Chapter 5: Burning Man
That evening the streets of Namsak were wrapped in a bizarre atmosphere.
The temperature lowered to around 10 degrees Celsius in a matter of hours. Getting so cold was not common in such a tropical area. It was abnormal weather for that region.
Massive and heavy clouds rolled in the night sky. An ominous thunder roared. Mostly, the atmospheric arrangements that had come off the Pacific Ocean that year were strange. But even simple people could feel some sort of evil omen in the coldness of that night.
It was not only the weather that was bizarre.
The Arena was falling asleep after the end of the day’s games. 10 units of Arm Slaves had begun to move their generators. The growl of diesel and Gas Turbine engines echoed in the atmosphere, shaking the cold night sky of Namsak. The atmosphere was more subdued than usual. It was not like its usual rough and cheerfully wild air; it was gloomier. The killing intent of hidden animals rippled buoyantly in the air.
A number of units could be seen in the dazzling illumination.
The Russian Made RK-91 Savage. That Customized RK-92 Savage (a copy of the Northern Chinese Rk-92). The France manufactured Mistral, and its successor the Mistral 2. The German manufactured Drache A type. English manufactured Cyclone. The others were Israel manufactured and South African manufactured units.
The painted coat of these units were not the military’s Olive, Khaki, and green camouflage colors, but were rich colors resembling that of the F1 machines. There were also a number of units with the logo of their local or enterprise sponsors.
All of the AS had appeared after hours in the Arena. The pilots were facing the direction of the Chief. They had all gathered in the arena because of an urgent call and were preparing for a special “Job”.
The Chief had arrived in his patrol car (which was mostly shattered glass full of bullet holes). Many of the pilots had already received instructions about the “job” from the Vice Chief over the wireless radio. Those who had were joking with each other about the authority they had received. Once the Chief stepped out from the broken car the Vice Chief announced his arrival to the rowdy men.
The Chief thrust his chest out and looked over the faces of the men with tightened lips.
“...Now, you have heard from the Vice Chief. There is a man who controls an AS, he will be coming to Namsak from the north. That guy is a dangerous terrorist, who is overdosed with drugs with an abnormal persecution complex. The request for you, gentlemen, is to fight with that guy. That guy will be invading the streets; before he puts harm to the virtuous citizens, you veterans will eliminate him. Make certain to kill him. Show your skills which have been polished in the Arena.”
The men looked doubtful from the chief’s unconcerned chatter.
“Boss, can we ask a question?” one of the pilots voiced out. It was Dao, the first to have had a match with Sousuke.
“Honestly speaking, whether the guy we’re going to kill is a terrorist or not, we really don’t care. What we want to know are the terms. We still haven’t heard of any compensation or support. Can you explain that, Boss?”
“I understand. First everyone will get $3000 dollars. This is regardless of results.”
After the chief pompously said that, everyone blew a whistle.
“And then the one who buries the terrorist will be given 10 times that, which is $300,000 dollars. And then there is also some addition. Last month, do you know what was received from Gaza in the storehouse? It was an item which was took off a Chinese Dealer. There was 50 kilo of heroine confiscated. Tomorrow, the ‘Official procedures’ shall be burned. And the same quantity of ‘White Powder’ will coincidentally fall into the hands of someone. Where that would lead to, I have no interest of revealing. Do you understand what this means?”
50 kilos of Heroine. Even with its purity its ending cost could easily reach $1,000,000 dollars. The Chief was indirectly saying that the person who buried the enemy would attain this prize.
“That’s really glamorous but...aren’t you too generous Boss?” Dao asked.
“There is no need for you gentlemen to worry. What is important is for the terrorist to be killed. For that reason there are enough accessories, oil, and fuel prepared. And then....take a look.”
Just then, five trailers entered the area. The trailers slowly approached the curb, and stopped before them, opening to show their load. In them were a number of used AS mobile weapons, completely accommodating their needs.
The German made 35mm Rifle. The same German made 57mm Sniper rifle. Italian made 57mm shot gun. American made 30mm Gatling cannon. Also a Swiss made 40mm Rifle. There were also the newest Liquid explosives: the kind that didn’t have heavy cases around them.
“Amazing. It’s an Oerlikon.”
“There’s also Oto Melara and Mauser”
Either way, with just one shot it had enough destructive power to pulverize a passenger vehicle.
Since the men were overly excited, the Chief said, “There are no encryptions to the weapons control system on these guns. Choose what you like, use what you like. There is enough ammunition.”
“We have to thank that guy, Chief. Would it be alright to fire these babies? We won’t be held responsible to the ‘Virtuous Citizens’ who live in Namsak.”
The men laughed. From the patrol car full of bullet holes the dark man, Kurama, got up and addressed the ones riding the ASes.
“Listen up. The Chief said use what you like.”
Some of the pilots stared at Kurama and the Chief, evaluating.
“Looks like there’s no need to hesitate.”
“I’ve always wanted to do this.”
“The prey is ‘Crossbow’ right? That cheeky amateur.”
Dao and the other men, with the targeted weapons in their hands, returned to their own units.
Grasping different weapons and scrambling, the richly colored giants left the arena. The ground shook fiercely with the sounds of footsteps.
After seeing of the ASes the Chief said to Kurama, “The information is here. In the farm 15 kilometers north of Namsak, a white AS is heading south. That guy really is gonna do it.”
“Didn’t I tell you?”
Massaging his refined neck with his right hand, Kurama said, “With those hoodlums, it would be a mystery if they could stop that guy.”
“Impossible. There are 10 units of ASes completely equipped. The pilots aren’t amateurs either. Even though there was a mistake with the M9, this time...”
“I’m hoping for that. But, we have to prepare ourselves”
“We’ll do what we want over here. Then prepare via wireless radio. Because we have to let him know where his goal point is.”
The Chief turned and glanced at Kurama with a dubious face.
Kurama said, “This place is the mark.”
♦ ♦ ♦
Using every bit of the Hydraulic system, Sousuke’s white Savage headed south from the overgrown shrubs in the hills.
He traversed a number of paved roads, getting closer to Namsak. Every now and then he saw a residence intended for low income people.
To get to the center of the town from here he had to cross the Shenton River that crossed from the Northwest curvature of the city to the north.
Originally the Savage was equipped with a river crossing capability, but equipping the unit with an air supply mechanism snorkel was not necessary. The unit had received a lot of damage; the electrical system’s water tightness was also compromised.
Moreover, without a way to gauge the water’s depth, entering the river would be suicide.
There were two bridges that would allow the solid 12 tons of the Savage to cross: the Purinoko Bridge, which was off the highway, and the Wasaru Bridge, which was 1 kilometer to the south. There was no mistake that both bridges were guarded by the police. After coming to Namsak Sousuke had committed the terrain to his memory. Based on this mental map he chose the Purinoko Bridge. This was because it was the closest to the city center.
If Kurama were to try and urgently escape by himself, he would have to reach the airport. But according to Michael Lemon via the wireless radio, Kurama had not appeared at the airport. Lemon was behind Sousuke in a car heading for Namsak. His comrades, the agents of DGSE, were observing the airport.
Kurama was still in Namsak.
Sousuke never thought that Kurama would be chased into the streets, but it was possible that there was some trouble and he was just late in escaping-
That was not possible. He was waiting.
He was making preparations and putting things in order for the battle. He himself was going to fight, to go for the kill. This time he certainly had the determination to kill.
Sousuke understood that well. It was not super natural reasoning, but more of a gut feeling. Kurama knew Sousuke’s anger. Sousuke also, knowing that Kurama knew this, continued to move. Both of them were pros, both of them had killed an ally.
With two pros being pushed this far, they may have been able to avoid danger and simply wait for the next opportunity to
present itself. If the opponent had not been Kurama, Sousuke would have thought of that as a possibility.
But this time was different.
Before a mountainous pile of rational strategy was a lot of irrational and absurd super mathematics. Nobody knew how a pair of ones will become two, but otherwise there would be numbers, and people would not know. It was understandable that men wondered at the mathematics of life and death lurking at the borderline. Even those men were not able to explain it to others.
With the elliptical significance, Sousuke and Kurama were Comrades in Arms.
Of course both had mutual hatred looming, and by no means could have a compromise. However, something was understood. It was just like it had been with Gauron, in a room in Hong Kong, when he had accurately seen through the true nature of Sousuke.
His unit was nearing the Purinoko Bridge.
The width of the river was around 600 meters, and the black water surface flickered with the lights cast from street lamps. No, not only the street lamps; rotating blue lamps were also shining.
Before the bridge there were 2 patrol cars and one armored car, creating a check point. Aside from the policemen that were carrying Shotguns and carbine guns, a turret machine gun was installed on the roof of the armored car.
Sousuke changed his facial expression and operated the unit’s power level. He understood the tired engine’s expression: move subtlety and discretely, but with determination.
Suddenly the oil pressure gauge was shaking bit by bit and the unit’s temperature needle started rising critically.
No worries, it could still make it.
The warm open air rising from his machine was in sharp contrast to that area’s coldness.
The Savage’s engine was roaring. He accelerated, trampling the ground with heavy movements.
The policemen warned him to “stop”. Sousuke did not stop. To the Savage, the bullets of the infantry were like small drops of rain, a small annoyance. The unit accelerated and kicking the armored car.
He broke through.
The armored car turned sideways. Policemen ran away.
Sousuke hurriedly pushed the unit forward and crossed the bridge at full speed. While on the bridge he was without shelter. It took him mere seconds to cross.
He reached a short building in the town area and suddenly stopped. The heel of the Savage bore at the asphalt and white clouds of dirt trailed behind him.
The engine’s output was diminishing, but he stopped to listen.
Around 5 or 6 residents came up the road, pointing their fingers in his direction. In Namsak it was not rare to have an AS walk on the roadway, but the residents sensed the Savage’s unusual bearing and they didn’t go near it.
Even after listening he had gleaned no new information. It was totally different from the high efficiency sensor of the M9. Judging that it would be better to continue moving, Sousuke started up his unit.
When the “Enemy units” came, that would be the time.
2 units of ASes were heading up the street, passing the corners of four blocks. A Savage and a Mistral 2. They each had a Shot cannon and rifle in their hands.
They were not from the military. The Savage was a loud purple, and the Mistral 2 had a red/yellow two tone color.
They were the ASes from the Arena.
The Chief must have employed these guys. Veteran pilots with enough weapons. What troublesome opponents.
Sousuke only had one HEAT Hammer to fight against the weapons of these units.
The enemy units noticed something and retraced their steps.
Sousuke raised his unit’s engine output once again. He made his unit run towards a building for cover to avoid the enemy’s aim.
“It starts huh...” Sousuke murmured, his voice echoing in the coldness.
He removed the safety pin of his HEAT Hammer. It was like turning a key inside himself and cancelling the safety equipment.
The Mistral 2’s ring name was “Diamond Head”. He didn’t have a special connection with the Savage he was walking with; it’s just that they both took a position near each other. When the policemen at the Purinoko Bridge called them they had immediately headed to the same place.
Rather, the Savage beside him (ring name “Super Star”, 2 wins 5 loses) by all means wanted the enemy for himself.
“He’s here, just ahead.”
“Heh, walking unconcerned. What a stupid fool.”
“Make some room! He’s my prey!”
$30,000 dollar and 50 kilos of Heroine.
Only by dealing with that white Savage, “Crossbow”, could they gain that. In this case, Super Star was not accustomed to thinking of being shot in the back.
But Diamond Head would selfishly consider it if the opportunity presented itself.
Then Crossbow, who had disappeared by running into a building, appeared for a second time with a light step.
He had no weapons on hand. The distance was about 200 meters.
While the two ASes scrambled to aim, Sousuke easily brandished his right hand, like throwing at something energetically. There was an outline like a falling axe with a sharp revolution. By the time he had comprehended that the solid object was a HEAT Hammer, Super Star’s chest was already hit. He instantly exploded.
The explosive energy ripped through the armor of Super Star, driving extreme heat into the unit interior. That Savage was burning. It fell down and let go of its shot cannon.
Diamond Head staggered in the explosive flame and fell to his knees. From his riffle he spat out 35 mm shells, filling the road with smoke in its shockwave and scattering his surroundings in a concentric circular.
“Now you did it!? You dirty dog! Biting back as a kid!? I’ll kill you! I’ll kill you!”
Cursing as much as possible, Diamond Head continued to shoot. But because of the distortion of the temperature, explosive smoke reduced his field of vision and he was not able to make good aim.
The shells cut the vacant air and a number of old buildings got torn up raggedly.
There was no response. He returned in order to confirm the position of the enemy unit. Already a few steps ahead, the Crossbow drew near. The chest armor scrubbed the asphalt to keep a low profile and it instantly lunged forward.
It was a tackle full of power.
The shock of the attack turned the world upside down.
The fuselage practically fell down. With the noise of the flickering screen, the indicators of the gyro were violently rotating. If you compared the armor and weight of the Savage to the Mistral, the Mistral was superior. But it had no stability to recover from such a collision.
“Dammit! Dammit, Dammit, Dammit!!”
The shock absorption system caused him to bite his tongue. He manipulated his limbs to cause the fuselage to move back into an upright position. The optical sensor had come back on and he perceived the scenery around him. His unit had landed horizontally and in front of his eyes the white Savage stood, with a shot cannon aiming his way.
The enemy had picked up the shot cannon which had been dropped by the crushed Super Star. Its muzzle was aimed at the cockpit, leaving an ominous brilliance.
The enemy Savage shot the shot cannon. The shell destroyed the mounted cannon in the nether region of his AS.
The enemy pilot asked a question, “Say it. How many more units?”
The Crossbow let out another shot. It blew off “Diamond Head’s right arm.
“Stop it! E-e-eight units!”
“Have you seen a man with a black coat? Large build, short hair, Asian.”
“I...I’ve seen him. He was with the Chief in the arena-”
The enemy fired again. A fierce cannon roar pierced the night. His unit slid a few meters above the asphalt. Smoke came
out and the AS stopped. If he heard the necessary information, he had no reason to let him live. But the pilot of Diamond Head, who thought he had been killed, opened his shut eyes. Frightened tears flowed and his eyes blinked several times.
The enemy had already left the area. He was heading towards the center of the city.
In an instant, the strong urge to “chase and kill him” expanded in his heart, but immediately he realized that it was hopeless. Both the arms of his unit had been blown off. There was also no certainty that he could stand up.
“Are you fucking with me!? You think you have some compassion!? You can’t be saved now! Just look! The next time we meet I’ll definitely kill you! No, I’m going to fuck with you! You’ll be turning tiles in hell!”
His still functioning external speakers cursed with the man’s voice, echoing in the streets of a completely chilled Namsak.
♦ ♦ ♦
Not even slightly worried about the curses that followed him, Sousuke hastened his unit to the center of the city.
It was good fortune that he was able to immediately use the mobile weapon taken from the enemy. First of all this was not the regular army. In a regular situation the mobile weapons of an AS, which are different from their human sized counterparts, would not be able to be picked up and used by an enemy. There is an encryption in the firing system to prevent it. To be able to break through the encryption and possess the weapon, even the best AI equipped in the M9 would require a suitable amount of time.
The shot cannon that his Savage was now carrying, was an Oto Melara made Boxer 57mm cannon. Back when he had still been piloting the Arbalest for Mithril that had been his favorite weapon.
There was a call in the open channel of the wireless radio.
“Do you hear me, Sagara?”
It was none other than the voice of Kurama.
“Would saying ‘loud and clear’ be enough?”
“I’m in the Arena. If you have the guts come and get me.”
“You’re not running away. You’ll regret that.”
“I wonder about that.”
And then the wireless radio cut out. Right now for them there was no need to engage in unnecessary conversation. One was being invited to be killed. And the other embarked to kill. There was no longer any room for bargaining or compromise.
That’s right, Kurama.
You do what you want. I will also.
From here on, it was not necessary to think. Instinct took over and he was shrouded in clear killing intent, clear hatred.
I will definitely kill that bastard.
There was a warning sound.
Sousuke immediately returned from his thoughts.
The fuselage temperature was not going down. The meter of the hydraulic system was uncertain. The drive system was making crisp strange noises. The Gyro, with merely 10 minutes of correction left, started to deviate in a strange manner.
But it would take a long time before the Crossbow caved in to the rising sound of repeated overuse.
There was no need to worry.
Then he encounters two new police car blockades. There were two patrol cars; the same as the previous one. They were not equipped with small fire power. Judging that fighting them would be useless, Sousuke fired a shot and broke through the blockade.
The buildings in the surrounding areas were not that tall. There were a number of street lights and a number of passersby. The Chief and the others, who knew that the vicinity would become a hostile area, had taken most of the residents into refuge.
In the center of the city, three ASes appeared in the shadows of the street lamps and neon lights.
Were they there from the start, or did they slowly catch up? Savage, Drache and Cyclone. Russian manufactured, German manufactured and English manufactured. There was such a variety of assembly that even Sousuke, who had grown up in disputed area of the Middle East, had not seen the like.
The enemy shot.
Sousuke’s unit was surrounded by scattering shells. Glass and concrete splashed all around. They didn’t even have decent aim. The weapons control system was mostly dead, and it was mostly roughed up. It would last five more minutes.
He skillfully moved his unit to evade while taking manual aim. He pointed the Shot cannon at the Drache in the center.
Miss. The Optic sensor and the aiming system’s calculation were terrible. Correcting the ballistics, he let out another shot. The fuselage shook from the violent vibration of the 57 mm cannon. This time it was a hit. The enemy AS sparked and flew back, smashing into the porno shop behind it while white smoke scattered everywhere.
Wincing, the enemy fired.
Sousuke twisted his unit, hiding in a nearby building. Of course to also defend from the enemy bullets, this kind of cover was not enough. Before the 35mm shells the walls of the cheap structure were like a sugar pastry. No matter what it would be pulverized.
The penetrating enemy shells were scattering splinters and in the flurry of shots Sousuke’s Savage had also taken a few hits.
Klunk, a strong impact hit.
It was still alright. The next bullet of enemy shells hit the building. His armor did not sustain serious damage. Having corrected his disordered gyro, Sousuke pushed his unit to run.
It would not be strange if the unit easily broke down from fatigue, but the Crossbow was not like that.
This was because of the unit’s Software, the Operation System, Sousuke finally realized.
The shabby unit was able to deal with the violent scuffle because on top of the original program various modifications were put into it. If it were the same Savage that Sousuke used during the Afghan times, he would not be able to do it. In the old days it should have fallen and would have missed its aim. And then the enemy would not overlook the opportunity to strike.
Who improved this OS?
Who looked into the trouble of this unit?
Recalling that, something ignited in the calmness that Sousuke had preserved in his heart. No, it was not that the flame in his heart had been weak. It was that the passion further intensified. To the eyes of a beholder it would seem to be like lighting gushing out of him.
“Don’t get in my way-” Sousuke muttered.
He spurred Crossbow on. He looked at all the indications on the screen, reading all the senses conveyed by the frame in an instant. Controlling the unit appropriately, he led it to the blind spot of the enemy unit.
Shooting from that position, how would the enemy move? Where would he move himself?
No matter how bad the sensor performance was, he already knew what was natural. Running past the ravine of the unseen building, Sousuke’s Savage took the position that was his goal. The enemy unit, a Cyclone, was surrounded by a building.
He stopped, aimed, and weighed the timing.
The shot went beyond the building.
Penetrating the building materials, the 57mm cannon shells hit the side of the enemy’s abdomen. The Cyclone caught fire and fell sideways.
That’s 4 units.
The remaining Savage fired. This was also a random attack. From it, he revealed his own position. Sousuke calmly knelt his unit down and drove the armor piercing shells of his shot cannon into the remaining Savage.
The loaded jet fuel caught fire, together with a fierce roar the enemy units exploded, shattering the glass windows of a nearby building.
Don’t get in my way-
Chanting with dark eyes, his unit ran. Then 3 more units appeared. He took out two of them instantly.
Don’t get in my way-
He was showered from the counterattack of the remaining unit. His broken chest armor had already been shot. The fragments of the pierced shell reached the cockpit and the left display screen
broke to pieces. The scattered plastic cut Sousuke’s temple superficially.
Don’t get in my way...!!
He paid no mind to the agony. He simply ascertained the unit’s status. There was serious damage in the left half of the hydraulic system. Even then the Savage could still move. But it was already in its countdown stage until it stopped moving.
He aimed the shot cannon, and fired.
That’s 8 units.
While busily operating the Crossbow’s fuselage system, the hydraulics of the left foot was somehow restored. Not yet. The tattered machine could still move.
There were only two shots remaining in the shot cannon. With a single shot one enemy was taken down, Sousuke headed his unit toward the arena.
He approached what appeared to be a floating Soccer stadium illuminated by the light of a mercury lamp. He eyed a police patrol car and an armored car in front; they were confused and were not prepared for an ambush attack. They didn’t think that Sousuke would have appeared this quickly.
He saw the Chief in one of the patrol cars. Obviously in confusion, he ordered his surrounding men to “shoot”. The infantry rifle would not be able to harm an AS, it was impossible-
Unexpectedly a scream was heard overhead.
It was a roar from exterior speakers. The M6, equipped with a riffle with a monomolecular cutter as a bayonet, performed an ambush by jumping off from a building. He pressed against Sousuke.
A number of shots rained down. The Crossbow agilely- as “agilely” as a standard Savage could get- somersaulted and barely escaped the attack of the M6. The fragments of the shattered asphalt emitted white smoke, swirling in the surroundings of the unit.
The M6 started attacking with the bayonet at the same time that Sousuke got him in the sights of his shot cannon.
Sousuke pulled the trigger. There was an explosion like a flash near the Savage. The remaining shot of the shot cannon blew off the right shoulder of the M6 above, along with the weapon in its arm, which was now spinning in mid air. The bayonet rifle that the enemy had let go stuck vertically on the ground then fell on to the patrol car next to it. Its fierce vibration crushed the backseat.
“Shithead! You’re gonna have to pay for that!”
For the first time, he noticed the voice of his opponent. It was Dao. Vile curses spewed from his mouth. With the left arm, he pulled out a monomolecular cutter equipped in his unit’s hips, and pointed it towards Sousuke’s Savage. With intense enthusiasm he slashed forward. Sousuke deflected the slash with his cut shot cannon.
“Die, Sagara!! Die!!”
There was a warning sound.
The strength of the knees were collapsing. Crossbow’s hydraulic system had suddenly lost its power. The unit’s damage and fatigue had finally reached its limits.
At a time like this....!?
Sousuke gave up the agility of the hydraulic system, and moved with only the muscle packages of the unit. Looking upward, he stretched his hand out to the bayonet attached to the rifle that had fallen a moment ago.
What a sluggish movement. But this was the maximum. There was no further than this.
“It’s no use! Shitty bastard!”
Guessing its destination Dao’s M6 pierced the hand of the Savage before it had reached the gun. Then he thrust the monomolecular cutter in the cockpit at the chest area.
The right hand of the Savage searched for the gun, he had barely been able to use the left arm as a cover. Dao’s monomolecular cutter pierced through the left arm and sparks scattered like heavy rain. The arm’s armor, muscle package, and frame were being severed one by one, and then the chest armor began to corrode.
“Ha, hahaha! Go to hell!!”
Dao cried with a hysterical voice.
There was a fierce vibration and the noise of the casting armor being severed.
His own unit’s chest area was being cut down. It was just a little more until the cockpit. Just a few centimeters and Sousuke’s body would become two equal parts. And at that instant, the control system was down. The monitor was mostly broken, and the controls for the left side wouldn’t respond at all. It was all over.
If it were an ordinary AS, the unit would have already lost all control capabilities and all that would await the pilot would be death. This was true for the M9 and even for the Arbalest.
In this case, the Crossbow’s right arm free manipulator still continued to move. He stubbornly continued to search the ground for the rifle.
This simple and tough system of the Savage had made it this far and had not died yet. The masterpiece that was this Arm
Slave should go down in history. It would not leave behind its pilot until the last moment.
The right hand found the rifle with a solid grip.
He raised the muzzle. There was no need to aim. He pushed the rifle to the body of the leaning M6. The 40mm shell vomited towards Dao.
The shot unit shook violently.
A shroud hanging above the Savage looking upwards, the M6 was not moving and the monomolecular cutter that had been about to cut Sousuke had stopped. From the joints and places where it was shot leaked oil and blood were dripping. Of course white smoke and steam were hovering above the wreck.
Dao’s jeers had also stopped.
That’s 10 units.
Sousuke let out a deep sigh and kicked off the rigorous M6. But the unit does not respond.
Sousuke’s Savage had already completely lost its functions. The hydraulic system, of course, the electronics and the motor systems were already dead. The engine would also stop sometime soon. That unit would never move again.
The mission of the Crossbow had ended.
Sousuke silently pulled the lever of the emergency escape of the unit. The hatch at the head area blew off. Crawling out of the cockpit he took the carbine gun attached on the other side of the hatch and the spare magazine.
The policemen had already run away. There were no idiots who would linger to look at the scuffle of the ASes. He could only hear jeers and scream from afar.
Accidentally looking in the patrol car where he had fought with Dao, he found a familiar face on a corpse.
It was the Chief.
Taking refuge from the arena, he was caught up in his own battle. Bad luck for the guy. It was not even retribution. It was a useless death. But for Sousuke, the Chief was not his concern or his target.
Crossing the rubble scattered road, gripping the carbine gun in a stance without any openings, he headed to the entrance of the arena.
Kurama was inside there.
No matter what kind of ambush awaited, he had to go in.
♦ ♦ ♦
He waited in the security office in the depths of the Arena. Even though Kurama had silently prepared for an ambush, Sousuke’s “arrival” was unexpectedly early.
Even after releasing 10 units of AS to impede him, he was not stopped.
He took a 56mm shell packed in a magazine and slammed it into a German manufactured rifle.
There were 2 spare magazines.
He had even devised a trap. In one place inside the arena it would be possible to use a remote device to detonate a small amount of C4 explosives.
However, that would be enough.
If he would be able to entice the enemy into his skillful trap, all he had to do was to push the button. It was just a matter of whether Sagara Sousuke would pass through the trap, truly only god knew.
If we wanted to run away, he would still make it.
He was not really weak willed it was just, having a calm tactical sense, Kurama had carefully investigated if it was possible to withdraw or not. A reason to run away did not come into his mind. He did not make light of Sagara Sousuke’s tactical skills, but they were not inferior to his own.
When it was finally settled, he would leave that place. He would take a flight from the capital’s international airport towards North America- that’s right, in first class. He would be drinking champagne when the plane departed in celebration of having killed Sousuke very well.
Kurama grasped the rifle casually and left the security office without a sound.
♦ ♦ ♦
Because the “Arena” was originally a Soccer stadium the central stadium was capable of being surrounded by a large gallery. The structure of the gallery was inserted with several stairs, toilets, shops, and small rooms.
He still didn’t know where Kurama was. He also didn’t have the time to know if he had laid some kind of trap or what its mechanism might be.
Inside his right boot it was damp and difficult to walk.
He was covered in his own blood.
The fragments that had flown around inside the AS had cut his right temple. That was where he was bleeding.
He pushed himself to walk and waves of agony burned through him. His field of vision was becoming gloomy and his head was getting dazed. Right now his own body was in a similar situation as the Crossbow.
The ceiling of the gallery was high; and light from the street lights and conflagration were streaming through the glass windows and diluting the bizarre oblong shadow.
Sousuke’s own shadow was reflected on the walls of the gallery, dancing in an eerie shape. That shadow was like the grim
reaper. He held the carbine gun and flames flickered around him. His form was like a silent ghost.
He looked at the corner of his field of vision and then chased after the traces of the enemy with his eyes. Then, Sousuke finally noticed.
Isn’t that about him?
Up to this point, to get to this place, how many people had he killed?
What was his reason for his running like this? Was there any profit in their deaths?
He couldn’t say that killing Kurama was the real reason. Wasn’t the result of chasing after him to get him to spit out information about Amalgam?
For that reason he had built up a mountain of corpses. Among that mountain was also the corpse of Nami. The corpse of Nami who had seen the dreams of ordinary people.
Making himself go that far, to be able to temporarily meet that girl, what would he be able to say?
“I came here to rescue you. It doesn’t matter how many people have already become victims; a cheerful girl like you can’t die, you don’t need to worry.”
That can’t be it. That kind of truth would only tear that girl apart.
She wouldn’t be happy if people got killed for her sake. When they quarreled she would be noisy and would be fine with kicking and hitting him, but her true essence was to fight against war and death. Like a symbol of calmness and kindness. Since he was being driven by hatred to hurt, this kind of killing would be to harm the existence of the girl herself.
Sousuke hardly understood the meaning of this phrase.
But he was being burdened with Karma.
No matter how he faced it, it was a tearing of his world beyond all repairs. Just like the second rule of Thermodynamics. He by no means- that’s right, by no means- could attain happiness after reuniting with her. He couldn’t go back to that school with the two of them.
From the start, wasn’t that already it?
A simple truth, that’s what he thought. It was not sorrow and despair, or the principle of pessimism, it was the grave truth. The rapids of the raging fates just gazed in coldness without feeling.
Even then, he could not stop.
He still had fighting spirit towards Kurama.
He also had a score to settle with Amalgam.
No, those impulses had already expired; the drive of his cells simply could not stop. Those were already the strength of the will and the fierce anger. Those elements had already reached another dimension.
In its foundation it was something automatic, always moving with him.
Moving irregularly dragging the crooked shadow of the reaper, he reached the semicircle of the arena’s gallery.
There was no trap. There was not even the indication of any people. No-
He continued to approach the front of a large staircase; at the top of that floor was a presence.
The moment that Sousuke moved, the top of the floor flickered with the flame of a muzzle.
The sound of gunfire tore his ears. At the same time there echoed the sharp noise of shells piercing the air. Sousuke jumped to the corner of the gallery, heading in the opposite direction of the gunfire. With the agile warning of his eyes he stooped his body.
Considering the fact that he was absent minded from fatigue and injury, he regained the sharpness of his wits quickly.
The one shooting was Kurama. It was not that he had seen anybody, it was the floating silhouette in the darkness; he was able to judge from that.
He counterattacked. Pushing out the gun from the corner, he shot.
It couldn’t possibly hit, the enemy was guarding his head. If he wanted to shoot he had to get out of the corner and try to move to gain a more advantageous shooting position. Kurama, at the same time, fired a diversionary shot, trying to retreat. Chasing immediately was dangerous.
Looking for another option, 15 meters to the left he found the entrance to a small floor used by the personnel. It was a multipurpose emergency staircase.
It shone brightly.
Even if the probability of getting shot was 50-50, the route was close enough.
Sousuke resolutely jumped to the first floor, running up at once. Blood stained his right boot making a sloppy and shameful sound.
When he got up to the second floor, Kurama was waiting in ambush. Inside the gallery of the second floor there was a shot from the shadow of a pillar with graffiti on it. As expected. He fixed the place in his mind and hid his body in cover, nimbly returning fire. Sparks were flying about nearby and shells were breaking into the concrete wall and floor with fluttering sounds.
There was not even any pretext of conversation. Originally, this was what a battle was.
As the bullets rained down, he waited for the timing of the enemy’s magazine replacement to run to a more advantageous position. He barely made it on time. Kurama’s delayed shots chased after him.
Shots flew from behind the big pillar.
Kurama was hiding, escaping inside and moving towards a blind spot.
Kurama retreated. Sousuke chased.
In between shots, the muzzle flashes projected a shadow on the walls of the gallery. The shadow was like a grotesque monster, moving brilliantly like it was projected into a frame.
Kurama ran away again.
The enemy faced the narrow passage- seeing him running towards the continuous stairs of the stadium’s audience seat, Sousuke drew nearer with conviction.
It was tempting.
But running after him like that was dangerous. The audience seats were unobstructed. It became a situation where sniping from somewhere would not be strange. If he continued running after Kurama then they would be in another place, and he had to take a position where he could take Kurama out at once.
The broadcast seat-
If it were in the room where the announcer or commentator broadcasts the matches, it could work.
Sousuke made a prompt decision and headed towards the personnel passage. He ran towards the iron door where “unauthorized persons keep out” was written. He grasped the handle of the iron door and tried to turn it without a key. The door opened and he advanced towards the passage inside.
At that instant, Sousuke thought that his judgment was too relaxed.
His opponent was Kurama.
When Kurama had retreated he had meekly chased after him, as expected. It was different from the stairs some time ago. If it were to be finished, it had to be there. Then, since he was watching out for Kurama’s trap, this was the place where he had aimed.
Using intuition, his back muscles became active, as if they had received an electric shock. He jumped back from the opened iron door. At the same time, the plastic explosives waiting in the door exploded. Sousuke was sent flying with the iron door.
There was a bluish white flash and a shockwave.
His left shoulder was weighed down by the iron door and with overwhelming force he was blown in the opposite direction.
The ceiling and floor changed places over and over.
His whole body slammed into the floor.
Even then, he rolled on the floor hitting several garbage cans. Sweeping them down, he finally stopped when he hit the opposite wall.
Explosive flame and white smoke spun in the gallery, slowly being seen. His body rolled from the garbage cans, pet bottles and empty cans scattered about. His eye caught them spinning in the air.
He was done for.
Even though he thought so, Sousuke immediately raised his body. With terrible shock and agony, he gathered his hands and feet. If he were wearing the Mithril made AS pilot suit that was shock proof and heat proof, this would not have been happening.
But his left arm would not move as he wanted.
Was it dislocated, or was it fractured? A burning pain was attacking him. It was like there was no strength. With both knees shaking, he stood up with the gun in his right hand supporting him.
Raising his face, he headed forward, not knowing if he could still operate the gun. Both his eyes were misty. The reverberation of the explosion echoed in his head.
Heading towards the flame and smoke he saw the form of Kurama.
He was getting into the perfect shooting position, surely aiming for his body. He was finally confronting Sousuke. Stirring very little, he aimed his muzzle with all his might towards his opponent.
His body twitched with slow shock. The bullet hit, piercing. Even a bullet proof pilot suit could not stop a rifle bullet. Blood splattered the walls behind him.
Then there were several shots. He did not know if his staggering body was hit. He was unable to tell.
Is this it?
He felt total darkness behind his eyes and Sousuke collapsed.
♦ ♦ ♦
He had not expected to kill him with the plastic explosives, but that he was able to stand there with gun after being hit was also unforeseen.
But, that was it.
Kurama, who had shot Sagara Sousuke, with rifle on hand and without getting careless, slowly approached.
He had to ascertain by making a headshot. Because of the flames from the explosion and smoke interrupting his field of vision, he could not grasp the extent of the damage from his position.
In most cases, the first shot was already a fatal wound. Even if he was left alone there was no doubt that he would die. He wasn’t even conscious.
However, he felt a new presence.
It was not one person. Two, three, no four persons. Probably more.
There was a sound of faint rustling of uniforms and equipment. If he had been more attentive he would have noticed the presences despite their stealth.
It was them.
In the mountains near the vicinity of Munamera, he and the chief were attacked. Which Special Forces were they from? They had finally made it this far. As expected, he didn’t want to face off with all of them; he needed to secure an escape route.
He didn’t even waste a single moment of regret. Putting off Sousuke, Kurama agilely moved. First, he shot the man with the rifle in the shoulder that carelessly had half his body exposed in the stairs.
The sharp screams and gunfire echoed in the gallery.
Body cowering, he neglected the associate who helped his injured comrade. He silently moved to the opposite direction, running towards the south of the gallery.
He saw two enemy soldiers who tried to pincer attack him.
He aimed faster than the enemy and shot.
Pushing with simple strength would be enough.
One of them fell down defenselessly; another one shot his machine gun. Kurama’s bullet proof coat was able to defend against a submachine gun’s bullets. Without faltering, and with skill, he shot the enemy to death.
Faster than the man’s back falling to the floor, Kurama rushed over to his place, taking a hand grenade out. He removed the safety pin and, beyond the passageway, threw the grenade in the direction where another enemy was hiding. Clank. Making noise in the air, the grenade rolled to the corner.
Curses and screams filled the air. There were continued explosions.
With a whirlpool of smoke as a backdrop in the dim light, Kurama, without mercy, shot the two people who fell in agony in the narrow passage.
His poker face did not change. The enemy was a hindrance to him again. Kurama couldn’t stand it. While massacring these people vigorously, he felt like wasting them, no matter where they were from. But time was already up. He did not know how many enemies there were; remaining there would be too dangerous.
Fluttering his black and heavy bullet proof coat, he returned to the previous place with a fast pace. He was returning to the passage where the plastic explosives had detonated. Sagara Sousuke was not moving and on the verge of death. He had paced back to finish him off.
But Sousuke was not there.
He had disappeared in the smoke and only blood remained on the floor. His enemy was not there.
No, there were trails of blood.
There were bloodstains in a tottering pattern, going left and right, rolling into the walls of the gallery behind the garbage cans-
From behind those garbage cans, a pale faced Sousuke, with carbine gun in hand immediately shot. Flanked with a heavy impact, Kurama’s body staggered.
And then another shot. The rifle shells pierced the bullet proof coat, smashing his chest.
He could no longer stand. Kurama staggered to the opposite direction, kneeling on one knee and dropping the rifle in his hand. He collapsed into the blood trail made by Sousuke.
♦ ♦ ♦
Hiding behind the enemy and not letting the opportunity run away was actually over thinking things. He was not dead yet. He could still move. He still had the strength remaining to pull the trigger.
That was it.
Sousuke stood up in agony and walked halfway, about 10 meters, to where Kurama had fallen.
His left arm was not responding. It was tremendous agony every time he breathed, and blood from his body continued to flow. There was a large hole in his stomach. But he was able to stand; his spinal cord was still connected somehow. But as for how much longer he would still be able to live, Sousuke could easily guess.
But, before that-
“Kurama” Sousuke said, mustering the remaining strength in his lungs.
With his right hand shaking he aimed the muzzle of his carbine gun towards his opponent. His aim was undependable and shaky.
“Tell me. Where is Chidori?”
“...listen... what do you plan to do?” Kurama murmured.
Blood was spluttering from his mouth.
“To save her.”
“Are you stupid?”
Even on the verge of death, Kurama’s voice echoed with amazement.
“Sorry. I’d as soon die gnashing my teeth.”
Well, that’s right. That was the natural response. But even then, Sousuke said.
Kurama didn’t answer. In exchange, he said with a weak voice.
“I don’t know....both of us....simultaneously dying.... why not?”
“Is it the power of love? Don’t make me laugh.”
If he affirmed those words lightly, he would be falling to hell for thousands of years. Kurama’s voice was confined to an echo.
“Why can’t it be?” Sousuke asked.
There was no cynicism or objection, he was just purely inquiring.
Didn’t the current situation show it?
He had stood up on his own; then he had been victorious.
There was coincidence. But there was also some immeasurable element.
As for the results, he himself was standing there asking the questions. That was the truth of his authority.
Love or whatever, Kurama didn’t know those words.
But, in that situation, there was a singular reason. An unmovable will had intervened.
As a result, can he deny it?
“San Carlos,” Kurama said with an indifferent voice.
“And then Nikelo, or Granada. It’s those places. After that, I don’t know.”
“Is that so?”
“Worthless. Whatever. It’s no good. Didn’t I stop smoking?”
After that, Kurama never spoke again.
Sousuke fell on both knees.
Before he’d noticed, the carbine gun had fallen from his hands. His foot was bleeding. The big hole in his stomach was not closing. His field of vision was narrowing. Consciousness was disappearing somewhere far.
“Nickelo, Otherwise Granada....”
He recited like he was delirious.
He had to tell someone. But, who would take his place to fight? Who would get her back?
He did not know.
He didn’t know anything anymore.
What was he asking himself? What was he trying to say? Where would he disappear to now?
He fell down looking upwards.
The ceiling was already fading and mostly couldn’t be seen.
Michael Lemon was rushing over, looking down at him with a ghastly face.
What was he calling for?
He had heard those words many times. He knew those words very well in the past.
But those things didn’t matter anymore.
What remained in his mind in the end was the form of that girl.
He was not thinking of Nami. Why was it that the girl was angry? She was scowling, with her fists on her hips, glaring at him.
But the next face came tearing at him. It was smiling and said, “Cheer up!”
While living in Namsak, he had not been able to think of her face. Now it was reviving with vividness. He thought that it might be good living like that. Right now he still could not believe it.
He wanted to meet. No matter what. He already knew that it was impossible. He still wanted to meet her.
To be beside her.
Someone struck his back and said something.
Only that, that would be enough.
At least one more time-
♦ ♦ ♦
There was a voice.
From far away.
From a place under the sky.
A voice was heard. From somewhere far away. Far away from the bottom of the sky. It returned the shattered sound of the breaking waves. Vague pieces of information were drifting, become a variety of colors and sounds.
To start with she was in a shallow form of sleep. The girl’s attention was being pulled away. It was returning to the sound of waves breaking.
In that direction was a dim echo, a dim voice.
Her surroundings were absentmindedness and light blending together. From there floated a faint fragment of information; floating with different reasons and sounds unchanging.
She spun around from the fragment. That voice was faintly disappearing. The girl made an effort to pick it up.
It was the usual. It was pulling from inside of her.
The girl knew that voice.
Wanting to meet with him.
That was what the voice was conveying.
At first, the girl did not know the meaning of that voice.
But immediately she understood.
To leave that place with “him”; in other words it was about “him”.
The girl indistinctly conjectured whose voice it was. It was her own, but at the same time, it was not. She had never met the owner of that voice. She would never be able to meet them from then on.
At the same time, in a different space-time- this is different, what world is this?- She saw the man she wanted to be with. Meeting him once… there was a person with that fate.
How they were speaking across that strange territory the two people did not know.
And then the voice sounded again.
However, separating with him-
The voice, strictly speaking, did not abide by the language of man that is “Tense”. But at the same time it was “Farewell”, there was also a “I will be leaving you”.
Farewell? Why? The girl asked.
----Because I am dead.
So that was it, “being dead”.
----No one could have replaced you.
Is he alright? Where is he?
----I do not know.
----with a deep wound.
Not only that, the girl knew more than that. He was continuing to fight, he was alone, and he, probably, was searching for himself.
Her chest ached.
She wanted to stop.
But she didn’t want to stop.
What should she do? The girl did not know.
He was able to meet you. So that guy is special?
----I don’t think so.
----You know right?
----He is only a normal human.
Even then, wanting to see me, also meeting you. And that girl. And that guy.
----That is not a strange thing.
----It is strange to have met you.
That might not be so.
It’s useless to say sorry right?
Yeah. But I’m sorry
----But that’s alright.
----If it’s a different place
----there would also be a different result.
----I have to go.
----There’s also that whisper.
----But one last thing.
----If you meet with him one more time, please forgive him.
----Be sure to hug him.
I can’t promise that...
----But I think that would be best.
----Even thinking about it is good.
And then the voice became farther. And then it could no longer be heard
♦ ♦ ♦
Waking up, the soft light struck at her eyelids.
It was dazzling.
Chidori Kaname closed her eyes and turned over with a white sheet.
She could hear the sounds of the waves.
The sea air was a gentle wind. Stirring from the fully opened window, the lace of the canopy hanging in the king size bed floated gently.
When did she fall asleep?
What did she dream? She couldn’t remember the details. As usual. Although it was an important story, everything had disappeared.
What kind of dream did she see? It was like the remains of a nostalgic sadness and loneliness. Kaname’s mood became melancholic.
It was not noon yet.
Where is this mansion? Where is this seaside, on top of a hill? Outside the window, the glittering green seas were spread all over.
With an unpleasant chill she pulled the sheets closer to herself. Right now she wore only a thin camisole and shorts.
There was a knock on the plain but refined door.
“Please excuse me.”
A girl in a suit came in. Her age and physique were not so different from Kaname’s.
She had brown hair cut in short bob and she was wearing boorish eyeglasses.
Kaname sat up in the bed and tilted her head lightly at the girl.
“Were you resting?”
“It’s alright. What do you need?”
“Three o’clock tea. From then on, the evaluation of the data from the Behemoth-I that was delivered this morning, we wish to question you about it.”
“On the desk. The USB.”
“Thank you very much.”
The girl poured Darjeeling in the tea cup and produced a small dish of cookies.
“Are you tired?”
“Not really. I only dosed off.”
“You had a sad dream right?”
“How did you know?”
The girl looked at Kaname touched the corner of her eye lightly with her index finger.
“Tracks of your tears.”
After she said it Kaname looked at the mirror inside the bedroom. It was as the girl had said.
“That’s right,” she muttered, wiping the corner of her eyes.
“Sad dream. Probably not only about me, everyone must have seen it.”
Why would she not accept being beside him? What was the basis for those feeling? Tears began flowing from her eyes again.
She sipped the tea.
It had a wonderful aroma and flavor. Even then, her tears did not stop.