Although the checkpoint in the Border was in high alert when the Pureblood Party attacked, it was no longer an important spot now that the war had begun.
With the possibility of enemy appearing anywhere by using transfer magic, rather than the Grey City that was a den of vagrants and criminals, the solidification of defense in the city and facilities was of higher priority.
Even though it wasn't important, there was a considerable number of Spriggans deployed in the defense perimeter.
A single truck had come to the checkpoint in the early morning when there was relatively few people.
One of the Spriggans had rushed to the car and with a clipboard in his hand he hit the window of the driver's seat.
The window opened and a person dressed like a cook had peeked out.
It was disguised Kirigaya Kyouya.
"——Sup! I've come to deliver food rations to frontlines, can I pass through here?"
As the man made a refreshing greeting not suiting his excellent bearing, the Spriggan had looked puzzled at the man and the clipboards in turns.
"There's no ration distribution in the schedule... from the looks, you don't seem to be inquisitors?"
"Aw, as expected of a Spriggan protecting the city! So sharp〜 I sure look up to you guys〜."
He had a clearly cramped up smile, Kyouya took off his cook's hat and smiled cheerfully.
Sweating profusely, he opened one eye to check the Spriggan's expression.
The Spriggan had stared intently at Kyouya before dropping his line of sight at the clipboard again.
"Cut the pointless flattery. What did you come here for, old man."
Hearing that, Kyouya had pat his chest in relief.
Shit... why do I have to take this role...!
Currently, Kyouya was being disguised by Mari's magic and pretended to be someone else. The magic refracted light making him look like a different person, his voice too had been disguised to sound like that of someone else's. Mari who had specialized in attack magic seemed to be bad with disguise magic that was about the third best magic of hers, so they were tremendously anxious whether she could do it.
It seemed like they were able to fool him so far.
"W-well〜, it's a volunteer work. Witches have attacked a while ago right? My shop was in danger too back then... t-thanks to inquisitors working hard my store wasn't broken and I could continue living〜."
"Oh-hohh, I see."
"Exactly so〜. I guess? As a thanks I'm providing free pastries in your defense line, isn't that a chic plan of my store? How is it?"
"I see I see. I get it. By the way, there's something I'd like to ask while at it..."
"W-what is it Nii-chan?"
"Is your bakery in the Grey City?"
Kyouya's smiling expression froze.
"The only part of old Japan attacked was the Border. A large scale battle hasn't happened yet. Or maybe you traveled from the abroad in this day and age? There should be a travel ban now, I don't think you would be able to fund overseas travel when you just have a bakery though?"
The Spriggan was looking with a clear suspicion in his eyes. By the way, in this era to travel abroad one had to pass through a large Sanctuary and the aircraft had to maintain a very high altitude, a large amount of money was necessary.
As one of his excuses was crushed, the inquisitor stared at him.
S-shitt, shit shit shitshitshit...! I'm ain't suited for stuff like this, this is something the Small Fry Platoon's bunch should be doing.
Despite how he was, Kyouya was a stupidly honest man. Instead of letting himself being pulled in he should just have said "I'm a volunteering to reward the Spriggans" and be done with.
"A-ahaha〜, I-I'm not really studious〜 I misspoke you see. My store wasn't destroyed, but collapsed is what I meant to say. L-look, if enemy came attacking like that and people were evacuated no customers would come in〜."
Although his tone of voice wasn't stable, he somehow tried to deceive the Spriggan.
"For now, show me your cargo."
"Eh... i-it's just pastries you know?"
"Making a further mess of this is pointless isn't it, open up."
When the Spriggan went up the loading space, Kyouya got off the driver's seat with a pale face.
"...give me a break."
Takeru had trouble breathing and a difficult enduring as he could feel a bulge squeeze his face.
The place he was in at the moment was a wooden box placed in the back of the vehicle.
Since the headquarters of Heretic Alliance were in another world, it was necessary to use transfer magic to return to their original world. However, the landing point equipment installed by Heretic Alliance in the Grey City and Border was removed by Inquisition, forcing them to sneak in disguise of a distribution vehicle.
Nagaru intended to have one of the disguise magic specialists do it, but Mari said "there's no need to" and has taken the role with self-confidence. While Nagaru had trust Mari, the magic specialist (self-proclaimed), but Takeru and the others were full of anxiety.
That Kyouya, is he doing it properly... s-still, i-it's too narrow here.
Takeru wasn't the only one who was jammed into a wooden box with paper-based buffer material and pastries.
The entire 35th platoon was in it.
To go into more details, Takeru was in the center, Usagi and Mari in front of him, Ikaruga and Ouka behind.
"S-Suginamii, please do not move it is too narrow here——hyann!"
Because Ikaruga had moved, Usagi's chest had pressed even stronger against Takeru's face. Usagi let out a charming voice and twisted her body.
"Pwahh, I'll die though?!"
As expected, in this state he'll end up suffocating, he changed his posture and moved his face towards Mari who was in the front left of him. But at the same time, Ikaruga twisted her body and pushed his back, he ended up plunging forward.
"Ow...ww...! Suginami, don't movee, I my face hit the wal...l?"
When he looked forward, it wasn't the wall but Mari who was as close to the wall as possible.
Takeru fearfully raised his gaze up and saw Mari with tears in her eyes, who had tasted shame and made a disgruntled expression. The moment he tried to apologize, although it was unknown what was she thinking, Mari had grabbed Takeru's head with both hands and pressed it against her own chest.
And she had begun to strongly grind his head into it.
"?!?! Ww-whh-what are you doin...stopp..."
"It ain't a walll, I have 'em, I properly have 'em, look, touch yourself and make sure...! I've 'em right, Takeruu."
His face was pressed against Mari's soft chest, rubbing it.
They were there. Certainly, there was a hard to express pleasant sensation there.
It was a great thing by itself. He didn't have a problem breathing either. However, it wasn't time to say that now.
Takeru somehow slipped away from Mari's constraint and leaned backwards.
This time the back of his head was sandwiched between Ikaruga's and Ouka's breasts.
"I wonder if there was a better way to do this... in the first place, why do all four of us have to be squeezed into one wooden box?"
Spitting a sigh, Ikaruga hugged Takeru's head against her chest as if she was embracing a plushie.
"Heyy, don't hug mee, don't cuddle my headd!"
"Kusanagi, it feels... as if you had grown accustomed to this, how boring."
Honestly, he was accustomed to it.
"? Ootori sure is quiet. Normally she would be saying 'keep it down' and such, being the loudest one."
Ouka's face wasn't visible as it was obscured by buffer material.
When Ikaruga tried to move the material away,
"You gyuys, I told tyo be syailent."
She had something in her mouth and was chewing it. Even though she tried to hide it, it didn't really work since she had red bean paste stuck on her cheek.
"...why are you eating anpan now?"
"N-nyot eatying anyathing."
"Don't force yourself."
"...*ng-gulp*, i-it's fine isn't it. It's a waste to use it just for infiltration. Also, we can't enter battle hungry..."
Ouka pouted for a moment facing sideways, then, *nom*, she bit onto the anpan she was holding in her hands.
This one too has completely become the Small Fry Platoon's member... thought Takeru earnestly.
Even though they were going to a quite dangerous place, why was this platoon acting as usual...
Everyone was accustomed to carnage and was at ease, it seemed like they were missing the sense of tension.
As the captain in here, I should act strictly for the first time after a while...
Takeru didn't really try to act strict before, but he had braced himself to scold everyone.
That's when, the cargo's curtain was opened.
He prompted everyone to stop breathing by putting a finger against his mouth.
"...I think I heard something just now... what's inside there?"
"I-I I said there're pastries in there〜"
Looking from the hole in the wooden box he could see Kyouya looking like an old man and an Inquisitor wearing armor.
From the look on Kyouya's pale face, he was clearly heavily upset.
So it was no good...
The inquisitor went on the cargo without saying anything. Then without saying anything, he opened the wooden box.
Fortunately, it was the box next to theirs.
"I-I told you right〜?"
Relieved, Takeru pat his chest and sighed deeply.
"Sorry, but I'll have to open them all."
Takeru had raised his pale face and Ouka behind him pulled out a gun.
At the same time the lid was opened, she turned the muzzle towards the inquisitor.
" " " " "............" " " " "
In silence, the inquisitor and Takeru's group stared at each other.
About five seconds have passed staring.
As if he didn't see anything, the inquisitor closed the lid. Soundlessly, Ouka beside Takeru had sighed deeply.
"...good grief, don't scare me like that..."
Saying so in quiet voice, Ouka lowered her gun.
"The disguise magic somehow made it in time... still, this guy is useless isn't he."
It seemed like before the box was opened, Mari had cast a disguise magic on the box itself. Most likely the content of the box was made it look like it contained nothing but pastries by using light refraction.
The inquisitor had checked all the boxes and clearly calmed down, then filled the clipboard.
"Next time report it properly to headquarters before coming. Got it?"
"Y-yes sir, sorry 'bout this〜."
"Also, one more thing."
Kyouya's shoulders twitched as he tried to make gesture similar to a salute.
The inquisitor had hit the clipboard with the pen's point and pointed at the cargo.
"Are your pastries tasty?"
"He? Ah, yess yes yes!! O-of course it's exquisite!"
"Then divide some among our stations. Pastries are really nice. We're always lacking sugars."
Hearing the inquisitor ask him with a small smile, Kyouya was once again relieved.
Although it was quite forceful, they have managed to safely pass through the Border.
Kyouya returned to the driver's seat and started the car.
The Grey City wasn't that broad, but it was still of the city size.
Their objective was a place dyed even darker by the previous war than the Grey City was, the Critical Point.
From here ahead it's the danger zone, huh... there isn't many Inquisition's patrols, but the danger of being found is still haunting.
Takeru thought about the future while in the wooden box.
They learned in the school's classes on how dangerous the Critical Point is. The location in which depending on the time and weather, phases of the moon and such the Akashic Hazard's range varied was called Critical Point.
In other words, there was a chance they would lose their lives without being able to do anything in the Critical Point. Fortunately, Lapis' and Vlad's functionality was able to confirm the presence or absence of Akashic Hazard. Also, Mari's Aurora magical property allowed them to withstand the Akashic Hazard for several seconds.
Just as "Invisible Disaster" name suggested, it was invisible.
Instead, random phenomenons occur in the location the hazard is currently in. The gravity suddenly changes, trees rapidly grow and die within the span of one day, as well as other singular phenomenons.
Although the inquisitors are wary of how dangerous the Critical Point is and won't approach it, they needed to be more focused than usual.
AntiMagic Academy's Chairman's office. A call from the newborn EXE tailing Hayato had come to Sougetsu who was drinking afternoon tea.
《"We're currently searching for Kurogane Hayato. We have lost him again after he entered the Border but... there was one strange report."》
《"A suspicious vehicle had entered the Grey City from the Border, then it left the checkpoint. Something about a bakery distributing pastries..."》
Sougetsu responded with "hmm" and placed the cup with tea on the table.
《"The lookout let them pass barely asking any questions, what should we do?"》
"Has Kurogane-kun entered the border?"
The calling inquisitor had responded with confirmation.
"Then, while continuing to search for Kurogane-kun pursue the vehicle as well. You might catch something unexpected."
《"Understood. Should we interrogate them after catching?"》
"No, tail them, it's fine if you just chase after them. Let them swim for now."
Sougetsu finished the call and heaved a sigh.
"...a baker, really... at time like this?"
That's clearly suspicious, isn't it.
Thinking so, Sougetsu chuckled.
About an hour after they entered the Grey City, the car has suddenly stopped. Having more than enough of staying in the box, Takeru had pushed up the lid and looked outside.
When he did, Kyouya opened the curtain in the back.
"We've arrived. From here on it's the Critical Point. There's no inquisition's patrols either... it won't be strange if you die any time here, so be careful."
Kyouya went up on the cargo and from the bottom of one of the boxes he took out Nero, which he placed on his shoulder.
Takeru and his comrades got out from the wooden boxes and looked at Kyouya as he stretched. As Kyouya continued to be wary of the surroundings, everyone including Takeru stared at him.
"...ha? What yer' lookin' at."
" " " " "............" " " " "
"What's with you bastards staring like that... if you've got anythin' to say then say it...!"
As Kyouya had intimidated them, Takeru instinctively turned away.
He had no idea what kind of expression should he make.
Even though Kyouya intimidated them, to Takeru he looked like an old man from a bakery.
As Kyouya looked out of touch elsewhere, the 35th platoon's members looked away all at once and started to whisper among each other.
"...is that really fine with Kyouya?"
"Bffufu... he hasn't noticed yet. We're already in the Critical Point so he can just cancel the disguise magic."
"D-don't laugh at the poor guy... rather, it's Nikaido who put the magic on him, so she should just release it."
"But if I am not in the wrong, Nikaido only gave him an instant charm. If the charm isn't torn off, the effect won't disappear..."
"It's interesting so let's leave it as is. The sight of an old man striking a pose with a Relic Eater in his hands is surreal. I should have brought a camera... surely, Yoshimizu would be happy with a picture."
The three who weren't sure whether they should laugh or not and Mari with Ikaruga who desperately held in their laughter.
Seeing the bunch like that, Kyouya thought they are being strange and looked at his own reflection in the truck's glass window.
Rather than surprised, he was speechless.
When Kyouya got off the car, he took out the charm from his pocket and torn it to pieces. After returning to his original appearance, without looking in their direction he responded, bearing the anger.
"H-h-hurry up and get off the damn car...!"
He had walked under the guise of calm, but it was already too late. Kyouya had already prepared himself to get a "baker" nickname.
In moderate peace Takeru and others have gotten off the car.
On the road ahead partitioned by yellow tape spread the Critical Point.
The Grey City was eerie, but the Critical Point far surpassed that. Even though it was daytime and the sky was cloudless, it somehow seemed slightly dim.
The place in which they would lose their lives the moment they take a wrong step was right in front of them.
Takeru and others passed through the yellow tape, setting their feet in the Critical Point.
In case of entering the Critical Point, special goggles or contact lenses called Analysis Filter had to be put on the eyes. The filter detected magical power, allowing invisible magical power to be visualized.
In the Sanctuary there are places where atrocious magical power doesn't disappear. Akashic Hazard deprives life of the organisms just by touching them and can be visually recognized after being passed through the filter.
Also, one more thing was necessary, a special clock informing of the Sanctuary's tides. Since movement of the Akashic Hazard inside of the Critical Point is constant, if they mistake the time they will end up being swallowed by it.
"There's an hour left until this place will be swallowed up in the Sanctuary. We still have time, but it's better to hurry."
Mari said so and had begun to move quickly in the front.
It seemed like she had been in the Critical Point twice in the past and was accustomed to it to some extent. Since she got lost in the underpass it couldn't be trusted too much, but this time she was confident. She has survived being inside twice in the past, so it was natural.
There wasn't a single soul in the Critical Point. Because it was completely abandoned since war, the buildings were old. Posters and propaganda from during the war, old Japanese flags and wreckage of old fashioned cars were left intact.
The buildings aged more severely than those in the Grey City and there were many that collapsed.
Since plants weren't affected by the Sanctuary, elsewhere there were eroded trees.
The 35th platoon proceeded through the asphalt, raised up by the growing trees.
The Critical Point wasn't broad. After walking for 10 minutes they arrived at the destination.
"...it's here. A newspaper company...?"
All that could be recognized from the sooty sigh was that it was some kind of a publisher. Since there was a national flag raised, it probably was from before Inquisition had come to old Japan to intervene, about the time when the control over the newspaper was being enforced. They were taught in history classes that before the war, Inquisition was very weak in Japan.
"Let's hurry. Kyouya, keep watch at the entrance. If something happens contact us via radio."
"...got it. Be careful as not to drop dead in there."
Bluntly showing his concern, Kyouya stood on guard in the entrance, poising Nero.
Carefully treading Takeru and the others set their feet in the building.
The inside was full of dust and there was no evidence of people being in there.
The high stacks of yellowed printing paper were the same as at the time when they were printed. The evidence of devastation was left intact.
Until they reached this place, they haven't seen even a single human bone. Humans caught up in the Akashic Hazard all vanish without a trace.
In a place like this without any signs of people for many years, there was an illusion as if the time had stopped.
It felt as if staying in there for long would cause their spirit to become unstable.
Naturally everyone had become silent and they had just continued to look for the document left behind by Mineshiro Kazuma. Although there were many newspapers, they couldn't see what could be the document.
Takeru and the others had examined everything from first up to the fifth floor.
"...there's nothing here. Sixth floor is the only one left."
After finishing the search of the fifth floor, they headed to the sixth.
"S-still, it's great that we reached here without anything happening..."
After getting to the sixth floor, Usagi broke the silence.
In tune with Usagi who had read the mood, Ouka softened her expression.
"That's true, wherever we go it always turns troublesome."
"It's a dangerous place, but we were safe up until now. There's no enemies nor pursuers. Let's go on at ease〜."
Hearing Mari's carefree words, Takeru smiled wryly.
The two were probably concerned about comrades.
"Everyone, don't relax too much. Let's hurry up and find the document then leave this pla——"
After reaching the end of the stairs, without saying anything Takeru had opened the middle room on the sixth floor and took a few steps in.
——In the middle of the office stood Kurogane Hayato.
Hayato stared at Takeru as usual, overflowing with intimidation.
In his left hand, he had something like a black notebook. In his right hand he held a gun and was already pointing it at them.
They were careless, Takeru was completely defenseless and didn't even have a hand on his sword.
His comrades who have come to the sixth floor one by another were stunned, seeing Hayato from behind Takeru.
They had no idea how to act.
Why was EXE's captain, Kurogane Hayato here?
What was he doing in a place like this?
When he thought so——he remembered that their current standing was that of enemies.
Takeru dropped his waist low and when he stretched his hand to the sword,
——Hayato was already in front of him, moving with speed impossible to follow.
With just one step, he already arrived in front of Takeru.
He was approached before he could use Soumatou.
As Takeru was astonished for being sealed before he could make a move, Hayato grasped his head with one hand and pulled him in his own direction before slamming Takeru into the ground.
《"Kusanagi, enemy! Hide yourself!"》
Late by a moment, a message from Kyouya had entered his ear.
As the debris of the wooden floor had scattered, Hayato shouted to everyone.
"——All of you get down!"
He was so intimidating, everyone on spot reflexively got down on their faces.
Immediately after, something had almost grazed their heads.
The walls, floor, pillars, all of it had continued to rupture with a popping sound. The only ones that realized they were targeted by someone else other than Hayato was just Usagi and Ouka.
The first blow had come from a sniper. Following it started a barrage from a machine gun.
Hayato grasped Takeru's collar and with abandon he slid Takeru all the way to the window, then Hayato himself slid taking a refuge beside.
Ouka grasped Mari's uniform and pulled her back, Usagi had followed Hayato pushing Ikaruga's waist and rolling her forward.
《"!! This bunch is the EXE with mass-produced models...! I'm in combat now! I'll protect the entrance, you guys do something about the snipers!"》
Mixed with the sound of shooting and combat, Kyouya could be heard.
The enemy's EXE? Then, what was this man doing here?
"You guys, what did you come here for."
Before he could ask, Hayato asked him in cold voice.
Takeru slowly regained his calm and braced himself.
"And why is Kurogane-san here?"
"I'm the one asking questions. Answer."
"I refuse. If you don't answer, I'm not going to answer either."
Even though they were helped, Takeru said so without drawing back an inch.
Hayato glanced at him from above.
Honestly speaking, it was so intimidating he felt like disappearing.
Then Hayato looked away from Takeru and looked at the floor of the office.
Takeru's line of sight was also lured in there.
In there, fell a single black notebook.
That was what Hayato was holding when he came to the sixth floor.
He must have let go of it when he helped Takeru.
"...that notebook, can it be..."
"Kurogane-san's the same as us——!!"
When he spoke up to there, his mouth was jammed.
That was because Hayato looked down at Takeru with clear intent to kill.
——I won't let you have it.
That's what his eyes said.
Takeru clenched his fist, then alternated between looking at the notebook and Hayato. In that notebook, without a doubt was information about Sougetsu, written by Mineshiro Kazuma.
Putting his legs at the wall, Takeru was ready to leap at any time, Hayato made a similar stance.
This man might not be their enemy, but he isn't an ally either.
That was clear as a day. This man definitely wouldn't pass the document to Takeru and others.
Bullets were still flying over their heads. Most likely they were being fired at from the building on the opposite side of the street.
If he triggers the Soumatou he will be able to avoid the bullets and recover the document. Takeru's body was different from the past and if by chance he was hit by a bullet he would activate Witch Hunter form and survive.
Rather than the bullets, this man was the problem.
He had no idea how strong was Hayato. Although it was obvious at a glance that he was strong, Takeru didn't know how strong was he.
Could he recover the document faster than this man, while avoiding bullets at the same time?
It's not about whether I can——I'm doing it!
It couldn't be helped even if he thought, he had to believe in himself. Choosing the timing, he put strength into his feet.
He was going to jump during the short moment enemy was reloading.
The moment he released strength from his legs in order to leap by kicking off the wall.
——From above, something had come flying in through the window.
He triggered Soumatou and tried to desperately suppress the momentum of the jump, but unable to completely kill it his body had launched while rotating.
In the slow-motion world, Takeru continued to look. A strange man wearing an EXE uniform had jumped into the office.
He had a wire hook attached to his waist. He had jumped in after attaching the wire from the roof on the opposite side.
The man held a gun in his hand and aimed the muzzle at Takeru at the same time as he jumped in.
——This is bad. I can't avoid it in this posture.
The moment he thought so, Hayato who was beside him grasped his shoulder and returned him back to his original location.
Hayato and the stranger glared at each other, pointing muzzles at each other.
But they didn't shoot.
Even though they aimed at each other, they didn't fire.
When Takeru's dynamic vision had returned back to normal, the man slid on the ground as the slow-motion had melted. He picked the document under his feet and directed his muzzle at Hayato again.
Hayato called the man's name.
The man called Jougasaki had put the document in his bosom and disconnected the wire from his waist.
The shooting had already stopped.
Jougasaki glared at Hayato.
"I have misjudged you Senpai. I didn't think you would betray us."
"I told you not to follow me."
"We will follow. It's Chairman's order after all. I'm an inquisitor and you're now a criminal. I won't listen to your order no more."
Holding guns in both hands, Jougasaki firmly aimed the iron sights between Hayato's eyebrows.
Hayato too, put strength into the finger on 0.50 caliber gun's trigger.
In this tense atmosphere, the platoon members all were almost struck breathless.
"Senpai, please surrender. I don't want to kill you and I don't want juniors over there be in any more danger than this."
"The newcomer bunch won't listen to my orders. This negotiation is the last chance. If you're to surrender, it's your only chance...!"
As Jougasaki appealed, Hayato narrowed his eyes slightly.
Takeru only knew their relationship was that of a boss and a subordinate. Judging from the conversation, Hayato was no longer the EXE's captain but was instead treated as a criminal and pursued by inquisition. Judging from the fact he had followed after Mineshiro Kazuma's document, it was reasonable to think that the charges must have been prepared by Ootori Sougetsu, however...
What to do, if we're caught here we won't be able to return to Heretic Alliance...! I won't be able to save Kiseki...! I don't know why is Kurogane-san here, but we can't draw back now...!
Takeru called out to Lapis in his head.
《"Lapis, can you turn into Witch Hunter form instantly...?"》
《"It's possible, but without a chant and a magical circle there will be a several seconds of lag in armor's construction. Meanwhile, Host will be vulnerable."》
《"OK then... I'll manage somehow...!"》
He stopped his breathing and tried to put his fingers on the sword's handle.
"Hey, junior. Don't strain yourself. Stay quiet there."
Still pointing his gun at Hayato, Jougasaki aimed his blood-lust at Takeru.
Takeru's hand stopped just before touching the sword's handle.
The thirst for blood that didn't lose to that of Hayato's had sent chills down his spine.
"You're the 35th Test Platoon right. I won't say anything about it, so just surrender here."
"...that's not going to happen...!"
Glaring at Jougasaki, Takeru looked for a chance.
Still focusing his gaze on Hayato, Jougasaki smiled.
"I wonder, why is the majority of the Small Fry Platoon's captains so stubborn... what do you think, Senpai?"
Puzzled, Takeru looked at Hayato.
There was no change in Hayato, he continued staring at Jougasaki.
Jougasaki shrugged lightly and said.
"Senpai and I were members of 35th Test Platoon from several generations ago. That said, after becoming a third year Senpai had joined the student council, so it was just for one year. I didn't enroll in the same year as Senpai but I was the same."
Takeru had involuntarily asked Hayato.
Hayato did not respond.
Jougasaki laughed mischievously, his muzzle still aiming at Hayato.
"I'm Jougasaki Mamoru, nice to meet you Kusanagi. Even though it turned out like this, I'm glad to meet you. See, Small Fry Platoon is actually a little bit special, it seems to be a Chairman's hobby and a tradition to group up strange guys in there. Did you know?"
"...I-I didn't... is that so..."
"Doesn't it just gather people with peaky performance? I was no different back then you see. Outside of practicals my performance was terrible〜, back then my only saving grace was Dragoon piloting skills."
Laughing cheerfully, Jougasaki said "how nostalgic" about the story from the past.
Since it was an interesting story, Takeru's expression had loosened.
At the same time as the third year students from the test platoon graduate, the first year students are given their platoon number. So the platoon numbers among the first, second and third years are all over and random.
He thought it was a strange coincidence.
The seniors from the previous Small Fry Platoons must have been unable to bear the burden.
When Takeru thought so,
"Kusanagi, why do you let him coax you here, it's obviously a lie."
Ouka cut in and Takeru's sanity had returned. He noticed that his comrades were all staring at him intently.
Why are you, the pursued getting along with the pursuer... Takeru had focused himself again.
Mamoru smiled wryly.
"Ootori, it's not a lie. It's been a while since I've seen you too, been healthy?"
Ouka stared at Mamoru with a complex expression.
Thinking well about it, Mamoru was Ouka's senior from her EXE era. She must have had mixed feelings when meeting him as enemies.
"What I said earlier is all true. That's not much of a reason, but I don't want to hurt you guys."
He erased his smile and said so with a serious expression.
"I'll arrange with Chairman so that nothing bad happens to you. That's why, surrender."
With a gentle voice, Mamoru asked his comrades to surrender.
However, not a single person had responded positively to his request.
"Senpai... if you surrender, the junior will be convinced as well."
"Convince those guys together with me... please...!"
Compelling earnestly, aiming the muzzle at Hayato, Mamoru had begged him.
Hayato didn't even budge, he quietly closed his narrowed eyes.
Then he lowered the gun's muzzle and placed it on the floor.
Even though Takeru was puzzled, he followed Hayato's movements with his eyes.
"...I get it."
Hearing Hayato answer so, Mamoru made a relieved expression.
The gun placed on the floor was pressed and slid on the floor.
The gun was sliding towards Mamoru.
In order to stop the gun with his foot, just for an instant Mamoru had lowered his line of sight.
——In that instant, in the exact same posture Hayato had jumped using his legs like a spring.
Mamoru was horrified, but Hayato had already jumped on him.
Hayato's knee had burst right at Mamoru's cheek.
At the same time as Hayato landed, he reached out to Mamoru's pocket.
Mamoru had predicted the document would be aimed for and grabbed Hayato's arm, attempting to twist it in resistance.
Unaffected, Hayato had grasped Mamoru's hand instead and used a shoulder throw to fling him outside through the window.
The moment Mamoru fell of the window, he fired bullets at Hayato.
Hayato slightly averted his body, avoiding the gunfire.
Mamoru was falling from the window.
When Mamoru shouted in mid-fall, the barrage had resumed.
Dodging the rain of bullets assaulting him, Hayato slid returning back to where Takeru was.
Then, he put a hand on Takeru's shoulder who had drooped low on one knee and moved his face closer.
While Takeru was still stunned by Hayato's smart and bold action, Hayato spoke.
"Kusanagi, there's no time. Take your comrades and escape from Critical Point, then return back to where you were. I will recover Mineshiro's records. Don't involve yourself in this any further."
"T-there's no way I can do that! You know my circumstances, right?! I——"
As if to stop him from speaking foolishly, Hayato hit the wall.
Hayato's pupils were filled with anger.
"——Be reasonable if you're a captain, Kusanagi. What you're doing now is a brat's selfishness."
"I'm saying that if you hold your comrades dear, then you shouldn't fight."
What Hayato said had pierced through Takeru's chest.
The reason his chest ached was clear.
He had been pierced by the anguish he was always bearing.
Hayato put a hand on the window frame and moved his face away from Takeru.
"——Escape. Don't fight. That's the only way left to you."
Saying so, Hayato had jumped over the window frame and outside.
He fired from the sixth floor downward. At the same time, the enemies who were firing a barrage from the building on the opposing side had jumped outside the window, chasing Hayato. Fierce sounds of combat could be heard from the street beneath.
《"Hey...! The majority of enemy is chasin' after Kurogane...! What the hell's goin' on Kusanagi!"》
As Takeru was now, Kyouya's voice didn't reach him.
Hayato's words were still stuck in his chest.
Don't fight if you hold your comrades dear.
He had always been anguished over it. The reason his comrades fought now, was for his sake.
Hayato told him not to involve his comrades for his own convenience.
I know that even without him telling me...!
That's right, he knew.
The pain in his chest, the pressure, he intended to move forward while bearing it.
Takeru raised his face.
"The objective has been stolen, Ouka, Mari and I are going to recover it! Usagi and Suginami are to remain here. I want Kyouya to protect this place until we come back!"
《"What about enemy snipers? I'm in the snipers' blind spot here, but will we be able to escape from here? If we get hit by anti-magic bullets we won't be off so easily, even with Witch Hunter form on."》
《"I'm still fighting the mass-produced ones. I can't see snipers from here. What do we do?"》
In middle of combat, Kyouya calmly asked.
The snipers who were aiming for Takeru at first must have been still aiming for this location.
This newspapers' company building was taller than the ones surrounding it. Most likely enemy was aiming at this office from a higher location in the distance. Judging from the places hit on the floor, the entire office must have been in the enemy's sights.
There were absolutely no obstacles like chairs or desks in the office. Whether they jump from the window or run down the stairs to the first floor, they would be in the enemy's line of fire. And above all, ignoring the snipers and going for their objective was reckless, they had no idea where they were being targeted from.
That's when Usagi who was beside Takeru had pulled on his clothes.
"I-I shall... do something about the snipers."
Usagi's mouth formed a へ shape and she volunteered to take on the snipers.
"We'll temporarily block the visibility with the smoke and then you three should escape from here while it lasts. Once the enemy learns we also have a sniper, they shall not let their eyes off me. It is unlikely they shall aim for you."
"...Usagi, can you do it?"
"Believe in me."
She proudly puffed up her chest and from her pocket she took out a compact mirror used for putting on make-up.
In order to find the enemy's location she had the mirror peek out through the window's frame.
Momentarily——the compact mirror had shattered.
The mirror had peeked out only a few centimeters, yet it was destroyed by the enemy sniper.
"...t-t-ttt-they are quite good〜."
Usagi looked at Takeru with tears in her eyes and laughed forcibly.
As expected of EXE. The sniper's skill might have been as good as Usagi's.
"Leave scouting to me. I'll somehow manage."
Ikaruga opened the gun case Usagi had brought and took out six spheres of a ping-pong ball's size that were socketed on the side.
They were reconnaissance UAV's. When thrown into the air they grew fairy-like wings and flew out of the window.
Mounting goggles to watch the video coming from the UAV's Ikaruga smiled fearlessly.
"These are improved UAV's. They're so small it's practically impossible to shoot them dow——"
Ikaruga's smile froze.
"............all of them got shot down."
"D-don't lie. It's a moving target of ping-pong ball's size right? Sniped down? It hasn't been even 7 seconds since they started flying?"
"I'm serious. The enemy sniper's skill isn't 'just' outstanding. But I got their position and distance."
She checked the distance to the enemy displayed on the goggles.
Furrowing her eyebrows, Ikaruga had a little bit of difficulty relaying it to Usagi.
"...the direction is north-northwest, you'll know it once you see it, it's an old clock tower... distance is 1400 meters."
From such distance, they had managed to hit a few centimeters big, moving target. The weather was sunny but the wind was tremendous. The trajectory would deviate greatly and it should also take two to three seconds until the bullet hit.
They had calculated that much and then sniped a moving target?
Even Takeru who was ignorant in regards to sniping gasped.
However, Usagi pulled the bolt of the sniper rifle "Rabbit Fang" and put a bullet inside.
"——Please tell me the exact position and the speed of wind."
Very calmly Usagi had requested of Ikaruga.
North-northwest of the newspaper's office Takeru and others were in, she was on a 60 meters tall clock tower built before the war.
On the platform for the clock's adjustment she had expanded a bi-pod and looked through the scope in a sitting position.
With hair roughened by the wind, Himemiya Iori had communicated with Jougasaki Mamoru.
"Reporting for now. Everyone else other than captain Kurogane is confined inside the newspaper's building."
《"OK. Continue confining them. You just have to make it so they can't even flinch."》
"I'm not a good person like you, Mamoru. If needed I'll shot these children as well. How about you?"
《"...negotiations failed. I'm in a mad dash chasing after Senpai."》
"That makes me envious."
《"It feels like chasing a battle robot from a b-class film... don't joke around."》
"I'm not joking."
Iori pulled the bolt and said so with a cool expression.
Mamoru said "uwaah..." with a slightly drawn-out voice.
"Mamoru, are you fighting Captain?"
《"...it seems like I will."》
"Good for you. Didn't you say you wanted to seriously go against him once?"
Laughing quietly, Iori turned her eyes away from the light.
"But let me tell you, if you by any chance hurt that person——I'll murder you, so prepare yourself."
《"...really, don't speak of impossible."》
After their conversation finished, Iori returned to monitoring the newspaper building again.
Although they seemed to be hidden by the window wall, Iori had seen them all.
"...tricks won't work on me, kids."
As she squinted, her eye had momentarily sparkled.
Himemiya Iori's Relic Eater, "Daji" wasn't the sniper rifle she was poising now. It was a normal long distance sniper rifle.
Her Relic Eater was currently circling around far above, in the sky.
Daji wasn't made in a shape of a gun, it was a stealth fighter that could fly independently. Both Daji's shape and performance was unusual.
This Relic Eater could sense the movement of all magical power within the radius of two kilometers and could predict activation of witch's magic. That wasn't all, since it could observe movement of natural magical power contained in the air it could use magical power to act as a sonar, allowing her to know everyone's positions.
Additionally, they were in Critical Point. Since normally it was swallowed up in the Sanctuary, the concentration of magical power in the air was high.
With that Daji could not only grasp the movements far away, but by collecting information from the magical power in the air it also could predict how the target would move and input the predicted values into Iori's retina.
Therefore, no matter how intense the wind was, no matter how bad was the visibility or where they attempt to hide, she knew how to shoot to hit the enemy no matter where the enemy was hidden.
Although Iori wasn't originally a sniper, Daji's performance could be taken full advantage of in the Critical Point and gave her sniping ability not inferior to Oonogi Kanata, a former colleague of hers.
"...oh, smoke? It won't work."
A smokescreen was ineffective against Daji.
She could clearly see the 35th platoon behind the window's wall take out a smoke grenade from a backpack.
They want to use the smokescreen to blind me and have those three jump out all at once, huh. That small girl... she's going to cover them with snipe?
Iori licked her lips with her tongue and put a finger on the trigger.
"At this distance she intends to focus on me in an instant...?"
Iori had immediately decided on who to shoot.
The first one to peek out would be Kusanagi Takeru. Following him would be Ouka and Mari. In the end, Usagi would appear to cover them.
The first to aim at would be the boy. He's a contractor, he won't die if he's shot through the shoulder... well, my sniping skills aren't that good so don't hate me if I hit your head.
Iori laughed and opened both of her eyes.
She had determined Usagi not to be a threat.
At this distance and with this wind, hitting her was absolutely impossible, she thought.
Smoke rose up in the sixth floor of the newspaper's office.
Four people stood up in the smoke-filled room.
She could see them all.
I'm sorry about this.
Iori focused on Takeru's silhouette and tried to squeeze the gun's trigger.
It was exactly at that time that she heard the sound of wind being cut.
There was sound of an impact behind Iori and the wall part of the clockwork had broke.
A tuft of hair by Iori's ear had been blown off and fell like flower petals.
She felt faint pain in her cheek, blood was dripping down.
She was grazed, shot. From that distance, in an instant——?!
Iori raised her gun and kicked open the door to the control room.
She rolled inside the control room and hid herself.
At the same time another bullet had landed in almost the same location.
Even though Iori had furrowed her eyebrows, her mouth drew an arc as if to say "interesting".
"Usagi-chan, was it? She's unexpectedly dangerous, I'll have her retire."
Iori pulled on the bolt and peeking out from behind the wall, she fired between Usagi's eyebrows, who was in the newspaper's office.
The moment Usagi had confirmed the hidden target had shown its face and poised the gun, she instantly lowered her head.
One second later a bullet had passed over her head and hit the office's floor.
Fast. Although she was surprised that her second shot was avoided by the sniper, she didn't think they would fire at her immediately after rebuilding the posture.
Usagi leaned on the wall and shortly exhaled, then pulled the bolt loading next bullet.
If not for Suginami's information I definitely would have been shoot... it's as if she could see my movements while I'm hidden...
From the experience she amassed in battle so far, there was no one who had targeted her as fast and accurately. She was able to do so because she had a spotter UAV, but since the UAV was destroyed the next time it won't go so well.
She was indoors as well and unable feel the wind. Since the wind speed was constantly changing, information from a moment ago wasn't reliable.
Usagi looked if she could find something outside the window while making sure not to peek out.
Outside the window, an old Japanese flag was shaking on the wind.
I can roughly tell what's the wind with that.
Just in case she gave "stay silent" sign to Ikaruga and moved under the by crawling.
The other side must have also changed their position...! I'll pass on being counter-sniped again, I need to hurry!
After going into the corner of the room she hid her body behind the pillar, then holding her breath she turned her muzzle towards the clock tower again.
There were three points on the clock tower from which enemy could snipe.
The scaffolding for the clock adjustment where the target had lingered just a moment earlier, the emergency exit and spiral staircase ending 30 meters away from the clock tower and the skylight in the roof of the clock tower.
Other than that, there was no place to aim at them from.
...where will it come from...!
She raised a shout and even though her eye was going dry, she continued to open it wide.
In this situation, she would be hit first.
Usagi continued to focus on the tree points.
...not coming... they are teasing me...!
Impatience was the sniper's taboo. Forcing down emotions and calmly searching from where the target is shooting was an iron rule. It's not a battlefield of fighting spirit and guts. It's skill and composure rather than speed.
Usagi didn't survive this long sniping just for show.
She recalled the days in the snow-covered mountains hunting for deers with her grandfather and her experience from the battlefield.
Calmly, she cleared her mind as clean as snow...
She had erased her expression and like a beast, she calmly waited for her prey to appear.
There were three points to snipe.
No. That's not it.
Usagi considered another possibility and looked at the clock tower's surface.
The bricks were coated with concrete from above for hardening. However, the concrete had peeled off because of age and there was a gap between crumbling bricks.
Her hunch was on spot. There was a muzzle protruding from the gap between the bricks.
And, the pupils like that of a leopard, aiming at her——
Usagi pulled the trigger without hesitation.
She gave priority to speed rather than accuracy. While she thought it's better to shoot before the opponent does, at the same time as she had shot the opponent did the same.
At the same time she saw a brick at opponent's location break off,
The enemy's bullet had grazed Usagi's head and she had fell on her back.
Ikaruga was about to rush over to her, but Usagi screamed "Don't come!" and immediately took refuge under the window.
A bullet had grazed her temple and blood was dripping down.
It was a minor injury, but if she continues to bleed her consciousness would turn faint. That would be fatal to a sniper.
Even though they shot simultaneously, they didn't hit each other.
She was sure of it, that sniper was all right. All she did was to crush the brick wall.
What she has to do is to ensure another position to snipe and make the first move.
There should be time until enemy makes their move. That was Usagi's only advantage.
She loaded a bullet and shown herself again.
Usagi lowered the scope's magnification and looked at the entire clock tower.
Five seconds later. The target had shown its whole body from the end of the spiral staircase.
She instantly raised the magnification, adjusted the angle to match the distance and wind speed, then tried to squeeze the trigger.
Usagi hid her body behind the pillar.
Once again at the same time the enemy's bullet exploded on the floor. If she had remained there pulling the trigger, Usagi would be already dead.
Even though she was already waiting for the enemy, they were slightly faster.
It was as if Usagi's position was known before they have looked into the scope.
Since then, she had repeated the same thing many times, undaunted.
The result was same every time.
The enemy fired before she could... they were one step ahead.
Hiding behind the pillar holding the gun, Usagi spat her breath roughly.
She was bleeding too much from her head and her consciousness was fading.
What to do... I need to think... enemy is not a simple sniper. Even if I change location, Kirigaya is in combat below. If I move outside I'll just be a nuisance to him.
Biting her lower lip, Usagi looked for a method to break through.
Although Rabbit Fang could be filled with magical power and could shoot it, in exchange for being unaffected by wind and gravity, the kill zone's limit was 500 meters. I don't know how, but all my movements are probably seen. I'm being aimed at immediately after they look into the scope. That's inhuman skill.
Shaking her head as she grew faint, Usagi continued to think.
The enemy's rifle emphasizes on accuracy while mine has an anti-materiel specification. The recoil is high and there's a quirk to it. It is unsuitable to aim at a small target a human is.
Usagi put a nail between her teeth and chewed it lightly.
She thought she was being checkmated, that's when.
Usagi noticed something very basic.
Anti-materiel rifle. Anti-material. It's not intended for aiming at people, it was a rifle for aiming at objects.
Holding her mouth, Usagi opened her eyes wide.
A vision of her shooting from earlier had revived. Not only this gun had power to break through bricks and concrete at that distance, the buildings in this entire area were ageing.
Usagi had stretched her face and quietly laughed.
"——I found a way out!"
She raised the gun and stood up again.
Hiding behind the pillar she calmed her breathing.
It might take time, but she had enough bullets.
She resolved herself and once again aimed at the clock tower.
There was no need to aim at a moving target. All she had was to aim accurately at one point.
The trigger was pulled and the muzzle spat out fire.
While moving to change the sniping point, Iori heard sound of impact.
*gon*, *gonn*... a dull and heavy sound echoed in the clock tower.
"............what is she shooting at?"
Thinking anxiously, Iori opened the emergency door and hid herself, then received information from Daji.
She could see it. Saionji Usagi was shooting at something without trying to hide.
The impact resounded like a bell. Together with the sound, the clock tower shook slightly and debris had come down from the ceiling.
*gon*, *gon*... as the eerie sound echoed, Iori looked towards the ceiling and was horrified.
The time between each time building shook had grown shorter, the shaking became stronger.
She raised her gun in a hurry and aimed at Usagi.
Iori was noticed, but still looked at Usagi who was clenching her teeth.
However, Usagi didn't stop shooting even though she had noticed Iori.
Usagi——was aiming and shooting at the corner of a square clock tower, at the pillar.
"She wants to destroy the building itself?!"
Although she wanted to align her reticle with Usagi, she was unable to because of shaking.
She missed two shots, the moment she had raised her face from the scope with a pale expression,
The pillar of the clock tower broke with a crackling sound.
Making a rumbling sound, the clock tower had started to collapse losing its support. The aged clock had collapsed after losing just a single pillar.
"What a girl...!"
Looking up at the clock tower collapsing at her, Iori shouted with both praise and humiliation.
The emergency exit was in the middle of clock tower. As the rubble had broken off and fell on her, Iori ran to outside, falling down.
There were 30 meters to the surface.
She shouted while dropping down.
When she did, far from the sky something had dropped down at breakneck speed.
It was the stealth fighter Relic Eater, Daji.
Below Iori's feet a pale yellow magical circle was deployed.
About 10 meters away from the surface, Iori articulated words of power.
"Summis desiderantes affectibus——Malleus Maleficarum!"
And, just before she hit the ground, Himemiya Iori's body was wrapped in light.
After escaping from the newspaper's building, Takeru, Ouka and Mari had chased after Kurogane Hayato and Jougasaki Mamoru.
They've heard in what direction had Hayato gone, but since the path was convoluted they didn't know where exactly was he going.
"Ouka, can you find their position from the sky, try it if possible."
When Takeru had stopped his feet and instructed her, Ouka triggered the Witch Hunter form and spreading the wings she had raised up to the sky.
From the Critical Point's empty sky, Ouka glared at the ground.
"Vlad, try searching for the smell of Jougasaki-senpai's blood. It was very slight, but he bled when he was hit by captain Kurogane."
《"It was very slight. It shouldst take a minute, wait a moment... by the way, Master. "》
While Vlad sharpened her sense of smell, he spoke to Ouka.
《"Fighting Kurogane Hayato isn't a good idea. That man is strong."》
"...I know. If possible I don't want to fight him either. I was surprised to see that person be chased by Inquisition."
《"The cause of that is most likely thy father, Kazuma. Were I to describe the relationship between Kazuma and Kurogane, it would be hostile superi'r and subordinate... to Kurogane, Kazuma wilt hast been an insufferable man. "》
Even though you aren't related by blood he was more stubborn than Master, Vlad added.
《"After Kazuma had involv'd himself with Heretic Alliance he nay used me no longer. . . so I know nothing of what betid to him afterwards."》
《"However, wast he to entrust important information to an inquisitor, it would be doubtlessly Kurogane. In a sense, that hostile relation allow'd him to trust Kurogane."》
It was something Ouka heard for the first time.
Her father told Ouka nothing about being an inquisitor. Kurogane's name hasn't appeared even once back then.
The Heretic Alliance learned just recently of the whereabouts of the document left by Mineshiro Kazuma.
Kazuma seemed to have left the most important secrets of the Heretic Alliance to one successor in a safe deposit box.
He had them promise "Not to open it at all costs unless another Witch Hunt War happens". The reason was, it's opening would spread confusion around the world.
Then, when Hoshijiro Nagaru had succeeded it and the Second Witch Hunt War had broke out, the safe was breached.
Inside, was a note with the document's location.
《"He was a guy who despite distress, had engag'd himself in two trades at the same time. He wanted to leave information to a trust'd inquisitor and a trust'e person in Heretic Alliance. To hide it in a bizarre and empty place like this... his weird romantic sense was similar to that of Master's."》
Mmm, mm. Vlad spoke heartily as if he was a man speaking to his grandchildren. As expected, Ouka has had enough and was fed up with it.
"〜〜〜Nhh, why are you always talking about my father whenever there's something to do! Hurry up and look for the blood's scent!"
《"What, I just spoke about Master's father for a——"》
That's when Vlad's voice in her head was interrupted for a moment.
And the next moment,
《"Everyone! Sniper has escaped! Enemy is flying your way!"》
A transmission from Usagi had come in.
The sniper was... flying?
Although she didn't understand what was said for a moment, she understood enemy was coming in their direction and flapping wings she had returned back to the ground.
《"——Avoid! Enemy from the rear!"》
As Vlad shouted, tension had ran through Ouka's spine.
Before confirming the enemy she inverted her body and took evasive action injecting magical power into the wings and moving horizontally.
Immediately after——along with a fierce wind pressure something had passed beside her.
The flow of the air had been violently disturbed and shook Ouka. She somehow rebuilt her posture and stopped in the air, expanding her wings.
The enemy was hovering around 300 metres away from Ouka.
Mechanical wings and a tremendous amount of magical power being ejected from the ejection ports in the back. Machine guns reminiscent of Gatling gun equipped on both shoulders, missile pods on the sides of both legs.
Wearing a huge exterior and standing in the air was a tall woman.
Himemiya Iori. A senior in whose care Ouka was in her Dullahan era.
"It's been a while, Ouka-san."
Ejecting magical power from the jet pack on her back and the back of her legs, Iori smiled at Ouka.
"...Himemiya-senpai, did you too come here following captain Kurogane...?"
"I won't answer your questions. Also, captain Kurogane is no longer your captain."
Still smiling, Iori had refused to answer Ouka's question.
Ouka herself didn't want to fight her. When she had entered the EXE, Jougasaki Mamoru and Himemiya Iori often took care of her.
Iori was a kind senior of hers. Since Ouka was not accustomed to her comrades, she went to talk with her whenever there was a need.
Confronting her as an enemy now made Ouka's chest tighten.
"I'm an inquisitor. Whatever the reason is, I cannot allow a criminal act. You illegally use a Relic Eater, as part of Heretic Alliance you threaten Inquisition and the general public. Even if you aren't a witch, I must punish you."
Indifferently, Iori had branded Ouka a criminal.
Certainly, Iori was her kind senior.
But Ouka remembered that this person wasn't a halfway friendly senior of hers. She separated work from private affairs, being a person more cruel than anyone else. Speaking of her lack of mercy, she was beyond Kurogane Hayato or Ouka herself.
"...is captain Kurogane to you a target to penalize as well?"
Iori had absolute trust in Hayato. While it could be called loyalty, she had been yearning towards Hayato.
"............that's right. That person too, is now my enemy. We were educated by the person himself not to show any mercy towards defectors."
After a moment, with unmoving expression Iori had affirmed it.
"You too were taught that weren't you, Ouka-san."
Ouka closed her eyes just once, resolving herself.
Aiming the machine guns on her shoulders at Ouka, Iori gazed her with eyes cold as ice.
"Call for surrender, if you do we'll ignore you."
"...we can't let ourselves be caught here."
"Then, don't hate me if I kill you off with excess momentum."
The machine guns had heated up, firing magical bullets.
An unique sound of machine gun's rapid fire had roared, magical bullets assaulted Ouka.
Ouka soured in the sky ejecting magical power, avoiding the storm of magical bullets. She shouldn't lose when it comes to the flight speed.
"Kusanagi, Nikaido, you two go ahead chase the document."
《"You intend to fight EXE member alone?!"》
Hearing Takeru's desperate voice, Ouka chuckled while flying in the sky.
She was honestly happy seeing him worry.
"You can't fly, right. Go."
After one-sidedly cutting off the communication, Ouka accelerated.
The barrage of magical bullets couldn't keep up with her. The point of impact was slightly shifted from where she was.
Seeing a chance when the barrage had ceased, Ouka turned around in the air.
And, the moment she had turned herself in Iori's direction to launch an attack,
"——You're too slow."
Iori was already in front of her.
She was speechless for just a fraction of a second. Poising Vlad in both hands in front of herself, Ouka immediately fired the stakes made from magical power. However, Iori didn't mind the muzzles aimed at her avoided while shooting Ouka at the same time.
Iori was too fast.
To think Daji was a Relic Eater specializing in flight...!
"As long as you use magical power for your attacks, I can read them all!"
The machine gun on Iori's shoulder raised a growl and showered Ouka with magical bullets.
Ouka instantly extended her wings, making them function as a shield blocking the magical bullets.
One by one the magical bullets were weak, but with a rapid fire at close range it was completely different.
The hardened wings had cracks soundly appear on it.
As long as she had the wings extended, she couldn't avoid.
《"If Vampire form was available, this much would be...!"》
If as Vlad said, Vampire form was available, the situation would be different but there was not enough blood supply in this location. Ouka couldn't take Vampire form with just her blood. Even if it was, her life would be in danger after a few seconds and would have to be cancelled.
She had finally gave up on enduring the machine gun's fire and tried to temporarily expand her wings to take distance.
"I said, you're too slow."
When she tried to open up her wings, between one wing and another Iori's kick had burst into Ouka's abdomen.
It was so strong Ouka was unable to even groan. With the magic booster's sudden acceleration the kick had much higher power than the machine guns.
Ouka had folded into a く shape and blown away.
While enduring pain she ejected magic from the gap in her armor, braking, and managed to stop in middle of being blown away.
"Vlad, I want some info about that Daji...!"
Ouka had never fought against Iori for real. She didn't know any details about her nor the Relic Eater.
《"Daji can read the flow of magical power. Regardless of whe'r in 'r outside corse, it's a relic eater that can yea sense the magical power in the air. "》
In other words, her movements that rely on magical power are completely read.
"And the sensing range?!"
《"Approximately two kilometers. Further than our attack range and outside of detection range of mine."》
Ouka clenched her teeth and attempted to fight back with a gun.
She couldn't hit. Even though it had excellent penetration, in Witch Hunter form Vlad's stake was quite slow. Before that, Iori's flight speed was too high. Even if Ouka read ahead and fired considering opponent's speed, Iori just increased her speed further.
Since an operative procedure for releasing Witch Hunter form was in her head, if Vlad's stake passed through the magic, it would be possible to cancel Iori's Witch Hunter form in one shot.
But it was pointless if she couldn't hit. She couldn't do anything when everything was read ahead.
"Can't you do something like suppressing magical power consumption?!"
《"I told thee, it can sense small amounts of magical power in the air. If master moves, the magical power in the air shall move as well. It won't be overlook'd."》
Iori avoided Ouka's stake and turned around grandly, before suddenly surging upwards. Ouka hurriedly started rapid fire into the sky but not a single blow reached.
After raising about 400 meters above Ouka, Iori had stopped and inverted her body. Looking down at Ouka, Iori had greatly expanded the machine wings.
And she charged the missile pods on both feet with magical power.
"I wonder if using Vlad that's unsuitable for rapid fire you can take them all down?"
The moment Iori spread her arms, the missiles built with magic were fired both both pods at her feet.
While it seemed at first the missiles had scattered in the air at various trajectories, drawing spirals, all of them turned their warheads in Ouka's direction and attacked her in unison like meteors.
Ouka was speechless at the number of missiles raining from the sky.
Their number was about five hundred, they looked like a meteor shower.
The initial velocity of the missiles was low.
If she fired at them the number would decrease, but there was too many of them!
She attempted to intercept them, but Vlad's stake could only process one at once. Although the missiles built with magic exploded when hit, since the explosion was of the same magic type the others weren't set off by it. Even if she tried to take them down with 《Tepes Rain》, in this position she would end up being caught up in her own magic.
Ouka was only able to take down about fifty.
Giving up on interception, Ouka had devoted herself to escaping from the missiles. Since they were guided, it was nearly impossible to avoid them. There was no choice but to wait for the magic to expire.
With a wave motion like a snake's movement, the missiles chased Ouka.
While she desperately tried to escape from missiles coming at her from all directions, the guidance and speed had surpassed her imagination.
《"No good! They caught up! Brace thyself!"》
Vlad autonomously rounded the wings, wrapping around Ouka's body.
Missiles covered all directions aiming at Ouka.
She resolved herself and prepared for impact.
But what has come wasn't impact and pain, but a sound of explosion and a familiar voice.
Along with a sound of something like laser emission, the magical missiles exploded.
When she opened her wings up and checked the status, the attacking missiles have been all shot down.
She saw scattered particles of magic and a figure coming up from the ground.
"You... why did you come."
Ouka asked with a frown, nearly clicking her tongue. Expanding transportation rings on her feet, Mari flew nearby Ouka.
Mari pursed her lips and expanded countless magical circles behind her back.
"I didn't really want to come. It was Takeru's order. Heck, what's with your attitude when you're struggling... if I didn't come you would end up horribly, wouldn't you."
"I-it's true I'm struggling, but is now the time to leave Takeru alone?!"
Being accused after coming to help, Mari furrowed her eyebrows and lined up next to Ouka.
"Since Kirigaya defeated the enemy he's going to Takeru. At least listen to comms——yop!"
Having her ear hit with a finger, Ouka in return shouted with anger.
"The communication is bad in Critical Point and hard to hear! I didn't have time in middle of combat!"
"Haa?! I've come to help and yet I'm snapped at?! Stop with your excuses!"
"It's not excuse! It's the truth! I didn't ask for hel——"
"——You two sure are close."
Immediately after Iori had interjected, the missiles were fired from the pods again.
Mari and Ouka who were quarreling couldn't immediately move.
The missiles approached. The two were engulfed in explosion without them using anything.
The explosion had perturbed Iori's hair.
Iori squinted as she glared through the explosion.
In that moment, from inside the explosion a single stake was fired and grazed Iori's face.
The magical particles and smoke had cleared.
What appeared from inside the smoke——was Mari who shot down all the missiles and Ouka who directed the muzzle at Iori.
" "We're not close!" "
In unison, the two loudly denied.
For just a moment Iori laughed enviously, then emitted thirst for blood from her eyes.
"...you've got a good combination of offense and defense. But as long as you rely on magic, you will never win."
Holding power that could be called incarnation of anti-magic, Iori ejected magical power from the booster rushing to Ouka and Mari.