Volume 3, Stage 02: The Scheming and True Beginning of the Girl’s Backdoor
“But if I’m going to do any work, I need to be given a super-sized reward first.”
“Yes, yes. Would this almond jelly be suffic…”
(Stage 02 Open 05/23 14:00)
The Scheming and True Beginning of the Girl’s Backdoor
Toy Dream 35 was divided into twenty-six blocks shaped like pizza slices. Block A was known as the main entrance due to the international airport and the duty free shops surrounding it.
Perhaps because the giant amusement park city had been constructed by a monster of a foreign company, the area was plenty crowded even midday on weekdays. There were businessmen in suits, parents with children holding balloons, two lines of uniformed students out on some kind of school activity, and even a mascot in a full-body costume saying “gozaru, gozaru”. Countless nationalities, races, and religions were all mixed together. They all wore colorful outfits, but that was due to the Delayed Walpurgis costume event more than due to foreign fashion.
That may have been why one pair blended into the otherworldly background even though they should have been a walking landmark.
One of them was a girl of middle school age wearing hot pants and a short-sleeved shirt over a long-sleeved shirt, both of which left her midriff exposed. On her feet and legs, she wore black knee socks and sneakers. Her semi-long hair was dyed brown and a somehow lively light filled her eyes. She wore a thin chain around her neck, so some sort of accessory was probably hidden at her chest.
The other was a college-aged woman. She had a sharp shaggy hairstyle and her straight long hair was dyed pink. She wore a miniskirt waitress uniform colored white and pink. The headdress, gloves, and knee socks were decorated with elegant white lace. The corset around her waist and the suspenders for her skirt accentuated her already large breasts. For accessories, she wore a pair of horns on the sides of her head and a something like a tail on the back of her waist, but it made one think of something other than a cow.
It made her look like a demon.
What she held in her hand did not look like a bag containing clothing and everyday necessities. It looked more like a silver pipe folded in two, wrapped with a red leather belt, and given a handle near the middle.
The brown-haired girl glanced around with that woman by her side.
And she spoke.
“Biondetta, something isn’t right.”
“Yes, everything is running more smoothly than expected. If the Girl’s Backdoors we spread around in advance were causing trouble, the airport’s security level should have been increased.”
“So was that plan a dud?”
“I seriously doubt every last person was too afraid to use a gadget that stimulates one’s ‘desires’ so much, ma’am. That leaves only one possibility.”
“It worked, but someone already hunted them down, huh?”
The girl crossed her arms and rubbed her chin as she spoke under her breath.
She wore some sort of black leather glove on her left hand.
“But we made sure to choose people with no social connections and as little in common as possible. How could someone figure out who to suspect, find their location, and deal with them before it led to a commotion?”
“Ma’am, I suspect whoever it was predicted the algorithm rather than searching out their location.”
“You’ll need to explain it better than that.”
“It is true we worked to choose people as randomly as possible to make sure they could not all be defeated one after another. But some points in common were unavoidable.”
The demonic waitress raised her index finger.
“In other words, it had to be someone who would want to do awful things if they were given supernatural power. It had to be a weak-willed person whose rationality and conscience could not hold back their desires once they were given even slight power. That will naturally lead to similarities in their behavior.”
“So after capturing the first one, they used that one to create a flowchart?” The girl spat out the words. “Biondetta, the original plan was for me to use the tenth Girl’s Backdoor to slip into Toy Dream 35 while the other nine threw the city into chaos. Then I was to quickly achieve my objective.”
“Yes, but I don’t see a paradise of naked girls awaiting orders as far as the eye can see, so we need to assume we will not receive the benefit of that disturbance tactic, ma’am.”
“What do we do now?”
“Yes, what do we do? How about we abort the mission and turn right back around?”
The girl pulled on the chain around her neck and produced the accessory that was the size of a large coin.
She snapped open the cover, looked at the photo inside, and then closed it once more.
She had made up her mind.
She had already been prepared to burn down the world and commit any hypocrisy if it meant achieving her objective.
“In that case, we’ll just have to keep going without everything we’d hoped for. Biondetta, keep in mind this could come down to a war of attrition. We must eliminate every last one of those Anthills and the people sucking up the sweet nectar they produce.”
The two of them continued speaking as they walked through the airport.
Summoners and vessels were abnormal individuals who would be entirely forgotten once they left a normal person’s field of vision. But they could not escape people’s eyes that easily in a crowded international airport.
So of course, the young woman in charge noticed when the two of them tried to slip past the border control gate.
“U-um, excuse me! Uh, please get in line and wait your…”
The girl ignored her and moved the black leather glove on her left hand. She placed her thumb and forefinger at a right angle as a handgun gesture and aimed the pointer finger forward.
Simply glaring at her target had immediate effects.
Several red threads that only she could see shot out. The ends of the threads contained thick phantom blades with a four-on-top, one-on-bottom structure. They resembled bear traps or a human hand and they tore into the airport workers arms, legs, and torso one after another.
Only the victim and the assailant could hear the series of painful sounds. And the airport worker was not allowed to speak a word despite the intense pain she felt.
“Get lost, amateur,” spat out the girl.
After what sounded like arms and legs folding up, the female worker forcefully turned around like a poorly-controlled marionette. She then took off running in a straight line without stopping.
The demon known as Biondetta gave an exasperated suggestion.
“Did you remember to specify ‘how far’ she is supposed to go, ma’am? I don’t think you had enough time to put together a proper flow.”
“I don’t know and I don’t care. This isn’t a problem with the specs of the Girl’s Backdoor you gave me.” The girl with semi-long hair spat out the words as she passed right through the gate that had lost its guard. “Biondetta, recite our regulations.”
“Yes, ma’am. I, Biondetta, have bound a contract to assist my client, Murasame Kuina-sama. The contract lasts until your objective has been achieved and we will use any means necessary. You will pay for the necessary expenses such as weapons and ammunition and I will bear the responsibility for any deaths or injuries. And, if deemed necessary to achieve your objective, we will immediately attack anyone related or unrelated to the matter at hand.”
“Okay,” said the girl named Murasame Kuina.
Reciting the regulations may have acted as a switch for her.
“Good. We’ll be assuming the decoy Girl’s Backdoors had no effect, but that doesn’t change what we must do. Our target is Government and we’ll start crushing the locations we already know. For the locations we don’t know, we can check through the data we find in the rubble afterwards or use the Girl’s Backdoor to draw the data out of people. Do you understand the plan for the moment?”
However, Biondetta did not respond.
But not because she was being rude to her vessel and client.
Before she could respond, another voice cut in from the side.
“Hey, you! What do you think you’re doing!?”
Hearing a deep voice, the small girl started to form a handgun gesture with the hand in the leather glove, but she stopped partway through.
The guard who approached was a middle-aged man.
Murasame Kuina released the half-made gesture, waved her opened hand, and spoke to the demon next to her.
As soon as the woman answered, she released the “luggage” she carried. The red leather belt came apart and the folded silver pipe became a single long rod engraved with an ivy pattern. While listening to the latch click into place, the demon’s slender fingers stroked smoothly across its side.
This was a Blood-Sign.
It was the symbol of the summoners who used even the gods of legend as a stepping stone to reach their goals. Biondetta smiled thinly as she spun it around and pointed it at the confused guard.
“If we could only have escaped your field of vision or controlled you with Girl’s Backdoor, we could have settled this peacefully.”
A thud followed her words.
Something had fallen to the ground from between the demon’s legs and up her short skirt.
It was a black sphere less than five centimeters across.
Was the poor victim even aware it was an Incense Grenade with the pin pulled?
An incredible tremor shook the entire airport.
The gods may have been rooting for those who lived honest lives, but summoners could move beyond the Divine-class.
Shiroyama Kyousuke sat on the roof of an office building among the high-rise buildings of R Block. One end of his Blood-Sign was sticking off the building, the railing acted as a fulcrum, and he sat on the other end.
He held his smartphone in one hand.
“This is the ninth one. Aika, do you think there might be more Girl’s Backdoors out there?”
Short, panicked breaths interrupted his conversation.
He glanced into the air beyond the railing and saw a young man in a janitor’s uniform dangling down from the Blood-Sign’s tip caught on the back of his collar.
Just like with a seesaw, Kyousuke could not sit on the Blood-Sign without that.
The Government middleman spoke quietly over the phone.
“They were probably just expendable decoys, so they wouldn’t have received any accurate data from the real culprit. But based on the confessions we’ve gathered from the captured Girl’s Backdoor users, a total of nine seems likely.”
Isabelle wore a red military uniform with a tight skirt and several black belts and she leaned over the railing to reach toward the janitor man without worrying about the view it gave Kyousuke of her small butt. However, she was not attempting to save the dangling man.
“Good, good. I just super-sized retrieved the Girl’s Backdoor from his left hand.”
“Then do you even need him anymore?” asked Aika.
At that moment, Kyousuke got up from the Blood-Sign seesaw.
The Blood-Sign seemed to rotate more than tilt as it quickly swung around. Just before the nearly vertical object actually fell, Kyousuke grabbed it in one hand.
At the same time, the janitor man vanished from the world while trying to shout some kind of excuse. The Doppler Effect transformed his scream as it grew more distant and it was finally punctuated with a splash of water far below.
“Whatever the case, it’s lucky we managed to stop them before they actually did anything.”
“I would expect nothing less of my Onii-chan.”
“I’m not commenting on that anymore. Anyway, how did you get them to talk after we beat them up, threw them on the side of the road with zombie makeup on, and let an ambulance pick them up? Did you drag them into a garage lined with plastic sheets and use a raincoat and vegetable grater combo?”
“Please, we’re not that hunk of fat from Illegal. The great Government would never do anything so uncivilized. Torture is a war crime banned by international treaties.”
“But I doubt those scumbags would just tell you the truth.”
“All we did was invite them to a royal suite room in the Princess Gate Hotel. They’re probably ordering champagne in the finest of rooms right about now.”
“Hm? Wait. Don’t tell me…”
“But the way the world at large sees things, the rooms are listed under those scumbags’ names. …So what will they think when they see the bill? The room alone is about 500,000 yen a night and the food and other services cost extra, so their debt will balloon out of control real fast. And they can’t solve this just by leaving the room. They will find that they are strangely unable to checkout no matter how much they complain at the front desk. …Not until they have Government’s permission anyway.”
You people are the worst, thought Kyousuke while sympathizing with the enemy.
It was a lot like sneaking into someone’s house while they were on an overseas trip, removing the phone from the hook, and leaving it connected to an automated premium rate information service. No obvious torture was needed to apply pressure to someone. With the proper preparations, making them feel like they were wasting precious time worked just fine. The balloon known as their heart would be filled to the limit in no time.
This would only look like they were treating someone to a top quality room, so Government was frightening in a pure sort of way.
Isabelle toyed with the Girl’s Backdoor leather glove in her hand.
“Nuuun (deadpan). What should we do with this?”
“If we throw it in a train station coin locker, the world police at Government will retrieve it. It isn’t very exciting, but that’s their job.”
At that point, Aika said something more over the phone.
“Onii-chan, we just got in some new information.”
“Someone’s started a Material battle in A Block’s international airport. At the very least, it isn’t a summoner and vessel pair registered with Government.”
“Is it related to the issue we’re dealing with?”
“There was some evidence suggesting a Girl’s Backdoor was used just before the Artificial Sacred Ground appeared.”
Kyousuke thought for a moment and then honestly spoke his question.
“This time I can’t see the algorithm. I can’t imagine where they’ll go next.”
“Then could this be the real culprit who was distributing them to the scumbags?”
“That I can’t say. Can you at least track them for us?”
“Summoners and vessels vanish from all cameras and sensors while using an Incense Grenade.”
“Follow the gazes of the normal people around there. Even if you can’t see them on the cameras, the people will be focusing on some spot for no apparent reason. That’s where the summoner and vessel will be. Follow that line and you’ll have their route.”
Even as he gave instructions, Kyousuke knew they were playing catchup here.
They did not have enough information. He could not predict what their opponent was thinking. They could never catch up if all they did was chase after whoever this was.
What did he need to fill that gap?
How could he catch up?
It could be a school, a hospital, a prison, a sports gym, a prep school, a hotel, a cruise ship, a military base, a police station, a fire station, a company, a space station, a largescale farm, or anything else.
It just had to have more than a certain number of people being managed as a group as well as a “framework” that hid them from the outside world to a certain extent.
Murasame Kuina, the girl served by Waitress Demon Biondetta, was after the Anthills, but they had not been informed about every single one. So their plan was to attack the one they knew about and gather information on any unknown Anthills from there. If that was not enough, they would control people with Girl’s Backdoor and contact someone who knew the answer.
It was like a computer virus.
By repeatedly destroying and infecting, they would start at a single point and spread throughout the system.
Thus, they started by bringing down the Anthill in D Block that they knew about.
It took the form of a live music club.
When they were still walking along the giant bridge outside the highly soundproofed building, the girl with semi-long brown hair was already whispering to the demon next to her.
They must have used an “under construction” sign or information on their website because the crowed vanished from the bridge. Then someone slowly stepped out from the building in question.
It was an unattractive middle-aged man in a ratty old suit and a slender girl in a dress with an extremely girly design.
The man asked a question while pulling a similarly faded hat deep over his eyes.
“I assume you two are Freedom Award 920, Liar Cat. We heard you caused some trouble down at A Block’s airport.”
Instead of answering, the brown-haired girl looked to the demon next to her.
“Yes, ma’am. I believe this is Government Award 809, Scorpion 11.”
“Then should it be an easy victory?”
“Why of course. However, this summoner has something of a legendary jinx. He is constantly taking on opponents he should not be able to defeat and yet he always survives until the end.”
“It doesn’t matter. Biondetta, win this for me.”
The man in the ratty old suit let out a gentle sigh.
“I can’t believe this.”
With those words, several solid sounds surrounded the brown-haired girl and the waitress demon. There were ten in all. The sources of the sounds came from all directions, including up and down. Instead of just standing on the giant bridge, they also clung to the building walls and the bottom of the bridge passing by overhead.
These were Government Repliglass soldiers.
By wearing external armor made from silicon stem cells, these next generation soldiers took the form of other animals and plants while enhancing or interpreting their traits and abilities.
Specifically, these were Snails. They wore giant round backpacks and their legs were enveloped by a sticky material that allowed them to cling to walls and ceilings. The backpacks contained high-pressure water sprayers that took in powder from the building materials (such as concrete or steel) worn down by the leg units and produced enough destructive power to instantly slice through twenty centimeters of steel from a distance of fifteen hundred meters.
This many of them this close would be fatal.
The targets could not escape on foot and would be sliced in two along with the wall if they hid behind cover.
“Sorry, but this is how Government does things.”
“Exactly the disgusting methods I would expect from an Anthill.”
“We get that a lot. But this is the optimal answer,” said Scorpion 11 without a hint of emotion in his voice. “We don’t bother looking worthless wannabe villains in the eye. The protective circle protects the summoner and the Material protects the vessel during battle, but without setting up an Artificial Sacred Ground, you’re nothing but flesh and blood. Even if you pull out an Incense Grenade now, we can kill you twenty times over before you pull the pin. That keeps me from earning many Awards, so it is a bit of a problem.”
“I don’t really care either way, but the higher ups want to hear what you have to say. But since I don’t care, that gets a pretty low priority from me. Will you surrender, or will you die? It’s your choice.”
The waitress demon jokingly raised her hands a little and laughed cruelly.
“What’s so funny?”
“Oh, nothing much.” Biondetta moved her lips while relaxing her shoulders. “It’s just that our nemesis has already overlooked three things he can’t afford to overlook and that is hopelessly funny.”
Scorpion 11 narrowed his eyes a little.
The surrounding Snails produced quiet creaking noises from the nozzles of the high pressure water sprayers that could slice through steel panels like butter.
The demon ignored it all as she spoke.
“First, you gave a warning before firing. Then again, that’s probably a unique Government trait since you like to call yourselves the world police and you probably wanted to take us alive and do a background investigation to put your minds at ease.”
There was no tension in her voice.
It was like the hand of a clock slowly turning.
“Second, an Artificial Sacred Ground can only be set up if we can see our target with the naked eye when the Incense Grenade detonates. If you were going to stand in front of a summoner, you should have at least used a smoke or stun grenade.”
Or perhaps this was another act.
It was all to let Murasame Kuina, the client who had bound a contract with that demon, comfortably achieve her goal.
“Third, you let your pride get the better of you when you don’t even know what kind of Incense Grenade I use. You don’t know the size, the shape, the chemicals used, how I use it, or anything at all.”
The waitress demon spread her legs wider than her shoulders.
With a metallic thunk, a sphere one size smaller than a baseball fell from her miniskirt and onto the bridge.
Scorpion 11 reacted by pulling his hat even deeper over his eyes.
And he spoke.
That settled everything.
Incense Grenades came in a variety of types, but most detonated at an average of three to five seconds after pulling the pin. And without setting up an Artificial Sacred Ground, the summoner and vessel were helpless. If the Snails released their high-pressure water attacks from a total of twenty different directions, their bodies would be torn to pieces before the detonation.
So this would end it.
On their signal, the Snails did not hesitate to release the great power built up in the tanks on their backs. With the assistance of pressurized air, the thin, thin layer of concrete and steel carved away by the foot units was turned to a powder, mixed with the water, and given the effect of a file using ultra high speeds. The end result was much like multiple simultaneous laser-like sniper shots.
But just beforehand…
The demon laughed.
A quiet clicking sound came from Biondetta’s mouth as if she had ignited an electric lighter there. Did anyone there realize that was the sound of her biting the switch for which she had swapped out one of her back teeth?
At the same time, the demon and the client girl were tugged backwards as if by an invisible elastic cord. Due to the extreme accuracy of the high pressure water attacks from twenty directions, the two of them completely escaped by vanishing from those coordinates so suddenly.
To set up an Artificial Sacred Ground, the Incense Grenade had to detonate while the target was in view.
When the Artificial Sacred Ground opened, the summoner and vessel were automatically moved to its center.
But it was not necessary for the summoner to be holding the Incense Grenade when it detonated. It was just as effective from a distance.
(Before approaching, they must have set up an Incense Grenade with a wireless detonator instead of a timed one. Then they showed themselves and dropped a decoy right in front of us. As long as she could see us with the naked eye, nothing else mattered. By manipulating our aim, she can begin the Summoning Ceremony battle in a more advantageous position.)
As he thought to himself, Scorpion 11 pulled out an old match and scraped it against the bridge’s railing. What looked like a sharp spear of fire followed the movement of his arm and then he held a Blood-Sign made of ultra-hard black charcoal that resembled diamond.
“Ayaka, get ready.”
Their opponent was clinging to the wall of a building more than thirty meters away.
The waitress demon undid the belt and connected the two pieces of her Blood-Sign.
Since Artificial Sacred Grounds were twenty meter cubes on average, it might seem that they were out of range, but that was not the case. Even if the Material itself could not leave the Artificial Sacred Ground, projectiles could do damage outside of there. In other words, Scorpion 11 could leave them be and let the Snails deal with it.
Or so he thought.
But then he heard an ear-splitting gunshot.
Biondetta’s tail decoration had been swaying as she raised her Blood-Sign. But she was not holding it like a summoner would. She pressed the bottom against her shoulder, placed her gaze along the side of the long rod to aim, and prepared her finger to flick a clasp that stuck out somewhat. It looked a lot like someone aiming a sniper rifle.
Scorpion 11 saw a smile.
The waitress demon was targeting his vessel Ayaka instead of him. Did she think she could crush the girl’s human body before the Material could be summoned inside it?
The rifle bullet did not pierce the young girl’s face.
An extended high-pitched vibration shook the air. Scorpion 11 had held his Blood-Sign in front of the girl’s eyes to slightly divert the bullet’s path.
Before a few severed hairs could fall from the girl’s head, both summoners began to move.
The Liar Cat waitress demon attached a cork-like part to the tip of her Blood-Sign and the unattractive Scorpion 11 man pulled a cylindrical Incense Grenade from his suit pocket, pulled the pin, and threw it toward the summoner and vessel attached to the wall.
When it detonated, the Scorpion 11 pair was also freed from gravity, flew through the air, and attached to the building wall. They had intruded on their opponent’s Artificial Sacred Ground.
Just like during a Chain state, anyone could enter an Artificial Sacred Ground with no enemy inside.
They were more than ten meters apart.
They glared at each other as the three-dimensional Rose appeared between them.
Scorpion 11 held his hat low over his eyes while speaking in a low tone.
“I’ll kill you.”
“That was my intention from the beginning.”
They both hit White Thorns straight forward. The Rose shattered into Petals of low, middle, high, and lowest sound ranges and ricocheted all over the Artificial Sacred Ground. A few of them were knocked into the dark fist-sized holes known as Spots.
Liar Cat had the Original Yellow(s). Sound Range: High. Cost: 1.
Scorpion 11 had the Original Red(b). Sound Range: Low. Cost: 1.
Both Materials were three meter masses of slime.
(I have the advantage in the three-way deadlock. That means she’ll try to change sound ra…)
Scorpion 11 quickly got to thinking, but his mind soon went blank.
The waitress demon specialized in spin shots that sharply struck her White Thorns on the edges instead of the center. They flew along even sharper curves than a curveball in baseball. They moved almost like a boomerang as they slipped past any Petals in the way and accurately knocked just the desired Petals into the Spots.
That was enough of a threat on its own, but it was not the most frightening thing about Biondetta.
Scorpion 11: Original Red (b). Sound Range: Low. Cost: 1.
Liar Cat: Demonic Corpse (wm). Sound Range: Low. Cost: 2.
Scorpion 11: Devouring Wings (lvz - fd). Sound Range: Middle. Cost: 5.
Liar Cat: Bound Armor (re - ia - dr). Sound Range: Middle. Cost 6.
Scorpion 11: Predatory Fire (lvz - wzb). Sound Range: High. Cost: 6.
Liar Cat: Celestial Blade (tix - a - wuh). Sound Range: High. Cost: 7.
One side had a flying monster that looked like an enraged skull contained within a giant flame.
The other side had a giant double-edged Western sword that sliced through the air as it flew around on its own.
But as each Material changed to another too fast to visually keep up, the unattractive Scorpion 11 man clenched his teeth.
He knew what his opponent was trying to do.
A mocking smile appeared on the waitress demon’s lips as she swung around her Blood-Sign that doubled as a sniper rifle.
“Oh, dear. Is something the matter?”
“You’re intentionally matching my sound range. And you’re always staying one cost above me!”
“Yes. There’s no need to even think about that three-way stalemate if I just follow your lead. If the sound ranges are the same, the one with the higher cost will naturally win. Plus, the Material summoned first is worn down quicker.”
The corners of Biondetta’s lips rose like melted cheese.
“In other words, whoever goes second has the advantage using the Blood-Sign Summoning Ceremony.”
Her method of fighting utterly abandoned all thought and effort.
Her heretical method simply looked at her opponent’s Material, matched the sound range, and easily tore victory from their grasp.
“Did you really think you could defeat me like that?”
A White Thorn audibly collided with a Petal.
Scorpion 11 specialized in forceful power shots.
“The Blood-Sign method is more than playing your hands and seeing whose is better. It’s a fight for the Petals scattered around the sacred ground. In theory, you might be able to corner me by constantly matching my sound range, but it won’t work that well in practice. The Petals aren’t arranged in a perfect mirror image, so you’ll eventually run out of resources if you keep mimicking me!!”
He simply had to preemptively take away the Petals she would need.
He simply had to eliminate them.
That way she would lack the Petals needed to mimic him.
And if he continued to build up his Material while she ran back and forth in pursuit of the Petals, he could increase his cost enough to defeat Liar Cat without much trouble.
“The Blood-Sign method isn’t that simple.”
Scorpion 11 belatedly realized the blood was rushing to his head.
He may have had a fair bit of pride in his Government job even though he had viewed it as a mere bureaucratic position.
“You lost because you didn’t understand that.”
He heard a giggle.
The laughter had come from the waitress demon named Biondetta.
And she spoke.
“Did you think this was all I had?”
Only five seconds later, a great noise rang out and Scorpion 11 was defeated.
C Block was a cheap Chinatown much like a movie set. But that may have been unavoidable since it had been built as an attraction or theme park based on Western ideas of China rather than appearing naturally like a normal Chinatown.
To match the color of the block, most of the costumes were based on Chinese entertainment. There was even a shirtless kung fu man and a Jiangshi girl who had gone all out and painted all of her skin blue. Shiroyama Kyousuke and Isabelle had arrived at a caiguan - that is, a Chinese restaurant - run by Illegal, one of the three major powers. However it was a relatively cheap restaurant and it was more like a set meal shop. The restaurant had just dealt with the lunch rush and was now bringing in tourists looking for a dessert of sesame balls or almond jelly.
But it turned out someone was there ahead of them.
A boy of about ten must have stopped by on the way back from school because he still wore his school backpack as he pouted his lips next to the modified China dress beauty named Lu Niang Lan.
According to him…
“It makes me angry when you talk with other guys.”
“But that’s a bad feeling, so this can’t be a good thing! So I’m trying to cool my head!!”
“Oh, my, my.”
The small boy finished eating a mango pudding snack as he spoke with Lu Niang Lan and he left the restaurant after checking the time on his cellphone.
The Illegal tool dealer waved goodbye with a smile and then called over a nearby employee.
“Wang-san, could I ask you a favor? It’s urgent.”
“I’d really rather you didn’t, Miss Lu.”
“His emotional points have crossed a certain line, so dress up as a thug and scare him for me. I don’t want him ever wandering around stores connected to Illegal ever again. And of course make sure you don’t hurt him.”
“No fair, Miss Lu. You always shove the dirty work onto me!”
The large muscular man complained, but he still scratched his head with one hand and walked to the back of the restaurant. He was probably on his way to “dress up”.
Kyousuke and Isabelle walked in to take the boy’s place and Kyousuke spoke up with some exasperation in his voice.
“I don’t see why you have to go that far. Normal people forget we even exist as soon as they take their eyes off of us.”
“But the routine of visiting this caiguan remains. And in certain circumstances, this place could be the site of a shootout or a terrorist bombing. Or he might get abducted as a bargaining chip. That’s the kind of work we do. I don’t like talking about responsibility after the fact as if I suddenly remembered it exists.”
She sighed and glanced toward the door the boy had left through.
As if to switch over her train of thought, she looked back to the table and gestured with her slender hand for Kyousuke and Isabelle to sit.
“Welcome to the Hai Hong Caiguan. Is this the vessel you were talking about, Kyousuke-chan?”
“Yes. My name is Isabelle, so you can call me Isabelle.”
“Umm? Well, whatever. Nice to meet you.”
“It’s super-sized nice to meet you.”
The modified China dress beauty crossed her legs after sitting at the table that was not particularly red and did not spin.
“So did you visit this Illegal base because you wanted information on the person disseminating the mysterious gimmick known as Girl’s Backdoor?” She sounded a little exasperated. “You’re always walking a dangerous road, aren’t you?”
“Well, it’s just that I can’t read the culprit’s algorithm, but that’s because I don’t have enough data to derive that algorithm. So I was thinking that Aika’s…that is, Government’s information sources alone weren’t enough. In that case, I might be able to see their algorithm if I can go at this from a different angle and get some new data.”
The world of the Summoning Ceremony came down to a standoff between Government and Illegal.
And Freedom was only an unrestricted neighbor that mediated the issues between them.
It was just that each member of Freedom was such a powerful warrior that they ended up acting like a third major power.
“Hmm. So is that glove on your left hand the rumored Girl’s Backdoor? This is my first time seeing one in person.”
“Yeah. I can’t believe someone was handing these things out.”
“Oh, my, my. Speak of the devil. My body is moving all on its own… What could be happening?”
“Why is that making you lean up against me!? And I think you’re a little old to call a ‘girl’.”
“Did you say something? I’ll just have to drown it out with a young woman’s charm!”
Lu Niang Lan sat sideways on his lap and wrapped her arm around his shoulder while jokingly rubbing her voluptuous body against him. It was no longer an issue of which specific parts of her body were rubbing against which specific parts of his body. Her seductive assault threatened to drag his soul away if he did not focus his mind.
“And if you defeated the enemy and got a sample Girl’s Backdoor, why not use it for some sexy fun!? Or are you not satisfied unless you win her over with your own power? Oh, that just makes you an even greater catch, Kyousuke-chan!!”
“Umm, can we move on with the discussion?”
“Well, keeping it around but not actually using it is exactly what I would expect from you. You’ll do whatever it takes to win, but you set up these boundaries in the weirdest places.”
“What are you talking about? I’ll use any weapon available to me. I just haven’t been blessed with an opportunity yet.”
“Can I throw that right back at you? What are you talking about, Kyousuke-chan?”
“Get back on topic.”
“You say that, but…”
Lu Niang Lan moved away from him, placed her index finger on her chin, and looked up at the ceiling.
Military Uniform Girl Isabelle stared curiously at the almond jelly the waiter placed in front of her, but for some reason, she did not eat any. She may have been able to restrain herself from her personal preferences if it was not part of her “contract and reward” system.
Kyousuke had no choice but to sigh and make a request.
“Sorry, Isabelle, but…”
“Can you hand me the soy sauce?”
“A-ahem(deadpan). But if I’m going to do any work, I need to be given a super-sized reward first.”
“Yes, yes. Would this almond jelly be suffic…”
The small bottle of soy sauce approached him with deadly force.
He accepted it in shock and Isabelle breathed from her small nose and boldly stabbed a spoon into the almond jelly. If he had swiped it from her now, he had a feeling she would murder him not with a knife or fork, but with the spoon.
At least she seemed happy. No other response came to mind.
“To be honest, Illegal is lacking in information on Girl’s Backdoor. And to be blunt, we only really noticed it when you contacted me, Kyousuke-chan.”
“Does that mean Illegal played no part in the production and use of Girl’s Backdoor?”
“I’d guess this is either Government or Freedom. …Or maybe the former hiring the latter for a job☆” Lu Niang Lan sounded cheerful. “Illegal is a little more focused on another issue. In the Pacific, we were supposed to steal a Government leader and the results of their research, but some summoner challenged us to a midair battle and even destroyed our mobile air squadron which included a disguised aircraft carrier. It apparently caused significant damage, but oddly enough there were precisely zero deaths.”
Kyousuke began coughing to avoid the issue.
Then the waiter silently approached Lu Niang Lan’s side.
He whispered something into her ear and she indifferently revealed the information.
“Kyousuke-chan, it seems things are on the move with Government.”
“A Government base in D Block was attacked and destroyed. And I doubt it’s just a coincidence given the timing. And I also doubt anyone would use a Government summoner to attack Government and this has nothing to do with Illegal.”
“So our enemy here is Freedom…”
“Right, right. Now, I’m sure you’ll be contacting the wild beast girl soon. Since I’m in a bit of a bullying mood, can you ask her something for me?”
“You don’t want me to ask Aika her weight or her measurements, do you? I’d rather not have a five meter white liger tear me to pieces in your place, Lu-san.”
“If you asked her that, she’d answer without batting an eye. And that would be boring. That’s why I’ll give you something much more difficult to answer.” She laughed. “Ask her about the Anthills.”
“Oh, don’t look to me for answers. Not even Illegal has the whole picture of that term.”
“So it’s some kind of classified information that Government is desperate to keep hidden?”
“And we had suspected that the live music club that was attacked in D Block was one of those Anthills. Someone disseminated those flashy Girl’s Backdoors as a largescale disturbance tactic and then made a pinpoint attack on an important Government base. I can almost see them holding their heads in their hands.”
After asking Government Middleman Aika over the phone, she made the following suggestion:
“There’s something I’d like to discuss with you too. I would appreciate it if you could visit my apartment.”
“You can’t discuss it over the phone? But you shouldn’t have to worry about the encryption strength of this connection.”
“The Anthills are a bit of an embarrassment for us.” Aika sounded annoyed. “Between members of Government would be one thing, but I don’t want to leave behind any official records that I passed information to Freedom. Do you understand my situation now?”
That was why Kyousuke and Isabelle made their way to Aika’s luxury apartment.
Inside a living room large enough for a game of tennis, Swimsuit Girl Aika waited for them while lounging on the five meter white liger she used as a sofa. Perhaps to maintain her pride as a shut-in, she ignored the Delayed Walpurgis going on outside. She wore her swimsuit year-round.
“Welcome home, Onii-chan.”
“I told you I’m not going to bother complaining about that stuff anymore.”
“If anyone’s going to complain, it’s me.”
Kyousuke looked confused, so Aika pointed at him again and again while leaning against the wild beast.
Technically, she was pointing at the girl in a red military uniform standing next to him.
“How many times! Do I have to tell you!! This is a shut-in girl’s final stronghold!? Why would you so blithely bring another girl here, Onii-chan!? Come to think of it, it was the same thing with Olivia Highland!!”
Isabelle slowly tilted her head in her red hat.
“Then I have the perfect solution: you leave. Point(deadpan). This does not bother me even a small-sized amount.”
Aika was so angry at having her shut-in territory not just invaded but nearly stolen that her limiter broke.
Kyousuke ignored it and tried to get back on track.
“I’ll ask you again: What are these Anthills that Lu-san mentioned?”
“Drfdrndrn!! Pant, pant. Wh-why would you mention her…!? And curse that hunk of fat. Where did she even get data on that?”
While Aika’s mind nearly stalled, the white liger must have been worried because she got up, raised her head, and licked the swimsuit girl with her giant tongue. But until an evil god arrived from some distant star, it would never look like anything more than the animal grooming the girl.
“Not so much, liger. Your tongue is rough and it hurts… But anyway. You could say the Anthills are Government facilities for mass producing vessels. But it’s more sinful than simple education. Studying at school is nothing more than adding knowledge and technique to the base of inborn talent.”
“Government has come a long way in training summoners, but we are chronically lacking when it comes to vessels. The rookies are sent out as Repliglass soldiers and only those who can overcome the baptism of blood sans vessel can gain any power. But what if we found a way to solve that problem?”
“Constructed talent? That would mean…”
Kyousuke glanced over at the military uniform girl standing next to him.
Isabelle said nothing.
Aika shrugged and answered instead.
“A summoner’s skill increases with knowledge and technique, but a certain form of talent is everything for vessels. You could call it their talent as a spirit medium. Normally, that’s unchangeable and you have to recruit people based on their inborn foundation, but Government has started working on that field.”
“Artificially implanting people with spirit medium talent, you mean?” groaned Kyousuke.
A certain pair of twins came to mind. Higan’s family had hoped she would be an excellent summoner, but she had ended up living as a vessel due to being born with that talent as a spirit medium. Renge, a Joruri Method, had been artificially created in her place as the ideal summoner those around them had wanted.
Higan’s blonde hair and blue eyes had been the result of the various efforts her family had put into removing that talent.
If there were techniques to remove it, could they be converted into techniques to add it in?
“Onii-chan, do you remember the specialty of Maria Heartocean who you protected before?”
“Spiritual damage research.”
“This is a problem. I am being medium-sized…no, large-sized left behind here.”
“You can think of it as the troubles that get stuck to your soul. We still haven’t found a definition for the soul itself, but some researchers are trying to use this to work back to that truth. It’s like how we can’t observe a black hole itself, but we can search out its identity using the space-time distortions around it. Which means…”
“The unprofitable foundation of her research isn’t enough to raise the funding she needs. That’s why Maria dragged tons of money from the high officials by demonstrating some effective applied research that’s so simple even an idiot can understand its value.”
“The Anthills have two major benefits.”
Aika raised her index finger.
“First, they simply increase the number of vessels which strengthens our forces. After all, Government has so many rookie summoners that we have to send them out as Repliglass soldiers when they finish their training and don’t have a vessel to pair up with. Just giving all of them a vessel would destroy the current balance between the three major powers.”
She raised her middle finger too.
“Second, if we can increase the quality of their spiritual medium talent, they will be able to control the Materials with much greater accuracy. The most they can do now is direct the Material toward a target, but they would then be able to accurately dodge attacks and focus on critical attacks that target the Silhouette weak point. That could lead to upsets beyond the existing three-way deadlock and cost differences.”
However, there had to be more than just benefits.
For one, how exactly where they implanting this talent? Since it was linked to their ability to act as a medium for spirits, it had to be more than just drilling a hole in their skull and messing with their brain. It would require remaking them so completely that it could be medically called “changing who they are”.
And what would it mean to have extremely high talent as a spirit medium?
Even normal vessels had to wear collars, handcuffs, or other decorative restraints to manage the data port and prevent their body from being taken over by an evil or vengeful spirit. What if they grew even more sensitive to that? What if external measures were no longer enough? It was said some people in the West would have a portion of their stomach or cerebellum removed to lose weight, but when it did not fit their lifestyle, apparently quite a few of the patients would later ask the impossible and beg to be returned to normal. What if something similar was occurring in the field of spirit mediums?
“Why are you giving me that scary look? Hanyaaan(deadpan)???”
“No reason,” said Kyousuke as he shook his head toward the military uniform girl.
Would anything have changed had he known the details from the beginning? What good was it wondering now whether or not he should have saved the researcher?
“Anyway.” Kyousuke ended that line of thought and changed his focus. “After the incident at the airport, the Anthill in D Block was attacked. Given the timing, it doesn’t seem like they checked into a hotel in between. Unlike the Girl’s Backdoor incidents, it’s hard to imagine this is a diversion or bait. In fact, they probably tried to spread our focus with the Girl’s Backdoors because they knew they were taking such a direct route. We’ve finally found them. This is the original enemy. This is our enemy. Isabelle, this is your target.”
“Hmm. If that algorithm is correct, Onii-chan, then you’ve figured out a fair bit, haven’t you?”
“Hunyuuun(deadpan)? I still don’t get it. Not even a small-sized bit.”
“A lot is at stake with these Anthills. Illegal and Freedom are in trouble if Government gets as many vessels as they want and Government might find enemies within their own ranks. For example, a skilled recruiter might lose their job if vessels can be mass produced so easily.”
Kyousuke then added a “but”.
“Whoever this is isn’t able to restrain themselves. They know it’s risky, but once they saw their target, they took the quickest route there. If they had calmly calculated out what is at stake and decided crushing this project was worth it, they wouldn’t act like this. It feels like they’re acting on emotion rather than a calculated plan. But I also feel like they’re beautifying that emotion and using it to excuse their own lack of restraint. But at the same time, there’s none of the intense waves of an incubation period and an actualized period that you see in people with a lust for destruction. They’re keeping their cold flame burning at a set level.”
“Explain it so I can understand. Make it super-sized…super-sized simple.”
“What I’m saying is…”
Shiroyama Kyousuke smoothly answered.
He was finally putting together the algorithm as he viewed the true intent hidden in the forest of distractions.
“This is all about a desire for revenge. Isabelle, you can understand that, can’t you?”
There was a clinking sound.
A finger in a leather glove had flicked a small piece of metal.
Murasame Kuina, the girl who had made a contract with a demon, pulled an accessory out from the chest of her clothing. Something the size of a coin hung from the thin chain around her neck. The gold-colored cover opened like a pocket watch and she viewed the small photograph inside.
It was not that she felt no guilt.
The pangs of conscience clinging to her soul were not so easily erased.
That was the reason for this ritual.
By reflecting on the smile of someone who had been lost, she could regain control of her feelings. She could make the signal of her emotions entirely flat.
The most important factor when taking revenge was whether or not one could maintain the “initial feeling”.
It was more than just the desire for revenge fading and vanishing.
She would have a change of heart.
The flame would burn just as bright, but its color would change far too easily. If she started working up the funding for pure revenge but ended up focusing on the monetary gain, it would not even make for an amusing story.
She could not make excuses for her revenge.
She had to continue holding revenge up as her goal.
“Yes, ma’am,” gently answered the waitress demon.
That woman was a strange person too. She was Freedom Award 920, Liar Cat. Her greatest characteristic was her intent to “do whatever it takes to help others with their revenge”.
“You mentioned it before, but is it true you removed one of your back teeth for that one battle? Can you really keep that up for long?”
“Of course. For one thing, I do not have a single normal tooth left in my mouth. So it would be truly foolish to distract yourself from your revenge by worrying about such trivialities.”
The demon showed off her pearly whites with a smile while dumping some pills into her mouth directly from the bottle.
The bare midriff girl gave her a curious look, so Biondetta smiled and said more.
“I can use my Blood-Sign as a sniper rifle, but it isn’t actually one. That means it takes some doing to soften the recoil. Of course, my right arm has more artificial bone than real bone, so it isn’t that difficult to suppress the impact.”
“Then what are those pills for?”
“Due to compatibility issues with the artificial bone, I need to take antibiotics or I will rot from the inside. However, this is still much easier to use than the latest Repliglass.”
The conversation would normally have been frightening, but the girl did not particularly care.
She did not know Biondetta very well and was skeptical of a lot of what the woman said, but she wanted to make use of whatever she could.
All that mattered was wiping out the Anthills.
“The information at the site of the attack revealed the locations of a total of four more Anthills. Do you think that’s all of them?”
“Either way, we need a proper list to check our answers against. But you knew that, didn’t you?”
Biondetta’s tail waved back and forth as she spoke and Murasame Kuina briefly thought on those words.
“Won’t attacking that place so directly take a lot of work?”
“That just means we have to attack it in a more irregular fashion. We do have the item I gave you.”
The waitress demon sounded entirely indifferent.
Her eyes focused on the black glove device on Kuina’s left hand.
“Anyway, wouldn’t it be best to attack the four other Anthills we know of while we wait for some results there? Isn’t it pure torture for you to wait around when you know where your target is, ma’am?”
“…True. I might not be able to wait much longer. I do feel bad making you go along with me, though.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. I could not feel more fulfilled!!”
Biondetta spread her arms as if rejoicing over her life.
“The single word revenge can refer to so many different things. Some complain and complain but never intend to actually do anything about it. Some use their desire for revenge as an excuse to ignore the boundaries between their public and private lives and then indiscriminately indulge in their desire for money and women. Others lose interest after slaughtering a bunch of unrelated people and never actually reach the target of their revenge. …It’s so boring. Oh, it’s just so sad how many people let their desire for revenge transform into something so boring!”
The demon’s list of complaints was likely also a peek into her past.
That was just how many vengeance-seekers she had lent a helping hand to and just how much blood stained her hands.
“But your desire for revenge is superb… Yes, and you can trust me here because I am a connoisseur of revenge. You do not let it transform into anything else and you do not allow it to fade away into nothingness! You have managed to maintain your initial desire unchanged!!”
“I don’t care how insane you are, Biondetta.”
“I just want to have my revenge. Once we finish drinking this, let’s go. I can’t bear to wait around. If I know at least one location I can crush, I can’t relax until I do it.”
The two of them drank down the rest of their cups of jasmine tea and place them on the saucers.
Then they forcefully stood from their seats.
They were in C Block.
They were in a Chinese restaurant known as a caiguan.
It was a relatively cheap restaurant and it was more like a set meal shop.
It was the restaurant that Lu Niang Lan used as an Illegal meeting place.
However, there was currently no sign of anyone there except for at the table where the demon and her client had sat.
The bell of the intercom rang through the luxury apartment’s living room.
Before Aika could pick up the cordless receiver, she heard the front door click unlocked.
Only two people had a spare key and one of them, Shiroyama Kyousuke, was already in the living room.
“Is that Lu-san?”
Kyousuke’s comment was right on the money.
It was the modified China dress beauty who stepped into the living room from the long hallway.
“Now there’s two girls’ scents invading this shut in girl’s final stronghold… Auhhh, I’m feeling faint at this loss of territory. How can the world be so cramped and oppressive? Why does it have to crush even the slightest freedom!?”
Lu Niang Lan did not respond to the swimsuit girl’s confused exclamations.
The modified China dress beauty’s head was somewhat lowered as she silently entered the room.
Isabelle, who was closest to her, must have tried to say something, but not even Shiroyama Kyousuke could tell what.
With a surprisingly gentle sound, the Perfect Dragon’s fist sank halfway into the center of the military girl’s flat chest.
Time seemed to stop.
The fist slowly twisted about ninety degrees while embedded in the girl’s chest.
Only after a short delay did a great roar of impact burst from the girl. Even if she was small, she was still a 150cm and 40kg mass, and yet she flew straight across the living room and over the open kitchen’s counter. Loud destructive sounds came from the back of the kitchen.
“You old hag, what do you think you’re…!?”
Aika started to yell at Lu Niang Lan, but her voice was drowned out by the white liger’s growl of warning. At some point, the sofa beast had gotten up and moved to protect the swimsuit girl.
Kyousuke belatedly caught on.
He did not think this was a detailed fake of Lu Niang Lan, but something was not right. Her expression and movements were smooth, but the dilation of her eyes was unnatural. It was completely ignoring her surroundings and the light sources.
He could only think of one possibility at the moment.
“Tch!! Girl’s Backdoor!?”
“Oh, please!! You’re telling me this old hag counts as a girl!?”
As she loudly complained, Aika flipped over the snack box on one corner of the glass table. An egg-shaped Incense Grenade rolled out.
Kyousuke was shocked, but…
“This is no time to wait around! Which gives us a better shot: the liger as-is or the gooey Original series!? Whisper (Then again, she might die either way…)”
Aika pulled the pin and rolled the Incense Grenade at her feet.
Lu Niang Lan did not speak a word.
Nor did she make a mad dash to grab the Incense Grenade and throw it out the window before it detonated.
The Perfect Dragon’s outline simply vanished into thin air.
Aika’s target should have been standing right in front of her.
In fact, she most likely was still standing there.
Nevertheless, Aika had lost sight of Lu Niang Lan. The woman had utterly hidden her presence. And the Artificial Sacred Ground could not be set up if the target could not be seen with the naked eye when the Incense Grenade detonated.
It did not matter if the target was standing right in front of the summoner.
Aika had not even considered the possibility of that failing, so her thoughts ground to a halt. Lu Niang Lan took advantage of that by reappearing in front of her. Her fists and legs were now well within range of the swimsuit girl.
At the same time, the five meter white liger and Shiroyama Kyousuke, who pulled his Blood-Sign from his back, dashed toward Lu Niang Lan from the left and right.
One of them was a ferocious beast with 300kg of weight behind her claws and fangs. The other was a veteran summoner who could run circles around a summoner in the 600s or 700s without even using a Material.
Lu Niang Lan started by sending a fist toward the leaping white liger’s nose as a cross-counter. With a great roar of impact, the five meter beast fell straight down. This exposed her back to Kyousuke, but the Perfect Dragon did not even look back as his Blood-Sign thrust in like a spear. She twisted around and lowered her upper body, but not to dodge it. She allowed it to rest on her hips and then she used her back to knock it upwards.
It pulled Kyousuke’s arms up along with it, leaving his upper body entirely defenseless.
She made a heavy counterattack much like a roundhouse kick and it mercilessly stabbed into his exposed torso.
The impact sounded like a giant drumbeat and Kyousuke flew across the large living room.
He took the exact same course as his vessel Isabelle had earlier.
Loud sounds of destruction sounded once he landed.
(Dammit, I knew it was coming and even lured her into it, but I still couldn’t counteract the full impact!?)
Isabelle had done the same thing. If she had not jumped backwards herself, the impact would likely have wreaked havoc inside her body and caused all of her organs to rupture.
Kyousuke looked around while half buried in the mess that had been a kitchen.
Isabelle had broken through a table and the cabinet door below the sink. He crawled over and slapped her cheek, but she did not respond. She seemed to have a concussion. Even if he used an Incense Grenade, he would not be able to use a Material.
Isabelle and the white liger had both been knocked out of the fight.
Kyousuke and Aika could not use the Summoning Ceremony on their own.
They would have to stop Lu Niang Lan without that.
Kyousuke awkwardly crawled around the broken kitchen. He knew he had no chance against the Perfect Dragon in hand-to-hand combat. At this range, he was not sure he could win even if he could use an Incense Grenade.
So he did not even think about doing that.
Shiroyama Kyousuke grabbed at the gas range, climbed on top of it, and reached for the gas main behind it. He pulled out the hose and let the gas escape out past the open kitchen’s counter and into the living room. He released the city gas that contained a unique odor.
No normal attack could hit Lu Niang Lan. No matter what he tried, he would only end up receiving a cross-counter with twice the force behind it.
But that just meant he needed an attack that could not be dodged.
And that meant an attack that would fill the entire room.
Lu Niang Lan was quick to respond.
She did not try to stop Kyousuke or take control of the gas main.
As soon as she detected the odor, she kicked over the pen holder on the glass table, kicked up the stainless steel scissors from the office supplies scattered on the floor, and used a double kick to send the scissors flying forward. The scissors stabbed into the distant floor like a knife-throwing trick.
The slight spark blew everything away.
The Perfect Dragon’s plan was as follows: reduce the damage by triggering a smaller explosion before the room fills with gas.
After a bright flash, an explosive noise and shockwave swept across the room.
Only the modified China dress beauty remained standing.
After a short delay, water poured down like a sudden burst of rain. It came from the sprinklers on the ceiling.
Lu Niang Lan glanced up but soon looked in a different direction: the kitchen.
Shiroyama Kyousuke slowly got up beyond the open kitchen’s counter.
She was most focused on the power cord to an overloaded power strip he held in his hand. The thick power cords for the refrigerator, microwave, rice cooker, and other appliances were plugged into it. And the boy’s other hand held a knife to the main cord like it was a hostage’s throat.
Kyousuke smiled while soaking wet.
And he did not hesitate.
“Sorry, everyone. Looks like we’re all in this together.”
He cut through the power cable and threw it to the floor.
A bluish-white flash filled a space large enough to hold a tennis match.
Kyousuke, Aika, Isabelle, the white liger, and Lu Niang Lan.
The electrical current struck all of their hearts equally.
“Ugh,” groaned Shiroyama Kyousuke on the wet floor.
The sprinklers must have stopped automatically because he was surrounded by silence. The room’s breaker must have tripped because none of the appliances seemed to be functioning.
Isabelle was closest, so he checked her pulse first and then dragged his aching body into the living room. He secured Lu Niang Lan. After checking her pulse as she lay sprawled out on the floor, he used an extension cable to tie up her wrists and ankles.
The room was soaked and the breaker had tripped, but he spotted the light of a tablet on the glass table. That was thanks to its waterproof cover and internal battery. It had received a few emails from Government. One of them was about Girl’s Backdoor, so Kyousuke grabbed the tablet.
The writing was stiff and formal, but he recognized the sender: Government Award 109, Academia. Her real name was Maria Heartocean. She was the top researcher in the field of spiritual damage and the woman he had been tasked with protecting during that midair battle over the Pacific.
She had seemed like a gentle school doctor then, but she was apparently able to display different personalities in different situations. Although Kyousuke was not sure if the difference was between work and private or between online and real life.
To Official Award 870, Hikikomori.
I am sending you a progress report on the analysis you requested.
I have put off breaking down the black box in the core, so I will begin with what I have discovered through nondestructive tests along the surface of the device.
The Girl’s Backdoor behaves much like a device that allows a human target for a vessel’s ability to intervene in a Material’s mind and take limited control of the Material. The mental capacity of a Material is so much greater than a human’s that the vessel can never take complete control, but I estimate a human can take nearly perfect control when the target is another human.
There is still a lot I do not know as to why it only works with young girls, but it may be somehow related to the fact that all Unexplored-class Materials have female forms.
After some clinical trials on recruits within Government, I have revealed a few specific uses and conditions for the Girl’s Backdoor.
1: Girl’s Backdoor is shaped like a glove and the target is set by wearing it and pointing at the target’s face or head.
2: Girl’s Backdoor works by inputting data. The target is controlled with tree-style settings that provide a programmed flowchart of what to do when certain things do or do not occur.
3: When inputting the data, the user can move the fingers of the glove to display a keyboard interface in empty air. The flowchart can also be formed as a combination of movements: run, jump, land, etc.
4: When putting together the flowchart, there is no need to start from scratch and mention every little movement of the target’s fingers. The user can draw on and use the target’s skills and knowledge. For example, telling a chef to cook a meal or telling a safe keeper to open the lock.
5: There are no real risks or dangerous side effects of using Girl’s Backdoor.
6: Girl’s Backdoor can control up to three people at once. If the user attempts to control a fourth or more, their existing stock will be released in the order at which they were initially controlled.
7: Girl’s Backdoor can only control girls and young women between the ages of 10 and 25. The effects continue even if a controlled vessel transforms into a Material.
8: When someone controlled by Girl’s Backdoor is released, they lose their memories of being controlled.
9: There are multiple ways for someone controlled by Girl’s Backdoor to be released: the user announcing that they are released, the user attempting to control a fourth person, or the controlled person being knocked unconscious.
When Kyousuke saw that knocking someone unconscious would free them from Girl’s Backdoor’s control, he breathed a small sigh of relief. Tying up Lu Niang Lan had apparently not been necessary. And since she would lose her memories of being controlled, he had a feeling she would make something of a misunderstanding.
However, that relaxed thought was quickly swept away by what Maria Heartocean wrote next.
I will now address some of my thoughts concerning the application of Girl’s Backdoor.
Girl’s Backdoor can only control three people at once, but I have revealed that it can spread.
That is, not only can Source X directly control three people, but Source X can control A, A can control B, and B can control C. Of course, a new flowchart tree must be written each time, so it is a lot of effort. Without time for that work, this method is only viable for simple commands.
And in this case, only Source X needs to be equipped with a Girl’s Backdoor.
The upper limit of three seems to remain. For example, if Source X controls A, B, and C and then tries to control D via C, the original A will be released.
Also, if it goes from A to B and then B to C, if control of B in the middle is lost because she is knocked out, a chain reaction will cause C to also lose consciousness and be released.
Releasing A would also release B and C in that case, so trying to control a fourth person that way would release all of them.
Kyousuke slowly looked away from the tablet.
There were still two individuals whose pulse he had yet to check.
One was the white liger.
And the other…
He received no response.
Why had the enemy spreading Girl’s Backdoors around the city come to Toy Dream 35 in the first place? If it was only to crush the vessel mass-production facilities known as Anthills, would they have needed to send Lu Niang Lan to attack Aika’s apartment?
And if control could spread from Source X to A and from A to B…
Why had Aika passed out?
Because Lu Niang Lan had attacked her? Because of the electrical current Kyousuke had sent out?
And if it was neither of those…
Kyousuke hesitantly approached Aika.
The collapsed girl held a smartphone in her hand.
The words “Message Sent” danced across the screen.
Shiroyama Kyousuke’s voice was quiet.
“And to who!?”
But it quickly grew to a shout.
Murasame Kuina snapped her fingers.
She opened the email and attached file sent to her cellphone.
It easily displayed all of the data that had seemed so impossible to find until now.
In other words…
“There are 41 Anthills in all. Now we have all their locations and detailed information on their defenses.”
“Well done, ma’am.”
Now that they knew that, there was no need to hold back.
They could dig in like a wild beast in front of a pile of meat.
The girl of revenge spoke to the demon who lived to fulfill that revenge.
“Let’s go, Biondetta. Let’s destroy them all.”
With that, the two of them silently walked away from a pile of rubble.
It was another of the Anthills they had already discovered. They had created those pitiable ruins with an unconventional method: blowing up the entire location while the summoner was inside her protective circle and the vessel had become a Material.
They moved from Anthill to Anthill and hatred to hatred. They did not seek a moment’s rest as they sought their next target. They were focused on nothing but fulfilling their revenge.
*During battle, the summoner and vessel cannot leave the Artificial Sacred Ground, but any projectiles can. This is not limited to the Material’s attacks and applies to sniper rifle bullets as well.
*An Artificial Sacred Ground without an enemy is the same as a Chain state, so anyone can join it with no risk. But unlike a Chain state, the Artificial Sacred Ground does not move with the summoner.
*The Anthills are Government-controlled vessel mass-production facilities and many of them exist. However, a lot is unknown about how they work and the process is risky.
*Girl’s Backdoor makes use of the technique that allows a vessel to interfere with a Material’s mind. A human cannot fully control a Material, but a human can almost perfectly control another human. Using a tree-style command list of what to do when certain conditions are or are not met, the target can semi-automatically fulfill their orders and make decisions. In other words, there is no need to look after every little thing.
*All Unexplored-class Materials are shaped like human girls.
*Murasame Kuina and Biondetta used Lu Niang Lan and Aika to acquire information on all of the Anthills.
*Kuina wishes to have her revenge and Biondetta wishes to help others have their revenge. They have formed a pair known as Liar Cat and their skill is equal to Freedom Award 920.
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