Chapter 5: Sword of Flame
That Codarl’s pilots were harboring a discontent from having no enemies present. The troops were members of a unit whose leader went by the name “Mr. Gold”.
In the briefing before the operation, they heard that the mansion had at least three Codarls similar to their own. They would be Lambda Driver equipped ASes ready to defend the mansion. It was also explained that they may come across a situation where they would exchange hostilities with a developed AS called an Eligor, which had exceeding capabilities.
Aside from the equipment of the Codarl, their attack targets were similar to their own Amalgam troops.
They were allies, so to speak, so there was no need to go easy on them. It would be good to break the security of the mission. Even if it were to be called cannibalism, for a mercenary, if they had the liberty to pillage, they would like that scenario. They had already forgotten about the problems they would face from taking medicine prior to the operation. And, because of the overwhelming performance of their Codarls, they felt unsatisfied by the recent one-sided battle.
However, even after opening the lid, so to speak, there was no resistance whatsoever.
The enemy units had anticipated the hostilities and appeared. They seemed like they would make difficult opponents. But the Eligors could only be seen for a short amount of time, then they immediately retreated.
How boring, there was nobody to kill.
Their spirits, whose agitation and concentration were heightened at the time, could feel a kind of hunger.
At that time, a single unidentified helicopter flew around. The helicopter tried to attack and scatter the infantry. It had arrived at the target position rather quickly; the allied giant AS, Behemoth, shot them down.
Their hunger swelled up once more.
How boring. Give some more prey. Give something to kill. Prepare an opponent that can resist while desperately running away. Swinging steel and polymer limbs, a helpless enemy that would gallantly fire a powerless 40mm barrel.....!
An alarm sounded.
The units’ sensors captured a single AS on the edge of the mansion. It had been thrown off from the shot down helicopter.
They switched to Night Vision mode.
Its silhouette was determined to be a 3rd generation AS that was close to the M9. It was nothing. Just an M9. It was no match for the Codarls.
The heat signature of the kneeling unit did not correspond to that of the M9. Also, the assumed output of the rising generator of the unit was-
Estimated, 4800 Kilowatts.
Two times the standard level of a 3rd generation AS. That was no longer the level of a ground weapon. By far it was an output of a large scale fighter or battleship....!
In the direction of the smoldering rain, the appearance of the white unit was slowly shown. Various parts of the unit appeared gloomy, even feverish, and shone a burning red. The surrounding atmosphere was distorted by the heat. Its boiling appearance trembled and danced in the middle of the flames.
There were orders from the command unit.
“All units. Attack the landed enemy AS on the heliport. Use whatever means necessary. Attack that enemy AS at once....!”
Before they could answer “Roger”, the enemy AS stirred.
Glancing at them in its kneeling posture, it slinked its light body, saving its energy. With only mere movements, all the allied ASes sensed something would be starting.
“....I repeat. Immediately attack that enemy AS....”
Bursting open like a burning flame, the enemy AS leapt.
♦ ♦ ♦
With the first leap, Sousuke’s consciousness disappeared with uncertainty.
With tremendous G-force there was a feeling that all his blood was pumped into his feet. His field of vision narrowed and became totally dark. Enduring the pain, he griped the stick.
His consciousness barely connected, he turned to glance at the G meter and altimeter above the screen. The instant gravity acceleration had been no less than 30Gs. It was almost similar to the circumstances of an aircraft. His body could endure the instant G-force, but it would not be easy. His current height was 80 meters. The heliport, which had been there just a few seconds ago, was now under his eyes.
What is this AS?
What kind of power is this?
He did not have the time to say those words. He drew quickly to the ground in a landing posture, waving his limbs. He had landed on the outskirts of the mansion. The pavement that had been destroyed by the impact scattered in the surroundings like a land mine had exploded.
“What is this, this is....!?” Sousuke said breathlessly, enduring the impact of the landing.
<Training Message. Please define the subject of “This”> Al said with an inorganic voice.
“This unit’s jumping ability and the established--”
<Kidding. Quite a thing, is it not?>
Sousuke smacks his lips. Al put aside his non-versatile common AI act.
<Forgive me. Actually there has been no satisfactory test run and operation>
“What was that?”
<With a restricting environment, this unit was constructed in secrecy. I also requested operational tests for ground maneuvering, but Mr. Hunter rejected with, ‘we don’t have the time or place for that’>
“Hunter. Gavin Hunter?”
That man who had been the Hong Kong Branch Head of Mithril’s Information Department had been involved with the unit. It was the first time that Sousuke had heard about it. Since that female agent, Wraith, had brought the unit, it seemed that the construction of the ARX-8 Laevatein had involved Mithril’s Information Department.
An alarm sounded.
An enemy AS, a Codarl type, hurriedly got closer. Its weapon was the standard 35mm Rifle.
Sousuke prudently operated his unit.
The Laevatein lightly stepped to the left, evading the enemy’s attack. The incoming shells split the pavement, pulverizing a nearby storehouse.
“Well, you can use that of course!?”
<The Lambda Driver?>
Sousuke’s movement had an exhausted feeling and he was losing his balance. Frankly, the Laevatein’s movements looked stupid. The enemy attacked. He continued to make evasive maneuvers.
“What do you mean ‘who knows’!?”
<No. At any rate there is nothing that can be used. I cannot irresponsibly affirm->
An enemy shell grazed at their femur. Their shoulders were also superficially shot. Klunk, a fierce impact attacked.
The enemy unit took out its monomolecular cutter and immediately drew near. There was no time to react. If only he could select a weapon…
Sousuke smacks his lips and called out.
“I don’t care, try it!”
<By all means>
Immediately, two gravitational fields stopped the opponent’s charge. Atmosphere distorting, the white smoke and fragments of the rubble mixed up in a swirl. The projected hand of the Laevatein had stopped the monomolecular cutter of the Codarl.
It was operational.
With only that he clearly understood. In the gravitational field created by the enemy he could feel his own power pushing
back. No, he could still go further. He could counter attack. With that overwhelming power-
The Laevatein seized the monomolecular cutter like a piece of wood, pulling it from the enemy unit with a jerk. The units got close to each other, eye to eye, sensor to sensor. The enemy unit’s head moved, and he could see a faint fear.
He moved its right hand. Pulling on the manipulator control wheel, and made a fist. Taking hold of the large hips he punched through the enemy’s abdomen. There was an indifferent spark. The Laevatein broke through the gravitational field of the Codarl and tore up the abdomen armor. It grasped the internal generator and pulled it out. A number of cables extend like entrails. Gripping the nuclear fusion battery with sparks flying, he kicked the unit in the abdomen. The Codarl that had lost its power blew up into two equal parts.
The fragments of the titanium alloy, the jet of water from the shock absorbers, the burning flames. All danced fiercely in front of the Laevatein’s eyes.
One unit destroyed.
It had that much destructive power with only its bare hands.
<Success. Managed to do something unexpected.>
“But with such a cold sweat....!”
<Starting enforced refrigerant>
The Laevatein’s head sharply opened, from inside a volume of hair gushed out. It was similar to the ponytail of the Codarls, but its expansion was like “extending”. It had the vigor of a large volume of boiling water gushing out from the water tap.
A medley of rising atmospheric current drifted from the “hair”, and particles of dimly white light scattered. The Laevatein, in a kneeling posture, searched for a new prey.
There was a reaction from the optical sensor. Finally the two other Codarls drew close.
“What about weapons?”
<There are all sorts. How about this for a start>
There was an indication from the equipped control panel.
On the unit’s simple diagram, on one knee, blue flickering letters read “GRAW-4/MMC”. A large monomolecular cutter. It was a developed model from the GRAW-2 that the M9 used.
The knee armor of the Laevatein that looked largely unbalanced, stowed the folded monomolecular cutter. One knee armor opened, and sparks scattered from the monomolecular cutter. The Laevatein, gripping the handle, reassuringly pulled it out, with its left and right stance like a giant eagle spreading its wings. With only that movement there was a squall on the ground’s surface. The spiraling mud gave off the sensation of a whirlwind. The GRAW-4 monomolecular cutter instantly opened from the storage position, sword blade making a short howl.
<M3 approaching. 10 o’clock, distance 1>
That Codarl, which they had designated M3, had large monomolecular cutters in both hands. It was closing in with a skillful battle maneuver. The other unit, M2, drew near from his blind spot on the right hand side. They were coming at the same time-
<I will take on M2>
<Continue with the battle>
There was no more room for conversation after that.
To his front was a unit with two swords. Sousuke manipulated the unit, striking the enemy Codarl right in the front.
The gravitational field generated by the Lambda Driver clashed and the Plasma in the atmosphere let out a shine.
The other Codarl, M2, drew close from behind. Both of Laevetain’s arms were already plugged up, but there was a rapid expansion from under both weapons racks, and small manipulators appeared.
Moving the extended limbs with just one pilot in the unit? In theory it couldn’t be done. But for those arms it was like another pilot was controlling them, showing clever movements. The pair of hidden arms grabbed the hand grenade from the hip’s hard point and threw them in succession to the Codarl that was drawing close from behind.
There was an explosion. The posture of the enemy from behind that was suddenly struck was pulled down, delaying the attack timing. At that moment Sousuke skillfully manipulated his original arms, handling the slash from the enemy up front. He knocked it off balance and did a light foot sweep.
No, it was not only a foot sweep.
With the superfluous power of the Laevatein, it was a vigorous explosion that broke off the leg of the enemy unit.
That Codarl made a half revolution with its abdomen as a center, sparks scattering from its head rubbing on the ground, and stopped nearby on a number of cars.
He turned around with a light leap towards the other unit, which had run incessantly from the explosions from the hand grenade. He pressed on a straight line. In desperation, the enemy unit fired. Sousuke glared at the muzzle. With only that, the shells snapped before his eyes.
A flash on the right. And continued to the left.
He cut the Codarl with an “X”. The torn-to-pieces arms spun and rotated, falling down to the ground.
2 units destroyed.
The remaining unit, who had been foot swept, was unsteady and raising its body in the corner of his field of vision. Did he still intend to fight? No, he intended to run-
<Please allow me>
At the same time Al said that, the hidden arm on the left side pulled out an anti tank dagger from the elbow, letting it loose towards the front of his chest. Having full knowledge of Sousuke’s movement habits, it had superb timing.
Sousuke moved his unit snorting his nose, grasping the anti tank dagger in midair by the side. With a sharp motion, he threw it at the last Codarl. The enemy unit’s Lambda Driver’s gravitational field stopped the single attack- but lost to the push of the opposing gravitational field.
The anti tank dagger made a direct hit in the torso. The sound of crushing metal echoed and, together with a flash, the Codarl was smashed.
3 units destroyed.
Sousuke landed with a turn. Following the movement of the Laevatein, the radiation cord at the back of its head proceeded to make an arc, scattering sprays of light.
“What was that, these arms?”
<Support arms. Attack support, magazine change, please make use of these detailed functions. I will be the one controlling them.>
“Four arms huh. How disgusting....”
<I like it. In this circumstance, please neglect as much as you like>
The remaining main forces of the enemy were the three Behemoths. The incredibly giant ASes. One of them, the Behemoth closest to the coast, was gazing at the Laevatein.
♦ ♦ ♦
By karma, the transport helicopter that Lemon and the others were one was unusually tough. For more than 30 years its design had been repeatedly forged and modified with actual combat; it was not easily damaged and destroyed.
“I told you didn’t I!? We won’t die that easily!”
Hiding in the shadows of the damaged unit, Old Man Courtney called out in a loud voice.
Without losing to the surrounding gunfire and explosive sounds, Lemon returned the shouting.
“We’re surrounded by the enemy like this; I don’t see the significance as to why we’re being killed bit by bit!”
Lemon’s lamentation was extreme. After the emergency landing there had been no casualties. Even for those who had been riding in their helicopter there were no fatalities. Turning sideways in the garden, the crushed helicopter was surrounded by enemy soldiers. From the shadows of the unit came the gallant return fire from Lemon and the others. Because they couldn’t find a chance to escape, their ammunitions were slowly being reduced.
“No- Remember Kesan Base! Shoot, shoot! Wa----hahahaha!”
An eccentrically high Courtney was shooting a submachine gun.
“Kesan huh. That was a terrible battle” Old Man Seals muttered offended, with carbine gun in hand.
“Hey, I’ve been accompanying you because you said something about transporting safely but- why are we in a large rural area in Mexico and being dragged into a desperate shoot out?”
The Oriental woman, whose identity was unknown, was firing a sub machine gun with one hand. Although she was called “Wraith”, nobody really knew who she was, or whose side she was affiliated with.
The contact with Wraith had immediately followed Sousuke witnessing the attack of the US military. Standing by in the extremities of the deserted village, she was riding on a large trailer in a remote wasteland. In front of Lemon and the others with vigilant guns, that woman, Wraith, got out unarmed, with the headlights behind her, and called out, “Is Sagara Sousuke there!? I have something to give him!”
It would be a strange request for a trap, and it seemed that she knew a great deal about Sousuke. Lemon and the others peeped into the container without completely understanding. The AS in the cargo was a 3rd generation AS which they had never seen before.
“Believe it or don’t, it’s up to your own accord. If you are going, then take this unit” Wraith had informed Lemon and the others.
They asked her why she knew of their standby point. She had answered, “I didn’t know. Al said it was here.”
Without any more information there had been no reason to refuse. Lemon and the others loaded the new AS in the helicopter, accompanying Wraith, and then flew towards the mansion-
“I didn’t know that there were this many dreadful enemies. We’ll die. We will definitely die” Lemon yelled to the night sky, hiding in the shadows of the duralumin.
“You don’t know that, young one!” Courtney said.
“Just watch. That Sagara, he already defeated three units.”
“Ah, it’s true.”
There was a big explosion in the corner of the orchard a few hundred meters from their crash point. The enemy AS which had been attacked by that red AS, Laevatein, was crushed by an anti tank dagger.
“I don’t know if it’s some sort of lamb, but I haven’t seen such violent power from a unit before. But is has a good rhythm in its movements. Is it really his first time getting on that unit? It looks like a favorite unit that he was accustomed to.”
“I guess it’s like that. For Sagara, that unit is like an old wife” Wraith said cowering from the splashes of bullets from nearby.
“But, how will he fare with Behemoth as an opponent....”
They glanced at the Super Giant AS Behemoth that was repeatedly scattering shots at the coast. The Behemoth shook violently in its giant size and started aiming at the Laevatein on the ground. At the same time both shoulders, both arms, and all the fire power equipped in its head were fired. Various sizes of machine guns, rocket missiles, and anti tank missiles covered the Silhouette of the white AS.
With the barrage at that distance, there was no time to make evasive maneuvers. Moving bit by bit the Laevatein lost its balance from the blast and shots, and could be seen toppling on its knees. The Behemoth charged in with its giant size with
unimaginable speed, taking one big step forward, trampling down on the Laevatein with its right foot.
There was a thundering roar. Large amounts of sand whirled up.
It was like a child facing a tidal wave. The Laevatein was by all means trampled by the Behemoth.
Lemon let out a despairing noise; Courtney also concealed his brow and caught his breath. However, Wraith was different. She opened her slit eyes without a cloud of anxiousness, and an excited tone of voice leaked from her throat.
“No. Look carefully....”
From the other side of Behemoth’s foot, which trampled on the ground, light particles were revealed. The roaring sounds of the radiation system echoed and the surrounding atmosphere flickered like a blaze.
“Ross & Humbleton, PRX-3000. An experimental super high output generator. Power exceeding that of a ground weapon’s level, if it were to increase the power of the Lambda Driver-”
The body of the Behemoth leaned. Right foot about to swing, the form of the Laevatein hidden in the other side of the foot slowly appeared.
♦ ♦ ♦
The Laevatein was not smashed. After stopping the foot of the Behemoth with both arms, red light particles were surging throughout its whole body and it slowly lifted the giant enemy.
The unit howled and alarms were sounding. The generator’s output was being pushed to the MAX. The cooling system was also functioning at its highest level. The electricity running through the electromagnetic muscles was sparking; the whole body was surging like lightning. Both feet were slowly sinking into the ground and the whole frame was screaming.
<The current estimated load is roughly 1500 tons> Al informed with his usual voice. <Although it is not yet referenced, this is approximately 30 times the standard load of a main tank. In other words, the load limit on top of the design has already been exceeded. Sergeant, you have to escape at once>
“Shut, up....!” Sousuke groaned, enduring the pain.
With the influence of the Lambda Driver, the fierce weight was giving feedback to his nervous system.
“If that was possible, I would have done so a long time ago....”
Bearing the pressure with desperation, Sousuke drew a short breath, putting all his strength into his lower abdomen.
The gravitational field from the Laevatein shined red hot. In an instant it created an explosive strength and he pushed the trampling foot of the Behemoth with all his might. Impact. The giant’s right ankle was crumpled and crushed. The Behemoth’s balance was pulled down and it overturned upwards.
“Let’s finish it!”
Pulling out the monomolecular cutter housed in his knee, the Laevatein leapt. Aiming at the Behemoth’s head, he drew a short parabola in the air, violently thrusting the monomolecular cutter gripped in his hand into the nape of the enemy’s neck.
He tore its armor and broke through its gravitational field, encroaching upon its interior with the sword blade.
Then two strikes, three strikes.
Sparks and oil scattered like a waterfall. The head cockpit was torn and detached, the Behemoth lost power.
<The fourth unit destroyed> Al informed.
The remaining two Behemoths could be seen from the coast. One unit was several hundred meters away; the other was a few kilometers.
The nearer Behemoth fired. The Laevatein’s body fluttered, hiding in the shadows of the armor of the enemy unit it had just defeated. 30mm shells and Plastic explosives hit his surroundings. Violent flames and detonations appeared.
“I don’t want what just happened....! Are there any other weapons?”
<Leave it to me. Here it is.>
There was an indication on the control panel. The symbols of the artillery mounted in the back flickered.
“Demolition Gun. 165mm....!?”
It was natural for Sousuke’s voice to be excited. From the size of a 165mm shell it was unthinkable that it would be an AS’ weapon. The standard rifle an AS used was 40mm. Sousuke’s favorite Boxer shot canon was 57mm. Kurz’s largest Sniper smooth-bore gun used in sniping was 76mm. The comparatively destructive artillery used by a tank was 120mm. It was a weapon that was fired from the level of a tank exceeding 50 tons. For a 10 ton AS…
“Is it not an artillery used by engineers?”
The Demolition Gun was originally used to remove unwanted buildings and structures by crushing them. But by having his unit equipping it, it was purely for combat.
<This firearm is for combat. The explosion and recoil is extraordinary please be careful. It cannot be fired without the Lambda Driver.>
His arms established a support point and the short barrel of the large caliber Demolition Gun turned from under his right shoulder, moving into firing position. Even with the size being reflected on the screen, it could be perceived as being extraordinary.
However, could that Big Lug-
“Can it fire....?? Sousuke muttered while operating the arm, testing the condition of the Demolition Gun.
<Unknown. No test shot has been made>
“But, nothing can be done but to do it.”
<That is correct>
The Laevatein, with demolition gun at the ready, leaned on the wreckage of the Behemoth, jumping towards where the enemy landed.
Immediately the enemy Behemoth fired. A number of flashes made his eyes dizzy. The Lambda Driver repelled the unavoidable enemy shells.
Not that simple....!
He landed and immediately jumped, spinning in midair. Anti-AS missile were drawing near. The Gatling gun in his head fired on full auto. It was an ambush attack that shook all his limbs. The power of the Lambda Driver converted to a sharp parabola. He evaded the enemy barrage. The distance from the enemy was approximately 200 meters.
If it can be taken in close proximity....
He leapt a third time on the short rail. There was a violent impact and tremendous G-force. The enemy unit’s feet pushed out,
passing through the length of its legs. Dawn was breaking and he shot through the slit in the rear looking up-
The Laevatein made a forward somersault, kicking the sand on the coast and making a perpendicular splash. He twinkled in the eye of the re-aimed Behemoth overhead, making a revolution in midair. He flew to the vicinity of the back of the giant AS’ head.
The enemy’s Lambda Driver howled. The Laevatein rushed on the gathered focal point of the gravitational field. Normally the shockwave would blow him to pieces. However-
Concentrate. The gravitational field of the Laevatein stopped the enemy’s gravitational field, eluding like the wind. Demolition Gun in one hand, the muzzle broke through the back of the enemy’s head and he pulled the trigger with full spirit.
Flash and impact exploded before their eyes. The high explosive broke through the armor of the enemy and penetrated deep, exploding in the center. The 165mm cannon created absurd recoil and the unit floated away a few meters.
Balance destroyed, the Laevatein tumbled down the back of the Behemoth.
Only the information from Al could be heard. The limbs of the unit shook quickly and he landed on the sandy beach in a standing position.
“How was it....!?”
<Like I said, success>
Rising from the Behemoth were large quantities of black smoke spewing out from the upper part of the body, slowly falling
forward. After losing the automatic operation capability of the Lambda Driver’s gravitational field, the enemy unit fell to pieces. The collapsing unit swirled into an infinite number of pieces on the sandy beach, with a roar of deathly agony tearing up the heavens.
5 units destroyed.
“What a recoil” Sousuke muttered while reloading the Demolition Gun.
<It is beyond expectations. That kind of attack method was not expected.>
“You should already know that I’m rough. How many years have we been partners?”
<Around 1 year 2 months. Not really that long.>
“Now that you mention it, you’re right.”
Letting out a snort, Sousuke glanced at the last remaining Behemoth.
The Laevatein was kneeling at the coast in front of the mansion. The last enemy unit was roughly three kilometers beyond the sea, and seemed like it had lost interesting in entering into hostilities. It had attempted an intimidating shot, and then retreated at high speed.
<M6 is retreating. It seems he is withdrawing from the battlefield. Shall we make pursuit?>
“Let’s try if we can, it’s no good at this distance, right?”
The Demolition Gun was similar to the Boxer that had a short gun barrel. It was effective in battle if it was only a few meters away. With that kind of distance there was no accuracy when aiming at the enemy.
<No, it is possible>
“What do you mean?”
<Operating spare arm D>
The control panel blinked. The last equipment mounted on the back. An attachment-like gun barrel was taken in front of the unit and connected into the Demolition Gun. There were gear and locking sounds. The Demolition Gun, being large, was rather short in size. Equipping the gun barrel changed it into a long weapon reminiscent of a tank cannon.
<Switching to ‘Gunhowzer mode’ complete. If it is a high angle ballistic then the maximum range is 20 kilometers>
A long-barreled Howitzer in an Arm Slave? It was an utter amazement to common sense, that was what Sousuke thought.
To begin with, that unit defied all common sense. But as long as he had the functionality of the Lambda Driver he could neglect the recoil and penetrating power. At that level of battle the armor piercing power of the weapon was no big deal. Then, even that ridiculously giant artillery… wouldn’t it be an ideal weapon for the Laevatein?
“Fine. Let’s try it.” Sousuke muttered half-hearted.
<I thought you would say that>
Leaning the unit on its knees, he switched the master mode to precise firing. Sensor magnification switched to maximum. The rear form of the Behemoth withdrawing at full speed jolted in the image from the night-vision mode.
There were displays of various kinds of data.
Atmospheric temperature, humidity, wind speed, gun barrel temperature, and others as well. His sniping ability was ordinary at most. And it was impossible to imitate Kurz’s miracles. Al didn’t even have data regarding sniping. He could only rely on his intuition.
In the middle of the screen the target symbol and reticle were the main points. A beep and a small alarm echoed.
<A solid lock. Shall we fire?>
“Not yet” he muttered, controlling the arm in the smallest ratio. Just a little more. That’s right, just a little more....
There was a terrible recoil like the one before. There was a great fireball that even exceeded his height; the sand in front of him splashed from the explosion. Even if he steadily braced himself his posture was still pulled down. The Laevatein fell flat on its butt. The impact of the 500 pound bomb immediately exploded in front of him.
Even then, the Lambda Driver of the Laevatein was still functional.
The bomb that was spit out of the muzzle carried the will of Sousuke. It ran perfectly on the expected path, hitting the center of the back of the head of the retreating Behemoth.
In the magnified view screen the head of the giant AS was blown off and fierce flames were scattering.
A little later followed the sound of an explosion.
Together with the muffled echoes, the last Behemoth slowly collapsed, sinking into the sea.
The 6th unit had been destroyed.
After letting out a sigh, Sousuke asked Al.
“How many minutes?”
<5 minutes 52 seconds>
There was an awkward silence. After waiting a while Al moderately said.
<Even for being stubborn, with that many opponents, three minutes is expectedly unreasonable>
“Shut up. The 4 minute 12 seconds you said was also impossible.”
<For a human you certainly remember clearly. Are you the type who holds grudges?>
“Exactly, and where did you learn to use that kind of language!?”
<Unfortunately I was abandoned by my pilot for a number of months. I had abundant opportunities to inspect broadcasts and the internet.>
<If you wish, I can talk with a non-dignified way of speaking. What do you think of the likes of those low income Southern Americans?>
Really, rationalizing. The gloominess in his chatter was like always.
“But, well....it’s good that you’re alright” Sousuke said, like complaining, after letting out a sigh.
Those were Sousuke’s true feelings.
Although it was a bit strange, for him, the combat support AI held a sensation like it was a comrade in arms. There was something different and strange about Al compared to the standard equipped AI of the M9. He had already felt that after the battle in Hong Kong. After the reunion just then, that feeling was intensified.
Although Sousuke did not fully understand it, Al answered, <Yes, Sergeant. I too. I am saying that as my true feelings.>
Being a machine, it had “true feelings”.
But somehow it didn’t put Sousuke in a bad mood.
Sousuke, standing up in the unit, watched out for the surrounding enemy, changing the sensor to active mode. How were Kurz and the others doing? And also he had to rescue Lemon and the others. With just the remaining infantry, controlling them with the Laevatein was simple.
About pursuing after Kaname… it must have already been impossible...
♦ ♦ ♦
In the cabin of the Helicopter that continued to fly away, Kaname was prudently thinking about her opportunities.
Leonard’s private army, the men in combat uniforms, had already completely loosened up. There were people seeing to Leonard’s situation, and those who were looking out the window with caution. Still dirty from the spurt of blood, the haggard-like Kaname was sitting in one corner. Nobody was minding her.
The man beside her leaned forward from the seat. He was talking about something inside the cabin. Although she didn’t really understand Spanish much, he seemed to be talking about Leonard’s condition.
It has to be now.
At the moment of that thought, a variety of conflicts were running through her.
Will that recklessness be sufficient? Will everything move as she expected? Even though that Kalinin was in the helicopter too? And then about him- the poor Leonard right now, who was suffering like that because of her....?
She shook her neck, bit by bit.
Didn’t she already feel like that before? The trivial sympathy had become fatal. She understood that much from her current situation.
Closing her tensed eyes, she let out a deep breath.
She fastened up her lips, and then opened her eyes.
At the hips of the soldier that had stood up from the seat, there was an automatic pistol placed in the holster.
Alright, let’s do it-
Kaname extended her hand towards the pistol. Quickly extracting it, she rushed from behind the soldier. In an instant, the man reacted slowly to her extended hand, but Kaname barely got away by a fingertip and pointed the muzzle at the opponent.
“Don’t move! I’ll shoot!?”
It had been a long time since she had let out a loud voice. Pointing at the gathered men in position, she finally shouted.
“Get the pilot immediately! Turn this helicopter back!”
“I understand. Wait.”
One of the soldiers muttered something towards the head set.
Before long, the one who came was not the pilot, but Andrei Kalinin. He took in the sight of her holding the pistol taken from one of his subordinates. Even though he was looking at Kaname with the muzzle pointed at his chest, there was no sign of surprise.
“It seems that you’re fine. I thought you’d still be in shock after shooting him” Kalinin said. “Miss Chidori. Take your finger off the trigger, and give that gun back slowly. And then let this be over.”
“Don’t order me. I’ll shoot.”
“Don’t do something unreasonable.” Kalinin said calmly. “People who have no intention to pull the trigger can’t hold a gun.
It’s a waste of time, and unexpected trouble may occur. I thought you knew about that well enough already.”
“Intention to pull the trigger, huh?”
She firmly endured and made a deep breath. Without tears. Without losing. Without anything, exceeding everything, making light of the old veteran. She pulled strength from inside and immediately gazed at the opponents.
“Then are you going to shoot? Even Sousuke?” she asked.
As for the relationship between Sousuke and Kalinin, there was a lot that she did not know. Even at the conversations between the two, there was nothing much to look at.
However, Kaname knew.
When Sousuke said something about “Lt. Commander”, with that calm tone of voice, it was with resolute trust. “Mao”, “Kurz”, “Captain”. And even “Your Excellency Class President”. It was similar to saying those. No, there was a stronger sense of security that fully reverberated.
That Kalinin turning out to be the enemy of Sousuke… Would he be able to remain calm? Would he be able to affirm to shoot?
Can he preach to me with a face like that?
“I will shoot” Kalinin said without any hesitation. It was an unconcerned reply, or rather, it had a sense of subtle emphasis.
“Actually I already ordered that before. For only that reason, I have one. You, who has a resigned resolution, would not understand....”
“If you want to think that, then think that. But if you continue in that foolish manner, I will let you feel the extremities of that.”
“The compensation is the life of the man who is in front of your gun. If you plan to shoot then shoot.”
Kalinin’s words tightened into the heart of Kaname one by one.
Really, an amateur girl who had no training managed to snatch the gun by a fluke and had thrust it in front of one of the passengers of the helicopter. And then with an excited voice, demanded to “turn this helicopter back”. In front of this truth, how would the mercenaries in the cabin react, Kaname wondered.
There was no fear in their facial expressions. No vulgar, sneering faces were visible. Not even anger or irritation could be seen. Only expressionless faces looked at her. If it had been before, then it would be like a dispatched place from her imagination. But right then she could vaguely guess what they were thinking.
Probably, they were already thinking like this: Was the gun even loaded? What was the bullet point? They were not worried about their comrade having his gun stupidly snatched away. If Kaname fired, the bullet would pierce through his body. The pierced bullet point would be a stray bullet, and might have the possibility of damaging the important equipment of the helicopter.
That was why there was no meaning in taking a hostage. Their interest was not in their life.
“That’s right. Then how about this.”
Kaname took the muzzle out of the man’s way, and aimed it at the cabin’s ceiling.
Immediately the mercenaries became stiff. Right above the cabin was the engine’s reserved system and hydraulics system, and also the main rotor’s drive system was situated there. Even though it was a military helicopter, the cabin’s interior was mostly not bullet proof. Even if it were a just pistol’s bullet, if it were shot a number of times, serious failures and fires would occur.
“How about this? Would it be fine to shoot like this?”
“I see. Thrust towards something painful.”
Kalinin with a serious face, made a small groan. For a teacher with abundant experience, he had a face like hearing a unique answer from a student.
“But the altitude right now is 300 feet. Speed is 120 miles per hour. If there were serious damage received, the Auto Rotation would have difficulty in making an emergency landing. First, there is no mistake that we would all crash to our death. It would be fortunate if the emergency landing were even to be a success. And then you would be fortunate if you would be the only one uninjured. But chances are we would all manage to get seriously injured, on top of that, the possibility of you getting away is zero.”
It was as he said. Right then Kaname fully understood that. At that altitude and speed, there was no position energy and motion energy in the revolving wings. Not having a seat belt herself, she would be thrown out of the unit at the moment of impact.
“If this is fine with you, then shoot.”
Those were not abusive words being hurled toward her. Nor words that bore on her heart. Nevertheless an indescribable feeling of defeat knocked her down. Andrei Kalinin was not a skillful person who could manipulate someone using words. He only spoke the truth. A solemn truth. And right then, the truth that he was speaking of was that even if a single pistol had been snatched, Kaname was really powerless.
All the cleverness and bluffing that had managed to get her out of a pinch before were her modest ideas and daringness. And as such, the conduct of a 17 year old girl’s mischief was an opponent that one could easily pass by. Especially for that soldier with a long military service.
Why was the man right in front of her on the side of the enemy? Why didn’t he say “Sorry for making you worry. I will take you to Sagara”? At least, even if only she knew, a small wink would be alright. Why was it that he only looked at her with those severely sad eyes?
“You’re serious, right?” Kaname asked.
Why was it extremely sad to the point where her eyes became bloodshot?
“Then tell me. Won’t I ever meet him again?”
“That’s right. You won’t meet again.” Kalinin said.
She had heard such hopeless predictions before. How much longer would she struggle by herself, crying out with a strong desire, no longer able to meet him?
At least, nobody would be hurt. It was in accordance to what Leonard had gambled upon. She wished to be with Sousuke, but for that freedom, someone surely had to die. That was the circumstance in the helicopter. It was a dilemma that couldn’t be helped.
“It’s enough already. Return the gun.”
Kaname, finally, aimed the muzzle at her own temple. She felt he touch of the rough and dull metal. She had the impulse to pull the trigger.
That’s right, she wanted to pull it. That would be better. Just about everything was too much. She just had to give a little force to pull the index finger, and everything would disappear. Insecurity and agony, the ill feeling of the sin of shooting Leonard, and even her defeated feeling and desperation.
The bottom of her heart was screaming out “Absolutely not. It’s still too early”, but she used her superhuman concentration to ignore it.
You can’t have hope. You cannot believe in hope right now. You cannot see it. Be devoted to despair. It’s not a performance, wish for death from the bottom of your heart.
She had to think like that.
Pulling the trigger would be that simple, without thinking of anything, prostrating-
“Wait” Kalinin requested.
It was the first time that he had raised an impatient tone by a portion. There was a serious anxiety in his facial expression. A gloomy smell of death rose from Kaname. He could delicately smell it. It was because he had seen countless people die that he was capable of feeling it.
“Stop it. We will do what we can.”
He believed it.
“Return the helicopter” Kaname said with a dead voice, her eyes absentminded and unfocused.
“That is....difficult in the current situation. Leonard needs medical treatment. If we return then he will be in danger. That is why you need to be calm, get the muzzle off your head. And then aim it towards me.”
There were many words coming out. It was the first time he flat-out tried negotiation, discussing. Here came the initiative.
“Then, let me say goodbye”
“Wireless radio. I want to say goodbye to him.... and then I’ll give up....”
♦ ♦ ♦
The incessant rain that fell in the vicinity finally stopped, and silence controlled the mansion after the battle. It was like the power of the Laevatein had wiped away the rain clouds.
After exterminating all enemy ASes, Sousuke cleaned up the remaining enemy forces.
First he had to rescue Lemon and the others who were in a siege, and chase away the surrounding enemy. There was really no enemy who would resist the Laevatein which had defeated the Behemoths.
Lemon and the elders for the mean time were safe. With the fruits of victory from the Laevatein, they were shaking their hands optimistically. Among them was the woman from the Information Department, Wraith.
Soon after, Kurz, Mao, and Clouseau’s M9s came around, cleaning up the remaining enemies and controlling the surrendered enemies. One look from Kurz and the others at the Laevatein and they understood that it was derived from the Arbalest. They were surprised by the wonderful battle of Sousuke and the Laevatein, and postponing the details until “after the withdrawal”.
However, once he had the chance Kurz complained.
“At that time, if that guy were at Merida....”
“What about it?”
“Kurz. Stop it.” Mao interrupted across the wireless radio.
“There’s a lot of things that happened, Sergeant. Well, we’ll talk about it later.” Clouseau informed him. “Anyway that unit----is that the Laevatein? As much as possible don’t let the prisoners of war see it. Disappear with the ECS.”
Clouseau’s indication was right. That combat power had been seen to their heart’s content. That was why, at such a short
distance, there was no sense in letting them see it. They had to avoid letting them analyze its performance.
“Roger. ....Al, activate ECS. Invisible mode.”
<Impossible> Al said.
<It is impossible. At any rate this unit is not equipped with an ECS.>
“What was that? What do you mean?”
<What I mean, I will say this. With extraordinary output for an extraordinary condenser, an overbearing design of a drive system, a large capacity for a cooling system, and then the Lambda Driver, there was no allowance for unnecessary machine parts.>
<Informing you of additional references, this unit not only lacks an ECS, it also does not have an ECCS. Radar is at a minimum. Laser Infra-red jamming equipment are also not present. We are extremely vulnerable to missile attacks.>
“Wait a minute. Then isn’t it just like a Savage?”
<No, it is more than a Savage, it is more like an M6.>
“What is this?”
He noticed that the electrical screen display had suddenly become blank. Sousuke was utterly amazed. The optical sensors were the latest model similar to that of the M9, but the other machine parts were not. That crude electronic equipment, how did it managed to survive a modern battle?
<Nonetheless, it is fortunate for the union with Lt. Clouseau. With their cooperation and the data link function, the weaknesses were incrementally improved. Let us drop the mood and do our best, Sergeant.>
“...there is still an ‘unnecessary machine part’”
<What would that be?>
“You. I would rather dismantle you and throw you away as trash, in exchange for an attachment of an ECS.”
<Nonsense. If I were to be removed, this unit would be a dead weight that is like a defective M9.>
“Those impudent comments again. In the first place you-”
<A new wireless signal has been intercepted.> Al informed him, interrupting Sousuke’s jeers.
<129.22 Mhz. AM wave of the VHS band. An uncoded open line, it has been calling you for a while>
<Affirmative. Shall I connect it to circuit 8?>
“Aah. Connect it.”
Feeling something stirring in his chest, Sousuke leaned his ears towards the voice from the digital wireless radio.
It was a woman’s voice.
He knew it well; a really nostalgic voice was calling his name.
“...Sousuke. Can you hear me....?”
The owner of the voice was Kaname.
His heart was beating violently and sweat ran down his back. Just by listening to her voice once again Sousuke’s heart felt like it was being tightly grabbed.
There was no mistake that it was Kaname, but that fragile, frail, and fickle voice… It was not the Kaname that he knew. No- it was the last girl, who was at that school’s quadrangle.
Randomly replying, she was calling out.
“If you don’t hear this....then, can the person hearing this wireless radio tell him? I repeat. .....Sagara Sousuke. Can you hear me? Right now I am--”
Before thinking his fingers moved. Connecting the prescribed circuit, he pushed the communication switch and called her name.
There was a far away silence and noise. After a short period of time, she answered in Japanese.
“Sousuke? Are you listening?”
“Aah, I’m listening. It’s me. Where are you now? I’m going to pick you up. Tell me your location. No, more than that are you injured? Are you alright?”
“Un... I’m fine”
“I understand. Then tell me your current location. I’m going to pick you up right now. Don’t worry, the enemy has been taken care off. Al is- no, there is also a new unit. I don’t think I will lose anymore. Besides, Mao and Kurz are here. You no longer have to worry. I will definitely---”
“Sousuke. Calm down”
Kaname’s voice was persistently indifferent. But he didn’t mind that, and continued to talk on the head set.
“No, I’m calm. There are many things that I want to talk to you about. Different things. Things that I don’t fully understand. Having hesitated a number of times. But I’m here. But not able to reach you. That’s why, Chidori. Stop talking about this and that, tell me where you are. If you don’t know your current location, then tell me the surrounding terrain. If there are enemy around-”
“Sousuke. Stop” Kaname’s voice interrupted.
“Why? If you don’t know your current location, then I can’t pick you up.”
“It’s not that....”
How difficult. The shallow voice echoed in his ears.
“Stop... coming after me already.”
“What was that? I don’t understand.”
“Don’t come after me. Right now, I’m with Kalinin-san inside the helicopter. With Leonard too. I, think I might have killed him. Poor Leonard..... And then I thought a number of times of getting away, but I understood that it’s useless after all. Those people absolutely won’t let me. Resist only if opposed, somebody might get hurt. That’s why, I’m sorry. Really don’t come after me. About me, I’m really happy that you managed to come this far. But, I guess...”
“Chidori? What are you talking about?”
A long silence. A deafening noise.
He did not understand what she was talking about. Why was she saying “don’t come after me”, he could not understand.
It was not a lie. He really understood.
The dead face of Nami came to his mind. Of course, Kaname did not know about her. It was the symbol of the death of Nami and the others. In Sousuke’s journey to chase after Kaname, the number of deaths had increased. Be it an enemy or an outsider. At least that kind of simplicity, Kaname already understood. At the time of goodbye at the school’s courtyard that was eventually the problem.
Don’t come after me.
After hearing her say that, he already understood. Struggling by himself, she would suffer. Sousuke had only averted his eyes to that truth.
“That’s why.... Sousuke.....forget about me.”
His eyes were totally black. It was like a feeling of being thrown out into space, a subtle floating sensation which spread out like darkness.
“Wait, Chidori. I....”
“Enough, understand already. We are, already....”
Not knowing what else to do, Sousuke tightened his grip on the stick, sweating, and listened to Kaname grumbling and muttering over the wireless radio. That’s right- it was like being delirious with a fever.
“I don’t want that after all” she said. “I absolutely don’t want that.”
The strength in her voice was returning.
“Sousuke. Are you still listening?”
“I’m ordering you as the former student body vice president. Alright?”
There was a sound from her nose. She was crying.
“Come and save me. I don’t mind no matter how much is sacrificed. No matter how many died- hundreds, ten thousands, even if a hundred million died I don’t mind. That’s why, come and pick me up! Use everything that you have. That uselessness, mobilize that lack of common sense and annoying technical skill of a soldier, take down no matter what kind of opponent, and embrace me!! You can do this right!? Well!?”
“Aah. I can.” Sousuke strongly replied
Inside of his chest a fierce heat could be felt. That’s right. What was he hesitating for? A hundred thousand people dying. There were many difficulties. If only to take hold of her, exactly, what was he afraid of?
“I will definitely go. Wait for me”
“Uhn...” Kaname said with a short voice. “Sousuke.... I like you very much”
“Me too. I love you.”
Having these words coming out naturally, he himself was also surprised.
“I’m happy.... then, let’s meet properly next time, I will definitely give you a kiss. With all my strength. No matter what the place. Alright? It’s a promise okay?”
“Aah, it’s a promise.”
The noise was getting terrible. The helicopter was getting out of communications range. There was no longer any means of pursuing Kaname.
At least just then.
“No matter how many years, or hundreds of years, I will wait....”
“Don’t worry, I will definitely catch you.”
“Un. Also, search for the refrigerator inside the mansion. There’s a Hard Disk-”
What Kaname was saying was no longer comprehensible. The terrible noise interrupted like a storm, and the circuit line fell silent.
♦ ♦ ♦
The wireless radio was cut. Kaname took off the headset and removed her index finger from pistol in her hand.
She returned the pistol to one of the mercenaries. After listening to her communication, Kalinin, who was the only one who understood Japanese, creased his brow.
“That was a surprise, as may be said” Kalinin said. “I thought that you were really in despair. Seriously thinking about pulling the trigger on your temple.”
“I was serious” Kaname said with a haggard face.
If she had intended to allow herself to be chased after, it would have been seen through by Kalinin’s observation. It was not the difference between an act or being serious, it was a psychological warfare inside her.
“Right now, I don’t plan on letting you do as you please. I wanted to get away from this place. And then, I really did want to say goodbye to him. But-”
She hung her head in shame.
“That’s right. I changed my mind. That’s all.”
Saying harsh words to Sousuke herself, Kaname understood. Nothing could be done by saying “what can be done”. From now on he would be drawn to danger. And there might be many victims. She surely understood that irresponsibility and arrogance.
Even then she wanted to meet him.
Those feelings did not lie. Only those couldn’t be helped.
“So you have resigned yourself.”
Staring at her, Kalinin said mixed with a sigh, “He is no longer hesitating. Even if I were to stand in front of him, he won’t hesitate and pull the trigger. You gave him such an unbelievable power. ....that’s why I didn’t want you to use the wireless radio. Giving in to your look of death, it is my defeat.”
“But about the hard disk that you entrusted to them, I must hear what this is all about.”
“Even if I tell you it will be useless” Kaname said, snorting her nose. “Aside from me and Tessa, it’s a subject that no one else would understand.”
♦ ♦ ♦
The M9 landed on the storage deck of the Tuatha de Danaan, and Kurz made a sour comment to Sousuke.
“‘Sousuke I like you very much’. ‘Me too, I love you’....as it came. You really did it, practically. Why don’t you die already, die with all your strength”
“Not seeing each other for half a year, it was sudden...” Sousuke muttered with a disheartened face.
The conversation with Kaname… at that time he had forgotten that they were on an open channel. At that moment the Pave Mare transport helicopter had transmitted everything to the de Danaan. Mao and Kurz had been locked up in ridiculing him about his conversation with Kaname.
Lemon, being the face of the DGSE, Old Man Courtney and Old Man Seals, and also Wraith, had accompanied them to the de Danaan.
Lemon also seemed to have heard the wireless radio. Wanting to meet him after the operation, he looked into the eyes of Sousuke with a face of wanting to say something, a single word, and muttered “with your consent”. Although he didn’t understand Japanese, he managed to roughly guess the flow.
“I’m sorry, Lemon....”
“No. Anyway, can you introduce me to your superiors? We’ve managed to make it this far, we wanted to make certain if the remnants of Mithril are enemies or allies.”
Lemon and the others, who remained in the corner of the storage deck, were restricted to move. Though imperfect, it was the interior of the super latest weapon – a submarine. Although foreign intelligence members were freely walking about, the crew of the de Danaan were not strict.
“Aah. I think she’s busy on the bridge, but I think she’ll come immediately.”
He hadn’t met with Tessa yet.
He turned his head toward the voice behind and there stood Tessa. She must have left the bridge to Mardukas. She had come to that place faster than he thought.
“It’s been a long time”
She gave a gentle smile. She was originally slim, but now she looked skinny. Although the he hadn’t heard the details yet, it must have been difficult for her after Merida Island had suffered a general attack. Exactly what happened then?
“....yes. Captain also, it’s good that you’re safe.”
“Eeh. A lot of things happened....but, we are alright now. It is also good that Sagara-san is safe.”
It was quite a calm attitude. It was not because she was indifferent, even while thinking of a flood of emotions at the same time, there was no clinginess in her voice. Only the pleasure of one of her many subordinates returning. That was it; that was the only attitude. Was she restraining her emotions in front of everyone, or was that how she really felt? Sousuke was not clear on that.
“Well.... do you want to reinstate yourself?”
“About that....eeh, that is my intention but, there is still a lot to sort. Please let me think for a while.”
“I understand. Let us discuss that again.”
Tessa did not show any appearance of disappointment.
“And then, there are these people who cooperated with me. Michael Lemon from the French Intelligence Department, and Admiral Borda’s friends-”
A shout echoed from the storage deck, the two old men rushed towards Tessa. Because they were a little agile, Tessa’s guards were a little delayed in restraining them.
“C..Courtney-san and Seals-san?”
Tessa, who had become stiff from their appearance, like a grizzly in the forest, inquired at Sousuke with her eyes.
“Why, why are these people here?”
The two people were standing there with “We wanted to see you” and “why are you here” or “were you going after me”, the soldiers were desperately pinning them down.
“No, well....they managed to have good connections....”
“I already know that. But why did you bring them along?”
“It would be heartless to leave them, right?”
“You’re right but....”
Completely rethinking, Sousuke continued to introduce Lemon.
“Anyway, this is Lemon. An agent of DGSE who has useful information. He is also smart, and the benefactor of my life, he can be trusted. ....Lemon. This is my-”
He turned to look at Lemon. He was standing there like an idiot, with his mouth half open, looking at Tessa with his temperature rising.
“Lemon. She is my superior-”
“I told you I would introduce you, didn’t I?”
“Eh, but. But. Really? This girl, you’re introducing me to her?”
Kurz, Mao and Clouseau, who saw his appearance from behind, whispered “He’s fallen for her” and “how easy to understand” and “another has joined the fan club”.
Then, the ship’s phone called for Tessa. It was an announcement from Mardukas. After a few responses, Tessa turned to all who are present.
“Well then. Although I can’t give you greetings, the ship will be in silent cruise and retreat to safe seas. For the time being, please be quiet. Tuatha de Danaan welcomes everyone” she informed them.
Then the AS being carried out of the storage from the Pave Mare, the Laevatein, spoke on its external speakers.
<Speaking of welcoming, does it include me, Miss Testarossa?>
“Of course, Al. It’s also good that you are safe.”
<Thank you, Captain.>