Toaru Majutsu no Index SS: Kanzaki

Chapter 3: The True Meaning of Environmental Protection. RULIC_letters.
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Chapter 3: The True Meaning of Environmental Protection. RULIC_letters.

Part 1

I will now explain the contents of the requested investigation.

We have confirmed signs of a coming attack by a magician on a steelworks in the industrial district of a harbor city in Denmark.

The steelworks is part of the science side and a cooperative institution of Academy City, so the spread of damages could cause deep cracks to appear between the magic side and the science side.

Please head to the area and stop the magician.

The top priority in this operation is to prevent any damages to the steelworks. You should of course use your full strength, but please avoid damaging the facility as a result.

“I like it. It’s nice and simple,” said the jeans shop owner sounding bored.

He stared at the red lights flashing on the top of the distant smokestacks in the darkness just after sunset.

“There’s no investigation and we don’t have to track anyone down. You just charge in there and fight. …In fact, is there any reason for the two of us to be here with you? I would think your Saintly powers would be more than enough.”

“Why are you so bloodthirsty?” asked Kanzaki sounding exasperated, but the tour guide girl had an idea as to why.

“…Um, is your work at the jeans shop in trouble? Before, you were saying you had customers emailing you to complain about how long it was taking you to ship things.”

“Heh heh heh. Don’t worry. After emailing back and forth again and again, I’ve become something like an email friend of that middle schooler, Saten-chan. Although it doesn’t feel right as a professional to have an angry customer worrying about me.”

The shop owner sounded truly fed up with the situation as he spoke.

The Danish harbor was wrapped in a cold fog. The fog had an odd stickiness to it that made one think there was something more to it than simple moisture. It may have been because they were in the industrial district. Compared to a tropical island in Micronesia, the air was heavy and uncomfortable like they had a wet blanket hanging over their heads.

The only things visible in the sky were lead-colored clouds.

It all gave the impression of a dark and dank area that had been altered due to the atmosphere absorbing the smoke. However, they did not know what the scientific reasons were.

Meanwhile, Kanzaki’s expression remained unchanged at the unpleasant situation as she honestly answered the shop owner’s question.

She was answering his first question of why it would not be over simply by sending a Saint to the battlefield.

“The enemy uses rune magic and he seems to enjoy setting up runes around his target facility as if they were bombs and then detonating them all at once. As such, you will be helping with the search for and destruction of the runes.”

“Ugeh.” The shop owner had a very displeased look on his face. “…And why do we know his methods before we have even come across him?”

“He has carried out similar attacks in the past and the information is in the database.”

“Shit,” the shop owner cursed.

The tour guide girl started flipping through her memo pad.

“The enemy has already used the same method to destroy a French thermal power station, a German petrochemical complex, and a Finnish oil platform. Beforehand, he uses a few bits of magic to analyze the layout of the facility, and those bits of magic are the signs that were detected this time.”

“Then they should send out a large Anglican unit rather than just us three. Surely that would raise the odds of finding all of the runes.”

“O-one of the higher ups said the criminal would not appear if we did that and then we could not catch him.”

“C’mon, little lady. Isn’t the reason we’re doing this so that the relationship with Academy City and the rest of the science side doesn’t worsen?” said the shop owner looking as if his irritation was at its maximum.

In that end, that was as far as the “concern” for the other side went for either the magic side or the science side. The shop owner wiped the dampness of the unpleasant fog from his face as he contemplated pretending to go off in search of runes while actually going off to take a nap.

(…Dammit. My hair and clothes are soaking wet. Hm? Wet clothes…?)

The shop owner seemed to have realized something as he slowly looked back in Kanzaki’s direction.

She was wearing a short sleeve T-shirt tied off to the side making her navel visible and special jeans that had one leg cut off all the way up to the base of her thigh.

Currently, that harbor area was wrapped in a thick fog that soaked the hair and clothes of anyone there.

That meant…

(Oooohhhh!! I can see through it! Just a bit more and I’ll definitely be able to see through it!! There isn’t enough moisture yet for it to be definite, but I should at least be able to see her bra before long…!! Wait, does Kanzaki even wear a bra? I-I might be able to see something even more…!?)

“??? Is something the matter?”

Kanzaki looked over at him surprisingly defenselessly and the shop owner frantically shook his head.

Even then, an angel and a devil were beginning to argue within his head.

The devil was a mini mental Kanzaki wearing a black leotard, with wings like a bat, and with an arrow-like tail.

“Hey, hey. You were brought to this industrial district that stinks of oil in order to protect the precious Saint and to help deal with some bombs. What’s wrong with getting something like this in return?”

The angel was a mini mental Kanzaki wearing sexy white swimsuit that looked as if it was made of strings, with wings like a swan, and with a golden halo.

“Wait! You must not do that! She is that defenseless because she trusts you. Can you really betray those warm feelings of hers!?”

The shop owner held his head in his hands.

(Wait, why is the angel the sexier one!?)

The two mental Kanzakis then stopped arguing, turned toward the shop owner, and responded in unison.

“Hadn’t you already made up your mind by the point we appeared dressed like this?”

“Yes!! I will thoroughly cling to Kanzaki and stare at her wet tits!!”

“What are you saying all of a sudden!?”

The shop owner flew through the air due to a sudden kick.

The tour guide looked troubled as she looked back and forth between Kanzaki who started off on her own in anger and the shop owner who had been knocked away. Finally, she decided to give the injured one higher priority and ran over to the shop owner.

“Um, do you love Kanzaki?”

“You fool. How am I supposed to have proper romantic feelings for a monster that can see a bullet fired from a handgun and evade it?”

“Then why…?”

The tour guide looked confused and the shop owner grinned.

“Isn’t that obvious? I just have to see how much I can get of what’s leftover.”

“I see, I see. I now know that you are just a horrible person.”

Part 2

Kanzaki and the others had come to an area of the industrial district that specialized in iron and steel production. That field alone filled an area 70 kilometers square, so the heavy industry there was quite large.

“Compared to a petrochemical complex filled with oil tanks, this place is relatively safe,” said the tour guide girl who had temporarily settled the issue between Kanzaki and the shop owner.

The shop owner replied in shock, “How is this place safe? If a spark flies in here, the whole place will be in flames.”

“Eh? But most of the materials lying around are just iron ore. I didn’t think that kind of thing was flammable…”

“Do you know how much fuel they put in those blast furnaces to get enough heat to melt that iron ore that will not burn with a normal flame?” pointed out Kanzaki gently.

“Uuh…” the tour guide girl groaned out, but Kanzaki did not seem to notice.

“But with runes, that means…”

“It’s Norse mythology again,” the shop owner replied and the tour guide girl began hurriedly flipping through her memo pad. She may have wanted to restore their opinion of her.

“U-umm, it seems Norse cabals such as Those Who Prevent the Extermination of the World Tree and Those who Know the Rune of the God’s Sword have been active recently, but they do not seem to have anything to do with this incident.”

“…”

Kanzaki fell silent for a bit.

She doubted there was no connection at all, but there was no point in theorizing off of something that had no proof. And Norse mythology was major enough to be known at least in name to normal people who had no connection to magic. Of course, the more major the field, the more magicians and incidents related to it.

At any rate, she had to focus on accomplishing her mission.

She looked around once more to check on the battlefield.

“There certainly are a lot of smokestacks. It looks overcrowded even compared to normal steelworks.”

“That is because the demand for steel has increased.”

“Is that because military production is on the rise due to the tension between the science side and the magic side?”

“Technically, it’s because such a situation appears to be on the horizon so some people have started buying up iron and steel products. See how about a third of the facility looks brand new? It’s been expanded in a hurry due to the change in the era,” explained the shop owner sounding bored.

He looked up at the smokestacks that were even then spewing gray smoke up into the fog.

“Just stopping the furnaces and cutting off the supply of fuel would cut down on the damage, wouldn’t it?”

“It is not so easy in reality. I have heard that blast furnaces like that must continue running 365 days a year. Apparently, reheating a furnace that has cooled costs quite a bit of money.”

“Yeah, I guess some of them have been running for over 20 years straight. I suppose they wouldn’t keep them going if there wasn’t a good reason.”

“20 years?” said the tour guide in a hysteric voice. “They’re putting out that much smoke every day? Wouldn’t that destroy the environment?”

“It seems most of what comes from the smokestacks is water vapor…but, well, it does keep coming out even after the work day ends and during days off, so it isn’t exactly kind to the earth. Apparently, the roofs of stone churches around here have been melted like stalactites due to acid rain.” The shop owner scratched at his head, snatched the map from the tour guide girl who could not keep up, and spread it out. “So where would the enemy have set up these runes?”

“Wouldn’t around the blast furnaces be the best place?”

“They would be easy to detonate, but the facility is 7 kilometers square. That wouldn’t be enough to turn the entire place into a sea of flames.”

“His goal is to bring a stop to the work of the steelworks. If all 15 blast furnaces at the center are destroyed, the facility will be unusable. Is there any need for him to burn away the entire facility?”

“It sure would be nice if terrorists were logical like that. Anyway, I think the pipelines bringing in fuel to the blast furnaces are suspicious. Especially the ones bringing in natural gas rather than coal. If he opened a hole here ahead of time, and lit the relatively heavy gases that spread out near the surface, the damage would spread quite a bit.”

“It’s possible, but that would bring in the risk of it being noticed before he carried out his attack. Unlike magic, natural gas can be detected by normal sensors.”

“Hmm… Is it overthinking things to think that he might try using flames to rapidly oxidize a large amount of iron ore in order to suffocate all of the people working here?”

“U-u-umm…”

Kanzaki and the shop owner turned around when the tour guide timidly raised her hand and spoke. Their eyes said “did she get left behind again?” but that did not seem to be what the tour guide was trying to say.

She was looking down at her feet with a troubled expression.

“…Is this thing here one of the runes this magician is supposed to have set up?”

Part 3

There was nothing even remotely resembling logic to it.

The tour guide was pointing at a completely normal asphalt road. The area was likely made to allow large trucks to easily make a U-turn because it was more like a gray plain that it was a road. Of course, there was no highly flammable natural gas or any coal storage areas near it. Even if something were to explode there, nothing would happen other than a few trucks having to take a slight detour.

There was no sign of the magician having tried to hide it.

There would be no problem if the workers saw it. There were no images or pieces of text that held clear malice. For someone who knew nothing of runes, the symbols used would actually look more like a mark used for some kind of construction work than some graffiti drawn by a delinquent.

The shop owner stared at the rune set up in the middle of that empty area for a bit before speaking.

“…Is there a power cable or a natural gas pipeline running below ground here?”

“I-I checked, but it does not seem so. It seems the sewer runs below here,” responded the tour guide girl while looking at a specialized map of underground constructions used by the water department.

“That means…” Kanzaki brought her hand to her chin. “The magician is not setting up the runes in areas that will especially easily start fires. He might be setting the runes all across the steelworks facility in order to blow the entire thing away.”

“With something like this?” the shop owner said in shock.

Kanzaki understood what he meant.

It was just too complex.

It was a magic circle with a diameter of around 40 cm. However, something completely different from a pentagram was carved within the circle. Detailed blood vessel-like patterns completely filled the circle from its outer edge to the center. The patterns both large and small indicated various runes. It looked a bit like a trompe l'oeil. You would think you saw one rune but changing your view would allow you to see a completely different rune in a different place. By focusing on and looking at things in different ways, the same lines could be seen as different parts.

Some of them were likely dummies and some were likely the real thing.

Something that took a lot of time to set up would take just as long to get rid of. If similar runes were set up all over the 7 kilometer steelworks, they would not be able to remove all of the magic circles before the magician blew them up even if they did know where they all were.

However, that was only if magic circles of that complexity were truly set up over the entire facility.

“Could it be that,” the jeans shop owner said timidly, “the guy who set these up is the type to get caught up in the details and lose sight of the big picture?”

“N-no. He has already blown up three industrial facilities with this same method. If he truly was that kind of idiot, I would think he would have failed on the first one,” said the tour guide standing up for the enemy for some reason.

Kanzaki crouched down and observed the magic circle set up on the ground.

“…The magician has this rune carved and yet he has not detonated it. That may mean his preparations are not complete.”

“It would take 5 hours per location to carve something like this. How many years was this magician planning to take in order to blow up this facility,” said the shop owner in exasperation.

That was when the tour guide girl got a slightly puzzled look on her face.

“Huh?”

“What?”

“Well, it would take a very long time to prepare just one of these magic circles, right?”

“Yes, and?”

“Um, well…” The tour guide seemed troubled. “If someone was setting up these magic circles all across this 7 kilometer facility, would they really just go in order from one side to the other like an inkjet printer? Wouldn’t human mentality normally lead one to start with the important places and move on to the lower priority areas later?”

“In other words…?”

“Wouldn’t he only set a circle up in a low priority place like this after he had already finished all the important places long ago? Or am I overthinking this?”

Just as she said that, one of the distant smokestacks suddenly burst open at around the middle point.

An unbelievable amount of red flames spewed from the giant tube that was normally supposed to let out smoke. Flames also spewed from the “wound” at the center.

“He set one up that high!?”

“No, that was caused by the blast furnace at the base! Flames from there destroyed the smokestack from the inside!!” the shop owner yelled so that the explosive noise did not drown out his voice.

Even then, more explosions occurred near the storage tanks for the natural gas used as fuel as well as the silver pipelines stretching out from them.

(I have to stop this…!!)

As she viewed that scene of spewing flames and smoke and resounding screams and sirens, Kanzaki had that exceedingly decent thought. However, the overwhelming scene before her eyes caused her to forget one fundamental fact.

A magic circle just like the ones set up around the steelworks was located right below their feet.

There was a bright flash of light.

“…!?”

Before Kanzaki Kaori could say anything, crimson flames enveloped the three of them.

Part 4

The area looked like a bomber had passed by overhead.

The explosion had been at a level where those not in the direct range of the flames would be roasted by the high temperature blast along with those the flames themselves reached. Black smoke filled the air and it had an even more poisonous color to it than when the steelworks was running normally.

Amid all that, a portion of the flames were blown away from the inside along with a sound like a giant fan being waved. Kanzaki Kaori as well as the jeans shop owner and tour guide girl she had protected stepped out of the flames unscathed.

“Eh? Eh?”

The tour guide did not seem to understand what had happened to her.

“The runes used were Dagaz and Jera which mean day and summer respectively. By setting up a large number of those, he caused the heat and dryness to escalate which caused the ignition. In that case, we can locally rob it of its effectiveness by drawing out the magical meaning of the thick clouds and indicate this as an area hidden from the sun.”

“What would happen if you covered the rays of the sun up with your hand while frying ants with a magnifying glass?”

The tour guide had still looked confused after Kanzaki’s explanation, so the shop owner had added on that extra comment. He then ignored the tour guide who still did not quite get it and he looked over to Kanzaki.

“Do you know how much damage was done?”

“There had to have been at least some civilian casualties from that,” said Kanzaki Kaori in an emotionless voice.

An odd creaking sound came from the handle of her sword that she was gripping tightly.

“The responsibility clearly lies with the Necessarius higher ups who suggested this mission and us who followed their orders. We will take responsibility after this is all over.”

“Nicely said. When you eliminated the rune’s flames just now, you neutralized the other runes magically linked to this one, right? That should have been enough to prevent anyone from being killed.”

“We cannot be sure of that. And it is clear some had to have been injured.”

The shop owner felt Kanzaki wished she only had to fight magicians inside a set ring, but he made sure not to say so out loud. It was best not to provoke Kanzaki when she was like that.

“But what do we do now? It doesn’t look like the first wave completely took out the blast furnaces, but all 15 will be taken out if a few more waves come. We can’t remove the runes in time like this.”

“No, there is still a way.” Kanzaki shook her head. “If we find the magician who is activating them and defeat him, there will be no more damage regardless of how many more runes he has set up.”

“Is he even here? Surely he’s activating them remotely. He’ll have long since escaped to an area we can’t reach where he can activate his magic safely.”

“Not necessarily.”

Kanzaki pointed down at her feet.

The rune the magician had set up had been there just a bit before, but it had completely disappeared.

“I saw some tricks to increase the explosive force, but I did not see anything that would extend the effective activation distance. The magician is most likely sending out the orders from somewhere within the 7 kilometer facility.”

“But then he would get caught up in his own explosions.”

“That’s why he would be hiding within a safe area of the facility.” Kanzaki glanced around. “I’ve been thinking about why such a complex rune would be carved in such a meaningless place.”

“Does it have something to do with that safe area?”

“The safe area can easily be calculated out given where the explosions were…even with no knowledge of magic. The magician is trying to expand the damaged area by using the coal and natural gas used as fuel for the blast furnaces. In the end, you just have to think of it as a normal fire and find the places the flames and smoke do not reach.” As she spoke, she lightly tapped the soles of her boots on the ground. “This makes it simple to figure out where the magician is, so he decided to set runes up all over the 7 kilometer facility to make it seem as if there was no safe place. If we cannot determine where a safe place is, we cannot figure out where he is hiding. …However, the magician has set up the runes to detonate on his command, so his area remains safe as long as he does not send a detonation command to the runes around him. In other words…”

Using one hand, Kanzaki pulled out a nearby road sign for the large trucks that passed by in that area.

“He’s there!!”

As she shouted, she threw the sign like it was a javelin.

The sign flew over a kilometer through the air and stabbed into a normal-looking concrete wall.

But…

A small figure frantically jumped to the side. He seemed to have appeared out of nowhere. It had looked like someone hiding behind an invisible wall had frantically jumped out from behind that cover.

Kanzaki lowered her hips slightly and then chased after the magician as quickly as a bullet.

With that speed, the jeans shop owner and the tour guide girl could not cover for her. The tour guide girl spoke after they had been left behind like that.

“W-we were careless…but we can turn this around, right? Kanzaki is one of the world’s fewer than 20 Saints after all.”

“I’m not so sure this will end that easily,” responded the shop owner as he stared off in the direction Kanzaki had disappeared in. “This magician caused the explosions with runes, but he did not insist on sticking just with that. He also used the blast furnaces and natural gas in the steelworks to cause even more damage.”

“And what does that mean exactly…?”

“It means this magician knows the limits of his strength.”

The tour guide girl looked confused and the shop owner sighed before continuing.

“Instead of being filled with pride, he used everything he could in order to bring about the result he wanted. Do you really think a bastard like that is going to try to fight a Saint in a fair fight?”

Part 5

They had noticed him!!

The magician, a young man named Leasic, used all his strength to evade the road sign flying toward him, but that did not change what he had to do. The girl who had attacked him was likely a Saint. That threat was running his way at tremendous speed, but Leasic’s plan did not change.

Why had he gone out of his way to carve such complex runes? It was so that a magician could not easily dispel his explosive runes even if his attack was noticed.

Every part of his objective was collected there.

He could not allow himself to be led astray by a powerful enemy.

His objective was to stop the functioning of that steelworks as quickly and as accurately as possible.

“!!”

That was why Leasic ignored Kanzaki and continued to run to the side. He was headed for his next safe area. Leasic had set up more than one safe point within the facility so that he would not be caught up in the blasts he himself was creating.

Why had he not targeted the entire steelworks facility in the first blast?

The answer was the same as to why he had set up runes over the entire 7 kilometer facility. If he only had one safe area, that area could easily be found.

Leasic had divided his bombing plan into multiple stages.

When causing Explosion Set A he remained in Safe Area A, when causing Explosion Set B, he remained in Safe Area B, and when causing Explosion Set C, he remained in Safe Area C. For that purpose, he had prepared areas scattered throughout the facility based on the areas being blown up. Of course, when Explosion Set A went off, Safe Areas B and C would be affected by the blasts and Safe Area A would be filled with flames due to Explosion Set B. That way, once everything had gone off, it would look as if there had been no safe areas and people would assume the magician had been at a distance.

That was why he immediately headed for the next safe area.

The instant he reached it, he would of course detonate the next set of runes to blow away the blast furnaces and related equipment.

That safe area was right in front of him.

Leasic ran taking long strides.

Just three more steps.

Two more.

One more.

“…Too slow.”

The instant Leasic detected that blurred voice, his body was already doubled over and flying to the side. After he had flown about 5 meters through the air, he finally heard the crash. It may have been a kick he had received. Despite having received the attack, Leasic had been unable to comprehend what exactly had happened to him.

His body fell to the ground, bounced two or three times, and finally came to a stop.

He heard an odd noise.

(C-cough…!? What was that? Are these…wires…?)

“I will only give you one warning, so listen carefully.”

Kanzaki stood over 10 meters away where Leasic had been just previously and her hand was on the handle of her sword.

“Cease your resistance and surrender. If you do not, I will sever your arms so you can no longer fight.”

“…”

Leasic glanced over at his arms that were half floating up in the air, but…

“You cannot turn this around,” Kanzaki said as if to bring a stop to his thoughts. “You seem to have prepared those exceedingly detailed magic circles that use special runes in an amazingly short time, but I already know how they work. You cannot escape the wires of my Nanasen using that.”

“So you realized it.”

“It was nothing more than a theory until I saw you.”

Kanzaki slowly lowered her center of gravity and looked at Leasic.

He was wearing a long coat and both sides of the coat stuck out unnaturally. He seemed to have some kind of large object tucked into his belt.

“Is that the power source for a laser grinder or amplification equipment? You hide a dismantled machine tool in your coat that allows you to carve out those complex patterns according to a program at the press of a button. Using that method, you can likely prepare one of those runes in less than 10 seconds.”

Basically, he was using the type of machine that automatically cut apart metal sheets in a factory. The exceedingly narrow arm could move more accurately than the print head of a copier and could complete that complex pattern in no time at all.

“That is a truly interesting method, but that laser technology is in violation of an agreement made between the magic side and the science side. …As a member of Necessarius, this means I have all the more reason to capture you.”

Given its size, Leasic’s machine likely did not have the same level of output as the ones that cut apart metal. All it could do was carve grooves a few millimeters deep. The rune circles carved in the ground were not given color by ink. The heat scorched them like a brand.

And…

“Do you really think I am going to give you even a few seconds of spare time? If you make any suspicious actions, I will immediately sever your arms.” There was no hesitation in Kanzaki’s voice. “Unlike in the past, it seems they can now carry out surgery that reattaches the nerves of a severed arm. I have no reason to hesitate. …Well, there are some parts of the nerve reattachment that need work.”

Kanzaki started to slowly and smoothly move her hand that held her sword.

And then Leasic smiled slightly.

“So you’ll take care of me afterwards. How kind of you.”

As he spoke, his gaze moved from his own arm and back toward Kanzaki.

“But I can tell you do not know how to kill someone.”

Immediately afterwards, both Leasic’s arms were severed at the shoulder.

“Wha—?”

Kanzaki was the one that cried out in surprise.

She had warned him that that she would sever his arms if he resisted, but she had not yet sent the final command to the wires.

Leasic himself had done that.

As proof, flames spewed from his shoulders due to some runes.

“Now nothing is stopping me.”

“Wait…!!”

This time, Kanzaki swung the wires with all her strength in an attempt to attack Leasic from all sides, but she did not make it in time. It was not an issue of her physical ability. Kanzaki’s speed had been lowered on the mental side.

Leasic’s shoulders erupted even more forcefully.

His body was launched straight up as if it was a rocket. He made more of a huge sudden jump as if reverse bungee jumping than an elegant flight through the sky.

Using his wings of fire, Leasic landed atop a rectangular building’s roof. He grinned thinly and he did not seem to hold any regret, hatred, fear, or unease over having lost his arms.

And then the magician Leasic detonated the second wave of runes.

Despite the detail and complexity of the runes he used, they were not especially destructive. All that effort was focused on making dummy designs that prevented anyone from reading what he was going to do from the runes he had carved.

The blast furnaces and smokestacks had not been blown away in a single explosion due to the intrinsic power of Leasic’s magic. He was simply using the fuel that was already in the blast furnaces. Of course, there were control valves that made sure the proper fuel entered the furnaces in the proper amounts, but the shock of Leasic’s explosions destroyed those control valves causing a great amount of fuel to enter the furnaces all at once. That was what blew them away. The smokestacks were destroyed because they could not withstand the internal pressure caused by the blasts from the furnaces.

Leasic did not care.

As long as he could carry out his objective, the means did not matter.

It did not matter if he was using the power of science.

He just had to utterly blow away the center of that scientific facility and blow up all of the blast furnaces.

But…

Even though Leasic had sent out the detonation command, not a single flame or shockwave exploded out from the steelworks.

“What…?”

Leasic looked confused.

He thought Kanzaki must have done something, but that did not seem to be the case. She was frowning as well.

Then he heard a voice.

It was a male voice belonging to someone who was not there and that Leasic had never met.

“You used too many tricks, you idiot.”

Leasic guessed that the man must have been backup or someone who had been waiting to ambush him.

He was not entirely wrong. The voice belonged to the jeans shop owner.

“I’ve heard of magicians who make laminated cards with runes on them so they can make hundreds or thousands of them in just a few seconds. They increase the strength of their magic with it, but if you ask me, that method creates too many openings. It’s the same as how even if you have strict security, you cannot eliminate the possibility of someone getting into your system if it is connected to the internet where people all over the world can access it.”

Where was the voice coming from?

The answer was simple. It was coming from one of the runes Leasic has set up. He had carved the runes over every part of the 7 kilometer facility and that included the roof Leasic was standing on. The man’s voice was coming from the roof below his feet.

Leasic’s expression twisted.

“You interfered…!!”

“Hey, Kanzaki. This wasn’t volunteer work. You owe me. Really, I was saved by the fact that the rune circles were made from a pattern. Thanks to that, an expert in magical clothing could somehow manage to find the connections.”

“Kh!!”

Leasic leaned over and checked on the rune at his feet. He noticed that one portion was colored an unnatural red. Most likely, every rune in the steelworks had changed in the same way. That was blocking Leasic’s commands. After analyzing that, Leasic grinned.

The method of interference was quick but crude.

He could remove something of that level. If he could remove that “color” filling the gap, he could regain control. He still had a way to continue his bombing. With that in mind, Leasic carefully manipulated the direction of the flames spewing from his shoulders and began working on interfering with the magic circle.

“Should you really be doing that?” said the man mockingly. “I doubt you can deal with our Saint at the same time.”

“!?”

Leasic immediately reacted, but he did not make it in time.

Kanzaki Kaori did not use her explosive leg strength to leap up onto the building’s roof. Given her physical abilities, she could easily do so, but she did not choose to.

She instead chose to use her seven wires.

They wrapped around Leasic’s body and swung him around like a morning star.

Kanzaki’s wires were made so they would normally slice straight through her opponent. They did not slice through Leasic’s body despite being wrapped around him most likely because he had activated some kind of defensive magic. In a certain way, that result showed just how skillful Leasic was as a magician.

However, what occurred afterwards destroyed every advantage he may have had.

A loud crash exploded out. After being swung around by the dozens of meters long wires, Leasic had been slammed straight into the asphalt ground. Cracks ran through the asphalt and small rock-like fragments flew up into the air.

Multiple wires dug deeply into Leasic’s body that had been bloodied in that single attack. Seeing that, Leasic caused even more flames to erupt from his shoulders. The steel wires floating in the air like a spider web were melted and torn apart.

(That wasn’t enough…?)

Kanzaki did not speak out loud and just frowned slightly.

His objective was to blow up the steelworks, not to defeat Kanzaki.

As such, Leasic quickly tried to move away from her and blow up another part of the facility. However, strength would not enter his body. Like a bird with broken wings, Leasic leapt up and then fell back to the ground.

“…”

Kanzaki gathered the broken wires and walked in Leasic’s direction.

“Ha ha… I won’t give up…”

Leasic drew back while showing his bloody teeth with a thin smile. From that movement, Kanzaki could tell that he could no longer carry out the actions he wanted to. He could not physically move properly and he could not function as a magician by refining magic power out of his life force.

At the very least, he was not in a state where he could defeat a Saint.

“I won’t give up. I must protect the earth.”

“Why are you going this far? The people working at this facility know nothing of the world of magic. And they are not producing weapons that will kill others.”

“And I’m supposed let this go because of that?”

Hatred appeared within his smile.

Words that seemed to be tinged with black left Leasic’s split lips.

“How can I do that? An attack or an invasion is not necessarily a simple matter of military force. The people here are eroding away the magic side.”

“..Eroding away?”

Kanzaki frowned.

That industrial district had never been a religious sacred ground in the past, so he could not be trying to drive people away for that reason. Also, the products of that science side facility were only used to make normal household products.

But then Leasic got to the real issue at hand.

“Did you know that this steelworks has expanded because the price of iron and steel is expected to greatly rise soon? For efficiency’s sake, the furnaces are kept running nonstop 365 days a year pumping out huge amounts of smoke the entire time.”

“You don’t mean…”

“They cause acid rain,” Leasic spat out. “My specialty is runes. And unlike other grimoires, the stone monuments for runes are built out in the open on hills or in plains. Do you know how many valuable resources have been lost in the last 20 years due to this concentrated acid rain?”

Kanzaki thought for a bit.

She had indeed gotten reports of stone buildings around the industrial district being worn away bit by bit due to the acid rain. Of course, the vast majority of environmental destruction was caused by the science side. From a certain point of view, that could be seen as the science side polluting the resources of the magic side for their own advantage. But…

“But the Original class grimoires that have true magical value cannot be destroyed by any means. They would not be lost due to simple acid rain.”

“So anything that isn’t an Original doesn’t matter?”

Leasic ground his teeth.

There was anguish in his voice that had not been there even when he had severed his own arms with his flames.

“The basic Futhark has only 24 characters. The secondary runes derived from it are said to be nothing more than literary additions developed later in order to make texts easier to read. As such, they are treated as having no occult value. But so what? Even if they cannot be used for magic, they are still valuable resources. They are not something I can allow to be lost! In fact, the magical runes are protected on their own by their power as Originals, so they will be fine even in 1000 years even if we just ignore them. The literary runes that do not have that advantage and could disappear at any time are the ones we need to protect with everything we have!!”

“What do you expect me to do now that I have heard that?” said Kanzaki in a cool voice as she shook her head. “Since you have brought a large number of people into danger, your methods have already failed. Do you really think I will agree with you?”

“Failed? You’re saying I’ve failed?”

“Bringing the steelworks to a complete stop may be difficult, but you made a fatal flaw by trying to do so with explosives. Even if you managed to stop the acid rain, the fuel and other materials released with the explosions will wash out into the sea and cause a different kind of pollution. Your actions will not save the environment. You have only made the one destroying the environment be you instead of the factory.”

“…”

Leasic stared blankly at her as flames continued to spew from where his arms should be. He then spoke sounding as if he was asking a truly honest question.

“How is that a problem?”

“…”

Kanzaki Kaori fell silent.

The cold atmosphere around her changed to something even deeper and sharper. Leasic continued speaking without noticing that. He seemed angry that she did not understand his point of view.

“That’s not it. What I care about is the rune monument. Who cares about the ocean? It can turn black with oil and all the fish and sea birds can die for all I care! C’mon, we don’t have time to worry about trivial things like that!! If we don’t do something soon, the rune monument will be destroyed! That precious stone monument is being damages as we speak!! What else matters!? Do you truly understand how serious this situation is!?”

Leasic then heard someone clicking their tongue.

It had come from Kanzaki.

It was a rare sound coming from that relatively polite girl.

“…I see.”

She sounded disappointed.

Kanzaki moved her lips and spoke as if she were truly fed up with the man.

“I had a feeling this was all there was to the environmental protection a selfish human was after.”

“H-heh. I won’t give up. Everyone around me is such a fool. No one else realizes how serious a problem this is and none of them even think of trying to solve it. That’s why I have to do this. If I don’t, there will be no saving the monument!!”

An explosive noise rang out and the intensity of the flames coming from Leasic’s shoulders increased.

However, he was not attempting to propel himself backwards so he could gain an opportunity to blow up the facility. He was using the explosive flames to carve into the asphalt and forcibly draw a new rune. That work would normally be carried out by the laser grinding machine tool, but he was using the flames from his shoulders that time.

But he did not complete the rune.

Kanzaki’s boot slammed into the center of the halfway completed magic circle. The leg strength of a Saint shattered the asphalt and destroyed the unfinished circle.

“Then we will preserve the monument.”

She squeezed the handle of her sword with enough force to make a creaking sound as she headed further forward.

Leasic had lost his last means of attack so he tried to fall back, but he could not make it in time. Kanzaki spoke in an extremely cold voice to Leasic who was looking at her with a stiffened expression.

“So it’s time you quit this.”

Part 6

A dull noise reverberated through every corner of the 7 kilometer square steelworks facility. After having been blown away, Leasic lay completely still. The flames erupting from his shoulders stopped and he slowly oozed blood. The jeans shop owner who had stayed at a distance during the fight looked at Leasic with an unpleasant look on his face. The tour guide girl covered her ears as if lightning had struck nearby.

“Is he okay? I think his ribs or maybe even his spine might be broken.”

“I was not that careless.”

Having completed that annoying job, Kanzaki left restraining Leasic to the jeans shop owner and turned toward the tour guide girl.

“When Leasic comes to, question him lightly and find out where the rune monument is. If we donate it to a museum, it will not be lost to the acid rain.”

“O-okay…”

The tour guide looked as if she could not grasp what Kanzaki was trying to do. Her questioning eyes seemed to be asking if it was necessary to go along with his demand now that he had been defeated.

“Everyone’s the same, aren’t they?” said the shop owner after returning from stopping Leasic’s bleeding and restraining him.

Kanzaki shook her head.

“Not necessarily.”

“If you truly want to preserve the environment, you just have to kill every single human. But you won’t choose that method. It all comes down to your own principles and point of view, so you’re just the same as everyone else. We all need to just do what we can together. If we set our goal too high, we’re just heading for failure.”

“I know…”

Kanzaki looked up toward the heavens.

As she stared up at the thick clouds, she spoke to no one in particular.

“God would be truly shocked if he heard these lukewarm slogans that only take into account what matters to humans.”

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