Around the same time Ouka and the others finished their meal.
The Valhalla, the Pureblood Party set up a camp in a subway station and has occupied the central part of the Grey City. The Valhalla's borderline invasion had an advantage only at the beginning. Although suppression of the Grey City was easy for them since it was originally a lawless area out of Inquisition's reach, it didn't go so well after passing the Border. Inquisition sortied rapidly, it was as if they appeared from under the ground. Inquisition had a numeric advantage. Moreover, Inquisition had more training in urban battles.
The amount of troops Valhalla had has been gradually reduced and only half was remained.
In the subway camp, there was a crowd of Pureblood Party members lending shoulders to one another.
Currently, they were short on supplies. There was no relief goods coming from any of the transfer device. There were rumors that something has happened to Elizabeth in the inside world who has been sending the Pureblood Party outside.
A single woman silently walked among the depressed soldiers.
She was young. Her cream-colored hair stood up on their ends, and a bitter expression floated on her face as she was worried about the wounded soldiers.
Among the Pureblood Party members who were clad in red robes, she was someone who gave off a kind impression.
The soldiers who called the woman 'Mimulus" discarded the blankets they were covered with and stood up.
Mimulus drew closer to the wounded soldiers and healed their wounds one after another.
Although it was a simple healing magic, her unique arrangement of operative procedure made its effect strong. Tears appeared in the soldiers' eyes after just being touched by her warm hand.
"It's definitely a malfunction in the transfer device. After the supplies come you will receive proper treatment. Make do with this for now."
"I...I'm sorry... to bother Mimulus-sama like this... I'm ashamed of myself."
When the young soldier wiped his tears, Mimulus smiled gently.
"You did well with the small amount of goods and forces. We, Ancient Wizards should be the ones apologizing... but we're struggling to prepare Magical Dragoons and we can't participate in combat properly."
As Mimulus said so, the soldier lowered his head many times reverently while shedding tears.
Gently patting his head, Mimulus stood up.
And, once again she called with a stretched-out voice to the worn-out soldiers.
"The weapons have been prepared! We will launch a full-out attack on the enemy in a few days! Everyone, have a little more patience...! If the next attack is successful we'll be able to completely take over Grey City... and then, the empties will understand we are a real threat!"
The soldiers raised voices of admiration and hope appeared on their faces.
Then Mimulus placed a hand on her hip and spoke to everyone who was frozen in their spots.
"Elizabeth-sama promised to send an even larger number of troops from the European shelter. After the battle for Grey City is settled, you all should be able to go home. The day of our victory is close!"
Cheers have resounded from the surroundings and the soldiers have rose up.
Mimulus started walking among the cheers.
"Mimulus-sama... can I speak with you."
And, one of the sub-officers have moved closer to her, then whispered.
"What is it?"
"I thought of consulting something with you, I have a report to make."
Looking at the complexion of sub-officer, Mimulus' expression turned slightly steep.
"Tell me then."
"Yes, as you might know, the young soldiers in particular have accumulated fatigue in their bodies and minds. Among them, there ones with PTSD."
"...it can't be helped. No one in here has any war experience, killing empties is not something one can be used to... let's meet with those people and speak with them directly."
No... that's not it... Actually..."
When she heard the story from the sub-officer, Mimulus' expression turned even more steep.
In the subway's staff room, a painful strike has resounded.
Mimulus was taken by three soldiers to the station's staff room and opened its door with abandon.
"What are you doing...!"
When Mimulus yelled in a spine-chilling voice, the soldiers raised their faces.
The station's staff room was filled with blood.
It could be see at a glance that four elites were beating up a young soldier.
Mimulus moved closer to the man who grasped the boy's collar and swung his fist.
"M-Mimulus-sama... what is it?"
"You bastard...! What are you doing!"
"Please calm dow... we are only working out this deserter."
The elite released his hand from the boy, strongly upset.
"Because of the cowards like them fear is spreading around. Normally, he should have been executed, right...?"
"What are you doing cutting down our forces! Killing soldiers who are scared?! Don't joke around!"
"H-however, Pureblood Party members are not allowed to run away! These guys left their allies and ran away you know?! Their blood is no longer pure, it has clouded over!"
As the man desperately explained, Mimulus directed a gaze of anger and despise towards him.
"Who cares about that. Pureblood or whatever, get rid of stereotypes like that."
"On the battlefield everyone is together. The flowing blood mixes and you can't tell the purity. Do not you understand that if you waste a single member, there will be one less to fight?"
As Mimulus moved away from the elite, the cowering soldiers fell to their knees.
"Mim...lass...sama... forgive us..."
"You don't have to speak up. I'll heal your wounds right now. And after that, I want you to fight together with us once again."
When the healing magic has started to work on the soldier, his lips trembled and his expression turned into a mess.
When the soldier spat out softly, the elites behind raised an angry voices.
Mimulus stopped the elite, and smiled to the soldier.
"Me neither. Anyone in here thinks that the faster this ends the better."
"But in order to survive and go return, your power is necessary. That's why, try telling me what happened to you."
After Mimulus admonished him gently, the soldiers who escaped started talking one after another.
For most, the clouding pupils of the killed enemies wouldn't leave their heads, and even as they slept they heard gunshots, they couldn't forget the moment when the allies surrounding them have been wiped out... and such, it was a typical after-battle trauma.
While listening to one after another, Mimulus has finished healing them.
The soldiers' trembling and their bad complexion has gradually subsided after hearing her words.
Even the elites were struck with her words, and have listened in silence.
The soldiers have crowded around Mimulus and bowed to her with tears in their eyes.
"I'm so pathetic...! I will no longer hesitate! For Mimulus-sama I will go to the frontline and anywhere else!"
"Me too, I have opened my eyes...!! No matter what happens I will no longer run away!"
A dozen of soldiers has closed on and lowered their heads to Mimulus.
Mimulus nodded strongly and placed a hand on her hip.
"I'm happy for you feelings, but the wounds of heart aren't healed that easily. You all should rest here. Currently we're in a stalemate, and there is no large-scale operation."
In response to her benevolent words, the soldiers shed more and more tears.
She faced towards them with a smile on her face and said.
"Harboring fear is normal. It's not something to be ashamed of. That's why, at the very least when you are with your comrades, you should laugh. No matter how hopeless the situation is, as long as you smile——"
Mimulus said 『Smile』, it was then.
The man who was sitting on the edge of the room stood up and tried to distance himself from Mimulus.
He put fingers on his head and started tumbling all around the room..
In response to Mimulus' surprise, one of the soldiers made an expression full of pity.
"That guy is probably done for already. He's been completely broken..."
"That's... his troop seemed to have been backed up by Laugh Maker."
Hearing 'Laugh Maker' Mimulus frowned. The tumbling man's body was hitting the desks and chairs all around, curled up the man bit his own arm.
"L-l-l-laugh...she said a-an-and we...b-both enemies and allies...e-everyone was told to laugh...e-everyone laughed...laughing crying vomiting, w-we killed each other... crying and laughing, l-la-lau-ha...eha-ehaehahahahahahaha."
Seeing the man laugh, Mimulus was speechless.
"Ehahaahaha noo ahahahaha I don't want to... I don't want to laug... eha, hahahahahahaha."
Unable to look at the man who laughed like a doll, she looked away.
"...were you able to find Laugh Maker's whereabouts?"
Mimulus asked the sub-officer who brought her to the station's staff room.
"She is the only one not allowed to participate in the plan and act alone. No one has actually seen what she really looks like. Other than the fact that she has Eliza-sama's backing, we were told nothing about how she fights."
"As soon as you find her whereabouts, report to me. Why did Eliza-sama allow a fellow like that accompany us..."
Looking as if she was to chew on her nails any moment, Mimulus left the staff room and got onto a track line running straight.
"You guys, please go back to the camp. Do your best to keep the story about Laugh Maker secret from others."
" "As you say." "
As the two soldiers and sub-officer saluted, Mimulus smiled gently.
"Sorry to make it so hard for you. If you find anything, report it to me immediately. I might not be of much use though."
Leaving that behind her, Mimulus got on the track line. The soldiers remaining behind saw her off.
After seeing her leave, the expression of one of the soldiers has finally broke.
"That's someone who'd you call a saint... it might be impudent, but I'm glad that Mimulus-sama has taken over after our previous captain."
"Right... gentle, warm, cool and above all a beauty...I wonder how old is she. She looks even younger than me."
Seeing the enamored attitude of the two, the sub-officer who was seeing off Mimulus cleared his throat.
The two soldiers hurriedly stood upright.
"Are you two idiots lusting for your superior...?"
" "N-not at all, never!" "
"Unlike you carefree bastards, Mimulus-sama's heart is in distress... in the battle earlier, she has lost the troop she was responsible for. We are supposed to support that person, and yet you come and..."
As he said so, the sub-officers expression was unlike that of other Pureblood Party members, a mild one.
While starting at Mimulus who was leaving, the sub-officer quietly closed his eyes.
I thought that this battle is pointless... but maybe we might be able to survive. Among many of those who are eager to take control of Pureblood Party, she alone is sane. She's a respectable person.
Even among the Pureblood Party not everyone was like Elizabeth and wanted to weed out all mixed breed and empties. Certainly, because of karma born from the Witch Hunt War there's many who hate empties, but among them there are those who believe that 『The pure-blooded noble ones must protect the weak, only then the world will be corrected』.
Although there's only a few of them, there are those who are questioning this war. But because of their bloodline they had no other choice but to join the West Side.
The sub-officer was one of them.
Even if that person suffers defeat, she might fight the best way to protect her comrades.
Embracing a pale hope, the sub-officer took the soldiers and went back to the camp.
In meanwhile, the screams of the soldier who has encountered the Laugh Maker continued to resound throughout the subway.
One week later, Ouka and the others from the Small Fry Platoon have steadily supported the Spriggans.
"Ootori! At 3 o'clock! A Sniper is aiming from the clock tower!"
Usagi yelled into the radio while running. The clock tower she indicated was a blind spot, and normally one absolutely wouldn't have seen it, but what she said was accurate.
Ouka turned her body around and shoot Vlad's stake into the clock tower. Even if it didn't hit the sniper, through the rapid fire of physical-attack specialized Wallachia, Ouka destroyed the clock tower itself.
The tiles from the roof and debris from the clock tower itself has rained upon the enemy. Although they didn't die since they used protective magic, it was impossible for them to return to combat.
While listening to Ikaruga's praise, Usagi pushed up her transparent goggles with a finger and spat out a sigh that welled inside her.
"My field of vision increased three times... it seems quite intoxicating.."
《"It can't be helped, it takes time to get used to it. I'm used to it myself since I acted as the operator in an online FPS game before."》
"G-game you say..."
《"The most recent games are amazing you know? Don't look down on them."》
While her face turned pale as she felt ill, around her there were three spheres floating while letting out a buzzing sound. The spheres circled around Usagi time after time like fairies.
Their appearance was that of mechanical eyeball-like life forms flying in the sky. Truly, creepy.
It was an UAV created by Ikaruga. Although it had no combat functions, thanks to decreasing its strength and making it compact it was hard to spot by the enemy, and it operated by being connected directly to Ikaruga's brain, moving in accordance to her thoughts. Ikaruga did an inhuman feat of operating three sentry bots at the same time.
《"I made them by referencing to Nikaido's "Will o' Wisp"... fufu, cute aren't they."》
Buzzing, the sentry bots started to mess around with Usagi.
Mainly, they started to poking into her breasts.
"Stop this at once! What's with these sexual harassing robots, shoo shooo!"
《"Ahn, they're very frail so don't hit them with all your strength. Since they're quite sensitive... don't hurt me?"》
"Eh... your senses are also connected?!"
《"There's no way I'd do that, obviously it's a joke."》
Usagi's voice as she was being teased resounded in the wireless.
《"You two! We're in combat, be serious!"》
Ouka's angry voice echoed through the intercom, making Usagi concentrate on the battle in a hurry.
While in the middle of the combat in the air, Ouka spat out a sigh at Usagi and Ikaruga who were in high spirits acting like usual. Although it was a good thing that they have familiarized themselves with the battlefield, being over-familiar was also not a good thing. Seeing their funny exchanges in the platoon room recently made her start secretly laughing at them.
In any case, it was the truth that this kind of atmosphere was the best to exert the platoon's strength.
By covering the Spriggans while not endangering themselves, they were able to ensure themselves a certain degree of safety. They didn't move away from each other too far, Ouka was a vanguard, Usagi a rearguard and Ikaruga took care of reconnaissance making the formation work well. They managed to work things out somehow, the three of them.
Although Inquisition was supposed to mount a total attack in order to annihilate the enemy, by then the amount of enemies should decrease. Although she was anxious because of Kyouya who was monitoring them, like this they were able to properly participate in the battles and he wouldn't have anything to report to the Chairman.
...we might be able to survive this fight. I can see hope.
However, that hope was immediately shaken.
A message came to all the troops.
《"Enemy mechanical weapon confirmed——it's an Einherjar...! I repeat, at Point D3 an Einherjar has appeared!"》
She could hear Usagi and Ikaruga who were having a comedic dialogue catch their breath loudly, Ouka herself who was ensuring air superiority squinted while looking at a grouping of ruined buildings.
This silence is unpleasant, why aren't there any gunshots resounding? She thought, and at that time.
The barely standing buildings collapsed with a roar.
Ouka's face paled. The place building has collapsed was near Usagi's location.
《"There's a wave of strange magic... it's Einherjar. Judging by the shape, it's different from the ones that have appeared during the convoy operation. It would be adequate to call him King Arthur-class."》
Ouka released magic from her cloak and hurried to where Usagi was.
When the buildings on the street she was defending collapsed, Usagi, who was covering the Spriggans was dumbfounded.
They died again. Their lives were lost in an instant.
The Spriggans who were right in her field of vision were now buried under the buildings.
Starting with Usagi's feet, suddenly a fear and remorse have erupted.
That's when from the place her allies were supposed to be annihilated in, a voice has come.
"Shit, what's happening dammit... hey, you alive?! Can you move?!"
"...no can do... my legs are crushed..."
"Same here, my arms are done for..."
She confirmed the appearance of three surviving Spriggans dragging their injured bodies out of the rubble.
One of them who was intact lent a shoulder to the one who had injured feet.
*clang*... a heavy sound of footsteps reached her ears.
In the front, moving on top of the debris a gigantic figure has appeared. It's inorganic jet-black armor was grainy like tombstone. On the armor's stone-like surface there was a red pattern which was the evidence of a magical erosion.
The Einherjar——the enemy's new weapon called 'Magical Dragoon'.
It had no ego, it was a remnant of a hero whose name once resounded loudly in this world.
After getting on top of the rubble, Einherjar roared.
There was none of the former glory and heroism in its appearance, it only embodied anger and hatred.
It wasn't a simple roar, the wave of sound emitted by Einherjar assaulted stroke fear into everyone in this location.
Usagi's body cringed in fear. The three Spriggans also lost the will to fight and gave up. The Einherjar's mechanical eyes shined red, something reminiscent of blood vessels appeared on its muscles and it went to capture the three Spriggans.
She stepped back while saying that in fear.
Unexpectedly, the words she spoke brought her back.
I want to proudly fulfill my revenge against my family. I want to become respectable. I won't let anyone call me a bastard child. Wasn't I supposed to proudly confront the Saionjis?
At this rate, not just my family——I won't be able to face even Takeru.
Usagi clenched her teeth, stopped her feet that carried her away, then stepped forward.
Holding the anti-materiel rifle she started to run towards the Einherjar.
《"W-wait Usagi?! What are you thinking——"》
She shook off Ikaruga who tried to stop her and squeezed the trigger. Even as she was being blown away by the gun barrel, Usagi forcibly adjusted her weapon and aimed.
Another shot. And at the same time as she fired the third shot, Usagi slid towards where the three Spriggans were.
And after expanding the bi-pot on the debris, she fixed the barrel and fired again.
Seeing a small girl come to their rescue, the three Spriggans made a dazed expressions.
"Hurry up, take your comrades and run! I shall take care of this!"
Unable to say anything after seeing a girl come and start shooting from a rifle, the Spriggan left while shouldering his comrade who lost legs.
"Sorry... I owe you one!"
While the Spriggans turned their backs to her with just that, Usagi checked on the damage enemy has taken.
There was not a single scratch on the armor of the Einherjar who stood on top of the rubble.
Even the impact of landing its body has received didn't hurt it, and everything was nullified.
"Nh, it didn't work at all...!"
《"If I only had a day more, I'd be able to complete a new weapon, even so, it has quite abnormal defense doesn't it. The guns from supplies are even able to penetrate the armor of armored vehicles."》
Seeing the video from the sentry bot that buzzed beside her, Ikaruga analyzed it.
Usagi determined that any more attacks would be pointless and tried to withdraw at once.
And with the exact same timing, the enemy's railgun was directed towards her.
I'm scared, it's a pinch, running away is pointless, even if she thought so it couldn't be helped. She did something stupid so she had to act accordingly.
Usagi kicked off the ground with all her strength and moved from the spot. It's all right. Help will surely come.
I need to take as much distance as possible, if so, then surely——
——Surely, her reliable comrades will rush to her help.
Over the Einherjar's head. So as to penetrate its brains, a huge crimson stake pierced it and burst.
The surrounding rubble was blown away by impact, and Usagi who was running away was almost blown away by the wind.
Ouka who shot the 《Count's Fang》! has landed on the ground a small distance away from the Einherjar.
"I made it in time! I was right to stay nearby after all...!"
《"It's not time to act relieved. Look."》
Just as Vlad said——the enemy was intact.
Despite taking on such destructive force, its body wasn't even shaken.
"It shouldn't have that much magical defense..."
《"No, it's closer to curse than magic... it's characteristics are similar to that of Kusanagi Kiseki."》
There were countless Einherjars with immortality characteristic, but there weren't many who had healing capability or absolute defense to such degree.
If it's not defensive magic, Vlad's specialized stake "Tepes" won't work.
There's no such thing as absolute defense... there has to be some kind of weakness.
Einherjars are said to have been invincible once, but they are already dead.
Just like it was in King Arthur's case, without a doubt there's a gap to exploit in this enemy's immortality.
——First, reveal its identity!
Ouka expanded piles on the elbows of both her arms and attacked the Einherjar she was confronting.
By ejecting magic from her back and legs, she slipped above the ground hovering and entered the Einherjar's bosom.
For another blow, she has struck the enemy's abdomen with fangs. Although a strong impact and sound has spread to the surroundings as the aftermath, the armor didn't have a single scratch, let alone a recession.
Ouka continued to rapidly fire the fangs, as if using martial arts she released the stakes continuously, trying to ascertain if there is a weak point in its body.
The enemy's movement wasn't all that fast. After all, even a Magical Dragoon was still a machine.
Ouka's speed was overwhelmingly higher——
When she clearly felt a killing intent and sunk down, a few centimeters above Ouka the sharp blade slipped through. The sunset-colored hair was divided into two and danced in the air.
Immediately after, the abandoned building in far distance was cut in half and collapsed.
As expected, a dry laughter leaked from Ouka's mouth. It was a slash that seemed to ignore distance.
From the place Ouka stood to the building that had collapsed, was approximately 100 meters.
《"Be cautious! This guy's skill is certainly high, and its weapon's range is wider than can be seen."》
Moreover, there's that sharpness. It cut the building as if it was made from tofu. If she eats that, it won't end well.
《"It has a form of a railgun, but it mostly functions as a sword. It should have higher performance than that of the one you fought with before. It means it can both cut and shoot just as well."》
Ikaruga said such a thing with a light tone of voice.
"Ghh, despite having that reach it can shoot too, what kind of joke is this!"
Once again she realized just how big a threat Einherjar was.
The enemy's slashes and shooting began, Ouka decided to attack and avoid at the same time.
She was wrong to think the enemy's movement was slow. Despite having a mechanical body it attacked Ouka with considerable speed. Moreover, the enemy was intact despite taking her attacks and wouldn't receive any impact.
However, Ouka calmly analyzed her opponent's movements and characteristics.
《"Shooting is just a mere show. Magical power concentrates on one point, and it doesn't have the range nor destructive power of Excalibur. The slashes reach and sharpness is its strongest characteristic."》
And this absolute defense...
Ouka organized information in her head and looked for a matching Einherjar.
Her sense of smell improved, and she examined the scent of magical power emitted from the Einherjar.
It's faint, but there's the smell of blood.
《"It's not a human's. This is——a dragon."》
After hearing Vlad's analysis, Ouka finally saw through the enemy.
Sharpness. Absolute defense. The scent of a dragon. There was only one Einherjar appropriate.
The weapon was an S-class Magical Heritage "Balmung", there was no mistake about it.
There is no record that would say it exerts slashes of that reach, but if the enemy is Siegfried——defeating this Einherjar is easy.
"Saionji, can you hear me?"
《"Yes, I have seen everything. Your instructions."》
She could hear a voice asking for orders.
At the same time as Ouka released fangs at the enemy, she spoke briefly.
"——Aim at its back."
The moment Usagi's calm voice could be heard, behind the enemy light flashed off the muzzle hiding in the shade of debris.
The fired bullets crushed the air and approached the enemy from behind.
Probably perceiving Usagi's killing intent, Einherjar inverted just its upper body. The body from the waist up acted independently and blocked Usagi's bullets.
Its reaction time when it protected its back was abnormal. That was a proof that its back was the Einherjar's weak point.
The Einherjar Siegfried had subjugated the wicked dragon Fafnir and obtained immortality by bathing in its blood. However, the dragon blood hadn't reached his back, and the legend said that he fell after his back was pierced.
It protected its back. Being able to confirm was great.
The Einherjar changed its target to Usagi, and at the same time as it tried to cut her apart as an obstacle, Ouka expanded crimson magical circle and stood firm aiming for Einherjar's back.
Ouka improved the reflexes and movement speed by accelerating blood flow inside of her body. Because it burdened the heart a great deal it was nowhere close to Takeru's Soumatou, but it was good enough for just a moment.
Left foot in front, right foot backwards. She fixed her aim and swung her arm along with half of her body.
The shooting mechanism attached to her both arms dispersed for a moment and was rebuilt only on her right arm.
A huge pile bunker emerged at her right arm.
Magical power focused and generated one huge pile on her elbow.
And the next moment, Ouka ejected a stake with "Night Blood" magical property from the shooting mechanism.
The pile directly hit the Einherjar's back.
The roughly 50 meter long pile pierced the Einherjar's body all at once.
Ouka rose up above it as it struggled with the pile that had penetrated it.
The moment Ouka spoke the magic name, a number of stakes has transferred and jumped out of Einherjar's body.
It was raised up heaven-high and its body has exploded, blown up not leaving a trace.
Ouka stood among the falling remnants of Einherjar and released the Witch Hunter form by swinging her arms sideways.
Unable to bear it she fell on her knees and shook her head to clear the dizziness.
《"Splendid... however, after completing the contract just converting your own blood into magical power will be hard on you. Fortunately, this is a battlefield, it's overflowing with blood is it not?"》
As Ouka was exhausted, Vlad recommended something very nasty. She shook her head in response.
"I refuse... my pride won't allow that."
Seeing Ouka's adamant attitude, Vlad fell silent.
Vlad who usually spat out things like "stubborn" or "what a defiant attitude" today was awfully well-behaved. Was he still feeling bad after being done in by Mistilteinn? As Ouka worried about Vlad quite a bit, Usagi ran up to Ouka from behind and lent her a shoulder.
"...sorry, I'm just being helped by Saionji the entire time."
"What are you saying. I had no idea whatsoever as to how defeat the Einherjar."
Laughing weakly, Ouka left her body weight to Usagi.
They saw a large Spriggan forces come from a distance. Among them, there were the Spriggans who were saved by Usagi. It must have been the company's entire force.
Usagi described what happened to them and conveyed the fact that they defeated the Einherjar, which resulted in cheers rising up. Ouka climbed up in the first aid vehicle and looked at the members who praised Usagi.
We should be accepted with this...
While thinking so, Ouka quietly closed her eyes.
Three days after the subjugation of Siegfried.
The position of Small Fry Platoon in the company was certainly heading in a good direction. By subjugating the Einherjar alone, they proved that it wasn't just preferential treatment by Inquisition's Chairman.
"Usagi-chan, you're still small, you should eat more."
The food distribution clerk handed a full bowl of a soup that didn't seem too tasty.
"I cannot eat this much of something tasteless like this!"
Usagi threw a fit in front of the the distribution point, resulting with the Spriggans around laughing.
"As expected of a nice young lady. Her speech sure is refined."
"Usagi-chan doesn't fit in the battlefield, but is her shooting skill amazing because she eats good stuff? What do you need to eat to handle such a monster gun?"
"It won't do unless you eat〜. It's nutrition, not a luxury."
As the bunch behind her in the distribution line made fun of her, Usagi snorted and went around the kitchenette to the back.
Then she slowly grasped an apron from the distribution point.
"Even if there's nutrition, if it's not delicious strength will not appear. Very well. I'll show you what I can cook with the ingredients that are in here!"
Laughter and cheers have erupted around Usagi. Good grief! She intimidated the surroundings and has proceeded to cooking motivated.
Ouka smiled thinly watching Usagi from the distance.
Continuing, she glanced at the maintenance team's tent.
Ikaruga standing in front of a mountain of firearms spoke with the Reginns about her demonic gun remodeling.
"——This PDW is defective. Because the magazine is made sloppily, a bullet feed failure is likely to occur. It comes in handy because it can shoot specially processed bullets, although the penetrating power is greater than the older ones, you can't use it unless you use both hands."
While waving a gun in one hand by the work desk, Ikaruga explained the shortcomings of it.
The Regins chimed in to Ikaruga with a meek look.
"It's because this is the first time we're in real combat. It was adopted without sufficient testing. They should discard stupid pride and obediently outsource it from Alchemist... what is the development department doing."
"It's impossible to resolve the poor bullet feed, it would require a full magazine redesign. We've had 200 of them introduced this time. The bullet processing is amazing, but I guess it's useless after all. The recoil is small and the power is high. Design is sexy too."
As the two Regins said so, Ikaruga raised her index finger.
"The replacement of guns at the Border has been performed just recently, there should be large quantities of the old version. As long as they have those it'll somehow work out."
"Does that mean, we should use the old version?"
"The old version's barrel's is too soft, and not durable enough to fire the specially processed bullets. The old bullets cannot cope with the enemy's latest protection. That's why, we'll order the old magazines only from the checkpoints. The only part that cannot be adapted to the new processed bullets is the gun's main body, I confirmed that it can be done with the magazine. Also, the old magazine itself can be attached to the new gun's model after a part is shaved off."
"S-seriously...? Isn't such improvisation dangerous?"
"Even from my perspective the processed bullets are innovative, wasting them would be a shame. Here you go, the old magazine I've gotten. Try reloading and shooting with the new model."
The Regin took the old magazine and after attaching it to a new PDW performed a shooting trial.
The magazine was able to allow all the bullets to fire without problems.
"...it shoots normally. If anything, it's even better."
"Just get the old models sent and shave them off, that should make them usable right? Also, cocking level is fine as long as you can hook on it with a finger, it would be good to shave off a third of it. When it's too long it's clunky and loud when you shoot."
"Umm, Ikaruga-chan, what are you really...? You're a student and yet you know the defects of the newly adopted PDW as well as the method to solve them, why is that?"
"It's a trade secret."
Ikaruga contributed to solving the weapon problems within the company. For the company that was juggling the insufficient supplies and weapons around, Ikaruga's ideas were quite beneficial.
Ouka sat on top of kerosene cans beside the tent, drank the warm coffee from aluminum cup and warmed her hands that were numb with cold.
"...it seems like you saved my subordinates."
When she was taking rest, the company captain has come up to Ouka.
She tried to stand up and salute, but she was stopped by company's commander.
"I don't mind if you concentrate on resting. I just want to say my thanks."
"I wasn't the one who saved them. It was Saionji Usagi who's over there."
"...is that so, pass her my thanks. However, without you we wouldn't be able to fight off the Einherjar. Thank you for saving us."
As the company commander said his thanks, Ouka made a an awkward expression.
"I just used a Relic Eater... also, it's because of my comrades help I could exhibit its power."
Without any humility in particular, Ouka said the truth.
"You are the one chosen by the Relic Eater, and you use its power correctly. I think it's all right to boast of it."
The commander silently stared at Ouka's face.
"Your Relic Eater... Vlad, wasn't it."
"You know of it?"
"...yeah. In the past, I've been taken care of by it before."
In the past... in other words, its previous contractor was the commander's acquaintance? The company commander spat out a sigh and quietly closed his eyes.
"If possible, I didn't want children like you to participate in combat. Having to rely on children is proof that we are worthless..."
He muttered that a bit apologetic.
The reason he had instructed the 35th Test Platoon to the front and to act as a hit&run troop was probably because he didn't want to involve a platoon full of children in a bloody battle.
Most likely, he was skeptical of the idea of test platoons itself existing. The commander closed his eyes and spat a deep breath.
"However, the circumstances don't allow me to say that any more... in the future battles, I want you to participate officially."
Ouka stood up and saluted.
"The Banshee troop has reported discovering enemy's base. Apparently they made a subway their headquarters. Tomorrow, we have scheduled an attack."
"Underground... that's tricky."
"Tomorrow morning, during the time enemy's watch changes the elite troops will invade the underground, place C4's on the pillars and withdraw."
"You want to crush them by blasting the subway?"
She tensed her face hearing the strategy content. The Grey City's underground was made before war and was very brittle. It would collapse with ease if the pillars were to be bombed.
However, this strategy was extremely dangerous and inhuman.
"...it can't be helped. There is information of dangerous Ancient Wizards and a warehouse with Magical Dragoons being there... it's not time to choose the means."
Hearing about dangerous Ancient Wizards, Ouka has recalled the existence of Laugh Maker.
Her blood forcefully started boiling and she tried to remain calm somehow.
"The briefing will happen tonight at 10. Rest early today."
While saluting to the back of the leaving commander, Ouka clenched her fist. The possibility she might meet the Laugh Maker during the tomorrow's assault clouded her heart.
She pushed down those emotions of restlessness and delight.
Imagining the faces of Usagi and Ikaruga, as well as Takeru's and Mari's, then spat out a sigh.
"............it's all right."
Muttering to herself, Ouka looked up at the sky while sipping coffee from the cup and sat down again.
《"...my previous contractor often looked up at the sky and muttered 'It's all right' in order to endure. Although he was a weak human being like thou art, his skill in shooting was certainly great."》
Vlad's voice resounded in her head. Normally, as a Magical Heritage he acted elegantly and did not speak without permission, mysteriously right now the mood was completely different.
Although his voice was heavy, there was a charm in it that soothed her mind.
Listening to him calmly like this, for some reason nostalgic feelings had awoken in her.
In the first place, Ouka hasn't understood the existences called Magical Heritage. Based on the voice Vlad was a male, then Takeru's Lapis and Kyouya's Nero had female personalities. Although she heard that Kurogane Hayato's Caligula had a female personality, she couldn't tell since it never spoke.
To begin with, she didn't understand the principles under which personalities of a Magical Heritage work.
Not harboring disgust towards Vlad like she used to, she asked him casually.
"...Vlad, tell me about yourself."
《"Hoh, what kind of turn of events is this?"》
"I'm just trying to waste some time. Play along."
《"...thou want to use me as a tranquilizer for your spirit huh. Very well, what do you want to know?"》
His perspective on her mental state made her feel unpleasant, but she didn't bother getting angry.
"Let's see... I'm curious about your previous contractor."
As Ouka said that, she could hear Vlad's sigh in her head.
《"...about him, huh."》
"Is there a problem?"
《"No... I don't mind. I cannot tell thee the classified information though."》
Slightly reluctant, Vlad quietly consented on its master's request.
《"He was... let's see. Inflexible, bad with human interaction, poor talker, acted before talking and susceptible to being misunderstood by others."》
Although it was probably about the previous contractor, Ouka couldn't shake off the feeling it was about her.
《"...and yet he had firm beliefs. And swayed by those beliefs of his he acted like a huge suicidal idiot. To speak frankly, that man was very similar to you."》
"I'm feeling malice. There's a lot of malice towards me in what you're saying. What's wrong about being inflexible or a poor talker, and you aren't fit to be an Inquisitor without a firm belief."
《"Thou should know that his belief wasn't that of revenge. Unlike thee, the former contractor has known at least that much."》
She was unable to refute to Vlad's words.
What's this. Is it his revenge for making it hard for him every day?
《"Hmph... in other words, that's the man he was. What is Inquisition. What is magic. What are enemies. He was a man who continued to distress himself over thoughts like that."》
"...he was a splendid person wasn't he."
《"And therefore, he was unsuited to be part of the organization."》
Realizing Vlad's tone of voice changed, Ouka fell silent.
《"He was the Zeroth Extermination Riot Police's, EXE's previous captain."》
"?! You, you were EXE captain's Relic Eater?!"
《"What's with thy surprise. Other guns and Relic Eaters are like babies compared to me."》
What is this guy saying despite having a bad fuel efficiency and being hard to handle.
But Ouka didn't dare to say that, and closed her eyes in response to Vlad's self-praise.
《"The "Red Glare", that was his nickname among his comrades. As with thy Calamity nickname, it had strong disgraceful implications."》
"...Abhorrent Red Light, huh."
Ouka imagined his appearance, a figure of a man with two huge handguns standing with his back towards her in middle of the flames, it was strangely easy to imagine. However, it was strange that the story of someone as famous among the Inquisition hasn't reached her ears.
《"He had a strong discomfort against magic, but after a certain incident as the turning point he has revised his recognition of it and started having doubts about the current Inquisition. Thou know of "Red Butterfly's Insect Cage", dost thou not."》
"? Yeah, of course."
It was an organization that was trafficking humans with phantom instrument. Since witches were forbidden to leave offspring, they produced the scarce witch children and sold them expensively.
It was an organization destroyed by EXE a few years ago.
《"He infiltrated Insect Cage's organization in order to destroy it and met a single witch in there. Although that witch has given birth to the cage's children, there was no magic power dwelling inside them and didn't work as commodity. She was destined to be killed."》
《"He... promised to save that witch no matter what. However, he was ordered by the Inquisition "Destroy Insect Cage, eliminate all the products"."》
"...no way, was he ordered to kill all the witches that were used?"
《"Indeed. The products... in particular the children born from witches were subjected to brainwashing education. It has been judged that it will be troublesome afterwards unless they are killed. He rebelled against that order and chose to save them."》
Ouka paid tribute to Vlad's previous contractor.
Not just because he opposed the orders, but because he chose to save them.
《"However, it was already too late and when he rushed there, Insect Cage members were already disposing off all the goods in order to destroy the evidence. The witch he wanted to save was already dead."》
《"He devastated the organization all alone. He was also... forced to kill several of the children products. Of course, since Insect Cage was huge, he was able only to destroy a single branch but... if there was one salvation for him, it was that the child of the witch he wanted to save had survived."》
The fight between "Red Butterfly's Insect Cage" and Inquisition continued for a long time. It spanned over 20 years, and finally reached its conclusion during Kurogane Hayato's era.
Ouka had participated in this conflict as well, and knew of the outrageous conduct Insect Cage has been doing.
《"It was since then. He tried weighting down Inquisition's feet from the inside..."》
The Inquisition sometimes made very unconvincing decisions. Like back during the Einherjar incident or during mock battle tournament. It didn't care about sacrifices and was readily making use of magic.
Surely, there was darkness inside of Inquisition.
《"He wanted to do many things, but as he continued to defy orders from above he was eventually isolated. The higher-ups felt uneasy and forced him to resign when he started dabbling in the darkness of Inquisition."》
"...what happened after that?"
《"He died. Immediately after he stopped being Inquisitor, he was killed by someone. Probably it hath been the remnants of Insect Cage... it was a matter of course for them to hold a grudge against him."》
Vlad's voice as he said that was incredibly flat, and it was impossible to determine if there was any sadness in there.
《"It was regrettable, but I can assure thou that he himself didn't regret it in the least. After all, that person was the one I hath chosen as my contractor."》
If he was fired from the position of an Inquisitor, the contract must have been released.
She suspected that Vlad felt some emotions towards his original contractor that has gone independent. It's probably true that Magical Heritages have hearts too, Ouka thought.
《"Master of mine, Ouka."》
Unexpectedly, he called Ouka's name.
《"The criteria I use for choosing my contractors——is their nobility. What I demand is noble blood. Whether virtuous or evil is not the problem. It's being able to sacrifice oneself for their belief, and carry it through... That is the nobility I request, although imperfect, he hath that intention. Can thou do that yourself?"》
《"Can thou make an oath not to be misled by the tenacity of revenge, and carry through with thy belief? Is the conviction thee pay in exchange for magic genuine?"》
《"Thy "It's all right"... can I believe in it?"》
Being asked that, Ouka stood up while facing down.
"Is the daughter of that witch who survived still alive?"
《"...yeah, she's alive. I don't know whether she's happy or not, but she probably has grown up healthy."》
"I see... then it wasn't for naught. That person's wish, must have been fulfilled."
Ouka looked up at the sky and closed her lips tightly.
On the cloudless sky shone the lonely full moon.
"I think that while the form might be different, the essence is the same. Questioning Inquisition, and fighting all alone... I respect that person."
"I'm all right."
With a smile full of confidence, Ouka told Vlad.
"Because of his half-heartedness the lives were lost, he must have surely regretted it. That regret, that conviction... that will of crimson, I shall inherit it all."
"That's why, just like you did in your previous contractor... I want you to believe in me."
In response to Ouka's request, Vlad fell silent. Possibly hesitating, or maybe because of Ouka's deep emotions he could not decide.
In the end, Vlad responded to his master's wish.
《"With my pride on the line... I shall believe in your nobility, my Master."》
Hearing his answer, Ouka nodded content and smiled lightly.
Although she wouldn't have even thought of it in the past, after being bound by contract it was a fact that Vlad and her became one in soul and body. Rather than deny it, it was something important to know everything, Ouka learned that from Takeru and Mari.
Even if he was a product of magic, Vlad was the partner she entrusted her life to... it was then, Ouka accepted Vlad's existence for the first time.
Snuggling up to Ouka's soul, Vlad admonished himself.
There were no lies in the words he said to Ouka. It was true that he believed in her nobility.
There were no lies in there.
However, Vlad hasn't necessarily confided everything to her.
Forgive me, my Master. In the end I am merely the king's puppet. It is impossible for me to confide all the truth to thee.
As Ouka walked with no hesitation, Vlad overlapped the previous contractor's figure with hers.
This is fate. Of all people there art, for thou to inherit his will...
While watching his young master, Vlad smiled wryly.
And as not to have to betray this girl, he prayed to no one in particular.
Nosferatu (ノスフエラトウ) - It's written as (逆十字磔刑) meaning "Reverse Crucifixion" .