Chapter 8: Friends
Taisha Literature and History Department - Miko-sama: CENSORED
The act of fighting while ■■■■ our bodies to the Shinju-sama.
"That seemed like, such a wonderful thing..." Apparently my parents cried.
"Wasshii....now you're ■■■■-san, huh. I'm glad that you didn't have it as bad as I did."
Hero’s Memoir 298.10.11
Vertex, mankind's natural enemy had launched their attack. Shikoku had been transformed by the power of the Divine Tree. An egg shaped faerie came out of the terminal and flew besides Sumi.
[This is my faerie... Support for us heroes.]
[Yours is so round and cute, Wasshii~. Mine is~]
Sonoko manipulated her terminal.
[Here it is. A crow~]
[Sonocchi, please refer to it as what it is, a crow Tengu... There's a big difference between one and a normal crow.]
[Ah, is that so~? Let's do our best, Mr. Crow Tengu~]
Looking at Sonoko's usual carefree attitude, Sumi noticed her tension had been lifted as well.
(Sonocchi...My dear friend. I will definitely protect you.)
[Alrighty then, let's change~]
Sumi and Sonoko transformed into their hero forms in the midst of the forestized world. At the same time, Sumi's new weapon materialized. It was what's been referred to as a sniper rifle since the old era. This was the result of seeking a higher fire output than that of a bow. From the moment she was informed of the change, Sumi had been training with firearms so much that her body got used to them. Its bullets were also especially made for Hero-use.
[Shirogane's so cool~]
Sonoko had great expectations of the weapon named after her friend.
[You can rest assured during the battle. I won't let anything get close to you.]
[Yep! Sniper Wasshii~ is so cool.]
The two headed towards the bridge.
Sumi took a sniping stance and marked the enemies. The updated Hero system came with a radar labeling enemies and allies. It was so they could tell if any were hiding.
A long and thin eel shaped Vertex of the Aries constellation. A much larger Leo constellation Vertex. Big as a mountain. Even Sonoko, who didn't have a long-distance scope could clearly see it. The huge Vertex didn't move though. It imposingly stood still, just slightly past the wall. The last one was a Pisces Vertex. It was nowhere to be seen, but the radar indicated it was swimming around at high speed in the waters near the wall. It felt like it could get close in an instant, if you let your guard down.
Sumi braced herself.
(To think the Vertex were being named after constellations...)
In the oracle, they were portrayed as stars. It was contradictory, that a being born from the virus that plagued the Earth would take the image of a star. But Taisha only taught them how to fight, and never gave a conclusive answer when it came to deeper matters.
They must be hiding something.
(At any rate, defeating the enemy comes first now.)
Sumi cleared her mind and focused on sniping.
Aries was advancing alone, with eerie disturbing movements, towards the bridge. Sonoko took her spear in hand in preparation. Her weapon remained the same as before.
(Sonocchi took her stance. Initiating support fire.)
Even with her rifle, the Leo Vertex by the wall was too far for Sumi to reach. She instead fired at the one approaching. Her shot accurately hit what appeared to be its brain, making it stagger and stopping its advance.
(I was able to stop its movement with a single hit... This really is a remarkable power up!)
Sonoko charged at the immobilized enemy, and with her spear started hacking away at its joints with extreme precision, cutting them into pieces.
[Waa~ This has become so sharp~]
Sonoko was surprised by her new power as well.
The scattered pieces of Aries started wriggling in a suspicious manner.
[Regeneration? Eh, no! This is~]
A separate body started growing from each of the cut pieces. Aries' ability was multiplication. It was split into 6, so the number of enemies increased by 6.
[It gets healed and multiplies~ That's cheating~]
Sonoko swung her spear, blocking the incoming attacks.
[Kuh... To think it was hiding such a power...]
Sumi resumed firing.
One of the split pieces violently tried to tackle Sonoko. At that moment, her faerie appeared and blocked the attack. The shock pushed her back, but thanks to her faerie she took no damage.
[Waa~ This is the faerie barrier? It's amazing~ I felt nothing at all~]
Sumi was also surprised by its capability. And at the same time, understood why the Hero system couldn't be mass produced. You can't make something this powerful so easily. That being said, in addition to consuming stamina, there was no way of knowing when an enemy attack capable of breaking through the barrier might hit.
They were in no way invincible. They couldn't let their guard down.
Aries lunged at Sonoko all at once.
[That won't work anymore~!]
Sumi shot them and Sonoko cut them down. But more enemies were born from the cut parts. Sumi's faerie, Aobouzu pointed at her terminal. On the screen, only one target was marked as Aries.
[I see. There was still one main body, the rest were merely clones.]
Sonoko noticed the same thing by fighting the enemy. She could clearly sense from their movements that only one boss existed. But that one body was heavily protected by the clones, so she couldn't get to it easily. It was frustrating, but at that moment a bullet went through the clones and hit the main body.
[As expected of Wasshii~. You understood before I even said anything~]
Sonoko said as she swung her spear. Having its trick revealed, and in face of the two's attacks the Aries Vertex was being pushed back towards the wall.
[Alright~. That's one down.]
While fighting the enemy, the flower petal seal carved on Sumi's body had filled completely. By using their hero powers, that petal seal, aka "Mankai Gauge" would fill up. When it's on max, they can use Mankai to level up and increase their power. Sonoko's gauge was almost filled too.
(With this we can use Mankai, our trump card.)
Up until this point, everything was going as planned. Two enemies remain.
At that moment, the Leo giant started advancing, as if it had been observing their fight against Aries. Leo's movements were a bit strange; it did not move on the bridge but instead followed it along as it flew atop the water. The radar also showed Pisces charging straight at Sonoko underwater.
Sonoko averted her attention towards the sea.
Pisces emerged with a rumble. Sumi's fired at the flying behemoth. Sonoko lunged at Pisces as well. The enemy was easily staggered by Sumi's precise shooting. The other one was cut in half and fell back into the water.
The heroes' focus switched to Pisces and at that moment, Leo fired a gigantic laser beam.
The attack wasn't meant for Sumi, but the glowing target in the distance. The Divine Tree.
Sumi was terrified when she realized that fact. However, the beam dissipated before reaching the tree. It was still too far away. Leo advanced further in attempt to close the distance. That one just now must have been a test shot. The next attack will most likely destroy the tree, after minor adjustments. Such firepower has to be stopped at all costs.
[Time to use that! Mankai!!]
Sumi released its power.
A flower bloomed over the great Seto Bridge.
[Waa~, Giant Battleship Wasshii~!]
Sumi's Mankai had a large number of giant mounted canons. It was focused on firepower output. As Sonoko mentioned, it had the ability to fly. Sumi floated towards Leo and unleashed hellfire upon it.
[Incredible... This is Mankai~]
With a power able to flatten a mountain, the giant Vertex, unable to withstand it, collapsed into the depths of the sea.
Sumi landed near Sonoko on the bridge.
[The two of them both sank into the sea...]
[I wonder if they'll just turn tail and leave now~]
Looking over at the radar, it still showed the enemy markers. They'll probably resurface once they finish regenerating. Sumi's Mankai was released. In a shower of petals, she returned to her usual form.
[Looks like we can't stay in Mankai for too long.]
[You were amazing though~. I'm gonna need an autograph later.]
[You should try using it too...?!]
Sumi suddenly collapsed on her knees.
[W...What's wrong, Wasshii~?]
[...? I can't....I can't move my legs.]
[Eh? Why is that~? Were you hit?]
[The Vertexes are moving again!]
The beasts, having finished regenerating started moving again. Leo resurfaced and advanced towards the tree.
[This time it's my turn to use Mankai~. I'm leaving my back to you Wasshii~]
[Yes, I can still fire my rifle even in my current state.]
Sonoko cut down the Pisces Vertex right as it came out of the water.
[It's filled! Mankai~]
Once again, a large flower blossomed over the Seto Great Bridge.
[Wa~. My spear feels so much stronger!]
The number of floating blades on the spear's tip increased.
[Ooo~ Look at this, I can easily manipulate each one of the blades too~]
Opposite to Sumi's raw power up, it much more fit the swift and agile Sonoko.
[Alrighty~. Time to take down the big one!]
[I got you covered.]
Leo had no chance to fire its beam, thanks to Sonoko's flurry of attack and Sumi's support fire. Sumi's Mankai gauge was being filled again.
(While one of us is in Mankai, the other can restore their gauge. This way one of us will be constantly in Mankai, assuring our dominance!)
Sumi quickly grasped the way to use Mankai.
Leo was certainly huge and powerful, but this way guaranteed victory. Sonoko's attacks sunk the Vertex into the sea once more.
[Should I follow it down~?]
[No, the other one is there too... If it is as its name suggests then it must be really strong underwater; it's too dangerous.]
The enemy was cooperating as well. Leo might have taken this approach for that same reason too; to be able to retreat and regenerate. Not even the faeries could protect the heroes if they let their guard down. Sonoko's Mankai released.
[Alright~ I hope they've learned their lesson.]
[They're still not moving, according to the radar. How persistent...]
[Hmm... The radar..... Huh....?]
Sonoko started rubbing her eyes.
[I can't see... From one of my eyes~]
Sumi was startled. She still couldn't move her legs.
[Could it be... an enemy ability? By taking damage it cast some kind of curse on us?]
[But we have the power of the Shinju-sama on our side; would something like that really work? Also the faeries should be able to protect us~]
Sumi turned over and looked at the Divine Tree. It was brightly shining, like always.
(If it's not an enemy attack, then~...)
Once again, Pisces and Leo started moving. Taking advantage of the girls' exhaustion, they planned to take the fight over the sea if they tried chasing them down.
[I'll take the Leo! Mankai!!]
Sumi had already transformed.
[No, it's nothing. I'll fill up my gauge on the Pisces~]
Even with her legs unable to move, Sumi was able to fly her warship. She went after the colossus again.
[This time I won't hold back. I will completely destroy it!]
The Vertex fired a beam of light.
Firepower versus firepower. Sumi's shots completely eradicated the enemy's. She couldn't possibly lose after Mankai.
[I will defeat it before it shoots at the Shinju-sama!! OOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!]
Sumi let out a war cry, and focused all her power on shooting down the Vertex. Once again, the giant's body tilted down.
[I can't stop attacking here. I'll obliterate it before it runs to the depths!!]
The Leo appeared to be some sort of supreme commander to the other Vertex. It clearly had a completely different feel than the rest, and also seemed to give instructions to the other two. The battle would end the moment this one goes down, Sumi thought with confidence. She mustered her strength as she continued firing. The majestic figure was being torn to shreds.
Sumi's Mankai reached its limit. The petals started falling. It was the Sange .
[Just...One more attack...!!]
Sumi got even closer to the Leo. At that moment, she saw something resembling a burning sun.
[That's...the core... Its vital spot!!]
The instant she prepared launch her final attack, the core mysteriously gleamed and attacked Sumi.
Sumi was blown away, in her surprise. Leo's body sank into the sea a third time.
Sonoko rushed over to Sumi, lying on the bridge. She lost consciousness due to the impact, but the faerie had completely blocked the attack. Sumi herself was unharmed. Sonoko sighed in relief.
At that moment, the ground shook.
[An earthquake...? No, This is~....!]
Pisces was ramming the bridge's foundations underwater. Vertexes were known for only attacking humans. In order to get to the girls, it did something unexpected. This was a first.
[The Seto Bridge... is collapsing?]
Sonoko carried Sumi in her arms, and jumped to land. She put her down, without trying to wake her up. She, who proved to be extremely bright when it counts, saw through everything. Mankai, and the cost that comes with it. The ugly part of the Hero system. Knowing that, there was no more reason to wake Sumi up. It should be enough, with her alone using Mankai.
Leo and Pisces resurfaced again. It was clear they were playing an attrition war. Except, Leo didn't feel as threatening as before.
[Wasshii~ wore it down pretty well. Thanks to her efforts I will do just fine by myself now~]
Sonoko felt proud. She shouted.
The large flower bloomed.
To protect her friend, and everyone else. Infinite power flowed through her.
[Guts!! That's what being a hero is all about. Isn't that right, Mino-san~!]
And then she charged at the Vertex.
That day, a big cataclysm befell Shikoku. Two perished, twelve were injured. Any damage caused during forestization reflected on the real world. The victims were a couple that worked for Taisha. They managed to evacuate the citizens, but they themselves couldn’t get to safety in time and died. It was also reported that the Seto Great Bridge was destroyed beyond repair during the disaster.
By the time their homeroom teacher made it there, the two girls were being transported. Sonoko was completely unconscious.
[The Hero Nogi used Mankai for an unknown number of times, but from her state it appears to have been more than 10... We believe she might never walk again.]
[It was not in vain. She managed to drive the enemy away. Carry her with care.]
Sonoko was taken by men from Taisha. Her teacher saw her off with mixed feelings. Right about then.
Washio Sumi opened her eyes.
[You're awake. Can you hear me? See me? Washio-san?]
[.... I... I am.... Eh, huh?!]
After further discussion at Taisha HQ, and according to the oracle, it was concluded that Vertex won't be coming back for a while. Still, be it one year or two years later, these monsters will definitely come back and attack the Divine Tree. Countermeasures had to be put in place before then. A way to actually defeat them, and not simply drive them away. It is at times like this that mankind evolves rapidly.
Taisha came up with a possibility to destroy Vertex, from the girls' battle records. The core of the Leo that Sumi gouged out. Taisha referred to that as a "soul". They understood that the Vertex were built around that soul. It simply needed to be pulled out and destroyed somehow. That should prevent their regeneration. The updated Hero system with faeries and Mankai was capable of doing so, based on the last battle. Though it might still require some fine tuning.
Another problem, was the low number of heroes. According to a Taisha operative, there were no more children with enough aptitude. As a final resort, they will have the tree pick heroes from the entire country. It will not be disclosed, obviously. Revealing the existence of Vertex would throw the world into panic. The people living peacefully under the Divine Tree's protection did not need to know the cruel truth of the world.
A Shikoku nationwide examination was used to choose the girls with the highest aptitude to become Heroes. Members of Taisha were dispatched to assist them in case of emergency. If a Vertex were to appear, they would become heroes and fight them. The difference between the new and old heroes, is that they weren't trained for battle. Thanks to the faeries' barrier, even normal girls could fight. The problem was that because that barrier was so strong, the Hero system couldn't be mass produced. Even if they could gather dozens of recruits, only 5 of them would actually be able to fight.
A number of girls with hero aptitude were located during the nationwide examination. As per their policy, Taisha decided the following; Washio Sumi was to be moved and stationed near the candidate with the highest aptitude. That individual had the highest chance of being picked by the tree. The Inubouzaki girl, herself with a high aptitude was to be sent near that cadet as well. She could both support the other candidates, as well as fight as a hero herself.
The terminal used by Minowa Gin was recycled for further use. Of the new girls, a compatible one would be chosen to inherit and use it. That Hero was to train every day until the reappearance of the Vertex. She would receive her final instructions and be dispatched as reinforcements or as an overseer.
Lastly, concerning the other two heroes.
Nogi Sonoko, having gone through Mankai and Sange multiple times, was no longer able to lead a normal life. Taisha took her in their care as a trump card.
Washio Sumi had lost the use of her legs, and many years of her memories. As her case wasn't as severe as Nogi Sonoko's, she was to be made to fight if Vertex showed up again. As all her memories as a Washio had vanished, she took her old name back.
Up to now, Heroes were chosen from inside Taisha. Their families were given great importance and status. But now that they were picked from the entire nation, that was no longer the case. She herself was told and convinced she lost her memories in an accident.
Taisha had great expectations of the girl formerly known as Washio Sumi. Even after losing her memories, her body should still remember how to fight. She gained two new faeries as well. A Hero that goes through Sange loses their bodily functions, but as compensation gains more faeries and weapons. That tremendous power will definitely be useful to the new Heroes.
The curtain closes on the series of Vertex attacks that threw the lives of the three girls into chaos. The heroes' fight has still not ended. In return for the supernatural powers they were given, their bodily functions were offered as a tribute. The parents cried for their children when hearing the truth.
They had to accept the facts. Being chosen by the Divine Tree was a great honor. If they refused to, the tree would be destroyed by the Vertex, and mankind would meet its doom.
Era of the Gods, Year 299 - Spring.
The girl formerly known as Washio Sumi was living in a wheelchair. Starting from today, her life in this new town would begin.
Both her legs, and her memories. Her heart filled with anxiety and sadness.
That's when she heard a merry voice.
[You're my new neighbor!]
A friendly girl approached her smiling.
[I was so excited when I heard a girl the same age as me was moving in!]
She extended her hand.
[We're the same age, so we'll end up at the same middle school. I'm Yuuki Yuuna, nice to meet you!]
She said with a bright smile.
[Oh. You must not be familiar with the area around here. In that case I'll show you around. Leave it to me!!]
That smile was so warm, it caused her expression to loosen up as well.
[What's your name?]
The girl formerly known as Washio Sumi replied with her birth name.
[I am... Tougou Mimori.]
Translator's Notes and References
1. ↑ 散華 (Sange) lit: Wilting as flower do.
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