Chapter 1: Wall of Sand
It was already past 1400 hours in the summit of the desert’s heat when Martin Estis received a difficult report.
At their base, which made use of the relics of the Marine period, a large enemy force was drawing closer. In their current spot it was confirmed to have 30 Main Battle Tank (MBT) and four 2nd generation Arm Slaves. In addition, they expected the number of enemy forces to increase.
The enemy force was Amalgam. In more accurate terms it was the Military force of Morocco which Amalgam had penetrated. After escaping from the previous Amalgam attack, the surviving military force and a portion of the materials were collected. Estis and the others were questioning the counterattack; the enemy was finally there to crush them.
“Dammit” he grumbled in annoyance, under the crude tent.
He breathed in the dry air through his nose.
They were in the Northwestern part of Africa. It was a desert area that connected to the borders of Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania and the West Sahara. There were no mountain-like mountains in their surrounding area for dozens of kilometers. With the burning sun blazing down on the ground, the distant horizon flickered from the heat haze. Even then, for Estis, he knew full well that he was no longer in Arizona or Nevada.
Their camouflaged tents and barracks were created from a sparse row of pillars, with their runway making use of the cracked natural ground.
Although they had camouflage that deceived the surveillance of a spy satellite, it was too modest to be called a base.
Their military force did not even reach 100 people, and they only had a few 2nd generation ASes.
They even had stock parts for the M6, but although they had the legs they didn’t have the hip joint parts, and although they had a torso the cockpit part was entirely lacking. That was their condition.
Even while being amazed that the enemy had discovered their “resistance point”, they were more surprised that the enemy would go all the way there just to crush them.
“Oh well. This certainly is an extravagant war for a dilapidated opponent.” Estis muttered to Master Sergeant Jima, who had brought the information with shivering shoulders.
“I won’t say it’s ambitious. The enemy has already considered our combat capabilities.”
“Aren’t they overestimating us? Then that’s an honor.”
Formerly, in the small country of Belize in Central America, there was a selection camp for the essential members of Mithril.
Working on the mercenaries who had gathered from around the world, screening carefully their ability aptitude, the remaining people were sent to various combat forces. Estis was the “Principal” of that selection camp. Taking away all exceptions, the Landing force unit members of Mithril’s operations usually came out from Estis’ camp. It was the same for the trio of the Pacific Ocean fleet- Melissa Mao, Kurz Weber and Sousky Seagal.
With the offensive of Amalgam at the beginning of the year various positions of Mithril in the world were being annihilated one after another. Estis and the others had immediately walked on foot in the swampy area from Belize, hiding themselves. But the limited movement of the tanks, armored vehicles, and even ASes in the swampy land was unavoidable. Escaping in the flesh proved to be advantageous from the pursuit of the enemy. Making use of
the forest and bushes they had managed to hide themselves, even from pursuit by aircraft.
And so they ended their march after three weeks, and they somehow managed to escape to Colombia from the air route of Honduras.
They managed to arrive in Colombia in the city of Medellin, and most of the trainees walked away and returned home. What remained were ten-odd instructors belonging to Mithril, and around four to five curious trainees.
With merely 20 something weak people who couldn’t really do anything against a strong Amalgam, Estis and the others worked as a small private military organization in North Africa, and the other allies continued to gather information.
And then a few months after, they linked up with around ten men from Mithril, still without any results of getting ahead. Although the majority of them saw themselves as a small group, it would still be a difficult task to pinpoint their obscure whereabouts. Without getting any contact, the outcome was pessimistic. They didn’t seem to have the mood to concentrate. Even Estis himself. His hope of reorganizing was withering; they would most likely continue to live managing a meager private military organization. That was what they were starting to think.
But then, the incident in San Francisco had happened.
Although it was reported in the news as an “explosion incident at the harbor”, looking at the fragmentary pictures of the scene, they knew that it was not merely an explosion incident; they had a hunch that it was a battle between ASes.
Master Sergeant Jima and a few subordinates flew to San Francisco had managed to obtain in one day the actual harbor workers testimony and images from observation cameras, and the records from the police’s wireless radio. Even without a significant
amount of analysis, they knew that the incident involved a one on one fight between a black M9 and a Venom. In addition, in the middle of the battle, the black M9 received support in the form of a cruise missile from somewhere, and, with a single unit, it had destroyed a Venom.
That black M9 was most probably Ben Clouseau from the underground forces. And then that cruise missile must have been launched- there was no mistake- from that submarine, Tuatha de Danaan. Although they hadn’t met, it was rumored that they were being lead by a girl with balls of steel.
Knowing that, the agitation of Estis and the others changed greatly.
Those guys from the West Pacific Fleet, they were still living stubbornly. Not to mention that they had dealt a harsh blow to the enemy.
That incident was spread all over the world to the former members of Mithril. The continuation of Tuatha de Danaan’s resolute resistance was in fact encouraging others, beyond the imagination of Estis. But for Estis, who had reconsidered that “they might be able to retaliate”, there were people re-contacting him one after another.
Two months after that, the meager subordinates tripled, and they had managed to setup a base on the verge of the Sahara Desert. The training camp’s budget was difficult to recover from the banks in Europe, but they managed the accumulation of necessary goods, and the expansion of their regular combat capability-
Now, the enemy was approaching.
That base that was elaborately concealed in camouflage, although they didn’t know how the enemy managed to discover it, it no longer mattered.
In any case the enemy’s military force was overwhelming. Even if they wanted to withdraw, if they got away using the surface vehicles they would be seen during pursuit. The personnel and goods transport was still 1200 kilometers away. Even if it was coming to their current location as fast as possible, it would take at least two hours to arrive. And it was impossible to hold out that long.
An extremely disadvantageous battle was about to start.
“How regrettable. I thought that we were doing a lot better.” Estis mumbled.
He was moving about in confusion in the heat of the ground outside the tent, gazing at his subordinates with their wasted efforts in preparation for the coming ambush.
“How unusually timid. Well, with that many opponents it’s not unreasonable” Jima said.
“Hmph. Who’s timid? Let them show you.”
“Yeah. Why don’t we get rowdy and loud?”
Exchanging grins without any heroic feelings, Estis grabbed the assault rifle that was close to his hands. Putting on his desert camouflage hat, he went out of the tent. The glaring sunlight tanned his skin. The dry and hot breeze stroked his cheeks. It was like being inside of a dryer. Even though the nights were so cold, the daytime in the Western Sahara was that hot.
After giving instructions to his subordinates, he thought about the penetrating methods of the expected enemy with his binoculars in hand.
With the pale white desert the atmosphere was warped by the hot temperature. That was all he could see.
No- he could see a cloud of dust.
Crossing over the loose sand dunes, one four wheel-drive vehicle was approaching their way. Facing off the irregular land, it
was heading straight with violent speed. The distance was around one kilometer.
“Shall we shoot it? We can miss.” said the subordinate inside the nearby trench peeping into the scope of his 50 caliber rifle.
“No. Let’s see who it is.”
It was not possible that it could be a suicide bomber. Looking carefully, the driver could be seen through the windows, shaking his hands at them. At first they did not see the Khaki shirt and black hair, as it got nearer they were able to distinguish the face.
“It’s him” Jima, who had also been one of the instructors at Belize’s training camp, said.
“That guy, the Korean. The guy who passed last year. I’m sure he was sent to the West Pacific Fleet.”
“I don’t remember.”
“Come on, him. The one who wasn’t motivated, yet did things flawlessly.”
“Aah, him. Even though not a show-off, the strange guy who just suddenly passed. There was that one, I’m sure.”
“That’s right. It’s him.”
“What was his name?”
“I don’t know why I can’t recall....Yong or was is Yeng?”
“It’s awkward even if you hear it now. Umm....”
Ordering his subordinates to “don’t shoot”, Estis went out of the trench, followed by Jima and the one who held the rifle in one hand. The four wheel-drive vehicle finally arrived in front of the base, stopping the car 30 meters away from Jima. A young Oriental got out without cutting the engine.
“Lt. Commander Estis, it’s been a long time! I’m glad you’re alright!” the youth gasped, running towards them.
“Ou. Well. What.” Estis said with an uncharacteristically vague attitude towards the other person who he did not know the name.
“The old code method is dangerous so I came here directly. Well, it’s good that I made it in time!”
“Before that, state your name, rank and affiliation! With minimum distinction!”
From the sides Jima raised his voice as a veteran non-commissioned officer. Then the youth, in confusion, stood at attention.
“Please excuse me. Sergeant Yang Jun-Kyu. Affiliated with the West Pacific Fleet, Special Correspondence group. Assuming that Mithril is still present, that is.”
That’s right, Yang, it was Yang. Nice Jima.
“Well let’s leave out the pleasantries. I’m happy that you’re alive, Yang.”
“Ah, thank you.”
“Well, why did you come here? You seem to know that the enemy is approaching this place.”
“Yes, about that-”
At that time, there was a large deafening sound echoing. A sound they knew full well- the sound of shells flying. Close. Immediately after thinking that, the car Yang had ridden exploded and caught fire, flying about 10 meters in the air. The disconnected tire drew a parabola, rolling on the ground.
That had been a test shot. And not aimed at the car. In reference to that shot, the artillery troops took note of the horizon,
adjusting alignment by a number of degrees, increasing the natural potent shot. There was no time to be slow.
Estis and the others who bent down on the ground stood up, getting rid of the dust covering their heads and backs. They returned back to the encampment with a short run. Yang was dumbfounded when his own car was hit, but he immediately pulled himself together and followed after.
“Please wait, Lt. Commander-”
“Battle Stations! There is an enemy who controls the guidance of the bombardment nearby! Look for it! Jima, you be the lookout on the west side!”
“Lt. Commander Estis, I still haven’t told you!” Yang called, behind Estis, who was running around the base giving instructions
“Later, I’m busy!”
The corrected shot of the enemy impacted. That time the shot was much closer to the base. It was in the place where Estis and the others were standing. The interior of the base had already prepared for the full-blown bombardment of the enemy, and would be getting noisy. There were people who carried most of the ammunitions into the trench, and people who prepared the firing of the anti tank missiles, and people who boarded the limited number of ASes-
“Incoming!” somebody shouted.
The subordinates simultaneously rushed into the trench. The sky shook, shivering. The sound of the flying shells got closer bit by bit. It was not one shot. It was a number of shots that were incomparable. Ten shots, no, more than twenty shots.
“Lt. Commander, the reason why I’m here is-”
Estis dived to the nearby trench. He thought of slapping Yang, but there was no need. As expected he was no amateur. Unconfused beside Estis, he slid inside the trench, which was not wide, and covered his ears with his mouth open, preparing for impact.
Being the product of experience, they had not grown accustomed to that instant. With the shock of the explosion, their bodies were hit with the heavy sandbags. With no relation to their own will, the air leaked out from their lungs. It was like an electric shock had numbed their craniums, running with burning heat throughout their whole bodies. It was not once, they were attacked many times.
“....Dammit” Estis cursed.
The enemy fire did not once wane.
They confirmed the damage immediately. Because of the trenches the injuries were minimal. However without any defensive measures, the facility, vehicles, and goods were easily destroyed. Usual black smoke and fragments scattered to one side. There were voices screaming for help, the fluttering of the screams of those experiencing the firsthand bombardment in a panic. Someone reported that the enemy tanks were drawing near, and another informed them of their numbers.
“The second wave will be coming soon. It was a careful preliminary”
Yang crawled out unsteadily from the trench.
“Talk later. You also take a weapon.”
The enemy tank that was getting closer was firing from the haze of the shaking heat. Missing the base in its aim, a large cloud of dust whirled around. Two shots, three shots— on the fourth shot
the unmanned armor vehicle was hit and the burning lump of iron took to the air.
They really weren’t showing any mercy.
With that manner, only half of the allies would be able to take on the enemy. Showing authority in front of his subordinates, Estis’ heart was no longer calm.
Scrutinizing the enemy’s movement, he ordered them to pull back. The tank units were scattered in a few directions.
“Don’t be frightened! At this distance they won’t hit! Pull them in and fire!”
“Lt. Commander!” Yang persistently said.
There was a terrible heat on the back of their necks. The enemies from the north side were attacking. If they narrowed their eyes a line of tanks, modern improved M60s, could be discerned from their shapes. There were more than a dozen units. If they did their best they might be able to half that number, but then that would be the end. In any case the encampment would be trampled by those caterpillars.
In the direction of the hanging smoke and haze, one of the enemy tanks was intermittently giving off gun smoke from the scorching heat, noticeably making a large flame.
Not only one. There was another, and then another. One by one the enemy on the horizon was being destroyed by someone. Sniper Cannon, and then Super High Speed Missiles. Both had accurate and efficient shooting. It couldn’t be seen from Estis’ encampment, it was from somewhere far away-
“I came here to tell you about this” Yang said from behind Estis, whose eyes were round.
“Reinforcements will arrive in fifteen minutes, until then hold off. But it seems that they came here earlier than expected-”
“Then why didn’t you say so earlier, idiot!”
“I tried to tell you but you wouldn’t listen!”
“I don’t remember. It’s your bad!”
“Well!? What is the military force of the reinforcement? Where are they!?”
“In the mean time, just one unit!”
There was a woman’s voice on top of their heads. Just over the thick hanging smoke, they immediately knew that the voice came from the electronic camouflage that erased the shape of the AS. In only that space there was a distorted silhouette of a giant humanoid.
It was an M9 Gernsbeck. The latest 3rd generation AS that Mithril utilized.
“An M9? When did it get here?”
“Just now, Lt. Commander. It’s good that we made it in time.”
“I remember that voice. Mao. Melissa Mao right!?”
The form of the M9 could be seen with its ECS canceled, and both arms were shooting Super High Speed Missile K1 Javelins. A missile rushed towards the enemy tanks over the horizon at mach 4 - 5 speed with a powerful Rocket Mortar, and the turret portion blew off sky high.
“This is Melissa Mao of the West Pacific Fleet Tuatha de Danaan. Before we proceed to the support of you gentlemen, there is something that I wish to confirm. Is there beer on this base?”
“There is, Lots of it!”
“Then there’s plenty to cool off. Battle Start!”
After saying that, Mao’s M9 leapt over the tanks, entering battle maneuvers. Her voice made the encouraged soldiers cheer.
“Yang. The support is only an AS?”
“Yes. There is also a transport helicopter; we’re not expecting heavy firepower.”
Estis smacked his lips without anybody hearing.
They were thankful for the reinforcements, but it would be difficult with only a single AS because they were in a desert- the most difficult terrain for weapons like an AS.
♦ ♦ ♦
The battle was getting up to speed. The amount of communication with the allies increased with the recognition of “him”.
“This is Uruz 2. Intercepting the attack of the enemy tank units in the southwest. Currently engaging.”
“This is Uruz 6. Four units destroyed. Moving towards Point Hotel.”
“Teiwaz 12 to all units. Newcomers at area 04-23. Main Battle Tank six units, Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV) four units. Closing in on ‘Alamo fortress’ from the north side.”
“Uruz 1, roger. I will confine the enemy units in area 04-23. Uruz 2 what about your ammo?”
“This is Uruz 2. There are only three shots left to the Javelin. It’s about to get intense.”
“Zeta 3 to the gentlemen of the Goddess Family. Proceed with modest firepower from now on. Is there any request for delivery?”
“Uruz 2 to Zeta 3. Take the coordinates now.”
“Confirmed, Uruz 2. What a wonderful voice. If you survive would you like to have dinner with me?”
“Stop it, Zeta 3. She’s a severely unmanageable woman”
“Oh my, Can you think about it? ....! Two units destroyed. But I can’t move. The enemy bombardment is full, moving into position-”
In spite of the extremely serious situation, the voices of all the operators were quite calm. They were always like that. They didn’t shout during a dangerous time. They also wouldn’t lose their mind or get surprised.
Just like himself- that’s right, like a machine.
The Artificial Intelligence installed on the ARX-8 Laevatein, Al, continued to listen carefully.
The amount of electronic information was much more than the conversation, with each electronic machine making exchanges. Enemy/ ally position, movement speed, movement direction, various conditions, detailed coordinates. Different information from Radar, Infra red rays, Optic Sensor.
That day’s battlefield was two dimensional. Wherever they continued was desert. Aside from that, there was terrain with a number of hills and rocky areas.
The Laevatein continued to be on standby.
It was crouching in the storage area of a transparent Pave Mare transport helicopter that was electronically camouflaged. It was sorting out the information from the allies in the battle field, keeping silent.
The special Man-Machine Interface, TAROS, installed in the unit transported the mental status of the pilot to Al.
He was obviously irritated.
Even though his allies were being compelled to have a difficult fight, he himself was safely hidden in a high place. He was unsatisfied only observing the war situation.
The chance of psychological stress causing the pilot to make a careless mistake or go against orders was close to zero. But
in order to reliably operate the Lambda Driver when the time came, he had to be relaxed. Al decided that was a plus in the battle strategy.
“What?” the pilot inside the cockpit, Sagara Sousuke, answered.
As expected the stress in his voice was high.
<Shall I play some music for you?>
In general it was the expected reply. The chances that that pilot would reply with, “That’s right. Please play a number of melodies” was below 0.1 percent. The proposal was simply a test related to the communication facility.
<You are in a state of not being calm. Is there any way that I can be of use?>
“Then be quiet. That would help the most.”
“It’s not a joke. Shut up.”
In the latest “Shut up” of Sousuke, Al interpreted the meaning similar to a sound indicating comprehension.
<Are you worried about your friends? Being in a battle with high risk, you have to bear it being in here.>
In the flat desert, it was a battle of tank units. That would be one of the most difficult situations for the weapon called Arm Slave.
No matter how much High Technology crystal an AS had, it could never attain the armor and fire power of a tank. Not being able to repel tank shells, the standard level assault rifle could also not destroy the tank upfront.
[Frontage Projection Area] - It was said that the area in front was what could be seen the most.
Compared to the tank that crawled on the ground, a vertical walking AS that wiggles could be easily discovered, and easily shot. The greatest strength of an AS was its maneuverability, taking advantage of a complicated terrain to get close. It would be difficult in a desert.
In an exchange of gunfire with a tank, it had no chance of winning.
That was why the ally AS units made use of the dug trenches surrounding the ally base, codename “Alamo Fortress”, to accept the challenge and move from one place to another. Using freely the necessary number of anti tank missile, they moved from one trench to another using smoke screens, radar jamming, and infra red jamming. Though a simple tactic, there was no other way to do it.
<We are the trump card,> Al said. <Without showing ourselves at the start of battle, making this the “potential threat” for the enemy, compelling the enemy to restrict their tactics.>
As for the Laevatein’s fierce offensive power, Amalgam had already understood it during the battle in Mexico. With just one unit it was an existing AS that managed to defeat three Codarl types and three Behemoth types. For the enemy, that was no longer a laughing matter. They had to make a lookout. If discovered they would make all efforts to destroy it, otherwise they would withdraw at full speed.
In other words, they couldn’t fight fairly.
In that situation, the most effective way to utilize the Laevatein was to become an existence for the enemy of “not knowing where he will be coming from”. Hiding inside an ECS installed helicopter, the enemy would not be able to freely allot
their war potential. In order to cope with the appearance of the Laevatein, they were compelled to secure unnecessary lookout and reserved forces.
“I know. If ever the Lt. Commander is on the opposing side, we do not simply use force to push them.”
From the context and nuances of the pronunciation of the word, Al raised the analogy of which person that “Lt. Commander” was. The name of the first candidate was brought up.
<Is Andrei Kalinin leading the enemy?>
“I don’t know. What do you think?”
<In an objective analysis it would be a NO. If it were him, he would choose a more discrete invasion route.>
“What about that ‘intuition’ that you’re so proud of?”
<That would also be a NO.>
At that time there was information coming from Teiwaz 12 that a new enemy had appeared.
Fifteen tanks, fourteen Infantry Fighting Vehicles, and two combat helicopters. There were no ASes. It would be the largest scale of military force so far. To the southwest of “Alamo Fortress” they began their charge in the rocky area approximately ten kilometers away.
“They’re here” Sousuke mumbled.
Those were reserved forces the enemy retained, there was no mistake. In their allies’ tenacious resistance, the enemy commander finally felt like throwing out those military forces. Checking the various resulted data, Al concluded that that appearance would be the last for the enemy.
In an instant the data link discussed with the other units.
Uruz 2’s AI, Friday, and Uruz 1’s AI, Dragonfly, supported Al’s conclusion. Uruz 6’s AI, Yukari, conditionally supported it.
Simplifying the discussion materials and informing all units, Melissa Mao spoke first.
“This is Uruz 2. I don’t have enough power to deal with the enemy in the southwest. Requesting ‘Stopper’ to take the plate.”
“Uruz 1, roger. You heard it, Uruz 7? It’s your turn. Immediately to 07-18—”
“Ah-, wait!” with that Uruz 6, Kurz Weber, interrupted.
“What’s the matter Uruz 6?”
“Before that, can you confirm the hill in 09-18? It smells fishy, but…”
“How fishy? Explain.”
“No...I can’t explain it well. It’s good if it’s nothing. Just be careful of sniping.”
Kurz Weber’s strange warning was only that.
“This is Uruz 7, exterminating enemies in the southwest.” Sousuke replied, instructing the pilot of the transport helicopter housing the Laevatein to head to the prescribed coordinates.
The sound of the turbo shaft engine was noticeably high. The transparent form of the helicopter flew to the front of the enemy reinforcements, opening the cargo bay hatch.
Velocity, 163 knots. Altitude, 392 feet. They looked down at the desert ground. The breeze of the optic sensor seen in the ECS field of the helicopter was like a purple monotone world.
They neared the landing point. The helicopter flew over the sand dunes like it was crawling.
Countdown. 5 seconds, 4 seconds, 3 seconds, 2 seconds-
There was a dull impact.
The fuselage, accepting the signal from Al, released the fixed hydraulic bolt. The Laevatein detached from the helicopter, releasing the locks from all joints.
There were two or three seconds of freefall.
There was a terrible shock of light rolling and a corresponding reading from the artificial semicircular canals. There was a sudden decrease in ground speed from 140 knots. Estimating velocity vector. Altitude control. Legs facing down with the shock absorption system and the artificial cartilage unit in the extended position, the fuselage extended to 928mm long. The ground surface’s solidity and friction factor was being analyzed within the databank of the terrain library. They headed towards the optimum landing altitude.
The shock absorber of the entire joints damper instantly evaporated, stopping the 30G impact. The Motion Manager set the joint control to semi active. The muscle package organically expanded and revolved. The ARX-8 Laevatein’s leg sunk in the sand and trampled the ground. The unit’s whole height danced in the rising cloud of dust.
It was a violent landing, but the pilot immediately went to combat maneuvers.
Nimbly moving, he hid the lower half of the body in the undulation of the desert, confronting the enemy to his 10 o’clock. Sensing the sand cloud of the landing, the enemy forces reacted immediately, throwing a rain of high explosive projectiles to the surrounding area of the landing point.
Weapon selection. A large artillery from the hard point loaded in the unit. 65mm Demolition Gun at the ready, the support arms connects the long gun barrel. The Howzer Mode was equipment that rapidly increased the range and accuracy of the demolition gun, with the aid of the Lambda Driver it was equipment that was possible to shoot from the front, like a tank.
However, that large cannon itself was a low tech designed weapon. Like the Snipe Cannon which was the latest weapon of
the AS, it was not loaded with an independent ballistic calculation computer, even the alignment system, aside from the simple optic sensor, was also not loaded.
The signs of the enemy flickered in the white heat of the desert.
At the same time the Lambda Driver operated, stopping the recoil from the shot. Even then, the legs sunk into the sand and the frame of the whole body emanated a bizarre sound.
The shell of the large muzzle missed the targeted tank, and just behind, to the right, it the hit ground and exploded.
They knew that the first volley would miss. They acquired data from the helicopter in the sky. Wind, 1.5mm to the left, elevation up 1.2mm correction. They recalculated the shell’s drift and anticipated parabola.
While reloading the next shot the enemy tanks returned fire.
Two shots. The projectiles hit seven meters in the 4 o’clock direction and six meters in the 9 o’clock direction of the Laevatein. The shockwave hit the white armor. The unit staggered and shook in a random rhythm.
<It is dangerous. Shall we change the firing position?>
“No, we’ll slug it through.”
Al was plainly not resisting.
Compared to the time he was operating the ARX-7, there was no hesitation in Sousuke’s judgment. No, the former him had no hesitation, just then he was being accompanied by a “Strong Will”.
In an ordinary AI such an abstract concept would not be detected, but Al was different. Having a direct reading of the pilot’s mental state, he had the function to agree with the unit system. Of course Al was not human. It was not that his duty as a calculating unit with an objective to support combat was forgotten- but he was also a machine that was starting to deeply understand complex human emotions at the same time.
He also had the provision in the element of self identity.
The other day, on a whim of Kurz Weber and the maintenance crew, they proposed that the synthetic voice of Al be changed into a female voice. Saying that “There would be an attractiveness to it”, Al felt a strong resistance to that proposal. Even though there was no logical reason, he felt that it should not be done. In the end, the modification made Sousuke say “Disgusting”, and he rejected it. Al and him were completely of the same opinion. In short, his own voice was not only a synthetic voice of the personal interface, but something else that could feel “disgusting”. In addition, a Tactical Support AI “Veteran like me” who had a long military service that had gone through numerous difficult battles using a weak female voice… Would it not draw enormous disdain?
There was gun smoke four kilometers beyond.
The enemy alignment had been corrected. 120mm shells were aimed at the Laevatein. At the same time that Al gave out a warning, a strong reaction from TAROS could be seen. Reflecting the pilot, the controlled defense impulse ran past the unit, warping the space in front. Like it was “Obvious”.
As far as could be confirmed, two shots of the enemy forces stopped in mid air and were crushed by an invisible force.
<Success. The Operation of the Lambda Driver->
Sagara Sousuke pulled the trigger. That time it was a hit. The enemy tank in the middle of the ranks was blown away like a paper toy, spinning around and dancing in the air.
Reload. Fire. Second tank destroyed.
A few position modifications. The demolition gun fired again.
There was violent gunfire. Three tanks, four tanks, and then five tanks. One by one the enemy tanks were being destroyed. It was a battle that was not possible for an ordinary AS. It was already conjectured that that was no ordinary unit. The remaining enemy forces repeated a feint fire and started to retreat, their shapes hidden in the mountain ridge of the short sand dunes.
“This is Gebo 5. The enemy in the southwest has withdrawn.”
“Uruz 2 roger. You heard it, plant one in!”
Since the prepared military force had received significant damage, the enemy had given up its attack on “Alamo Fortress”.
Not only the opponent facing Laevatein, but also the enemy forces in combat in other fields. Al analyzed the tactical map, examining the unit’s condition, and timely adjusted the output of the condenser and cooling unit.
They crossed the ridge. The battle ended with the allies winning.
Data acquired from their own sensor, data coming from the ally units ADM (Advance Data Modem), all the data indicated the decline in potential threats.
At that time, there was an abnormality sensed in the rocky area four kilometers away.
Sousuke, reacting faster than Al, suddenly made the unit do a complete somersault.
That rocky area- from an unexpected direction there was a shell attack at 1000 meter per second. The Laevatein managed to evade a dangerous place. Breaking through the gravitational field of the Lambda Driver, the shell grazed the left shoulder armor, hitting the ground around 40 meters behind and raising a big sand cloud. If he had reacted slower by 0.5 seconds, the Laevatein’s body might have been cut in half by the enemy bullet.
It was a snipe from a Lambda Driver equipped unit.
<Distance 40, 10 o’clock direction. Due to a Lambda Driver equipped unit->
The form of the enemy unit couldn’t be seen, but Sousuke didn’t care and fired. Maneuvering randomly, he continued to fire the demolition gun. The ally unit’s AI received the information from Al via the data link and turned towards the rocky area simultaneously with their anti ECS sensors, calculating the exact position at super high speed.
Receiving the data of the enemy position, the Laevatein fired again.
That shot would have hit at a very near distance. The ally units equipped with Lambda Driver detecting equipment, “fairy eyes”, confirmed the strong interference of a gravitational field. It did not receive any damage. If it were an ordinary unit then it would have been a fatal attack.
The enemy’s judgment was fast.
Any further attack was given up; with ECS in full operation it retreated at high speed. It was no use to make pursuit. It was too far for the Laevatein to pursue, and any other ordinary AS or helicopter getting near would be dangerous. The pilots of the other allied units also concluding the same, they concentrated in the lookout for the new enemy.
“He came out after all” Kurz Weber mumbled on the wireless radio. “I told you, didn’t I? It stunk.”
“Yeah” Sagara Sousuke answered. “Because of you I managed to avoid it.”
Sagara Sousuke’s reaction exceeding that of Al’s was because of the vague warning from Kurz Weber. In the corner of his usual consciousness, he was looking out at the indicated direction of [09-18]. Then the enemy sniper was in fact there.
Kurz Weber was a pilot who always threw out jokes. He was also known to talk haphazardly. Uttering such nonsense as important tactical advice and accurately identifying “intuition” and “instinct” was a risky attempt which a Bayes Statistics-dependent Al could not do.
At most, such imitation could not be done by humans themselves.
“The problem is, why didn’t that enemy shoot until the last moment?” Belfegan Clouseau asked. “If he had that intention, he would be gunning for us one by one from the start, blowing at least one of us off....”
The position of the LD (Lambda Driver) equipped AS that appeared last was setting the range from the second half of the battle. That enemy unit even when the tank forces were being destroyed had kept quiet and concealed himself.
“It’s simple. Because of the Laevatein.” Melissa Mao said.
Even if it managed to destroy a number of M9s at first, if his location was revealed, he would get caught in the attack of the Laevatein which was hiding from somewhere. That was why, until the Laevatein showed itself, he was hiding in that rocky area with ECS. And waiting for the appearance of the Laevatein. Originally it was planned to finish it in the first shot, but Sagara Sousuke had managed to evade that shot. On top of losing the surprise attack,
there was no more chance to destroy the Laevatein. That was why he had retreated.
In short, it was a success in preserving the Laevatein from a dangerous place.
<All the enemy forces have retreated.> Al informed, analyzing the data from all the units.
“Alright. Master Mode 6. Have a look out with the Anti ECS Sensor (ECCS).”
<Again, there is no such equipment.>
“...that’s right. I forgot that this unit is a piece of junk.”
In return for the Laevatein’s output and maneuverability, and also in order to design the strong reinforcement of its offensive power, the regular equipment of the M9 series ASes that it should already have, like electronic equipments, were totally omitted. Sagara Sousuke was sarcastic about that.
<You are also a piece of junk. They say that because of the prognostic symptoms of your injury you’re diet has been limited.>
“Only on Alcohol and salty foods. There is no trouble for others.”
<Is that so? There is a saying that “A man who does not drink alcohol, has already lost half of his life”.>
“I’m withdrawing that life. You’re getting really annoying.”
<It is because you are slandering me.>
<Negative. After this, let me tell you 38 items of reason why this unit is not a junk. First, number 1. This unit is equipped with the newest test type generator PRX->
“I know, so just shut up!”
♦ ♦ ♦
The forces of Mithril waited for a few hours and withdrew from the desert base. All the goods and arms were crammed into the transport ship with ECS, with their appearance disappearing faraway- to the west or to the south. What remained were the empty containers and used materials, and large quantities of empty beer bottles.
That AS’, the Eligor’s, night vision sensor viewed the tracks of the base’s scenery, Wilhelm Casper slightly smacked his lips.
The small squad of infantry investigated the ruins of the barracks and armored cars, without getting any impressive results. No, on the contrary-
There was an explosion.
One of the soldiers carelessly touched the attaché case lying on the ground, got caught in the booby trap, and was blown away. The surprised surrounding soldiers were lying on the floor for no apparent reason looking out in the surrounding.
“Don’t get excited, don’t get excited. It’s just a parting gift.” Casper told the soldiers with a voice of being fed up.
Most of the soldiers of Amalgam were sourced locally. Quality couldn’t be guaranteed. Being involved in such rudimentary disagreements couldn’t be avoided.
The enemy was already thousands of kilometers away.
The sweeping squad’s commander, a bribed commissioned officer of the local military, was shouting “this isn’t what you said”. Although a suitable amount of money was already received, the unexpected counterattack of the people in Mithril resulted in great damage. In top of that, in the husk of the base that they finally occupied, everything was of no value. It was not unreasonable for them to complain.
However for Casper, those negotiations were already confirmed beforehand.
He moved his unit a few hundred meters from the sand dune, opening the cockpit hatch, and skillfully got out of the unit. On the complex surface configuration of the shoulder, he stood on top of the red armor and looked around the area with the naked eye just immediately after sunset. The scorching heat of noon still remained, with the lukewarm breeze rustling. The western sky was still a vague violet color.
Taking off his headgear he narrowed his eyes.
He had an angular face shape, like an Aryan, and his eyes were transparent like a blue owl. Could it be because the majority of his life was spent in the open fields? His short blond hair was darkened here and there, and his age would not be known at a glance. He may be in his 30’s, or in his 50’s. His lightly warped mouth had a certain charm, like eating a person. His eyes penetrated the darkness with an extremely cruel characteristic of a hunter lodged inside.
Wilhelm Casper surveyed the surroundings with his sniper eyes.
Getting down to the ground from the kneeling unit, he carefully investigated the remnants of the enemy M9 in the sand- the foot prints and the evidence of the shooting altitude, surmising how it moved.
“Oh well-” Casper mumbled, remembering the face of the sniper boarding that M9.
In every shot, there should be no major movement. Efficient and quick rapid fire should be stressed, taking pains to “take down as many enemies”. Looking lightly at his own safety was dependent on the distance between the enemy and himself. In other words, overestimating one’s own shooting sense.
“Not yet. That boy…”
However, informing that white Lambda Driver-equipped AS of his own position was also “him”. He praised this point about him. Because of that, the certain kill shot was evaded. Even for a bullet traveling 4300 kilometers per hour, it would take three seconds to reach a distance of four kilometers. With vigilance, evasion would not be difficult.
There was an incoming call from the satellite circuit. He replied with the headgear in his ear.
“There are results right, Mister Tin?”
The other party was a manager of Amalgam, Mister Kalium, Andrei Kalinin; the Russian managing the will of Leonard Testarossa, who was recuperating.
“No. I tried to finish it in the first shot, but he skillfully evaded it. Isn’t that a big deal, that pupil of yours?”
“I wonder. Wasn’t it because of your pupil?”
“Of course, that as well.” Casper laughed.
“Weber was a fine sniper.”
“Past tense huh? He’s still alive.”
“Eventually it will become past tense.” Kalinin said with a voice without any particular importance.
There was movement in the abandoned base.
After taking heavy damage, the soldiers who were not able to profit from the satisfactory results were pissed with unsatisfied voices. The commissioned officers were whispering, pointing at the Eligor. For at least some earnings, they were aiming for that unit.
“Ah. Just a moment” Casper informed, climbing into the back of the unit.
Opening the weapons rack behind the cockpit hatch, he took out a 308 caliber rifle covered in a bulky cotton cloth. It had a
blackened wooden frame in various places from the term of service. Loaded into this super hi-tech unit was a retro smelly oiled bolt action hunter’s gun. He didn’t make any prudent adjustments to the scope. The distance was 200 meters.
He slid a cartridge into the chamber, driving the bolt, smoothly twisting the lock.
200 meters beyond, the man who Casper shot, suddenly squatted, both hands holding his crotch, and made an unsightly voice. The surrounding subordinates were flustered, nervous and shaking their heads.
“Quit it, next time I’ll blow off your other testicle!”
Casper informed them using the exterior speaker of the Eligor.
Those attending to the commander, those who were standing doing nothing, and those hiding in confusion, there were none of them who would fire back.
“Are there any problems?”
“No, just reining in some idiots.” Casper replied, re-wrapping carefully the gun with smoke rising. “Anyway there were no results. I’m going back.”
Casper crawled back into the cockpit, running towards the extraction point with the transport helicopter.
The priority target, Laevatein, was a failure. The power to go against the stubborn Amalgam- they had overlooked the small company. There was no longer any reason to be there. They should proceed with the “Project”; someday Mithril would no longer matter. Certainly on the enemy’s side, also for the former student-
No. They will be confronting each other sooner or later.
Tasting the excitement of hunting each other down, he was welcoming a wonderful death.
♦ ♦ ♦
It was a much stricter house arrest.
After the kidnapping of Chidori Kaname from Nickelo, she was moved to various places.
First she stayed for two weeks at a farm in Texas, and then she was taken to Switzerland and detained for a week in an old mountain villa. Both where crude environments compared to the high class villa in Nickelo. Food was also not satisfactory. Only canned goods and military rations.
After only a few days she was moved again.
Belgium, Denmark, North Italy.
Then to Libya via Turkey and staying there for one week in a cheap hotel.
It was mostly car and helicopter transfers, but the travel took a long time. The beds and food were awful, as usual, and she was being exhausted day by day.
After a month and a half of passing through Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, they returned to North America.
They stayed for one week in a super high class hotel in Las Vegas, but she couldn’t take one step out of her room. Even then, with an environment of only a bed and food, and the ability to simply take a shower, Kaname was grateful from the bottom of her heart.
However, next time they suddenly flew to Sri Lanka.
Kaname’s physical condition was finally crumbled, and she fainted. From an air-conditioned neo-gothic hotel, she was moved to a terrorist training camp in the tropics with nothing but an electric fan. Losing her spirit, she was thrown into a rigorous place.
The heat would not go down. In the camp that was prepared in that jungle she mostly stayed in a pipe bed in the smallest room.
It had been the worst place so far. The heat was natural but the humidity was the worst. There was a bad odor coming from somewhere in the camp, creeping in to the shut room that Kaname
was staying in. The mushy smell of live garbage or cheap wine or the fermentation of vomit, with the gun smoke and smell of oil stimulant mixed in her nose.
She could hear gunfire and explosions by day and night, the arrival and departure of helicopters and the sound of an AS’ engine echoing, and the wild jeers of the men. She had no moment of peace.
And then the bugs.
From the bed, from the window, and bugs that she did not know the name of, penetrated, creeping about the bed and wall, flying around the light bulb. Furthermore they were big. A leaf bug that was three times bigger in size than that of Japan’s was flying about her head with a noise that sent chill down her spine. Before she knew it, a half meter centipede was crawling up her clothes.
She wanted to scream out, but Kaname did not have that impulse.
Because she did not want to lose. She wouldn’t show her own weakness, they would certainly be glad. She definitely wouldn’t allow them to think that she was a little princess that screamed at the sight of a bug.
They’re trying to make me weak-
Not knowing the details, they were now ill-treating her. That was why they pressured her. Crude bed, bad food, unsanitary room, a sufficient trial to a girl who was used to civilization. Moving her from one coarse environment to another, making her stomach churn in total exhaustion. No matter how much she stretched her willpower, if the physical strength of a human dropped they would unconsciously obey. It was an operation to weaken her vitality at the hotel at Las Vegas.
It seemed that Leonard was still alive.
However, since then he had not shown himself.
She did not know if their treatment to her had been ordered by Leonard. That Polish girl, Sabina Refunio, was always following Kaname. She would not tell her anything about Leonard’s circumstance except him being “alive”.
On the other hand, she had met Kalinin a number of times. Once at the farm in Texas, once while flying to Belgium in a small airport, and then once in the hotel in Las Vegas. Every one of them was not a significant meeting. More than coming to see Kaname, he had the attitude of confirming the state of a prisoner. Just getting close observing her face, confirming her limbs and neck were not getting too skinny, confirming if there were traces of bruises or burns. Kaname also did not ask Kalinin anything, she did not hurl any abusive words. It was already meaningless to say anything to him.
At the height of her fainting and fever she saw a lot of nightmares.
On a morning, she was passing the school like she always did. Then a silver AS destroyed the school building. On the courtyard countless bodies of her classmates were lying on top of one another. Burning. Even if she tried to turn away her eyes she couldn’t. A large number of tears flowed with the corpse of a blackened Tokiwa Kyouko in her eyes.
On another morning, she woke up in a mansion. Unknown men were standing in her bedroom, looking down at Kaname with a grin. She wanted to jump to her feet and run, but she couldn’t run. She was held down and they forcibly stripped her clothes. The men’s arms become like a centipede. “Help, Sousuke!” screaming that, he wouldn’t come. “He’s already dead”, the centipedes laughed, creeping about her whole body.
On another morning she was in school. There were many apathetic eyes and malicious faint smiles. The text books were
gone again. Countless jeers were echoing from her open notebook. Die. Stink. Annoying. Getting sick, she rushed to the toilet. On top of the private room filthy water was running. The girl leader was laughing. That girl was walking with Sousuke in her hands. Unforgivable. That’s mine. She wailed, and went in a fit of rage. You would be better off dead. All of you, everyone should die.
And countless other gloomy mornings, she was being attacked.
The strong light burned her eyelids, Kaname let out a small groan.
The sunlight from the crack in the window shined through, hanging on her cheeks on top of the bed. The sheets, clothes, and her hair were damp with wetness, sticking closely to her skin.
What time was it? Probably noon, or before that.
But how many days had passed since she had passed out in that camp was not clear to her. Her fever seemed to have lowered.
Trying to get up from the bed, her balance crumbled and she fell down. Grabbing the desk nearby, an empty cup fell down from the bed. The sound must have been heard. There was a sound of a key opening the door, Sabina Refunio entered the room.
It was not the usual suit. She was wearing a plain black t-shirt and olive pants. She did not sweat, even in that humid environment.
“It seems that you’re awake” Sabina said. “You seem to be having nightmares.”
“Water... can I have some…”
“Later for that. Let me check your temperature.”
“My throat is thirsty.”
Ignoring Kaname’s words, Sabina took out a digital thermometer from the bag on top of the desk. She put it inside
Kaname’s ear and the measurement ended immediately. It made a small clever pi sound. An out of place sound in that primitive mountain hut.
“It’s down, huh?”
Sabina took a look at the liquid crystal panel of the thermometer. It read [37.30].
“...it’s a bit sudden but, Sabina. It seems that you hate me, right?”
“What kind of answer will satisfy you?”
Saying it expressionlessly, she poured water into a dirty cup, and handed it to her.
“Enough, I fully understand.”
She drank the cup of muddied water. It was not cold or warm. She couldn’t feel anything.
“Did Leonard order this?”
“Being shut in these terrible places, exhausting me.”
“There are many people who want you.”
Not answering the question, Sabina answered her unconcerned.
“In order to guarantee your safety, there is no need for you to stay in a comfortable place. Beside, this camp is much safer than the hotel in Vegas.”
“Is that so?”
“That is the only reason. There is nothing that can be done but to grow accustomed to this.”
“But Leonard is heartless. If he is recovered he should at least visit once.”
“Do you want to see him?”
“No. What you said has a meaning of ‘it would be nice to visit you’”
Sabina’s breath stopped for an instant.
“Don’t you love him?”
“I don’t understand its meaning.”
“Ordinarily it would be irritating. Taking care of the girl who shot the one you love, and it was an order from the one you love himself. Moreover that person would not even come to visit. You also want to be the one harassed, right?”
“You seem to misunderstand something.”
The tone of her voice was persistently calm.
“Lord Leonard has only recently recovered. Until then we have not received any instructions. The orders have not changed, I am only taking care of you the same way I did before.”
“I see. A faithful dog all throughout.”
Kaname spoke with a challenge. How to offend Sabina, was what her absentminded head desperately thinking.
“Leonard. That guy is a pathetic man. Even having an exhausted girlfriend here, still humoring me on the brink of death. In the end with his form, banged his head! And got done. He’s past stupidity, only pathetic. Really.”
Although realizing that she said such vulgar words, guilt would be of no use in that setting. If she spoke detestable words with all her strength, would it not be a provocation?
“Ah, I understand. That’s why he won’t show his face right? No matter what kind of excuse you make up for him. I’m sure he’s embarrassed about being too ugly--”
Suddenly, the glass cup Sabina was holding broke. Broken with only the force of her grip.
Taking the shard of glass, she grabbed Kaname’s neck with the other hand and with tremendous force threw the back of her head to the bed.
“I will not forgive you badmouthing him.” Sabina said.
An angry voice squeezed out from her throat. Blood dripped from her right hand that gripped the glass fragment, dripping in Kaname’s face.
“Especially you. Chidori Kaname. It was because you were selected by him, I refused to kill you. Even though that pride merits certain death. On top of that, scorning him. You’re sneering. Unforgivable. No matter what he thinks, I will not forgive you.”
Not even a voice of protest came out. Sabina’s physique was no different from hers, but it was like a wrestler weighing 100 kilograms riding her like a horse.
“I lived in a street of Lodz full of garbage. My first kill was a police officer whose name I don’t know that had an interest in SM, next was my mother who sold me to him. On the next day, my job became killing. Taken in by the Mafia in Warsaw, I killed many. I did not expect to be treated like a human by anyone. He picked me up like that and wrapped me up. If it’s him then everything can be written off. I believed everything of this in him. It’s fine even if he didn’t love me back. It’s fine as long as I’m of use to him. That is what I thought.”
“Until this time, I don’t know how many guards you were rude to. Smashing the bridge of your nose that is ignorant to the ways of the world… that degree would be enough. But I can’t do it. And for everything, that he did not wish for. And for you to have ‘bad feelings’ towards his attitude… That I cannot forgive. Absolutely unforgivable.”
Sabina brandished the glass. Her pale face dyed in joy, those eyes stared at Kaname’s throat. A killer’s eye. A person who practiced her own work, eyes that dealt with her opponent skillfully. Those were not the eyes of a human.
“That’s why, it’s enough. I will kill you.”
“It’s your fault.”
She thrust the glass piece into her throat. Hard. Sharp. A cold object deeply penetrating, opening a hole in the respiratory tract. In place of screaming a whistling sound and breathing came out. Warm liquid in her mouth was overflowing.
Sabina gouged the wound, extracting, and stabbed again.
It seems that she was not satisfied with the throat alone. She tore up Kaname’s face. Tearing up the warped cheeks a number of times, slicing off the nose, tearing up the lips, smashing the eyes- the signs of the flesh of Chidori Kaname, all of it was erased. Without anything to do with will, the limbs convulsed, the fingers cramped, tearing at the sheets stained with blood.
Kaname turned into a gushing and bubbling lump of meat as Sabina sneered.
Her lovely voice going mad, she mingled together with the centipedes and student’s laughs. Sabina, horseback riding, became another girl. Raising a facial expression of being in ecstasy because of the spurting blood, it was a girl with black hair. That was herself.
“Let’s change places” that Chidori Kaname whispered, putting her face near the Chidori Kaname that was a lump of meat. “Don’t you think it’s about time to let me do as I wish?”
A scream finally came out, Kaname jumped out of the bed.
It was the camp in Sri Lanka. A corner of a crude room with sunlight shining from the window.
Her breathing was wild. Her head was heavy. She was damp with sweat, even her underwear was wet.
The only door in the room opened, Sabina Refunio entered. Black tank top and olive pants. Not even sweating in that heat.
“It seems that you’re awake. You seem to be having nightmares.”
“Water... can I have some…”
“Later for that. Let me check your temperature.”
“My throat is thirsty.”
Sabina took out the digital thermometer, inserting it in Kaname’s ear. There was the electronic sound that she remembered.
“It’s down, huh?”
The thermometers liquid crustal panel read [37.30]. Exactly like the dream. A chill ran down her spine.
“Do you know a place called Lodz?”
Sabina poured water in the dirty cup. Her hands stopped for a second.
“A long time ago it was a place where I lived…”
“Is that so?”
“Where did you....”
“I don’t know”
Forcibly taking the cup, she drank the water.
♦ ♦ ♦
Together with the roar of the C-130 transport planes Turbo Prop, they landed on Rekun Island.
In the continuous kilometer of flat sandy beaches, there was an iron plate paved as a runway. The distance of the runway was not enough, and they would need to borrow the power of a disposable rocket booster during takeoff.
Sousuke, who had been working since the arrival at early dawn, had taken a long over-due break in the early afternoon.
Rekun Island was a lonely island in the corner of the Caribbean Sea.
It was the accumulation point of the goods necessary for the Atlantic Ocean activity of the Assault Landing Submarine Tuatha de Danaan. It had been assigned as a temporary base, so to speak. Of course there was no dock that could stow the giant submarine; the de Danaan was on standby two kilometers away from the beach, fully opening the flight deck to receive large quantities of supplies from the transport helicopter.
It had been a year since Sousuke fished at a coast.
The previous fishing trip was a short time at Merida Island with Chidori Kaname. Merely 30 minutes- even then, it was a wonderful 30 minutes. Not having her there… Sousuke tried not to think of it as much as possible. He would only exhaust himself in moping.
A reel attached to a big rod was thrust into the ground, since there were no fish around, he slowly read Jun yearbook under the blue sky.
The fishing rod was borrowed from the supply unit’s Private Falkowski. Anyway, in less than an hour they had to start the support of escaping the island. Even then, to be able to enjoy that luxury, with the roaring sound of the transport in the rear passing the temporary runway, it was insignificant.
“Well, it’s not like the beach in Guam” Melissa said on the far side of Sousuke. “In the end we could only sunbath, isn’t it such a progress?”
She was on top of the paved beach cost, just lying around in a bathing suit. Beside her was Technical Officer Nora Lemming, and then on the opposite side was Tessa’s secretary, Jacqueline Viran, and Communications Officer Sachi Shinohara. They all had the same appearance of bleaching their young and vivacious bodies in the sunlight. Every one of them was in a blue and grey camouflage bikini. The four of them did not stir. With their bare skin shining from the ample sun block they had applied, beads of sweat flowed from their smooth curves.
They escaped Merida Island with mostly just what they were wearing. There was no opportunity for them to obtain swimwear. Using the free time inside the ship, it seemed like they were made from the remaining urban camouflage.
Thinking that the “time to wear” them might come, they managed to put it together during their day to day life previously unseen.
Tuatha de Danaan fleet’s female officers’, especially young female officers’, numbers were limited. It seemed that those girls had a mysterious solidarity without regards to rank. It was strengthened especially during the escape from Merida. Most probably from the death in action of female pilot Eva Santos.
“That’s right. It’s been a long time.” said Lemming, with the bikini clinging to her abundant bust.
“Hey, isn’t it good that we made this?” Viran said, putting the straw of her sports drink to her red lips.
“A...a more docile design would be nicer, right? Ahaha....” Shinohara said with an unsteady insincere smile.
Shinohara was Japanese, similar to Sousuke. Usually she was a girl who wore plain make-up with black rimmed glasses, just then she was in a fashion style like that of Mao’s. It was said that she spent a number of years in the Air Force after getting out of college before entering Mithril. Although already in her late twenties, from what could be seen, it would not be mysterious if she would appear to be a similar age to Sousuke. On top of retaining her childish appearance, she had the lowest rank of Sergeant among them. Moreover, having a conservative character, Shinohara was put in a position of a younger sister to Mao and the others. Particularly when Tessa was not around. In reality, she was probably the most senior among them.
Looking at the appearance of Shinohara, Mao and the others laughed.
“What are you talking about? This is a rare chance.”
“Won’t you regret dying without getting a tan?”
“Do fun things at a fun time....fufufu. Look, those guys are looking.”
“Those looks are difficult!”
The soldiers, who were beginning to send off supply goods to the transport, were blowing whistles from far away.
Though you willfully turned into that appearance. Why do you need to sunbath beside me? Sousuke thought secretly, and let out a small sigh.
No, he could roughly guess the reason. There were three spacious sandy beaches to relax on by the coast and all of them were occupied by male colleagues. There were those who sunbathed and enjoyed eating, those who preserved their skill by firing practice, and others.
Sousuke took off from the soldiers, to enjoy fishing alone in the sandy soil (that’s right, he recently understood the luxury of
being alone), and then Mao and the others intruded. Glancing anyhow, it was certainly troublesome to have a crowd of men calling out.
What they had said was, “have a good look, you should be thankful.”
And “you already have a girl so don’t mind”.
It was because of the conversation with Chidori Kaname after the battle in Nickelo in Southern Mexico. For the female members in Sousuke’s fleet, he had a more familiar existence than before. Far from that, without minding Sousuke, they talked about concerns of love (apparently).
For example, for a long time----
“Well, how are you doing with Bruzer recently?”
“It’s getting good. He’s nice.”
“Hee. He has an appearance of being violent.”
“He’s not like that! No, not really like that. But well, he’s, a maintenance soldier... fufufu.”
“In other words he’s handy with his fingers!? Nora-san!”
“Well I must admit? Though we don’t have considerable time. Hey, about that, having excuses concerning THAT.”
“Aah...is that so?”
“Then what about Weber-kun? They say his sniping fingers are soft. Like a musical instrument.”
“Aah, although he’s a bad guitarist-”
“That’s urban legend.”
“Stop with the dirty jokes since Sousuke is around. Well, what’s that? Are you asking me about Kurz?”
“Yeah. You don’t?”
“Of course not!? Stop that, that idiot…”
“Ah, is that so...”
“Oh my, how unexpected.”
“Wait! Wait, are there rumors spreading!?”
“No, I just thought it was like that.”
“Me too. Don’t you look suitable with a good-looking guy?”
“Kidding kidding, sorry sorry. It’s nothing, as expected.”
“Really stop it-”
“The truth, which one is like a brother? Or it’s that after all...”
“Eh, then it’s Lt. Commander?”
“I don’t understand, which Lt. Commander?”
“Stupid. Ben of course. It’s Ben.”
“No, about Ben-. Direct supervisor for the time being. Right now it’s a little....”
“Well, he’s not the handy type.”
“Then you mean that’s not the entirety of it?”
“Is that so?”
“Ah-. But the Lt. Commander is nice. He’s incredibly stoic, like a Samurai.”
“Hohou. Sachi is into something like that?”
“Want me to arrange it for you?”
“Eeh~! I..it’s alright-! But what now...I’m bothered.”
“Be clear about it, that’s why Japanese are...”
----something like that.
Whoever they were talking about, the circumstance did not matter to Sousuke. It was not like he would talk to anybody about the subject of those conversations. In the first place he didn’t comprehend even ten percent of it. However, that was what Sousuke understood.
The four of them did not mind the existence of Sousuke, talking about their love (or it would seem)- For him it seemed like he was an ornamental charm of a Raccoon
Somehow, they seemed to think of him like an image of a raccoon ornament looking over.
Before he would not think of anything, but he had this vacantness. Sousuke could vaguely understand.
“By the way where’s Emilia and Yeta?” Mao said, correcting the position of her sunglass.
“Looks like they’re still working and can’t get off. It’s probably useless. What a pity” Lemming said.
In Sousuke’s memory, Emilia was the communications officer announced as an essential member, Yeta was an engineer of the engineering department. Although they wanted to participate in the sunbathing, they were busy with the bringing in of supplies and could not slip away.
“Then it’s impossible for her after all.”
“Aah, Tessa” Mao muttered, keeping a little silent.
“....She has so many consultations. As expected she can’t get away.
“Well, that’s right....”
“We did manage to make her share of swimsuit.”
“If its chance, then there would be another one.”
With the talk about Tessa coming out, their cheerful mood was hidden. They must have been worried about her hard work.
“Will she be alright?” Shinohoara asked.
“Hn-. She said it herself.”
“Isn’t she getting skinny?” Lemming said.
“That’s right. Also....how do you say it...” Mao hesitated to say, and shrugged her shoulders.
“Nothing. It’s alright. That girl is only tired.”
Lemming and the others did not notice, but Sousuke could guess the change in tone in Mao’s voice. The way Mao was talking just then was the voice of a commander during battle. During a time she would say in front of her subordinates “don’t worry, allied support will be coming shortly”, that voice. Mao, who was intimately close to Tessa, must have felt some problems wrapping her up.
After the battle in Mexico there was not even the opportunity even once to have a slow talk with her. In front of Mardukas and a number of commissioned officers, Mao and Kurz, Clouseau and the others, he had roughly told them about the battle in Tokyo and everyday at Namsak, and then he had led up to their reunion.
From their personal relationship, and the way she looked at Sousuke with weakness when face to face, he could easily guess the great responsibility Tessa was carrying. Driving the devastated state of Mithril, and on top of the remaining survivors of the fleet, she planned to re-organize them.
In the past, when Sousuke was assigned to the Tuatha de Danaan fleet, it was unspeakable when Tessa had not yet gained the trust of her subordinates. From then two years had passed. Right then, for the organization, she was an existence that could not be lost. Not only in military terms, but also for the mental fulcrum.
She was a genius, and she also had charisma. She was doing splendidly as a leader. The many officers did not look at her as a “special person”, and did not imagine so.
However, Teletha Testarossa was not a super human.
At most she was a 17 year-old girl that depended on her wits. And she was trying to shoulder an entire organization that should have been dead. For the people that knew her well, a few
subordinates that had seen her smile and cry, those words were not openly spoken. Why, because that was what she herself wished for.
That was the time when the base’s siren sounded.
On a constructed tent in the center of the accumulated goods a few hundred meters away, from the speakers of the temporary headquarters, the piercing sound of an alarm echoed on one side of the beach.
Short two times, long once.
That was the signal for “Urgent, prepare for evacuation”. Although they didn’t know the details, a hostile unit was approaching Rekun Island. There must have been some signs sensed by the Pave Mare transport helicopter and Super Barrier patrolling the surrounding air space. Essential members were to stop operation and board the Tuatha de Danaan. The ship would make emergency submersion. Aircrafts should take off. And then dispose of, by blowing up and incinerating, any remaining unloaded cargo. It was regrettable to dispose of supplies, but any remaining investigatable supplies would allow the enemy to guess what supplies were available and what supplies were not available to the de Danaan.
The soldiers that could be seen far away, those relaxing on the beach and those practice firing all the time, started withdrawal preparations in haste.
“A-ah. That was a short break.”
“Merely a 30 minute vacation. I wonder when the next one will be…”
Mao and the others complained. On top of their swimsuits they put on T-shirts. Food and drinks were quickly cleaned up.
Sousuke also put away his fishing tools. He urgently turned the reel, with unknown seaweeds caught in his needle.
♦ ♦ ♦
“Depth 650. Speed 25 knots. No ships in pursuit in 20 miles circumference” Vice Captain Richard Mardukas informed Tessa.
She turned to the information on the main screen, and reconfirmed what the Vice Captain had reported. No matter how many reports were received from the Deck Officer, they knew that there was no problem with the ship’s condition and let out a sigh.
“Alert level to yellow 3. Cancel Noise Regulation.”
“Aye Ma’am. Alert level to yellow 3. Noise Regulation cancelled.” Mardukas repeated, informing the instructions to the deck officers.
Sensing the approach of the enemy, they left Rekun Island to disappear into the deep sea. It had already been five hours. In the storage deck the essential surface members who were catching their breath were starting about in the sorting of the supplies.
“It was a general assumption of the area was it not?” Mardukas asked.
“That’s right. But it was early.”
Having the base at Rekun Island being discovered at anytime, they already knew from the start that it would be attacked. As for the goods that had remained on the base, well the important ones had already been loaded into the de Danaan. At that time, if they were to ignore the crew’s weariness, it was possible for them to cruise without resupplying for four months at most. As long as they could navigate underwater, right then the de Danaan was still the world’s strongest ship. Where ever they were, where ever they were going, and where they would be appearing- nobody knew except those who were on the bridge.
Having said that, it was unnatural for the enemy to sense Rekun Island and dispatch military forces so quickly. The figures could not express the enemy’s subtle quickness. That was what Tessa felt.
“Is the reason for it due to the enemy’s desperation?”
“Yes. Even the time during at Sahara Desert, we just barely made it, right?”
“That is right. Then that means-”
Mardukas did not say anything further; Tessa knew what he was thinking.
The organizational composition of Amalgam must have had some disaster occur.
Thinking from different sides, there was no plausible reason except for that. The movements of Amalgam were much more efficient and active than before.
Looking from the standpoint of Tessa and the others it was a relentless circumstance, but it was not entirely a bad thing. It was proof that the decision making organization of Amalgam had changed. An organization that was slow in making policies was now moving with quick attacks. Would that not mean that Amalgam had degraded into a pyramid shaped organizational structure?
Although they did not know where that summit was, or up to what degree.
You might say that giant, with an extremely tough defense, lived with the first chance.
With that chance, they still didn’t know where its weak point was. Was it their Achilles’ Heel, their forehead, or their heart? Was there a silver bullet that could damage them? They also still didn’t know that.
It was a difficult battle, as usual. But Tessa could feel the stubbornness in the enemy’s movement. That was the fishing line extended to the surface of the water, moving slightly-
“It’s a good sign.”
Tessa, on top of the Captain’s seat, straightened her white knees.
The enemy had the same link rising up. Although they did not hope for the equivalent military power, at least they would want to be able to punch them on the bridge of the nose.
If they could do that, they would be able to move to the next stage.
“Godart-san, please take over the navigation. Mardukas-san, come with me.”
Leaving the ship in the command of the deck officers, Tessa stood up from the Captain’s seat. They were thinking over what should be done from then on, and what should be prepared from then on. While leaving the bridge, the communications officer stopped her.
“Captain, please wait.”
“What is it?”
“A Telegram. From Mr. Lemon of the DGSE (French Foreign Information Department).”
It was a communications report barely intercepted from the unmanned miniature submarine, Turtle, that caught the coded message, indicated in the console monitor. The communications officer shifted her body, taking it to Tessa.
The contents of the telegram were short.
<Yamsk 11 confirmed>
<60°8’10.66”N 153°54’20.60E / File ed1258-09-02>
There were results. It was generally the expected subjects. The contact came in faster than expected.
Michael Lemon was already in Moscow. To be able to investigate it no matter what, he had risked danger and made an infiltration. At that moment they must have been preparing for immediate withdrawal. Tomorrow they would escape to West Europe via Hungary.
“Good. Erase it.”
After confirming the erasure, Tessa left the bridge.
It had been eight months since the attack on Merida. Even for Tessa and the others, they were arranging preparations.
The former essential members of the Merida Island were reconstructing the supply route of the materials, source of funds and the information network. Hunter, Wraith, and the people of the information department were moving everywhere to gather information. Like Estis and the others, they were proceeding in the regimentation of their colleagues, continuing to expand their military force in steep pitch.
The Top Class management- They still don’t know the whereabouts of Admiral Borda, head of the Operations Department, General Amit, head of the Intelligence Department, Doctor Painrose, head of Research Department, or Lord Mallory. They may be dead somewhere or they may be hiding somewhere.
With the words of Hunter, just before the attack, General Amit transferred the majority of the function of the Intelligence Department to somewhere, and it seemed to still be continuing to gather information from underwater. Contact could not be established, and it was not clear whether they were still allies of Mithril. Hunter, who was forbidden by the General to move,
opposed that policy and lent his hand to Tessa on his own. It was the same for Wraith.
She and Hunter were scattered to different places and got in contact with the people of the Research Department. They had even constructed that Laevatein. Proceeding in constructing it in secrecy at the same time, Tessa also heard that it was abandoned because of various problems. Ordinarily giving up on the completion of said unit, they secretly misappropriated the recovery of Arbalest’s core unit. With the collaboration of one of the recovered Whispered, Miller, they configured the core unit. The AI, Al, himself completed the unit.
A unit equipped with a strong Lambda Driver was constructed using makeshift misappropriated goods and experimental goods. The Laevatein’s aimed design at first was not all-purpose. A long time ago, when the prototype of the first stealth combat unit, Have Blue, was produced, it was said that the engineers at Lockheed mostly used existing parts. In connection to that “Historical fact”, Sachs and the maintenance team nicknamed the Laevatein Have Red.
The other equipment was completed, but those were not estimated by Tessa and the others. They had to deal with the supplies and living allowances of the military personnel, and the equipment and dummy enterprises. They were preparing to cut through the decentralized assets.
The reconstructed Mithril had more than 2000 people, but it was limited through the damage brought about by Amalgam.
The Tuatha de Danaan, being the mobile headquarters, integrated all of it. Substantially, the supreme commander would be Captain Tessa.
Among the subordinates, she did not show her worried face. No matter how much her age couldn’t do, there was an anxiety of pushing such a responsibility on her.
However, there was no one other than Tessa who had accurately lead them that far. Mardukas was a capable commissioned officer, he even had enough knowledge to do some of the average work of Tessa, but he didn’t have what was called “Charisma”. The surrounding people fully knew that he had a strict role in sermoning. And aside from Mardukas, someone who could lead Mithril was considerably not present.
Tessa frequently felt, if only Kalinin were here.
Although he was an adjutant, the responsibility of the subordinates and himself was reduced.
After learning he had sided with Amalgam, Tessa received a great shock. He was a mercenary after all and would follow the strong side and a better compensation… Comprehending that interpretation, the existence of Kalinin inside the fleet was too great. Even though he was taciturn and had a front of rarely thinking of others, there was faith in that fundamental behavior, and everyone felt he had the pride of a warrior.
Then, why with the enemy?
After the de Danaan was in a standstill from having insufficient supplies after the escape from Merida Island they were able to obtain supplies because of none other than Kalinin. Then, his decision to side with the enemy was after the attack on Merida Island. Becoming a prisoner of war made him change his mind? Thinking of it then, during the battle that time he had an unusually hesitant attitude. Like he knew what would be happening- Possibly, already heard of it- and then, was vaguely disturbed.
Could it be brainwashing? He may have some important encumbrances being held hostage. What about the possibility of being affiliated with Amalgam prior to joining Mithril? Was there a much more complex reason?
But there was one thing that was clear: a terrifying opponent had joined Amalgam; that was what it meant.
No, that may not be so.
If Kalinin was an ally, then the one in Amalgam he was loyal to was her brother. If that is the case, then he had some knowledge. Could it be Kalinin was cooperating with her brother-?
With Sachs’ voice, Tessa returned to herself.
“That is all, but is this alright?”
The ten subordinates assembled in the situation room were looking at Tessa with dubious faces. They were currently in the middle of a regular meeting. The maintenance head, Ed “Bruzer” Sachs, was giving an outline of the progress situation of the supplies.
Tessa tilted her head without incident.
“Eeh. What about the others?”
“The M9s are about to go bad. The Falke and E series, all three units. Spare parts are easy to trace so we can’t obtain them. In addition in no less than half a year they will need to be overhauled. Actually all three of them need to be inspected at a special plant, making use of every trick, it has considerable clutter here and there.”
At that time, in the possession of Tessa and the others were one unit of black Falke type, two units of the E series, and then the Laevatein. The Laevatein was comparatively new to the line of battle, the deterioration of the parts was still light, and the
remaining three units were subject to rigorous operations and were worn out.
“How long can they operate?”
“They are limited to three more times in battle. After that, anything can happen. During battle the Palladium Reactor might stop, or the frame would suddenly fracture, or the joints would lock and tumble down....take your pick. If we salvage one unit for parts, at the present condition they might....”
“Wait. With that, then our numbers will diminish” Mao said. “Even now ordinarily we make use of six units in battle, with three units plus one we’re already somehow breaking apart. If we lose one more unit, we can’t carry out the operations.”
“But if this goes on the three units will fail.”
“That would be alright.” Tessa said.
“Before they break to pieces after three more battles, I think we can manage to provide parts. Please hold out for the time being.”
Actually the prospect of receiving provisional parts for the M9 was not present, but Tessa said it with confidence. If the countermeasures failed, it would be a waste of time for everyone. Estis or Hunter might have good news; if not the fighting power of the de Danaan would drastically decline.
But, at any rate--
This should already be concluded after three battles...
There would probably be no chance of having the three M9s sortie for the 4th or 5th time. If the battle were to be prolonged, it would be their loss.
“Then what about the next operation?” Kurz said.
“Our allies have started to gather. And we managed to get supplies for the mean time, and even the information network has
been reconstructed. However the whereabouts of Leonard is still unknown. Either he’s still alive or not. To smash Amalgam, we need his information right?”
“There is no information concerning the life or death of Leonard. But, I think that he is still alive.”
Being the twin sister, she was talking about being a Whispered. Although it was not logical talk, there was no one who would reject the opinion. Being a fleet with abundant experience, they regard this kind of intuition.
“Well, originally Kaname said ‘he might be dead’. It would be better to think of him as alive.”
“Even then, we still don’t know his whereabouts” Kurz said.
“Our information is still insubstantial. It would be difficult to come up with an efficient attack right now.”
“That’s right. Speaking about the previous virus problem, Dana and Al are still discussing it, and still could not come up with a conclusion.”
“That’s the first I’ve heard of. Can they debate?” Sachs asked.
“Although this was only during free hours. But it’s useless. Al’s questions were too difficult and Dana could not keep up.”
“In terms of Dana, isn’t it a strong AI?”
“That is so.”
“In addition, Al is absurdly weak in chess. Playing it with Mao’s AI, Friday, he lost 9 out of 10 times.”
That was the first time Tessa had heard of it. But having heard that, Tessa shook her shoulders strangely. There was a different comprehension.
“Is that so? Al is an amazing AI.”
“Why. Isn’t he weak?”
“It’s because he is not using equal consideration methods in the match. He wins at the same method we do. But still throwing away one win.”
Sachs knit his brow, and then the silent Mardukas opened his mouth.
“It’s instinct. A Chess Player or a Mathematician, or a reliable tactician, face the difficult problems first, making the final image come to mind first. Using only logical explanation. Like ‘seeing the future’, preceding a vision of ‘wanting to win this way’. In terms of simple games the Neumman type computer’s method has more advantage, but it is different when dealing with the complex reality.”
“Concerning the definition of intelligence, let us discuss this in the future at a free time. However, that would be all.” Tessa said, purposely closing the file case loudly on top of her knees. “There is a subtle change in Amalgam. Their decision-making is fast, and showing a resolute movement. At the same time of being in confusion, I think our guerilla warfare would be efficient.”
“Were they scorched? That’s good news.”
“Eeh. However, we may not be the cause of this.”
“What do you mean?”
“It’s Leonard. Otherwise, Kalinin-san would.... What if he were to grasp the leadership standpoint inside the organization? For us, no matter how many times we crush the position of Amalgam, we were not able to find any traces of internal conflict. Then, the cause of the internal conflict, would the reason be power struggle? There is a need for us to think about this.”
“There seems to be some kind of secret” Clouseau, rarely complaining, said.
“Concerning this, catching this with the help of Lemon-san and the others, I am going to investigate this the day after tomorrow”
At Tessa’s words, Mardukas’ brow knitted.
“Yes. Without me the investigation would be in a difficult location. Danger is also expected; please have a number of men accompany me. It’s a far location.”
“Where is it?”
“Far East. In the ruins inside the territory of Russia.”
At that moment the de Danaan was in the Atlantic Ocean. If they took along the ASes as guards it would be a suitably long trip. It was impossible for the whole fleet. They would have to do their best with two units.
“That’s right....guards would be Weber-san and Sagara-san. At that time, Clouseau-san will take care of information gathering concerning the matter in the Ukraine and make arrangements. Melissa will go to South America with Mr. Courtney and exterminate the enemy position. They are troublesome seniors, but please give your cooperation.”
“Yeah yeah” Mao threw a reply.
“Fine. That will be all, regards. Please be careful and don’t make any mistakes. Well then, dismissed.”
♦ ♦ ♦
The next day, after Tessa and the others had the meeting, Melissa Mao woke up, and noticed that she had made a most serious mistake.
Compared to her mistake, accidental firing on allies, stepping on infantry, or talking of highly classified information on an open channel were not that serious.
She was in a private room for commissioned officers. With the increase of paperwork, and substantially becoming the commander, Mao alone had exclusive possession of the small private room. For people who lived on a submarine, that was a great luxury.
In that small private room, in that small bed-
Slept a naked Kurz beside her.
With a carefree face, he slept with a good sensation.
With a sigh and a moan, she let out a long and weak sound as she sat on top of the bed.
She reconfirmed. Of course, she wasn’t wearing a single piece of underwear.
It was also not from the vigor of being drunk; she fully remembered what had happened the night before.
Just, the moment she woke up she had thought “it would be good if it were a dream”.
That’s right, she remembered.
Late at night, after putting in order the documents for the supplies in that room, Kurz came to get a signature for another document. Then Kurz had wanted to have a talk about his trouble with an inexperienced member of the PRT. With the flow of the conversation, it turned into a long chitchat.
Then, taking out something to drink, Perrier was brought out from the refrigerator, her hands slipped and she had spilled all over the bed.
She thought that it was bad.
The Perrier wet the bed, that shouldn’t have happened.
After taking care of the drinks, they then drank ginger ale, talking about getting tired of the current livelihood, somehow, and wanting to have fun at a romantic resort. In reaction to the word romance, Kurz massaged her shoulders like sexual harassment.
Saying, “Then sis, would you like to enjoy an abundant romance with me? Right here?”
As usual he was knocked off his feet, in the narrow quarters, on the wet floor –that’s right, that was where the previous Perrier would come in– she slipped. Kurz took out his hand to support her, but both of them ultimately fell to the bed.
When they fell down, it seemed like she hit her head on the wall. She got a little dizzy for about two to three seconds. Then, after opening her eyes there was a face full of worry in her field of vision. With a serious voice he had said, “Sorry. Are you alright?”
With that, she very much wanted to weep.
No, actually, not really weep, but she felt like weeping.
What have I been doing inside this submarine? Why is this guy worried about me? those were what she felt.
After Merida Island was done for, it must have always been coming and then it was overflowing. Having a feeling of loneliness, having a feeling of a man with a worried face in front of her eyes… He stared blankly, looking on for a number of seconds-
That’s right. That was where they kissed.
Already, what was that? There was no other way. Too pathetic. It would be okay to lose the qualification of an officer. It was an awkward situation, and embarrassing. She couldn’t possibly say it to Nora and the others.
But if they were to know about it, their eyes would shine with great interest, and they would definitely ask questions. “Well, how was it?” and the like.
That’s, Good Gracious-
What now? It was great. She hadn’t thought that they were that compatible.
She forgot herself too much. Because of that, the joints throughout her body ached. In those quarters the soundproofing was high, but would it be alright?
....ruminating the memory of the previous night, Mao turned red and blue, and Kurz beside her moaned and woke up. She knew that it was absurd and unintentionally hid her chest with the sheets.
Kurz look at her. He was absentminded for a while, and then he was also the same, cowering himself and holding his head.
“.....ah!. This is bad....”
It was a shock with a deep sigh. In addition, feeling the shock he was shocked himself.
“Wh...what’s with that attitude?”
Thereupon Kurz covered his face with a gap in his fingers, or rather inquiring, and quickly placed a complacent smile.
“Kidding. I just wanted to have a look”
After saying that he turned his hands towards Mao’s shoulders, placing his mouth on her cheeks. With his empty hand he gently held the nape of her neck and collarbone.
“No no, this kind of foreplay is important.”
“Hey you! Stop...ee...”
“You were cute, Melissa.”
“Hn...I said don’t....already...enough!”
Learning from the failure last night, she fixed her body firmly on the furniture and Kurz was kicked out of the bed.
“Uo. ...What are you doing!?”
“You’re getting too cocky. Don’t look at me like that.”
Rolling the sheets, she hit Kurz with a pillow.
“Haa? What’s that? Last night you were-”
“Last night was last night, now is now. Just because we did it once doesn’t mean we’re lovers.”
“It’s not once, it was three times!”
“Don’t enumerate it. Well, that’s not what I mean. And don’t call me Melissa.”
“But you said to call you that.”
“You did. And you said it with an incredibly cute voice.”
Mao threw a mug at his face, and he fell down face up.
“...Ah-- this is troublesome. What’s gotten into me? My heart went weak when I didn’t know.”
“Hn-. Surely that was a whack of the faint-hearted.”
After saying that Kurz laughed.
“You... have noticed it?”
“That’s cruel. I’m not that skillful.”
“But somehow, last night you were kinder than necessary from the start.”
“Usually I’m just worried. I too didn’t think something like this would happen....no.”
Kurz, with a serious face, contemplated a little.
“Hmm. I guess there might have been some secret intentions.”
Mao snatched the pillow from him, and hit him on the side with full force. With force without apology she hit him with the pillow a number of times.
“Stop it, hey. Ahaha. I’m ticklish.”
“What’s with that composure? I’m kinda super pissed!?”
“Alright alright. Fine fine.”
Trampling and kicking, strangling his neck, Kurz cheerfully laughed. As expected she stopped with the tiresome violence and grasped for breath on top of the bed. He looked at her profile with a meek face.
“But it seems to be fine.”
“You’re refreshed right? You have that face.”
It was as Kurz said. The heavy feeling she had been carrying up until yesterday had disappeared. A feeling that even sunbathing at the beach could not shake off- another gloomy person, with drowned eyes, the compelling feeling of constantly looking over the shoulder had vanished like the mist. With only one night her feelings were refreshed. She was shocked at her own simplicity.
No. It was already like that to begin with. Eating delicious food or spending a hot passionate night would resolve the problems of most people.
This would also be good for Tessa, she casually thought...
If that girl had someone like that… The best option would be Sousuke, but he already had his sights on Kaname. His wholeheartedness was essentially a nice variety; looking at him from a distance there was an unpleasant feeling. That would be difficult, it would be best not to think of it too heavily.
When she noticed Kurz with a face of expecting something, she bluntly said.
“Well, I may be refreshed. The exit is over there.”
“Uwah, how cruel! No matter how much, that’s too cold.”
“That’s why I told you not to get cocky right? Because I have a position. Just forget it. If you tell anybody I’m going to kill you.”
That time Kurz, for real, made a deep sigh and dropped his shoulders.
“What’s with this-? I really lost confidence.... Oh well....”
“What’s with that?”
“No. Un....your attitude just now. Doesn’t that mean anyone will do as long as you demand it? I was genuinely happy but...well, I understand.”
He stood up without strength, sluggishly putting on his pants.
“Wai...it’s, it’s not like anyone can do...”
“Is that so.... but, actually you didn’t enjoy it then?”
“I never said that right?”
Kurz stole a glance.
“Then it was good?”
“Well....that’s.... that’s not it! I was worried, b...b..becoming like this, what will happen if everyone finds out-”
Grabbing the edge of the sheet with his fingertips, hesitantly, Kurz bent, giving her a surprise kiss. It was a long kiss. A simple connection of lips. Why did it have a richly sweet flavor?
“You really are cute, really.”
“Geez.... Do you understand what I’m saying?”
“It’s alright. I have no intention of telling anybody. Don’t worry about it.”
“Absolutely? It’s really troublesome.”
Kurz accidentally glanced at the clock in the desk.
“Duty shift is at 8 right? We still have an hour.”
“...what are you talking about?”
“You don’t want?”
She thought for a little, and silently whispered in his ears.
“Only once okay?”
Eventually they did it two times.
They barely made it to duty on time.