The secret to better relationship is to sit in the same chair whenever possible.
The landed Dawnbringer Minor still had room for just one person. Unfortunately, only specially designed Alter-Armours and Alter-Gunships allowed for double-seater or tandem configurations, and these types of land combat models usually did not. The small cockpit space was inevitable for Minion or Minor-class Armours, after all.
I had to get in the pilot seat first and Sergeant Aroha had to sit on top of me. She hesitated before taking a seat, looking around the cockpit. “Lezirth... this is what Meihowa had to co-pilot? You said 'no' when I asked if you wanted to get in the Spider APC with me!”
“Get in, quickly! There’s no time to talk about this! We only have twenty minutes to defeat Saika and cleanse the Hyperspace corruption from the area.”
“Alright, fine! Damn it!” Sergeant Aroha reluctantly sat on my lap, grumbling. I felt an enveloping pressure around my legs.
...But, wouldn’t it have been more appropriate to sit in parallel to my own direction?
Sergeant Aroha sat on my legs, facing towards me. She continued to mutter to herself, her cheeks turning rosy. “I never thought you’d be this perverted, Lezirth. I can’t believe you fought Diablo while Meihowa sat in this position for the whole fight.”
“But, uh, wait... Sergeant?”
“Hey, c-careful! You’re breathing in my face as you talk.”
I-I’m sweating all over! Sweat dropped from the bottom of my chin, flew onto Sergeant Aroha’s chest, and soon disappeared down into the valley in the middle.
Sergeant Aroha turned increasingly redder and pouted. “I swear, there’s no helping you. Well, whatever-- I understand, Lezirth.”
“No, you don’t-- ngh... s-stop it! Stop squeezing on my sides with your thighs!”
“Hold on, I’m trying to steady myself so I don’t fall off.” Sergeant Aroha answered bluntly.
I honestly did prefer to have her be this way while I piloted the vehicle. ...Piloting with her back against me was fine, too, but this had its own benefits.
But the reason I needed to pilot in tandem with another was because I needed the help. To get any help, it would have been more helpful for her to turn around.
But then, as Dawnbringer Minor stood up, the cockpit shook wildly. When the body of the Armour accelerates at great rates, ten G to twenty G, the G-cancelers should normally activate to reduce the cockpit shaking, but those systems were unavailable during the starting sequence of the Armour.
As the cockpit shook, so did Sergeant Aroha.
As her body shook, parts of her body, the ones that carried a huge portion of her total momentum back when we were on the bike, shook in accordance to the natural order (?) of physics and struck my face.
Have you ever seen some old murder mystery films, where the murderer suffocates the victim to death by pressing a pillow to the victim’s face? For some reason, the thought flashed through my mind at that moment.
I... I can’t breathe!
[What are you two doing?! We don’t have much time, so get moving!] Ensign Meihowa yelled over the communicator. The screen turned on, too, so she could see what Sergeant Aroha and I were doing... [Wh...What are you doing?!]
“Oh, Lezirth... careful with your teeth, there. I said that hurts, geez!” Sergeant Aroha giggled, unexpectedly. Oh no, she was going to end my social life forever!
“Sergeant Aroha! T-turn around already!”
“Turn around? Are you saying that you want to...”
I immediately let go of the controls and put my hands over her mouth. I had to stop her from saying anything crazy at all costs!
“Hpfh! A-alright, I get it! Don’t be so rough on me, Lezirth!”
[What are you people doing?!] Admiral Luise joined in the yelling.
Damn it, what did I do?! We wasted a minute with this already!
“Okay, Aroha! Open those energy gels and insert them into the bottom of the cockpit deck!”
“Roger!” Sergeant Aroha began her work, filling Dawnbringer Minor with energy. She leaned down to reach the bottom of the deck, and her hips...
No, shut up! I can’t afford to be distracted! It’s not the time to play around!
“Let’s go, Dawnbringer Minor!”
Dawnbringer Minor became fully operational, getting a running start. It sprinted forward, gaining momentum for a great leap in the air towards the stadium and Kishin Saika, who had been surrounded by the Hyperspace Corruption while fighting off the attacks from the cruisers above.
Kishin Saika turned its attention to us. [Fools! What do you wish to accomplish with that flimsy Armour?]
Saika flung the deadly discs from its metal skirt. Dawnbringer Minor evaded it mid-air, kicking against the disc to spin around. I could feel the huge acceleration weighing down on us, but the G-canceler mitigated any danger. I continued approaching Saika without slowing down.
[Hmph! Pretty good.]
[I’ll end this quickly since we don’t have time!]
Saika’s height was about thirty-eight meters, while Dawnbringer Minor was a mere fourteen. There was a massive size difference between the two Armours-- as we approached each other, the difference became far more noticeable.
“Are you gonna be fine, Lezirth?” Sergeant Aroha asked, probably intimidated.
But I had a past record of fighting Diablo with an even smaller Armour.
Of course, my current opponent was a far more competent pilot than Diablo’s. And I hadn’t been at my top condition after losing a lot of blood from a previous fight, where I rushed to kill Princess Riznah without knowing of her abilities, and then got punished by being forced to cut off a part of my body.
Still, I had to toughen up. Nobody wanted to see Critik-4 and its millions of inhabitants die. “Don’t worry, just believe in me! I fought Diablo with a Minion-class, remember?”
I used the momentum from jumping off of throwing discs and rolled forward. Many more skirt-bits flew towards us to cut Dawnbringer Minor into pieces, but they were too predictable to overwhelm my piloting abilities. I hopped around, disc to disc, evading the rapid assault. These kinds of barrages were difficult to evade upon a glance, but the density of the barrage actually allowed me to form a safe path through it by pushing away and causing a chain reaction of projectiles colliding against each other.
And so, Dawnbringer Minor dove straight through the metal storm and approached closer to Saika.
Kishin Saika immediately accelerated backwards.
[Aaaaaaagh!] Princess Riznah suddenly screamed. Hmm? Did I really scare her that much by managing to get close to her? [Agh! H-hold on! Time out!] She requested.
Her reaction was so sudden and strange that I froze in place for a few seconds. “What’s she saying?”
“Saika’s cockpit was ejected, right? Wasn’t she remotely controlling Saika from point-blank range?”
“Ah.” I realized what had happened thanks to Sergeant Aroha.
Cockpits that weren’t equipped with G-cancelers left the pilot’s own constitution to resist the effects of acceleration. Superhumans like me would have no problem, but Asa magic must have been too destructive and unwieldy for such utilitarian uses.
Then, this battle was already closer to victory for us. Before when I had fought Diablo, although the pilot had laughably awful maneuvers compared to Saika, it was at least extremely resilient against my attacks. This fight was very different-- although Princess Riznah was far more skilled, since Saika’s cockpit was no longer properly in place, a small amount of force on Saika could easily kill the Princess. The Kishin would be mostly unharmed, but the pilot within would be violently pulled apart as if the cockpit were a centrifugal separator.
“Huh! Then we pretty much won already!”
The fate of this match was decided in the moment she began fighting without a cockpit! Saika wasn’t even able to withstand its own speed. It felt like an empty victory, but a win’s a win!
I glared at Saika. “Surrender, if you don’t want to become a bloody mess!”
[D-don’t make me laugh! I could withstand this much, if I put in a little more effort...]
Before she finished, I kicked at Saika. It was a psionically charged kick that could connect up to a hundred meters farther than it appears to be able.
Saika shot up into the air to dodge my kick, and another scream echoed from within.
“You think fruits could avoid being crushed in a juicer if they put in a little more effort to it? Give up already! It’s terribly wasteful for a fine lady like you to go on a suicide charge like this! You should really help me with the Hyperspace corruption first--”
“Lezirth! Are you really going to let a Harakal live? The Harakal is the Asa’s pride! Even if you let her live today, she’ll come back for you as long as they live! Once you prove that you’re more skilled than a Harakal, the only thing you can do with her is kill her for good or impregnate her!”
I-- Hey, what was that just now? I thought I must have misheard her somehow. I almost thought Sergeant Aroha had spoken something incredibly unspeakable.
Ensign Meihowa joined in to urge me further. [Lezirth! Now’s the best chance you’ll ever get! Kill her now and take the Kishin for yourself! Even if it’s different from Dawnbringer, you should have an easier time finding Dawnbringer’s Alter Core with it!]
The ladies were getting restless. But I shook my head.
Was I letting her live simply because she was a lady? No, it was nothing like that this time. The Harakal had caused a Hyperspace corruption that killed many people, and she was a leader figure of my enemy. She was a war criminal who participated in kidnapping noncombatants. Yet, there was a great reason for me to let her live.
“If we take the Kishin, then our identity will definitely be discovered. I don’t like that.” I spoke into the communicator.
Suddenly, I felt something flying at me from behind. I immediately jumped away.
A hail of cannon fire came from the cruiser at a distance. Damn, did we lose control over it?
[Riznah! Are you okay?] The Alliance chief known as Eiredith asked Riznah.
Ah, I almost forgot that my PDA was still in Alliance channels. But how could I overhear them? When did William Mayer have the right to a general-level security? Had Admiral Luise already have a hand in this?
[Gah! I need the cockpit back! And a medical device! I have little time before the corruption overtakes me!]
I could see Princess Riznah on the channel view. Her left eye and arm had gone, filled in with some sort of Hyperspace beings. Unlike me, who had to sever the affected area to be rid of it, Princess Riznah had stopped the injury by combining with a symbiotic parasite. It couldn’t have been much safer, however.
[I’ll send a new cockpit with a Portable Medic inside it! It’ll be a special version that can’t be hacked! Do you think you can reinstall the cockpit with that guy after you?]
[To be honest... it’s going to be difficult! He’s a real monster! He mowed down Hyperspace creatures like grass with his own power, and he flew past my Skirt Bit Formation like it wasn’t even there! He must be the man who defeated Tenseron in Azoran!]
[The Federation had a pilot with that skill level? It’s not ringing any bells! If it’s not an Old Blood, or the Children of Letix, who could have such a power?]
Hm? I was indeed one of the Children of Letix, but what was the Old Blood? Maybe they were calling the True Blood as the Old Blood instead? Fanatics of the Cult of Humanism?
While they talked, an object ejected from the cruiser and began falling down. It must have been that cockpit.
“The best time to strike is going to be when they’re exchanging the cockpit, Lezirth.” Sergeant Aroha advised. Indeed, Saika was going to be completely exposed at that stage.
If we took Saika then we were in danger of making our identities known, but I had no choice. I couldn’t just let my enemy repair her biggest weakness right in front of me.
I bided my time, dodging or blocking the cruiser’s bombardment, waiting for the new cockpit to approach. Saika raised its hand and grabbed the cockpit. But, to place that in its chest, Princess Riznah had to get out first to make room. And if I attacked during that time... she was surely going to die.
I squeezed on the controls, waiting for my time. But then...
On the ground below me, where the stadium once stood and was replaced with the Hyperspace warp, a huge arm ripped through the ground and reached into the air. It was about forty meters long, appearing to be composed of a material resembling obsidian. If it were real obsidian, it would have shattered to pieces if it attempted to make any arm-like movements, and it did not.
An unseen creature below the monstrous arm cried. Then, a powerful force erupted and shook the earth. It was as if the ground was a carpet and the arm was dusting it off, clearing the earth with the magnitude of a 9.0 earthquake.
The atmosphere shook in unison. A great tornado formed in the middle, causing the snail-like beings and tentacles to be flung around in the air and get concentrated into the center of the stadium.
“Gah!” I kicked away the arm that nearly grabbed me and dodged to the side. The kick from Dawnbringer Minor could knock away a proper Kishin if it properly connected, but the monstrous arm did not seem to be fazed.
“What on earth is that?!” Sergeant Aroha screamed.
I raised my altitude to escape the black arm.
The Hyperspace creatures were being eaten. It was like a humpback whale inhaling in a group of krills-- drinking, almost, instead of eating, like a huge, huge creature would when consuming a much more insignificant creature. Even those snail creatures were great annoyances to me, so I couldn’t imagine what manner of creature would feed on them so effortlessly.
Princess Riznah and Sergeant Aroha shouted simultaneously.
“It’s an emergency, Lezirth! A higher-form Hyperspace creature appeared!”
“Really? How much trouble am I in?”
“If we can’t take that thing down, then the portal is going to grow large enough to cover the entirety of Critik-4 with Hyperspace creatures! Even if I use my ability... if something like an Archdemon shows up, it’s useless! We’re already at the worst possible level of the Hyperspace corruption! Even the Black Sisters would give up on this star.”
“I have to defeat that creature to stop the Hyperspace corruption, then?” I asked, glancing to my side.
Princess Riznah was still holding onto the cockpit, watching for my next move. She couldn’t replace the cockpit with me around, since she could be killed the moment she decides to do so.
I gestured at her to go ahead.
“I’m going to take care of this creature first! Saika comes after!”
“But the Asa hate being shown mercy by males! If you do...”
“Let’s just say I’m taunting her, alright?” I escaped the argument, focusing on my next problem.
The Archdemon had both of its arms out of the torn ground in the stadium, and it was struggling to exit the Hyperspace and into our world. The portal became larger with every movement.
“Here I am!”
--Kishin Arts! Lighting-Fire Piercing Palm!
Dawnbringer Minor enveloped its hand with an electric field, creating a trail of plasma, and struck the Archdemon with its palm. The attack landed on the Archdemon as it attempted to break through the portal. The surroundings ionized, creating arcing lightnings between the snail-creatures that have yet to be sucked into the portal.
Dawnbringer Minor landed on the ground, clear of anything other than burnt ashes of the creatures. The attack had wiped the Hyperspace corruption deep below the earth, but the tear on the ground was unaffected. The Archdemon refused to budge from there even after my punch.
The Archdemon made a strange sound, almost like a sneer. Then, the scale-like coverings on the monster’s wrist stood up one by one, releasing a countless number of eye-like objects from beneath. The eyes inexplicably hovered in the air like a projected hologram, and then they began firing a burst of light in unison!
Dawnbringer Minor evaded left and right while creating a Black Barrier to defend against the attack. I remembered what had happened against the Black Whip so I didn’t solely trust the shielding to save myself.
And it was as strong as I expected! Earth around me turned to steam and the asphalt turned into liquid. The sea created a small hurricane as the water evaporated violently. Decorative trees were uprooted by the strong wind.
“Stop this madness!”
--Kishin Arts! Lightning-Fire Piercing Fist!
From a great distance, the fist made from the refined power of mind reached forth and struck the Archdemon’s arm. A pillar of fire was created in the fist’s wake from the plasmified air.
An explosion engulfed the Archdemon’s wrist, and the huge, monstrous arm slowly fell to the ground like an ancient tree being cut down. The ground shook and a dust cloud emerged when the arm finally fell.
But soon, the arm moved again.
Hmph! It was an attack powerful enough that I was almost worried if I were going to be safe, by performing that attack on ground and not in space. I had no chance of defeating this if I couldn’t bring it into space so that the subconscious of the Alter-Armour does not inhibit its power.
“Huh?! What’s going on now?!” Sergeant Aroha became alarmed by the flashing panels within the cockpit. It was her first time being in here, after all.
The Armour stood strong even after I had used two powerful Kishin Arts. Of course, I couldn’t be anywhere near my original power with only five percent of Dawnbringer’s Alter-Core. My abilities were doing nothing compared to the days with the original Dawnbringer.
“The gel, Aroha! Right now!”
“R-roger!” She used the sharp edge of the military shovel from Ensign Meihowa to smash open the input port for the energy gels and squeezed the gels inside. Dawnbringer Minor returned to its strength soon.
The shovel had made her a lot quicker than Ensign Meihowa was. Dawnbringer Minor’s base strength was better off this time, too, so we were at a much better state than the last time.
The Archdemon shook back and forth. The ground shook in response and the portal became bigger once more. Heat from the surroundings began vanishing into the Archdemon’s arm. Spectral analysis showed that the arm was absorbing energy, while the inside of the arm was at absolute zero temperature.
The temperature itself wasn’t the issue. For my space-capable Alter-Armour, it was a temperature I could withstand. But considering the conceptual impossibility of causing anything to be lowered to absolute zero temperature, I couldn’t imagine what kind of power the Archdemon may have possessed.
The arm alone easily had the strength to destroy the entire planet.
[Hey, you!] Princess Riznah called, using a public channel. Saika must have completed the cockpit replacement while I was fighting the Archdemon. [Yes, you!]
“Hey, Princess--... Huh.” I quietly watched as the screen showed the video stream of her getting her eye and her arm being replaced by the medical robot. The remote-controlled medical bot, the Portal Medic, was attaching a cyborg arm and an eye.
She completed the surgery that quickly? It must have been painful!
But the Princess only looked slightly uncomfortable, and the look of pain was nowhere on her face. She casually continued, [The Archdemon’s defensive capabilities are much like the Kishin! If you want to annihilate that creature, you can’t leave it on the ground! If we do not bring the fight to space, then the Kishins will hold back in fear of destroying a planet.]
“What of it?”
[Kishin Saika’s specialty is teleportation. I will bring the Archdemon to space. That wastes a lot of my energy, so we will need to destroy it together. Understand?]
“So we’re going to be temporary allies until we beat the Archdemon?”
[Yes! And I know that you spared my life. That is the most terrible insult to me, but... I am still thankful. But we will have a proper conclusion to our fight later!]
Sergeant Aroha scoffed in response. “She knows that she was spared and she still talks big! Lezirth, just ignore her!”
I shook my head. “Alright, fine, we’ll destroy the Archdemon first!”
Sergeant Aroha looked bewildered when I accepted the alliance. “You’ll regret it! How can you be so kind to an Asa?”
“It’s fine-- I have a plan of my own!” I reassured her, landing on the edge of the stadium area. I picked up an item for my plan-- I was ready for anything with it.
Kishin Saika bolted up into the skies. It looked like the old Hydrazine-fueled rockets pushing the earth back with a great force as it elevated into the air.
Saika stopped mid-air and spread its arms. Its skirt-like parts separated apart, shooting off in the areas around the stadium’s edges, encircling the Archdemon. Meanwhile, I took the monstrous arm’s attention, preventing it from reacting to Saika’s actions.
[Kishin Arts, activate! Forced Teleportation!]
As Saika cried, the parts embedded around the Archdemon emitted a light.
I quickly fled the circle. Even if I were allied with Saika, I wasn’t about to expose Dawnbringer Minor and myself to an unknown Kishin Art.
I had to admit, I had made a major mistake.
The activation of the Kishin Art had already been done when the metal circle was created. Before I knew where I was, Dawnbringer Minor and the Archdemon were moved into space.
[I’ll attack from here, but don’t blame me if you get hit and die from it!] The Asa princess said cheekily. Saika was already on the ground by this time.
[Thundergod Saika can switch places between itself and any of its Skirt Bits! When the Skirt Bit Formation is formed to perform this ability, its movement is said to be discordant, hence the full name of Discordant Thundergod! You have to be careful!] Ensign Meihowa warned, but it was too late. I had to react against Saika’s preparations rather than its activation, but that chance was gone.
The Archdemon seemed to be panicking, unaware of what had just happened. It was quite a humongous creature. I thought the arm was only about forty meters, but with the Archdemon out in space, I could see that the full length was more than sixty meters. The whole body was, including the tail, maybe two hundred meters. It looked like... a deformed, giant dinosaur? Almost like the monsters from monster movies?
--Kishin Arts! Lightspeed Death Formation!
Saika raised its arms into the air and activated a Kishin Art. Earth, machineries, and various debris levitated into the air, and were soon engulfed in a sphere of light centered on Saika’s hands. The ball of light suddenly accelerated to near-lightspeed, appearing as a beam exiting the atmosphere of the planet.
Near-lightspeed objects with high density could destroy the biosphere of a planet. By colliding with the atmosphere, the object could explode from its own speed, and the resulting force could wipe the surface clean. This could happen even if the object headed towards space, rather than the ground. But thankfully, the projectile was teleported outside of the atmosphere first before being set in course towards Dawnbringer Minor and the Archdemon.
[Stop the Archdemon from dodging the projectile!]
“That ********! Hey, you ******* ********!” Sergeant Aroha began screaming words that were too embarrassing to be heard.
It was obvious that she was trying to be rid of Dawnbringer Minor as well as the Archdemon, but Princess Riznah was bold enough to ask me to control the Archdemon into getting hit!
And then, I felt a vibration, though that couldn’t have been possible in space.
The near-lightspeed projectile of debris struck the Archdemon’s body, causing a violent explosion. The extreme speed and force of the collision caused nuclear fission, causing a massive radiation. People on the surface could probably see an aurora happening in this direction.
I realized that I would die too if I idly stood around, so I prepared to dodge Saika’s attacks.
-- Dance of Discord!
The sight of the world changed its colours. Glowing points flashed in various locations around the battlefield, marking the valid travel locations with projected beacons of my mind. I had placed two hundred of these beacons. Now, I could travel to them in order!
Commence chained teleport!
Dawnbringer Minor activated its teleportation device. It teleported to predetermined locations in space, dodging the projectiles from Saika and blocking the Archdemon’s path. The Archdemon struggled to escape the bombardment even as it got repeatedly struck by attacks that could destroy a star, but I kept it down by striking it with more Piercing Fist.
All of these attacks were enough to destroy multiple planets, but the Archdemon was glancing off the blows by leaking some of the damaging force into the Hyperspace.
--Alert! Alter-Armour energy level is dropping!
--Alert! Reaction levels exceeding capacity!
Dawnbringer Minor was struggling to keep up! Sergeant Aroha cursed obnoxiously, while hurriedly shoving more energy gels into Dawnbringer Minor. It was a nice sight, seeing her lean forward in the process and exposing the curves of her back. She was also on my lap at the moment, so...
“Uh-- L--Lezirth?” Sergeant Aroha blushed and turned around to stare at me. She seemed to have a lot to say but couldn’t speak any of them.
‘What a time to be distracted-- right in the crossroads between life and death!’
I continued jumping through space with the Dance of Discord and throwing punches at the Archdemon. The energy level warnings continued just as much, but I trusted Sergeant Aroha and kept on pushing Dawnbringer Minor to its limits.
The Archdemon attempted to return the favour and fired a ray of light. I did not dodge, but instead created a Blue Barrier to reflect and strike back at the Archdemon.
I heard the Archdemon scream in agony, despite my senses telling me that I couldn’t hear sounds through space.
From the eyes attached on Dawnbringer’s shoulders, I used--
--Kishin Arts! Anguish of the Lion King!
A focused wave of electrical energy arced to the Archdemon. And then--
Dawnbringer Minor followed the arc with the Piercing Fist! The plasma storm and the punch combined to spray and inject deadly plasma into the Archdemon’s body.
--Ascended Kishin Arts! Aurora Slash!
Following up on the last attack was a spinning kick from Dawnbringer Minor. Somehow, despite the size of Dawnbringer Minor, the Archdemon’s back exploded from the hit. The hardened flesh cracked open and spurted blood into space! The Archdemon was flung back from the force, only to be hit by another projectile and get pushed back towards Dawnbringer Minor.
The Archdemon raised its arms, almost looking like it was surrendering. It then folded the space around it, and like a magician disappearing into his own cloak, it enveloped the fabric of space around it and... vanished completely.
“It ran away!”
Sergeant Aroha and Princess Riznah exclaimed. I was just as surprised.
“Hmph. After all that, it ran away before I could kill it!”
“No, wait, that’s not what I’m surprised about! How did you manage to make an Archdemon run away?!’
[If the Black Sisters knew about this, they’d faint in shock.] Princess Riznah muttered. Before she could say anything further, Sergeant Aroha shut the communicator off.
“We’re out of energy gels, Lezirth!”
After withstanding every ability down to the last Ascended Kishin Arts, the energy gels are all out? I nodded.
Saika had already begun its move towards Dawnbringer Minor, quietly and quickly leaving the atmosphere of Critik-4. Though the Kishin Arts must have spent a great deal of energy, it was a proper Kishin, after all.
With Critik-4 behind it, Saika stopped at a distance away from Dawnbringer Minor.
There was about ten minutes before the Federation fleet could arrive and assess the situation on Critik-4. I’d never need more than ten minutes to take down a Kishin!