hard to say if I am even Ureapaddy Exica anymore.”
Those easily spoken words caused the spiky-haired boy’s shoulders to jump.
It seemed to be quite a shock to him.
That had been nothing more than the entrance of the path leading to Brahma Astra. The cabal had been so twisted that something like that could be called nothing more than an entrance.
“However. I see that as only one of many gears. I am not so conceited as to think my tragedy is all that matters. The same sort of tragedy occurs all across the magic side and I am sure plenty of it can also be found on the science side as well. …Doesn’t it all seem so ridiculous?”
“You don’t mean…”
“Magic works to grow stronger so that it can defeat science. Science works to grow stronger so that it can defeat magic. And in the process, taboo after taboo is broken without end. What is this chain reaction? If someone had brought it to an end at some point, all of this tragedy might have been avoided. And yet the scale of violence continues to grow as people swing their swords into the darkness without even knowing who it is they are fighting. Once this arms race passes a certain point, a power will be born that is great enough to destroy the entire world.”
“So you want to destroy everything to bring that chain reaction to an end!?”
“No, that is not it. What matters is gathering attention.” Ureapaddy smiled thinly. “A great stimulus is needed to wipe away the darkness that both science and magic are spreading before themselves. After I am done, Brahma Astra will most likely become a symbol of fear for a great number of people. But that will wipe away the darkness whether they like it or not. They will want to know what happened, who is to blame, and how to stop it. And as they investigate, they will realize just what sort of a world exists beyond that darkness.”
The boy gritted his teeth. He had likely realized another fact.
It was for that reason that Ureapaddy had not simply relied on her own magic. With the space elevator and Debris Storm, she had included cutting edge technology in this plan she was risking her life for.
At first, the science side and magic side might try to force blame onto each other.
But as they investigated the incident that greatly involved both worlds, the people would realize something. They would realize just how much their enemy could accomplish. They would learn it in specific terms rather than as endlessly expanding fear and delusions.
Once they knew, the darkness could be swept away.
The incident with Brahma Astra might temporarily worsen the opposition between magic and science. But the “understanding” it would bring would also help to bring an end to the negative chain reaction that would otherwise spread infinitely.
“As I stood on the front lines of the fight with science, I truly experienced that pointless chain reaction. And I also grew to trust science at least enough to risk my life for it,” said Ureapaddy as her long silver hair blew in the wind. “If neither side is looking at the other, I just need to bring them close enough to see each other. Even if that means they must be at each other’s throats. It does not matter if it starts with hostility and animosity. As long as it ultimately leads to understanding, we can stop this conflict.”
It was all to stop that great conflict.
It was all to stop the unnecessary inflation of risk.
It was all so that the people of the world could continue to smile.
It was all for justice.
It was all for peace.
And Ureapaddy Exica would wield the full power at her disposal to accomplish it.
“…I see,” muttered the spiky-haired boy. “So you don’t even know what it really is that motivates you.”
“I’ve come across people like this a few times before, so I have a fair understanding of it. People cannot fight for some great objective like that. Even if they claim it is for some great objective, they are truly thinking of some small thing that will be saved if it is achieved.”
Ureapaddy was confused by the boy’s words, but she did not care to question him.
Her silver hair shook slightly.
She had begun to shift her body weight.
That was all it took to change the surrounding atmosphere. What had been a gentle breeze now felt brutal and like it could cut into the skin.
Nevertheless, the boy tightly clenched his right fist and spoke.
“If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then I’ll remind you. Then even you will understand. Even if your supposed goal is perfectly achieved, your methods will never save what you are trying to protect!!”
Her primary weapon was Braham Astra that used the shooting stars that would soon fill the sky, but Sozty had said she also used several Shiva-related Astras. She had easily defeated the operating unit of her own magic cabal in a surprise attack and neutralized the escort vehicles for the satellite guidance vehicle, so those Astras could not be taken lightly.
On the other hand, Kamijou Touma had Imagine Breaker.
It was limited to his right wrist and down, but that power gave him the ability to completely negate any form of supernatural power. It was his trump card against those that used unusual things to produce unusual effects.
That was why he felt her previous accomplishments did not matter.
He could overturn them.
He could produce an unexpected result.
Kamijou’s calm analysis told him that possibility existed.
And perhaps he was not wrong.
Perhaps he did have that possibility.
It may have been wrong to be satisfied with a possibility that lacked certainty.
He had been naïve.
The fierce attack that came in the next instant taught Kamijou Touma that fact all too well.
“Gandiva,” whispered Ureapaddy.
Her hand moved as if she was drawing a bow and a bluish-white arrow appeared out of thin air.
A great tension ran through the bottom of Kamijou’s gut, but distance meant nothing to an opponent with a projectile weapon. The shorter the radius of a circle, the shorter the diameter. If he wanted to evade by circling around his opponent, he would find it easier the closer he was to the enemy.
But Ureapaddy’s target with this spell she named Gandiva was not Kamijou. She aimed the arrow straight up and released the taut bowstring as if she was trying to shoot the heavens.
With a roar, a bluish-white line of light tore through the dark of the night.
An instant later, more than 10 arrows of light rained down on the area.
Kamijou immediately held his right hand up towards the tremendous light and sound, but then he noticed something. The falling arrows tore into the ground near him, but none of them fell at him directly.
(Not good! This was just meant to hold me in place!)
The attack was meant to seal off his expected paths of evasion.
The rain of arrows was like a cage meant to trap one’s prey.
And Kamijou saw it.
It was right in front of him.
As Ureapaddy smiled thinly, a golden glow came from her right hand. It was a spear. At some point, she had switched from Gandiva to some other spell. And the tip was pointed directly at Kamijou.
It was as if she was sticking some sharp blade in through the gaps of the cage.
A surefire attack was coming.
That whisper called in a great disaster.
An explosive noise rang out.
The golden tip stabbed directly towards Kamijou Touma. She had only used this surefire strike after cutting off his escape routes. That destructive power that was great enough to rip apart and melt the asphalt stabbed mercilessly towards a flesh-and-blood human.
It resembled lightning.
If that lightning attack had struck the side of a submarine, it would have evaporated over half of it.
During that flash of lightning, Ureapaddy Exica saw something.
She saw a certain right palm receive that tremendous light. And in the next instant, the Trishula strike was blown away with the sound of bursting air.
“I see.” Ureapaddy gave a thin smile as she repeated the motion of drawing a bow in order to create the spell called Gandiva. “So you actually do have enough power to set foot into this world.”
Kamijou took a quick breath and then charged toward Ureapaddy at full speed.
If his fist could reach…
If he could get close enough…
“But.” Her lips twisted ominously. “Pashupata.”
Kamijou heard an unpleasant creaking noise. But not in from his ears. He heard it directly through the vibrations in his bones.
The sound grew into a pain.
He forgot all about all of the cartilage in his body as his entire body was wrapped in an intense pain like having one’s back teeth scraped down with a course file.
He fell to the ground, thrashed about, and arched his back like a bow. Ureapaddy looked down on him with a grin.
“That is an interception Astra. I was warned never to use it against a person, though.”
As she whispered, the golden light of Trishula that resembled a three-pronged spear appeared in her hand.
She was going to strike at close range.
The sound of the air being roasted reverberated through the area.
“Oh? So you can still defend against it from this close? My, my. And even when I use it so many times in a row. My, my, my.”
Lightning flashed again and again.
And even while collapsed on the ground, Kamijou swung his right hand to negate the lights as they fell towards him one after another. If even one made it through, his body would be blown to pieces.
“Hm? So you can remove the Pashupata within you simply by pressing your hand against your body? What a convenient right hand. Convenient, but it seems you need the right hand to do it. In that case…”
Kamijou immediately rolled to the side.
In the next moment, Ureapaddy dropped another Trishula. But not at Kamijou who was at her feet. She had intentionally missed. The asphalt melted from the high heat so that the boy would be enveloped by that black bog.
He just barely avoided being fried.
Intense pain ran through Kamijou’s upper arm where a few drops of the black liquid landed, but he did not have time to worry about it. After gaining a bit of distance, he shot to his feet.
Ureapaddy held nothing in her hand and yet a heavy weight as if from an axe could be seen weighing it down.
She lightly swung it horizontally.
With a tremendous noise, the melted asphalt at Ureapaddy’s feet was sliced in two.
Ureapaddy slowly walked through the path she had created.
“It may seem I use so many Astras because I enjoy novel and destructive techniques.” Her hands nocked another of the bluish transparent arrows of the Gandiva spell. “However, I use so many techniques to ensure reliability. And so I will repeat the same methods as many times as it takes. I will repeat the attacks I have proven to be effective.”
Kamijou did not have time to say anything.
Ureapaddy whispered name after name.
She sealed off his path of escape, forced him to use his right hand to defend against an attack that would otherwise kill him, and then used the interception spell while he was stopped to eat into his bones. Her means of attack was almost exactly the same as before. But he could not overcome it. Before Kamijou’s body could fall to the ground due to the intense pain torturing his entire body, Ureapaddy reached out a hand to grab his neck.
“Oh, right. You negated Pashupata with your right hand, didn’t you? Could you prove to me that is all you can do? Once you do, I will have the certainty I need. Certainty that I can wear you down and defeat you by repeating this enough times.”
“Is that so…dammit!!”
“Now, now. Don’t force yourself. Choosing a different path when you have no cards left in your hand will only bring you to a stalemate faster. I changed the details, but your response was the same. If the range of attacks you can handle with that right hand is fairly wide, then it should be difficult for you to escape from the rails I have prepared.”
She tossed Kamijou to the asphalt as easily as tossing an empty can away.
And the next attacks came.
The pain spread. His weariness grew. And as it did, Kamijou lost his calm and his thoughts grew simpler and simpler. If he could not even overcome that set procedure, the Trishula and Parashu Astras would smash him to pieces.
“That should do it. Now that we have seen each other’s abilities, all that remains is to bring this to the end we can both already see coming. So let us end this. If you have any last words, you should speak them now.”
“If not, that is fine too.” Ureapaddy grinned as her long silver hair blew in the wind. “This was a meaningless sacrifice, but it will make you the foundation for the change created by Brahma Astra. I suppose I can remember you as playing that role.”
She did not hesitate.
A tremendous sound of destruction reverberated throughout District 23.
The Astra named Parashu’s primary characteristic was simply how sharp it was. In legends, it was known to have beheaded many an enemy.
Naturally, it could easily remove the head of a flesh-and-blood human.
Ureapaddy created a stable cycle of attacks made up of several methods in order to build up pain and exhaustion that would rob the enemy of their ability to think. Once they were driven too far to accomplish even simple tasks, she would let loose a definite attack which would take their life before they could evade or defend.
It was quite simple.
It was the job of an expert to construct methods to make difficult things simple.
Or so it should have been.
Kamijou Touma did not even try to use his right hand.
He avoided the deadly Parashu by twisting his upper body just barely out of the way.
Ureapaddy was a bit confused by this change in the pattern of his actions. He had evaded rather than defended. It sounded simple enough in words, but her magic could slice his body in two if it even just barely touched him. When faced with that sort of magic and when he had a perfectly effective shield, choosing to not use that defense would have been a difficult decision.
And Ureapaddy had cornered him, exhausted him, and robbed him of his ability to think so that he would not be able to make such a decision.
With only the level of thoughts that were welling up within the boy named Kamijou Touma, it would have been hard for him to take that action that strayed from the previous path.
So where had the thought come from?
“The one who wields Pinaka. That is one of the many alternative names for the god Shiva. That is an Astra that holds such great meaning and yet its actual form is not known for sure. …Or you could say it can fit in the space provided for it no matter what its form.”
That was correct.
He was correct.
But the situation had not been one which would lead the boy to the correct answer.
“Wait. Wait a second. What is going on here? Where did it go wrong!? It is true you have made it this far, but I do not detect the hint of magic from you!! So…how?”
She fired Gandiva.
Several arrows of light rained down from the heavens to stop the boy’s movements by sealing off his expected escape routes.
But the boy was not stopped.
He continued forward regardless.
The cycle had been broken.
The situation had left its set rails.
“Nataraja. The lord of dance is another name for Shiva. You can use various spells by expressing them in the form of dance. That is the true form of your Astra. Even if you appear to be still and even if your arms and legs are motionless, you always dance when you use your magic. You can still dance. After all…”
He was supposedly an amateur when it came to magic.
Ureapaddy did not know the details, but he was supposedly just some person who had ended up mixed into the world of experts.
Even without knowing the specifics, she could tell just by looking at the way he stood.
“After all, the gods of Hindu mythology do not necessarily have just two arms and two legs. Gods with a whole lot of eyes or arms aren’t too unusual. You modeled your spells off of that, so there is no real reason for you to always have two arms or two legs. For example…”
He knew too much.
He had fully analyzed it.
It was as if a god had whispered the answers in his ear.
How was an amateur boy supposed to see through that specialized spell designed to deceive expert magicians? For one thing, he did not have the knowledge necessary to solve it. How could someone solve a math problem without knowing the formulas involved? How would they figure anything out?
“That long hair. You have a magic dancing arm hidden in there. That is your spiritual item known as Pinaka and it is the single point that controls all of your Astras!!”
She had a reason for hiding it.
Ureapaddy controlled her various Astras in the form of dance, so if one could see the dance, one could possibly see through the type, target, and timing of the coming attack.
And so she hid it.
Hid it in her hair.
Now that he knew the location of her Pinaka, could that boy foresee Ureapaddy’s attacks and evade them?
It was simple enough to say.
“You can’t do it,” muttered Ureapaddy. Her voice eventually grew to a shout based in confusion. “Even if you know where my Pinaka is and even if you can directly observe my dance! Only another expert magician can interpret what spell I am going to use and how!! So…how? How!? How was an amateur like you able to comprehend my spell to such a concrete level!?”
“…Isn’t it obvious?”
The boy named Kamijou Touma forced his body to move despite the pain and weariness and raised his right fist.
“This wasn’t just my own power. I obviously had help!!”
After hearing that, Ureapaddy finally caught on.
She looked around and spotted a flashing light in the distance. It was blinking at a regular interval; it obviously held some meaning. It was a code that allowed communication based on the length of the flashes.
And she recognized the light.
It was the incomplete Astra that her younger sister had forcibly used despite the burden it put on her body.
It was the base form of Agni’s Festival Fire, the Agni Astra.
On one hand, the Astra could be used offensively to destroy the enemies of the god with tremendous lightning and flames. On the other hand, the god that held the Astra held the characteristic of light that possessed symbolic meaning…that is, the festival fire.
And that light had given Kamijou Touma the magical knowledge he lacked.
“There is no way she could. She could not even use the large scale Agni’s Festival fire prepared by the cabal. So if she tried to use Agni Astra with no alterations or support…”
“Then what is that over there?” asked Kamijou quietly. And then he gave the answer. “Even when it did not produce the results she wanted, she did not give up on it. And she found a way to use Agni Astra in a new way. I can’t speak on the more difficult issues like the concepts of absolute good or evil, but I prefer the direction she takes things. Instead of sweeping everything away with overwhelming violence, she supports her allies.”
Ureapaddy had been so focused on the enemy before her eyes that she had forgotten about that possibility.
She had assumed he had made it all that way on his own.
But she was wrong.
“Stiyl drew Anti-Skill away while the rest of us headed here. I confronted you directly while Index viewed you from afar to analyze what exactly you were doing. And then Sozty got that answer to me.”
If she had known about the analysis team, crushing them first would have made the most sense.
But she had not thought her methods would be revealed.
It was a simple division of roles.
Ureapaddy’s smile froze on her face.
The look in her eyes silently yet surely changed as she spoke her sister’s name.
“That was your reason, wasn’t it?”
The boy’s words seemed to cut off the flow of events up to that moment.
But he did not see it that way.
To him, this was more important than her methods or a means of defeating her. This may have been the question he wanted answered the most.
“You could never get that look in your eyes for a complete stranger you do not care about. If the magic cabal had continued as it was, the other members might have taken part in projects similar to or even worse than the one you experienced. If the conflict between science and magic intensified, everyone you knew might have been thrown into a hopeless war. And so you tried to stop it. Using every means at your disposal.”
“I am not trying to say that thinking is wrong in and of itself. But this is meaningless. If you use Debris Storm to scatter Brahma Astra across the world, it will affect the very person you are trying to protect! You are making an enemy of the world to protect that person, so why would you destroy her with your own hands!?”
“Wait. You’re not making sense. That is not my goal. She has worked to keep me from achieving my goal, she has opposed me, and she has come to fight me to the death.”
“Where did you go wrong?” asked the boy with the expression of someone who had bitten into something bitter. “Was it when you decided to attack Academy City? Was it when you decided to carry out that surprise attack on your fellow magicians? Was it when you decided to attack both science and magic with Brahma Astra? …Was it when you realized you had to do this to protect your sister? Was it when you could not bear to take so many lives to save just a single life? Was it when you decided you wanted to protect your family nevertheless?”
That was why she had changed what she was weighing on the scales.
She was no longer weighing her sister’s life against the many lives that Brahma Astra would take.
She was now weighing the many who belonged to science and magic against the comparatively few whose lives would be taken by Brahma Astra.
“But that changes nothing.”
“You were going to sacrifice everything to save just one life, so it does not really matter whether it was comparatively large or small!!”
“No, that makes no sense. It isn’t logical. I simply want to save the world! I will bring an end to this pointless arms race between magic and science. That is all I want. There is nothing more that-…!!”
“The anger you felt towards your sister was not because she had stood in the way of your plan!!”
That boy walked directly towards Ureapaddy.
Parashu, Gandiva, Trishula, Pashupata. She fired Astra after Astra, but nothing could stop Kamijou anymore.
His courage and the support of those he called his comrades cut open a path for him.
“It was because the one you wanted to protect more than anything else had put herself in a position where she would be blown away by Brahma Astra!! It was because you would now need to hurt her with your own hands!! Am I wrong? If you were simply angry, you would have turned that anger towards me. But you turned it toward Sozty who is so far away instead of me, the enemy right in front of you. That means your anger had some other reason behind it!! Am I wrong, Ureapaddy Exica!?”
His right hand reached out.
It reached out to rob her of the spiritual item hidden in her long silver hair.
“Let’s end this. You do not need a tool of killing! There must have been some better option!!”
She was unable to avoid it.
Or perhaps she had not wished to avoid it.
As if tearing it off, the boy’s right hand destroyed the thin, doll-like arm hidden in her hair.
An instant passed.
But it was not all over.
Gandiva, Trishula, and the other Astras controlled by the Pinaka spiritual item had been nothing more than sub-Astras meant to protect her primary one.
That was her greatest Astra…her greatest spiritual item. Its purity was much higher than all of her others.
“This really should not surprise you. Unlike my other Astras, Brahma Astra is related to the god Brahma. And while Sozty and the others could use Gandiva or Parashu, only I can use Brahma Astra. Did you not realize it is a completely different type of Astra? I can use it with or without Pinaka.”
The brown woman held a giant bow made of gold in her hand.
Unlike the Shiva-related ones from before, this weapon was related to the god Brahma.
It was the ultimate Astra in a certain magic cabal.
“No, that isn’t what I meant!! Why are you wielding it!? If you continue what you started here, you will destroy everything that you wanted to protect!!”
“Now then.” Ureapaddy Exica smiled thinly. “In the end, what was my goal? I still wish to protect the world. However, I also understand that doing so would require wiping out something else. But…”
“But I can no longer stop it.”
Even if she knew she had gone wrong at some point, she could not change the path she was walking on. Her stable experience and her many past successes made her reject the idea of switching the rails of her plan over to some unknown direction. All of those past experiences pushed her onwards. Even if it required bending the truth a bit, they insisted she continue on.
That was an illusion.
Her actions would be completely meaningless, but that illusion gave them value.
“Boy, I never asked your name.”
The stars became visible.
But these were no normal stars. The black sky was filled with unnatural lights that one would never see on any armillary sphere or in any planetarium.
They were false shooting stars created from manmade objects. And they poured down.
The time limit set by Debris Storm had come. That violent light met the usage requirements for Brahma Astra and expanded its effects endlessly.
“Boy, what is your name?”
“…Kamijou Touma. Why?”
Ureapaddy Exica looked up into the sky.
A hint of loneliness could be seen in her eyes as they watched the unnatural deluge of light that she had created.
“Then, Kamijou Touma. I cannot stop Brahma Astra on my own. Make sure you understand that.”
She drew back the bowstring.
She had not nocked an arrow and yet a golden arrow appeared at some point.
When she let it fly, the world would end.
That was how much destructive power it held.
“And, Kamijou Touma. As the victor, you must end this with your own hand.”
When he heard those words, Kamijou Touma quietly smiled.
And he replied.
“Bring it on. I’ll smash every last bit of that illusion of yours to pieces!!”
She changed her target.
The arrows of the gods that should have attacked every important point in the world were focused on a single point within District 23 of Japan’s Academy City.
The storm of arrows raining down from heaven almost looked like a tornado.
What that boy did in the end was incredibly, incredibly simple.
He stood tall on his two legs and held his right hand up towards heaven.
With a tremendous flash of light, the final round of offense and defense began.
And so at the very least, the world did not come to an end, Academy City was not destroyed, and Kamijou Touma was not dead.
The busiest person after the fact seemed to be Stiyl Magnus, but Kamijou could not even guess what was going on behind the scenes.
Ureapaddy Exica had disappeared.
That was what had happened.
Due to the damage he had taken in the battle and the exhaustion from his final showdown receiving the full brunt of the Brahma Astra attack that should have assaulted the entire world, Kamijou Touma had allowed Ureapaddy to escape. Due to the security confusion and the interference of Anti-Skill, Stiyl and the others had been unable to pursue her.
And so the two sisters had apparently safely escaped.
The world was sturdier than one might think.
Despite that great event, it continued on like normal with nothing having been destroyed. In fact, the existence of the space elevator in District 23 had been made public. It was still officially said to be “under construction”, but the higher ups of Academy City must have deemed it at a stage where it could not be stopped.
The problem regarding Ureapaddy Exica had been resolved, but the danger of the space elevator remained.
How much chaos would be caused if it was used militarily or for something beyond even that?
The Venus Probe Contest had actually been a front for the elevator’s construction, and yet large numbers of rockets were still being launched into space. It was possible they were hiding some goal other than the construction of the space elevator.
“Touma.” Index called out the boy’s name. “You’ve been staring at that elevator a lot lately. Did something happen?”
“No,” said Kamijou in reply. “But if something does, I’ll destroy it too.”
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