The operations room was located on the third basement floor of the Bugeika school building.
It was every bit as dark and gloomy as the lab was; a necessity given the floating monitors suspended in every nook and cranny of the room which were even now projecting images being transmitted from the computer.
It looks pretty busy…
The room was charged with an atmosphere of nervous tension, perhaps only to be expected given the current state of emergency.
The clothing and ages of the ten within the room varied wildly; that notwithstanding, they were uniformly engaged in frantically running their fingers over their optical keyboards while conversing via the microphones attached to their headsets.
From what could be overheard, it was apparent that intel—transmitted both from Warslan headquarters in Liberia as well as from the region in which the Savage had appeared—was being organized and analyzed.
“Those within this room include members of the Warslan Company’s intelligence division as well as middle- and high-school students of the Futsuuka who, having achieved excellent grades, cooperate with the Bugeika.”
In response to Claire’s proud declaration, the girls and boys within the room, who all appeared to be younger than Hayato, collectively bowed and saluted. Their reaction spanned just the briefest moment, however, before they returned to their duties in earnest.
“Right then, I’ll station myself here.”
Claire’s assistant, Chris, who had accompanied them to the room, seated himself on a now-empty chair.
The seat he’d taken was next to Meimei, the subordinate of Charlotte, the main technologist of the lab.
“Is he a technologist as well then?”
“No, Chris isn’t a technologist, but the main analyst.”
Analysts, naturally, were specialists at using computers, compiling intel, and operating programs that performed analysis through calculations.
“Chris’ skills are superior even to members of the Warslan Company’s intelligence division, let alone a typical high school student. So? How’s the situation?”
Claire began her inquiries as she approached Chris and Meimei.
“The location where the Savage have made their appearance is within the François territory at the heart of the Zwei Archipelago.”
Meimei, compiling intel from the operation seat, answered. Continuing, she expounded upon the Zwei Archipelago in greater depth.
The archipelago was heart-shaped when seen from above, and was a renowned tourist attraction.
It had a population of roughly five thousand residents, as well as roughly a thousand visitors at any given time.
Kirishima Sakura had scheduled a live concert for the day.
“Because of the concert, people from all over have made their way to the island, and there is nearly ten thousand people there right now. It’s quite chaotic.”
“Kirishima Sakura? Do you know who that is?” Claire asked Hayato, prompted by the mention of that name.
Perhaps it was because her name sounded like it belonged to an inhabitant of the Yamato Empire.
“Well, I’ve definitely heard that name before somewhere… If I remember correctly, she’s an idol, I think…?”
“I can gather that much just from hearing that she’s putting on a live concert. I’m asking whether you know anything about her beyond that.”
She seemed rather offput at his unexpected response, but he didn’t know any more than he’d already explained, so he couldn’t answer.
“Emil, do you know anything?”
“Nope. I’m not into that kinda thing, Emil replied, shaking her head from side to side.
Taken aback by their responses, a voice expressed surprise.
“…Neither of you have heard of Kirishima Sakura? You two really are the same, aren’t you?”
Charlotte stood before the door that Hayato and the others had passed through just a moment ago.
“In this day and age, when Vocaloids are at their peak, she is able to vie for victory with her natural voice alone; Kirishima Sakura is a world-renowned idol from the Yamato Empire.”
One of Kirishima Sakura’s songs flowed forth from the PDA in her hand.
Listening to it, Emil muttered, “You know, I think I remembering hearing this when we visited Central…”
“Yeah, I think you’re right.”
As he thought about it, he had the impression that he hadn’t heard it just in Central, but back in Yamato as well..
That’s right, Karen was listening to it…
Hearing the song, he finally remembered.
“That reminds me, Karen did make it back to the hospital, right?”
That concern had been weighing on his mind ever since they’d arrived.
“It was hard to get her to stay there as she wanted to be by your side, but I managed,” Charlotte replied, pausing the song and returning her PDA to her pocket.
“Is that so? That’s a relief.”
“…Has HQ’s data on the Savage in the Zwei Archipelago arrived yet?”
“Project it onto the monitors at once.”
With a nod, Meimei tapped away furiously on her optical keyboard.
“Headquarters say that they’re sending reinforcements, but it’ll be another two and a half hours until they arrive. To minimize damage, forces in Little Garden are to remain on standby.”
“Not only are we not allowed to destroy them, we must even stay inside? Nii-sama sure is making light of our strength, isn’t he…?”
Claire’s jaw clenched; she seemed vexed.
Her expression showed her confidence that they’d be able to handle the situation.
“But Claire-sama, this ship’s Slayers lack prior experience in battle, so it can’t be helped, right? Furthermore, while two of the three Savage might be smallish normal types, but one of them is enormous, and looks like nothing we’ve ever seen before. We don’t know about its abilities——it’s an [UNKNOWN].”
As he spoke, Chris manipulated the floating monitor.
“I was able to pull together a picture of the [UNKNOWN]. I’ll project it immediately.”
“It certainly is massive, isn’t it…” Claire muttered.
Indeed, when compared to his memories of them from his childhood, it was at least five times as large – no, more than that – than the Savage he had seen ten years ago.
It didn’t need to be said that getting stomped on was a life-threatening situation, and a full-body attack would shatter one’s bones. The blasts from its head were, similarly, far larger than a typical Savage’s, and their power could not be denied. Given the situation, it was only a matter of time before the town would be utterly decimated.
“If we don’t do something, and fast…” Hayato murmured, biting his lips in frustration.
There was undoubtedly a vast horde of people out of view of the camera, scurrying about in panic as they attempted to flee.
“This is both why we have Slayers as well as why the lot of you chose to become Slayers.”
With a grin, Charlotte turned to Chris.
“Chris Steinbert, forward the data on the Savage and our two freshmen to [LiZA]. Have her carry out a tactical simulation and select members to sortie.”
“Charlotte Dymandias! You couldn’t possibly mean to have [LiZA] select Kisaragi Hayato and the others to…”
Charlotte nodded unconcernedly at Chris, on whose face was a look of utter disbelief.
“Countless Slayers were injured during the Savage hive capture operation in Guinea the other day; Little Garden has an insufficient number of Slayers at the moment. I suspect the head office’s order to standby is because they have yet to receive our most current data. Once that lack is amended, I believe they will reconsider their position.”
“Wait a sec. You mean we are going to fight the Savage?” Hayato interjected.
This was not a situation he’d foreseen.
“Of course. That’s why you guys are here, after all, isn’t it?” Charlotte affirmed with a nod.
“That’s why I said to wait, Charlotte Dymandias! Your actions are overhasty. In any event, [LiZA] would never choose them…”
“According to my simulation, a solution will reveal itself. This is for the sake of eliminating the Savage. Moreover, you want to get the better of your Bro- of HQ as well, do you not?”
After several seconds of silent consideration, Claire revealed her decision without truly answering Charlotte’s question.
“…Understood. We can always reconsider once [LiZA] has given us the simulation results, right?”
“Inputting data for Hayato Kisaragi-san and Emil Crossford-san. Submitting request to perform selection for members of the sortie party. This will take just a minute, Claire-sama.”
Though still confused, Chris nevertheless manipulated his keyboard to fulfill the request.
“Data submission and analysis complete.”
He’d said it’d take a minute, but he was done after only 30 seconds.
“Now displaying the results of the sortie member selection recommended by [LiZA].”
From behind her glasses, Erika’s eyes widened and a surprised voice leaked from her mouth as she took in the results of the analysis, displayed on the monitors lining the walls of the interior of the operations room. The other students in the room, along with members of Warslan’s intel division, echoed her shock.
“Chris, this isn’t some kind of joke, is this?”
“No. Without a doubt, this is the solution that [LiZA] has come up with. There will be limited casualties and the members with a greatest chance of success are——”
At these latest words, Claire’s gaze returned to the monitor once more.
Displayed there were the three members of the student council – Claire, Ridi, and Erika – as well as Hayato and Emil.
“Any objections, Claire Harvey?” Charlotte asked Claire with an easy grin.
“…If that’s [LiZA]’s answer, then I can only obey. This is Little Garden’s law.”
“And you, Kisaragi Hayato and Emil Crossford? Are you two ready for a sortie?”
Hayato shifted his gaze to Emil, who had been asked as well.
“Let’s do it. If anything happens, I’ll be there for you.”
“Okay… I understand.”
With Emil’s words for support, Hayato nodded.
“That means you’re ready?”
This time, he nodded much more strongly.
“In that case, as captain of Little Garden, follow my command. First, Chris——Issue a request to the maintenance crew to begin special transport preparations!”
“Understood. Contacting the airport maintenance crew. Urgent: requesting special air transport WL-03 preparations.”
“Ridi Steinberg, Erika Candle, Kisaragi Hayato, and Emil Crossford – you will board the WL-03 alongside myself. Change into your Variable Suits, make any necessary adjustments, and prepare to sortie. We will gather in this operations room in ten minutes, at 1922 hours. Charlotte Dymandias, you will provide assistance as necessary. All remaining personnel are to analyze the [UNKNOWN] and provide intel.”
Hayato and the others boarded the private Little Garden aircraft and headed for the Zwei Archipelago where the Savage had appeared.
Traditionally, Slayers were ferried by helicopter, but, pressed for time as they were, they instead used the WL-03, a tilt-rotor, vertical take-off aircraft owned by the Warslan Company and stationed at Little Garden.
Located within its extravagant fuselage was a briefing room, consisting of an office, a parlor, and a communications room; a bedroom; a sick bay; a workshop for tuning the Hundred; a room for Variable Suit maintenance; and a shower.
Claire, as Little Garden’s captain, was granted personal use of this aircraft. Aboard it now, were its pilot and crew and seven others: the five Slayers – the three student council members and the two freshmen – as well as the main technologist Charlotte and her assistant Meimei.
“Everyone looks ready for battle.”
After takeoff, Hayato and the others had adjusted their Variable Suits and proceeded to gather in the briefing room.
They were about to work out a plan of action.
The CIC here was smaller than Little Garden’s operations room, but similar in design, with a large screen installed within.
“Very soon now, the five people recommended by [LiZA] a short while ago will engage the Savage,” Claire said, turning her gaze to the screen alongside the other student council members.
Depicted there was a map of an island, with the current location of each Savage clearly indicated.
“The first wave of the sortie will be executed by us, the student council team. We’ll engage the normal type at the top of the map, designated [α]. Once it’s been brought down, we’ll begin our assault on target [γ], the unknown type. The freshmen team will then sortie and commence battle with target [β], the remaining normal type.”
“Why don’t both teams sortie at the same time?” Emil inquired.
“Because you have no experience battling the Savage,” Claire replied flatly.
“Savage movements differ drastically from a human’s—— If you are unfamiliar with those movements, you’ll only be needlessly injured. Therefore, the student council group will go first, and our battle will provide you a reference.”
“So this is the strategy [LiZA] proposed, huh…”
At Hayato’s mutter, a deep buzzing sound echoed and the color of the screen changed. White letters against a red background displayed the word [NEGATIVE].
“The plan is roughly identical to the one devised by [LiZA] except that the point Emil-sama has just raised was changed by Claire-sama out of concern for Hayato-sama and Emil-sama.”
Meimei’s explanation caused Claire to blush.
“T-That’s not it. If the freshmen were to be seriously wounded, it’d be a blow to Little Garden and as the student council president…”
“Well then, let’s just begin our preparations, shall we?”
Charlotte laughed loudly.
Sullen, Claire nevertheless continued with the strategy meeting.
“…If you manage to bring down normal type [β], we can consider the mission complete.”
“In other words, we are not to engage the [UNKNOWN]…”
“Yes, its only opponent will be the student council. Rather than actual combat, think of today as gaining combat experience.”
“Will you really be alright by yourselves? That Savage is huge, and it looks really strong…”
“Don’t take us lightly, Emil Crossford! To this day, countless Savage have fallen before us, a vast number of which were also unknown types,” Ridi retorted, radiating confidence.
Claire spoke up next.
“Leave the [UNKNOWN] to we who have experience. [LiZA] likely agrees that the possibility of its extermination lies solely with us.”
[LiZA] did not refute her words.
The crew of the WL-03 reported in next.
“Claire-sama, we are now above the Zwei Archipelago. We have confirmed the presence of a Savage at——3 o’clock.”
“Project it onto the main monitor.”
After a few quick taps on the keyboard from Chris, the image of a Savage was displayed on the main monitor.
“The image you saw earlier was the [UNKNOWN], but this is a normal type. Utilizing our earlier designations, this is target [α],” Meimei added helpfully.
It was roughly three to five meters tall, about the same size as the Savage Hayato had met encountered once before.
She continued, “At present, the [UNKNOWN]’s attacks are identical to that of a normal type: it attacks with its two pincered claws and fires barrages of beams from its head. Therefore the [UNKNOWN] has been determined to be a Trenta and will henceforth be referred to as such.”
“…Understood. In that case, let’s begin.”
Claire headed for the briefing room’s exit.
Her two fellow student council members followed.
“Follow me please.”
Pressed by Erika, Hayato, Emil, and Charlotte quickly trailed after.
They arrived at a hatch.
By its side was a door labeled “flammable”. When opened by Erika, it revealed an extensive arsenal of weaponry lined up within.
The majority of their number were heavy weapons. Erika took hold of a giant weapon with nine barrels, one half as tall as she was, and rested it upon her shoulder.
Charlotte, noticing Hayato’s surprise at the display, opened her mouth to speak.
“The design of the Weimar Empire-developed rocket launcher has been improved upon, resulting in this Fliegerfaust. It’s an artillery weapon capable of firing nine rockets at once.”
It, of course, did not use normal rockets. As an anti-Savage weapon, its rockets were loaded with a greater quantity of gunpowder as compared to their more typical counterparts.
“I assume you know that originally, before the development of the Hundred, the Savage were suppressed with projectile weaponry, right?”
“That much I know, but…”
“Then this’ll go quickly. Ordnance can both deal damage – though slight – and throw up a smokescreen which can serve as camouflage, and all that without consuming any Energy. When it comes to a preemptive strike, they’re the optimal choice. The preservation of Energy is priceless.”
As Charlotte’s explanation drew to a close, an icy gust blew through the interior of the WL-03.
Erika had opened the hatch.
“The François army is already evacuating, correct?”
“Affirmative. There are no heat signatures within a 300-meter radius of the [α] Savage,”
Meimei replied to Erika’s question.
“…Understood. Then I’m beginning the operation.”
With that, Erika leapt from the craft, looking entirely accustomed to this action.
Promptly adjusting her posture mid-air, she set up the Fliegerfaust, took aim, and——pulled the trigger.
With a loud roar, nine rockets were released, drawing white contrails through the sky as they raced toward the targeted Savage.
“Ridi, I’m going.”
Moments later, seeing a cloud of dust whirling into the air with an explosive boom, Claire and Ridi jumped out the hatch as Erika had before them.
Raising their voices in unison, they extended their weapons.
Erika, who had discarded the Fliegerfaust, followed suit and was bathed in a yellow light.
“Vice President Glasses’ Hundred sure has an unusual form, doesn’t it? What exactly is that?” Hayato muttered without thinking.
The weapons belonging to Prez, Ridi, Emil, and himself were unchanged from how they had appeared during their duels. This, however, was his first time seeing Erika’s. What had manifested in her hand looked to be a pink-colored chain.
“Her weapon’s of the Arsène-type and has been given the name [Everlasting]. Erika can expand and contract it as well as control its hardness at will,” Charlotte replied to Hayato’s question.
“It is, of course, also possible to ensnare the Savage with it, and by constricting, deal damage to them. Watch.”
Hayato turned to watch the battle, now displayed on a ceiling-mounted monitor.
The Savage, struck by the rocket barrage, swung both its pincered claws while raising a somewhat muffled voice. However, it cut only air…
The normal type [α] had ascertained the existence of its enemy, but it didn’t seem to have a precise grasp of her movements, likely due to the smokescreen thrown up by Fliegerfaust’s attack.
Erika hurled [Everlasting] from her hand.
It expanded as it beelined toward its target, immobilizing its body.
Erika, who’d since touched down upon the ground, tightened the grip [Everlasting] had on the Savage yet further still.
As she landed, Claire Harvey took aim.
The six floating batteries, which had unfurled around her, combined to form the Buster Cannon.
This was the very same weapon that she had fired at Hayato during their duel.
“Claire is targeting its core located in its head,” Charlotte added in explanation.
As might be expected from something known as the “steel carapace”, the shell covering the surface of a Savage’s body was incredibly hard. What lay behind it was the core, after all, the Savage analog to a human heart. Accordingly, the Shelter protecting the core was harder than any metal found on Earth. Weapons and bullets made of ordinary metal could hardly scratch it.
“…But if it’s on the receiving end of an attack from the Hundred and Energy, it’s a different story. The destruction of its core is all it takes to bring a Savage to its knees. Just watch.”
She unleashed a dense mass of Energy at the Savage which impacted its head, as planned.
The Savage’s body was rocked by an explosion.
“Shelter destruction confirmed!” Meimei’s voice called out from within the WL-03.
This was conveyed to Claire’s team via the Variable Suit’s wireless function.
“I’ll end this!”
After Erika and Claire’s attack, Ridi intimated that it was her turn next. She assumed attack posture, used her Energy to Accelerate, and charged toward the Savage.
Kicking off the ground, she flew into the air.
Her lance raised overhead, she took aim at the exposed core.
“This is your end—!”
She swung the pointed tip of [Midgardschlange] downward and let gravity take hold.
Unfortunately, as might be expected, it wasn’t just the Shelter that was hard – the core was as well. It cracked, but failed to shatter.
[Midgardschlange], however, was not yet clad with Energy.
“If it isn’t easily destroyed after this, then the freshmen will keep taking us lightly! UOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO—!”
Ridi shouted while driving Energy into her weapon. The blade began to rotate like a drill, and its tip bit deeply into the core.
The enemy loosed a muted cry.
Its core turned reddish-brown and burst apart.
Toppling forward, the Savage crumpled to the ground.
“We did it, didn’t we?” Claire muttered in satisfaction.
“Did you see that, freshmen?! That’s the true strength of the student council!”
Ridi, panting heavily, leapt away from the Savage’s body and landing on the ground, pointed her index finger at the WL-03.
“Next it’s your guys’ turn. Are you prepared?”
A transmission from Claire reached Hayato and the others, whom had been watching the student council members’ figures on the monitor.
As Hayato agreed, Emil patted his shoulder with vigor.
“Let’s sortie too, Hayato.”
“Emil-sama, as you can see, this aircraft is still mid-descent. Please restrain yourself for another three minutes,” Meimei said, echoing Hayato’s surprise.
Waiting, however, had no part in Emil’s plans.
“A single Savage is all it takes to destroy the town. Time is a luxury we don’t have, you know?”
“Don’t tell me you plan to jump like Prez did?”
“Yeah, that’s exactly what I’m going to do.”
Emil nodded nonchalantly.
I was hoping she was just kidding, but she seriously…
Smiling wryly, Hayato looked outside the still-open hatch.
An endless blue expanse greeted him. It was roughly 100 meters to the ground.
“You already saw Prez and the others do this earlier, right? As long as you deploy your Hundred properly, you shouldn’t have any problems landing. That will show them that we can do this.”
Emil suddenly embraced Hayato, standing before the hatch, from behind.
With that weight, Hayato dropped through the doorway.
With the wind rushing against body, he instinctively closed his eyes.
Preventing his stupor was Emil.
“Hayato, you need to deploy your Hundred!”
“I-I KNOW ALREADY!”
If I don’t, I’m dead!
Reaching into the deepest reserves of his lungs, he howled:
He’d somehow managed to deploy his Hundred.
His right arm was completely enveloped by Protectors and [Hien] materialized in his hand.
“That went just fine, didn’t it? Next, use your Energy to soften the impact of your landing. If you fail, your legs will probably break, okay?”
“Okay, I’ll deploy mine now, alright?”
Emil, having separated herself from Hayato’s back, pulled her Hundred out from within her cleavage and commanded it to deploy.
With those words, [Arms Shroud] encircled Emil’s body. What appeared next were not the floating batteries he had seen before, but two large and lengthy gun turrets.
“I’ll use these to deal it a hefty blow like Vice President Glasses just did. That should keep that from moving for an instant, and after I throw up a smokescreen, it shouldn’t be able to follow our movements.”
Emil prepared her two gun turrets and charged them with Energy.
“…From within the cover provided by the smokescreen, you aim for its core. If it’s your [Hien], you should be able to destroy both the Shelter and core with a single strike.”
“Alright, here we go!”
Once charging was complete, Emil shot two light orbs, one after another, at the target.
One orb directly struck its head as planned.
The other struck its feet, but that, too, was part of the plan.
An enormous cloud of dust was thrown up by the dual explosions.
Hayato and Emil seized the opportunity to touch down.
It certainly does look like the enemy can’t discern our whereabouts, huh…
Learning forward as it sought out its enemies, its antennae repeatedly waved from side to side.
Failing to locate either Emil or Hayato, it continued its rampage amid the town.
Its feelers aside, its toughness was the real deal.
“We need to hurry and stop it.”
Although the townspeople had long since been evacuated, any more damage done to the town would drastically increase the time needed to rebuild it.
I guess we should begin the plan then, huh…
Hayato kicked off the ground with Energy.
From within the cover provided by the smokescreen, he leapt at its head – and the core within – and draping [Hien] in his Energy, he assaulted it with his blade.
With a violent sound, an intense vibration ran up his arm.
“It’s even harder than I expected…”
Hayato landed on the ground for a moment.
Although he’d destroyed a piece of the Shelter, only the tip of [Hien]’s blade had reached the core.
He’d left barely a scratch.
Deciding upon a course of action, Hayato prepared to jump again, only for his figure to be seized upon by an enormous eye.
The smokescreen covering the battlefield had faded.
Allowing the enemy to find him with ease.
It promptly assumed an attacking posture before swinging its right claw downward.
Guided by those words, Hayato vaulted horizontally, the Savage’s pincered claw stabbing into the ground instead.
Emil commenced her attack.
What she held in her hands were not the two gun turrets from before.
…That’s… are those scissors?
They weren’t ordinary scissors, of course.
They were a meter long, with a large gap between their blades. She swung them, catching the Savage’s right arm in the gap between them.
The Savage shrieked in pain.
A fluorescent yellow liquid gushed forth from the wound and its pincered arm fell to the floor, severed.
“Hayato, it’s coming again!”
The Savage swung its other arm in fury.
Only to fall prey, once again, to Emil’s scissors.
Again, the fluorescent liquid spurted as its other arm was cut off.
“Hayato, now! Go for its core!”
With both its arms lost, the Savage rose to its full height, opened its head, and fired a barrage.
Defending against its actions, Hayato, who had leapt into the air, struck his enemy directly with [Hien]. This not only prevented its attack but also forced it to the ground. However, though major damage had been done to its Shelter, its core had yet to be damaged.
Thus Hayato prepared his third attack.
Emil suddenly shouted.
Turning, he watched as Emil transformed the scissors in her hands into a white bow.
A bow with neither bowstring nor arrows.
However, it suddenly radiated with white light – and arrows shining with that same light materialized in her hands.
The light of Energy.
Emil took aim at the nucleus of the core.
“I’ll end it with this—!”
Emil loosed an Energy arrow from her white bow.
Shearing the air itself in half, the arrow flew toward its target along a straight path and, threading the gap in the Shelter, pierced through the center of the core!
“Did we do it…?”
With a crack, the core began to splinter.
As a brilliant smile took hold of Emil’s face, she lowered her bow. The pale arrow grew steadily brighter before exploding. The core lost its radiance and shattered.
As fluorescent liquid poured out, the [β] Savage crumpled.
At that sight, they finally felt the joy of victory.
“There’s no time to enjoy this victory though, right?” Emil said, her gaze wandering toward another battlefield… where the student council team had engaged the [UNKNOWN].
“That does seem to be the case, yes…”
As he shifted his gaze to the student council team, Hayato’s expression grew tense.
Though over 300 meters away, they could feel the intensity of the battle against the Trenta.
The Trenta was at least five times larger than the Savage Emil and Hayato had just dealt with.
That alone was sufficient to cause the firepower of the barrage it loosed from its head to be in another class altogether, and each swing of its pincered claws kicked up violent clouds of dust with an accompanying boom.
Each claw was itself the size of a normal type Savage, so even dodging was difficult.
Following Emil’s shout, Hayato watched as Ridi Steinberg was thrown into the air before impacting the ground heavily, struck by the Trenta’s antennae.
She’d managed to block with her shield as well as erect an E-Barrier, so any damage had been neutralized.
However, her weapon vanished.
“…That’s… She’s out of Energy, right?”
Charlotte said through the Variable Suit, responding to his question.
“She was exhausted even before beginning the battle. Even though her Vitality’s hit the critical zone, her life shouldn’t be in any danger.”
“So it’s because of our duel…”
Emil was filled with guilt.
When they had battled in the courtyard earlier, Emil had dealt Ridi a considerable amount of damage.
Although she had rested during the period until they’d arrived, that damage had undoubtedly hindered her Energy restoration.
“Kuu, how dare you do that to Ridi!” muttered Claire, before being shortly targeted by the Trenta’s claw…
“I won’t let you do as you please!”
Erika twined her pink-colored chains around it in an instant. It thus couldn’t complete its swing, but…
The Savage jumped behind her, the impact throwing her body clear into the air.
“This can’t be – it’s powerful enough that [Everlasting] can’t keep up…!”
As the Trenta landed, Erika’s body struck the ground and bounced twice or thrice.
She’d been dealt a considerable amount of damage by that. Although, unlike Ridi, her weapon was still materialized, her suit was torn, and blood dripped from her exposed skin. [Everlasting], which had bound the Trenta’s arm, shattered into pieces and disappeared.
Watching the scene of devastation, Hayato said, “We should go offer our help, right?”
“Yeah, I think so too,” Emil agreed.
Their course of action was decided.
“Let’s join the Prez then!”
“That won’t be necessary!”
Just as Hayato and Emil were about to head to the battlefield once again, Claire’s voice called out from their Variable Suits.
“You two remain there on standby. I said that the Trenta is the student council’s opponent, did I not?!”
“What are you saying? Now’s not the time for that kind of thing!”
Ridi had collapsed and Erika was injured—— No matter how skilled a Hundred operator she might be, to fight that humongous Trenta alone was simply not that simple.
“I’ll be fine.”
Claire’s calm did not flee.
“We’ve been through many such situations until now, and we somehow managed every time!”
An intense light was emitted from Claire’s body, who was shouting.
As she engaged her Full-body Armament, heavy Protectors enveloped her body and an enormous thruster materialized on her back.
Filling the thruster with her Energy, she took off.
Shouting as she threw her arms out, more than ten Petals shot forth from her thruster.
The Trenta collapsed, skewered by numerous beams firing from every direction which threw up clouds of dust.
That notwithstanding, Claire didn’t let up with her attacks.
[Alystherion] turned on its side and combined into one once more, again forming the Buster Cannon.
Holding it with both arms, she took aim at the Savage. It seemed Claire intended to end this with the next shot.
“I’ll destroy you and the Shelter together!”
However, she never fired.
Just as she’d taken aim at the core, shining brightly from within the dust cloud, her target moved. The Trenta had stood!
Within the cloud of dust, something flashed.
…It couldn’t be… it fired?!
This was unexpected. From the other side of the dust cloud, a thick beam of light came rushing toward her.
Hurriedly, Claire split the Buster Cannon into its six floating gun batteries and arrayed them before her in defense.
Although, thanks to her defensive measures, she emerged unscathed, she’d lost what little ground she’d gained.
Just as Claire was about to commence her Petal attack once again…
“Please wait, we’ll assist you too!” Hayato shouted.
She realized that the voice hadn’t reached her via her Variable Suit.
“You two! I told you to watch from afar, didn’t I?!” she shouted back, shifting her gaze to the two.
“Judging by your earlier attack, won’t it be difficult to stop this guy’s movements with just your Petals? Moreover, the vice presidents are in no condition to fight right now, so please let us fight!”
Hayato’s argument was sound.
But Claire nonetheless hesitated, a worried look on her face.
“It’ll be fine, we won’t be beaten so easily. Anyway, we’re joining in with or without your permission, right?”
Emil winked at Hayato.
A transmission from Charlotte interrupted their debate.
“Claire, can you hear me? The Trenta is a more troublesome Savage than predicted. [LiZA] concurs that victory will be difficult to obtain without the three of you cooperating.”
“We can do this if we fight together,” Hayato said, attempting to sway Claire once more.
After frowning for several moments more, Claire, who had sunk into a contemplative silence, opened her mouth to mask her thoughts.
“If you’re going that far to persuade me, it can’t be helped. This is [LiZA]’s judgement, after all, so let’s fight together.”
“Yes! Thank you. Then Prez, please distract that giant Savage with your Petals like earlier. I’ll bombard it. When its movements pause from the impact, Hayato will charge. If that proves insufficient to destroy the core, I’ll follow up. How does that sound?”
Hayato nodded, as did Claire.
“Alright, let’s commence the operation then.”
With the strategy decided upon, all that was left to do was to play their respective parts. Her actions seemingly declaring this fact, Claire’s thruster fired, and she shot into the air.
“Go, Petals—! Harass the Trenta!”
Claire deployed her Petals around the enemy’s body.
That would catch its attention for sure. The Trenta faced the Petals and commenced its attack, attempting to throw them off with its antennae, firing beams from its head over and over again.
Targeting its now defenseless body, Emil attempted to attack with her Hundred’s Long Shooter, of a shape similar to Claire’s Buster Cannon, formed from her [Arms Shroud]. Its muzzle was already filled with Energy; the charging was done.
The concentrated discharge hit the Trenta’s massive frame directly, halting its movements.
Hayato kicked off the ground with all his might, hurling himself into the air like a spring, swung [Hien] at the Trenta’s Shelter.
His arms felt numb. The Shelter that protected the core was incredibly hard; the normal type Savage’s had been flimsy by comparison. Even though his strike had been filled with Energy, he hadn’t done it any damage, instead leaving only a small dent.
“Alright, Hayato! I’m coming through next—!”
Emil’s cry reached his ears. As agreed upon earlier, she planned to follow up on his attack. Emil used her Energy and vaulted high into the air.
Transforming [Arms Shroud] yet again, the weapon she brought forth next was none other than a Grim Reaper’s scythe. She intended to attack the Trenta with it.
Hayato pulled [Hien] back mid-swing, and opened some distance.
Emil’s scythe swung down on the Shelter.
However, its sharp tip fared no better than Hayato’s [Hien] had.
“Ku— that thing’s still too hard!”
She flipped a reverse somersault mid-air before landing.
“Emil Crossford, you should know that damage has accumulated nonetheless. At present, Shelter integrity lies at 25%. A little more should do it,” Erika communicated.
Her glasses displayed the Trenta’s data, relayed to her live by [LiZA], which she was continuously analyzing.
“In that case, then I’m up next—!”
Claire’s behavior was utterly unexpected for Emil, Hayato, and even Erika, who had called out in shock. Claire, ascending into the air by firing her thrusters at full throttle, deployed her Petals once more, and initiated a storm of beam fire.
The onslaught pressed the Trenta, likely for the sake of creating an opening to attack its Shelter.
Finally having closed the distance, Claire again turned [Alystherion] on its side. The tips of its six gun batteries crackled with overflowing energy.
“I beg your pardon for going full-throttle and unleashing a Full-Burst on you—!”
Powerful beams were simultaneously discharged from four barrels at once in a vicious attack on the Shelter.
“Erika, what’s the situation now?”
“Shelter integrity remains at 13%. One, maybe two more attacks are still needed!”
“…Tsk. Then once more—!”
Grimacing, she attempted to fill [Alystherion] with Energy once more, only to be interrupted by an emergency alert sounding from her Variable Suit.
“…That’s… a lie, right…?”
The blood drained from Claire’s face – because the warning had reported an Energy shortage.
In a normal situation, this much would have been…
However, this situation was anything but “normal”.
Although her situation wasn’t as extreme as Ridi’s, whom had dueled only a short time ago, the Energy she had spent on the duel the other day had yet to completely replenish itself. Although she’d already been notified of the situation during her maintenance when changing——
Erika’s pained cry brought her back to reality, but the Trenta’s scissors were already just before her.
There was no time to dodge. Furthermore, with her Energy exhausted as it was, blowing away the massive body in front of her didn’t seem possible either.
——Is this… it?
As the thought filled her mind, just before it had reached her——
“Are you okay—?!”
The next thing she heard was that voice.
“Kisaragi… Hayato… why did you…?”
“What do you mean ‘why’? We’re in this together, so it’s only natural that I’d help, right?”
Hayato had discharged his Energy beneath his feet, launching himself toward Claire with extreme speed. By taking her body into his embrace as he flew by, they’d managed to avoid the enemy’s attack by a hair’s breadth.
“And I appreciate that, but what’s with this pose and your hand…?”
At Claire’s words, her face turned away in embarrassment, Hayato suddenly realized where his hands were placed. His left hand was touching her bottom and his right hand was again gripping her breast tightly.
Flustered, Hayato released his hand from her breast. Her face still dyed a deep crimson, Claire mumbled, “Why do you always snatch away all my firsts…?”
“The princess carry… being forced into such an appearance, this unexpected thing, I mean that—”
Claire pursed her lips, pouting.
If she were to be seen in this state, being carried by a man in this manner, she didn’t think she could handle the embarrassment.
It was, of course, the first time in her life she’d been held in the arms of a man like this.
“No, that’s… You know, now’s not the time to think about things like that—!”
“It’s your fault…”
“That’s why I said I’m really sorry!”
As Hayato tried to apologize once again, the expression on Claire’s face suddenly turned to shock.
“Kisaragi Hayato, a barrage is coming!”
Glancing over his shoulder at her words, he saw the Trenta opening its head.
Hayato immediately began preparations to dodge the incoming beam, but he froze as Erika interrupted.
“Can you hear me, Kisaragi Hayato? Please negate the Trenta’s volley with your Barrier! It’s on a direct path to hit the Zwei Archipelago’s airport!”
“If we dodge, the airport will be struck instead,” Claire murmured by his ear. “But, Kisaragi Hayato, if it’s you, you should be able to stop it.”
“…I don’t know whether it’s possible or not, but I have to at least try.”
If he remembered correctly, many people should’ve been gathered there.
In other words, there would likely be many casualties were it to be struck directly.
“What are you so worried about? When you neutralized my attack during the duel, you employed an N-Barrier, did you not? If you deploy one now, we should be just fine.”
“I think I mentioned this already once before, but that wasn’t something I consciously did; I wasn’t conscious then, after all…”
“Tha— Now that you mention it…”
She seemed to have recalled their conversation in the hospital. Claire frowned in concern.
“So, what are you going to do, Kisaragi Hayato?”
“Even if it’s an unreasonable demand, it’s not like we can just run away, right—!”
Hayato turned toward the Trenta, stretched out his hand, and tried to form an E-Barrier.
The dazzling beam of light struck the E-Barrier dead on.
The impact was so violent that an intense pressure pounded his body.
“Damn it, like this…”
If this overpowering beam broke through his E-Barrier, their bodies would be next. Were that to occur, not only would he fail to protect the airport, neither he nor Claire would be safe either.
A bead of sweat ran down Hayato’s forehead.
“Kisaragi Hayato, let me help you.”
He was surprised by the voice.
“I’ll pour my Energy in as well and strength your barrier. That should be enough to ward off the attack!”
“But you don’t have much Energy left…”
“It’s not like I don’t have any left at all. If we do this together… it can be done—!”
Claire extended her left hand to join Hayato’s right, and let her remaining Energy flow into his E-Barrier.
“Here we go, Kisaragi Hayato!”
Hayato, too, let his Energy flow into the E-Barrier without stopping.
Thereupon, the enemy’s barrage was deflected into the sky on one side, and into the sea on the other.
“We did it, didn’t we?”
“Thank you. We’re safe thanks to Prez.”
“I-I didn’t really try to save you or anything. I did this to protect the airport—!”
Bashfully, Claire rebutted him forcefully as a large quantity of sweat ran down her face.
“…You’re pretty much running on empty now, I guess?”
“Yes. Although it’s not to the point that I can’t maintain my weapon, it’s a fact that I’m at my limit.”
Having mostly spent what Energy remained to her on reinforcing the E-Barrier, she had almost nothing left. She leaned against him.
“Sorry, it’s because I was worthless…”
“Speaking of which, I wonder if you couldn’t soon land… T-That hand has been touching my behind since earlier…”
Hayato landed in a hurry. Assaulting the Trenta from the sky with her floating batteries, Emil cut in.
“You know, Hayato… You and the Prez sure have an amazing mood going on since earlier…”
Her voice, for some reason, could be seen as testy.
“Amazing mood… what are you talking about…”
“Emil Crossford, don’t get distracted!” a frantic Erika cried out over the Vital Ring.
Emil suddenly realized that the Trenta had been targeting her with its scissor-hands.
Her attacks had been intended to impede the Trenta’s movements, but her aerial position had instead backfired on her.
In this situation, it would be difficult to execute split-second evasive maneuvers.
Hayato shouted her real name without thinking.
The memory from ten years ago – when Emil had been attacked by a Savage, leaving a wound on her chest – crossed his mind.
Emil, of course, did not have the opportunity to protest.
Claire and the others observed Emil’s predicament in spellbound horror, lacking the presence of mind to process what had otherwise just occurred.
With a burst of Energy, Emil managed to evade the downward path of its pincered claw by the skin of her teeth.
However, the pincers of its other hand closed in inescapably.
“There’s nothing I can do, huh…”
[Arms Shroud], which covered Emil’s body, was already thin, and depleting yet further still. As the Energy levels within her body declined, it was unable to produce the particles necessary to restore itself.
Simply put, due to its Energy consumption, were [Arms Shroud] to be used once – perhaps twice or, at most, thrice – more to generate weapons, it would no longer be sufficient to cover her chest.
Her identity as a girl would then be exposed. Far more worrisome still was the possibility of suffering a fatal wound without the protection it offered.
Emil formed a pair of shields out of [Arms Shroud] to defend against the Trenta’s offensive, but it was futile.
In order to minimize Energy consumption, she’d purposely made them thin and small.
The shields were knocked away by the pincered claw before fading into nothingness.
Emil frantically twisted her body in an attempt to dodge the incoming blow, hoping to at least avoid a direct hit.
The sound of tearing resounded near her chest.
“…Th- OH NO—?!”
The tips of the Trenta’s pincers found their way to her Variable Suit, tearing it around her chest. Emil’s breasts, the proof of her femininity, spilled out of her Suit.
Flustered, she covered her breasts with one hand, but there were more pressing concerns.
The enemy’s other hand was targeting her as well.
If this goes on, I’ll be hit…
She couldn’t use shields to guard again. With what Energy she had left to her, it would only result in a repeat of her earlier misfortune.
…What should I do?
Her enemy, of course, wasn’t kind enough to spare her the time to decide on a plan of action. With neither hesitation nor mercy, the Trenta swung its arm down. Simultaneously, a black shadow materialized before her.
Hayato had thrown himself into the air with Energy and, extending [Hien] horizontally, blocked the oncoming pincered claw of the Trenta, preventing it from reaching Emil.
Hayato roared from behind clenched teeth.
“But then, you’ll…”
Even for Hayato, holding back the Trenta’s arm was no simple feat.
Indeed, the arm with which Hayato gripped [Hien] was trembling.
“It’s fine, just go—!”
As Hayato yelled again…
The Trenta pushed again with renewed force, blowing away both Hayato and [Hien].
“HAYATO—!” Emil shrieked.
Hayato’s body, which violently impacted the ground, didn’t even twitch.
“Hayato, are you alright, HAYATO—!”
No matter how many times she cried out, he didn’t reply.
——However, a trace of gold appeared within his eyes.
At that time, Hayato recalled the unique traits of a Variant: reacting to threats to one’s life, powerful abilities would manifest themselves.
It seemed like he was in just such a situation now.
When viewed externally, Kisaragi Hayato had risen to his feet, facing down the Trenta, and was readying [Hien]. More than that, he was now in Full-body Armament.
Despite being the individual in question, he felt as though he were no more than a spectator in the events ongoing.
His consciousness was hazy, and he couldn’t speak. The scenery before him grew ever more faint until it faded completely.
It reminded him of his duel with the president.
Caught in a similar situation, his body was again experiencing the same phenomenon.
Oh crap, like this…
He’d likely rampage just as he had during the duel.
He tried to contain it somehow, but in vain. His vision turned to darkness and his mind faded to white. His sense of hearing grew dull. All he could hear was the sound of his heart beating loudly in his ears.
Desperately, he tried to hold on, but it was an uphill battle. The ferocious nature of that which was overflowing from deep within him had him in its grip, and breaking free was no easy thing.
Farther and farther his consciousness wandered——
“YOU CAN’T, HAYATO! GET A HOLD OF YOURSELF!”
Despite Emil’s frantic cries, Hayato’s consciousness did not return. His eyes were a glittering gold and his bestial bellows suggested that he was about to charge the Trenta at any given moment.
“…This is for Hayato… there’s no other way…” Emil muttered.
Her chest was already exposed, so there was no need to hesitate. It was far too late to hide her identity as a girl.
Hayato, please come back…
With a desperate prayer, Emil Crossford – no, Emilia Hammett – laid her lips over Kisaragi Hayato’s.
Hayato felt himself slowly returning.
His vision was the next to recover, revealing Emilia’s face.
The feeling of a kiss reached him after that.
*kuchukuchu* sounded between their lips.
Finally their tongues and lips drew apart.
“You’re fine now, right?
“Why are you… And, that…”
Hayato’s gaze turned to the chest of Emilia, smiling sweetly at him.
The tears in her Variable Suit clearly revealed her gender.
“It’s fine, I’m not hurt.”
“I know what you wanna say. But, now’s not the time to worry about whether I’m a boy or a girl.”
Emilia lifted her gaze to glare at the enemy.
“That certainly does seem to be the case…”
Hayato, who had mirrored her in shifting his gaze to their enemy, understood the situation at a glance.
One segment of its head had opened and was shining; it was about to attack.
“…What do we do?”
“There’s no need to worry; you have access to the N-Barrier now.”
“I see, I…”
Now that she mentioned it, he understood that a great power was overflowing from his depths.
Given Emil’s words, he was likely in a state where his Variant abilities had awoken.
At any rate, he was now also enveloped by his Full-body Armament.
“…After you nullify its beam, seize the opportunity to attack with [Hien]. If it has your Energy, you’ll definitely, definitely be able to destroy its core.”
That much wouldn’t be a problem.
While Hayato was in the process of steeling his determination to succeed no matter what, the Trenta released its attack.
Hayato deployed an N-Barrier to protect both himself and Emilia and blocked the attack.
As planned, its attack was completely neutralized.
Now he had to press the attack.
Continuing with the outlined strategy, Hayato leapt off the ground and closed in on his target.
The Trenta aimed at Hayato and loosed another burst, but Hayato was unharmed due to the N-Barrier being deployed.
Passing through the flash, he drew near the Trenta. Augustly raising [Hien] high above his head, his Energy streamed into it, causing it to shine with a brilliant, bluish-white light.
It expanded continuously until eventually reaching a size on par with the Trenta.
Hayato slashed [Hien], filled with to the brim with his Energy, at his target.
“That should decide it, shouldn’t it?” Charlotte mumbled from her observation point aboard the WL-03.
Following her words was a blinding flash.
[Hien], empowered by Energy, tore through the Shelter and the core with impunity, completely cleaving through the steel carapace.
The Trenta’s body collapsed, bisected, falling to the ground with a thunderous rumble.
The core, which had lost its light, and was now turning a reddish-brown, was smashed to bits.
From the Trenta’s colossal carcass, a vast ocean of fluorescent liquid flowed, collecting in a large pool on the ground.
Standing there was Hayato, panting heavily. [Hien] and its master had regained their usual appearance.
“You did it, Hayato!”
Calling out to him, Emil embraced Hayato.
“With that, it’s over, right…”
“Yep, we… Hayato defeated it.”
As a look of relief came upon his face, his legs began to shake.
On top of having exhausted his Energy in the attack just now, the side effects of his Variant abilities had begun to present themselves, leaving him in no condition to be left alone.
“…Hayato, are you alright?”
“I am… isn’t what I should be saying right now, is it…?”
Hayato, who looked ready to crumple at any moment, was quickly embraced by Emilia.
“Sorry, I’m causing problems for you again.”
“You did well, so there’s nothing to apologize for. You properly used your Variant abilities and finished off the Trenta.”
“It’s also thanks to you that we were able to do it.”
As he said that, Hayato remembered the kiss; his body was burning up. The president interrupted his thoughts by interjecting with a question.
“What exactly is a Variant…?”
The voice drew Hayato and Emilia’s attention to Claire, standing near them, her cheeks twitching in agitation. Behind her stood Erika.
“A-And, Emil Crossford, w-what is that—! And e-earlier, d-did you and Kisaragi Hayato k-ki——”
‘That’ was, of course, referring to the two bulges on her chest which were now exposed.
“Ummm… could we talk about that later? For now, shouldn’t we celebrate the complete destruction of the Savage?”
“Do you think we’ll fall for that? That’s not going to happen—!”
As Claire tried to get some answers, a voice called out from her Vital Ring.
It was a transmission from Meimei.
“Claire-sama, everyone, can you hear me? I confirmed the cessation of all Savage activity just now. With this, the operation is complete. Really, thank you for your hard work. I’ll come get you now.”
Translator notes and references