HEAVY OBJECT:Volume4 Chapter 2
Chapter 2: Christmas on a White Sand Beach >> Furlough Garrison Battle (?) in Oceania
The Oceania district.
With the dictatorship that had held a tyrannical rule over that land destroyed, the coalition-led restoration had accelerated.
The Legitimacy Kingdom's 37th Mobile Maintenance Battalion's convoy made up of over 100 large vehicles was stationed there and a "cityscape" had cropped up around it.
"We can't have everything spreading out like this," said Froleytia Capistrano as sweet-smelling smoke drifted up from her narrow kiseru.
She was speaking with the old lady who led maintenance on the Baby Magnum.
"Yes, but it is only natural for shops to set up in areas where money is likely to change hands."
"We purposefully distanced ourselves from the urban areas to keep the civilians out of any unforeseen dangers, but we can't stop them from setting up a market made up of tents and RVs. Someone could easily use this to sneak in close and fire a shell at the base."
"Even if we move the convoy away, they will simply follow us. That is probably why they are using shops that are so easy to set up and take apart. If they make money, they will be happy. And this will prevent the conspiracy theories surrounding the secrecy over Object technology. Just think of this as an advertisement in that fashion."
Froleytia and the old lady were sitting on a sheet spread across the sandy ground within the maintenance base with a parasol stuck into the ground next to them.
However, a hellish scene of sweat and tears existed just 3 meters away from their vacation mood.
"Quenser, the water filtration devices come in sets of 15 boxes. Once you have confirmed their arrival, make an entry in the database and carry them all to storage."
"Quenser, that box is full of champagne bottles. You can use the dolly if you like, but I will kill you if they get shaken up. Also, make sure you do not leave the cold room's door open."
"Queeeeennnnsssseeerrrr, that one is my Japanese sword and that one is my Japanese armor and helmet. That one is my set of Japanese dolls and that is my Japanese furisode. Be careful as you carry them. We aren't often part of a coalition force. I need to find all the best deals while the market is in chaos."
Quenser Barbotage collapsed in the middle of the sandy ground.
"...I-I can't. I can't go on. I've been doing nothing but physical labor for three days now... I thought this was supposed to be paid leave. We finally managed to get back, so what happened to the swimsuits?"
"What? Was Quenser, the boy who ignored several war treaties to go off to fight the Capitalist Corporations' Second Generation Object, just saying something to me, the one who had to write report after report frantically emphasizing the damage to the Deep Optical and forcing a smile as I put up with the jokes of those old men higher up the ranks that are at least borderline sexual harassment to somehow avoid having you court martialed?"
"Gyahhh!! I'll do anything! I'll go along with whatever you say for the rest of my life, commander!!"
Quenser raised his sand-covered face and screamed.
"...It almost looks like he's enjoying this," muttered the old lady, but it seemed no one heard her.
As Quenser wiped the sand from his body, he asked, "B-By the way, where is Heivia?"
"Cleaning the bathrooms, cleaning the bath pipes, cleaning the washing machine drums, and cleaning the convoy's engine rooms. And that's for every single one of the base's over 100 vehicles."
"Y-You're kidding! Nothing but cleaning!?"
Quenser could only raise a prayer for the different sort of hell Heivia had been sent to as he still had to deal with his own hell.
Froleytia paid him no heed and said, "Once you finish that...Oh, I know. The Japanese paulownia wood chest I bought yesterday should be delivered to the base soon. The civilian deliveryman won't be able to get inside the base, so bring it to my room after its security check at the gate."
"I want a powered suit for this!!"
"After that...Oh, right. There is that other important matter."
"I'll die. I'm really going to die!! Wait, I get it. The final boss this time is my huge-breasted commander!!""
"What, is it really that bad?" Froleytia calmly breathed out some smoke. "The princess wants to go swimming at the Great Barrier Reef, so she needs some bodyguards. But if you would really prefer to stick around the convoy and its stench of oil and exhaust, suit yourself."
"Please let me go!!"
Meanwhile, Heivia was also finally released from his hell. He was currently relaxing outside the maintenance base zone.
"God dammit. Everyone knew I was being used as that huge-breasted commander's toy, so they all forced their ridiculous demands on me too."
At a coffee shop made out of an RV, Heivia sipped at an iced coffee that did not seem the type of thing a noble would drink. With the double punch of heat caused by the roasting sun above and the reflected sunlight coming from the sand below, he could hardly order a hot drink.
The "cityscapes" that developed around a maintenance base zone during times like that were quite a different thing from a standard safe country city or an Oceanian city.
Not a single concrete building could be seen.
Everything was made to be set up or broken down within half an hour. The Object and its maintenance base zone could set up or move out immediately to match the military situation, and those making up the "cityscape" were hardly going to let any chance to make money slip by.
As Heivia sipped at the iced coffee that no longer had any ice in it, he heard a high-pitched girl's voice.
"Welcome, internet viewers!! Welcome to the Oceanian Live – Class A!! Oh ho ho ho ho!!"
He looked over and saw a 3D projector set up in the store displaying an Information Alliance idol concert that had been held a few days prior. It was free to watch for a week after the event, but would it really draw in any customers?
(Well, it looks more like the guy running the store is the only one watching.)
The 3D image was not displayed on a screen. Instead, the it appeared directly in empty space. Quenser likely could have excitedly explained exactly how it worked, but Heivia did not know. He had a feeling it was something along the lines of sending out light waves from multiple directions to display the image with the increase and decrease of the light waves' amplitudes.
The image only appeared 3D from head on. When viewed from the side, the images for the right eye and left eye were out of sync which made for a dizzying sight.
"Diffracted waves are used to create the separate images. This is the latest model," explained the shop owner who must have been bored.
He seemed more proud of the projector than the idol who was passionately singing a popular song.
(Why can't it just be the students who are proud of their machines?)
With that thought, Heivia changed the subject.
"Do you like idols?"
"Better than other Elites at least. The Information Alliance's idols seem friendlier than the patriotic heroes and the million dollar players."
The idol dancing in the 3D image was tall, had ringlet curls, and had G-cup breasts. As Heivia watched, he decided the dance moves were definitely designed to make her breasts jiggle.
Meanwhile, the shop owner stealthily added one last thing to his comment.
"...And this one has big breasts."
"So that really is your reason!! Well, I can't deny that I wish our princess would do this kind of thing."
As Heivia spoke, the writing and patterns on the dancing G-cup idol's special suit changed in real time.
No normal material could do that.
A musical score made of ribbons appeared in midair and wrapped around the G-cup idol's bewitching body in sync to her singing.
"Class A sure is showy," said the shop owner. "The A stands for 'augmented reality'. Most likely, the actual idol is dancing in all blue or all green tights, but it sure does look nice like this. Then again, the completely fictitious Class V takes it a step further."
"I prefer R for reality. All of Class A's panty shots are prearranged, right?"
"You say that, but you can't seem to take your eyes off her thighs."
"Sorry, but I prefer tits," said Heivia with a perfectly serious expression.
The fact that the writing and patterns of the idol's outfit could be freely altered also meant the figure of the idol could be directly altered in the footage, but Heivia's imagination did not seem to reach that far.
Heivia brought the cheap iced coffee back to his lips as his gaze was drawn to the chest of the 3D image, but then...
"Oh, it's Heivia. If it isn't Heivia."
Heivia very nearly spat out the iced coffee because he recognized the girl who had called out to him. She was the daughter of the Vanderbilt family as well as Heivia's fiancée. However, she was only unofficially his fiancée for the moment due to various circumstances. Normally, she would never be seen outside of an inner room of a mansion within the Legitimacy Kingdom's home country.
Heivia began to tremble when he saw that girl wearing a dress covered in jewels that did not suit that market that had a mixed and gray atmosphere.
"Y-You...? Why are you here...?"
"Why do you find it so odd? Oceania's military regime was destroyed and the coalition invasion has come to an end. This is a safe country now. There is no problem with civilians coming here."
"(The resolution of the issue with the military nation is now leading to skirmishes between the members of the coalition to see who gains the most power here, so things are actually more strained here than ever.)"
"Did you say something?"
Heivia shook his head.
"Wait, where are your bodyguards? Don't tell me you came here on your own."
"My family would not stop complaining about how I was acting, so I gave them the slip."
"That just makes this worse!! Now I can't just get back to my military work after chatting with you!!"
"Oh, but isn't it only because I slipped away from them that we can have such an elegant chat? Right, Heivia...or should I say Romeo?"
"Well, 'Juliet', I get the feeling your guards are going to track you down and then shoot me when they find me with you."
"Oh, dear. You do not seem very moved over a chance meeting with your fiancée." The girl frowned slightly. "I sincerely hope some horrible woman has not gotten to you while I have been away."
"Absolutely not!! In fact, every time a good opportunity comes up the useless guy who is always with me gets it!!"
"So you admit that some 'good opportunities' have occurred."
Heivia's eyes swam to the side like two synchronized swimmers.
The daughter of the Vanderbilt family gave a gentle smile.
"Heivia, I am not an intolerant woman. You are a noble man. You are free to have mistresses. That is merely a type of status symbol." After a short pause, the girl's voice grew cold. "However, if you put anyone above me even for an instant...you know what will happen, don't you?"
"Y-Y-Yes, I know very well. You don't have to specify. Really, you don't."
"I will have to use the tower collection☆"
"But that's nothing but the whips, wooden horses, and the like that tyrannical relative of yours used!! Your family claims to only keep them around to make sure you never forget the past that destroyed your family!!"
A sense of intimidation of a different sort than that given off by his large-breasted commander caused a chill to run down Heivia's back.
The princess swimming in the ocean.
The princess in a plain but lovely swimsuit.
From the moment Froleytia ordered him to join the pilot Elite's bodyguard unit, the driving force running Quenser had entered an odd mode. It was similar to running a gasoline engine on rocket fuel. He had not slept for three days, but his sleepiness gauge had circled all the way around and he no longer felt like sleeping at all and felt a bit uneasy. With his good fortune having finally reached its peak, he may have subconsciously wanted to burn every last instant of it into his mind.
"...Quenser, you are joining my bodyguards?" asked the princess.
"Seems that way, miss swimsuit!!"
"Let's go let's go let's go! The beach the beach the beach! You know what is expected of you, right, miss swimsuit!?"
Quenser eagerly pushed at the princess from behind to get her into the backseat of the military 4WD vehicle.
While the beach was close to the base, it was still outside of its defensive range. Their 4WD vehicle was at the center and two more were placed to the front and to the back. Also, an armored vehicle protected them on either side. This was commonly known as a sabre formation.
The formation could only be used in the desert where, unlike an urban area, the width of the road could be ignored. While it would stand up to a sudden attack from an anti-tank missile, it would be of no use against an Object.
"So you wanted to go to the Great Barrier Reef? That's the world's largest coral reef, right?"
"I do not care where. I just want to swim in something other than a bathtub."
The princess pinched at the special suit clinging to her body and tugged as she spoke. The suit was supposed to be perfectly air conditioned, but it seemed she still found it somewhat uncomfortable.
The small convoy reached the beach without coming under attack.
The beach was covered in smooth, white sand that was clearly different from earthen color of the desert. Just looking out at the sea that looked like blue and green dissolved together was a wonderful sight and the richly-colored tropical fish below the surface would be yet another type of heaven.
However, Quenser ignored it all.
"Okay, miss swimsuit!! The time has come for you to show us your majestic form!! If you're going with the standard, it will be a plain but lovely one piece swimsuit. But if you want to push the unexpected angle, it could be a revealing bikini! Or even a custom-made one-of-a-kind sexy swimsuit!! So what is your answer, princess!? Give me your answer!!"
He may have been there in the name of protecting the princess, but Quenser's muscle tone and level of equipment was clearly lacking compared to the other bodyguards. Heaven had answered his prayers and he had been rewarded with the duty of looking at a slender girl in a swimsuit, so he had no intention of focusing on anything else. If an Object attacked right that instant, he would likely have completely ignored it.
Meanwhile, the princess was completely oblivious to his expectations.
"Oh!! But this isn't a properly maintained beach! There are no motels around here, so there is no safe place to change! I guess you'll have to hide behind the 4WD vehicle and blush with embarrassment as you use it as a changing area! What is this? Just the swimsuit would have been more than enough of a reward, but it seems the feast begins even before that!!"
Quenser's seemingly endless excitement was partially fueled by the princess's normal outfit.
The special suit was completely skintight, so it was not all that bad. However, its defenses were too tight and he never had a chance to see her soft skin. And it was her uniform, so she wore it year round. That ultra-perfect wholesome defense ensured that Quenser never saw anything even remotely approaching a glimpse of her panties. With the thought "Isn't it about time you moved on to the next step, boy?" in his mind, Quenser's brain had gone a bit crazy at the chance to see her in a swimsuit where various odds were greatly changed. However, the way he was acting could all be filed under the category of "it can't be helped".
"Okay, miss swimsuit!! Your answer! It's time for your answer!! I'm ready. Right now, I'm willing to accept pretty much anything. Nothing but large bandages would be fine. So what is your answer, miss swimsuit!? Please give me your answer!!"
"What is a swimsuit?"
In that instant, it was not just Quenser who froze in place. The bodyguards who were spread around the area seriously carrying out their duties secretly did as well.
That was a bad start.
With that thought, Quenser frantically tried to keep the situation from switching over to a different set of rails.
"P-Princess...? You shouldn't answer a question with a question."
"I did not bring whatever a swimsuit is with me."
Hearing that response, Quenser's eyes opened up wide.
He was intent on keeping things pointed in the direction of bare skin even if he had to force it.
"So you're going nude!? I see, I see. I certainly did not expect your answer to go that far!!"
"I am going to swim like this. An Elite's special suit is made to withstand any environment, so there is no problem with swimming in it."
"No!!!!!" Due to the Japanese comedy routines he had seen in Froleytia's officer room, Quenser's shout had an odd intonation to it. "You, um...can't do that!! That special suit is wonderful. I can't deny that! But wonderful though it is...this isn't the place for it!! This is a scene for something out of the ordinary!! Just as we would be really pissed if an Object showed up now, you simply can't choose the special suit here!!"
"No, don't tilt your cute little head to the side like that!! Wait, it's not too late! If we head back to the market around the base, we can find all sorts of cute swimsuits, sexy swimsuits, and even sexier swimsuits!! Let's go, princess. I am perfectly fine with having to start from the stage of you blushing in embarrassment as you choose a swimsuit!!"
But as soon as Quenser grabbed the princess's hand and tried to run off, the entire bodyguard unit aimed their guns at him.
They seemed intent on preserving the initial time schedule.
"...I really don't think there's anything wrong with wanting to at least get a school swimsuit here."
The bodyguards agreed with him there.
"Oh, ladies, are you from the Faith Organization? If you have any dietary restrictions, tell me now," said the owner of a restaurant of the type that could be found anywhere in Oceania those days.
A tent made of waterproof cloth created a simple roof under which a large metal plate, a few chairs, and a cooler full of seafood were set up.
One of the customers showed a thin smile that completely failed as a polite smile.
She was Sarasa Gleamshifter of Valkyrie.
"No, our doctrines require no such restrictions."
"We can chow down on octopus and squid."
"We're more used to wild boar, though."
Her subordinates, Rachel and Maria gave their own opinions. Maria's response was more halfhearted as she was watching a 3D image of an Information Alliance idol Elite.
The restaurant owner smiled and said, "Then I don't have to hold back. Since you've come down to the southern hemisphere, you might as well make some memories by choosing something more unusual."
"We will be paying in the Faith Organization method. Is that okay?"
"Let's see, the Faith Organization puts more focus on precious metals than paper money, correct? The exchange rate with foreign currencies is set using platinum and diamonds as their value is more fixed, I believe. I'll have to call in an appraiser which will make this take longer, but I can manage."
"No, we will be using Faith Organization paper money," replied Sarasa. "Unfortunately, we cannot rely on platinum at the moment."
Sarasa paused briefly before that last comment, but the restaurant owner did not seem to notice.
"Well, the conclusions of an appraiser can easily be argued with. Real money that is accepted around the world is best."
The man prepared some small fish of a coloration Sarasa had never before seen and then placed them atop the heated metal plate. She had no idea what he intended to do with them, but he did not gut them. He placed them in a small bowl with some strong seasonings and mixed it all together.
Cooking on a metal plate like that was a type of show.
As the restaurant owner cooked the tropical fish in a skillful manner that functioned as a form of entertainment, he gave a bitter smile and said, "I would have a wider variation of dishes if I had beef, but it's just too expensive."
"Come to think of it, the natural balance in Oceania has yet to be restored," commented Rachel as she was caught up in watching the food dance across the metal plate. "The dictatorship was pushing the extreme forestation while the local tribes resisted it in favor of the original desert. Because the environment was so radically changed again and again in some areas, the coalition has to carefully regulate the quality of the soil. There are a lot of restrictions on grazing land to prevent the balance between vegetation and desert from collapsing."
"Yes. Thanks to that we have to rely on importation despite how large the country is. But lately platinum mining has really grown. Rumor has it the Information Alliance is bringing in tons of domed livestock facilities and container-shaped animal feed factories. If they can do that, it doesn't matter if the entire area's a desert. The local tribes won't like the imported feed, but it shouldn't be too much of an issue as long as it all stays isolated within the containers. If it all works out, solar power generation can be used to create a huge sterilized farm in the middle of the desert. The food shortage will be resolved in no time at all." After delightedly explaining all that, the restaurant owner suddenly realized something and added an additional comment. "Oh, do people from the Faith Organization oppose that kind of technology that creates manmade food sources? Y'know, genetically altered crops and the like."
After all, the Faith Organization was well known for accepting the theories of evolution and the big bang yet insisting that a nonhuman supernatural trigger had to have caused those scientific coincidences.
It was true that they were not fond of manmade recreations of natural works.
But Sarasa readily shook her head.
"The Central Religious Assembly's conclusion on the 89th issue regarding food sources resolved any such issues. Also, the Faith Organization is not as unyielding as others seem to think."
"Is that so?" muttered the man vaguely as he continued to move his hands over the metal plate.
Sarasa went on to say, "For example, let us say man has created a material that does not exist at all in the natural world. Do you think the Faith Organization would find fault in this?"
"...Well, yeah. Don't you say that denies god's providence, or brings an impurity into the world god created, or something like that?"
"We are not so sensitive as to take up arms over the creation of plastic." Sarasa smiled lightly. "We compromise. If you use oxygen and hydrogen to create water, the materials you have used were taken from the world that god originally created. For that reason, the water you have created is nothing more than a derivation of what god has created. You have not brought an impurity into the world god created. The same reasoning can be used to permit plastics and carbon nanotubes."
"We do not start conflicts because we wish to. If we are able to compromise, we will do so to avoid needless conflict."
At that point, all expression suddenly disappeared from Sarasa's face and she muttered something under her breath.
"(But when people set foot into a territory that allows for no compromise like that old man, we will assassinate them no matter what.)"
The restaurant owner did not seem able to hear what she had said.
With the conversation ended but the man's focus still on them, Sarasa changed the subject and asked a question.
"How about by boat?"
With that alone, it was hard to tell what she meant.
However, the man immediately replied.
"I wouldn't count on it. Recently, you probably could have gotten away with poaching fish, but there aren't many boats now. Of course, that means I have plenty of customers from those large groups, so I'm not complaining."
"...How about by air?"
"Are you trying to transport people or goods rather than fish? That could be tough. This is Oceania. Multiple world powers have Objects here. If you send out a helicopter of unknown affiliation, it will be shot down by anti-air laser. And if you get one world power to allow you through, a different one might not allow you through."
After thinly slicing the cooked fish, the man added a sauce that smelled strongly of blood. Sarasa stabbed her fork into the slices and asked a question.
"You said a boat would have worked recently. What changed?"
"The Legitimacy Kingdom," replied the restaurant owner as he pulled a sea cucumber out of the cooler and sliced it up with his knife. "An Object of theirs...the Baby Magnum I think it's called...is on leave near the beach, so the layout of their surveillance network has changed a lot. From what I hear, the routes connecting Oceania with nearby islands are cut off. But as I said, the military brings in a large group of customers, so I'm welcoming them with open arms."
"So cargo from the Loyauté district cannot get here?"
"Exactly. Honestly, it's scary how quickly Objects can be deployed. An area that was completely safe yesterday can be the front lines today."
Sarasa narrowed her eyes slightly as she watched the metal spatula dance in front of her.
They had failed on that island.
That meant her target was now...
It had been one hell of a day.
By the time Quenser and Heivia met up near the maintenance base zone, it was nearing evening.
"...How'd things go for you?"
"...How about for you?"
From that exchange, it was clear they had both had a large catch get away from them.
Quenser sighed and said, "Where did I go wrong? The setting should have been perfect. So what was it...? What went wrong...?"
"After returning a rich girl ignorant of how the world works back to her guards, I had those same guards chase me around with handguns for 3 hours..."
Those two weary souls suddenly felt their handheld devices vibrate as they received an email.
"I don't want to read it!! That has got to be the sign that Froleytia's ridiculous demands have begun anew!!"
"Quenser, I'll lend you my handgun, so will you please shoot me in the leg?"
That was how far they were ready to go in order to get out of more work, but they found something else entirely when they actually read the email.
- I want to have a Christmas party to give us all a break, but I can't let a civilian bartender into the maintenance base.
For that reason, all but the bare minimum required for the current shift are to meet up at point YI.
Let's go nuts drinking tonight.
- I want to have a Christmas party to give us all a break, but I can't let a civilian bartender into the maintenance base.
Quenser and Heivia exchanged a wordless glance.
They then silently but strongly clenched their fists.
"We still have a chance!!"
"Wait, wait, wait!! This is a Christmas party with the princess and our huge-breasted commander. And December is summertime in Australia!! We'll never see a normal Santa Claus here!! This'll have bare skin, miniskirts, bare thighs, and bouncing breasts!!"
Point YI was not far away.
There was no way congested traffic would make them miss it.
They may have missed out on any swimsuits, but the chance still remained for a sexy Santa.
The two idiots named Quenser and Heivia immediately took action to get to that heaven of changed odds.
A bright red bus and a blue taxi stood before them.
"I'll take the red bus!!" said Quenser.
"Then just for fun, I'll take the blue taxi!!"
And thus their fates were divided...
When Quenser arrived at point YI where the party was located, he glanced around.
He was not inside some shop.
Due to the "cityscape" being made up of mostly tents and RVs, there were no shops in which one could leisurely sit around.
A portion of the market was opened up into a plaza and a large number of tables covered in food had been carried in. The free mobility of the shops making up the "cityscape" was a major advantage. They had likely opened up the space to accommodate such important customers.
(Looks like Heivia hasn't arrived yet.)
Soldiers wearing the same uniform as Quenser had already begun to partake in the food and alcohol, but Heivia was nowhere to be seen.
"Oh, there's the old lady."
"What? Shouldn't you be speaking with someone younger at a party like this?"
"I thought you would be on standby in the maintenance area in case the Object had to be scrambled."
"The princess is off duty, so there wouldn't be much point. This is a coalition force, so other Objects are taking care of defense. ...But wouldn't this be a perfect opportunity for you to observe the Object?"
"There isn't much to learn when no one is working on it. I need to see it when it's actually fighting. If I'm just going to stare at its surface, I might as well just go to a military magazine site."
"What a boring person. Your ideas lack style. You're the type of person that wouldn't ask for a souvenir from someone heading overseas."
"I'd take some platinum as a souvenir of Oceania. I hear they've been mining a bunch of it lately."
"I see you're pretending to be some wealthy merchant again. And platinum is old news. The days of it having a stable value are over. Research is progressing in ways to mass produce industrial platinum."
"Eh? They're using the platinum for industrial uses?"
"It's used in Objects, too. You need to study some more, student."
As the two spoke, Froleytia approached them from behind with a cocktail glass in hand.
"Oh, you two haven't started eating yet? Who knows when we'll have another chance to eat anything but those flavorless rations. You should eat some while you can."
"Then can't you do something about those ratio—...bfh!?"
Quenser had a good reason for freezing in place the instant he turned around.
Major Froleytia Capistrano had become a miniskirt Santa. Also, her upper body was covered in nothing but a bikini-style piece of clothing that had very little surface area. Her cleavage and midriff were on full display.
After facing postponement after postponement with the princess's swimsuit feint, Quenser very nearly lost control of his emotions at all that bare skin.
"A surprise projectile attack!?"
"I have no idea what you mean, but those military uniforms are hardly suited for the desert."
"Honestly, it's going to get cold once the sun sets. You have no one to blame but yourself when you catch a cold after dressing like that," said the old lady in exasperation, but there was a hint of amusement on her face.
With a confused look, Froleytia asked, "Wait, where is Heivia? Is he not here yet?"
"That's the thing..."
Just as Quenser started to respond, a small electronic tone came from his radio.
(Who could that be? Someone from the maintenance base?)
Quenser moved away from his commander and hit the switch on the radio.
"It's me!! It's me!! It's Heivia!!"
"Where did you get off to? I'm already at the party. You should have chosen the red bus..."
"I've gotten caught up in some kind of incident!! Tonight, I'm gonna be the hero!! But I have one request for you!"
"If you want help, you can forget it!! I'm not taking a step away from this party!! And if you want to know why, it's because there's a well-endowed Santa right in front of me!!"
"That's fine, that's fine!!"
"I don't see how I can avoid a firefight in the middle of the city. But we aren't in a battle right now, so this is technically a job for the police. ...To be blunt, we could be in trouble if that huge-breasted commander catches wind of this!!"
"No, not 'we'. I'm not part of it this time!!"
"After what happened in the Loyauté district, this would be a third yellow card!!"
"Have we really gotten that many yellow cards?"
"At any rate, we'll be in real trouble if we get any more!! I'll take care of this issue on my own, but you need to buy me some time!!"
"...Hm? It's rare for you to be so motivated. The problem is that your motivation isn't always a good thing."
Quenser's long radio conversation must have seemed suspicious because the Santa that was likely going to give him some wet dreams frowned and asked, "Quenser, who are you speaking with? Almost everyone is here."
"Eh? O-Oh, um..."
"Just distract that huge-breasted commander!! Don't let her realize I'm not there!! We're in real trouble otherwise. If I don't deal with this, the Oceanian civilians will be the ones in danger!!"
(Wait. If Heivia is enthusiastically working at something rather than coming to the party, this must be a major issue on an unprecedented level. If an Object shows up, I really am just going to ignore it.)
At any rate, the situation had gotten troublesome.
For one thing, Quenser did not see how he could defeat Froleytia Capistrano via any ordinary means.
"Quenser, answer my question. Who have you been speaking wi—...cough."
Some sand must have been blown in by the wind because Froleytia held her throat.
(This is my chance!!)
Quenser grabbed a glass filled with a clear liquid from a tray held by a civilian waiter passing by.
"Are you okay, Froleytia? Here, have some water."
"Oh. Thanks, Quen—...bbhhh!!!???"
When the miniskirt bikini Santa gulped down the contents of the glass all at once, she let out a noise that Quenser had never thought he would hear from her.
The reason was simple.
"Que—... You!! This is vodka! And straight vodka at that!!"
"I'm sorry, Froleytia!! I must have grabbed the wrong glass! Here, this one is oolong tea!!"
"Honestly I can't believe you—...ugbh!? Th-That was malt whisky!!"
"Oh, no!! Froleytia, I won't get it wrong again! This time, it's mineral water!!" said Quenser as he handed her a cup filled to the brim with tequila.
(C'mon, get drunk!! Get dead drunk!! If she keeps drinking these drinks with such high alcoholic content at such a high rate, even a heavy drinker like her has to get drunk!!)
After a few more cups, Froleytia was silently hanging her head. Beads of sweat were trailing down her bikinied chest and her skin had grown rather red. The core of her body had grown limp and she was swaying back and forth even while standing still.
(Was the plan a success!?)
Quenser was celebratory at first, but another thought then entered his mind.
(Wait, what happens once she's drunk?)
That question then started eating into the boy's mind.
(This is bad. This might be really, really bad! Froleytia is a complete tyrant when sober, so what's going to happen now that all her limiters have been removed by alcohol!?)
The low tone and drawn out way that she called his name frightened him.
As an unpleasant sweat began flowing down Quenser's entire body, he could do nothing but stand at attention.
"Y-Yes!? What is it, commander!?"
For a while, Froleytia said nothing.
She was already quite close to Quenser, but she silently yet unsteadily drew even closer to him.
He seriously thought she was going to grab his collar.
Right in front of him...
Froleytia Capistrano opened her mouth to speak.
"Sob. Why are you always so mean to me, Quenser?"
Quenser's thoughts completely stopped for an instant.
That was not the role of the cruel commander known as Froleytia. That was a line suited for a timid childhood friend who always carries around a stuffed animal.
But he realized what was happening shortly thereafter.
"I-Is she the type that gets sad when she drinks!?"
"Are you mad, Quenser? Are you? I'm so sorry I'm such a terrible commander. I'm sorry I always need you to save me. I know it isn't right. If I did a better job and used the princess to her full potential..."
"Wait, wait!! You can't get like this in front of people!! This is where people will half-jokingly take cell phone pictures, so you need to have some self-control!!"
"...Are you mad, Quenser?"
"Gyaahhh!! Don't press up against me like that!! Don't wrap your arms around my neck!! Have you forgotten how you're dressed!?"
"I'm not!! I'm not mad!! Dammit, I have no other option while in public like this! I wouldn't really, but if we were alone I could probably get away with all sorts of things!!"
"You really aren't mad?"
"I'm not!! Really! Trust me!!"
Froleytia pressed her large breasts forcefully against him and brought her face in so close he probably could have kissed her had he simply pursed his lips, but she fell silent and did nothing further.
This all placed a tremendous mental burden on Quenser, but Froleytia finally spoke once she had worked something out in her mind.
"Quenser...you're something like a big brother to me."
"You're a little sister character now!?"
Meanwhile, Heivia Winchell was running through the "city" as the sun began to set.
The situation was as follows:
While the blue taxi waited at a simple traffic signal of the sort used at construction sites, a middle-aged man dove in from the side with enough force to break the window.
"What the hell? Why do things like this always have to happen to me!?"
Thinking the man might be a robber, Heivia pulled out a large handgun from the holster at his waist, but then the man spoke while bleeding from the face.
"You're a Legitimacy Kingdom soldier, right!?"
"I have something to report! I've run across some terrible information. You need to do something!!"
"Wait, wait, wait. No!! The peace of Oceania is for police special forces to deal with, not the military. This isn't my job! And more importantly, I'm on my way to see a huge-breasted Santa!! This is no time to be dealing with—...!!"
"The Legitimacy Kingdom is their target!!"
"Seriously!? But it's still not my jo—..."
"And the ones chasing me will be here soon."
"Tell me that part first!!"
Heivia frantically pulled the middle-aged man out of the taxi and fled into the congested traffic. Just as he did, the blue taxi was turned to Swiss cheese by gunfire from multiple submachine guns. The driver had fled the instant the middle-aged man had jumped in so he was not hurt, but Heivia still did not like it.
As they ran, the middle-aged man said, "You can call me Royce. I'm an Information Alliance journalist."
"No, don't introduce yourself!! That almost guarantees I'll be forced into getting involved in this!! Also, I don't want to be on a first name basis with someone I just met when it's a guy!"
"I would like to hand this off to you and get back to my normal life."
"If you try to force this onto me and run off, I will ignore all war treaties and shoot you in the back!!"
It seemed Royce's pursuers were following him in a vehicle. That gave them speed, but prevented them from making tight turns among the crowds of people and impromptu buildings. They realized the disadvantage the vehicle gave them and got out, but Heivia and Royce had gotten quite a ways away by then.
The two decided they had lost the enemy for the moment, so they exchanged information.
"So why is an Information Alliance journalist here?"
"Both for business and private reasons." As he spoke, Royce lightly touched the cell phone hanging from a strap around his neck. "My daughter was deployed here. I wanted to see what kind of place it was for myself."
"Deployed? So is she in the military?"
Heivia looked skeptical, but he then recalled that he himself was a minor out on the battlefield due to the situation in his noble family. The average age of those in the military had dropped, so it was not too surprising.
The reason Royce was subconsciously toying with his cell phone may have been because he had its background set to a photo of his daughter.
"Yes, and she hasn't even entered junior high school yet. She may be a bit too skilled," said the self-proclaimed journalist. "At her age, she should still be dreaming of being a princess of the Legitimacy Kingdom... The adults around her egg her on just for fun which has led to her domineering speech patterns and laugh. The way things are going, she will keep laughing loudly on top of the stage forever. I have no idea how she acts within her unit, though."
"Does that have anything to do with why you are being chased?"
"No, the current situation has to do with my job."
"What were you doing?"
"My original goal was to do some civilian level research into whether the Information Alliance military is performing its duties suitably. That said, all I can really do is intercept radio transmissions."
Hearing that, a bitter look appeared on Heivia's face.
"Did you pick up someone else's transmission?"
"It wasn't from any of the world powers. It was from an anti-establishment group. It seems they are opposed to the overwhelming firepower of Objects, and my curiosity got the better of me. I analyzed the signal and located a base of theirs. They noticed me when I was observing it from afar. And you can see where that got me."
"An anti-Object group," muttered Heivia in annoyance.
He knew people with those views existed all around the world and he could hardly deny that the destruction of the Oceanian military nation had caused such sentiments to spread. Also, Quenser and Heivia...or rather, the stories of them destroying Objects had pumped vitality into the anti-Object groups whether the two boys wanted it or not.
"So these people want to destroy an Object, and they just so happened to choose our Legitimacy Kingdom Object as their target?"
"If the information I intercepted is correct, yes."
"How do they plan to do it?" asked Heivia. "Destroying an Object is easier said than done. Even if they attack it while it sits motionlessly in the maintenance area, they aren't likely to even damage it. Even if they hit it directly with a large H-bomb, they can't get through that armor. How are they going to destroy that monstrous weapon?"
"There is a way," cut in Royce. "If there wasn't, I would not be working this hard to stop them...and they would not bother hunting me down to stop me."
While wearing her usual special suit, the princess had headed to an impromptu arcade a bit away from where the party was being held. A tent had been set up to create a roof and several arcade machines were lined up underneath.
She had intended to spend only 10 or 20 minutes there to kill time until the party began.
However, the game she had chosen turned out to be a one-on-one multiplayer action game with an Object theme. Among all the Objects of various affiliations, the Baby Magnum had unfairly (or so she felt) low parameters in the game. Also, there was something about her opponent sitting at the machine opposite hers that bugged her. As such, the princess was unable to stop playing.
Because the two competing machines were facing each other, she could not see her opponent's face.
That meant her opponent could not see her either.
"Oh ho ho!! Oh ho ho ho ho ho!! It seems you truly cannot stand up to the Gatling 033!! The specs of the original model and – more importantly – the view the people hold of it are simply that much greater!!"
"This game was made by the Information Alliance, so it is not surprising that the parameters would be skewed in their favor!! In fact, you should be ashamed of being unable to step into the ring without such handicaps!!"
"Oh? I have no idea who you are, but you must be truly unrefined to support that unrefined Legitimacy Kingdom Elite! Oh ho ho!!"
"I have no clue who you are, but no sane person would give any praise to that Information Alliance Elite!!"
The Legitimacy Kingdom and Information Alliance bodyguards hiding around the area using the two arcade machines as their defensive lines sensed that a firefight could break out at any moment. Nevertheless, both sides had the same thought in almost perfect unison.
...I don't care who wins this game, but please end it so we can be freed from this job.
At the same time, Lieutenant Colonel Lendy Farolito of the Information Alliance held a video camera in one hand as she filmed the back of her unit's Elite who was giving that arcade game her all.
The silver-haired, brown-skinned woman had completely lost her usual look of a formidable tactician.
"Oh, dear. 50 wins and 53 losses. Is she finally losing her focus? Ah. It looks like she lost interest in the game and is walking off. No, stop shaking that cute butt like you're a baby duck. You're going to fall, you're going to fall. Ah! You fell. Oh, dear..."
A female subordinate of Lieutenant Colonel Lendy's cut in with some advice while making sure to stay out of the frame of the video camera footage. (She knew getting caught in frame would lead to a truly horrible fate.)
"Umm, I know this is something like being a doting parent, but you should not be filming her even if you are her commander. The Elite herself is considered valuable information by the military."
"What are you saying? Looking after the pilot Elite's mental health is part of our job. We cannot peer into people's hearts, so we have to gather that information from their everyday casual behavior," replied Lendy without hesitation. "By the way, why are you wearing a maid uniform?"
"Because I am a Capitalist Corporations mercenary. I do not want to have to carry around a sign all the time."
The blonde-haired, brown-skinned "mercenary" girl also had cat ears on her head.
However, Lendy was too focused on filming the Elite to look over at the "mercenary".
When the target of her filming headed off and hid behind something, she finally stopped filming.
"Huh? Where are you headed?" asked the "mercenary".
"Somewhere where maids and mercenaries are not needed."
Lendy Farolito pouted her lips, but still acted based on the information she had collected beforehand like anyone from the Information Alliance would.
"I am a bit upset with that Legitimacy Kingdom unit that keeps taking advantage of that poor girl."
Three men carrying submachine guns with a caliber of over 5mm came to one section of the "cityscape". They were there to eliminate Heivia and Royce who had fled.
The "cityscape" was primarily a collection of tents and RVs, so it contained little that was sturdy enough to use as a shield in a firefight.
However, there were some exceptions.
For example, the area the trash was collected in.
A number of mining dump trucks made of steel were parked on the outskirts. For a fee, the trash from the area was gathered there. Afterwards, it was taken to a proper incinerator in one of the actual cities.
As the dump trucks were the type usually used for mining, they were as tall as a three story building. The tires were taller than a person and a twisting staircase was needed to reach the driver's seat. With a number of them lined up, the area was essentially surrounded by steel.
In the midst of it all, repeated short gunshots rang out.
The garbage men ran off, but the three men paid them no heed.
"(Kicker, Nexa. We need to escape afterwards, so we can't spend more than 5 minutes here. We need to finish this!!)"
"(But that guy has a rifle. His range is too great!)"
"(I'll fire like crazy to keep him in place. You two circle around behind the dump truck and shoot him!!)"
Suddenly, the sound of the gunshots coming from behind the dump truck changed. The noise was much higher-pitched and more cheap-sounding than before.
(He switched from his rifle to his side arm?)
As soon as they came to that conclusion, the three men moved forward to take the offensive.
"(He's out of ammo! We can overwhelm him now...)"
A strong, deep gunshot rang out and Nexa's head was smashed to pieces.
While still in shock, two more bullets blasted into Kicker's gut and chest, knocking him to the ground.
The gunshots had most certainly not belonged to a handgun.
They had been the louder gunshots of the rifle that had supposedly run out of ammo.
(Shit! Did he purposefully switch over to his handgun despite having rifle ammo left to throw us off our guard!?)
The last remaining man tried to fall back, but it was too late.
With the advantage of numbers lost, the range and power difference between an assault rifle and a submachine gun was just too great.
Heivia Winchell silently drew closer without allowing even the slightest chance of a counterattack.
"You were right," said Heivia to Royce as he looked through the contents of the handheld device he had found in the armed men's belongings. "They've prepared a chemical combustion warhead. It's a bomb that mixes together naphtha, various fuels, and some chemicals to create flames that cannot be put out with water and spreads those flames 3 to 5 kilometers in every direction."
"It's basically the same thing as a Molotov cocktail. I've seen videos of it online."
"The warhead appears to be handmade, but the cruise missile it's loaded in and the mobile launcher are both Oceanian. The military regime had tanks and fighters deployed to areas around the country excluding where they had the Generation 0.5, so there was no lack of such items."
"The Craft Salamander III?"
"Sounds like some bland convenience store cream pasta, doesn't it? Well, weapon names have to be brought down to a level where even an idiot gets it. The point is to show off your obvious hostility," said Heivia as a cruel smile came to his lips. "The maximum range should be 1500 km. I believe it has a terrain calculation guidance system."
The one remaining question was how they planned to destroy an Object with it.
Even a direct hit from a large hydrogen bomb would not destroy an Object's armor. Also, chemical combustion warheads were anti-personnel weapons. Heivia did not see how one could destroy an Object.
Royce answered that question.
"Most likely, their target is not the Object itself."
"Basically, they just have to make the Object unusable. And they can do that without attacking the thick armor of the Object. They can accomplish their goal by targeting the much more vulnerable human beings."
"...Are they after the Elite?"
It was not entirely impossible, but Heivia was still skeptical.
Anyone could tell there was a danger of an Elite being targeted when outside of the Object. That was why they always had a special unit of bodyguards with them and were constantly accompanied by an armored vehicle with a perfectly air tight interior in case of firefights, explosives, or chemical and biological weapons.
Even if a cruise missile loaded with a chemical combustion warhead was headed straight for the Elite, she simply had to climb aboard that armored vehicle the instant it was detected. That would negate any damage from heat or smoke.
"No," replied Royce. "Their target is the maintenance soldiers. It does not matter if they do not have any particularly important duties or information. The chemical combustion warhead can cover several kilometers in every direction with flames. If the maintenance soldiers are gathered in a single place, a large majority can be eliminated. If hundreds of maintenance soldiers are lost all at once, the Object can no longer function. Even if it still has a pilot and a commander, the Object cannot function without those at the bottom who keep it running."
"So they're stopping it by destroying the Object's surroundings rather than the Object itself, hm?"
However, something bothered Heivia about that.
(That isn't too different from our idea to destroy that computer in the Loyauté district.)
That gave Heivia a bad feeling, but he continued the conversation.
"The crucial Elite and commander are one thing, but the unit can hardly have bodyguards for every single maintenance soldier. They might actually have a chance if they really are trying to crush them all at once." Heivia thought for a bit and then changed the subject slightly. "Since they prepared the mobile launcher and cruise missile, they are probably planning to detonate it in midair."
"I would assume so. If it is not detonated in midair, its effects would not spread as far. ...But I only know what I was able to find on military websites."
"The Craft Salamander III," said Heivia. "From the range of the missile, and the locations of the city and the maintenance base, they will most likely be targeting the maintenance base zone and the cityscape spread out around it. ...Hah. It seems they aren't directly targeting anyone from your Information Alliance."
"So? What I must do remains the same."
"Why would you help protect a Legitimacy Kingdom military facility?"
"I have both business and private reasons for that." Royce wiped sweat from his face. "As a journalist, I cannot simply sit by doing nothing as a threat like this approaches the people of Oceania. If spreading information would increase the danger, temporarily holding it back is good manners, but that does apply here. However, spreading the information now would not give people enough time to evacuate, so I feel I should use the information I have received in a different way in order to avert this catastrophe."
"And what is your private reason?"
"I told you my daughter has been deployed to Oceania, remember? Preserving the concept of the clean battlefield will help preserve the safety of my daughter. I cannot have that concept lost due to some terrorist attack."
"I see," muttered Heivia.
He could trust a real reason like that much more than some sterilized "for the greater good" reason.
"We need to find out where the launcher is located," said Heivia in a low voice. "If we know that, we can try to attack before the missile is launched or intercept it if it has already launched."
"Fine, but we have no time," said Royce to make sure Heivia understood. "From the fragments of information I picked up over the radio, their attack is going to begin soon. It is probably because the majority of the group is preparing the attack that we had so few pursuers."
After wasting more time than she had expected at the arcade, the princess walked along the tent-filled "cityscape" on the way to the Legitimacy Kingdom party.
The Legitimacy Kingdom bodyguards were still spread out around her and an armored vehicle also accompanied her, but she still decided to travel on foot.
The unorganized layout of the tents and forceful flow of pedestrian traffic prevented the smooth travel of the vehicle. She felt she would make better time on foot.
The princess recalled the exchange she had had back in the arcade.
To the very end, she had never seen her opponent's face.
(Honestly. I do not know if that was some sightseer from the Information Alliance or what, but the way they control all information about Elites and treat them like idols is like some kind of creepy brainwashing.)
The Legitimacy Kingdom treated their own Elites like patriotic heroes and rallied support from the people by spreading doubtful stories about them being part of legendary bloodlines that stretch hundreds of years into the past. Both were completely ridiculous ways to treat them, but it is hard to notice how odd the environment one has been immersed in all one's life is. It was similar to not noticing the smell of one's own house.
As the princess walked among all the tents and RVs, she suddenly stopped.
Her bodyguards all thought "Don't tell me there's something else!?", but the target of their protection had the right to choose what she did.
The princess looked over at a store filled with joke goods.
Due to the season, it contained a lot of Christmas-themed trees, wreaths, and red boots. It also had some Santa Claus costumes for sale.
When she had gone swimming earlier that day, Quenser had seemed incredibly disappointed for some reason.
She still had no idea what he had been hoping for, but it seemed wearing her work outfit while on leave was not the right thing to do.
She guessed it had something to do with everything having a proper time and place.
"Santa Claus... Santa Claus," muttered the princess as she headed into the store.
The tanned shop owner seemed especially courteous because she was wearing the special suit of an Elite. That meant she was the representative of a nation which in turn meant she would have a lot of money.
He was not wrong in that line of thinking, but the princess had no interest in money and so she had no idea how much money she had in her bank account.
The princess's bodyguards starting showing an interest in her actions as they secretly began to wonder, "Oh, is our princess finally awakening to her sex appeal?"
"Could you put together a Santa Claus outfit for me?" she asked.
What she got in return was an overly standard Santa Claus outfit made up of a baggy red shirt, pants of the same color, and a fake white beard.
"Don't go with that boring thing!!" shouted the bodyguards in their hearts, but that expressionless girl was not going to absorb the ideas of Japanese moe so quickly.
However, the look in the princess's eyes changed when she glanced over at a 3D monitor that used diffraction sitting in a corner of the tent.
It was playing footage from an Information Alliance idol Elite's concert from a few days ago.
"Yayyy!! This may be a bit early, but I think I will give you the gift of a night of dreams about a sexy miniskirt Santa!! Oh ho ho!!"
It was unclear how much of the footage was real and how much was VFX, but the image underwent a dazzling change. The blonde ringlet curl, G-cup idol shook her body while wearing a red and white Santa costume that appeared to be a modified Elite special suit.
For a while, the princess's expression grew even more expressionless than usual, but she finally pointed at the screen and spoke to the shop owner.
"Give me something that outdoes that."
After being transformed into a miniskirt Santa for the tropical southern hemisphere, the princess headed to the Legitimacy Kingdom party.
(This does not seem like a very practical outfit.)
The princess looked down at her clothes.
(Well, as long as Quenser likes it. But will he really like this???)
The party seemed to have already begun. The Legitimacy Kingdom soldiers had divided up into groups where they chatted as they drank and ate. Everyone's eyes turned toward the princess and they subsequently did nothing but stare at her. The princess could not tell if it was a good thing or a bad thing that they were acting like they had seen something they could not believe.
(Where is Quenser?)
After glancing around, the princess spotted the person she was looking for at one end of the party.
"It's not the same!! My actual siblings may try not to hurt my feelings, but they never say anything against how my family treats me!! You're the only one that does, Quenser!! I was saying that you're the most like a big brother to me!!"
The princess froze in place when she spotted Froleytia dead drunk and Quenser being held tightly by that large-breasted commander.
At that time, Lendy Farolito arrived at the party.
The mood of the Legitimacy Kingdom party was naturally ruined at the arrival of an enemy officer accompanied by Information Alliance soldiers. It was a potentially explosive situation, but they were in a cooperative relationship due to the coalition and the party was not located within the Legitimacy Kingdom base.
They had no legitimate reason to turn her away.
Lendy herself had not hesitated to head into the party because she was well aware of that.
An Information Alliance commander had arrived.
How would the Legitimacy Kingdom commander react?
Naturally, everyone's attention turned to Froleytia.
"I won't let you have him!! Quenser is my big brother and I won't let anyone else have him!!"
"Remember your position here. I'm the small, cute one."
A large-breasted miniskirt bikini Santa and an expressionless miniskirt Santa were fighting over a single boy. Lendy Farolito froze in place when she saw the Legitimacy Kingdom major who was otherwise occupied.
"Outta the way!!"
"Oh, man. This catfight will make an excellent gamble!!"
"Yeah, it's not like any of us would ever have a chance with beauties whose positions and ranks are so much higher than ours."
A portion of the Legitimacy Kingdom soldiers who saw the fight as a chance to make some money quickly moved to the center of the disturbance and circled them. Lendy's path to the other commander was lost.
(I took a risk and tried to contact her in a way that would garner as much attention as possible, but they aren't paying any attention to me!!)
The Information Alliance found value in the authenticity of information and in the methods used to disseminate and acquire such information, so that was a regretful turn of events.
When Lendy realized the person Froleytia had both her arms latched onto was the very same combat engineer boy that had secretly drawn the attention of a certain Information Alliance Elite, Lendy's emotions quickly reached their limit.
"Now someone I don't even know is giving me an incredible title!! If I ever get business cards made, I'm definitely putting that one on there!!"
Froleytia then realized Quenser's attention had turned toward someone other than herself.
"Who the hell are you? ...I won't let you have Quenser! He's my big brother!!"
"I do not wish to have him!!" shouted Lendy while just barely managing to remain civil. "One of your men has been taking advantage of our Elite, so I thought I would stop by in the name of scouting him while actually having some fun throwing your human relations out of order. I never thought he was this dangerous, though... I must report this. I need to have a family meeting with that girl tonigh—...cough cough!!"
Lendy started choking a bit from yelling too much and reached over for a drink, but no civilian waiter was walking nearby.
Froleytia grabbed a glass filled with a clear liquid.
"Here, have some water. Honestly, can't you do anything for yourself?" she grumbled.
"Hm? That glass..."
The combat engineer boy being held by Froleytia seemed to realize something, but Lendy had already gulped down the contents of the glass.
"Cough!? Cough cough!! Th-This isn't water! It's vodka!!"
"What!? How dare you refuse to drink the water my big brother prepared!"
"Damn you. You have some nerve to do this to an officer from the Information Alliance where the truth and untruth of information is directly linked to right and wrong..."
The expressionless miniskirt Santa then passed her another drink.
"Calm down. Have another glass to wash the bad taste out of your mouth."
"Oh, excellent idea. I think I can actually trust yo—...bbhh!! Th-Th-This one is shochu!? Hic."
Her complaint suddenly trailed off.
Just as Quenser started to get a very bad feeling about what was to come...
"And another thing!!" shouted Lendy.
"What are you thinking!? You're tearing down the framework of the Information Alliance and Legitimacy Kingdom for that poor girl!! Do you understand how much of an incredible tragedy this is for her!?"
As Lendy Farolito approached with long strides, Froleytia seemed to sense some kind of danger.
She squeezed herself against Quenser even harder than before.
"I won't let you have my big brother!!"
"I didn't say anything to you!! I was clearly speaking to that womanizer!"
"Don't look at her, Quenser! Look at me!!"
"Out of the way, drunk!! I need to lecture that womanizer!!"
Despite their words being directed at Quenser, the two drunks were looking only at each other.
All the while, the princess increased her wordless and expressionless intimidating presence.
A veritable storm was brewing.
Quenser could clearly feel it coming, so he tried to come up with a way to have the situation settle down. With how the princess looked subtly displeased while secretly entering dangerous territory, Quenser doubted she fit into any existing category of Japanese moe, but he had to do something about the danger before his eyes instead of focusing on that.
"W-Wait, you two. Why don't you calm dow—..."
"I hope you're prepared to fight!!"
"If it's a fight you want, it's a fight you'll get!!"
With that exchange that seemed more a form of a greeting than the beginning of a fight, Froleytia Capistrano and Lendy Farolito began glaring at each other at extremely close range.
That was when the soldiers of the Legitimacy Kingdom and Information Alliance witnessed a bizarre phenomenon.
They could not explain it with any standard means.
The boy who had come to the battlefield to study Object design had his head disappear.
Or to be more accurate...
His head was completely buried in the large breasts of the two women grabbing at him.
Given the situation, Heivia and Royce had to act on their own, but they had no real reason to keep the information to themselves.
As they took action, they contacted the police special forces and a Legitimacy Kingdom Object other than the Baby Magnum and its Mobile Maintenance Battalion. They made a request for the Object to prepare its anti-air lasers. If Heivia had gotten Froleytia to do that, it probably would have gone a lot smoother though.
They heard a major change to the situation come in via a radio transmission.
"Speed Killer is ready. We can use the anti-air lasers at any time. Even if a cruise missile is fired at the city, we can intercept it with 97% accuracy."
"According to the satellite, the mobile launcher is located 20 kilometers northwest of where the 37th Mobile Maintenance Battalion is stationed. If we know the starting point and ending point, we know its flight path. There is no way it will slip past us."
"Is this information correct!? Are you sure their cruise missile is targeting that convoy of some VIPs travelling 30 kilometers southeast of here and not the maintenance soldiers scattered throughout the impromptu cityscape!?"
"It seems they are conversing over cell phones that use a civilian satellite as well as via normal radio. However, we have people with special devices to intercept those signals. We got the information from there. There is no mistaking this."
"And..." Heivia chose his words carefully. "Is there also no mistaking the fact that the Object's anti-air laser defense is set to shoot down the cruise missile halfway through its flight?"
"Halfway? ...That would mean it's right above the impromptu cityscape!" shouted Royce, but Heivia had already figured out what they were after when he had asked the question.
The commander in charge of the Speed Killer replied, "The convoy being targeted is carrying a lieutenant general and a brigadier general. That chemical combustion warhead must be shot down."
"A chemical combustion warhead only has its intended effects when the proper materials are mixed together and mixed with the air upon detonation at the proper altitude. If it is shot down by an anti-air laser, there is almost no chance of a large, several kilometer explosion occurring."
"But there is still some chance, right?"
"Even so," immediately replied the commander. "The Elite and commander will have airtight armored vehicles accompanying them that can withstand biological and chemical weapons. As long as the bare minimum is protected, that is all that matters. And of course the Object itself will not be destroyed by anything of that level. Also, I am putting you under a gag order to prevent a panic. Any further communications are—..."
Heivia clicked his tongue and switched off his radio.
Royce then shouted at him with such force that he almost grabbed at the boy.
"What is going on!? Are they planning to let everyone in this city die? And if those airtight armored vehicles can withstand the heat and flames, what does it matter if the cruise missile directly hits that convoy!?"
"Don't ask me. He was probably forced into this decision by those higher officers. ...And I get the feeling this is exactly what the ones using the chemical combustion warhead want."
"They used the satellite cell phones to purposefully allow the military to intercept the transmissions. As they expected, the military plans to set up a defensive line to shoot the missile down halfway through its flight. ...And that is in the perfect spot to roast all the maintenance soldiers in my unit as you predicted."
"It can't be...But that means..."
"If you simply shoot a cruise missile in Oceania, one of the many Objects will shoot it down before it reaches its target. But that just means you have to create a plan based on the assumption it will get shot down."
"But that horrible commander said the odds are low a large explosion will occur if the cruise missile is shot down with an anti-air laser!"
"If they know it will be shot down, they can change those odds," Heivia searched through the handheld device belonging to one of the armed men he had shot. "I saw this diagram of the warhead before, but now that I look closer, something is off about it. The different chemicals are packaged separately. If it reached its target like this, nothing would happen."
"Wait, you mean the chemicals will only be mixed together in midair if it it's shot down?"
"From this design, I'd say they want it shot down. The chemicals are stored under high pressure which I guess is to ensure they scatter everywhere when the container bursts. If we leave this to the Object's anti-air lasers, this city will be swallowed up in a sea of flames!!"
They knew where the enemy's mobile launcher was.
Without getting permission, Heivia borrowed a Legitimacy Kingdom off-road vehicle that was parked on the road with the key in the ignition.
Royce shouted, "What are you going to do!?"
"Isn't it obvious? We came this far on our own, so we just have to finish it that way!! Royce, if you want to help, fill that drum up with gasoline!!"
Royce followed Heivia's instructions, but he still had questions.
He climbed into the passenger seat of the off-road vehicle and they drove out of the impromptu city.
"I know we have to stop this, but do you really think we can destroy that mobile launcher!? We had enough trouble with just those 3 pursuers. Their main force is going to be concentrated around that launcher!!"
"Shut up! We don't have time!!"
A cloud of sand blew into the air as the off-road vehicle drove off into a dry wasteland.
They were still 20 kilometers from the mobile launcher.
The armed group would have its firepower concentrated around that launcher. Also, they had no reason to wait. They would be launching the cruise missile as soon as possible.
"Shit! That light!!" shouted Royce.
A bright flash of light could be seen beyond the horizon and a signal flare-like point of light shot up into the night sky. However, the distances were simply too great. A signal flare would not produce enough light.
"They fired it!! That was the cruise missile loaded with the chemical combustion warhead!!"
"Tch. Can we make it in time!?"
Heivia slammed on the brakes and drove in an S-pattern as the tires slid. In the end, he finally managed to stop the off-road vehicle safely.
He then jumped down onto the sandy ground.
"We weren't on our way to attack the armed group and destroy the launcher!?"
"I never thought we would make it in time for that!!" shouted back Heivia, bringing a look of shock to Royce's face.
Royce then thought Heivia must have been running away before the explosion to save himself, but Heivia headed to the back of the off-road vehicle.
"As long as we keep the missile from continuing on its intended course, we can prevent the impromptu cityscape and the maintenance soldiers from being sacrificed! If it flies off in some other direction, their plan involving the anti-air laser will fail!!"
"Are you planning to jam it?"
"The Craft Salamander III's guidance system uses terrain calculations. It measures the ups and downs of the terrain it passes over to determine what corrections need to be made to its course. As long as it has 3-5 pages of documentation on the terrain between the launch point and the arrival point, it can aim itself quite accurately."
"Does that documentation come from satellite photos?"
"Normally. Simple aerial photos should work just as well. But in that case, the documentation cannot be updated in real time, so it all has to be researched beforehand and the launch location cannot be changed," explained Heivia. "Naturally, if aerial photos to determine its course are inputted, no communication is needed after launch. While GPS navigation requires a constant exchange of information with the satellite, this method has no risk of being stopped with jamming."
"Then what can we do!? How are we supposed to oppose a cruise missile flying at supersonic speeds!? Don't tell me you plan to aim your rifle into the air and shoot it down!!"
"I'll be doing something a little flashier than that."
Heivia used both hands to pick up the drum filled with gasoline that had been loaded in the off-road vehicle.
He opened the large metal container, tipped it over, and spread the gasoline around the wasteland.
"Be mindful of the wind. It can carry vaporized gasoline."
"What are you doing? The cruise missile is already in the air!! It will pass by overhead before too long!!"
"As I said, the Craft Salamander III's guidance system uses terrain calculations. It periodically compares the data held in its chips to the actual ups and downs of the terrain below it to correct its course." After the last of the gasoline had left the drum, Heivia casually threw the empty container to the side. "That just means we have to make sure it can't compare the two sets of data."
He then pulled out a cigar lighter from the driver's seat of the off-road vehicle.
He glanced out at the hot, red ground.
"We just have to do something like this!!"
The instant after Heivia threw the cigar lighter, a giant explosion filled a portion of the wasteland.
In an instant, a massive amount of light and heat was produced along with a shockwave.
Afterwards, black smoke rose up into the night sky. The black smoke filled the entire area the explosion had encompassed.
A white point of light shot by above their heads with tremendous speed.
"What? That isn't the right direction."
"The flash of light and the smoke prevented it from checking on the terrain," said Heivia as he held a hand in front of his face to protect his eyes from the orange light. "If it can't correct its course, there's nothing to worry about. Now we just have to wait for the Speed Killer to deal with it. It doesn't matter if the anti-air laser brings the chemical combustion warhead down over empty desert." He collapsed into a sitting position and wiped sweat from his brow. "I can get things done too when I don't have to face one of those monstrous weapons."
After saving the Oceanian people and the rest of his mobile maintenance battalion, Private First Class Heivia Winchell finally made it to the Christmas party.
"I made it...I finally made it to utopia!! Thank you, me!! The great Heivia is simply too powerful!! Now, time to eat, drink, and enjoy the view of a huge-breasted Santa!! We're gonna have some fun tonight and maybe have some enjoyable incidents to keep as memories!!"
The large table that should have had plenty of food lined up on it was covered in nothing but large, empty plates. The plates had a bit of red sauce on them, but the waiters were in the process of removing them from the table.
No food or drink could be found.
Heivia refused to accept that truth and shook his head.
"Don't tell me it's already ov—...No, no, not yet!! The most important part is still left! Santa's time to shine is after all the good children have gone to bed!! There has to be one around here somewhere. After overcoming all that danger, there has to be some reward for me!!"
Heivia searched around the party area with his eyes as wide as plates, but he found nothing but waiters cleaning up. Every single one of the soldiers who had surely been celebrating there had left and a huge-breasted Santa was nothing but a dream within a dream. Heivia could not even spot a single waitress.
For an instant, Heivia's face lost all expression.
But in the next instant, his face twisted as if he was about to cry tears of blood and he shouted, "This is a desert!! This is nothing but a dried-up desert!!"
It was at that moment that Heivia spotted Quenser Barbotage trudging toward him with legs just as unsteady as Heivia's. Seeing his companion's face, Heivia brought up his guard.
"Don't tell me you had to head through a battlefield of your own. No, wait!! I was the hero tonight! I'm the most exhausted! And that's why the biggest reward should go to me!! I won't give any of it up even to you!!"
However, Quenser was too far gone to hear him.
Before he made it over to Heivia, Quenser collapsed down onto the hardened sand of the ground. Heivia approached in confusion and Quenser tried to speak with his mouth moving open and closed.
"What is it, Quenser? 'Ti'? What do you mean 'ti'!?"
All strength left Quenser's body and his face grew even paler. Heivia let out a cry of lamentation.
"What kind of dying message is that!? There's too much deep meaning there!! What happened? Hey, Quenser! Quenseeeeeeeeeeeeeeerrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!"
References and Translation Notes