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Full Metal Panic! - Volume 9 - Chapter 4


Chapter 4: Night of Storm 
 
 
 The M6A3 Dark Bushnell that Sousuke was riding was soaring through the dark skies over the southern part of Mexico. 
 The violent gale made work of the free falling unit, creaking and squeaking. The cockpit also vibrated violently. It felt like the bones at the nape of his neck would break from the fierce impact. The digital altimeter steadily decreased, and the unit moved in many directions in the wind. The indicators of the Altitude readings were spinning in rotation. The ECS was off. Even though the M6A3 was equipped with an ECS, there would have been no meaning in using it during the violent storm. 
 The value in the altimeter cut at 30,000 feet. 
 First opening of the chute. Success. 
 The descent of the unit suddenly decreased in speed. 
 Second opening of the chute. Success. 
 The giant parachute opened on top of his head, and suddenly the gale beat even more brutally against him. The 10 plus tons unit shook, swimming in the air, pulling down the balance. 
 He reached 15000 feet. Continuing like that would make him crash on the surface. 
 The body of the M6A3 was being pulled around by the wind. The slackened wires of the parachutes became intertwined. Sousuke tried to control the unit; to somehow get it back to the descent altitude. He couldn’t. In an instant decision he detached the parachute. He was drawing nearer to the land. He resisted the impulse to push the switch, and after waiting a second the back-up parachute opened automatically. 
 Success. Again the gale struck. 
 This time he predicted the wind well, and Sousuke skillfully swung his limbs, letting the unit ride the wind. 
 He drew close to the ground. Inside the view from the Night Vision sensor was a mountain district covered wide with broadleaf trees. 
 After 300. 
 200....100....50.... 
 Breaking through the dome of the trees, the M6 hit the ground. The parachute was immediately detached by the altitude controls. The smoke of the shock absorbers from the joints spread out into the dense forest. 
 Sousuke manipulated the unit, scanning the surrounding areas agilely with the passive sensor. There were no signs of the enemy. The only heat sources that could be seen were the movements of the nocturnal creatures that had been surprised by the sudden drop of a metal giant. They were frantically running away. 
 The landing had been successful. 
“Fu-....” 
 Sousuke, after confirming all safety measures, let out a big breath. 
Sousuke’s M6 was crouching as a black lump in the forest. The fierce wind and rain knocked on the armor, and the muffled voice of the gas turbine engine burst out. 
 He confirmed his current location with the GPS. He was 20 kilometers northwest among the mountains from the objective mansion. 
 If he sped south he could quietly get within 10 kilometers of the target. He needed to get as close as possible. Then, if he were to be seen by the enemy, he would charge in full force. The priority would be to finish before the operation of the three Codarl 
types. If he could destroy them before the pilots got on board, there would no longer be any fear of fighting the Lambda Drivers. 
 If it were actually only those three units, however. 
 Lemon and the others were on standby at another site. At the same time that Sousuke breached an opening the helicopter would immediately force a landing on the target mansion. The plan was to control the area with infantry. 
They had no choice but to hope everything went that smoothly. Firstly, they could land on top of the mansion in a surprise attack, but there was a high probability that the transport would fall prey to anti-aircraft missiles. It would be the same if they tried to penetrate by sea. The prospects of attacking from the coast were good, but if they got within eight kilometers the infra-red sensors would be able to detect them.  
If only I were in an M9.... 
If it were the M9s that Mithril used they could make a more flexible operation. Unfortunately they did not have the luxury to wish for that. If they were detected by the enemy, aside from the Codarls activating, they would have to suspend the operation and retreat. The enemy would of course strengthen their vigilance, and would abandon the mansion in a short amount of time. 
 During the battle in Namsak it was the only hint which he had derived from Kurama- and then everything would return to nothing. 
 He would have to redo everything. The unreachable hands holding Kaname would go somewhere else. 
 No- in the first place, was Kaname really in that mansion? On the contrary, was she really still alive? If she were to be alive, and was in that mansion, did she still have him in her heart? In his case, he had all but lost the memory of her in his hesitation at Namsak. For a time it had become distant. What if she were in that 
man’s arms? What if she had a troubled face? What if she said “don’t look for me anymore” with a merciful look? 
 The operation varied in that degree. He felt unspeakable uncertainties and uneasiness, and they pressed hard on his chest. The scar that was left by Kurama was throbbing. 
No..... 
Actually, he was already bored with that kind of conflict. 
What should he be doing in that moment? 
He needed to deceive the enemy’s warning net and covertly and reliably get closer. While controlling his unit in the most ideal form, he simply had to accomplish his objective. 
“Let’s go.” he muttered. 
Sousuke’s M6A3 advanced. Although it was natural, the unit’s control system did not reply. 
 
♦ ♦ ♦ 
 
 She was seriously growing irritated; the Notebook PC’s network function had been completely disabled. Not only the software, but also the communications hardware itself had been uninstalled. After purposely opening the case at last, that was what Kaname had concluded. 
Well, of course. 
She had not given in to the collaboration with Amalgam. There was no reason to give her an electronic machine that would give out important information. They had considered that she might tell someone from the outside her whereabouts. Even if she tried to escape, there were those Alastors walking about in the surrounding areas of the mansion. She would not even get the chance to run away. 
By looking at the stars in the night sky from the terrace she had managed to grasp the latitude from the trigonometry. North Latitude 15 degrees 40 minutes. There was also a rough world map on the premises. The coast concurred with that latitude. Was it Indonesia, the Arabian Peninsula or Southern Mexico? Most probably it was Southern Mexico. 
She knew where she was, but there were no means for her to get away. Even so, she had a feeling of achievement. With that attitude, she started to investigate. Why was she simply housed there? 
Kaname walked about the premises and tried to carefully and deeply observe. There had to be a hint for getting away. There might be something that she could use. That was what she thought. 
What then after escaping? Then where would she plan to go? 
Those were the thoughts that kept getting into her head. That’s right. After escaping, there was no place she could go. 
But when those thoughts steadily swelled up inside, Kaname shook her head and headed to the pool. Changing into a swimsuit she would plunge in, take 10 round trips, and somehow enjoy herself. 
The people at the mansion had noticed the change in Kaname. She did not hide that fact. No matter what kind of situation she was in, iron bars spread out across the island. 
Then one day, that man had arrived in the mansion. Andrei Kalinin. 
He had apparently brought a 3rd generation AS from Mithril. Leonard had confirmed what was inside and had started to dismantle it. That was what Kaname saw from the window. 
Why was he there? Did he betray them? Or would he be double crossing Amalgam? 
This situation was shaking the inside of Kaname’s heart. There had been several opportunities to have a direct conversation with the Russian, but not even once had they done so. She thought about what should be said if they were to meet, but most of the time Kalinin was outside giving directions to his subordinates. 
He reviewed the defense and security of the premises. After observing a fragment of the subordinate’s work, this was what Kaname had reasoned out. 
She had a vague feeling that there was some disaster drawing near. 
 Those premonitions becoming reality happened the night of the storm, a few days after Kalinin had appeared. 
 The winds blew outside and large drops of rain hit the windows. The sound of waves closing on the coast roared, and a thundering and ominous sound echoed in the bedroom. 
 Kaname was lying in the bed and had settled into reading. Leonard Testarossa visited her room. 
“What do you want?” Kaname said bluntly.  
If it were like usual, such an attitude from her would draw a smile from him and he would casually shrug his shoulders. That night it was different. Leonard was not smiling, and only stood in the doorway without stirring. 
“I want you to get dressed. Today or tomorrow.... we will be leaving this place.” 
“Why?” 
“A lot of things. The situation has changed.” 
“If you feel like it, can you explain that situation to me?” 
 Leonard was silent. He never did reveal any of his real motives. That time was also the same. He only stood there, slowly examining something. 
“Is that so?”  Kaname said with her legs crossed on top of the bed. “If you’re not in the mood to speak then it’s fine. That’s just like you, treating me like a doll on some small island. Well, if that’s the case then I guess that kind of attitude can be expected.” 
“That’s not it. To say unnecessary things to you, I think that it will bring about much more trouble here and there.” 
“Then that’s a doll’s treatment.” 
 She stretched lightly. There was an irritating-like feeling growing, her voice became unnatural and sharp. 
“I’m not as insensible as Tessa okay? No matter how superior or handsome or rich you are, with only that you devote yourself to something and become shrewd.” 
“My sister is the same.” 
“Right. What I was saying was, that was the girl of the past. Right now, that girl would go against you up front. That is why I’m saying something like this. You do understand, right?” 
 He did not deny nor confirm. 
“You can’t answer, huh? I’ve only recently thought of this, but could it be that you are a terrible coward?” 
 After leaving some time, he muttered to himself. 
“That’s right. It’s like what you said.” 
 Not yet. It was a face that had decided to raise the white flag. 
 But she did not have any mercy. 
“Do you think by saying ‘I understand’ that you would look cool? If the opponent would be that person over there, well that’s also good. I also have that mood. Well, are you alright with that?” 
“...if I say anything, you’re attitude won’t change, right?” 
“You don’t seem to understand.” she said with a sneer.  
It was as unpleasant as possible, hateful. 
“Are you going to make me suffer? Shut me up, take away something, and look on smiling? And then just surrender someday? Well, I’m not really a super human, either way it might be possible. In this case- if that were to happen- will you be satisfied?” 
“............” 
“You know in the next class, there was a disgusting guy. He weighed about 100 kilograms. He was always swearing, and constantly smirking at me and the other girls. You might say that he looked like a stalker. He had those indecent books about confinement and lolicon and he talked about them. I don’t know up to what point was true, though. In any case, that type. It was a guy where you completely didn’t know what he was thinking. ........then here’s the question. Between that disgusting guy and you, which one do you think I would prefer to go out with, who do you think I would choose?” 
 He could not answer after all. Expressionless, he just stood there upright. 
“Are you listening? Which do you think?” 
“Don’t ask questions in bad taste.” 
“Answer me.” 
“Stop with the indecency, won’t you continue another topic.” 
“You can’t.” she said clearly. “Listen and be surprised. I am serious and thought about this question everyday- You really don’t understand. In short, the difference between you and that disgusting guy, either good looking or clumsy, it’s just only that. Well? Saying the unvarnished truth, what you are doing, it’s bad countenance. .....When Sousuke appeared in front of me, he was a fairly disgusting guy. But he was different from you. He didn’t laugh much. No matter what happens, he fights with it up front. 
You right now, with an attitude that can see through everything, can’t look straight at me. That’s right- he was always serious.” 
“Can we have enough of this?” 
 Slowly walking, he approached in a refined manner, as usual, but his voice was short and cold. 
“I’m always serious” he said. 
“You don’t look like it. You said that you love me right? Is that really true?” 
“Yeah.” 
“Why? What do you love about me? Can you answer in a way that’s easy to understand?” 
“I told you before already.” 
“On the rooftop of the love hotel? Not that kind of explanation. In the end, you really don’t understand how a person would love right? It’s because of that manner of yours that Tessa looked the other way.” 
 Leonard’s fist, which was hidden in his pocket, clenched in anger. But without noticing the change, Kaname continued. 
“With only your sarcasm and manner, you don’t open your heart to anyone. You only look at a girl as an object. Does that thing still even exist? Didn’t you get enough love from your parents?” 
 Suddenly Leonard gripped her shoulders. The slender and delicate body had a surprisingly strong grip. Resistance was not possible and he pushed Kaname to the bed. 
“Then let me tell you. Look into my eyes.” 
“What are you-” 
“Look.” 
 His face was pushed into her field of vision. The graceful features were twisted with violent emotions. Kaname’s instinct told her “don’t look”. 
 But, she looked. 
 Inside the gray pupils, where no light could be perceived, it flowed into her heart. 
 The torrents of thought. It was that. “Resonance”. 
“.............!” 
Kaname arched her back like she had been struck by lightning. This was unlike the vast experiences that she had before. It was a much more violent, wild, and gloomy image. 
Kaname was in the middle of a fire. 
In a burning corridor. Smoke swirled and an irritating odor reached her nose. The color of the flames were gray. A small girl was crying. Intermittent gunshots reverberated, the sound of someone screaming echoed in their ears. 
The house was being attacked. 
“Take those two to the basement.” the man called out. 
“It’s no use. They’ll find us immediately.” the woman answered, crying. 
“Jerry will be coming to save us soon. If we can hold out for 10 more minutes..... Go, Maria. I’ll defend the south side from the enemy.” 
“Wait, Carl. Stay with me.” 
“I can’t. Go.” 
“Please.” 
But the man went away. The woman was embracing her two children, mostly muttering words without hate. 
“It’s always like this. That’s why I-” 
With the other men. 
There was suddenly a sense of being nauseated. Entangled on top of the bed, with charming persons. That man goes far overseas to accomplish his missions, but the woman was always drowning. In the eyes of the public she was a faithful wife, but she 
had a cheating face. The young boy knew of this. His eyes always saw it. 
The gunshots were nearing. 
The woman became frightened. Choking on the smoke, she took the children and ran for the basement. They went down the stairs, towards the mountains of lumber and gardening supplies. 
There were gunshots on the upper floor. The sound of someone falling. Unknown people were coming down the stairs. The ugly footsteps were drawing near. 
“Hide.” 
The woman, Mother, told her children. She pushed the crying girl inside of a wooden box. On top of that she covered it with a worn-out blanket. The footsteps would be there soon. The remaining child… there was no more time to hide the boy. 
In the eyes of the mother and the boy. 
The ugly expression of the woman, Kaname in her lifetime could not forget it. 
Patience. Hesitation. And hatred for something. 
This child knows of my betrayal. 
Always blaming me. Thinks of me as a prostitute. With that eerily excellent intellect, scorning me. 
“Mother.....?” the boy said, but the mother did not respond. 
She was a beautiful woman. With that face she looked her own child in the eyes, it was real and raw. Wrapping it in extremes. 
But it was also rather the opposite. She only looked with her eyes. 
That was why her will was decisive, with some sort of fate driving her mad. 
The men came. 
With a black luster of automatic pistols. 
“Where is the other child?” the man said. 
“In the house of a relative. Please, save me-” 
 The mother grabbing her son by the shoulders, offering him to them. Like a wallet produced from her bosom, offering it to a thief. 
 The despair and nihility. 
 All of it flowed acutely into her heart, and Kaname’s heart was disturbed. 
 It must have been a few seconds, no a few minutes. When Kaname regained consciousness, Leonard had already let her go and was sitting on a chair in the corner of the room. 
“............” 
 Facing up from the side of the king sized bed she sat up. Her breath was still rough. Kaname noticed that her back was wet and full of sweat. 
 The sound of the rain knocking on the windows remained desperately in her ears. 
“It’s something not even my sister knows.” Leonard muttered absentmindedly. 
“....then, what?” 
 A sad past, a difficult experience. Something that you would need someone’s back to lean on for. Even for Sousuke. Even for her. That was surely a pity, but right then there was no reason for him to flaunt a smile while playing with her fate. 
When Kaname fully understood this thought, Leonard let out a sigh. 
“If this were to be told to ordinary humans with words, it is mostly that reaction. But you are different. That’s why this is how you were told. You understand right. This is not an affair of others.” 
 That was correct. It had become something that was not the affair of others. That direct pain and sadness. It was natural to her for having the same experience. 
She felt a terrible nausea. 
She coughed many times. No matter where she stood, the sheets had become dirty. 
 Why was it? When she was still young, she remembered a scene of a stone being turned over by the riverbed. She remembered the earthworm and centipede under the rock; those ugly insects were crowded together, wriggling. In that awful scene deceit was trailing here and there. Trust, love, friendship and righteousness, all those flowery words became fruitless feelings. 
 Humans were dirty. 
 Everyone, even him, only lied. Was only hiding things. 
 Only that disposition could be felt. 
“It’s not that I want you to give me your sympathies.” Leonard said. “And I don’t want to use the drama as justification. I was thinking, and acting. With my own will. It has nothing to do with cursing my own mother.” 
“Then, why....” 
“I opened my heart, just like you said. And that is all.” 
“............” 
 He stood up, heading straight for her. 
“To a killer, being killed is the worst. There are also varying problems in the world. Being betrayed by your partner or family, being refused, it is much more difficult than dying. On that point, my father felt at ease without knowing anything. An exemplary soldier, an exemplary officer, an exemplary husband, for his loving family. He believed in the purity of his family and died protecting them. More than his character, it was heroic.” 
“That’s....” 
“Oh well, if you say that I was ‘smiling frivolously’, it might be because of that feeling. The inhabitants of the romantic world are carefree. Maybe that’s just it.” 
“But, I don’t understand.” Kaname said. The usual harsh contact with him had already been erased. “With you like that, why me?” 
“Well, I wonder why.” 
 Standing alone and saying this, he went out of the room. At that point, he added. 
“Anyway I hope you would get dressed quickly. There is something that I want to show you....” 
 At that moment, the glass in the window and all the furniture shook strongly. 
 It was not the storm. It was the sound of an explosion from far away. 
 
♦ ♦ ♦ 
 
 Sousuke had managed to favorably approach within 10 kilometers of the mansion. 
 Changing the M6A3 to silent mode, he drew closer to the mansion. As expected, he soon encountered the enemy’s warning systems. 
There were anti-ECS radars, infra-red sensors, pressure sensors, and even simple wires. With just the M6’s electrical equipment he barely managed to deceive the variety of them, and he had to take a large detour to avoid the anti ECS sensors. 
 At most he managed to covertly get nearer by 2 kilometers. 
 When he thought that he no longer needed to attack by proceeding with the warning net, he heard the sounds of an explosion. 
“..........?” 
 It was from far away. About 4 kilometers Northeast. 
Sousuke, alone in the middle of the jungle, stopped his unit and took out the periscope that had been stored in his left arm. He swiftly extended the flexible sensor and faced the direction of the explosion 
In the skies filled with the wild wind and rain, there were traces of explosions and heat sources. 
 It must have been a helicopter or some sort of aircraft. It was taking shots from the Warning system’s anti air attacks. 
It can’t be, Lemon....? 
With a moment’s hesitation, he called out on the custom channel of the wireless radio. Michael Lemon’s carefree voice responded, and informed him that they were still standing by at the appointed position. 
“Sound of explosions? What’s the meaning of this?” 
“I don’t know. I’ll investigate right now.” 
 If the ones being shot at were not Lemon and the others, then which side did they belong to? 
Can I see from just the Periscope’s sensor...? 
Since it was only a small sensor that was supposed to be used at short distance during street combat he wouldn’t be able to gather much information. Because of the storm the field of vision was terrible. In the meantime, near the first explosion there was another movement. This time it was on the ground. The trees in the jungle were set ablaze. 
The anti air cannons of the warning net were destroyed. 
Most probably because of the influence of the destroyed cannon an AS managed to land- 
“A battle is happening.” 
“What? With who?” 
Gunfire flickered in the jungle. There was something that broke through the dome of the forest, leaping into the air. That was 
an AS. A leap from a battle maneuver. It stayed in the air for a short time and immediately disappeared from his field of vision. 
“It’s an M9.” Sousuke concluded. 
 He manually played back the data that had been captured in the sensor and magnified it.  
 There was no mistake. There was no other AS than the M9 Gernsback with that smart silhouette. An M9 was fighting in a place like that. Which side were they from? 
“The remaining military force of Mithril is attacking?” Lemon asked from the wireless radio. As far as he knew, only Mithril made use of the M9 in actual combat. 
“Unknown. But unlikely.” 
“Why?” 
“My M6 managed to get here unseen. With the abilities of the next generation AS, a better and a much more covert operation can be achieved. Regardless of who, I do not think that the members of Mithril who uses an M9 would make a mistake like that.” 
 Nevertheless, that M9 was slightly different from the slender specifications of Mithril. Like the Sensor on the head, or the shape of the shoulder armor. And the thickness of the armor was much larger than the M9 that he knew. And there were only a few movements. As for the characteristics of that unit, its movements were not sharp. 
“Then-” 
“Probably the US army” another voice interrupted beside Lemon. It was Colonel Roy Seals who had brought the M6A3. “It’s those guys at the army. The Assault squad Delta Force, they already made use of the M9. Of course it was not made public.” 
“What did you say? Then why are they here-” 
“Now we ascertained the location. And our colleagues don’t even know the reason. This is really reckless....” 
 At any rate it was a countryman. Seals voice echoed in a pondering voice towards the M9. 
 But to Lemon and the others, who acted on their own, it seemed strange that the American military would attack a location of Amalgam’s. Amalgam had the capability to seal off the regular army with political power. Their aim and the operation’s objective was not clear. 
“There are too many to explain. Sousuke, let’s suspend the operation. I have a bad feeling about this.” 
“Aah, but....” 
 Lemon was right; they should suspend the operation now that it was on the verge of trouble. Even then, Sousuke hesitated. 
“No buts right? Which this much disturbance going on, the Codarl types of the enemy would be operational. You can expect to get shot when you get close to the target.” 
 With the new image from the satellite just before the operation, it was clear that the Codarl types were in that mansion. It was not because there were signs, the coast and unpaved roads of the premises after the rain had showed footprints with the characteristics of a 3rd generation AS. 
So it’s nothing but retreat after all? 
If thinking normally that would be the case. But, if he gave up there, the girl who might be in that mansion- 
“Stand by. I will bet on that assault.” Sousuke informed them without thinking further.  
After the incident at North Korea, there was a similar “unreasonable” sickness. But after getting all the way there, what was most important was time. If he decided to penetrate then he had to do it fast. 
Sousuke switched the Silent mode from the APU (Assisted Power Unit) started the gas turbine engine. 
“The Enemy will be paying attention to that squad of M9. We have to take that opportunity.” 
“Come back, Sousuke! That’s reckless!” 
“Don’t worry. I will retreat when it becomes impossible.” 
After answering that, Sousuke did not know what he said and remembered the uneasiness. What was waiting ahead? That was all he wondered about. 
The sound of rain knocked on the intense armor. Pushing his way through the thick trees, he walked his unit straight ahead. The branches and leaves were dancing on the trail as the howl of his engine reverberated. With the distractions to the enemy’s warning network their caution had sunk into its lowest level. What was regretted at that moment was time. 
Chidori- 
He still didn’t know if she was there. But, he had to grab it no matter what hand he was dealt. Why was it that he felt that she was there? He felt that she was near and was waiting for him. It had nothing to do with her being a Whispered. It was instinct. It was like a sense of smell that you can’t explain logically. 
The indications of the digital map showed that the mansion was only two kilometers away. 
In that position there were elevated hills that were an obstruction to his eyesight. He needed just a little more. He planned to penetrate clockwise and gallop onto the premises, calling her name on the exterior speakers. He might be able see her. She might be calling out from somewhere. If he could managed to snatch her, he would escape at full speed- 
An alarm sounded. 
Direction, 8 o’clock. Distance, 300. 
“!” 
With the reaction speed of the M6 he wouldn’t be able to evade. He swung the unit with its shoulders and put himself into a defense position with all his might. 
Klunk. A strong impact. 
The unit shook. The cockpit trembled. From left to back there were a number of shells flying off, hitting the shoulder armor as violent sparks scattered. 
He looked at the pattern captured from the Thermal Sensors. There was something that wiggled quickly on the slope at high speed on two legs. 
In other words an AS. 
How easy… 
Sousuke smacked his lips and investigated the data. If he were in an M9 he would be able to tell which type of unit it was immediately, but his unit did not have a strong AI like that. 
The enemy was a 3rd generation AS. Most probably a Codarl type. 
With it suddenly coming out like that continuing on with the operation was impossible. Gathering all his equipment and technical skills, he had to run away with all his might. 
The recovery of Kaname was out of the question. 
He gritted his teeth with regret. But he did not give up. 
Suddenly an alarm sounded. 
The enemy Codarl fired and was headed his way. Although it was only one unit, it was an opponent that was excessive. Moreover that unit was attacking.  
In the waterfall-like rain, he made use of the terrain, barely evading the shots of the enemy. The driving impact of the shells were splashing about around the M6. 
Just a margin. 
Desperately firing the scatter shot gun in his possession, the Codarl lightly stepped up and “caught” the shells. The atmosphere in front was distorted, and the unit managed to stop the shells from hitting. A piercing rupture reverberated and the shells that were supposedly hit were smashed and burned up. 
Lambda Driver. 
That cheating unsystematic device. He knew its destructive power all too well. Yet there he stood, feeling like an idiot facing it with an ordinary AS. 
“But....” 
If it was to run away, he could do something. 
Sousuke smoothly manipulated the stick, discharging the smoke bomb and radar interference bomb equipped on his back. He let the rocket fly from inside the cylinder, exploding overhead. Together with the glaring light the smoke spread, covering the area. 
 At that moment he lost sight of the enemy. Sousuke changed to silent mode and headed north. Taking into consideration the range between them, he managed to gain a suitable distance. Increasing the speed in his direction, he was using the terrain to skillfully hide and get away, the hard part was- 
“!” 
 Too naive. 
 The enemy unit was in front. Distance 300. 
 The enemy had read his movement. Anticipating. 
 The gray armored Codarl, with its glaring red eye pressed on the M6. It aimed the muzzle of its carbine in his direction. 
 Discharge. 
 The 35 mm smashed into the armor, attacking Sousuke with a fierce impact. But he could still move. He swung the unit and made an evasive action. He knew that it was useless, but he had to try and return fire. It was useless after all. The said 
Gravitational field repelled all attacks. The Codarl extracted a monomolecular cutter. It was only a few steps away. It planned to skewer his cockpit. No matter how much he attacked, the gravitational field of the Lambda Driver that expanded in its front had no fear. 
 But, its back was different. 
 Immediately in front of Sousuke’s eyes, there was an explosion on the Codarl’s back. Suddenly, from behind it, it took a high caliber shell. 
 Smoke blew out and the enemy unit staggered. It was not a fatal damage. It tried evasive action by flying sideways, trying to pinpoint the attack from behind. 
 Immediately on the enemy unit’s side, a single AS appeared. It was a gray M9. 
 A complete surprise attack from nearby. 
 With a large Crimson Edge Monomolecular Cutter at stance, the gray M9 crashed into the abdomen of the Codarl. The ear piercing sound echoed and large sparks were dancing about. 
“It can’t be....” 
 That M9 was not from the American military. He knew it well, it was the familiar “E series” unit. There was no mistake in his vision. It was the E series M9 with a Blade Antenna equipped. 
 After destroying the central block, the Codarl collapsed. Carelessly flying about from the ruins, the M9 headed towards him, announcing from its exterior speakers. 
“...Geez....” 
 It was the voice of a woman. 
“....what a terrible fight. Did you see it very well?” 
The voice of the woman Sousuke also knew very well. 
 It was Melissa Mao. She was alive. 
“Mao.” 
“Sousuke. It’s you after all.” 
The sound of the woman bounced. 
“A calm interaction with the Codarl as the opponent, and then those movements, that shot cannon. I thought that it would be-” 
“Right, I told you, didn’t I? It’s absolute!” 
 There was another voice. On elevated ground 80 meters away, another AS could be seen. It was brandishing a large gun barreled sniper cannon. 
“Kurz.” 
“You’re alive after all. You moody guy!” 
 It was an unforgiving jeer. There was no mistake. It was Kurz Weber. He was also alive. 
“But, why are you here-” 
“That’s what we want to hear from you, and we have piles of things to talk about. But it seems there are new comers here.” Mao muttered, suddenly lowering her own unit’s back. 
“Two more Codarls. 7 O’clock. Surprise attacks will no longer work. Right now there is only me and Kurz, can you do it, Sousuke?” 
“Affirmative.” Sousuke replied, quickly using the damage control on his unit. 
 It was a mixed squad with two M9s and one M6, going against two Lambda Driver equipped units. There was a bad difference in combat percentage. 
 However- 
“No problem. I will join you.” 
“Hehe. We’ll let you see the flavor of the experts” Kurz said. 
“Fine! It’s sudden, but it’s the trio comeback!” Mao said. 
There were a mountain of questions he wanted to ask them, but it was not the time for carefree talk. First, they had to take care of the enemy in front of them. 
Finally the sensors of the M6 managed to capture the traces of the enemy. 
Direction 8 o’clock. Distance 1500. 
Before handing down the details of the instructions, Mao said, “Well, let’s get even with those bastards! Guys! Are you ready!?” 
“Whenever!” 
“Wherever!” 
Kurz and Sousuke answered. Taking that, Mao shouted. 
“OK. Break!” 
The three ASes leapt out in different directions. 
 
 
 The symbols on the screen were jumbled together. The mountainous region wagon tracks of the artillery were fiercely fluttering about in the night. 
 A small squad AS combat; no matter how you looked at it, it was similar to a basketball or soccer match. 
 None of the units had time for breathers and they all moved organically. Each and every one was running about, leaping, and enclosing the opposite side of the enemy. There was a time when it was flexible, and a time when it was overbearing. The “ball” was like a combat initiative. They would alternatively weave and feint, drawing out a pass or a dribble from both sides. One unit would be a decoy and the other would attack with a fatal strike.  
“Uruz 6, pull Alpha towards the west.” Mao shouted.  
“Roger!” came the immediate reply. 
“Uruz 7, take Bravo and head southwards like that. How many seconds will you need?” 
“15 seconds.” Sousuke replied. 
“I’m counting on you.” 
“Roger.” 
 With just that short exchange a maximum understanding had been reached. 
 One year before, Sousuke and the others had to be pressured into a hard fight with a single Codarl and were almost completely annihilated. 
 But now, without anything, they no longer feared the shadow of the Lambda Driver equipped unit. 
 From there they started to structure by trial and error the theory of how to face an opponent with a Lambda Driver. They managed to get a thorough training of tactics during the Hong Kong incident, when they took down a Codarl type. And also they now had the Gravitational field detection device called “fairy eyes”. 
They had also enhanced their know-how with a number of heavy simulations. 
The end result of the accumulation of their experiences was that the Codarl was no longer an “absolutely undefeatable enemy.” 
Of course having two units as opponents was dangerous, but it was no longer a “desperate” battle. 
Moreover it was the three of them. 
Mao and Kurz, and also Sousuke, were a thoroughly devoted team that had the best AS combat squad rhythm and tactics. In this world they were the also the pilots with the most experience battling ASes equipped with Lambda Drivers.  
It seems that their skills haven’t fallen- Sousuke thought, glancing sidelong at the movements of Mao and Kurz. 
Piloting an M6 would make him the dullest in movement. There was nothing that could be done about that. 
But Sousuke understood the successive movements of the other two. 
If he were to draw the enemy AS pressing on, little by little- its caution would be averted little by little. It would think that he was running away, and when turning around the other two units would attack severely. 
Mao’s and Kurz’s units’ “fairy eyes” could send real time data and detected the initiation and timing of the Lambda Driver. 
Between the two units one unit would aim and plunge into position. 
Sousuke’s M6, that had become the lure, would draw in the Codarl. After shooting his shot cannon the enemy blocked with its gravitational field. Kurz’s unit fired, that was also blocked. The enemy was looking out for an attack in another direction. It was not that easy to make a surprise attack. 
The enemy unit fired at Sousuke. Impact. He used the shot cannon used as a shield and it became two equal parts. 
After losing any means of attacking, Sousuke made a short shout. 
“I will do it.” 
The other two already understood his intentions. 
Mao and Kurz pressed on the Codarl, continuing to pour in shells. The gravitational field snapped around. The enemy’s attention centered into the two M9s. Mao’s unit and Kurz’s unit got nearer to the enemy, almost at a collision distance, and passed each other at high speed. 
In that instant, Mao and Kurz threw their weapons overhead. 
From the point of the view of the enemy, one moment the two M9s had weapons, the next they were suddenly unarmed. The two sets of rifle that both units threw were drawing a parabola and spinning- Sousuke’s M6 jumped behind the enemy, getting into the exact position. 
He caught them in mid-air. 
After losing the shot cannon the M6 who was no longer a threat. But now it gripped the two sets of rifles and landed behind the Codarl. 
“First one unit.” 
In no time, with two sets of rifles, he shot with full force. 
There were muffled sounds from the gunshots and surging flames from the discharge. Countless numbers of 40mm and multiple shots of 76mm shells attacked the back of the Codarl. The armor broke; the reactor and cockpit were smashed. The enemy unit was split in half. 
Sousuke gave the crushing blow with the rifles and returned them to his two comrades. 
“Haha! Now you got even!” 
 Kurz’s unit turned and took the sniper cannon. 
“There is still one more unit! You can laugh after that!” 
 Mao casually took the rifle and without a moments delay started firing a feint towards the Codarl. The three units did not stop and deployed, continuing with combat maneuvers to confuse the enemy. 
 The remaining enemy seemed to be disturbed. Firstly he did not think that they would be defeated. With wonderful cooperation and tricks his partner had been destroyed. Those three enemy units were tough. They were not any ordinary opponents-this was what he concluded. 
“Can you two handle this?” Sousuke said in his unit. 
“I think we can, but what do you mean?” Mao asked. 
“Kaname is in the target mansion. I’m going to search for her.” 
“Kaname is in there!?” Kurz asked. 
“I lost time. Let me go.” 
 Sousuke’s M6 had lost its main weapon, the shot cannon. There was really nothing much he could do there. Mao had also made that judgment, and immediately replied. 
“I understand. Be careful. After were done here we’ll follow.” 
“Thank you.” 
“Hey, Sousuke! There’s a mountain of things that I want to talk to you about. Don’t you die! This is an order!” 
“Huh?” 
 Sousuke knitted his brow at Kurz’s words. 
“Why is it an order?” 
“huhum. Because I’m a Master Sergeant!” 
“You are?” 
“Yup” 
“I don’t really understand, but it seems you guys are seriously shorthanded....” 
“...........” 
“That’s right. Well, you mean a drowning man clutching straws-” 
 The Codarl pressed on to the three units. After attacking with the shockwave of the Lambda Driver, the three units scattered. 
“-this is no time to have a laid back conversation!” 
“That’s right. If you’re going then get going!” 
 The two M9s moved to ambush. 
“I leave it to you.” 
 Sousuke changed his posture, and headed straight in the direction of the mansion. 
 
♦ ♦ ♦ 
 
 Hearing Mao saying “they met Sousuke” during battle, Tessa, who had listened to the announcement on the de Danaan, was having a feeling that was different from being happy. That was what she felt. 
“So he’s alive.”  
 Of course she was happy that Sagara Sousuke was alive. But when she thought about the reason why he was there, it hurt her heart a little. 
He would go anywhere for the sake of that girl. 
There was some strangeness in that simple honesty. Also sadness. That person was that important. It was both amazing and lonely. 
No. 
Having those lingering feelings just then was absurd. Right now she had to concentrate on the mission. 
Until then Tessa had been making use of the full application of de Danaan’s AI, Dana, chasing after the trail of Leonard. They had been secretly observing all the intelligence agencies of various countries and their surveillance systems. Finally they had managed to find a little trace and had thoroughly followed up on it. 
After throwing out their net they had found suspicious movement of the NATO military satellite. Someone, a small-scaled organization, had elaborately investigated that area a few days ago. 
They didn’t know how that “small-scaled organization had managed the trick, but they soon found out that it had shipped an American military M6A3 to Florida. The person who had procured that M6 with just the words, “It was easy” was named Colonel Seals. When she heard that Tessa had thought, “it might be him”. In other words, Sagara Sousuke. If there was someone in Mithril who had any connection with Seals or Courtney, it was herself and Admiral Borda, Mardukas, and also Sousuke. 
 That mansion was involved with Amalgam. There was also no mistake that Leonard was there. 
 Sousuke had managed to get a lending hand. Tessa had immediately turned the ship 180 degrees, and headed to the coast of Southern Mexico. 
 At that time, the American Army also sensed the movement. After receiving the information from the CIA (American Central Intelligence Agency), the prepared M9 squad was deployed and dispatched to said mansion. How the CIA managed to get its hands on the information about the mansion, was still uncertain- 
 Mao, who was still in the middle of combat, said over the wireless radio. 
“Currently in the middle of battle with a Codarl type. Where’s the Cruise Missile support?” 
“It was already launched. Transmitting data.” 
“Confirmed. I think this will do it. Where’s Uruz 1?” 
“Finishing up the observation of the American Special forces, and heading towards there. But be careful.” 
“I understand. Don’t worry, Tessa.” 
 The symbol for Mao’s unit was projected into the screen. The fierce movements of the enemy unit’s symbol unfolded as the gunfight continued. 
 
♦ ♦ ♦ 
 
 The storm was getting even fiercer. With just a reserve handgun Sousuke’s M6A3 Dark Bushnell leapt at full speed toward the loose hill. 
Based on the data they had collected there were no longer any Codarl types deployed at the target mansion. He, Mao and Kurz had already dealt with two units, and currently one unit was in the middle of combat. That should have been all. 
It’s there...! 
The first thing he saw in the darkness was the stormy sea in the night. 
And then, on a clearing on the coast, there was a huge site spreading across. It might have been one whole kilometer across. In the middle was a white mansion. It was about the size of a Japanese school building, and had a surrounding tennis court, pool, and a garden. 
He had slapped into his head everything related to the position from the satellite photo. The M6A3 at least had an anti-tank sensor and could detect anti AS mines. Passing through the net of alarms, Sousuke headed straight to the center of the mansion. 
“Lemon, can you hear me-?” 
 Sousuke now called out on the wireless radio to Michael Lemon, who was on standby. Immediately after responding, he told Lemon about his short encounter with his buddies in Mithril. 
“I don’t fully understand, but do you think that is good news?” 
“Affirmative. They can be trusted.” 
“I see. Then we have news over here too. The guys we were contacting before, together over there-” 
 There was a terrible noise from the wireless radio. The storm made the reception bad and electromagnetic disturbance restricted it in the neighboring areas. 
“Over here, what?” 
“-do you hear me Sousuke? I also concluded this, but somehow-” 
“I can’t hear you. Repeat, Lemon.” 
“--If it gets bad, standby on the next coordinates-” 
“What are you talking about?” 
“----Teen----prepared----” 
“I can’t hear you. What are you talking about?” 
“---that’s why, no matter what kind of unit-----I also----additional----” 
“Lemon?” 
“----Red-----3rd----strange----” 
 He heard sound of an alarm. 
 Established into the perimeter was a 20mm class Sentry Gun, and it was aiming at him. It was an unmanned attack system 
that automatically reacted to enemies. He had been detected by its radar wave. Sousuke gave up on the operation of the wireless radio and immediately attacks with the hand gun. The Sentry Gun was destroyed after taking the 25mm shells. 
 There was no enemy infantry. No armored cars either. 
 No- 
 There were a number of those life-sized ASes, Alastors. Leaping out from the shrubs, they fired 50 caliber rifle bullets from their arms. The extent of those bullets would not dent the armor of the M6. One unit was torn into pieces by the hand gun, and another one was kicked. The Alastors would be tough in the flesh, but taking one down with an AS was simple. 
 Switching on the exterior speakers, he called out. 
“Chidori” 
Where are you-? 
“Chidori” 
Show yourself- 
From the courtyard he saw a black sedan running out. It broke through the center of the garden to the stone paved road and headed straight north. 
That car....? 
 Did they deem escaping via helicopter too difficult? 
 Sousuke chased after the car, and fired an intimidating shot towards the car. 
“Stop!” 
 But the car did not stop. The 12.7mm machine gun in his left arm was set to semi-automatic. Aiming carefully, he fired several shots at the hood. The engine was shot and at once water vapor spewed out from the black car. It swerved to the left and right, and finally stopped at the curb in the road. 
“Slowly come out with both of your hands up!” he ordered from his exterior speakers. 
The door opened and the driver got out. He raised both hands and looked at him. 
“Is there a girl riding?” 
“I don’t know....” 
 After only saying that, the driver dashed away. Sousuke ignored the running driver and operated his sensors. With infra-red mode he scanned the car. There was no heat signature from humans in the backseat. 
 The sinking manner of the car also showed signs that several people had ridden it- 
“..........!” 
 Instinct made him move. He used both arms to cover the cockpit block and made the unit fly back as quickly as he could. 
 Immediately following, the car exploded. 
 In the rear were a few hundred kilograms of high efficiency explosives. With the blast of the violent shockwave, and the fragments swooping in at supersonic speed, the 10-plus ton unit was brushed away. If it were on a human scale, it would be like the explosion of a hand grenade from only a few meters away. 
 The fierce impact shook Sousuke inside the cockpit. The unit fell into a somersault. Falling on its left it took down a few trees in the garden. 
“...........!” 
 It was a trap. 
 The screen was completely black. The head sensor was destroyed. Warning lights flickered wildly. 
 Electricity was decreasing. Oil pressure was decreasing. 
 Fire broke across the various parts. The motor of the two arms that covered the cockpit was down. The cooling apparatus 
had shut down. The posture control gyro was in serious break down. The main and backup control systems ceased to operate. 
 If he had noticed it a little later he might have sustained much heavier damage. Sousuke’s head was getting dizzy. Briskly manipulating the stick and switch, he operated the damage control. 
 The reserved optical sensor started up, the backup sensor installed in the crotch region functioned like a type of home video camera. While receiving the damage, it was equipped for escape with a guaranteed minimum field of vision. Of course it was not equipped with night vision function. 
 At any rate, he had to withdraw from there- 
 Using freely both his legs which could not move, he somehow managed to stand. 
 But the enemy was unforgiving. 
 Hiding from somewhere, a number of infantry appeared everywhere and fired a hand-carried rocket launcher. With a clear aim, it would be a controlled attack. If only he had not received so much damage, he would have been able to evade the attacking soldiers. If he had had clearer judgment… but that was impossible at that point. 
 The foot and arm, and even the hips were bombarded with shots. 
 Even the front armor of the cockpit. 
 The front armor of the M6A3 had a means to withstand plastic explosives. It prevented the burning gas from the rockets from jumping into the cockpit. Even then, the control system and electrical systems were torn. 
 He could no longer take even one step. Sousuke’s M6A3 tumbled right then and there. 
“Lemon, can you hear me?” 
Wanting to tell him that his unit has stopped functioning, Sousuke called out on his wireless radio to Lemon, who was standing by in a distant place. 
“Lemon, this is--” 
No good. The wireless radio was dead. 
He had to abandon the unit and escape. 
Sousuke pulled the emergency escape lever. The detonation functioned and the destroyed head part and the cockpit’s ceiling section blew off. 
Beside the hatch he had stowed a German made compact sub-machine gun which he took out and loaded with ammo. Pulling the pin on a smoke grenade he threw it outside the unit.  White smoke surrounded the heavily damaged unit. He couldn’t be at ease because the enemy might have had infrared scope equipment on, but that didn’t seem to be the case. 
He applied the last mechanism to the unit. 
Crawling out from the hatch, he got down from the burning heat of the unit. 
At that time, a voice came out. 
“You’re surrounded. Throw away your weapon.” 
It came from 8 o’clock. Distance, roughly 30 meters. 
Most probably the commander of the mansions defenses. It was the voice of a clam man. 
No.... 
This voice? 
Hiding in the shadows of the M6’s right arm armor, Sousuke questioned the direction of the wary voice. 
In the direction of the swirling smoke-- 
Continuing to encircle the mansion, on top of the corridor of the two-story building, overlooking Sousuke from the roof, stood a man in a field uniform. A large built Caucasian. Gray hair 
tied back in a ponytail. A finely chiseled face, with a look intent on shooting. 
There was no mistake. 
That man was- 
“Lieutenant Commander” Sousuke muttered as his eyes widened. 
As for the surrounding enemies, in that instant he had forgotten them. 
“.....Remember the time during Afghanistan, Sagara Sousuke” Andrei Kalinin said. 
“Wha....” 
“I win again. If only your heart was not stolen by that girl, you wouldn’t be caught in a trap of this degree.” 
“Lieutenant Commander? What is this--” Sousuke said, half believing half doubting. 
“It’s as you see. I’ve become a man of Amalgam. The person who goes against Leonard Testarossa and the organization, I will remove him with efficiency.” 
“Impossible. That’s....” 
It couldn’t be. More than that, the Lieutenant Commander had cooperated with them. Was there another operation being conducted? Intending a double cross, he got nearer to the center of Amalgam… 
“Unfortunately, this is not a decoy operation as you think it is. I came here by my own will, your enemy. If you resist, I will not hesitate to order you shot down. Not killing you right here is because I want information from you.” 
“Then, why?” 
“There is no need for you to know.” Kalinin said with the usual calm attitude. 
 
 
 
After saying that, he no longer intended to explain anything. Sousuke knew very well the pain in that truth, but- 
“Where is Chidori? Is she here?” 
“She is here, what do you intend to do?” 
“Let me see her.” 
“I cannot permit you. She and Mister Testarossa are in the middle of preparing for their escape. The US Military, Mao and the others, and then you.....all the enemies must be repelled, even then this place had already been exposed.” 
“Mao and the others....?” 
“Drop your weapons, Sergeant.” 
Kalinin brought up one hand. His subordinates then aimed their weapons at Sousuke. 
“I think it’s good that it was said like that.” 
It was a new voice.  
From behind Kalinin, Leonard Testarossa appeared. 
 
♦ ♦ ♦ 
 
Belfagan Clouseau piloting his black M9, Falke, made use of the black stormy night and the terrain and rushed to join Mao in battle. He drew, unnoticed, nearer to the enemy Codarl and got into the perfect position. 
“Fire!” 
 Mao’s unit and Kurz’s unit summed up a complex attack with a feint mix. The Cruise Missile, which was on standby in midair after being launched from the de Danaan, attacked. They turned the tides with their attacks on the enemy’s flank, and Clouseau made doubly sure with his own attack. 
 Aiming his monomolecular cutter at its abdomen, he grabbed its arm and made a throw. Mao and Kurz shot the Codarl whose posture had pulled it. Without any means of escape, the enemy unit was bombarded with shots in mid air. 
“That’s one” Kurz said. 
“What about the US Military?” Mao asked Clouseau.  
He had separated from Mao just a while ago, spying on the battle of the American Special Forces. 
“Looks like they’ve withdrawn. They have this tune of not knowing clearly the operation objective and enemy’s military force. Like, how do you say this-” 
“Like being controlled by someone?” 
“That’s it. The characteristics of the Special Forces, ‘I know what I am doing’, I don’t seem to have felt that mood. There are subtle hesitations in their cooperation and battle formation.” 
“Aah. I see-” Kurz said. “They don’t have enough endurance huh? Do they have those grudging feelings towards the unreasonable orders from the higher ups?” 
“We won’t know unless we’re in the same profession. Ordinarily it would have been stickier. In the mean time they’ve withdrawn. Being exhausted in an operation that you don’t understand, anybody would dismiss this.” 
“Even then, I wonder what’s happening....?” 
 Apparently ignorant of the circumstances there, there weren’t any more signs of the enemy; at least, that was what the odor in the air smelled like.  
“Nothing has been said yet. It seems that this is what Lieutenant Commander had expected. ....moreover, what about Sagara?” 
 After hearing that he was alive, Clouseau had not uttered one word about Sousuke. 
“Yeah, about that---” 
 At that moment, the sound of alarm in each of their three units sounded. 
“!!” 
 Three o’clock, seven o’clock, 10 o’clock, simultaneous attacks from three directions. Additionally it was from anti tank missiles with mid caliber and high caliber shells. 
 Mao’s unit started her ECM (Electronic Counter Measures), Kurz’s unit increased his feint shots from his position that took a snipe, Clouseau’s unit took out an infrared jamming device from his weapons rack and threw it in. 
“Another enemy!?” Mao shouted evading the missile, and entering combat maneuvers. 
“Yeah. And there’s three of them.” Kurz said jumping into the shelter and quickly aiming at the enemy unit at high speed. 
“Be careful, they were different from the ones before.” Clouseau said taking a stance with the carbine gun equipped from his back. 
 There was no mistake that these were Lambda Driver equipped units. They were firing from an unreasonable direction. The enemies were able to evade their attacks, and they gave off the impression that they were daring them to come and take it. 
 The three units came from three different directions. 
 The “fairy eyes” detected a gravitational field. They evaded with full force. The new enemy and the M9s were entangled at lightning speed, with sparks scattering in the distance. 
 There was a strong impact. Warning lights flashed, and on Clouseau’s unit from the left elbow downwards had been blown off. Unable to evade the gravitational field attack, the drive system had torn off. 
“..........!” 
 They understood what had happened with the real time data link. Mao’s unit and Kurz’s unit received big and small damages. Mao unit’s head was half destroyed, Kurz unit’s sniper cannon was destroyed. 
At that juncture Clouseau and the others were confronting the three enemy units. No matter how they counterattacked the enemy did not take their bait. They stayed on a slightly elevated hill, glaring at them. 
 Basically the three units looked like the Codarl type ASes, but the details were different. 
 There was a higher volume on the upper half of the bodies. There were no ponytail-like radiation wires. Instead, extending from the back were blade like radiation planks. The power output was much different from the previous Codarls. They were massive silhouettes hiding nimbleness and ferociousness inside. You could say that their difference was like a Panther and a Lion- 
 The colors of the three units were also varied. 
 Black, White, Red. 
 One had an extra large Monomolecular cutter, another, a large Gatling cannon, and the last, a large caliber sniper cannon. 
“Welcome, Remnants of Mithril. Thank you for taking care of me in San Francisco.” The center black AS said from its exterior speakers. 
It was a voice that they knew. 
“Fowler huh” 
“That guy....” 
“Looks like he wants to go head on” 
 Mao and Kurz voices were soaked in tension. 
“I can only admire your struggle- but it’s already the feeling of being over. We won’t be negligent and make light of you. With the maximum amount of respect, we thought to challenge you without any shrewdness.” 
“Aah? Didn’t you get scared?” 
 Intercepting Fowlers words, Kurz’s Head Submachine gun was set to full auto and fired. 12.7mm shells poured down on the 
black AS, all of it was scattered in the bluish white light, repelling them like small raindrops. 
“Oh dear me. I was thinking of being gentlemanly and stopping with the hostilities.” 
 Fowler smiled coldly. 
“Rather such inelegance. Well then, are you prepared....” 
They’re coming- Clouseau purposely did not say it out loud.  
Each aiming at one M9, Fowler and the other ASes jumped at them simultaneously. 
 
♦ ♦ ♦ 
 
“It’s been a long time, Sagara Sousuke-kun.” 
Leonard, looking down at Sousuke from the roof, said with a calm composure. Contrary to that expression, he did not smile. He seemed a bit melancholy for some reason as he quietly looked at Sousuke beside the heavily damaged M6. Covered with large drops of rain, his whole body was wet. 
“Where is Chidori?” 
“I don’t have that interest, like so. Weeping.” 
“Shut up. If Chidori-” 
“What if you shut up?” Leonard said with a penetrating cold voice. “Looking with up here with that completely uncomfortable attitude, you. Not fully knowing anything. You’re saying it like it’s your natural privilege, calling out like that. Why don’t you understand your arrogance?” 
Which one is the arrogant one? that remark did not come out. Communication and discussion with the enemy was no longer necessary. 
“Like I understand. Hand her over.” 
“Oh well.” 
Leonard let out a small snort, and glanced at Kalinin who was beside him. 
“...well? As the leader of the defense force what would you do, Mister K?” 
“Originally we planned to restrain Sagara and retreat- but we do not have the time. Mister Gold’s forces will be arriving soon. Although we can’t see much of them at this stand point but-” 
Then Kalinin cut his speech, concentrating on the information from the earphone in his right ear. 
“-it is as what you’ve heard. We have to start moving.” 
“Showing your true character huh?” 
Leonard narrowed his eyes, looking over the direction of the sea. From Sousuke’s position he could hardly see them, yet, even then the units- those unforgettable torsos… He looked at those indistinct silhouettes. 
It was the Behemoth. 
There were three of those giant ASes pushing their way through the waves of the sea, getting closer to the mansion. There were also a number of transport helicopters in the sky. Probably loaded with ASes inside. 
Reinforcements from Amalgam? 
No, its appearance was strange. 
His confidence that they were not allies was confirmed immediately. The Behemoth, with a giant rifle cannon (artillery which was probably around 300mm), was aiming toward the mansion. The transport helicopters in the skies were also lowering from a high altitude, immediately descending towards them. 
“It seems they want to do it.” Kalinin said. 
“Right. Shall we give them a suitable reception?” 
“Yes.” 
“That’s right, I didn’t hear your answer. Then, what do you plan to do with him?” 
Leonard looked at Sousuke. Kalinin also delayed. He looked at him without any hint of emotion. 
“Shoot to death.” 
“Fine.” 
After saying that Leonard turned his body. That black coat- “Active bulletproof suit” - made him disappear into the terrace. Just before that, he added another command. 
“At once.” 
Kalinin did not reply to those words. He simply informed Sousuke. 
“That’s how it is, Sagara. Die.” 
“..........” 
Sousuke immediately gave in. 
Those eyes, that voice, were serious. 
He had no intention of mercy. There were no hidden meanings. As for drama, or practice, or any other hidden intentions, there were none. 
Andrei Kalinin was serious. 
That man who he thought of as his father seriously intended to kill him- 
“Wa-” 
“Fire.” 
The first shot from the shooter came. The shooter was not able to grasp his position and Sousuke immediately ducked into the shadows of the armor. Unbelievable. There was no mistake that the shot just now had the intent to kill. 
The continuing shots from the surroundings were the same. There were countless numbers of shots being fired at the heavily damaged M6 and dazzling sparks scattered about. 
“Lieutenant Commander!” 
Even if he shouted there was no response. 
It was not necessary to have communication with the enemy- he put this into practice. 
“............” 
Sousuke slipped inside the armor, pushing the switch on the remote control he was gripping. It was the last mechanism which he had prepared when he got the M6. He transmitted the orders to the unit to fire all shots on the fixed armaments. 
The remaining fixed armament of the M6, a12.7mm machine gun, smoke grenade, and a compact personal landmine were spit out, gouging on the surface, blowing off the outer walls of the mansion. Fragments, flashes, flame, and smoke fiercely spread about. The enemy group surrounding the unit was in confusion. Getting caught himself in center of the small explosion, Sousuke immediately ran through. He went inside the nearby mansion. By jumping through the lockdown space there was still a chance… 
Just before plunging into the nearest window, Sousuke saw on that terrace. Being perturbed by the fragments and bullets flying about the surrounding, Kalinin looked down on him. 
Are you serious? 
In that juncture, Sousuke questioned with only his eyes. 
Kalinin directly caught that and merely moved his lips. 
Try and stop me. 
It looked like that was what he said. 
There was no more time to try anything. In the direction of the window where he dived from, there were enemy infantry. Staying in the air together with the fragments of the broken window glass, he aimed at the first enemy and fired. 
Right then, there was no other way but to fight. 
At any rate he had to survive… 
 
♦ ♦ ♦ 
 
There were expressed concerns over the noise and vibration in the transport helicopter flying at a low altitude over the mountains. 
 No matter how long Lemon blasted the one in charge of communications, he only kept repeating “Cause unknown! Anyway we can’t connect to the channel!” 
“Is it alright flying like this!?” Lemon yelled, scowling at the face of Old Man Courtney, who only replied “Like I know!”.  
From the side, Colonel Seals interrupted. 
“Don’t worry, don’t worry! Even if we get hit by the anti-aircraft cannons at this altitude we can make an emergency landing with the Auto Rotation! Do you know about the ‘Dead man’s Curve’!? It’s on top of that last moment-” 
“The blast back then had no significance right!?” 
“Young one, don’t worry about the details!” 
“But, if I knew we would be flying recklessly like this, I would have objected-” 
 The unit suddenly jolted, Lemon bit his tongue. 
“~! Aah, dammit! I don’t know about this!?” 
 After Lemon hurled his abusive language, he glanced at the oriental woman sitting beside him. 
 Even with the terrible flying she didn’t feel bad. The woman’s bluish face nodded with sullenness, glancing sidelong at the crouching thing in the cargo bay at the rear. 
“Don’t mind. This guy can only be handled by that man.” 
“Then, if Sousuke dies, this unit, Laevatein, what are you going to do with it!?” 
“Throw it away or destroy it, choose what you like.” the woman muttered bluntly, calling out on her headset. 
“....would that really be okay?” 
 And then a synthesized voice coming from the unit replied in a clam tone. 
<Affirmative> 
 
♦ ♦ ♦ 
 
 With a number of guards and Alastors surrounding the area, Kaname was taken into the corridor of the mansion. 
 She understood that the mansion was in the maelstrom of the battle. The sound of gunfire drew nearer and finally the sounds of the engine of a 2nd generation AS and the sound of guns firing and a fierce explosion echoed around the premises. Impacts and vibrations toppled the furniture, and the broken glass from the windows were scattered on the floor. 
“Where are we going?” 
 The guard did not answer. 
 Even then she knew. The heliport- the one adjacent to the mansion’s garden. The large heliport. They were taking her there and escaping from that place. 
“Who’s coming?” 
 As expected, the guards did not answer. Instead another voice replied. 
“It’s him.” 
 From behind, Leonard appeared and told her. With his wet black coat fluttering, he paced quickly beside her. It was like being chased and hurrying to someplace far away. 
“Him....?” 
“That’s right, him.” 
 It’s Sousuke- 
 While halting reminiscently, Leonard strongly grabbed her arm. 
“Let go.” 
“I can’t.” 
 Even though she swept it away, he did not let go. His grip wasn’t any different from the disciplined Sousuke’s. It might have even been stronger than Sousuke’s. Seemingly it was a strength without any hesitation. 
“I....I---” 
“What would you do if you see him? Embrace each other and run away?” 
“..........” 
“You are hesitating. You turned you back on him once, will you still go back to him now. He risked his life coming here, yet you’re still hesitating.” 
 What Leonard said was true. 
 Even though he came there, she was still indecisive. Why didn’t she shake her hand off much more violently, won’t she run towards the direction of the gunfire? Didn’t she want to see him? 
 Didn’t she want to plunge onto his chest? 
 That was not it. She wanted to see him, and wanted to embrace him. 
“You still don’t fully understand yourself, right?” 
 Without saying anything she cast her eyes downward. Leonard silently looked at her. Coming out of the passage, they arrived in front of the heliport. There was one helicopter equipped with ECS already standing by, ready to take off. The deafening sound of the thundering engine resounded. 
 Would she be riding on that helicopter like that? And then going to another place. Towards some place where his hands could 
not reach. That was not good. Then why was she continuing to be led by her arm like that? 
 Close to the ears of Kaname, who was asking herself that, Leonard leaned in.  
“Then do you want to gamble on it?” he asked. 
“Huh?” 
 He ordered his subordinates and Alastors to “go on ahead”. The Alastors immediately responded, but the subordinates hesitated. 
“But....” 
“Just go.” 
 Without any further protest, the subordinates headed towards the helicopter. On the verge of the heliport, both Kaname and Leonard remained at the entrance to the mansion. He casually took off his black overcoat, and let it fly from the strong winds generated by the helicopter. Like a crow flapping its wings, the overcoat disappeared into the dark night. 
 That bullet proof suit had the ability to reflect bullets and edged tools, Kaname knew that well. By that time she fully understood the mechanism. Created from the Muscle Package of the 3rd generation AS, it was a bullet proof ability combined with Shape Memory Polymer that was a few steps ahead of a Super Aramid Fiber, an “Active” bullet proof suit incorporated with a Super compact Radar element. Assassins that had once attacked her, and Sousuke who had attacked Leonard, it completely stopped all of those. 
 Discarding that overcoat, right then, he was similar to an ordinary person, in a state of complete defenselessness. 
“Here.” 
 After saying that, Leonard took out a hand gun. Cocking it, he turned it around with his hand and handed it to her with the grip forward. 
“Take this.” 
 It was a cold silver gun. 
 An old fashioned revolver- a gun with a rotary magazine. An elegant ornament was carved into it. Of course Leonard had a gun like that. It was like something straight out of a Western. Kaname had though that Leonard had elegance about him, and was surprised by how awkwardly he handled the gun compared to an expert.  
“Well?” 
 Being urged, Kaname spontaneously took the gun. 
“What exactly do you mean-” 
“I told you I want to gamble on it, didn’t I? Why don’t you try and shoot me with that gun.” 
 Leonard stood in front of the door. 
“Sagara Sousuke-kun is over there. If you want to see him, all you have to do is shoot me to go. You have 30 seconds. That’s where it will be decided.” 
“....are you serious?” 
“I won’t make jokes like this. 25 more seconds.” 
“You think I won’t shoot?” 
“That’s why it’s a gamble.” 
“I can shoot you in the legs. Then you’ll still be here.” 
“Good idea. Please.” 
 He added a smile. 
“10 more seconds” 
 Kaname held the gun with one arm, with her finger on the trigger, with the gun pointed before his eyes. 
 It was a scheme that was easy to understand. 
 Over there he was fighting. Behind Leonard. Going over there was simple. Just move the index finger a little, and take that man down. Take away many things from the man who had arrested her until then. 
 Her fingers stiffened. Her elbows were shaking. 
 He should be hateful. He should be someone who she wouldn’t have to worry about killing. Perhaps, it was her first and last chance. 
 And yet- 
“5 more seconds” 
 She couldn’t shoot. 
 If it had been to strike with a kick, it would have been fine. She thought that she had already regained her vitality. Wasn’t she proud of it? Sousuke and those impolite boys in the class, she had always struck them with a kick. 
 But, she couldn’t shoot. 
 It was natural, the violence level was different. The essential meaning, intentionally hurting people… She couldn’t erase their existence. She couldn’t commit murder. She didn’t have the experience. Kaname always “had it easy” from Sousuke. 
 It was because she was simply a woman. An ordinary one. 
 She didn’t have the resolve to kill a person. She didn’t possess it. 
 That was why, she couldn’t shoot. 
 Sousuke was over there. 
 She could see through that man. Although regretful there was nothing that could be done. 
 No, could she really see through him? Why was it that right then she could not see a scared smile on his face? Even with the old hand gun she could not see with her eyes- 
“Zero. Time is up.”  Leonard said with his quick true character. 
“I would have shot.” 
“.........” 
“He fights in order to see you, going about killing people. Even then, you can’t even shoot a ‘conceited bastard’ like me. In the end, your resolve is only up to that degree.” 
“You’re mistaken.” 
 Taking hold of the gun without any strength, Kaname drew back. Leonard extended his hands towards her. 
“Let’s go. I told you I wanted to show you something right?” 
“That’s....” 
“You lose. ----come on” 
“Stop it....” 
 She did not think of anything. Her body only became stiff. She was only shaking off her grabbed hand. She made a fragile sound. 
 -that’s why. 
 -it was not her intention. 
 The muzzle pointed up, her finger pulled on the trigger. Quickly by a little. Causing the firing hammer to cause the single action pistol to fire, even with that amount of strength, it was enough. 
 A dry gunshot. 
 The flame of the discharge twinkled before her eyes. Her vision became completely white. The dull recoil in her right hand trembled. The rapid splattering of blood flew around, soaking her cheek red. 
 
♦ ♦ ♦ 
 
“Dammit....!” 
 The prepared weapon, a small mechanical cannon, slipped its way into his hand. Kurz hurled abusive language in the cockpit. 
 Kurz, Mao, and Clouseau- those three were being pressured into a hard fight. 
 Fowler’s three ASes equipped with Lambda Drivers were pressing their attacks hard with overwhelming power toward the three M9s. 
 As for mobility, power, cooperation and combat tactics it was completely different from the enemy Codarl types from before. They could not get hold of a chance to have good attacking conditions. On the contrary they were simply trying to not get killed. All they could do was run from place to place. 
 The black AS, Fowler’s unit, was equipped with monomolecular cutters on both hands. It was challenging in close combat. Clouseau, who was unparalleled in melee, was being overwhelmed by Fowler. On top of losing one hand, his opponent was equipped with a Lambda Driver. Although the numbers said Fowler had the advantage, Clouseau did not consider Fowler’s abilities to be that great.  
The white AS was equipped with two giant Gatling cannons, from mid distance the shells shed like the rain. In spite of it being clumsily armed, the movements of that white AS were somewhat graceful, suggesting that it was a female pilot. Mao’s unit bore the full brunt of its attack, and was being nailed down into the shadows of the shelter. Mao often drew the short straw, but her comprehensive piloting techniques would not lose to Sousuke. Even then, she couldn’t make any move. She didn’t know who the pilot of the white AS was, but they had suitable skills. 
 And then the red AS- 
It was equipped with a sniper cannon. He was a sniper, in other words a similar type to him. 
In the first confrontation the sniper cannon of Kurz’s M9 had been shot into two equal parts. It had not been designed to be used as a shield to protect his body. The enemy was aiming for his weapon to destroy it. 
If the enemy aimed at his cockpit, one shot would have taken him down. Even then, his weapon had been purposely shot. Could it be that Fowler had ordered them to “send their greetings and avoid killing them”? 
No, he didn’t need to worry about their intentions. 
That guy- the red enemy AS- was harassing him. By looking at the sniper cannon, being also a sniper, he fully understood that. The enemy fired that weapon precisely, ridiculing him. 
“Aren’t you very good....” 
After muttering that, at the same time Kurz secretly shuddered at the ability of the red AS’ pilot. 
What skill. 
He was no idiot. When he took the first shot, he was vigilant on the snipe and sufficiently maneuvered. For combat maneuvers of a 3rd generation AS, aiming only at the weapon and sniping from that distance… By common sense, it was not possible. A pilot capable of that feat, there were only a few in the world- 
No. 
“Impossible....?” 
The doubt that floated his mind in that instant was erased by the enemy snipe. A precise shot aimed from a position barely hidden in the crevice of many trees, rocks, and slopes. The Femur armor of Kurz’s unit had taken a hit from a shell. 
“kuh!” 
The AI reported about the damage. The drive system of the left femur was seriously damaged. His mobility was greatly declining. Continuing in combat maneuvers would be difficult. 
He would be killed like that. 
With not being able to use his own sniper cannon he couldn’t do anything but die there. 
“...........” 
He resigned himself in a posture to take the next shot. But the shot never came. .....3 seconds, 4 seconds, after 10 seconds there was not a snipe. 
Was the enemy still harassing him? 
That’s what he thought, but it was different. The enemy had withdrawn. Not only the red enemy AS that had driven Kurz into a corner, but the remaining two as well. 
“...........?” 
Without saying anything, Fowler and the others had departed at high speed, disappearing into the mountains and the raging winds of the night. 
“They ran away. What exactly is-” Clouseau said over the wireless radio. 
“What’s the meaning of this?” Mao asked with a sigh mixed with relief 
“I don’t know, but seems like we narrowly escaped death” Kurz said with disgust. 
Kurz and the other’s battle, which had turned into a hard fight, had been suddenly postponed. 
 
♦ ♦ ♦ 
 
Sousuke was being chased inside the mansion. The men were persistently attacking him. They continually splashed bullets in the surrounding area, chasing him away to a single direction. 
There was no pardon in the enemy’s gunfire. 
The attack rhythm of the enemy, the training, the scent of the cooperation in the enemy’s movement… Sousuke knew it well. 
Lieutenant Commander- 
There was no mistake that it was Kalinin’s command. 
That man, who had been schooled by adversity in many battles, was not the type of commander that would rely on clever schemes. In Mithril, where the standard for surprise attacks dealing with equipment or information was variable, he had always chosen solid tactics. 
He would not recklessly use diversionary tactics and ambushes. His unit was giving pressure from the right; there was no mistake that the right wing was the real threat. Even though it was a makeshift interaction they were not stalling or trying to gain time. The necessary figures and firepower had already been calculated. They were definitely tearing that mansion apart.  
There were ordinary strategies most tacticians used, but Kalinin didn’t see the practicality of such tactics. If you looked at baseball, without anticipating a homerun you could reliably earn points through hits and steals. It was a type of strategy that limited points via an excellent pitcher. 
By Kalinin’s tactics, bit by bit Sousuke was being cornered into the southern tip of the mansion. Since he had complete knowledge of Kalinin’s habits he knew that that direction would be disadvantageous. Even then, if he tried to head into another direction, he couldn’t. 
Lieutenant Commander is serious. With those kinds of enemy movements Sousuke had to recognize that. 
 At any rate it was solid. From before the battle started, the match had already been decided. He couldn’t move like that. 
 Of course the psychological shaking was effective. The temptation of easy victory and the observation of wishful thinking… he had no use for those. 
 Until the battle was finished and he returned home to take a sip of tea, he had to be careful and stay sharp. When it was time to win he would definitely win. When it was time to lose he would definitely skillfully lose. He was that kind of a man. 
 Kalinin, at that time, had certainly said it himself. “Try and stop me”. After that he felt not even a single presence of mercy. 
Why is it? 
 He really didn’t know. He body automatically counterattacked, making repeated precise shots; but in his head, the betrayal of Kalinin kept swirling inside. 
Why? 
 He was not that kind of man. He was cool-headed, clam, and sometimes he was definitely heartless, but he was not like that. More than that, he must be double crossing them… 
 Why am I so disturbed? 
 That self-consciousness was a distraction. Think later. Now he had to fight. 
 Suppressing his feelings, walking like he was sliding, he fired a restraining shot at the right-hand enemy. After moving to the nearby room it was a few seconds before a number of hand grenades were thrown inside. 
 Explosion. 
 Together with the impact white smoke hung around. Even under normal circumstances the bad field of vision had become zero. Riding on this opportunity, he stopped before going out the 
nearby window. If it were the Lieutenant Commander there would definitely be a number of people waiting outside. 
He walked to the opposite direction. 
There were also enemies in there. While being aimed at with an infra-red scope, he fired his sub machinegun. 
He was not able to twist his body in time. The enemy gunfire hit Sousuke. There was a dull pain in the upper left part of his body. He had taken a high caliber bullet. The AS pilot suit stopped all the bullets. If it had been a larger rifle bullet then he might have died. 
He immediately fired back. 
Although he hit their bodies, they immediately retreated into a hidden passage. They also had body armor. He could hear their abusive language. 
Where’s Chidori.....? 
He concealed himself in the wooden bookshelf that had fallen. Changing his magazine, Sousuke nimbly patrolled the surroundings. 
If she was around then she must have headed to the heliport. But, how did he break through the siege, and then go to her while she was being rigorously protected....? 
There was a short time of hesitation. Magazine changed, he immediately moved, and then he was attacked by a huge shock. A few meters beyond where he was, enemy soldiers hidden in the wall were blown away. Even separated, Sousuke also felt the blast and, together with the scattered debris, he hit the floor. 
“............” 
There was a buzzing in his ears. Raising his body, the rubble and dust piled up his back scattered down. Beside him was a big hole. Through it the sea breeze of the night entered the room. 
The attack just now.... 
 It was not an attack aimed at him. The destructive power was too great. 
 It was not an explosion used by infantry, and it was more than that of an AS or helicopter. He looked through the large hole in the wall. A number of helicopters circled the skies. The three Behemoth that he had seen earlier were closing in towards him. The rocket launchers equipped on their shoulders were firing sporadically. 
 They were attacking the mansion. Even though they were both part of Amalgam, the two sides were fighting? He really didn’t know the reason. The American Military that was fighting in the north mountain district, the raid, exactly what was happening? 
“!” 
 A Behemoth fired its cannons. Tearing off the corner of the mansion 30 meters away like a piece of paper. Debris and flames rained incessantly down on Sousuke’s position. 
 No matter what the situation was, riding on the confusion he had to chase after Kaname. He somehow broke through the siege of the enemy. If he could quickly get to the heliport… 
 
♦ ♦ ♦ 
 
Lenard Testarossa fell down at Kaname’s feet. 
He laid down powerless on the right side of his body. Blood flowed from his head turning into a twinkling puddle and dying his silver hair scarlet.  
“That....” 
With her knees shaking, Kaname, who could still hear the sound of gunshots faraway, peered sluggishly at Leonard, who lay motionless, like he was sleeping. The bullet of the pistol that had unexpectedly discharged had bored deeply into Leonard’s forehead. 
Is he dead....? 
In an instant, a hand that was colder than ice gripped at her heart. But, placing her trembling fingertips on the nape of his neck, she felt a faint pulsation. 
He was not dead yet. 
Certainly he had been hit by the bullet, but the angle was shallow. Kaname shook Leonard’s elbow, knowing that there would be no response. She started looking around for something that might help. 
What now? Should she stop the bleeding? Should she sterilize it? Should she do artificial respiration and heart massage? She couldn’t even guess. With AS, other weapons, communication system, and artificial intelligence, she would know very well how to fix them, but she couldn’t think of anything about emergency medical treatment. Even with the state of her unusual knowledge, she could not do anything. 
No- 
Kaname returned to her senses. 
In the first place, why would treatment be necessary? Originally, she was supposed to shoot him and move forward. 
The guards, who had sensed the accident, got out of the helicopter and headed in her direction. 
I have to run away....now 
That was what she was thinking. There was a large distance from the heliport to her. If she were to run away then, the guard would not be able to make chase....! 
“Wait!” one of the guards cried. 
Kaname changed her mind. She would jump inside the mansion. Then run straight. And then shout with a loud voice “Sousuke!” If she did that, he- 
 But, her feet would not move. 
 It was like her sandals were strongly glued in place, clinging to the ground. She couldn’t move. 
“.............” 
 She took a glance at Leonard, who was still collapsed. Blood flowing, Leonard was lying down in the middle of the rain. His eyes faintly opened. From that position he looked up at Kaname, who was standing still in shock. Why was there calmness in those eyes, and at the same time an awful pity? 
 Was it because of the pain from the injury, or could it have been something else? 
 -shoot 
 -I violated a rule. 
She could no longer tear herself from her location. In her isolation she had gotten strange. She had struggled with giving the final blow. The guilt of running away would have been too much. 
 How long was there hesitation? The moment she noticed, the guards were already a few steps away, with guns in hand, aiming at her. 
 Her hesitation had been her fatal shackles. 
“Drop the pistol. Hurry” the man said. 
Kaname only then realized that she was still gripping Leonard’s pistol. 
“Eh....” 
 Kaname, who unintentionally pivoted her shoulders, felt her heart thudding in her chest. Looking over her shoulders she saw Andrei Kalinin’s large frame beside the door. 
“Where do you plan to go?” 
“I-” 
 Looking at the pistol Kaname was holding and the profile of Leonard who was lying down, there was a sadness to the indifferent eyes of the Russian. But that was only for an instant. 
Kalinin immediately returned to his usual expressionless face.  He casually took the silver pistol. 
“We’re escaping. Take her.” 
 The guard pushed Kaname, kneeling beside Leonard. Even though he had been injured he managed to whisper something. She couldn’t hear what it was. 
“Ah....” 
 There was a downpour of incessant rain. The exploding sound of the helicopter, the fierce gunshots, and the flames of explosions could be heard here and there. Kaname was being taken into the vortex. 
 Three ASes appeared from nowhere, guarding the heliport and transport helicopter from three directions. There was black, white, and red coating. The black one was probably Fowler, the white one Sabina was piloting. The one piloting the red one was unknown. 
 Kaname was familiar with those units. There was data about those units in the PC Notebook. They were a type called Eligor, and were equipped with Lambda Drivers. The basic frame was the Codarl type, but the generator and engine were reinforced. It was an unsatisfactory electronic device with performance that was at the level of an M9. 
 Kaname was being carried by the male guards, and was thrown into the guest seat of the helicopter. The injured Leonard was also carried by Kalinin. 
 The engine of the helicopter roared, slowly taking off. The three ASes were repeatedly making return fire, exchanging hostilities with the “enemy military” from somewhere. Before long the three ASes also departed from the heliport, accompanying them by the leaping from the ground. They started to move at high speed towards the northwestern direction. 
 Kaname was looking down from the window of the rising helicopter. 
 There, she saw one person running on the heliport. The violent wind blew on the surrounding flames and because of the thick black smoke and the darkness of night she could not see his face clearly. 
 Black hair. Black AS pilot suit. 
 That alone was not clear. But it was enough. 
“Sousuke....?” 
 In a twinkle far away, a very small Sousuke was calling out something. She couldn’t read the movements of his lips. Even then, what he said, she could clearly guess. 
 A simple word. 
“Chidori!” 
 That’s was what he was shouting. At least on that level, she was thinking of how stupid she was, and was filled with a strong regret. 
 She couldn’t run away anymore. 
 Why hadn’t she run away immediately? 
 She even had the chance. 
 Why did she hesitate? 
 Why- she looked at Leonard, who was receiving medical treatment, from a corner of the room- couldn’t she have left him behind and run out....? 
 More than that, why wasn’t she resisting and crying “No! Let me off!”....? 
 The helicopter was accelerating. Sousuke’s appearance disappeared into the black smoke. She saw him falling onto his knees, pounding on the surface with his fist. That sight fiercely shook her heart. 
The Behemoth that landed on the coast did not fire at the helicopter. They most probably wanted to capture her and Leonard alive. 
She couldn’t do anything anymore. It was the same as before, being obedient like a doll- 
No. That was not it. 
It was certain that she was not able to meet him, but there was still something that she could do. It was something she had already prepared for because she had done it recently. 
That’s right, just a little more- 
Kalinin was having a discussion with the cabin crew. The other men also did not see Kaname. 
She’d try. 
She glanced at the pistol holster at the hips of the soldier who was seated nearby. 
 
♦ ♦ ♦ 
 
 Sousuke kept chasing the helicopter that flew away with his eyes. Over the lines of the mountain its form disappeared. He still continued to glare at the Northwestern sky. 
 It was already useless. 
 Although he only said it to himself, he permitted himself to let out a curse. 
“Dammit....” 
 Kaname was in that helicopter. He saw her once in the window. He could barely see the short person with long blue hair, but she had been looking over at him. 
 Chidori. 
 If I meet you there are a mountain of things I want to say to you. If I’m rejected, then that would be fine. But, I want to talk to you. That is why I came this far- 
Sousuke, standing still in shock at the center of the heliport, was surrounded by soldiers. They were not the subordinates of Kalinin. They were the company which had invaded the mansion together with the Behemoths. 
As far as he could see there were at least 10 men. 
Since he had a good view of his surroundings he could tell there was absolutely no way to resist. All around a large scale of troops had been deployed and the three Behemoths were still in the sea. Even if Kurz and Mao were alright, they couldn’t possibly get near a dangerous place like that. Thinking of a way to escape was stupid. 
Won’t we be able to meet anymore, Chidori? 
Feelings of fruitless effort and despair weighed heavily on his shoulders. 
“Are you Sagara Sousuke?” the man, who was apparently the commander, asked. 
“..........” 
“Drop your weapons. We have mountains of questions for you. But if you want to die, then now would be a good time. We are very particular in the treatment of prisoners of war.” 
The surrounding soldiers made short laughs. 
Sousuke slowly looked around at their vulgar smiles, and said something to cast aside. 
“Do as you wish.” 
At that time, a few hundred meters away from the heliport, a single large helicopter suddenly appeared; the exploding sound of the engine and rotor roared. 
“Huh!?” 
 MH-53. It was the one that Old Man Seals had carried the M6 with, that helicopter. The large helicopter quickly got close, turning its portside steeply. 
“Sousuke, duck!” Lemon’s voice shouted from the exterior speakers. 
Exposed from the port side of the helicopter, a Mini gun, a Vulcan machine gun, showered the soldiers with violent shots. The surrounding water splashed wildly. The soldiers dropped, falling down, and ran away puzzled. 
Lemon and the others came running in. But it was reckless. Hovering at point blank range the enemy Behemoths would attack at once. Of course, being an ordinary helicopter, it had no capability of attacking the Behemoths or an AS. 
Running past the chaos in the confusing raid at the heliport, Sousuke called out on the wireless radio. 
“That’s enough, Lemon. Get away immediately! The operation is a failure!” 
And then the voice of Old Man Courtney disciplined him over the wireless radio. 
“What are you talking about! Don’t you understand, can’t you wind up your ass before giving up!” 
“What are you talking about-” 
Then another voice, the sound of a woman he remembered, interrupted. 
“Sagara! We’re dropping the Laevatein now! Use it as you like!” 
“Laeva....what?” 
That person was an agent belonging to Mithril’s Intelligence Division, Wraith. 
“Laevatein! That’s what he calls himself though!” 
“At this height- I don’t care!” 
“Just drop it!” 
“Yeah, geez!” 
 The cargo hatch of the helicopter in the sky opened. Inside that hatch was a large black lump slipping down. With the darkness of night and smoke he couldn’t see it clearly, but it was most probably an AS. 
 The helicopter turned and was hit by multiple shots from by the enemy. Fire suddenly erupted. The smoke scattered like a spiral and the helicopter started to stall. 
Over the wireless radio, he could hear the fierce noises of Courtney and the other’s screams and jeers. 
“..........!” 
 Lemon and the other’s transport helicopter passed over Sousuke’s head, sinking left and right, making an emergency landing in the garden. There was a loud thundering sound. The rotor that had broken off turned in the sky, blowing up in a cloud of dust. His friends inside might not be alright. And he didn’t know about the two elderly men. 
 And then- 
 The other object dropped. It was the unidentified AS that Lemon and the others had delivered. It was very light while in mid-air. Before Sousuke’s eyes it landed approximately 10 meters away. A smooth and secure landing. 
“...........” 
The whirled up splashes of water were very clear. Illuminating in the burning flames of its surrounding, he could clearly see the whole detail of the kneeling AS that had just landed in front of him. 
This unit is....? 
Its armor was wet from the rain. 
It had a smart and tightened silhouette. It was a 3rd generation AS similar to the M9. 
The closest unit would be- the Arbalest. His favorite unit that had been destroyed in Tokyo; Mithril’s only Lambda Driver equipped AS. It had a sharp resemblance on the ARX-7 Arbalest. But that unit had more volume than the Arbalest. Its arms and feet were reassuring and audacious. Its power and sudden exploding ferociousness seemed legendary. Above the shoulder armor there were large cannons equipped. They were a size that ordinary ASes would not be able to carry, like a tank which was equipped with heavy equipment. 
 The armor’s color was white. No, its basic coating was white, but there were some points that were coated red. It was a little dark, but it was like a bursting blood red. 
 Compared to the white and blue coating of the Arbalest, which suggested wind and ice, the unit’s red color in various places was like burning flames. 
 Flame of anger. 
 Flame of battle. 
 A color that governed with the strength of energy and attacking. 
 Sousuke instantly forgot that he was in a battlefield and, dumbfounded, looked up at that unit. 
<It’s been a long time, Sergeant> a very nostalgic voice informed him from the exterior speakers.  
Lacking intonation, it was a short male voice. It was a synthetic sound created by the unit’s AI. 
“....is that you Al?” 
<Affirmative. However this unit is called ARX-8 Laevatein. Sergeant Sagara, requesting permission to return to your war.> 
 
 
 
An AS of unknown origin landed before Sousuke’s eyes. “It’s been a long time, Sergeant.” 
 
 That’s right. The fighting hadn’t started yet. He could still make chase. If he were to be paired up with that guy- 
“Of course. Permission granted.” 
<It is my honor. Let us save the details for later. First get on board.> 
 That unit, the Laevatein, extended its left hand. A number of enemies were shooting their way. Its armor was being hit by shells and sparks were flying. Sousuke jumped into the hand of the AS, turning to the back side of the unit without difficulty. 
<A new armor and it is immediately damaged. Somehow, I wanted to have a more elegant first campaign.> 
“....your chattering is the same as usual” 
<It’s been months, I haven’t talked to anyone and it was boring.> 
“Really.....” 
 What pride. Not worrying about disadvantages. 
 Sousuke snorted his nose, sliding into the opened hatch. There was no change in the cockpit from the M9 or the Arbalest. Gripping the stick a number of times and listening, he confirmed the condition. 
 The hatch closed. Start up procedures were initiated. Master mode, establishment of the Bi-lateral angle, everything was completed quickly. 
“Well then....” 
 On the front screen the information indicated that the enemy infantry were persistently firing upon them, and then that the giant Behemoths had noticed their existence and were prepared to attack. The normal sized enemy ASes, Codarl types, were also deployed. 
<Warning. Enemy AS. Behemoth types, three units, Codarl types, three units. Heavily armed infantry about two squads.> 
 If it were an ordinary AS, its combat power would be no match. Even a single unit of Behemoth would have caused him trouble, much less three. 
 However- 
“Firstly, shall we go berserk?” 
 Sousuke breathed deeply, gripping the stick. 
 In the last half year it was an excitement that he hadn’t felt. No, it was the omnipotent feeling that exceeded theory he had had after the battle in Hong Kong. The hidden power of the unit was responding. Since Tokyo, he had always been continuously fighting a hard battle. But this unit had leveled the playing field. 
 There were six powerful ASes? 
 Fine. But wouldn’t it become a bloodbath? 
 The unit, the AI, and even his own blood boiled with fearless fighting spirit. 
“Alright. Let’s finish this in 3 minutes.” 
<It is impossible in three minutes. It is at least 4 minutes 12 seconds> 
“Shut up. Let’s go....” 
<Roger, Sarge.> 
 It was time for battle maneuvers. Kicking the ground, evidently the sword of flames, the Laevatein leapt towards the enemy. 
 


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