There was really nothing that Sousuke, who had been left behind, could do.
Crawling out of the wrecked AS, leaning up against a wall, and then staggering off was about it.
And it ended there, without the enemy showing up again. Nor the police or the fire fighters. He somehow made it to a local armory disguised as a trailer, and took care of his injuries. Since none of them were life threatening, he was back in good condition with just two days’ rest.
He didn’t watch the news or read the papers.
He didn’t want to.
No, not true. Since he was worried about Kyouko, he accessed the internet just once. He found that she was on the list of the critically injured, and had been admitted to a local hospital that he recognized. Since knowing that was enough, he didn’t try to find out anything else about the incident.
He didn’t know the whereabouts of Wraith, who had probably carried Kyouko to the hospital.
For a start, he had no intentions of looking for her. He probably wouldn’t meet her again.
Even continuing with Mithril had become an uncertain prospect.
He was still unable to connect at all to the Merida Island base. And of course, Sydney, too.
And all of the other bases were the same. Every line of communication was dead, and even though he knew the danger of doing so, none of his allies answered him.
After thoroughly checking many lines, and many other measures, he could only come to one conclusion.
Mithril had disappeared.
Every base, every location had been annihilated, and the soldiers engaged in missions there had disappeared.
They might be dead.
They might have escaped.
He didn’t know. There was no way for an ordinary individual to know the movements of a secret force of that size. He didn’t know what had become of Kurz or Mao. Or Tessa. They might already be dead. If he thought about it objectively, that possibility was overwhelmingly large.
Sousuke and Kalinin had their own means of communication outside of Mithril. But those lines had remained silent.
He was dead.
There was no other data other than that conclusion.
On the morning of the fourth day, Sousuke discretely scrutinized the situation he was now in. When he did so, he found that the conclusion hanging over him was surprisingly simple.
He was alone.
He was now completely, utterly alone.
Everything that he had thought he’d gained was gone in a flash. The fellow soldiers he had relied upon. The classmates he had confided in. The organization that had been his power. The surrogate father that he had trusted.
And a very important girl’s smiling face.
At first, he didn’t know what he should do. No, he did know. What he had been protecting hadn’t just been her physical body. In regards to her world, he needed to at least show some
sincerity. “I don’t wanna die without knowing anything”. The complaint of an innocent girl kept pressing hard against his chest.
So, on the fifth morning.
Sousuke Sagara went to school.
It seemed that classes had just resumed.
From before he entered the main gates, he could feel the eyes of the students looking at him widen in surprise. Most of it was surprise; the rest of it was anger.
The school buildings that had been damaged by the battle between giants were still covered with construction sheets here and there. The broken glass panes had not been repaired, but had been closed up with cardboard and packing tape.
The wreckage of the Arbalest that he had left behind in the courtyard had been neatly cleared off. Maybe by the Japanese government, or some affiliated organization. He didn’t know.
Either way, the wreckage had been carried off somewhere.
Ironically, his shoe box was right in front of him. Number 13. Sagara. He put on the slippers that he had used for the past ten months, and headed to the second year, group-four classroom.
When he opened the door and entered the room, the noisy students settled down. Everyone was looking at him. Even Koutarou Onodera. Even Shinji Kazama.
No one was in Kaname Chidori’s seat. That was only natural- she probably would never return to the seat in this classroom ever again.
Kyouko’s seat was also empty. She was still in the hospital.
The chimes rang throughout the school building.
Their homeroom teacher, Eri Kagurazaka, entered for homeroom. She looked tired, with dark circles under her eyes, and as soon as she saw Sousuke, she froze. She looked as if she didn’t know how to look.
“They can also become cruel.”
Hayashimizu’s words came back to him.
Hayashimizu wasn’t in school anymore now that the third-year students had entered exam season.
Even still, Sousuke gathered his courage- yes, courage that was completely different from courage on a battlefield, and said to Eri, “Miss Kagurazaka.”
“I have something to say. May I have some time?”
Eri hesitated a moment, dropped her head, looked at Kaname’s seat, and answered as if she were forcing away her sadness, “Yes. It’s alright.”
Sousuke took the platform. For some reason, he was reminded of the time he introduced himself the day he had transferred in.
“I think there are some things that need to be said,” Sousuke mumbled in the silence. “The one who was piloting that white AS... yes, was me. I... I’m a pilot of that kind of AS in active service in a mercenary unit. The story that I transferred here from America was a lie.”
They listened in silence as they carefully watched Sousuke.
Under the gaze of those stares, Sousuke told them everything.
He told them how he was a mercenary belonging to a secret organization. He told them how he was a fake student who had transferred with forged papers. He told them of his mission to guard Kaname Chidori. The existence of a large organization that had targeted Kaname. The reason that this school was persecuted on the two field trips.
That the enemy organization had been seriously trying to get Kaname.
And for that reason, that fight had taken place and Kyouko Tokiwa was seriously injured.
And Kaname was taken away in the end.
“I’m sorry for keeping quiet,” he concluded quietly, and one of the students, his shoulders shaking, said, “Wait...”
It was Sousuke’s closest friend, Koutarou Onodera.
“‘I’m sorry’ you say...? You need to say that to Tokiwa.”
“She’s still in the hospital, with tubes all in her body. But do you know what she said to her family? She gave them a key she had been holding the entire time, and said to see to Chidori’s hamster. ‘I’m begging you’, she said.”
“Tokiwa’s pretty bad off, you know. Don’t you guys feel anything? Did you not think anything of doing that stuff and getting us mixed up in it!?”
Onodera had gotten up from his seat, his eyes flaming with anger, and tried to grab Sousuke.
Several students and Eri stepped in to stop him.
“Let go already!!”
“Stop it, Onodera!”
“I’ve got business with this guy!! Weren’t we friends!? Or were you just fucking with me!?”
“You bastard, what did you come to do!? Was it interesting!? Your job is done, right!? So get the hell out of here!”
“I... only wanted to say something.”
He knew now. What would happen. What he wanted to do from here. The words that had resounded so resolutely in his own heart at the time of his defeat.
“And what’s that!?”
“I’m going to bring her back.”
That was it. There wasn’t anything other than that.
He had wanted to declare it. That was all.
“I’m going to bring her back. At all costs. No matter what happens. I will bring her back to this place. That’s all I wanted to say.”
Everyone had gone silent, even Onodera. They were all dumbfounded, not understanding what he meant.
“The fault is mine. She is not to blame. I will definitely bring her back. Definitely.”
He had no direction. He had no plan. He didn’t have anything at all.
But something in his cells was strongly urging him on.
“You can do it,” it said. “Fight,” it said.
“So when that time comes, please welcome her back.”
There wasn’t any point in listening to replies.
Sousuke turned around, left the classroom, and walked down the corridors he knew so well.
He left the courtyard like that, passing through the main gate, walking straight ahead. To distant lands.
Yes, to distant lands-
And he didn’t even turn around to give the school a second glance.