Yoshimizu Akira was a copy.
Real Akira was already dead, Akira who has survived was a different person who had her memories and personality.
No, she could be called a fake.
That meant, even if her DNA and memories were the same, her soul was different from the original's.
Unlike a homunculus that doesn't have a soul dwelling in it, a clone is a new life form that's born from an embryo and is recognized in the world as new life. In other words, a new soul dwelling inside of it is natural.
If original and clone both die, they turn into two souls and have pass on to a parallel world called 'Spirit World'. While it's unknown what kind of place is the Spirit World, spirits that are summoned from it using spiritualism only show mechanical reactions.
And even though it's possible to obtain information concerning the world of living from those spirits, apparently it's impossible to obtain any on the afterlife.
"If you were to die... I wonder if you're going to meet the real Akira in the afterlife?"
Kyouya muttered absent-mindedly while staring at Akira's copy.
This was the Alchemist's First Research Facility's L6 - XXX lab in which Kusanagi Kiseki was kept in. Kyouya and Akira were in a part that acted as a warehouse storing various homunculi. In order to use them as soldiers after transplanting Hyakki Yakou's cells into them, they were placed in here.
Akira was sleeping inside of a pod for homunculi that was filled with liquid.
"How does it feel to be a copy...? It must be hard, right. From now on, you're going to have to live shouldering doubts on whether you are real or not. Just see what happened, must be because you used to hit my head the entire time."
"...but, you can be at ease. Even if you're a copy, I'm going to treat you as usual. Crudely as usual, as irresponsibly as usual. Prepare yourself..."
"Well... if you hurry up and open your eyes, I won't mind acting gentle?"
She didn't answer. The only thing that answered him was the sound of the respirator providing her with oxygen.
"............I said this crude me is going to act gently here... say something... dumbass."
Akira had artificial respiration performed through her mouth and countless of tubes inserted into her body, every time he saw her he felt tightening in his chest.
Is there any point remaining alive like that, he asked himself every day.
As she remained asleep, whenever he looked into Akira's face Kyouya felt pain.
Maybe it would be better to cut off this life-supporting equipment and choose an easier path.
But, every time Akira's smile revived in his mind. That smile supporting his half-assed talent acted like a curse, not allowing him to give up.
Kyouya knew his own weakness. He learned that he can't fight all alone during his days with comrades. They continued to quarrel endlessly and there was nothing special about them, but to him, they were irreplaceable comrades.
And Akira, was an irreplaceable childhood friend.
A normal human one could find anywhere.
That was why 15th test platoon was Kyouya's important place.
"...don't leave me alone... I... only have you now."
He squeezed his fist on top of his knee and withstood the urge to shiver from loneliness.
"Hey, wake up... just like usual, smile in my direction..."
Feeling tears flow from his eyes, Kyouya strongly clenched his teeth.
"I don't care if you're a copy or not... I need you by my side."
"I can't continue being captain all alone... I'm tired..."
Kyouya curled up and quietly shed tears. What he was holding in so far reached the limit and burst, tears overflowed endlessly.
Setting his heart completely on hatred and revenge was something more painful than an ordinary human can imagine. For countless distorted reasons he continued to take revenge on Inquisition's enemies, but even Kyouya's conscience acted up. The reason he had revenge in his mind was in order to feed Nero so that Akira could survive. Akira no longer was able to survive on Nero's life prolongation and was in a state where she had to receive help from Alchemist.
He could feel that there wasn't much time left. Alchemist could not be trusted. Forgetting about Akira, Suzaku was crazy about studying Hyakki Yakou. Akira was packed in the vault for homunculi and just left in this state.
What should he do? What does he need to do? What is it that he can do?
Kyouya shook his head as the words 'dead end' filled it. He's taking part in defending this place in order to have Akira cured by Suzaku. If it turns to worst, he can only to force the treatment via intimidation.
He stood up, the moment he was about to take action the automatic doors behind opened soundly.
Someone has come. Thinking it's a Suginami researcher, he turned around.
——There, stood a pre-adjusted homunculi body.
Puzzled he furrowed his eyebrows and glared at the homunculus that has appeared.
Even if the homunculus before adjustment had a shape of a human, it didn't wasn't a living organism but a mere meat and bones. By putting the homunculus in adjustment pod, the preferred DNA was inserted and it could function like a human.
Of course, homunculus had no soul and a mere doll following orders.
A doll without hair, eyes, nose, or even genitals has moved in front of Kyouya.
Was this Suzaku's handiwork? Or maybe she was sent by another researcher for homunculus adjustment...
Although he considered various possibilities, what he concluded was that a homunculus before adjustment and without brain is unthinkable to walk around.
"!! Summis desiderantes affectibus——"
Kyouya raised his hand towards homunculus in a hurry and expanded a magical circle under his feet.
At the same time in the homunculus' empty face appeared eyes and a mouth full of teeth.
The pale skin was dyed red as if smeared by blood.
There was no doubt, this homunculus had Hyakki Yakou's cells embedded in it.
Crying out like a newborn child, the homunculus leaped.
The possibilities were Suzaku's betrayal, researcher's mistake or——Kusanagi Kiseki going out of control.
While being careful about Akira behind him, Kyouya's mind was filled with murderous intent.
In any case, there was one thing to do.
At the same time as he spoke the Witch Hunter form's words of power, Kyouya squeezed Nero's trigger.
Four hours before the operation.
Takeru and the others adjusted their equipment and gathered in the school yard. Joining other teams and Kanata, they gathered a force numbering 20.
"Since diversion troop is already lurking in the facility's vicinity, we're going to start the operation immediately after arriving on the other side. It will take four hours before we arrive on the other side through transfer magic. For a moment, your consciousness might feel ambiguous as a side effect from the transfer's side effects, but there's no time so you'll have to immediately start running〜."
In her usual laid-back tone, Nagaru spoke to the ones carrying out the operation.
Takeru looked at Nagaru who carried a huge radio like a randosel and thought 'it can't be'.
"...can it be that President comes as well?"
"Yup〜, I'll stay by Kanata-san's side and act as the commander through the radio, keep the radio's switch on, kai〜."
Saluting happily, Nagaru made a fuss.
Seeing her unchanging even at a time like this, Yuzuho and the seventh squad thought she lacked sense of urgency, but Takeru was thankful to her for acting like that.
After finally getting accustomed to the thought of having an opportunity to achieve their earnest wishes, they were very tense. He was thankful for her acting relaxed.
"Kusanagi-kun, did you take the item needed to save Kiseki-chan?"
"Yes. Of course."
Takeru once again confirmed that in his backpack there was homunculi fetus and the Possession's instant charm.
What he should do was to rescue captured Kiseki and use 《Install》 charm on Kiseki and the homunculi fetus.
The homunculi fetus was set to rapidly grow on spot to the set age after 《Install》 completes insertion of Kiseki's soul in it.
Kiseki's body that had received the curse of Hyakki Yakou will turn into a husk after losing a soul, she will be released from pain of many years and despair. What's waiting for her ahead was a life of a homunculus, homunculi required a periodic adjustment but physically were almost identical to human beings.
If Inquisition was to cease operating, she would be able to live her life like an ordinary human.
Takeru put the homunculi fetus in the container and wrapped both hands around it as if it was dear to him.
...this time... I will definitely save you...
He prayed as if to reach Kiseki. Her sins, fate, he decided to shoulder it all. Even if the world doesn't forgive it, Takeru will save her. Laughing normally, crying, getting angry, making friends, finding a lover, getting married... he wanted to give Kiseki a normal life like that.
That was Takeru's happiness as well. It's not something he imposes upon someone else.
It's something he decided by himself.
Suddenly, someone put a hand on his shoulder.
When he raised his face, he saw Kanaria who had a very meek expression.
"..................before the operation starts, there's something I need to tell you."
As if realizing something, Takeru took Kanaria and moved away from everyone.
"What is it?"
Turned with his back towards Kanaria, he asked.
Hesitantly Kanaria squeezed her fist and faced downwards.
"...Kana, won't help to save Kiseki."
"Kana has her own things to do. That's what I came here for in the first place."
"I don't really mind it even if you won't. It's true that I really want your strength, but I won't force you. But, didn't you come here in order to speak with Ikaruga?"
Even though Kanaria raised her face, Takeru was still turned with his back towards her.
"...! I already spoke with her. It was in vain. I don't care about what she's thinking any more. As I thought, it doesn't concern Kana. That's why——"
"Do as you please."
Takeru said that along with a sigh.
"I won't deny you revenge. I also have something similar, even now I don't feel like living on lukewarm feelings."
"But, let me give you an advice as the senior pupil."
"...what is it."
"While you exact your revenge, look behind you sometimes. Before you think there's nothing else for you, confirm that there isn't someone snuggling up and living together with you."
"Kana has no one like that...!"
Angrily raising her shoulders, Kana spat that out. Takeru thought it was useless to say anything else to her.
If talking with Ikaruga was in vain, she wouldn't listen to Takeru either.
"...if you think so, that's fine. I won't restrain you."
"But, if there's someone who tries to, I won't stop them either."
Takeru turned around and passed by Kanaria's side in silence.
He left her the words of advice as senior pupil. If she didn't understand it after speaking with Ikaruga and hearing it from him, he had his own ideas. Between Kanaria's feelings and Ikaruga's feelings, if he were to prioritize one it would be Ikaruga's.
After returning back to where everyone was, he winked to Nagaru. Smiling wryly, she returned the wink. Pulling himself together he stood in front of his comrades.
"——Everyone, are you ready?"
He confirmed with everyone in the platoon. Although nervous, they seemed resolved.
Takeru took a breath and looked up. he saw the cracked-up sky.
Finally——it was time.
"I don't know what will the result be... that's why, I'll tell you one thing."
And looking away from the sky, this time he looked at each member one at a time.
Ouka, Mari, Usagi, Ikaruga... and Lapis.
Engraving their faces in his heart and memory.
"——Thank you for coming. Lend me your shoulder, everyone."
He entrust his heartfelt thanks and half of his burden to his comrades.
In response to his usual, straightforward words everyone nodded.
There was no need for superfluous words. Everyone in silence lent their shoulder to Takeru.
Just like he did for them.
Everyone took half of his burden.
Ouka materialized Vlad and held him in both hands. Mari was wearing her hat low on her eyes and released sparkling particles of magic from her fingertip. Usagi shouldered her beloved gun 'Rabbit Fang' on her back. Ikaruga entered one of the Heretic Alliance's Dragoons.
And Takeru turned Lapis into particles, attaching her to his waist.
Other teams also completed their preparations and gathered by the transfer device placed in the center of school yard.
In the end, Kanaria drew Lævateinn and stood next to Takeru.
Nagaru confirmed the time on clock.
"Ten seconds left〜."
The transfer device started to buzz and a magical circle was expanded under their feet.
Feeling their bodies turn into particles, everyone gasped.
——The fight has begun.
Their bodies emitted light and they disappeared starting from their toes.
Takeru squinted and looked at Kanaria beside him.
That's when she has finally noticed.
Looking at her arms she got astonished. She was the only one who hasn't started to turn into particles by the transfer magic. Kanaria turned furious and glared at Takeru.
"...sorry, Kanaria. Looks like we can't take you after all."
"Takeru——you, it can't be!"
"It's not me. It was Ikaruga's decision."
Kanaria glared at Ikaruga who was inside of a Dragoon.
Ikaruga's face was covered by Dragoon's steel and couldn't be seen by Kanaria.
"I told you. I won't be getting in the way if someone wants to stop you."
"!! ...you betrayed me...!"
"I don't care what you think. This is Ikaruga's answer."
"W-wait! Take Kana with you!"
Along with a roar, Kanaria tried to catch Takeru.
But before her fingertips could touch him, Takeru and the others disappeared altogether.
Left behind, Kanaria fell on her knees. Stunned.
"D-damnn... DAMN ITTT!"
At the same time as she hit the ground with both her arms, she roared into the sky.
The detached force which transferred from Heretic Alliance's home base appeared in the towering mountains west of the First Research Facility.
Everyone knelt on spot and was either coughing or vomiting.
Ouka lent Usagi a shoulder and stood up.
Takeru too, helped Mari stand up while remaining on his guard. The time they experienced was an instant, but four hours have already passed. Their location was a deep forest on a slope and between the trees, in the distance they could see First Research facility.
First, he confirmed everyone's location. The 35th platoon... everyone has transferred successfully. Other teams, Nagaru and Kanata seemed to be safe.
"E-eh? Where's Kana-chan?"
Staggering, Mari asked Takeru.
Hearing his reply Mari was surprised for a moment, but soon after she downcast her eyes convinced.
Nagaru squat down and got in touch with the diversionary force through the radio.
Immediately after, a roar echoed in the First Research Facility they could see between the trees.
"...it begun. Everyone, you're prepared right?"
At the same time Nagaru stood up, different from how she was until now, she spoke with a fearless smile.
"From here on——it's our first counter-attack."
The signal fire of war has been raised, everyone on the spot breathed in grandly.
And then everyone held their breath at once.
"Magic Academy West Side Pureblood Party's 'Seventh Squad'——sortie!"
Sage raised his wand and started running.
"Gods' Embers 'Sixth Guard Troop'——onward!"
Yuzuho poised her spear in front and started sprinting.
"AntiMagic Academy's 35th Test Platoon——operation start!"
Pulling his sword, at the same time as he made a knight-like stance, Takeru kicked off the ground.
He cut through, starting the battle. Everyone ran down the mountain as if rolling.
《"——Everyone, continue as you are and get off the mountain! Don't stop no matter what happens!"》
Everyone did as ordered to by Nagaru through the radio. Ouka ran right next to Takeru and Mari expanded flying wheels on her legs and flew while avoiding the trees. Ikaruga put Usagi on the Dragoon's shoulder and moved downhill.
Don't stop no matter what. That's what they were told, but going down a slope in middle of a forest was very difficult as the footing was bad.
However, the detached force of Heretic Alliance was accustomed to this kind of situations. It didn't matter whether they get hit by a rolling tree or not.
Just rush forward. Believing that his comrades will keep up with him, Takeru dashed.
Vigilant to the limit, he stared in the woods. There were no enemies. But after reaching this point he felt line of sight on them.
The shade of grass, gap between the trees. He squinted looking at the gap between branches.
No doubt. There were countless sentry bots and mines installed there.
Involuntarily he wanted to stop contrary to the instructions as death was waiting in front of them. But,
《"I see them all——please believe in me."》
Hearing Kanata's voice in his ear, with brute force Takeru moved his legs that were about to stop, moving forward.
Immediately after, a howl of wind sounded from behind and something passed right beside them.
A roar and sound of bursting reached them from the front.
Kanata was in the vicinity of the summit that had a nice view, wearing a camouflage cloth and peeking out from on top of a cliff. She could see the entire forest under her.
"——Maintain full auto mode. It's fine to just detonate them, 'Nobunaga'."
Her beloved gun, 《The Malleus Maleficarum VIII “NOBUNAGA”》 fired, supporting the detached force that ran down the mountain.
Nobunaga's performance was special. The greater distance from the enemy was, the greater was his power.
Bolt action mode had a maximum range of six kilometers. For a normal sniper rifle that range was exceptional, but considering the power increases with range has its drawbacks. If the projectile released turns huge, it's disadvantageous for precise shooting.
There's no problem if it's one versus one long distance combat, but it's disadvantageous when assisting comrades.
Since in close combat its performance was about the same as a regular sniper rifle, at a glance one could its convenience of use is poor.
However, just like Nero and Ivan, its mode can be switched.
Full auto mode had a range of two kilometers. Its power was about the same as that of a 9mm handgun. However, its non-standard performance is that it can be locked on a target that's captured in the center of reticle.
She adjusted the magnification of the scope and overlooked the entire troop as they progressed. The scope itself didn't have any special performance. All it could change was magnification, there was no thermovision nor infrared.
That's where Kanata's abnormal eyesight comes in, allowing her to see signs of the enemy.
"———I see it, 10 in the trees, 20 on the ground——lock on complete."
——*Pshh*, *pshh*, *pshh*! A quiet gunshot echoed continuously. Tiny bullets emitted from the muzzle drew an arc and slipped through the trees to the target.
They landed, setting off the mines and destroying the sentry bots.
《"Hahha! They noticed faster than I though! Shure's gotten interestin'!"》
"Cut the pointless chatter."
Pulling the bolt that vigorously jumped out from the barrel, Kanata aimed at the Dragoons lying in wait ahead of Takeru and the others to ambush them.
《"Ain't that about a 1000 yards? There's enough firepower."》
"Stop being sloppy and western-crazed. You're just a sniper rifle."
Without relying on Nobunaga, she measures the distance by while squeezing the trigger. She immediately pulled the bolt and trigger again. A total of three times, the time she needed to do that was merely five seconds.
Dragoons made of Blue Crystal were broken to smithereens with a single blow.
Furthermore she destroyed entire set of mines behind them, leaving only scorched earth behind.
Turning a deaf ear to Nobunaga who was in high spirits, she changed back to full auto mode and continued to process both mines and sentry bots.
The enemy was already aware of the surprise attack from behind.
Changing to bolt action again, Kanata alternated between Dragoons that gathered behind the research facility and the traps installed in the way of Takeru and others' travel, watching over them.
"That's right... don't turn around, run forward with all you have... I will deliver you safely without fail."
With guts and pride of an ex-EXE member, Kanata vowed while looking at their backs.
Passing by the Dragoons bursting right in front of them, Takeru ran through the flames of an explosion.
Having Kanata's cover allowed them to be at ease. Even though the trees grew thick, mines exploded wherever they went and sentry bots were all destroyed before they could fire. It was like an invincible defense system. At this rate they'll be able to go down the mountain and enter the facility.
Not having to anticipate anything and just running forward felt good.
《"You're almost at the forest's entrance. Kanata-san's invincible assistance ends there. After you get down snipers in charge are to stay in the back. The security in the back is tighter than expected so don't let anyone stray even if it turns into close combat!"》
Takeru raised his speed and moved between rocks.
He was accustomed to running in the mountains from early age. Kicking off rocks and moving as if flying around. Even though he was swept by blasts caused by Kanata's assistance, he moved as if nothing happened.
And, the moment he saw light peek out from between the trees, Takeru kicked off from the last rock and invoked Soumatou.
His body soared and he broke through the gap between the trees.
"Summis desiderantes affectibus——"
Swinging the sword in his hand in mid-air,
And triggered Witch Hunter form at the same time as he left the forest.
A veil of azure-colored particles followed him like a tail and covered his body.
Because he was jumping from a high place, the distance to the earth's surface was about 30 meters. However, the First Research Facility was even taller. According to information, it was 50 meters high.
It's big... still!"
He changed Lapis' mode into that of a 10 meters long great sword.
Takeru released a technique powered with his entire body at the outer wall that has appeared in front of him.
"Double-Edged style——Yamata no Orochi!"
Releasing eight slashes in an instant, he chopped-up the wall made from orichalcum.
*Zzzun*——! With such a sound, the wall was sliced.
However, it did not fall. It was too shallow. It wasn't deep enough to cut apart a 10 meters thick orichalcum wall. Takeru tried to release another technique the moment he landed, but a black-haired girl jumped from behind him.
"Guards' Spearsmanship style——Eternal Flash!"
The attack released from beside him extended to the wall like a giant swirling tornado.
The spear she held in her hand let out a silvery shine and swirling, it hit the wall.
Before the huge wall could collapse, Yuzuho poised her spear to the side.
"Please, don't think you're the only one good at close combat, okay?"
In response the provocative look in Yuzuho's eyes Takeru smiled.
"...no, didn't it collapse because of my eight slashes?"
"?! What's up with those excuses of yours!"
When she heard Takeru's words who prided himself in close combat, blood vessels appeared on Yuzuho's temple. And when the two started quarreling like that,
From the other side of the collapsed wall Dragoons have come out one after another.
They numbered twenty. All of them were the cutting-edge machines made from Blue Crystal.
Takeru's reaction who was playing around with Yuzuho was slightly late. The railgun's muzzle was aimed at the two and the Dragoon was about to fire, that moment.
"——The two idiots over there, don't stop."
When they heard a voice from behind, a huge rust-colored magical circle covered the entire area.
Along with the magic name, reddish-brown magical particles overflowed, then attached themselves to Dragoon's armor and railguns, when the light has disappeared they have been changed into rust.
The rust continued to spread, covering Dragoon's entire body.
Although there was a sound of the trigger being pulled, their guns didn't react. On the contrary, the Dragoon that tried to move its joint was unable to and fell. Even after falling the rust continued to spread, the Dragoons lost their original form in a matter of seconds and soon enough 20 machines were decayed and in tatters.
Agape, seeing a phenomenon that caused Blue Crystal to rust, Takeru and Yuzuho turned to look behind. Sage stood there raising his wand and with a cool expression.
"Why did you have to go and destroy the wall. Leave defense to me, hurry up and proceed."
Acting cool until the end, Sage passed next to Takeru and Yuzuho. Furthermore, behind him moved his comrades.
"Takeru〜 we'll leave you behind〜!"
"Stop flirting with that religious woman!"
"That was quite flashy〜."
Mari flying with magic, Ouka similarly flying with Witch Hunt form and Usagi riding on the shoulder of Ikaruga's Dragoon that had its wings expanded have all moved ahead.
Gods' Embers members also were flying in the sky using broom-type catalysts.
"〜〜〜〜! Stop acting lazy you all! Hold down your skirts while flying! It's unbecoming!!"
Raising her shoulders in anger, Yuzuho climbed on the debris following them.
Thinking about it deeply, whether its witches or his comrades from 35th platoon, Takeru realized he forgot that there were many who could fly. Even Ikaruga was able to fly for a short period of time with the Dragoon.
《"I intended to use magic thruster matching the jump, but since Host was in high spirits I have cancelled it."》
"...thanks for that."
Squinting, Takeru passed above the debris by jumping.
On the other side of the wall, other members have already started the battle with Dragoons.
Takeru caught up and participated in the battle using his sword.
The other teams were more reliable than he imagined.
Although seventh squad was also a group of dropouts, they covered for their individual disadvantages and took down the enemy with their cooperation. Notable thing was that Sage's fighting style specialized in defense. While maintaining a barrier corroding all material, using particles of rust he stopped enemy attacks. In the current situation with enemy being just Dragoons, he was invincible.
The fighting style of sixth guard was also unique. The only one attacking was Yuzuho who recklessly went ahead. Everyone else has devoted themselves to enhancing her attack and defense as well as recovering her from damage. Thanks to her subordinates strengthening and recovery, Yuzuho boasted of matchless strength.
"Those with damaged weapons and catalysts come to me. I'll reinforce them with property inversion magic."
"My subordinates will heal your wounds! You can go on without worrying about damage!"
It turned into a battle where every team took advantage of their characteristic.
And the each team's characteristics brought huge benefits to entire force.
It was the first time they had such a stable battle. Compared to their desperate battles when they were covered in wounds, the sense of security was on a completely different level.
Even so, they had no intention of going easy.
35th Test Platoon too, did not lose in terms of individual ability.
Just when the other two teams have mostly annihilated the Dragoons guarding the back, a loud roar has resounded in the research facility's main street.
Huge hatches opened at the crossroads and what appeared vigorously catapulted from inside were massive bodies.
Two wyvern-type Mechanical Dragons. They didn't know if they were strengthened with a summoning, but even without that Alchemist's technology was capable of reproducing a dragon's threat. It looked like the material their armor's material was Blue Crystal... it had the same hardness as the dragon in Fifth Research Facility.
The sixth guard was horrified as the dragons appeared.
That's when Takeru had dashed out from between the two teams.
"Ouka hold them down with heavy fire! Suginami and Usagi support! Mari, I leave left one to you!"
" " " "Roger!" " " "
Along with the reply, Mari flew right beside Takeru.
Behind him, Ouka rose up and squeezed Vlad's triggers aiming for the ground.
Momentarily, a huge magical circle has appeared in the sky and on the ground, a rain of stakes and needles assaulted the dragons. They were stuck on the catapults for a moment and their movements stopped.
As soon as they understood they are restrained, the inside of dragons' closed mouths were dyed with magic of ultramarine color.
However, the test platoon did not miss it.
Usagi who has been staying in the rear lied down on the ground and focused on the dragon's mouth. Further behind her, Ikaruga inside of a Dragoon opened a missile pod and poised the railguns she was dual-wielding.
"——I won't let you!"
《"——It's not to my liking, but, everything - fire."》
Usagi fired two auroral bullets, hitting enemies' mouth. Ikaruga followed up when the dragons grandly staggered. Although they were unable to destroy Blue Crystal armor, auroral bullets caused an outburst of Dragon property magical power accumulating in enemy's mouth.
The aftermath of Dragon Breath's outburst passed beside Takeru and Mari grazing them.
The one who attacked first was Mari.
A magical circle was deployed in an instant and she thrust her hands in front.
Then, the magical power accumulated on her palms turned into a rainbow-colored thunder, assaulting the staggering dragon. It was an 《Aurora Cannon》 enchanted with 'Electrification' magical property.
The thunder bullet landed on the dragon's heart. The armor wasn't pierced, however, the thunder bullet dug into the equipment inside and the rainbow-colored current flowed inside of the dragon's body.
With a loud sound the dragon's right side was broken.
Takeru who was close to the dragon on the left jumped up high towards the heavens. Propelled by magical power, he ascended above the dragon and rotated his body vertically.
"Kusanagi Double-Edged style——Mantis Slope!"
Turning his sword into a zweihander he slashed through the dragon's brain.
His swordsmanship refined by many battles no longer had any problem cutting apart Blue Crystal. Rotating with a momentum like that of a mowing machine, he cut the dragon down to its legs.
When Takeru crushed into the asphalt leaving his momentum as is. The two dragons broke and both fell down.
However, it wasn't enough. Behind the dragons there was a horde of Dragoons surging in a wide area.
Riding on the momentum of his landing, Takeru continued to spin sideways.
"Everyone, fire your magic towards me! Lapis! Twilight Enchant!"
He instructed everyone through radio.
This cooperative attack was explained to other teams in case a need arises. Takeru believed in his comrades from Heretic Alliance.
In response to his instruction, those who could use magic fired bullets towards him in unison. Maintaining the rotation, Takeru cut the magical bullets one by one continuing to absorb them in the blade shining with azure color.
The moment his centrifugal force reached its peak, he moved his foot forward and at the same time he swung the huge-turned sword sideways.
《"Enchantment reversal, flexible material release."》
At the same time as Takeru's and Lapis' voices overlapped,
From the azure-colored blade a highly-concentrated magical power was released.
The magic emitted from the blade turned into a slash and cut apart the buildings in the surrounding area all at once, almost all Dragoons gathered had their upper and lower parts bid farewell to each other. The fallen Dragoons were caught up in the building's collapse and crushed. Takeru who was rotating stopped using his feet and returned the sword's shape back to that of a nodachi.
Other teams seeing the outstanding individual abilities of the 35th platoon were stunned. Sage tilted his neck, placing a hand on his chin and Yuzuho opened her mouth dumbfounded.
"Hmm. I really can't tell which part qualifies them as "small fries" or "dropouts"."
"I-it's thanks to their weapons! With a good tool I could do that too!"
While other teams stood surprised, Takeru and others started running again.
The sixth guard and seventh squad chased behind them, intermingled as if competing and continued to cooperate. In order to fulfill each other's objective, they entrusted their backs to each other regardless which power they represented.
Heretic Alliance did not stop.
Their experience and skills that allowed them to survive many battles were already extraordinary.
Joining a single faction, their force turned immense.
After confirming the detached force has invaded the inside, Kanata's breathing returned back to normal.
The power of three participating teams was beyond her imagination.
Like that, there was no need to cover them. The moment range was extended the projectile turned too huge and her shooting would just get in the way. Until they arrived in the lab she would be better off refraining from shooting.
Kanata continued to watch everyone's progress through the scope.
"Ohh〜 everyone's doing their best〜."
As Nagaru's voice sounded by her side all of a sudden, Kanata jumped up screaming "hyaa".
Before she realized, Nagaru dressed in ghillie suit stood beside her holding binoculars in one hand.
"Don't scare me like that! Why do you have to erase your presence for no reason every single time?!!"
"I'm known for my weak presence〜."
Nagaru moved the binoculars away and laughed with a "nishishi".
Kanata could affirm it wasn't weakness of presence. As an ex-EXE member who started her career as a 'Banshee' her searching ability was top-class among the Inquisitors. She can't miss a single faint sound in the radius of a kilometer.
And yet, Nagaru was able to easily circumvent Kanata's vigilance. The person herself said that her combat performance in school was disastrous, but it was very suspicious.
Angry that she was being outmatched again, Kanata once again looked at the detached force.
"Although enemy's resistance was stronger than anticipated, it's going well. As expected of people Hoshijiro-san scouted. We can expect a lot from their activities in the future."
"Hmm, if they want to I'll put them to use〜. From now on the war is going to intensify, they've got lots of their own stuff to deal with so I won't force them〜."
"With that said though, there's no place for them other than Heretic Alliance. I can't think of them not cooperating with us."
"Ohh〜 surprisingly scheming of you〜 Kanata-san. Is that what they call wisdom of age?"
"Please don't say it as if I'm an inhuman adult...!!"
"Naw naw〜 I'm not saying it's a bad thing〜. Kanata-san is someone who's doing her best in order to change the way Inquisition treats 'Banshee's' as expendables. I think you're a passionate, wonderful person."
"...even if you praise me now, you're not going to get anything."
"I really can't tell why you can't get married〜."
"〜〜〜! How's the diversionary troop faring?!"
Her expression turning into one looking similar to that of a stone statue, Kanata requested Nagaru's reconnaissance report.
Still peering through the binoculars, Nagaru stopped grinning and turned serious.
"It's going so well to the point it's too well."
"It is. Not only were all of their forces unmanned, they divided their forces perfectly in two between the front and the back. It means that we've been read. Well, if we were noticed beforehand they would have strengthened their defenses further."
"Mechanical Dragons appeared as well but you can't say they're everywhere. Is there a possibility of rescue targets being already moved to a different location?"
"...I don't think so. Speaking of possibilities..."
Scratching her head troubled Nagaru continued.
"Just earlier, we were assaulted by an EXE member who had Hyakki Yakou cells transplanted into her. That Magnolia person."
"Yes, I've heard of it. We captured her and isolated her in our home base didn't we. Did you obtain any information from her?"
"If we did, we might have postponed the operation... no, I guess not. We would have taken decisive action before its too late〜, if we did poorly crisis would befall humanity〜."
Kanata squinted as he looked over the scope.
"...let's strengthen our vigilance. If there's any report of movement, instruct the members precisely."
"I'm considering withdrawal. But I intend to do our best until the very last moment. We can't miss this opportunity, otherwise it won't end well for them〜."
Once she confirmed the detached force's safety through the scope, Kanata looked at the center of L6 lab.
The lab that didn't have a single light lit was eerie, like a nest of monsters.
The facility's penetration was going well, problems start from here onward.
You never know what might happen. Even the most terrifying things might.
Kanata pulled Nobunaga's bolt, preparing for everything.
The detached force advanced smoothly.
After taking down the Dragoons, they challenged the Mechanical Dragons all together every time they appeared.
Even if they got injured, the guards' members treated them instantly. Other than those specializing in combat who were, Takeru, Ouka and Yuzuho, sorcerers and everyone else was being protected by Sage's barrier. The rearguard were snipers and Ikaruga, who acted as their guardian.
The perfect cooperation served as their offense and defense, there was not a single casualty on their side.
After cutting apart a dragon's armor, Takeru yelled towards Yuzuho.
"You don't need to say it!"
Yuzuho appeared from behind him and thrust at the armor with her entire body.
Clad in magical power, Yuzuho turned into a meteor that pierced through the dragon's body using her spear.
From the sky even further above, Ouka fired 《Count's Fang》 bursting the dragon's brain and fully stopping it from functioning.
《"Ootori! Don't move!"》
The moment dragon was taken down, Usagi's voice caused Ouka to feel cautious about her sides. A flight-type Dragoon attacked her swinging a railblade.
Before its blade could reach Ouka, the Dragoon's head was blown away and it fell to the ground.
With no time to thank Usagi, another message arrived in her ear.
《"——The enemy has circled around us! Cover the rearguard!"》
Horrified by the voice in the radio, Takeru and Ouka looked towards the back.
There, the rear guard was surrounded by countless Dragoons and UAV's who slipped around.
Those UAV's weren't normal sentry bots.
Takeru shouted and rushed to the rear guard at the same time.
But there was no need for that. As if to stand in the way of the UAV's countless rainbow-colored spheres have entered between them. In response to them The UAV's exploded on spot.
Standing on the top of a building, Mari looked down on the rear guard.
Sage who was going to defend the rearguard looked up at her and spoke to the intercom.
《"Woman, leave us to do our job and dispose of Dragoons instead."》
Hearing that Mari furrowed her eyebrows.
His eyes said it all. 'Don't mind us'.
"I don't care what happens then! ——《Aurora Barrage》!"
With a fearless smile Mari rained Sage's vicinity with most powerful magical bullets she could make. Just before they hit, Sage covered the rearguard's humans with a protective barrier, a collective of rust.
The bombardment of Aurora property's magical bullets scorched the earth in the spot rearguard was in.
As the smoke wouldn't clear for up for a while, her face gradually turned pale.
"W-wait a second...? Eh, it was 'we can withstand it, it's okay' right?! No way, did I overdo it?!"
Hearing a distorted voice mingled with noise, Mari was relieved.
The smoke has cleared up and she could see that rust barrier was in good state. After releasing the barrier Sage raised his blonde hair in a cool manner and glanced at her.
《"My defense can stop everything. Even if it's magic of Aurora property."》
Greatly annoyed, Mari's face cramped up.
"...even though I was holding baaack? If I was serious I would eras——"
《"Mari, leave it at that."》
As Takeru's voice sounded from the radio, Mari inflated her cheeks.
《"——Our target has come in sight."》
Hearing that, Mari looked towards Takeru.
Before she realized, they have arrived at the L6 lab's vicinity. Even though it should be still far away, it was huge enough to make them feel it was right in front of them.
"............so it was this big."
Glaring at the eerie appearance of the lab, Mari chased after Takeru.
The detached force arrived at the crossroads that was pre-determined position and stopped in middle of the passage.
Takeru who was in the front looked up at the L6 Lab that was towering ahead over the central road.
L6 - XXX Lab was quiet enough to call it strange.
It had a geometric shape and didn't have a single window. Like a distorted, continuously enlarged castle. Although its appearance was reminiscent of a labyrinth, he couldn't imagine what it looked like inside of the structure.
As he looked up at this building, a mysterious dread welled up starting from his feet. There was a huge mental load just from looking at it.
From this point onward they wouldn't cooperate with other teams. They all had to proceed on their own path, separately.
Takeru took a deep breath and looked back, he stood in the middle of crossroads.
Sage and Yuzuho moved beside him.
Alternating, he stared at their faces and stuck out his fist in front.
"Let's do it right."
When Takeru spoke concisely, Sage and Yuzuho stuck out their fist in the same way.
"Agreed. 30 minutes later, let's meet in here."
"Fortunes of war with you... is all I'll say."
The three nodded at each other and bumped their fists.
Turning their backs to each other, they started running on their own paths.
Although they were allied only for a short time, the three teams with a similar history joined hands. Even if they become enemies one day, they'll never forget this alliance. If possible, I would like to fight together on battlefield again as allies, Takeru prayed.
"Usagi, I leave assistance at the entrance to you. I want the other two to join us for a little bit longer as well."
《"All of us have set-up on high ground... leave it to us."》
Usagi's voice was trembling slightly.
《"...but surely... you must come back, all right? I... none of us will move from here until you're back."》
Hearing her clearly tearful voice, Takeru felt his chest tighten.
This was not the time for reluctance.
Right now, he just had to do all to protect the promise.
"——Yeah, I'll take everyone and come back for sure. Including Kiseki!"
He squeezed the sword strongly.
Failure is not allowed. He will protect comrades and save Kiseki. Just how difficult the path to fulfill this goal was, he knew right from the start and was resolved to take it.
He continued to run up until now believing in the possibility of saving her.
And now, that possibility was right in front of him.
After coming this far, as if he'd let it go!
"...Ouka, no matter what happens, absolutely don't you stray away from Takeru!"
Mari running next to him said in a serious voice.
Although Ouka was taken aback when called by first name, her expression changed when she looked at Mari from profile.
What she couldn't do, Mari entrusted to Ouka.
Takeru and Lapis also felt the same as Mari did.
"IF something is to happen, don't hesitate and shoot me."
《"It is a request from me as well. If something were to happen, we'll rely on you.."》
Taking in everyone's wishes, Ouka looked forward in anticipation and just strongly nodded.
Hearing a strong reply, Mari was at ease leaving everything to her.
Takeru was also encouraged by Ouka and turned his attention to Ikaruga who ran behind him.
The only ones knowing the reason why Ikaruga participated in the battle this time, was just Takeru and Nagaru. He felt that their comrades were wondering about it, but they didn't inquire.
They knew each other for long time now. Her comrades could already understand how she felt.
L6 - XXX Lab was right in front of them.
Aiming for the castle of darkness, the 35th Test Platoon invaded.
Holding the slight hope that was left, embracing it in their chests.
30 minutes after Takeru and the others departed from Heretic Alliance's to invade.
Kanaria hugged her knees under the tree in the school yard.
Why did Takeru and others leave her behind... Kanaria wasn't that much of a kid not to know it. If one of the members is caught up in revenge, there's a high possibility of trouble appearing as operation progresses. Although she didn't like the way they did it, she could understand being removed from the operation.
Because she didn't feel like putting a stop to her revenge, it was natural to be left behind.
However, she wondered if it was true that Ikaruga moved by herself in order not to let her participate in the operation.
"She wants to stop Kana from fighting...! She's cowardly and unfair... why does she continue to stand in Kana's way...!"
While staring at Lævateinn that was piercing the ground, Kanaria grit her teeth.
The blade of her partner was rusted. At this rate, her own blade will also decay and rot away.
Not wielded, the blade called 'revenge' would rust...
『"How long will it continue?"』
『"Do you really think Isuka would rejoice?"』
"...that's...! Even Kana is...!"
Kanaria knew just why was she so frustrated.
It was because what Ikaruga said was right.
She knew that Isuka didn't desire revenge.
——She knew that ever since she heard the origin of her name from Isuka.
"......the parent who gave me a name..."
Kanaria recalled the conversation she had with Isuka.
There were only few things Isuka spoke of to her.
Since she was being re-educated and even a little bit of emotions would cause her brain to feel severe pain, Isuka avoided talking about Kanaria.
Only at times she was absolutely unable to suppress her feelings, Isuka felt enough pain to wail and scream. The emotions of both love and hate she had for Ikaruga were on rampage. That she left her behind and escaped alone, that she picked up the picture book, that she resorted to tricks when making Kanaria. Her everyday life went on as she let out her anger. After she was tired of crying and screaming, she always quietly spilled small droplets of tears, thinking of wanting to meet Ikaruga.
Even when Kanaria approached to comfort her, she was rejected by Isuka.
Sometimes she was blamed, told it's her existence was at fault.
But, after having a screaming bout Ikaruga embraced Kanaria.
『"You're something Ikaruga left behind, take her place."』
She knew, that the affection wasn't directed towards her but towards Ikaruga. Kanaria was happy even though she knew that for Isuka who has awakened to emotions and felt loneliness worse than all the pain, she was a mere substitute.
She was happy just knowing that her mother needed her.
Every time, Kanaria embraced her and took a deep breath to engrave Isuka's scent in her memory.
While that how she felt... the one who let go of her was Isuka.
Because she was being suspected by Alchemist, Isuka handed Kanaria over to Valhalla.
When she threw a tantrum for the first time during a parting with her mother, Isuka said.
『"People of Suginami are named after birds, it seems that it's implying that they won't be able to leave the cage called Alchemist. The bird called canary has the strongest impression among all caged birds. I think it really suits you, who was an experimental animal."』
Speaking with her usual cold tone, Isuka stared at Kanaria.
『"...however, sadly, the parent who gave you that name didn't think so. Kanaria from the picture book the name was taken from turned human, and grasped the freedom called 'family'. Your name, Kanaria was given with such feelings."』
Isuka moved beside sobbing Kanaria and gently embraced her.
She noticed that the embrace was unusual only after she parted with Isuka.
『"Take off from this place, live free. Go wherever you please... it might be unfitting, but that's all I can do for you."』
The hand that pat her head was very gentle.
『"You... I want you to live a life without pain and suffering, I sincerely hope for that."』
That was the last time Kanaria heard Isuka's voice.
She could understand now. During the last embrace she didn't take place of Ikaruga, the one being hugged was herself. In the end, as a mother, Isuka hugged Kanaria.
Isuka told her to live free.
Surely, she didn't want her to live a life fighting, caught in the cage called Alchemist. And Ikaruga too, gave her a name wanting her to life free.
That woman too, doesn't want it. It was the thing Kanaria was frustrated by.
"...then, what should I fight for?"
Even Kanaria didn't want to do what Isuka didn't want. What reason does she need to convince Isuka?
But if she tries to make up a reason, it would turn into a lie, wouldn't it.
Kanaria looked for a method that would allow her to convince herself.
The reason that's been looked for and found isn't real. It's too far-fetched, an excuse. It was the same as a scum flailing a banner of 'justice' in order to attack hateful enemy.
A reason to fight. She wondered if there was any other reason to hold a sword than for Isuka.
The figure of Ikaruga fallen in the snow, bleeding, was revived.
Back then, Kanaria couldn't tell why was she so furious at the enemy.
There was a reason.
It was hatred. Revenge. But, it wasn't for Isuka.
"...no... that's not it...!!"
No matter how much she tried to deny it, the tingling in her chest wouldn't stop.
That was without a doubt for Ikaruga. Seeing Ikaruga unmoving in front of her, she was upset and her vision turned red, she had no idea what to do...
The emotions she felt back then were the same she felt when she was told Isuka died.
Suddenly, Kanaria noticed.
Right before Takeru and the others transferred, Ikaruga has gotten on a Dragoon. Just what was she intending. She heard that Ikaruga served as a weapon development member and operator in the platoon. Why would a person like that enter a Dragoon.
"...it can't be."
Kanaria felt a buzz in her chest.
Could it be that Ikaruga intended to go on the frontlines by herself? What for?
"...instead of Kana... by herself?"
Whether it was destroying first research facility or killing Suginami Suzaku, she intended to do it herself. Because she didn't want Kanaria to fight, she herself went... was that why she got on the Dragoon?
Kanaria opened her eyes widely, she could no longer endure it.
Fool. Fool. Fool. Going instead of her, what a selfish thing is she doing. Going alone despite not having any combat skill, what an idiotic thing is she doing. Alchemist isn't something she can destroy all alone. She's just going to her death.
Not knowing what to do, Kanaria looked around.
Why?! Why am I feeling such a buzz in my chest?! Even though I hate her...!
Ikaruga's death settled in her head and the image overlapped with Isuka.
But, Kanaria couldn't do anything. It was impossible to leave this place, there was no way for her to help. It would take several hours to fill the newest model of transfer device with magical power.
Meanwhile, Ikaruga will——Ikaruga can't die.
She no longer cared about a reason.
For now, she couldn't die!
"...why is it always... like this...!!"
Feeling helpless, Kanaria hugged her head.
It was the same with Isuka. She believed they'll meet one day and learned swordsmanship in order to save her, but didn't make it in time.
It's the same this time. She's felt behind and will lose someone in a place she can't see...
With irritation and chagrin, she grit her teeth.
When she did,
——About time you stopped being stubborn.
In her head, very faintly she felt as if she heard a voice.
Kanaria told herself it was her imagination and was about to close her eyes as she held her head.
At that time.
Suddenly, something shone in front of her.
She raised her face, Lævateinn that was piercing the ground shone in flames.
Stunned, Kanaria stared at the flames.
Flames overflowed from the cracks on the blade.
When the flames filled the surroundings, they mimicked a shape of person right in front of Kanaria.
It was a woman.
Kanaria saw the woman's figure formed of flames.
She felt that the long-haired woman was slightly similar to Isuka.
The flame didn't answer. It just stared at Kanaria.
And, without saying anything the woman's fingertip was directed at the transfer device.
"...what... what do you want to say...?"
When Kanaria asked, the flames suddenly disappeared.
The surroundings turned back silent in an instant.
It turned back to normal as if it was all a hallucination.
Lævateinn was partially destroyed, it could only pull out a fraction of its original performance. The power it had at the time Orochi had used it won't return again.
Then, what was that just now?
As instructed to by Lævateinn, Kanaria held the sword and moved beside the transfer device.
The magic filling it was at 0%. Sorcerers should be pouring all the magic they have into it and it should take a long period of time to fill the Magical Heritage. Kanaria couldn't do anything.
Those flames were a hallucination after all.
The moment she thought so——flames burst forth from the blade.
Blowing Kanaria's hair backwards, flames overflowed on the school yard.
Flames raised up to the sky like a dragon, then dived down plunging into the filling instrument of the transfer device. Blinded by the dazzling light, Kanaria continued to firmly stare at it.
As the flames filled the device, the rate of magical power fill rapidly increased.
In the middle of raging flames, Kanaria took a deep breath.
Something touched her shoulder.
A hand formed of flames held her shoulder.
She didn't look backwards. A will saying 'don't look back' dwelled in the flame.
The flame hand gently pushed Kanaria's back.
"Go." As if to lead her.
Magical Heritages had souls, there was a theory that the personality was born as a result of the users attachment and feelings, embodying them. A soul also can enter from outside and result in assimilation into the Magical Heritage.
It was just a mere hypothesis, she was told before that soul had dwelled in the partially-destroyed Lævateinn, but she did not know whether it existed or not.
But Kanaria felt the flames pushed her back like her mother would.
She didn't mind if it wasn't so. Even if it was a mere fantasy, an illusion, she was fine with it.
In her mind Kanaria thanked Lævateinn, and,
"——I'll be going."
Embracing new feelings, she jumped into the transfer device.
After confirming that Takeru and the others infiltrated the lab, Usagi, who was hiding in the monitor room of the control tower prayed for the safety of her comrades.
She continued to stay vigilant warily checking the glass windows.
Although the control tower wasn't tall, since it had glass windows on all 360 degrees, they could use it to monitor every team that invaded the labs. Although it was a good place to use for defending the entrances, it was easy to find by the enemy.
Although it's been so noisy before, inside of the facility it was dead silent.
There was no sign of enemy going after Usagi and the others.
"I p....planted a single trap. I-if enemy comes it will respond, I also checked the escape route."
"...this silence is too strange. I can hear the sound of diversionary troop's combat, but in the lab's surroundings there's no sound at all. Can the radio be used?"
Asked by the member of the seventh squad, Usagi verified whether the radio is working.
It connected with Nagaru. After finishing to make the regular report, she tried to communicate with the 35th platoon.
"...it is no good. The interior of the lab seems to be interfering with communication."
"As I thought. It's the same here. I can't contact captain."
"...magical communication doesn't work..."
The three pondered anxiously.
Usagi sniped with her gun, the sunglasses-wearing member of seventh squad was also good at sniping using magic. The member of guards abilities specialized in scouting and setting up traps. It was practically impossible for them to fight in close combat and indoors. They could only watch from the distance as their comrades fought in frontlines, even now they all felt frustrated having to wait.
"We should concentrate on doing our own work. In order to keep the people who entered inside at ease, we must defend this location."
In response to this attitude of Usagi, the sniper, the two quietly laughed.
And located themselves in their own positions.
"L-leave scouting to me...! I will report as soon as enemy draw near!"
"Embers and purebloods will be on guard. Saionji, it's fine if you just watch over your own lab."
"That's a great help... with my gun my maneuverability isn't too high."
Usagi thanked the two, then calming her breathing she turned vigilant.
And——that's when a desperate voice could be heard in the radio.
《"Saionji-san, can you hear me?!"》
The one who contacted her was Kanata. Even though surprised, Usagi replied into the intercom.
《"At 3'o clock, heading to L6 at breakneck speed!"》
Determining it's an enemy, Usagi immediately pointed her muzzle at 3 o'clock, at the crossroads.
She peeked through the scope and adjusted magnification to check the tar