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Chapter: 3


The current time was 3:30 PM on October 30th, 2095 AD.

Future generations would refer to this turning point as the "Scorched Halloween". The "Yokohama Incident" that instigated this event began at this moment.

◊ ◊ ◊

After First High's presentation ended, Fujibayashi struck up an idle conversation with Toshikazu in the main hall -- they had been together since the morning, so they were almost running out of topics -- when suddenly his brow twitched and he broke off.

The terminal reserved for messaging (a security device with no data storage capabilities and was strictly reserved for powerful signal broadcast) in his breast pocket was vibrating.

Sending an apologetic look towards Fujibayashi, he turned around to pick up the phone.

"This is Chiba, is it Inagaki? What!?

......Understood, I'm on my way."

Inspector Chiba turned around to find Fujibayashi also finishing her phone call.

"I need to head to the scene."

"I will remain here."

Neither of them asked whether the other person received the same communication they did. Putting their faith that they were on accord, there was no feeling of incompatibility.

"Sorry! Contact me later if anything comes up."

Fujibayashi nodded and didn't waste her breath as Toshikazu fairly flew towards his car with magic fueling his sprint. -- His feet appeared to be moving faster.

◊ ◊ ◊

"What's the situation!?"

Three minutes after receiving the transmission, Toshikazu roared into the phone slotted in the car for more information as he sped towards the scene.

"The exploding car that plowed into the control building is still burning. There are no follow up suicide attacks."

On the other side of the receiver came a much more composed report. Even so, the contents of the message were not relaxing.

The target was the Harbor Control Building near Hillside Harbor.

The sturdy construction material itself was able to repel the heat and force from the explosion so there was no need to worry on that account. However, the staff members were all civilians and must be paralyzed into inaction after being on the receiving end of a terrorist attack. In the meantime, while the staff were evacuating and before harbor security could take over, there will be a massive surveillance hole over the harbor proper.

(Too reliant on bureaucracy!)

Owing to resistance from politicians who were hostile to the expansion of organizations such as national defense and police, harbor control and airport control were all relegated to civilian control. Harbors for island nations is synonymous to the national border, so if they hated handing things over to the army, at least there should be armed police on station. This was something that the Chiba Family, including Toshikazu, had proposed long before.

"The cargo ship moored in the harbor has fired rockets. They appear to be infantry mounted weaponry."

Toshikazu was so shocked that he almost caused an accident as he frantically pulled back on the wheel and roared back into the mic.

"Nationality!?"

"It's registered as an Australian freighter, but based on its shape, it's probably an amphibious vessel for mobile forces." The registration was falsified.

What the hell were the guys in immigration and the coast guard doing! Suppressing the urge to scream, Toshikazu switched the call.

"......Father? It's Toshikazu. Right now the Yokohama Hillside Harbor is under attack from a camouflaged vessel of unknown nationality. Please request help from national defense. Afterwards, please send Ikazuchimaru and Orochimaru to me ASAP. ......What about

Orochimaru? We already decided that it's going to Erika!"

◊ ◊ ◊

In order to receive further orders from the unit, Fujibayashi headed for her own car. It wasn't that she didn't want want Toshikazu to chase after her, she truly was going stay here. That was because she was using the transmitter instead of the wheel.

Also, Fujibayashi thought, the one who made that prediction last night was none other than herself, but even she never expected things to turn so grave. Based on her initial estimates, she thought that the spies' confederates would attempt to abduct hostages to rescue their comrades.

Thus, Fujibayashi was quite surprised when she heard the number of men and equipment that Toshikazu shifted at her advice. Now, that move seemed to have paid dividends. Was this brawn over brains? Fujibayashi thought with amazement.

◊ ◊ ◊

The hour pointed to 3:37 PM.

Suddenly, explosions and vibrations shook the conference hall.

The audience had no clue what was going on and had no idea what to do.

"Miyuki!"

At this time, Tatsuya called out the name that held the highest priority in his mind.

"Onii-sama!"

Hearing the response from below stage, Tatsuya took two steps -- one to leap off the stage, the second to adjust his posture -- to reach his sister's side. Although she was in the second row, Miyuki's reaction was equally swift as she reached Tatsuya's side.

"Onii-sama, what is......"

Miyuki asked hesitantly. Though she was slightly bewildered, she was not shocked out of her wits.

"Must be a hand grenade near the front entrance."

On the other hand, Tatsuya didn't show a hint of anxiety or confusion. Tatsuya had already heard this sort of disruption numerous times when training with the Independent Magic-Equipped Battalion. Based on this experience, he didn't even need to access the information dimension to know that the incident occurred near the entrance of the building. While this was no cause for optimism, but now that he had successfully reunited with Miyuki, there was nothing else he needed to worry about.

"Grenades!? Are the upperclassmen alright?"

"The front entrance have security personnel arranged by the Association along with Magicians with combat experience. The average criminal organization stands no chance......"

Despite Tatsuya's answer, he still had a foreboding premonition. Earlier, Fujibayashi handed him a data card that detailed the possibility that foreign governmental organizations may have a hand in this.

As if to prove his foreboding premonition beyond all doubt, several gunshots were heard.

(Those aren't automatic rifles......

They're high powered rifles used against Magicians!)

The average firearm was rendered impotent against the magic wielded by combat Magicians.

The Juumonji Family's Phalanx was the pinnacle of this and stood as its finest example.

In the latter half of the 21st century, the primary armament for infantry remained firearms, so bullet-resistant magic brought a huge advantage in land warfare.

However, offense and defense always swung back and forth. In order to compensate for powerful defenses, even stronger attacks will be developed. Magic was no exception, as magic was not omnipotent. If the moving object's inertia exceeded magic's interference strength, then the subsequent magic failure would cause any speed reducing, trajectory altering or targeting magic to fizzle.

A physical shield that was penetrated would only reduce the blow, but if magic failed to alter the phenomenon then that was the same as having no defenses whatsoever.

The design behind anti-Magician high powered rifles was to introduce high speed rounds with extreme penetration to render defensive magics from Magicians to be ineffective. However, in order to achieve bullet speeds that will nullify magic from combat Magicians, the technique and development level must surpass typical production caliber by at least 2 or 3 levels.

This is practically beyond even the main armies of smaller countries. Private ownership -- without government support -- like criminal organizations or terrorists was frankly impossible. Speaking of which, during the assault on Hachiōji Special Detention Center several days ago, Lu Gonghu's comrades were equipped with high powered rifles. For such attacks to strike at such close intervals hinted at a powerful force backing them. Based on this, the enemy was almost guaranteed to be minions from the Great Asian Alliance, or even soldiers from the Alliance itself. Still, what was the reason for their grand assault?

Tatsuya was slightly perplexed. Without knowing his opponent's goals, there was no way to predict the degree of escalation. Generally speaking, he should "prepare for the worst", but currently the worst had no upper limit. Without knowing the "worst case scenario", there was no way to develop proper countermeasures.

Even if setting the average situation as a prerequisite, this main hall wasn't secure either. Normally, he would leading Miyuki to the resting area to escape danger.

Yet now, there were Erika and Mizuki in the audience stands.

Although he was only responsible for Miyuki's protection, he didn't want to act solely out of duty.

Also, even if he didn't provide protection, the majority of the people possessed the ability to flee on their own, but he couldn't just sit and ignore the people close to him.

Regardless, maybe this was a blessing or a curse, but his headache didn't last very long.

Accompanied by violent footsteps, a squad toting military-grade rifles stormed the crowded stands.

(How useless!)

Though there was a definite possibility, but they still broke through the perimeter too quickly. Amid the screams, Tatsuya mentally clucked his tongue.

While the audience was still stricken with terror, the first ones to decisively leap into action were the students from Third High still on stage.

Apparently, their topic had some sort of anti-personnel use as they operated the CAD on the stage and attempted to use magic against the invaders.

Several gunshots went off.

Faster than Third High's magic could go into effect, several bullets hit the back wall of the stage.

Seeing the power of the bullets, they were definitely holding the high powered rifles that Tatsuya envisioned.

"Stay honest!"

This roar seemed to hint at their source. If they were foreigners, then smuggling themselves into the country must have been a recent incident. They weren't wearing uniforms or combat gear, but there was an odd sense of conformity. There were a variety of colors, but each of them wore high collared shirts and lanky cargo pants of superb make.

No matter how you looked at it, these guys were definitely not your run of the mill gangsters.

Modern magic has already achieved speeds that can rival firearms thanks to the advent of the CAD. However, that was only breaking even based on the "Magician's power", so theoretically speaking, they could attempt any reckless resistance when the enemy had guns ready.

"Put your gear on the floor."

The invaders appeared to be adept at fighting against Magicians. It was possible they were Magicians themselves.

Only a portion of incredibly powerful Magicians would rely solely on magic in battle. Magicians could also serve as soldiers wielding guns, and in fact the majority of them were.

On the stage, the students from Third High including Kichijouji -- Masaki was not there -- regretfully placed their CADs on the ground.

Courage and recklessness were two different things. The students from Third High must have been educated on that point.

Tatsuya was slightly moved by their reaction, but unfortunately an incident was heading right his way.

The siblings who were just standing in the path were particularly conspicuous.

"Hey, you two as well."

One of the invaders pointed his gun this way and walked cautiously forward.

The words were undoubtedly aimed at Tatsuya. Strictly speaking, there was no room for misinterpretation.

(So that's it......

)

There were a total of six. Three for primary assault and three in support. Tatsuya didn't point his CAD at the invaders who could possibly be terrorists or mobile forces. After all, he couldn't use "Mist Dispersal" in front of so many people, but the situation may not allow him otherwise.

(Need to try and use other magic to cover this.)

Just as Tatsuya ruminated on this with a blank expression on his face, the invader repeated his angry howl.

"Faster!"

The angry howl was more frantic, but Tatsuya didn't move a whisker. The sort of thinking that abandoned all resistance to preserve personal safety didn't jibe with his education and training.

Tatsuya wordlessly watched the approaching man.

No, his gaze would be more appropriately described as "observed". There was no trace of fear or unease in his eyes.

He was only observing the man's entire body, the weapon in his hand, and the flashing muzzle.

Probably growing more and more anxious by the cold eyes watching him or subconsciously feeling the tendrils of a nameless dread, the man approaching Tatsuya increased the pressure on the trigger finger.

"Hey, wait!"

He likely failed to discern his comrade's voice. A volley of gunfire sounded amid the cries.

The bullets filled with discernible killing intent were fired from within 3 meters, causing people to envision an unavoidable tragedy, which only deepened the shock people felt.

A right hand held something before his chest. That was the sole change in Tatsuya's posture. Not a single drop of blood flowed down his body.

The bullets that were fired left no traces on the walls, ceiling, or roof. Spasms broke out over the man's face, as he fired a second, third time. Each time, Tatsuya's right hand flashed towards another position.

The hand motion was so fast that no bystander could see what he was doing.

By the time anyone could react, they could only see the change in the hand's position as it remained holding something.

"He...... couldn't be catching the bullets, could he?"

Someone woodenly murmured. "How, is he doing this......?"

Another nameless individual replied blankly. "Monster!"

The man threw aside his gun because he was stricken by panic.

Setting aside using magic to block bullets, seeing the outrageous sight of someone catching the bullets would naturally create the misconception that guns had lost their use.

However, his fighting spirit was not broken as he pulled out a combat blade and swung it towards Tatsuya. Plainly, the man was a highly trained soldier.

But, the next act shocked everyone even further.

Tatsuya didn't look like he have any time to avoid the incoming attack, so he opened his hand to form a karate chop and slashed towards the man's wrist that was holding the blade.

Tatsuya's karate chop sheared through the man's wrist with no resistance whatsoever.

"Ah!"

A scream started to issue from the man's mouth -- but that was all he could manage

Before the sound could fully turn into a scream, Tatsuya's left fist impacted the man's chest.

The blood spewing from the shredded right wrist stained Tatsuya's clothes.

That was all the resistance (?) the man could muster.

Without sparing a glance at the fallen man, Tatsuya leaped backwards and returned to Miyuki's side to protect her.

This unexpected, even unimaginable turnout caused the audience and the invaders to freeze in their tracks.

Not only was all physical activity suspended, even their minds ground to a halt.

Except for one person.

"Onii-sama, I need to clean up the blood stains, please wait a second."

Miyuki's soft words traveled to every corner of the previously silent conference hall.

Her voice did not waver in the slightest.

As if saying that she would "dust off the lint", there was no trace of unease or incompatibility.

That voice also served as a signal for the halted time to move forward. "On them!"

Security personnel from both sides of the stage unleashed their magic. Although the invaders sought evasive action, but under the well- trained magic attacks from the students selected for the Nine Schools Competition, they were taken out without exception.

Miyuki activated her magic and cleansed the blood stains on Tatsuya's hand and clothes. (Accurately speaking, the moisture was evaporated from the clothes and skin before dispelling the solids.)

Although this was a matter of life and death, Tatsuya never batted an eyelid.

No, "not batting an eyelid" would be incorrect. While it was true that there was no trace of wavering or excitement on his face, he did furrow his brows when he looked at the man collapsed in the pool of his own blood.

Seeing that minute change in expression, Miyuki immediately activated another magic.

The eviscerated right hand and wrist were frozen and the blood pool on the ground dehydrated to a dark red dust.

Tatsuya turned around to find Miyuki smiling gently at him.

Subconsciously, Tatsuya could only smile at his hyper competent little sister.

Seeing her brother smile, Miyuki's eyes glazed over for some reason (from Tatsuya's perspective).

However, this wasn't the time to contemplate something like that as Tatsuya walked towards the entrance.

Immediately, Miyuki was right on his heels.

The siblings completely ignored the man with the severed wrist as they stepped over him.

At this time, "Tatsuya-kun!"

"Tatsuya!"

At the same time, voices from a young lady and man called out.

Normally, the two of them would frown at being so uniform, but this was not the time and place.

Following Erika and Leo, Mikihiko, Mizuki, Honoka, and Shizuku surrounded Tatsuya and Miyuki.

"What's with the hand! Are you hurt!?"

Despite Erika and Leo arriving first, Honoka's frantic question didn't lose out of them in the slightest.

Seeing the earlier hand motion, Honoka consciously realized that there was some theatrics involved, but she wasn't clear on what exactly occurred.

In reality, he didn't catch the bullets themselves, but used "Decomposition" on the physical body of the bullet and the trajectory and thus nullifying the shots. Towards his friends who naturally knew nothing about this, Tatsuya said "It's nothing" and raised his right hand to form a fist a few times to show them.

Seeing this, Honoka and Mizuki finally relaxed, but Mikihiko and Shizuku were watching Tatsuya with eyes that clearly said "How did you do that".

Still, Tatsuya did not answer these unvoiced questions (not that he could answer these questions even if asked). He only answered Erika's question.

"Now we're committed...... What's the next move?"

Why does she seem so upbeat about this, the retort was on his lips before he swallowed it since this would waste precious time.

"Regardless of whether we choose to flee or counterattack, the first priority is to take out the enemy at the front entrance."

After he said this, Tatsuya paused for a moment. "Wait a second, why did you stop?"

He originally wanted to say "So you do appear to be very happy" to Erika, who stood there with eyes sparkling, but after further consideration, he slowly shook his head.

"Splitting up is somewhat better than reacting all the time and taking hits."

"Somewhat" was his only concession towards passive agreement.

Thus, when he realized that not only Erika and Honoka, but even Mizuki and Shizuku lightened up at this, Tatsuya couldn't help but think "Oh, for the love of......"

That being said, this was a state of emergency, so there was no time to lose.

Tatsuya quickly led them towards the entrance.

"Wait a minute......

Just wait a minute, Shiba Tatsuya!"

However, they were unable to depart during the chaos because a voice frantically called them to a stop.

"What is it, Kichijouji Shinkurou?" Tatsuya ruthlessly asked back.

Yet, Kichijouji was not cowed by Tatsuya's displeasure, or maybe because he didn't have time to be afraid, so Kichijouji continued questioning Tatsuya.

"Was that 'Molecular Divider'!?"

Kichijouji's question caused everyone around them to start chattering to one another.

"Molecular Divider Magic was a secret technique developed by the previous USNA Combat Magicians Commander, Major William Sirius. Unlike magic that weakens the molecular bonds, Molecular Divider Magic is one of the USNA's most classified military secrets!"

It was unknown whether this was a knowledge error, but Kichijouji's interpretation was completely off the mark, but that suited Tatsuya just fine.

"Why are you able to use that! How could you possibly know!?"

"Is this the time and place to discuss something like that?"

At the barrage of questions, Tatsuya intentionally used a tone that seemed to frantically try to maintain the facade -- to Kichijouji, this sounded like "there's no need to hide this any longer" -- and curtailed the conversation.

Of course, the truth was otherwise. The magic Tatsuya used was not the USNA military's secret magic "Molecular Divider", nor was he using martial arts to allow his bare hands to shear through human flesh. Just as he decomposed the bullets, he used his right hand as the origin and activated Decomposition Magic at point blank range.

However, he was still under orders to maintain confidentiality. Also, this wasn't the time and place to explain.

"Saegusa-senpai, Nakajou-senpai, please evacuate from the area as soon as possible. Although their final goal remains unknown, but their primary objective must be to kill or kidnap students with advanced magic skills."

After leaving this warning for Mayumi, who just appeared from the wings of the stage to see what happened, and Azusa, who sat in the last row as one of the judges, Tatsuya departed from the scene.

◊ ◊ ◊

Just as Tatsuya and company vanished through the doorway, an incredibly violent explosion shook the conference hall.

Chaotic screaming and the furious din combined to shatter everyone's nerves.

Currently, the chaos has not spread to where Azusa stood in the foremost row of the judges' seats.

Not yet.

However, at the current progression, this panic would undoubtedly lead to a stampede with lots of injuries. At this time, Azusa had no idea what to do or how to do anything and could only stand there frozen.

"A-chan, A-chan......

Student Council President Nakajou!"

Someone on stage reprimanded Azusa.

Hurriedly clambering to her feet, Azusa raised her head to the stage.

Standing on one side of the stage, Mayumi took several steps forward, caught Azusa's eyes, and spoke to her.

"At this rate, this will descend into a panic with lots of people getting hurt. So please use your power to settle everyone down."

"Eh!?"

Mayumi's words caused Azusa's eyes to widen.

This was not because she didn't comprehend her meaning.

"But, that......"

Azusa's magic could interfere with the mentality of others and is able to clamp down on panic, making it particularly effective in these situations. However, mental interference magic is a highly restricted branch of magic and was not something adolescents could wield with impunity.

"Isn't your strength reserved for precisely these sorts of situations? Not my power or Mari or Suzune's power, Azusa, right now we need your power."

At this moment, Mayumi wasn't messing around with her words. She said Suzune, not "Rin-chan", and Azusa, not "A-chan".

Normally, decorum demanded that she refer to them as "Ichihara" and "Nakajou", but she could count on the fingers of one hand the number of times Mayumi called her by name. Based on this point alone, Azusa could tell that Mayumi was deathly serious and was earnestly requesting her to use magic interference magic "Azusa Yumi".

"Don't worry about it, I'll take responsibility. The Saegusa name isn't just for show."

Mayumi adorably winked in order to ease Azusa's mind. Calling on the "Saegusa" name was to hold off those in power who could just stand and fret at this chaos.

She could understand that much. That sentence was no lie.

She didn't want to put all the burden onto Mayumi, but this wasn't time to say that.

Azusa vigorously nodded and turned out, directing her gaze to the squabbling audience.

She extended her hand to the necklace around her neck and pulled out a small pendant from her collar that could have been hidden in an elementary school student's hand. Azusa unclasped the pendant and held it in her left hand.

She took a deep breath and flooded the pendant with psions.

This pendant was the core component of a CAD that was designed to support exactly one type of magic. Only one Activation Sequence was recorded within and, since only one function was necessary, all other components needed for switching Activation Sequences like buttons or monitors were excluded to form a miniature magic staff.

A magic wand forged for one person and equipped with one magic spell.

Azusa activated emotional interference magic "Azusa Yumi". -- A clear note that could be heard from front to back spread across the conference hall.

This was a hallucinatory sound.

It was not air, but a subconscious sound of the tides.

It was not the oscillation of psions, but waves of pushions.

Everyone thirsted for the clear reverberation the same way a traveler stranded in a murky, foul swap felt the first drop of rain and raised their head to wait the next one. Their entire consciousness was concentrated here.

Before the first echo could disappear into the aether, everyone was subconsciously looking forward the next note.

People desperately wished for the next sound.

At some point, cognitive processing stopped and listening was all that remained.

This lasted for a mere 3 seconds.

This paltry amount of time was all that was needed for people to switch a state of panic to a trance.

"I am Saegusa Mayumi, former Student Council President of First High."

The suspended consciousness of the audience was drawn by Mayumi's voice that was amplified by the speakers.

"Right now, we are under attack."

The voice that captured everyone's attention dropped another sentence that sent everyone's expression from blankness to a state of shock.

"An unidentified vessel moored in the harbor is launching rocket attacks. In support of this, mobile forces concealed in the city have also launched their assault."

These were truly astounding words.

For Azusa, if Mayumi wasn't the one saying this, she would definitely be skeptical.

But, just as Mayumi herself said, "the Saegusa name isn't just for show".

If it was her, then she would definitely get wind of the news and based on her standing, she couldn't be sprouting lies. No matter how ludicrous her words were, they must be the truth.

"Earlier, the malefactors we captured should be the invader's comrades. Based on the earlier sounds of explosions, the target is likely the Magicians and magic technology in this building."

Mayumi paused briefly when she reached this point and swept her gaze over the crowd.

Everyone was waiting on her words with bated breath.

"As everyone knows, this conference hall has an underground tunnel which serves as an evacuation route to an emergency shelter."

No one shifted his or her gaze from Mayumi.

"The emergency shelter has the capacity to hold us all." They hung on to every one of her words.

"However, the underground shelter can protect against natural disasters and air strikes."

Not just the students, even the adults were completely focused on her. "It cannot stand against land based military forces."

Even the "powers that be", so used to ordering people around, were listening in.

"We suspect that the enemy has invested Magicians in the units. Unfortunately, the outlook for a shelter to last against magical attacks is not positive."

Now, everyone present knew of Mayumi. Regardless of whether it was her appearance, her competition performance, or the meaning behind her name.

That was why not a single person derided her depressing outlook as "child's play". Taking in account the might of the "Saegusa" name, even the educators gave Mayumi free rein here.

"That being said, fleeing into the crossfire on the streets would be even more dangerous. However, right now the most dangerous option is to remain here."

Immediately, the conference hall quietened.

Mayumi was not foolish enough to waste this opportunity.

"Representatives from each school please begin gathering students from your school. Whether we are going to flee to the shelter or flee the conference hall, there is no time to waste."

A wholly different ruckus spread across the hall. The voices calling out to one another were different in that there was an orderly sequence to them.

"My apologies to the individuals unaffiliated with the nine schools, but please make your own way to safety. I regret to say that we do not possess the power to guarantee everyone's safety."

This may seem like a ruthless statement, but there were no objections or catcalls. Everyone present was related to magic on some level, so when compared to normal plebeians, they generally approached the "abnormal" crowd.

"If you're heading for the shelter, please take the underground passage immediately. If you wish to flee, there are reports that the coast guard is sending ships to the Mizuho Docks."

Mayumi bowed and cut the mic before turning to Azusa.

"A-chan, I'll leave everyone to you. Teachers, please assist Nakajou."

The teachers with Tsuzura at their head nodded. On the other side, Azusa's eyes widened.

"Eh? President, no, Mayumi?"

Seeing Azusa bubbling with questions with widened eyes, Mayumi smiled and nodded.

"It's perfectly clear. A-chan, you're the current Student Council President for First High. Don't worry, I know you can do it. After all, you were the one I personally trained."

Mayumi winked before turning away and hurrying to the resting area with Suzune and company.

◊ ◊ ◊

Directly ahead of the front entrance, assault rifles and magic were exchanging fire.

The attacking mobile forces all had East Asian faces. They wore high collared tunics and lanky cargo pants of varying colors, much like the terrorists who invaded the conference hall. They were equipped with normal assault rifles and high powered rifles to handle Magicians.

The ones who engaged the mobile forces were professional Magicians employed by the Magic Association.

However, given the fact that front entrance was breached, the situation was not in their favor.

The mobile forces originally had the numerical advantage and now had anti-Magician armament, which was why several combat Magicians, who were typically a target that infantry with normal load outs could not approach, were lying wounded on the ground.

Advancing forward, Tatsuya stopped in the shaded areas near the main entrance. Behind him, Miyuki also came to a halt. Yet behind them, the next two people following them were full of vigor and about to charge forward.

"Halt! Those are high powered bullets used against Magicians!" He shouted at Erika as she was about to pass by him,

"Oof!"

And forcibly dragged Leo back by the collar. "......How merciless, Tatsuya."

"But thanks to you, I'm still breathing."

A beat later, the other four people arrived. Mikihiko seemed appreciative of Tatsuya's violent gesture and even a little envious while Shizuku replied in her usual bland tone. Tatsuya was quite thankful for his friends that remained calm even under these conditions, but before a wry smile made its way across his face, he turned his eyes towards his sister.

"Miyuki, silence the guns."

Hearing Tatsuya's words, all of his friends revealed a "Hm?" expression of shock.

"As you command. But Onii-sama, in order to handle so many people......"

For some reason, Miyuki's reply contained a degree of embarrassment that was utterly alien to this situation.

Exactly what was the cause of her embarrassment, this new enigma caused everyone to tilt their heads.

"I understand."

Tatsuya's next gesture immediately solved this riddle.

Miyuki gently wrapped her right fingers around Tatsuya's outstretched left hand.

No matter what angle one looked it, that embarrassed expression should not be something a sister wore when facing her brother.

But before anyone could raise the question, Miyuki's expression turned solemn, an expression befitting a Magician.

Her left hand moved in a natural manner difficult to detect and gripped the CAD.

Tatsuya slowly raised his right hand parallel to the ground and pointed to the mobile forces from his hiding spot.

The next instant, Miyuki's magic activated.

It was a magic that could freeze fire.

Oscillation Speed-Type Wide Area Magic "Freeze Flame".

"Freeze Flame" was a wide area conceptual magic that prevented anything from burning.

This magic could suppress the temperature of targets within a certain threshold.

At the end of the day, firearms rely on gunpowder -- in other words, burning gunpowder to create the force necessary to propel the bullet. The detonation that ignited the gunpowder was also a type of burning. Generally, the concept was that burning a target would raise the temperature, but if the flammable object could be prevented from heating up, then ignition would become impossible. Thus, firearms that have been subjected to "Freeze Flame", regardless of whether they were guns or cannons would be silenced so long as they relied on gunpowder or explosives.

There were roughly 30 men left in the guerrilla unit.

Miyuki's upper limit for mass targeting was approximately 16.

She set 30 odd assault rifles as the target for two volleys of "Freeze Flame".

Before ascertaining the result, Tatsuya had already charged from where he hid behind the doorway.

In a flash, he was already in the mobile forces' formation and waving both hands with a magic edge.

The terrifying image of someone chopping through human flesh with their bare hands was all the more shocking because the magic being used remained a mystery. Thus, in comparison to their allies being shot, this scene terrorized the enemy even more.

Despite their difficult situation owing to the inoperable rifles, the mobile forces initially still acted decisively and drew blades to engage, but their morale was completely crushed by the time the fifth person had been cut down.

They watched Tatsuya with the same eyes they would use on a monster.

He rejected long range magic attacks and intentionally opted for close quarters combat magic with its degree of risk not only to avoid letting his friends discover the truth behind his magic, but also to sow panic among his enemies.

Being seen as the devil incarnate was precisely what Tatsuya wanted.

On the flank of the irregular force whose morale was in tatters, a silver wind flew across with a speed that the eye could barely follow.

Everywhere the wind passed over, blood and flesh flew as an enemy trooper died on the spot.

The kodachi, nay, based on its length the weapon should be a wakizashi.

The true image of the chilling silver wind was this short sword.

Swapping her usual Weaponized Integrated CAD in the shape of a police baton for a wakizashi without the guard, Erika activated personal Speed-Type Magic and took aim at the mobile force's jugular.

She, like Tatsuya, was not someone who hesitated when taking the life of an enemy. For her, this wasn't the first time. And besides from that, someone like her who wielded a weapon designed to take life and trained in techniques to do so, she knew the dangers brought on by hesitation. Under the condition that the enemy seeks your life, any hesitation towards returning the favor in kind would be arrogant and foolish in the extreme. Erika was an ardent believer in this.

Mikihiko also shared similar sentiments. Nurtured in a family whose values system over the generations considered magic to be a weapon, he had no delusions about the original purpose and usage of magic.

"Tatsuya, Erika!"

Hearing Mikihiko's voice from behind, both of them quickly sprang aside.

What came from behind was the true wind.

Sharp razor winds mercilessly tore through and eviscerated the soldiers' skin.

After leaving the remnants of the enemy for the Magicians on duty to handle, Tatsuya and Erika returned to their companions for now.

"There was no opportunity to do anything......"

Tatsuya patted the gloomy Leo on the back in encouragement (to which Leo sullenly crouched), raised a thumbs up at Mikihiko before smiling slightly towards Honoka and Mizuki, who were plainly trying to resist their urge to retch and whose eyes bore traces of fear.

"My apologies. This may be a little too extreme for you guys, Honoka."

"--No, it's OK."

Honoka firmly nodded her head, which was probably her affection at work.

Regardless of the reason, keeping her composure deserved top marks.

Fear or avoidance could wait until they have extricated themselves from this situation, those were Tatsuya's true feelings.

"Mizuki?"

"Ah......

I'm fine as well."

Miyuki's soft question caused Mizuki's originally stiff expression to break into a smile. She was a smart girl. She fully understood that this wasn't a normal situation.

"Speaking of which, Erika, how did you bring that kind of weapon here? I don't think that length can fit in a bag, can it?"

Nonetheless, scenes of death were not something that a person could immediately adjust to and the subsequent shock would not fade immediately.

He intentionally changed the topic to an unimportant one to give the two of them time to settle down.

"Hm, I don't think that's enough?"

Afterwards, using a more amicable tone than usual to reply, Erika also seemed to have caught on to Tatsuya's intentions.

"And how about this......?"

"Ho, seriously......."

The expressive sigh that sprouted from Tatsuya's lips was no act.

Somewhere along the way, Honoka and Mizuki had their eyes drawn there, and even Miyuki, Shizuku and Mikihiko widened their eyes.

Still, there was a little mechanism worthy of such astonishment.

Erika pressed the power button on the hilt and the thin, razor sharp blade shrank into a round baton.

"Cool, eh? This is the memory blade that the police plan to put into the field starting next year."

"Now that you mention it, the Chiba Family also makes close combat weapons......"

"Strictly speaking, that's the chief source of income."

Although this wasn't a hilarious exchange, but their light and swift interchange was sufficient to allow Mizuki and the others to recover themselves.

"......So, what's the next step?"

Leo had also learned to read the mood.

They weren't going to make it, he hinted with his words as he asked Tatsuya for further instructions.

"We require additional information. Erika said there appears to be a major incident in process that far surpasses our expectations. Aimless action may be like sinking into the quagmire."

-- They needed to obtain necessary intel from the Magic Association.

The main and side branches for the Magic Association had secret lines reserved for the Ten Master Clans and Tatsuya held the authority to directly access the Yotsuba Family line. Once linked to that line, even top secret information from Joint Chiefs was at his disposal.

If Tatsuya was alone, he would be able to reach the Kantou branch of the Magic Association in the Bay Hills Tower in approximately ten minutes despite the fighting in the streets. He wasn't engaged in high speed running exercises every morning for nothing.

However, Miyuki would be unable to keep up with Tatsuya's pace without roller skates or Flying-Type Magic. Leo, Erika, and Mikihiko may be capable, but one look at Honoka, Shizuku, and Mizuki told him that this was beyond them.

"How about the VIP conference room?"

As Tatsuya subconsciously creased his eyebrows, Shizuku made this proposal as she pointed at the building they just exited.

"The VIP conference room?"

Tatsuya didn't know of such a facility. He knew of the VIP waiting room, but this shouldn't be a slip of words. Also, the room Tatsuya had in mind was a mere waiting room and only possessed a standard phone line.

"Yeah. That's the room reserved for cabinet members and financial group leaders, so a lot of information can be accessed there."

"There's actually such a room?"

"That's because this conference room isn't open to the public."

"......It's amazing that you would know about it."

Erika's comment was wholly admiration, to which Shizuku bashfully replied with a hint of delight.

"I know the ID key and access codes as well."

"Incredible......"

"Uncle really spoils Shizuku."

Honoka's interjection caused Tatsuya to nod his head as if to say "that makes sense". That particular father would definitely do that.

Given that this is a room for "Kitayama Ushio", they would definitely be able to tap into the police and coast guard's communications.

"Shizuku, please lead the way."

Hearing Tatsuya's words, Shizuku nodded vigorously, which for her was a rarely seen overreaction.

◊ ◊ ◊

After using Shizuku's access code to enter the VIP conference room and examining the police map data on the monitors, they found that the entire shore was flagged as red and dangerous. In addition, the red danger zones were rapidly expanding in land.

The enemy's numbers remained unknown. Still, based on their invading pace, they undoubtedly invested a significant amount of troops. There were several hundred at the bare minimum, Tatsuya estimated, probably company strength around 600 to 800 men. The situation was deteriorating far beyond initial estimations, causing Tatsuya to crease his brows again.

"What the heck is this!"

"That's going too far."

"So many people......

How did this happen?"

Owing to his friends' exaggerated reactions, his dark visage did not attract any attention.

"Onii-sama......"

Although he wasn't conspicuous, but there was no way Miyuki would remain oblivious. His mental waves would directly cause his sister to waver because their hearts were connected as one.

Repeatedly caressing his sister's head as her eyes shimmered with unease, Tatsuya turned to his friends.

"I think everyone understands the situation without going into the details and the situation is dire. If we waste too much time here, we will be captured before the JSDF arrives. That being said, escape will not be an easy prospect. At least going by land won't be with all traffic system offline."

"In other words, we go by sea?"

Tatsuya shook his head at Leo's question.

"That would be a slim hope. The mobilized ships are likely unable to accommodate all the evacuees."

"So we head to the shelter?"

Tatsuya nodded at Mikihiko's proposal, but he didn't appear to be very confident.

"That's probably more practical...... While the infrastructure is fairly sturdy, but that won't help if the building itself is destroyed."

"So, let's take the underground tunnel."

Although Erika urged him onward as if she wanted to rush out the door, Tatsuya replied back with "please wait".

"No, don't go underground. Go above."

"Eh, why? ......

Ah, that's why."

Seeing Erika comprehend the reason why before any explanation was necessary, Tatsuya couldn't help but think "As expected of a famous family skilled in combat magic".

Still, his "please wait" referred to more than that. "Also, can you give me a little time?"

"That's no problem......

But what for?"

Seeing Tatsuya ask for further delay despite knowing better than anyone that every second was precious, Honoka tilted her head and asked for the reason. While this question was built on the prerequisite that "Yes" was the answer, this was her way of expressing her emotions to Tatsuya.

"I want to delete the data on the demonstration devices."

"Ah, yes. That might also be one of the enemy's goals." Everyone nodded at Mikihiko's added note.

"Shiba, Yoshida."

Tatsuya and Mikihiko led the group along the way from the elevator to the back stage and were called to a stop by a heavy voice that came from the abdomen.

Tatsuya and Mikihiko only knew one person who could speak with such a vigorous voice.

"Juumonji-senpai."

Turning their heads, they found Juumonji Katsuto advancing with Hattori and Sawaki following him. All three wore Kevlar with light bulletproof plates. The fact that Katsuto, with his powerful magic barrier ability, was wearing personal body armor was sufficient to drive home how dire the situation was.

"Everyone else is together. Did you guys not evacuate in time?" In other words, they should "quickly evacuate".

"Just in case, we are going to delete the data on the demonstration devices to prevent theft. In regards to everyone else, I think moving as one group is preferable to splitting up."

In order to hide the fact that they literally hacked into a secret conference room, Tatsuya hesitated briefly over how to explain his companions before going with that white lie. (The first half was true.)

"But the other students have already gone into the underground tunnel."

That was Hattori's comment.

"What's wrong with the underground tunnel?"

Deftly noting the subtle change when Tatsuya creased his eyebrows, Sawaki immediately asked.

"I can't say that it's wrong...... But the underground tunnel doesn't lead directly to the shelter so there is a possibility they will run into other organizations. Possibly."

"You mean there's a chance they will walk into a fight!?"

Before Tatsuya could finish, Hattori immediately exploded with a question. No, although phrased as a question, in reality he already reached an answer.

"Freedom of movement will be restricted in the underground tunnel. Unable to hide or flee, the chance of being forced into a head-on confrontation definitely exists. Hence why I opted to advance above ground."

Katsuto's decision was swift.

"Hattori, Sawaki, go after Nakajou now."

"Yes."

"Got it."

Seeing the two of them sprint off, Katsuto glanced at Tatsuya. There was a hint of a reprimand in that look.

"Shiba, when compared to your cunning, it appears that your actions are a little too cautious."

Of course, Tatsuya got the drift of what Katsuto was driving at. Still, he didn't just frankly accept it either. At any rate, he made no rebuttal.

"No need to say anything else. Let's move."

"Understood."

This time, Katsuto was following Tatsuya.

Acknowledging the need in Tatsuya's aim, Katsuto chose to assist in this endeavour. This was something Tatsuya comprehended without a word being spoken.

"What are you people doing!?"

Returning to the backstage with the demonstration devices, Tatsuya's opening comment completely set himself aside. Here, not only Suzune and Isori failed to evacuate and were crowded around the device, there was also Mayumi, Mari, Kanon, Kirihara, and Sayaka nearby standing on guard.

"Data deletion."

What they were doing was plainly obvious. The real question Tatsuya wanted to ask was "why are you still here". Tatsuya had no response for Suzune's literal answer.

"Saegusa, you guys didn't evacuate?"

"Rin-chan and Isori-kun are both doing their best, how can we just leave them and flee first?"

Katsuto verbalized Tatsuya's thoughts but was also rendered speechless by that perfectly natural response.

"We'll handle this one. We'll leave the one in the resting area to you, Shiba-kun."

"If you can, please destroy the models left behind by the other schools as well."

"After finishing here we'll also head for the resting area. We'll decide our next step there."

After receiving Isori, Kanon, and Mari's request (order?), Tatsuya and Katsuto turned around.

By the time Tatsuya finished combing the resting areas of the other schools with Miyuki accompanying him and returned (he didn't bring anyone else because he didn't want other people to see him decompose the data specifics, leaving behind an empty storage device), Suzune and others finished their work in the backstage and returned to the resting area.

"Welcome back. That was fast."

"And the result?"

"All data on the remaining devices have been destroyed."

In regards to the question from the engaged couple, Isori and Kanon, Tatsuya replied in this manner.

"Eh...... How did you do that?"

Though this was the expected result, but astonishment was unavoidable. Seeing Kanon wear this expression as she pressed her next question, Tatsuya replied simply.

"That's a secret."

"Kanon, you cannot inquire about other Magician's spell work. That is against the rules, remember?"

The one who spoke up was none other than Isori.

Kanon was plainly unwilling to drop the issue, but still obediently backed down.

"So, now we have to decide what to do next." After saying this, Mari looked towards Mayumi.

"There is only one hostile vessel invading the harbor. Currently, no other enemy vessels have been discovered in Tokyo Bay. Although the enemy numbers on land have yet to be identified, the enemy has a stranglehold on the entire shoreline. Land-based communications are practically completely disabled, another thing we have to thank the mobile forces for."

"What is their goal?"

Mayumi and Mari exchanged a glance at Isori's question.

"Right now, we can only guess......"

Mayumi was the one who answered.

"By targeting Yokohama for their attack, they must be aiming for the sole possible target in Yokohama. Strictly speaking, Kyoto is the same."

"The side branch of the Magic Association." Kanon interjected before she could finish.

"To be precise, the target is the main Magic Association database. Since all major data is compiled in Kyoto and Yokohama, we also have to take into consideration that many specialists and scholars are gathered here for the Thesis Competition."

Mayumi chuckled wryly at Kanon's anxious attitude and added a few pointers of her own.

"When does the rescue ship arrive?"

In response to Mari's question or more like what she wanted to verify, Mayumi's answer was not very positive.

"The coast guard's cargo ship needs another ten minutes to arrive. However, based on the number of people that gathered and need to be evacuated, the ship will not have sufficient capacity to carry them all."

Mayumi's information was on par with the details that Tatsuya and company received upstairs. In other words, there will definitely be people who cannot evacuate.

"Nakajou-san and the others who headed for the shelter unfortunately made Shiba-kun's fears a reality. They ran into mobile forces en route and have been bogged down. However, since the enemy numbers are quite few, they should be able to run them off after not too long according to Nakajou-san's last transmission."

After Mayumi, Suzune continued to speak.

"The situation is as everyone heard. While we don't know how much room is left at the shelter, we're going to be too late for the boat. In that case, I believe we can only head for the shelter. What does everyone else think?"

Mayumi, Mari, Suzune.

Isori, Kanon, Sayaka.

Tatsuya, Miyuki, Erika, Leo, Mikihiko, Mizuki, Honoka, Shizuku. There were the above 14 people here.

Katsuto had taken Kirihara, who originally stayed to protect Suzune, and went to verify if anyone else hadn't escaped in time.

The three Year 3 students kept their mouths shut.

Probably because they wanted to hear their underclassmen's thoughts. That being said, their thoughts were all accord with Mari.

"......I also agree with Mari-nee's opinion."

The Year 2 students like Kanon probably thought they didn't have any other choice.

All the Year 1 students turned their eyes towards Tatsuya.

With Mari's interrogative eyes on him, his eyes...... were watching an entirely different direction.

Faster than the eye could follow, he raised a silver CAD. "Onii-sama!?"

"Tatsuya-kun!?"

As if in response to Miyuki and Mayumi's questions, Tatsuya aimed at the wall and pulled the trigger.

Tatsuya never forgot for a single moment that there were many witnesses present.

However, there was no time to ensure secrecy at this point. It was pure coincidence that he was able to notice this.

Maybe this was the instincts that Yakumo honed in him talking. Yakumo repeatedly taught Tatsuya not to overly rely on "Elemental Sight" and that looked to pay dividends now.

Engulfed in a powerful sense of danger, Tatsuya extended his "sight" beyond the wall to read the signal that a large physical object was barrelling down on them.

If Katsuto was present, the outcome may be different.

If enemy soldiers rushed in, he could leave it to Mayumi or Mari. Time permitting, he could also let Miyuki handle it.

Yet, in this instant, only Tatsuya's magic was able to handle the incoming large armored truck.

Height 4 meters, width 3 meters, total weight 30 tons.

Enlarging the scope another level to accommodate the uniform rise of the street and placing the entire large truck with armor plating in his targeting hairs, Tatsuya activated Decomposition Magic "Mist Dispersion".

In a flash, the large truck faded into dust.

The driver was ejected from the suddenly vanished driver's seat and rolled straight forward to collide into the wall.

Thanks to inertia, the remnants of metallic and resin dust hitting the wall of the conference center were all that remained of that large truck's passage.

A few minor lacerations were found on the outside of the wall, but internally, no damage was incurred.

Yet, the world was not so convenient that no one detected what just happened.

"......

Just now, what......

?"

Mayumi's terrified question caused Tatsuya to want to cluck his tongue. Mayumi seems to have noticed what just happened exactly like he worried she would.

Along his line of sight, she must have used Sensory-Type Magic "Multi Scope" to look beyond the wall. However, fortunately -- this was only deferring the question -- there was no need to answer that question.

Mayumi's expanding vision caused her face to turn pale for another reason.

Also expanding his sight, Tatsuya grasped the reason why.

Looks like the people remaining in the conference hall have been identified by the enemy as dangerous personnel, Tatsuya thought.

Since the soldiers invading the conference hall have been captured and the battle at the entrance turned into a rout, the objective shifted from capture to eradication.

Part of his consciousness was coldly analyzing the situation as if he had no part in it while the remaining energy was channeled towards magic that could meet a rain of guided missiles.

Nevertheless, this time there was no need for Tatsuya to do anything.

The wall of the room they were standing in was covered by multiple layers of magic barriers.

Before the missiles could hit the wall, sonic waves fired from the flank detonated all the missiles en route.

"Sorry for the wait."

Hearing a sudden voice from the outside, both Tatsuya and Mayumi reined in their sight to the range of the naked eye.

As if waiting for this cue -- although he really wanted believe she had better character than that -- a woman entered the waiting room.

"Eh? Eh? This can't be. Kyouko-nee?"

"Long time no see, Mayumi."

Suddenly appearing, Fujibayashi smiled and greeted Mayumi like an old friend.

◊ ◊ ◊

Katsuto ran into a rain of missiles because he detected the presence of powerful magic at the place.

Magicians could detect the usage of magic based on reactions to changes in phenomena.

Yet, this magic almost engendered no reaction whatsoever.

Despite this, Katsuto clearly understood that the "world" underwent massive change.

Not using the five senses to read the "meaning" was not a skill unique to Tatsuya.

Katsuto used magic to manipulate space, so he was exceptionally sensitive to changes in spatial distribution.

Distribution of matter was one of the core elements to basic spatial manipulation.

Katsuto was able to use his senses and the changes in spatial distribution to grasp physical movement and changes.

Through those senses, Katsuto detected that a massive physical object, though not as large as a building but sufficient to be gigantic by human standards, had vanished in an instant.

Katsuto had never encountered such a change in phenomenon on such a scale with this degree of stability.

Rather than being threatened by this feeling, curiosity prompted Katsuto to halt searching for people who hadn't fled and leaped towards the scene where matter dissipated.

Seeing that massive body, it was hard to imagine that he was also very adept in high speed Move-Type Magic. Leaving Kirihara behind at the original location, he slid through the sky through his leap and arrived at the outer wall of the resting area thanks to his momentum.

Was this fortunate or unfortunate?

For Mayumi and Mari, this is definitely fortunate.

As to what Katsuto thought himself, there was no way to know without asking him.

Just as he arrived Katsuto was subjected to a warm welcome from the guided missiles.

Katsuto's response was almost pure reflex.

He instantaneously erected several physical barriers that were impermeable to air particles and could handle temperatures exceeding 20000 degrees.

The shock waves from the missiles that mysteriously detonated in mid air didn't even scratch the outer walls covered by Katsuto's barrier.

Katsuto looked in the direction where the shock waves that detonated the missiles came from.

There was an army captain standing on an open top military car carrying something that looked like a missile launcher.

"Super Sonic Launcher......

Are you from 101?"

Katsuto called out towards military vehicle headed his way. (Although it seemed a little odd, he was still a high school student, so he addressed the adult in a respectful tone.)

The car must be equipped with a fusion mechanical system and slid soundlessly forward until the captain descended with a picturesque smile and saluted Katsuto.

"JSDF 101 Independent Magic-Equipped Battalion, Captain, Sanada Shigeru. As expected of the heir of the Juumonji Family, you do know about us. Please excuse my rudeness."

Katsuto's brow twitched.

Such a simple reaction was exemplary mental fortitude for an 18 year old young man.

"Excuse me. I think both sides have much to discuss."

"......I should be the one apologizing."

"A thousand apologies. Then, my lord heir of the Juumonji Family, let's go inside."

Sanada said as he headed for the conference hall.

Katsuto had no idea what the man needed from him, but since this soldier knew about the hidden family situation surrounding the

Juumonji Family, he was not someone Katsuto could let his guard down around.

The two men advanced one another into the nearest entrance of the conference hall.

◊ ◊ ◊

Fujibayashi did not come alone.

Behind her figure decked out in combat fatigues (she was not wearing a dress and brand name shoes but long pants and boots), another man in his prime wearing the uniform of the JSDF with a major's pins came in.

This major came before the bemused Tatsuya, who stood there stiffly, and came to a halt with his hands behind his back.

"Special Lieutenant, your information classification has been temporarily disabled."

Standing by his side, Fujibayashi spoke to Tatsuya.

Confusion vanished from Tatsuya's face as he came to attention and saluted the man in front of him.

At that pose, everyone besides Miyuki, including the recently entered Katsuto, could only gape in shock.

The soldier returned Tatsuya's salute, saw Katsuto's figure, and walked towards him.

"I am JSDF Major Kazama Harunobu. I apologize for being unable to reveal my unit."

Sanada already reported their unit designation earlier, so Kazama only said this because he was aware that Mayumi and Erika may hear this.

"So you must be that Major Kazama. I am the Juumonji Family's representative to the Master Clan Conference, Juumonji Katsuto."

In response to Kazama's self introduction, Katsuto also revealed the name known throughout the world of Magicians.

Kazama saluted and turned to place both Katsuto and Tatsuya into his line of sight.

"Fujibayashi, please explain to everyone the current situation."

"Yes, sir. Currently, our forces stationed at Tsuchiya are engaging the enemy invaders. Also, we have battalions advancing from Tsurumi and Fujisawa. The Kantou branch of the Magic Association has also formed volunteers to aid in the defense."

"Thank you. Then, Special Lieutenant."

After issuing a concise thank you to Fujibayashi, Kazama called out "Special Lieutenant" as he turned to Tatsuya.

"We have just received orders. Owing to special circumstances, our unit that was originally advancing to Tsuchiya are also to aid in the defensive effort. Under special assignment regulations of the JSDF, you are also mobilized."

Mayumi and Mari both opened their mouths but Kazama silenced them both with a look.

"The JSDF requests and requires that everyone here keep the Special Lieutenant's position confidential. This is a classified secret concerning national defense, so please understand."

Compared to the severe words and solemn tone, the strength of that gaze was sufficient to Mayumi, Mari, and Kanon to abandon all resistance.

"Special Lieutenant, the Mobile Suit you designed has already been prepared on the trailer. Let's hurry."

Tatsuya nodded at Sanada's words and briefly turned to his friends.

"My apologies, but it's just as you heard. Everyone head to the shelter with the senpais."

"Special Lieutenant, my squad and I will provide protection for everyone here."

Fujibayashi added in her two cents to Tatsuya as he bowed his head to his friends.

Although their numbers were few, Tatsuya was deeply appreciative that she was able to delegate precious assets for his friends and to the major for doing his utmost to accommodate him.

"Thank you, Lieutenant."

"Understood. Do your best out there, Special Lieutenant." Saluting Fujibayashi, Tatsuya followed Kazama outside.

Setting aside the peers he apologized to, Tatsuya didn't mention anything about the upperclassmen. Maybe it was because they could read the atmosphere or simply out of shock, but no one called out to Tatsuya regardless of whether they were his peers or upperclassmen.

"Onii-sama, please hold."

However, his sister Miyuki called out to him, a myriad of emotions warring across her face.

Reading the inquisitive look from Tatsuya, Kazama nodded and left first.

Miyuki stood before Tatsuya and stretched her hands out towards his face.

Her aim was not to detain him.

Miyuki knew about his standing and duties just as well as Tatsuya himself.

What Miyuki feared most was to get in Tatsuya's way.

Currently, there was an objective that Miyuki sought to accomplish. She did not possess the authority to do so.

Yet Miyuki opted to bear the full responsibility on her own discretion. She already made up her mind to remove her brother's shackles.

Tatsuya read that determination from his sister's eyes.

Greeting his sister's upraised gaze, Tatsuya's expression was bewildered, understanding and grateful as he nodded before falling to one knee before Miyuki. -- Just as a knight bows before his princess.

Miyuki held that face in both hands lifted her brother's face, whose eyes were closed, towards herself.

Miyuki bent at the waist.

And bestowed upon her brother's forehead,

A deep kiss.

After his sister's lips departed, the hands pressed against his face fell away and Tatsuya bowed his head once more.

Transformation descended immediately.

A violent array of photons, enough to sear the eyes, burst from Tatsuya's body.

These were no photons, but psions wrapped in physical light. Tatsuya opened his eyes and rose to his feet.

Staggeringly active psions coursed around him.

The conqueror has come, armored by the storms and commanding lightning.

Although that violent array of light retracted, the voluminous psions still swirled calmly around him.

Anyone would have lurched one or two steps away from Tatsuya, but Miyuki only smiled benignly, lifted her dress and dropped into a deep curtsey.

"May you conquer all before you."

"I'm off."

With his sister's emotional eyes watching him, Tatsuya stepped onto the Yokohama streets that had been transformed into a battlefield and went off to war.

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