Volume 1, Chapter 5: Attack and Sweep
“It was flattened!”
“Your chest was!?”
Point Allocation (No, Not That)
Adele saw the attack while running for her communications work.
Musashi Ariadust Academy could be seen as the center of Musashi and it was located on Okutama’s stern.
She was running up a long stairway leading to the academy.
She held a charm containing ether fragments.
An ace of the delivery business had realized one of the ether ships was reaching natural saturation, so they had forcibly approached and sealed some of the ether in that charm.
That might help identify the ghost fleet, particularly what nation they originated from. Adele’s job was to bring the charm back to the academy for analysis, but…
“Th-this is too important a job for me!”
The dogs responded by barking as they followed after her.
She was not sure she wanted canine sympathy, but she did think this job was a bad fit for her.
Just then, light arrived from the south, which meant port, and slammed into Okutama’s surface city behind her.
…What was that?
One ship was sinking in the night sky to port while the Musashi slid away to starboard.
Ether beings like ghost ships could not maintain their form forever. Their appearance was fairly indefinite and they would self-destruct if they failed to get enough food or fuel.
Just now, one of the ships was vanishing in the sky.
It was rising and unraveling. That meant it had been purified as a ghost, ridding it of its regrets and thus lightening its burden, but…
“Did we not expect it to fire while coming apart like that!?”
Musashi must have considered that ship low priority.
The shot it fired had swept diagonally across Okutama’s nature district.
It had hit.
Asama gasped at the attack that raced toward them in a horizontal sweep.
Confusion was her initial reaction.
This made no sense to her for two distinct reasons.
First, the attacking ship had been coming apart after succumbing to the Musashi’s spell field.
Its regrets would have been fading away as the ship itself was purified. It should not have had a mind of its own at that point.
…So how could it fire on us!?
It occurred to her it might have been an accident, but a ghost’s regrets were an obsession. That meant the ship and the fleet as a whole must have a reason for being so fixated on firing here. But…
…What could that reason be?
As for the other reason for her confusion…
“Why would the ether fleet be firing on us?”
Her question was immediately answered by the nature district’s forest being swept away as the enemy’s attack produced a great spray of light.
Mitotsudaira saw two lights collide.
The first was from the ether fleet’s cannon blast flying in from the right to hit up ahead of her.
And the other was…
They first appeared on the floor. They seemed to emerge from the forest crust blocks like the one she was standing on.
The defense barriers were about 3m wide. Those protective panels were made of black light and they must have been set to defend against only larger objects because they passed right through her, the trees, and the spectral figures before coming to a stop at about ankle height.
A dozen or so of them opened to form a path along the route of the attack. And…
From Mitotsudaira’s perspective, the attack seemed to hit farther away and swing in toward her.
It was fast.
It shattered the defense barriers on the ground while it itself shattered too.
But something else burst and disappeared before those many glowing shards: the ether enemies.
The light of the cannon blast blew away the fog, so she got a good look at the formation and appearance of the enemy.
There were 6 of them. She had defeated two more since the initial encounter, so there would have been 10 to begin with.
Was this one or two units’ worth? The exact formation of a unit would depend on the mission, so she could not be certain.
The 6 remaining ones were obliterated in an instant.
Mitotsudaira gasped as the light approached.
She would not survive a direct hit from that. Her uniform’s defenses were meant to protect against anti-personnel attacks, so they would not do much against a direct cannon blast.
But the defense barriers below were fixed at ankle height.
…This is not looking good!
She sensed danger.
She wondered if she had gotten greedy pursuing the enemy, but that was not the case.
This attack should not have happened.
But that gripe was not going to protect her now that it had happened.
…It’s going to hit!
She was certain of it.
“Nate!” She heard her king’s voice. “Stay! C’mon, Nate, stay!”
“I am not a dog!”
That was when the light crashed in toward her like a solid wall.
Gold Mar: “So back to the last checkpoint?”
Silver Wolf: “Th-this isn’t a video game!”
Mar-Ga: “That attack did a lot of damage, but we recovered from it pretty quickly, didn’t we?”
Flat Vassal: “Most of the vegetation could be replaced with the reserves grown on Takao’s farms and such. I think they used the forest for Mt. Takao’s Buddhist theme park.”
Asama: “Replanting those on our shrine’s grounds is certainly one way of bringing Shinto and Buddhism together.”
Hori-ko: “I get that Shinto is down with most anything, but how did Mitotsudaira-sama survive a direct hit from that? Did she use her special move, the Flat-Chest Evasion?”
Silver Wolf: “Special move? No, never mind. It turned out my king was exactly right.”
Mitotsudaira was awash with light.
She was lying on her back. Showing off her belly like that brought some fear to her wolf side.
While collapsed and facing skyward, she could see the colors of evening fading to black and…
…Scattering ether light.
Those were the fragments of the attack and the defense barriers.
The two had crashed into each other almost directly in front of her while she lay down. The barriers floating just off the ground had protected her.
But not because they had risen any higher.
She had fallen below the ground.
When she moved her gaze to either side, she saw the artificial forest’s ground.
The tatami-mat sized crust blocks were positioned at different heights and she had fallen in between two of them.
“That was way too close.”
She was lucky she was such a slow runner.
Because she ran on her heels, it was her heels that had slipped, causing her to fall onto her butt. She had not actually gotten down because he told her to “stay”, but she had still ended up…
…In a gap in the crust!
The stepped height differences of the crust blocks were used for more than just creating the higher areas.
She had rolled butt-first into one of the lower areas created in that same way.
The instant she had ended up in there and pushed her hair down with her arms, the artillery strike had arrived.
That had led up to this moment here. She breathed a sigh of relief at surviving.
Her king was not actually here, but…
“You saved me, my king.”
“Oh, you made it, Nate?”
She could hear the relief in his voice, telling her he had been worried. But…
Then Asama’s voice shouted from her sign frame.
The fog had not disappeared right in front of her. And…
She saw a blade formed from glowing ether and that bright line was lunging toward her.
Asama had located Mitotsudaira’s enemy.
She had already determined the extent of the ether fog and detected a few moving objects and ether readings within it. Thanks to the cannon blast and the Musashi’s defense barriers, the saturation point had temporarily been reached, clearing the fog.
That was not a purification. They had been forcibly broken down by a blow from high-power ether.
But the fog was not entirely gone.
After the ether fragments scattered like chaff, her sign frame showed…
…A smaller area of fog and a single enemy within it!
“That is a solid ether being! It still lacks a full mind and body, but its weapons should be equivalent to the real ones, so be careful!”
She asked herself a question while giving that warning.
…What is this vengeful spirit?
Why had it appeared so close to the Asama Shrine without warning? And why-
“Hey, Asama. Why is it attacking Nate? Because she attacked them from behind?”
“Probably. Vengeful spirits generally won’t redirect their grudge unless they are attacked.”
She had so many questions.
“The questions we have now will probably help us find a solution down the road. I will be making a voice recording, Toori-kun, so if you have any thoughts, please state them.”
Asama adjusted Mitotsudaira’s physical buffing divine protections while tossing Toori a recording sign frame. The idiot held it up in front of himself with a straight face.
“D-don’t breathe on it all weird like that! I’m going to have my god run a search on the questions, okay!?”
“Yeah, but I thought we needed a strong start to really hook ‘em, y’know?”
This was the problem with entertainers. But…
“Nate sure is fighting hard,” he said while returning the sign frame.
She accepted it and realized she had zoned out a bit.
“Oh, um, sorry. I was just surprised by how carefully you’re watching Mito.”
“Of course I am. Just like I’m carefully watching the yearly – hell, monthly – growth of your boobs. As for Nate’s boobs…well, let’s not talk about that.”
“Yes, yes,” she replied before realizing something. “The cannon fire has stopped?”
Suzu noticed it due to the sound, or lack thereof.
An alarm continued to blare out front of the bathhouse. She was handing out the coffee milk bottles that her mother had told her to give everyone taking refuge inside.
“Oh, you noticed too, Suzu? The ship has stopped shaking.”
Suzu nodded and realized something else. Kimi was afraid of ghosts, so she would either go entirely limp or run around screaming at times like this. She had gone with the former option this time, but she had recovered now.
“The ghosts…are gone?”
“Heh heh. I’m not about to go check, but the alarm has switched from ‘external threat’ to a simple ‘warning’.”
…Then will they…stop that noisy…thing?
The alarm had changed, not switched off. Instead of the bell used to inform people of an emergency, it was now playing a low melody telling people to stay where they were. This one used a reggae song from the New World, which must have been the latest trend.
“G-g-g-get ready t-t-t-to evacuate. But remain calm. Oh, so calm. And stay, stay indoors.”
Before, it had gone with a haiku format: “Everyone must / stay precisely where they are / sit your asses down.” But the nobles had stopped to ponder the last line in lieu of evacuating, so they had quickly retired that one.
There were fears this one would make people start dancing and Kimi’s body was already starting to sway with the rhythm, but that was normal for her. However…
“Asama…-san? How are things…up there?”
Adele and the dogs were at the top of the stairs leading to the academy.
The sky had grown quiet. The ghost fleet had suddenly left and vanished.
But Adele did not descend the stairs even as things grew still. She instead sat down and used a Catholic telescope spell.
…I need to check where that previous blast hit!
She knew from the divine transmissions that Mitotsudaira was there. The Chancellor’s Officers also sent a report.
But that seemed too stiff and formal for her friends, so…
…Um, is this a good way of putting it for them?
That was much easier to understand, so she decided to send that on to all of them. But…
…Huh? Why did it get longer when I tried to simplify it?
Would it be better not to change it? But this does read much simpler and a friendly touch is always welcome in an emergency. Which one should I go with? Well, the simpler one should be safer.
“Asama-san, can you see inside the forest!? I can see it from here!”
“Eh? How? Were you always that freakishly tall?”
She just about gave the idiot’s question a serious response, but she managed to resist.
She needed to focus on her job right now. She could see down the center of Okutama from the top of these stairs and she had communication equipment for her job.
If she sent a report to the Chancellor’s Officers with images attached…
…I’ll be the first one!
I can do this, she thought. By letting Asama handle the divine transmission due to the emergency situation, it would reach everyone without it looking like she was leaking information meant for the Chancellor’s Officers.
So she raised her video recording sign frame. She recorded the damage and herself like she was taking a selfie with the Asama Shrine in the background.
“Okay, I will now provide a live report from a position overlooking the hit area.”
“Adele! How does my home look from where you are?”
“Can you see this, Asama-san? Look, a huge strip of the forest was flattened.”
“For real!? Flattened!? So the forest has a flat chest now!?”
She just about rose to his bait and replied, but she managed to resist. That was way too cheap a joke to let get to her. She had to bear with it.
She could hear a guard siren in the distance. With the ether fleet scattering into ether light, the youth organizations and others were free to move to Okutama to help.
Adele’s report would help fill them in on the way.
“It starts aft of the Asama Shrine and veers about 120m port from there. About 70m was flattened from stern to bow.”
“So Okutama’s got a 70m flat chest, huh? Don’t let her win, Adele!”
…Now he’s attacking me directly!?
But she had to resist and stay strong. If she replied, she lost. She was sure of it.
Then a broadcast played over Okutama.
“This is ‘Okutama’. I am not flat. I just searched for an image of this ‘Adele’ and I am winning this competition with ease. Over.”
“I-is everyone against me!?”
She had lost. In more ways than one. Her head hung in defeat and she had to wonder what was wrong with her.
“Don’t let it get to you, Adele. Tomorrow could always be a good day.”
“Y-you’re right! Things might just be better tomorrow!”
“Judge. But today still has 6 hours left, so you’ve gotta last that long or your hopes – among other things – will fall flat!”
“Y-you’re not trying to cheer me up at all, are you!? Are you!? I’m sending all my bad luck your way from now on!”
“Um, uh, Adele? The report please?”
…S-stop him from talking first!
She goes too easy on him, she thought, but it had always been that way and she doubted it would change anytime soon. Asama herself was so used to it she did not seem to even notice she was doing it.
Anyway, she could see something from here.
In the sky, transport ships and Technohexen were flying toward Okutama.
On the ground, guards, the youth organizations, and various clubs and groups were approaching the Asama Shrine from different directions.
Some groups were even leaving the academy where she was.
“Hurry! Our Catholic Alchemy Club, Have a Glass of Defeat, must hit those invasive ghosts with holy water!”
“Wait, this is job for our Tao Ghost Research Club, the Ghost Busting Squad! We will exorcise them with white rice and chopsticks!”
“Heh heh heh. Stand back while the Girls Swimming Team’s Buddhist Unit, the Bhikk-Cuties, drown them in a fashionable exorcism!”
“That’s terrifying, not fashionable!!”
Will I be like these people once I’m in high school?
Adele was growing concerned, but their racing footsteps were reassuring. A few turned her way and gave her a quick salute, so she had to respond in kind. Meanwhile…
“Asama-san, can you see this!?”
“Um, no, Adele, I can’t see you from so far away.”
Am I immature if this is getting my blood pressure up? Oh, but I am still in middle school. Yes, I’m still 14, so I don’t have to be mature.
…Which means my chest still has a chance!
But since she did want to be a vassal, she told herself to calm down.
“I-I wasn’t talking to you, Toori-san. I was talking to Asama-san. Okay?”
“Oh, my bad. I’ll put her on. Asama!”
“Eh? What is it, Toori-kun?”
“It’s Adele. She’s asking if we can see her from where we are.”
…I was not!
Her lowering blood pressure shot up again. And…
“Umm, uh, Adele? I can’t really see you from this far way, but, um, should I use a telescope spell? Or is that against the rules?”
She had never known a barrier to communication could exist in such a literal sense.
This really was a (physical) barrier to communication.
She felt like he could really use someone by his side who would punch him at times like this.
Smoking Girl: “Yeah, he is uncannily good at interfering with your work.”
Flat Vassal: “Right!? Right!? I really, really wished someone could do something about him!”
Vice President: “Out of curiosity, why not do it yourself?”
Flat Vassal: “I-it doesn’t work! No matter what I say, he twists it around and then gives me a piece of candy, so I end up standing in front of my door suddenly realizing he got away with everything!”
Tonbokiri: “Free candy? That sounds like a win to me.”
Flat Vassal: “Th-that just makes it all the more humiliating! And once I get used to it, I start requesting the strawberry flavor and stuff like that!”
Gold Mar: “Yeah, sounds like he has you tamed.”
Hori-ko: “I see. This has shown us how crucial my presence is. Without me around, you have no way of eliminating that (physical) barrier to communication.”
Asama: “I, uh, don’t really have a problem with it. I mean, I notice he’s being a bit of a nuisance, but is it really that big a deal?”
Flat Vassal: “A little!? He’s a colossal nuis- oh, thank you so much for the candy, Asama-san!”
Almost Everyone: “Okay, yeah, she’s a lost cause.”
Adele shook free of her hesitation and shouted into the divine transmission.
“Asama-san! I’m sending you an image! There’s still some fog behind the Asama Shrine and I think Mitotsudaira-san is fighting in there!”
“Eh!? …Oh, right, yes. Right, right, right! That’s true, isn’t it?”
Asama’s response threw Adele off. Huh? she thought.
“A-are you okay, Asama-san? Why is your voice draining of energy like that!?”
“Asama,” said Toori. “This image from Adele just shows what you already found yourself, doesn’t it? Should we add it on anyway?”
“B-be quiet, Toori-kun! Yes, I finished it myself while you were messing with her, but that doesn’t mean she didn’t work hard to get that footage!”
“I-it’s his fault!” shouted Adele. “It’s all his fault, isn’t it!?”
“Yes, it is, Adele. It’s too bad, isn’t it?”
“A-Asama-san, stop downplaying this! It’s a big deal! It’s the biggest dealiest deal ever!”
Gold Mar: “Adele, are you sure you can speak Far Eastern?”
Mar-Ga: “Oh, I heard that part of out of context back then and had no idea what it meant. I figured she must have gone crazy.”
Flat Vassal: “Well, I’m glad to have cleared that up three years later. Three cheers for flashbacks!”
Righteousness: “I’m pretty sure this only confirmed her suspicions.”
Silver Wolf: “Um, what about my flashback? I was fighting back then.”
Flat Vassal: “Oh, right! Then let’s tune in to the 5th Special Officer’s channel and hit play!”
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