Chapter 25 [First Campaign]
「I-Is it finally our debut battle? I’m itching to use my skill.」
Inside the vehicle, the voice of Eisuke who sat next to Souji, was slightly trembling in contrast to his gallant words.
That’s natural since it had been only two months and they were suddenly tossed into the battlefield which they wished so much before. Moreover, it was without the help of the 2nd and 3rd years who had experienced a real battle. They were dispatched with just the still inexperienced first years.
「It’s okay, we’ll definitely come back safely」
Even Hinata, who was comforting Kanna that seemed to be ready to cry anytime soon, had her hands trembling slightly.
「Everyone, you won’t be able to properly use your power if you are tense, take a deep breath and relax your mind！」
Yuuta the lolicon is showing the appearance of an honor student even in this kind of time. Though Itsuki took a deep breath, the person himself was trembling on his knees. With the other crew members showing a similar state, Souji tampering with the headset equipped up on his head and Kokoa used to the scene of the battlefield during her delinquent era were still calm and composed.
「AaーAaー、can you hear this？」
「E~, It sounds like the sensei of the command post～」
「Is it because we can’t hear everyone’s voice？」
『Sorry, the truth is you can communicate with the fellow student and it’s possible to communicate even if your squad isn’t decided yet, but on the contrary it’ll stop the chaos』
Souji was slightly surprised when Kyoko’s voice suddenly resounded close to his ears.
When he looked at his surroundings, with everyone else doing the same, they realized that they could hear the voice of the infirmary doctor.
『The 12 of you in this vehicle are under my instruction. Is that clear？ 』
『Nice answer. Well then, I’ll explain the detail of the strategy after this.』
Responding to Kyoko’s voice, the map of the vicinity of Maebashi city is being displayed in the transparent display hidden at the side of the left eye on the headset.
『The CE appeared on the Kurobe mountain and currently is moving slowly to the south following the 4th line of the prefectural road. We’ll be waiting for them on the road before the experimental ground of animal husbandry with every member of class three.』
It was an open field environment with an unobstructed view. So, to cope with the movement speed of the other side, this was the easiest location to commence the battle. But Hinata, who was looking at the surroundings, unintentionally raised a shriek.
「P-Please wait a minute, there is a lot of private housing regions after this point, what about the people who live in that area!?」
『Evacuation alarm has already rung and evacuation has commenced』
She was different from the usual kind and gentle infirmary doctor. She finished her sentence with cold and businesslike tone. Even if there were people who had missed the evacuation, they can’t go to save them as they don’t have such leeway.
Knowing what it meant, Hinata sat down while chewing her lips.
An absolute power to save everyone, an invincible power to mow down all of her foes, she was just a powerless girl without all of that.
That’s why she had no qualification to raise an objection to Kyoko’s cool-headed judgment, it was a pain that she knew very well.
「It’s so vexing, for what reason I……」
Maybe everyone else was having the same thoughts as Hinata, their heads were hanging down with gloomy expressions on their face.
「If we have that lady-killer, can we do it one way or another…?」
The short words muttered by Eisuke pierced deep into everyone’s heart.
――We can’t become a hero.
Sakiyama Reika’s words were gnawing into their mind at a time like this.
（This seems bad……）
Even on the other side of the headset, Kyoko lightly bit her nails when she perceived that their fighting spirit was obviously falling. Though it was better than causing panic with fear, their deteriorated mental state would become an obstacle in their battle against CE.
Phantom Material, which became the foundation of Phantom Weapon, was a mysterious particle which was generated from the energy that formed due to human emotions. In short, when their mental state is falling, the performance of the Phantom Weapon and the Phantom Material Armor would also fall.
The ACE special force was only provided with lukewarm training, unlike the special forces.
The special soldiers are cultivated by means of harsh training, to develop a tough mind in order to accomplish their duty. Even if it was possible for them to become an excellent soldier by this means, it would lessen the undulation of emotion needed when they make use of Phantom Weapon.
In the first place, the adults cannot make use of Phantom weapons well as they have little fluctuations in their emotions when compared to the high school students. As a result, the high school students are forced to participate in the fight. Of course, there could be other reasons and exceptions too.
『Everyone, listen ――』
Souji’s calm voice interrupted Kyoko who was about to somehow give encouragement to the students.
『What’s the matter？』
「The numbers of our enemy, how many are there?」
『……There’s around 200 of them』
「Is that so」
In order to not lower their morale even further, Souji smiled lightly to the number that was mentioned after a slight hesitation.
「It will be okay as long as each person beats two of them, right?」
Everyone who were hanging their heads down suddenly raised their faces to the straightforward and simplistic calculation that was made.
It was enough if each one took down just two of them.
That clear target transformed their vague fear of myriad CE into a hope that the target was within the reach of their hands.
Everyone’s complexion became better than before. Kokoa, taking advantage of that, said
「Sensei～、tell us how much is the population of this area～？」
『EH？ Currently, it was around 30 thousand people』
Kyoko’s answer thoroughly surprised everyone. The loli who was hiding her true nature grinned widely and spoke,
「Then, we’re the heroes who will save those 30 thousand people ri~ght～. You should even get a reward ri～ght？」
『Though a small amount is paid as hazard compensation, the special reward is――』
「Yes, it’s decided, a yakiniku party with Kyoko-sensei’s tre～at！」
「Ooma-sansei will pay too～」
『Fu~, since you already know, make sure to return safely』
Even Ooma who was suddenly mentioned in the conversation joined the communication while smiling wryly. Everyone immediately burst into laughter to the exchange which was similar to their usual lesson.
「Kokoa, shouldn’t a girl sponge off more important thing than just yakiniku？」
「A-At least ask for sweets……」
「Hey, there’s a place I want to visit in the cafe around the station」
「At least if it’s a treat, there’s this place that more――」
「Give it up Eisuke-kun, do you want to die before the battle?」
This attitude where they were cheerfully laughing together was nothing but a bravado put up to hide their sense of powerlessness and fear. However, it was far better than lethargy irrespective of whether it was nice or stupid.
『You saved me, Souji and Kokoa』
「Is that so？」
「You owe me one～」
Kyoko sent a communication of gratitude that could only be heard by Souji and Kokoa.
And then, when their moral had restored completely, the vehicle stopped moving.
Everyone held their breath in silence on leaving from the rear door.
All directions before the crossroad can be seen clearly for a very long distance. However, there was still no shadow of crystal body in the cultivation field.
However, the contact was imminent.
『First, prepare your Phantom Weapon, we’re predicting that they’ll appear in your field of vision after 5 minutes』
To motivate themselves, everyone summoned their Phantom Weapon with loud voices. The light of Phantom Material started materializing and the spear and sword formed by it were emitting a brilliance stronger than the usual.
『We’re releasing the limiter since this is the real battle. This is the true Phantom Weapon』
『No matter what happen DON’T HIT ON YOUR ALLY WITH THAT WEAPON, if you’re careless, it’ll penetrate Phantom Material Armor in one hit.』
It was completely different from the usual item where its power was suppressed by several tenths for the sake of training. What was in their hands was a weapon that could hunt even monsters that had escaped from the world of fantasy.
『As for the procedure of battle, you already know that from the battle with your seniors, right？ The first step is attacking from a distance with a shooting type weapon.』
Itsuki, who held the string of his sling, answered with a tense voice.
『After shooting, move your position closer to the shield user during the battle』
Kanna nodded even while hiding herself behind her big shield.
『And next is, just fight them with the close range weapons. See, easy right？ 』
「Yeah, let’s do that！」
As for Eisuke who’s wielding his club, he’s desperately trying to cheer himself.
『The signal of the action is sent from this place. From the next battle onwards, you will need to follow your own judgement, so make sure to learn properly.』
Yuuto, the class representative, nodded deeply with the bow in his hand while looking towards the captain.
The procedure of confirmation ended. The several minutes they waited for the arrival of their opponents felt like several hours to them.
Souji’s hand gently tapped on Hinata’s shoulder who was breathing roughly due to extreme tension.
「Is it scary？」
「……Uhn, as expected, it’s scary. I was not scared like this even during the national tournament.」
He nodded without putting any pretense, even Souji had agreed to Hinata. Having to resist the terror of the death and not be killed was a feeling that was a first for him too.
「But, I’m glad」
「I’ll save anyone with the spear which has always been termed useless since a long time ago. I have never felt happiness like this.」
――In a time like this where bullets were flying around, something like the spear was just a deadwood.
His own grandfather who’s was his own master couldn’t refute that.
――During the peaceful time, what is the use of learning something like martial arts.
Until six years ago, that cruel words which were said so many times had been taken as common sense.
That common sense had been crushed due to Phantom Weapon. Gaining the spear that he should wield, there was the opponent that he must defeat in front of him.
「Though it’s something called battle, I’m really happy……… Am I a savage？」
「You are a boy too.」
Hinata was smiling gently as she discovered this childish aspect of Souji. She was learning kendo too. As a result, there was a part with which she too could sympathize.
But, as expected, man and woman are different.
「For a time like this, you should say something like『I’ll protect you！』」
「There’s no guarantee I’ll be able to do that, doing something like telling a lie is unpleasant」
「Mo~u, it’s because you know no romance.」
「But, you’re attracted by this kind of honesty ri~ght～」
When Kokoa’s voice suddenly resounded close to her ears, Hinata jumped with a bizarre voice.
「Wait, Y-YOU HEARD THAT!?」
「It’ll be amazing to not hear that in this distance tho~ugh～、Ri~ght～？」
When Kokoa asked about that to the surrounding students, all boy of class D [trap excluded] clicked their lips. [TL: They must be like a dumb couple]
「Do not flirt around in this kind of time！」
「Do you know the percentage of commissioned officers that fell in the battlefield because of a stray bullet hitting from the back？」
「Ugigigi, brother, you just betrayed OUR UNPOPULAR GUY ALLIANCE……！」
「But, I think Souji-san wasn’t included from the beginning」
Almost all members[boys] except Itsuki[boy?] was sending a gaze full of killing intent which was far more higher than their hatred toward CE.
Just when peace had almost come to that place, Kokoa dropped another bombshell.
「Even without brawling, when this has ended, do you know that Sensei will give you guys a kiss～」
「EVERYONE, LET’S FIGHT WITH EVERYTHING WE HAVE！」
In the situation where they failed to hear Kyoko’s surprised voice, the idiots of class D gave out their war cry.
『Wait a minute, Komukai-san!?』
Kokoa responded with a completely wicked smile that was coming from the bottom of her heart to the flustering Kyoko.
「Kyoko-sensei, I say nothing but 『Sensei』…… Understa～nd 」
「Are you a demon?」
「A great battle with Ooma-sensei brother, deyufufu……」
Behind the dumbfounded Hinata, Kanna was frantically enduring her nosebleed. In that way, the tense air in that place was solved when a crowd of shining crystal bodies started appearing in their field of vision.
『SHOOTING UNIT, COME AHEAD』
More than 20 people who held shooting equipment of the three classes came to the front.
『The ＣＥ has a tendency to move towards places where people gather. That’s why your number is plenty enough to reel them to approach this place even if you are not impatient』
Kyoko rebuked the students who were impatient to launch a preemptive attack with a calm voice.
Their enemies gradually swarmed their field of vision.
300 meters…200 meters…
When the enemies reached the 150 meters mark, the students tightened their bow to unleash their attacks when ordered.
The students raised a war cry as they shot 20 projectiles of [Arrow and Bullet].
Even though there was no aim, the crystal bodies in the front row were broken by the fired projectiles consecutively.
「WE HIT IT！」
『You did a good job, but load the next bullet ASAP』
On their attack successively penetrating through the CE, the students who regained their confidence fired their projectiles in succession. Next to Kyoko who gave encouragement and praise to them, Ayako measured the damage delivered to the enemies in a cool-headed manner.
「All bullets hit the target, but the destruction rate of the core was around 50%」
「Because the Phantom Weapon which has the characteristic to “certainly hit on a vital point” is rare.」
「That’s right, at least it is better since it hit the target」
Ayako nodded in agreement to the words of the operator. Even though they had taken down 60 bodies, they had reached their limits after shooting repeatedly.
「Ha~Ha~……My body, it is really heavy……」
No matter how much Itsuki tried to continue, his next sling stone wasn’t materializing.
「Why, even though I can shoot more during the training…」
Even though Yuuto was able to produce more arrows, he was unable to pull the bowstring anymore as it had become heavy.
『Good, you managed to hold until the end, step back for now and leave the rest to everyone else.』
「Y-Yea ……… 」
「Sorry, the rest is up to you, everyone.」
The shooting unit stepped back till they reached the vicinity of the armored vehicles. It was finally the turn of the 90 students of the close combat unit.
『SHIELD UNIT, COME AHEAD』
Including Kanna whose reply was mixed with a scream, 9 shield users came out to the front row.
Even though she knew the fact that having these many shield users was already a luxury, she wanted their count to be at least two times the current number. In the first place, the Phantom Weapon that appeared in most cases was the sword, and the chances of a shield occurring were extremely low. Thus, it couldn’t be helped even if she begged as it was something that they didn’t have in the first place.
They needed to withstand the attacks of the remaining 140 CE with the help of these shield-wielders.
『Everyone will launch the attack on my signal but whether it will be successful or not will solely depend upon you 』
Kanna started showing hypertension-like symptoms due to the heavy pressure.
What if I fall down, what if I couldn’t block their attack………….
Unpleasant images began to revolve inside her head. When her shoulder seemed to fall anytime, a support came from both the sides.
「Kanna, it’s okay even if you make a blunder, we will do something about it.」
「But it’s only okay if run ahead you know～」
Kanna’s breath gradually calmed down due to the warmth that flowed from her friends’ hands.
As if predicting the event, Kyoko started the countdown.
『Everyone already completely prepared, right？ 5, 4, 3, 2, 1……ALL UNITS, CHARGEEEEEEE！ 』
Kanna ran while raising the loudest possible sound with her voice in front of everyone who was charging forward.
Her scared face from before could not be seen anymore. The girls hid themselves with the shield. In a moment, the CE reached the 30 meters distance. The CE, who were marching silently despite their allies being taken down until this point, suddenly fired a red beam from their core simultaneously.
Since their allies were not blocking their view, the sight of more than 60 light rays being emitted at the same time looked like a beautiful laser show. Unfortunately, this was seen on a battlefield.
The dreadful light seemed as if it was going to crush her eyes. Even if it was only in front of her shield, Kanna raised a scream and fell down. But the light rays that crashed onto her Strongest Shield were repelled successfully.
But, she had done a splendid job as a shield user for protecting her allies from the first attack.
「You did a Good Job you kno～w」
「Leave the rest to us！」
While sending a cheer to Kanna, Kokoa and Hinata moved forward from both sides. The CEs started to charge for their next attack. For the one who poked the best spear to that place was not Souji. Even if it was unexpected, it’s the man who runs the most on the ground due to punishment, Eisuke.
「DIE FOR THE STEPPING STONE OF US TO WAK UPON THE ROAD OF POPULAR！」
Along with his honest and shameless words which sticking through till the end, he swung his olive club.
Since his opponent was not a lion, the Phantom Weapon’s special ability wasn’t invoked. However, that blow was plenty enough to destroy the transparent body of CE.
「Not yet, the core is still remaining.」
Tonbogiri stabbed from Eisuke’s side while he shouted with a cheerful voice. The stab pierced the red sphere which became exposed once the crystal was broken.
「AH, Brother is so cunning！」
「THIS IS NOT THE TIME FOR SAYING SUCH THINGS! 」
Besides Eisuke who caused a ruckus due to his achievement being stolen, Hinata shouted while she cut down the opponent in front of her into two halves; it was done splendidly with just a single sword strike.[唐竹割 – TL: Vertical cut that coming from upper stance/position]
The CE, who finished their 5-second charge, faced toward them with their shining red cores.
「I-Is it useless!?」
The moment the shining core reached its limit, Souji ducked as close as he can to the ground while sweeping Eisuke’s legs with his spear.
Though countless red beams were fired in an instant, it passed right above them.
「You saved me there, brother.」
「Save that for later.」
Souji’s pushed himself to raise his body and also raised Tonbogiri with him.
The spear beautifully penetrated the core and the CE crumbled like sand.
However, as the wall in front of the eyes disappeared, another CE that was in the back row had finished charging. Its core was shining red.
Though Souji leaped to the side at once and barely avoided the attack, the stray bullet hit a target and a 「Gyaa~！」scream sounded from behind.
（Crap, this is a group battle.）
Depending on the situation, even if he could see the attack of the opponent, maybe he should stop it from going through him.
Though he thought like that, Souji’s body was executing the skills that were already deeply etched in his heart to the point of executing them unconsciously and penetrated the CE’s core.
The high-pitched sound of the crumbling crystal body was accompanied by the scream of his ally who received that attack, the alarm informing of the limit and a communication from the headset informing the student in danger to fall back.
The cacophony of such sounds had vanished in Souji’s ears when he concentrated on his battle.
The thing which held importance was surely his own life, Tonbogiri, and the figure of the enemies which he should beat in front of him.
Stab, avoid, stab again after the enemy attack, and avoid the attack again.
He had assimilated the spear and had become one with it. [TL: In IET’s language, it’s “One with Sword”]
This is a state which he never attained during innumerable sparing with his grandfather. He had stepped into this state because this is truly was a deadly situation.
Even though it felt like an eternity, it had not even been three minutes in reality.
When he returned to his senses, the thing that greeted Souji’s eyes was a perfectly clear and cloudless blue sky and a field filled with countless crystals.
「……Has it ended？」
「Won, WE WON！ 」
Beside Souji whose real feeling had not surfaced on his face was a dirty Eisuke who raised a cheered voice with a face smeared with mud.
The atmosphere gradually spread to the other students, changing into a cheer loud enough to shake the ground.
「I fought properly, I protected everyone.」
「I-It was scary, Hinata-chan……！ 」
Though breathing heavily, with her tension cleared up, Kanna trembled as she hugged Hinata who had survived without any problem. From Kokoa’s arm who was rolling on the ground beside her, an ominous “bii~bi~” alarm resounded.
「A～、as I thought, it’s really different from a brawl huh~」
Though the Phantom Material Armor was at its limit after having received an unknown amount of beams from the CE, they had survived without becoming a cripple.
The transducer of the other students also released a loud sound. Though they were out of breath with reduced stamina, their eyes were gleaming; no one had died in this battle.