Raising a lead color sea spray over the thick clouds rained down on by the light of the moon, the steel warship ascended. As if to swallow the lonesome shadow the moon drew of the blimp.
To them, it was nothing more than an unconfirmed rumor. His face frozen towards starboard, Estee muttered in a daze.
“The assembly… really possessed something like this…!?”
But to support that very notion, on the end of the navy blue flight deck, the Second Holy Knight Order’s symbol of ‘II’ had been plastered on in white. On the ship’s sky blue hold, the nose art of a Norse war-maiden, a Valkyrie soared with the lettering spelling out ‘God Bless Us All!’
As the aircraft carrier slid along the sea of clouds, numerous sparks scattered along its side. With the distance and its sheer size, they could look like no more as sparks, but that was undoubtedly gunfire.
“Presumably short distance Guided Missiles!! Forty-two of them!!”
“Begin rapid descent to the fifth level!”
“We won’t make it! We’ll be hit!!”
The next instant, a percussion of seizure-inducing flashes stole Shouki’s vision away. The consecutive explosive sounds as if to tear through his eardrums, and the vibrations that were enough to throw him off his feet.
“Kk… Three shots passed over the ship… twenty-six deviated into other isolated world depths, and the remaining thirteen hit…!”
The seventh to third invisibility barriers are down!
“The magic shield’s output has fallen to seventy… no, sixty percent!”
“Enemy Angel Storage appears to be preparing the second wave! They’re getting even closer…!”
A shrill warning siren sounded across the ship, as angry bellows flew about, the consoles the crew members faced began lighting up their red lamps one after the next.
“Did we hit? I can’t see a thing.”
On the bridge of Angel Storage, Makoro gazed at the port side where the bombardment had been.
Clouds flowed by, and at the same speed, the smoke explosions of the missiles drifted by them, but as always, there was nothing there.
“As expected of the Angel Storage I designed! Thirteen out of forty-two shots hit spot on! You’ll never see higher precision against a target in the isolated world!”
Florence shouted from the command platform with such confidence in her tone it could be taken as arrogance. Makoto had been invited to the bridge as a guest, for what it was worth, and she offered just one syllable.
“H… hey! What’s with you’re attitude! It’s been nothing but Hmmms and heeeeehs with you!”
Florence’s mouth curled sharply downwards, her hand slapping against the table it seemed she had carried there for the sole purpose of smacking.
“The AMaC furnace was only supposed to exist in the Grand Temple’s basement, but we have one here to generate lift! One here to generate forward momentum and other forces! This ship is loaded with two of them, don’t you know! Isn’t that amazing!? Hey, it’s amazing, right!?”
“You can’t really say you designed it when the ship itself’s just a hand-me-down from the US Navy, can you? What’s more, this thing was built during World War II, it’s completely behind the times. While you were at it, you could’ve at least gone for Nimitz-class.”
Mmmm, Florence whined like a dog. Her lips quivered, and her hand that slammed the springboard grew weak and halfhearted. Unable to bear watching, Ritsuko whispered over.
“Hey, Makoto… Florence has a lot of confidence in herself so… she’s weak to getting ignored.”
“I get it…”
The tiring truth that a twenty-seven-ton displacing mass of iron was flying through the sky. Its motor was an AMaC furnace that could generate negative mana. If the other side had a flying submarine, then they had a third world nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.
Makoto was now bearing witness to the bottomless bag of wonders the Sacred Assembly had in store. No, she was presumably being shown it, by these girls. As a deterring force against the Kantou Agency. That must be why an outsider such as herself was allowed into the command room.
If that was the case, it was even less cause for joy.
(I… need one…!!)
Her eyes sterned in frustration at an unachievable dream as she scowled out of the command room.
(But… I wonder if Hasebe’s alright…)
This ship. It wasn’t as if it had been made with an anticipation of anti-ship combat. The reason being there was no way any opponent could exist that could contest this flying fortress. Therefore, those missiles from before were loaded on only for self-defense.
Then what was it for? The name said it all. Angel Storage.
If the answer to how the entirety of Zephirum as an organization could continue escaping the Sacred Assembly was a giant blimp, the answer to how the Sacred Assembly could be developed on a global scale was this Second Knight Order’s airborne assault ship, Angel Storage.
The deputy head dressed like a priest turned to them, an intercom in one hand.
“Bishop Florence. The short-distance guided AAM reload has been completed.”
“Resume the search! This time we’ll make them all hit and drag those louts out of the isolated world! This is for all the marbles!!”
Yelling at Makoto for some reason, the yell had returned to Florence’s voice as the missile launcher boxes began aligning themselves once more.
The search sound roared through Zephirum’s blimp again. Like the panting of a wild beast before it landed the killing blow.
“Dammit… is there nothing we can do…!”
Having hit his head against a guard rail on the first wave’s impact, Shouki swore as he wiped the blood flowing down. Estee didn’t need anyone telling him that, he cried out with a grim face.
“How much longer to submerge!? Hurry it up!”
“It’s no good, Lord Estee! We won’t have any energy left for the shields… diving any further is too dangerous!”
“Then pepper them with as much ammunition as we can muster! We’ll use that opportunity to change course and run! There’s no way that huge bulk can make sharp turns!”
“U-understood! Opening all gunports on starboard!”
“Fire the flying depth charges!”
Following on from the yells of the grew, from the upper portion of the ship roared the low consecutive rumble of discharges. At the end of a gentle parabola, countless warheads ignited all at once, flying off towards the enemy aircraft carrier with vehement speed.
And they went off one after the next. The sky was dyed in bright flashed to which even the rapid-fire firework display of a summer’s night didn’t compare. The cloud sea rippled and pierced with tremors similar to an earthquake reaching all the way to the blimp lurking in the isolated world.
“Did we do it!?”
“!? It’s the phalanx!! All rounds were shot down before reaching destination!”
“They’re even equipped with an Aegis System…!?”
Estee’s wonder came a few moments too late, as the shrill buzzer reverberated even louder through the bridge.
“It looks like that bombardment gave away our depth!! They’ve locked onto us!!”
For a moment, Elsion raised his voice.
“Begin rapid ascent to reality!! Put all energy into the starboard magic shield!!”
By the time the gunfire glittered beyond the smoke, his vision went hazy again. This time, Shouki firmly clung to the rail he had hit his head against.
Then came the thunderous roar. The ship danced, raising screams under the name of creaking. The chorus of screams that belonged to no one lightly overlapped unto itself.
“Out of the forty-two shots of the second wave, nine have hit! Thirty-three made it into the second depth of the isolated world… magic shield output has fallen to thirty percent, but damage to the ship is light…!”
“But energy expenditure is too heavy, any further dives are impossible!”
As a hopeless air heavily weighted down the scene, a deck officer turned and cried out.
“The enemy is maintaining relative speed and closing in!! Their distance has broken through a thousand!”
Following on, the operator’s shriek echoed.
“A great number of transport circles have sprung up within the ship!! The engine room, combat ward, residential ward, material storage… too many to count!”
“Don’t tell me…!”
The moment Estee groaned. He heard a muffled death cry across the wall.
(Transport circles… they boarded us!?)
Affirming Shouki’s suspicions, a radiant insignia manifested right at the center of the bridge.
The ones who appeared came in strange-looking forms. Their bodies clad in crimson orichalcum plate armor and helmet, the four knights touting battleaxes.
“… This is quite the base. We’ll be taking it.”
These were the top knights only a cardinal could command, the elite guard.
“… Elsion, VZ, Estee… and the heretic hero, Hasebe Shouki. We were right to come here.”
The glare through their visors was sharp to an uncanny extent. But perhaps because they had taken it head-on, the colors of unrest disappeared from the faces of Zephirum’s top executives.
Elsion’s penetrating eyes still focused on the elite guard, he spoke to Shouki.
“What about her?”
“!? She’s in her room, residential district…!”
“I see. Then that’s where you should be.”
Estee loosely shook his head.
“Have you forgotten, Hero? Top executives… including myself, presumptuous as that may be… possess powers on par with a cardinal. To take that further, there is no reason we would lose to the mere humans that serve them. Yes.”
“Then let’s put that to the test!!”
An infuriated guard brandished his large battle ask, kicking the floor towards an unarmed Estee. Estee… simply turned the palm of his white-gloved unprotected hand towards him.
“As you wish.”
When there was only one step before the demon was in axe range, the elite guard’s body stopped. As if he had run into an invisible wall.
“Wha…!? What in the blazes is this…!”
“Why is it my ‘hand’. Though just a tad big and invisible to the eye.”
Estee happily explained as he gripped his white-gloved fingers. Corresponding with that, the unseen hand gripped as well. As if he was being constricted by an invisible vice, the slite’s armor began bending out fo shape.
“Gwo… gah…! Aaaaah!!”
Once it had crossed a certain line, the shrill shriek of the armor bending over itself and the Knight’s blood spouting out came at practically the same time. As the fresh blood rained down on it, it finally sowed its form… the giant finger clenching the exhausted, broken elite like a ragdoll.
But as Estee put in a flourish and an elegant bow, it vanished altogether. The blood that had stuck to the hand and the expired knight slopped onto the ground.
With his head still lowered in his bow, Estee’s expression with upturned eyes. The kindness and sincerity were nowhere to be seen. It was practically that of a venomous serpent.
“Now who is next?”
While the remaining three didn’t seem pained by their comrade’s death, their self-conceit had vanished.
(This is… an Outer’s power…!)
“Shouki, as you can see. Even Estee alone can manage here. Could you take VZ with you and go to her?”
He had absolute confidence. Elsion remained in his chair, not the slightest quiver from him save for a not at Shouki’s response.
Shouki and VZ raced up the bridge’s stairs. The three elites slowly closed in on Elsion and Estee left behind.
“What do you think, Estee? Is there any other way… that thing could be floating in the air?”
“No. I presume it’s just as you surmise.”
“… I see. Fufu… in that case, I may have given Shouki the wrong order.”
The elites kicked the ground in unison.
Elsion’s eyes shined a crimson that didn’t lose to their armor.
The residential district, lowest level.
“T… too strong…”
“How is that even possible…”
The holy knights who had been pressed into a hard fight against demons watched absentmindedly over the two girls who had immediately changed a losing battle into a massacre.
“This is… this is the Kantou Agency…!?”
They swallowed their breath through the lingering stench of blood.
“Sergeant. You can cut whosever’s hiding in that room. Wouldn’t want them to take us from behind.”
Never lifting a finger to fight on her own, the director of the Kantou Agency Hida Makoto issued orders with her arms folded. Whether Holy Knight or demon, the girl of only seventeen trampled over those corpses that had fallen in the ensuing battle without any particularly strong thoughts either way.
Living up to her expectations, mowing down demons with her sword and making them shriek, the Kantou Agency’s fabled Code EX who ranked equal to E0, Shirai Saho. Even when bathed it sticky blood, her eyes glimmered, a thin smile on her lips as she produced more corpse to dread over.
Cutting down five demons in the blink of an eye, Saho was left with no further goal. She was now carefully and diligently wiping the blood off the katana with a cloth.
“… Looks like that’s a clean sweep of this area. So where were you guys headed to?”
Makoto asked the captain of the knights, causing him to wake from his stupor.
“Uh…? Y-yeah… The engine room at the front of this blimp. We received notice the unit there was wiped out…”
“C-captain! Just in from Angel Storage… contact has been cut with the four elites on the bridge…!”
The words of the correspondent with a transmitter on his back sent chills down the knights’ spine. This was a clear drop in morale.
(Well now what… I shouldn’t have come all the way out here…)
Having seen greater carnage than she had anticipated, Makoto gave a slight sigh.
“Hida Makoto. I am swallowing my pride and asking you, the Director of the Kantou Agency… how should we move…?”
“Hah!? W-why are you asking me…!?”
“We serve at the very bottom. When it comes to tactics, you should be far superior!”
While he said that, she was versed in hunting monsters through the mountains and forests, this was her first all-out-war in a manmade structure. For behavior theory in such a situation, the JDSF would have the upper hand.
In the first place, she had only come along to order Saho around. If they won, she’d have sold a favor, and this was her chance to show off her agency’s power to get back at them for showing off Angel Storage.
(I would love the bargaining chip, but…)
“Director, your orders!”
“Ah, yeah, yeah… rather than me, what did Angel Storage tell you?”
“That’s, in short, up to individual discretion…”
At the captain’s unconfident complexion, Makoto covered her face.
“Well I’m amazed… are you sure this is one of those famed holy knight orders…?”
“As part of the moderate faction, I hear Cardinal Ritsuko has very little war experience. Bishop Florence is at the top of the field of magicology but…”
His helmet slowly shook left and right.
“I’m sure it’d be different if Cardinal Randale was at the helm.”
“Hmmm… The Lord’s Lightning… was he really that amazing?”
And even taking command out of the equation, it was a mystery if they’d be able to match an Outers strength in battle. When it came to this mission, the individual strength of each outer was a cut above the rest. So much so tactics may prove meaningless.
(Is our only option… to leave it to numbers and wait for them to wear out?)
Makoto gave a nod.
“For now, let’s not head to the bridge. From what I heard, it’s way too dangerous. We’ll take the engine room as planned. And another thing. We’re retreating the moment any unit recovers our top priority target, Meeko. How does that sound?”
“Understood! Let’s go!”
And just as the party was about to begin its advance, two shadows jumped out from the crossway around twenty meters ahead. One in black with a feathered cap, Demon VZ. The other.
Shouki came to a sudden stop. While VZ tried to pass by, she hurriedly put down the brakes, her eyes opening wide.
“Wow. Now this is… well… you’ve made quite the spectacle.”
VZ looked over the corpses of her comrades lining the hallway with a mischievous smile. Upon noticing that same scene, Shouki made a conflicted face that didn’t fall under anger or sorrow.
“Makoto… did you… do it…?”
“Look a little further back. You can see it, right? The remnants of holy knights… if I didn’t, they’d have been wiped out.”
“That doesn’t mean… just because… why is it you…!”
“Hunting demons and monsters is the Kantou Agency’s job. Isn’t it, Hasebe?”
Makoto folded her arms, staring into his eyes head-on. The knights were suddenly growing astir.
“Hasebe…!? Hasebe Shouki!”
“The heretic hero!!”
“The traitor hero!!”
“Don’t worry about losing an arm or two! We have to take him alive, and drag him to a trial before the altar! He must receive judgment in the name of the Lord!”
As he heard the holy knights words, the look Shouki gave stuck deep into Makoto’s chest. While troubled and pained he may be, he had no anger and no pity. The sort of anguish as if he was stifling all feeling to death as his body burned in the flames of purgatory.
(… Just a little screw loose and you don’t feel a thing… but that wouldn’t be Hasebe, would it…)
“This is divine retribution! Have at him…!”
With her eyes closed, Makoto lightly raised her hand to stop the knights in their tracks.
“Why are you stopping us!?”
“Are you stupid? Hasebe, see, he’s beyond what you lot can capture alive.”
Right, he was the hero.
Just one shot from his light magic, and that alone would wipe out their side.
“See? Isn’t that right? Hasebe?”
“… Yeah. I won’t lose! Never!! Makoto… even if you’re my enemy, if you get in my way, you’ll have no mercy!!”
The glint in his eyes was more persuasive than anything else, raising tremors in all who opposed him. Save for two girls.
“Right. I see.”
So that’s all I am in his head, Makoto thought.
“… You heard the man! Now sergeant, it’s time to have fun!!”
“I won’t have you forgetting me!!”
Saho dashed, but with speed that didn’t fall short of her, the one who stood in her way was VZ. Her rapier warping as it tore through the air, she locked down Saho’s sword in Shouki’s place.
“Leave this to me and hurry! It’s a bit of a detour, but you can make it that way!”
VZ nudged her head in that direction.
To Shouki’s hesitation, VZ explained on.
“Those kids are beyond what you can take alive too, right? Hasebe-senpai, you can’t, can you!?”
Rather than a proclamation or lecture, she seemed to be showing consideration for him. Shouki grit his teeth, turning around with a do-or-die face.
The footsteps were quickly out of earshot.
(… If I was going to die, I wanted Hasebe to do it… but I guess that’s right.)
Turning her head down at this let-down, Makoto brushed her hair aside. While that was going on, VZ and Saho’s blades parted as they took distance for the time being.
“Fu fu fu… You didn’t damage the dragoon for nothing. Looks like you’ve got some fight in you yet. However!! You’re a hundred years too early to stand against the high and mighty VZ!!”
Without closing any distance at all, VZ simply swung her sword on the spot.
It had to be natural talent. She definitely didn’t see anything, but Saho alone reacted, suddenly holding her sword vertically. Ping, the blade let off a dull groan and shook. Looking perplexedly at the sword in her hands, Saho blinked her left eye.
“Fu fu fu. If you think that fluke’s going to continue forever, you’re way off! One becomes two!”
For some reason, Saho moved her sword again to metallic chimes. Could it be she could see it? Then this might work… but such wishful thinking was shattered by none other than VZ herself.
“Hyow stubborn! But how about this? Two becomes four.”
Saho’s eye flitted wildly, the tip of her sword swiftly drawing half a circle. But the metallic sounds numbered three. The blood on Saho’s arm plainly displayed where the last stroke had been.
The pain only revived the smile on Saho’s lovely mouth.
“… You are strong.”
“Mnnn… you’re the first one to block my sword to such an extent. But there’s a lot more where that came from. Four becomes—”
When VZ hadn’t shown any particularly large motions up to that point, she suddenly turned her back, her mantle and hair trailing behind her as she took a turn and full swing.
“Sixty-four, god dammit!!”
Absurd! Makoto immediately plunged into the nearest open door.
It could no longer be called something as gentle as a shockwave. The mysterious slashes continued on like a tsunami racing down the passage and mowing down knight after knight. Those at the front were atomized armor and all. And all that remained was the screams, the screams, the screams of those in the rear.
Skulking around the floor of the room, Makoto gave a slight sigh.
(… I’ll have to apologize to Saho for that one… but I’ll be with you soon, so…!)
Makoto gripped the pistol she kept for peace of mind, taking a cautious peek into the corridor.
“How in… the?”
She heard VZ’s voice. A voice that reverberated with the fear of one who couldn’t believe what she just saw. Makoto immediately came to know what she meant.
(… Father… you’re amazing.)
Lowering her gun, she stared in half-dazed reverence.
“… You are strong, but…”
That was Saho’s voice. The girl stood just as she had been before. As she faced VZ, the katana she held in a guard stance was bragged and cracked, but the greatest masterpiece Makoto’s father had completed, the Induit Chasseur stood there alive.
As a chasseur who hunted down evil.
Her smile grew thicker.
“You are not yet as strong as my master…!”
Shaking off her defenses, Saho switched to the fierce, low stance of a wolf.
‘To think you could gather such a… riff-raff of monstrosities.’
‘Don’t you think it’s appropriate to govern a new world?’
‘T-t-t-there’s n-n-no… d-d-d-dem-mon lord a-a-anymore…’
‘It is our duty to see through to the day that there is.’
‘How absurd! If it’s a new demon lord you want, I’m right here! Demon Lord Fier’s son is right…!’
‘You’re not of the caliber…… Elsion.’
(… Oh. A dream…?)
Meeko contained the hazy pain in her head as she lifted her body. She remembered the blimp had given a violent shake. Did that mean she hit her head and fell unconscious…
But the place she woke up to wasn’t the same room she parted with Shouki in.
It was a wide open space. Wide open because the chairs and tables that were supposed to be there had been piled up against the door as a barricade. The indents in the carpet where they had been lingered with no purpose, in their place a few dozen demons armed, facing the barricade. Each and every one of them seemed uneasy, as the gaudy chandelier cast an out-of-place light down on them.
“Are you awake, Lade Meeko!?”
With a beard occupying his face from his cheeks to the area around his mouth, a man with a fearless look was kneeling by her.
“Y-yes… umm… where is this?”
“The dining hall. I took you here knowing full well how discourteous it was.”
“Umm… what exactly…”
“The Sacred Assembly boarded our ship.”
Meeko felt s chill on her spine, she embraced her own body.
She could hear screams. It wasn’t just one or two. From above, from below, distance, close by. Pain, sadness, despair, rage… and regret. Those were unmistakably the howls of those set off for death.
“… Lady Meeko… are you feeling ill…?”
As Meeko shrunk her body, shaking like a small puppy, he timidly called over.
“… Why… why must something so sad…”
“Oh, there is no need to worry. With our lord Elsion’s power, they’re no match even if they bring a cardinal out.”
Elsion? Right. It was the name that came out in that dream… but the one in the dream didn’t look so reliable as the Elsion she met yesterday. He was a young boy, not even in his teens. Were they the same person?
And as she thought and her mind grew clear, the dream was already fading out of memory.
It was a slightly worrisome dream. The image of a vast, dark space remained. Like ruins. No, was it a banquet hall with a carpet laid out? A stone castle? How many people were there? Which of those words had been her own? In the first place, was she even at that place in the dream…?
It was hopeless. It was already gone.
She heard screams again. Considerably clearer than the ones before them. More than her ears, they clung to the inside of her head, the depths of her chest. The battlefield was drawing near. The demons at the ready had tensions plastered on their faces, the hands gripping their weapons now even stiffer.
“It’s alright. A little before you awakened, we received word that VZ and Shouki were headed this way. If that boy arrives, there’s not much those assembly guys can do.”
The boy who said he’d protect her. With a smile so innocent it made her want to protect him, eyes so straightforward, they saw straight through her chest.
a death scream. The shrill shriek of metal meeting metal. A gunshot. And just as abruptly.
Doubtful voices rose at the sudden change. They could still hear the sounds of distant battles. Yet the one that was supposed to be closing in suddenly came to a halt.
“!? Get away from the wall!”
What could he have sensed? The man scattered a scream as he hung over Meeko to cover her.
At roughly the same time, not from the barricaded door, a corner of the wall was sent flying. Of the demons nearby it, around ten give or take had clearly perished.
The figures peered in through the gaping hole.
Two women in their early twenties wearing nun roves. While they were dressed differently, it was the two Meeko had met at Shouki’s house.
One of them was Sister Clarica. A wand in her left hand, a large pistol in her right. Resting one foot on the rubble, an inhumane smile brimmed in her face at the blood she realized was spreading from it.
“Wassup. It’s the Inquisition second division, could I interest you in some divine grace?”
Following behind her, the other, Sister Mariette hung a metal mechanism far too large to call a gun from her shoulder. In contrast to Clarica, she spoke with a calm expression.
“Rather, we can’t go home unless you make a purchase. We are going to leave it on your doorstep whether you want it or not.”
“Ah, the tragedy of a salesman with a quota.”
“Go to hell!”
The first one to move was a young demon whose blood was boiling. With one wave of his arm, he called up a pillar of ice in the air, and with the next wave, he sent what must have been hundreds of kilograms flying towards the two sisters.
She was fast to react. Clarica brandished her wand with a chant. Doh, came the sound of the air pressurizing. In an instant, a fluctuating wall of compressed atmosphere had formed in front of her. The moment the ice pillar stuck into it, not only did it shatter into vibrant shards, it was sent back in the same direction it had come.
The shattered ice turned to countless bullets, piercing into the young demon. And the repulse wave washed over the other demons with the force of a great wind, hammering them into the wall. Naturally, there were demons who sprung to action at the drop of a hat. But the other sister, Mariette held up the giant gun barrel in kind.
“I’ll purify you.”
She pulled the trigger. With the quiet woman’s slender finger, the gun barrel roared. It roared an ear-rapturing sound of wind. A torrent of compressed wind surpassing the speed of sound raged through the dining hall. An impact strong enough to bury the few who took it directly into the wall. The motivation to carelessly charge at something that could muster such instantaneous force had disappeared from the demons.
“Yeah, I know Grace Incarnate Moden Four’s deathly loud. But investigation found this ship runs on phlogiston gas, no way you can bring Grace Incarnate Three into that.”
As Mariette sullenly hung her head, she yanked the heavy lever on the side of her machine. A massive cartridge that had likely contained mana dumped onto the ground.
“Sister Clarica! Was Hasebe Shouki there!?”
A few atypical knights in white armor appeared from behind the two and entered the room. They must have surmounted quite the difficult battle, as what was likely once a pure white had been soiled and dirtied, with those among them having helmet and armor stained with red that didn’t come from a foe.
“… Aren’t there kinda a fewer of you than there were before?”
“Gordon, Vince and Elio were done in.”
“… Well I’m surprised you can call yourselves the white elites like that.”
At Clarica’s disconcerting words, one of them lifted her up with bloodstained gauntlets.
“Woman… when your comrades have died…!”
With her barrel still pointed at the demons, Mariette flicked a side glance in their direction.
“… Dear proxies. I am not enough to keep them in check alone. And your three comrades were called to heaven. I don’t know about senpai, but from my point of view, it is a joyous occasion.”
“Hey, what’s all that about? Dying when you can still work is jus’ be’in lazy! Dereliction of duty, I tell ya!”
While the man’s fist shook as he held her, he looked at the faced of the two women calmly responding, he threw her down, violently letting go of her collar.
“Hmph, don’t group us with you abnormals!! … So was the hero there!?”
“… You can see, can’t ‘ya?”
“Tsk, another miss! Where is that blasted heretic hiding!!?”
“Well maybe not entirely.”
Clarica’s eyes were drawn to Meeko. The proxies’ gazes gathered on her.
“… It’s Demon Meeko. If we stay here, Mr. Shouki’ll show up sooner or later. He was quite attached to her, after all.”
“I see… but this flock of insects makes this room a little depressing to wait in.”
One of the proxies bobbed his head in agreement. With that as the signal, the other proxies twisted the javelin handles in their hands. Their spear tips began to emit a hazardous blue glimmer.
The hint of burnt skin. The hint of battle. There was nothing left on this ship but death and death impending.
“Lady Meeko, there is no need for you to worry.”
The man who was covering her quite his attendance, standing with eyes of resolve. And after one stroke of his beard, he lorded over the Sacred Assembly unit.
“Now everyone… take a good, hard look at them. Your foes are but mere humans. Incompetent cockroaches with nothing but the ability to multiply, how about we teach them what it means to be a superior race? Don’t disappoint our esteemed guest.”
Those words had reminded them who they were. The demons erased the colors of fear, taking up a violent passion.
But Meeko’s voice wouldn’t reach.
The words had struck them as well, and the proxies’ bodies swelled with rage in kind.
“These insets know how to make noise…! Purification is unnecessary! Let their souls burn in the pits of hell!”
“You can’t… stop…!!”
She was crying out now. Even so it wouldn’t reach.
“Have at them!!”
By this point, cry and scream as she might, there was no one who would listen to Meeko’s voice. Everyone simply wished to race to their death.
“Phew… I guess twenty-three was a bit harsh.”
“… It didn’t even take a minute, senpai.”
The two stood with their usual conversation.
The demons were obliterated, and the white armors had lost one of their men.
“Blasted heretics… when we’ve already suffered such grave injury…”
One of the proxies let out a tired voice.
Reinforcements didn’t come.
Shouki didn’t come.
Perhaps they, like the demons who had been here…
“… Why is it…”
Meeko solemnly muttered, sitting on the spot. She had cried her eyes out, her tears muffling her voice, and all that was left was a mutter.
“Why, something… so sad…!”
“Why, because you were here, Demon Meeko.”
The moment those words were smacked into her, everything before her eyes went black.
“… I, I… was…”
“’f course. If you just let yourself be caught without this wild goose chase, this battle would never ‘ave happened.”
Some time. She didn’t remember when, but she had tasted this emotion before. That’s how it felt.
If I wasn’t here. If only I wasn’t here.
Then everyone here, everyone on this ship…
“And Shouki woulda gone down the path of a hero without his heart going outta whack. In the first place, were you really any different when you served that age-old Demon King. You must’ve killed your fill of humans, right? How did that turn into this meek little pacifist?”
Clarica said as she hand signed to Mariette and the proxies. They each silently nodded, putting their backs to the wall with the door that’s barricade had blown away in the battle. They stifled their breath.
A little while and the door was smashed in. By the hand of a black haired boy gasping for breath.
If I wasn’t here, then he too. She thought. He wouldn’t have had to go through this danger. This morning, if I’d only just given one strong word. Then as a hero, he could…
“Thank the heavens, you’re safe! I went to your room but you weren’t there…”
Not knowing what to say, what to do, only Meeko’s tears came out as she shook her head.
Shouki tried to glean information from how she was acting. But Meeko shook her head again.
Even she didn’t know what she wanted to say, she simply, simply denied it.
Perhaps only Meeko’s form could enter his eyes. But upon finding the one he was looking for, he calmed down, letting him notice the stench of blood and death. The disastrous state of the room he was trying to enter. And those who had brought it to be.
“Was getting sick of waiting for you, Mr. Shouki.”
Shouki softly muttered. His eyes stopped on the mountain of demon remains piled in the depths of the vast room.
His deep and dark eyes blazed up like a fierce deity.
Clarica’s eyes didn’t change. She made her same old expression that might burst into laughter given the chance. But blood on her face. A gun in her hand.
His entire body grating with rage, Shouki drew his sword.
There wasn’t the slightest shadow in his blade. Not a drop of blood. But now he could direct it at the flesh-and-blood human before his eyes.
“Is this your justice!? Is this what you can call justice!?”
Forgetting himself in anger, Shouki kicked the floor, a silver flash brandished overhead.
Shouki declared and snapped her fingers. The proxies lurking to the left and right of the doors stuck their javelins out low just as Shouki crossed the threshold. With the shafts catching his legs, Shouki stumbled and rolled with his momentum across the floor sticky with blood.
“It’s the justice you believed in. Mr. Shouki.”
“Wrong, I… gah!!”
As he tried to raise his head, Mariette off-handedly hammered it into the ground with the butt of her gun. One of the proxies twisted his arm back with enough force to break it, while another set his wrists in handcuffs.
“Goddammit!! Let go!! Let me go!! Let go of me!!”
“You stiiiill haven’t given up? I told you before, not giving up without choosing your means is the same as being a sore loser.”
She was right. Shouki was pathetically unsightfully struggling in front of Meeko. So violently it took four proxies to contain him.
“Meeko, you have to run!! Hurry!! I’m begging you…!!”
While his head rubbed against the floor, the petitioning hero’s eyes were directed painfully straightforward at Meeko.
And Meeko couldn’t answer those eyes. She could only shake her head an weep.
“… No… no more…! No more sad things…! No more fighting…!”
And Shouki quit his resistance, like a doll whose strings had been cut.
“Now that’s two objectives down. Mariette, contact Angel Storage…”
The ship-wide broadcast came after that.
‘… I am Elsion, supreme leader of Zephirum. Humans and demons alike, this is an address to everyone embarking on our ship.’
The voice brought a complete silence to the blimp.
VZ groaned, her cold sweat falling like a waterfall.
The one with the advantage at the end of their harsh exchange was Saho. VZ had collapsed to the ground, and the broadcast came just as Saho was about to land the final blow to her forehead. With her sword point still poised to stitch her enemy’s head to the floor, Saho froze in place.
‘… If you are a demon, I ask that you discard your weapon at once. If you are human, please case your attacks against the demons. I have deemed any further combat to be futile, and henceforth proclaim Zephirum’s surrender to the sacred assembly—’
VZ’s eyes fixed onto the passage speaker widened like plates.