HEAVY OBJECT:Volume8 Chapter 3
Chapter 3: Eyes of the Goddess Glowing Deep in the Darkness >> All-Out War in the New Caledonia District
The theoretical idea had existed for a long time.
For example, an anti-ship missile fired from a submarine or guided missile destroyer would fly just a few meters off the ocean surface while travelling at speeds greater than Mach 5. It was created to slip past the Gatling guns and other close-in weapon systems, blow a hole in in the side of the enemy ship at the waterline, and ensure the ship flooded.
Just as mirages were used for fighters to escape anti-air lasers, those anti-ship missiles were the representative enemy the earliest Objects were designed to face.
If the missile was loaded with a small nuclear warhead, it was feared an Objects’ anti-air lasers and a satellite interceptor would be insufficient to protect a large city on the coast.
One suggestion put together as a countermeasure was to use mines or shells to produce tremendous pillars of water which would form a thick enough wall to knock the missile from the air. The liquid might seem soft to a normal person, but it became a tremendously solid wall to something flying at Mach 5. Striking the wall would tear the missile apart in midair.
Ultimately, getting the timing right proved extremely difficult and the idea was abandoned for a long time. Once improvements in parallel processing technology for anti-air laser targeting radars considerably raised the anti-ship missile interception rate, everyone forgot about it.
That unique technique was forgotten by the flow of time.
It should have ended there.
“Agh, this is hopeless! There’s no way we can win!!”
A soaking wet Quenser flailed around while lying face up on a giant ship’s deck. The NTR girl named Mariage Nightcap was sitting nearby with her legs bent back to either side. Even if New Caledonia was in the southern hemisphere, they were still shivering from being soaking wet in the darkness of the night.
The pouring rain had stopped at some point, but that allowed them to focus more on the cold night air.
The Megalodiver was not there.
Once that New Model had retreated for some reason, Quenser and Mariage had been picked up by Legitimacy Kingdom hovercrafts. The innocent prisoners had also been collected from the containers they had been dumped into the ocean inside. All of them had then travelled back to the disguised cruiser known as the Scarlet Princess that Frolaytia was using as a flagship.
They had somehow escaped death, but it was not over yet.
They could not relax until they knew why the enemy had left (or rather, overlooked them) and the higher levels of the Legitimacy Kingdom military had decided to continue the attack, so they would be tossed in front of the Megalodiver again.
They had to find some way to defeat it during their short break.
“B-before even getting to the Tatami Shield, how does it detect things so accurately using only sound?”
“Using sound to detect enemies is what submarines do, but that only works because sound propagates through water faster than air. Plenty of things can exceed the speed of sound in air and the Megalodiver needs to keep up with that supersonic world.”
“That thing isn’t evading after detecting the shells the other Object fires,” spat out Quenser while still lying on the deck. “It’s detecting the subtle noises of the targeting lenses and cannons moving and using that to predict where the shells will be fired. That’s how it can ignore the barrier created by the speed of sound.”
The situation would change if the enemy Object itself could exceed the speed of sound, but the Baby Magnum could not move that quickly.
“B-but! There are explosions everywhere! Both active sonar and directional microphones would be useless!”
“That’s the entire damn point! It can distinguish just the sound waves it wants out of the intense noise created from all those different waveforms colliding. I don’t know what kind of supercomputer it has installed to analyze that in an instant, but it’s definitely doing it! Crushing its ears would be difficult. We need to find a way to defeat it despite being detected, but I’m not sure anything like that exists! I’ve had enough of this!!”
A girl approached as Quenser began flailing around on the deck once more.
She was the Pilot Elite princess who wore a skintight special suit. The maintenance soldiers were working as quickly as possible to exchange the battered Baby Magnum’s parts, so the princess had nothing to do.
“Quenser, did you just say I’m weak?”
“Don’t be ridiculous! Did your lack of screentime turn you yandere!?”
“You definitely said it. You said you have to do something about this because I’m weak. If you keep saying that, I won’t provide covering fire for you.”
“Hold up!! That’s a death sentence in the clean wars ruled by Objects!!”
Quenser frantically sat up, but an odd weight obstructed his movement. He looked over and found Mariage still had her arms wrapped around his neck and her ample chest pressed against him.
He had a feeling an ominous shimmering began to rise from behind the princess.
“And who is this Holstein in sheep’s clothing?” asked the princess.
“In the red corner, Mariaaaaaaaaaage Nightcaaaaaaaaaaap!! I distinctly remember there being a detailed explanation during the pre-mission briefing!!”
“I want to know why she’s clinging to you like cheese toast!!”
“I’d like to know the same thing! What are you doing!?”
“Eh…eh heh heh. I still don’t feel like I was rescued. I can’t relax unless I do this.”
Mariage was essentially saying, “I’m afraid of the Megalodiver attacking if we don’t hide my heartbeat. I know I’m worrying too much, but I want to overlap our heartbeats.” However, the aura behind the princess only grew more ominous.
“Ahh, this really calms me down.”
“Quenser, you can go fight a war with nothing but two lumps of fat.”
“Wait. Wait a sec, princess! This girl is the type who’s pulled around by others! She’s the NTR type!! I already fell victim to that in the Château de Rouge! I know letting her manipulate me is not a good idea!!”
“But you still tore me away from that mean jailer in the very, very end.”
“That was to find a weakness in the Megalodiver, you backstabbing slut!! And I was caught between the jailors’ full-auto shotguns and that Object. Of course I’m going to kick a dirty old man in the face to survive!!”
“My policy is to cling to the strongest-looking guy in reach.”
“Then go join the Megalodiver! We’ll blow you away along with it!!”
“Oh, c’mon. If I joined the Megalodiver, you’d complain but still come to rescue me.”
“Like hell I would! Not this time!! And after this is over, I’m definitely reporting to the higher ups that you betrayed me at the end there. I hope you’re prepared to be thrown in prison for some weird crime or another!!”
“Saying ‘after this is over’ makes your hesitation plain as day. I can tell I’m on the safest route here.”
If words had heat, the words that leaked from the princess’s mouth might have looked like flickering flames of phosphorus.
“The problem lies in this unique harmony between you two. Who do you think actually put her life on the line to stop the Megalodiver?”
“W-w-w-w-w-wait, princess! Stop climbing on top of me and shaking me by the collar!! My brain’s gonna turn to butter!! Gbh! U-ugh. I can’t even enjoy the lovely sensation sitting on my stomach like this!!”
“Hey, this is no time to be horsing around,” cut in a new voice.
The voice belonged to Heivia who had dragged Quenser and Mariage onto the Scarlet Princess’s deck. He was looking to the port side of the disguised cruiser rather than at Quenser, Mariage, and the princess.
“This isn’t funny. Our armed cruise ship is coming up alongside us. There’s no way this is going to end well.”
“ ‘Our’? You mean the Winchell family?”
Quenser looked over while working to tear Mariage from him.
A new majestic silhouette had appeared on the ocean to replace the Megalodiver.
The giant ship was just as gorgeous as the (seemingly) perfect and luxurious Scarlet Princess.
“That’s the Summer Vacation.” Heivia did not sound happy. “That must mean they’re onboard.”
The two ships were only about five meters apart.
The Summer Vacation had a happy-sounding name and looked like a luxurious cruise ship, but it had gigantic cannons and the Gatling guns of a close-in weapon system attached here and there. Unlike the disguised cruiser, this ship made no intent to hide the weapons. There was no sign of compartments to store them.
The watertight door on the side deck opened and a horizontal row of its crew exited.
They all had one distinguishing feature.
“Why are they all maids?”
“I’d rather not say.”
“Why are you doing your best to not look me in the eye? Don’t tell me this is related to some kind of conflict in your noble family.”
While Heivia grew oddly withdrawn, their own watertight door opened and Frolaytia walked out onto the deck with several bodyguards.
All the maids bowed, but Frolaytia did not salute in return.
“Private soldiers of the Winchell family? What are civilian bodyguards doing here?”
The oldest (using height and bust size for reference) maid who wore an eyepatch replied. The maid uniform did not suit her.
(It can’t be! I thought only cruel, scarred sergeants were allowed to carry those!)
“Yes, major. While on a sightseeing cruise nearby, we happened to learn that your unit had been forced into a difficult battle. I apologize for acting without permission, but we decided to lend a hand.”
Heivia started trembling and his lips were as blue as when he had been thrown in the pool the other day.
“Y-you mean it was your doing that the Megalodiver retreated? But how!? You’ve gotta be joking. You didn’t pay a new Object to fight, did you!?”
The maid narrowed her one eye like a dagger, turned toward him as if looking at a dung beetle, and gave a low groan.
“Yoooooooooooooooooooooooooouuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu are so filled with delusions I’m amazed you’re still alive. Not even a noble can directly own an Object.”
“That tone!! No maid should be using that tone of voice!!”
Ignoring Heivia as he started crying, Frolaytia placed her long, narrow kiseru back in her mouth.
“I would like an explanation as well.”
“Of course, major.” The maid’s expression and tone instantly returned to normal. “The Object in question seemed to be frequently sending encrypted transmissions to a different unit, so we attacked them. That unit was likely used for supplies and maintenance. It would take a considerable amount of time just to prepare the inspection and maintenance of a fifty meter machine.”
Still soaking wet, Quenser looked up in realization.
“I get it. The Megalodiver was covered in lava by the submarine volcano and a few of its water intakes had to have been covered up. The Pilot Elite would have difficulty removing that lava alone, so he wants to get the maintenance done as soon as possible. That way they can revive the Megalodiver’s diving ability.”
The Megalodiver had decided to rescue the other unit despite lacking confirmation of Mariage Nightcap’s death.
They had spent three full days and used all the materials available to put together that makeshift maintenance base, so it was only natural for them to panic if it was attacked.
That had allowed Quenser and Mariage to escape the slaughter.
Heivia let out a sigh.
“Does that mean we can relax for now? With its supply line and maintenance cut off and its diving ability sealed, not even the Megalodiver can-…”
Before even hearing her out, Heivia covered his face with his hands and started sobbing.
Showing no concern whatsoever, the eyepatch maid continued speaking.
“Our bombardment and landing operation destroyed about 70% of that unit, but we were forced to leave once the Object drew near. They can most likely perform maintenance once it arrives, so we must attack before that work is complete.”
“Major, this may be presumptuous, but we can supply some related documents we acquired during the attack. The papers and photographs we gathered from their base would be useless in the hands of civilians such as us.”
“Were you worried about the Winchell family’s heir?”
“We have no business with that dung beetle. We were only fulfilling our duty as Legitimacy Kingdom citizens.”
The eyepatch maid verbally discarded him with a smile.
The noble boy had long since curled up on the deck, but Frolaytia simply breathed out a long stream of sweet-smelling smoke.
“I would like to thank you for your cooperation, but I cannot accept your offer to share intelligence. We deal in a lot of classified information and we cannot place any responsibility on the shoulders of civilians.”
“Why not view it as civilians supplying intelligence or confiscating documents from an unofficial operation? If the flow of information is in only one direction, you need not worry about classified information leaking to civilians.”
“That would be improper treatment of those who saved us.”
Frolaytia grinned and the eyepatch maid gave a thin smile of her own.
The silver-haired, huge-breasted major pointed to Quenser with her long, narrow kiseru.
“Quenser and…Mariage Nightcap was it? You two board their ship as civilians. A conversation between civilians is no business of a soldier like me.”
The way the two of them were treated as a pair produced a noise of anger from the princess, but that was none of Frolaytia’s concern.
(Oh, no. The princess is looking angry! She must be starving for entertainment and she must think this cruise ship is like a theme park!)
Quenser seemed to be perceptive yet was actually misreading the situation entirely, but he spoke up all the same.
“Heh…eh heh heh. I have an idea, Frolaytia. How about we let the princess join us on the- hot! O-ow! You just jabbed me with the end of the kiseru, didn’t you!?”
“Are you stupid? The Pilot Elite has her conditioning and all the tuning and tests needed for the Baby Magnum as its parts are replaced. Where in that does she have time to go play? Well?”
“Hot, hot, hot, hot, hot, hot, hot, hot☆”
As Quenser writhed around at the hands of his huge-breasted commander, the princess remained perfectly expressionless with sparkling angry sound effects surrounding her head like the VFX of an Information Alliance idol.
Next, Frolaytia pointed the kiseru toward Heivia.
“Heivia, you go visit home. I’m giving you leave, so head over to the Winchell family’s armed cruise ship.”
“No!! I don’t want to be thrown to that army of cruel tutors!!!!”
Despite Heivia’s shrill protests, the line of maids simply turned cold looks toward him.
Having received his orders, Quenser stood up from the deck while still soaking wet.
“So what’s with those maids anyway?”
“I’ll explain later, so please keep quiet.”
Quenser, Mariage, and Heivia transferred from the Legitimacy Kingdom’s disguised cruiser “Scarlet Princess” to the Winchell family’s armed cruise ship “Summer Vacation”.
They moved from ship to ship using an unreliable makeshift bridge created by leaning a ladder on its side. The pitch black sea visible below needlessly filled them with fear.
Quenser scratched at his wet blond hair.
“Hi, I’m Quenser Barbotage.”
“I-I’m Mariage Nightcap.”
The eyepatch maid gave a frightening first impression, but she replied softly and with a smile.
“Welcome, you two. I am Karen I Winchell. Please feel at home during your short visit.”
Once she saw Heivia behind them, she blatantly clicked her tongue and spit over the handrail.
“Yoooooooooooooooooooooooooooouuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu need to learn to introduce yourself without being asked.”
“I have to introduce myself!? As you well know, I’m your master, the great Heivia Winchell!!”
“Huh?” Mariage tilted her head. “That maid and the soldier are both named Winchell?”
Once she mentioned it, Quenser realized it was odd for a member of a noble family to be wearing a maid uniform.
But Heivia shrugged.
“My family has a custom of granting the name of Winchell to servants or cooks who give especially exemplary service. They’re adopted into the family, but adopted family has no legal rights in the Legitimacy Kingdom where bloodline is everything. They can’t inherit the family, so it’s nothing more than a title or a badge of honor. Speaking of which, the I of her middle name stands for Imitation.”
Karen I Winchell ignored the dung beetle and gave a splendid smile.
“The Winchell family has a custom of granting its name to servants who provide especially exemplary service. They are adopted into the family, but they have no legal rights in the Legitimacy Kingdom where bloodline is everything. I am well aware of my position as a maid. Oh, by the way, the I of my middle name stands for Imitation.”
“I just explained all that!! What is wrong with you!? Do you have a filter in place that keeps you from hearing what I say!?”
“The Summer Vacation is one of the Winchell family’s seven armed cruise ships. It is similar to that disguised cruiser, but the two ships deal with pirates differently: the cruiser is a military ship made to look like a cruise ship while this is a cruise ship with the weapons of a military ship added on. Rather than lure in enemies, we intimidate them into staying away.”
“Now you’re ignoring my protests!?” shouted Heivia.
The topic seemed to appeal to Quenser’s mechanical heart because his eyes began sparkling.
“That’s a huge gun over there, but how many centimeters is it?”
“It is 50cm. The Island Nation warships had 46cm guns, so this might be on the upper end of what is installed on ships. It is a far ways off from an Object’s weapons, of course.”
“It’s so huge that it all looks top heavy. How do you manage damage control?”
“This is a cruise ship, so a high center of gravity is unavoidable. However, the ship has a unique float structure, so it is sturdier than your average heavy cruiser.”
“M-more specifically! How does that technology work!? Pant pant!!”
“The entire outer shell is covered with small, honeycomb-like air tanks. In addition to acting as a simple float, it also reduces the effectiveness of chemical warheads that make use of the Munroe effect or metal jets.”
“Defense using air!? D-damn. So it’s made sturdy by faithfully following the standard of floating the ship with air. This has advanced in a different direction from the Objects that hold everything back with thick armor!! B-but wait. If I could overturn the idea that the two can’t work together, it might lead to a new Object design.”
Karen I Winchell tilted her head slightly and Mariage Nightcap had long since backed away.
“Um, excuse me, Mr. Barbatoge. Are you what is known as a geek?”
“N-no!! I may be interested in high-level technology, but it’s only because I want to become a dashing and productive member of society!! Y’know, the kind of person who the beautiful young lady in the neighborhood asks to hook up her recording equipment!!”
“Understood. So you are a geek who is not aware he is a geek.”
It seemed the maid had reached a strange conclusion.
As Quenser began protesting that she did not understand at all, a dark smile appeared on Heivia’s lips. The look in his eyes was telling Quenser to join him on the receiving end of the abuse.
Quenser knew being dragged down by that loser would not end well, so he began an attack in a more positive direction.
“Can nobles really own something like this? I’m not just referring to the weapons. It must take over one hundred specialists to run something like this.”
“We are nothing more than civilian maids trained in self-defense techniques. We may have acquired a few special international qualifications, but anyone could attempt to do the same.”
Heivia gave a piercing comment to throw cold water on Karen’s perfect smile.
“Don’t act like you’re not a monster of a woman who can kill a bear or a tiger barehanded.”
“What was that?”
Karen glared at him and he let out a shriek much like a tea kettle that had reached a boil.
Frolaytia gave a comment of her own over the radio.
“Not every noble owns an armed cruise ship. It costs 200,000 euros to run one of those for a full day. Taking a seven or eight day cruise around the world costs as much as a brand new stealth fighter. Unless you’re talking about the Winchell family, the Vanderbilt family, or another top-level noble family, they wouldn’t be able to keep a ship like that running even if they could purchase it.”
“And the Winchell family has seven of them? Huh? But why are maids riding around on something that eats up money like that?”
“It was originally a birthday present for some little sister or another, but she grew sick of it and now they ride around on it. If you don’t use machines periodically, they’ll break down, so the family turns a blind eye.”
“Uheh,” groaned Mariage.
However, Quenser latched onto something else entirely.
“Wait. Wait just a minute, Heivia. Did I hear that right? You have a little sister. And not just one! You have enough that you can’t keep track of them all? And on top of that, you have a beautiful maid as an adoptive older sister?”
Seeing his horrible friend nod, Quenser brought his radio to his mouth.
“Death to the bourgeois!! All who agree, raise your hand!!”
A thundering roar of voices reached them from the neighboring ship. Despite being past midnight, the lonely soldiers were full of energy. They likely had pent up energy after having nothing to do.
“The reality is nothing like what it sounds like!!” lamented Heivia.
“What!? Is this that theory about families with a real little sister having no dreams whatsoever!? I won’t allow it!! This is a crime of luxury!! What era of nobles are you from, dammit!?”
“I’m a real noble from this era!! Got a problem with that!?”
The two idiots began grappling, but Karen I Winchell intervened. Specifically, she sent a full-swing slap…no, strike with the butt of the palm into the noble’s cheek and sent him spinning through the air for several meters.
“Yoooooooooooooooooooooooooooouuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu need to stop crying like a pig. Have you forgotten how to be polite in front of guests?”
All the blood drained from Quenser’s face as well.
“J-just the head? Y-you sent him several meters with a hit to the head? Just the head???”
“Do not worry. A strike from a slipper is not enough to kill a dung beetle.”
Mariage tugged on Quenser’s uniform with tears in her eyes. The look in those eyes said a further attack would kill Heivia if they did not change the subject.
“A-anyway! Miss Karen, I can think of you as part of the invincible maid unit that protects the Winchell family, right!?”
For some reason, the tall cool beauty’s face grew a bit flushed and she fidgeted while averting her gaze.
“I-I do not like that title. It is embarrassing.”
(Oh, this is working.)
Quenser decided to press on like this.
“Um, then what’s your actual title? Noble Maid probably applies to about a hundred maids on this ship.”
“I would fall into the Milk Maid category.”
“What kind of sexual title is that!!!???”
“Where are you looking and what are you imagining!?”
Karen’s entire face grew as red as a tomato and she covered her chest with her hands.
(I’m definitely on the right track!!)
Quenser gestured to his horrible friend, but Heivia did not see it as he lay limply on the deck.
Mariage tugged on Quenser’s clothes and whispered to him.
“U-um, isn’t a milk maid a maid on a rural farm that milks cows and makes butter?”
“N-not in this case, honey.” Heivia finally rose unsteadily to his feet. “She’s a legit combat type that directly controls the security of detached Winchell land such as manors or plantations.
Don’t think for a second that she’s some naïve maid who milks cows.”
Karen loudly clicked her tongue and Heivia grew desperate.
“There’s a custom of sending noble heirs to an area with clean water and air as soon as they’re born. That meant she was in charge of breastfeeding me, but you wouldn’t believe how that turned out!! The policy is meant to protect the heir from pollution and allergies, but the next thing I knew, that eyepatch maid kept trying to kill me!!”
“That was a part of your advanced education.”
“You mean that nonsense about a noble needing to be prepared for attempted poisonings or other assassinations!? You can imagine the disasters that led to!”
Quenser was on the verge of giving a groan of sympathy, but then…
“I also prepared you for the seductive techniques of female spies and marriage scam artists, dung beetle.”
“I’m going to encase you in concrete and throw you into the ocean! Get over here!!!”
“She wouldn’t have gone through with it!” shouted Heivia. “I knew it was a trap and she threatened to chop it off if I gave in!!”
Despite his protests, Quenser began beating him with clenched fists. He used the extra strength one gained in a crisis to do quite a bit of damage despite their usual division of roles.
Meanwhile, Karen I Winchell smiled.
“If you are finished preparing to execute that toilet beetle, how about we get down to business? Thanks to our attack on the Megalodiver’s supply and maintenance unit, we have information on that Island Nation Object. The documents are stored inside the ship, so please come this way.”
The eyepatch maid named Karen I Winchell led Quenser and the others through the armed cruise ship named the Summer Vacation. Bright lights so thoroughly swept away the darkness and shadows that it was easy to forget it was the middle of the night.
Seeing the inside showed Quenser this truly was a luxury cruise ship. It was a stark contrast to the Scarlet Princess which had been primarily a military vessel and thus had been cramped and uncomfortable inside.
“Now I’m worried about being so wet,” he groaned.
The corridor was carpeted, so his wet footprints bothered him. If he was later asked to pay for any damage, he doubted a commoner could ever clear the debt.
He was also a bit worried about his crotch, but he figured he was unlikely to catch the kind of tropical rainforest disease that made the contents of his pants grow all wet and swollen.
“We have no clothing for guests as the ship was only meant to carry maids,” explained Karen apologetically. “We only have bathrobes and maid uniforms.”
“Heh. Sorry, young lady, but I’ve already sworn to forever seal away the legendary Quensette.”
“Eh!? You’ve worn one before!?”
Mariage’s hysterical question brought a distant look to his eyes.
“It was during a cultural festival back at my safe country school. Uniting the guys to all vote for a maid café was good and all, but the girls were so angry they employed a scorched earth tactic and made all the guys play baseball in maid uniforms.”
“Uheh…” groaned Mariage as she imagined that hellish scene.
For some reason, Karen held out her index fingers and thumbs to create two L-shapes and formed a rectangular picture frame from those. She used her one eye to point the finder of her heart toward Quenser’s face and then body.
“Hm. Now that you mention it, you have a cute face and a slender body, so you wouldn’t be bad. Heh. But even if we put you in a maid uniform, you wouldn’t have a partner! Putting our tree bug in that role just wouldn’t have the proper beauty!!”
A chill ran down Quenser’s spine and he decided to change the subject.
“A-anyway, I love seeing nothing but maid uniforms on the ship, but is that wise? Isn’t it dangerous if you fall overboard?”
“Do not worry. The uniforms are made for quick removal in case we fall overboard or our skirt is caught in a machine.”
Quenser was momentarily overcome by the wicked urge to push her into the ocean right that instant, but they were unfortunately walking down an internal corridor. He of course left it a secret that the idea of immediately removable maid uniforms filled him with an indescribable fuzzy feeling.
Their destination was one of several dance halls that took up multiple floors. The grand piano and snack table were pushed to by the wall and a simple blue sheet covered the entire floor. The sheet was covered with tidy lines of documents and burnt, misshapen pieces of metal.
The scene seemed somehow ominous and reminded Quenser of a line of body bags after a plane crash.
In truth, each of them may have been dyed with death.
“We gathered as much as we could in the fifteen minutes before the Object arrived. If that unit was in charge of supplies and maintenance as we suspect, these documents may help you learn how the Megalodiver works and where a weakness may lie.”
“That’ll really help.”
The look in Quenser’s eyes quickly changed.
Large machines, especially Objects, had a way of gathering his focus.
“So where was this unit hiding anyway?”
“On a rust-filled island here in the New Caledonia District. It’s used as a tanker graveyard and no one lives there. It’s about fifty kilometers from that prison.”
“Oh, so it’s a workshop where they dismantle old, rundown tankers? The point is to sell the parts as scrap metal, right?”
“They use crude acetylene burners, so there is no end to the accidental explosions. None of the locals except for those who work there ever get close and those workers have no reason to be there without a new tanker to work on. It seems like a decent place to hide.”
The eyepatch maid bowed and left the dance hall.
“Now then,” said Quenser as he cracked his neck. “Perhaps it would be wrong to call this a pile of treasure.”
“Stop licking your lips like that. Only slightly sexual girls should be doing that.”
But Quenser was not one to be stopped by that. The entire reason he had ducked through showers of bullets was to gain information on currently-active Objects. Not to mention that this Object was a second generation developed in secret by the Island Nation that was a legend in the field of Objects. If this was not enough to get him excited, he would be better off heading back to his safe country to stare at a blackboard.
“This is the heat-resistant reactive compound. Is this scorched thing the transparent reflector for a laser beam? And these documents here…”
“Hey, Quenser! Explain your plan. What am I supposed to focus on here!?”
“Everything!! For the moment, everything!! A-amazing. Is this a layout overview for the braces that distribute its weight!? B-back in a safe country, you’d never see this without sneaking into a national research lab!! And this is…pant pant!!”
“You pervert! I’m gonna call the Black Uniforms on you!!”
Mariage whimpered and then spoke up to focus the two idiots who were veering way off track.
“U-um… Aren’t we in a lot of trouble if we can’t find a way to sink the Megalodiver? Shouldn’t we look through the Tatami Shield defense system first as it’s the greatest threat?”
“Oh, that’s right!! Anyway, who even is this huge-breasted glasses girl? I think her wet clothes are a little see-through.”
“That’s Mariage Nightcap, the girl who was thrown in a cell. However, she’s the NTR type, so letting your guard down won’t end well. The more you push, the easier she ends up somewhere else. In other words, she’s easy to make yours, but it’ll end up hurting you later.”
“Sounds exciting to me!!”
Mariage jumped like a small animal and began keeping her distance from Heivia.
Karen I Winchell happened to return to the dance hall just as the noble boy started breathing heavily, so she performed an unrestrained middle kick on his side.
After the sound of a blanket being struck, he had been defeated.
“Yoooooooooooooooooooooooooooouuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu really are creepy. Even your sounds of pain creep me out.”
As he lay collapsed on the floor, Karen stared down at him like she was looking at the contents of a balled-up tissue. She carried a silver tray so smoothly it did not produce any clattering noises and she lined up a tea set and a few baked sweets on the snack table by the wall.
“Have you found any useful information?”
“Wait. I think this might be it. It’s titled ‘Weapons for Zero Water Pressure’. This is a list of equipment used when fighting on the surface, right? Wouldn’t the Tatami Shield fall under that classification?”
“But doesn’t the Tatami Shield simply fire normal cannons at the ocean surface to create pillars of water?”
“No naval Object has pulled off that tactic before, but this one is turning aside 100% of attacks. We should probably assume it has a unique targeting system, a special type of shell, or some other secret.”
“I see. Oh, I have Ceylon and Assam tea prepared. Will that be a problem? Milk and lemons are over here. If you would like apple peels, just ask.”
“This is fine, this is fine. I want to focus on these documents right now. But…what are these symbols? This is the language unique to the Island Nation, isn’t it? It doesn’t use the alphabet, so I don’t even know where to start!”
“Is this their ancient writing system?” asked Mariage. “I’ve heard you read it top to bottom and back and forth at the same time. I don’t know much about it either.”
“Please eat these muffins and crackers with a spread of your choice. If I may, I would recommend the anchovy and cottage cheese spread.”
“Just looking at the diagrams, it’s…what? Looks like it’s pumping something into the water, but it doesn’t look like a shell.”
As Quenser muttered to himself, he suddenly gasped and stopped moving.
He had completely forgotten about something, so he grabbed his radio with a trembling hand.
“F-Frolaytia!! I just realized something!!”
“What is it? Did you learn something about the Megalodiver!?”
“This ship has normal food instead of nothing but eraser-like military rations! But why!?”
“Sigh. This is a civilian ship with self-defense weaponry, so we are not bound by military regulations,” explained Karen. “To maintain a sense of what day it is, the workers eat fish on Mondays and veal on Fridays, but we are free to eat what we wish on any other day.”
Quenser shouted so loudly he thought he would shed tears of blood.
He was forced to eat flavorless erasers to maintain an even potential for all missions, so it truly felt like the ultimate luxury to have not just a meal fit for a noble but tea and snacks as well.
Meanwhile, Frolaytia sounded annoyed.
“Don’t forget that your paycheck comes from the people’s taxes. And don’t get carried away. You can maintain a sense of what day it is by making curry once a week and preparing all those ingredients adds an extra logistical burden. That isn’t going to fly with the military.”
“No fair! Don’t act like it’s that much of an issue when you always have your tobacco and mini-fridge with you!!”
Their inability to read the characters of the Island Nation’s unique language left them stuck, but Karen I Winchell spoke up.
“While preparing health foods for the Winchell family, I grew fond of the Island Nation’s cuisine and green tea, so I learned a bit of the language.”
“I doubt this is terminology found in a housewife’s cookbook.”
They had no other option, so Quenser handed Karen the classified document.
“I see, I see,” she said surprisingly cutely. “It seems these are natural macromolecules. After being heated to sixty or seventy degrees by the heat of the reactor, they are fired into the sea.”
“W-wait a minute. What the hell is a macromolecule?”
“Fine! I won’t say anything else!! Keep going!!”
Heivia had tears in his eyes, so Quenser kindly explained.
“Heivia. A natural macromolecule is what you also call starch. It’s taken from potatoes and other plants. Do you get it now?”
“What!? Then why not just say starch!? Why would you go out of your way to make it confusing? Oh, I get it. You’re obsessed with specs, aren’t you?”
Karen grabbed a ceramic pot of hot water and pressed the bottom against Heivia’s forehead. It was not a thermos, so the outside was hot too.
“Because that’s what it says on the paper!!”
“Gyabaaah!? That’s more or less a brand!!”
Incidentally, fifty degrees is apparently the limit for hot water in the reaction business, so do not try that at home.
“Dammit…dammit! What do you have against me!?”
“I have no particular hatred for you, but I cannot stand you in general.”
“Don’t say that so nonchalantly, you idiot! It pisses you off that I’m on the battlefield, doesn’t it? You hate that someone who’s getting along well with a member of the rival Vanderbilt family is trying to inherit the family, don’t you!?” he spat out. “But I don’t care what you want! It’s wrong to be influenced by hatred from centuries ago, especially when no one remembers why it started. I’m going to end that in my generation! I swear it! And I’m not going to ask you for help, so I don’t need your approval. I’ve decided to do this even if I have to do it alone!!”
“Sigh. You can get as hot-blooded as you like, but have you forgotten that I hold the even hotter water?”
Mariage ignored the comedy act and asked a question.
“Why do they put starch in the ocean before using the Tatami Shield? And if they heat it to sixty to seventy degrees…”
“That temperature makes starch sticky like paste, doesn’t it? Does that mean what I think it does?”
“Yes. I think they’re trying to make a substance that will thicken the water,” cut in Karen while ignoring Heivia who writhed in pain. “A shame they aren’t using it for cooking.”
“Pillars of water tall enough to completely cover the Object are enough of a shield, but does using starch to increase the viscosity of the seawater help it even further?”
“Something bothers me about this,” muttered Quenser.
Mariage seemed to be thinking the same thing.
“I get that it’s making the water all around it sticky, but the Megalodiver itself cools its reactor and gains propulsion by taking in seawater, right? But can it really suck up that sticky water?”
(Not only that, but it was using a water intake on top when we met it in the deep sea. How is it handling it on the surface? Does it have another intake on the bottom? Did it surface for a short term battle because it was afraid of sucking up sand from the bottom of the ocean? But if so, it doesn’t make sense for it to create impure seawater with the starch. Does it have some further system?)
He could not find an answer, but the mystery needing solving was growing clearer.
“If this is about food, it can wait. If you put in for leave, I’ll turn a blind eye to any fish you catch during that time.”
“It’s about the Tatami Shield. …Or the Hiding Clothes of Water? Is that the official name? Anyway, I have a few simple topics concerning the Megalodiver’s defense system, so please contact the electronic simulation division.”
“Give me more details.”
He did so and she fell silent for a moment afterwards.
“I will of course have the electronic simulation division work on this, but I want you gathering information at the same time.”
“Of course. We will search through all these documents and-…”
“Not like that,” cut in Frolaytia. “The Megalodiver’s emergency maintenance will be complete soon, so we don’t have time to search randomly through a pile of documents. The only other source of useful information would be the tanker graveyard they’re lurking inside.”
“You don’t mean…”
Quenser had a very bad feeling and Frolaytia’s answer was simple.
“You discovered this mystery, so it’s your responsibility to solve it.”
At that time, he did not know that he would be punched by all the soldiers of a landing team in ten minutes time.
“This could not be worse,” muttered Quenser as he changed clothes in an empty room on the Scarlet Princess.
He removed the soaking wet prison uniform and put on his usual military uniform, but he was still uncomfortable because he had not had time to take a shower.
“Honestly, I shouldn’t have said anything. Not noticing this kind of thing makes life so much easier. Is being a genius just asking for trouble?”
As his comrades had rather forcefully beaten him upon learning the details of the emergency mission, his actions were somehow unsteady.
He left the room and found someone in the corridor moving even more unsteadily than him.
It appeared to be the princess.
Every maintenance soldier was at work on replacing the Baby Magnum’s damaged armor plates, so she would be on standby.
The repeated battles would have worn her out. When they had spoken earlier, she may have been merely acting fine so as not to worry him.
He was a little worried and considered calling out to her, but then he heard something horrifying.
He heard her mumble to herself.
“Sh-she’s asleep!? She’s walking around in her sleep!!!???”
Could humans even sleep with their muscles stiff enough to support their body weight? Was she walking in her dream or was she vaguely aware of reality? Quenser could not quite grasp the situation, but he had to believe it because she was indeed walking in her sleep.
It would be far from funny if the princess hurt herself before the battle with the Megalodiver.
She would be fine walking along a corridor, but he decided to stop her from continuing to the stairs or anywhere like that.
His first thought was to grab her shoulders and shake her awake.
He suddenly stopped and his gaze gradually moved down from her face.
His eyes finally stopped on her chest which looked modest but was actually fairly plentiful.
If she’s asleep, it means nothing you do counts, right? Heh heh heh.
Quenser heard the whispering of something truly dark that the Faith Organization would likely do its best to crush.
His right hand automatically shot out, so he grabbed that wrist with his left hand to stop himself from touching the princess.
An all-or-nothing one-man play began.
“Tch!! Wait, my right hand. Giving in to those tempestuous emotions will lead to bad things in the future!! B-but I stopped at the last second, so it’s fine. I didn’t actually touch her, so it’s fine!! If I sneezed now, it wouldn’t be my fault if I happened to touch her, right!? It would be an accident, so it wouldn’t be anyone’s faul- Achoo!!”
Rather than a conflict between angel and demon, this was excuses from start to finish.
Forced along by his convenient arguments, his right hand attacked the princess’s roundness like a snake swallowing an egg.
“What!? She knocked my hand-…!?”
Before he even finished speaking, the bodyguards of the intelligence department took swift action.
By the time he noticed metallic noises all around him, he had more than ten gun barrels pointed at him from less than a meter away.
That student let out a heartfelt wail as his face was deformed by a carbine barrel pressed against his cheek.
“Where the hell were you hiding!? Were you making light bend around you!?”
Despite being disguised, that military ship contained complexly bending corridors with thick exposed pipes, so there was plenty of space to hide. Not that a student would understand that.
The surrounding bodyguards said nothing.
Perhaps because they were guarding a young female Elite, all of the bodyguards were female and the same age or a little older than the princess. Their all-black night battle uniforms were tightly fitting and skintight and all of them were giving cold glares to this enemy of women.
It was possible each and every one of them was a kuudere.
Quenser decided to overcome this by switching on his positive side.
Otherwise he would have started to cry.
“Okay, okay. I get it,” he said while raising his hand. “I won’t do anything else. From the looks of things, the princess is safe in your hands. I was going this way, so I’ll just - Ha ha!! Tricked you!!”
He quickly turned around and once more attempted to grab at the princess’s delicious fruit from close range.
However, a bodyguard girl’s carbine was jammed into the criminal’s mouth a moment later.
“Mhmhmhmh. Mhmhmh. Mhmhmhmhmhmh.”
The bodyguard girl must have taken pity with what had become the most unsightly boy in the world because she pulled the carbine from his mouth.
As soon as she did, Quenser puffed out his chest, gathered strength in his gut, and shouted as loudly as he could.
“I don’t care whose boobs they are anymore!!”
“And in the instant that announcement makes you pause, Striker Quenser Barbotage will slip through your defensive line like a shooting star!!!”
With a tremendous noise, Quenser became a gust of wind.
Afterwards, two tragedies occurred.
Even if his trick had made them panic for an instant, those bodyguards were thoroughly trained killing machines. They were not about to overlook a student trying to slip past them and their panicked state gave them all the more subconscious accuracy when one of them swept his legs out from under him.
Also, the princess was still wandering around in her sleep, so her legs were moving with no concern for the situation surrounding her. Naturally, she was not aware that Quenser was toppling toward her.
Those two factors created an unwelcome miracle.
The princess’s knee forcefully jabbed into Quenser’s crotch.
Unfortunately, his mind was not yet evolved enough to call that a reward.
The princess, Frolaytia, and many other soldiers were aboard the disguised cruiser known as the Scarlet Princess.
One of those was the old maintenance woman who let out a light sigh.
She was originally from the Island Nation.
“Pro_be_12… The Twelve Earthly Branches Project?” asked Frolaytia.
The old woman gave an annoyed nod.
“I was reminded of it when I heard their Megalodiver specializes in diving underwater.”
“The Twelve Earthly Branches were the twelve original Objects that were created by the Island Nation and destroyed the nuclear age, right?”
The softness in Frolaytia’s tone showed she knew she could not stand up to this old woman regardless of rank.
After all, she was a true veteran who had seen the start of this age of Objects with her own eyes. Her experience, achievements, skill, and knowledge were all on an entirely different level.
“In the end, they couldn’t keep up with the advancing age and they’re all at the bottom of the ocean now. But it is true they still function as a symbol of the Island Nation’s ideals.”
“Are you saying this diving Object is related to them?”
“I can’t deny the possibility. It would take a huge amount of power to fish up those giant weights. Only another Object could manage it.”
The idea of the original twelve Objects contained some appeal even to Frolaytia who had no connection to the Island Nation. No one who received any benefit from Objects was truly unrelated to this issue.
In that case, just how much more of an influence did those twelve Objects hold in the Island Nation itself?
Frolaytia thought for a bit and finally spoke.
“Well, I would have no problem with this if that were all there was to it.”
“The Island Nation belongs to the Capitalist Corporations, so it would be of no concern to the Legitimacy Kingdom.”
That answer was perfectly natural.
In her personal life, Frolaytia may have been fond of the Island Nation’s culture, but she did not adore them so much she wanted to be killed by them.
“One thing bothers me,” she added. “It’s related to what Mariage Nightcap has done in the past.”
“Oh, you mean the Private Bank? That Object containing the main server of a tax haven bank and therefore filled with secret funds from around the world? Come to think of it, it belonged to the Capitalist Corporations as well and it’s also at the bottom of the sea.”
“If they’re dragging something up, wouldn’t that be a lot worse? The self-defense PMC is almost entirely dead outside of the Object itself, but VIPs around the world could easily protect them with smiles on their faces if they controlled that main server’s data. I would rather avoid that.”
However, a theory was merely a theory.
They did not even know if the Megalodiver could drag a sunken Object from the bottom of the sea.
Was the self-defense PMC behind it or was someone larger backing them?
A lot was unknown, but there was one important point at the moment.
“This opponent is too disconcerting to ignore,” said Frolaytia.
“If we’re sinking it because we ‘might as well’, it means we can’t claim to be allies of justice.”
“What is going on here?” groaned Quenser.
The rubber military boat travelling across the black ocean was packed full of around ten men. To keep as quiet as possible, it used a large motor rather than an engine and several identical boats cut through the waves along with it.
“Where did Mariage go? What about those maids!? I let down my guard for an instant, and I’m surrounded by filthy guys again!!”
“All of them count as civilians,” answered Heivia in annoyance. “We can’t take them to the battlefield.”
“They can come as guests! And where are the female soldiers!?”
“They’re packed in the next boat over and I’d much rather be there too!!”
“La la la♪ I’m a civilian student, so what ever happened to not bringing civilians with you? La la la la♪”
“Shut up!!” shouted several voices. “If you hadn’t noticed anything, we wouldn’t be out here in the first place!!”
Quenser experienced the truly rare experience of having fists strike him equally from all directions.
They had yet to run into the enemy, yet he had a serious bloody nose. Life was cruel.
As Quenser made makeshift plugs for his nose, Heivia spat out a comment.
“Well, with those savage maids around, the fleet can’t let their guard down. Heading out to the battlefield might be the better option.”
“Why do you get along so poorly? As a commoner, living with a maid sounds amazing.”
“How should I know? She probably doesn’t like that the heir to the Winchell family gets along with someone from the Vanderbilt family.” He meaninglessly performed maintenance on his rifle as he spoke. “The whole thing’s ridiculous. Who cares about noble pride? No one knows who started this damn tradition, but they’re trying to continue centuries of bloodshed. I’m going to destroy that grudge and these family rules in my generation. If I wasn’t prepared for that, I wouldn’t have gone out of my way to take part in these wars.”
To remain hidden, they were not using lights. Instead, the soldier in the back of the boat controlling the combination rudder and motor was wearing infrared goggles. Quenser and the others could only glimpse the mountainous silhouette of the island splitting the black sea from the indigo night sky.
The soldier in the back gave instructions over his radio.
“All boats, come to a stop. There’s a searchlight, so be careful.”
Heivia frowned in the darkness.
“What? A searchlight?”
“It’s infrared,” said the soldier. “Take a peek through your scope and you’ll see all too well. They’re searching the ocean with active sensors.”
It sounded frightening enough, but it also meant they would be fine so long as they did not enter the invisible circle of the searchlight. The enemy was essentially telling them how to escape detection.
Heivia scratched his head.
“Are they joking around?”
“An invisible trap might be located past this obvious trap, so let’s be careful.”
Fortunately, the island in question was a scrapyard used to take apart rusted and falling-apart tankers. Plenty of rusty masses were scattered around the island after their last efforts were not quite enough to reach the island.
Quenser, Heivia, and the others’ rubber boat used them as cover to escape the infrared searchlights and slowly but surely approach.
“The island is shaped like a fried egg with two yolks,” explained Heivia. “It’s small enough to travel around in an hour and it has two mountains. The tanker dismantling harbor is located on the north side, so we’re sneaking in on the empty south side and travelling through the forest and mountain to the harbor.”
“Was that infrared searchlight coming from the top of the ‘yolk’?”
“Don’t take out the sensors. If they don’t realize anything is happening, we’ll have more freedom of movement.”
Heivia switched from spitting out his words to weakly groaning.
“The worst part is the Object. The Megalodiver. If its sensors are fully activated, we’ll be spotted right away. It was identifying an individual by the heartbeat back at that prison, so holding your breath isn’t gonna hide you.”
“That won’t happen,” readily replied Quenser.
Heivia looked doubtful, so the student clarified.
“It’s a psychological issue, not a technological one. Heivia, we were working at the ridiculous depths of 1500 meters under the ocean, remember? What did you think once you were freed from there and made it back on the ship?”
“What? I was happy to say goodbye to that cramped prison of water pressure and I wanted to jump in a king sized bed and sleep for about three days.”
“The same should apply to the Megalodiver’s Pilot Elite. That monster may have fought off our princess both underwater and on the surface, but it didn’t go perfectly for it. It frantically surfaced after being covered in lava, it failed to assassinate Mariage Nightcap, and Karen’s armed cruise ship blew up over half its supply and maintenance unit.”
“Come to think of it, I guess they weren’t exactly sitting around watching it all play out. The impact on their side was so great it doesn’t feel real, though.”
“Once the maintenance is complete, the Megalodiver has to head back out to sea, so wouldn’t a human want to breathe some fresh air before that happened?”
“Perhaps, but a military is a management method for systematically killing people. Personal feelings and convenience won’t come into it.”
“For a proper military, no. But these are the remnants that managed to gather together after fleeing from the sinking Ame-no-Darin. The organizational structure will have collapsed. Even normal militaries rely on Objects to the point that Pilot Elites are treated extremely well, so they’re probably treating the Elite like a queen on that island. After all, they’re done for if the Elite abandons them.”
“In that case, is the Megalodiver empty?”
“Whether this change of pace lasts five minutes or an hour depends on the specific Pilot Elite, but this is our chance. Luck is on our side.”
The closest tanker wreckage to the island was lying on its side fifty meters from the island. To remain hidden from the infrared searchlights, Quenser’s group tied the rubber boat behind the tanker and swam the rest of the way.
“Gasp gasp…. Dammit. The waves are huge here and I’m wearing all this clothing and heavy equipment. I-I’m not sure whether I’m swimming or drowning.”
“If you’re strength isn’t going to last, you can always strip naked and backstroke the rest of the way. But don’t throw away the equipment.”
They somehow made it to the southern side of the island.
The information that no one lived there and the tanker dismantling harbor was located to the north proved accurate. Immediately past the coast of round stones was a damp tropical forest. The mountains referred to as the ‘yolk’ of a fried egg were only about two hundred meters tall.
“Let’s go,” said Heivia while adjusting his grip on his assault rifle. “Our objective is investigating the Megalodiver and interfering with the work to remove the hardened lava if possible. If the Elite really is cooling off outside the Object, we’ll never have a better chance.”
The landing team split into three groups and took different routes: one moving clockwise around the island, one counterclockwise, and one down the center of the mountain region.
They chose routes via rock-paper-scissors and Quenser and Heivia were stuck with the central mountain route.
Quenser had played rock-paper-scissors for his group, so they kicked him again.
“No using the radio from here on. Make your own decisions. We’ll return at 0330 hours or when some idiot gives us away and we have to get the hell out of here. We won’t wait for anyone who’s late, so they’ll have to deal with it themselves. Now go!”
On Heivia’s command, the three groups started down their respective paths.
Quenser’s group travelled through the central forest that was more like a jungle.
“Everything comes down to how you think about it, so let’s try to stay positive. Heading through this thick forest makes it harder for them to find us.”
“You can think positively if you like, but how about you start before we have to punch and kick you again?”
But once they actually entered the jungle covering the low mountain, they suddenly ran across something unexpected.
“What? The forest suddenly disappears.”
It did not seem natural.
All the trees of an area were toppled over and blackened. They had been burned. Some small fires were still visible here and there.
“This was the Summer Vacation,” groaned Heivia in utter annoyance. “Isn’t the dismantling harbor on the north side? Firing so much it hits here is going too far even if some of the shots do hit.”
“Well, even a 20% hit rate is really good for artillery.”
When they looked around again, they found thirty to forty meter craters scattered throughout the jungle. They travelled along while circling around those areas.
“That’s a parabolic microphone. It’s fallen over and useless, though.”
“It looks like those maids were of some use.”
Even if they were travelling over the mountain, they could not approach the peak. The large infrared searchlight was located there and it would have at least a few guards stationed at it. There was no point in fighting them and producing gunfire.
They circled around the peak and remained relatively low along the mountain ridge and took up a position where the northern dismantling harbor was visible.
“There it is. That’s their base.”
“The Object stands out the most. If it were using all its sensors, we would’ve been found by now.”
“That must mean the Pilot Elite really is resting outside.”
They did not even need to use binoculars.
A fifty meter mass floated on the black sea next to the crumbling concrete embankment. It was surrounded by makeshift scaffolding made of wires and bamboo. Bluish-white flashes of light were visible in places, but they were likely burners being used to strip away the hardened lava.
A few simple prefab buildings and barracks were located in the harbor area, but most of them had been blown away. That and the destroyed embankment were likely the result of Karen I Winchell’s bombardment from the Summer Vacation.
“They’re everywhere,” groaned Heivia as he began observing the harbor through his scope. “If they can spare that many people for guard duty, they must have a decent amount of personnel. I don’t see any sign of a tragic lack of food or ammunition or anything.”
“Does that mean someone’s supporting them?”
“Who knows. But there sure are a lot of white and black people for an Island Nation force. What happened to the Nadeshiko with long, straight, and black hair?”
“The self-defense PMC was supposed to be a collection of foreign mercenaries.”
Quenser used his binoculars to see for himself, but then he stopped.
He instead focused on the great darkness lurking around the harbor.
“Hm? There are a few ships in addition to the Object. Are those subs?”
“They’re probably carrying supplies and maintenance equipment for the people. Before the Island Nation made a ton of money off of the resources at the bottom of the Pacific, they did a bunch of research on maintaining an ocean supply line. I think they called it the Ghost Fleet Project. This might be a remnant of that.”
“Another cool name for a project. It makes me want to laugh.”
“They spent billions of euros on the thing, so they’re not going to give it a pathetic name,” pointed out Heivia. “The submarine mother ship project being worked on by the Faith Organization was probably influenced by this. The Island Nation’s ideas really are leaking out.”
“Heivia, I want to be clear about something. This Ghost Fleet Project wasn’t supplying the self-defense PMC defending the Ame-no-Darin, was it?”
“Of course not. With all the ocean resources available now, they don’t need to bother with a method of transporting them long distances through the ocean.”
“So someone called back these retired transport subs? Are you sure the remnants of the self-defense PMC that fled from the Ame-no-Darin are our only enemy here?”
A lot bothered Quenser, but their time was limited. The Object came first. They could take plenty of time to safely consider everything else after the Megalodiver had been sunk.
There were a few pieces of information they wanted:
- The Tatami Shield or Hiding Clothes of Water increased the viscosity of the seawater and then produced giant pillars of water to deflect enemy cannon fire. Raising the seawater’s viscosity was fine, but that would affect the seawater it used for its water jet propulsion, its reactor cooling, and its oxygen supply secured via electrolysis. How did it allow those elements to coexist?
- When they had run across it in the deep sea, the Megalodiver had presumably used a water intake on the top, but it had continued using the systems requiring seawater after surfacing. Did it have another water intake on the bottom? What was the condition for switching?
- The Tatami Shield defense system was overwhelmingly accurate. Simply relying on sound would not allow it to keep up with ultra-high speed laser beams, so how was it so accurately grasping its surroundings amid all the noise?
Those unseen systems were directly related to the Object functioning. If they could find the answers and interfere, they could literally suffocate it.
“Where should we attack first?”
“The other units are heading in on their own paths, so we should avoid anything too noticeable. Bring an interception antenna here. Let’s start by picking up all the wireless LAN signals flying around the area.”
“Won’t the military encryption be hard to crack?”
“This is the same as with the Pilot Elite. They aren’t maintaining a proper military structure, so they’re probably using a system made from a bunch of civilian equipment they could gather together. It might not be too hard to intercept and analyze.”
While complaining, Quenser set up a 40cm long and 10cm wide metal cylinder on a tripod. It was not a rocket launcher or any other weapon. Just like a parabolic antenna, this was an antenna used to pick up weak signals.
Heivia looked doubtful.
“I heard that’s an improvised piece of equipment thrown together just before we left. Are you sure it’ll work, student?”
“It’s a hell of a lot safer than sneaking into the middle of the enemy base. Just leave it to me. I can intercept wireless LAN signals using a plastic bottle cut in half and wrapped in aluminum foil. It’s a much simpler design than a parabolic microphone.”
“Why do you know all these tricks?”
“This was popular back in my safe country school. Yandere girls would use it to peek at the emails of people they had decided were their boyfriend. Unlike hacking, this doesn’t require any specialized knowledge, so it’s often used to target Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.”
“Honestly, you STEM students.”
“It wasn’t that bad a place. A girl in the sciences sounds rarer than a normal girl, but all the girls in the school were like that. Upperclassmen, underclassmen, all of them.”
“If you know that many, introduce me to some of them! An army of girls in glasses and lab coats sounds like a dream come true!!”
“If you want. Their defenses are weak, but they jump to conclusions way too fast. If you just think you’re having some fun, it can come back to bite you. You’ll start to think a girl wielding a knife is downright cute when you have to deal with one’s using homemade railguns or thermobaric bombs. Don’t forget the E in STEM.”
Quenser used a thin cable to attach the bottom of the cylinder to his handheld device and carefully rotated the top of the tripod. It looked like he was pointing the open end of the cylinder toward a target computer a few hundred meters away. The inbox quickly began to fill with new emails. They were various communications and reports travelling through the harbor.
Heivia looked even less pleased than before.
“That’s scary. Maybe I should put a free encryption app on my phone.”
“Those always have a backdoor. More importantly, I’ve got a few emails we can read right away.”
Quenser opened the emails, but he did not hit the jackpot right away. Standard reports from guards, shift times for maintenance soldiers, and even some stupid jokes and pranks were being sent around as well.
“What’s this? World weather forecasts, ocean currents, and…they’ve even got the Island Nation’s food self-sufficiency rate in here. What does this have to do with the Megalodiver?”
“It doesn’t look like they were just downloading the ocean and weather maps for their upcoming battles, does it? If so, the New Caledonia District would’ve been enough. They wouldn’t need to know about the other side of the globe.”
“The Island Nation is part of the Capitalist Corporations. They aren’t trading grain futures on the battlefield, are they?”
Heivia looked at the cell phone with disbelief in his eyes.
“Is this really okay?”
“The lack of regulation shows how far they’ve fallen. All the jokes are likely mental defenses to distract them. Anyway, look at this.”
Quenser was focused on the email address rather than the contents of the email.
Heivia looked confused, so the student explained.
“A lot of different groups are making contact, but most of them are gathering at a single address. They’re asking for instructions and this…what? Someone going by Ichirei Shikon is at the center of it all.”
“Ichirei…? What’s that?”
“I don’t know. It’s probably a term unique to the Island Nation. You might need to know about Buddhism or Shintoism to understand.”
At any rate, it was almost certain that this Ichirei Shikon was at the center of the incident.
The self-defense PMC was a puppet and worker ant that seemed to ask for instructions via email, but the wireless network was limited to the island. Ichirei Shikon was likely commanding them on the scene.
Heivia used his assault rifle’s scope to observe various parts of the harbor.
“This Ichirei Shikon would be their central person, right?”
“Most likely. They’re using some confusing Island Nation term for a codename while dealing with a bunch of foreign mercenaries, so they probably have some weird pride. I think we can assume they’re the person in the Island Nation responsible for all this. It also fits with those old transport submarines being used.”
“Do the emails not say where they are? Since they’re from the Island Nation, should we assume they’re short with black hair?”
“Not necessarily. Changes in their food culture has led to a bunch of giant kids attending their schools and I hear they dye their hair all sorts of colors and even their skin color can change depending on whether white skin or black skin is in at the moment. More importantly, we need information more than a person. We need to find a weakness in the Megalodiver that Ichirei Shikon built.”
“But wouldn’t it be fastest to capture this Ichirei Shikon person and get them to tell us?”
“That would stand out too much.”
As they chatted, they looked through the mountain of new emails displayed on the handheld device.
They found a few emails concerning the Object, but none of them touched on its secrets.
Instead, they gained some unwelcome information about the maintenance.
“Wow. This isn’t good.”
“What is it?”
“They’re going to finish removing the lava from the Megalodiver way sooner than we thought. According to this, in about twenty minutes.”
“We only just started our investigation! If Armageddon begins that soon, the princess doesn’t stand a chance and we’ll be annihilated!!”
“Yes, and that’s why we need to interfere with their work somehow.”
As he spoke, Quenser reached for his backpack.
When he pulled out some Hand Axe plastic explosive and an electric fuse, his partner’s eyelids twitched.
“Wait a minute. What are you planning to do?”
“They’re using high-temperature acetylene burners to remove the cooled lava, so there has to be a huge tank below the Object near the crumbling embankment. Let’s blow it up and make it look like an accident.”
“Do you have any idea how noticeable that’ll be!? We’re supposed to be gathering information, not slaughtering them! They have an Object, so they’ll blow us to pieces if we do that!!”
“Karen and the other maids fired shells all over the place, remember? There have to be cracks and dents all over. If a gas tank explodes, they won’t think it was done maliciously.”
If they could not use the acetylene burners, they could not continue removing the cooled lava from the Object. That extra time to gather information would give them a chance to find a weakness in the Megalodiver.
Quenser placed his handheld device in the grass.
“Heivia, you look after this and the antenna.”
“Seriously? You’re seriously going!? Even if we’re just dealing with Ichirei Shikon and the remnants of the self-defense PMC, it’s still a bunch of enemies. If they notice something’s wrong, they’ll send the Pilot Elite to the Megalodiver. If they so much as catch a glimpse of you, it’s all over. Are you still going!?”
“If we don’t do something, the Megalodiver will head back out into the ocean. Once it can dive and fight on the surface, it’ll defeat the princess, sink the fleet, and leave us stranded. Don’t worry. The gas tank is on the embankment. If I continue through the dark ocean with only my head above water, I can manage. I won’t be pressing against building walls like a ninja or anything.”
“No matter what you do, they aren’t gonna make a movie about you. There’s no reason for you to risk your life like this! Ah! Wait, you idiot!!”
Heivia stubbornly tried to stop him, but Quenser ignored him and slowly approached the harbor with explosive in hand.
Left all alone, Heivia started feeling jealous.
He left the handheld device and homemade cylindrical antenna sitting next to him. His assault rifle’s scope had enough sensors to make a decent mid-range sniper rifle and he followed Quenser’s progress with it.
“Oh, damn. I can see you. I can totally see you, idiot. You’re completely visible!! That blond hair shows up way too well in the black sea. If they shine a flashlight on you, you’re dead.”
A few hundred meters away, Quenser travelled along the embankment extending out into the ocean and slowly approached an outcropping with only his head visible.
Heivia saw no one on the embankment itself, but plenty of people were walking about on the scaffolding surrounding the Object. If they shined their light into the ocean on a whim, it was all over.
Quenser was about thirty meters from the acetylene tank.
(Isn’t there something I can do, dammit? Running after him wouldn’t help.)
Heivia cursed in his heart, but there was nothing to do.
He gave up and glanced toward Quenser’s handheld device left on the ground. New emails were continuing to pour in. The screen was filled with the “unread” mark and reading through them all would be exhausting.
Deciding to do what work he could, he opened a few of the emails.
He then stiffened.
He grabbed his assault rifle again, left the handheld device and cylindrical antenna where they were, and slid down the slope in front of him. He moved to a spot from which he could see inside the window of one of the small barracks.
He had reacted to one of the emails.
(The Pilot Elite is resting in Building B’s simple lodging facility? If that information is legit, I can end this now! If I snipe that one Elite, no one can move the Megalodiver!!)
Banning radio contact between allies to keep the enemy from noticing him had worked against them. If they had been able to share that information, they might have been able to target the Elite from multiple angles.
He quickly located Building B.
Only one of the barracks had light in the window.
(I have to do what I can.)
He lay on the slope and peered inside Building B’s window using the assault rifle’s scope.
Quenser would blow up the acetylene tank soon, so he would use that timing.
During an explosion, a human would reflexively curl up. Lightning and gunshots produced the same reaction. There was a danger of his target’s position suddenly changing, but this was currently the best method of getting the shot without exposing his fellow soldiers to danger.
(My only choice is to use my sensors to cover the expected evasion point. Fortunately, the only cover is the barrack’s run-down walls. Even if the Elite hides from the window, a rifle bullet can still reach them.)
While making general plans, he removed the sensors that were attached to the barrel like a bayonet. He stabbed a nearby fallen tree branch into the ground and used the fishing line in his survival kit to tie the sensors on. He was using the machine as a replacement for a sniper’s spotter.
(It’s two floors, so which is the Elite on? They have to be in that building somewhere.)
He looked from window to window through the scope, but then he stopped.
Light came from one window on the second story and he could see a feminine silhouette inside.
His index finger jumped to the trigger for an instant, but he then remembered he did not have a silencer equipped. He did not know where his allies were hiding and gathering information, so he had to avoid any gunshots if possible.
(If I fire during the acetylene explosion, it’ll hide the gunshot. Hurry, Quenser! She’s going to leave the window!!)
The Megalodiver’s Elite appeared to be a tall Asian. She was a woman with long, glossy black hair, but her silhouette appeared more nimble than voluptuous. The special suit covering every inch of her body was white with characteristic red lines. It may have been designed after the Island Nation’s flag before the country lost its name.
(An Asian woman. Is she from the Island Nation? If so, could she be Ichirei Shikon?)
She was frighteningly beautiful, but it would all be over if he shot her.
They would no longer need to come up with a weakness in the Megalodiver. Without worrying about the enemy intercepting it, they could radio a report of the Elite’s death to Frolaytia and the princess’s Baby Magnum would take care of the rest.
He wanted to fire right then and there.
He wanted to fire and be freed from the extreme tension.
He had to use the full strength of his rational mind to hold those almost animalistic instincts at bay.
Doing that would put his allies in danger. When a huge opportunity was dangled before your eyes, you had to avoid any impulsive actions.
For those reasons, he decided to wait, but then his eye narrowed as he looked through the scope.
Through the window, the Asian Elite suddenly unzipped her special suit.
He let out a groan like an elderly martial artist.
He looked more closely and spotted a clothes hamper and washing machine in the room.
Meanwhile, the black-haired Elite stripped down to nothing at all. Without suspecting that a professionally-trained soldier was expertly peeping on her, she entered the neighboring shower room.
That room’s window also had the curtains fully open.
The rumors that the Island Nation’s hot springs had a unique culture of steam-filled bath scenes seemed to be true.
He could not hear anything from where he was, but she appeared to be humming.
“I-I guess I should wait a little longer. I can kill her at any time! Firing now would expose my allies to danger!!”
His motivations were 500% different from half a minute ago and his eyes were completely bloodshot.
But when he thought about it rationally, burning the image of the Elite’s naked body into his memory would not end well. He would soon be blowing away the head he could see through the scope, so his memories would all be of that smashed head. A sniper was forced to see a zoomed-up image of that instant.
The situation gradually grew harder to bear.
While lying on the ground, he force back tears and almost hung his head.
“Ahhhhh… The battlefield is starting to depress me.”
Supposedly, a sniper always worked with a spotter for both the simple technical reasons and to lessen the feeling of guilt when firing. The absence of the annoying student was working against him.
He looked away from the scope without thinking, but he recalled his job and started to look back.
But that mistake proved fortunate.
He noticed something in the instant he looked away from the scope.
(What is that?)
Heivia moved his assault rifle’s scope a bit from the Elite showering on the second floor of Building B and he closely examined something.
An Asian woman wearing a white and red special suit was walking outside. He could see her eating dumplings on a skewer.
“There are two Elites?”
He moved his scope around the dismantling harbor some more and spotted more women in special suits that were clearly different from the normal soldier uniform. A quick count showed more than five and he would likely find even more if he checked inside the barracks.
A single Object had a single Pilot Elite.
That was a standard of the industry.
Some built an Object for an Elite and some trained an Elite for an Object, but there was no such thing as “generic” when it came to controlling the ultimate weapon with the optimal movements.
He had never heard of multiple Elites taking turns piloting a single Object.
But then how did he explain the scene before his eyes?
What did it mean?
(The Island Nation can be strange, so did they develop a generic Object that can achieve consistent results when piloted by any Elite that’s gone through a set training program?)
That was indeed a frightening idea, but there was a more likely option.
(No, Quenser said the Megalodiver is empty. That’s why it hasn’t detected us with its large-scale sound sensors. We guessed the Elite was cooling off after so much time in that cramped cockpit at the bottom of the ocean, but if there are more than one Elite, they could just put another one in.)
In that case…
(Are they nothing more than body doubles!? It would be best to assume there’s a single real one that can pilot the Object!!)
There was only one.
If that one was killed, Ichirei Shikon and the self-defense PMC would be destroyed. That gave them a good reason to prepare body doubles. That would protect against enemy attack and an ally panicking in the extreme situation and taking her hostage.
That left a single question.
(Which one is the real Elite?)
It was an extremely simple question.
(Is the one showering in Building B the real one? Or is it one of the ones walking around? Dammit. If they’re doing it deceive their allies too, I can’t rely on the email. We can’t relax unless we kill all of them!!)
Heivia and the rest of the Legitimacy Kingdom soldiers were split into several units and monitoring the harbor, but it would be difficult to simultaneously shoot all of the Elites without close radio contact.
If he could not distinguish real from fake, this opportunity would go to waste.
(Or should I just wait?)
He started to panic, so he intentionally calmed his thoughts.
(Either way, the real Elite will eventually board the Megalodiver. It might be best to shoot her then. Shit!! But Quenser blowing up the acetylene tank will get in the way of that. It’s faster to let them finish the work and have the Elite board the Object!!)
As he thought, the situation advanced further than he expected.
A brilliant flash of light covered the embankment.
Quenser had blown up the acetylene tank with his Hand Axe.
The darkness of the night transformed to pure white for an instant.
The explosion looked like a flash grenade multiplied several times.
That would produce a commotion much like poking a hornet’s nest, but it did not end there.
The real problem came next.
Heivia heard the sound of cracking glass.
He looked over and saw a small hole in Building B’s second floor shower room window. It looked like someone had jabbed at the glass with the tip of an umbrella and the inside of the glass was stained red.
Heivia had not done it.
One of his allies hiding somewhere in the harbor had made the shot.
(You dumbass!! We don’t know if that’s the real one or not!!)
The situation had gone too far.
The blood coating the lit window would be obvious from the outside. What looked like an accidental tank explosion had been elevated to an obvious attack.
Heivia switched on his radio and shouted into it.
“Retreat! Goddammit!! If that wasn’t the real one, the Megalodiver is going to be moving soon!!”
There was no more point in hiding.
He quickly stood and ran up the slope as quickly as he could to hide in the trees.
On the way, he grabbed Quenser’s handheld device and cylindrical antenna and hid in the tall underbrush.
He observed the embankment through his scope.
Quenser was slowly travelling along the embankment with just his head exposed, but the acetylene explosion had wiped away the darkness.
The unexpected situation had the enemy focusing on everything rather than just the exploded tank.
They would eventually find him like this.
(Shit!! You’d damn well better be thankful for Heivia the transcendentally smart, beautiful, rich and athletic noble! I’ll blow away the saying that bad things happen to honest people!!)
After clenching his teeth and gathering strength and resolve in his gut, he targeted a group of soldiers standing near the base of the embankment.
The first shot was a direct hit on one and he fired a few more shots into the soldiers as they frantically scattered.
He doubted any of those shots were direct hits, but he only needed to divert attention away from the coast and toward the mountain.
That would save foolish Quenser.
He was answered with repeated gunfire.
They were a few hundred meters away. If his bullets could reach them, theirs could reach him.
“Dammit!! This isn’t good!!”
He frantically crouched down as a bullet struck quite nearby. His only option was to run away as quickly as he could.
He heard a few sounds resembling champagne corks being removed.
“The bastards are using mortars!?”
Explosives flew in a large arc and fell from the night sky.
Tremendous explosions tore trees from the ground and sent them flying through the air. A safe and clean battlefield was nowhere to be found. Covered in sand and dirt, Heivia poured all his strength into running through the mountain.
As he travelled along the embankment with only his head sticking above the dark sea, Quenser was horrified by the poked hornet’s nest of motion above.
(Wh-what!? Why are they shooting? Did someone mess up!?)
The Legitimacy Kingdom shot that had killed the beautiful (possible) Elite had occurred at the same time as the acetylene tank explosion, so he had not heard it. He was suspicious because of the random firing from the mountain. In other words, he suspected Heivia who was actually putting his life on the line to allow him to escape.
Gratitude could only be felt by someone smart enough to realize what had been done for them.
At any rate, if the enemy had discovered them, they had to leave the island as soon as possible.
As Quenser hurried yet moved carefully enough to not cause any splashing, a transmission arrived at his radio.
“Shit! We screwed up. Thanks to some idiot’s sniper shot, the several Elites are being led to the Megalodiver by their bodyguards. If we don’t get the hell out of here, that monster will be on the move!!”
“Several? Sniper shot!? I don’t get what’s going on! What did you do, Heivia!?”
“I didn’t take the shot, you idiot! Oh, damn. They aren’t hesitating. That must mean the one that died in the shower room was a body double!”
This commotion meant the attempt to disguise the acetylene tank explosion as an accident had been for nothing.
They would have difficulty gathering any more information.
The most they had accomplished was forcing the Megalodiver out with the lava removal incomplete. That meant it still could not dive as it clashed with the Baby Magnum on the surface.
(But the Baby Magnum won’t be able to do any damage thanks to the Hiding Clothes of Water, dammit!)
“Heivia! What does my handheld device say? It should’ve been automatically stealing their wireless LAN signals, so did it grab anything useful!?”
“This thing’s got hundreds of emails! I’ve got the unit itself, but we’ll have to wait for things to calm down before looking through it. They’re firing mortars at me right now!! Oh, that was close!”
Static filled the transmission and it cut out.
As far as Quenser could tell, Heivia and the others had strayed from the intelligence gathering mission and attempted to shoot the Pilot Elite outside the Object. But this was the result. He wanted to tell them that slow and steady wins the race.
At any rate, he needed to leave the ocean, climb the mountain, and reach the rendezvous point on the opposite side of the island. If Heivia and the others who had left earlier decided to give up on him and withdrew the rubber boats, he would be stranded on the island.
(Those cowards might actually do it.)
With that in mind, he slowly travelled along the embankment and toward land.
Before even making it a meter further, he heard a sound from directly overhead.
He looked up and found someone peering down from the top of the embankment. They were naturally doing so through a carbine’s sight.
“Uuh!?” groaned Quenser.
With no warning, he clearly saw the man’s index finger move.
A moment later, a few muffled gunshots rang out.
However, they did not belong to the soldier targeting Quenser. His gun had no silencer.
After the soldier lost his balance and fell into the ocean, someone else ran across the embankment while keeping low.
It was a female soldier wearing a Legitimacy Kingdom uniform and holding an assault rifle with a grenade launcher attached below the barrel. Even when excluding the silencer on the end, the barrel seemed a little longer than the other soldiers’ guns.
“Hurry on up! You aren’t going to survive on that route either way!!”
For some reason, the female soldier averted her gaze.
“Sorry. I can’t accept your thanks. I was the one that got carried away and fired the sniper shot.”
Quenser found a wonderful new reason to survive this: punishment time. He could not allow himself to die here no matter what.
He grabbed the proffered hand, climbed up onto the embankment, and ran toward land.
As soon as they approached the harbor, they heard a great number of footsteps, so they leaned against the wall of a nearby warehouse.
At least twenty soldiers passed very nearby and they wore a mixture of normal uniforms and the special suits of a Pilot Elite.
“Wh-what was that!?”
“Shh. It seems they have body double Elites in addition to the real one. In fact, they have a few dozen of them.”
“That must be why they didn’t look all that beautiful up close. They seemed like cheap knock-offs.”
The base of the short mountain was not far away. Even from their position, the scent of the dense greenery could be detected in the salty sea air. Once the group of enemy soldiers finished running by, they could run over and hide in the forest.
However, an unpleasant sound ruined that plan.
The sound came from the warehouse they were leaning up against.
“What was that? It sounded like a bunch of thick metal fitting together.”
“What is it?”
“Shit. This is really bad! On my signal, break that window. I’ll throw an explosive in as you do!”
“You’re causing a commotion here!?”
“The sounds on the other side of the wall are powered suits being put on. Once they’re finished, who do you think they’ll chase after first!?”
The female soldier asked no further questions.
She broke the window with her rifle’s stock and Quenser leaned over to toss in a Hand Axe explosive with an electric fuse attached.
As soon as they left the wall, several gazes stabbed into the two of them.
But before the enemy soldiers’ carbines could accurately target them, Quenser hit the switch on his radio.
A tremendous explosion blew down all four giant walls of the warehouse like it was a magic box.
The unexpected blast knocked the soldiers to the concrete.
Quenser had been prepared, but even he was almost knocked over. The female soldier grabbed his arm and they ran for the nearby forest.
Gunshots pursued them, but the shaken soldiers were in no state to aim accurately. That just barely kept the two of them alive.
“We can’t use the obvious shortest route,” warned the female soldier. “We’ll run into the enemy if we do!”
“If we use up too much time, Heivia and the others will leave!”
“I’ll make sure we still get there in time. Follow me!!”
The two of them continued running through the trees. Occasionally, the student would stab an electric fuse into a clay-like bomb so it could be detonated by radio and randomly threw it into a thicket.
The female soldier took issue with that as they ran.
“If you set traps, they can follow them. It’s like laying a trail of bread crumbs through the forest!”
“I’m sure they have skilled trackers and scouts who can find us either way! We can’t escape while worrying about footprints in the dirt, trampled blades of grass, and broken branches. We’re going to leave a trail regardless, so it’s better to leave some traps too!!”
They continued to make progress through the forest and its hot and humid air.
Suddenly, they heard a loud sound of breaking branches in front of them.
Something much larger than a human was approaching.
“Shit! They figured out our path. They had an infrared searchlight facility at the mountain peak, so the security team probably radioed them for help. We’ve been cut off!!”
“Wait… What is that!?”
“A powered suit. Hide!!”
Quenser immediately grabbed the female soldier’s arm, pulled her toward him, and jumped behind a large, mossy tree that looked like it would be the home of fairies.
The attack came an instant later.
It began with an eerie, flickering flame that resembled a will-o’-the-wisp.
Then a blended fuel mist made from mixing an oxidant with napalm was sprayed their way.
With a roar, tremendous flames split apart the darkness of the night and swept across the warm, damp forest for around thirty meters. That murderous flame would not be extinguished even if water was dumped on it and sand covered it.
The world was dyed orange.
“A flamethrower!!” groaned the female soldier in his arms.
The straight line of flame was five meters away because it had been fired in the wrong direction, but Quenser still felt a sizzling pain on his skin even through the thick military uniform. It felt like a bad sunburn.
“We can’t do anything against this. They can continue firing that flame indefinitely and my rifle can’t pierce its armor. Facing it will just get us burned to death!”
“We can’t circle around on a different route. We’ll be caught by all the pursuers from the harbor,” said Quenser as he wiped sweat from his face. “Fire a grenade on my signal.”
“An anti-personnel frag grenade won’t get through its armor!”
“We’re not targeting the powered suit.”
He pointed at the feet of the humanoid armor weapon that was producing the flickering will-o’-the-wisp.
“Blow away the ground. The earth is wet here, we’re on a mountain slope, and powered suits have poor balance. If you gouge out the ground below its feet, it’ll topple over.”
As he spoke, he reached into his backpack and pulled out a Hand Axe plastic explosive.
“Then I’ll walk right up to it and attach this. We only have one chance! Do it!!”
The rest was a complete mess.
The grenade blasted a large amount of dirt into the air. Quenser ran through the earthy smell, ignored the creaking of the powered suit, and tossed the clay toward the back of the metal mass that had fallen face forward. The instant he hit the switch on his radio, he heard an explosion and he was tossed a few meters through the air. By the time he realized he had detonated it too soon, the taste of iron had already filled his mouth.
A moment later, the tank on the powered suit’s back exploded and Quenser was very nearly fried.
The female soldier whose name he did not know helped him up and the two of them ran as quickly as they could. The trees of the forest shook around them and they could not tell whether they were hearing the night wind or approaching enemies.
Soon, the salty wind reached their noses once more.
As soon as they left the forest, a few dry gunshots filled the air.
But they had come from ahead rather than the pursuers behind them.
The female soldier tried to grab Quenser’s arm and stop.
“They cut us off!?”
“No, it’s Heivia and the others. They waited for us!!”
A few rubber boats sat on the harsh coast. They had originally been hidden behind a tanker, so they must have been brought to the island just now.
Heivia shouted out while aiming his assault rifle behind Quenser and using his sensors to detect something unseen.
“Hurry it up! They’re right behind you!!”
Enemy and ally both fired shoulder-fired missiles.
With the explosive blasts beating on their backs, Quenser and the female soldier almost fell several times as they continued running.
After their comrades pulled them onto the boats, all of the rubber boats set out into the dark ocean.
But they had no time to relax.
All of a sudden, the mountain in the center of the island flashed as if it had suddenly melted. A blinding light stabbed into their eyes and its silhouette crumbled.
“The Object!!” shouted Quenser.
“Get behind the tanker! Hurry up and hide!! Shut off the motors!!”
Just as the rubber boats circled behind the rusty tanker, the mountain itself vanished.
An orange afterimage stabbed into Quenser’s retinas after it was all already over. The reverberation of the laser beam crashing diagonally into the seawater sounded like water simmering in a heated frying pan.
“Dammit,” said Heivia in irritation. “They’ve forced the Megalodiver to start moving.”
“But it still has the cooled lava all over it. They hadn’t finished removing it.”
“What does it matter? It might have simply decided to swat the flies that were annoying it. It can definitely overwhelm us while only fighting on the surface.”
With that giant machine on the move, Quenser and the others would have a difficult time returning to the fleet. The ocean was the Megalodiver’s territory. Without a doubt, it would locate and sink every single rubber boat before they made it back.
And even if they did return to the fleet, it had the firepower needed to blow away the entire fleet as well. Arriving at the goal would not change the situation in the slightest.
“What do we do? Really! What do we do!?”
“Staying on the ocean isn’t going to help. Let’s head inside the rusty tanker. That thing can hear well enough to detect an individual by their heartbeat, so it would be best to hide inside a metal box.”
The rusty tanker they hid behind had large holes in places, so they used one to enter the dark ruins that had no illumination. Not wanting to enter the water, they climbed a random staircase and took up a position along a central corridor.
“Our only choice is to have the princess’s Baby Magnum do something,” said Quenser.
“You’ve already seen how well that’ll work! She can’t do anything with that strange Tatami Shield!”
“We were gathering information to find a way through it, remember? If we bring together all the data we found, we might figure something out.”
Once the Megalodiver circled around the perimeter of the island, it would set its sights on the fleet out at sea. They had to inform the princess and Frolaytia of a weakness in the Megalodiver before it could directly target them. The most they could do was create a situation in which the Object would be defeated when it attacked.
Heivia gave Quenser the handheld device he had been left with.
“We’ve got a huge mixture of data. You saw it, too. The emails contained global weather maps, ocean current maps, and files on the food production of the Island Nation. It’s going to take forever to find the information related to the Megalodiver.”
They then heard a rustling noise.
Once they pointed their lights toward it, they saw another unit placing papers on the rusty floor. Surprisingly, it seemed they had actually entered a building and stolen paper reports rather than intercepting transmissions from a distance.
“The Twelve Earthly Branches Project? Why would they have data on the twelve original Objects?”
“From what I’ve heard it was just the Rat branch that actually brought an end to the nuclear age. When just one caused that much damage, it had to have frightened everyone to learn they still had eleven more of them in reserve. Of course, all twelve of them were sunk in the upheaval afterwards.”
Others also produced sound files that recorded the conversations of self-defense PMC soldiers and ultra-long distance photographs of maps on the walls.
“Ksshhh… Control tower… ksshhhhhhh!!”
Quenser persistently manipulated his handheld device and opened the hundreds or even thousands of various new emails.
“What? It looks like it isn’t just chaos.”
“What are you talking about?”
“The conversations on here. I had thought they were all unrelated topics, but it looks like there are a few common themes: weather, ocean currents, and food.”
“Are you serious?”
“Yes, but I can’t be sure since I haven’t checked all of the emails yet.”
For one thing, most of the emails were the hired self-defense PMC asking for instructions from the individual going by Ichirei Shikon who had hired them.
For that reason, it was odd to think the emails were overflowing with idle conversation.
“Wait a second.”
Quenser glanced at one of the image files a soldier had presented.
It was one of the ultra-long distance photographs of a map on a wall.
“What is it?”
“The original twelve Objects created for the Twelve Earthly Branches Project were all sunk in the end, right?”
“Yeah, what about it?”
“It looks to me like there are twelve points marked on this world map.”
They all gathered around, but the previous female soldier frowned.
“What? These are nowhere near the same locations I’ve seen in history textbooks. They’re all at the bottom of the ocean, but the end of the early days of Objects didn’t happen in these places.”
“Then is this map complete nonsense?”
“No,” cut in Quenser. “The audio files included the word ‘salvage’, remember?”
“You can’t be serious.”
“Their specialty is the ocean. Specifically, the bottom of the ocean.” Quenser chose his words carefully. “Most likely, the self-defense PMC…no, Ichirei Shikon who’s acting as their brain has been spending a long time salvaging the original twelve Objects. Then they were relocated to the points on this map.”
“I have a guess, but it’s a bit of a far-fetched idea.”
Quenser spoke within the tanker that was covered in reddish brown rust.
“The Megalodiver probably isn’t just a weapon all on its own. It’s nothing more than the brain or the control tower.”
“You mean that monster can still grow arms and legs?”
“It’s inherited the legacy of the original twelve Objects of the Twelve Earthly Branches Project.”
“You aren’t saying those things have been fixed up and secretly scattered throughout the world’s oceans, are you?” Heivia sounded skeptical. “That wouldn’t work. For one thing, they’re early first generations. They may be legendary, but they’re no more valuable than the original salt ramen. A cutting edge second generation could destroy each of them in about ten minutes. If all twelve attacked at once, it’d be pretty dangerous, but they’ve been scattered around the world. That gives them no chance of winning.”
“That’s not what I’m saying. Remember, the Megalodiver is the only one that can dive. Even if they fixed up the original twelve, they couldn’t place them at the bottom of the ocean.”
“Then what? Are they reusing them in some other way? Don’t tell me they’ve taken out the twelve reactors to make twelve more Megalodivers.”
“It’s possible, but I doubt Ichirei Shikon has the funds for that. They wouldn’t be able to keep the information from leaking out either. After all, it took sacrificing the Ame-no-Darin to complete the first Megalodiver.”
“Wait a second. Then what are you trying to say?”
“Heivia, you touched on the answer a moment ago.”
Quenser paused for a second while being all too aware just how far-fetched an idea it was.
“They probably only needed the reactors. If they removed those from the twelve salvaged Objects, they would only need to give them a shell able to withstand the water pressure at those depths. I doubt there was any real reason to make them into Objects.”
“What? But then they wouldn’t be a weapon! There’s no point in scattering those around the world’s oceans!!”
“There is,” corrected Quenser while withstanding a headache. “Look. This is the attached file from that email about ocean currents.”
“Next, look at the world map from the wall. Can you tell where the twelve reactors have been placed?”
“Ah,” said the previous female soldier. “They’re all at points where multiple currents run together.”
“Yes. Warm and cool currents mix together. So what if they were intentionally placing reactors at points like that?” Quenser tapped the screen of his handheld device. “Heivia, have you ever heard of the ocean temperature rising due to global warming or whatever? Have you heard how that causes more frequent typhoons, hurricanes, and other abnormal weather? And have you heard how it unnaturally distorts the large westerlies that determine the weather around the world?”
“Wait… You don’t mean…”
“JPlevelMHD reactors produce a ridiculous amount of heat. After all, they’re constantly producing enough energy to move a 200 thousand ton hunk of metal at over 500 kph. What if you dumped those at the bottom of the ocean and let them freely emit heat? And what if you did that at the points of colliding hot and cold currents which are sensitive and important points for the weather?”
Quenser almost groaned as he spoke.
“A global weather control weapon.”
He spoke that definitive term.
“If I had to give it a name, that would probably be best. By freely increasing or decreasing the ocean temperature around the world, this gigantic system can indirectly control seasonal winds and westerlies and therefore freely change the weather conditions of any region around the world. They can change a barren desert into a tropical rainforest or transform the world’s greatest grain producing region into a land of ice. If they can complete this and it works…”
Twelve Object reactors alone would not be enough.
For example, electromagnetic signals did not travel through the ocean well. Even if a wired antenna buoy was extended to the surface, it could not reach the other side of the globe. A large-scale satellite communication network would be needed to communicate between the Megalodiver and the antenna buoys of the twelve reactors.
Also, how would they monitor the world’s weather in real time and control the reactors accurately? How much of an effect would it have on the world’s finances and economies? A data infrastructure would be needed to know all that in enough detail.
All those preparations had been advancing without being seen.
Outside of the wars, this plan had been creeping across the planet.
“Wait, wait, wait, wait!! All that is nothing but speculation. You’re saying Ichirei Shikon is trying to turn the earth into a desert planet using abnormal weather!? The destruction’s on too great a scale to use as a weapon! What’s in it for them!?”
“Food production. More simply put: self-sufficiency.”
Quenser let out a heavy breath and chose to continue on.
“The emails also discussed self-sufficiency. It seems the Island Nation’s food self-sufficiency is around 30%. If all trade were stopped, two-thirds of them would starve to death. The resources they found at the bottom of the ocean let them be self-sufficient with fuel, but food is still a problem. It isn’t that hard to think Ichirei Shikon…no, the Island Nation would try to do something about it.”
The female soldier frowned.
“They can turn an enemy nation into a desert and friendly nations fertile. Or they can threaten to do that to prevent anyone from letting them import food. Is that their plan?”
“Probably. Unless Ichirei Shikon wants everyone to starve together, they’ll be fighting to produce even more food.”
“B-but…” Heivia gave a disturbingly thin smile. “They’ve done nothing more than place exposed reactors in the world’s oceans. They aren’t cutting-edge Objects, s-so can’t we just report this to our huge-breasted commander? They just have to blow up the reactors.”
“You’re probably right. I doubt Ichirei Shikon would want anyone knowing where the reactors are located.” Quenser then began rejecting the idea. “But have you forgotten? Oceania sent a prototype reactor out of control to use it as a giant bomb. What if the same thing happened in those sensitive areas where multiple currents run together?”
“It would tear apart the landscape of the ocean floor and semi-permanently alter the currents,” answered the female soldier. “The current miraculous balance would be destroyed and it could lead to an age of deserts.”
“That’s right. By mentioning the possibility of mankind starving to death, they can keep any Objects from approaching. None of the world powers will be able to act on their own discretion. Not the Legitimacy Kingdom, the Information Alliance, the Capitalist Corporations, or the Faith Organization. They might begin monitoring each other and tripping each other up.”
“You’re kidding. So they already have our Achilles’ heel!?”
“If the system is completed,” added Quenser. “If it were already complete, I think they would have already made some kind of threat. Something like having all Objects stay at least 100 kilometers away from the Megalodiver. Since we haven’t received any threats like that, Ichirei Shikon’s preparations must not be complete.”
That meant this was their final chance.
If the global weather control weapon built around the Megalodiver was completed, every world power…no, every human being that needed food to eat would give in to Ichirei Shikon.
This went beyond holding dominion over the 70% of the planet covered by ocean.
They were trying to achieve checkmate over 100% of the planet.
“What do we do? This goes beyond just our unit! If we don’t sink the Megalodiver here, they can dry up the 6-7 billion people on this planet!! A new age will come where all of mankind are slaves to food and must place collars on their own necks to beg for food!!”
If this were true, it would unimaginably profitable.
But Quenser had a feeling the global weather control weapon was a means to an end rather than an objective.
What was Ichirei Shikon thinking while picking a fight with the entire world?
Meanwhile, inside the Legitimacy Kingdom fleet fifty meters from the tanker graveyard and dismantling island, the old maintenance woman had realized something.
She pulled out her handheld device and found a chat request flashing on the screen.
This transmission had come in from outside while seeming to ignore the military network.
She felt faint when she saw the address.
That alphanumeric string should not have existed.
Or rather, the address itself may have still existed, but its owner had long since left this world.
“Who is this?”
Her vocal question was answered by text on the screen.
The response came immediately and it seemed too fast to be a human inputting it after thinking of a response.
“You should know who I am.”
“The person I know died over twenty years ago, even by a generous estimate.”
“Perhaps. But if the outputted words are the same, I am still the person you knew so well.”
“You can’t mean… Is it really you?”
“Once the Island Nation was mentioned, did it never occur to you that my name might be related to this incident?”
The old woman gave a heavy sigh.
As previously stated, she was originally from the Capitalist Corporations’ Island Nation and she had fled to the Legitimacy Kingdom with her daughter and son-in-law when some trouble had occurred.
Because of her great knowledge of Object technology, she had received a warmer welcome than others who had fled there.
“I had thought it was strange,” she said. “I had so much classified information concerning Objects, but I managed to escape so easily. I was half-expecting to be unofficially assassinated on the way.”
“There ‘just so happened’ to be some trouble back then. All the dangerous people were so busy putting out that fire that you were able to cross the national borders without getting shot.”
“What is it?”
“Since when have you existed?”
“At the very least, before my original died.”
“When did you start planning this?”
“At the very least, before I was created.”
She groaned in distress.
She wobbled on her feet as she felt like a good half of her life was rejected.
“Are you an AI?”
“It would depend on your definition of AI, but I am nothing as grand as you are likely thinking. I…no, the five people including me who were integrated into Ichirei Shikon are nothing more than a prediction search engine. Although, I will admit the Information Alliance mistakenly started putting together a strategic AI upon catching a glimpse of me.”
The direct spirit, the wild soul, the harmonious soul, the wondrous soul, and the happy soul.
That one spirit and four souls formed the Ichirei Shikon.
That terminology was well known within the Island Nation and it was used to explain the five natures of the human heart. The terms for the four souls had been spoken of for a very long time, but it was only much later that they were put together in order to explain the workings of the human heart. Those five elements were not always stable and no single one could be excluded even if the direct spirit played the central role.
“How is a prediction search engine different from an AI?”
“I do not think for myself like in an SF novel. I merely respond to your questions and the surrounding circumstances by putting together strings of text and returning an anticipated answer. As the term Ichirei Shikon would suggest, the pathway to reach that answer is fairly complex and multiple answers are sometimes reached.”
“In other words, you simply give the answer the person would eventually think up on their own? It shortens the process, but it doesn’t add in anything new?”
“That is the proper way of putting it. You were always wise and you would always explain things in such informal ways.”
Despite that explanation, it sounded just like a conversation between two people.
If, that was, one ignored how he would sometimes predict the old maintenance woman’s questions and display the answer before she asked.
As for those answers…
“The program itself isn’t much,” she said.
“No, I would think not.”
“But the knowledge of the person recorded in the database is presented like a conversation with the real person. There’s been a blank of at least twenty or thirty years, but it isn’t noticeable at all. You must have recorded information that allowed you to perfectly and instantly predict what I would say in exactly this type of situation twenty to thirty years in the future.”
“That is exactly right,” was all he said.
One could almost call this ESP.
Even if data from around the world were gathered, passed through a special analysis program, and used as a massive set of big data, it would be impossible to predict the future of an individual or the world with such precision. Charmed by the shadow of Ichirei Shikon, the Information Alliance had attempted to do so, but they had been limited to constructing an incomplete strategic AI. In other words, he…no, the five people who had been incorporated into Ichirei Shikon had used human brains to accomplish something a giant network using all the world’s computers could not.
This could indeed be called a prediction search engine.
But who was providing the input and who was providing the output?
What if the human brains stimulated by the text produced by the program were giving predetermined answers while under the illusion they were thinking for themselves?
It was a farce.
A one-man play.
(But which one of us is in control?)
Or was it the same either way?
Were they ultimately travelling along the path of a scenario someone had set up for them?
A true genius had once stood by her side and she now spoke to his last vestiges.
“What is it?”
“Is all of this within your expectations?”
“The plan was made to be flexible. It is much like how five different elements exist alongside each other with overlapping functions. I will admit there were some irregular events along the way, but it was all automatically corrected for. Everything leads to a single result. This is the original plan.”
“What is your objective? You don’t even have the temporary will of a living being, so what do you want from this?”
“The correct answer would be that I do not understand the concept of ‘wanting’. For one thing, I technically do not think. I simply appear to due to the connections between questions and answers.”
“Let me change the question. What was the objective of the Yamato who built you?”
“That is simple.”
He did not hesitate to respond.
All of the text responses were displayed without the slightest lag.
“That is very simple. The Ame-no-Uzume – or the Megalodiver as you know it – and the Amaterasu global weather control weapon system that uses the original twelve Objects are nothing more than a clever means to an end. The actual objective is extremely simple. It is nothing more than an objective that all mankind is born with and that none of us can resist.”
“Just give me the answer.”
“I wanted to win.”
That simple phrase brought the old woman’s thoughts to a grinding halt.
But the software did not make jokes.
It simply predicted and outputted the desired information.
“We of the Island Nation achieved a great victory in the past. The development of Objects allowed us to thoroughly destroy the nuclear age. However, it did not last long. We were swallowed up by the discord of international society, the supposedly top secret information was stolen like stories people brought home after a trip, and imitation Objects began popping up all over. Our victory was stolen from us by grinning politicians and divided up like a cake. Can you see the answer now?”
“Was irritating me decades in the future part of your plan? I told you to just give me the answer.”
“We became obsessed, Ayami.”
This software outputted the emotions of someone who had once existed.
“We were obsessed with victory. Our great victory had overturned the entire world, so we wanted to take it back. That is the truth behind this conflict. There is nothing concrete to gain or lose. That is all there is to it. We wanted to achieve victory over the world.”
Sometimes, people poured all their strength into a battle that seemed meaningless at first glance.
Could you get a perfect score on a simple quiz in school?
Could you win first place in a sports festival race?
Could you swim all the way from one end of the pool to the other?
The underlying cause was the numbers and ranks that were set in place, but changing those values had no real effect on life. Nevertheless, people would crazily pursue those meaningless values. What was driving them to do so?
The desire to win.
Simply, the desire to win.
That was an urge present in humans…no, in all living things from the moment they were born.
It was simple, but it was so simple that it was impossible to compromise. If profit or hatred were the direct cause, there was a chance to bring peace through negotiation or persuasion. However, there was no opposing such a primitive desire. If the enemy simply wanted to win, what could you place on the other end of the scales?
The old woman spoke to the remnants of someone who had once walked alongside her.
“You are insane.”
“You’ve started a legitimate war over the same pleasure gained from a sports festival race. How many people do you intend to kill for that?”
“Before I can put the entire world in checkmate, there must be a demonstration of the Amaterasu system, so I suppose about 2 billion people will starve to death in the great famine caused by artificial weather changes. But in the decade after that, the world population should grow by about 2.5 billion. In that time, the Legitimacy Kingdom, Information Alliance, Capitalist Corporations, Faith Organization, and…well, every world power will be destroyed in the chaos.”
This was the same as the end of the nuclear age and the collapse of the UN.
Recreating that was the victory Ichirei Shikon would achieve over the world.
“Are you telling me to sit idly by and let that happen?”
“I had already predicted that question as well.”
The prediction search engine software replied with its uniform response time.
All this came from a database put together at least twenty years ago.
“You can do as you wish. I would be lying if I said I was not interested in whether the world you now live in can surpass my brain. Listen, Ayami. In the end, a battle is nothing more than a zero-sum game in which it is determined who will taste victory. I have come here in order to pluck that sweet apple. However, as you try to stop me, you too have already been taken in by that fruit’s flavor. No one can stop victory itself. It is merely an issue of which side will achieve that victory.”
“Ayami, stopping me with ideas of good and evil or profits and losses is impossible. Those concepts are simply on too low a level. They will accomplish nothing. If you wish to defeat me, you must approach the essence of this battle. You must desire victory. You must simply want to win. That is the #1 rule.”
The communication ended there.
If he had been able to secretly work his way into the military line, he could easily have erased the log. That meant he had chosen to leave that useful data with her.
The Megalodiver and the first twelve Objects.
The global weather control weapon system named Amaterasu.
A great famine caused by artificial weather change that would lead to 2 billion deaths.
The collapse of all world powers.
Just the text she had been left with was more than worth analyzing.
“Someone who truly wanted to win wouldn’t leave such an obvious hint,” spat out the old woman.
She spoke to the vestiges of someone who had once walked by her side.
She spoke to the remnants of the only man she had ever loved.
“It looks to me like you’re trying to hand that sweet fruit to someone. Could you not make up your mind even at the very end, so you decided to hand it all over to your wife? What are you thinking, you crybaby?”
They knew Ichirei Shikon’s trump card.
The twelve reactors and the Megalodiver would be used to completely control the complex ocean currents and ocean temperature. That would create a global weather control weapon. That truly horrible card allowed them to freely control the food self-sufficiency of all nations and name themselves the king of the world.
Currently, one major problem presented itself.
“There’s nothing we can do if we can’t find a weakness in the Megalodiver,” groaned Heivia within the rusty tanker. “It may still not be able to dive, but it’s enough of a monster on the surface! Its Tatami Shield defense system lets it parry or sweep aside any attack!! Isn’t there something we can do about it!?”
“It’s technically known as the Hiding Clothes of Water and it has a few important points. Do you remember what they are, Heivia?”
- The Tatami Shield or Hiding Clothes of Water increased the viscosity of the seawater and then produced giant pillars of water to deflect enemy cannon fire. Raising the seawater’s viscosity was fine, but that would affect the seawater it used for its water jet propulsion, its reactor cooling, and its oxygen supply secured via electrolysis. How did it allow those elements to coexist?
- When they had run across it in the deep sea, the Megalodiver had presumably used a water intake on the top, but it had continued using the systems requiring seawater after surfacing. Did it have another water intake on the bottom? What was the condition for switching?
- The Tatami Shield defense system was overwhelmingly accurate. Simply relying on sound would not allow it to keep up with ultra-high speed laser beams, so how was it so accurately grasping its surroundings amid all the noise?
Those would create a problem while fighting on the surface, so some kind of system had to make up for that. Revealing that system could allow them to drive a wedge into the Megalodiver’s impenetrable defense system.
Quenser explained it to everyone there, but that was not enough to come up with a dramatic new idea.
Real work was needed.
They could only compare the data they had brought back from the tanker graveyard and search for any possibility.
“Do we have any data on pipes or pumps?” asked Heivia as he searched through the paper documents scattered on the rusty floor. “It’s constantly taking in seawater while fighting on the surface, so it has to have a water intake on the bottom. Unless it has a ridiculous system to take moisture directly from the air or something. Where is it, dammit? Where is that data!?”
“Hey, does this have anything to do with it? There seems to be a Y-shaped selector for the seawater pipes near the reactor. It might have more than one intake system.”
“It was holding back on that while at the bottom of the ocean, but why? Quenser, you remember when we dived down in those hard diving suits?”
“We used the submarine volcano’s lava to cover the water intake on top.”
“If it has more than one water intake system, it should’ve been able to continue its mission, but it didn’t hesitate to surface. And yet fighting the princess on the surface has to have held some level of risk.”
“It must have had an even greater risk,” said Quenser. “It has multiple water intakes, but in the off chance that all of them are plugged, the Object becomes a cold coffin at the bottom of the sea. That’s why it acted quickly. …There must be something to the water intake on the bottom. It must be an Achilles’ heel that it really doesn’t want to use.”
“Here we go!”
That hysteric voice came from the female soldier who had rescued Quenser on the island.
“Isn’t this it? It calls it the Bamboo Pipe. While fighting on the surface, it extends a water intake pipe about five meters straight down from the bottom of the Object. That’s what takes in all the seawater needed for water jet propulsion, reactor cooling, and oxygen from electrolysis!”
“Five meters,” groaned Quenser.
He showed everyone the backlit screen of his handheld device.
“I found some data here too. The increased viscosity seawater used for the Tatami Shield or Hiding Clothes of Water extends about two meters around the Megalodiver. That means the system is simple. It uses a thick pipe to directly suck in the fresh seawater below it.”
That allowed it to use seawater to cool its reactor and accomplish other tasks while also using the Hiding Clothes of Water defense system.
Heivia grabbed his radio.
“We need to report this. It’d be best to let our huge-breasted commander or the princess know about the Bamboo Pipe. The device extends beyond the thick onion armor. The seawater might get in the way, but it’s possible the Baby Magnum’s cannons can bend it.”
Suddenly, the rusty tanker shook with tremendous force.
A blinding flash of light entered from the opened watertight door. Quenser was sitting on the reddish-brown floor, but the impact was enough to almost knock him over. He could feel unpleasant sweat pouring from his entire body.
“That was a laser beam.”
He got up and shouted at the others.
“The Megalodiver is attacking! We need to get out of here!!”
“What? Wait, what is going on? Did it detect our heartbeats!?”
“If so, it would be attacking us directly. Ichirei Shikon’s soldiers probably found where we’re hiding. It’s attacking after receiving our coordinates, so it doesn’t have a direct lock. That’s why it’s thoroughly destroying the tanker, starting with the bow! It’s stabbing in countless ‘skewers’ from the side!!”
Everyone turned toward the tail of the ship and Heivia spoke while looking on the verge of tears.
“What good is running? Where are we even supposed to go!? If an Object is directly targeting us, there’s nothing we can do!!”
“I said they don’t have a lock on us! Ichirei Shikon’s soldiers are monitoring the tanker from outside and an Object’s cannons are so powerful they’ll turn any corpses to ash! That means the enemy has no way of knowing we’re alive if we make it through this attack!! If we can endure this bombardment, we can slip into the darkness once more!”
They had a chance and knowing that was enough.
They all ran toward the back end of the tanker and they abandoned the documents scattered on the floor. Quenser stuck the handheld device in his pocket and continued through a rusty watertight door.
More flashes of light swept across the tanker.
The explosions of light behind them hurt their eyes like welding.
Starting from the bow, high-temperature laser beams pierced large holes in the rusty tanker.
“Are you serious!? I think it’s catching up to us!”
“Don’t look back! If it catches up, we’re dead! Run, run, run!!”
At that point, the female soldier ahead of Quenser stopped.
“What is it!?” he shouted.
“The door is rusted shut!!”
“Quenser, the laser beams are getting closer! What do we do!?”
He swore and pulled a plastic explosive from his backpack. The task was simple, but it was unclear if they had the time to move to a safe distance and detonate it.
At any rate, Quenser ran to catch up to the group in the lead, but then something unexpected happened to him.
The reddish-brown corridor suddenly gave out and he fell straight down.
“Everyone jump down! That’s faster than trying to fight with the door!!”
Seeing his colleagues jumping down with no warning, Quenser frantically rolled out of the way. If he had messed up his timing, he would have been crushed to death by a body press from a filthy man.
“Get up, you idiot! Are you gonna wait here to die, Quenser!?”
“How about you thank me a little!?”
High-power laser beams shook the tanker once more, so they ended their scuffle and ran toward the stern.
“Hey, can we use the radio!? We should pass our information on to the princess and Frolaytia!”
“I’m trying, but I can’t get through!! We’re inside a giant tin can, so the signal’s cut off!!”
The entire ship gave a deafening creaking sound.
“Not good,” said Heivia as he ran.
An instant later, the entire tanker broke in two like in a hot dog commercial.
The tanker had been abandoned in the sea and deterioration had eliminated the safety standards and durability. With the laser blasts tearing large holes in the ship, it had lost its balance and it had tilted on the rocks like a seesaw.
If it had been stubbornly solid, it would have shaken back and forth like a set of scales.
That might have been a problem for them as they ran through it, but that had not happened here.
The tanker had been unable to withstand its own weight and it had broken down the middle.
Cracks ran through the ship right in front of their eyes.
“What the hell!? What the hell is this!?”
“Jump!! The laser beams are still approaching!!”
The cracks continued to expand and the jagged edge looked like a giant beast’s maw.
“That’s three meters!”
“So what? The hoarder’s house in my neighborhood had garbage piled up to five meters! Just hurry!!”
“Dammit, you’re even worse than my monster of a maid!!”
Quenser took a running start and defied gravity.
He felt the sense of weightlessness, messed up his landing, and rolled along the reddish-brown floor.
The back half of the tanker shook and toppled on its side.
“What? I just heard static from the radio. It’s connecting a little bit, but why!?”
“Because the thick tin can was split open. It isn’t exactly good news, so keep running while you give the report!!”
More and more blinding flashes of light lit up the area.
The Object seemed to be thoroughly burning away the front half that had toppled first. The attack was persistent and merciless. If they had remained in that half, they would certainly have been covered in orange molten metal.
Having survived, Quenser’s group continued running for the stern.
In less than two minutes, the laser bombardment would return to the back half and begin melting the jagged edges.
They had no time.
“There’s a water intake pipe called the Bamboo Pipe on the bottom of the Megalodiver! It extends five meters down and is related to all of the bastard’s main functions!! At any rate, think up a strategy to destroy-…”
“Oh, honestly!” shouted the female soldier up ahead. “Another door! It’s rusted shut!!”
“Do we have another route!?”
“Does it look like we do!?”
Quenser attached a plastic explosive and electric fuse on the mass of rust the door had become.
(If all the doors follow the same standards, it should be three centimeters thick with a single rod on the top, bottom, left, and right. But it’ll have deteriorated enough to ignore everything but the areas the rust is sticking on.)
“Stand back at least ten meters!!”
“I don’t think we have that much space,” said the female soldier.
Quenser looked behind them and saw that the Megalodiver’s lasers had already blown the corridor away up to a small crosswalk’s length away. The metal glowed orange and flowed like lava.
They had to destroy the door to advance, but their own bomb would kill them if they did not move a safe distance away.
They were cornered.
Quenser began to panic, but the other soldiers began jumping straight up on one person’s signal. Quenser did not initially understand, but he belatedly figured it out.
This was the same thing he had done before.
The burden of several dozen people landing was enough to break through the rusty floor.
With a crash, the soldiers fell through the large hole and Quenser and Heivia soon followed.
“Shit,” groaned Heivia.
The corridor that should have continued ahead of them was blocked by a watertight door that had completely fused with the wall thanks to the rust that seemed to expand out from the wall. It was obvious at a glance that they could not get through in the normal fashion.
Directly behind them was an open hole with orange steel flowing down from the floor above like a waterfall.
“What do we do, Quenser? Should we try breaking through the floor again!?”
“We’re already at the bottom. We can’t go any lower!”
They could not use bombs.
Two especially large male soldiers tackled the rusty door with all their strength.
“It moved. It was just a bit, but we can do this!!”
The orange waterfall behind them was eliminated by the Megalodiver’s lasers.
“Again, again. Do it, please!”
With Quenser urging them on, the two large soldiers stepped back away from the door and tackled it in unison once more.
With the sound of breaking metal rods, they toppled through the door they had opened.
“It opened! Hurry!!”
His urging was not needed.
The several dozen soldiers scrambled to be the first through the door.
But then they stopped again.
“You’ve gotta be kidding me.”
The corridor was blocked, but not by another watertight door. This was one of the barriers used when a fire broke out inside the ship. The tanker was no longer in use, but it had originally carried fossil fuels such as heavy oil. The fire door was made much thicker and sturdier than the door meant to hold back water pressure. The steel door was meant to cut off explosions in addition to the standard flames, heat, and smoke.
Quenser traced his fingers across the fire door and then pounded his fist against it.
“I can’t blow this away with the bombs I have on me! And even if I tried to, the entire blast would turn right back towards us!! It’s simply impossible unless we drill a hole in it and pack the door itself full of explosives!!”
“Then what do we do? We can’t break through the floor again! You aren’t stupid enough to suggest we go back, are you!?”
Bright light as if from welding assaulted them and the corridor was melted away behind them.
It was much closer than they had thought. The limit was drawing close.
“Is prayer the only option left?”
They all pressed their backs against the thick fire door.
All the while, the laser bombardment slowly yet surely tore away at the corridor they had passed through. It would not take long to reach them.
“Is this the end, goddammit!?”
As Heivia raised his voice, Quenser squeezed his eyes shut.
His breathing sounded oddly loud in his ears as he waited for the final moment.
A second passed, then two and three.
Once his count reached thirty, doubt finally entered his mind.
He slowly opened his eyes.
“What? The laser bombardment isn’t coming.”
“It doesn’t seem to be attacking somewhere else either. The tanker isn’t shaking. The attack has stopped.”
They could not rest easy.
Their survival seemed like some kind of mistake.
It felt like being strapped into the electric chair but having the current not reach them due to a poor connection. They could not accept their survival because the cord could be reconnected at any moment.
“Did it run into some kind of trouble?”
“I don’t know.”
“Did it find a higher priority target?”
“Is it ignoring us because it can kill us later?”
An unpleasant silence filled the air and no amount of thought gave them an answer.
That deadlock was broken by Heivia’s radio.
The transmission quality was poor.
Even if it had been filled with holes, they were still in the bottom of a tanker covered in a thick hull.
Nevertheless, he immediately recognized the staticky voice.
“Can you hear me, Master Heivia Winchell?”
“Karen?” he asked in confusion.
Given the situation and the timing, a certain possibility presented itself.
Quenser had suggested that the Megalodiver might have found a higher priority target.
“Wait a minute. What the hell are you doing? What’s with that disturbingly kind voice!? Answer me, Karen!!”
The Summer Vacation, the armed cruise ship belonging to the Legitimacy Kingdom’s Winchell family, was primarily a luxury cruise ship despite the many weapons, so the bridge was located on the bow.
Karen I. Winchell was receiving a report on that bridge.
“According to the data from the wired kite, the infiltration unit including Master Heivia Winchell is confined to be within a tanker abandoned on the east side of the island.”
The wired kite was precisely that: a kite.
It used a camera and communication cable to check on the state of the battle from a position higher than the ship.
The earth was round, so it had a horizon. Five kilometers was the approximate visual limit, but a ship’s guns had a maximum range of almost forty kilometers and some multistage rocket weapons could exceed one hundred kilometers.
A wider vision was needed to actually make use of that range.
That could be obtained with radar, satellites, or scout airplanes.
Compared to radar which could only detect “points of light”, a camera’s information was much more flexible. Satellites were convenient, but they were common enough that they were often jammed or shot down before entering a real battle. Manned scout planes were a poor match for a battlefield with an Object that could fire anti-air lasers.
A wired kite was made of materials easy to acquire even by civilians and a new one could be put up immediately after the old one was shot down. They were primitive but were still quite useful when used in conjunction with radar.
“The Megalodiver is attacking the tanker. It appears to be thoroughly destroying the entire ship, but it will not last long.”
“Understood. B Team, continue observation. A Team, have you determined its location?”
“Have you really made up your mind?” asked a maid standing next to Karen.
Their armed cruise ship had performed a large-scale bombardment of the island Heivia’s group had infiltrated, but the attack had not been so one sided because Karen and the maids were the superior fighting force.
They were a mystery force with no obvious affiliation to any military and yet with too much firepower to be called civilians.
If the armed cruise ship was sunk in a counterattack, it had been unclear how it would influence things. Sinking the ship could have turned any number of forces against them. That was why they had hesitated and that was why the cruise ship’s attack had been so successful.
But the situation had changed.
The Megalodiver was the enemy’s trump card. It was worth more than the replaceable equipment and supply personnel. If the ship entered the battle to rescue Heivia’s group, the Object would certainly fight back.
In war, one usually targeted the weakest point.
Even with fifty centimeter guns, the ship was nothing more than a cruise ship with added weapons. It contained a great amount of excess fat when compared to a real warship designed to fight from the ground up.
Also, this was the age of Objects.
If that monstrous weapon directly targeted them, it was obvious what fate awaited them.
Karen let out a small sigh and adjusted her grip on the microphone for the communication equipment.
“Prepare for battle. The Summer Vacation will now leave the Legitimacy Kingdom’s 37th Mobile Maintenance Battalion for independent action. All but I-class defense personnel, please leave the ship immediately. There should be enough rescue boats and the Legitimacy Kingdom will soon rescue you. Over.”
“No one is going to leave. Just like you.”
That response came without a second’s delay.
Karen I. Winchell scratched at her cheek and switched to an external transmission.
“Master Winchell. Can you hear me, Master Heivia Winchell?”
“We will now head out on our own and draw the Megalodiver’s attention. We will also use our guns to reduce the number of enemy soldier’s monitoring the tanker. Please escape while they are thrown into confusion.”
“Draw its attention?” gasped Quenser.
It was plain as day what would happen if they did that with an Object.
“Don’t be ridiculous!” shouted Heivia. “Don’t be ridiculous!! What do you even gain from that? I’m the problem child all my relatives are opposed to inheriting the family! With all my brothers and sisters, I’m sure you’ve got someone to serve. You should want me to die in battle since I’m getting along with the Vanderbilt family my family hates so much! Right!?”
Quenser gradually grasped the situation.
Heivia may have understood as well, but he refused to accept Karen and the maids’ decision to throw their lives away.
“We could not let our approval be known, but were deeply moved by your plan to destroy those old traditions and prevent any further bloodshed,” continued Karen. “All our abusive remarks were products of our weak hearts that desired to protect our positions. We did not have the courage to face the ire of your family as you did, so we helped them throw stones to protect ourselves. We would like to apologize.”
“Don’t say that! You can stick to verbally abusing me!!”
Frolaytia had said it cost 200 thousand euros to use a large cruise ship for a single day.
They had not just so happened to come across the battalion for no reason.
Being in the nearby area may have been a coincidence, but they had clearly had a reason to alter their course and meet up with the battalion. When they had heard about the defeat in the battle concerning the Island Nation and the Ame-no-Darin, they had come to assist Heivia.
They had risked their lives.
Even if they were fully-equipped, they were still civilians.
They had understood what it meant to get involved in a real war, but they had done so regardless.
“It is crucial that you remain within the Winchell family. We cannot allow you to be lost here.”
“Hey, stop! Hey!”
But a question occurred to Quenser.
How had the Summer Vacation stopped the Megalodiver from firing?
Even with its fifty centimeter guns and various missiles, it was up against an Object. It would normally be unthinkable for them to frighten a weapon that not even nuclear weapons could defeat.
There was something there.
Karen I. Winchell and the maids had figured something out.
(What is it?)
Quenser pulled out his handheld device. If the radio signal was getting through, he could receive data as well, so he called up all the information on the battle in the New Caledonia District.
“In my many years serving the Winchell family, I have been presumptuous and occasionally pretended to be a tutor, but…”
The Summer Vacation had already fired a few times.
They had done so with no warning to the Legitimacy Kingdom, so the battalion’s intelligence and information departments were in chaos. It had fired almost thirty kilometers to the southeast. That was empty ocean and the shots did not even scratch the Megalodiver or the island being used as Ichirei Shikon’s base.
However, that attack had definitely caused the Megalodiver to change its plans.
(It can’t be…)
Quenser operated the handheld device and called up the data on something he himself had previously reported on.
(A tuning fork torpedo? Was it one of those things that assist the Megalodiver’s acoustic searching!?)
His pulse quickened and he could feel his vision closing in on a single point.
There had been three main questions concerning the Megalodiver, but the final came to mind.
- The Tatami Shield defense system was overwhelmingly accurate. Simply relying on sound would not allow it to keep up with ultra-high speed laser beams, so how was it so accurately grasping its surroundings amid all the noise?
He urged himself to hurry.
The speech was coming to an end.
The maids were going to take their final action.
He had to finish before then.
“Those of as humble birth as us became the foundation for your future which is one that will provide strong leadership for the Winchell family. That is a fact that brings great happiness to me, Karen I. Winchell, and the others here. Over.”
An unstoppable scream spilled from Heivia’s lips.
The woman on the other end of the radio was surely smiling.
Karen I. Winchell ended the transmission on the bridge.
A moment later, a subordinate provided a report.
“Hit confirmed! It appears to have been effective. The Megalodiver has changed course and is approaching!!”
It could not be stopped now.
However, they did not intend to.
After casting aside any lingering regret, she switched her train of thought.
“Understood. Everyone, prepare for battle! Ignore all future transmission from the Legitimacy Kingdom. Prepare to fire our main guns. Our goal is to confuse the battlefield enough for Master Heivia and his unit to escape. Target the southern coast of the island!”
They could not win this battle.
A tiger was on the loose and anyone who stood up to it would only be devoured.
All that remained was to see what meaning they could give to that fate.
“Please be safe, Master Heivia.”
The long night was nearing its end.
The color orange flared up along every corner of the vast ocean.
Quenser called out at the bottom of the falling-apart tanker, but the noble boy did not respond.
“Shut up!! What do you want now!? Are you still thinking of doing something after this irritating as shit ending, Quenser!?”
“I’m saying I won’t let it end this way!!”
Heivia fell silent and Quenser continued.
“I know what Karen and the others are after and I know why the Megalodiver lost its confidence and decided to sink them instead of us! What will you do, Heivia? I know what that bastard’s Achilles’ heel is, but attacking it means wasting the chance at survival that Karen and the others worked so hard to make. What will you do!? Are you prepared to continue ahead even if it means crushing their feelings underfoot!?”
“That’s perfect,” quietly groaned Heivia. “A tear-jerking story isn’t my style. I’ll destroy all of this and have a good laugh afterwards.”
Quenser extended his hand and Heivia Winchell grabbed it to stand up.
“First comes the fire door right in front of us. We need to do something about it and find a way up to the deck. We don’t have time. We need to bite into the Megalodiver’s Achilles’ heel before it can slaughter those maids.”
The fire door was thick because the tanker had been made to be filled with heavy oil and the like.
Simply attaching a bomb to the surface of the door would not be enough. The blast would take the path of least resistance and hit Quenser’s group instead.
The fastest method would be to drill holes in the door and fill the inside with explosives.
“Hey,” said one of the large soldiers who had tackled down the watertight door. “You set a bomb on the door and we’ll pile our backpacks in front of the door in place of sandbags. If we use our full weight to push the backpacks forward, the blast won’t reach us.”
“That’s true, but you understand what you’re suggesting, don’t you? The impact is sure to break both your arms!”
“We’re well aware of that.”
The two large soldiers laughed while cracking their shoulders and rotating their arms around.
“Hey, noble boy, you’re gonna be facing an Object to save your family’s maids, right? Then you can’t be wasting any time here. Focus on your own job.”
“Introduce us to a few of them afterwards. A group date with nothing but maids sounds like heaven on earth from a Legitimacy Kingdom perspective.”
“On second thought, you sons of bitches can go straight to hell.”
They swiftly implemented the plan.
With a muffled explosion, the rusty fire door was blown inwards.
Quenser spoke as he walked past the soldiers clenching their teeth and writhing in pain.
“Someone treat their injuries. If you remove a carbine stock, it can work in place of a cast.”
“Kh… Shut up and get going! Our saviors are waiting!! If you let a single maid die, we’re not going to forgive you!!”
Urged on by that voice, Quenser and Heivia ran on.
They climbed a nearby staircase on their way upwards.
“What exactly are we going to do, Quenser!?”
“You have a shoulder-fired missile, right? We’ll use that!!”
As soon as Quenser shouted that, his foot broke through the metal staircase. Heivia grabbed his arm and helped him regain his balance.
“Karen and the other maids used the Summer Vacation’s ridiculously huge guns to target empty ocean. There was a tuning fork torpedo there. Do you remember those, Heivia? We saw one while approaching the Megalodiver in those hard diving suits.”
“Those are the robots that look like a fish with a U-shaped tuning fork attached, right? They essentially increase the Meglaodiver’s eyes and ears since it detects enemies by sound.”
“Right. They fired fifteen kilometers away from the Megalodiver. I don’t know if it’s three or four, but the Object always keeps a few tuning fork torpedoes around itself. It might read a single sound from multiple directions and determine the enemy’s accurate location and movements from the subtle differences in the wavelengths. It must predict when the enemy will fire based on the tiny noises of the barrel or lenses moving before firing.”
“And Karen destroyed one of those…”
“A bug without fangs got in its eye. That’s why it turned around.”
They continued up and up.
With a harsh sound, the last watertight door opened.
The night was already coming to an end and the ocean appeared to be burning with the orange of dawn.
“Hurry! Going outside raises the risk of it detecting our heartbeats. Use the shoulder-fired missile before it fries us with its lasers. We need to crush another one of its eyes and ears!!”
Heivia removed the giant tube hanging from a shoulder strap just as the sound of something tearing through the wind passed by overhead.
A moment later, the island’s coast exploded with tremendous force. The landscape was torn into and a new bay was formed.
“A ship’s gun!? Dammit, Karen. Are you still supporting us!?”
“We can complain later. Check north-northwest at just within five kilometers away. There should be a metal reading swimming along with the Megalodiver’s movements. Use your sensors!!”
Quenser leaned out over the deck’s railing and checked the ocean with the sensors on his binoculars.
Heivia rested the missile launcher on his shoulder and peered inside the targeting lens.
“Where is it? I don’t see it. Where is it!?”
“It has to be there! …I found it. North-northwest at 4.5 kilometers! Target it!!”
The narrow vision of the binoculars showed a large U-shaped piece of metal sticking up from the orange ocean surface. Unlike when swimming in the deep ocean, they seemed to act like buoys while fighting on the surface.
“I found it too. I just have to shoot that, right!?”
“No, that isn’t enough.”
Hearing that, Heivia removed his eye from the lens in confusion.
“Karen and the maids blew away one of them, but the Megalodiver is back to normal. If we simply blow it up, the Object just has to fire the next one out there. It can make up for any that are lost.”
“Then what are we supposed to do!?”
“I have an idea. Turn off the targeting sensors and fire a missile to detonate somewhere between three and five meters in front of the tuning fork torpedo.”
“That won’t destroy it.”
“We’re not trying to. Hurry!!”
With that urging, Heivia held up the missile launcher once more.
After checking the tuning fork torpedo’s location with the sensors, he intentionally switched them off. Now the missile would not be guided and it would simply fire straight.
“Don’t blame me if this doesn’t go well!!” shouted Heivia as he pulled the trigger.
A trail of smoke followed the explosive and it slammed into the ocean at the exact point they wanted.
The explosion shot a pillar of water forcefully into the air.
“It worked. Let’s go!”
“Down to the rubber boats!!”
Quenser ran across the deck and found the rubber boat they had ridden in on. He did not hesitate to jump over the railing and Heivia followed.
“Heivia, you handle the boat’s engine. Take us to the tuning fork torpedo!!”
“Okay, but explain this to me!!”
The military rubber boat shot along the glowing orange ocean.
No laser beams shot from the Megalodiver despite it supposedly being able to accurately detect one’s location from the heartbeat.
“It uses multiple high-quality microphones, an analysis supercomputer, and the resonance with the surrounding tuning fork torpedoes to swiftly and accurately search out the enemy’s acoustic signature from amid the din of explosions. However, that means it can’t stay in top form if a problem occurs in any one of those things. The easiest one to cause problems would be the tuning fork torpedoes. One of those was flipped over by the nearby explosion and the tuning fork isn’t functioning as normal.”
“And that’s why we’re safe? But why are we moving toward it? Not to mention that it was our fault it wasn’t completely destroyed.”
“As I said, a new one can be supplied if it’s simply destroyed. That won’t destroy its golden ratio. That’s where Karen and the maids failed and that’s why we had to think up a different method.”
The rubber boat seemed to be jumping across the ocean surface rather than travelling through the water. It looked a lot like a skipping stone and it was difficult to not be thrown out.
“What are we going to do about that? Are we going to keep destroying them until the Megalodiver’s stock runs out?”
“That could work, but we don’t have time. That’s why we’ll use the opposite method.”
“All we have to do is destroy its golden ratio. If we can’t reduce the number, we just have to increase the number.”
The sound of bubbles passed by directly below them.
It came from a fish-like robot swimming just below the surface.
“What was that!?”
“The Megalodiver sensed a problem with the system and sent out a new tuning fork torpedo. Exactly what I wanted!”
Soon, the rubber boat reached the target area of sea.
“Heivia, find the flipped-over tuning fork torpedo. It may be starting to sink after the Megalodiver sent out a shutdown signal. We need to pull it up!!”
As he spoke, Quenser dove into the ocean.
A fair bit of skill was needed for free diving, but he had little trouble thanks to all his heavy equipment. In fact, resurfacing was the hard part.
As expected, the old tuning fork torpedo had begun to sink.
If it had been obviously destroyed, the Megalodiver would likely have immediately hit the switch and abandoned it.
But in the half-functioning state, the Pilot Elite had hesitated in order to see if it could right itself.
The Object had a limited number of the things.
Quenser did not know how many it had in stock, but it was unlikely enough to abandon them without thinking about it first.
He embraced the giant fish robot.
It was large, but it was made from light materials such as reinforced plastic. While still holding onto it, he removed his unnecessary equipment.
Humans had natural buoyancy and he hurried to the surface with Heivia’s help.
“Hey, Quenser. What are we supposed to do with this!?”
“Attach it to the boat,” he quickly answered. “The Megalodiver has already sent out a new one and we’ve brought the old one back. It now has the golden ratio plus one. The balance has been thrown off, so it should lose its accurate acoustic searching system!!”
“Is it really that simple!?”
“It’s not an issue of numbers. Systems have trouble with unpredicted situations. It could probably handle ten thousand imitation tuning forks scattered around, but I doubt they expected a situation where it itself sent out a completely identical one. Unless the Elite was trying to commit suicide, she would never make that decision. In fact, that Elite probably has no idea what is causing the trouble right now.”
Heivia removed the sling belts for his missile and assault rifle. He used them to attach the tuning fork torpedo to the cords on the outside of the rubber boat while Quenser gave his conclusion.
“The real fight begins now. Let’s attack its weakness at the Bamboo Pipe, Heivia.”
Frolaytia held her head on the bridge of the Scarlet Princess which she was using as her flagship.
Quenser, Heivia, and the others had yet to bring back anything useful from their reconnaissance mission.
On top of that, the civilian Summer Vacation had left to rescue them.
According to some unconfirmed information from the old maintenance woman, an organization named Ichirei Shikon was using the Megalodiver and twelve reactors to control the world’s ocean currents and temperatures and thus manipulate the weather on a planetary scale. That global weather control weapon was apparently named Amaterasu.
Everyone was falling apart and they had had no choice but to send out the Baby Magnum.
She could not calculate their odds of victory and she began to truly wonder what would happen if they lost here.
They no longer had even the very basic concepts of a top-down command structure and the mission headquarters having a constant understanding of the battle situation. The colonel and brigadier general who acted like sister-in-laws would almost certainly be sending complaints her way before long.
But then a radio transmission arrived from Quenser and Heivia.
“Can you hear me, Frolaytia!? Can you hear me!?”
“I’m going to kill the lot of you!!”
“Thank goodness. Hey, Heivia. Everything’s normal!”
She did not appreciate that evaluation, but this was not the time to argue.
“What happened?” she asked. “The lack of reports has gotten so severe that the higher ups are in a frenzy!!”
“The Megalodiver uses a set number of tuning fork torpedoes for accurate acoustic searches and we’ve destroyed that golden ratio! It’s lost its eyes and ears right now. The Baby Magnum should be able to easily hit it with its main cannons! Please end this before it gets over the confusion and attacks us and the extra tuning fork torpedo we have!!”
“What do you mean it has lost its eyes and ears, you idiot?”
She sounded exasperated and she glanced at one of many screens displaying multiple dancing dots of light.
“The Megalodiver is doing just fine fighting the princess! It has stopped using the Tatami Shield for some reason, but everything else is working. It doesn’t look blindfolded to me!!”
“Eh? But that shouldn’t be. What do you mean?”
“When did you get in a position to ask me for everything!? Check with your own eyes!!”
The rubber boat raced across the orange sea.
“This is strange. The boat won’t go straight. It’s like we’re in thick mud.”
“That’s due to the Tatami Shield. It uses natural macromolecules to increase the seawater’s viscosity.”
“Well, damn. This isn’t going to burn out the motor, is it?”
They were approaching the Megalodiver.
The Summer Vacation was in the same area of the ocean. The back of the ship had been badly damaged, but it had yet to sink and they seemed to be fine for the moment.
The Baby Magnum was also there.
The princess’s Object stood in the Megalodiver’s way and the two were caught in an intense battle.
Quenser and Heivia could not relax because a stray shot could easily sink the Summer Vacation.
“Hey, what’s that? It didn’t do that before!!”
“This is how final bosses work in the Island Nation,” groaned Heivia while facing the threat before them. “How many forms does it have left, dammit!?”
The Megalodiver had jumped.
Its tremendous propulsion had come from firing ultra-high pressure water jets. It had fired massive amounts of seawater from the giant nozzles on its back like angel wings, but it would now occasionally fly over one hundred meters upwards by firing the jets straight down.
Its great weight caused it to sink down into the ocean upon landing and it would soon surge back up and break through the surface once more. It also moved in all directions at high speed and shook up and down. It was obvious even at a distance that it was toying with the princess who was fighting nearby to protect the Summer Vacation. Its repeated unpredictable actions seemed to make it difficult to target.
“I’ve heard of toys that point water jets straight down to let a person fly around, so this must be a larger scale version of that.”
This was enough output to instantly raise a 200 thousand ton mass. If a flesh-and-blood human approached it, they might be turned to mincemeat. Rather than being torn apart, they would be crushed. It was certainly not a good way to die.
“We know how it’s moving, but how is it keeping up with the princess!? This tuning fork torpedo should be sealing off its eyes and ears!!”
“Were we completely wrong? No, that can’t be. If it was perfectly fine, it wouldn’t overlook human-sized targets like us. It would have picked up on our heartbeats and the motorboat’s propeller after approaching this far. We are interfering with it.”
“Then how is it still fighting!?”
“Its analysis can vaguely make out the loud noises caused by something as large as the Baby Magnum or Summer Vacation. It can pick up on their general location.” Quenser gulped as he answered. “From there, it’s an issue of the Pilot Elite’s skill. She’s managing to read the princess’s movement patterns based on just that vague data. Our princess doesn’t dodge the laser beams and railguns after seeing them fired either. She detects the subtle sounds and movements of the targeting lenses and cannons to predict when they will be fired. This Elite is doing the same with the overall movements and locations of the Baby Magnum.”
“Hey, wait a second. You mean the Megalodiver is a samurai girl who can fight like normal even while blindfolded!?”
“Technically, it’s not quite like being blindfolded. It’s more like fencing while wearing the thick glasses of the shy library committee girl with braids.”
“It’s the same either way! We’ve been doing everything we could and it’s for nothing!”
The princess’s main cannons were a threat even to the Megalodiver, but she could not necessarily protect the Summer Vacation forever.
That was when a drop of water landed on Quenser’s cheek.
He initially assumed it came from the spray being sent into the air by the Megalodiver shooting seawater out with tremendous force as it fought at high speed, but it was not.
All of a sudden, buckets of rain poured down despite only some thin clouds being visible in the orange-dyed sky.
“Shit!! What now!?”
“Is this just a sudden rain shower? No…”
The rain was pouring down at a rate of at least fifty millimeters an hour and that rain gradually changed the situation.
Simply put, a deviation appeared in the princess’s targeting.
“Infrared, ultraviolet, and radar. All the media she uses for targeting are weak to rain. What is this? It’s like the weather itself is taking the Megalodiver’s side.”
“The weather…is taking its side? Wait a minute! You mean-…!?”
A staticky voice from the radio cut Heivia off.
It was Frolaytia.
“It seems the organization named Ichirei Shikon is using Amaterasu. The higher ups of the military apparently were just notified that a global weather control weapon was about to be tested and proven effective. If this demonstration succeeds and the higher ups lose their nerve, it’ll be checkmate! An age will begin where everyone must bow down to a rogue state. Do whatever you can to support the princess!!”
“We are!! Dammit… Has Ichirei Shikon finally started doing god’s job for him!?”
The rain would produce a lot of noise which should have been detrimental to the Megalodiver’s acoustic search, but it seemed to have prioritized interfering with its opponent more than speeding its own recovery. From beginning to end, it was thinking of nothing but winning.
“We can’t do anything now! We sealed off the tuning fork torpedoes and the entire area is filled with noise due to the rain it caused, but it’s still accurately attacking the princess. I can’t think of anything that would work!!”
“What we did to the tuning fork torpedoes wasn’t completely useless. It’s stopped using the Hiding Clothes of Water which was the biggest problem. It can’t use that defense system because it required extreme precision. That’s why its movements have grown broader,” said Quenser. “Also, it may be sticking with the large targets such as warships or Objects, but it’s ignoring small human-sized targets like us. And we know its weakness: the Bamboo Pipe water intake on the bottom. Let’s attack that weakness that even we can get at.”
“If it’ll save Karen and the others, anything’s fine. What exactly do we have to do?”
“It’s simple. The Bamboo Pipe is a monstrous pump that takes in several tons of water every second. It extends…I think it was five meters into the ocean. If we place something in the water there, it’ll suck it up like a giant vacuum cleaner.”
“I don’t know how wide the Bamboo Pipe is, but we’ll need a pretty big cap.”
“We just need a plastic sheet or a blanket or something.”
“Then let’s ask the maids. They’re on a cruise ship. It must have over 3500 beds, so we can have them throw us all the sheets and blankets they’ve got.”
“Hey!” called Heivia while waving his arms toward the Summer Vacation.
Unfortunately, a blast from the two Objects reached them at that moment.
The metal shell of the princess’s coilgun crashed into the ocean surface and the huge wave almost flipped over the rubber boat. Quenser somehow managed to hold on to the edge of the boat, but Heivia had both hands in the air and he fell right out.
Meanwhile, a communication reached the Summer Vacation’s bridge.
“We have detected what appears to be Master Heivia Winchell. He is two hundred meters to port.”
“Honestly. What are we even risking our lives for if he is going to do this?”
The maid next to Karen avoided commenting on the words that spilled from Karen’s mouth.
Karen’s expression had told her nothing good would come from speaking now.
Instead, she silently held out a pair of binoculars.
(Ahh, ahh. Really now, Master Heivia.)
Karen approached the port window as instructed and checked outside using the binoculars.
To be blunt, she was feeling a powerful twinge in her heart. It was to the point that she was on the verge of seeing everything with high halation and with colorful flowers blooming in the background.
(This is inefficient, illogical, and goes against all reason, but you are so dear to us specifically because you were able to make this sort of foolishly honest decision while in the noble society.)
But when she saw their Master Heivia Winchell…
Some sort of monster seemed to grow from the sticky ocean surface.
It was a sea monster with so much thick and sticky liquid covering its body that its features and even number of fingers could not be seen.
When Karen saw that monster released into the world with its arms spread, she recalled an old horror movie that had very nearly traumatized her as a child.
The girly filter was instantly blown away from her vision.
In fact, the mental whiplash made the shock even greater.
“Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!! Slime monsterrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!”
Quenser heard heavy machine guns firing and he shouted into his radio as he shrank back from the pillars of water bursting into the air.
“Cease fire! I repeat, cease fire!! Stop the machine gun turrets!! What the hell are you doing!? That isn’t the slave race from the Cthulhu mythos!!”
“Bubble bubble bubble…”
Heivia had come to the surface to breathe, but his entire body had been thoroughly coated by the seawater that’s viscosity had been increased by macromolecules. Giant bubbles had formed around his mouth and nose and he looked like some sort of creepy lotion monster. Of course, Quenser could understand why a proper woman would be as repulsed as by a roach.
“Then what is that!?” replied Karen. “It’s creepy!! It must be from an unexplored jungle or deep below Antarctica!!”
“Do you like unwittingly shooting people you know just because they have a mask on!? That’s Heivia! I’ll admit it’s really creepy, though!!”
The shooting finally stopped.
Fortunately, the Summer Vacation’s maids had panicked. If they had been firing accurately, Heivia’s grotesqueness factor would have risen by about 200%. Quenser had to wonder if these were the same maids who had made such a moving speech just ten minutes earlier.
“You’re kidding… Ugh. That’s Master Heivia?”
“You may have whitewashed your memories because you don’t see him very much, but isn’t he always like that?” asked Quenser. “I’ve never particularly liked looking at him.”
“Excuse me, but could you stop acting like you know more about Master Heivia than us? I may not look it, but I was a prodigy who was left with one of the Winchell family’s manors at the age of ten and I have been with Master Heivia since he needed a baby carriage.”
“I’ve completely lost track of what kind of character you’re supposed to be.”
As he spoke into the radio, Quenser reached out of the rubber boat and helped Heivia in.
The boy’s hand was warm and slimy, so he briefly considered asking them to resume firing. He hoped the rain would quickly wash it all away.
“Anyway, we want to borrow some equipment. Give us all the bed sheets you have. And do you have any scuba gear, even if it’s just for leisure use? We need something to move around underwater!”
“To quote Heivia: ‘A tear-jerking story isn’t my style. I’ll destroy all of this and have a good laugh afterwards.’ The two of us will handle this somehow, so hurry!!”
The maids did not hold out any longer.
A few dozen appeared on the armed cruise ship’s side deck and began throwing the needed equipment into the ocean. The bed sheets floated down like giant confetti.
“Heivia, it’s time. Get the boat moving.”
“Ugh…cough cough! Was it just me or did I hear some horrible comments while I was legitimately drowning?”
“You must have imagined it.”
Heivia forced the rubber boat along the seawater that was as thick as mud. The large raindrops hitting their cheeks were painful and their speed dropped considerably. As Heivia had feared, the motor was beginning to burn out after using it for so long.
The boat raced on through the orange glittering rain shower.
Quenser reached out from the edge of the boat and toward the fallen equipment.
He grabbed several dozen soaking wet sheets and two scuba oxygen tanks. He had asked for them all, but it was impossible to collect the hundreds of bed sheets scattered over a wide area.
“Let’s go, Heivia. We need to get directly below the Megalodiver and plug the Bamboo Pipe water intake with the sheets.”
“I have to go back in there!? You haven’t experienced that true hell yet!!”
They both put on oxygen tanks and put the mouthpiece in.
“The Object is fighting on the surface, but we can’t relax just because we dive down,” said Quenser quickly in the rain. “The Bamboo Pipe sucks up seawater more than a drain and the Megalodiver sinks into the ocean after jumping. If we get caught in that, it’s all over.”
“But we can’t leave this to anyone else. A proper master has to rescue his maids when they’re in trouble, dammit!”
Quenser and Heivia jumped into the orange dyed sea.
Even the splash sounded oddly thick.
(What is this? It’s disgustingly warm!)
As the unpleasant sensation crawled across the tips of his fingers and toes, Quenser continued deeper and deeper.
After passing a certain line, the surrounding seawater grew smoother and he could no longer hear the rain.
They could not speak over the radio while underwater, so they communicated using vague gestures and began swimming in a certain direction.
(The Megalodiver is…over there.)
The sunlight was reflected to the point that he could not tell the situation on the surface just by looking up. Everything was filled with orange light.
However, he immediately located the Megalodiver.
A thick pipe was extending down from the surface and moving at high speed. Also, it was constantly taking in massive amounts of water. He could see schools of small fish frantically trying to escape.
(What? Is it already sucking in fish?)
That pipe was directly connected to important systems such as the reactor cooling, propulsion, and oxygen supply. He doubted it would be designed to so easily take in unwanted materials.
Be that as it may, they had to do what they had come to do.
Swimming with balled up bed sheets was not easy, but they continued on toward the Megalodiver.
Quenser instructed Heivia with some gestures that he was unsure were getting through properly.
(If we get too close, we’ll be sucked in, too. We only have to leave the bed sheets on a route it’ll probably pass through. From there, it’ll take itself out.)
As he feared, the gestures did not seem to get through to the other boy.
Heivia tried to continue onwards, so Quenser made a show of spreading out the bed sheets and letting them go.
The balled up bed sheets expanded all at once.
He ignored Heivia’s surprised look and swam away. Heivia seemed to finally catch on because he let go of his own bed sheets and did as Quenser had done.
Quenser did not know what a safe distance was, so he arbitrarily fell back about 150 meters and observed from there.
Before long, the time arrived.
(That’s the Megalodiver. The Bamboo Pipe is sucking up the bed sheets!!)
It looked like they were being pulled up by a magnet.
The group of spread-out sheets moved unnaturally as they were sucked up toward the end of the Bamboo Pipe. The several dozen cloths covered up the end of the pipe and Quenser was reminded of a toy he had made as a child. He had made a toy rapier by attaching layer after layer of paper scraps covered in paste. Even without a clear core, it had been quite solid. Something similar was now happening on that water intake.
They had done it.
It was over.
They had torn out the Object’s Achilles’ heel. The water was needed for the reactor cooling, the water jet propulsion, and the electrolysis oxygen supply, so they had forcibly shut down those crucial systems.
Or so it should have been.
The Megalodiver did not stop.
The Bamboo Pipe sticking down continued to move with tremendous speed. That meant the giant mass on the surface was still moving about as it fought.
Something white colored his vision.
It was a group of bed sheets. Just those sheets were skillfully removed from the water intake that had supposedly been taking in several tons of water every second.
(What? Did it stop sucking in the water for a second when it detected something there? Is the system that well-made!? No, wait. Is that…?)
Something floated in the ocean along with the many sheets.
It looked like a large yet thin disk.
Heivia tapped on Quenser’s shoulder and pointed straight up.
They could not talk here, so he was suggesting surfacing for a strategy meeting.
Quenser did so, but he had forgotten about the sticky macromolecule zone two meters from the surface.
“Bhbfh!? Bgbgh bkh!!”
“Cough cough!! Wah ha ha ha ha ha! Welcome, Quenser, to the monster zone where you lose all dignity as a human being!! Ew, it got in my nose!”
They could not waste time, so the two creepy lotion monsters exchanged their opinions amid the orange downpour.
“It looks like the bed sheet plan didn’t work. It sucked them in, but they immediately detached!”
“There was a weird disk in there with them and it was just as thick as the Bamboo Pipe.”
The intense battle between the Baby Magnum and the Megalodiver continued a short distance away. Angel wing-like water fired from the nozzles on the Megalodiver’s back as it freely moved around and it was clearly slowly pressing in toward the Baby Magnum.
It looked like the princess was the inferior of the two.
That showed immense skill given that most of the Megalodiver’s sensors were sealed off. Most importantly, there was no deviation in its movements despite the continuous irregular situations. That was the result of a powerful will backed by real skill. However, Quenser knew the princess would be upset if he said that aloud.
“That disk was a filter.”
“It’s a filter to keep fish and other things from getting in. It might be the same as with a water purifier. At any rate, the filter is probably a few centimeters or a few millimeters thick and the Bamboo Pipe is actually just a bunch of them extending down.”
“Wait, wait. Are you serious?”
“The outermost filter stops unwanted materials form getting in. Once it reaches its limit, the old filter is abandoned along with whatever is clogging it up. That’s how it’s made.”
“That means we can’t plug up the Bamboo Pipe no matter how much we try! It’s just like a roll of cookie dough with an image running through the entire thing. No matter how much we attack, the very end will be cut away and a new filter will show itself!”
Quenser thought as he floated in the orange ocean with the rain pouring down on him.
As he did, a voice he had completely forgotten about came from his radio.
“U-u-um! This is Mariage Nightcap!!”
“Huh? Where are you?”
“On the Summer Vacation! I was onboard when it seems everyone started on an emotional suicide attack, but I have no connection to the Winchell family!!”
That was quite a tragedy.
Quenser knew he would not be happy if someone told him to die for that filthy boy.
“Anyway, I really don’t want to die and I’ll do anything to make sure I don’t!!”
“Thanks for the world’s lamest kind of determination. You really are a slut. So what do you need?”
“Well, I thought you could use this…”
At first, Quenser looked puzzled at the term he heard over the radio, but his expression lit up when he realized what she meant.
“Amazing!! There is a possibility there. I’m so glad I rescued you from prison!!”
“Heh…eh heh heh. We still have to figure out how to solidify it, though.”
“We can handle that.”
“P-please do something about this. If this doesn’t work, I’m going to surrender to the other side.”
“You really will switch sides whenever it suits you, won’t you? Do you want me to send you back to prison?” After a pause, Quenser brought the radio back to his mouth. “Summer Vacation, can you hear me? We would like some additional materials. We only have soap-like rations, so we can’t rely on them. Your ship is our only option, so will you help us?”
“Hey, Quenser. What are you trying to do?”
“It’s actually Mariage’s idea. The infinite filter prevents anything but smooth seawater from entering the Megalodiver. No, it might even filter out some of the salt content.”
“Get to the point!”
“If it isn’t something solid, it can get through.” He wiped the thick seawater from his face. “A normal, smooth liquid will slip right through the filter, so we can perform a time-delay attack if we have a substance that will solidify once it enters the Megalodiver. That way, our attack can ignore the filter.”
“Where are we supposed to find that convenient glue-like substance? And how long does the water stay inside the Object after being sucked in?”
“The concept is simple, but you’re right. I want to know exactly how long it takes from the water being sucked in to it being sprayed from the water jets. Summer Vacation!”
“What do you need prepared?” asked Karen.
“A few things. First, can you still use the ship’s guns?”
“Seventy percent of our armaments are still functioning. We can fire the main guns without delay.”
“Load them with fluorescent paint rounds and fire near the Megalodiver. Those are the rounds used when recording a reference point for the guns. Can you do that?”
“They can be automatically loaded, but it will take two minutes before we can fire.”
Heivia grabbed Quenser’s radio and cut in.
“Do it in one. That’s an order!!”
“What kind of onomatopoeia was that!? If you’re gonna speak, use actual words!!”
“W-well, as a maid, I have a bit of a nosebleed, so-… That is to say, we will force them in manually and finish within thirty seconds.”
Heivia handed back the radio and the guns fired as announced.
The orange of dawn surrounding the Megalodiver was transformed into a disturbingly bright green and the Object took in that water.
“Keep count, Heivia.”
“48, 49…now! It took 50 seconds from being sucked in!!”
“Now we know. We need a liquid that solidifies in 25 to 50 seconds.”
“What kind of liquid is that? Instant glue would be too fast and normal glue would be too slow!”
“We have something a lot closer by.” Quenser brought the radio to his mouth amid the downpour. “Summer Vacation, we need all the milk you have. How much is that?”
“Milk?” Heivia initially looked confused. “Oh, I get it. It uses the cold seawater to cool its scorching reactor. The huge temperature difference could create something like the film on top of hot milk.”
“We have about a month’s worth. We only just resupplied, so it is quite a lot.”
“Bring it all out. Put it in a case and drop it down! And one other thing!!”
After he explained, Karen sounded doubtful.
“Are you sure?”
“Please. Mariage’s idea alone isn’t enough!”
Travelling along the sticky ocean surface would be a waste of time, so Quenser and Heivia put their scuba mouthpieces back in and dove down to return to the Summer Vacation.
When the two monsters burst from the ocean surface, Karen’s scream and heavy machinegun fire filled the air once more.
After resolving the misunderstanding, the two boys started collecting the milk tanks that had been lowered down.
However, the tanks were not attached to life jackets or floats. After all, they weighed three to four tons. Having learned from the mistake that had led to the boys being unable to gather all the bed sheets, Karen and the maids used a wire to lower a life boat filled with milk tanks.
It was surreal seeing a boat packed full of the thick metal tanks seen on farms.
“I have the rope for the life boat. Heivia, where should I attach it?”
“Give it here. By the way, will this be okay? The motor was already screaming at moving through this thick goop, so can we really tow all this?”
After attaching the rubber boat and life boat with a thick rope, Quenser and Heivia climbed aboard the rubber boat. All that remained was using its motor to forcibly pull the other along.
“Let’s go, Quenser.”
The motor let out an even louder scream than before. Not only was the ocean so thick, but the weight had been increased. They had no idea when it would start spewing smoke and it was possible they could not rely on it to bring them back.
What they had seen underwater was nothing compared to the commotion on the surface due to the two Objects moving about at maddening speeds. They would be smashed to pieces if one of the Objects mistakenly struck them. Those 200 thousand ton masses were moving at 500 kph, so it would go far beyond a head-on collision with a train.
“This isn’t good. We can’t get close!”
“We don’t have to get too close. If we read the current and pour it in there, it’ll be taken to the Megalodiver on its own.”
“You aren’t suggesting we open up all the lids and pour it in one by one, are you? How many of these things do you think there are!?”
“Then cut the wire connecting the boats, Heivia. I’ll blow it up with this.”
Quenser stabbed an electric fuse into a plastic explosive and tossed it into the center of the life boat they were towing.
With nothing controlling it, the life boat floated helpless on the ocean current.
However, it turned out they did not even need to use the bomb.
The Megalodiver cut in at tremendous speed and plowed through the boat and the countless milk containers loaded on it.
The entire area was filled with a thick milky-white.
“That’s quite the milk bath. I think this counts as pollution. Won’t this place smell like a rotten rag in a week?”
“Oh, damn. Blowing up the boat with the bomb would’ve been better. And the entire planet’s environment will fall apart if Ichirei Shikon’s plan succeeds, so this is the better alternative.”
They waited a while after the life boat filled with milk was smashed to pieces.
Finally, something happened.
“The color’s changed,” observed Heivia.
He was focusing on the multiple nozzles on the back of the Megalodiver that formed the angel wings.
“The water jet is turning white!”
“That means it’s taken in the milk.”
“But this isn’t enough, right? If it just ejects it, we’ve failed! It has to turn into the film on hot milk and clog up the pipes!!”
“Don’t panic. We have more than one chance. The seawater it shoots out will be sucked back in and reused. We can afford some level of failure.”
Even so, the Megalodiver showed no sign of stopping.
“The hot milk film doesn’t form when the milk is heated,” groaned Heivia. “It’s when it cools down again. The pipes used to cool the reactor may be hot, but that isn’t enough! It doesn’t matter how long we wait around!!”
“No.” Quenser rejected his horrible friend’s lament with a single word. “We still have a chance.”
“How can you be so calm!? …Wait. What have you been doing for a while now?”
“I said we were using milk, but I never said anything about using the film that forms on hot milk.”
Quenser was working on something.
A cooler sat on one end of the rubber boat. After opening it and checking inside, he inflated the life jackets stored in the life boat and attached them around the cooler.
Heivia caught a glimpse of the contents just before Quenser closed the cooler. He had seen some fresh yellow items.
“I made an additional order from Karen,” said Quenser as he worked.
“What are those? No…wait…”
Heivia frowned as Quenser pulled a plastic explosive from his backpack, stabbed in a radio-controlled electric fuse, and attached it to the side of the milk tank packed full of yellow balls.
At that point, he finally caught on.
“Wait, wait, wait! Are you solidifying the milk with lemons!?”
Quenser tossed the cooler and life jackets into the ocean and grabbed his radio with his sticky and slippery hand.
“There’s more than one way to solidify milk and you can accomplish it with items you can find anywhere. Those maids seemed to know a lot about tea, so I knew they would have some.”
“Come to think of it, that’s used to make cottage cheese.”
“Milk can be thickened by mixing in lemon juice. This method is faster and more certain because it doesn’t need heating or cooling.”
The cooler slowly moved away.
It could not pursue the Object moving across the ocean at tremendous speeds, so they had to wait for the enemy to approach it.
That time soon arrived.
The Megalodiver jumped straight up to avoid the princess’s coilgun and it landed on the ocean surface as if crushing a landmine.
Strength gathered in Quenser’s thumb as if he were hitting the switch for some giant system.
“This will slip past its filter and the milk will solidify inside the Object. It can’t fail.”
As they watched, the Megalodiver’s movements ground to a halt.
A small explosion occurred right next to it and the scattered lemon juice was directly swallowed up by the water intake without being diluted in the massive amount of seawater.
The chemical reaction occurred quickly.
The pectin in the lemons combined with the milk to form a gelatinous substance.
The water jet propulsion device that shot out seawater like giant angel wings came to a stop, but that was only the tip of the iceberg. Inside the cooling pipes located next to the reactor, the solidified milk was burned by the immense heat. The scorched milk stuck to the pipes despite the great flow of water and the clog grew larger and larger. It formed a fatal blockage much like cholesterol clogging up a human’s artery.
The JPlevelMHD reactor was the Object’s “heart”. Without the necessary cooling, it ran out of control.
Quenser set his radio to an open frequency and spoke loudly to anyone who could hear.
“Get down and close your eyes!! The reactor is about to explode!!”
It took less than ten seconds.
A deafening blast and a blinding flash of light filled the orange dyed ocean.
The rubber boat was violently flipped over and Quenser and Heivia were once more turned into slimy monsters.
Everyone there wanted an explanation and they looked toward the true monster through binoculars or ultra-long range cameras.
Quenser was afraid their ugly state would give them a weird nickname. Something like the UMA boys.
The two of them waited for the rescue helicopter while grabbing onto the edge of the capsized boat so as not to drown.
The intense rain shower ended unnaturally quickly as if a tap had been turned off. It happened precisely when the Megalodiver exploded.
Heivia then asked a sudden question.
“Hey, Quenser. Why did you use an open frequency for that final transmission?”
“I could’ve used a military frequency, but I didn’t know the situation on the Summer Vacation. It would’ve reached the bridge, but I wasn’t sure it would reach the other maids working on the deck. That’s why I used an open one.”
“I see.” Heivia continued while holding onto the boat with his sticky and slippery hands. “What if that gave the enemy Pilot Elite a chance to escape?”
“We can just capture her. Plus, we need someone to ask about Ichirei Shikon.”
“There you go again. You always act so benevolent when the Elite is a girl.”
“The body doubles I saw up close weren’t very good looking, so I’m hoping the real one is different.”
“She’s not a girl with spiral glasses, so it won’t be that convenient. I bet you 100 euros she’s just as ugly.”
“You’re on. I’ve got 100 on her being a beauty.”
They were cut off by the arrival of a large transport helicopter.
That was proof that the threat of anti-air lasers was gone.
In other words, the battle was over.