The Unexplored Summon Blood Sign:Volume8 Chapter4
Stage 04: Crushing the Silver War from the Heavens
“Then I’ll do it myself.”
“I don’t care if it violates my rules or causes my soul to rot away. I will **** you!!!!!!”
(Stage 04 Open 08/04 06:00 “UTC+03 Flanguild time”)
Crushing the Silver War from the Heavens
Even in August, the early morning was cold enough to see one’s breath.
Since the country’s primary agricultural products were rare alpine plants rather than wheat or beef, you can probably imagine just how biting a cold it was.
The small Eastern European country was surrounded by steep mountains.
It was known as Kingdom F.
The orange of dawn collided with and reflected off the thick layer of fog washing over the surface, creating some uniquely picturesque scenery. The breathtaking view looked like fine gold dust had been laid out across every inch of the earth as far as the eye could see.
There was no real reason it had to be this country.
The vein had just so happened to be nearby. And it would have been a pain if the country had later decided to resist, so they had to be crushed in advance. Either way, the countries and regions the war reached were treated as a part of the villainous East Europe Axis. As long as they followed the rules of war based on international treaties, the US Army would not be criticized for their attack.
The actual foreign policy that used the help of Toy Dream was not actually going that well, but the boots on the ground had not been informed of that and simply played their role.
An electronic information control plane with antenna rods all over its fuselage was taking a pleasure flight just outside the national border. It was a mobile base for a war of the internet age. The fact that the flying command room was right there on the front line felt somewhat brazen.
The aircraft was the size of a large passenger plane and it contained countless computers and the technicians to operate them, but it also had a fancy visitor’s room where the high-ranking officers were gathered.
They had a map spread out on a table and were moving small pieces across it while holding a secret conversation.
“Phase 1 is progressing well. The East Europe Axis’s communication and information network have been accurately severed along with the power lines. Both wired and wireless communications are down. This really is a small country. They do seem to have some tanks given modern modifications, but they have shown no real resistance to our aerial forces.”
“To the west is Varsfork Fortress. To the north is Ilijinika Tunnel Shelter. Once we have completed our groundwork in Phase 2, we will send a division of troops to each and pry open the front gate of the East Europe Axis’s mountain fortress. At the same time, we plan to send some special commandos in through the relatively gentle mountain ridge to the east.”
“…Tch. Curse those marines. Are they trying to steal the credit even when we’re fighting deep in the mountains?”
“This should be over in a day or two. Please be cautious so none of the small neighboring countries try to attack us. If those nearby countries confuse our humanitarianism for weakness and refuse to allow us through their airspace, the disruption of our air supply line could delay the timetable. Of course, this is more of a political issue than a military one.”
“Make sure even the lowest grunt is told to behave like a gentleman. This is not just an issue of morals. I am discussing textbook sociology here. The intensity of the postwar terrorism hinges on our actions here. Do not force our noble American way onto them. Make allowances for the local national character and do it by the book. I don’t want to make an enemy of the viewers in their living rooms and have Congress glaring at me.”
They were fighting under the assumption they would win.
Rather than thinking about how many of the enemy they could kill, they thought about how many allies they could keep alive.
The real-time battle status reports were only confirming what they already knew. To them, the mere act of receiving an irregular report was humiliating. This was not a clash between their plans and the enemy’s plans. They had determined the entire schedule themselves. This was a superpower’s war.
“Varsfork shouldn’t be a problem, but Ilijinika Tunnel Shelter is a relic of the Cold War which was thought to be the final war between the US and Russia, right?”
“If everything is functioning properly, the civilians will be evacuated there. Although it won’t be properly airtight since the internal filters and rubber seals will have deteriorated.”
“No one is talking about using B or C here. We don’t want to pay war reparations after they use humanitarian treaties as a shield. Are we prepared to break through with standard firepower?”
“How about we use an old relic too? I will prepare the 500mm heavy artillery.”
“The Grad Killer, huh? It might be a fossil, but use it properly. It doesn’t matter if the enemy fights back. We can’t afford a delay if it jams.”
Even here, they were simply obtaining vocal commitments from each other.
The people viewing the strategic actions from above would never be ignorant of the firepower they had procured the budget for after negotiating with the pacifists while rubbing their hands and grinning. In the end, they were really only tossing around the ball of “responsibility” like a hot potato. They were only negotiating over who would have to take the blame if their one and only fear came true: human error on the part of one of their own soldiers.
“It is extremely low scale, but Kingdom F does seem to have an unidentified fighting force…”
“Hmph. What can some musty old knights do? Can they bring down a stealth bomber while drawing their bowstrings on horseback?”
Those normal soldiers were unfamiliar with the Summoning Ceremony and could not perceive anyone involved in it, so they were lucky to even know of a vague organization name. They saw no reason for concern there.
And that was why they remained ignorant until the threat took visible form before their eyes.
A moment later, a massive form shot past right next to the electronic information control plane.
It was a giant space station transformed into a blazing fireball by massive friction.
After flying so elegantly through the sky, the operation command room was shaken like a leaf in the wind. The ones who flipped over and hit their head on the corner of the desk could count themselves lucky. Some of the officers were slammed into the ceiling like they were caught in some turbulence.
Finally, the aircraft regained control.
They had all been thrown to the floor and soaked in the black coffee and single malt whisky they had been drinking. One of the high-ranking officers, who had never before tasted the floor, forced out a trembling voice while clinging to the table which was bolted to the floor.
And his well-trained subordinate gave an appropriate response even in this chaotic situation.
He saluted and spoke.
“It would appear that the war has begun, sir.”
The Missing Princess was still back in Japan.
Due to the time difference, lunchtime was close to finishing there.
Sinceria Highland, Queen of Kingdom F, used a handkerchief to wipe the sweat from her brow while her oddly long ears twitched.
There was only one reason why a vessel like her would have returned from her Material form.
“…Well, that should about do it.”
The Chain had ended.
After defeating more and more and more enemy summoners, she found several hours had passed. That was an extraordinarily long battle since the Artificial Sacred Ground could only last 10 minutes at the most, but all Sinceria did was use that handkerchief. Her cool-colored dress still looked like snow or ice, glass or crystal.
Her stamina as a vessel was abnormal.
The battle had begun on the side deck, but it had gradually drifted, leaving her on the casino floor now. The Illegal summoners and vessels were strewn about in the defeated state, some passed out on a broken roulette table and some convulsing with their head crashed into a slot machine. Stuffing a vessel head-first into the air conditioning vent designed to look like a fireplace may have been a mistake. The casino area was not being properly cooled.
The glasses knight named Rachel Wormwood tapped her shoulder with her Blood-Sign which had the silver rod and J-shaped end of a battle hook.
“These were no more than foreign threats and insults to our kingdom who were so obsessed with gathering the Awards before their eyes that they lost sight of their true purpose as a summoner and even failed to collect the very Awards they sought. They never stood a chance against us.”
Sinceria clasped her hands in front of her large chest and gently smiled.
The unbelievably beautiful head of state in a cool blue dress cut to the heart of the issue.
“Was this unofficial investigation merely an excuse to distance me from the war?”
Rachel fell silent for a moment and then shook her head.
She seemed to resign herself to something as she opened her mouth once more.
“The foundation of Kingdom F will be established where our queen is located. As long as you are safe, we can rebuild the kingdom as many times as it takes. It was also fortunate that the nobody took the princess away.”
“That is a shocking thing to hear as Kingdom F’s last line of defense…”
“Real war is not fought solely through the Summoning Ceremony. In fact, a large army firing common bullets is more frightening. When you get down to it, war is supported by the three pillars of population, technology, and resources. Was that never explained to you during your close relationship with that nobody?”
Once she got that far, Rachel faced the head of state once more.
She kneeled before Sinceria and bowed her head.
She got down on one knee and kept her tall and athletically-fit body as low as she could.
But she did not hesitate to speak.
“I will offer up my treacherous head once Kingdom F has been rebuilt. There is no need for the likes of me in the coming age. Please expunge my name from the court records and place my head in the guillotine, my queen. There is only a common criminal before you. The knight named Rachel Wormwood never existed.”
“Don’t be ridiculous…”
Sinceria’s tone slowly changed.
This was likely a voice she could never use in front of her daughter.
“I’m sure this was a group decision by all of the knights. No, there was probably a petition from the people before that. So why must you pass it off as your independent decision and take the full blame yourself?”
Rachel’s shoulder’s jumped.
She fidgeted with her head still lowered.
“No, that is…not what happened. This was a foolish act planned only by the traitor before you…!!”
“You are a terrible liar and that is one of your virtues. Finding no words to speak is nothing to be ashamed of.”
Sinceria than added a “however”.
“What is good and what is evil? Who should be punished and who should be forgiven? As the sovereign ruler of the kingdom, we hold the right to pardon criminals. Lady Rachel Wormwood. It is true we have given you some authority as a knight, but I have a question for you here. When did you gain the right to disrespect the entire divine right of kings?”
Rachel clenched her teeth.
But she did not raise her head.
She clenched her teeth, clenched her teeth, clenched her teeth, and spoke in a vanishingly quiet voice.
“But if you were to graciously pardon me, it would mean I survived by sharing the special seat reserved for you. If I do not offer up my head, I will be setting a poor example for the others who allowed you to escape at great risk to their own li-…”
She was rejected.
A regional knight’s pride could not bend the orders of a kingdom’s queen.
“You…no, the knights as a whole only prioritized my life because you heard the people’s pleas. If you still wish to be punished for your crime, then live on in disgrace, Lady Rachel Wormwood. Make up for not protecting the people, for abandoning the people, and for giving up on the people by ensuring this ends very differently from the result you imagine is coming. That is the punishment I will give to my trusted partner. Learn from your mistake and aim to be an even stronger strongest. We will use all of our authority as Kingdom F Queen Sinceria Highland to prevent you from shirking responsibility and accepting an easy death like a coward. Take this to heart, ignorant and proud knight. We will never listen to the likes of you and let you order us around.”
What was burning in the trembling knight’s soul: the intense humiliation of losing her place to die, or appreciation for being saved from execution?
Rachel would snap at Shiroyama Kyousuke more than necessary whenever they met and she showed an intense revulsion to Sinceria’s idea that they were both summoners who protected the same royal family, but that may have been a sign of her jealousy. Kyousuke had looked far too bright as he fought head-on with nothing hidden and had that work in favor of Kingdom F’s royal family.
But that was none of Sinceria’s concern. She would look right past the #2 or #3 as she always sought the #1 summoner. If Rachel lived up to her queen’s expectations through ceaseless effort, Sinceria would have to do her very best to protect her subordinate.
There was no right answer in war, but you still had to make a decision.
If Sinceria had chosen to remain in Kingdom F and fight the foreign threat to the end, Rachel would have gone down in history as a fool who had stood by Sinceria’s side yet failed to get the head of state out of the country before they were surrounded. That knight had been stuck between a rock and a hard place from the beginning. And in the very, very end, she had chosen to listen to the will of the people, preserve the honor of the knights, save Sinceria’s life, and offer up her head and her head alone.
Sinceria smiled at that knight who had been raised to be honest to a fault and had thus become perfect.
If she were to rid herself of someone like this out of fear of damaging her own reputation, then Kingdom F would truly be done for. The monarchy would have to be dismantled.
“Worry not, Rachel. This will not end the way you fear it will. There was never any need to feel that regret burning within you. So relax and raise your head.”
“Have you forgotten? We are not the only ones working to resolve this.”
Sinceria had declared this issue over when she told Rachel to live on in disgrace.
So now it was time to encourage her #1 subordinate who was still trembling like a fawn.
“After all, my adorable daughter and the hero who saved our kingdom have teamed up. With Olivia and Kyousuke working together, how can this have anything but a happy ending?”
She raised her index finger.
And she made a definite statement with a gentle smile on her lips.
“Just you watch, Rachel. Kyousuke will undoubtedly save the entirety of Kingdom F, including you.”
Let us step back to shortly before the crash landing.
Kyousuke had no further need for War Criminal who was also aboard the Toy Dream OP-01 space station. After stuffing him and his vessel in an emergency pod, he produced a sound much like a dry branch snapping.
Olivia tilted her head outside the pod.
“Onii-chan, what did you just do?”
“Nothing. It’s fine.”
Kyousuke answered the small girl while making sure she could not see inside as he closed the escape pod door to contain a liquid floating like red rubies in the zero-g space.
Now that he had settled an old conflict, they finally had to face the war.
Yes, the Silver Resource War was marching onward even without the mastermind behind it. The snowball had already started rolling down the hill.
Their objective had changed.
They had to stop the war itself.
Kyousuke pulled an Incense Grenade the size of a hair spray can from the rolled-up hood on the back of his hoodie.
Double blonde braided Olivia tilted her head.
“Huh? The one you keep there instead of your pocket is your final spare, isn’t it? So are you out after this?”
“To be honest, far too much has happened today.”
Even though he had calculated out the proper reentry angle, the giant space station was dyed orange as it was scorched by the atmosphere. Parts were peeled up and blown away from the extremities as the surface temperature reached around 3000 degrees at the highest. That was an incredible temperature since the melting point of iron was around 1600 degrees.
Locating the enemy was not that difficult.
An army division included around 10,000 people. With more than one division-class forces on the scene, their locations were immediately obvious when viewed from above. Approaching them on the flat surface would have been difficult, but they would never expect the vanguard to fall right on top of their heads.
A dull metallic sound came from Kyousuke’s hand.
It was a makeshift Incense Grenade launcher made by attaching a grip and other parts to a sliced-off piece of copper pipe with liquid fuel injected inside. It was blatantly handmade, but it provided enough force and it was using rocket fuel. The real hurdle had been preventing the explosive force from rupturing the pipe from within.
Kyousuke sat with his back pressed to the wall, stuffed the one remaining metal can inside the front of the barrel like he was placing a lid on it, and filled the chamber with the amount of liquid fuel he had measured out with a tube.
“Olivia, come here.”
Olivia approached, so he casually held her close just as there was a change to their apparent weight. They were tugged forward, their speed only continued to accelerate, and it never seemed to stop. Unlike when an apple fell to the ground, objects falling from orbit did not fall along a straight vertical line. It was better to think of them as spiraling as they were swallowed up by the earth’s gravity, so the angle of their fall would gradually shift from horizontal to vertical. So as Kyousuke and Olivia rode that intense roller coaster, the direction and magnitude of their apparent gravity was changing from one moment to the next.
They had already reached approximately 4 Gs, which was at the level of an actual roller coaster.
By the end, it surpassed 9.5 Gs, so the floor and the concept of up and down became meaningless. That was why Kyousuke had pressed his back against the wall and held small Olivia in place. He would have liked to have seatbelts or lap bars, but they were not enjoying a safe attraction here. They were approaching the battlefield on a space station that would fall apart on its own. Strapping themselves in for the duration would only mean committing suicide with the station.
“You don’t have to hold back, Olivia. The contents of your stomach are being tugged on too, so nothing will come out no matter how much you gag.”
“Onii-…urp…I need to lecture you…later…!!”
Some static crackled in the back of their minds.
The scorching atmosphere meant nothing. She could hitch a ride even at reentry speed.
Olivia went entirely pale.
“Th-th-that isn’t normal…”
“Hm, looks like I was right that she goes berserk in response to me being in danger. The enemy we seek is at Toy Dream OP-01’s destination.”
After they passed the obvious thermosphere, the sound of a giant file scraping at the outer walls only seemed to grow louder. The atmospheric pressure was growing and the density of impurities like air and dust was increasing. The slight sense of deceleration as something pushed up at them may have been the air friction applying the brakes.
The space station’s angle was changing as it drew a gentle curve in its fall.
The obstacle that Kyousuke and Olivia believed to be a wall had to be facing upwards like a ceiling when viewed from the surface.
“On your mark.”
Kyousuke spoke below his breath while holding Olivia’s small body.
He was as accurate as the hands of the clock attached to an accurate time bomb.
“10, 9, 8, 7, 6…”
The launcher made from a thick sliced copper pipe was aimed straight ahead.
In terms of earth’s gravity, it was aimed straight down toward the surface.
“…5, 4, 3, 2, 1.”
Something large passed right by the space station. No, it was Kyousuke and Olivia who passed right by the transport plane or bomber.
That caused them to shake side to side more than before, but Kyousuke did not bat an eye.
He spoke with his finger on the trigger.
“Zero. Let the battle begin.”
A cross-shaped crack ran through the “wall” in front of them.
Just as the orange-burnt anti-radiation aerospace material was stripped away by the wind pressure, Kyousuke aimed at the center of it all and fired his projectile.
It all happened in an instant. It was like quickly passing your palm horizontally through a candle’s flame. He acted too quickly for the heat to reach them. It looked like a reckless action at first, but it was actually the safest option.
The space station resembled a giant fireball and it did not actually crash into the surface.
The giant structure broke apart in midair and scattered, as if the entire thing was peeled apart from a single point. Thanks to that, the earth was spared an ice age.
After stripping away their grand raiment, Kyousuke and Olivia were pulled down by a different force.
The Incense Grenade had detonated after being fired toward the ground ahead of the station.
(There’s a division of 10,000 to the north and one to the west. The supply line, intel management, logistical support, and reserve forces probably amount to another 5000.)
Kyousuke and Olivia swiftly flew to the center of the Artificial Sacred Ground.
This direct descent should have been impossible for a human being with no space suit or parachute.
The golden land created by the dawn’s light and the mist crawling across the surface was blown away in an instant. The bared battlefield had finally shown itself.
(This is the frontline base for attacking the Ilijinika Tunnel Shelter to the north. Good, it’s all going according to plan. This is a 3.2 margin of error in landing coordinates, but that’s within acceptable bounds.)
Overall, it was about 5km in each direction.
The vast plain’s stability could not even be broken by the irregular flow of the rivers produced by the snow thawing on the tall mountains, but two field runways for giant transport planes intersected at a right angle and a 2km vehicle maintenance base was set up at the inner angle. A control tower and hangars for working on the transport planes themselves and unloading cargo were constructed on the outer edge of the runways.
Kyousuke and Olivia had descended to the vehicle maintenance base on the inner angle.
Kyousuke first placed his feet on a thin fragment travelling at a similar speed to establish the Artificial Sacred Ground around him. Then he fired a White Thorn to surround himself with a protective circle before landing on the ground. The station’s fragment shattered and a new Artificial Sacred Ground appeared on the surface. Olivia’s small feminine body had transformed into a thick slime.
There were four observation towers, a barracks, a communication command center, and a roofed maintenance bay larger than a school gym. Alice (with) Rabbit ignored all of them and instead focused on the vehicle management space filled with countless tanks, armored trucks, mobile rocket launchers, and more.
They were all deadly industrial products waiting impatiently for the cruise missiles and bombers to finish the preparations.
It was not flesh-and-blood humans who were operating those steel weapons. The soldiers wore Quad Motors Repliglass Snapping Turtles and the short and round armor completely eliminated any hint of a human silhouette.
Those military facility suppression devices could shrug off a point-blank barrage from a 30mm machinegun and, in addition to using firearms, used the two special machine arms on the shoulders to tear off a tank’s hatch or a shelter’s door – and the occasional leaked video of those being used against flesh-and-blood enemy soldiers or terrorists raised humanitarian concerns. Those demonic weapons perfectly fused the nimbleness of infantry with the toughness of tanks.
After the space station broke apart in midair, a single glass shard from the solar panels or a single screw had become a deadly weapon. Those would not be lethal to the American soldiers covered in thick Repliglass, but it would have normally required heading below a roof to protect themselves.
However, no one did that.
And not because they trusted too much in the Snapping Turtles the military had issued them.
They could not take their eyes off of the grim reaper descending upon them without warning.
They did not know what it was, but they knew something bad would happen if they took their eyes off of it. The modern battlefield was like a video game in how it was ruled by the internet and mass-produced machines, but that baseless jinx eerily permeated and spread among them all.
Kyousuke continued to calmly observe the industrial products lined up around him.
He could see why they were known as the world’s most powerful army.
And that meant he need not worry about killing them even if he used a Material against them.
He was surrounded by the afterimages of the White Thorns that continued to ricochet wildly around him. The red light of the Petals was mixed in among them.
Meanwhile, his eyes had already picked out the most important parts of the scene around him.
(If they want to pry open the gate to Ilijinika and Kingdom F as a whole, generally scorching the mountainside with rockets and missiles would be meaningless. Bunker busters dropped from bombers would be equally useless. Then that roofed maintenance bay must contain a landmark weapon specially made for breaking into something like that. That would be the top priority.)
His enemy was the world’s most powerful army and more than 25 thousand had been sent in for the first wave of the Silver Resource War.
And Shiroyama Kyousuke reigned at the center of the great fortress containing half that force.
With the protective circle and Material, it did not matter how many guns and missiles were aimed at them.
Kyousuke gave a fierce smile while holding the best position for acquiring as many Petals as he wanted when he wanted.
“You’ve done nothing wrong, but it’s time you took a nap.”
What does it mean to win a war?
Different people would think of different situations and phases: destroying the radar facilities and securing air superiority, cutting off the supply line and isolating the enemy troops, destroying the computers to prevent the enemy from approving their operations, etc. But Kyousuke decided none of those would work here. He wanted something more immediate. Given the difference in strength between the two sides, America would have put together a timetable where they completed their invasion of Kingdom F in just a day or two. Simply tripping them up a bit would only end with them forcing their way through the defensive line. Just like a freight train, a large nation could not be stopped by the average brakes once it had gotten moving. Sparks would fly from the wheels, but it would still plow through anything on the rails.
“Let’s go, Olivia.”
Olivia Highland had already given her body over to an abnormal being. She was a red translucent slime, one of the Original Series that was a necessary starting point no matter how the Material was built up. It had a Cost of 1 and belonged to the low Sound Range. It was the bottommost foundation and the weakest of the weak, but it still held great meaning.
First of all, Materials existed beyond human understanding and normal military might was useless against them.
This army may have been the strongest in the world, but that meant nothing to a resident of another world.
“That thing is hostile! I repeat, that thing is hostile!! We can fire!!”
“Don’t be stupid! If we fire into the center, we’ll just hit each other!! Arnold, ignore as much of what that inexperienced Captain says as we can without actually disobeying orders. We need to form our ranks first!!”
“Yes, sir. This is on you now. I’ll draw back the tanks since they’re too powerful and use the infantry to buy some time. After they’ve been fanned out, we can eliminate this thing with the combat vehicles. Get started.”
Tanks and armored trucks were lined up as neatly as the parking lot of a mall on the weekend, but those armored vehicles were trying to move gradually away from Kyousuke and Olivia. Infantry wearing thick Repliglass appeared as they weaved their way through the gaps in that “moving wall” which would cause a disastrous scene if someone’s clothing got caught on one. They had likely sent in the Snapping Turtles because they could survive a direct hit from an autocannon or a grenade launcher. Instead of securing cover, they started by aiming their assault rifles at Kyousuke and the Original Red (b).
They provided no warning.
In fact, the red slime started it by tackling one Snapping Turtle that failed to escape and flipping over an armored truck by pushing up on it from below.
The endless ear-splitting popping noises were a lot like having all the firecrackers in Chinatown go off at once.
But those were no more than the back dancers that complemented the star dancing below the spotlight. The otherworldly Material and Kyousuke in his protective circle could not be harmed by normal bullets.
<Um, where should I aim in general?>
“Focus on the maintenance bay to the northeast. Destroy the landmark weapon being constructed inside.”
He gave her some quick instructions, but they did not head directly there.
A large force was already approaching them.
“Olivia, sweep away the 30 directly in front of us.”
“After that, take out the bazooka unit at four o’clock. Those are powerful enough for friendly fire to kill the Repliglass soldiers, so deal with them quickly.”
<You sure are nice, Onii-chan.>
They must have decided this was not going to end as things were because some Repliglass soldiers wielding heavy machine arms rushed directly in while receiving covering fire, but they could not get any closer to Kyousuke thanks to the protective circle. As the arms strained with effort, the Original Red controlled by Olivia crashed into the thick Repliglass’s sides and then followed Kyousuke’s instructions by charging into the group starting to use shoulder-fired anti-tank weaponry.
They could ignore the 10-minute restriction in this case.
After all, 10,000 people were crammed into a small space here. By opening the Artificial Sacred Ground based on one person, defeating them, and opening another one based on someone else during the 90 seconds of the Chain state, they could fight almost indefinitely. The strength of the built-up Material was carried over, so Kyousuke and Olivia’s advantage only grew.
Olivia’s form changed again and again.
A giant rotting dog crushed a group of four Repliglass soldiers along with their heavy machinegun fixed to the ground with a tripod.
A man-eating plant with countless blades instead of petals launched steel seeds with the force of bullets to neutralize the snipers lying atop the barracks roof.
A beautiful Western doll with round and fat maggots wriggling in the cracks covering its body slowly shifted its aim toward a soldier attempting to lend a shoulder to a Repliglass soldier who could not move due to a malfunction.
“…I guess not every member of the world’s most powerful army can be a veteran hero.”
<What do you mean?>
“It’s common for people to enlist because they need a job during a recession or for immigrants to enlist to contribute to society and gain the right to citizenship. Being the world’s most powerful army is another way of saying its soldiers die a lot less than other countries’. They don’t send in their true elites without good reason. I bet they leave the annoying groundwork to the rookies and the kind of machos seen in movies and games show up later for the part that gets their names in the history books. Because as long as they have Repliglass, even rookies can perform adequately.”
The silence contained a strained tension.
This was a war fought with just one hand and interspersed with yawns. Although that was no solace for the people of Kingdom F.
Still, it was fortunate for Kyousuke who wanted to stop the war.
He heard a voice from a radio that had fallen at his feet.
“We have had some success with the losses still in the acceptable range. The vehicles have been moved into place. Lieutenant Stallone?”
“Attention, everyone. We have lost contact with the Lieutenant. I will take command from here on. Fire!!”
The tanks and armored trucks had moved a certain distance away.
Tank guns and howitzers were fired though the newly-opened gap to hit Kyousuke and Olivia. The explosive booms were accompanied by filthy dust blossoming up like overlapping flowers. In addition to the simple blast and shockwave, a horizontal downpour of small metal balls and sharp fragments assaulted them. The storm of destruction filled the entire space, so it was well beyond the point that any kind of martial arts could hope to dodge it. The blasts were occurring at such close range that orange sparks occasionally flew from the armor of the tanks themselves. Steel claws flying at supersonic speeds were wearing down the composite armor.
With that one word, the cloud of dust was blown away from within and a great form stood upon the battlefield.
Divine-class. Cost: 8. Sound Range: Middle.
That giant being that looked down upon the cutting-edge tanks was a great black dog with three heads. It was the faithful guard dog of the underworld in Greek Mythology whose original Greek name began with a K. The orange sparks spilling from the gaps in its violently uneven teeth were reminiscent of the heat at the depths of the earth.
Its great size caused the Artificial Sacred Ground to expand outwards so that it now contained the tanks which had supposedly fallen back.
Before beginning its fierce attack, it howled once toward the heavens. The tanks were controlled by an electronic network, yet they still froze in place for just a moment.
“He might seem frightening since he belongs to the underworld, but he’s no more than a guard dog. It’s true he shows no mercy to those that try to break the rules and crawl out of that land of the dead, but that isn’t all.”
Kyousuke rested his Blood-Sign on his shoulder and used his other hand to point at the group of targets.
“He will never allow the living to wander blindly into the underworld and needlessly forfeit their lives. He’s a kind guard dog.”
There was no hesitation whatsoever.
Whose lives was that guardian of death protecting: Kingdom F which was relying on it, or the US Army which was opposing it?
They shared the one body, but the three heads roared at each other in competition as the giant guard dog charged in at the helpless tanks. Before the treads could dig into the ground, a mass of composite armor was held down from above and had its gun grabbed and yanked off by giant jaws. The soldiers inside were now exposed, so they stared blankly up at their enemy. They did not have time to hurriedly don their Repliglass.
As soon as the stolen tank gun was chomped through like an aluminum can, they raised both their hands even though no one had ordered them to.
That was the end of the damage wrought by the three-headed guard dog.
It moved on to its next target without devouring the flesh-and-blood humans who had lost the will to fight.
“Olivia, attack at three o’clock.”
A tank next to the one turned into a convertible was aiming its gun at the Divine-class. If the shell exploded, it would harm their own exposed allies, but they apparently were too panicked to think it through that far.
The guard dog’s giant foreleg dropped down and bent the entire tank gun at a right angle before it could fire.
When she shell was launched, the tank itself was pushed backwards. The explosion opened the gun barrel like a flower, so that one had been knocked out of the fight.
After a short break, Kyousuke raised his Blood-Sign once more and used White Thorns to gather Petals. Olivia changed form a few times before he settled on a Cost 8 from the middle Sound Range. It was a giant from Mayan Mythology whose 8-letter name began with C and referred to earthquakes. That colossus began kicking the tanks around like soccer balls.
Why was Kyousuke meaninglessly building up the Material?
The Original Series at the very bottom would be enough to simply “defeat” this enemy, so he had to have some other reason for building it up like this.
Reaching the Divine-class required summoning 100 Regulation-classes.
Reaching the Unexplored-class required summoning 50 Divine-classes.
So what was Kyousuke aiming for?
(Here we go.)
“Olivia, focus on the sky overhead! Cruise missiles are being fired on Kingdom F. We can’t target them with the Artificial Sacred Ground since they’re unmanned, but they’re top priority targets!!”
Unexplored-class. Cost: 19. Sound Range: Middle.
The Lady of “Purple Lightning” that Separates Good from Evil (iu – ao – eu – ei – kub – miq – a – ci – pl).
A sickly-thin beautiful woman sat in a battered wheelchair. Her purple hair blew in the wind, her unhealthily skinny naked body only had some purple cloths halfheartedly wrapped around it, and she was as limp as a doll someone had tossed aside. But her power was undeniably real. Her head was still hanging down, but a withered branch of an arm was lifted just enough for the slender index finger to point into the empty air.
A dreadful purple beam shot out and that sword of light accurately sliced through the four cruise missiles using GPS to carry explosives at Mach 1.9. Materials normally could not leave the Artificial Sacred Ground, but projectiles could pass right through its walls. To deal with aerial explosives flying overhead, it was fastest to summon a Material that specialized in ranged attacks.
When it rang directly in Kyousuke’s head, Olivia’s voice contained an impatience separate from that overwhelming accomplishment.
<Is the Phase 1 information attack over, so they’ve started the Phase 2 bombing? Th-there really will be victims now!!>
“That’s why we’re stopping it. Warning to ten o’clock. Altitude: 25 thousand meters. The drones flying there have babies. Shoot them down before they can drop the bombs in their bellies.”
As he had pointed out before, they could not contain unmanned weapons in an Artificial Sacred Ground. But they could destroy anything that existed outside of Alice (with) Rabbit’s no-killing rule.
…The most frightening nightmare scenario was to be left alone in a deserted location, being attacked with countless missiles and rockets from 3 or 4 kilometers away while unable to use an Incense Grenade, and have the explosive blast fill the entire area. Summoners and vessels could be killed by normal firepower if it was used correctly. That was why the veteran warriors like Kyousuke and Biondetta did not take normal soldiers lightly. That fact had permeated them to the bone since it had been normal people managing the children in the Queen’s Miniature Garden located deep underground.
Riding down on the space station had not been a meaningless performance. As a summoner, the center of the most populated area was the one safe area where he could keep the Artificial Sacred Ground and protective circle going as he fought. If he had tried to reach the center along the surface, he would have been shredded into mincemeat in an empty field.
The Lady of Purple Lightning specialized in surefire projectile attacks.
There was no need to approach their top priority target.
“Olivia, the northeast maintenance bay! Slice it apart!!”
The roofed maintenance bay was larger than a school gym, yet it crumbled before their eyes.
But not from the Lady of Purple Lightning’s attack.
Something had broken out from within before the shutter covering the one wall could fully open. A gigantic mass of steel rolled out from the rubble. The giant gun barrel looked like a steel bridge and far surpassed the category of mobile artillery. The fortress cannon had been forcibly loaded onto a 32-wheeled special transport vehicle meant to carry 7000ton frigates at shipyards.
“The Grad Killer 500mm heavy cannon, huh?”
“It’s a large weapon that fires special liquid container shells into the bedrock to intentionally cause a deep-seated landslide and destroy natural fortresses. A deep-seated landslide is normally a largescale landslide caused by underground water veins, but that thing shapes that liquid into a shell and injects it into the ground. Mountains can be structured in a number of ways, but the Grad Killer can destroy any of them.”
To put it another way, it took an environment surrounded by mountains for the weapon to display its power.
It was not an easy weapon to utilize, but weapons were always designed and refined for the convenience of those who would use them. An island nation surrounded by ocean would develop its navy, while a desert nation surrounded by sand would develop its army.
And a look back in history showed a time when the US and the Soviets were staring each other down with enough intensity to destroy the world.
It was not that surprising to find an outlandish weapon had been designed for use in Eastern Europe in order to pry open the Warsaw defenses and directly reach Moscow via a European route separate from the Alaskan route.
Its appearance only sped things up.
Shiroyama Kyousuke spoke two simple words.
It took just one attack.
The Lady of Purple Lightning lowered her skyward-pointed finger of destruction and aimed toward the surface.
It did not matter if this weapon used 500mm shells which were even larger than those used by a battleship’s guns. That movement was all it took for the mass of steel to be sliced through like a boiled egg pressed against a taut wire.
It ended far too easily.
But Olivia Highland sounded concerned despite having done most of the work herself.
<But how is this supposed to end it, Onii-chan?>
<We’re in the north, but there was another big unit along the western route, right? We’ve already used our last Incense Grenade. If we travel across the empty space between units, the Artificial Sacred Ground will disappear after 10 minutes. And wait. Aren’t they supposed to have another 5000 troops in reserve!?>
The destruction was already complete.
When the Lady of Purple Lightning pointed her finger at the remaining enemy forces, the Repliglass soldiers must have decided their tanks and armored trucks would not function as shields because they scrambled out of them. They raised their trembling hands in surrender.
<And that’s not even the main point. Even if we do defeat the full 25,000 in this first battle, it won’t defeat the superpower beyond the sea. The Grad Killer? Destroying that extraordinary landmark weapon doesn’t change a thing. Defeat the first wave and they’ll just send in a second and a third. And they’ll only respond with even greater force once we’ve damaged their pride! This might end the battle, but that’s not the same as ending the war!!>
“Good girl, Olivia. So you do understand. That’s why the wind is blowing in our favor.”
Olivia’s voice ground to a halt.
For some reason, she had the lady in the wheelchair turn to face Kyousuke and aim her slender finger toward the summoner. Even the US soldiers poking their heads out of their convertible-ized tank tilted their head in confusion.
“Calm yourself down, Olivia. This isn’t Normandy or Stalingrad during World War Two. Nor is it the swamps of Vietnam. No one in the world wants this to develop into a head-on battle where blood is paid for with blood.”
Kyousuke gave a thin smile.
The boy who had defeated even a revenge demon did not hesitate to speak.
“This is a war that a superpower started under the assumption that it would be a 100-to-0 perfect game. That alters the victory conditions into something quite unique.”
The chaos was at the northern fortress.
But the other frontline base to the west was silent and ignored.
“…What are they doing?” muttered a large black man with a plethora of medals decorating his chest.
His large glove of a hand slapped and rubbed his head which he kept shaved in a habit he had picked up when he was a new recruit.
Yes, the distant western front had also received reports of the spontaneous battle.
That Colonel had been left in charge of the great force meant to pry open the western gate, but he did not immediately send reinforcements when the terrified reports arrived. But not because he was too reliant on doing things “by the book” to make a decision. There was a bigger problem.
“Sir,” said his saluting Asian aide. “This will not end well if the rookies who viewed this deployment like a field trip have snapped under the pressure of live fire.”
“An explosive outbreak of PTSD and soldiers gone berserk under the influence of mass hysteria…”
Everyone in the command room grimaced, but they were missing some fundamental information.
They knew a battle had broken out in the makeshift base of the company to the north.
But that battle was centered on a summoner and vessel.
And normal people would forget about such supernatural beings as soon as they were out of sight.
Given those conditions, what did the world look like to them?
Here is the answer.
They knew their distant allies were fighting.
But they could not at all see who those allies were fighting against.
“Attacking each other and creating unnecessary victims within the fortress? Those fools. And they expect us to share responsibility!?”
“There do seem to be some witness accounts of something like a ghost.”
“You want to send that report back home? They’ll question our mental health.”
“Others are saying they are fighting mythological gods. And it seems like everyone there can see them.”
“Shut up!! Curse those part-timers who grabbed a gun to earn a stable income. Did the fear and confusion of that space station falling on their heads cause them to lose all control!?”
The conversation continued while unclear whether they were on the same page or not.
This was what it meant for a summoner and vessel to drop into the center of a large army and slip into the crowd of soldiers. Even the soldiers standing side by side and directly fighting some kind of strange enemy gave contradictory witness reports. And even if the fragmentary reports that miraculously survived were patched together, it would only lead to the nonsensical idea of fighting against ghosts or gods.
Of course, those reports were not the only source of information. The large black man and the others waiting in the west viewed the chaotic northern division using satellites and drones. But the summoner and Material inside an Artificial Sacred Ground could not be seen with cameras or sensors.
They had vague witness reports and hard proof of nothing there.
Of course they were going to doubt the sanity of the other group.
“~ ~ ~”
Whatever the case, their timetable had fallen apart.
Even if the cruise missiles, rockets, and bombers of Phase 2 completed on schedule, they could not continue past that. This was a devastating blow to their ground forces. And unfortunately, technology had not reached the point that wars could be ended with only aerial bombings. The ground forces were needed to declare checkmate by attacking the remaining forces hiding among the rubble.
“There has been some difficulty with Phase 2 as well. The cruise missiles were lost for no apparent reason. It happened to every last one of them, so I doubt it was a mere accident. We are speculating that the northern unit’s anti-air weaponry was used.”
“And we only have satellite imagery to go on, but the Grad Killer that forcibly causes deep-seated landslides appears to have been damaged beyond repair. How this has happened is a complete mystery, but won’t it be difficult to pry open the tunnel shelter? Bunker busters are not suited to the terrain conditions.”
The large black man shouted futilely.
They could not move things forward without first dealing with those idiots.
The Asian aide remained at attention.
“If the entire division of 10,000 has gone berserk, that is more than 40% of our forces rendered unusable. Thus, we can claim our overall force has been routed. How about that?”
“How about what…?”
In war, it was not after every last soldier had been killed that a force of 25,000 was considered defeated. It differed between militaries and units, but once between 30% and 50% had been taken out, the entire army would withdraw because they could no longer accomplish what they had set out to do.
“We could attempt to suppress them, but if we head north and get into a fight, we might be lumped in with them as an uncontrollable force. So couldn’t we leave them be and withdraw?”
To be blunt, the US Army’s enemy was not Kingdom F.
In this backcountry war, victory was assumed and defeat was unthinkable. Rather than thinking about how many enemies they could kill, they thought about how little damage they could take while ending the war according to their timetable. That was the logic of a powerful nation’s war.
Their biggest fear was the living rooms across the US mainland.
It could be the number of young new recruits who died while deployed overseas. It could be mysterious health problems caused by chemical substances. It could be psychological problems like PTSD brought on by a variety of pressures. If a war cameraman snapped a photo of those social problems and it spread across the internet, intense anti-war protests would begin across the US mainland. This was an age where the chemical fertilizers used by farmers were criticized because they could be used to make bombs. And now this was happening to the high school and college graduates who had excitedly rushed to a foreign land so they could legally fire big guns. If a newscaster displayed a line graph of the tragedy befalling those youths, the politicians would realize how this would affect their approval ratings and the war would fall apart before the military’s eyes.
This was meant to be a deathless perfect game that would be over in a day or two, but now 10,000 of their troops had gone berserk and it could devolve into a shootout between allies. If word of that nonsense got out, they would receive an onslaught of criticism from the civilians with too much time on their hands.
When the alternative was holding a war of words with the made-in-America housewives whose self-consciousness had been fattened to the limit, starting World War Three with those brown bear bastards fueled by vodka did not sound so bad. They were a formidable foe, but they understood the rules of the battlefield.
(…It’s all over…)
In the end, there was no threat of the world being split between east and west. Losing here would not allow anyone to trample all over the United States and it would not get their families and lovers killed back home.
They were not facing a precipice. And that may have been why the large black man and the others did not give this their absolute all. In a game of chicken without a cliff, you could slam on the brakes at any time.
Would they wash their hands of the berserk unit and withdraw, or would they stop the berserk unit despite the danger of misunderstandings?
The large black man slapped the back of his head with his glove-like hand.
“…Relay this to the troops: Those bastards still haven’t taken the pacifiers out of their mouths, so let’s slap them upside the head and wake them up.”
“It would be easy to abandon the berserk unit and prove we’re still of sound mind. But if they drag the locals into this and there are victims, we’ll be criticized for not stopping them when we could! It doesn’t matter if these are the people of Kingdom F we’re talking about!! Killing as a strategic action in accordance with a plan is entirely different from killing as a chaotic and barbaric act!!”
“If it comes to that, it’ll be more than just the liberals in Congress criticizing us. What about Free Feather, the war bereaved families association? No, this goes beyond just one country. The UN General Assembly which includes more than 180 nations and regions will start talking about war crimes and crimes against humanity! If it gets that bad, any groundwork we laid will be null and void. And if they can claim they’re protecting civilians from the berserk unit, Russia might get involved. I don’t care if World War Three breaks out here, but I will not let it happen with us as the villains!!”
“Sir, I marvel at your foresight. Now, what are your real motivations?”
“I’ve already bought a farm in Colorado to live out my old age in retirement. Hunting in the forest, fly fishing in the river, golf all day long, and even a natural hot spring. It will be a private paradise for me and my family!! I spent ages slowly building up to that dream, so I would rather die than have it taken from me by throwing me into Guantanamo just to pacify the TV viewers in their living rooms. I’ve paid my dues to our nation and I’ve followed every last rule since I was a new recruit. It wasn’t easy having a shootout with my own brothers in arms when they disobeyed orders and attacked a jewelry store after we secured that desert nation. So why does my career have to end with some idiots going nuts and getting me thrown into a cell smaller than a phone booth where I only get beans and salt soup to eat!?”
They made a swift decision.
The western division, who were safe here but found their futures at risk, took action.
“Haul out everything we have!! Including the land SDI…yes, the carbon gas laser!!”
“Isn’t that the landmark weapon meant to pry open the western gate?”
“It would only get in the way when we withdraw. If we start breaking it down and loading the pieces on transport planes now, we would never make it in time. We’ll scrap it on site and incinerate it until it can’t be captured and analyzed. They’ll be mad as hell if we report we abandoned it, so make sure we use this confusion to properly dispose of that bulky weapon. Okay, let’s go!!”
Destroying a large mass of technology would earn them a harsh scolding, but if a weapon was damaged in the fighting and they disposed of it so that it could not be analyzed, they would actually be praised or it.
The aide breathed a somewhat exasperated sigh.
The life of an upstart required some clever solutions at times, but this young man had not enlisted to see this.
“Sir. Won’t your very outdoorsy hobbies not sit well with your wannabe New Yorker of a wife?”
“Drop the ‘wannabe’ next time, boy. And don’t worry. I’ll give her a tablet with an Amalon Premiere account. She’ll be able to shop and watch videos as much as she wants.”
“Here they come.”
Once they reached the Unexplored-class, there was no need to build up the Material any further. Kyousuke stuck with the Lady of Purple Lightning while resting his Blood-Sign on his shoulder and looking to the massive cloud of dust covering the horizon.
North and west.
The two divisions had been deployed far apart, but that just meant he had to get them to come to him.
“Olivia, the other half have arrived. Crush them and our war is over.”
<Nweh? But I only see a few armored trucks here and there.>
“They’re sending some scouts in first and a larger group will follow. They should send a few sets of 500 to a 1000.”
Kyousuke was right.
The few armored trucks were followed by a horizontal line of tanks that looked like a wall of steel. They did not even use the hills as cover. There were probably troop transport trucks loaded with Repliglass soldiers behind them. Prioritizing personnel over equipment may have been an American trait since they wanted to minimize casualties and avoid criticism from the TV viewers. If those had been Russian troops, there may have been infantry clinging to the outside of the tanks as they charged from the front line.
“If we crush them too, the bizarre reports will continue and they won’t be able to escape the suspicions of mass hysteria, but the TV viewers will soon boil over with anger and criticize the White House for starting this war.”
<Onii-chan, won’t Rachel slap you for fighting by stripping your opponent of their honor?>
The youth had been deployed on what was supposed to be the world’s safest war, yet they had been harmed. This was not what they had signed up for.
…It looked silly spelled out like that, but that was how a superpower with absolute strength viewed war.
Because they were the strongest, they were unaccustomed to losing.
Or rather, they did not know how to accept defeat.
<I could shoot them now if it doesn’t have to be super precise.>
“Draw them forward some more. The closer the two units, the better for us. …Oh, so now it’s a giant laser cannon? If they’ve brought out the west division’s crucial weapon, they must be ready to withdraw, no matter what the higher ups might think.”
The tanks without turrets may have been collection trucks meant to retrieve broken vehicles. Four of them were being used to pull a giant flatcar like a horse-drawn carriage. Instead of a canopy, it carried a cylindrical cannon enclosed within a boxy metal tower. The weapon was intended to intercept missiles from space, so that was likely meant to reinforce it so it did not bend within earth’s gravity.
<Onii-chan, I didn’t realize you liked painting models with dirt and camouflage.>
“2000 meters. Yes, this should be good.”
Tank guns generally aimed in a straight line, but 2km was close range for them. They had approached so close because they were sick of the confusing reports coming from the satellites and drones and they wanted to check things out for themselves.
That might sound silly for an age of digital warfare, but there was a report saying a temperature of just two degrees higher than their body temperature would lower infantry’s attentiveness. And if they were inattentive, it increased the risk of stepping on a landmine or tripwire. That was the state of the incomplete digital warfare that had not fully eliminated humans from the battlefield. There was no avoiding the emotions that had been a part of war since BCE times.
No matter how many reinforcements were sent in, Kyousuke and Olivia only had to keep doing the same thing.
The protective circle and the Lady of Purple Lightning would not allow normal bullets or shells to harm them. Without Princess Olivia’s extremely precise control over the Unexplored-class, it would have actually been harder to avoid killing the enemy. Their one concern was that they had already used up their last Incense Grenade. That meant they had to protect the Artificial Sacred Ground they already had. If the enemy was scattered over too wide an area to reach them during the 90s Chain, this would get a lot trickier.
It was risky and they were walking on thin ice.
If the Artificial Sacred Ground vanished, Kyousuke and Olivia would return to being vulnerable humans who could lose their lives to common bullets and explosions.
Between two battles, Kyousuke spoke while stepping on a tank shell that rolled out of a supply truck.
“We’ve pretty much settled things here, so let’s go crush the reinforcements.”
<But the Chain only lasts 90 seconds! And they’re about 2 kilometers away!>
“It’s time to join civilization, Olivia. We don’t need to go on foot.”
Kyousuke sharply jabbed his Blood-Sign at something on the ground.
He detonated the tank shell he was stepping on.
The close-range blast was not a problem thanks to the protective circle. And the rules of the Summoning Ceremony stated that the Artificial Sacred Ground’s base surface was the surface on which the Incense Grenade detonated, but if that surface was broken and destroyed, it would instead be based on the surface stood on by the summoner who had thrown the Incense Grenade.
Kyousuke was propelled upwards by the blast and flew more than 10m straight up. He flipped himself upside down so the soles of his feet touched something while pointed skyward.
They touched the bottom of a large transport plane that had approached surprisingly close. It seemed to have been trying to land on the field runway because it was low on fuel, but it must have given up upon seeing how large the battle on the ground had grown. Kyousuke designated its belly as the next foothold while it cruised at fairly low altitude.
The feeling of landing must have been different while seated in a wheelchair because Olivia screamed while existing within the Lady of Purple Lightning.
“If this is one of the new C-1092s, it uses electronic control support when landing, so it can fly at more than 300km/h even with its wheels out. It’ll carry us those 2000m in just 20 or 30 seconds.”
With that, Kyousuke ran upside-down along the bottom of the fuselage to reach the front.
The Chain was still in effect, but to set the next foothold on the ground, they would need to destroy the old one…which meant the transport plane. That was why he moved to the front, circled around the round nose, and looked through the thick reinforce glass at the pilot who looked so shocked he was about to have a heart attack.
Kyousuke viewed the pilot.
And after confirming the next 10 minutes had begun, he smashed the glass canopy with the tip of his Blood-Sign. The protective circle was in the way, so he used the end of the long stick to snag the military uniform’s collar.
“Olivia, destroy the plane.”
<You may be the strongest pacifist, Onii-chan, but all of your ideas are insane.>
With that exasperated comment, a purple beam sliced the transport plane apart.
Kyousuke carried the screaming pilot with him as they returned to the surface. He set foot in the center of the western tank unit sent in to suppress the mysterious riot.
They were outside the base.
It was a flat, featureless plain, making it a poor location for taking on tanks.
But Kyousuke shook the pilot (who had gone quiet after his eyes rolled back in his head) from his Blood-Sign and winked.
He sounded like he was reading off the warnings in a user’s manual.
“Sorry about starting with an Unexplored-class right off the bat. Even an expert would cry foul at that, but you’re the world’s strongest. I’m praying you’ll find a way to escape this.”
It only took an instant.
The sickly woman in the rickety wheelchair launched a purple beam from her fingertip.
Kyousuke thought about the state of the battle while watching as the tanks were sliced apart to leave just the soldiers behind. It was like a magic trick.
<Is that big thing our top priority?>
“They aren’t even trying to preserve it, so they’re probably planning to abandon it here. Still, destroy it just to be safe.”
The lasers fired by the giant strategic weapon and the Unexplored-class collided, but the result had been obvious from the beginning. No matter how much firepower that thing boasted, physical methods of harm could not even scratch the protective circle or Material.
With the north and west landmark weapons destroyed and Kyousuke right in the middle of the tank reinforcements, it was clear what would become of the Silver Resource War.
After thoroughly cleaning things up here and letting their mistaken view of the situation work to its fullest, it would no longer be feasible to continue that economic activity known as war.
If it became known that 20,000 soldiers had succumbed to mass hysteria and destroyed each other, the higher ups in charge of those promising youths would undoubtedly be asked to take responsibility. And international society would be hesitant to let such dangerous units enter their borders or pass through their territorial waters. In the worst case, every last unit would have to keep a motherly school counselor or fortune teller with them at all times.
<But, Onii-chan, isn’t Government the world police? They must have a lot of subordinate groups in America, so wouldn’t some professional summoners and vessels have been deployed with the troops?>
Kyousuke readily confirmed it and Olivia fell silent again.
Only her impatience and confusion reached Kyousuke’s mind.
<Wait, but, that’s bad! If our plan is to trick the world because they won’t remember us, we can’t have any professionals on the battlefield who can actually see what’s going on!!>
“The ignorant TV viewers will still be angry, so it won’t change anything. I mean, the truth of the matter is that a single summoner and vessel pair defeated the world’s most powerful army and a being greater than the gods went on a rampage. …What good would it do for the military officials and IT company presidents to explain that at a press conference? People would think a mysterious war disease had spread to the US mainland and they’d be sent to a mental hospital.”
“It doesn’t matter whether or not the truth is known. We need to focus on how many people will believe it.”
<Onii-chan, I need to have Rachel give you a spanking. She’ll whip you into shape at our training ground.>
That was a frightening threat, so Kyousuke made a mental note to give her some candy later to placate her. As tiny as she was, she was a member of the royal family and could be particular about her food, so he would have be careful.
“Would this be a job for the forbidden chocolate chip cereal? It’s hard to judge that one since it’s taken a step outside the category of food, but it is overflowing with an immediate charm…”
<Onii-chan? Hm? What are you analyzing now???>
Had they finally identified the threat now that it was right in front of them? Or were they still utterly confused because a single boy could not account for all of the damage? Either way, Kyousuke wanted to defeat them before they could recover, so he did not wait around. He wanted to end this before they came up with the actual right answer: have all of the US soldiers fall back and attack endlessly with drone bombings and cruise missiles. Just like with food and ammunition, depriving your opponent of time had long been used as an extremely effective method of applying pressure.
The boy snapped his fingers.
“Olivia, it’s time to end it.”
That was when an unexpected voice burned into the back of his mind.
<…Nii-sama…are you there…?>
He felt a pressure in his heart.
This was the one thing that not even Shiroyama Kyousuke had been able to predict. After all, this was the Unexplored-class who had directly killed the White Queen and been broken by it. Her childishness, purity, and obedience made this monster far too different.
There was only one thing he knew.
She had suddenly appeared during his battle with War Criminal and destroyed the Artificial Sacred Ground with the touch of her fingertip. Regardless of the summoner and vessel’s skill, the Third Summoning Ceremony simply could not last until the conclusion when she was involved.
(Why now…!? If she had waited just a bit longer, we could have fully neutralized both US divisions!!)
He of course had no more Incense Grenades.
If this final Artificial Sacred Ground was taken from them, that was the end for Kyousuke and Olivia. Their momentum would grind to a halt and the stalled car would never start up again. The tension he felt now was far different from before.
Olivia’s voice was trembling too.
The environment that allowed her to use the Unexplored-class strength of the Lady of Purple Lightning could end at any second.
There was only one possible key to overcoming this.
“A summoner and a vessel…”
“Government summoners and vessels must have been unofficially sent here with the American troops. If there’s a way out of this, it has to be that.”
A group was secretly waiting in a forest at the midpoint between west and north where no pieces were thought to have been placed on the map.
It was only 50 strong. That was about the size of a platoon or two, but the coordinator who knew the truth of the Kingdom F knights knew it was nowhere near enough. The US military was composed of four branches – the army, navy, air force, and marines – but they were woefully unable to prepare anyone capable of directly using the Summoning Ceremony. That was why the summoners and vessels cooperated as mercenaries who were not counted on paper. America had always led the world in its 300 years of history, but that short history also left it weak when it came to the mystical and the occult.
25 pairs had been gathered to fill that mystical gap.
One of the pairs was Government Award 501, Perfect Game.
The summoner was Max Layard, a macho man with a pompadour. The vessel was Ellie Slide, a small brown girl with bright swimsuit tan lines.
“G-god this is dangerous. He’s reached the Unexplored-class while we just watch. Ahh, ahh. And the Grad Killer and Land SDI landmark weapons have both been destroyed. At this rate, he really will crush both 10,000-man divisions.”
“Now, we still haven’t received any instructions from the coordinator, but what should we do about this?”
“I’m not about to guess what that Alice (with) Rabbit is thinking, but he’s beating up people who’ve never even heard of the Summoning Ceremony. I’m still not fond of what the American military or monster corporations do, but this is different. Attacking without explaining the rules just ain’t fair!!”
“So…what? Are you going to charge in shirtless and wielding a Gatling gun like a Hollywood hero? He already has the Lady of Purple Lightning of the Unexplored-class, but are you going to take him on with a Cost 1 Regulation-class, Max?”
“………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………Okay, I’m sorry. So what are we supposed to do, miss?”
American culture taught you never to apologize, even if you hit a child with an 18-wheeler, but the incense expert with glasses and a bare midriff liked Max’s break from that. An idiot who knew they were an idiot was better than someone who had been so spoiled by their parents that they were convinced they were a genius.
The girl in a large witch hat carried a Native American ritual item taller than she was that looked like a cross between a single-edged axe and a tobacco pipe, but she currently had it stabbed into the ground so she leaned her small butt against it through her miniskirt and shorts.
“He might be Freedom Award 903, but Shiroyama Kyousuke is still human. Have you forgotten that he was affected by my incense during the Pandemonium incident? If a direct attack won’t work, then we just have to be sneakier about it. Don’t underestimate a witch’s secret techniques. If we can destroy the Artificial Sacred Ground and remove his protective circle, I can burn some incense smoke and send his brain to a world of illusion.”
“(That’s as cheap a trick as the gloomy rabbit bastard.)”
“Max. Who is it that is kiiiindly soothing the pain from your front teeth since you were throwing a childish tantrum over your fear of visiting a foreign dentist? If you doubt a witch’s secret techniques, I can respect your wishes and end that before heading home.”
“Yes, ma’am. I have no objections whatsoever, you sexy lady in glasses, blonde hair, and brown skin!!”
The girl with a height of less than 140cm gave a snort from her small nose. The dreamcatcher hanging from her neck did not budge from her sadly flat chest.
The age of feminine superiority may have arrived.
That girl possessed a fusion of the techniques developed by the Native American tribes and the witches who had fled to the New World, so what meaning did she find in this Eastern European forest? In a process incorporating Native American asceticism, Ellie Slide had piercings in her navel, her tongue, and even below her clothing. At the moment, she took a deep breath.
“Let’s get started. Let’s take up a position upwind and send in some Incense while keeping enough distance that Shiroyama Kyousuke won’t notice our presence. We came here to do a job and we can’t refuse to fight just because we think we can’t win. We need to achieve the results we were paid for.”
However, Max did not respond.
He was the man who had not hesitated to punch his supervisor because he could not allow a tropical village to be sacrificed for a superpower to further its plans. No matter what he said, he may have been questioning the invasion of Kingdom F. Or did he think he could apply the brakes at the right point if he was involved? He was an idiot, but his was an idiocy Ellie never got tired of seeing. Claiming both Kyousuke and the US Army were oppressive was a fair argument, but making an enemy of both sides would only isolate yourself. That man was amusingly ignorant.
Or so she thought, but that was apparently not the case here.
Max wobbled on his feet and then collapsed to the side.
“Hello, young lady. Care to lend a hand with your incense expertise?”
Despite the silly tone, the presence directly behind Ellie Slide was like a drawn blade. Nothing was pressing against her windpipe or heart, but if she moved, she would be cut down. This warrior had honed their skills until their killer intent alone served as a warning. Ellie considered a few options, but they would all be too slow. She would be killed before the incense could take effect.
Unable to turn around, she asked a question.
“…Who are you?”
“You can call me Biondetta or Freedom Award 920, Liar Cat.”
This could not be worse.
She had even more Awards than Shiroyama Kyousuke.
Ellie heard the quiet rustling of leaves at her feet and looked down to see something approaching her from where Max had collapsed.
A white snake slithered between the legs of that young girl with bright tan lines.
And Ellie belatedly realized that the area was too quiet. The others in the forest had also been secretly knocked out. Presumably so they would not get in Shiroyama Kyousuke’s way.
“I agree 100% that there is no need to challenge a powerful enemy head on. So I won’t bother throwing an Incense Grenade. Because this adorable little thing can sneak up to the target and use its fangs to send venom swiftly coursing through their veins.”
“I live with rattlesnakes in the New World, so I’m familiar with snakes. The pattern is hard to tell since that one is albino, but I doubt that is a venomous variety.”
“Then how do you explain the people who have collapsed? Surely you aren’t going to suggest it was the placebo effect.”
With a sound much like rustling cloth, a damp sensation slithered up her leg. And not figuratively. After passing between her legs, the mystery white snake coiled around Ellie Slide’s brown right leg and slowly climbed that healthy bare leg.
Its tongue moved in and out.
It showed off its mysterious fangs.
“Did you replace its fangs? So people would assume it was harmless and let their guard down before it injects them with whatever chemical you’ve decided to place inside it?”
“Oh? I wouldn’t have thought someone with a piercing here would take issue with extensions and implants. I’ve replaced half my body with artificial bone, so it doesn’t really bother me.”
The white snake passed the girl’s knee and reached her thigh.
The carrier of a powerful venom seemed to tilt its head while in position to bite at the center of Ellie Slide’s body past her miniskirt and shorts.
“You knocked Max out immediately, but you didn’t with me. What do you want from me?”
“I’m glad to see you understand. And speaking of that…Max was it? That summoner also functions as a hostage, so keep that in mind. If you do as I say, I’ll swap in the antidote cartridge and have my girl bite him again.”
“Or are you going to rely on your witch’s skill to attempt mixing an antidote? That would be tricky. First of all, this is a super rare chemical with very few samples to come by.”
Ellie Slide shut her eyes behind her glasses.
She let go of the combination of an axe and pipe and slowly raised her hands.
Without opening her eyes, the young witch breathed a heavy sigh and spoke in a low voice.
“…I am going to murder Shiroyama Kyousuke.”
“Yes, thank you. Now, it would seem you are only pretending to surrender to put me at ease, but drawing out the conversation long enough for an incense to take effect won’t work on me. I take so many antibiotics and other things on a daily basis that the inside of my body is a complete mess. Both poisons and medicines aren’t going to function normally.”
The person seemed to have casually circled in front of Ellie Slide.
When Ellie opened her eyes again, she saw a waitress demon with sexy proportions and long hair dyed pink. She got down to business with a sticky smile on her face.
“You’ve made a name for yourself with your incense expertise, so I would like for you to create an Incense Grenade for my client, Shiroyama Kyousuke. Right this instant.”
“I remember his basic composition from the Pandemonium incident, but what exactly does he want it for? He’s asking for help from a former enemy. I doubt he would accept the risk of sabotage if he only wanted to resupply his normal Incense Grenades.”
“I do not know what he wants it for.”
Ellie’s summoner partner was at risk of dying, but the waitress’s behavior was completely irresponsible.
“I was given two jobs by my client. One, to sneak into the American summoner unit that had to be here for the Silver Resource War and trip them up from within if a battle broke out. And two, approach the Perfect Game pair, which he knew would almost certainly be here thanks to information from a Government intermediary, and get Incense Expert Ellie Slide’s help if a battle broke out. How exactly I went about these jobs was up to me, so do not blame my poor, adorable client.”
“…I cannot stand how much those boobs are jiggling. How about I fill them with holes to criticize your methods here?”
To show off the overwhelming difference in bust size, the smiling waitress demon brought her loosely-clenched fists together at face height and used her arms to press in on her breasts from both sides.
“He wants you to take a look at the scene and create the perfect cocktail for the occasion. As dangerous as it is, he has no choice but to rely on your skill which your average incense maker could never hope to match. And that leads us to the present. So work hard for your beloved Max☆”
The noise was awful.
Each time that “voice” sounded in Kyousuke’s head, it felt like the wiring of his brain was being fried piece by piece.
The limit was approaching. He could tell.
The Artificial Sacred Ground was already straining and it felt as unreliable as a suspension bridge on the verge of snapping. Meanwhile, Kyousuke worked to finish things.
“Olivia!! Blow away as many of the remaining tanks as you can! Right now!!”
The young woman in a rickety wheelchair made quick movements of her fingers like she was performing a mudra. Purple light sliced across the scenery in a straight line. To follow Alice (with) Rabbit’s methods, it skillfully avoided the human bodies while slicing apart the Repliglass armor and tank armor panels. It was reminiscent of the die cutting game played with hardened sugar at festivals. The dance of destruction was so powerful that it was a miracle the entire thing did not shatter.
The enemy had been defeated.
That should have been the end of it.
But sweat poured from not just Kyousuke’s face but his entire body. He knew this was only the beginning and that the true battle had yet to begin.
He did not hesitate.
The staticky voice grew much clearer.
The air split open vertically and a young hand broke through.
With a deafening noise, a being from another world once more appeared in this one. Met with the screams of the world itself, the ephemeral girl’s full body appeared. And that changed the phenomena that came with her.
Unexplored-class. Cost: 21. Sound Range: None.
The Colorless Little Girl Dedicated to a Single Goal (aie – a – oio – ei – ueo – ioa – e – uai – ee).
That honest, pure, obedient, and insane girl would not play games like the White Queen.
She would destroy everything with her very first move.
Her appearance pushed the Artificial Sacred Ground past its limit, so Shiroyama Kyousuke could not stop it from bursting like an overinflated balloon.
With that special power gone, he and Olivia were merely human.
If she swung her right hand, the boy would die. If she then swung her left hand, the girl would die. That was the only possible result while exposed like this.
“Hello, sir. Your delivery has arrived☆”
Which was why they were so fortunate to hear the jocular tone of a demon who had snuck up to them at some point.
Of all the cards he had prepared, this was the very last one he had wanted to draw. Given the situation, not even he had known whether this would arrive in time. The slightest coincidence could have kept it from working.
But she had in fact arrived.
Biondetta Shiroyama threw an Incense Grenade so it detonated precisely when the Artificial Sacred Ground ruptured. It fused with that bursting Artificial Sacred Ground, changing its nature.
Biondetta had thrown it, and not even she could escape it. She was blasted toward the center.
Out of habit, she started pulling out her silver Blood-Sign that looked like a collapsible rifle, but Kyousuke just barely saved her life by shouting at her.
“Don’t pull it out!! Protective circle or no protective circle, you can’t block the Colorless Little Girl’s attacks. Using a Material will only make you stand out!!”
“Tch. So I have to run around this enclosed Artificial Sacred Ground without anything to protect me? I see, I see. So that’s how much you trust my abilities. But how about some advance warning next time, sirrrrrr!?”
He would of course never ask anyone other than Biondetta to do this.
Even the weakest Cost 1 Regulation-class could unilaterally kill a Repliglass soldier.
On the other hand.
Olivia had precise enough control over her Material that there was no fear of friendly fire. And while the Colorless Little Girl’s destructive power was incredible, she was only focused on Kyousuke.
…A summoner of Biondetta’s caliber had a chance of surviving this. As long as she could cleanly fit herself inside a psychological blind spot.
That let Kyousuke focus on the enemy in front of him.
He would use the chance Biondetta had given him to make sure she did not have to die.
“…Ha ha. I finally have a chance at winning.”
In other words, he had an Artificial Sacred Ground that could withstand the Colorless Little Girl’s presence.
“Olivia! Just a little longer! We can protect Kingdom F here…no, protect the world!!”
<That sounds fantastic, but how about you explain what’s going on!? Even if we can actually fight against her, can we win with this Unexplored-class? She’s the assassin who easily killed the White Queen!>
Normally, it would not be possible.
Not even using all of the Three would be enough to deliver a finishing blow to the Colorless Little Girl.
“The Colorless Little Girl keeps appearing in an unnatural state.”
“She isn’t relying on an Incense Grenade and she isn’t supported by an Artificial Sacred Ground or the Petals. She smashed the White Queen who could distort the world’s laws like a black hole, so you could write this off as her being able to do anything, but this gives a simple solution. She’s been summoned in a twisted way, so we only have to resummon her in the proper way. If we trap her in an Artificial Sacred Ground that won’t be destroyed by her appearance, she should be drawn back into the other world when the 10-minute limit arrives and the Artificial Sacred Ground disappears.”
Ghosts like the one known as the Rainy Girl were spirits of the dead who got caught somewhere and could not leave the world properly, so they could be eliminated by throwing an Incense Grenade and correcting things.
It was like they stood on a wire mesh floor.
In the Colorless Little Girl’s case, it was not the location or environment causing the problem. Her presence was simply so great that she could not fit through the normal holes in that wire mesh. When she appeared, she forced those holes open from the other world and pushed her body through, but since she saw no need to leave this world, she closed up and strengthened those holes so she could remain standing there without her feet slipping through.
She was cheating.
But once they understood that, they could fight back.
They would not allow the holes in the wire mesh to be widened and tightened. They would return them to the normal size. The wire mesh would likely be too weak and would break. Just like a black hole distorted space around it, the Colorless Little Girl would be caught in the borderline surrounding her and fall back to the other world. And once she had fully returned to the other world, they just had to repair the broken wire mesh. Ellie Slide’s incense could accomplish that.
So they just had to outlast.
It was only 10 minutes. A mere 10 minutes. This brief showdown only required enduring the Colorless Little Girl’s fierce attacks which made an instant feel like an eternity.
Even if they could not deliver a finishing blow here, they could at least get through the day.
Biondetta began shaking her hands inside the same Artificial Sacred Ground.
“U-u-umm… You seem to have some kind of master plan here, but I can’t do anything. I mean, you’re the one that ordered me not to summon a Material, sir!!”
“Don’t worry. I’m not expecting anything from you.”
“…That pisses me off too. Is that any way to treat someone who saved your life by getting you this Artificial Sacred Ground? It seems my naughty little brother doesn’t know how to say ‘thank you’ and ‘sorry’, so perhaps he needs a spanking later.”
<Hey, Onii-chan. I’m still not sure who this person is, but the world really is doomed if a demon is the voice of reason…>
A special Incense Grenade, a special Artificial Sacred Ground, a special Unexplored-class, and special combat rules.
This was a new kind of battle that differed from the Third Age ruled by the White Queen.
“Now, how about we get started, Colorless Little Girl?”
Something swished through the air.
The boy made a statement while lifting the Blood-Sign from his shoulder and pointing it at the enemy dead ahead of him.
“Time for the Fourth Summoning Ceremony that we ended up creating!!”
The win condition was surviving for a set period of time.
To reiterate yet again, none of the Unexplored-classes they could summon could directly defeat the Colorless Little Girl.
The wheelchair woman used her unsteady finger to fire a purple beam in a horizontal sweep toward the Colorless Little Girl’s skinny neck.
<That. Nii-sama. In the way.>
The purple beam was deflected upwards and away from the Colorless Little Girl.
No, it was broken.
The Lady of Purple Lightening’s withered branch of a right arm was broken, that is.
The bones from her wrist to elbow were snapped at a right angle. The vessel’s scream rang in Kyousuke’s head.
Something like a shotgun had fired from the countless weapons surrounding the Colorless Little Girl like a long skirt. That was all it took to incapacitate an Unexplored-class.
But they were lucky the one attack had not “annihilated” her.
Was this the result of so perfectly tuning her for use against the White Queen?
The tip of Kyousuke’s Blood-Sign launched a White Thorn at about the same time as the Colorless Little Girl tossed a bookmark back over her shoulder.
One of the 12 books floating behind that juvenile Unexplored-class devoured the bookmark like a carnivorous beast. As if following the law of equivalent exchange, something shot out from the gaps between the pages.
It was the end of the world.
A swarm of black, glistening cockroaches with a hopelessly powerful resistance were released as a single mass like floodwaters. That ultimate pest consumed all, infected all with disease, and left all living things with nowhere to live. They rushed toward the Lady of Purple Lightning.
Once inundated by them, the wild dance of small mandibles would work at your entire body like a thick file and tear away every last strip of flesh.
(That single-shot attack style is the high Sound Range, so we need a low Sound Range Material!!)
Just before the collision, Kyousuke rearranged the letters to achieve a new Unexplored-class. It was a gracefully beautiful woman wearing a red kimono and swimsuit. She had two horns on her forehead and her long hair was endlessly stretched out in a group of gears reminiscent of the world’s fate. It was said she would determine the fate of all she gazed upon if she opened her coolly shut eyes.
Unexplored-class. One of the Three. Cost: 20. Sound Range: Low.
The “Red-Eyed” Lady who Sees Through all Sin and Calamity (fa – ao – ab – ei – fj – cib – b – du – a – eif).
<Isn’t it a little late for that…?>
A voice that was clearly not Olivia’s responded with an independent thought and statement. What Ellie Slide had made was not so much an Incense Grenade as a small-scale Box.
As the insects approached like a black flood, the Red Lady merely swung her large sleeve out like she was dancing. That was enough for the roach swarm’s perfect angle to shift. It was like redirecting a tank shell with angled armor. And she did not stop there. At some point, she had opened the eyelids that functioned as a seal. That was a sinister ill omen. The Red Lady accurately viewed something and thrust her hand out toward the roach swarm once more.
With a wet popping sound, a portion of that world destruction was annihilated. Countless wings, legs, and bodily fluids thick with glittering exoskeletons scattered everywhere.
Of course, the Red Lady was not unscathed herself. After touching that ultimate source of infection, her kimono sleeve melted away and her fingertips grew purple and dissolved until the white bone was visible. The fact that she could not feel the pain was proof of how powerful the infection was.
<Innocent vessel, please remain silent. And Shiroyama Kyousuke, it does not seem I alone can carry you through this.>
“I’m aware…of that!!”
The greatest merit of the Summoning Ceremony was that the god providing their protection could be swapped out instantly.
Kyousuke accurately acquired more Petals while watching the Colorless Little Girl toss several more bookmarks behind her.
Unexplored-class. One of the Three. Cost: 18. Sound Range: Middle.
The Wicked “Green” Woman who Fills the World with Empty Treasure (lu – o – np – e – qo – ei – r – k – a – rum – pl).
<Ee hee hee. You sure about this?>
Short wavy hair glittered like an emerald. She had the upper body of a young girl and the lower body of a great sinister serpent. Rusted swords and scepters that symbolized the patriarchy formed a giant who was down on all fours. A different peak sat atop that giant.
<This vessel has that same virginal scent as that loathsome red goody-goody, but what I do is lay evil eggs. She might just experience something unexpected.>
That disrespectful mouth came to a stop.
Two ends of the world arrived at once. Two of the books behind the Colorless Little Girl devoured the bookmarks and released brightly-colored torrents on either side of her. One was a spatial distortion cannon created by giving directionality to an artificial black hole and firing it in a straight line. The other was God Hazard One, in which the entrails of slaughtered gods lost sight of their original purpose and attacked humanity.
The two forms of ruin approached from either side like a giant pair of scissors cutting through the world.
But after a series of dull sounds, the Wicked Green Woman pierced her own snake body with several swords and scepters. The wounds bubbled up and then giant soap bubbles separated off from them.
They were like snowdomes with immoral scenes contained inside.
When they contacted the approaching disasters like balloon bombs, they burst and scattered “never-before-seen forms of immorality”. It could be a strange bomb, a sweet chemical formula, or a gang that no one could capture. When the concepts of ruin and immorality collided, the deadly trajectories were slightly diverted and the end of the world swept past above Kyousuke and the others’ heads.
<N-nwohhhhh… Ngwehhhhh… Th-there’s something stirring in the middle of my body…>
<Ah ha ha!! I guess a mammal wouldn’t be able to accurately interpret the feeling of laying eggs. Not even the most experienced woman ever feels that, so count yourself lucky you get to enjoy it while still a virgin☆>
The Colorless Little Girl’s long skirt squirmed. That collection of weapons had blown away the Lady of Purple Lightning with a single shotgun blast. Seeing that, Kyousuke chose his next hand with the Petals he had earned with his White Thorns.
Unexplored-class. One of the Three. Cost: 16. Sound Range: High.
The Spirit of Fluttering “Yellow” Gills that Rules the Heavens (s – a – so – voz – tix – ei – yw – za).
A yellow-haired girl sat on a crescent moon bed while wearing pajamas that resembled an oriental Taoist outfit. But the bed she rested in had the most bizarre shape, as if every last kind of living creature had been molded like clay and stuffed into it.
<…Don’t wake me up. What a pain. You have to know how much I hate anything that disturbs my slumber…>
“Unfortunately, I’m not about to go easy on anyone who survived in the depths of the Queen’s Miniature Garden. Everyone who fought honorably there is dead. The only survivors – myself included – are those who offered up some kind of sacrifice.”
(Since I’ve been focused on strengthening our defense with the rock-paper-scissors Sound Range for each attack, the Cost keeps dropping! Damn, is the Colorless Little Girl guiding me…!?)
The direct line of fire did not matter.
Each of the projectiles fired from the many weapons that composed the Colorless Little Girl’s long skirt bent away at impossible angles. Or was it the people watching it who failed to perceive it properly? She was a psychological warfare specialist who fought by dragging her opponent into a dream.
Something grew from the normal ground.
It was the Colorless Little Girl herself. But not just one of her. There were two, five, ten…no, even more. The Yellow Gills gave herself more pawns as carelessly as weeds that grew up on their own.
The White Queen’s killer was surrounded by her own face.
But she did not let it bother her.
Her entire long skirt spread out like an umbrella and the weapons began firing in all directions. With deafening noises and blinding flashes, giant holes blossomed in the scenery that was modeled after reality. And with no concern for the many Colorless Little Girls between her and the border of the world. Once that holey world reached its limit, it shattered like glass.
The Yellow Gills looked annoyed that her opponent had used physical destruction in a mental world.
<Tch. You don’t have to wake me up with all that noise. So showing you some doppelgangers doesn’t trigger a malfunction in your raison d’etre? Mass-producing White Queens or Shiroyama Kyousukes might have been a better decoy.>
“What happened to Olivia?”
<She wasn’t ready to sync with me, so she’s too busy fighting the sleepiness to talk. Silly, isn’t it? Reality is no more than a material used to build dreams.>
The Yellow Gills smiled thinly, but a dark-red and sticky liquid flowed from the corner of her mouth.
Without creating confusion in that mental world, she could not dodge the Colorless Little Girl’s attacks.
<…Cough. She has the strength to do this even with the Sound Range working against her. And unlike those weapons, she herself doesn’t belong to a Sound Range. This Unexplored-class you made is pretty good.>
<Your life is just one regret after another, isn’t it? I said reality is a material to build dreams, but it still needs some upkeep. Going to sleep next to that thing wouldn’t be much fun at all.>
He swung his Blood-Sign and switched to yet another Unexplored-class.
It felt like someone was using a black hole to infinitely stretch out each minute and each second. Feeling that much pressure made Kyousuke wonder how the White Queen had felt while facing the Colorless Little Girl.
He had a feeling that White had smiled at the very, very end.
She had been happy to see how thoroughly he had studied her.
“Three minutes left! I am measuring the time with multiple types of clock, so it must be accurate! Sir!!”
Kyousuke calmed his breathing when he heard Biondetta who was also inside the Artificial Sacred Ground.
That was more than he had thought.
“Just a bit more, Olivia!! Don’t let the Yellow Gills’ sleepiness stick with you!!”
He knew that was asking too much of her, but that was all he could do at the moment.
Vessels had their fight just like summoners had theirs.
Simply using the Three was not enough. He helped her endure the Colorless Little Girl’s fierce attacks by summoning more and more Unexplored-classes: the Ashen Shrine Maiden, the Liquefying Rainbow, the Gray Mollusk, etc.
Unexplored-class. Cost: 18. Sound Range: Middle.
The Dry-Grass-Colored Dancer who Returns Twice the Roaring Flames (zb – ei – sd – wp – e – be – xu – a – kk – pl).
At the moment, Olivia resided within a girl who had a slender silhouette and latte-colored hair. The only things she wore were a makeshift skirt and chest covering made of dry grass and a dry flower necklace that decorated her chest. The dry grass scattered around her as she danced, but it was all fuel to be ignited. She never released any fire of her own. Her alluring dance drew her opponent’s attack, she just barely danced out of the way, and the fire user was hit with a thorough counterattack.
Even Kyousuke cried out without thinking when he saw a short spear pierce her near the heart where the Silhouette was.
This Unexplored-class specialized in counterattacks and he had hoped that would buy some time, but it had not worked at all. The dry flower necklace decorating the Dry-Grass-Colored Dancer’s flat chest was shredded and scattered by the sharp blade.
Kyousuke immediately began collecting more red Petals to summon another Material, but then he clicked his tongue. He had been gathering the Petals in such an unbalanced way that he was running somewhat short.
He needed a full set of vowels to spell an Unexplored-class’s name, so he would have to resupply with a new Rose.
That meant a time loss of a few seconds.
But the Dry-Grass-Colored Dancer could not move and the Colorless Little Girl pressed her slender hand against her. An eerie light slowly flashed within that hand like a clione. With a straining sound, that light twisted around and transformed into a strange arrowhead.
He would not make it in time.
Olivia would be killed.
As time stretched out infinitely, Kyousuke realized there was an option available that he had been subconsciously avoiding.
Unexplored-class. Cost: 21. Sound Range: None.
The “White” Queen who Wields the Sword of Unsullied Truth (iu – nu – fb – a – wuh – ei –kx – eu – pl – vjz).
Of course he had not used her.
Of course he had not relied on her.
But the Colorless Little Girl was a Material created for the express purpose of killing the White Queen. He did not have to entrust himself to her. He only had to use her and throw her out. Bringing the White Queen here would be the greatest bait for the Colorless Little Girl. And even if she had failed to defeat the Colorless Little Girl, the White Queen had lasted a fairly long time.
Why had he not done that?
Had he chosen to sacrifice everything to preserve his own puny pride?
An ignorant person in some corner of the world had to have thought it:
“If only someone with overwhelming power would take away this vague anxiety.”
The powerful people who knew the origins of the Silver Resource War had to have thought it:
“If only the Unexplored-class known as the strongest of the strongest was by my side.”
Even the knights constructing the line of defense meant to protect Kingdom F’s people and land had to have hoped for it:
“If only we could fight alongside the White Queen!!”
Just give up.
Your personal preference does not matter.
Simply search for the optimal solution and you will find it.
What do you need to resist the Colorless Little Girl?
It might not be enough to defeat her. But if you summon the target she was designed to destroy, she is sure to strike there first. That will create a distortion in that pure strongest and it might lead to a large enough opening to find a way out of this. So compromise. It’s fine as long as you’re just using her as bait. Anyone in the world would tell you it’s the right answer.
Shiroyama Kyousuke clenched his teeth hard enough he thought they would break.
He made his decision.
The boy moved in between the Colorless Little Girl and the Dry-Grass-Colored Dancer controlled by Olivia.
The clione-like orange light…
…mercilessly smashed Kyousuke’s protective circle.
Kyousuke bent backwards and realized he now had nothing to protect him. Two Materials clashed inside the Artificial Sacred Ground, but his one defense had been pierced, shattered, torn away, and broken.
A single hit would be fatal.
Even a stray shot from Olivia would mean instant death.
And yet he was smiling.
He had heard Olivia’s voice and that meant he had successfully diverted the attack. The obstacle in the way had kept the Colorless Little Girl’s attack from hitting the Dry-Grass-Colored Dancer controlled by the vessel. There was a precedent for this. Boy A’s vessel had intentionally sacrificed one of her wings to protect her summoner.
No matter how risky it was, buying a few seconds gave him another chance.
The White Thorns ricocheted around and knocked the Petals into the Spots until a new Rose appeared in the center of the Artificial Sacred Ground. Now he could summon any Unexplored-class he wanted.
So what should he summon?
What Material would shake the Colorless Little Girl and change the state of the battle?
The normal Unexplored-classes were not enough and the Three had not worked.
No matter how much he tried to reject it, a certain color flashed in the back of his mind.
The frightening Queen symbolized by that color.
The thick presence of death approached to within a hair’s breadth away. The pressure might have crushed a normal person’s heart, but Kyousuke definitely said it.
He spoke directly to the Colorless Girl.
“I won’t rely on the White Queen.”
“I’m sorry, Colorless Little Girl.”
Hearing that, she silently tilted her head with her palm still held out toward him.
The broken little girl may not have known what he was saying to her. She may not have been able to comprehend the unreasonable situation she found herself in.
She had done nothing wrong.
She had been made at someone else’s convenience, she had killed at someone else’s convenience, and she had broken at no one’s convenience.
It did not mater how much of a threat she was, how much incredible power she had, how much she distorted the world around her, and how much chaos she brought to people.
All of those were Shiroyama Kyousuke’s issues.
They could not be used to criticize the Colorless Little Girl who wandered the world without an objective.
“…I don’t care how difficult it will be or how crazy it is to try.”
He had no protective circle.
And that was why he approached death just like death was approaching him.
He gently touched the Colorless Little Girl’s cheek with his empty hand.
<Protect Nii-sama. Nii-sama…>
“I will save you. I swear it. Listen. Remember this one thing: I will never abandon you. You haven’t done anything wrong and you’re only lost, so I will grab your hand and return everything to normal. I swear it!!”
She looked puzzled.
She mechanically stared at his face using the emotionless eyes half hidden behind her bangs and then she slowly opened her lips.
<I don’t want that.>
Her rusted throat moved.
She spoke a series of words other than “Nii-sama” in a way that others could understand.
<If those words would make you suffer. If those words would bind you. And if you could not escape those words.>
Thinking back, the Colorless Little Girl’s actions had always had the same motivation: protect Shiroyama Kyousuke.
But her targeting was broken, so she may have shot him in the back as she did so.
So that monster had only one answer to the boy.
<I will not ask you to help me. If it would only make you suffer, then I won’t ask to be saved.>
Kyousuke breathed a heavy sigh.
He had not even considered this possibility. It was the worst of the worst case scenarios.
This girl was strong.
On a different level than Kyousuke or the White Queen.
For Alice (with) Rabbit, this was a more tragic ending than having his own heart ripped out.
Someone needed saving, but they refused to say the words “help me”.
It was the worst ending Shiroyama Kyousuke knew of.
He had worked so hard to make sure this would not happen. He had sometimes used straightforward methods and sometimes used more deceitful methods to gain the authorization of the Alices standing by his side even if it meant half forcing the words out of them. Biondetta had said it was him who wanted to save the girls and not the girls who wanted saving. She had speculated that was his form of insanity. She had been exactly right. The truth of the matter was Shiroyama Kyousuke was weak. He could not bear to see someone else’s tragedy through to the end. When reading a picture book of The Little Match Girl or A Dog of Flanders, he could not flip to the end of the story and he would close the book partway through. And despite not seeing the end for himself, he would act like he knew what he was talking about when he said the tragic end was wrong and he could handle it better himself.
He could not just step back when someone said he was not needed. He could not be satisfied when someone said they would descend into hell for his sake. Shiroyama Kyousuke was afraid. He did not help people because he was strong. He could not accept the alternative because he was weak. The tragic picture book was about to the turn the page to the climax and he could not bear to watch. His heart would not last unless he found some way of slamming the book shut before reaching the end.
He had found what she wanted.
And she had not given him authorization.
But what did that matter? The extremely selfish and childish part of him was throwing a tantrum. That was supposed to only be a rite of passage to maintain his self-consciousness. Binding himself with his own rules and losing sight of why they existed was the height of folly. Of course, the mature and rational part of him understood. Forcing unwanted salvation on someone would be wrong. It was the same as a jidaigeki samurai storming into the governor’s mansion and slaughtering everyone he saw there. He would only be spreading around the kind of damage no one had asked for. The process had been necessary. It was a safety never meant to be removed. Given what his actions had caused when he tried to save the Queen in the Queen’s Miniature Garden, it was clearly an ironclad rule he could never forget even for a moment.
Was there no cure for being a fool?
He finally forced it out.
The part of the strongest boy that was not the strongest spat out the words.
“Then I’ll do it myself. I don’t care if it violates my rules or causes my soul to rot away. I will save you!!!!!!”
Immediately afterwards, the world broke.
That was not a figure of speech or just from the boy’s point of view.
It was hopelessly physical.
There was a voice.
But it did not belong to the Colorless Little Girl. Nor did it belong to Olivia who he was contracted with. It was purer and more sinister. It was hopelessly beautiful and hopelessly ugly. It was a repulsive voice from the depths of the earth that covered Shiroyama Kyousuke’s entire body with goose bumps.
Thinking back, could the Colorless Little Girl really have supported her existence in this world without a vessel, an Artificial Sacred Ground, or the Petals? While it may not have explained everything, wouldn’t there have been some kind of structure supporting her existence here?
When that being had been killed in Houbi Village, she had been working with Kyousuke in the guise of the artificial vessel named Meinokawa Aoi. That had gone beyond her appearance. Despite being a Material, she had been able to play the role of a vessel.
So it was not impossible.
That being could have the Colorless Little Girl reside within her.
No one could say that kind of cheating was beyond the pure white’s ability!!
“You never said that when it was me…!!!!!”
An impossible scene played out in front of Kyousuke.
The Colorless Little Girl’s undeveloped chest split vertically open.
There was no blood or anything else. And it did not matter that her body had been transparent. Ten fingers grabbed the right and left edges and something peered out from the deep, deep darkness within like someone spying out of a cracked door.
This may have been the first time ever that there was none of her crazed love to be found there.
There was nothing else mixed in. She unleashed pure hatred in her words.
It all fell apart.
A hand in a pure white glove shot out of the wound in the Colorless Little Girl’s chest. At this close range, there was no way he could dodge or defend. Even if he had still had the protective circle, there would have been no escaping this attack.
An instant seemed to stretch out infinitely as he tried to come up with something he could do.
Kyousuke had only one option.
He formed a gun with his fingers and aimed it at the Unexplored-class that was his vessel.
“Olivia…I’m ending the contract!!!!!!”
<Wha-!? Ah, Onii-chan!?>
This was the greatest and strongest attack from the White Queen. Its force might just affect his contracted vessel as well and he had to prioritize that over the sturdy body of the Dry-Grass-Colored Dancer.
So he severed it.
Kyousuke and Olivia truly became mere humans.
The White Queen’s right arm was absorbed straight toward Shiroyama Kyousuke’s heart.
- The Colorless Little Girl’s only objective was to protect Kyousuke. Thus, she refused to say “help me” to him because that would have bound him unnecessarily.
- Kyousuke steeled himself to rescue the Colorless Little Girl even if it meant abandoning his pride as Alice (with) Rabbit.
- They did succeed in forcing the US Army to withdraw from the Silver Resource War.
- The Colorless Little Girl’s independent actions were supported by the White Queen acting as a vessel.
- With nothing to protect him, Shiroyama Kyousuke was hit by the White Queen’s attack of hatred.
|Back to Stage 03||Return to Main Page||Forward to Ending X-01|