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Apocalypse Witch Preview

js06 Sep 7th, 2019 366 Never
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  1. A digital alarm clock went off in a dark room.
  2. Utagai Karuta reached out from the large bed, but his fingers found something else instead. It was a lot like reaching for the book you wanted at a bookstore and accidentally bumping into another customer’s hand.
  3. He was puzzled as someone spoke up from the darkness.
  4. “Why would you set it so early, you goody-goody. Have you started training on your own?”
  5. “Marika?”
  6. He narrowed his eyes toward the familiar voice and could barely make out a feminine silhouette in the darkness.
  7. This was his childhood friend of the same age. The girl’s long hair had been dyed a strawberry blonde and she wore it in curly twintails. She had a curvy figure for her short height. …Except something was not right. Would a clothed girl’s body lines really be quite this clearly defined in silhouette?
  8. Utagai Karuta had a bad feeling about this, so he asked about it from the bed.
  9. “Wait just a second, Marika.”
  10. “Isn’t it a little late for that? We’ve shared baths and beds in the past, haven’t we? And while I’m not proud of it, you know what my room is like. I bought too many new swimsuits online, so it’s basically a warehouse with no room to walk around. This is hardly the first time I’ve snuck over here to get some help.”
  11. “That is definitely a problem, but it isn’t what I’m getting at here. I’m talking about your state of dress.”
  12. “Oh, this?” The sexy silhouette needlessly put its hands on its hips. “You know I can’t get to sleep unless I’m nude, right?”
  13. “Waaahhh!!”
  14. It was such a shock he rolled right out of the large bed.
  15. As his last form of resistance, he grabbed at the sheet with his toes while rolling to the floor and threw it into the air. The girl’s muffled protests reached him after it fell right over her head.
  16. “Oh, fome on. Is the familiar sight of your childhood friend really that much of an eyesore?”
  17. “No, if anything it’s the opp-…!!”
  18. (Oh, no!! Prime numbers! Pi! Anything that will distract me! Oh, I know! I can review my Crystal Magic knowledge!)
  19. He frantically tried to refocus himself, but a few different pieces of bad luck aligned here. He really should not have messed with those weird IoT appliance settings. The automatic curtains were set to open at exactly three minutes after the alarm went off to help him get up in the morning.
  20. The human internal clock was closely linked to sunlight, so artificially increasing the amount of light was one method used by jetlag recovery programs.
  21. However, the image that crashed into Utagai Karuta’s heart was not the lovely morning sunbeams; it was a nude twintails girl shining bright in those sunbeams.
  22. Of course, her body was somewhat hidden since he had kicked the sheet into the air a moment before.
  23. “Good morning, Karuta-kun. The weather is fantastic again today.”
  24. “Bwah! M-Mari-Mari-Marika!! Can’t you…can’t you cover yourself up better than that!?”
  25. “Why bother when I’m about to take a shower? Oh, you’re fine with me getting the first shower of the morning, right?”
  26. “Awawawawa.”
  27. “And as thanks for letting me go first, you can enjoy a wonderful shower surrounded by the lingering scent of a lovely maiden.”
  28. “Awaaaa!!”
  29. (Awawawawawawawa! The human race cannot – boobs – directly control the weather, but by detecting meteorological phenomena such as high and low pressure and then “riding that current”, we can prevent natural disaster and ensure largescale agricultural success – boobies – Crystal Magic is used by electronically controlling a Crystal Blossom using a printed circuit board smaller than a stamp and sealing a god’s name inside – boobs and tits – to produce miraculous phenomena such as producing fire from the hand or flying through the sky, so – ah ha, ah ha ha, no, I can’t focus at all!!)
  30. Karuta’s mind was exploding for more reasons than one and Amaashi Marika must have been satisfied with his panicked cries because she cackled and disappeared into the bathroom.
  31. The boy started agonized over the running water he could hear coming from the other side of that wall, but while pacing restlessly back and forth, he stubbed his toe on a piece of plastic by the window.
  32. It was shaped something like a bamboo leaf, but it was larger than he was while lying down. That item looked like a single-person board with a round cover on top was actually a prototype civilian spacecraft. (You could probably go on a small journey with it if you were launched from a space station outside the atmosphere, but you would almost certainly die of loneliness.) The barrier to entry for space development had lowered a lot recently, so you could find these things even at a “school” like this.
  33. He sighed, crouched down, and lightly knocked on the surface of the spacecraft.
  34. He heard a knock form the other side.
  35. “Sorry about all the noise. Did it wake you?”
  36. He heard another knock that seemed to be saying “don’t worry about it”.
  37. Then he looked out the window that no longer had the curtain covering it.
  38. The room had a large bed, a table, a microwave, and an electric water boiler, but there was no kitchen or dining room. The bathroom that twintailed Marika had entered was a prefab unit that included a bath and a toilet. Some people might think that sounds like a hotel room.
  39. That was close, but not quite.
  40. The view out the windows showed the ocean. And this was clearly not the ocean near Japan. It was the hot and emerald-sparkling ocean found near the equator. This room was on a giant ship. At 500m long, it was nearly twice the size of a nuclear aircraft carrier.
  41. And.
  42. Something flew by directly outside the window.
  43. It caused the thick reinforced glass to rattle as it passed by and, if his kinetic vision was at all accurate, it appeared to be a human. It was a high school girl of around his age who had armor covering her arms and legs, wings on her back, and equipment made of a translucent and angular material.
  44. This might be a very odd sight from a global perspective.
  45. But Utagai Karuta was ''one of them'', so it was a lot more familiar than his childhood friend’s nudity.
  46. “Ocean Crystal Magic Academy Grimnoah, huh?”
  47. He once more thought about where he was standing and what force he belonged to.
  48. Yes.
  49. He too was one of the magicians who wore a new generation Crystal Blossom at his chest.
  50.  
  51. “What, you didn’t take a shower? Gross.”
  52. After simply washing off his face, Utagai Karuta chose not to respond to his childhood friend whose skin was flushed from her shower. He could not bring himself to admit he was worried what would happen to his blood pressure if he spent too long in a shower filled with such a girly scent.
  53. They were wearing their uniforms for this “school”.
  54. They both wore purple blazers, but that was not the best choice for a location so close to the equator. Some of the students jumped for joy at the more frequent opportunities for the female students to shower, but Karuta was not one of those. He simply hated all the sweat.
  55. His one form of resistance was to wear a running shirt below his blazer instead of a dress shirt.
  56. “You’re headed out for some training, aren’t you?”
  57. “What about you, Marika?”
  58. “The cafeteria stiiiill isn’t open, so I’ll go with you. The Catastrophe is coming up, but more than that, food tastes better when you’ve worked up an appetite.”
  59. When the two left his room while chatting, a classmate named Kazamuki Gekiha poked his head out from the neighboring room.
  60. Marika did not care at all if she was seen leaving Karuta’s room (with her hair wet from the shower), so she spoke to him with a puzzled look.
  61. “What, are you training too? When did our class start actually putting in an effort?”
  62. “Try to have a thought for the neighbors. Your couple’s comedy skits have been waking me up early every morning lately.”
  63. “Sorry. But just to be clear, these are not ‘couple’s comedy skits’.”
  64. Gekiha ended up joining them. It was too late to go back to sleep and he must not have wanted to waste the time. The loose fit of his uniform and his slouching pose gave him the quintessential delinquent look, but he never could have gotten into the Ocean Crystal Magic Academy if he was not smart.
  65. “So where do you do your training?” asked Marika. “The gym? The pool?”
  66. That question showed just how large this ship was.
  67. The single ship contained enough living space, classrooms, labs, lecture halls, gyms, and indoor pools for the more than 700 students and faculty members onboard. It already sounded like magic without even getting to the Crystal Blossoms.
  68. Crystal Magic could only be used by a select few, but its byproducts had scattered across the world. It was similar to the relationship between great firepower and ironworking. The many new materials and highly-efficient new techniques developed by Crystal Magic had most blessed the field of construction.
  69. Simply put, buildings had grown taller, underground structures had expanded, and ships and planes had grown larger. The world’s scenery had been changed by what was added on top of the existing technologies.
  70. However…
  71. “It doesn’t really matter where. Y’know, because my Crystal Blossom is a little weird.”
  72. “Yeah.”
  73. “You’ve got a point.”
  74. “So I’ll go wherever you want to go. Where can you spread your wings the most?”
  75. Once Utagai Karuta let the others choose, they knew exactly where they would train for the day.
  76. They moved to the very back of that ship which was twice the size of a luxury cruise ship. The three of them arrived on the large flat heliport there.
  77. Quite a few students had already gathered there, but they were not kicking around a ball or grappling each other on the heliport.
  78. They were falling.
  79. Falling from the edge of the heliport and toward the emerald-sparkling ocean.
  80. “Tezcatlipoca, power up,” whispered curly twintailed Marika.
  81. She wore something like a glass flower at her chest and it immediately began to move. The electrical signal emitted by a printed circuit board smaller than a stamp passed through cables thinner than hairs and the flower opened up. It blossomed. And then it shattered. The clear particles wrapped around her body and became cold armor that surrounded her arms and legs and extended in places to form blade-like wings.
  82. The other notable feature was the rapier-shaped device made of what looked like translucent crystal. This was of course nothing as primitive as a device to slice through things with a honed blade. It would use ultra-rapid vibration and heat to obstruct the inter-electron activity that bound molecules together.
  83. She did not need to worry about the flower petals. More were automatically supplied to make up for those that fell away.
  84. “Thor, power up,” whispered Gekiha as well.
  85. In his case, 10 large wings grew from his entire back.
  86. His weapon was much less refined. It appeared to be made of the same delicate crystal as Marika’s, but it was designed as a cross between a chainsaw and Gatling gun that was longer than he was tall. His ability to easily swing it around in a single hand was another blessing of Crystal Magic.
  87. Of course, not all Crystal Magic was the same. There was a large difference in the power one wielded depending on the deity being used. For example, these two could both produce a variety of phenomena that they wielded as weapons, but Marika’s Tezcatlipoca was based on light while Kazamuki Gekiha’s Thor was based on electricity.
  88. Utagai Karuta breathed a soft sigh.
  89. And he waved over at them with a smile.
  90. “Have fun.”
  91. They smiled back and then jumped from the edge of the heliport.
  92. But there never was a splashing sound. Instead, there was a sound like a sharp whistle. He looked down to see the emerald sea split apart while the two of them freely skimmed just above its surface.
  93. They moved faster than fighter jets and more delicately than figure skaters.
  94. Legends said those forms could avoid 70 fully-locked-on missiles in a row and even shake free of a ship’s interception laser.
  95. The flower at Karuta’s chest vibrated a bit while he remained back on the ship.
  96. It quickly formed human voices.
  97. They belonged to those two classmates who had gone on ahead of him.
  98. “Whew! Okay, let’s start with some teamwork,” said Gekiha. “I’ll add markers for the slalom, so match my movements!!”
  99. “I seriously doubt I’ll be on your team in battle, but, well, it’s just practice,” replied Marika.
  100. “Man, those upperclassmen are something else, aren’t they?”
  101. “Tch. They’re looking down on us again, aren’t they?”
  102. Karuta also looked up toward the sky.
  103. Crystal Magicians took a special kind of flower pollen into their bodies to “grow” that armor instead of “piloting” or “wearing” it. It was a lot more portable than the older staffs and card sets, and you could think of it like magical superconductors with nearly zero energy loss upon connection. The energy emitted by the Original Crystal Embryo said to exist at the center of the earth and the various powers pouring down from space would collide and create random “vortices of power” similar to occult high and low pressure fronts, but these monsters could access all sorts of supernatural phenomena by using their electrically-controlled Crystal Blossoms just like someone efficiently plowing their field or raising their sails to utilize the weather. Yes, it was just like the priests and priestesses of an older age who had performed sacred acts in accordance with a horoscope chart or calendar that showed everything from creation to destruction all so they coud obtain a power that brought people together to form a civilization.
  104. But those rulers of the supernatural had a clear hierarchy among them.
  105. Marika and Gekiha raced across the glittering ocean with ferocious speed, but there were a few silhouettes flying up above those classmates’ heads. They flapped their wings like angels or demons and they were likely Karuta’s upperclassmen. At the second year, they were known as Regulation 2.
  106. It was like the difference between a small kart and a Formula 1 racer. Karuta and his classmates were only Regulation 1, so they had not even been given the right to fight alongside them in the school competition known as the Catastrophe.
  107. …Unless they used a special system known as Category Error.
  108. “Kee hee hee,” laughed Marika. “Keep staring up like that and people will mistake you for a panty peeper.”
  109. “!?”
  110. Karuta jumped and she continued the verbal attack while cackling.
  111. “Don’t worry, even the students in the other years know my pathetic childhood friend isn’t going to try anything. Anyway, I don’t see any Regulation 3s.”
  112. “You mean those dimensional travelers?”
  113. “I doubt that part’s true. Although I wouldn’t put it past that Student Council President.”
  114. Crystal Magicians did not use lift or jet thrusters to fly or to skim along the ocean’s surface.
  115. Crystal Magic used an excitation vibration to shake the space and dimension itself and create an invisible sail that let them ride the great currents that formed those occult high and low pressure fronts. Still, the more physical resistance and footholds the better, so Regulation 1s were limited to the ocean while Regulation 2s could reach the sky.
  116. So what about Regulation 3s?
  117. Legend had it they could increase the excitation vibration to the point that they pushed the dimension past its limit and ruptured it. It was said they could pass through that dimensional rift and make the other side into their own territory as well. Simply put, they could perform dimensional leaps similar to warping or teleporting.
  118. (Skimming across the water, flying through the sky, and dimensional travel. …Well, they should all be impossible, but that order does fit how hard it is to imagine them, I guess.)
  119. There was a reason why they had taken this so far.
  120. There was a logical and pressing reason why they needed to acquire such great power.
  121. “Aim at the drones flying around free,” said Gekiha. “Let’s mark A00 through N99. I’ll drive them toward you and you finish them off. Let’s aim for 30 seconds. Or is that too much for you, Miss Marika!?”
  122. “Ugh, really!? This is why I don’t want to be teamed up with a trigger-happy optical Gatling gun freak! Don’t hit those upperclassmen flying up there, okay!?”
  123. “It’s not like it would kill them if I did. The spatial vibration field will protect them, plus they’re pretty much immortal even if I break through that barrier.”
  124. Thanks to Crystal Magic, they could regenerate an arm or a leg if it was blown off. With anything other than a fatal blow, the damaged portion would be immediately crystallized and return to normal in about 30 seconds. …However, that opportunity was lost if the crystalized part was shattered by a further attack while it prepared to regenerate.
  125. With a fatal blow, their entire body would be crystallized.
  126. In that case, the regeneration period was unknown. Or rather, it depended on the level of injury. A slit throat might be fine after less than a year, but if their torso was bisected or their entire body was blown to bits, even a century would not be enough. And if part of their original body had been lost, then the time increased tenfold or even a hundredfold. It may have been like being placed in cold sleep while they slowly healed.
  127. “Can I say something weird?” asked Karuta.
  128. “That’s par for the course with you, so don’t worry about it,” said Gekiha. “So what is it?”
  129. “I think even Crystal Magicians die when they’re fatally wounded. I mean, the healing of wounds and the regeneration of fatal wounds clearly use different modes. With regeneration, their clothing is solidified along with them. I guess it’s like the healing keeps their soul inside while the regeneration doesn’t.”
  130. “You mean like those Egyptian mummies?” asked Marika. “They preserve the corpse because the resurrected soul will need it at their destination, right?”
  131. “What does it matter?” added Gekiha. “Either way, you can still come back after being beheaded or having your heart shot through.”
  132. Did that seem like a second chance to redo your life, or did it seem like a punishment that left you wandering the world in a state where you could never die?
  133. Your interpretation probably came down to your personal beliefs.
  134. “…”
  135. Flight, a barrier, and regeneration.
  136. Those were the “presets” shared by all Crystal Magicians. In other words, they were standard.
  137. But they also had individual Skills based on the deity they wore like armor, so there was a lot offered in the deal.
  138. “I do have the Gatling gun, but I’m mainly a close-quarters fighter using the chainsaw,” said Gekiha. “It’s just that I already had the rotation structure in there, so I figured I could put it to good use in other ways too.”
  139. “Either way, it is severely lacking in style,” said Marika. “Also, isn’t the greatest advantage of your Thor the boomerang-like alterations to projectile trajectories? So why did you focus so much on close-quarters?”
  140. Karuta watched from the heliport as those two had fun flying along the ocean.
  141. “Do you think the Threat really exists?” he asked without thinking.
  142. Kazamuki Gekiha clearly did not like the question.
  143. “How should I know when we aren’t given any information on it? Is it human or a monster? Is it a plant or an animal? Is it a living thing or a machine? Is it micro or is it macro? We don’t know a damn thing. It could even be a legit god or demon for all we know.”
  144. “But we do know cities are disappearing around the world,” said Marika. “And in some cases, entire small countries. They’re just gone without at trace, like someone used a giant eraser. That’s the one thing we do know.”
  145. The great pressure felt like a soft hand pressing on the center of the stomach.
  146. Cities and countries were disappearing around the world.
  147. And it always happened overnight without anyone able to resist in the slightest.
  148. Nothing at all had been announced regarding the cause and masking had been applied so not even civilian satellites could see what was going on, so disconcerting speculations continued to grow unabated.
  149. What was this thing that had to be hidden from the world?
  150. That was why this academy was built as a boat. And why it was surrounded by so many escort ships of various sizes. No fixed location functioned as a solid base anymore. Not a superpower’s metropolis, not a shelter deep underground, and not some secret garden at the ends of the earth.
  151. The Threat.
  152. It may not have been anything occult. It might turn out to be nothing more than an ordinary army made up of enemy soldiers. But with all information hidden, they were forced to skip straight past the cause and process and look only at the result. That was more than enough to make it a real nightmare.
  153. “I hate how we’re asked to fight something without being told what it is,” complained Karuta.
  154. “This giant school and the Catastrophe exist to make sure we’re ready when that surprise party arrives out of the blue one day,” said Marika.
  155. The Catastrophe was divided up between Regulations, but it was still a major event that determined a clear hierarchy within the students of the Ocean Crystal Magic Academy. However, this was not a martial arts tournament where the students fought each other, a sports festival where their athleticism was measured, or final exams where their academic ability was put to the test.
  156. The name said it all.
  157. They were thrown into some great catastrophe.
  158. “The rumors I’ve heard say they’ll do pretty much anything,” said Gekiha. “They might spread liquid helium high in the sky to create a bomb cyclone, or they might stuff a 1000m pit full of explosives to trigger an artificial volcanic eruption.”
  159. “I’d take either of those over the one where you’re taken to a desert island only to have agar carrying a genetically-modified pathogen rain down on you from the sky,” said Marika.
  160. “Um, I’ve heard you can wake up after the anesthetic wears off and find yourself in the middle of a military conflict somewhere in the world,” said Karuta.
  161. Natural disasters, plagues, and wars.
  162. The catastrophe could come in any form. There was no advance warning and they were free to work with or work against the other students they found with them.
  163. There was only one win condition: overcoming the catastrophe the academy tasked them with and ending the problems it had caused.
  164. The number of catastrophes they had safely overcome and how active a role they had played would be quantified and the entire student body would receive a final ranking at fixed intervals.
  165. This was not useless “theories” that only worked on paper or in a ring. They had to improve themselves as Crystal Magicians such that they could respond to any and all dangers.
  166. However, the possible catastrophes were so varied that this gave no real hint what they were being trained to face. In other words, what the Threat really was.
  167. “Anyway, you were the one who invited me to train this morning. If you can obtain Skills just by staring up into the sky, knock yourself out, but if not, then how about you get going?”
  168. He realized Marika was right. He had no rebuttal.
  169. He placed a hand on his chest, traced his finger across the Crystal Blossom that looked like glasswork, and he whispered.
  170. He whispered to the printed circuit board smaller than a stamp, to the cables thinner than hairs, and to the Crystal Blossom beyond them.
  171. “Power up. …I’m counting on you, Aine.”
  172. As soon as he did, his Crystal Blossom shattered. But not like it did for the other students. No translucent armor covered his arms and legs and no wings grew from his back.
  173. His back swelled out and then something crawled out of his flesh.
  174. It was a girl.
  175. She looked like a lovely girl of about 13 or 14. She had long hair, her skin was more pale than white, and she wore a transparent-looking white dress decorated all over with glittering crystal.
  176. He called her Aine, but he did not actually know if that was really the silver-haired girl’s name.
  177. In fact, he did not know if she was really a living being with feelings of her own.
  178. She held what looked like a drawn katana made of crystal. However, the back of the blade branched off like a jitte and a short laser gun unit was attached parallel to the blade.
  179. The concept of “property” did not apply here.
  180. The name Aine referred to everything from the girl’s heart to the sword.
  181. “Unit ID Name: Aine – power up complete. What are your orders, Sacri-sama.”
  182. “I really wish that was short for Sacred Master or something instead of Sacrifice…”
  183. He brought a hand to his forehead.
  184. Crystal Magic worked by sealing a divine name such as Zeus or Odin inside a printed circuit board smaller than a stamp to use the god’s legend and mythology to calculate out the horoscope chart or calendar needed to catch the supernatural winds. People could not manipulate earth’s atmosphere, but with a weather forecast, they could efficiently plow their fields and raise their sails. This was the same but used to wield miracles.
  185. However.
  186. A slight mistake had been made.
  187. In Utagai Karuta’s case, the Crystal Blossom had been activated before a divine name had been sealed inside, so the calculations had been made without anything to start with.
  188. That had resulted in the creation of this unidentified crystal girl who did not rely on any known mythology.
  189. He did not even know where the name Aine had come from.
  190. The students who had been taking a break on the heliport looked up in slight surprise and focused on him. It was a little embarrassing, but they were interested in Aine and not him.
  191. This was probably unique among all the students in the giant Ocean Crystal Magic Academy.
  192. He had a fully separated Crystal Blossom.
  193. “It’s pretty incredible,” said Gekiha. “Even if it’s hard to tell if it makes him a genius or a freak.”
  194. “I’ll admit no one else can do that,” said Marika. “But it doesn’t give him any speed or defenses, so a single shot is enough to finish him off. I don’t see how it will help during the Catastrophe.”
  195. “He could have her princess carry him around.”
  196. “Ah ha ha! That would be perfect for that King of Wishy-Washiness.”
  197. Their words were not as painful as the fact that they were not even wrong. Now, the trick to defeating Crystal Magicians during sparring was to ''aim for the gaps'', so a Crystal Blossom like Aine could be seen as unbeatable since she moved all on her own. But that was useless when the entire school body already knew about it. They would simply focus their attacks on him. Of the preset abilities, the flight belonged to Aine, the regeneration belonged to Karuta, and they could both use the barrier, but there seemed to be some kind of conflict there because it was extremely weak. He could not deflect a single bullet the way things were.
  198. Meanwhile, Aine silently tilted her head while waiting for a command.
  199. “Aine, can you hear me?”
  200. “Yes, Sacri-sama?”
  201. “Let’s do the usual test. I’ll vibrate the Blossom to send you my voice. Let’s see how long a distance I can stay in contact with you.”
  202. This was a lot like mimicking a radio or tin can telephone, but he thought this had to be the most efficient method. As long as he was not defeated, she could not be broken by most any attack. It was like the difference between a bulletproof vehicle covered in thick armor and a box stuffed full of steel.
  203. The boy sighed as he watched Aine hop off the edge of the heliport and toward the ocean. While dimensional leaps were too much for her, Aine actually could fly in the sky, but he felt it was best to show deference to their upperclassmen. (Marika and Gekiha may have been in a similar position there.) He himself had not done anything at all, so he sadly could not feel any pride in that accomplishment.
  204. All he could do was stay in safe place and send messages to his crystal doll.
  205. “Look, Karuta,” said Kazamuki Gekiha. “The sky is so clear today you can see that decorative junk in the distance.”
  206. Drawn by his classmate’s comment, he looked to the horizon and saw something long and skinny rising up from it. He could not imagine how far it extended because it vanished into the blue sky.
  207. “A space elevator, huh?”
  208. He was pretty sure that giant structure had been developed in the name of carrying cargo into orbit more cheaply than with rockets or shuttles. It was still running, but it was deep in the red due to a number of reasons. Karuta and the others did not have much to do with the thing.
  209. “To be honest, I’m relieved that project failed,” said Gekiha. “The Original Crystal Embryo is at the center of the earth and Crystal Magic uses the collision between the two powers here on the surface, so they say you can’t use it on a space station or a lunar base, right? Only 0.0002% of the population can use this, so it would be a huge waste if the modern age moved out into space and this ability was buried in the shadows of history.”
  210. “The Original,” repeated Karuta. “We all use it, but no one actually knows what it is, do we? There are a ton of theories though, like that it’s a collection of knowledge embedded there by someone or that it’s the will of the planet.”
  211. “That’s not our problem. Leave that to the theory group that never leaves their desks. Oh, and speaking of the elevator, had you heard some of our alumni are visiting for an inspection? It’s those 5 known as the Problem Solvers.”
  212. The Problem Solvers.
  213. Those five were said to have successfully physically removed the Threat in combat.
  214. And just as that name was mentioned, the blue sky was swallowed up by darkness as if a room’s lights had been shut off.
  215. “…”
  216. “––––”
  217. The other two fell silent.
  218. Karuta was likely also staring up at the sky that had suddenly changed from the rising sun of early morning to the darkness of night.
  219. “Is that their way of announcing their arrival?” asked Gekiha.
  220. “One of those five can control solar or lunar eclipses, right?” said Marika. “I’ve heard eclipses keep happening wherever they go, but that is quite a performance.”
  221. It was definitely impressive.
  222. Karuta could only summon a crystal girl from his body, so he could never hope to accomplish this.
  223. However, that did not necessarily mean that power would help win the Catastrophe that could be a natural disaster, a plague, or a war.
  224. Not to mention in a fight against the unknown Threat.
  225. “I get that they’re powerful, but it’s hard to say how impressive that is when you don’t know what the Threat is.”
  226. “At the very last, they have to be more powerful than you, Mr. Pathetic,” said Marika.
  227. The Problem Solvers.
  228. Their ability in combat tended to get all the focus, but they were used for more than ''just'' fighting.
  229. Their powerful magic could support an entire era.
  230. That included everything from the world’s production facilities to things like garbage disposal.
  231. Those monsters could run global-scale infrastructure all on their own.
  232. They were known as monsters because of that energy that was too great to simply call “massive” and because of their influence on the world.
  233. Karuta’s group had their hands full with ''just'' the fighting part, so these people were on more than just another level.
  234. The world would grind to a halt without them.
  235. The internet, convenience stores, and air conditioning did not simply exist. Someone was supporting all of those things on a daily basis. And those monsters were the ones supporting those everyday things for 5.5 billion people.
  236. “North America, South America, Eurasia, Oceania, and Africa,” said Marika. “Whatever it says on paper, it’s those five who effectively hold it all together.”
  237. “Yeah, just those five,” said Gekiha.
  238. A mere five people kept the world economy going.
  239. The hard work of the other 5.5 billion people did nothing more than transfer some bills from one of their wallets to another.
  240. “I almost feel bad for those VIPs,” said Gekiha. “No one’s even focused on that elevator anymore. They gathered plenty of money in the name of carrying cargo more cheaply than with rockets or shuttles, but once they started running it, the fear of spreading debris led them to an indefinite ban on civilian use. In the end, it can only be used for public policy.”
  241. “And I hear that public policy isn’t doing so hot either,” said Karuta. “Since the point is to carry the cargo cheaply, they get their funding reduced with each consecutive project. And since they can’t gather more clients, the price just keeps going down. It’s like marking down a million yen bag to ten thousand yen but not getting any more customers into your shop, so it’s pretty bad.”
  242. “I hear the Problem Solvers are personally defending it because it’s a cornerstone of public policy, but is that really why?” asked Marika. “If the Problem Solvers traversed the planet in top form, no one would need armies anymore. Now that we have some actual cost-benefit data to work from, no one has any hopes for the field of space development, so it seems weird for them to keep protecting a portion of it. Kind of ironic that they’re being held back by a facility they can’t afford to get rid of. The adult world sounds like a real pain. Although maybe they’re letting some other people have some credit to avoid any silly resentment.”
  243. “At any rate, this is what it means to be too blessed,” said Gekiha. “With those five, no one needs the political world, the business world, the military, or the government. If they wanted to, couldn’t they destroy it all? If all of them were sent out around the world all the time instead of sending them out one at a time every so often, I bet they might have been able to keep those cities, states, and countries from disappearing.”
  244. “But.” Utagai Karuta chose his words carefully. “Those Problem Solvers don’t use Crystal Blossoms like us. I hear they use the old-fashioned God-Worshiping Magic.”
  245. “Isn’t that what makes it so impressive?” asked Marika.
  246. “Yeah, it makes you wonder why they haven’t switched to Crystal Blossoms,” said Gekiha. “It’s scary that they can go into battle with the presets of flight, barriers, and regeneration. Well, maybe they aren’t part of the 0.0002% that can use them, but that just makes them all the more monstrous for standing at the top like that.”
  247. Utagai Karuta sighed.
  248. Crystal Blossoms. That cutting-edge magic technology controlled printed circuit boards smaller than stamps to produce various supernatural phenomena by catching the optimal currents produced by the occult high and low pressure fronts created by the collision between the energy emitted from the Original Crystal Embryo in the center of the earth and the various powers raining down from outer space.
  249. But you could never reach the level of the Problem Solvers by mastering that path.
  250. There were a lot of rumors about the Problem Solvers like that their attack power was so specialized that they could resolve any situation with a single attack, or that they could use a barrage as fearsome as an Aegis ship to shoot down every last grain of sand of whatever might oppose them, but the details were unknown. They were world-famous, yet so very little was known about them that it was kind of creepy.
  251. If Karuta and his schoolmates were the ones reading the weather maps, then those five were the ones firing dry ice or thermobaric warheads into the sky to produce artificial rain.
  252. The students here could not stand up to them no matter how hard they tried.
  253. Plus, Karuta’s magic was not even the standard Crystal Magic that he already knew was no match for them. His had been twisted so badly it had become a fully independent girl the likes of which no had ever seen.
  254. “Ah, eh, ee, uh, eh, oh, ah, oh.”
  255. While he was thinking, Aine’s voice reached him remotely.
  256. “Can you hear me, Sacri-sama?”
  257. “Can you please call me something else? It’s creepy.”
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