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Chapter: 4


The conflict between the group of First High students and faculty (including outside personnel) that headed for the shelter via the underground tunnel and the armed guerrillas in the tunnel drew to a close.

The number of evacuees totaled nearly 60 people.

Since that attack came after First High's presentation came to an end, the number of students who came to show their support had reached a peak.

Azusa mentally lamented this unfortunate turn of events, but as the Student Council President, she had to put on a brave front no matter what happened.

Ahead of them was the sound of gunfire and shock waves.

That was the sound of Sawaki taking down the enemy guerrilla armed with guns at the forefront.

Under everyone's combined efforts, the primary weapons such as assault rifles and semi-automatics had been successfully nullified.

Azusa also used magic to solidify the air in the muzzle to cause an explosion that took out two guns and their respective users.

The result lay before her eyes.

Despite being a tunnel, this wasn't a hole excavated in the previous century. There were plenty of lights illuminating the way.

Along the bloodsoaked underground passage, several irregulars lay on the ground.

Normally, she would try to avoid looking at this tragic sight. However, out of duty as the student representative, Azusa forcibly stifled her terror.

She had no experience in magic combat skills or tactical squad command.

Even if she didn't say anything, the security personnel selected from the Club Activities Group and Public Moral Committee wouldn't allow any guerrilla to approach their group.

Azusa fought down the bile rising in her throat and beheld Hattori and Sawaki arriving to rout the guerrillas. All she could do was watch them with her eyes, such was her duty.

Likely because of the sparse number of enemies, there were fortunately no fatalities on their side.

However, Magicians were not immortal. They will bleed if cut, die if shot.

Magic defenses were not omnipotent either. If the bullet's kinetic energy surpassed magic's ability to alter the Eidos, then the magic barrier would be penetrated.

They endured that sort of risk to serve as our living shields. She believed that to turn her eyes away from these comrades who protected individuals like herself who were inept in combat would be a betrayal of the highest order.

Azusa carefully scrutinized Sawaki as he used his fists and feet to take down the guerrillas that swarmed from all directions as well as Hattori who stood behind him to provide covering fire with magic.

The guerrillas who burst out from cover were also crushed by Sawaki effortlessly.

Their opponents were irregulars of East-Asian descent, so there was no way to immediately tell them apart from normal civilians.

Anyone holding a large weapon like an assault rifle could immediately be identified as hostile, but guerrillas that stalked forward with hidden combat knives or combat knives were hard to differentiate from the average civilian. Hence Sawaki abandoned any and all attempts at telling them apart.

He fortified his defenses and struck down anyone who raised a hand at him.

He was only able to rely on this rough strategy because of the superlative sturdiness of his defenses.

Convergence Move-Type Combination Magic "Air Armor".

Setting the first 3-5 centimeters of air around his body as the target, he rendered the surface of his skin to be smoother and lowered the angle of physical penetration so he could avoid high speed bullets with low mass.

This was not solely magic or physical skills, but a combination of the two which produced the speed and technique necessary to carry out this practically suicidal strategy.

A newly appeared enemy swung a broadsword at him.

Repeatedly activating magic, Sawaki cast personal acceleration magic on himself.

The speed of his fists approached sonic speed.

Surrounded by compressed air, his fist broke the sound barrier. With a boom, the guerrilla went flying.

This sort of overkill successfully impeded fresh enemies. Earlier, repeated threats appeared to serve no effect.

Still, just as physical stamina is limited, human inner strength is also limited. Sawaki's blow caused the soldier to collide with the irregular behind him, forcing both of them to collide solidly with the wall and slide to the ground. Seeing this, the guerrillas' morale finally started to crumble.

As Sawaki disengaged the magic armor, his ill-natured classmate was hurtling steam blocks charged with electricity at the fleeing enemy presence.

◊ ◊ ◊

Fujibayashi's squad had two all-terrain vehicles and there were eight people including Fujibayashi. Although the unit was small enough to barely rate as a squad, every member looked highly competent.

"Mayumi, I'm sorry to say......

That I cannot accommodate everyone on board."

With an apologetic expression, Fujibayashi informed Mayumi, who appeared to be awed by each soldier's battle hardened aura.

"Ah, no, we originally decided to evacuate on foot......"

"Is that right. But wouldn't that be too far, and where do you plan to evacuate towards?"

She was speaking to Mayumi and not Katsuto because they were old acquaintances, but Mayumi earnestly wished that she was discussing this with Katsuto. Under these conditions, Katsuto undoubtedly would field the questions better than she would.

"The unit from Tsuchiya is using Nogeyama as a base and are engaged in sweeping for guerrillas in squads.

We still cannot ascertain what the camouflaged vessel in the hillside docks is up to, but they'll probably unload mechanized forces soon. This way, the shoreline will turn into the center of the battlefield, so I recommend that you evacuate inland."

"Then...... As we planned, I think the shelter near the station will probably be better."

Mayumi said in slight bewilderment as she glanced at Katsuto. "Agreed. That would be preferable."

Seeing Katsuto nod in assent, Mayumi let out a relieved expression.

At this, Fujibayashi smiled with slight interest, but this action went undetected, even by Mayumi.

"Then we will provide cover with the car in front, so just follow along at your own pace."

After saying this, Fujibayashi approached one of the vehicles with Mayumi and Mari right behind her.

"Lieutenant Fujibayashi."

However, Katsuto didn't move and called out to Fujibayashi from behind.

"What is it?"

Fujibayashi didn't delay and immediately turned around. As if she expected to be called on to stop.

"I know this is a rather willful request, but can you lend me a car?"

That's insane, all the students from First High thought when they heard this. There were only two cars. Also, this not only for carrying people but for ammunition as well.

"Where do you want to go?"

This was not the time to allow independent action. Still, Fujibayashi did not immediately reject Katsuto's request and asked him the reason for this course of action.

"To the side branch of the Magic Association. Although I'm only a surrogate, I am still a representative of the Master Clans Conference and must fulfill my responsibilities as a member of the Magic Association."

That was a voice from the depths of his abdomen. Unlike the shallow youngsters with heroic fantasies, his voice was the voice of someone who was resolved to carry his burdens.

"Understood."

Fujibayashi replied frankly.

"Sergeant Tateoka, Corporal Otowa. Escort Juumonji to the Kantou branch of the Magic Association."

With no regard to Katsuto's bewilderment, she gave orders to two subordinates and lent him a car. Next, she raised her voice towards Mayumi and company as they stood next to the other vehicle.

"Quick, get on board. We can't let you guys waste any more time."

◊ ◊ ◊

The representatives and supporters from Third High elected to use the bus that carried them here for evacuation.

"Why is it so far......"

"That's just how the street is designed; what can you do?"

The bus was waiting in a parking garage reserved for large vehicles that was far from the conference hall. Hearing Masaki's complaints, Kichijouji seriously scolded him.

The very fact that they decided not to stay the night and arranged for the driver to wait on station ahead of time was worthy of cheer.

In terms of distance it was slightly closer than heading for the docks where the evacuation ship was, so Kichijouji felt that complaining about this sort of thing would invite divine retribution.

What was concerning was that the southern side of the parking garage was significantly closer to the docks where the camouflaged enemy vessel was moored. However, the militant students of Third High encouraged one another with ideas of "sticking it to the treacherous invaders" as they advanced.

Apparently, they were enraged that they had been forced to disarm (?) earlier on stage.

This overly optimistic cheer only served to deepen Kichijouji's unease.

Although they were known as the militant Third High, the only ones with real combat experience were a handful of students with Masaki at the head.

He himself had no "real combat" experience, and the faculty leading this team all specialized in research.

In this world, if something could go wrong, it would.

In the middle of the previous century, a certain man coined this rather unpleasant law which Kichijouji felt applied to this situation (in reality, the law became mainstream in the latter half of the century).

Just as they entered the parking garage and the large bus came into view.

—The bus suffered several direct hits from rocket launchers. Fortunately, the point of impact — maybe the sole blessing in disguise

—was near the rear of the vehicle, so the driver was able to frantically escape before being caught in the explosion.

The body of the vehicle was covered with the same heat and shock resistant plating used to coat military vehicles, so while the windows were cracked and several areas were burnt, the body itself was not compromised.

Except the tires, which were completely shredded.

"Those assholes!"

Next to Kichijouji, Masaki was furious.

In order to quickly get him to calm down, Kichijouji switched gears.

If they were to change tires, they couldn't allow the enemy to close in during this time.

He decided to let his good friend vent a little.

Kichijouji left Masaki's side and moved towards the teacher leading this group.

"Sensei."

"Kichijouji, what is it?"

With that slightly shaking voice, it was quite impressive that the man managed to steady himself.

If he wasn't assured of his friend's overwhelming might, he too might be in the same condition.

"Leave the enemy to Masaki; let's prepare to change the tires."

"But, even if you say prepare......"

"This is a designated parking garage for large vehicles and specialized cars. I believe there should be tools for simple maintenance and spare tires as well."

"Y-You're right! OK, everyone with nothing to do help Kichijouji search for spare tires!"

Having everyone with nothing to do join in was because there were other people who could engage the enemy besides Masaki.

Unrelated to his identity as a Year 1 student, Kichijouji naturally controlled the initiative here given his status as the calmest individual present. The students from Third High, regardless of whether they were classmates or upperclassmen, moved together with the teachers along Kichijouji's instructions to prepare for evacuation.

◊ ◊ ◊

The group led by Azusa (which was a slightly inaccurate description) that included students from First High, faculty, and other associated individuals, reached the underground shelter slightly later than the other schools.

The reason for their tardiness was because they had more people to account for.

They had over 60 people. Normally, this was't a large number. Yet trying to bring everyone to a certain location without misplacing a single one required a lot of effort, and coupled with the fact they had to fend off hostile attacks along the way, their superior numbers were both an advantage and a disadvantage.

The main entrance that allowed access to the outside during crises had been closed out of consideration of the enemy's presence.

The lock must be disengaged by the evacuees already in the shelter's interior.

While the door was being opened, Hattori and Sawaki were checking for stragglers in the plaza (the underground area was constructed as a plaza) before the front entrance.

The faculty were also fulfilling their duties as adults. Asuka was examining the injured, Haruka was comforting the uneasy students, while Tsuzura was at the rear with Tomitsuka on guard.

Thus, maybe this was the reason — why Tsuzura discovered the abnormality first.

"Everyone, get down and cover your head!"

There was an odd noise coming from the ceiling of the underground passage.

The concrete creaked and groaned.

The overhanging lights went out, plunging the tunnel into darkness. Cracks appeared all over the ceiling and walls.

All of this happened in an instant.

There were some who screamed in fright.

There were others who just ducked and sought cover.

Still others attempted to hold off the falling metal, concrete and dust with magic.

Nonetheless, no matter what power caused this, the tunnel's collapse appeared unavoidable.

At this time, Azusa was using the terminal responsible for communicating with the people in the shelter to ask them to hurry up and open the door.

Hearing Tsuzura's warning, she couldn't help but turn her head, and now she couldn't tear her eyes away from the tragedy unfolding before her.

There wasn't even time to close her eyes as the ceiling buckled and the walls started peeling off.

She didn't have to worry about being caught in the cave-in.

Even though she was standing outside the door, the shelter's entrance was covered in reinforced metal alloy.

But the other students were......

"......Eh?"

However, after the dust settled, she used the remaining lights from the air raid shelter passage to survey the wreckage of the tunnel, but her eyes were not filled to the brim with painful tears. Instead, a shocked voice erupted due to this unexpected scenery.

None of the First High students were buried alive.

The concrete scraps were formed into a dome-like shape.

What sort of pure coincidence could enable large concrete blocks to perfectly lock together to form a dome shape that held enough room beneath for half a person's height?

No, this cannot be pure coincidence......

The probability that this was a naturally occurring phenomenon was practically zero.

(......I see, this is Polyhedra Handle! That's Tsuzura-sensei's magic!)

The "Polyhedra Handle" she was mentally calling out did not refer to the command used to describe 3-D projections, but magic that broke up physical objects into pyramids and quadratic prisms and manipulated them to form these simple projections to form large scale construct variations.

Modern magic did not excel in manipulating one aspect of an object. In order to halt the underground passage from caving in, the typical approach was to set the entire underground passage as the target.

On the other hand, Polyhedra Handle split one object into multiple components and sought to alter one component in order to affect the entire whole.

Of course, this required the ability to separate one object into multiple tiny pieces. Magicians capable of doing so could consciously create miracles when it would be impossible otherwise. —Just like now.

Likely understanding that the underground tunnel was unable to support the weight above and collapse was imminent, Tsuzura used the sand's pressure to form a dome and controlled the impact of the falling rubble.

Nevertheless, at the end of the day this was only a temporary measure formed of concrete and did not possess the sturdiness of natural stone.

"Everyone, get over here quickly!"

Azusa desperately cried out to the students, faculty, and third party individuals still sprawled on the floor and urged them to quickly flee through the shelter's opened doors.

Asuka had left to care for the wounded, so Hirakawa was left all by herself in the 60 man group and she could only hunker down without even making a peep.

True, the ceiling did collapse. The walls should have fallen. If that was the case, why wasn't she buried alive?

Slowly opening her eyes in trepidation, Hirakawa was shocked out of her senses by the scene before her.

Steel and concrete mixed together like toys to form a dome with a small opening. This impossible coincidence caused Hirakawa to stare blankly.

But, just then,

"What are you staring at!? Get moving!" Amid the scolding, someone grabbed her hand.

She gave a start out of panic and tried to fling away that hand on reflex.

However, that hand gave Hirakawa a feeling of warmth without pain and contained a strength that refused to relinquish the grip on her hand.

"Come on!"

Without minding her reflexive rejection, that hand pulled her onward.

Behind them, there were no human sounds or presence. While she was staring blankly, she had become the only one left behind.

Ahead, a weak light shone the way forward, probably caused by people who had already fled the debris and turned a flashlight back this way.

At this point, Hirakawa's brain wasn't even functioning. She was only being led by her hand and running as fast as she could despite her bent posture.

The light at the end of the tunnel continued to grow stronger until they could finally see the exit.

An unspecified sound reached her ear.

Part of the debris was unable to sustain the weight and was beginning to collapse.

The catastrophe played out in slow motion before her eyes.

The young man pulling Hirakawa tugged that hand clasping Hirakawa into his bosom while using his empty right hand to pat the right side of her waist. Suddenly, Hirakawa noticed that her body was being pulled along with the charge.

In front of the hand holding her tight, Hirakawa subconsciously clung onto the chest in front of her.

By the time Hirakawa realized that this was the inertia caused by emergency acceleration, they had already escaped the falling debris into the shelter's passageway.

Seeing Tomitsuka successfully rescue the young girl who hadn't fled in time, Azusa finally let out a sigh of relief.

Yet, upon seeing the young girl's face, her recently settled heart suddenly pounded furiously again.

(Hirakawa-senpai's younger sister......

)

As a member of the Technician Team for the Nine Schools Competition, Azusa enjoyed a close relationship with Hirakawa Koharu.

The cultured and refined older Hirakawa was an upperclassman whom Azusa got along well with, and at the same time, she was a senpai who excelled in the same technical field.

When Azusa first heard that her sister attempted to sabotage the representative team's work, Azusa initially suspected that she had misheard it.

She had never met the younger sister directly, but based on the understanding reached from casual conversation, Azusa didn't believe she was the sort of girl to do such a thing. Hence she was hit doubly hard by this.

Seeing her frantically separate herself from the young man who carried her in his embrace and dropping her head in shame while sneaking a peek at the young man, she looked like any other ordinary underclassman.

Hopefully, this will enable her to wake up from this nightmare......

Azusa herself prayed that this would be so.

Barely averting being buried alive at the eleventh hour, Hirakawa let out a sigh of relief near the sturdy ceiling covered with metallic alloy.

And finally had the leisure to discover her current posture. "!"

Was that a record setting reflex action? Hirakawa thought as she successfully sank into panic. The reason why she was successful was likely because she didn't enter a state of panic but was already submerged in one.

At any rate, her limbs started moving first before she sprang away from the young man embracing her. Too ashamed to raise her head, but at the same time, she was highly curious as to what he looked like.

In the end, she kept her head lowered while secretly sneaking peeks at the boy's face, but this suspicious action did not seem to dwell on the young man's mind.

"Are you OK? Then please go ahead." A voice that cared for her.

For Hirakawa, it seemed like an eternity since she had heard someone say something like that. Between taking advantage of others and being seen as a "collaborator", mutual care was nonexistent. After her mission's failure and her subsequent capture, everything she heard sounded like a scolding.

But this young man naturally expressed worry on her behalf......

For some reason, this was the feeling she got.

"Ah, wait."

Hirakawa went through the door — and involuntarily clutched at the one who watched her and led her here — the young man's shirt.

"Well......

Thank you......"

Right now, those words were all she could manage. "Hm? You're welcome."

Once the young man (at this point, Hirakawa wasn't aware of Tomitsuka's name) naturally accepted her words, Hirakawa amazingly felt overjoyed.

◊ ◊ ◊

Under the guidance of Fujibayashi's subordinates, Mayumi's party arrived at the plaza before the station that led to the underground shelter and were shocked speechless by the terrible scene before them.

The entire plaza had collapsed.

On top, there was a gigantic metal block walking around.

"Bipedal tanks......

Where the heck did they get that!?"

This appeared to be an unexpected enemy for Fujibayashi as well, judging from the surprised tone of her voice.

It was a humanoid walking, firing platform that was covered in armored plates made of metallic alloy.

The bottom of the short, stubby legs were equipped with treads and walking devices while the body was shaped like a small car with a single seat and was equipped with all sorts of weapons. There were also two long, mechanical arms, but there was no head.

The robot had a total height of 3.5 meters, shoulder height approximately 3 meters, width 2.5 meters, and length 2.5 meters. The weapon was originally developed by Eastern Europe to annihilate infantry in urban settings.

And there were two of them.

Fully loaded and with the pilot aboard, the total weight was approximately 8 tons. Still, if that was all there was, it was highly unlikely that they could have collapsed the reinforced road.

The underground shelter or maybe the tunnel must have suffered some sort of attack from the bipedal tanks.

"Take this!"

"Kanon, using 'Mine Genesis' will cause too much trouble!"

After recovering her wits, Kanon was fired up and ready to unleash her magic, but was stopped by Isori grabbing her wrist.

With the underground situation uncertain, there was a high possibility that using surface oscillation magic might worsen the tragedy.

"I won't use that!"

Shaking off Isori's hand, Kanon was about to activate her magic. Just as she took aim on the target,

—Not only was it shot to pieces, it was also covered in white frost. "Ah......"

"As expected of Mayumi and Miyuki. We don't even have time to do anything."

Standing next to Kanon as she stared blankly, Fujibayashi offered her praise while chuckling wryly. Mayumi was a little embarrassed whereas Miyuki only offered a smile of her own as the two of them bowed.

"......The group that went through the underground tunnel appears to be fine. No trace of anyone buried beneath the rubble."

Mikihiko was the one who made that report. After closing his eyes and wearing an expression that indicated part of his mind was elsewhere, he had sent one of his five senses with the spirits to investigate.

"Is that so. Since someone from the Yoshida Family said so, that must be the case. Good work."

"No, that's hardly a praiseworthy achievement."

At Fujibayashi's compliment, Mikihiko hurriedly opened his eyes and answered back.

Looks like all the members who delighted in poking fun at innocent teenagers had gathered together.

"—So, what do we do next?"

Erika was the one who offered the next practical question.

Seeing that Fujibayashi didn't waver in the slightest at this slightly combative tone, she truly had the maturity of an adult.

"Given that bipedal tanks have advanced this far, the situation must have worsened more than we imagined. From my perspective, I recommend evacuating to the base camp at Nogeyama."

"But isn't that one of the enemy's primary attacking targets?"

"Mari, any enemy attacking now won't differentiate between combat personnel and civilians. The danger will not decrease in the slightest even if you split off from the military. Rather, I'd say it would be even more dangerous."

Mayumi gently denied Mari's argument.

"Then, Saegusa-senpai, should we head for Nogeyama?"

Isori asked the obvious question. However, Mayumi shook her head.

"I plan to call in transport helicopters for civilians who haven't managed to evacuate in time."

As Mayumi said this, her gaze turned towards the station. There, staring at the ruined entrance to the air shelter in despair, were countless civilians just standing there, and the number kept growing.

"First, the wreckage needs to be removed to ensure a safe landing zone. I plan to stay here until the helicopters arrive. Mari, take everyone and evacuate with Kyoko."

"What are you saying!? You want to remain here alone!?"

At this thoroughly unexpected response, of course Mari had a huge reaction.

Yet Mayumi's reply was resolute.

"This is the duty of those who bear the name of the Ten Master Clans, Mari. We enjoy all sorts of privileges thanks to the name of the Ten Master Clans.

Although this country does not officially have an aristocracy, in reality, we as the Ten Master Clans enjoy a degree of freedom outside the bounds of law. As a price for these privileges, we are required to contribute our power during times like this."

"—Then I will remain behind as well."

Determination was embedded in Mayumi's words — or maybe it was resignation. Yet the one who replied in place of Mari was Isori.

"I too, am a member of the Hundred Families who benefited from the government."

"If Kei stays, then I do too! I am also from the Hundred Families!"

"Then, I as well. At the very least, I'm a daughter of the Chiba Family."

"Likewise. Onii-sama is engaged in battle, I cannot stand by and do nothing."

"M-Me too!"

"I will contact my father to arrange for company helicopters."

"I am not of the Ten Master Clans or the Hundred Families...... But since all the girls from the lower grades are staying behind, how can I slink away with a tail between my legs?"

"Me too. I have confidence in my own skills."

"I shall stay as well. Although I do not have Erika-chan, Kirihara-kun, or everyone's might, allow me to make my amends."

"The Yoshida Family is not of the Hundred Families......

But we are also recipients of preferential treatment."

"Well, I don't have any power, but at least I can serve as everyone's 'eyes'......"

"......The underclassmen all want to stay, how can we just flee?"

"Indeed. I'm uneasy at leaving Mayumi behind by herself. Maybe there will be something Mayumi unexpectedly overlooked."

"I say......"

After Suzune's comment, Mayumi finally voiced her objection,

"Speaking of which......

I guess everyone here is an idiot too......"

This was no act. This was Mayumi honestly sighing in "despair", her beautiful face filled with resignation as she turned back to Fujibayashi.

"It's just as you heard. Seriously, my children are all so willfully disobedient...... I apologize for not being able to take up your kind offer."

Seeing Mayumi bow deeply in apology and the group behind her avert their eyes like miscreants, Fujibayashi appeared to be very serious on the surface, but inwardly she found this to be highly interesting.

"No, they're quite trustworthy. Allow me to leave a few subordinates behind."

"No, there's no such need!"

That voice did not come from the crowd of First High students but came from behind Fujibayashi instead.

"Inspector?"

"Toshi-nii?"

Two different names for the same person.

Inspector Chiba turned to face Fujibayashi, who had referred to him as "Inspector".

"Just as the military's duty is to repel the invader, it is the police's task to safeguard civilians. We will remain here. Fujibayashi...... Ahem,

Lieutenant Fujibayashi, please rendezvous with your unit."

"Understood. Inspector Chiba, I leave this in your hands."

This superb entrance was coupled with a suitable dramatic declaration.

Yet Fujibayashi didn't even react to this as she saluted smartly and departed swiftly.

"Hm......What a wonderful woman."

"Ha, dream on. She's not the type of woman who'll fall into Toshi-nii's hands."

Unfortunately, the words he mumbled to himself were mercilessly dashed by his sister's retort, causing Inspector Chiba to truly stand there "speechlessly".

◊ ◊ ◊

In the parking garage reserved for large cars and special vehicles where Third High students were locked in combat with irregulars, approximately half of them were unable to join in the fighting. — Because they were emptying out the contents of their stomach.

"Ichijou, can't you hold back a little!"

"You too senpai, please retreat."

The culprit was Masaki, not that he cared about the reprimand.

He was pointing a handgun-shaped Specialized CAD stained in the scent of blood at the guerillas of unknown nationality.

A blood red flower bloomed, and sprinkled down.

Oomph, the sound of another person covering their mouth traveled to Masaki's ears.

Every time he killed a man, both his side and the enemy's morale dropped a bit.

(If this is enough to terrify you, you should never have stepped onto the battlefield in the first place.)

Regardless of how those eyes perceived him or what words were directed towards him, Masaki coldly ignored them all.

His perspective was correct. Indisputably correct.

However — how many soldiers could calmly witness human bodies rupturing and blood (more like red blood cells) scattering like dust?

The Ichijou Family's secret technique, "Rupture".

Magic that was able to instantaneously vaporize fluids within a physical object.

When used on humans, blood would vaporize and the subsequent pressure would tear through muscle and skin. Red blood cells, which made up the majority of the composition of blood, would then scatter outwards like a crimson flower that was blooming.

Besides a select minority, his classmates and upperclassmen found out for the first time what it meant to be known as "Crimson".

◊ ◊ ◊

From the other side, which was the command center located on the bridge of the camouflaged amphibious vessel that successfully launched their surprise attack, the area was covered in an atmosphere which was radically different than one of complete success.

"We lost communication with the unit sent to the underground shelter. There is also no reply from the bipedal tanks."

The CO of the unit, who was also the captain of the camouflaged amphibious vessel, had a sour look on his face when he received the signal officer's report. His original plan called for the infiltrated operatives to take hostages before he committed the mechanized troops.

However, the losses of the plainclothes operatives greatly exceeded initial estimates. This was especially true for the squads sent to the international conference center and the parking garage for large vehicles, where casualties were heavy. The captain judged the strategy that called for their feint to allow the operatives to do the majority of the work regretfully needed a little reworking.

"Allow the mechanized troops to land!"

He gave the order to launch the bipedal tanks and APCs manufactured in their own country.

◊ ◊ ◊

"......So? Why is Toshi-nii here?"

In a corner of the plaza before the station, the Chiba siblings were putting on a not-quite-warm reunion (?) act. (The older brother was quite happy, so maybe a reunion was not incorrect.)

As for why they were in the "corner", that was because neither Erika nor Toshikazu were adept at cleaning up the bipedal tank's wreckage, interrogating the captured pilot, or clearing the area so the helicopter could land. —Although saying that the currently active Inspector Toshikazu was "inept at interrogation" was a problem in its own right.

At any rate, that was the reason why the two of them were loitering (in defense of their honor, Kirihara and Sayaka were doing the same).

Still, at least Toshikazu didn't mind that he didn't really contribute much to this situation — Inagaki was — so he was enjoying this verbal spar with his little sister, who stood there with both hands on her hips.

"The fact that you ask me why thoroughly saddens me. Is there anything strange with a kindhearted older brother wanting to help out his dear little sister?"

"Kindhearted!? You have a lot of gall saying those hypocritical words......"

"Hey, hey, Erika, a young lady should not use terms like 'gall'."

"You! And now you dare to talk to me like I'm some sort of Ojou- sama. Do you even have the right!?"

"Ah, how terrible......

It's obvious that I love my little sister dearly."

Maybe Toshikazu went too far in feigning silliness, but the excited Erika swiftly calmed down. Seeing his sister's expression change to one that was watching him with cold eyes, Toshikazu sighed as if bored.

"At least me coming to help is definitely true."

Toshikazu said this with a bored expression and indolent tone, but upon seeing his sister sneer at him, he suddenly wore a mischievous smirk.

"Is that the right attitude, Erika?"

"What do you mean?"

Erika's expression wilted slightly. The other person is stronger, that was the impression — an uncomfortable feeling she didn't know how to handle since her early childhood years and wasn't something that could be easily erased.

"I brought something nice for you."

"Something nice? I don't want something like that."

Even so, Erika still held out — stubborn and refusing to capitulate. Chiba Toshikazu was one of two people that Erika would never surrender to.

Not only was this something Toshikazu approved of, this was also something his sister always aimed for since her childhood.

"Don't be like that. Today, this is something you absolutely need."

For Toshikazu, "Little Erika" was the cute little sister whom anyone wanted to tease. Now, she was standing much stronger and cuter than before. "Let's just end it here," he said with with mischievous thoughts running through his head as he brought out a long, curved object from the cargo truck.

Seeing the silhouette, Erika was at a loss for words.

Removing the thin outer covering, Toshikazu handed the odachi to Erika.

The entire length ran 180 cm and was even longer than Erika's height. Just the blade alone was 140 cm long.

For a tachi the curvature was too shallow, making it an unnatural shape—

"Orochimaru? Why is that here......?"

"Why? What a ridiculous question, Erika. Orochimaru is the blade forged to use 'Yamatsunami', and you are the only who can perform 'Yamatsunami'. Neither our father nor Naotsugu can use 'Yamatsunami'. Although they can mimic the form, the only one who can 'truly use' that is you. In other words, Orochimaru exists for you to wield."

Erika's hands shook as she accepted the odachi.

She tightly gripped this weight that was sufficient to send her swaying back and forth and finally stopped shivering.

The Chiba Family forged the strongest weapons. Just like Ikazuchimaru, this was the pinnacle of sword-type armament forged by the Chiba Family, the secret weapon that was the source of their pride.

Even for the briefest of moments, to be granted the freedom to wield this blade was something Erika never even dared to dream of.

"You look delighted."

Hearing her brother's voice, her head violently rose.

The earlier resistance she bore towards her brother had vanished. Erika's entire being was focused on Orochimaru.

If she had to say why, that was because this sword—

"Are you that happy to hold the beloved sword you see as an extension of yourself, Erika? Hm...... So that's the case. No matter what our father or Naotsugu think, Erika, you are a true daughter of the Chiba Family."

"......Hmph! I'll say thank you this time."

"That's why young ladies should be so brusque......"

Without waiting for Toshikazu to finish, Erika turned and left.

Seeing Erika prance away with Orochimaru in her hands, Toshikazu smiled in delight at his sister's easily understood attitude.

◊ ◊ ◊

"Do you get any new intel?"

His upper body stuck inside the pilot's seat of the bipedal tank, Isori heard a voice behind him, so he pulled himself out and shook his head.

"No. I'm not very good with weapons and I think this is an older model purchased in the second hand markets. There's no way to identify nationality."

"There are second hand markets for weapons?"

Noticing the shocked expression on Mayumi's face as she asked this question, Isori smiled and nodded his head.

"There are even second hand markets for fighter jets. In small scale conflicts, weapons from the last World War are still seeing service."

Hmph~, despite Mayumi's gentle smile of admiration, Isori felt a rather miffed aura beside him.

At this time, he could tell who that was without even bothering to take a look.

Isori reined in his expression and once again glanced at Mayumi.

"Generally, weapons purchased from second hand markets in allied countries tend to be cheaper. Given that this bipedal tank is manufactured in Eastern Europe, the chance that these guys are operatives from the Great Asian Alliance is quite high...... However, in order to get at their motives, we still need intelligence out of the pilot."

"But, will he just give that up?"

"That depends on Mari's skills."

Mayumi shrugged her shoulders at Kanon's obvious question. "Then I'm off to clean up the area."

Watching Isori lightly nod and head off with Kanon pressed close against him, Mayumi walked towards where Mari was conducting her interrogation.

Besides slight frostbite on their faces, the two bound pilots showed no signs of external injury.

Inagaki was questioning one of them while Mari handled the other one.

"How is it going?"

Mayumi sidled alongside Mari and simply asked about the situation. "Silence. If I knew this would happen, I would have brought a stronger perfume......"

Unable to obtain a satisfactory result, Mari was starting to get a little anxious.

"There's nothing we can do about that. Our condition for interrogating Sekimoto today was that all chemicals were forbidden."

Publicly acknowledged as an anti-personnel combat specialist, Mari excelled not only in magic and swordsmanship, but also smaller weapons and even chemical weapons.

One of her favored tactics was to manipulate the air flow to direct pheromones into the enemy's nose.

This evil woman also carried hidden perfume on her that could directly affect her opponent's mental status (which was practically a crime).

Now, she was using this chemical on her bound opponent in a clandestine fashion, but to no avail.

"Well, there's always torture."

"Wait, no matter what we......"

Hearing Mari utter that dangerous phrase, Mayumi hurriedly put a stop to this.

"Relax. I have confidence that I will only cause pain and suffering without leaving any visible injuries."

"That's not what I'm talking about! ......

Mari, why don't you take a break?"

"......

That's true, I'll catch a quick breather."

She must have realized that she was too highly strung.

Mari waved her hands at Mayumi and moved towards where Suzune sat on a bench with a map unfurled in front of her.

On the floor in front of where Suzune sat on the bench (covered of course), an intricately detailed map was being projected.

Suzune used the terminal to open the map while Honoka refracted light to project it.

This was a detailed map of the local shoreline where they were that stretched from Sakuragi-chō to Sangechō.

There, another projection showed newly added ships, crowds of people, and the scenery of the local streets.

"Ho, how impressive."

"Ah, Watanabe-senpai."

The projection of the map on the ground wobbled slightly, but was quickly restored to a clear image.

The scenes of the street overlapped and matched the map perfectly.

Suzune's fingers flew over the keyboard of the notebook-type terminal. After hitting the last confirmation key, Suzune raised her head.

"Did you learn anything new?"

"Alas, no."

Mari bitterly shook her head at Suzune's inquiry, but her face quickly transformed into an interested expression.

"Looks like you guys got some results."

"Ah. Thanks to Mitsui, we have a good grasp on the enemy forces and direction......

Mitsui, that's enough."

Hearing Suzune's praise, Honoka smiled with embarrassment as she nodded.

At the same time, the map on the ground vanished.

"Even if it's light-controlling magic, isn't it quite rare to see such a fine degree of control?"

"Indeed. I cannot recall anyone who can just use light refraction to create clear images that rival low altitude observation drones. Looks like this is a different type of magic than the average light refraction magic."

Suzune's faint praise caused Honoka's face to redden even further.

"How can that be

...... Compared to Tatsuya and Miyuki, my magic is nothing special......"

"No need to be so humble, Mitsui. It's true that both of them possess powerful magic, but based on the situation, there are times when intelligence can control the battlefield even more than firepower."

"Just so, Mitsui. The ability to look down and grasp the situation is a tremendous asset. Since we are cut off from unmanned observation drones and the street level camera system, the contribution from your magic is incredibly meaningful."

"Thank you very much!"

Watching Honoka bow deeply with her entire face flushed, the two Year 3 students revealed gentle smiles.

Recently, they had seen too many thick skinned (?) underclassmen, so occasionally catching a glimpse of an innocent reaction was rather refreshing.

◊ ◊ ◊

In order to get from the international conference center to the Magic Association branch headquarters in the Yokohama Bay Hills Tower, taking the route along the coast would be faster, but taking the inland route wasn't that much of a detour either.

The enemy's main force was amphibious troops launched from the combat vessel of unknown nationality. Currently, their troops that had infiltrated the city were also active along the coast.

However, Katsuto shook his head when asked "Should we take the detour?" Not up and down, but left and right.

Immediately afterward, the military vehicle that Katsuto was riding advanced through the crossfire on the street along the coast as it advanced to the Bay Hills Tower by the shortest route possible.

Near the Bay Hills Tower — actually the closer they got to the Hillside Docks — heavy weapons appeared among the enemy. Likewise, the number of mechanized weaponry (bipedal tanks) was also on the rise.

"Rather than saying the enemy's forces are concentrated here, it would be more accurate to say that they are in the process of spreading out."

Sitting in the passenger's seat, Sergeant Tateoka proceeded to explain the situation to Katsuto.

Katsuto wordlessly nodded.

The reason he said nothing was not because he looked down on the low ranking officer, but because he was putting all his concentration on magic.

Next, on the side of the intersection ahead, a small group of enemies carrying shoulder-mounted rocket launchers.

They weren't plainclothes soldiers. Although they wore no identifying emblems to identify their nationality, they all wore uniform combat fatigues.

This must be their amphibious force.

The squad took aim at the vehicle Katsuto was in and fired four guided anti-tank missiles.

This was practically point blank range.

Even though they were guided missiles with slower initial speed, there was no way the all terrain vehicle was going to dodge them.

However, Corporal Otowa handling the wheel never wavered and Sergeant Tateoka put down the windshield on the passenger's side and propped up an automatic rifle.

The guided missiles detonated in the air five meters in front of the vehicle.

The flames from the explosion enveloped the hemisphere barrier that surrounded the vehicle.

Bullets were fired from within to hit the enemy troops.

Attacks from the outside were unable to penetrate the interior, but attacks from within were unimpeded.

Needless to say, that directed transparent barrier was the result of Katsuto's area magic.

Setting himself as the center of the hemisphere's space, he altered the fabric of the hemisphere so reject heat beyond a certain level and any molecule greater than oxygen.

Even while on board a vehicle moving along at high speed, Katsuto's barrier magic never faltered.

During this short journey, Fujibayashi's subordinates personally experienced what it meant to be called "Iron Wall".

◊ ◊ ◊

While the Independent Magic-Equipped Battalion was designated as a "battalion", their numbers were on the scale of two companies.

Initially for this mission — which was originally to test magitech weapons — they only mobilized 50 men. The two large armored trailers coincidentally carried the perfect number of new equipment.

"—How is it, Special Lieutenant?"

"Just as I expected of you. Quite impressive."

Standing before the racks filled with protective gear that would not look out of place on a knight, Sanada couldn't help but nod in satisfaction.

"The measurements should be perfect. Change quickly."

Sanada urged Tatsuya to strip off all the clothes he was wearing. Although there were female soldiers in the trailer, neither of them paid any attention to that.

On some level, all the soldiers in the Independent Magic-Equipped

Battalion were seen as lab rats, so full body examinations weren't anything out of the ordinary. Not only would male soldiers see female soldiers in the nude, the reverse also happened. There was no way someone who was ashamed of something like that would be able to last in this outfit.

Tatsuya deftly put on the special underclothes and immediately put on the black outfit — the Mobile suit.

After tying the broad belt, he snapped every button in place.

Setting the CAD in one of the leather holsters on the belt, he finally put on the mask-like helmet.

"Doesn't appear to be any problems."

"Indeed, all errors are within the acceptable boundaries."

Tatsuya's voice came through the speakers equipped in the trailer's interior. Detecting that the automatic transmission activated, Tatsuya manipulated the helmet and popped the mask.

"Bulletproof, heat resistant, shock resistant, and also resistant to biological and chemical weapons and a simple motion supplement system was added into the design as requested. Of course, the Flying Device was also attached to the belt. When coupled with the shock resistant function, you can completely nullify the recoil when firing, so you can also fire in the air."

"Perfect. Its performance far exceeds my design."

"No, I also enjoyed myself to my heart's content."

Sanada and Tatsuya shook hands. While this was happening, Kazama finally arrived leading two more soldiers.

"Sanada, are you finished?"

Staring wordlessly at the subordinate who saluted in response, Kazama shifted his gaze to Tatsuya.

"Then, effective immediately, the Special Lieutenant is to rendezvous with Yanagi's unit. Yanagi's unit is currently sniping the enemy unit that is approaching the connection bridge to the Mizuho Wharf."

"Captain Yanagi's location is displayed on the protective visor."

"Understood."

Putting the visor back on, Tatsuya verified the location for Yanagi's unit and stepped out of the trailer.

Without using the ramp, Tatsuya jumped off the trailer and hit the button on his waist before his downward acceleration disappeared. That was the power switch for the CAD equipped with Flying-Type Magic.

Lightly tapping off the ground, Tatsuya soared through the sky.

◊ ◊ ◊

The unidentified invaders composed of the mechanized unit that landed at the Hillside Wharf split into two groups.

One advanced towards the Magic Association located near the bay. The other marched along the coast.

The group headed north did not plan to rendezvous with the irregulars locked in combat with Third High, but went in the opposite direction and were preparing to pursue and capture the civilians attempting to flee by sea.

The Independent Magic-Equipped Battalion already controlled that direction.

This was an attacking unit that heavily emphasized mobility with 6 APCs.

Standing before the two lines of APCs that charged straight for the bridge, Captain Yanagi sneered beneath his visor.

He was the archetype anti-personnel combat Magician.

He excelled in reading the enemy's movement pattern, mixing physical skills and magic to lure, amplify or reverse enemy attacks in close combat. There was practically nothing he could do against this armored column — until he joined the Independent Magic-Equipped Battalion.

Since the CO of the Independent Magic-Equipped Battalion was an Ancient Magic user, the majority of the troops in the 101st were also Ancient Magic users, with Yanagi being one of the model Ancient

Magic users.

Yanagi, who was able to use magic while in the middle of hacking and slashing, had received a technique that used his body's motions and "shape" to replace a binding seal and was feared because he never left an opening even when operating a CAD.

Still, even he was forced to admit the practicality of large scale magic on a Specialized CAD that could flip a heavy object that was weighed in the dozens of tons.

If he used a seal to replace the ritual needed to activate magic of this scale, the minimum requirement was at least five seconds. That was frankly impossible with the enemy already bearing down on him.

(How unpleasant.)

Although he was complaining mentally, his mouth still wore that wry smile.

Smirking malevolently beneath his visor, Yanagi leaped out from behind cover directly in front of the column of APCs.

Pitch black armor. One man stood there.

Maybe because they hesitated at the sight of this unexpected enemy, but the APC's turret didn't immediately spit fire.

Since there was only one soldier, it might have been they planned to simply grind the man down beneath their wheels.

The difference in defensive power between an APC and armor was simply too great.

Yanagi never planned to sit in front of the enemy's cannon for too long.

Clutching the rifle with the bayonet attached — the trigger of the CAD, he verified that the magic was activated before ducking back behind cover.

Suddenly, blocks of earth flew through the air along a straight line as if someone cut a straight line through the ground.

Along this line, the wheels of the APCs left the ground.

The shaking earth gave off a series of groans that told Yanagi the magic's results.

The APC that was tilted off balance crashed into the vehicle alongside it

Careful scrutiny revealed that all the vehicles on the east flipped over to crush the ones on the west.

Gravity-Type Magic "Thousand Tatami".

By cutting off the Earth's gravity along the north-south axis, this causes the object to tilt from east to west because of the Earth's revolution.

The bottom of the APCs, the "belly", were facing upwards and were struck by a hail of bullets.

Practically at the same time that Yanagi activated his magic, the squad flying in the sky opened fire.

The Weaponized Integrated CADs in the shape of rifles shot out a stream bullets with increased penetration that easily drilled holes through the underbelly of the APCs covered in armor designed to withstand mines.

Once the fuel was hit, flames erupted from the underside of the vehicle.

The western group of what appeared to be a routed armored column remained unscathed.

The enemy must have Magicians who excel in "Counter" magic on board the APCs for extra defense.

With the ability to create a barrier strong enough to hold back an object that was dozens of tons, impact from normal weapons would be completely nullified.

Either there was an incredibly strong Magician on board, or they were using some sort of magic booster.

Bullets rained down from the sky again.

The interference strength from the strengthened shots and bullet repulsion magics canceled out one another, causing both magics to fizzle.

The anti-armor bullets hit the APC, but weren't able to completely penetrate.

The autocannon turret on the APC sprayed the air with large caliber rounds.

Two soldiers were hit and fell to the earth.

Thanks to the armor's bulletproof properties, at least the physical body didn't suffer terrible injuries.

Taking stock of the situation from cover, Yanagi once more flew in front of the enemy and continuously hit the trigger three times.

Yanagi's "Thousand Tatami" was a magic that cut off the Earth's gravity and not something that directly altered the target's Eidos. Thus, the gravity nullifying magic completely ignored the enemy's defensive magic around the vehicle as it activated.

The enemy APC started tilting over.

The shock of the rotation caused the magic barrier surrounding the APC to buckle. After the penetrating rounds fired from the sky hit the armor on the bottom, the remaining three APCs were also devoured by fireballs.

◊ ◊ ◊

The speed for Flying-Type Magic depended on the Magician's familiarity and training with this magic. Tatsuya, who designed this magic, probably understood this magic better than anyone alive. Based on his current flight speed, he would be able to traverse the distance between the trailer that served as a mobile base and Yanagi's unit in a short period of time.

The scenery flew by. While Tatsuya did his utmost to train his eyesight on the move during combat training, trying to do so while flying was never something a human being was supposed to be able to accomplish. Under these conditions, he couldn't overestimate his own physical capabilities. Thus, along with the naked eye, he was using Elemental Sight as a radar to search for obstacles in the air with his consciousness.

He was entirely reliant on that to find those particular things.

The small flying object that only measured 1 meter in length. The pitch black, bird-like flying machine was undoubtedly the low altitude unmanned observation drone. It was currently at the target area — where Yanagi's unit was in combat — and circling overhead. In order to avoid being detected by the drone's magic sensors, Tatsuya flew far above the drone, pulled out a CAD with his right hand, and disengaged the Flying-Type Magic.

Just like that, he plummeted downwards. Just before he made contact with the unmanned drone, Tatsuya activated Decomposition Magic "Mist Dispersal".

The unmanned drone instantly disintegrated into dust and blew away in the air.

Once more activating Flying-Type Magic, Tatsuya prepared to land.

◊ ◊ ◊

The sudden loss of the images from the unmanned drone plunged the invasion command center into chaos.

Although the machine that stopped transmitting was not one of a kind, these highly expensive drones did not come with spares. Undoubtedly, they had lost their precious "eyes".

While they appeared to have launched a successful surprise attack on an enemy nation, the reverse was true in that they were also isolated deep within enemy territory. Losing one of the methods to verify the battlefield conditions exerted considerable pressure on them.

◊ ◊ ◊

By the time Tatsuya met up with Yanagi, the intial fighting had already died down and Yanagi was in the process of providing medical treatment for the wounded.

"Special Lieutenant, excellent timing."

Before Tatsuya could speak, Yanagi identified his figure and immediately called him over.

After saluting Yanagi smartly, Tatsuya swept a gaze over the wounded whose armor have already been removed.

"We've already removed the bullets. The rest is up to you."

His helm off, Yanagi's exposed face didn't betray any expression, but his eyes betrayed his emotions.

"Understood."

Tatsuya gave a decisive answer that rejected Yanagi's guilt as unnecessary while pulling out the silver CAD from his left waist.

The groans from the wounded ceased immediately. In place of that, Yanagi could hear Tatsuya clenching his teeth behind his closed lips.

◊ ◊ ◊

After obtaining an overview of the enemy forces thanks to Honoka's magic, Suzune felt that there were less invading troops than she expected.

"—Don't you think the battle line is too stretched out."

"Now, what was once known as a battle line has ceased to exist." Suzune answered Mari's question without any hesitation.

"Conflicts are still breaking out throughout the inland areas. Using infiltrated guerrillas to take out transportation and communications while the amphibious forces make a beeline for the suppression targets...... I think that is the basic plan for the invading army."

"If Rin-chan says so, then that must be it...... Then, what is the enemy's objective?"

Not only did Mayumi tilt her head in consideration, even Suzune ruminated on this as well.

"......As Mayumi predicted, one of them must be the Kantou branch for the Magic Association, that much is certain. Another objective is probably aimed at the civilians attempting to flee by sea, probably with taking hostages in mind."

"Hostages?"

"I doubt they are trying to massacre civilians. If that was the case, they would have sent a missile boat rather than a landing vessel. Hostage exchange, ransom...... The final objective remains unclear."

"So that means there is less danger of being suddenly bombarded by cannon fire or guided missiles, correct?"

Suzune mentioned this aloud as she watched the large crowds of civilians gathered near the lobby near the station's ticket stands.

"Earlier, Kyouko said that reinforcements from Tsurumi are almost here. Taking the route into consideration, we should protect the civilians near Mizuho Wharf and then throw any remaining forces into sweeping out the enemy."

"Agreed. I think so too."

Suzune nodded her head at Mayumi's prediction.

"If the enemy's intent is to take hostages, they will definitely come here, where the defenses are weaker...... I will — actually, let's go help

Kanon's side first."

"Indeed..... Although their numbers are few, the other side has Miyuki with them."

Mayumi expressed her agreement to Mari's plan of deployment. "Ah~, that girl's Freezing Magic probably qualifies for combat level."

Mayumi and Mari exchanged wry smiles. They were probably contemplating "those siblings......"

"......Still, Mari, don't push yourself too hard. It's not a good thing for you to face off against mechanized troops."

"I got it."

Watching Mari's figure as she trotted away, the previously silent Honoka who was standing nearby fearfully struck up a conversation with Mayumi.

"Uh, should I join the defenders? If not the front line, I can still offer support from the back."

Honoka must have gathered all of her courage to say that. Mayumi smiled and shook her head from side to side.

"Mitsui needs to be here to help when the helicopter arrives. Also, Miyuki-chan and Kanon-chan's mission is not to defend but to be on guard. We are not professional combat Magicians, so there's no need to run the risk of combat or seek combat at all. Instead, we should be considering how to escape."

Mayumi warned her in a slightly mischievous tone.

But half of Honoka was certain that Miyuki and Erika would never flee from battle.

She turned an uneasy gaze on Shizuku only to find the same look mirrored in her dear friend's eyes.

The "guard team" Mayumi spoke of — which was really the "defense team" — had split into two groups to defend the two access routes just as Suzune predicted. Just when they were about to reach the point of no return, Kirihara suddenly turned to Sayaka and opened his mouth.

"Mibu......

I think you should head to the rear."

Kirihara's words prompted Sayaka to turn a surprised look on him that practically screamed "Why are you saying this now?"

"Kirihara-kun, I am also a swordsman. I have the resolution to stand on the battlefield."

"Don't go any further!"

At this, Kirihara finally exploded. That was enough to cause Sayaka to just stand there with widened eyes.

"Do not speak of 'resolution' so frivolously!"

"......Kirihara-kun?"

"Kirihara-senpai......

Why are you so angry?"

Sayaka and Erika, who was watching this scene with some amazement, both asked at the same time. After venting, Kirihara relaxed somewhat.

"I...... don't want Mibu's sword to be stained by blood."

Even thought she was astonished by these unexpected words, Sayaka couldn't help but form her own rebuttal.

"But...... swords are meant to be......"

"I understand that sort of thing."

—Kirihara cut short whatever she wanted to say.

"Swords are tools men use to make war on each other and, unlike spears and arrows, were the first weapon created to cut humans. So, it is not necessarily wrong to say that a swordsman's hands must be stained by blood."

Kirihara confirmed Sayaka's words. Following that, he called upon a higher "law" to reject it.

"However, kendo was never something that needed live weapons to determine the victor. Is it really a good thing to advance from an athletic activity to a skill for killing?"

Until Kirihara fully calmed down, regardless of whether it was Sayaka or Erika, both could only wordlessly listen to him as he continued.

"I...... In middle school, I always thought that Mibu's sword was wonderful. Her techniques were graceful and her form simply beautiful. There was nothing nefarious in it and it existed solely to train herself in the art of kenjutsu...... No, that is kendo. I am entirely unable to wield such a wondrous sword. At that time, ah, I wished — that her sword would forever hold that beauty and continue to shine forth with that brilliant luster. So...... Well, ach, seriously, how the heck am I supposed to say this!?"

"I understand, senpai."

Seeing Kirihara clutch at his head not knowing how to continue, Erika spoke up in a different tone than before.

"At your match during recruitment week, I saw Sayaka's sword advancing in the correct direction, but I guess Kirihara-senpai thought otherwise. The idea that the true sword is completely different than kendo — probably because I'm different from senpai in that I am more attuned to using a sword to kill people, because I don't think that way."

"Erika-chan......"

Erika's heavy tone caused Sayaka to grow a little concerned. On there other hand, Kirihara stood there in shock and was unable to muster anything in response.

"However, Kirihara-senpai, the ultimate decision rests with Saya." Erika's sharp eyes pierced through Kirihara's orbs.

"It's true that live combat is entirely different than combat training. There is nothing wrong in Kirihara-senpai not wishing Saya's hands and sword to be dirtied by blood. Yet, Saya is definitely not the sort to allow the target of her affections to charge into danger alone. She would want to fight alongside her beloved."

Both Sayaka and Kirihara blushed at that. Their embarrassment undoubtedly arose from the term "beloved". Still, this wasn't the time and place to express their affections, so both of them held themselves in check.

"......Oops, I think I said something I shouldn't have."

Even Erika was getting a little bashful, so she was in no position to say anything about Kirihara and Sayaka.

"I think this third wheel is going to quit the field. You two can discuss how best to proceed from here."

Erika quickly left the area.

After calming down, Sayaka and Kirihara both exchanged a glance.

◊ ◊ ◊

Without any way to access a bird's eye view of the situation, Masaki and Kichijouji of Third High had no way of knowing that the enemy force wasn't very large.

The sum total of the enemy's forces included the amphibious vessel disguised as a large cargo ship (pretty much a transport for land forces) and the irregulars who infiltrated ahead of time. Also, their goal was to seize objectives rather than prepare for a massive invasion.

"Is it already over......

?"

Unaware of this, Masaki expressed amazement that the enemy's attacks had broken off, and this was not because he was a battlemonger.

"There's no way of telling if it's over for real. After all, we have no way of receiving intel."

Masaki's muttering to himself received a response from Kichijouji, who was approaching from behind.

In his immediate surroundings, there was no one else save for Kichijouji. There was no sign of his other companions, only blood soaked corpses piled ahead.

"So we need to take this opportunity to escape."

Kichijou said this in all seriousness as he watched Masaki put the handgun-shaped CAD that was glowing faintly red back into his chest pocket.

"We've already changed the tires. Masaki, let's get on board the bus."

Saying so, he turned around to see the students originally ready to meet the enemy had already congregated around the bus's location.

"Come on. The sooner we leave the better." Kichijouji prodded Masaki.

Yet, Masaki shook his head. "Masaki?"

"I'm going to head for the Magic Association branch office."

"That's too risky!"

His eyes widening, Kichijouji immediately expressed his disagreement to Masaki's words.

"First of all, for what!?"

Masaki wore an oddly detached expression as he replied back to his bestirred friend.

"To reinforce them. The Magicians from the Association couldn't possibly just be sitting there doing nothing. They must have formed a volunteer unit and joined in the defense."

"So what!"

"Because I am 'Ichijou'."

These softly spoken words caused Kichijouji to suck in a breath.

"......Don't tell me, this is because of what happened earlier? No one meant anything by that. It's just that they weren't accustomed to it, they don't see Masaki as......"

"I wouldn't even bother with trivial things like that." Masaki bulled over Kichijouji's words and shook his head.

"The first time I stepped onto the battlefield, I wanted to throw up too."

A wry smile appeared on Masaki's face as he added, "But I didn't."

Kichijouji felt that a distinct sense of loneliness emanating from that face.

"In addition, there's an absence of adequate supplies, trustworthy officers, and they were thrown into the field with no mental preparation whatsoever. The conditions were too terrible for a first battle."

"Exactly! That's why everyone expressed themselves that way."

"I already said that's not it."

Desperately trying to justify this — Masaki felt that this was "justifying" — Kichijouji was cut short by Masaki again.

"Although I cannot go into the specifics, the Ten Master Clans have a responsibility towards the Magic Association. As Ichijou, and the eldest son to boot, I cannot scurry away and pretend this has nothing to do with me."

Masaki patted Kichijouji on the shoulder and advanced in the opposite direction of the bus.

"Then I'm going too!"

Catching Kichijouji's insistent scream, Masaki halted his footsteps.

"I am Masaki's tactician. If Masaki is joining the volunteers, then so am I."

"George, you need to help everyone escape safely."

Masaki merely turned his head slightly and spoke to Kichijouji with his face turned.

"This street is still a battlefield and there's no way of telling what will happen. Honestly, if I have to worry about whether the teachers and senpais got out of here safely, I cannot concentrate on the battle ahead."

After saying this, Masaki turned his face forward and continued onward with his back to Kichijouji.

"......Understood, Masaki. I will take up the responsibility to make sure everyone gets out safely. That's why, Masaki, you must return unharmed."

You are my only "commander". With this feeling in his heart, Kichijouji accepted Masaki's orders.

Hearing his words, Masaki kept his back to him and raised an arm in acknowledgement before once again stepping off towards the battlefield alone.

◊ ◊ ◊

"—They're here."

The first to discover the enemy's approach was Mikihiko.

The talismans spread out by the wind transmitted images of the enemy.

"Bipedal tanks......

They're different than before. They move like humans."

"Like humans?"

At Mikihiko's words, Erika tilted her head for some reason while wearing protective headphones. (In order to avoid interfering with the conversation, they weren't covering her ears.)

Bipedal tanks were created to access narrow paths with an upraised firing platform. At the same time, the stubby legs were equipped with treads to navigate steps and rumble, but it was never designed to function as a combat robot.

Among modern military technology, at least within Erika's knowledge, no combat robot that could mimic human motion existed.

"You can see it in a second......

There!"

But now was not the time to consider things removed from reality.

Accompanied by Mikihiko's voice, the bipedal tank appeared from behind the building.

The subby legs with treads attached. A slightly elongated body.

Until this point, all features were uniform with bipedal tanks.

However, the right arm was equipped with a chainsaw and the left hand had a pile driver with gunpowder, which were equipment that was impossible on a normal bipedal tank.

If the heavy machinery used to clear away obstacles in disaster zones was modified into human form, it would undoubtedly look like this.

In addition, there was a Howitzer mounted on the right shoulder and a heavy machine gun on the left shoulder.

"Combat robots!?"

As if in disbelief that her imagination had turned into reality, Erika's voice hitched.

By her side, Miyuki directed a chilling gaze at the nefarious looking mobile weapon.

Once the bipedal tank (?) entered her sight range, Miyuki unleashed her magic.

No questions were necessary. (Not that this was the phrase's original meaning)

All three machines halted their footsteps.

Their treads were frozen through, prompting them to come to a stop.

The fact they didn't tip over demonstrated the superiority of their balancing modules.

But the legs were not the only things that were frozen. Miyuki's magic was not child's play.

Anyone with the military knowledge to pilot a bipedal tank would immediately recognize the frost originated from a magical attack.

Needless to say, this long-haired young woman of chilling temperament barring their path was the source of the magic.

That being said, neither the machine gun nor the Howitzer spat fire.

This was not some simple Freezing Magic, she had also activated "Freeze Flame" — Miyuki's magic not only restricted movement but also prevented any increases in heat.

Seeing that the weapons were disabled, Leo immediately charged.

Calling this swift reaction time and nose for victory a manifestation of his wild nature would not be incorrect.

The weapon he held in his hands was similar to a short stick with a twin-headed hammer.

The entire length measured 50 cm, the grip alone was 30 cm.

The protruding head at the front end was much wider than the handle and was approximately 10 cm long. From the side, it looked almost like a Latin cross.

The head of the hammer started humming like a motor and a black membrane poked out from the head of the stick.

A very, very thin, transparent, black membrane.

The motor sound stopped and that membrane turned into a straight two meter long blade.

Completely flat, this was an ultra thin blade that could not be seen from the side.

This was the Chiba Family's secret sword "Usuba Kagerou".

Relying on Fortifying Magic to solidify the flatness, the thin blade was made up of carbon nanotubes.

Usuba Kagerou was both the name of the technique and also the name granted to this special weapon.

The Usuba Kagerou in Leo's right hand flickered.

The carbon nanotubes were woven into an ultra thin plate that was 5 nanometers thick, making it sharper than any sword or razor as it easily cut the frozen armor plating in half.

The front armor had been sliced diagonally.

All that remained was a thin bisection line that could barely be seen. Red droplets slowly drizzled down from there.

Not only was this the result of highly intense training in a short period of time, this was also the might of the finishing strike custom made for Leo.

As if chasing the lithely retreating Leo, the bipedal tank collapsed by the roadside.

Although she was a step behind Leo out the door, in terms of who took out the prey first, Erika had the mastery.

She had adjusted her headset in a flash and used her left arm to hold the handle of Orochimaru steady as she fell into a stance.

The moment her hand transferred from the scabbard to the hilt, the scabbard split along the back of the blade like two pages of a book, revealing the gigantic blade within.

Her palm steady, Erika used her right pointer finger to press the button right below the edge.

Then, she hefted the entire 180 cm long blade on her shoulder. At this point, the magic already activated.

The odachi that weighed ten kilograms flew through the air. In that instant, Erika's silhouette vanished.

At least, she vanished from Miyuki's eyesight. Immediately afterward, a shattering roar was heard.

That was the sound from antique waste disposal facilities where metal was being crushed.

Erika maintained the swinging posture of the odachi.

The red fluid staining the blade was unquestionably the pilot's blood.

Gravity Systematic·Inertia Control Magic "Yamatsunami".

First, by minimizing the inertia of the self and the weapon while closing in on the enemy at high speed. At the point of impact, this hidden sword technique amplified the transfer of inertia with the weapon's inertia and struck the target.

The overlapping false values of inertia could be further enhanced running from a farther distance to reach a maximum of 10 tons.

The speed received from the transfer of inertia coupled with the weight obtained from increased inertia.

At its maximum strength, Yamatsunami was like a giant, 10 ton guillotine crashing down from up high.

The armor that could resist such a blow probably didn't exist.

The key to this lay in when to switch from transfer of inertia to increased inertia.

In addition, necessary components also included the ability to sprint forward without losing one's balance due to loss of inertia and the ability to hold the blade steady and prevent wobbling.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the high speed reaction and perception that would not be subverted by the loss of inertia.

Those were the critical components to Yamatsunami.

Erika was born with that "speed" and, with countless days of harsh training, she finally obtained this ability.

Erika looked towards her next prey.

Leo was already closing on the next target. Yamatsunami activated.

A second later, Leo disengaged Usuba Kagerou and covered his ears before the shattered bipedal tank.

The other half of the "guard" team — which was the "defense" team

— also engaged the bipedal tanks in battle.

On this side, Isori planted walls that obstructed oscillations three meters into the earth so Kanon could freely use her magic that used the earth as a medium.

The "formation" that Isori spread underground was also able to detect the enemy on the surface.

The surface and insides were covered with diagrams, created with silk threads, that aided in magic invocation, which was essentially a magic formation.

As an elite of the Isori Family, who were the authorities on Engraving Magic, Isori Kei excelled in this sort of magic which was unimaginably similar to the ritual formations used in Mikihiko's Ancient Magic. In the end, no matter whether it was modern magic or Ancient Magic, they differed little on the point of "magic".

Hence both of them were fulfilling similar roles, which on some level made perfect sense.

"Incoming."

When Isori said this, Kanon spread out the Activation Sequence.

Although Isori had precautions in place, she couldn't use oscillation magic that was too strong when she was unfamiliar with the situation underground.

Two atypical bipedal tanks appeared.

Unfamiliar with the types of weaponry, Kanon wasn't really surprised by their odd shapes.

Without any additional considerations as a burden, she released the prearranged magic.

The paved road gave way to fine dust to form a swamp with the water that welled up from the slight oscillations in the earth.

The bipedal tanks sank down roughly a head's length because their feet sank into the earth.

Originally, treads were put in place to traverse sandy or wet terrain like open ground.

However, the liquefied road surface easily swallowed the smaller treads.

This was one of the variations of the Chiyoda Family's magic "Mine Genesis", "Oscillation Mine".

The result was as could be seen.

The magic liquefied the earth to prevent the enemy's advance.

The treads groaned as they churned the muddy water until the sand jammed the treads.

At some point, the moisture was evaporated, causing the liquefied road surface with the bipedal tank's legs still stuck inside to solidify.

After liquefying the earth, Kanon used moisture oscillation to cause them to evaporate.

The magic known as Oscillation Mine referred to a chain of processes that ultimately led to capture.

Although objects from the previous century differed somewhat, paving materials were basically composed of concrete. Even so, it's like she caused a complete liquefied reaction. Rather, she just altered the state of sand that was immersed in water. Despite calling this a capture, in reality this was only a temporary measure, but given that the enemy was currently unable to move, this temporary measure was sufficient to deliver a fatal blow.

Standing to the flanks of the immobile bipedal tanks, Toshikazu and Kirihara appeared.

Toshikazu attacked from the skies.

There was no way the pilot of the bipedal tank could react to that sort of speed in time.

Like a hawk descending from the heavens, he smoothly cut a deep slash across the pilot's seat.

Secret Sword "Tetsuzan".

Usually, the "blade" was the only concept set inside the blade with a Magic Sequence from Move-Systematic magic set to guide the blade's slashing motion. —If the weapon wasn't "Ikazuchimaru".

When Ikazuchimaru was used to activate "Tetsuzan", not only the blade, but swordsman was also included within the magic's targets.

At the same time that the blade was set as a concept, the "swordsman wielding the blade" was set as another complementary concept, thus realizing the possibility of high speed attacks and slashes without trembling.

When he swung the sword downwards, his body already knew how to move. Through thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of repetitive motions and practice, the slashing action had already been carved into his very body by the time he learned this technique.

The general consensus was that the eldest son of the Chiba Family was not as talented as his younger brother.

In reality, Toshikazu himself believed that Naotsugu was a prodigy and he was not.

Precisely because he wasn't a genius, he relied on a determined training regime unknown to other people to earn the ability to use Ikazuchimaru's Tetsuzan technique, "Lightning Tetsuzan".

Because this was a technique taken to the logical extreme, once he initiated "Lightning Tetsuzan", he could only follow through with the motion. This is why he made sure no one saw him practice.

For this reason, many people mistakenly believed that he was a slothful individual while he actually earned this secret sword through his incredible diligence.

The bipedal tank whose pilot's seat was cut in two finally went silent.

The other bipedal tank turned its other body to meet Kirihara, who was closing in while pressed low to the ground.

He was still a step away from entering close quarters combat.

The muzzle of the machine gun pointed at Kirihara, but no bullets spat out.

Behind Kirihara, a kodachi came flying to impact on the machine gun and knock it off the bipedal tank's shoulder.

Diagonally behind Kirihara, Sayaka readied another kodachi and threw it.

The Howitzer was also taken out.

The two kodachis returned along their flight axis back into Sayaka's hands.

Knife throwing.

Although Sayaka belonged to the Kendo Club in school, her father was a Magician who used kenjutsu in live combat. She learned kenjutsu techniques and rudimentary lessons from home. Among those lessons, her area of expertise lay in knife throwing.

In a head on confrontation, a woman could not avoid being on the weaker end when it came to wrist strength. For example, the Sonic Blade favored by Kirihara relied heavily on wrist strength. It was too difficult for her to control the tachi using magic with her magic technical ability. Yet when it came to knife throwing, that had nothing to do with wrist strength so long as she could match her magic with the throwing motion. With this in mind, she trained relentlessly to be able to use this magic.

Since there was a huge opening after the initial throwing motion, this was not something she dared to use against swift opponents but would be perfect against this sort of large, plodding opponent.

Seeing that the firearms had been taken out, Kirihara took the last step forward.

A giant saw was being brought down on his head. However, he had already seen through its trajectory.

His body naturally began to slide and Kirihara's blade bisected the bipedal tank's left leg.

Sonic Blade.

His favorite magic easily sheared through the armor plating designed to withstand land mines and anti-armor rifle rounds.

The tank body came crashing down.

Kirihara cut off the pile driver at the base as he fell back and then looped around the side to plunge the blade into the pilot's seat.

The feeling that traveled across his hand told him he penetrated flesh.

Kirihara's face twisted slightly as he pulled the blade out and leaped far away from the bipedal tank.

The expression on his face was most definitely not a smile.

◊ ◊ ◊

After searching the APC's wreckage, Tatsuya removed a 30 cm long box from the vehicle.

"Is this it?"

He held the box in front of the camera as he asked this question.

"Yes, that's it. Put it in front of the analyzer......

Yep, looks like it."

A reply came back across the display on the camera. "That's the Magic Booster."

"It looks like a normal box."

"Connection and operation are completely done through a ritual feedback loop, so there's no mechanical outlet."

On the other side of the display, Sanada continued explaining to Tatsuya, who was frowning with suspicion at the flat box that only had a handle.

"You said that the APC's anti-physical magic barrier was being amplified by this booster, right?"

"That should be the case. Although it's only speculation on our side, but it fits."

Sanada expressed his agreement towards Yanagi's speculation on the matter.

"Then our enemy's identity becomes obvious. Well, not that there were any other possible culprits anyways."

"Although this is insufficient as evidence, we are neither the police nor judges. Though even if we did know their identity, our plan of action probably wouldn't change."

On the other side of the display, both of the captains broke into evil smiles.

He really didn't want to turn into those people, Tatsuya thought with a little hesitation before verifying his next set of orders.

"Then, are we to sink the Great Asian Alliance's camouflaged combat vessel?"

"Sinking it in the confines of the harbor is a bad idea. We would impact the harbor's functions too heavily."

Of course, he was aware of that possibility. He was only joking when he mentioned sinking the vessel, but that appeared to have provoked an answer that was more serious than he anticipated, hence Tatsuya was slightly apologetic.

"Then are we conducting a boarding action?"

Yanagi asked Kazama, who replaced Sanada on the monitor.

Somehow, he got the feeling that boarding the enemy vessel with such a tiny force had already turned into a predetermined event, Tatsuya thought.

It was only now that he remembered that these acquaintances of his — his current superiors — did not know the meaning of a joke, or maybe they were the type of people who had become accustomed to accomplishing things that most people would assume was a joke.

"We'll put that off until the end. There are public figures in the plaza before the bus station who have called in helicopters for evacuating civilians. After handing the area over to the unit from Tsurumi, head to the bus station and provide cover for the evacuation."

"Understood."

Standing next to Yanagi, Tatsuya saluted at the same time and thought what a courageous bunch of public figures those people were.

Even if they were evacuating, remembering to take civilians who had not evacuated yet was certainly a praiseworthy gesture, he thought.

"Also, the public figures who called in the helicopters are called Saegusa Mayumi and Kitayama Shizuku. If the two of them have any requests on site, please do your best to accommodate them."

Hearing these familiar names in his ear, Tatsuya barely suppressed a coughing fit.

◊ ◊ ◊

Almost at the same time, the other locations also ascertained their enemy's identity.

Although the wreckage that Erika smashed was a dead loss, Miyuki, Erika, Leo, and Mikihiko were crowded in front of the other bipedal tank that was undamaged save for the pilot seat that Leo slashed open. Mikihiko was the one who called the other three over.

"In regards to this bipedal tank, I don't think it's moving just through machinery."

"In other words, they applied other sorts of spells?"

"Exactly."

It wasn't anything special for Miyuki to use a more formal tone with boys (this was not always the case, as she might adopt a different tone in different circumstances).

Maybe for the same reason, Mikihiko was never able to speak casually around Miyuki (he was always like this).

"The limb motions for these three were amazingly human-like. The bipedal tank's body is dominated by the pilot's seat and has too many structural differences compared to the human body. They couldn't imitate human motions even if they wanted to because doing so should lead to loss of mobility."

"Even so, these guys still manifested 'overly' life-like motions, right?" Mikihiko nodded without hesitation at Leo's question.

"Their mobility is not just coming from pistons, gears, or electricity. I believe that there's also some force at work here to enable the limbs to mimic human motion."

"In other words, they're using magic? What kind of magic?"

"Probably Senshi Shihei Jutsu."

"Senshi Shihei Jutsu?"

Erika turned the unfamiliar name over in her mouth as she tilted her head.

"Is that the humanoid servant magic from the Onmyo System? I heard it originally came from the Daoists."

Hearing Miyuki's answer, Mikihiko couldn't help but nod in admiration.

"Indeed. Senshi Shihei Jutsu involves cutting paper into human shapes, then sprinkling magic on it to turn them into soldiers."

The latter half of that explanation was for Erika.

"In other words, our enemy comes from the Great Asian Alliance?"

Yet Erika flung the magic's explanation to the back of her head and directly announced the enemy's identity.

"Aren't we jumping to conclusions here? Magic from the Onmyo System may also hint at traitors from within."

"No, I think there's an 80 to 90% chance that Erika is on the right track."

Although Leo expressed his question with a caution that seemed entirely unlike him, Mikihiko still shook his head and expressed his support for Erika's opinion.

"This may sound strange, but Ancient Magic was also mainstream at one point...... Among those who emphasize tradition, there are skills that enjoyed considerable popularity over the years, and also skills that have become outdated. In the past 10 years, you cannot find shikigami with actual physical bodies no matter which branch of Ancient Magic you look into within the country. In our country, Senshi Shihei Jutsu has already been abandoned as magic. In order to grant bipedal tanks the full range of motion to use saws and pile drivers, the more magic is present the better. If it was me, I would enchant the pile driver and saw themselves. Even we Ancient Magic users are not stubborn as to insist on using abandoned magic despite knowing that there are wasteful excess within the magic."

"I'm not talking about who's more stubborn and all that."

Seeing Mikihiko starting to over think this — or at least become overly conscious, Leo's expression turned a tad stiff as he waved his hands.

"In summation, the ones controlling the bipedal tanks are Magicians from the Great Asian Alliance? OK, got it."

"Ah, no, well......

I guess that's how it is."

Mikihiko likely realized that he was projecting his anger within his words and sheepishly shut his mouth. Still, his expression altered swiftly as he dropped another bombshell to the other three.

"Eh? You want Shibata-san to go over there?"

After receiving the request over the loudspeakers on the transmission terminal, Mayumi involuntarily shouted back.

"......

OK. Well, I guess you have a point......

Fine, I understand. But let's make sure we get her opinion on the matter first......

Yes, I think putting it to her directly would better. Shibata-san."

Mayumi removed the terminal from her ear and passed it to Mizuki.

"Yes, what is it......

?"

"Miyuki-chan's group would like Shibata-san to head over. They have provided an in-depth explanation, so please listen carefully before making a decision."

Normally, Mayumi and Mizuki did not meet very frequently. Thus, when receiving the transmission terminal that was accompanied by something close to a mission briefing, Mizuki could helplessly and carefully, no, more like fearfully receive the terminal.

"Ah, Shibata-san?"

"Yoshida-kun?"

Now that she knew it was Mikihiko on the other hand, Mizuki's expression relaxed a few degrees.

If Erika was on the other line, there was no telling when she would say something outrageous whereas Mizuki would still grow anxious when speaking to Miyuki for no apparent reason.

Still, why was she relaxed around Mikihiko — Mizuki had not discovered the meaning for this by herself yet.

"I would like to borrow Shibata-san's power."

On the other side, Mikihiko's tone was a little anxious. —Actually, he seemed rather excited.

"Eh, power?"

"The enemy is using Ancient Magic called Senshi Shihei Jutsu to command their mobile armors. Since this their magic differs in nature with my own, I'm having a hard time grasping the enemy's magic. However, with Shibata-san's 'eyes', I think that can read the enemy's movements faster and locate the core of the enemy's magic faster than I can. Once you locate the core, I can use my magic to nullify the enemy's Senshi Shihei Jutsu. That's why I hope that Shibata-san can get over here as soon as you can. Of course, this will be dangerous, but I will definitely protect you."

"—!"

Speechless, Mizuki turned completely red.

She understood very clear that there was no ulterior meaning in that. But—

"See, Mizuki. Yoshida-kun will definitely protect you, right?"

"—!"

"—!"

Once Miyuki's voice came across the terminal, an aura of silence seemed to have been passed across as well. Both of their brains were flooded with images of the other person's face and, in an awkward silence that gave them fits, time seemed to stop.

"......Of course, not just Yoshida-kun, but the rest of us will protect you to the best of our ability."

The frozen time was restored when Miyuki broke the silence. Overhearing the transmission, Mayumi could not help but remark privately, "Miyuki-chan really is a S......"

"Y-Yes! We will all defend you!"

Mizuki softly nodded at Mikihiko's hysterical cry that seemed to speak on so many levels.

"I understand. I'm heading over right now."

Removing the terminal from her ear, Mizuki let out a huge sigh and handed the terminal back to Mayumi. After that, she lightly bowed to Mayumi before jogging off to the "front line" where Mikihiko and company were stationed.

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