Peacocks wear fanciful plumage to get noticed by peahen as mates. Peahen evolved for survival, having no unnecessary extravagance to instead blend better with the environment.This seemed to describe the history of the Asa race.
“That’s why a Harakal is a very dangerous being. I know you’re very powerful yourself, Lezirth, but please don’t challenge a Harakal on your own, okay?” Sergeant Aroha warned, breaking into various lockers around the locker room. She was looking for a PDA, but there were none around.
When we were caught by the Asa, our PDAs were taken from us and we had no way to contact Admiral Luise. We were scavenging around this locker room in desperation.
“Do you know about the Asa well, Sergeant?” I asked while inspecting the lockers myself.
“Considering I grew up as an Asa around other Asa, sure. Anyway, are we gonna be fine with... that?” She jutted her chin towards Kiske. He was cowering in the corner of the room, shaking in his handcuffs.
To think I just found a scared, shaking boy cute... I thought I should poke my eyes out. ...But none of this is my own doing! Everything is because of his existence!
“Then why would the Asa consider humans as potential mates, too?”
The fact that different aliens could mate and form an offspring was insanely unlikely in the first place. How did a race with a culture like that ever consider mating with males from entirely different species?
“The upper-class Asa tend to want stronger genes inheriting the family. Of course, the measure of strength here is extremely ancient: you need to accomplish great things. And human men are likelier to fit that need than Asa males.”
“Before the war, accomplishments would have had to do with trivial things like hunts, but these became war achievements after the war with the Federation began. The Asa males who hurried to join the war and prove themselves were quickly killed off. That’s when the women began looking towards humans, too, as the history of the Asa goes. Why? Are you interested, Lezirth? The life of being a stud horse destined to make babies for the rest of your life?”
...I’ll get punched again if I said that doesn’t sound too bad, right?
Sergeant Aroha looked grave as she talked about the Asa. She wasn’t in the mood for joking around.
“Why do you look so angry about this? Ah, I mean, I already knew that you wouldn’t like seeing other Asa again, but...”
“I’m not angry, but... no, it’s nothing.” Sergeant Aroha glared at Kiske and sighed.
After looking through the last locker, I produced nothing but a few bottles of ionized sports drinks. I opened up the drink, at least, since I was quite thirsty.
Then Sergeant Aroha resumed. “...I’d been lying to you.”
“In truth, my dad never loved my mother all that much, but... an Asa man.”
“----Pwargh!” My mouth shot out the drink in surprise. I coughed.
Sergeant Aroha had a bittersweet smile. “The Asa don’t believe in romance between men and women. They only consider the genes involved, and form offsprings. The Onbira need an achievement in order to prove that they are worthy. Those that manage will be chosen by the Asa females, and... they can sell their bodies to many different females.”
“How could there be any love in a culture like that? Although I was born between my mother and dad, I lived most of my life as an Asa being taught by the Black Sisters, and my dad occasionally came to see me. Him and his real partner in life, that is.”
“All I wanted was love and attention from my mother and dad. But being chosen by the Black Sisters as an Umea was apparently something amazing-- my mother was very happy to hand me over to them. My dad at least visited me from time to time, but you have to understand, Lezirth, I was just a kid at the time. For a kid that I was, the man that brought me to life, the single family member who bothered to show me family love, he was too important to me. I wanted all of his attention and love! But...”
She was calling her father “dad” but her mother remained as “mother.” Was I right to pity her for her past? Would it have been an insult to her? I didn’t know, but it was hard to not pity her.
“And in the end, instead of living his life as a father, he...” She shook her head violently. “...And that’s why I’m not fond of seeing another Onbira. Sorry, Lezirth, for my tantrum.”
I gently put my hand on her shoulder. Then Sergeant Aroha suddenly hugged me.
“Sorry... can I hug you for a bit?”
“But you already did!”
Her body was quite curvy and I had no idea where my arms were supposed to move next. If I moved them around her waist, the... pressure would have been too great on me. I ended up awkwardly putting my arms around her shoulders.
I still had her past as a little kid in my mind. She would have wanted to flaunt her beauty and charm around that time, but she never could, and maybe she was looking for attention now. ...But I felt it was rude to try and analyze her past like an armchair psychiatrist, so I stopped the train of thought.
“...Thanks for coming to save me. I didn’t want to return to my life as an Asa.” Her body shook. She may have acted tough in front of the camera before, but she was surely scared after all. She had more reasons to be scared than anyone else I knew, considering her past.
“No need to thank me. You’re my Sergeant and my precious squadmate, so I couldn’t let you get taken over by the Alliance.”
“Tch! I’m just a squadmate?” Sergeant Aroha grumbled.
It then came to my attention that Kiske was still in the corner, throwing dirty looks at us from time to time. ...I had forgotten about him entirely.
“...Chosen by the Black Sisters? When even the Harakals are rarely chosen?”
Sergeant Aroha moved away from me after Kiske made his presence known by muttering to himself. “A-alrighty, shall we move out?”
“...Excuse me, I am quite thirsty.” said Kiske out of the blue.
I was about to hand my bottle of drink to Kiske. Sergeant Aroha interrupted me with a shocked look. “Wait, Lezirth? Isn’t that bottle what you’ve been drinking from, so far?”
“Hmm? So what?”
“Isn’t that an indirect kiss?”
“I don’t believe in indirect kisses because I’m a realist, and-- no, wait! But he’s a guy!”
“Didn’t you hear me before, Lezirth? I said the Asa don’t believe in romance between men and women, but between just men...!”
Wait, seriously?! I looked at Kiske to confirm. He blushed and shook his head. “I am dedicated to Lady Riznah, and I definitely do not have such... I-I’m really thirsty. I don’t believe that you will ever take my handcuffs off, and so I asked despite my shame.”
“And so he says.”
I looked at back Sergeant Aroha, but she had snuck behind me, trying to loosen my belt.
“Whoah! Wh-what are you doing?!”
“Here, Lezirth, try showing off your abs! Let’s see if his body will be honest!”
“Wh-what’s wrong with you! Sergeant, I wouldn’t...”
“Eheheheh, you don’t have to be embarrassed! It’s nothing new over yesterday night.”
Yesterday night? The time when I blanked out for a while after drinking too much? What happened in that time period?!
Dodging away from Sergeant Aroha’s sexual harassment, I brought the bottle to Kiske. He closed his eyes and opened his mouth wide. His small red tongue revealed itself from between his bright pink lips.
I placed the end of the bottle against his lips and tipped the bottle up, sending the green liquid down his throat. His marble-pale face lit up in red as he drank-- probably embarrassed from being made to drink like this as a prisoner, right? If so, why was I also feeling a little embarrassed too?
I pulled back the bottle so he could have a little time to breathe. A stream of the liquid fell from the top of the bottle and down my hand. Kiske stared at the dripping stream with an empty expression, and soon extended his tongue to lick the liquid off.
I pulled back my hand in surprise. I thought my heart would stop at the feel from the tip of his tongue. Kiske jolted back, too, realizing what he had done without thinking.
“Ah, um.... Th-the drink was really delicious, and...”
“I-is that so? Th-that’s right!”
The Asa had the technology and culture equivalent to those during the fifteenth century on Earth, so it must have been his first time having such a refined, flavoured drink. Yeah, that must have been it!
“Having fun over there?”
Sergeant Aroha approached and hugged me from behind. Her voluminous upper body pressed against my back. I felt a shock course across my spine-- what was she thinking?!
“This is mine! Don’t even think about it! Grrrr!”
...I belong to the Sergeant?! Wait, that sounds like it could be understood in very wrong ways!
Before I could respond, Kiske gave a snooty look before turning his head away with a ‘hmph’. “My heart belongs only to Princess Riznah! And, also, I am a manly personal guard! I am only doing this to quench my thirst so that I may resist you both in the future!”
...What part about him was manly?
In any case, it seemed like we weren’t going to be finding a PDA for us anytime soon. It was a smarter idea to get away from the area as much as possible. We exited the locker room and entered the hallway that connected the seating area and the exits.
“There they are!”
A soldier and a Tri-Walker simultaneously shouted as they noticed our entry into the halls. But Sergeant Aroha’s Colion rifle was faster than their reaction. She shot the soldier and the Tri-Walker one after another, and jumped over the glowing, charred remains of the Tri-Walker. Kiske screamed in horror. I followed after Sergeant Aroha, pulling Kiske with me.
Sergeant Aroha had been busy honing her skills. She was rampaging through her path to the exit, shooting down everything in her way.
A loud, booming noise echoed throughout the stadium. The building vibrated along with the noise, shaking the dust out of the ceiling.
From the various monitors around the hallways, we could see the inner area of the stadium. Many scared people were huddled around the area, while Saika watched over them. Saika dismantled its plate-skirts and threw the parts into the air. The plates spun up and made a spherical formation around the edges of the stadium, creating a forcefield that surrounded the civilians. It looked like the field was encapsulating the stadium in a dome.
“What is that?!”
“I think they’re about to teleport. Maybe they’re using that field to protect the civilians against the Hyperspace during the warp, with the Black Magic of the ancient Asa.”
“What’s the Black Magic?”
“You know how the Elcro pray to Artus the White and borrow the White Magic?”
“In contrast, the Asa use the powers of some unknown number of beings within the Hyperspace.”
Using the beings of the Hyperspace? I never knew that was even possible. I shrugged.
When it came to developing a technology relating to the Hyperspace, the biggest concern was always the corruption of the Hyperspace. The Hyperspace was home to beings of greater dimensions that were utterly incomprehensible by humanity; greater dimensions, not as in the metaphorical sense that they have superior cultures and technology, but that they literally inhabit a world of different dimensions. And they were all extremely dangerous.
For example, imagine if we were in the 2D world, on a paper. If a being in the 3D world picked up a pencil and drew a point on the page, we could only imagine that the point had appeared from nowhere, and without an explanation. As such, making contact with otherworldly beings, those without explanations, was extremely dangerous for us. But the Asa had a way to make use of them.
“So, they use the magic to transport people, and block the corruption from the Hyperspace with that shield? The Asa have some amazing powers.”
“Of course, it’s expected of the Harakals to use such a powerful magic.”
“The caste matters?”
“The powers of the Asa depend on the bloodlines, so yes. Also, only the females are known to make use of the Black Magic, and none of the males.”
Aroha’s statement reminded me and drew my attention back to Kiske. If that was the case, then it seemed natural that the Asa culture ended up being a very matriarchal society. The males of the Asa had no strength, no magic, and the only positive seemed to be that they looked nice. But that’s a really nice positive, of course!
I sighed and let go of Kiske.
“Sergeant Aroha, take him and run away.” I turned around. The Alliance was about to kidnap a city of people. Not only was it a war crime to kidnap civilians, the Alliance was dominated by groups whose cultures were still back in fifteenth-century Europe.
“No way! You’re thinking of going back in there to fight? The enemy has a Kishin! And she’s a seasoned Alter-Armour pilot who’s capable of moving a Kishin remotely! She’s nothing like Diablo back from the Azoran system! And not even you could easily handle a Harakal’s Black Magic!”
Despite Sergeant Aroha’s insistence, I shook my head. “I can’t let them kidnap civilians, you know?”
“Then take a hostage with you!” Sergeant Aroha pushed Kiske back to me.
I shook my head once more. A hostage wasn’t going to help my situation. Even if he was the Princess’s favourite, the situation did not allow being dragged down by a hostage and restricting my own movement. Also, even if the Princess and the Asa were fond of the hostage, what about the rebels?
And then, an even louder noise permeated the stadium.
* * *
The stadium vibrated to a different tune-- loud music. Fireworks exploded to the skies like a fountain, and the bottom of the stadium opened up.
The stadium was multi-purpose, able to accommodate different sports such as baseball and soccer, but also musical concerts, by reforming the floor of the stadium. The floor was being controlled by someone.
Sergeant Aroha and I were taken off guard by the sight of the moving stadium floors. When the floor began rearranging, Kishin Saika too stopped moving, its attention taken by the center of the stadium.
At the center was a girl, with hazel-blonde, short hair.
“L-Luise?!” I exclaimed. What in the world?!
Admiral Luise had made a personal appearance in the stadium, within the center of all attention from our enemy. She was wearing a long, one-piece dress, a hat with a wavy brim on her head. She pressed down on her hat with one hand, and waved at the camera with the other.
[What’s an idol singer doing here?]
[What’s going on now?]
We could clearly hear some of the confused exclamations from the civilians through the broadcast. Amongst the panicked people clearing away from the moving floors, Admiral Luise stood alone, winking at the camera. Rabbitte the Rabbit, sitting on her shoulders, also winked with by forming the expression with its LED-lit eyes.
...Was she actually going to perform in the middle of a battle?! Before that, wasn’t she super shy?!
And the song...
The song was called “Supernova,” a popular new song a hundred and twenty years ago, though an ancient song at this point.
By the time my head began clicking together again, the instrumental intro had already gone by. The part with the lyrics was coming up.
Admiral Luise extended her arms high up towards the sky and began singing with more emotion than any professional singer I’d seen.
When I was left alone amidst the dark,
You lit my path like a newborn nova,
And eyes like fire brought light to my world.
Your bright, burning spirit and mind
I fell in love with your lasting fire,
Unquenched desires, unending dreams,
Lone supernova, shining alone.
Save me from this dark, I beg you,
I asked the supernova, shining in the sky,
Brighter than a comet of wishes and hope.
But you shine alone, burning in silence,
Dreams of a girl, clouded in darkness.
Blinded by selfishness, frozen with pain,
I couldn’t see the dark around you.
Fighting the dark with burning light,
The girl fell in love with the lasting fire.
Shining alone, lone supernova,
I want to shine, but as two
Even if the desire burns my body.
I’ll save you from the dark, and soon,
Though a lone stranger I might be,
I was saved, by your light,
Light that called me by your fire,
Dreams of a girl, like a supernova.
“Holy crap.” Sergeant Aroha, with her jaw agape, blankly stared at the monitor.
The girl that stood on the stage to dance and sing, Luise Maynard, had a powerful and amazing voice. She might as well have been a professional singer. But why? Why sing in the first place?
“Three, two, one, zero!”
With the countdown that took the song to the back to the refrain, Admiral Luise brought her hands to her lips and kissed towards the audience(?). At the same time...
A strange thing suddenly happened.
All the Alter-Armours that watched on simultaneously ejected their pilots into the air.
An Alter-Armour cockpit was a middleware between a human being and the mind of the Alter-Armour, a living being itself. So, as a part not native to the Alter-Armour’s body, it was possible to eject the cockpit in disregard of the will of the armours.
Kishin Saika also ejected its cockpit into the distance. It flew up into the sky, smashing into the barrier field and gaining even greater force away from the stadium, disappearing into the distance.
As the Alter-Armour cockpits flew out everywhere and embedded themselves into various areas in the stadium, the Alliance army was at a complete disarray. The panicked Alliance soldiers and rebels pulled out their guns to retaliate, but their guns had also been disabled and became paperweights.
Admiral Luise was exacting a revenge for me, back when I had also been forcibly ejected out of my Alter-Armour’s cockpit. And what a stylish way to get revenge!
“Fufufu! Now this is how you do it!”
She was a little too sure of her own skills. She was so occupied in the competition with that Eiredith girl that she was losing her usual self. The shy girl had disappeared off somewhere, and the personality of a scary, provocative lady took place in her body instead, throwing a charming smile at the camera.
It was beautiful. And I was also happy. The girl who had been constantly swamped in the computer-filled basement of the Federation operations room still had a feisty spirit left in her, and I found myself grinning at the television screen.
...Wait, wasn’t I forgetting something? Oh, no, Saika doesn’t need its pilot to move!
I looked at Aroha. She seemed to be thinking what I had in mind.
We bolted towards the stadium.
* * *
The stadium had really been transformed into a heated concert. The beam projector now displayed a 3D broadcast, now showing an angry blonde girl shaking her fist towards the viewer.
[Gaaaaaaaaaaah! I’m going to kill you! Like, seriously kill you!] The chief of the Alliance, Eiredith, was screaming in rage.
Admiral Luise was smiling, looking around the stadium that was under her control with panicked soldiers running about. A bike appeared and raced towards her-- it was Ensign Meihowa, now wearing a biker getup with a black leather suit and sunglasses, however she found the time to change into that.
With the sound of tires screeching against the stage floors, the bike turned to the side and slowed. When did she learn how to drive like that?! She spun the bike around, pivoting by the front wheel as she performed a spinning burnout with the rear wheel while slowing to a halt in front of Admiral Luise.
The soldiers that attempted to crawl up the stadium backed away, intimidated by Ensign Meihowa’s entrance. She was holding a presumably functioning Colion rifle, after all, and the Tri-Walkers from outside the stadium had joined in while blaring Federation identities. Even Kishin Saika had lost its pilot, so it seemed like a complete disaster for the Alliance who had no quick technicians to recover from the situation.
But Saika did not need its pilot within to be controlled!
“Luise!” I called her, running down the hallway.
I slammed into the stadium door, almost breaking it open. But a huge wave of civilians was on the other side, who then attempted to barge through the now-open door. Damn! I should have known that the civilians were hanging by the exits of the stadium.
“Aroha! Hold onto my hand!” I grabbed Sergeant Aroha by her arms and lifted her up. Kiske got pulled up along with her. With Sergeant Aroha in my hands and Kiske around my arms, I ran up against the wall to get past the crowd safely.
“Hey! Why am I held by your hands while your friend’s around your arms?!”
Sergeant Aroha was never jealous of the other girls, but Kiske seemed to be special... but that was probably my narcissism talking.
I kicked against the end of the wall, hopping over the last crowd, and landed on the stadium’s front seats.
A stream of fireworks exploded behind me.
I dropped Kiske and Aroha down and looked towards the stadium. Ensign Meihowa and Admiral Luise were still standing on the stage floor, and all Alter-Armours were frozen still with their pilots gone.
But Kishin Saika began moving.
The Tri-Walkers simultaneously opened fire. A hailstorm of plasma rounds rained upon the armour. Of course no amount of anti-infantry weaponry could even leave a scratch on a Kishin-- they instead fired upon the pilot outside, Princess Riznah.
She controlled Saika to have it kneel down, covering her with its arms. Yet, some Tri-Walkers were equipped with smart bombs instead of plasma rounds. The bombs curved around, exploding on top of Saika’s arms.
“Kyaah!” Princess Riznah screamed, a lot more feminine than the other Asa.
Kiske was shocked. “What are you doing to the Harakal?! Cease fire! Please, stop this at once!” He bolted forward, handcuffs still on his arms. He couldn’t get very far, tripping on the stadium bench.
I followed after him, jumping from one bench to another, and landing on the stage floor. “Meihowa!”
Ensign Meihowa waved from her bike. “Lezirth! Did you manage to save Aroha?”
Sergeant Aroha walked up the stage after me, smiling coldly. “Gosh, what was that just now?”
Not only were the Alter-Armours disabled, even Kishin Saika was crippled.
I had approached Meihowa in a hurry to tell her that Kishin Saika could be moved remotely, but it seemed that there was no need. Admiral Luise used the many cameras around the stadium to learn all about Saika, planned a way to take control of the situation, and even came up with a way to make a fantastic entrance.
“That was really cool, Luise. You should be a singer!”
“Oh, Lezirth. A singer? That’s... too embarrassing. Heheh.” She looked extremely smug even as she said that.
Sergeant Aroha smiled. “Want to form a duet-- no, let’s make a band! How ‘bout that?”
Ensign Meihowa was surprised by Kiske meanwhile. “Who’s this kid?”
“An Asa. We needed a hostage, and taking the Princess’s favourite was probably the right move.”
“Huh. The Princess was a lesbian?” said Meihowa, in past tense, as if Riznah had died already. Although, a normal human being wouldn’t be able to survive a smart bomb blast.
Kishin Saika began moving again! The air around Saika’s arms began tearing apart. As space itself distorted, a group of swirls, like snail shells, shot out the distortions, flying towards us.
Ensign Meihowa quickly started the bike, pulling Luise on it. I grabbed Kiske and Sergeant Aroha and jumped down the stage to dodge the distortions.
Space distorted even further. The stadium became the focal point of dimensional collapse as more tears formed, letting creatures from the Hyperspace through.
Admiral Luise looked at Rabbitte, and Rabbitte immediately began controlling the nearby robots. The Tri-Walkers changed their targets to the swirled, snail-like beings, and fired a barrage of plasma at them. The creatures quickly fell. The plasma rifles are strong enough to burn off an unprotected human’s torso, so that was expected.
But the splattered bits of the creatures on the ground began regenerating. They bubbled up and quivered, resembling shaking jellies, growing back to their original forms. It was sickening to watch.
It was the beginning of a Hyperspace corruption.
I realized why the Asa were significantly better off than the Elcro at fighting off the Federation’s assault. They had the power to summon the Hyperspace beings at will. When the Hyperspace corruption takes place, humans had no options to retaliate other than blowing apart the entire planet from which the corruption began.
It was an experience all too familiar from the Letix War. Was the future of Critik-4 sealed?
Kishin Saika stood. It held Princess Riznah in its hands. Surrounding the Princess were tears in the dimension.
“Harakal!” Kiske screamed upon seeing Princess Riznah. It was because she was perfectly demonstrating what happens when Hyperspace corruption takes place in a living being.
Riznah’s left eye had gone and her right arm was nowhere to be seen. In place of her left eye, a blue glow filled the void, and instead of her right arm, a strange tentacular growth wiggled about. The growth was almost, but not quite like her humanoid arm, and yet it moved like it was her own.
Those beings were nothing like humanoid races. Hyperspace corruption was their way of using our flesh to fuel their growth. And Princess Riznah was using their power.
Or, perhaps not. Princess Riznah screamed. As her screams became louder, a wave of powerful force radiated out from her body. Where the waves collided with a physical object, dimensional tears formed on them and produced even more beings from the Hyperspace.
“Waaaargh! Run away!”
“Run for your life!”
I pointed my finger at the distance, where the gate from Chinatown lay after I was ejected from my Alter-Armour. Soon, Colorado broke free from the gate and returned to my hands. I grabbed the blade out of the air.
“Lezirth! We have to defeat the Princess right now! If we’re too late, this entire planet will collapse from the Hyperspace corruption!” Ensign Meihowa yelled, seating Luise on her bike.
“I know this is too much to ask, but... can you do it?” Admiral Luise asked, hesitant.
For any level-headed person, the right idea would have been to get the hell out of there immediately. It was nothing short of suicide to try and fight. Yet I didn’t want this beautiful paradise to be contaminated by the Hyperspace. I couldn’t allow the civilians and tourists in the area to get hurt, either. Now, then...
“Alright! But please, even if I beat the crap out of that Asa lady, don’t be thinking that I’ve lost my gentlemanly ways.” I left, leaving Kiske and Aroha with her.
A Kishin, its pilot, and the Hyperspace. I was going to try and fight them off with only my Colorado.
No matter how many times I thought it over, it was insane. But I had no choice.
“Let’s go!” I charged towards Saika. The snail-creatures and tentacles blocked my path, and I activated the Sacred Sword. “Go, Colorado!”
Colorado spun into a corkscrew shape and separated, reforming into its quantized shape. I cut through the otherworldly beings and jumped towards Saika.
Saika attempted to fend me off with its arms. I created a wall of force in the air, kicked up against it and leapt over Saika’s swinging arms. My only target was Princess Riznah-- I had to take her down to stop the growth of the Hyperspace corruption.
“You!” The Asa princess glared at me and clasped her hands together. Suddenly, formless but strangely menacing forces flew straight towards me, and all the snail-creatures below me changed their targets to me. All around me, shapeless objects shot to my position. I jumped back and forth through the air to dodge them, but they altered their trajectories to continue making their way towards me. They really wanted me dead!
So be it! I leapt again, spinning in every direction. While spinning, I wildly slashed with the Sacred Sword.
---Unique Skill! Schrodinger’s Cat Slash!
The ability was a Kishin Art, a powerful slash that could cut down anything within the range of its attacks. Within the reach of the Sacred Sword, it could cut down anything, even gods, devils, and hypotheticals such as the Schrodinger’s Cat.
One of Saika’s skirt-plates levitated between Princess Riznah and I, blocking the slash. No matter! No matter how thick or strong it is, nothing could stand in the way of the Sacred Sword, which cut through anything in quantum levels! It would cross straight through the plate and slash Riznah! Or maybe even cut the plate along with it!
The plate deflected the Sacred Sword. The plate seemed to be guarding against my slash on quantum levels.
As soon as the sword glanced off of the plate, I gave up on a direct attack and brought my attention back to the Hyperspace creatures. While my attention was briefly taken away, Saika’s skirt-plates had fully protected Princess Riznah from my further attacks.
There must have been a special ability embedded into the Kishin’s outer armour. Was I trusting Colorado too much? It was a great mistake to gamble on the enemy’s capabilities and fight without any knowledge of them.
“Let.... Kiske... Go!” Riznah commanded, springing bloody red and black whips from behind the plates. Instead of dodging them, I projected the Black Barrier so I could get closer. But soon, I felt a piercing pain across my chest.
The bloody whip was destroyed by the Barrier upon collision, but the black whip had broken past and slashed across my chest. I immediately dodged to the side so that the whip could not entangle me after the strike. How could there be anything that nullifies the Black Barrier?!
But that wasn’t the end of it.
The wound on my chest began contorting. Many small tentacles formed from the open wound, breaking through the skin! In surprise, I returned Colorado to its solid form and cut the wound from my body entirely. I had to cut the afflicted flesh out of my body in order to stop the Hyperspace from further contaminating my flesh.
A fountain of blood squirted out from the fresh cut. I jumped away and closed my eyes, calming my mind and body, allowing the wound to seal by itself. I was able to stop the Hyperspace corruption from consuming my body, but it seemed too late to deal with Princess Riznah at that point.
Kishin Saika raised its arms, forming a cross with its body, levitating up in the air. Princess Riznah walked into its chest, where its cockpit used to be but no longer.
At this point, the only way to stop the corruption was to defeat Kishin Saika itself!
“Alright! Challenge accepted!”
I had experience fighting against Alter-Armours with my own strength, but a Kishin was my first. Yet, it was a fight I couldn’t avoid if I wanted to stop the Hyperspace corruption. I leapt on the plate in front of me and jumped up to Kishin Saika, aiming for the empty spot where the cockpit was.
--Lightning Fire, Piercing Fist!
Upon landing, I punched Saika’s chest, above its cockpit, and followed up with a stab from my Colorado after its quick shift into the Sacred Sword. Both the Piercing Fist and the Sacred Sword landed squarely on Saika’s heart-- I hoped the shock would at least kill Princess Riznah.
To my surprise, black whips pierced out from between Saika’s outer armour, or rather, seemingly passing through them like it wasn’t there. It was the attack that nullified the Black Barrier.
--Algarb’s Black Whip!
It was an Asa magic! I kicked Saika and propelled myself away to dodge the whip. Though I might have overestimated my Black Barrier and got hit before, I wasn’t about to get hit by such a slow attack the second time.
The world seemed to spin in circles as I flipped around the air. Ugh... I’d lost too much blood from before.
I landed back on the ground and looked up. Saika was still levitating upwards, now too far away for me to attempt another attack. I could use my powers to levitate myself up, too, but that would put me on an easy path for Saika to kill me effortlessly.
Sergeant Aroha appeared with a bike of her own-- it was a mystery where she got a bike in the mean time. I quickly jumped on the bike behind her and steadied myself by holding onto her waist.
“Are you alright, Lezirth?”
“Agh... Let’s just go!”
I had lost a lot of blood and the pain was getting worse. Embarrassingly, I couldn’t do anything about the Princess anymore.
[Don’t make me laugh! Did you believe I would let you out of here alive?! My arm! And my eyes! And Kiske! Return all of them back to me!] Princess Riznah screamed, enraged.
Damn! She was going to have a fight to the death right here!
A huge explosion engulfed Saika and the Kishin fell down to the ground.
It was a shot from a cruiser in the space above. It seemed that Admiral Luise’s hacks had reached the ships above us.
Even the secondary armament of cruisers were capable of wiping out an entire biome from a land mass. Kishins were no less likely to take the hits too well. I could smell the thick ozone gas from the explosion from here-- It wasn’t safe to get near the blast zone.
[Gaaah! Eiredith, do something! I thought you’re supposed to be a genius?!] Princess Riznah grumbled out loud.
The girl called Eiredith angrily argued through the radio. [This has nothing to do with smarts! I can’t beat a physical hardware hacking of our Hyperspace communicators! Do you maybe see Rabbitte the Rabbit there? If you do, smash it into little pieces! There’s nothing else that could physically hack our system!]
[What the hell is that? How should I know if there’s something like that around here?!]
Thanks to Admiral Luise, once again, I gained some breathing room. I immediately fled the scene with Sergeant Aroha.
* * *
Outside of the stadium, I could see the rebel forces in complete disarray. Mayer was among them.
“You! What have you done in here?!” Mayer aimed his Colion pistol at me. I assumed that his pistol was safely disarmed through Admiral Luise’s sabotage.
“Put that thing down, Mayer. Also, give me your PDA.”
“Give me the Alliance PDA.”
“You crazy bastard! You know I’m with the rebels, right?!” Mayer glared in suspicion.
Well, it could have looked like I was threatening one of the leading figures of the enemy to give me access to their secure lines. But right now, it wasn’t a threat-- it was a plea.
“If we don’t do something about this, all of Critik-4 is going to be corrupted by the Hyperspace. Remember the Letix? They’re also one of the Hyperspace creatures, so it’s the exact same thing as the Letix corruption. Do you remember what we needed to do any time the Letix spreads on a planet?”
“They had to wipe the entire planet with quantum torpedoes.”
“Right, when the entire planet is gone, you’re not gonna have either the Federation government or the free government to worry about. They’re going to be floating in space with the stars very soon.” I extended a hand towards Mayer.
Mayer hesitated for a short while, but soon took a PDA from one of his lackeys and gave it to me. “What a piece of crap! After all the things that the Federation had done to us... damnit!” Mayer shook his head, questioning what’s he’d just done. He had no choice but to comply, however; no matter how evil the Federation was to him, it was way worse to see his own nation meet its end.
“Just consider yourself unlucky.” I tapped Mayer on his shoulder and put the headphones in my ears.
Then, the stadium had begun crumbling down. As the Hyperspace corruption grew, the very foundation of the structure seemed to have weakened to the point where it couldn’t maintain itself.
Many panicked screams were heard over the Alliance channels. Kasik was particularly loud over the channel. [This can’t be happening! I started the rebellion for it to end like this?!]
Suddenly, within Kasik’s channel view, a fleshless arm appeared and covered up Kasik’s camera. Since the camera appeared to be on his head, the arm seemed to be coming from the center of his chest or his neck. Following gurgling, grinding sounds from his voice channel, blood splattered onto the camera. I quickly turned his channel off. Soon, Kasik’s status was displayed as KIA.
“Lezirth! Hold on tight!”
“Wait, can’t I be the one driving?” I asked, still dangling behind Sergeant Aroha. But she was too focused on driving away from the stadium as quickly as possible to care. I had no choice but to hold onto her at that speed. Sergeant Aroha’s hair shook wildly in the wind, getting in my face.
“Wah! Lezirth, watch where you put your hands!”
“But this is about as safe as it gets! I’ll move them further up if you keep complaining!”
“Try it if you dare!”
“What? How innocent do you think I am? You know, I had more ladies after me than there are stars in the entire universe!”
“Yeah, yeah, whatever! Let’s go.” Sergeant Aroha giggled mockingly. She went against the road leading into the stadium. There were many other vehicles fleeing the area, buses and military machines that carried civilians and soldiers away. Sergeant Aroha expertly weaved around them to outrun them.
Sergeant Aroha probably believed that I didn’t dare move my hands around in this situation. If I distracted her, she could lose her focus and run into a truck, and probably killing us both! But that’s a problem for a common man, not for a superhuman psionic being like I am! That’s right! Time to move my hands where ever I feel like it! I’ll touch anything and everything I can!
… It came to my attention that I was probably feeling competitive in the stupidest thing imaginable, but there were just certain things that a man couldn’t back down from!
And so I raised my hold up her body!
… But some heavy, squishy object blocked my arms and stopped my arms’ progress. I seemed to have underestimated her and overshot the horizontal distance that my arms were allowed to move. If I could just have more room to move around the object...
“......Uh, um... sorry, I think I took it too far.”
“Dummy.” Sergeant Aroha shot a look at me. I thought I caught a glimpse of her eyes being… moist.
The air around us began vibrating.
[This is a demand to the Federation agents!] The Alliance’s Kishin, Saika, was yelling. More specifically, it was the pilot within Saika, Princess Riznah. [Hand over Rabbitte-the-Rabbit-or-whatever to me! And cease your control over the cruisers! Free Kiske and any other Asa you have taken hostage! If you do not listen to these three demands, every living thing in the Critik system will become food for the Archdemon!]
… What happened to the propaganda tactic? They resorted to threats?!
Even as Saika spoke, the cruiser continued firing its secondary cannons at Saika. Saika defended against the bombardment by creating another force field with the six skirt-plates, forming a dome. Saika couldn’t retaliate as the cruiser was likely filled with Alliance soldiers and other Asa, and so it was forced to passively guard against the cruiser.
Princess Riznah must have been angry that we had presumably taken over the cruiser by force, keeping the Alliance soldiers and the Asa hostage. She was threatening that, if we were holding her troops hostage, then she’d be taking the entire planet hostage in turn.
“Luise wouldn’t fall for her threat, but... no, she simply can’t fall for it. Right now, the Hyperspace corruption spread so far that not even a Harakal could easily maintain control over it. That’s how unstable the Asa Black Magic is. It’s extremely destructive, but it always manages to cause problems because it’s indomitable.”
“Luise wouldn’t be fooled, but... I don’t like where this is headed.”
I held onto Sergeant Aroha, looking at the collapsing stadium in the distance. The speed of the corruption was increasing every moment.
By the Federation’s standard practice, the planet was a prime target for complete destruction via quantum torpedoes. The emerald oceans of Critik-4, its artificial coral reefs, seaside resorts, casino hotels, circuses, ski resorts three thousand meters up above sea level, everything was about to be wiped out. And all the people on it-- at least a million who belonged to the Federation alone, and billions more of natives of this planet. Though allowing the corruption to consume the planet was still a gruesome end for the inhabitants, destroying the planet with a weapon of mass destruction was just...
Then, the PDA crackled, switching itself to Federation channels.
[Lezirth!] Admiral Luise called.
[Luise! Where are you?!]
[I’m on an Alter-Gunship! I’ll be right there!]
Soon, an Alter-Armour approached us. It was called a gunship because a transport module was attached on its side, restricting it to a transport gunship.
“Alright, hold on!”
Sergeant Aroha smashed against the guard rail beside us on purpose, using the force of impact to fling us into the gunship. I used my powers to absorb the ensuing crash against the gunship’s floor and eased Sergeant Aroha’s dynamic entry.
“That was too risky!” Ensign Meihowa was sitting in the pilot’s seat, looking at Sergeant Aroha and I. Admiral Luise was controlling the cruiser with Rabbitte by her side.
The girl named Eiredith seemed to be continuing her efforts to return her control over the cruiser, but traditional long-distance hacking could only affect the communication systems at the application level. Rabbitte the Rabbit, instead, affected the entire system down to the hardware. This was possible because Rabbitte itself contained an Alter Core, its power matching a Major-level Alter-Armour. Rabbitte the Rabbit was a one-of-a-kind technology, a computer made of Letix cells.
Not even the best hacker in the universe could regain control with traditional hacking methods.
“At this rate, all of Critik-4 will be destroyed! What should we do?”
“We’re going to have Federation backup incoming, but... that’s going to make things worse, isn’t it?” Admiral Luise used her PDA to show the location of the Federation forces at the time. The Federation marines had already entered the boundaries of the Critik system through Hyperspace warp. As soon as they’d realize the planet was being consumed by the Hyperspace corruption, they could impatiently shoot a quantum torpedo to end the problem quickly.
“If you were really selected by the Black Sisters... wouldn’t it be possible?” Kiske asked, still handcuffed. He was, of course, talking to Sergeant Aroha.
“Maybe, but...” Sergeant Aroha shrugged, folding her bike for storage.
“What did he mean?” I asked.
Ensign Meihowa answered in Aroha’s place. “The reason why the Asa haven’t killed themselves off despite using the Black Magic is said to be thanks to the Black Sisters taking care of Hyperspace corruption.”
“You can ‘take care of Hyperspace corruption’?!”
So far in history, the only way humanity had dealt with the Letix or Hyperspace corruption was via purification by fire-- destroying individual cells with heat, killing it and preventing regeneration. And I heard now that wasn’t the only way.
“Pah... you want me to use an Asa’s ability, huh?” Sergeant Aroha sighed.
I was reminded of her look when she had seen her dad’s picture on a magazine. Her history with the Asa had given her a scar. Was it going to be too much for her to recollect her memory from those times?
Ensign Meihowa playfully punched Sergeant Aroha’s back. “Sorry, Aroha. We have Luise on her side, so maybe we can get through this without the Federation knowing.”
“Yeah, sure, but... phew. I’m being asked to use an Asa power after everything I said about the Asa.”
“S-sorry, Sergeant, I don’t want to make you do it, but...”
Even if she didn’t like it, she had to try it if we were to have any chance of stopping the corruption.
When Sergeant Aroha saw my grave expression, she smiled. “...I learned it when I was a little kid, so don’t expect too much out of it.” She shook her head. Still, she smiled like her usual self. “If you can do something about Kishin Saika, I’ll try. But I might make a mistake, so don’t depend too much on it, okay?”
Good. Now, what was I going to do about Kishin Saika?
The Federation communication channels reopened at that moment.
In the channel was my roommate, Pencolt, whose weight seemed to have returned to its original state.
[Damn! They went and did it! Our vacation’s done for!]
“That’s really sad news.” I grimaced. The vacation was over for me, too.
Pencolt was wearing an assault diving gear, standing by the entrance to the drop pods.
Behind him was an Alter-Armour, registered as Ensign Meihowa’s belonging-- Dawnbringer Minor. It was the machine that absorbed approximately five percent of the original Dawnbringer’s Alter Core, back in the battle in the Azoran system, now sitting in the drop pod with an assault gear.
[I’ll be shooting that thing unmanned to your location, so make sure you get it, yeah? The coordinates will be C-4-12500, 4800! Take it and make sure you’re alive until we get there! We’ll save you soon!] said Pencolt, sending Dawnbringer Minor out of the cruiser.
Our location was 12496, 4801. We were pretty close to the announced destination of Dawnbringer Minor.
“Lezirth! As soon as we retrieve Dawnbringer Minor, we need to defeat Kishin Saika and end the Hyperspace corruption! If we don’t... the Federation will probably decide to destroy Critik-4!” Ensign Meihowa summarized, piloting the gunship towards the destination.
“How much time do we have?”
“Dawnbringer Minor will arrive within ten minutes to the destination! But about twenty minutes after that... Federation cruisers will enter bombardment range of Critik-4!”
Thus, I had only twenty minutes to defeat Kishin Saika and stop the Hyperspace corruption.
I quickly gathered various energy gels and drinks to recover my strength and equipped myself with a combat vest from storage. Sergeant Aroha wore the same vest and a helmet to prepare herself.
“It’ll be a long run.” I pointed at the nearby mall below us. “Ensign Meihowa! Energy gels first!”
“Roger. We’ll be fighting against the Hyperspace this time... go with Sergeant Aroha.”
“And for Aroha, here.” Ensign Meihowa took a military spade that hung on a wall and handed it over to Sergeant Aroha. Sergeant Aroha looked confused, but took it without questioning. “You’ll need it, eventually.”
“Ah.... alright! Okay!” Sergeant Aroha nodded.
Ensign Meihowa pointed at me and gestured to come over. When I walked over, Ensign Meihowa whispered in my ears quietly, “Lezirth. You can’t do the weird things that you did to me to Aroha, alright?”
“Even if Aroha’s like that, she’s pretty pure and innocent.”
...What were Ensign Meihowa’s standards for ‘pure and innocent’? You’d probably need a long stick that you use for pole vaults to jump the hurdle needed to be impure!
“Wait, wait, what did I ever do to you?!”
Ensign Meihowa blushed at my response. “I-if you don’t recall anything, that’s fine, too, I’m sure you’ll handle it. Well, it’s not like Aroha has wings.” She lightly jabbed at my chest as she spoke.
And then, a red comet grew larger and larger in the skies.
Dawnbringer Minor was entering the planet’s atmosphere.
Now... it’s time to begin!